Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)

I’ve mentioned in a few previous posts that I’ve started a new job. That new job being a substitute personnel for a bunch of local school districts in my area. I took my first job last week and that has lead to getting work for the whole of the month of September as a Hall Aide or Building Aide at the local high school. Basically I’m a hall monitor. I get a walkie-talkie and patrol the halls telling kids to get back to class. So during the last couple days I’ve been writing down some observations and thoughts that have crossed my mind while on the job. I graduated high school in 2009, and now I just started my second year of graduate school. Needless to say that there is now a significant difference between myself and the students that I’ve been interacting with. Not only that, but there’s also a marked difference between myself and the faculty members that I engage with.

A lot of the time the kids that you see roaming the halls during class are the ones that don’t want to be there in the first place. They’re the kids that don’t care and haven’t cared in a long time. They’re the repeat offenders who won’t blink at getting written up or being sent to in-school suspension, and will most definitely give you guff. In fact, that’s kind of been my word for the week: “Guff.” To give grief or frustration through sarcasm and belligerence fueled by apathy and emotionalism. And the thing that happens to the faculty after years of guff from countless students is a jaded contempt for that type of student. This contempt plays itself out in a variety of ways, some subtle, some not. They’re certainly not afraid to refer, in closed conversation with other faculty, to  a student as a “pain in the ass,” or fantasize about reacting physically towards the students. Now, while the likelihood of that actually happening is slim to none, that does not make it any less shocking to me.

This is what caused me to realize the difference between myself and the people I’m working with, because it’s in the face of this kind of sentiment that I need to assess my feelings toward these problem students, and I choose how to make my theology real and tangible lest I become a hypocrite to my proclaiming the gospel. The question I need to ask myself is this: “How can I love these students well?” What can I do to see past their guff and look into the real reasons they’re dodging class? Are they bored, and if so, what bores them? Are they lazy, and if so is it fear or apathy that drives them? Are they apathetic, and if so what is it that they really do care about?

I said earlier that they have long since stopped caring, and most of the guff they give is directed at the harassment of authority that they feel has been nagging them since God knows when, and my job as a hall monitor is to harass. “Put your hood down!” “Put your phone away!” “Get to class!” “Where’s your pass?” Etc. I’m the enemy and my job dictates that I be, and I ask myself if they truly don’t care, are they even worth harassing? In all honesty, I’m inclined to not bug them and let them reap the short and long-term consequences of their choices. If they want to skip class and be belligerent in the midst of their selfish and short-sighted youthfulness, fine. In time they will hopefully begin to understand what it is that they have truly lost and by then it will be too late to fix anything. It’s a question of whether or not to address a fool according to his folly (cf. Proverbs 26:4-5). I would say that a student’s level of belligerence is indicative of the kind of foolishness they embody and whether it should be addressed or not. And what’s more, regardless of their foolishness, I should not discredit their potential for redemption.

For whatever myriad of reasons, they fail to see the long-term value of investing in an education that innumerable people their age or older from third world countries would literally kill for. It could be a home issue. It could be a personal issue. It could even be an issue with the way that the public school system is structured here in America. Because, let’s face it, public schools are about as monolithic and impersonal as having an Apple account. Standardized testing like the SATs/ACTs, No Child Left Behind, or Common Core fail to take into account the unique personalities and unique learning styles of students, and thus their boredom in the classroom and lack of initiative and incentive towards the material festers.

We do a gross disservice to our youth by molly-coddling them through their academic careers prior to college or carrier. By pushing them through we not only communicate the lesson that apathy and sloth will be tolerated (much less rewarded) and worse still, that adults and those in authority do not care about the well being of teenagers. The concept of compulsory education in which all must finish, I think, teaches nothing at all. I wonder what things would be like if teenagers were able to flunk school as a result of their own undoing with no chance of trying again? I imagine that it would be much like in anarchy where one either rises to the occasion to thrive and succeed or dies due to their own negligence and ignorance, thus culling out those who would intellectually and financially burden the rest of society. To use the words of Ebenezer Scrooge, these people would be the true surplus population.

I don’t want that kind of society, and I believe that to a greatest of degrees that my theology forbids it, and thus I return to the question of how I can love these students well? The answer is relationships. How I communicate with them and how I approach them with my authority. If I approach them with respect and wield my authority with responsibility I can hope that in turn they will (1) “respect my authoritay” and (2) begin to view their responsibilities as a student in a different light. Love is a choice; it’s an act of the will, and I will have to choose from moment to moment to love each student. To sit and talk and eat with them just as Jesus did the sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes.

I began writing this with something of a heavy heart, but now I look forward to tomorrow, and the next day, and the rest of the month. I look forward to seeing where God will put me and how He will enable me to love these students well.

 May His beauty rest upon me

As I seek the lost to win

And may they forget the channel

Seeing only Him