The following is a reflection from one of our 2012 Professional Year Graduates, Anthea Coxon. I am grateful that she shared this reflection with me and is willing to have me share it here. I so appreciated her persistence in building relationships with her students, being willing to pay attention to them in ways that assumed love for them as unique persons and faith in their inherent value. This reflection also represents a reverent quality of spirit in Anthea’s teaching, as well as, a testimony to the miracle that can happen when we pray for our students in a self-emptying way.
I was once told that anything worthwhile is never easy, and that has certainly been true of this year. This year has consisted of countless late nights, daily early mornings, vacations spent planning, and weekends consumed with marking. Yet it is not the difficult things that have define the year, but rather it is the moments spent speaking with a student who is struggling, a flash of understanding about a difficult concept, the times of laughter as a class, and the sharing of successes that really stand out in my mind.
I love people. They are what make me get up in the morning. I love being able to build relationships, share joys and sorrows, and be a part of people’s day-to-day lives. It is this love of people and relationship that brought me to teaching in the first place, and I have certainly seen that teaching is all about relationship.
When I first started teaching I was tired, disappointed, and frustrated in trying to build relationships with students. Students showed up at class, did the bare minimum, and left without me knowing anything about their true selves. I tried to engage, tried to ask good questions, but it seemed as though there were walls between us. I was the teacher, they were the students, I was there to do a job and I wasn’t there to have a relationship with them. I tried to figure it out; did they not want relationship with teachers? Did they not expect to have relationship with teachers? Was I doing something wrong?
Yet every day I decided to choose to love my students, even if I felt as though they were unreceptive. I knew so many of them were so hurting, yet I felt as though I was powerless to do anything about it. So every day I began by praying “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.” And slowly, very slowly, walls began to come down. A young girl shared with me struggles at home; a young boy told me about the recent death of his mother; another young man, after trying unsuccessfully to irritate me asked “why don’t you get mad at us?”; and the list goes on. It was those moments that made it all worth it. I learned that relationships take time, energy and effort. They take patience, persistence, and practical acts of care. I need to see my students as more than just students who need to learn something in my classroom; but as humans, with hopes, dreams, joys and pains. But most of all, we are built for relationship. We need one another.