Slow to speak

There are moments that I have experienced in my career as an educator that have challenged me.  My first year.  Teaching Advanced Placement.  Being a head coach.  And the myriad of other situations that I’ve faced throughout each passing school year.  Yet as another year draws to a close, I couldn’t help but reflect on my biggest challenges this year.  As many of you know, I was let go from my last post as a Jr. High Principal.  The Lord opened a door for me at my new school as the High School Vice Principal.  It has been, like the rest of my years in education, a tremendous blessing.  I find so much joy in what I get to do on a daily basis.  As a Jr. High Principal, I felt really out of touch with the students.  Now that my current job description includes the word ‘student’, I have found the “oomph” once lost.  Yet with the myriad of conversations I’ve had with students this year, there are a few that have challenged me to my core.  And yet, each one ended up with me saying something that my pride and ego have a difficult time letting me proclaim to teenagers: “I don’t know.”

I’d say that the bulk of my time is spent keeping students accountable to the rules and policies they’ve “forgotten”; if I had a dime for every time a student said, “I didn’t know that was against the rules.”  I’ve heard a lot of the excuses, and I kid you not, down to “my dog literally ate my homework Mr. Stevens!” (enter face palm here)  However, despite it all, it’s a blessing to be able to sit, chat, and counsel students in the ways of “adulthood”.  It always a blessing to develop those deeper relationships with students.  Yet, with that bond between Vice Principal and student, comes the following:

WARNING: Should a student find trust in you, be prepared to have them spill the beans of their hearts with you at any given moment.

Quite a few times this year, I have had students sit in my office sharing their deepest fears, worries, and pains.  And I’m not talking about failing their most recent Biology quiz.  I’m talking about abuse (physical, sexual, verbal), addictions, thoughts of and attempts at suicide, cutting, homosexual and bisexual tendencies, divorce, feelings of loneliness and depression, and the list goes on.  Many times, my heart has been broken for the young men and women who have shed tears and have been doubled over in anguish in my office.  And herein lies my challenge.  When a student looks at me with tears in their eyes and asks, “Why?  Why did God allow this to happen to me?!”  I’m admitting before you now that everything within me desired to create an answer for them.  Every ounce of my pride said, “Just say something, no matter what it is, to make them feel better.”

For those of you who don’t know me, or haven’t read this blog before, I am a Christian and I work in a Christian school.  Shouldn’t I have all the answers for these kids?  Pride and ego say, “Yes!”  Yet, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is this:

Sometimes, you just have to learn to shut up and listen. 

They need to know that there are people who will not try to explain everything.  People that will lend an ear, listen intently, and show them that someone cares about them.  Not every situation for teenagers can be explained away with, “These are life lessons son.  You’re going to be a better person for having gone through this.  Buck up.  Get over it.  Just ignore them.  Don’t worry, be happy.”  Let us not forget that children hurt too, and a lot of the time, they’ve been hurt and have absolutely no clue as to why it happened.  Yes, their teenagers, but God gave them a heart too.  Despite all the studies and statistics that say otherwise, teenagers are human.  They need a tremendous amount of love and support.  And sometimes, it’s okay to say “I don’t know.”  Ultimately, all you’re doing is showing them that you too, despite contradicting studies, are human too.

Let me leave you with this.  Despite the tears, hurt, anguish, and everything else that these conversations bring, allow me to share what these challenging situations have taught me.  Patience, understanding, tenderheartedness, compassion, grace, and joy in that God chose me to be with those students in those, as Max Lucado calls them, “eternal instants”.

“An instant in time that had no time.  A picture that froze in mid-frame, demanding to be savored.  A minute that refused to die, after sixty seconds…a moment that reminds you of the treasures surrounding you.  Your home.  Your peace of mind.  Your health…a moment that can bring a mist to the manliest of eyes and perspective to the darkest life.” ~ Max Lucado

For this educator, the majority of what we do is about these moments.  Forget the tests, standards, and whatever else you’ve been taught in your credential program.  These are the times that can not be “taught”.  These moments are to be treasured and remembered because they’re worth far more than the certificate that hangs on your wall, or the monetary compensation you bring home.  These are the moments that cause your students to come back and say, “Thank you.”  Because I can guarantee you it’s not about how you taught them to combine letters and numbers, or the dates to World War II.  It’s because you showed them you cared, and that goes way beyond the textbook and state standards.

God bless you!

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10 thoughts on “Slow to speak

  1. cares says:

    Incredible. Thank you for sharing your heart about what you’ve learned this year. I loved that you said, “Despite all the studies and statistics that say otherwise, teenagers are human.”

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    • Cameron Stevens says:

      Thanks Carrie. I probably have stories like this from each of my 14 years in education. It’s difficult to know your “kids” are experiencing such hardship. But there is so much joy to be found when love and grace are shared and “community” arises. Love it! Thanks for commenting, and for sharing out.

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  2. Laing A. Stevens says:

    Don’t fret my son! You are absolutely correct. Sometimes it is better to be quiet and figuratively or in reality wrap your arms around them and tell them you love them in the Lord. They really don’t need an encounter with you – they need an encounter with God. A major reason our society is falling apart is because we don’t have men living out their Christian reality from the strength of God, they don’t know how to act like a man, nor do they have enough courage to take a stand. Where are the real men these days? Where are the leaders like Joshua, Polycarp, or the Apostle Paul? I am so proud (in the Lord) of you because you realize that first of all, you are not a super hero and can conquer the enemy for all of citizens in Gotham. You are loving and kind enough to discern when to allow these young people to fight through the battles of the mind. (Rom. 12:1-2). Stay alert, watch and pray and above all, be a “shield protector!” (Eph. 6:16) Love you. Rak Chazaks Amats! Press On with God First!

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    • Cameron Stevens says:

      “an encounter with God.” AMEN! My constant prayer is that God would use me to expand His kingdom. All for His glory!! Play the man, right coach?! Love you and thank you for being the most important example to me of what a real man is. You are my rock.

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  3. church without walls: a sojourners fellowship says:

    Cameron, it’s 4am and I’m thinking of getting ready for my day. I’m so glad I took the moment to read this post. Your simple share, a peak into your God-crafted heart for these kids is inspiring and brings me divine peace. I will pay more attention to my “moments”, either good or challenging, knowing all are a treasure and a glory to our Father. Thanks Cameron. Thank you Lord. Eucharisteo.

    Rak Chazak! Chazak Amats!

    Greg, churchwithoutwallsblog.com

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    • Cameron Stevens says:

      Thanks for stopping by to read Greg! Our life in Christ is made up in these moments. Just last night, I was sharing with my Community Group about our response/reaction to those who are “against us” (Matthew 5:38-48). We can easily love those who love us. But where do we stand with those who hate and despise us? I heard it once stated, “If you want to know how much of a servant you are, check your reactions when people treat you like one!” God bless you!!

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  4. πίστις says:

    I always hated school, loved to learn but did not like school. I am thankful there are those who are willing to get in the trenches and work with these kids.I have done so myself on a more limited basis.

    God bless you Cameron
    Greg

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