In August of last year, I began a new job.
I am a para-educator at our local high school and I love it. I have wonderful co-workers and I really enjoy working with the kids I am assigned to. (More on this in future posts).
However, I wanted to touch on just one thing that really struck me today.
In my World Literature class, Mr. H (the teacher) shared that after he graduated from college, he worked for a year as a long-term substitute teacher at a high school.
At one point, he was asked to stand in for an English teacher. This particular teacher was well-known for following a dry, clearly-defined schedule that did not allow for hardly any creativity and certainly no spontaneity. When you are teaching Shakespeare to high school students, this is a major problem. ( I was an English major in college and half the time, I barely understood what he was talking about).
One day, the teacher was absent and Mr. H was allowed to take over the class. He is very passionate about good literature and being the free spirit that he is, he set aside the prescribed lesson plan and did his own thing: which was to bring Shakespeare alive to these students and make what they were reading relevant to their lives in small town America.
The class was a rousing success. The kids became ever more animated as they discovered that while the language may be foreign to them, Shakespeare was simply (and brilliantly) writing about the human condition: love, pain, joy, sorrow, jealousy, life, and death. They could relate to all of these things and the literature allowed them to connect the dots to their own situations.
Mr. H was absolutely electrified. He had connected with the kids in a powerful way and they with him.
A new and surprising revelation dawned: he wanted to be a teacher. After years of wandering and wondering, his destiny became crystal clear and he felt reborn.
The next day, the teacher returned.
She was absolutely furious to discover that her sterile lesson plan had been so casually tossed aside. She barely listened to Mr. H as he enthusiastically described what he happened in the class.
When he had finished speaking, she turned on him with a ferocity that stunned him.
“You’re JUST a sub!” she sneered contemptuously. “How dare you do what you did! I am the teacher!”
And just like that, those cruel words could have crushed Mr. H’s new-found dream.
But they didn’t.
He chose not to let the words of one miserable , small-minded person who was filled with her own inflated sense of self determine his destiny.
Today, he is a high school teacher and one of the very best in the district. I was amazed as he made Shakespeare come alive for me…the English major who literally suffered through every Shakespeare class I had to take in college. It was a minor miracle that I actually enjoyed Hamlet!
But more importantly, he inspired grand ideas, lively debate, and excitement among the students. It was a wondrous thing to behold.
After today’s class, I thought long and hard about the words of that long-ago teacher: “You’re JUST a sub!”
How dare we dismiss anybody as JUST an anything?!
There are no ordinary humans. Each one of us is made in the image of God Himself and before we made our entrance on earth, we existed in His mind. We are eternal beings, which makes every single person you see infinitely precious.
We should never lose the wonder of this fact.
Everyone has a story. Everyone has talents. Everyone has dreams.
As we go into a new year, let us never see anyone as JUST an anything.
Let’s certainly never speak words of negativity when someone works up the courage to tell their dreams to us.
Let’s not be protective of “our” territory. It’s a big world. There will always be people who are better than we are at what we do, who have different ideas about how things should be.
Don’t be threatened by that. Decide instead to learn what you can from everyone who crosses your path, all the while doing the very best you can do.
Think long and hard about anyone in your life who you are tempted to see as “just” an anything.
And by the way, YOU are not “just” a (fill in the blank) either.
It’s a big world.
Make your mark and allow other people to make theirs.
“Each second we live is a new and unique moment in the universe, a moment that will never be again. And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two plus two is four and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are?…We should say to each of them, ‘Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you…you may become a Shakespeare, a Michaelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything’…If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.”—Henry David Thoreau