As a teacher, it would be easy to despair at the apathy at the start of the school year. But I have a secret weapon. #apathy #educator #student #teacher

As a teacher, it would be easy to despair at the apathy at the start of the school year. But I have a secret weapon.

As a teacher, it would be easy to despair at the apathy at the start of the school year. But I have a secret weapon. #apathy #educator #student #teacher

Apathetic Students

I look out over the classroom at the start of a school year and pray that each student sitting there will stay in school the entire year. I have my doubts about some of them. They enter, sling their backpacks on the floor, look askance at the yoga balls and grumble under their breaths about the absence of ‘regular chairs.’

They pull their hoods over their heads, rest their arms on the table and melt into apathy.

“English is a stupid language,” I announce. Heads pop up with interest. After all, this is English class. “Ninety-five percent of the rules in English are only correct five percent of the time.” I make up the statistic, but it feels true.

As a teacher, it would be easy to despair at the apathy at the start of the school year. But I have a secret weapon. #apathy #educator #student #teacher

“But I teach the most important class in the school,” I say. “If you can’t read and write well, you’ll find yourself at a disadvantage your entire life.”

I can see the wheels turning in their heads. They start life disadvantaged. Native American. Inheritors of the effects of genetic trauma. Impoverished. Street-smart and book-poor. After teaching at this school for six year, I know what they think.

Opportunities and possibilities for a new start belong to white kids. I’ve heard my students say, “I hate the color of my skin,” and felt the weight of all they do not say.

Someone else peeking in my classroom might see a bunch of apathetic kids. I could easily drift into despair if I start thinking of the statistics. Only 65% of Native American students finish high school, and only 9.3% finish college.

The enormity of all that has to happen before a Native American can succeed in college could easily overwhelm me.

My Secret Weapon against Apathy

But I have a secret weapon against apathy and despair. God. I can pray with my students and for my students. God can open pathways that I never dreamed possible. Godly counselors work with students to help them overcome both personal and generational trauma.

I used to see the apathetic attitudes as a personal affront (and I reacted accordingly). Now I focus on how amazing, strong, and resilient my students are just to get up each morning. I find myself less impatient, and more curious about their stories and decision-making processes.

When I first started here, I thought I would change the kids. Now I realize that they’ve changed me. I no longer feel like I have to start a good work and finish it. Like the moon, I have no light of my own. I just reflect the greater light—sometimes fully, sometimes not so well.

When I start stressing and feeling overwhelmed, I just remember Paul’s words,

 “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.”

Philippians 1:6 MSG

I don’t have to start the work, nor finish it. All I need to do is facilitate it. And when I forget, I just look at the moon.

When I despair of ever making a difference, I just look at the moon. #teacher #educator #fmfparty Click To Tweet

14 Comments

  1. The stars and moon and silver clouds,
    the pathways of the nighttime air
    the winking lights and quiet sounds;
    I’ve always taken comfort there.
    There have been times I feel I’m falling
    upward through the Milky Way,
    and I hear celestial sirens calling;
    it is time I was away.
    But then I think of all the duties
    left to me in this, my place;
    the myriad and gentle beauties,
    the pocketfuls of holy grace.
    Thus, again, I’ll take the pain,
    and in the fight I will remain.

  2. So important to look for the good and the achievement rather than focus on the potential failure and difficulties, as well as leaving the ultimate result in our Father’s capable hands. Thank you for the reminder.
    Your FMF Neighbour #4

  3. Just beautiful! So much of your teaching reflects what I experienced teaching in Appalachia. D like you I was the one who learned the most! It’s hard to let go of the hope that we will see the successful finish of what we start in our kids but it’s not in our hands it’s in God’s! Thank you for sharing your inspiration and wisdom! C~

  4. Beautiful Anita. I appreciate you sharing your experiences with your students. It is particularly interesting that you look to the moon since nature is so integral to the Native American world view. I have been reading “Braiding Sweetgrass” and it has transformed my lens like nothing else. Isn’t it a relief knowing that you are reflecting not in charge? I am sure that your reflection makes an impact.

  5. As a teacher, I can whole-heartedly agree and relate. Over here, we just started school again and I find myself looking at my students with joy and excitement of what they’ll teach me about their lives and the world this year.

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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