Consider the lilies of the field

Some people think it’s 4.5 weeks we’ve been sheltered in place. For me, it’s been both. I’ve been in NYC for more than a month and I’ve known my granddaughter just shy of that. What an extraordinary time to be born. A time of fear. A time of patience. A time of anticipation. A time of renewal. A time to re-focus. A time of life lessons. A time to embrace God’s immense love.

I’ve been remote teaching now for four weeks. It’s like being locked in the dug out on Opening Day. Not a huge fan. Not because I don’t like technology. What I don’t like are the kids who are drifting, who have given up, who don’t care. They are flying out there in cyberspace away from self-discipline and predictable routine. Grades don’t count. We pass or fail. We give everyone a break. I wonder how this is all going to play out for this group of kids? You know, the ones caught in the middle. The ones without a lot of parental supervision and support. The ones whose parents are “done fighting” with them. The ones whose parents give up.

Those are the ones teachers worry about the most. We always have. We always will. Especially now. We worry because in March we were just getting it together, just figuring out each other. A month ago, most of them accepted that I’m “tough”, but by Spring they know why–because I care. By Spring students have learned how–and why– to push themselves–for themselves, not their teachers or parents.

But now, dozens and dozens and dozens of my students, and students throughout the United States, aren’t doing anything. They don’t care.

How do you get them motivated from afar? I tried a cool, creative writing assignment. We are podcasting. And now we are finishing reading “Fahrenheit 451” and taking traditional Cornell Notes to get them ready for high school. I’m hosting Book Club discussions and using my excited voice to share my energy and enthusiasm hoping that it’s contagious. I’ve written them motivational emails, shared our teaching plan with parents every week. I immediately email back anyone who has a question.

Crickets.

The kids have checked out.

And we have 7.5 weeks left until summer.

The teacher in me can’t stop being a teacher. I can’t stop caring. But then I have this beautiful baby in the world, and my beautiful daughter who is The Best Mommy Ever and my son-in-law who is in medical school studying so hard and taking the night shift to watch his little girl so his wife can sleep. I have so much to be grateful for. The smiles. That are real now. Her sweet cooing sounds. And the way I seem to be able to soothe Millie to sleep. We already have this amazing bond.

And then there’s Bradbury’s book and protagonist Guy Montag, whose life forever changes following a conversation with a young neighbor who asks if he’s happy. Realizing his entire life, his job, his marriage, has been a farce, he frantically searches for answers in stolen books, including the Bible, of which he has no prior knowledge or context. He tries to memorize biblical text and becomes frustrated when he comes to Matthew 6:28: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin.” His entire life has been predictable, and now he becomes unhinged when he can’t interpret the passage.

It was, of course, genius for Bradbury to include baffling text in his book about a world gone mad. He includes references to classic novels, poetry and the Bible precisely because they provoke thought.

Ah ha!…….AH HA! Lightbulb moment!

It’s not about the book. It’s not about the students. It’s about the lilies. It’s about Baby Millie. The flower isn’t going nuts. Millie isn’t either. (She’s actually a most excellent, calm baby.) I am the one losing it. Not the students (they’re cool–no homework, no grades). No spinning. No toiling.

Consider this, my sister tells me, “Enjoy time away from the classroom. You don’t have to grade. You don’t have to deal with nasty parents. You don’t even have to ‘motivate’ kids who don’t want to be motivated.”

Consider Millie and the fact that tomorrow it won’t rain and I’ll go for a walk and look at the tulips a few houses up the hill. And we’ll have yogurt, apples and walnuts in the morning and a cup of coffee, then I’ll record my daily lesson, and read student stories and find time to kiss this new human being.

Consider the hell many others are dealing with right now. Worrying about my students’ academic future isn’t productive. In fact, stressing about anything isn’t helpful.

Consider transforming worry into prayer.

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