Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Importance of Mercy

I was reminded of the importance of mercy this weekend. On Sundays I teach CCD to my oldest son's 7th grade class. We've talked a lot about how Pope Francis has declared next year the Holy Year of Mercy. We've spent time deciding what mercy means and what we can do to embrace it as we spend our 7th grade year together. This past Sunday, I made them write about it.

I hadn't realized I would be teaching CCD last year until the year began. I've always said that I'd leave it to someone else, that I teach all week as it is. But they needed a teacher, so I did. This year I had more time to think about it, to prepare. I decided to bring my fifth grade classroom in. We'd have writing notebooks, quick writes, and more. Three weeks in, I love it.

Sunday I asked my students to pull out their notebooks. I asked them to reflect on what we've written so far about mercy and forgiveness. And then I asked these kids, these big seventh graders, to be brave. I wanted them to be honest. For two minutes I wanted them to write about themselves. I asked them to consider the following: If they stood in front of their entire class, what would those kids say about them, if they were being uncensored? The pencils flew. I saw heat spreading towards faces as these kids, kids I knew and loved when they were fifth graders, wrote. I could tell that some of what they were writing, they didn't like, but they wrote. 

Two minutes were up. They looked at me. I asked them to draw a line under it and write again. This time, I said, please write what you want people to say about you. Again, the pencils flew. 

After two more minutes, I looked at these wonderful faces I adore. I gently reminded them that on this journey of mercy and forgiveness, the first person we need to forgive is ourselves. Seventh grade is such a tough time. I think it is a time of low self-confidence and doubt. A time where friendships can feel precarious and you are just trying to find your way. I reminded these kids that we all screw up, but owning up to that is important. Forgiving others is important. And so is forgiving ourselves. They needed to be the recipients of mercy first.

Leaving CCD and checking my phone, I saw a message from a blog reader. She thanked me for being honest about my lack of conferring so far this year in this post (HERE). She said it made her feel better about the start of her year. I think as teachers we can be too hard on ourselves, just as my seventh graders can be. So today I will ask you to simply be kind. Be kind to others, but be kind to yourself. This is a hard job and you could pour 110% of yourself into it, and still come up short. In case it helps, here's what I'm forgiving myself for this week:

How long it is taking me to confer with all of my students.

The fact that my first unit took two weeks longer than I planned.

That I sometimes need to read two picture books in a day to catch up with our classroom #bookaday.

That someone tweeted a poop emoji in our class Twitter account. Again. 

That, to be honest, I think the emoji is hilarious. 


That I cannot make it through a week - or a Monday - without tearing up in front of my class. We've had an emotional day, and I think it's good to see that a teacher cares, but some days, I wish I could hold it together. 

That I've created another weekly reflection sheet. I wish I could pick one and love it, but I always seem to want to tweak.

That there are not enough minutes in the day, days in the week, and weeks in the year for what I want to teach. 

That I will always put the emotional needs of my class above any set of standards invented. 

And, if I'm being completely honest, I don't think I have to forgive myself for that last one, but it is something I think about often. 

Think about what is eating away at you. Forgive yourself. If you are there for your kids, if you are putting them first, you're doing what you need to do. The rest will come. 

Have a great week!