A Reflection on the Upcoming School Year
Written by Eddie Trygar
There are many ways you can pray for schools as teachers and students prepare to return this fall. You can pray for God to provide for staffing needs amid the national teacher shortage facing our nation since the COVID closures. I do not know of many schools that are fully staffed with an adequate number of custodians, bus drivers, teachers or instructional assistants. Pray for teachers and the lasting impact they will have on the young people they work with each day. Pray for students who lack food, structure and social skills to be successful in an academic environment. The biggest thing I would ask you to pray for, in regard to school, is that people would have grace with one another.
Schools, like every workplace, are communities full of sinful people. On top of that, every teacher, student, parent, instructional assistant and counselor is dealing with struggles in their personal life and are fallible when doing their jobs. Even their best efforts are fraught with failure because of the multitasking the job requires.
When working with 700 people, conflict and mistakes are bound to occur multiple times a day. As assistant principal, I often call parents to inform them of infractions to the code of conduct. Sometimes their child is the victim, sometimes they are the perpetrator. In either case, these are not pleasant conversations. Many times, the parent questions, “Why didn’t someone prevent this?” Their reaction is almost always to blame someone.
Recently WRAL published an article about a parent who was outraged that her child was put on the incorrect bus. She threatened Durham County Public Schools for what she saw as negligence with her child. This is most certainly regrettable, but when you have hundreds of students going to numerous school buses (which all look the same), mistakes will occur from time to time. The child was never unattended or unsafe; his return home was delayed. Incidents like this have occurred in schools for decades, but social media and the 24 hour news cycle amplify these mistakes and people want heads to roll when they hear these stories.
I realize that it is scary for a child not to get off the bus, or to get a call that they had been injured at school. But what if the reaction of the public was to assume the best about people? What if we had grace with one another the way Jesus has for us when we fail him over and over again?
When you work in a factory and something goes wrong, you can stop the production line and correct the problem by making mechanical adjustments. But when you work with people, the solution is not as easy. It takes time to implement new policies and procedures with fidelity. Add to that that children, and adults for that matter, are not machines. Students will sometimes make impulsive or poor choices, teachers will sometimes drop the ball. But nobody wants to be a failure. Teachers don’t set out to make mistakes to upset students and parents.
Over my past 20 years working in the field of education, I have seen a crescendo of criticism aimed at teachers. Especially since Covid complicated the world of education, hopelessness, cynicism, criticism has multiplied at an alarming rate. Please join me in praying that our God of peace, who saw it fit to extend grace to sinners before we ever asked, would take the brokeness in schools and the flawed efforts of parents, students and teachers and make something beautiful for His glory.