After many years of teaching elementary and middle school children, I made a switch to teaching at the university level. I remember thinking, I won’t have to remind these students to turn in their work on time. They will have their lives together. University students are adults, so they won’t need a great deal of nurturing or guidance. Well…. I was wrong, on all accounts.
What I realized is, students are students. I still have to remind many of them to do their work. I have to work with them to build relationships and connections like I did in my elementary and middle school classrooms, and they have problems too. In previous blog posts, I’ve talked about my teaching motto being, “There’s a story in every seat.” Not only do I say it, but I believe it with my whole heart! It is true of people in church, businesses, schools, and every other gathering place where people come together. So, when I’m lucky enough to get a new group of students, I try to spend time getting to really know the students individually. Sadly, one thing I have learned about my university students is that many of them do not have positive relationships with their families. They have shared with me their stories about why this has happened, and most of the reasons revolve around the student’s life choices. For example, one of my students grew up in a Christian home, but my student told her family that she was gay. Immediately, the parents threw the child out of their home and cut off the relationship with the student. Now, before you get mad at me and get judgemental, please know I have only heard the story from the side of the student, and I am fully aware there is always more to the story. Truthfully, the story doesn’t matter. What matters is, there is a fractured relationship. Another student of mine has not seen her family for three years. The story is long and complicated, but again the bottom line is there is deep hurt between family members and a fractured relationship. When I look at scripture, over and over I see Jesus surrounding himself with people who were considered outcasts. He touched lepers, he talked to prostitutes, and made the “unclean” clean again. Jesus is the model for how we should behave in these situations. In Matthew 7:1-2 Jesus tells us not to judge others. Over and over, the Bible tells us the importance of loving others, I Corinthians 16:4.
The student who shared this story with me about her family, deeply loves her family, respects her family’s feelings about her life choice, but misses them deeply. I hurt for her. I hurt for many of my students that have similar stories, and there are many. Their stories keep me up at night, because I worry about the students and want them to be happy and successful. As a parent, who adores my children, I can only assume the parents of my student miss their child deeply.
There used to be a phrase often used, What Would Jesus Do? In this situation, what do you think Jesus would tell my student about her relationship with her parents? What would Jesus tell the parents about their daughter? What really matters to Jesus? I am not here to give answers to these questions, but to ask you to think on these important topics that can fracture a family.
What I do know, is Jesus expects us to love one another. It is a fact, without question. Race, religion, gender, disability, or age are not amendments to the statement.
Blessings Sweet Friends,