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I Won't Give Up, Will You?

During the first week of school two years ago I overheard this comment: "My sister says that if she (referring to me) gives me any ****, she will come in and **** her!"

If those "terms of endearment" were any indication, I was in for an interesting year!

Relationships require forgiveness.

"Sarah" came to class each day defiant. She swore at the drop of a hat, pushed for her own way, antagonized her classmates, and kept us from any moments of peace. But Sarah wasn't alone. She had several accomplices, students who were determined to disrupt, cause chaos, and demonstrate their independence and self-importance.

Each day was a challenge. Several times I deflected fights, and once had to have assistance for other teachers when Sarah and two other girls shouted obscenities and threats at one another.

All my attempts failed, at least with Sarah and company.

Relationships require patience.

One of my best assets in the classroom is patience. I believe that I am good at being patient, offering second, third, fourth (and more) opportunities. Each day I try to make a new roadway to a relationship, not compromising classroom procedures or expectations, but communicating the value of each student. By faith, I extend trust and care.

Relationships require determination.

That year I was continually rebuffed and often maligned. My best intentions were questioned and scorned. I have to admit, I felt defeated. I can usually win kids over in 180 days. Not this year, apparently...
Sometimes relationships are "one-way only".

Two years later, Sarah is in my class again. I begin the process again, but this year it is easier. She smiles and laughs, not maliciously. We work together each day, and Sarah demonstrates great growth: she socializes with others, works hard, is respectful in her conversation. Sarah has her moments, but they no longer define her.
Relationships require time.

In class one day, I was relating a story. In typical Sarah fashion, she interrupted with a loud comment,

"Why are you so calm? 
Do you think it's because...?"

Sarah had noticed. I had managed to make an impact. It just took time to nurture. 

Too often, I think, we give up on our students. If they "burn bridges" too many times, we deem them "incorrigible" or unworthy of our efforts.

We cannot give up! 

Our belief in that student may be the one thing that affects him/her later.

Sometimes, we have to let relationships be one-way. Sometimes we have to be content to give and not receive in return. Sometimes we have to end with a "Loss".

But, can't we hold on anyway? Can't we extend grace for another day, week, month, year? We don't know how sparsely a fire may be smoldering, but rather than dump water on it, let's give it air and time.

I won't give up,
Will you?
Sarah gave me this picture at Christmas this year. It's a simple gift with a lot of meaning, don't you think?


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