I am the new teacher on the block at Genesis (GCA), yet not a newbie by any standards to education. I retired last year from teaching, after having taught in several districts since my career began in 1980. I have educated children ages birth to 18, in special education, Title I, and early childhood.
In January, I began teaching the preschoolers at Genesis. God put me there. That may sound presumptuous, but I really do believe He did. You see, just before Christmas, I told my husband “It was time.” I’ve relaxed and enjoyed some traveling and am thoroughly enjoying the freedoms of retirement, but my heart was missing the kids. It was time I give something to the work God was doing through GCA. So I made a plan. Following Christmas, I would go in and offer my services as a volunteer, perhaps just a couple hours a week.
Early in January, it seemed to be a coincidence that my husband and Genesis Administrator, Renee Doyle, were having a phone conversation because it reminded me that I needed to let her know I was planning on coming in to volunteer. But, Mrs. Doyle beat me to it. She asked to speak to me, and we agreed I should come in the following morning to talk about my involvement. When I got to Genesis, Mrs. Doyle gave me a building tour, introduced me to all the staff and sat me down to converse. I was about to bless her day with the news that I would be willing to come in for one afternoon per week to help, but she cut to the chase: They were in need of a substitute preschool teacher. She asked if I could help.
My mind’s reaction was, “NO…that’s not why I’m here,” but my heart remembered that God had put me here. He had inspired me to come in and share my gifts. Indeed, it was clear, I was ready to help. I couldn’t argue with God’s hand in bringing me into Genesis, and so, I accepted the role of substitute in the preschool program.
I’ve been impressed with the atmosphere of respect at Genesis: respect for one another and clear expectations of respectful actions towards adults by the children. This is a stark contrast from the halls of a different school I recently walked through. In that school, I happened to walk during the passing time between classes, and in the length of my walking, from one end of the building to the other, I observed a school ritual happening three times: body-checking into lockers. I raised 3 boys, so I know the physical tendency for young men to tussle about and demonstrate pecking order status. I lived it as a mother, so I get it. But during those hall-passing moments, the number of times I heard the colorful “f” bomb language, and the stance of students “on guard” for potential physical attacks caught my attention. Sadly, I’m already accustomed to the language. I’ve been called every name in the book as a teacher—even by preschoolers. This has become common, albeit very disturbing. But I can never, ever, get used to the insecure, guardedness of a student—trying to move from one class to another, while still appearing confident, yet fearful of social and physical attacks, especially while outside the safe view of staff. Any one of us can remember those times and those feelings, which kids face daily: “Just don’t embarrass me… Just don’t make me look stupid….I’m just trying to fit in and look like I have it all together.” In reality, many students carry those feelings into adulthood.
The real contrast came for me when I saw a group of Genesis students move through their halls. There was no comparison to that other school. The Genesis students were not marching along like soldiers, as one might think would happen in a Classical Academy; they were just walking without fear or without trying to be the “bully,” “class clown,” “show off,” or even a “victim.” They made living as a student look easier, gentler, and contented. As a teacher, I am well aware that children cannot learn under the atmosphere of fear. Fear of embarrassment, harassment, or physical pressure will immediately shut down the learning capacity of any child or adult. In a time when social media and screen technology are dangerously shaping our youth’s sense of who they are and what to believe, fear and insecurities are constant enemies banging on their self perceptions. To have those fears within their daily setting—every day and all day—it only multiplies their self-perceptions into defensive and insecure adults. I am so thankful God inspired me to step into Genesis, to see His good work there and see the opportunities for children to grow intellectually, spiritually, and securely into becoming the future embodiment of secure adults and strong leaders.