RING!

Ms. Scott, how was your weekend?
Can I see my grade in your class? And can I get makeup work to bring it up?
Do I really have to tuck in my shirt?
What’s the purpose of this SAT question? What if I don’t want to go to college?
Do I really have to go to history class? Can’t I just stay in here with you and take a nap?
Did you remember to grade my journal?
Ms. Scott, do you have a pencil I can borrow?
I promise I did my homework, but I left it on the kitchen table!
Why does it smell so bad in here?! Can I spray your air freshener all over everybody?
This dress code is STUPID!
Ms. Scott, I can’t sit next to him today! He’s getting on my nerves!
I don’t have any paper, so I can’t do my work!
How many questions was I supposed to answer?
Ms. Scott, this class is boring!

RING!

As a high school teacher at an urban school in Washington, DC, my work is often…harrowing.

The volume of students coming in and out of my room, the onslaught of questions that need to be answered, the behaviors that have to be addressed, the crises that need to be handled – it all becomes overwhelming quickly. For the majority of the school day, my mind is making ten decisions a minute, decisions that impact my students and shape a culture in my classroom that can harm or nurture.

It becomes easy to feel inadequate, to grow impatient, to let frustration and exhaustion have their way. And in the midst of the chaos, how easy to miss the present needs of the students I have before me – needs to be listened to, valued, affirmed, and known.

In C.S. Lewis’s sermon The Weight of Glory, he describes the beautiful and awful notion of human dignity. Lewis conceives of this dignity or “glory” as the human capacity to bring pleasure to God Himself – to be known by God and, by some mystery, to bring satisfaction and delight to Him. The value of this quality is what he calls “the weight of glory.”

At the conclusion to his sermon, Lewis makes a connection between God’s regard for people and the way we then ought to regard one another. He writes:

It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.
-C.S. Lewis, from “The Weight of Glory”

This excerpt from Lewis’s sermon is posted next to my desk in my classroom. It serves as a guidepost, a reminder to be ever watchful and aware of the weight of glory of the human lives that tread into my classroom each day. To keep my eyes open to the glory that surrounds me, and to know that in some way I am either recognizing or discounting that glory in each interaction I have with those lives.

It is a heavy burden indeed.

And yet, I hear these words echoing as well –

“Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Teach us, Rabbi.

Guest Post by Allison Scott