The last few days have not exactly been the easiest.
Oh, they haven’t been horrible. I think most teachers will probably confess to not particularly enjoying the first week of school. But it hasn’t been the lack of prep time, or the odd shifting from my high school teaching job to my new 4-5th grade TA job and back again to the high school job, and it certainly hasn’t been student misbehaviors. The hardest thing has been coming back to my little, tiny Christian school, facing classrooms with literally half the students in them than I had last year, and having to put on a happy face that I do not feel about the situation.
My students look at me, and I can see it in their eyes–the strangeness of having so many fewer students, when all last year we complained about how the lunchroom was so small and talked about plans to bring in new students. A few will mention it. The others simply shift around awkwardly. Then they look at me, and I smile brightly back at them and reassure them that school this year is going to be wonderful, that we often have students join us partway through the school year, that they are here, and that is what matters.
And I mean it. But it hurts my heart to see the effort I put toward school promotion this year seem to have had no effect whatsoever. It hurts to have to continue to be positive about it, because, if I’m not, I’m not sure who will be.
Switching gears a little. Tonight I finally got to see “X-Men: Days of Future Past” with a friend.
If you’ve seen the movie, you know that Wolverine goes back in time to prevent something horrible from happening. (Warning: Spoilers ahead.) In the process, he runs back into one of my new heroes, Professor X. But things have gone horribly wrong. The school is all but empty, and Professor X has sunk into alcoholism and self-medicating, even to the point of stunting his powers because it makes him “feel too much.”
Of course the empty school struck an instant chord, and when somebody mentioned that the last time they’d used the tool Cerebro was “to find students for the school,” I leaned over and drily whispered to my friend, “It’s like NWCHS.” My friend bumped my shoulder reassuringly and the movie continued.
Wolverine, whose gifts do not exactly lie in the realm of subtle persuasion, is in a tight spot as he tries to convince Professor X to pick up the pieces of his life. It takes past Professor X talking to present Professor X to get there (It did actually make a tremendous amount of sense). As part of this exchange, though, Professor X has to wade through all the pain and loneliness that is Wolverine’s history. Wolverine redirects his focus so he can find his younger self–then, before it is all over, Wolverine charges him to find the future students and teachers whose stories he’d seen.
“I’ll do my best,” says Professor X, looking a little worried.
“Your best is good enough,” says Wolverine.
And with that, Professor X– and Miss Heins– suddenly receive the bolstering we need to keep going.
My best is good enough. The enormity of the task is not my problem. It’s God’s. And I am simply His servant. My best is good enough. And, exactly like Professor X, my “best” is not nearly as much about saving a school as it is about the individuals who have gone through that school. Imperfect, hurting, beautiful individuals, not unlike Wolverine and Storm and Rogue and the others– individuals whose stories have held pain and problems and will continue to hold pain and problems, but who have been given hope. They have been given a chance to be part of a tiny community that grows and aches and stretches and smiles together. And many of them have been given hope in various ways. I even dare to think that some of them would look back on their time so far and see the pain and the joy and the late nights of homework and, like Wolverine, not mind having it stay just that way because they can see the value in it.
Professor X reminded his future self that he had to hold out hope to these people. Then he turned, promised to do his best, and was reminded by one of his own students that his best was good enough. And it was.
On second thought, maybe I can put on that happy face I need to put on. Maybe it doesn’t need to be an act. All I need to offer is hope, and all I need to do is my best. I think, between God and me, we can pull that off.