Wednesday, September 6, 2017

30 Minutes

Last week, my prayer mentor  ... okay, she's my counselor ... challenged me to take 20 minutes during my work day to pray. My physical response to her idea was like that of a child being told he was going to get a shot at the doctor's office -- eyes bugging, body tensing, fists balled, head vehemently shaking in a defiant negative answer.

To justify my body language, I started in on a list of top-10 reasons why I can barely eat lunch, let alone donate 30 minutes to Jesus. Actually, I told her my lunch break was only 20 minutes, which sounds much more desperate, until she questioned the legality of allowing a teacher such a short lunch period.

"Well," I said, "We get a half hour, but by the time I drop the kids off at the cafeteria, check my box in the workroom, make copies, check my e-mails and walk all the way to the far corner of Oklahoma where my room is, I really only have 10 minutes."

She didn't flinch. She didn't even offer a bless-your-heart or a poor-thing.

I continued with my war on time by explaining what happens when I walk down the hall. I get stopped by other teachers to meet for "just a quick sec" or I remember that I have to call a parent, check e-mails, finalize our e-newsletter, grade papers of the five students who forgot to turn in the quiz the day before, and find which of the school's three copy machines might be working. Then and ONLY then would I allow myself a handful of nuts and a bottle of water before time to report for cafeteria duty.

She just clarified. "So you get 30 minutes for lunch."

"Ummm, yeah."

Why was this such a big deal for me? I truly felt my chest tighten and my mind whirl into defense mode. Nope. There was no way I could take time to walk outside, listen to a sermon, pray or even  ... GASP! read the Bible during the work day.  How would I get everything done? I began questioning my career choice, thinking I should have been a defense lawyer instead, when she suggested that if I give that time to the Lord, I would actually get it back.

"Just try it for two weeks," she said.

 Once I let down my guard and realized she was trying to help me, much like God does, I began to soften to the idea like butter on hot bread. Come Tuesday, I was all set at 12 sharp, walking head-down and avoiding eye contact in the hallway. Sure enough, another teacher reminded me it was a co-worker's birthday and we were all eating lunch together in the classroom.
"Be right there!" I announced. I don't want anyone to know that I'm pre-menopausal and I forget EVERYTHING.

So then comes Wednesday. Right before lunch, I checked my e-mail "speedy quick" and clicked on the one from the principal, begging us to take a "minute" to read her weekly newsletter.

Thirty minutes later, feeling inadequate after reading all the cute quotes and viewing fabulous pictures and posts and Pinterest pins on the fabulous things other fabulous teachers are doing, I laid my head down on the keyboard and prayed. It was more of a begging, really. "Jesus, take the wheel!" I cried.

Tomorrow is Thursday. So I'm taking my Tupperware, sneaking out the side door to my car and keeping my promise to her, to God and to my students.

Dear students, I promise to pray for you daily. I'm going to pray for the first five on the roster diligently and daily for six weeks, then switch to the next five. When I've reached 20, I'll start over again.

I promise I will listen to what you ask me, even if it's not relevant to what I'm teaching. I never want you to feel stupid for asking a question. You are good, you are kind, you are important. Yes, you.

I promise if I need to reprimand you, I will make it discreet and individual. You will never be publicly humiliated unless you earn it 100 percent.

If you ask me to get you a book, I will search high and low to find it for you, no matter the cost. If your love for reading grows while you're with me, then I have succeeded as a teacher.

I will be honest with you when you are wrong, and praise you with the enthusiasm of a high school cheerleader when you are right. (You know I will, 'cause you've seen me do it. Don't think I won't.)

Your parents will know about all the wonderful things you do, because I will tell them and take pictures of you doing it. Just because you're in fourth grade, doesn't mean you shouldn't feel famous once in a while.

I will teach you everything I can, so that when the time comes for you to know something, you'll already know that you know it. You won't worry because no matter what grades or numbers or letters are stamped on your test, I will still love you, because you are my babies for the year.

Finally, I promise to practice the Speer Pledge with you. I can't claim it. Once upon a time when my own children were in second grade, their dear teacher led them through this saying just before the bell rang.  They came home happy every day. So I'll say it with you.
"I am special and unique. There is only one me. I will be the best I can be. I will respect myself and others. The world will be a better place because of my life."
Yes, it will.


  1. You write so well. I wish you could squeeze writing time into that day, but God surely comes first.

  2. I loved what you wrote. I teared up. You inspire me. I'm excited to find out that you have twins. Thank you for taking the time to share your story and for your dedication to our kids.