Think middle school. Think of the awkward insecurities that stick to you like aggravating acne. Think about the up and down roller coaster of emotions trying to get that one boy to smile at you.
Think about the teacher that’s making your life agonizing.
My most memorable middle school class was a case study in harassment.
Our teacher (I’ll call him Mr. Smith) was anti-God … and yet there I was in his classroom, the pastor’s daughter of the largest church in town. A Bible church. No less. Everyone (so it seemed) knew who I was or at least my PK identity. Most kids didn’t care and several of my friends even tagged along to youth group events with me. My identity might have slipped pass this teacher too, except for one thing. The teacher across the hall attended our church. The third teacher in the department was also a believer and attended a Bible study my dad taught. Both of these teachers consistently invited Mr. Smith to join the study. He went a couple times but not very happily.
What I do remember is his animosity toward me.
Here are just a few examples.
*Team #1 – here’s a couple dollars to buy a snack as you work. I’ll give the team lead a dollar and (insert my last name) the other one because we all know WE CAN TRUST HER! She’s a Christian! This was said with derision.
*Lots of homework tonight. I want it done by tomorrow, except for (insert my last name) because she has to go to church. Wednesday night you know. (Sarcasm dripped with every word.
*This next story is rather dirty, so (insert my last name) if you’d like to leave the room, you can. (Much laughter.)
Then there was the time we went on a field trip to the Lincoln Conservatory and had to take a test on what we saw. I missed question five and for some reason that I didn’t understand that set him off. He went on a tirade of how stupid I was and what an embarrassment I was to my father because I didn’t know the name of the plant in question #5. This did not just go on for five or 10 seconds, but he spent at least 20 minutes telling me what a horrible person I was. Then as the ultimate humiliation (so he thought) he went and got the teacher from across the hall. I think I was supposed to be frightened when I saw Mr. B walk in the room, but instead I was happy. I knew he would get me out of this. Which he did. When Mr. Smith told him how ignorant I was for not knowing the answer, Mr. B said, “Why should she know it more than anyone else? It’s just the name of a plant.”
To this day, I still remember the answer to question #5 – Crown of Thorns.
Needless to say, I didn’t like Mr. Smith’s class, but I didn’t write this for you to feel sorry for me. I can be thankful for that class, because I know that year strengthened my faith. Even as a 13-year-old, I sort of realized that.
*I had many friends in the class, so Mr. Smith’s taunts did NOT get picked up by the kids.
*My parents encouraged me to talk about what happened. But they DIDN’T march in and complain ( like I think many parents would’ve done). My dad did explain some of Mr. Smith’s background (without breaking confidences) and why he reacted the way he did. He had learned some things from the few Bible studies Mr. Smith attended and also from Mr. B. Then we prayed for him. That helped me understand that Mr. Smith’s animosity was not really directed at me, but was a result of his attitude toward God.
*Mr. B said I could come talk to him anytime I needed to. So even though I don’t remember going to him, I knew I had support right across the hall.
Truly, however, I do not wish anything like this on my own kids or anyone’s kids. Sitting there, listening to his comments hurt my insides and some days it took all I had not to cry. (I never did – at least not in class.)
Situations like this are tough and it’s tough to see our kids go through them too … whether our personal kids or kids in our ministry.
Fortifying them for the tough moments is necessary and getting more and more necessary in today’s world.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians: And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17)
The best weapon we have to equip our kids is God’s Word.
We need to make sure they know verses such as:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. (Ephesians 6:1)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12)
Some other suggestions …
If at all possible, let the kids work it out on their own. Sure, you can go fight for them, but you won’t always be there, so give them opportunity to fight for themselves. (Of course, if the situation gets dangerous, you would need to step in.)
Be interested. Talk out what has happened each night after school. Keep track of what is going on.
If possible, find a support person in the school. Do you know a believing teacher in another grade? An office worker? A member of the maintenance staff?
Encourage them to surround themselves with a group of good friends who are always there for them (and vice versa)
Pray with them about the situation … constantly.
We need to teach our kids that the armor of God is valuable equipment for all of life … and that includes middle school.