Four weeks ago I had my left hip replaced. I did not realize how much the pain was dictating my life’s journey until post surgery euphoria. I’m excited to say recovery has been almost effortless and I’m back in the gym! The passion to write in support of my book Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child! has returned.
But waiting for the surgery was not easy. Perched on an uncomfortable gurney for five hours made me wonder if my expectations of this surgery were too elevated. It would have been an uneventful five hours if I hadn’t experienced an incredible encounter. As the curtain to my “bedroom” closed, I listened to the comings and goings of patients. Most were quiet, probably experiencing the same trepidation as I. But then the nurses escorted an older man to the bed next to mine, separated only by a plastic curtain. The man behind the curtain appeared to be high maintenance. Nothing was going as planned. He was cold, his socks didn’t fit right and the pillows on his gurney were positioned incorrectly. At first I found the man, with his droning voice, quite irritating. As his demands increased, I started to see the humor in it. I could only imagine the nurses rolling their eyes out loud with each request he made. In fact I started to snicker, quietly of course, as his voice raised for each new question or need. What a ridiculous old man, I thought. I was attempting to be the very best patient ever to compensate for the man behind the curtain. I never complained about the five hour wait, the sound of drilling, resounding in the renovation of the surgical center, or the countless times I traveled to the bathroom after receiving an IV for five hours!
The nurse started his prep for surgery. The conversation began with mundane questions: How are you feeling? What is your pain level? And then the man behind the curtain began to speak softly.
He sounded remorseful as he shared how he missed his wife. If only she could be there today. Upon questioning from the nurse, he told his story.
The man behind the curtain no longer experienced the love of his wife because she was murdered. The nurse let out an audible gasp. But his story only worsened. For you see, his mentally-ill son stabbed his wife to death three years prior. Oh my heart. How had I misunderstood this man, even finding humor in his complaining? The story did not end there. His son is in prison but not receiving the help he desperately requires.
I am a praying person. Not because I’m some sort of religious zealot but because I know God answers prayers and my empathy genes work over time. So I immediately begged God to help ease the mental anguish this man was enduring. My eyes welled up with tears, which pierced my soul upon each statement the man uttered. But as I was seeking God’s help, the man behind the curtain continued speaking, in an almost inaudible voice.
Shortly after the man’s wife was murdered by his mentally-ill son, his daughter died of a heroine overdose. It’s been said God never gives us more than we can handle but on this one occasion, I began to doubt God’s omniscience. The man behind the curtain, having knee replacement surgery, had to confront the perils of his life alone. The shear emptiness I felt inside was overwhelming. Blinking, my eyes could not stop the stream of tears. How could this man behind the curtain face each day abandoned? That situation explained my first onslaught of tears. My suppressed sobs were the result of my mocking his incessant demands and quirky self-absorbed complaints. I was an empathetic teacher for over four decades. When my students were panicked and in pain, I felt the waves of heartache almost instantly. Yet it was easy for me to judge this man quite harshly before I heard his story. Perhaps God ordained those five hours to help me understand this man’s plight and a life lesson: you cannot judge anyone without knowing their story.
What has this to do with teaching? Everything. Many of today’s teachers have been brainwashed in their university classrooms: teaching is just an 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. job. Report, teach concepts, go home. Repeat. The natural tendency to look at today’s students as self-absorbed, high maintenance and entitled is tempting. However many of our children place an imaginary mask (not the ineffective mandated paper ones) over their faces every morning, pretending all is good in the world. These children bury their anger, depression and fears, not knowing how to function in a world which locked them out of school for months.
The man behind the curtain needed to share his story. So does every student a teacher encounters. But there is not enough time to get to know students on a personal level let alone an emotional one. Besides university teachers’ college dogma would not accept that premise. Curriculum no longer includes math, reading, social studies and English. Overcrowded classrooms leave no time for children and teachers to truly connect on a one to one relationship. And yet many of today’s schools do find time to implement correct pronouns, gender fluidity, race baiting and sexual exploitation. With such a profound American secular-progressive education agenda, our educational system no longer responds to nor hears the real needs of America’s children. Just as I misunderstood the man behind the curtain, today’s teachers find it challenging to pull back the curtain their students so ably hide behind. And just as the man behind the curtain needed to tell his story, our children require the same before they can attempt to learn and find their life’s purpose.
Is there a solution? I firmly believe there is and shall address it in the next podcast/blog. But until then, if you’re a praying person, please raise up the man behind the curtain, for God knows his name.
TUNE IN SOON. Here’s a tease: The Golden Rule Project. Did you know that treating another as you wish to be treated is embraced in all of the world’s religions? Think about that. What if we incorporated the Golden Rule Project in America’s schools? Perhaps the next generations, when encountering different points of view, could experience commonality before they clamored with contempt.
PLEASE SHARE THIS LINK WITH ANY AND ALL . Read more of my thoughts at: rescuetheteacher.com. If you’re experiencing unfair practices in your teaching position, please reach out to me at rescuetheteacher @yahoo.com! Here is even a better idea: propose a book study of Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child! for your school district. I would be happy to come and lead it!