By Jessica Brodie
My sister, a school counselor in North Carolina, shared a teaching podcast-video with me that dives into the extraordinarily difficult realities experienced by those who teach in public schools today. In the clip I watched, one teacher talked about how she’s frequently called upon to break up fights or haul kids to class (or detention) when they get out of line.
“Do they ever give you trouble?” the interviewer asked the heavyset, strong-jawed woman who seemed to exude toughness—the kind of woman you get the impression could roar if the right occasion beckoned.
The woman laughed, a no-nonsense smirk spreading across her face. “Me? No, they know not to mess with me. But there are teachers they know they can mess with.”
Those teachers, teachers who seem “soft,” almost command disrespect, she explained. “Get over yourself,” kids tell teachers like this,
Watching the video, I shot my sister a look. “Is she exaggerating?”
Sadly, Sara told me, she wasn’t. Even in so-called good schools, with strong test scores and without the systemic issues that might explain some of the problems, teachers today are all-too-accustomed to dealing with mouthy kids, kids who’d just as soon punch a teacher in the face as they would their classmate.
Yet today as I write this, the words of these kids keep echoing in my mind: “Get over yourself.” They fixate in my brain—and along with them, the idea that we are so caught up in the game, the act, the façade, and these kids can somehow see right through it all. They—these life-hardened kids without a proper filter—can see the real us, going through the motions, scared, looking out for ourselves. They can sense who among their teachers has “substance” and who does not, who’s a fighter and who’s a coward, who will go running and who will stand up in solidarity and fight with them. And it gives me pause.
It’s not that a student is justified in being disrespectful to the person in charge, the licensed educator tasked to help students succeed in school (and, ultimately, life). That’s not OK. But perhaps there’s some truth in the cutting suggestion that we “get over ourselves.” That we stop putting ourselves, our safety, our job security, our personal fears in the way of doing what is right for others.
I think about Jesus’s story of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10, and how the lesson is that we should always be willing to sacrifice our own personal time and well-being for our neighbor, for in doing so we are genuinely loving others as ourselves.
I don’t want to be the kind of person a student stares down and tells to “get over yourself.” I want to be the kind of person, the kind of Christian, who others can tell immediately would jump in the fire to save just one more soul. The kind of person who sacrifices self for the greater good, for others. I don’t want to be about self at all, but fully about others.
This month, I urge you to think about this: Do you need to “get over yourself?” Do we all?