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FIRST-PERSON: Sometimes everything’s okay

ATLANTA (BP)–Walking the yellowed waxed hallway floor, I crane my head to listen for any sounds coming from room 27.

It’s quiet in the hallway and I wonder just what I’ll find when I round the corner and walk into my high school classroom.

Away for an early morning meeting for students to work with an artist to design the front cover of next year’s yearbook, I am headed back to the classroom to teach junior English.

Today could be relaxing, or it could be chaos. A little reluctant to “let down my hair” and have a poetry reading and snacking day with the students, I was, however, willing to give it a go. It had been 30 long weeks together, and now only a few weeks remained to the end of the school year. I wondered whether the students and I could handle less structure and a different way of relating.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Quietly munching on chips and goodies they had brought to class, the 30-something students in my third hour waited patiently as I slipped in, then offered me some of the goods. Deciding I could go a step further and change into the teacher “uniform” for some Fridays, jeans and a collared shirt, I left to change and returned to a class still content to sit in their desks and munch.

Howard Payne said of the Civil War, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” For me, at the end of the school year, when the majority of papers and projects are graded and the standardized tests over, and when I have memorized all of the names on my seating chart — these are the times that make my soul smile.

“We’ve made it,” I think, glancing around the circle of desks we created for this day. Swiping at my misty eye, I am overcome with humility and with thanks for the opportunity I have had to teach each one.

“I don’t understand why Emily Dickerson wrote about dead flies,” whines one student.

“She’s not talking about the fly, but about what it would be like for a dead person to be in a casket. Right Mrs. Hannigan?” says another smugly, glancing in my direction.

“But I think….” offers another. I think, I think, I think.

Bemused, I look around the group, lips held tightly.

“What do you think, Mrs. Hannigan?” one of my high-achievers pipes up.

“Well, I think you think that what I think is important. But I think that you also think that what I think about what you think is important.”

Exchanging confused glances with each other, the students fidget.

But that’s okay.

There is a popular saying: “When you put God in the center, everything comes together.” Often I have pondered that expression. Often I have felt a peculiar peace overcome me as I think about the implications and the truth of that statement.

Things might not come together in the way I expect. Just like in the classroom — sometimes it’s when I least expect it, I look up and everything’s okay.

God is all-knowing and kids are all-sensing. Neither are easily fooled by appearances. Like that day in the classroom, it wasn’t until I made the decision to relax and let go that we achieved something new in our understanding of each other.

What God requires of me each and every day, each and every hour and each and every moment, can baffle me, until I remember he’s been in the center all along. I just needed to look.
Hannigan is a national correspondent for Baptist Press and a high school English and journalism teacher in the Atlanta area.

    About the Author

  • Joni B. Hannigan