2 years ago today, my mom died of cancer.
The rain that poured out on the day of her funeral was just imagery of what was going on inside of me.
The phrase "Time heals everything," I have decided is simplified to the point that it isn't true. Time doesn't heal. Feelings simply change over time.
2 years later, this is what I still feel.
I still cry for my mom. I still get angry at life and God. I sometimes even get angry at mom. At times I just go to her grave and weep and leave feeling a little stronger and a little more peace. At times I randomly cry in my house and my wife has to come and hold on to me until I can breathe again.
There are powerful emotions behind life and death and love and loss.
These emotions are so easy to keep private, but they are one of your most powerful tools for connection.
The teacher face.
There is part of me as a teacher that wants to keep my distance. Here are what those thoughts look like:
"My students don't need a friend. They need a teacher."
"High schoolers can be mean. I'll keep my feelings to myself."
"I don't want to let these guys too close. I might get hurt."
It's so easy to hide real emotions.
I am the fun teacher. I am the one who is always out to cheer people up. I usually have a smile on my face as I walk down the high school hallway giving out high fives and shoulder rubs. But behind my teacher face is a world of emotion.
About a year ago coming up on the first year of losing my mom, I had this urge to share my story with the student body at FCA (the school I was working with).
I simply wanted to talk about losing my mom. I don't know why the urge was so strong. Maybe it was God nudging me or maybe it was my longing to share something with a group of people that meant so much to me. Or maybe it was both.
There was an opening for a chapel speaker, and I jumped on the opportunity.
I remember preparing for the speech and crying every time. I even had to tell a couple of other teachers, "If I can't pull myself together, please bail me out."
The day came, and I wasn't sure if I would be able to do it. I got up on the stage in front of 100 plus people started,
"How many of you have laughed with Profe?" Most people raised their hands.
"How many of you have seen Profe angry?" Lots of people raised their hands with a lot of giggling.
"How many of you have seen Profe cry?" A couple of hands went up.
Then I said, "It's going to happen today. I can already feel the lump in my throat." Before I had even finished the sentence I started weeping. I couldn't pull myself together. I could barely fumble out the words that I had to rehearse hundreds of times in my head. "All I need from you guys is two minutes....if I start crying, simply give me two minutes and just be with me....If I can't pull myself together another teacher will come up and finish."
I don't remember all the details of the speech, but here is what I do remember:
I know I told the painful story of losing my mom.
I remember talking about the miracles surrounding my mom's death.
I remember crying uncontrollably many times as the rest of the room was silent.
I remember going 20 minutes over my time and feeling guilty about that.
Lastly, I remember looking out over the crowd. I saw read eyes and faces. I saw heads buried in hands and furrowed eyebrows. It was dead silent...complete respect from 100 kids.
Teachers and students were all weeping with me. They had never even met my mom, but they all had similar stories, and they could connect with my pain.
I couldn't figure out where I was going with the talk. So after running way over my time I just ended it, and another teacher came up to bring some closure.
I was worried.
What had I just done? I just gave a tear filled talked that probably terrified the 5th graders and triggered anyone else who had suffered loss. It didn't really have a point, and I had gone way over my time.
However, after the speech I had so many people talk about how powerful the talk was. Person after person came up and offered a hug or a "thank you" with tears in their eyes. I knew something in the atmosphere had changed.
I'm forever grateful to the students and staff at FCA. There was REAL, DEEP HEALING in the room that day for me and for others.
Why was it powerful?
I am sure there is much more to this, but to simplify, we can use one word: Vulnerability.
If you want to connect with your students (or anyone for that matter) and influence their lives, you need to be vulnerable. You need to be real. You need to be authentic.
There are so many times that I am not vulnerable in the classroom. I simply put on my teacher face and plug through the lesson plan.
There is definitely times where that is necessary. However, the biggest impact I have made on my students were the times where I was vulnerable.
Student need the real you.
The real you is probably extremely messy. You're a mixed bag of joy, pain, hurt, and many other emotions.
So are your students.
Do you want to make a difference this next school year? Do you want to impact your students in the most powerful way possible? Do you want to connect with them on a deeper level? Do you want to experience healing?
Be the real you. Be vulnerable.