In the last several weeks I have heard myself repeatedly telling my students about my growing conviction that recess is a very important part of the day. It truly is. Active playtime is consistent with how God created our bodies. It also offers regular and precious opportunities to mentor relationships as we discuss how sportsmanship. Because respecting others and apologizing appropriately does not come naturally, recess is a natural time to teach those skills.
Those mentoring sessions can become both lengthy and draining, especially when I view them as stealing from my carefully crafted book-learning plans. But when I affirm recess as a vital part of the day rather than begrudge the energy required to navigate all the variables in the differing opinions of whatever the current disagreement was about, it prepares me to listen to the Shepherd’s voice as He instructs me how to respond. Truly, these are golden opportunities.
I find, to my relief, that they don’t really even need to feel very golden in the moment. Just acknowledging in my heart that this could actually be something positive rather than merely a rude interruption changes my perspective a tiny bit. This miniature shift actually ends up giving me a smidgen more vision to step into the situation with redemptive grace. I think that heart response would accurately reflect God’s thoughts, certainly more than begrudging the moment does.
Recently when thrust unwillingly into the midst of several students’ passionate recess complaints, I pondered anew various things the Lord has patiently been teaching me (over and over) the past years regarding recess squabbles. What can guide me in effectively embracing these unwelcome, yet teachable, moments? Only God, whose understanding no one can fathom (Is. 40:28b) is able to sort through the maze of multiple variables, but He ongoingly invites me to sit at His feet and learn from Him.
Here I offer a few ideas that have helped shape my responses to squabbles.
But I recently forgot this important lesson about caring for their hearts when I was reluctantly swept into several demanding complaints. In retrospect, I easily made the connection between my spirit of unwillingness and feeling blocked from hearing and heeding the guiding voice of the Shepherd. And it showed. Afterwards, He gently reminded me of the importance of affirming their worth, of letting them know that it matters how they feel. It would have made my interaction much more redemptive had I responded first by thoughtfully considering what lay behind their angry, blaming words. Perhaps the greatest redemption of that recent failure is that it was this scenario that prompted me to ponder these lessons He has taught me over the years.
Although I want to have the offended one do his own speaking, with timid students it works better for me to relate what I heard him say and then ask the child if I accurately conveyed what he is feeling. Remember also how extremely intimidating it can be for a student to confront an offender who is several years older. In both those scenarios, I assume a highly active role. At some point, students are often ready to step out on their own, to try resolving differences without me along, but I choose to not push that before I sense they are ready.
A favorite memory is when an opinionated student respectfully reported to me a conflict with an equally opinionated student by simply saying, “Miss Yoder, I need to talk to .”
“Sure, do you want me to be along?”
“No, I think we can handle it.”
Still without a clue as to what the issue was, I gave them permission to step outside to discuss their differences. I could see glimpses of them through the window and saw dialogue happening while we continued with class inside. After about ten minutes they both came in smiling broadly. To this day I have no idea what happened, but I know it was good! The fact that two equally passionate youngsters had been able to talk out their differences is to me a beautiful picture of how Matthew 18 works.
Child A starts, “I – I pushed (sniff, sniff) him first.”
Tears roll down his cheeks and suddenly Child B interrupts with, “And then I pushed him even harder. It was really my fault. I know he didn’t mean it.”
Confession, repentance, and mercy are beautiful companions. It makes me think of Proverbs 18:13: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
To recap: Every day brings new dimensions to situations, and each scenario is different. We can never lay it all out and simply follow step 1-2-3. We interact with humans all day long, not machines and formulas. Only our kind Father is wise enough to navigate all the variables, but He does invite us to ask Him boldly for wisdom.
I continue to affirm my belief that recess is an essential part of school life. I choose daily either to reject the mentoring opportunities recess times often generate or to receive them as teachable moments. Using a new lens to see them, I can believe these glorious intruders actually invite Emmanuel to walk among us—the Messiah who regularly turns ashes into beauty. After all, transformation is His specialty.
CONTRIBUTOR: Betty Yoder