Every week I have “Lunch dates.” As the name suggests I have lunch with students who I want to get to know more. I use the lunchtime because this is the only time where students can speak Korean to me so we can talk on a much deeper level (our school is an English speaking campus).
A couple of days ago I met up with a student whom I will call Steve. Steve joined our school late in the fall so he missed out on making new friends which is critical during the first couple of days for a new student like him. All the students already formed their clicks so it was evident that Steve was alone during breaks, during lunchtime and even after school.
Steve is also poor in English which isolates him more because he can’t speak to the teachers or the students during class periods (except lunch time). On top of that, he struggles in class because of his language skills and many time he would come into the teacher’s office sharing his struggle. Knowing all this lunchtime was to encourage and listen to his struggles so that I can find a way to help him.
We sat down in a small classroom and he seemed to be excited to have lunch with me. I started the conversation casually by asking how his exams were going (we were in the middle of mid-term exams). His obvious response,
“It is very hard.”
Then I moved on to asked him about his family. Steve said both his parents work and on average they get home about 9pm. So he and his brother go home have dinner on their own.
This was the point where my heart broke down and my eyes started to produce tears. I am extremely unforgiving to the parents who work late through the night. I believe that parents should and must spend time with their children at home. But with Steve’s parent, I knew well why they had to put in those extra hours. It was so that Steve and his brother could receive this unique Christian education. Mom and dad can’t be home to have dinner because Steve and his brother could go to our school.
I pretended nothing was happening and I continued our conversation by asking
“What is your greatest concern going to our school?”
This is a very normal question and the usual answer I get from students are like
“This class is too hard, I got a C in my test, I can’t understand English.”
So I am expecting something along these lines and Steve’s response just made me break into tears.
He said “There are many students who don’t know Christ. I wish all of them will get to know the gospel.”
His response hit me so hard. As a teacher of a Christian school, this was never my priority. My greatest concern as a teacher was to make students learn the subject matter (not fail in class), behave appropriately (abide by the rules), respect teachers and others. And here was this student who I considered to be a disappointing performer concerned about his friends’ soul. At this point, I could not hold my tears so I lied to Steve saying that the onion today was very spicy and that it made me cry.
Then his next comment made me want to run away,
“The teachers at our school is very loving and I can feel that. I feel like they are genuinely concerned about the students.”
I am thankful that he feels the love from teachers but I could not make eye contact with Steve because I have failed him as a teacher and more as a Christian educator. I couldn’t tell him that I have loved him as I should have. It was evident at this point that we cannot continue our lunch date but there was one more thing.
“Do you have a prayer request teacher?”
I could not believe what I was hearing. It was the first time a student ever asked me a prayer request.
I could no longer hold my tears and I sincerely apologized to Steve that the onion is really making me sick. So we ended the lunch date early. I had to leave the building and to be alone.
My brief moment with Steve left me dumbfounded on many levels here are the questions that he left me with:
– How much am I concerned about the students who don’t know Christ yet?
– What is my priority as a Christian teacher?
– How much do I pray for those students who struggle?
– Who is a Christian teacher? How are they different from non-Christian teachers?
– How can I help and support students like Steve? Or in other words, how can I show my love for Steve?
– What is my role here at Fayston (FPS)?