As a middle school teacher, I often get groans and people telling me that they “could never teach middle schoolers” when they find out what I do. Middle school is a tough age. There is a lot of unease and trying to figure out “who you are”. It is a hard time, wanting so desperately to fit in, and being scared to be vulnerable or share your feelings. And yet, I’ve witnessed kids doing just that - sharing their feelings. Even more impressively, I witnessed students sharing about their experiences with God. Hearing Him speak in their hearts. Seeing Him work in their lives.
The blessing of working with middle schoolers has also brought me the great blessing of sharing special moments in faith with them. Last week, the 8th grade students in the parish had the opportunity to attend an evening retreat. If you looked at the schedule for the night, you might be a little skeptical - it is a short night that has a few seemingly simple aspects. But if you’ve ever participated in a parish retreat, or heard from an attendee, you know how powerful those experiences can be. This seemingly simple night included powerful moments, especially during adoration. Many students felt peace and the Father’s love for them. Several students shared that they felt the Lord speaking to their heart. As their teacher, it is amazing to witness their courage in sharing, and especially their openness to letting the Lord work. Since I’ve been privileged to attend the 8th grade winter retreats, I also know that this night was just the beginning.
One of my favorite days of the school year is the first day back after the 8th grade weekend retreat. I’m exhausted and usually in desperate need of quality sleep. But each time, I’m drawn to tears hearing the students witness about their experiences. I am not only able to experience the love and power of God with them during the retreat, but I am also blessed with seeing their passion in sharing about their experiences. This past spring, like many other years, the 8th graders returned on fire for their faith. They didn’t want the experience or joy to end. Most notably, many of them approached me after class wanting to share ideas or availability to help with faith experiences through the school, youth ministry, or parish. Some people may judge middle schoolers as being a tough group, but their passion and excitement will change the world! My students’ witnesses and passion excites me and pushes me to continue to be open to where the Lord is leading. A few years ago, I didn’t know what the Lord had in store for me by bringing me to MHT, but I can honestly say that in this short period of time, I am already so very grateful.