Middle School: My Unexpected Blessing


It’s not fair. It’s really not fair at all. I have been teaching middle school now for 12 weeks, and almost every day I think to myself that it’s not fair how good my life is.

This life started last year. I was hired to teach first year composition at the University of Central Oklahoma. I remember how I felt the night before my first day. Fear and anxiety permeated my chest. I started chanting, They are more scared than I am, over and over and started to relax, a little.

It took only a few weeks for me to realize that my whole life, all of my experiences, good and bad, had been preparing me for the first group that I would call “MY kids.” Yes, they were 18- and 19-year-old young adults, but they were still “MY kids.” I remember thinking, How have I gone my whole life without this? My realization brought me to tears of gratitude. Lord, I am not worthy of this life. I don’t deserve to be responsible for the education of any of your children. Please, give me the determination and the faithfulness and the words to do your will in my school. It still brings me to tears.

I have since moved to Kansas, Oklahoma. I now teach a much different age of student, but the maturity level, for better or for worse, differs only slightly.  I diligently prepared for the first week, so that when those 12 students walked in my room, I would see each of them. The day before school started this year, fear and anxiety attempted to fight for my attention, but my family, friends and I continuously prayed for God to give me peace.  I breathed easily and slept soundly that night.

Over the past six weeks, I have seen so much. But once, I found myself blind to how overwhelming life at Cookson Hills can be at the beginning. One of my more talkative and outgoing students recently spent some time with me in tutoring. At first, he performed so well that it looked like he was going to be completely caught up to his peers in a matter of weeks. Delighted with the progress, I blazed on through the material, assuming he would be able to pick it all up. Starting the lesson that day with a few seconds of explanation, I sent the young student on his way to complete several dozen sentences on his own. When I went to check on him, it appeared he did not grasp the concepts as well as I had hoped. Exasperated, I sat down next to the boy and questioned him as calmly as I could.

“I’m confused,” I said to him. “You had this stuff just yesterday. What is going on?”

“I don’t know,” he replied dejectedly. He looked down at his desk and remained quiet for several minutes as tears fell on his paper. My heart broke. This boy had been with us only two weeks at this point, and I was expecting him to be able to function at a level far above his emotional capacity. I had completely overwhelmed him.

“Sweetie, this is a lot of information, isn’t it?”
“Do you feel a little overwhelmed?”
“I’m so sorry for putting so much on you at one time. Do you forgive me?”
“Thank you. Would you like to work on something else for a little bit?”

At Cookson Hills, our responsibility as teachers goes deeper because many of our students need healing. We exist, not just to provide a good education for these students, but to provide an education that keeps holistic wellness the priority.

I’m still learning how to teach these kids, my kids. Each of them needs something just a little bit different, and each apology I make takes me one step closer to their hearts and to their minds.

I fall more in love with my kids every day. Some days, I sit and watch them when they are working and think about how incredibly blessed I am to have these kids. It’s really not fair at all.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR — Ashley Allsbury, Middle School Teacher, is from Edmond, Oklahoma. She enjoys good conversation paired with good coffee, teaching at Cookson Hills, and watching a variety of nerdy movies and TV shows.