Red Badge Of Failure
By Jane Thornton
When I was in second grade and my sister was in kindergarten, I wielded my red pen with great delight. I brought home spare work sheets, determined to enlighten her with whatever I had learned. I remember that each large scarlet X, showing her the error of her ways, warmed my bossy little heart. All signs indicated that teaching was in my soul.
Last night, grading quizzes for my senior English class, I brandished a green pen—it’s less threatening to student psyche than red. Each slash through an incorrect answer elicited a hiss of disapproval or a groan of frustration. As the number of Xs mounted, my shoulders slumped. If my students failed, I failed. What made me think I should be a teacher?
After that grading session, my morning reading was in Deuteronomy twenty-eight. I found myself empathizing with God as he rained down curses on the Israelites for faulty choices. My righteous indignation marched into the classroom with me, and I served up a lecture on taking responsibility for their own learning. I watched eyes glaze over, focused not on my words, but on the grade of 48 (green though it was) at the top of most papers.
The same glassy expression has been known to settle on my children in the midst of my edifying discourses. With parenting, like teaching, the same doubts have hounded me. Where did I get the idea I’m qualified for this job? If my children falter, I falter.
Then the Lord brought me back to the Israelites in Deuteronomy. As a parent Himself, God has known and loved a multitude of rebellious children. He knows and shares my frustration. He knows and shares my sorrow. And when my students or children succeed, he knows and shares my joy.
“and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.” Deuteronomy 30:2-3 (NIV)
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” 3 John 1:4 (NIV)