The smell of sweaty children wafted through the room where chalk dust drifted in the humid air. With only three weeks until school would be out, I was stressed to my limit. “Lord, help me hold together for three more weeks.” I prayed softly as I entered the room after lunch break.
The children were hyper-active and louder than usual. My efforts to hold their attention failed. I hoped they would be sluggish after lunch and easier to manage. So far, that wasn’t panning out. In fact, chaos ensued when an argument erupted between two boys.
As I thrust myself into the heated debate it became physical. Unfortunately, the first punch caught me in my side and I dropped like a sack of potatoes. The boys stood over me with looks of horror on their faces. The other students returned quickly to their desks. Samantha Henry, a leader in the class ran for help. I could always depend on her to be responsible.
With pain coursing through my abdomen, I assured myself help was imminent; I also assured myself I would be alright. Next my thoughts turned to anger and disappointment. How could these boys who had spent almost an entire school year in my class do something like this? Before my thoughts carried me farther into an exercise in self-pity, I saw the stunned face of my principal looking down at me. “Oh, my dear are you alright? What has happened here?”
It was then I realize the only thing paralyzing me was my anger. I was perfectly able to get up off the floor. In fact, I couldn’t imagine why I had just laid there in the first place.
Mrs. Wallace assisted me to my feet. I was shaky, but okay. I straightened my clothing and my hair as I attempted to gather my wits. Mrs. Wallace watched me with a concerned expression. “Would you like to take the afternoon off? Perhaps you should be checked out by your doctor.”
I waved my hand to signal my intention of remaining in the classroom. I certainly didn’t want two fifth graders feeling victorious over me. After all, I was the general in my classroom and their little behinds belonged to me until 3pm. “Lord Jesus, restore my peace.”
The principal offered to take “Rocky” with her, but I assured her I could handle the situation. Whether “Rocky” would have all his curly hair at three remained to be seen. I gave the boys a stern glance before sitting down at my desk.
“Thank you Samantha for your quick action. Now, Jacob and Marco what do you have to say for yourselves?”
“I didn’t mean to hit you Ms. Johnson. I was going for Marco. He called me a—a—I better not say, but it wasn’t nice.”
I turned to Marco giving him a chance to explain. “Well, Jacob took my favorite pencil my sister gave me, and I got angry and called him a bad word. Are you gonna tell my mother what I said?”
I didn’t answer. I could tell both boys were on the verge of tears. Sweat was coursing down their faces. Jacob’s eyes revealed how frightened he felt, and Marco was visibly anxious about his mother learning he had used bad language.
The other students sat straight as arrows, quiet as mice with their eyes fixed on me. Ava wiped tears. She was my sensitive one. Samantha fidgeted with her ponytail. The atmosphere was charged with tension.
As I stood, I realized how sore my side had become. I wasn’t angry anymore, but my distress was escalating. How should I handle this situation? While I pondered that question, Stanley Matthews raised his hand. “Yes Stanley?”
“I think I know what you should do. My mom says before she has a meltdown she takes three deep breaths and counts to ten.”
“That sounds like a very good idea, Stanley. Boys, how do you feel about that?”
Jacob and Marco looked at each other and then at me. Finally they nodded in agreement. “Okay all together let’s take in a deep breath, let it out, another, let it out, another breath and let it out…
“Ms. Johnson, remember before you melt in the floor again—chillax.”
“What does chillax mean, Samantha?”
“That’s my big sister’s favorite word. It means to stay calm and cool.” Samantha grinned as she twisted her ponytail.
“Out of the mouths of babes. Thank you Lord.”
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