When I started teaching school, I was convinced I would change the world and touch children who needed love. My first job was in the inner city. It was a turbulent time – fathers away at war, mothers trying to cope raising families alone. Racial strife and poverty were rampant in the neighborhood.
Although my large class seemed to respond pretty well to my instruction and planned activities, there was a small group of teenage girls who became more and more hostile toward me. Fights frequently broke out on the playground or in the cafeteria, and I often intervened. The words from a hymn, "God is my strong salvation;/ What foe have I to fear?" ("Christian Science Hymnal," No. 77), were an inspiration to me, but still these angry young people often intimidated me.
One day a fight brewed in my classroom. Attempting to quell it, I stepped in to face one of these hostile young women, who turned on me and started hitting me in the face. Two boys jumped up to control the girl, but the damage was done. I had lost control of my class, and I was humiliated.
While the girl was suspended for a few days, I was adamant that she not return to my classroom and tried to work with the administration. But I also prayed. I wanted to see God's child, right there in my daily work at school.
On the top of my daily lesson-plan book, I wrote this statement from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper: "Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick" (pp. 476–477). It was the first thing I saw each day when I started teaching. This kept me focused. To see all the children in my classroom as cherished by God, as never deprived, and as always beautiful and radiant meant that I was working to see these students as Jesus would see them. With this view I could expect healing in my heart of any resentment toward the girl.
After her suspension, she returned to school, and to my classroom. A parent-teacher conference revealed that the student's young mother was trying to raise six children and maintain unity in her home while her husband was away in the war overseas. The mother and I agreed to work together to help her oldest daughter.
There were no more incidents of anger the rest of the year. In fact, in the seven years I remained at that school, I taught all six of this family's children. When the youngest was in my class – a happy, bubbly, eager little girl – the mother told me in another parent-teacher conference, "Our family loves you. Every year one of my kids says, 'I hope I'm in her classroom!' "
This promise from Isaiah was true for me and all my kids during those years of teaching: "Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable and I have loved thee" (43:4).
The standard of seeing God's creation, including each of my students, as perfect – as Jesus saw everyone – was the best teaching tool I had, and led to victories and brotherhood in the classroom.