Sometimes teaching stinks…and we mean quite literally.
Let us explain…
As a kindergarten teacher, there are many times that I walk into my room and say, “Something smells!” No, it is not that I leave things out that may have a putrid smell to them, but sometimes in kindergarten, we have potty accidents, toots, poots, and pardon my French, all out FARTS. Before teaching kindergarten, I did not know that a small five year old body could let out a FART louder than a full grown man. Earlier this school year, my partner teacher and I literally cleaned poop off the floor and tried to investigate the bottoms of shoes to locate the source of the tracks in the bathroom.
We still takes naps in my kindergarten classroom. So at times, there is the smell of sweaty stinky feet. At points, all sorts of smells can be happening at once, and it can be down right nauseating.
Kindergarten isn’t the only place teaching stinks. Have you ever been in a middle school classroom? How about a middle school classroom right after gym class? Oh. my. offended. nose. GAG!!! The smell gets even worse as these middle school children buy into the belief that Axe and Bath & Body Works body splash can fix everything. My high schoolers would often remark upon entering my room even several hours after middle school, “So…middle schoolers been in here again?” I would always retort, “Was it the clouds of Axe you just walked through or the smell of sweat that gave it away this time?” We’d all laugh, but y’all, it’s the honest truth: teaching literally stinks sometimes.
Just this past week, I, Bonnie, had quite the different smell abomination. I had taken my class into our cafetorium for Grandparents Day practice. As I walked into a closet with two of my fellow teachers, one of them exclaimed, “Dead mouse. Dead mouse. Dead mouse.” yet none of us saw one…well, until they left, and my eyes landed on a little furry “Mickey” or “Minnie,” tongue out and threatening to make me scream and run for my life. Without a second’s hesitation, I yelled, “MOUSEEEEEE!!! AHHHHH!” and did not jump – no! – leaped out of that closet. This whole time I thought my coworker had seen the mouse, but no, no she had not. She literally had just smelled it. Talk about a disgusting smell – dead mice ain’t ever gonna make a good Yankee Candle smell. #gross
Bethany and I were out to dinner that night, and it hit me that I hadn’t let our headmaster know about this creature who was STILL in the closet. While sitting at dinner, I texted him. His response in a nutshell, “You better hope no snake comes in tonight to eat it.” Just what I wanted to hear. Well, lo and behold, the next morning, our custodian discovered a baby snake in the same area of the building where dead little Minnie or Mickey still lay. #differentstorybutstill
Okay, so back up…Bethany and I walked into my room the morning after the mouse discovery. The lights were still off. The room was still pretty dark. As I walked to my closet to put down my things and grab my coffee mug, I stepped on some foreign object – and in Bethany’s words – I leaped to the ceiling and screamed, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!” as I swore I had just stepped on yet another doggone mouse. But…no. No mouse. Just the cardboard insert of an empty tape roll I had left the night before.
You see, sometimes the trauma from the previous day’s smells carry over into the next day. Had the dead mouse not been a thing the day before, the empty tape roll would’ve remained an empty tape roll. I wouldn’t have had any reason to think it was a mouse.
The same is true of our teaching lives. Of our personal lives. Of our spiritual lives. The “smells” of previous days sometimes color our world many days…weeks…months…and years later.
Let’s revisit the middle school classroom for a second. Just like my, Bethany, middle schoolers’ smells are invasive and overwhelming in a negative sense to those around them, the “smell” we give off can also either be invasive and overwhelming to others or inviting and sweet.
As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17:
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in Christ’s triumphal procession and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of him in every place. For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life. Who is adequate for these things? For we do not market the word of God for profit like so many. On the contrary, we speak with sincerity in Christ, as from God and before God.
The way we live our lives can be stinky…just like teaching is sometimes. Our attitudes, our actions, our words, our thoughts – these can all leave a putrid smell to those around us. According to Paul, this leads to death and have no purpose in furthering the Gospel of Christ.
On the flip side, teaching can be oh so sweet.
I, Bonnie, will often make something in my crockpot that ties into a theme in my classroom. During the fall, I will make applesauce and pumpkin bread in my crockpot. Sometimes, I season the play-doh with different scents for work-mats and activities. There are many times that I will let my kids write on their desks with shaving cream. The smell from the shaving cream is strong, but it makes my classroom fresh and clean.
Call me crazy, but when my kids come into my room in the mornings, and they greet me with a hug, I lean in to give them a kiss on the tops of their heads and the smell of fresh clean hair reminds me to be thankful for God’s provision that they come from a home where parents love them and clean water is plentiful.
In my classroom (Bethany), the smell of sweet peppermint or wintergreen pervades the room every time you step in the door. I keep mints for my kiddos, and the smell just permeates the room and creates a soothing environment for work. Every quarter, I have a week where I bake goodies for my (big) babies, and the smells from those sweets and treats lingers, too.
By the time high school rolls around, most of those used-to-be-middle-schoolers have nixed the Axe and have learned to use cologne and perfume properly…and my nose no longer finds the need to be offended.
Teaching can be sweet. It can be filled with Christ-like gentleness, kindness-drenched actions, grace-seasoned words, truth-filled thoughts. According to Paul, this leads to life and has much purpose in furthering the Gospel of Christ.
So the question is: what kind of aroma are you leaving behind? Is it an aroma that leads to death, or is it an aroma that leads to life in Christ?