March 15, 2013
Teachers Talk - Can You Wash My Feet? - A Chapter in the Life of a Multi-grade Teacher
Andrea Gray, Teaching Principal, Woodlands Adventist School, Ponoka, AB

The morning began with me drudging to get out of bed. I was knee deep in a riveting mission story, filled with action, adventure, and most important, an earnest desire to serve the Lord. I was not quite ready to drop this treasure in order to begin the day. Admittedly, it was Sabbath, and it was one of those Sabbath mornings where I just wanted to worship with “Saint Mattress” and participate in “lay ministries”. Finally mustering up the energy to put the book down, I drove to the church where the vast majority of my students attend.
Being somewhat late, I hoped to slip into the back of the church unnoticed.  Shouts of “MISS GRAY!!” came abounding from the foyer of the church followed by presents of tight hugs and words of admiration. My plan was foiled, but my day was looking brighter.  Admittedly I do love it when I arrive at church and there is a fight for who gets to sit beside Miss Gray and who gets to sit on her lap, the most prized seat in the whole church for my younger students. Attempting to quiet the commotion, I suggested a brilliant plan, “Why don’t we all sit together?” It was decided and everyone seemed to agree except for two little ones who were still battling it out for my lap. I chuckle inside. Sabbath is truly blessed when you can spend it with children.  Never underestimate the love of a child, never.
 
As we were about to enter the church sanctuary, I felt a little tug on the side of my skirt. I turned around to see a girl with brown eyes smiling through her cute framed glasses, dressed in her Sabbath best. Feeling a little embarrassed at having caught my attention, she stared at the floor, awkwardly digging her shiny dress shoes into the carpet. Surprised by the excitement of catching my attention she tried to hide the bright smile and giggled. “Grace, I am so glad to see you! Oh, how you have grown. You are so much taller—your Sabbath dress is beautiful!”  I crouched down to give her a hug. The cloud of embarrassment now gone, her face beamed in delight. Because I teach in a multi-grade setting and I am the only teacher in the school, when a student leaves, they leave a caveat in my heart.
 
“Please, sit beside me, Miss Gray, if I end up staying for church.” Her eyes searched mine for acceptance. Grace sometimes does not stay for church.  Her mother usually brings her for Sabbath School and then picks her up afterwards. Judging by the disparity in her voice, she must have mustered up a lot of courage to ask me to sit with her. Who could resist such a request?
“Sure,” I responded. As the words left my lips, the smile from one of my younger students disappeared as her plan to sit beside me crumbled, so I added, “Beth, you can sit beside me on one side and Grace on the other.” I watched Grace run to her grandmother to ask if she can stay for church.  Her grandmother nodded and Grace resumed her position beside me with her hand in mine.
As we took our seats, my mind was occupied with the reminder that today was Communion. I felt a little queasy knowing there was no one there who I knew well enough to feel comfortable washing their feet, and felt terrible that I had not prepared for Communion. My thoughts were disrupted by the sight of the same smiling brown eyes looking at me as though I have completely missed everything she is saying. “Sorry, what were you saying Grace?”
 
Staring straight into my eyes she repeats her lost words, “Miss Gray, will you wash my feet?”
 
Her words shoot straight to my heart, leaving me motionless before I muster up, “I would be honoured to.” My mind flies a million miles a second. I am ashamed to say the thoughts were not entirely positive:  She’s not baptized...Does she understand what she’s doing?... Praise the Lord for the Holy Spirit. My thoughts came to an abrupt stop as they were interrupted by the clear thought, “Andrea, do you really understand communion? She wants you to wash her feet.” The Bible verse repeats itself over and over in my, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mark 10: 14).
For a moment, I felt unworthy to have my student wash my feet, a student I had not taught for years. I learned a valuable lesson that day: many times students enter our lives so that we can teach them; yet at the same time and even more so, God places them in our lives so that they can teach us.
 
“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Mark 10:15.