Just Another Tuesday at GWS

Emily Wiegand Profile
Article by Emily Wiegand

"Even better are the days when I get to learn alongside them..."

8:00 am: Students start to trickle into Gateway Woods School. After a quick stop at their lockers, they line up for their first class of the day: Devotions. My class just finished watching The Pilgrim’s Progress and is in the middle of debriefing the scene from Legality Hill.

“Can you get into heaven by doing enough good things?” I ask them. “Well, yeah, isn’t that what being a Christian is?” Peter responds. We read Galatians 2:16 and the discussion continues. Peter seems shocked. “So, you’re telling me, if you murder someone, you can become a Christian?”

I open it up to the class. We think back to past accounts we’ve read throughout the year, about Saul’s persecution of the early church, and about the woman at the well. Is there anyone or anything too big for God to forgive?

It’s a hard concept for some of the students to grasp, but fortunately, since our devotions schedule is flexible, I know we’ll be able to pick this discussion back up tomorrow. Before the kids leave, we have a class prayer. Kiyah asks if she can pray today, and then asks the class if they have any prayer requests. She asks me, too, and even though I say I don’t have anything specific, she prays for me anyway.

8:30am. First period: US History. We’re discussing child labor during the Industrial Revolution and Emma brings up the story of Iqbal Masih, a children’s rights activist from the 1990s. She asks if we can look him up in class to learn more about him. Gary can’t believe child labor still exists in the world today.

My inner-teacher heart warms watching students teach other students. I love watching their curiosity pique as they experience that learning can be fun! Even better are the days when I get to learn alongside them, like when we looked up Albert Einstein’s brain together during Psychology class, or when we googled the Scottsboro boys’ trial in US History. With small class sizes, it’s possible to really tailor the lessons to my students’ unique interests... and it pays off. One of my favorite things is hearing the houseparents tell me that a resident came back from school excited to talk about what they learned that day in class.

3:15pm. Four periods later and the students are done for the day. After meeting with the rest of the teaching team to wrap up and debrief the day, I also get to pack up and head home.

Some days I may leave with a smile on my face remembering a humorous moment from the day or a relationship-building conversation I had with a student. Other days I may leave looking a little disheveled, with a stack of ungraded papers under my arm and an inbox full of unread emails. But every day I leave knowing that God’s love was shared with a group of teenagers who often need it more than words can describe.

Emily Wiegand is currently a History Teacher at Gateway Woods School.