General Ministry
Tony Myles

Tony Myles is a youth ministry veteran, conference speaker, author, volunteer youth worker and lead pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio... and he really likes smoothies.

We’ve all done it.

crossthelineWe’ve all crossed a line with students at some point.

You probably didn’t mean to.

Maybe it was as short-sighted as taking them to see a movie that ended up with some scenes you didn’t account for. Perhaps it was some ribbing that you meant to be playful but caused a kid to feel singled out and picked on. It could be that you imposed yourself into a teen’s life as a father or mother figure, as if you were more important than the student’s actual parents are.

Most “line-crossing” happens when we’re trying to do something noble or relational.

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It’s why this type of infraction seems more forgivable than others.

After all, there are other lines that should never be crossed. These seem more obvious.

feliciasmithFor example, last month a middle school teacher was charged with giving a lap dance to one of her students. According to testimony shared in the Houston Chronicle:

A Stovall Middle School student told investigators Smith danced for him Feb. 26 in his classroom in front of other students.

He said she placed a chair next to her desk and other students yelled for him to sit down in it. Music began playing and Smith began performing a “full contact lap dance,” according to court records.

The student told investigators Smith sat down in his lap, moved back and forth and touched him all over his body. Toward the end of the dance, according to the documents, the boy said Smith got on her knees and placed her head between his legs.

The boy also told investigators, according to the documents, Smith stood him up from the chair and danced while her arms wrapped around him. He said, the documents state, she told him, “I love you baby, happy birthday.”

Smith admitted performing the nearly four-minute dance for the boy on his birthday, according to the documents. She recalled circling the boy while he sat in the chair and losing her balance a few times.

This story is so inappropriate and ridiculous that we could easily spend a lot of time criticizing the teacher and feeling pretty good about ourselves for doing so.

Instead, I’m going to ask a question in a moment that probably won’t merit very many replies.

Before that, though… consider what you have in common with this teacher. We could assume she’s just some sort of low-life, but picture her starting that morning not at all planning to give a lap dance in the middle of class:

  • It’s another day in front of a group of kids who don’t often seem like they’re ready to learn. Perhaps she’s tired… of course she is – she has to work with middle school students all day! (Can you relate?)
  • The teacher puts on a forced smile and tries to start things out with some direction, knowing it will probably end up down some random rabbit trail once a kid starts talking. (Can you relate?)
  • Once class gets rolling, someone with a bit of spunk begins the rabbit trail. “Did you remember that it’s John’s birthday today?” The teacher thinks, “So what? It’s always someone’s birthday. I have to get these kids on track or I might lose my job.” (Can you relate?)
  • After a moment or two of trying to actually exercise leadership, the students all start chiming in and taking over the sway of the class. “How can you have forgotten John?” they tease. “He’s one of your favorite students!” She knows they aren’t going to let up. She needs to find some way to talk at their level so she can raise them up to her level. (Can you relate?)
  • “You should totally give him a lap dance!” the original trouble-maker continues. For a moment, it’s a ridiculous idea. And yet for a moment, it’s a flattering idea. And yet for another moment, it’s simply an idea. She’s run out of ideas. She’s desperate for an idea. (Can you relate?)
  • Before you know it, someone’s queued up a slick track on a smartphone he’s not even supposed to have in class. Somehow the teacher finds herself laughing with the kids, which is a connection she hasn’t had in a long time. She can play along for a moment. And then it’ll be back to business. (Can you relate?)

Think about the last time you got lost in a similar dialogue that was really about your monologue.

“Alright, it’s time for a big move. Watch this kids. This is how we did it back in my day!”

Again, it’s just a theory. Maybe it didn’t happen that way.

So here’s the real question – the one you probably won’t care to respond to:

If a headline was written about a time you crossed the line, what would it say?

As extra credit, see if you can track the back story of fatigue and short-sightedness that led you to that headline.

(See, I told you…you don’t have much¬†interest in commenting on this, do you?)

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  • Darren Sutton says:

    I think I can agree that we’ve all crossed lines at some point, Tony, especially those you listed earlier in this article — teasing too much, etc.

    But I wonder at what point this becomes more about not having a line than crossing one….

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