Flyin’ Elbows

Advice for teachers: Make room for Jesus!

By Sheri Wohlfert

The first few weeks of a new school year are always an adjustment for everyone! When I taught first grade, I sometimes feet a little sorry for them because they have so much to get used to and remember those first days. The first all school Mass was always memorable. The second-grade teacher whose class sat behind mine at Mass always had his eyes open, ready to catch a stunt or two that would make him giggle. I had dancers, acrobats, and sleepers over the years, but nothing tops the boys with the flyin’ elbows!

When I assign the kids to their church seating order, I always remind them to “leave room between ya for Jesus.” That is of course code for … if you’re not right beside each other, it’s harder to chat and touch! On one particular Friday, Jesus had obviously achieved enormous success on Weight Watchers because the two boys in the front pew had to leave practically NO room for Him at all! As they sat there quite close, one “accidentally” had his elbow land in the other little boy’s ribcage.  So, the favor was promptly returned playfully … a few elbows later, they burst into an uncontrollable case of the giggles.

I slipped out of my seat and made my way toward the ruckus. As the little boy on the right heard my footsteps approaching; he slid into his proper spot and sat silently with his arms tightly crossed in an attempt to control his elbow. I took a seat between these two handsome giggling boys and it soon became very clear to me that the little boy on my left had NO idea I had taken the spot beside him. My suspicion was confirmed when he threw the next elbow and it landed in MY ribcage … his loud gasp indicated that he indeed realized his elbow had  landed in squishy new territory.

It took ALL I had not to burst into giggles myself! I’m sure this little guy felt like his elbow had landed smack dab into a wall (a padded wall perhaps)! The shock of it was obvious in his gasp, his posture and his tightly closed eyes and bowed head.

I know that feeling! I’ve never gotten it from banging into a teacher’s ribcage, but I have had the feeling. How about you? Have you ever been cruising through life, thinking everything is going fine and then THUD … right into a wall or a dead end? I hate it when that happens!

If you’re anything like me, it usually happens just about the time I think I have everything all figured out and I try to do some of God’s work for Him. That wall is usually a signal that I’ve strayed which is because I haven’t prayed with a sincere, still heart! Being the strong, independent Christian woman I am … I usually charge right at that wall again … same result, usually accompanied by a large dent in my humility, several scratches to my pride, and of course a bruised spirit!

The place I most often try to fly solo is my classroom. At the beginning of the new year I have shiny plans and fancy stuff. I’m confident I can be everything my students need academically, spiritually, and emotionally. I can help the all become great disciples all by May. Sometimes I pack more into my plans and ambitions than the Father calls me to and I end up feeling like I’ve run into a wall and failed.  Sometimes all he asks me to do with a student is love them and pray for them and let him show me the way.

Why would I charge into walls when I have been reminded a dozen times a week that my ONLY strength comes from God? The sin of pride, I guess, but  this simple verse from Psalm 18 holds such an important truth: God is my fortress … God is my deliverer … God is my rock! I don’t have to whack into walls and try to plow through situations that are not mine to experience.

When I came upon this verse, my mind pictured God as a mighty warrior with armor and a shield as bright as the blazing sun, and he was poised to crash through a mighty wall just for me. I was in the image too … I was about as big as a mouse standing behind him, no taller than the heel of his boot. He was willing to take down that wall for me no matter how meek and tiny I was… just because he could!

How many times do we get a quiet invitation from God to do something, but we don’t answer the call because we think the task is too big? Not for God! He is, after all, a fortress. He can help us plow through anything if he’s invited us to! The challenge, I guess, is for us to keep our elbows to ourselves and listen for God to tell us which walls he’ll be crashing through with us today!

Like I used to tell my little lovelies, make room for Jesus: It just works better! So invite him into your lesson planning, your teaching, your attitude, and all of your school conversations. It’s easier on the heart — and the elbows.

Photo credit: Lisa Julia Photography/Bayard Inc. (2018) All rights reserved.

Sheri Wohlfert is a Catholic wife, mom, speaker, and teacher who writes from Michigan. She uses her sense of humor and her deep faith to help others discover the joy of being a child of God. Sheri also writes at

Photo credit: Lisa Julia Photography/Bayard Inc. (2018) All rights reserved.

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