Keep Calm and Shoot Straight

A Blog for Teachers
by Mary Jean Powers

Flies, Juan, and Teacher

Oct 19, 2020

“If we begin by choosing to value that both ourselves and our students have a human dignity, then we have a common ground to establish a learning relationship.”

Dale Knepper

These are journal excerpts taken from one of my thirteen visits to an orphanage in South America where I taught the children English, Bible and Music.

June 18
If March was snake season, June must be fly season.

June 21
The story you are about to read is true. Names have been either eliminated or changed. No one is innocent, including the 200+ flies in my classroom today (no kidding) and me, The Obliterator. What did I learn at school today? That some flies have more  than one life. You would think that fly-parts splattered all over a desk would be adequate criteria for their demise. But no. These pesky insects splat, drop and buzz … then fly away again! Unbelievable. By the end of the day I was pounding them Hard,
creating more mess but ultimately more immediate success. I also learned that this particular species is fond of disinfectant. I honestly thought that if I disinfected the desks well, the disgusting creatures would be repelled. But no. They appear to enjoy the stuff. The good news, however, is that, in one swift swat, I killed 4 flies. No exaggeration! You heard right. Four.

June 22
A friend recently told me this joke:
A first-year missionary sees a fly in his water and throws out the water, refusing to drink.
A second-year missionary sees a fly in his water, throws out the fly and drinks the water.
A third-year missionary sees a fly in his water and says, “Look! Soup!”

This is my newly revised version:
On Day 1, the ESL teacher sees flies in her classroom and nonchalantly, but firmly swats them.
Afterwards she cleans her desk with disinfectant.
On Day 3, the ESL teacher sees flies in her classroom and mercilessly slaughters 200 in one day.
Afterwards she calmly brushes them to the floor with the swatter.
On Day 6, the ESL teacher sees flies in her classroom and flails said swatter at 90 mph, splattering guts everywhere, dramatically screaming, “Fly, You Die!” (new vocab words for the students) as 200 more fall to their death on the tile. She could care less that fly guts are smeared on her desk.

And here’s one for the record books: in a mere three lightening-fast blows – BAM! BAM! BAM! – 9 flies died. That’s right. Nine.

June 23
Today a 12-year-old student surpassed all my hopes and dreams in the dark world of flies: he killed (are you ready for this?) 9 flies – nine – in one fell swoop! Impressive, no? And I thought I was good …

Lord of the Flies

I’ve been thinking a lot about flies since I spend so much time with them. Here are some fun facts.

  • Flies are never welcome.
  • One of the plagues before the exodus was “swarms of flies.”
  • Google tells us there are over 110,000 species of flies.
  • Flies are filthy and are drawn to filth.
  • They are also drawn to death.

All this makes me wonder about the devil, the “lord of the flies.” Filthy, annoying, unclean, irritating, persistent, stinging, blood-sucking, swarming, death-targeting – this captain of the fly-army steals, kills and destroys life; this is his mission. He certainly has targeted some of the children in this school.

One of our children has several disabilities; I’ll call him Juan. He follows me around sometimes and, on a good day, he might even touch me. Occasionally he will make my day with a one-syllable word, a cackling laugh or a sweet smile. I think he might be starting to like me or trust me. He’s not a “street animal” anymore – that’s what they called him when they left him here. Juan doesn’t throw his feces or search frantically through the garbage for food or sleep in the gutter alone anymore. He keeps his clothes and shoes on All Day Long; he eats three meals a day at the table with the other kids and takes his dishes to the sink when he’s finished; he sleeps in a bed with clean sheets; he showers daily and puts on clean clothes; he sits during chapel, his spirit absorbing the peace of the Word, the prayers, the worship. He’ll even sit still-ish during a haircut if you give him a Blow Pop! This is a boy who has been rescued from the lord of the flies.


More Alike Than Different

After school, I see Juan sitting by himself. I join him at a distance that feels safe to him. I gently whisper,
“Juan, you’ve been rescued. Juan, you’ve been rescued.” I say it over and over. I feel desperate for
those same words to penetrate my own heart. I’ve been rescued. I’m no longer an orphan. I’ve been
rescued. I’m no longer an orphan.

Juan is safe now.Me, too; I’m safe. I’ve been rescued.
I’m not an orphan anymore, and the fly-lord is not my lord; I don’t belong to his kingdom.
My allegiance is to the Lord of Light and Love, Kindness and Mercy, Strength and Protection.

He is my Keeper, my Friend, my Provider, my Comfort, my Defender, my Shield … my Father.
The Teacher in me realizes – perhaps for the first time – that my students and I have more in common
than not. Juan, included. As with all my students around the world, we are more alike than we are
different. We are all God’s image-bearers with shared joys and pains and internal struggles and
celebrations. As human beings, our needs, our desires are so similar. As God’s much-loved creations, we
are rescued children who now live in a secure refuge: the Heart of our Father. We are all learning to live

Yes, we have more in common than not. I understand a bit better what it means to be a Teacher, and I
find that I love my students more than ever.

About Keep Calm and Shoot Straight

I am a teacher. You, too? I hope you love the profession as much as I do! I was 16 when I got my first teaching gigs – I had 20 private piano students and a Sunday School class of 4 and 5-year olds! At that point in my “career,” my definition of teacher was very limited. But now – after 45+ years of experience – I have come to realize that teacher can mean many different things. I’d like to share some of those insights with you! My posts will range from quotes to prayers, from cartoons to words of wisdom. Much of my teaching experience has been international, so you'll get to watch some video stories from around the globe. Jesus is the best Teacher I know, so I will be including Him in this blog, as well. I hope my thoughts and my story will encourage, provoke, and inspire you to become the teacher you’ve been created to be!

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Mary Jean Powers

Mary Jean Powers

B.A. in Christian Education
M.A. in Biblical Studies
Music teacher (band and choir director, private instruction) for 35 years
International Bible teacher for 17+ years
Certified Walk Thru the Bible instructor
Certified TESL International Instructor
CEU Provider for ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International)
Certified Life Coach and Chaplain

Who am I? A teacher coming alongside teachers!