Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Gospel for Educators
from Forward Day by Day

[image:  The parable of laborers in the vineyard, from a book published by early blogger Desiderius Erasmus, 1536] 

Following the daily scripture readings in the Book of Common Prayer, I read commentary from the quarterly booklet Forward Day By DayWritten by Richelle Thompson, managing editor of Forward, the short meditations for November were particularly well-crafted, and sometimes seemed to be aimed directly at this Middle School teacher.

Here are highlights that might be collectively called A Gospel for Educators: The Bible on...

...grading:  Thompson writes, "Even as a child I felt badly for the good son" whose prodigal brother seems to get the attention.  Considering his story along with the parable of the vineyard laborers who receive the same wage whether they worked ten hours or one, teaches Thompson "that our idea of fair is perhaps not God's."  Instead, she concludes, "The question is not whether I deserve more than another, but whether I receive what I need."   (reading of 11/10)   When a colleague mocked the coach who gave everyone a trophy, and, by extension, any teacher whose kids get mostly A's, I should have reminded him that "trophy" comes from Greek for "nourishment".  A school where most kids are starved, or losers, isn't a school where I'd want to teach. I tell my kids they all earn credit (from Latin, trust) for completing their work on time, the best they can do, however many drafts that may take; grading (from Latin, step) one student's work above another's is of value to gatekeepers only.

...teen angst:  "Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God's righteousness" (James 1.19-20).  James wrote to ancient churches, but Thompson applies the lesson to those dealing with "the whiplash emotions of teens," too.  We must listen well before we react to our "challenging, independent and precious teens," for their sake, and for the sake of our own spiritual growth. (reading of 11/11).

... developmental psychology:  Paul writes, "Like a master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it" (1 Corinthians 3.10).  Thompson had always focused on Jesus as the right foundation, but this time followed Paul's thought to its conclusion, where he pictures others building on the foundation with "gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw," each life like "a giant parfait, with different layers being built by and with different people."  This reminds her "that our work is part of something bigger, our ministry a piece of the whole."  (reading of 11/22)  For this middle school teacher, it's a reminder that little Johnny may not "get" what his classmates all seem to understand; if I only prepare the foundation for him to get it in a later grade level, I've done well, and he's done well.

... looking for potential in the difficult student:  Zacchaeus the tax collector, collaborating with the Roman oppressors and cheating his neighbors, is doing well for himself at the time Jesus enters Jerusalem, but, "Something inside of Zacchaeus makes him want more (the name Zacchaeus, after all, means pure)."  He climbs the tree, sees Jesus, takes the hint to invite the rabbi to dinner, donates half his wealth to the poor, and pays back fourfold what he stole.  "Meanwhile," Thompson imagines, "the neighborhood grumbles about Jesus' choice for dinner companion."  She adds this prayer: Lord, help us be more like Zacchaeus, curious and earnest, and keep us from being quick - to - judge and slow to see you in every face and every place.  Amen.  (reading of 11/23)

... looking for potential in the difficult student, part II:  Taking her cue from Luke 19:40, "the stones themselves would shout out," Thompson observes, "Stones play a starring role in some of the biggest stories of the Bible."  Examples include Moses' stone tablets, the tribes' stone altar at the Jordan, the cornerstone that the builders rejected, Peter "the rock," the "first stone" that nobody dared to cast at the woman, and the stone rolled away from Jesus' tomb.   In Luke, Jesus tells us "that what is hard can be made flesh, what is mute can cry out, and what is inanimate can become life."  Thompson asks, "If Jesus can do that with stones, what can he do with us?"  I only add, what, then, can we do with the hard, mute, listless kids who choose the back row in our classrooms?  Thompson ends with Ezekiel 36.26: "I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."  (reading of 11/25)

... accepting help:  Thompson turns around the familiar line from Psalm 102:1, "hide not your face from me in the day of my trouble."  We're the ones taught to hide our faces in times of trouble, to "pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps."  Thompson dismisses the bootstraps line as nonsense, giving Jesus' alternative to it:  "When we stop hiding our faces from the Lord in times of trouble, we can begin to embrace the weak as strong, the poor as mighty, and God as constant companion."  (reading of 11/18)

... teaching poetry:  Responding to a psalm about God's "holy mountain" from her Appalachian background, Thompson points us to great lines of poetry from scripture:
So many of the psalms use nature to describe our relationship with God - and God's relationship with us.  Listen to the poetry:   Mountains skip like rams and hills like young sheep (Psalm 114); rivers clap their hands, and hills ring out with joy (Psalm 98); the Lord makes us lie down in green pastures and leads us to still waters (Psalm 23).  Scripture seems to want us to feel the mountains in our blood, the wave of grain at our fingertips, the rush of an ocean's wave in our hearts.  God the creator of all invites us to be one with nature, to be faithful stewards of it, so that we might enter the gates of Zion from atop the holy mountain. (reading of 11/12) 

No comments: