Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mean Teachers

"Do not try to satisfy your vanity by teaching a great many things. Awaken people's curiosity. It is enough to open minds, do not overload them. Put there just a spark. If there is some good inflammable stuff, it will catch fire."

Anatole France

My perspective of education has changed. High school classrooms looked different through sixteen-year-old eyes than through fifty-year-old eyes. My view of teachers has also changed. The Living Bible says this, "A wise teacher makes learning a joy!" Proverbs 15:2. I don't recall any of my high school teachers making anything a joy. School was to be endured, not enjoyed (I am quite certain the opinion I held of my teachers was reciprocal). But then, there was Mr. Davis, 9th grade math teacher. Everyday, Mr. Davis wore a short-sleeved, white shirt with the sleeves rolled. I've never understood why people roll short-sleeves. There were always several pens in his pocket and always a King James Bible on his desk. I never saw him pick it up. He never made reference to it. But, like a silent sentry of truth, it was always there. He is one of the few teachers I remember.

In my Senior year of high school I made this vow- 'If I ever graduate (and there were 'iffy' moments) I will never set foot in a school again!' I can now imagine a band of angels looking curiously at the Lord, wondering about the smile my vow brought to His face. For reasons known but to Him, after high school I enrolled in college. It was there that God called me to teach. Years later I found myself teaching high school students at Overton High, Memphis, Tennessee. It didn't take long to know that the view from the teacher's desk is radically different than the view from the student's. Suddenly, all those 'mean' teachers from my youth became human. I knew something would have to happen beyond my abilities, something would be required of me. And then I remembered Mr. Davis.

Two weeks into the school year it happened.
"Today," I announced to a class of 35 high school art students,"I want you to illustrate the concept of LOVE, without using words."
Silence. No movement. Finally, in the back of the room, a small girl raised her hand.
"What if you don't know what love is?" she asked.
I picked up the Bible from my desk and read I Corinthians, chapter 13. I placed the Bible back on my desk. The atmosphere in the room changed. That week I began to write Scripture on the blackboard, a new verse every week. By Christmas I noticed students copying the verses in their notebooks. The Word of God seen and heard in a public school classroom. Teachers began stopping by to read the verse of the week. One asked, "Can you do that?" I explained the Supreme Court ruling regarding sacred literature in government schools- 'you may expose but not expound.' Read, show- don't comment! I wonder what would happen if more preachers followed this rule.

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