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My Classroom = My Living Room

January 4, 2014

One of the great appealing aspects of Jesus’ teaching was that He often did so in a more intimate setting.  For instance, He took advantage of Matthew’s invitation (Mark 2) to sit down to dinner with tax collectors in order to share His life and His teaching.  He sat for a final time with His disciples (Mark 14) also in a dinner setting.

It’s not the meal that intrigues me.  It’s the enclosure and intensity found by the four walls of privacy.  Outside disturbances are eliminated.  Questions are asked with a personal signature; no one is “cat calling” from an anonymous section of a crowd. Jesus answers them face-to-face, eye-to-eye.

I like that, because that’s how I feel about my classroom.  We have four walls giving us privacy as we discover Jesus, and my students can look me in the eye and ask the hard questions.  This is my living room, and my students are my guests – no, I correct that –  they are more than my guests, they are part of my family.  I envision them with a cup of coffee perched on the end table while they sit on a couch, asking questions and reading their Bible with no distractions to compromise their concentration.

“This is my living room,” I tell each class at the beginning of the year, “and you are most welcome.  You’ll find a place of respect.  I will never call you ‘children,’ nor will I ever make fun of you – for that matter, I will not allow anyone else to make fun of you.  This is a refuge as well as a place of concentration, as you take the next step in Christian maturity and go beyond the Sunday School coloring pages and storybook narratives.  You’re being given an opportunity to safely ask questions and get answers you may have never been able to receive before.”

I make it a point to stop and raise my finger in order to emphasize this final point:  “And remember, whether you spend two more years with me in the classroom or your folks get a job out of state and you move away from here next week:  I will always treat you with respect and do everything I can to make myself available to you.”

Some fine memories that permeate my living room:

J- took a chance at answering a very difficult question about the genealogies of Christ.  This was a big moment – he was a struggling student and very aware that he was falling behind the regular pace of the class.  He slowly and carefully walked through the answer, stumbling twice but recovering, and finished up successfully.  He was met with fist-bumps and back pats, and I realized that J- would never be the same in my classroom.

B- was pulled out of my classroom and given the heartbreaking news that his mother had passed away that very hour.  The moment the news came to us, his class took the next hour in finding ways to comfort him and reach out to his family (and they did a fine job of carrying through their plans).  We spent the rest of the week (while he was absent) in talking about the grieving process and what we Christians can actively do to help someone through.  It was such a powerful time that I still make it part of my curriculum all these years later.

It was M-‘s turn to answer a question about the prophecies of the Old Testament.  I was aware that she had been teased in other classes for her weak and even nonsensical answers.  She was on the spot.  “You can do it,” said a fellow near her.  M- shook her head.  “Walk through it.  Start with the Psalms,” whispered a girl behind her.  M- looked up and carefully tread her way through Psalm 22, Micah 5:2 and Zechariah 11:12.  “You did it, ma’am,” I exclaimed, and to my delight, the class applauded her.  I will never forget her smile.

T- asked a question about suicide.  A close family member had taken his life recently and I could feel the pain as she asked the question and glanced quickly to see if there were any untoward responses by fellow classmates.  A number of them nodded their heads slowly and some gave her a look of sympathy.

I look forward to each day I get to spend with my classroom family in my living room.

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