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Here’s what gets me very angry…

January 12, 2014

imageYears back, as I sat in the cafeteria sharing lunch and conversation with fellow staff and faculty, a school leader shared some stories about teachers in institutions across the country whose lazy attitudes influenced their instruction time. One History teacher who was in a school not far from ours, he noted, had enough tenure to look toward her final years in the classroom before retirement. She was confident in her job security, and also open in her indifference to the students, so she started class time by handing out a copy of her favorite activity: crossword puzzles.

“You mean, she created crossword puzzles having to do with her subject?” I asked.

“No,” he answered, shaking his head. “She would photocopy the crossword puzzle from the daily newspaper – make hundreds of copies – and hand them out for class work. She had all day to fill in her personal crossword puzzle, and she ‘graded’ the kids’ work by doing the same.”

The teacher beside me was as stunned as I was. “So, those students did nothing in her class pertaining to history?”

“Nothing at all,” he answered, shaking his head. I gripped my fork and bit my tongue as I felt the anger rise within me.

I recalled talking with a student who transferred into our school the previous year who was suffering grade-wise because she entered the tenth grade not knowing how to take notes.

“Tell me, K-, what exactly did you do in your classes at your other school?” I asked during a tutoring session.

“Well, all of the notes were on PowerPoint screens,” K- answered, “and the teacher sat and read a book and drank coffee. Every two minutes he would click the next screen. We had about two minutes to write the notes, but it only took about twenty seconds. Then we would sit back and talk with each other.”

“How long did he do this – was this a significant part of class time?”

K- nodded. “Oh, yeah. We were on block scheduling, so each class was a little over ninety minutes long. That was what we did all class long – all year long, too. We sat, scribbled the notes, and talked. There was no lecture or any kind of teaching. Then we would have a test once in a while.”

Somewhere between fist-clenching anger and depressive sorrow, my emotions raged. I wanted to make a call. I wanted to confront the teacher. I wanted to shout in frustration. You are wasting precious teaching opportunities. You have no right to be a teacher.

If you don’t care, get out. The effective teacher knows he or she will face setbacks, but more so, consider the victories every week…

I think of the times students groaned as we took yet another quiz on the Koine Greek – and then cheered, actually cheered aloud when they passed it.

I recalled C- taking high fives all the way down the aisle after his speech. It was the first time he had ever given a speech in his entire scholastic career, and though shaking and sweating, he had completed a five-minute presentation on the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit. He sat down and beamed. He had done it.

I remember when I had pulled A- out into the hallway right before class because I found out he had been purposely skipping part of my class in order to meet a girl on the other side of the school. What struck me was his response. A- lowered his head. “I don’t have any excuse, Dr. Zockoll. I did wrong and worse yet, I lied about it. I’ll be glad to take the punishment. I guess I just got carried away with what I wanted to do, and I was wrong.”

But then he floored me.

“Dr. Z, would you forgive me?”

I can recall so many memories of emotion, angst, energy and accomplishment in the classroom. So many opportunities for molding and shaping! How could any teacher not care?

The Bible classroom is more than rote learning. It is more than lecturing or PowerPoint presentation. It is games and debates, speeches and team competition. It also contains “aha” moments, when the lightbulb of spiritual understanding goes on and a student shouts out in pleasant surprise.

And it is also genuine mourning when a child is in rebellion, both to learning and to Christ’s leading.

I think many a Bible teacher closely identifies with the weeping Jesus of Matthew 23 who looked over his ‘classroom’ and felt soul-wrenching frustration because of indifference.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

When they stray, we mourn. Along with other Christian school teachers, we Bible teachers have a mission to reach the heart as well as the head. Our teaching goes beyond state requirements and ACT scores; the aim is for our students to see the peace and love that come from the Savior and Teacher, and to make life decisions based on that soul-secure knowledge. Many, many times it goes further than the classroom. We pray for them daily, and often late at night, we take their phone calls for instruction or counseling.

I love my students.

I cheer them at award assemblies. I laugh at their goofy pep rally skits. I share spiritual treasures with them at Theology Camps. I listen when they confide about their dating relationships. I pray with them when they talk about their family problems. And I swallow a lump in my throat when they graduate.

So please don’t get me near an indifferent teacher. I may not be too kind.


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  1. Thanks for the reminder of why I teach!

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