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We’re Up and Running

January 22, 2014

I got up at 4:25 a.m. – my usual time to rise on a school day.  Even at my age of 54, few things energize me like a day of teaching.  I was heading in to be prepared and prayed up by the time the students arrived in the classroom for first period at 8:15.

As I entered the empty classroom I looked at the gigantic Koine Greek word on my bulletin board:

“Eirenuete.” Peace be unto you.

It’s a greeting that I taught my classes.  Would this be a day of peace, though?

This was a transition day – due to the Winterim schedule, we have not been together as a class since December 21st.  Take into account a week of exams, it is really as early as December 17th since I had a classroom teaching time.

imageAnd now we’re back.

So let’s get the fireworks started.

I engaged every Bible class in debate, which includes the Bible Leadership class.  I played the part of the atheist, and we mostly dealt with the reliability of the New Testament books.  The action got going pretty fast and the holiday cobwebs were soon shaken off.  It’s good to see that the troops were ready for a skirmish.

“We’re gonna debate today, aren’t we?  Good,” said JT.

“Yes,” I challenged him and the rest of his class.  “But you know I’ll beat you.  I just want to see how close you can stay to me before I pull away.”

“Grrrrrr,” was Jim’s response.  “Let’s do it.”

The debates were fun, every one of them, although I do see some areas of concern.  I will be working with each class on the weaknesses that I saw.

The I hit them with an unusual twist.

I tried a back-door approach to introducing the New Testament Survey class.  I had the students bring out a piece of paper for a mock-test in matching the book of the NT with a title and description.  We tackled the first twelve books, and I gave them one minute to do the matching ( I love tight time limits.  It brings out their best and it also gives the air of a game show.)  Naturally most of the students did poorly since I had done no teaching on this, with the average student getting only about two out of twelve correct.  However, I surprised them by saying that we were going to take the quiz again almost immediately – right after I had given them a three-minute review of each of those books. I ran through a synopsis which described why each book had a specific title to it that would help explain what it was about.  Then I showed them a new PowerPoint with the same quiz, but the answers were jumbled up so they wouldn’t just re-write the very same combinations.  The result?  Over 25% of the students got every one right, while most everyone (about 95%) got a passing grade.

Then we ran it yet again, and to everyone’s delight each student got at least a ten out of twelve.  About 75% got every one correct.

I’ve been using this unusual bit of teach/testing for about a decade now, and it never fails to intrigue and inspire.  “You had me there for a bit at the first round,” said Martha, “But I recovered by the second try at it.”

The point here is that the student gets a bit of a testing in “climbing a hill.”  From the initial “quiz” they see how little they know.  That gives them a bit of humility in addition to a learning attitude.  Then it’s time to start climbing the hill, taking the quiz continually over and over until they get them all right.

A point to remember is that this grade does not go down in the gradebook.  This is entirely practice, but each pupil tackled it head-on.  Why?  They like the challenge of climbing the hill.  I gave them a dare and they took it.

Understand now – they went from a zero to a 100% in less than ten minutes.  This exercise is a figurative dip of the toe in the educational water; the student is getting a brief but inviting look at the NT Survey semester ahead and now knows that he can do it.

Because, in a sense, he just did it.

Jenna was one of the last ones to leave.  “I liked it, Dr. Zockoll.  I really liked the challenge.” Then she turned and gave me a farewell that warmed my heart:  “Eirenuete.”

Peace be unto you.

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