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“Get out! Get out of my classroom right now!””

February 12, 2014

We’re preparing for a big test in New Testament Survey.  This will cover the books of Matthew and Mark, noting important truths to be found in such subjects as the Sermon on the Mount, the healing of the leper, and the negative reaction to Jesus’ teachings.

The students were hard at work, copying down the notes. I gestured to the whiteboard and paced in front of the Power Point as I emphasized the key notes of the Gospels.

Then I stopped.

“Well, now, ladies and gentlemen,  it’s time for you to come up here and finish teaching the review,” I said, dusting off my hands.  “You become the teacher once again.”zockollboard

James glanced over at Zack and then slowly gazed at me again.  There was a suspicious look in his eye. “Okay, Doc, what’s the catch?” he asked.

“Oh, nothing,” I said breezily.  “You simply come up here and go over the notes on the screen – it’ll only take a few minutes, then I’ll rotate another ‘teacher’ to take over.  And besides, I’ll give you points for your performance. It’s a simple speech, really.”

James relaxed.  “Fair enough,” he said.  “I’ll go first.”  He stood up and walked to the front, settling himself near the screen as I walked toward the back of the room. I stopped in my tracks.

“Oh, there’s one other thing I forgot to tell you,” I snapped my fingers.  “This is a distraction speech.”

He groaned, but the rest of the class cheered.  They knew what was coming. Distraction Speeches.

Once a semester I have distraction speeches as part of the learning process.  This is the Mother of All Bible Speeches in its intensity and instruction because not only do you make a presentation, you must do it while handling an interruption as efficiently as possible.

James gathered himself together and raised his chin.  “I’m ready for it. Bring it on.”

“Kayla, would you escort Mr. James down the hall while we prepare a distraction?”  She gleefully did so.

The rules themselves are not difficult.  The student is not to handle the distraction until at least 25% of the audience has been disturbed.  When it is apparent that the interruption must be confronted, the student must then go through the three R’s:  Recognize, Remove and Restore.  They may use two designated ushers if needed.  It’s a treat watching the sophomore mind handling the many strategies of overcoming the problem at hand.  Throughout the day we had these presentation challenges in each of my classes in numerous ways.

It’s intense.  It’s cerebral. And, oh, it’s great fun.

Let’s go back and see how James handled the distraction…

He started off smoothly enough as he graciously introduced himself and went into his lecture.  His confidence level was growing.

It was time.

James was just giving the definition of a Greek word when my Designated Hinderer Thomas stood to his feet.

“Attention!” He snapped.  Three other students jumped up and stood erect.  “Drop down and give me twenty!” He cried, and the trio obeyed him immediately.

“Um, is there a problem here?” asked James, trying to keep his composure as three teens grunted out push-ups around the room. Students were giggling.

“No sir!” cried Thomas.  “ROTC drill in exercise, sir!”

“Please be seated, soldier,” instructed James.

“Cannot do that, sir!” snapped Thomas.  “Soldiers must have their routine, sir!”

“Then you’ll need to leave,” said James with great authority.  “Ushers?”

The four military men rose and obediently walked to the back door – then spun around and saluted.  “Respect to you, sir!” They cried, and the class roared.

“Now then, we’re going to back to my speech,” said James.  “We had a little excitement, but may I continue?  Is everyone okay?”

His classmates nodded.  Order was restored and James went on to earn an “A.”

“I’ll go,” said Linda.  She stepped outside as we organized the distraction.  Linda was to handle an overenthusiastic listener that wouldn’t shut his yap.

Linda began her speech graciously and made a quiet segue between the various notes on the board.  “That covers the notes about John Mark, then.  May I have the next slide, please?” she asked sweetly.

It was time. 

She pointed toward the screen.  “You’ll need to remember four facts about the leper…”

“Amen, sister!” shouted Dylan.  “Preach it!  Man, that’s some good stuff.”

Linda jumped slightly but recovered well.  “May I help you, sir?”

Dylan shook his head and waved.  “You keep right on bringing home the bacon, lady.  This is some great teaching.  Woo hoo!”

Linda slowly turned and continued.  It wasn’t long before Dylan erupted in effusive praise once again.  “Whoa, Nelly!  Amen!  Keep it coming, sister!  Yeehaw, this is the best message I’ve heard in years!”

After the third shout of praises, Linda had to bring out the ushers to escort her Number One Fan from the room.  All the while as he was being led out, he kept turning and applauding: “You may not like me, lady, but I love your teaching.  You are the bomb!  Keep it up!  Good-bye!”

And so it went all day.

Through the years, some of the speakers responses have reached near-legendary status.  One time a senior tried to physically lift the detractor from the chair.  Another time, when we planted a mysterious noise-maker (he kept repeating “beep” every fifteen seconds)  in the classroom closet, the speaker became so upset and confused that she dismissed me, the teacher out into the hallway, fully forgetting that I was the one who graded the speeches.

The most famous one, still repeated in the lunchroom on regular occasions, is when a sophomore girl became so frustrated that she exploded with a shout:  “That does it!  Get out!  Get out of the classroom right now!  All of you!”  The classroom emptied – she even threw the ushers out.  Only she and I remained.

“Now what do you do?” I asked quietly.

She scratched her head and raised an eyebrow.  “Gosh, I hadn’t really thought of that.”

The noteworthy thing is that students have actually requested this speech each semester, approaching it in a curious love/hate manner; they hate when it is their turn to deliver, but love it whenever they are part of the audience and are involved in the organized mayhem.

Do I do this merely for a mid-term diversion?  No.

Do I do this because I get entertained?   Well… yes.  But that’s not the point.

These Christian students will face many a hostile environment whenever they share their faith in a public setting.  More than once a grad of mine has shared how they dealt with a combative audience, but had been conditioned to answer with a clear mind and a calm heart.  This is the goal of any Christian speaker who wishes to be effective – to follow the words of the Apostle Paul to his young pupil Timothy in being prepared in season and out of season, ready to handle God’s Word effectively in any environment.

However, I found another powerful result of these challenges, quite unexpected and yet important.  I caught it by accident as I was walking down the hall, passing a group of students who were unaware of my presence.

“Have you have your distraction speech yet in Dr. Zockoll’s class?”

“Yes, I handled The Missing Contact Lens.  What about you?”

“I was able to get through the Crying Babies.”

“That’s nothing.  I had the Dog Loose in the Auditorium.  Let me tell you how it went…”

No veteran of the Normandy Invasion could outdo the war stories that came out of the group of battle-scarred heroes who regaled each other with the flying bullets and bomb explosions of speech. That’s when I realized what was happening among my students.  They were proud of their victory.   I realized that each student gained experience in difficulty … and it made them just a little bit better.  They had made a step up in their Bible speech education and wore the experience like a badge of honor.

‘…and that’s how I handled the Disgruntled Senior Citizens.”  The other group members nodded in respect.  “Well,” said one, “now that we finished, let’s go to lunch.”

They moved as one, toward the cafeteria, those veterans.

I am not sure, but I believe I saw one of them limping, and thought I heard the strains of a fife.

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  1. Oh my! Another great story with so much to learn, even when I teach ‘teachers & staff’ I can learn from your teaching. 🙂 Thanks again for sharing. I will try to use calmness next time I have interruptive students, no matter the age.

  2. Thank you, Polly! There are so many stories to share even in the first day of distraction speeches. It’s a learning experience they seldom forget!

  3. Raechel permalink

    This is so funny. I love the way James handled the distraction. I’ve had the distraction Linda had in class before, she has a very interesting way of dealing with that. I love laughing at your blog. It’s awesome.

    • Thank you for your encouragement! Did I teach you in the past years, or did you have a distraction speech with another school?

  4. LoraBell permalink

    Brad, I miss you and our conversations. I treasure how much Jenn was able to learn and glean under your teaching. Last week I went to the other building where she was in class. I was going to ask which room she was in when I heard her voice in the room next to the office. She was loud and emphatic in what she was saying. I opened the door slightly (which was behind her) and she continued on. Everyone saw me and started to giggle. She thought they were laughing at her. Then she turned around. She was in speech class doing an impromptu speech! Our discussion later was how it reminded her of Bible class last year and the impromptu lessons she did! God bless you and your precious wife!

    • Lora, we really miss both you and Jenn. I remember when Jenn went to our Theology Camp last year and the boys gave her a pretty frightening experience. I don’t think she settled down for quite a while after that…

  5. When I was in college I went to a very small church where the pastor asked me to quote a passage. After I started, he started talking and interrupting, like the girl did to Paul in Acts 16.

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