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Day 20: Snake handling and other classroom oddities

September 5, 2018

1I am spending the evenings preparing for my second Holy Land trip; we are less than a month away.  The school has graciously allowed me to take about five days off prior to our Fall Break  and I want to return the favor by making this a powerful in-the-classroom experience.  This year’s trip has a special bonus for my young scholars:  Dr. Don Hudson and I will be “broadcasting live” back to my classroom in order to show the students the Bible places in real time.  This is a pretty big project in figuring out time zones and the electronic technology needed but I think we may have it down.  It is hard for me to fathom the fact that I can actually be using a phone or camera to show my students sites like Masada, Megiddo and the Western “Wailing” Wall as I stand next to them.  Dr. Hudson of King University has the in-depth knowledge to make these places have a deeper meaning than if I were to merely show a wide-angle shot and wave to the crowd.  We want to be able to teach online all the way back to the screens in my homeroom.  There’s a seven-hour difference between Knoxville, Tennessee and Jerusalem, so we’re now doing a pretty detailed time-table dance so that each of my classes gets to be a part of this live international broadcast.

As for right now, though, I am in the class and as usual, things aren’t usual.

I am intrigued by one student who writes all of her notes – every line and subject – in different colors with special felt pens.  I mean, each paragraph is a different hue.  I can see the notes from across the room.  “Patti” claims it helps her study skills, and so, hey,  I am all for it.  I must admit that it’s a thing of beauty; I feel like we should be custom- framing her Ouranology notes and hanging them in an art gallery.

Then right before class starts I am entertained by another student  – “Jenny” – who gobbles down those little yellow marine crackers called “whales”.  I am not one to judge, due to my Cheez-It addiction, but I do find it quietly hilarious that this little petite girl wolfs – absolutely gorges –  them down between classes and barks madly at anyone who tries to take any of her precious whale cracker snack. Even one.  The girl’s a beast.

Another reason the week is unusual is because the juniors and seniors are off on a retreat in order to get some time away to concentrate on their walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.  The hallways are much quieter but this is a good thing, knowing what is going on at their camp. Many a year the group has returned and “been on fire” for a week or so before the temperature drops and things go back to a dull spiritual routine.  On campus, we are praying that this does not happen – we look for the older ones to be a strong spiritual guide throughout the rest of the school year, helping the younger and weaker in the faith.   It is odd, though, in some of my classes, because I am looking at one or two students, since the rest of the group is gone.  Sitting here in Psychology and staring across the room at a lone sophomore who is gulping nervously at the thought that I will lecture to him and him alone is a study in psychology itself.  Don’t be alarmed; I am making it a temporary study hall and allowing the student to work on homework.

My grading is unusual as well, as you see the picture above.  I am grading the students’ quizzes (this one on the doctrine of sin) which are on 3 by 5 inch cards.  That’s right; we’ve gone back to the stone age in my class.  I have found out that the problem of what universities are calling “fractured learning” is too much of a problem whenever the laptops are open.  “Fractured learning” means that a pupil is breaking down the learning process because of the lure of the screen:  texting messages, emails and other possibilities through surfing divide or “fracture” the learner’s attention.  I am being told that many colleges are not allowing laptop or phones in their classrooms due to this growing problem.  I am not sure how many universities align with this, but I know it is working for me.  Notes and quizzes are all relegated to 3 x 5′ cards, and the notes can be transferred at the final minutes of class.  The discussion and retention seems to be markedly better so far.

I just found out that one of my students is related to the Baseball Hall of Famer and current Minnesota Twins manager Paul Moliter.

But perhaps the most unusual thing I learned this week is from my sophomore Austin – and I have asked him permission to tell you this story.   Austin seated himself before the class started and quietly asked me a question with his unique Southern drawl:

“How do you feel about snake handling – you know, like in churches, during services?”

“You are talking about the practice based upon the passage in Mark 16, Austin?” I asked.

He shook his head.

I leaned against the desk and scratched my head.  “Well, let’s see.  If I have my history correct, that church practice in deep-woods Tennessee started in the early 1900s with a man I believe was called ‘Little George’ Hensley…”

Austin nodded and grinned slowly.

I stopped.  It was just the way Austin grinned at me.

“And George Hensley became one of the most famous Appalachian preachers of his day from carrying around timber rattlers and cottonmouths while speaking… and …  say, Austin.   Are you related to him?”

Austin’s smile widened.  “Yeah. He’s a great uncle or a great grandfather, but I don’t know which for sure, but yes, I am related to him, all right…”


You know this would be in my class.

The young man who is a relation to the Hall of Famer is nice enough.  The whale-eating girl is strange indeed but of all of these unusual ones I think I need to keep an eye on Austin.

…and let me tell you, when it comes time for our Bible speech presentations next months, if Austin brings in a rattler for extra credit, I’m personally and instantly going to make a new doorway exit from my classroom.  Right through the bricks, brother.




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