The complaint in second grade this morning was that I teach them wrong. I don’t do it like their real teacher. I am a substitute teacher. This means that I walk into classrooms proven to be ripe with influenza, colds, stomach ailments, and strep throat to teach from material that I most likely have not seen before…on purpose. Sometimes I don’t even know I will be doing this until twenty minutes before school begins. So, I do hear what I do wrong A LOT. I have learned to accept that I am going to make mistakes, that I’m not always sure what I am doing, and quite often I have to change things so I can fly by the seat of my pants.
So, back to this morning…the second grade “spokesman” informed me that what I wasn’t getting was that they already knew the lesson so they can just work through and not participate with the part of the class that doesn’t know the lesson yet. My question was this: Do you know what the lesson is?
I had just finished a “fact drills” exercise with them. The math problems they had to answer were all review, simple addition. The goal was to answer as many of them in two minutes as they could. I told them I was giving them three minutes beforehand to look through them and mentally prepare to answer them, and then I would give them two minutes to write down the answers. I set my timer for the first three-minute mental preparation time and told them to make sure their pencils stayed on their desks. Then I started the timer and watched. Some played with things in their desks, some looked at each other and tried to talk, and one boy lined up Matchbox cars carefully across the top of his desk, but none of the seven students actually looked at their problems and prepared for the next step. The timer went off and I told them to pick up their pencils then I set the timer for two minutes and had them write the answers to the questions. Two minutes later I was told I hadn’t given them long enough to get the answers.
Okay…but I needed to know if talking with their friends before answering the problems had helped them answer these problems more quickly. Their answer was no. Had they found something in their desks that helped them answer their problems more quickly? Their answer was no. I asked the boy with all the Matchbox cars on his desk if they had helped him to answer all the problems quickly. He had to answer me with a shake of the head. Why wasn’t five minutes enough time to answer these questions? “How did you spend the first three minutes I gave you to answer these math problems in your head?” I only paused a moment after asking them this then I had them flip over their worksheets – it was a rhetorical question and there was another facts drill to be done. We went through the same process, but this time I noticed that the students were taking the first three minutes much more seriously. Their heads were bowed, and they were reading through the problems. This time they were able to answer all of the problems within two minutes. So, did they learn a lesson in this exercise? I truly hope so.
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit today. I could see a lesson in this experience for me as well. Like when I have a Sunday school lesson to teach on Sunday, and I don’t bother going to my Bible beforehand to prepare because I feel like I already know the story. I teach Preschool level Sunday school; I should know it already, right? But, am I missing the lesson in it for me? I love it when some of my teachers say they learn more from teaching Sunday school than they did when they were a Sunday school student as a child. They have taken the time to go through the lesson and look at it as a student of the Scriptures. They are building a deeper relationship with God in all this. I want to be in their class, I want to dig deeper into the Bible too…I want to see what the lesson really is so I can share my enthusiasm for God with my students, with the people around me.
Sometimes, we are looking for the wrong lesson in our work, in our daily exercises. And sometimes, we are merely impatient or unwilling to defer our own thoughts and expectations.
The revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. Habakkuk 2:3
Discretion will watch over you, and understanding will guard you. Proverbs 2:11
May we listen closely to wisdom and direct our hearts to understanding. May we always call out to insight and lift our voice to understanding. May we seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasure; so, we will understand the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding (adapted from Proverbs 2:2-6).
I leave you with the same advice I gave the second grade this morning: It may look simple, you may even have done it before, but stay open and ready for God to do great things through you in every exercise you are given.