Teacher talk

School was never my thing.  I never struggled – my grades were always good – it’s just that I didn’t really enjoy it.  I always looked forward to the day that I would graduate from college and be done with school.

So what did I do for the next twenty-three years?  I taught school.  Full time at first, then only a class or two here and there.  And I found that I liked it a lot better the second time around – when I was the one up front doing the talking.

A few years back I gave a message on the idea of wisdom as found in the book of Proverbs.  In digging through some files I found those notes which included a contrast between the Hebrew style of teaching and the style we employ in most settings today.  I think they are worth considering for anyone who is a teacher (parent, youth leader, pastor, boss, etc.) in life.

1.  Relationship-driven vs. content-driven. The Hebrew model put much more emphasis on who was teaching than on what was being taught.  That’s why the rabbis would invite students to “follow me.”  And that’s why I’m guessing that you remember your great teachers more than you remember any great lectures.

2.  Experiences vs. curriculum. Most of us spend hours studying to develop our content and then deliver it during the next class session.  (Can you say lesson plans?)  The Hebrew model was more likely to address a current event or something going on nearby – and pulling the life lessons from it.  This was certainly what Jesus did – think kids or bread or a widow giving her two mites.

3.  Active vs. passive. We learn some by listening.  We learn much more by doing.  But generally we test over what a student can remember rather than what he can do.  That’s one of the reasons I enjoyed teaching Speech.  It wasn’t a big deal that you memorized the material, what mattered was your ability to practice it.

4.  Memorable vs. informational. This is the one of the big ideas behind the book of Proverbs.  Solomon put truth into a saying that could be easily remembered.  Lessons that I remember were delivered in unique and unusual ways that allowed me to lock in.  I still remember the guy in college who gave a sermon on running the race (Hebrews 12) while wearing jogging shoes and running in place for thirty minutes.

5.  Continual vs. segmented. We tend to break learning into little segments -whether by subject or by blocks of time or by purpose.  And when we’ve covered a topic we move on to the next one.  The Hebrew model was much more integrated.  I admit, that may be a bit tough to do at times, but our teaching might be more effective if we could do a better job of tying it to real life.

So the next time you prepare to teach – why not try using some aspect of the Hebrew model?


The family fabric

I’m a fairly typical American.  That means that my ancestry is a pretty big mix of nationalities.  But somewhere in the mix I have some Scottish blood.  That would be why my last name is Wood.  Some great, great, great grandfather came over on the boat from Scotland, and he’s the reason for the fact that my kids complain about almost always being the last kid in the class alphabetically.

The Wood Clan Tartan

But I kind of like being Scottish.  What I really like  is that every Scottish family clan has a tartan – a specific plaid fabric that represents the family name.  And yes, there is a plaid for us Woods.  Personally, I think that a tartan is much cooler than having a coat of arms – except for the fact that hard line Scottish people expect you to wear a kilt (supposedly a respectable name for a skirt) made out of your plaid and knee socks and play the bagpipes.  That’s where my love for being Scottish fades a bit.

Last night at the dinner table we got  talking about the family fabric – not the plaid, but the characteristics that each member of the family seems to share.  The common Wood traits.  And here is what we came up with.

1.  Justice. We all have this sense of justice in us that drives us crazy when we perceive something as being unfair.  And if something isn’t right or if someone isn’t treated appropriately, we want to do something about it.

2.  Loyalty. We’re pretty loyal to each other.  If you want to mess with one of us, you’ve pretty much picked a fight with all of us.  One of the good sides of this is that we all get along pretty well – because we like each other and try to look out for each other.

3.  A willingness to do hard things. Maybe this fits with our justice thing, but if we’re convinced that something is the right thing to do, we’ll go ahead and do it and worry about the consequences later.  (I love it when I see this in my kids.)

4.  Fun. I don’t think I do as well with this as I would like to – but my kids all voted yes.  We like to have fun.  That’s why we play games and go on vacations and just sit around and laugh at each other.

5.  Not being critical of others. Yep, sometimes we slip up on this one, but we really try.  We have enough faults of our own, we really don’t need to be pointing out those in others.  So don’t worry, we’re not talking about you.

6.  A passion for God. And this is the one that I really hope is true more than any of the others.  I hope that when God thinks of the Woods, He thinks of five people who are trying to pursue Him with all of their hearts.

This is about as far as we got last night, but I’m still hoping to add to the list.  And I also hope that my kids will grow up saying, “Well, I’m a Wood, and Woods always do the hard thing” or “I’m a Wood, and Woods don’t talk about others.”

Forget the plaid, I want these things to be our family fabric.

What about you, what are some of the things that make up your family fabric?

Loving God in my Martha sort of way

I never really understood why Mary was the hero and Martha was the heel.  Martha was doing her best to provide a good meal for Jesus, and to me that seems good.   Mary, on the other hand, didn’t seem to realize that if someone didn’t do something about dinner, there were going to be a lot of hungry guys standing around.

So Martha was the one making things happen, and Mary was the one getting the props.  And that really doesn’t seem right to me.  I know the point –  it’s more important to spend time with Jesus than it is to be busy serving Him.  I’ve heard that said many, many times.  But I still wrestle with this story.

Maybe it’s because I am more of the Martha type.  I like to express love through acts of service.  Want to show Jesus you love Him?  Do something nice for Him.  Teach a Sunday school class.  Lead a small group.  Go on a missions trip.  Volunteer for the spring cleaning day at church.  That’s my way.

But maybe Jesus wants me to love Him in a different way.  Maybe He wants me to just focus on Him instead of all the things that I want to do for Him.  Maybe He just wants me to get to know Him.  Maybe He wants me to slow down a little bit and listen.  Maybe He wants me to realize that our relationship really isn’t based on performance.  Maybe He just wants me to make my heart available to Him.

For the past several months I haven’t been able to serve in the same ways that I’m used to, and I have been frustrated – and I have wondered if maybe I have let God down a little bit.  But that’s the Martha in me.  That’s me loving God in a Martha sort of way.  And maybe He’s wanting me to love Him in a Mary sort of way.  That seems to be good enough for God – I’m thinking it needs to be good enough for me.

An Easter story

My story goes back more than 15 years, though in many ways it seems like it just happened yesterday.  It happened on this same Saturday – the one between Good Friday and Easter – when I was officiating a basketball game for some high school guys in the church gym.  We were several minutes into the game when one of the players cut through the lane and got pushed.  I called the foul – but the player fell to the ground.  At first we all thought that he was goofing around, making the foul seem worse than it actually was.  But then I realized he wasn’t acting.  He was struggling for breath.  In the next few seconds his body went rigid, his eyes rolled back in his head, and he started convulsing.

I immediately called for help, and the coaches came running.  But by the time they reached the player, he was no longer breathing.  Someone ran to call 911 while the coach tried to administer CPR.  Within minutes the paramedics arrived and the boy was rushed to the hospital – but he never regained consciousness.  He was gone.

We were stunned and shaken.  Things like that aren’t supposed to happen to healthy, athletic sixteen-year-olds.    But it did.  As I stood there in disbelief, it was if someone started whispering in the back of my mind.  I can still hear it today as I did back then.  “He is not here, for He is risen.” It was the words the followers of Jesus heard when they went to the tomb on Easter morning.  And it was those same words that I was hearing.  Maybe I was hearing those words because Easter was the next day.  Or maybe I was hearing those words for a different reason.

A few days later the viewing was held for Quincy, the young man who died.   Literally hundreds of teenagers filled the church auditorium where he lay.  And then his cousin stood up to speak.   With a clear voice she told of the day that she and Quincy had stood on the back porch of their house and Quincy had trusted Christ.

“He is not here for He has risen.”

That was the whisper.  Now I knew.  Quincy was no longer lying on that floor.  He had risen.  He had risen because Jesus had risen – and he had Jesus.

That is the story of Easter.  Death, as heart-wrenching as it was in that instance and still is, is not the end.  It is merely the beginning – because 2000 years earlier Jesus defeated death.  He walked away from the tomb and gave hope to us all.

“He is not here for He is risen.”

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