Core scripture: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
Message: What lessons do you remember most from your school years? For me it was not the lessons that simply taught curriculum; it was the lessons that connected curriculum to my life. As my students prepare to read Rodman Philbrick’s novel, Freak the Mighty, they have been exploring different themes in the book to prepare them for it.
One character, Max, suffers from a reading disorder. To allow the kids to empathize with Max, we performed dyslexic simulations last week. I gave them each a sheet of paper that had letters flipped around backwards, upside down, and all over the place. The frustration on their faces, the helpless laughter, and the number of kids that quit midway through— it was all too apparent that they could now connect to Max on a personal level.
Freak the Mighty also has a major theme of bullying. Both Max and Freak get bullied for separate reasons, so we took two days to discuss how bullying affects us. Kids have been opening up, sharing stories about how bullying has affected their lives. It is real stuff. Lessons with substance. Lessons that they can apply straight to their everyday lives. And when they get to those chapters in the novel when Blade comes in with his punk friends to torment Max and Freak, it will hit home that much more.
Today it gets pretty raw. I am going to read them a narrative I wrote long ago about my 7th grade bullying experience. I tell them at first that the story was written by an old student in my classroom, then once it is all over, and I reveal the narrator of the story was really me, shock sets over the room. You can hear a pin drop. There are times when a tear or two trickles from the corner of my eyes as I recount those days. Many times the kids will cry with me.
What does this do? It opens the floodgates for kids to step forward to tell their own stories. We discuss how to stand up for the underdog. We talk about how standing up for what is right does not mean you are snitching. We analyze what it means to be a leader. Like Solomon advises in Ecclesiastes 3:4a, there is, “a time to weep, and a time to laugh.” We make sure to laugh afterwards as I bring out my old yearbook pictures from 7th grade.
I can already hear it now … Mr. Daniels! You actually had hair!
These lessons are all too precious, memorable not only for my students but for myself. You get to make a difference in their lives and help them navigate obstacles they may be facing. Your job as a teacher is to prepare your kids for the future. Guide them. Take time to shape them. They are sure to remember these lessons forever. They stick to the soul like peanut butter. They become dinner table conversations at home.
Most importantly, when these students are long gone from your classroom, they will want to come back and say thank you for speaking truth to something real.
Discussion: What issues are your students currently facing that they need help in? How can you connect your curriculum to those areas?
Challenge: Now that 2nd quarter has begun, find a way to connect new curriculum to whatever your students’ lives are like. Create a lesson or two to prepare them for life. Believe me, your kids will appreciate it now, but it will truly hit home down the road.
Prayer: Lord, open my eyes to the life lessons my students need to know. May I teach them these lessons with passion and enthusiasm, leading them down the right path. Amen.