Lingering Life Lessons

Core scripture: “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” (1 Samuel 16:7)

Message: In my classroom we don’t read novels because we have to.  We savor them, taking them apart piece by piece, digesting them slowly.  We take the themes of the book and connect them to our own lives.  Then, and only then, do my students truly value literature. 

We just finished reading Freak the Mighty, a novel by Rodman Philbrick.  The book is rich in themes that connect to my 7th graders, and as I lesson planned yesterday on how to wrap up the unit, I couldn’t help but hone in on the life lessons that the book teaches. 

Friendship matters.  Max and Freak complement each other like peanut butter and jelly.  These kids know that their lives revolve around their friends.  So, I let them explore that relationship with their best friend in discussion, and I found a fun video about the deep bonds that flow through the Kansas City Chiefs all-stars, Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce. 

But I don’t want to only talk about fluffy good stuff.  I want the kids to wrestle with deeper themes like Marc Mero’s video entitled “A Mother’s Love.”  Mero talks about how his friends led him to make destructive choices, just like Blade’s gang in Freak the Mighty.  A lot of my students this year get sucked into mischief by their choice of friends.  I cannot wait to tackle Mero’s quote from the video: “You show me your friends, and I will show you your future.”

We won’t stop there.  Some of my kids come from dysfunctional families.  Just like Max had a dad who killed his mom.  Just like Freak had a dad who ran out on their family when he was born.  I found a video where a 22-year-old girl is facing her father who abandoned her at a young age.  How many of my students will watch that video, weeping empathetic tears, saying to themselves Holy smokes, that is ME!

We are going to hit on three more important themes as well.  Living life to the fullest.  Size doesn’t matter.  Not letting limitations hold you back.  Each one has an inspirational video message, and each one connects not only to the novel but also my students’ lives.  What an incredible way to spend the last few days before Spring Break! 

At first I was going to use those last two days to watch a movie.  Meh.  I can already see the kids now pulling out their phones below their desks and not giving a hoot about any silly movie.  Especially right before Spring Break.  I can even see kids whining to their parents to pull them out of school a day early because they aren’t learning anything important. 

I want to challenge them.  I want to let those thematic questions percolate in their young minds.  I want them to enter Spring Break and ask some of those questions to their families as they drive to Branson or Florida.  Just look at the conversations that might be happening …

Does your family legacy have to be defined by poor choices your relatives made?  What makes a best friend?  What would you do if you had one day left to live?  Does your friend group define your choices for you?  How do you overcome limitations in your life?  Does the size of your body or heart matter more?  What I would do to be a fly on the car window and hear some of those conversations.   

You will always have that student that says I will never use this in real life.  It is time to blow that kid’s mind!  Rock their world!  Show them the benefits of paying attention now to lighten their load later down the road.  Let those life lessons linger in your students’ minds.

Challenge: Take a moment to think about how your current unit could apply to real life down the road.  Discuss those real life connections with your students, and allow that to drive your unit.   

Scripture study: Read 1 Samuel 16-17 and journal or discuss the following questions …

  1. How did Saul fit the worldly definition of a great ruler?
  2. Why did the Lord choose David to be Israel’s next leader?
  3. What attributes did David have that helped him slay Goliath?
  4. How was God’s story that much more powerful following these events?

Prayer points: Lift up the following areas to the Lord …

  • Praise God for the moments He gives us in your classroom that connect curriculum to real life.
  • Pray for wisdom in discovering moments where you can dive deep into discussion about real life.
  • Pray for rich discussion about life lessons in your classroom.

Just for fun: I love iconic scenes from movies. One of my favorites is when Leslie Nielson says, “I just want to tell you both good luck; we’re all counting on you” in the movie Airplane. My dream is to find two students–or teachers for that matter–who are working together in a room and say that line to them. Do you think they would get the joke?

Prayer: Lord, thanks for the moments You give us that show students why we teach.  Help us connect our curriculum to real life lessons that will stick.  Amen.

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