Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I look at my students – and their grandparents – and I believe…

When I composed the bulk of this piece last week, I was riding a bit of a high, as I experienced something that could be described in several different ways: the most amazing classroom lesson ever; public relations coup; providential inspiration. I could go on and on.

It was Grandparents’ Day at the school where I teach. As is typical, it is a whirlwind of activity for an elementary school teacher nearing the end of the school year. As is also typical, while learning to ride my pedagogical bicycle to school, this event came with a wallop to an already chaotic schedule: kids coming and going from the classroom as they participated in the flurry of concerts, lunches, etc. being put on for grandparents. And then the reminder that the grandparents were invited to visit the classrooms following the afternoon recess.

At the 11.59th hour, an inspired idea came: have the students interview the grandparents to write newspaper articles on Grandparents’ Day. Visions of meeting related Language Arts and Social Studies curricular outcomes also came dancing in my head.

By the way, as I have been increasingly “losing my religion” when it comes to the lesson/unit planning dogma instilled in me at teachers college, I ended up pulling off probably the best lesson I ever had – most of which was planned and carried out after it had already begun.

Enough grandparents came to allow each table group at least one of the special guests. As I got the students to reflect on what would constitute good and not-so-good questions to ask, I did a quick Google search on interview questions to ask grandparents. Within 2 minutes, my students were preparing note paper, as one of them was distributing copies of cyberspace’s instant meal offering to my uber-lesson.

You should have seen it: my students were captivated by the wealth of life that the grandparents shared, and the grandparents got to see their children’s children take charge in making them feel welcome with their enthusiastic and engaging interviewing. I held off from even breathing to interrupt the visit until the last possible moment, and in so doing, I assigned no homework or agenda checks for the evening (which, as you can imagine, did absolutely nothing to dampen the students’ keenness).

I should say as an aside: many teachers (including yours truly) value having parents visit and help out in the classroom. Most parents, however, are consumed by their careers, household duties, etc. It occurred to me that we should have more visits from grandparents – especially those who are retired from their vocational work – who still have so much breath and life to offer that God has given them!

Many things came to mind out of the activity as it relates to God and his designs: for one, I asked the students to identify the most interesting thing they learned about the guest they were interviewing. One student named off all the different pets that one of the guests had growing up. I asked the class to lift up their hands if they wish they could have that many animals as pets, to which almost everyone did. I pointed out, with my hand on my heart, what I believe was obvious to most everyone present: that we all have something hardwired in us that wants to look after animals – something for which we who live in the city feel a deep sense of lacking. I was making an unspoken reference to God in how he designed us to rule over creation, and the animals therein (Genesis 1: 26-28).

I am also reminded of the verse that says “Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.” (Psalm 127:3) Each of the grandparents expressed to me personally their joy at their involvement in the activity. It must be an amazing thing to see so much of ones’ labours come to fruition in the growth of ones’ children – and maybe even more so with grandchildren!

On how God’s creation – including these grandparents and their grandchildren made in God’s image – reveals his nature, it is written: “...what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse (Romans 1:19-20).”

When someone is blessed by the kind of relationships that were plain in my classroom on Grandparents’ Day, how can anyone say there isn’t a God?

Even a poet of our Galatianesque present evil age, who gives no indication of being a disciple of Jesus Christ in any of his composition of popular music, nonetheless loudly proclaims:

I don't need no one to tell me about heaven
I look at my daughter, and I believe
I don't need no proof when it comes to God and truth
I can see the sunset and I perceive

As for those who are repentant, and agree with what God reveals about himself as creator and about us as his creation, we joyfully submit to him, his purposes, and his means of giving us a father-child relationship. That is, the forgiveness and reconciliation that God offers every person through the life, death, and resurrection of his son Jesus Christ.

It so happens that the same aforementioned poet keenly points out, albeit unintentionally in great likelihood, his own accountability to believe in God on account of what is seen (even though everyone who comes to God through Christ must do so by what is heard by faith, and unseen (Rom. 10:17, Heb. 11:1)):

Another dissident
Take back your evidence
It has no power to deceive
I believe it

When I see it for myself

Who can ever trump God’s evidence with whatever “evidence” man dreams up? As is the case with the poets of our age (and even demons: James 2:19) who scream out the affirmation of what Romans says about their awareness of God’s existence – the very things that rocks would cry out if Jesus’ disciples were silent (Luke 19:40) – we will all be without excuse, as we are judged and held to account on the basis of what God has generously revealed about himself, and about us.

On Grandparents’ Day, the Lord caused his sun to shine on my students and their grandparents, as well as on me (Matt. 5:45). We are reminded that we should be led to repentance by the kindness of the Lord (Rom. 2:4), and that today is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). Praise the Lord!

(Scripture text from BibleGateway.com; Song lyrics from the song Heaven by Live)


Bellaboo said...

Grandparent Day.. what a great idea! What a blessing for both parties, seeing as the younger generation can lack the skills needed to tap into the other generation world. The guided questions is a great way to get both parties engaged.. Nice job!

Bellaboo said...

whoops... that last comment was me, lana! i forgot to add that!!

Danielle Wilson said...

Very insightful, thanks for sharing! =)

Renny said...

My pleasure. We actually just had Grandparents' Day again, and I repeated the same exercise. The result was practically a repeat as well. This time, I told the grandparents that they're welcome in my classroom anytime. I hope they take up the invitation.

amanda salmon said...

what a great idea! and so well written.

Renny said...

Thanks! I enjoyed writing it, and the reflection that went into it. It's hard to believe it was nearly a year ago, and that I haven't written on my blog since. I guess there hasn't been a whole lot happening recently that was more inspiring than that day.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

CWP said...

Renny, yu should revive this ministry. YOur wisdom and insight is missed by those of us who cannot break bread with you daily.