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The Plight of the History Teacher

February 26th, 2009

Focus Text: Proverbs 12: 15-16  (NLT)

15 Fools think their own way is right,
      but the wise listen to others.

 16 A fool is quick-tempered,
      but a wise person stays calm when insulted.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

My years as a history teacher were filled with moments of humor, pain, and reflection.  There were days that I felt supremely privileged to pour into a younger generation the knowledge they would need to become mature adults.  There were also days when the sheer staggering number of spitballs on the ceiling, cuss words on the desks, and paper wads on the floor made me almost lose my mind . . . especially when I taught middle school (no offense to my younger readers out there.)  

Kids are fascinating fodder for thought.  Humans, I’ve learned, don’t develop maturity in every area of life at the same time.  In adolescence, in never ceases to amaze me how a student can be so advanced in one area of their life, yet so stunted in another.  Hey John, let me show you this poem that I just wrote about the severity of life and the hope found in love . . . oh, and pull my finger. What?!  

Honestly, I don’t consider myself to have all the answers.  I’m no exhaustive concordance . . . no Webster’s Dictionary . . . not even half a letter of one volume of Brittanica.  I’m just who I am at my own stage in life.  However, that position may have lent me some knowledge that everyone doesn’t have.  From age.  From experience.  From education.  And down the line from me is another person with knowledge that I don’t have from their own unique conglomeration of life particles.

The point is that there is always someone who knows more than we do.

However, I’ve had students over the years who apparently didn’t quite agree.  Even though at the time of my employment as a teacher I had a fresh Bachelor’s Degree in History with a minor in Political Science . . . even thought I had finished my Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction . . . even though I had recently sat through hours upon hours of lectures from the top professors in the field of humanities . . . even though I had written countless research papers replete with thousands of tested and credible academic sources . . . despite all these things, somehow there were middle and high school students who had the jump on me historically.  And these are real, baby:

No Mr. Driver, slavery wasn’t so bad!  I saw it on the History Channel.

When Thomas Jefferson invented electricity in the Civil War . . . 

But the Constitution says that I have the right to do whatever I want to do . . .

Nice.  When someone is fully convinced of their rightness, there is often no deterring them from their logic . . . no matter how ridiculous it may be.  Now for kids, there is a valid excuse; but as we grow into maturity, wisdom screams at us: “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.”

Who we listen to is important.  Seeking wisdom from a friend who knows less on the subject than I do will just end us both up in a ditch of folly.  Credible sources.  Experienced mentors.  Godly influences.  Parents.  Pastors.  Teachers.  Godly friends whose lives demonstrate a growing faith.

When all of them seem to say the same thing, it may just be time to listen.

This passage continues by addressing the “quick-tempered” nature of foolishness.  Many times in my classroom, the student who was the most erroneous in their knowledge would put forth the most emotional defense.  To grasp truth, sometimes we have to step outside of ourselves and view the issue separate from emotion or even experience.  Just like gravity is working whether you understand it or not, truth is truth despite emotions or feelings about it.  

Slavery was bad . . . I don’t care what you thought you heard on the History Channel.  Thomas Jefferson didn’t invent . . . well, that one is so ridiculous that I don’t even know where to start. Wisdom comes when one doesn’t claim to have all the wisdom.  To be wise, we mustn’t insist that we’re always right . . . we must be correctable.  We must be malleable.  

Spiritually, I want to move past adolescence.  I want to be teachable and not completely wise in my own eyes.  I want real wisdom.  How about you?



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