Sunday, September 9, 2012

They just don't "get it"

This week I gave a test. I had worked all week to teach subordinate clauses and writing to my students and now it was time for them to show what they knew. But I had a large number of students who "didn't get it." 

My first reaction was to look at the test. Was there something wrong with the way it was written or was it somehow confusing? I immediately made another test using different wording and a different format. There - that should fix it. Only it didn't....they did a little better, but not enough to convince me that they really understood the concept. In fact, those that "got it" really did well, but then there were those who didn't understand...and they REALLY didn't understand. There was only one option left - to look at myself. I had to own the failure and look at my teaching. I don't mean I beat myself up - I just had to be honest with myself and recognize that what I had been doing wasn't working for all my students. It didn't mean I was a bad teacher, just that something I was doing wasn't as effective as I thought it had been.

All this got me to thinking...perhaps this is true for more in my life than just in subordinate clauses. When things aren't going well in relationships, work, or whatever, I need to stop and first ask myself, "What part do I need to 'own' in this problem?"As a teacher, a leader, and most importantly as a Christian, I want to ask "What part have I played in the situation?"

I'm not saying my students have no responsibility in this, I'm just talking about taking responsibility for the part I can - which is ME. Perhaps the way I have been communicating isn't as clear as I thought it was.

This was on my mind when I got to church and the sermon was about getting along with others. Okay, God...I'm paying attention.

As I wrestled with where all this was headed, I thought back to when my son was little. He was having one of his "melt-downs" that was stretching my parenting skills once again. He wanted to go outside, but it had started to rain and a chill was in the air. I told him that it was wet and cold and if he wanted to go outside he needed to put on his shoes and a jacket. The next thing I knew, he was having a major meltdown and had taken off ALL his clothes and kept crying, "You said I couldn't go outside!"

I remember I tried the whole "come let us reason together" approach. It got worse. I tried the repeat back to me what I had said approach. That didn't work either - he changed it every time and said what he wanted to believe I had said. This meltdown went on for 45 minutes with me trying every way I knew to get through to that curly little head. Finally, I asked one more time, only this time I said, "Before you answer, remember in this house we spank for telling a lie." He paused and said, "You said I couldn't go outside without a jacket and shoes." Good grief! Seriously? That's all it took? If I had known that I'd have said it 45 minutes earlier! It was never dull learning to communicate with this 4 year old! Sigh....

As my husband says, we learn so much about God in this parenting journey. This whole situation made me think of how God patiently teaches me. I'm so thankful that He never gives up on me. He communicates the truth to me over and over in different ways until I truly "get it." I want to grow to be more like Christ - unwilling to give up until my students understand. I don't want to say, "Well, I said it - they should understand!" I want that to extend to all my relationships in life. I don't want to think they should just "get it" and move on.

I also want to take responsibility for my part in this breakdown of communication - in ALL areas of my life. This does NOT mean I change my message. After all, a subordinate clause is a subordinate clause no matter how you say it. Perhaps, however, I need to look at the way I am communicating. I can't just take the attitude that "they ought to get's always worked for me to communicate this way before." I also can't think, "They should know this already! This is a 5th grade skill"...or a this common sense! You get the picture. If they don't understand, they don't understand! I can't waste my time getting frustrated about what they are NOT doing, I have to focus instead on what I CAN do. 

(On a side note...I wonder how this might work during my discussions about the upcoming election. Instead of getting angry that those who differ from me just don't seem to understand, am I willing to examine what I believe and how I am presenting the information? Am I willing to listen to their arguments and examine my own beliefs? If they are right, they won't change. Remember - that subordinate clause stays a subordinate clause even if you argue it's not. My job is to find a better way to communicate what I see.
None of this is easy. It's a WHOLE lot easier to just say it's THEIR problem. The only problem with that is, Christ won't let me take the easy way out. He'll keep right on putting the "problem" in front of me until I "get it." 

Hmmm, maybe this week I didn't just "give" a test....maybe I "took" one as well. So thankful for a God who loves me that much.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

New International Version (NIV)
19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

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