So what are you doing in class?
This is a question that all of us have heard, be it while students or -- for many of us -- as teachers. It’s a hard question to answer many times. Does the poser of the question really want to know the minute-by-minute play call of instruction? Do the want to know that we take daily quizzes, that we lecture, that we take notes, that we cram in as much possible activity into our days as we can? Of course not, but somehow in our response we have to let people know what we do, without actually telling them what we do. A challenge to be sure.
So when I was recently asked about what I was doing in class by one of my good friends, I responded in a very broad way: talking about dead people. Well, that answer certainly took my friend by surprise! And I think it did for a very good reason.
You see, as a History teacher, I talk about dead people all day. Events of the past intrinsically call for discussions of those who have gone before us, but many people don’t want to actually think about that. They don’t want to think that millions of people were killed on the Western Front during WWI, or they don’t want to discuss the deaths that resulted from the Japanese invasion of China during the 1930s, and they certainly don’t want to talk about how smallpox impacted the American Revolution! But it’s important that I, as a teacher, can covey why these are all important.
It’s as a history teacher that I get to do what I love, which is to tell stories to students. That is, in essence, what my job is, to tell stories. But it’s also to tell why these stories matter. It’s to make sure that kids see why history matters. It’s to get my students to see how, even through -- no, especially through -- the study of history, we can see God at work. Events don’t just randomly happen. God is always present, even in times of great strife. And if I can show my students that now, in the safety of my classroom, then they will be able to take comfort in his everlasting presence when they are outside of my class, as well.
And isn’t that the point of what we are doing in class?