I am often comforted by the fact that God not only looks on the outside of a person but most of all concentrates on our inner selves.
“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b
Good to know, right?
And I wonder if we, as teachers, should follow His example more closely as we look at and evaluate our students. Who knows what each child is carrying around on his or her shoulders? (illness; family death; divorce of parents; peer pressure; abuse; hunger, etc.) How can you tell if each student is performing at his/her potential or is operating with handicaps that are not visible to the rest of us?
How quickly do we judge students’ abilities and motivation at the same time we ourselves are being defensive when others are critical of our teaching? We demand more evidence and second opinions when administrators, parents and students label our work as inferior; however, do we give our students the same benefit-of-the-doubt approach? Something to think about…
About 25 years ago as I worked on my Med at HBU, I was assigned a “big book” project by our then literacy professor, Dr. Ruth Ann Williamson. At the time, I was teaching senior English at Westbury Christian School, and as all senior English teachers know, criticism of the content material can be excessive at times, especially if it’s not written in modern English. The Canterbury Tales is an excellent example of wonderfully entertaining literature that is difficult to understand and often grumbled about by the students required to read and evaluate it. And so I devised an assignment to add some interest in this historical piece of fiction. Each of us, including me, the teacher, would write an original “tale” to add to Chaucer’s collection. As you may or may not remember, each tale had to have a lesson or moral, and I knew just the moral I wanted my tale to include. The text is below, and there is an Animoto video linked here: The Teacher’s Tale.
The Teacher’s Tale
By Dr. Eloise Hughes
Loosely based on The Canterbury Tales By Geoffrey Chaucer
The journey proceeded the day was gone.
The way to Canterbury was weary and long.
The group made camp at a convenient place.
The were tired after a trip of grueling pace.
The host decided a story was needed;
The tale of the teacher was now to be heeded.
She sat by the fire, the pilgrims around,
Patiently waiting for her to expound.
The teacher, a large old lady with spunk
Pulled out a book from her bag full of junk.
“This volume,” said she, “is full of adventure.”
The pilgrims scoffed, wanting her story to censure.
“Once upon a time, a long time ago,
I showed this same book to some students I know.
They, too, were skeptical. In fact, they moaned,
‘Not another story from old England!’ they groaned.
“But when I opened the book and began to read
from an author who closely followed Bede,
They were introduced to a variety of pleasures.
Who knew that books could be filled with great treasures?
“Merchants, knights, nuns, farmers and wives…
The characters made the plot exciting with their lives.
Riddles were solved, and love was extolled;
Villains were thwarted, and heroes were bold.
“The stories contained teachings and morals
Learned from mistakes and even from quarrels.
The students were aghast! They’d really had fun
When the reading was finished, and all the work done.
“The pupils had come to a surprising insight—
That sometimes, MAYBE, the teacher was right!
So, you see dear pilgrims, if all of our stories were put
Into a volume that was someday old, all covered with soot,
“And students asked to study it thought it bland
Were surprised to learn that pilgrimages in old Engelande
Were made up of a variety of people, all classes…
Religious, scholarly and poor, both lads and lasses
Sharing their lives, dreams, souls, and rhymes,
The future folk could better understand our times.
“A book must be opened, its chapters to share
With adventures and thrills beyond compare!
And so dear pilgrims, you, too, can discover
“A book should never
be judged by its cover”
And here are photos of the book I created; remember in 1990, the only way to cut and paste required scissors and glue! The prints included are actual replicas of those published in the first editions of The Canterbury Tales.
Just like I wanted my students to give The Canterbury Tales a chance, I need to remember to give the same consideration to students, parents and all the others with whom I work before I make unfounded quick judgments!