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The Parable of the Teacher and her Students

I am but a sower of seeds… to the ones entrusted to me…

Those along the road
come to class and hear the lecture,
but as soon as friends say, "free beer at the frat house!"
they forget about class, drop their notes 
and head out for some fun.

Those along the gravel
listen in class and take good notes,
but there are so many classes and so many notes;
surely they can get by with just a quick review
before the test.

Those in the weeds, well,
they've come to class, listened, taken notes and even read the textbook,
but seeing all their REALLY smart peers, they panic.
All they've studied gets twisted in anxious confusion
and becomes irretrievable on test day.

But...those who've found rich earth,
say, a quiet place at Swem library or a supportive study group in the dorm,
they dive into class notes and textbook
digging deep for full understanding,
even quizzing each other to prepare for the test.

These will reap the highest grades on test day,
harvesting insights and bubbling in correct responses.
Theirs will be a happy day
when I post the exam scores on Blackboard.
And I will be happy, too,
perhaps the happiest of all.

****
Road, gravel, weeds, rich earth,
which of these?
May your way be plain and your soil nourishing
****

The Story of the Seeds 
As told in The Message Bible, Luke 8: 4-14

As they went from town to town, a lot of people joined in and traveled along. He addressed them, using this story: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. Some of it fell on the road; it was tramped down and the birds ate it. Other seed fell in the gravel; it sprouted, but withered because it didn’t have good roots. Other seed fell in the weeds; the weeds grew with it and strangled it. Other seed fell in rich earth and produced a bumper crop.

“This story is about some of those people. The seed is the Word of God. The seeds on the road are those who hear the Word, but no sooner do they hear it than the Devil snatches it from them so they won’t believe and be saved. “The seeds in the gravel are those who hear with enthusiasm, but the enthusiasm doesn’t go very deep. It’s only another fad, and the moment there’s trouble it’s gone. “And the seed that fell in the weeds—well, these are the ones who hear, but then the seed is crowded out and nothing comes of it as they go about their lives worrying about tomorrow, making money, and having fun. “But the seed in the good earth—these are the good-hearts who seize the Word and hold on no matter what, sticking with it until there’s a harvest.

The least common denominator primes us

Every class has those kids. The smart ones, the curve-breakers, who pick it up early and run with it. They get it on the first go around. Hardly need our help at all. They have natural aptitude. Sit in the front of the class, graduate first in their class. They are on their way. Hardly need us. Did they ever need us? this is easy.

Then there are those other kids. The struggling ones, the faltering ones. They don’t pick it up early, so they come for extra help. We don’t see eye to eye. They just don’t get it. I tell it to them again and again. The other kids got it, why can’t they? They are stumped. They need us to see it the way they see it, so we can help them. this is hard.

Then there are those kids. The defiant ones, the failing ones. They don’t pick it up at all, but they don’t come to us for help. They’ve given up, not on us, but on themselves. These need our help most of all, but we don’t know how to help them. Don’t know how to reach them. If they’d come, we’d talk baseball or girl friends, we’d share movies we like or programs we watch. Maybe we would get to telling stories. this is harder still.

Teaching, lacing up the sneakers and going one on one with our world’s greatest natural resource, is the hardest job on earth and the greatest gift we can give. The capable ones will get it without us, but the others stretch us. Sometimes nearly to the breaking point.

And there’s no guarantee. They may fall away anyway in spite of our efforts, but let it not be because of our efforts. Never, ever, because of our efforts. We reach and keep reaching. We re-invent and re-organize. We create new ways to approach an old concept. We make models and draw diagrams. We sketch and color, paint and draw. We use our bodies and our boards. We use our minds, hearts and souls. We call on all the resources we have at hand to teach this one. The least common denominator. Who sits across from us…stumped, frustrated, confused. Who fumes and throws up his hands. “I’ll never get this!”

And we take a deep breath and smile an honest, sincere smile that reflects the truest of hearts. “You will. Let’s try again another way.” And so you do.

One day the quality of my work will be judged by my attention to the least common denominator.

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