I can remember being in school … especially Science … when we would have to answer the questions at the end of the chapter. Many times I didn’t really even understand the questions. I would match up the words from the question to a sentence in the text, and copy that down. I didn’t realize, until I became a teacher, how obvious it must have been that I didn’t have a clue.
I had to give a report in one of my high school history classes. It was about a battle and I really had no idea what was going on. I’m not sure if I just really wasn’t reading the text or if I had that much trouble understanding it. But I basically copied everything I could find and made it into an organized report. I read it to the class and then, to my surprise, the teacher began to ask me questions. I didn’t have a clue. He called me out that day and said, “Do you even know what you are talking about?” I said, “Well yes” and named that battle, but that’s as far as I could go.
I’ve seen this happen with my students a few times. Their answers show me they really don’t have any idea what we’re doing. Yesterday was a perfect example. I’ve had them doing some little books that have a story and then comprehension questions at the end. They are supposed to read the story with their group and then answer the questions. I didn’t notice until after the first day that the answers are actually upside down at the bottom of the page. At first I thought it was interesting that they didn’t notice. Then I started getting papers with this for their answers … “answers will vary”. 🙂
One boy wrote “answers will vary” and then turned it in. I told him that he couldn’t just copy from the bottom of the page. I explained what “answers will vary” meant. I then explained that he needed to find the real answer and write it in a complete sentence. He brought me this: There are answers will vary. Sheesh!!!
We talk often about how the Bible is hard to understand. I have always found it hard to read and confusing. I used that as my excuse not to read it for a long time. Our teacher often points out that it isn’t really that confusing to understand “love your neighbor” or “do not murder”. This is true.
I realized that I can understand the commands and instructions from God. What I don’t always understand are the stories. I don’t always know the background needed to understand exactly what is going on. Several times I have thought someone was a great person and then had the teacher point out that they weren’t. This last week we read about Moses not getting to enter the Promised Land. I had always felt so sorry for him. I had written in the margin some things about how sad he must have been and how hard that must have been for him. Then someone pointed out that he was getting to go to Heaven. So really, it was a better deal for him. I hadn’t ever noticed that part.
If I were to be given a test about Bible stories I might write “answers will vary” on some of them. I just don’t always understand exactly what’s going on. But what I realized this week is that it really isn’t crucial that I know all the details of every story. What is crucial is that I understand the commands of God. Those are very clear … unless we choose to make them confusing. We wonder why “answers will vary” from church to church … isn’t it because the Bible isn’t clear? Not at all! We don’t all have the same answers because we aren’t always willing to admit that something is different from what we once thought.
Once again … my students have taught me something. Amazing what good teachers they are. I’m grateful to be a better student now than I was in the past.