A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dave's Deep Thoughts - The Influence of a Teacher

Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA.

If the rule is “i” before “e” except after c,
then please explain neighbor, deity, and protein!

She was an imposing figure, with yardstick in hand,
standing at the doorway to her classroom,

The message to all seventh graders…..
You had better not be late for my class.”

She laid  down the law.
(“Laid” is the past tense of “lay”, used as a transitive verb,
requiring a direct subject and one or more objects. 
Not to be confused with the intransitive verb  “lie” and it’s past tense, “lay.”  Got it?)

Neither excuses nor tardiness were allowed.
(Nor expresses a negative condition, followed by neither.
in this case, use “nor” rather than “or”)

One was to be on time for class,
to  be prepared to learn,
and to have homework assignments completed.

Excuses were left at the door.
It was English boot camp for adolescents.

She was feared by most,
and respected by all.

Most students were anxious when they came to her classroom
(“Anxious” implies a looming fear, dread or anxiety.
It does not mean one is looking forward to something. That word would be “eager”)

Her name was Zatae Atkins
and she was a teacher in every sense of the word.

She had the uncanny ability
to know whom to ask to diagram a sentence at the chalkboard.
(Use “whom” rather than “who”  when the pronoun is used as the object
rather than the subject of a clause)

Everyone was judged by their performance.
There were no favorite students in her class.
(“There” refers to a place.
“Their” refers to something owned by a group.
“They’re” is a contraction for “they are”)

I can’t say that I enjoyed being in Mrs. Atkins classroom.
But even as a seventh grader, I knew that I was learning.

Six years later, when I went to college,
I earned A’s in my freshman composition classes.
My command of the English language was superior.

(Excuse me, that last sentence was an incomplete comparison.
The reader has no idea to whom I am making the comparison. Let me correct the statement.)

My command of the English language was superior
to fellow students who had come from larger, more affluent schools.

I had always wanted to go back to my junior high school
and thank Mrs. Atkins, but I never did.

A few months ago,
I was visiting my aunt who resides in a nursing home.
She told me that Zatae Atkins was a new resident to the facility.

After my visit with my aunt,
I walked down to the end of the hallway
and found Mrs. Atkins in Room 135.
44 years later, she is still Mrs. Atkins.

At age 91,
she is no longer the imposing figure that she once was,
particularly minus the yard stick.

I probably would not have recognized her without notification.
But once I focused on her eyes,
I could still see the excitement of the teacher
who taught her subject with great passion.

I was not the first to return to thank her,
I was just the latest in a long line of students
who came to express gratitude…..

gratitude that she had prepared me so well for life,
gratitude that she didn’t allow me to give less than my best effort,
gratitude that she believed that students from a rural district could excel in a competitive world, 
gratitude that she lived out her passion.

She smiled when I told her that I was now a pastor,
and that her influence helped shape me.
We talked about how the educational process has changed,
and not necessarily for the better.
And we prayed a prayer of thankfulness for lives well lived.

I didn’t know in seventh grade that Mrs. Atkins was a believer,
a strong leader in her church.
As an adult, it is very clear to me
that she lived out her calling to Christ in so many ways,
including her teaching.

When  a person gives their life to Christ,
it saves them from many things that are hurtful.
But it also saves them to many things that are helpful.

If you have experienced the transforming love of Christ,
He is calling you to use your life and your gifts in extraordinary ways.
There is no negotiating with God regarding your mission.

It might not make you famous or rich,
but it will make you affective for Christ.

Wait, is it affective, or effective?
I always had trouble with that one.
Back to room 135……..

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily,
as for the Lord rather than for men;
knowing that from the Lord,  you will receive the reward of the inheritance.
It is the Lord, Christ, whom you serve.”
                                                        Colossians  3:23-24

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