When I first began thinking about this article some time ago, I envisioned something like “Updates from the Front,” an article in which I would unveil some of the great comments that my students have made this year. My students have said some wonderful things, sometimes within the context of classroom discussion and sometimes to each other in casual conversation before class started. Of course, they did not know that I was listening, but is it eavesdropping if they are in my room and I can hear them from five yards away? Their statements reveal their hearts and minds, what they love and care about. (None of it is related to romance, theirs or anyone else’s, thank goodness. Even the Elizabeth Bennett discussion did not get caught up on Mr. Darcy.) It is great stuff. I have great students.
But now that I am writing the article, I cannot follow through on the original plan, for two reasons. First, I did not get around to writing down those great quotes until too late, and so I do not have enough of them to fill my article. Second, this article cannot be about the Front, as in the front lines of a battle, because my class is not really on the front lines of education. The main part of the battle occurs at home. Clearly, that must be true at TCS, when students are learning at home three days of the school week. But it is not just true at our school; no matter the school, public or private, one-class day or five-class days, education begins at home. Growing up, I valued my education first and foremost because my parents valued it and taught me to value it. More importantly, the hardest work on my character, the days I behaved the worst, disobeyed the most, and argued the greatest, almost all occurred at home. Granted, my teachers entered the lists too and engaged in the hard fought-battle to shape my character, my mind, and my heart. But my parents did the hardest part of the work.
Actually, that is a little too simplistic. God begins the work and carries it to completion. In the life of the child, the parents are His primary tools, before the teacher or the school. And as I look around at my students, I deeply appreciate that reality. I have great students because God is at work and is strengthening their parents to do a great job.
Thus, I cannot write about the front lines of the educational battle, because the parents are the primary soldiers at the front. They are not there alone. I am there too at times, taking my privileged part, as are and have been many other teachers. But the parents are the main ones engaged.
I want to write then a different sort of article. Every now and then, a parent quotes to me a comment that their child says at home—about loving school or my class or wanting to be a teacher—and I always find it very inspirational. It shows me that some of the things I am trying to do are getting through. I want to return the favor by giving a few pieces of evidence that this whole Christ-centered, classical education works, that it is getting hold of their hearts. Since my students are 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, I am in a great place to make this observation, because I am working with students whose parents have invested in them for many years by giving them this type of education. So here are some samples:
A quote, during our study of the industrial revolution:
Student A: “Do you know what a telegraph is?”
Student B: “No”
Student A: “I built a model one, once.”
A paraphrase of comments that I received when I asked students what aspects of history they would like to study as we learned about World Wars 1 and 2.
“Can we study weapons?” “How about the different types of airplanes and their uses, in World War II?” “Can we look at Japan?” (Not the usual favorite, which is Germany.) “Can we study battle tactics, not strategy so much, but tactics?”
Now, you’re probably thinking that most of the comments came from guys. If so, you are wrong. Excepting the question about Japan, all the questions were from girls.
An event, when I asked students for their favorite psalm.
One student mentioned Psalm 104. I thought it was an unusual choice, so I asked for an explanation. The student launched into an impromptu Bible study of Psalm 104, focusing on verse 21 and including a word study of the use of the term “lion” in the Bible. It was amazingly good; I will never look at that psalm the same way again.
Can you see what is going on in these comments? These students, after years of education, love to learn and are not even slightly embarrassed by it. Of course, this raises the next most important question: how did their classmates respond? Great. They were impressed, awed even, by the study of Psalm 104. They approved the study of weaponry without a single negative joke. In fact, I think I was the only one shocked that one of my quiet, sweet female students wanted to study weapon technology.
I could give plenty more examples, if I had only written them down. For example, one day, a 7th grader eagerly reported that he had just purchased Joseph Ellis’ Founding Brothers—a hefty and intellectual book—for his research paper on one of the Founding Fathers. During the same project, the history research presentations, my students asked each other insightful questions, mostly unprompted by me, and then clapped for each other.
I hope you can see it. This has very little to do with me. My students’ affections are going in a good direction. Be encouraged, parents! This education works!