One day this week I came into my room to find one of my students sitting on the swiveling stool that I keep in front of my room. I was in the middle of running some errands and was just stopping by to pick something up. The young lady looked rather guilty and jumped from the chair. “You’re fine,” I said. “There’s still a good amount of time before class begins.” “I just wanted to see what it was like,” she replied. I smiled, picked up what I had come for and headed out. As I crossed the threshold into the hall, I heard another student say, “I just can’t figure out how she teaches us without any notes at all. I know I would be afraid that I’d mess up.” Little do they know….I don’t use notes mostly because notes require the putting on and taking off of reading glasses and that’s just annoying. I go over my notes before class and the power point outline is enough to remind me of what I need to teach. I’ve been teaching for a very long time, after all.
That incident has come back to my mind several times since it took place. I’ve been chewing on this whole idea of memory. What makes things memorable to us? Why do we hold on to some things and totally forget about others? These are questions I’ve been thinking about periodically for several years. It seems each year my students have a harder and harder time remembering things. It’s not just the facts I teach in class. They can’t remember the more practical details either–things like due dates and assignment expectations–even if I give them handouts with all of those things listed, and even if I post those same handouts on my website. It’s frustrating for me, for them, and for their parents, and so I keep pondering.
One thing I know. In order to remember something you have to care about it. I’ve been saying this to my students for several years now. “You’ve got to let these ideas through from your head into your heart. If they only stay in your head, they will get chased away by all of the other things that have to come through there on a daily basis.” That sounds weird–and a little cheesy–and they usually look at me as though I have three heads when I’m saying it, because really…what does that mean and how do you do it? Then this morning I was reading my devotional from A Closer Walk New Testament and I read these words by John Henry Jowett: “A thought is never secure until it has passed from the mind into the heart, and has become a desire, an aspiration, a passion.” He was speaking specifically about scripture and the idea that allowing scripture to penetrate into our hearts is the thing that will eventually change our desires. Scripture gives us the “want-to” when we let it into our hearts. I felt confirmed in my assertions to my students when I read those words, but then I read on: “When God’s law is taken into the heart, it is no longer merely remembered: it is loved. The strength of the heart is wrapped about it, and no passing bother can carry it away.”
Wow. The things I allow into my heart I will love–what a beautiful word picture! That’s why I can teach now without notes. Over the years I have come not just to know my material but also to love it. It’s why I’ve come to passionately love Dante, Lewis and Sayers. I let them into my heart and now the strength of my heart is wrapped around them. How much more important it is, then, to let God’s Word into my heart, to become so intimately familiar with the words of scripture that they live surrounded by the strength of my heart and aren’t just getting blown around in my head. I need to work on that.
The last few words in that quote stood out to me as well, “and no passing bother can carry it away.” Today there are so very many, “passing bothers.” Because of technology students today contend with “passing bothers” from the time they open their eyes in the morning until the time close them again in the evening. Getting thoughts to move from the head to the heart is harder for them than it ever has been before, but it still needs to be done. Our world needs the pure “desire, aspiration and passion” that come from hiding God’s Word and other lovely and beautiful thoughts in their hearts. I’m not sure how to help them do this, but I want to figure it out. God help us teachers all.