Tuesday, May 4, 2010

words of wisdom

Student 1: "ms. chamberlain, is Jewish a religion or a race?"
Student 2: "it's a religion right? because i'm Jewish, but that doesn't mean i'm from Jew-land"

when i required students to send me a message from our online grade system so i knew they had logged in to their grades:
"hi ms. chamberlain this is amber i am just emailing you because you told me to and i really don't
have anything else to talk about so.. yeah im going to go now."

"i think white people with dreads look like they need to pour water on it. like it looks like sawdust"

prior to the first parent-teacher conference: "MRS. chamberlain, i'm excited you get to meet my parents tonight. you'll recognize them because my dad is really tall and my mom looks just like me."
my (internal) response: "i'll also recognize them because they're white."

"ms. chamberlain, are Africans considered African-American?"

and the follow-up question: "if a white American guy marries an African woman, are their kids African-American?"

"ms. chamberlain, your eyelashes are blond on top!!!" (after i've spent 3 minutes lecturing her on some behavioral infraction.)

despite all the drama, these little gems always just make my day

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Lessons in God's love

I want to introduce you to a student in my notoriously bad 3rd period class; we’ll call him John. John is a sophomore and because I teach two different courses, this is the second year he’s been in my class. John is a nice enough kid but has zero self control. He talks constantly to whoever he is sitting near; does absolutely no homework; gets up in the middle of class and walks around. A few weeks ago I ended up locking him out of the room because I was just done with the attitude. At least once a week I pull him aside and have a conversation about school rules, classroom rules and the choices he is making. I remind him that I have been in his shoes. I survived my sophomore year of high school and college. And that I really do know how much effort and work it will take to get him through not only my class but to be successful in life. I remind him that the rules I put in place are not me “picking on him” but are in fact there to teach valuable principles and skills that will help him succeed. Every time we have this conversation, his attitude changes. He understands why I constantly change his assigned seat. He actually does his classwork and focuses on his tasks. Total transformation. Unfortunately, this transformation lasts about 30 minutes and the misbehavior starts up again. A year and a half of these weekly cycles has been exhausting.

A few months ago as I was preparing for a sacrament meeting talk (from which this post derives), I had an epiphany. If I, in my extremely mortal and imperfect state, set classroom rules and restrictions in order for my students to learn and improve, how much more perfect are God’s laws? Just as I know the skills and discipline that are necessary for my students to pass, graduate and ultimately succeed in life, the Lord knows the bigger picture, the eternal picture. And every time I resist, he lovingly reminds me that he has eternal perspective and that he is directing me in the way I need to go. Just like my student, the very commandments that I am resisting are the things that will ultimately perfect me.

Elder Oaks says “God’s love is so perfect that he lovingly requires us to obey His commandments because He knows that only through obedience to His laws can we become perfect, as He is. For this reason, God’s anger and His wrath are not a contradiction of His love but an evidence of His love.”

The scriptures offer numerous examples. The woman taken in adultery is accepted and loved by Christ, but ultimately told to “Go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11) He loved her unconditionally, despite her grave sin, but still required obedience. Christ also taught that “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21)

God’s love is unconditional. He showers blessings upon us just because he loves us. However, it is only through our obedience to His laws that we can gain the greatest blessings of all, the blessings of exaltation and eternal life. His laws, as Elder Oaks said, are evidence of His love.

Please check out Elder Oaks' talk from last October (2009) General Conference, "Love and Law"