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Forgiveness and Grace

Learning from the

Spiritual Lessons from the Writing Classroom

The school year is over. As I close out one year and prepare for the next, I am doing what many teachers do: reflecting on what worked and what didn’t last year; asking why; and wondering how I can improve. As a Christian teacher, I am also asking myself: Did I teach in a Christlike manner? And if so, why did some students in my class fear failure? Why did a few actually fail? In thinking about why fear and failure happen in any class, I keep coming up with spiritual parallels. My best answer for why students fear failure or fail seems to echo two reasons why we may fear or fail on the spiritual journey. First, we may have misunderstood how the Good Teacher wants to work with us, coaching and gently correcting us. Second, we may have also mistaken the nature of our unique assignments as Christians, not understanding that God cares more about the process than the product. Here’s where some writing terminology can help us understand the spiritual journey.

Lesson 1: Think Process, not Product

Research in composition studies, and my own teaching experience, has shown that a process-centered approach to writing, as opposed to a product-centered approach, is the preferable method and the one that gets the best results. In my humble opinion, the process approach is also Christlike. Think of how Jesus invites us to come to Him with our problems and roadblocks early on, when they are still in progress. Jesus ultimately wants us to succeed in our spiritual journeys, but He doesn’t expect perfection. He knows that messes and mistakes are part of the process. He knows that this process of falling, asking for help and getting back up is crucial to success in the Christian walk. In the same way, good teachers want success for their students, but they understand that success does not mean perfection. In my classroom, I invite my students to talk with me while their essays are in progress. I even invite “bad” or “messy” efforts: half-developed drafts, lists, chicken scratch. I tell my students just to produce something, whatever they can, so that I can help them develop it into something better. This is a process approach, and it produces good final results when students understand it and use it. Some writing teachers focus only on the final product. These teachers want “error-free” essays in only one submission. This particular approach is a well-documented teaching method in composition history, called “Current-Traditional Rhetoric.” As more research about the writing process appears, this teaching trend should be phasing out. However, students tend to see these teachers as “bad cops/grammar police”; and students will often avoid taking risks with their writing in order to avoid being corrected, or worse yet, shamed. This approach creates fear; it creates students who claim they “hate” writing. It is also, in my opinion, un-Christlike. Abby (not her real name) entered my class this year claiming she hated writing. She was so worried about producing

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July | August 2019 Southwestern Union Record  

The July-August 2019 issue of the Southwestern Union Record, the official publication of the Southwestern Union Conference of Seventh-day Ad...

July | August 2019 Southwestern Union Record  

The July-August 2019 issue of the Southwestern Union Record, the official publication of the Southwestern Union Conference of Seventh-day Ad...

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