Anachan's Corner

One woman's journey through marriage, motherhood, and the classroom…

When Desperate (or Perhaps Before That) Ask God for Help

Written By: Anachan - Oct• 02•16

Sometimes, I forget the obvious.

Throughout my life, I have had many experiences which have shown me by my own experience that God lives, that He loves me as my Heavenly Father, and that He hears and answers my prayers. But sometimes, it is easy to slip into the idea that I have to make all the decisions in my life and figure out things on my own, and just hope God will be willing to keep me safe from the things I cannot control, like deer jumping out from the mesquite bushes in front of my car. (Thank you, Lord, for strengthening my reflexes so I could swerve and only have the passenger side mirror hit!)

Sometimes, it is easy to forget that there is “personal revelation.”

In my faith, we believe that prayer shouldn’t just consist of us kneeling on the ground, bowing our heads, saying a bunch of “thank-you”s and requests, and then getting up and going on with life. Prayer should also consist of quiet meditation, which can happen in the middle of it, by the way, not just afterward, to allow the Holy Spirit to communicate back with us. These communications are what we call “personal revelation.”

Personal revelation can happen when we ask about large questions, like whether or not to take a certain job, or it can happen when we ask about smaller questions, like pleading to be guided in the right direction to find a daughter’s lost cell phone. As our Heavenly Father, God does care about the things which are worrying us, even if they do not really seem earth-shattering in the grand scheme of things.

One such problem which faced me recently was that of one of my algebra classes.

I had divided up my algebra classes so that the students who were more ready to tackle algebra at the standard pace would be grouped together, and so that the students who were less ready and so would most likely need more practice on each concept would be grouped together. The former class, as a group, was usually ready and willing to work hard on their lessons and keep up, while the latter class, as a group . . . was not. While I expected the latter class would need more practice, I had not realized how little they would actually bring themselves to practice . . . at all.

Generally speaking, with a few notable exceptions, the students in that latter class would only work if I was standing in their immediate proximity. If I walked three steps away to help another student, the group I had left would stop working and wait until I had circulated through the classroom back to their sides, looking down at their papers and asking how they were doing, before continuing–or even before finishing the problem I had discussed with them on my previous go-round.

I realized that they were freshmen and some of them needed a wake-up call, so while I reminded them and tried to keep them on task, I knew that in the last analysis, they had to put forth some effort in order to learn. (Horse to water and all that stuff.)

Finally, we had covered enough material to be ready to test on chapter 1. I gave them three days to work on review activities, with the promise that completion of the review activities would mean five percentage points of extra credit on their tests. (That’s a significant amount, actually, but I wanted them to feel their efforts would mean something rather than the vague, “It will help you prepare for the test and get a better score.”) Predictably, a few worked diligently on the review, and many spent more time just pretending to work.

The results were also predictable: Only three of the students passed the exam.

Because I believe in learning experiences and redemption, when I passed out their graded exams the next day and listened to their groans, I announced to the students that we would go over this test, review the material again, and have a retake of the exam, with different problems, two days from that date. I hoped that seeing how they actually did would be an incentive for most of them to pay attention as we went over the problems, and it seemed to be so. But then I was in a quandary.

I knew from previous experience that if I handed out a worksheet with practice problems from each section, very few of the students would make an attempt to do anything. I went home in something of a deep depression, due not only to my students’ performance but also because that day, I had had some major issues with disrespectful students in class (which make the issues in “To Sir With Love” seem like a cakewalk) and demanding students after school who felt they ought to be able to turn in an entire quarters’ worth of work at the last minute and somehow manage to pass the quarter. (News flash: the tests are worth a lot more than the homework. You can turn in all your homework and if you are severely failing the tests, they won’t help you dramatically in the grade book.)

The situation was so bad I was reduced, figuratively speaking, to sitting in the corner with my legs pulled up to my chest, rocking back and forth.

It was in this state that my husband kissed me on my forehead, told me I’d better get some sleep that night, and, looking into my eyes, said, “Pray and ask Heavenly Father about it.”

I kind of gave him one of “those” looks. “I pray every night,” I said, and more or less stomped off to my bedroom.

In my cozy plaid nightgown, under the covers, with my LED candles set to pink (something my husband did, to try to help me be less grumpy), I prayed. This wasn’t a pro forma, I’ve-got-to-remember-to-pray-every-night prayer. This was a Heavenly-Father-I’m-miserable-and-I-need-to-tell-you-all-about-it prayer. There were no fancy words. There was very little organizational structure. There were words which rushed through my brain without coming out of my mouth, which I knew would be heard, despite the lack of vocalization.

In the middle of my half-sobbing, half-hysterical gush of all my troubles and questions about what I was supposed to do to reach these students who seemed determined to ignore all I’d said and actively fight my efforts as a teacher, a sudden calm came through my heart, and a thought entered my mind: play a game.

I sniffled and thought on the problems I had put together for them to review before the test retake, and I realized I had enough to use in a competition of three teams. One member from each team could come up and do a problem based on each principle we had learned and needed to review for the test. First to finish correctly could earn a point for his/her team, and the team which finished with the most points could earn a prize. I fell asleep before I could figure out what that prize ought to be.

The next morning, I woke up in a much better frame of mind than I had started off my days for most of that week. I decided to have the student with the highest score on the test be the referee, watching for false starts and keeping track of who raised their hands first after completing their problem. And on the advice of my senior daughter, I decided to award lollipops from the stash in my desk drawer as prizes to the winning team (and payment to my referee.)

The response from the class was nothing less than amazing. Students who previously stared at the ceiling, metaphorically speaking, were engaged; and when it was time to go over answers to see which was correct and which was not, they eagerly contributed, pointing out errors or confirming when the results were correct. The classroom was a bit noisy (a bit? I’m not sure the next-door classroom could hear themselves think), but sometimes, learning is a bit messy, and nobody came to complain.

As I scored the test retakes the following day, I was curious to see how well the students would do. All but one of the students raised their scores substantially, and while many still failed, many who had previously failed passed. Learning had demonstrably happened.

Best of all, I remembered that prayer and personal revelation work.

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