Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Getting Better

I was recently reading the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John. There is a famous story in this passage of scripture; Jesus here heals a paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda.

In this story, Jesus is in Jerusalem for a religious celebration, and stops by the pool, where there is a crowd of people with a whole range of disabilities. My study Bible tells me that the tradition of the day held that an angel would stir up the water in the pool from time to time, and that the first person into the pool after the water was bubbling would be healed from whatever infirmity they suffered.

It's here that Jesus meets up with the man. He is paralyzed, or lame, or has some other problem that prevents him from easily getting up. Until Jesus, comes along, that is. Jesus commands, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." And, of course, the man is miraculously healed! He jumps up, takes his mat, and heads off.

There is more to the story as the chapter continues. Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath, and this brings up a whole exchange between the man, the religious leaders, and Jesus. But I want to go back to one small detail that I had always glossed over in this story.

When Jesus first meets the man, he asks him a question:

"Do you want to get well?"

I picture the man looking around at all the other people with disabilities surrounding him, and giving Jesus a look that says, "Well...duh! That's why we're all here..."

The disabled man has an answer--an excuse?--"Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred."

And Jesus, seeing what he really needs, helps him. The man is healed, yes. But later, after the man is questioned by the religious leaders, Jesus catches up with him again, and says, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you."

Jesus, who sees through both our infirmities and our excuses helps us get better.


I'm thinking about the places in my life where I need to "get better"...and where I'm likely to offer excuses.

It's the end of the semester for me. The "teaching" part of my job is done for this term, though the "assessment" part is continuing through this week of exams, and the days of grading ahead of me. And...part of the wrapping-up is getting feedback from my students as well. They write formal course evaluations, of course, and I while I sometimes wrestle with the procedures of this--are they really giving feedback on the course? are they really sharing thing that are specific and actionable for me?--I am grateful for their insights.

In fact, I even ask my own questions through a Google Form that get more specifically at some of the things I have changed from previous semesters, or teaching-experiments I've been exploring during the course of the semester. And I am always glad when they chime in with their thoughts and experiences. Of course it feels good when many of their comments are affirmations that I'm on the right track, that they appreciate my efforts as an instructor, that they understand where I'm coming from.

But, I also want to acknowledge a hard truth here.

There are times that the feedback they offer isn't an affirmation; it's a call to reconsider what I'm doing in the classroom.

There are times when their feedback on something I thought went well actually causes me to have to rethink that part of my teaching practice.

There are times that I read their feedback, and start to dismiss it out of hand.

There are times that I don't really want to "get better."

Am I willing to humble myself enough to rethink what I'm doing--even in courses that I've taught many times before--as a result of my students' feedback?

If we are serious about getting better, perhaps we need to take a serious look at our hearts, and take a serious look at the insights of those people who are with us every day, on the active end of the learning process. Can I continue to get better? Do I truly want to get better? Can I get past my ego, my excuses, and do the hard work of introspection and reflection?

My students deserve the best teachers they can possibly have and the best learning experiences to help them grow more and more into who God has created them to be. Today I am praying that I can let go of my ego and pride, and really hear my students' feedback to me. Today I am praying for humility.

I am grateful for the opportunity I have to teach future teachers. I am grateful that...today anyway...I want to get better.

It's a blessing to work with these amazing future teachers!

No comments:

Post a Comment