Every last little one
The little ones who cling and cooperate
who listen to instructions
who raise their hands
and smile to answer questions…
They fill you up and keep you coming back.
They’ll do fine.
The ones who resist and refuse
who defy you to “make them”
who turn a cold shoulder or don’t turn at all
and scowl when you call on them…
These sap your strength and make you wonder why you tried.
They are the reason you came.
I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. ~ Luke 15:7
The least common denominator primes us
Every class has those kids. The smart ones, the curve-breakers, who pick it up early and run with it. They get it on the first go around. Hardly need our help at all. They have natural aptitude. Sit in the front of the class, graduate first in their class. They are on their way. Hardly need us. Did they ever need us? this is easy.
Then there are those other kids. The struggling ones, the faltering ones. They don’t pick it up early, so they come for extra help. We don’t see eye to eye. They just don’t get it. I tell it to them again and again. The other kids got it, why can’t they? They are stumped. They need us to see it the way they see it, so we can help them. this is hard.
Then there are those kids. The defiant ones, the failing ones. They don’t pick it up at all, but they don’t come to us for help. They’ve given up, not on us, but on themselves. These need our help most of all, but we don’t know how to help them. Don’t know how to reach them. If they’d come, we’d talk baseball or girl friends, we’d share movies we like or programs we watch. Maybe we would get to telling stories. this is harder still.
Teaching, lacing up the sneakers and going one on one with our world’s greatest natural resource, is the hardest job on earth and the greatest gift we can give. The capable ones will get it without us, but the others stretch us. Sometimes nearly to the breaking point.
And there’s no guarantee. They may fall away anyway in spite of our efforts, but let it not be because of our efforts. Never, ever, because of our efforts. We reach and keep reaching. We re-invent and re-organize. We create new ways to approach an old concept. We make models and draw diagrams. We sketch and color, paint and draw. We use our bodies and our boards. We use our minds, hearts and souls. We call on all the resources we have at hand to teach this one. The least common denominator. Who sits across from us…stumped, frustrated, confused. Who fumes and throws up his hands. “I’ll never get this!”
And we take a deep breath and smile an honest, sincere smile that reflects the truest of hearts. “You will. Let’s try again another way.” And so you do.
One day the quality of my work will be judged by my attention to the least common denominator.
I turn to write on the board and I hear it behind me.
The scampering of feet, shuffling of desks, of papers, of books.
Looking over my shoulder, nothing is amiss.
Every student in his place. Every desk in its space.
The smiles of sweetness greet me. “Yes, Dr. LeBolt?”
I shake my head in wonder. Could I have been mistaken?
I return to my writing and it begins again.
the scampering, the shuffling, but now the giggles begin.
I whirl. Gotcha!
They sit, smiling sweetly, each face at a place, hands folded, bodies erect and alert. “Yes, Dr. LeBolt?”
Am I making this up?
Gotta get more sleep. I return to my writing. There…it…is…again. I cock my head to peer over my right shoulder.
Nothing but sweet smiles. Expectant.
I draw in my breath. Turn BACK. My arm is poised to write.
Implement touches board…(scamper)…whiiiiirrrllll!
nope…Every face. Every place. Everything perfect. I give up!
I turn back to begin again.
I am no longer exasperated. In fact, I am smiling. Can’t stop smiling.
In my best script I form the letters on the board. Slowly. Carefully. With great love and care my hand travels, connecting letter after letter to shape the question I want to ask.
Perhaps the sliding and shuffling continues. There may even be hammering and sawing. I suppose that was a great explosion off in the distance.
I do not know. I do not turn back. I keep on.
God, is that you? I write.
Then, I keep writing. Why do I seek to catch God in the act of constructing my life?