Another school year is starting. Where does the time go? A week or so ago we gave Bibles to our rising first graders. In what will seem like very little time we will be recognizing them again as they graduate from high school. Pray for them and all of our students as they begin another year of learning their lessons.
Lessons do not always come easy. That was true for me in math class. In seventh grade, Coach Johnson was my teacher; and then in eighth grade, Coach Baskin was my teacher. With Coaches for teachers, I had little choice but to learn since they told me that I had to.
Mr. Johnson was a pretty laid-back fellow most of the time. Mr. Baskin, on the other hand, was of a different sort. He carried pieces of a Korean grenade to school in his knee everyday, or so the legend was told. I was genuinely afraid not to do well in his class.
My freshman and sophomore years, two fine Baptist women, Azilee Lawhorn and Mildred Pemberton, did their very best to improve my mathematical skills. Seeing them at church every Sunday produced an especially painful sort of guilt that I was not doing better in their classrooms. Nonetheless, under their watchful eyes I met my high school math requirement.
History was a different story altogether. It was like discovering a whole new world. Rockwood, Tennessee, was a small town while I was going to school there, and it still is. History made the world a much larger place. Mrs. Layne and Mrs. Fulks taught me Tennessee and American History in junior high. Coach Eichelberger taught me United States History in high school. Each one of these teachers helped me see a different kind of future as they taught me about our past.
I have mentioned to you before the pictures that Coach Eichelberger put on the wall of his classroom during the time that he was teaching us about World War II. Those pictures told the story of the war and of the Holocaust in graphic detail. I have never forgotten those pictures. When I visited the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, the pictures in Coach Eichelberger’s classroom were my point of reference.
As I think back to the time when I was sitting in his classroom, I cannot remember much of what he said about those pictures. I don’t recall his interpretation of those pictures. There was neither an ideology that he was trying to advance nor one that he was trying to suppress. He gave a matter-of-fact presentation of the pictures allowing our imaginations to finish the story. I certainly do not recall him trying to give any religious meaning to the Holocaust beyond the fact that six million Jews lost their lives in it. Yet, those pictures continue to have an impact on my understanding of God, the Christian life, and the absolute reality of evil in the world.
I wonder now how Coach Eichelberger decided to use those pictures to teach about World War II and the Holocaust. Did he realize their power and potential impact? What was he thinking? I am grateful that he did what he did the way that he did it. Let us give thanks for former teachers even as we pray God’s guidance and protection for new ones. They do the work of God.
Every day our children are learning in school and out of school. Sometimes the lessons they learn are the ones indicated by the lesson plans. At other times, the lessons are less intentional but no less significant. Pray that God will be with our children in all the ways and in all the places that they learn. Pray that the lessons that they learn will be informational as well formational, so that each day they know more of who they are and who God wants them to be.