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Thank a Teacher

We sat in the airport terminal waiting to board our flight.  John and I snagged empty seats beside two super tall young men.  It didn't take us long to figure out that they were part of a university basketball team.  The guy to John's right had on his headphones and was in his own little world.  The guy to the left of me was reading a book.  Google has helped me identify the title of the book as Eleven Rings:  The Soul of Success, but I didn't know that at the time.  The player reading the book was really enjoying it.  He came across a line that he really liked and read it to the coach who was sitting to his left and then again to some of the other players.  I heard the line so many times I had it memorized:  "Coaching the Lakers was like having a wild, tempestuous fling with a beautiful woman."  I can't tell you why he liked that sentence so much, but he sure did!

Soon another player came over and perched up on the window sill behind the coach.  "Do you have a word for me today, Coach?"  He and the coach spoke quietly together for awhile and I don't know what the coach told him.  Then Book-Reader read the line to the 2nd player, "Coaching the Lakers was like having a wild, tempestuous fling with a beautiful woman."  Then the coach took the book from him and said to Player #2, "What part of speech is wild?"  He took a few guesses at it and finally identified it as an adjective.  "What part of speech is tempestuous?" the coach continued with him.  Again Player #2 eventually settled on it being an adjective.  The coach then asked him to identify what part of speech "fling" is.  He quickly said it is a verb.  "Yes," said the coach, "fling can be a verb.  But in this case what part of speech is it?"  Player #2 was really stuck on it being a verb.  "Well, said the coach, what is he flinging?"  

Meanwhile, Book-Reader wanted his book back.  "No," said Player #2, "when I start something I want to finish it.  Let me figure this out."  About then our flight was called and I don't know if Book-Reader ever got his book back or if Player #2 ever figured out that fling can also be a noun.

Reading this, your first thought probably is, "Poor kid!  He got into university without knowing the basic parts of speech.  What a rotten education.  What a typical jock."  Maybe that's all true, but I was very impressed with the coach!  He had such a good rapport with the guys on his team.  But more than that, playing university basketball obviously isn't just a sport to win for him; it also involves getting an education.  And sometimes getting an education means making up for a years of a poor education.  The coach obviously knew this player needed to learn parts of speech.  He took a sentence that they all enjoyed from a book about basketball, so the subject matter was important to him.  And he turned it into a teachable moment.  He was infinitely patient and kept on in a firm but gentle and often humorous manner.

I have no idea what learning situation this kid had grown up in.  I do know that with the right teacher, he was willing to learn and to make up for what he didn't get in high school.  
This coach is my hero even though I don't know his name.  Movies are made about coaches like this guy, but he'll probably never be famous.  Day after day he makes sure his guys can play ball, but also that they can read books.  He takes teachable moments and uses them to help his players.  He has a passion for education that he passes on to his team.

School after school has teachers like him, teachers who are unknown heroes.  They take an individual interest in their students.  They use teaching methods that involve the students in things that excite them.  They are creative and innovative.  They give kids a love for learning.

Speaking of teachers who work hard day after day, but who will probably never be famous....  In Niger we have a team of three missionaries who are working with Nigerien teachers to help them learn better teaching methods.  The Nigerien teachers they work with have 40 - 80 kids in their class in a country whose literacy rate is 59.6% (and if you separate male from female, it's much lower for females).  They are learning how to use local materials to make teaching games.  They are passionate about moving from teaching by rote to involving the kids.  Please take a minute to hop over to my friend Lucia's blog:  Bringing the Gospel Through Christian Education in Niger and read her latest post.  

If you have been blessed by a special teacher in your life, make sure to thank them.  If you have had the privilege of going to a good school with teachers who care, consider supporting the Christian Education Project  (Project #097422-091). 
If you are a talented, dedicated teacher, considering applying with SIM to join us in Niger as a teacher of either Third Culture Kids or of teachers who are teaching Nigerien kids (the second option requires a good level of French).

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