Labor Day we took some ribs, potato salad and beans down to the wise old man at Hillsboro Manor. We packed an extra plate for Juanita, the head nurse, too. It was not a bribe, but Juanita tends to treat us nicer when we take her something. She told us the wise old man had been hanging out in the chapel for the past few days doing a study. I knew his habit of meditating on scripture, so I did not want to disturb him, but I really wanted at least a short visit with him to catch up. Mainly I wanted him to know that I had retired and would be able to come see him more often.
My wife and I stuck our heads in the chapel door and found him in the front pew with a couple of Bibles, a Big Chief tablet and a bunch of note cards which he had arranged on the pew and on the floor. He didn’t even notice us until we sat in the pew behind him. He seemed truly delighted when he turned around. “What’s that I smell,” he asked.
“We brought you some cookout, sir, I said.”
“Let me gather up this stuff and we will go to the day room. I am as hungry as a female coyote with a big litter,” he laughed. We joined Juanita at a table in the day room. She had already torn into her plate and was full of compliments and questions, especially about how to prepare my wife’s delectable potato salad.
As the two of them ate, I said, “I have retired from teaching.”
“Yes, sir, and I don’t miss it a lick.”
“Interestingly, Dan, I have been doing a study of teaching in scripture. Did you know that the teaching-learning enterprise is mentioned 15 times in the Book of Titus alone? And, Dan, listen to this verse from chapter 2 of that book: “Encourage your students to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about you.”
“I don’t remember reading that,” I said.
“Well, I changed a bit of the wording to make it fit today’s education, but it’s mainly NIV. Dan, don’t you see that the education problems we face in the 21st century would fade away if students could control themselves and if teachers led exemplary lives and taught with integrity, with no frivolity, leaving behind the inordinate fixation on sports activities? And what about ‘soundness of speech’? I am afraid many teachers today have picked up the jargon and triteness of the youth they teach instead of setting an example of accurate and beautiful language. I have heard teachers start sentences with “I’m like,” and over-use the word “amazing” and “absolutely,” haven’t you?”
Feeling a little guilty, I replied, “Often teachers need to get down on their students’ level to truly communicate. You know, be cool.”
The wise old man took a bite of potato salad then and chewed it a long time before replying. “Or, Dan, they might consider coaxing the students up to their level.”