Monday, November 14, 2011

My Ecumenical Learning Center - (or What Would Jesus Say?)

“When I get married,” Naomi announced, “I’m moving to Israel. And we’re going to keep Shobat. And we’ll pray a lot, and we won’t use electricity.”

It was a cold, blustery afternoon, and I had several students in the Learning Center laboring on projects due the next day. Three girls were sitting at the round table with a large bin of crayons in the middle. One lone boy worked on the computer across the room.  I kept moving between them like a magician keeping the plates spinning on the sticks.

I guess Naomi’s family is going to synagogue again.  Naomi loves sharing stories about her mother’s battles with their rabbi.  But I have never heard her talk about marriage, and I waited for someone to ask Naomi who she was going to marry.  Marriage was not what captured their attention.

“Why won’t you use electricity?” Medina asked.

“Because you don’t use it on Shobat,” Naomi declared.

“Well I’m going to Bible camp next summer,” Emily announced.

This was news to me. “Where are you going to camp, Emily?” I asked.

“Well I want to go to camp in Michigan, but my parents say I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“It costs $3,000 to go for eight weeks.”

Yikes. “Well I don’t blame your parents, Emily,” I stated firmly. “That’s a lot of money for camp, and Michigan is a long ways away. Besides, you’re too young to go away for eight weeks. I wouldn’t let you go if you were my daughter.”

“I’m not too young!”

“Yes you are Emily. If you went all that way to camp, your parents would pay all that money, and you’d get there and get homesick in two days and call home crying that you’re homesick and want to come home.”

“I did that,” Roberto announced matter of factly from across the room.

I swung my head around towards Roberto. “What did you do?”

“I called home from camp last summer and made my parents come get me.”

“There you go.” I swept my hand in Roberto’s direction.

“Well I still want to go to Bible camp in Michigan,” Emily countered. “And I won’t get homesick because I’ll pray and read my Bible.” She turned to Naomi and lifted her nose a tiny bit higher.  “I don’t think we’ll use electricity there either,” she huffed.

Naomi just stared at Emily pondering the world of Bible camps. She must have decided that Emily’s faith was more than she wanted to deal with, so she turned to Medina.

“Do you do anything religious at your house?” Naomi asked

Medina’s family is Muslim, but I knew she was far too shy to ever discuss anything about their religion.  This seemed a good time to shut the conversation down.

“Are you ready for the math test tomorrow, Emily?” I asked.

“I’ve been practicing with my dad,” Emily smiled. “I’m getting really good at solving the equations.

“I need more practice,” Roberto called from across the room.

We had about 15 minutes before the bell rang, so I pulled Roberto and Emily to a second table and left Naomi and Medina to work on their triptychs.

As we sat down at the table, I gave small whiteboards, markers, and erasers to Roberto and Emily.  I wrote an equation on my whiteboard.

Students love the little whiteboards, and both Roberto and Emily immediately bent over their boards and began drawing. I turned my whiteboard around to show them the first equation. Roberto was deep into drawing an alien on his board. Emily was drawing a bearded man in a robe who I decided must be Jesus.

“OK guys, copy this equation on your board and show me all the steps for solving it.”

Both copied the equation down, and after a few minutes Roberto’s head popped up.

“X is 4,” he announced.

“Uh . . . no,” I said. “Check your work again.” I watched Roberto redo the problem.

“I have it,” Emily chirped. “X is 6.”

I looked at Emily’s board. Jesus was still there, but now he had a cartoon dialogue bubble next to his head. Inside the bubble was the equation with all the correct steps, including the final solution for X.

Emily turned her board around to show Roberto her work. “Jesus says X equals 6,” she explained.

Roberto’s family is Catholic, so Jesus carries weight with him.  He studied the problem in the bubble and figured out where he made his mistake.

We did five more problems before the bell rang. Emily continued to work her problems in the bubble coming from Jesus, and she announced all of her answers with “Jesus says X is ...”

Before the bell rang, Jesus got five problems correct. 

1 comment:

  1. What a cute story. Kids make such good writing material.
    Love your writing style!