“You like memes, Miss? You’re officially the coolest teacher ever,” said my Jordanian student in Advanced Writing ESL class. I smiled but knew the reason I was the coolest teacher had nothing to do with a well-chosen English learning meme. It was because I was more than a teacher of subject matter. I was a teacher of the whole person.
At my alma mater, I heard a lot about the whole person. It wasn’t important to me as a student then. How was PE class supposed to connect to Christian Writers of the 18th-20th century? Then I became a teacher and slowly began to understand how simple things created the whole.
Step into my Advanced Writing class today and you will find a very different class than when I first started teaching at Middle East University 4 years ago. I was a new teacher, hesitant about experimenting outside the textbook, teaching to the content and nothing more. Students came, a prayer was said, attendance was taken, exercises completed, and they left, only to repeat the cycle two days later.
This semester I’m taking my students, half of whom are from a different faith, through the 28 fundamental beliefs in 5-minute worship thoughts. One morning, we did a Bible verse scramble using Psalms 18:2. They hurried to put phrases in the correct order, learning grammar and vocabulary as they mistakenly tried to put the phrases “You are my” with “my fortress” instead of “You are my” with “strength.” In the “Making it real” section, we learned that when we are tired, Jesus is our strength; when we are unsure what is right in this world, Jesus is our rock; when we are afraid, Jesus is our fortress; and when we feel like we have no hope, Jesus is our Savior.
The hard wooden seats are tiring, so often we have a stretch break mid-class. Once we went for a short walk as I asked them questions about homelessness from that day’s lesson. Learning games, such as charades using vocabulary words, intersperse the writing activities, giving them a chance to get up and move about whilst still engaging in the learning process.
My students learn respect, not making fun of someone who stutters or has a speech impediment, waiting patiently for their turn as a classmate slowly works through unfamiliar vocabulary. They learn communication as they let me know why they cannot submit a late assignment, then learn grace when I extend their deadline, valuing completion of work over points. They learn diligence, time management, and responsibility.
During the four short months we spend together in class, their whole person is being influenced. From understanding Who God is on a personal level, to learning that they are valued as an individual, they leave with a deeper sense of their purpose and place in life. A meme on the deepest level.