Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Come To Jesus

My mother has this thing she calls a "Come to Jesus." Though she says it's "just one of those sayings," because I've never heard it before, I attribute its creation to her. If and when someone else ever says it, I will think of my mother. And I'll probably say something like, "My mom used to say that a lot."

I love that, in essence, it makes conservative Christian tactics into every day tools. It both mocks and gives credit to evangelism. I have learned, through my endless fascination with Latter Day Saints, that Mormons will visit a potential convert many times, slowly explaining the religion, getting personal with how the faith could help the potential convert's life, and discussing things in detail. Once, when I had a meeting with Mormon Missionaries, they explained the whole "Jesus visits America" thing to me for about 10 minutes and then basically asked, "Now, what did I just say?" They make sure their potential convert is hearing them. And then, after the many meetings and many, many prayers, they have the "Come to Jesus."

I'm sure not all Mormons use this device, and there are many other evangelicals that do this or don't do this. But step out of the door-to-door Christian realm and into a Best Buy or a Used Car Lot. What if sales was like the "Come to Jesus" concept? Instead of high-pressure, right now deals, the sales people slowly convinced you, over months and months. Partially by working you down and partially by actually making you believe, you find yourself wanting the product. Then, when you are so enthused that the earthly part of you starts talking you out of it, they have the final meeting. The ultimatum, if you will. And they make you think that if you don't buy this 6.1 mega pixel digital camera right now, it might be lost forever. YOU might be lost forever.

Then, there are the Christians that use the "Jesus Now, Or Else" sales strategy that many companies use. For me, these are the Christians that use tracts, those little comic books that talk about eternal damnation, etc. I pulled one of those off a 1st grader the other day (she was playing with it during class). When I asked her who gave this to her, she said, "My babysitter. She says I have two days to decide." Or else...

Regardless of the origin of these tactics, or even the bad taste they leave in my mouth when it comes to Christianity, I have found them extraordinarily useful in the classroom. Children in grades Kindergarten through Four respond to the "Come to Jesus" like no other. I don't exactly call it that, but that's what it is. Over time I remind them, "Stay on task," and "Please don't talk when I'm talking," and then one day, after several weeks of quiet reminders and patience, I have the "Come to Jesus." I tell them how much trouble I've been having and how this has got to stop. I use words like "disappointed" and "hurt". I talk about how I feel and often become very sad right in front of them. This is effective because even in a school like mine where compassion is as rare as gold, young children can't help but have a little of it every once in a while. They realize that this is more than one class to the next, it is a relationship. And in a relationship people care about each other.

With the Fifth through Eighth grades, I use the "Jesus Now, Or Else" strategy. When they start to act out, I put my foot down. "You have one chance," I tell them. And then, I write them up, I call their parents, I put them in time out, and I make them wish they had never, ever crossed me. It may sound mean and unnecessary to some, but I assure you that if I let anything slide, anything at all, the next week they will be throwing chairs, books, nails, cussing up a storm, and, my biggest pet peeve, calling each other "gay." So I give them that one chance and then there are no more chances. A few weeks ago, a class was so mean to me (this was the nail-throwing class), that I wanted to quit my job. I listed six people that were not part of the hysteria and put the rest in In-School Suspension. Though a few are angry with me, most seemed to somehow appreciate it. They try harder to treat me with respect, they tell me about their home-life, in essence, in a completely different way, they "Come to Jesus."

Jesus is, of course, never mentioned in my escapades of discipline. I am a fairly firm believer in separation of Church and State. But I think of Christ often when I am dealing with these kids. Sometimes Jesus was polite, sincere, and full of explanation. But sometimes He asked His disciples to drop everything and follow looking back. I am far from Christ-like, I know, as I am still working on the "following" part myself. My actions are sometimes exaggerated and I admit that sometimes I get it wrong. But it is in this vulnerability that I take one more step towards Christ and finally come to Jesus.


David Reese said...

evangelical pedagogy. interesting.

Rachael said...

Megan, I have noticed that some of my kids LIKE the Time Out Chair. This was perplexing to me but Brenda´s been saying that if they don´t get disciplined at home, then they long for it. We´re all born with a conscience, so if I do something I know I shouldn´t, there´s a part of me that yearns for consequences. Otherwise the universe doesn´t make sense. I have a kid who will go over and sit in the Time Out Chair even when he hasn´t been punished. So that´s what I thought of when you said some of them appreciate it.

Also, when will any of us ever be done figuring out how to follow Jesus?

Power to you, and I´m glad you have Christ with you in your classroom.


Megan Highfill said...

Lol, it's funny you say that. Peggy Bennett is all about the voluntary time-out chair. I have students that know they will get in trouble if they sit with the class, so they just sit in the time out chair up by me when they come in. They almost feel like it's a privilege...Then I have kids in kindergarten who will come and sit in the chair if I just look at them when they are being naughty...then, when they are done they'll tap me on the shoulder and say, "I'm ready to stop being naughty," and they go back to their seat. Also, kids who aren't disciplined at home are also not forgiven. I think they like the make-up aspect of getting in trouble...knowing that it's okay in the end.