Jessie Lawson stood before the class, wondering how to reach this group of underachievers. She knew most were very bright, but for whatever reason, unmotivated. Life touched everyone in different ways, and its influence on these kids was clear to see.
Just like that, it came to her. She quickly turned to the board and was ready in just a few minutes.
“Okay, who’s ready for a challenge this morning?”
Relative quiet settled over the room and she began. “I thought we’d start out with something a little different. This morning we’re going to spend some time thinking about a four letter word.” Amid a few snickers and a lot of confused looks, she continued. “The word is life”.
Groans filled the classroom, as she expected. Jessie lifted one eyebrow and scanned the faces before her. “So, here’s the challenge. There’s 26 letters in the alphabet. The goal is to match every letter with a word that describes life.”
“So, who’s going to start?”
Jessie waited, wondering if this was going to work. The expressions on the faces before her were mixed. Some were openly involved, already thinking. Others were hesitant, not sure whether they wanted to play teacher’s game. One even looked hostile.
“How about complicated, for C?”
“That works fine.” Jessie turned to write it in its place on the board. Before she was finished, someone volunteered, “Rewarding, for R”. For the next few minutes, she hurried to keep up.
A smallish blond boy in the third row offered, “My gramma says life is a blessing.”
“Miracle would be good.”
“That’s a good start, but there’s a lot left. Let’s keep going. Who has another?”
“I saw a poster that said, “Life is an adventure.”
“My gramma says life is an education,” the little blond boy contributed again.
“We’re over halfway there. You’ve got the easy ones out of the way. Now we’ll see how good you really are. It’s just like Play Station. You’ve excelled up to this point, but now you’re facing the Boss. Are you up for it?”
At the familiar reference, their enthusiasm returned, but the words didn’t come as easily. Finally, someone called out, “Valuable, for V”.
The student Jessie had initially read as hostile finally spoke up, offering ‘inscrutable’. Such an unexpected word from the likes of Jadin silenced the whole room. Jessie cleared her throat, then smiled. “That’s a splendid word. Life certainly can be impossible to understand at times,” she said, as she added it to the list.
After another lull, someone suggested ‘zany’. Everyone laughed, but Jessie wrote it on the board.
“My gramma says life is uncertain.”
Impatiently the whole class turned and stared disapprovingly at the kid. On the spot now, he shrugged and smiled. “My gramma talks a lot.”
Someone chuckled and muttered, “You’re tellin’ me.” The whole class joined light-heartedly in the mild rebuke before Jessie called their attention back to the board.
“At this point, we might have to be a little creative, so if you can explain it, we’ll use it.”
After some hesitation, ‘you’ was suggested and defended by a boy in the front row. “Let me think a minute… It is what you are, your very essence. Without life, you wouldn’t exist.” Looking toward Jessie with a hopeful grin, he asked, “How’s that?”
Smiling, she answered, “That works for me. How about it, class?”
“Yeah.” “Sure.” “All right.” With the end in sight, the class all agreed it would do. The only letter left now was X.
Knowing that X would be nearly impossible. Jessie was ready to end the exercise, but a timid voice was heard from somewhere in the middle of the room. “Can we just use the letter?”
Jessie searched out the source of the voice. “Maybe. Can you defend it?”
“I think so.” The girl nervously began. “Some people believe that the cross Jesus Christ was crucified on was actually in the form of an X. Down through history, the cross has represented new life…eternal life…to all who will believe.” The girl’s eyes dropped to the floor as she concluded, “I thought it might work.”
Jessie was floored, but at the same time, realized she had accomplished her goal, and so had the kids. Clapping, she turned to her class. “Congratulations! You have impressed me. After this challenge, the rest of today’s assignments should be a piece of cake.”
A collective groan filled the room as she reached for the history text.
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