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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Hard and Soft (04/23/09)

TITLE: Don't Slap the Ooblek
By Margaret Gass


Jennifer shook her head as her last class ended for the day. I don’t understand, Lord. When did things get so complicated? These are kids who’ve grown up in the church, They know what the Bible says. Why are they so upset about this? She closed her grade book and picked up the stack of responses she’d received from her students. She read the first one again. Instead of answering the question, “What did you think of the speaker?” the young man had asked why the students had to attend the assembly in the first place. "We don’t care what he thinks. He’s just an old pastor. Things are different now. People can think what they want." Jennifer knew that he regularly attended a small, conservative church with his family, but he had not yet “owned” his faith; he was battling boundaries at home, too. She picked up the next paper, this one from a young lady with close relationships with both her family and her Lord. "I don’t see what all the fuss is about. I don’t care what people do. We shouldn’t tell them it’s wrong. Live and let live. I read my Bible."

“I don’t care.” Those words, or some variation of them, appeared in over half of the papers she held in her hand. Her students seemed angry that they were being asked to consider what the Bible said about anything, including needing salvation, these days. “No one can tell us how to think.” Jennifer thought about how different these responses would have been just a year ago. What’s different, Lord?

On the way home, Jennifer thought about how much things had changed in the twenty-six years she had been teaching. She thought back to her own time in school, when she, as an un-churched young girl had read the “Golden Rule” on the walls of her classrooms, and sung “Father Abraham” and “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” in music class. Jennifer had attended public schools all her life, but she had never questioned that some things were right and some things were wrong. In fact, her confusion about Abraham and why the children were being sent had led to a ten-minute Bible lesson by the music teacher!

Jennifer smiled as she remembered some of the Bible lessons she had taught in church and in classes for home schooled children. At the time, her son Henry was just three. “Are we gonna blow something up, Mommy, or are we just gonna make a mess?” Valid questions, she knew, since Jennifer had made volcanoes in the kitchen sink and silly putty in the classroom! As she pulled into the driveway, Jennifer remembered one more “mess” she had made…Ooblek.

Ooblek was a mixture of cornstarch and water that had both the characteristics of a solid and a liquid. She had placed the Ooblek in a large casserole dish and asked the students to describe it, including how it might feel. Could they make any predictions? All of the kids thought it would be soft and squishy. Jennifer had then quickly slapped the mixture in the dish, making a loud sound…but no dent in the Ooblek. Her hand had remained clean. Her students were amazed. She then showed them that she could put her fingers slowly into the Ooblek and stir it around. When she remover her hand, she needed a paper towel. Oohs and aahs had filled the room, followed by shouts of, “Let me try!” Before letting them, Jennifer had asked, “What made the difference?” and waited for a response. “The approach,” Marie said.

The approach. In the brief drive home from school, the Lord had answered Jennifer’s questions. As a teacher, she knew that the students who seemed tough on the outside were hiding hurts on the inside. As a Christian, she knew that God had spoken of men hardening their hearts. She had seen the effects of Postmodern thoughts on her kids. But it took her experience as a Mom wanting to make learning fun to remind her to let Him teach. Thank you, Lord, for this reminder. These are your kids. You are in control. Show me how to approach this class tomorrow. I want the right approach.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Joy Bach 04/30/09
This is excellent! How very insightful and how very lucky those students are to have a teacher like that. Good job.
Jae Blakney04/30/09
Jennifer didn't feel real and I wasn't drawn in to her world. But I think the spiritual lesson is well-illustrated and very relevant.
Jae Blakney04/30/09
Oh, I forgot to say, I love the title. It made me feel like I just had to see what ooblek was.
Connie Dixon05/01/09
I have a feeling that Jennifer was very real and that this lesson may have actually taken place. It seems as though black and white keeps getting replaced with gray and pretty soon all truth will be replaced by kinda - sorta. Thank God for teachers like Jennifer.
Bryan Ridenour05/01/09
Excellent lesson...excellent writing...nicely done.
Holly Westefeld05/08/09
This was a great illustration, and an excellent reminder to probe gently in order to slip through defenses.