So yesterday I was chopping wood here in Michigan. Mom’s house has a great fireplace and it’s good to stock up before the snow falls. Since my chain saw isn’t here, I drove around looking for large logs that had already been cut but just left. Sometimes a tree company will roll them into the woods because they’re heavy and not worth taking away. So I take an ax, split them right where they sit, load them into my van, and stack them behind the house.
I’m only here this weekend then it’s off to Montana for the “Titus Project.” The Titus project is a 3 week teaching school followed by two months of teaching ministry in Armenia. Before class starts Monday, we’re to read a book called the “Seven Laws of the Learner.” It’s 500 pages of pure motivation and inspiration for the teacher.  So during this wood-gathering extraveganza, it occurred to me that there’s a parallel between the two… teaching effectively and chopping wood.

According to this book, there are all sorts of tools to help make learning happen. It’s sort of a lesson on personal responsibility. If you’re the teacher, it’s your objective and responsibility to cause the students to learn. If you’re a student, it’s on you  to learn no matter how boring the teacher might be. The author goes over all sorts of strategies for effective teaching. If a teacher is put up before a body of students, no matter if they’re grade-school girls or the congregation at a large church, there is a job to do. A good teacher can handle almost any situation. Suppose the message is set, the teacher is given the material, and told to teach it. This teacher has the responsibility to attract and hold the attention of the students by convincing them the content is relevant and will be helpful to them in the future. Or suppose the teacher or preacher is just supposed to “give an encouraging word” to a group of people who have recently been through a traumatic event. This teacher has been given information about the people and should use this to meet the need instead of just teaching some random stuff he thought was interesting. For example, something most people are talking (or ranting and raving) a lot about is the upcoming election.  It’s a huge deal for most people and for a preacher not to mention at least something about it, would be an oversight in my opinion. After all, if the class or group is distracted, thinking about another issue, what’s the point of even talking at all.

All this to say, that teaching is more than just getting up in front of people and talking for the allotted time and getting through a bunch of material. Doing this is the reason high school students can get through without learning much of anything. I remember about 2 teachers who actually “taught” us. The rest seemed to just be going though their notes earning a living. As students, we were just trying to get the grades to make our parents happy-at least some of the time. We were masters at learning what would be on the test and nothing more. That way, we got the grade, the teacher made the paycheck, and everybody went home. It wasn’t about learning.

“If the ax is dull and its edge un-sharpened, more strength is needed but skill will bring success.” (Ecclesiastes 10:10)