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  • Why do I want to teach?
  • What am I hoping will happen with my students?
  • This poem by James J. Metcalf has been on my desk for many years.
  • It is a pray I think of often as I start my day.
 
  Understanding
(in the style of Saint Paul)
 (1 Corinthians 13)

I want to teach my students how

To live this life on earth

To face its struggles and its strife

And how to improve their worth

Not just the lesson in a book

On how the river flows

But how to choose the proper path

Wherever they may go

To understand eternal truth

And know the right from wrong

And gather all the beauty of

A flower and a song

For if I help the world to grow

In Wisdom and in grace

Then I shall feel that I have won

And I have filled my place

And so I ask your guidance, God

That I may do my part

For character and confidence

And Happiness of heart.

James J. Metcalf

Though I figure with the skills of men and computers and have not understanding, I am become as a mechanical toy, or a lifeless robot.

 And though I have the gift of memory, and know the multiplication tables, and all the number facts, and though I know all algorithms, so that I can grind out all answers, and have not understanding, I am not free.

And though I supply right answers that please my teacher, and though I exchange my paper to be graded, and have not understanding, high marks are not enough.

Understanding lasts forever, and is always with me; understanding faileth not; understanding makes no false promises, does not make me overly confident,

 Does not draw false conclusions, does not leave me defenseless before my problems, is not easily dissuaded from truth, filleth me with assurance,

Provides ways of solving unfamiliar problems, gives cause for rejoicing,

 Is never caught unawares, but is ready for all things, gives hope to its owner and helps him to endure.

Understanding never fails; but where there is rote memory, it shall fail; where there are skills, they shall be no longer needed; where there are algorithms and number facts, they shall vanish away.

 For now we know only in part, and we memorize only in part.

But when today's child becomes a man, that which is memorized will serve him less than that which is understood.  When I learned number facts, I learned them well; but when I became a college student, I put them away, because they helped me not; understanding under-girded me.

 So now we see the future dimly, and tomorrow's world will be new. Now we know only in part, but tomorrow we must be ready for what we do not now know.

And now abideth right answers, rote memory, and understanding, these three; but the greatest of these is understanding.

 

   WILLIAM B. CRITTENDEN

Houston Baptist University Houston, Texas

March 1975

eacher's Prayer