First day of the fall semester. Fall? It’s the middle of August! School used to let out in the summer because of the heat, but now we have AC, so here we are. High school. Before the next new class, students in the hall rush with other students, unsure of where their exact destinations are. Most are glancing at the schedule papers thrust at them during the morning’s hurry-scurry at the lunch tables, glancing to double check the number of the next room. They look at the room number posted at the door to verify. “This is it,” they think, or mumble, or yell. They enter. They survey the room. They surreptitiously check around to see if a friend is in the same class, which helps them decide the chair to pick for themselves. They are saddled with the mystery envelope containing who-knows-what handed to them during the frenzy at the turbulence tables earlier, burdened by their backpacks, and delighted to terrified by the teacher’s alleged reputation, knowledge of which they have obtained through the perspective of other students. This teacher is strict, sarcastic but funny, nice, doesn’t give many A’s, is uptight about gum and hats and phones, oh yeah especially phones (DON’T GET CAUGHT!), is easy, will be your bestie once you get to know. Well, bestie as best a teacher can be.
Everybody picks a place to sit. The backpacks slide slowly off the shoulder or are dropped to the floor like a dumbbell after a mammoth clean overhead jerk. Students settle in. The teacher’s reputation mingles in their brains with the other unknowns: What’s the reason I have to take this class? Why am I here? I’ve never seen a real person use algebra. Will oceanography help me surf? Who reads these books anyway? Who reads books?! My dad makes a decent amount of money and he doesn’t know ancient history. And American Sign Language? I’ve never even met a deaf person. Where are they? But I have to endure this class to get the grades my parents expect so my phone won’t be taken away, or to graduate, or to get into college, or just to get out of here! What’s the purpose of this class, or, for that matter, of life?
ANSWERS: The Bible says (see the Great Commandment and the Great Commission) we have five purposes for existing, not four and not six. FIVE. They are:
All five are to be lived in a way that reflects God’s glory to God the Father, God the Son, Jesus, and God the Holy Spirit through relationship with Him for His pleasure–and ours, too.
Okay, well thanks for that little sermon, you say. I’ve always wondered why God made me, but what’s that got to do with the reason I’m sitting in this classroom in the middle of August and how does that help me to get a good grade in here?
Yep, that’s a fair question. Those are the BIG FIVE purposes, the overall reasons that should motivate us, but we have scads of everyday purposes, too. They all fall somewhere under one of those five. My purpose now is to answer your current questions: What am I doing in this class? Why do I have to take all these courses I don’t need? What do I have to do to get an A from a teacher who doesn’t give many A’s? Here are my answers to you.
Because I know the American Sign Language (ASL) program well, I will use it as an example. If you are in an ASL class for the grade, you are in the class for the wrong reason. The purpose of being in an ASL class is to learn American Sign Language. Work for the purpose and not the grade. Your grade is a reflection of your following the process for learning. Your learning is a byproduct of an eagerness to learn plus the willingness to invest the energy and discipline to learn. Here’s another list, one through five: It’s the same as the BIG FIVE, but now it’s about your class:
Because of this line of thinking, the ASL department uses a grade category called Purpose and Process. Your Purpose and Process evaluation will be assessed by the teacher’s observation of your class participation, expressive ASL, seeking extra help if needed, practicing with a study buddy, following classroom procedures, and any other factors that show your eagerness to learn American Sign Language. So, commit and submit to the purpose. Trust the system, the education leaders, the decision makers, the teachers. You do not have to see how you will use the stuff you are learning. Only God knows your future. Then commit and submit to the process. Your recognition of the class purpose and your participation in the process will lead you to learn ASL (or any other subject) and have fun doing it.