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Reflections From the School Dummy: How One Teacher Changed My Life

Reflections From the School Dummy: How One Teacher Changed My Life

Lying in the hospital bed, being cared for by physicians and nurses – my body was completely weak, but my mind was racing. How could Mrs. Smith be so right, even though it had physically knocked me out to prove her right? How could Mrs. Smith be so wrong at the same time, leading me to trash my health in order to achieve some success so sweet?

After my release from the hospital, that summer before eighth grade, I had a transforming epiphany. I had been spiritually born-again and baptized three years before. Now God showed me, as a 12-year-old, that Mrs. Smith had done His work. He revealed to me that he personally had used Mrs. Smith to take me from worthless failure to sweet success – and that this great blessing was only a small parable of his amazing grace, touching every part of each of our lives. He then convinced me to serve him by helping others – especially encouraging the neglected, through empowering education. And as hard as it was, for me to continue to achieve A's in my studies. I began eighth grade on a learning mission directly from the Lord.

Until she retired and we lost contact, I often thanked Mrs. Ethel Smith. Even before I became a teacher, I have sought to reproduce her method in my own teaching, and in the teachers whom I teach – as I teach them to teach others to teach others to teach others. That effectual method can be explained in terms of 4A's, key steps that are also rooted in II Peter 1:5-6.

The tested and proved "Ethel Smith method" involves "4A's" and also "4-In's" to help facilitate the "4A's:"

The "4A's" include the teacher being (a) fellow-learner (attitudes of faith), (b) collaborator-designer (allegiances to excellence), (3) instructor (abilities in knowledge), and coach of great beginnings (achievements through self-control) into the durable delights of life-long learning. Through the 4A's, parents, church leaders, and screened volunteers really do not need professional training or licensure, but they do need excellent materials and responsible guidance. We are putting those resources together in the new Literacy3 Project, especially with the 7-Word-Wonders.

Through Mrs. Smith's method, we can also directly apply the Apostle Peter's extraordinary divine wisdom within our various living and teaching roles: Diligently build up your faith (attitudes) with excellence (allegiances to the Creator's gifting), and your excellence with knowledge (abilities), and your knowledge with self-control (real achievements) (II Peter 1:5-6)

Freely we have received. Freely let us give.

Dr. Paul de Vries is the president of New York Divinity School, and a pastor, speaker and author. Since 2004, he has served on the Board of the National Association of Evangelicals, representing 40 million evangelical Americans.

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