Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Brothers and Sisters (Part 4)

All teaching is a challenge. The Epistle of James warns that one should not seek to be a teacher; teachers, he says, bear more responsibility than those who do not presume to know all that a teacher professes to know. But responsibility is not the only hazard of teaching. There are students to face and, from the youngest nursery tike with toy in hand, to the most wizened codger with a cane to thump, they can test the mettle of the best teacher.

I have only vague memories of my pre-junior-age Sunday School teachers. They were all, I believe women. One may have been my own mother. I remember well, only the gentle and sincere voice of Sister Westlake and her use of words of endearment, honey, dear, etc. She may have been the last female Sunday School teacher I had until I had left home. For some reason men taught the junior age through high school age classes. It could have had something to do with discipline although I honestly do not remember trouble makers in our classes. There were three men whom I remember.

Brother Enloe was a farmer, not a farm owner, I gathered, but rather a farm hand. And his hands were always of interest to me. They were large, weathered, and appeared disfigured, whether through arthritis or accident I never knew. They seemed to be his principal instrument of instruction, clumsily turning the pages of his “Teacher’s Quarterly” and seeking the Biblical texts referred to in the Quarterly. His teaching method consisted of reading portions from the Quarterly, having us boys read the Biblical texts, and then going on to the next section of the lesson. If students are allowed to grade their teachers, I’d give him a “D” for method, a “B” for sincerity, and an “A+” for his use of those wonderful hands.

Our next teacher was Brother Stauffer. He and his wife Pauline had recently come to our church, “converting” from another “dead” denominational church. They were young, though not in the eyes of junior-aged boys. Brother Stauffer brought the enthusiasm of youth, combined with a naturally joyful disposition, and the freshness of new spiritual discovery to his task. He was a farm owner and therefore had some freedom to schedule his time, allowing him to host outdoor picnics at his farm and even, on one occasion, a field trip to the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago. It is unfortunate, although not too surprising, that his “extracurricular” experiences have mostly obliterated any memory of his technique as a classroom teacher. My guess is that he was sincere and competent but as dependent upon the quarterly as Brother Enloe had been. An overall grade of “A+” is appropriate. He has not ceased to be a friend to this day.

The final teacher I recall was Brother Ralph Pear. He was a farm hand, as were many of the men in the congregation. He was slight of build with a permanently sun and wind weathered complexion. He too had the hands of a working man. I’m not sure that I ever saw him without a smile on his face. He and his wife, Margaret, began their family soon after I knew them, producing three daughters by the time I had left home. My impression was that resources were meager in the Pear home. Our classes still consisted of readings from the Quarterly interspersed with Biblical passages. Donald and I were required to have read the Student Quarterly before each class so we could generally answer any questions asked. It seemed that the teacher must have had some questions suggested in his quarterly that were not in ours. On those we were frequently stumped, allowing Brother Pair to be the expert. Like Brother Stauffer, Brother Pair was faithful, week after week, and sincere in his desire to give us an understanding of the Scriptures. He too deserves an “A+”.

On my most recent visit to the home church Brother Stauffer and Brother Pair were there, seated side-by-side on a foyer bench, long since farm owner and farm hand, now just Brothers, rather frail but smiling at me as though I were a teenage student again. Brother Enloe slipped away many years ago without my knowing about it.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes we like to have our teachers do more that cover the "quarterlies," but I suspect having faithful men is most important. I also recall my early days of 'teaching' when I had no supplies, little direction and less time. How I wish I could have done more for the children, but it takes years of walking with our Lord to train some of us.

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