Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning, before my first period American Literature class, I am allotted ten minutes for what administration calls “devotionals.” At 8:50, the electronic bell warbles, the students take a seat, and the morning announcements click on over the PA. Depending on how many talking points the principal has for the student body, I get the remainder of the 8:50 to 9:00 slot, and I am meant to spend these fleeting minutes offering my students some form of wisdom or insight in regard to our life in a God-centered reality, perhaps reading something from the Bible, and then wrapping up with some meaningful prayer. No problem…
As a teacher, I am plagued by the curse of honesty. One of my biggest problems is teaching something (especially something out of history or ancient Scriptures) without giving a lot of background to make sure the information being received makes sense in the grand spectrum of life. I know the reason for this stems partly from some of the teachers I had growing up who skipped over contextualization in favor of barrelling right into application. Unfortunately, it is not as easy for me to leave out “where this concept comes from” or “how this belief arose” – I find such information vital. After all, if I’m going to base my life on something, I want to know the details!
Needless to say, ten minutes is not quite enough time for me to impart all the wisdom (ha!) that roils within, no matter how strong a communicator I may be (or that I also teach Public Speaking). I am able only to point to the tip of the iceberg, and hope the students catch on that there is much that lies beneath. Perhaps I’m being too dramatic, or trying to bite off more than I can chew, but, seriously, ten minutes?! It’s hard to offer anything worthwhile in that amount of time. I feel like I’m in those old Al Franken skits on SNL – Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley (“Because you’re good enough, and you’re smart enough, and doggone it…”)
Don’t get me wrong, I manage. However, like prisoner from shackles, I can’t help but want to break free from the time restraints. We’ve become a soundbite-obsessed culture, drunk on talking points and eager for more ways to water down the wine of truth. Life cannot be summed up in ten-minute increments each day, nor can our devotion be encapsulated so easily. This may be making the proverbial mountain out of a molehill, but I worry that such brevity perpetuates the system.
So, down falls the gauntlet. Life in ten minutes. Can it be done?