Third Monday in Advent: Instruction
Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
Gone are the days when teachers wielded canes or paddles or rulers to beat their students into submission. Beating was never a very effective pedagogical method anyway. The student who received the caning or paddling was likely to harbor such a grudge against the teacher that further learning was next to impossible.
I know, for I was one of those students.
I enjoyed singing, even as a very young child. I had a wonderfully kind and patient music teacher during my first years of school, Mrs. Janice Giles. She carried a pitch pipe with her as she moved from classroom to classroom, teaching songs that I remember to this day, including “White Coral Bells,” “Go In and Out the Window,” “Haul on the Bowline,” and “Low Bridge, Everybody Down.”
Then I moved to sixth grade and Mr. Roger Carpenter’s music class. He nearly made me lose my love for music the day I made my own “instrument.” I discovered that I could produce a curious vibrating sound by putting the pages of my music book between my lips, and then humming and blowing simultaneously. My classmates enjoyed the sound and I thought Mr. Carpenter did too, because he turned from the piano to look at me several times and gave me what appeared to be a slight smile.
Suddenly he bolted up from the piano bench, snatched the music book from my hands, and escorted me from the classroom. On the way out, he grabbed his 16-inch wooden paddle. The music room was near the auditorium, so Mr. Carpenter marched me onto the stage, took me behind the curtain, and summoned another teacher as a witness.
I was terrified. I had never been paddled in school before.
“How many swats do you think you deserve?” Mr. Carpenter demanded.
I wanted to blurt out “None!” but I knew instinctively that such an answer would only serve to exacerbate Mr. Carpenter’s wrath.
“Three,” I said. He ordered me to bend over and touch my ankles. Then gripping the paddle with both hands, he swung it like a baseball bat at my buttocks. The force of the blows nearly knocked me over, yet I was determined not to give him the satisfaction of knowing that he had hurt me. I stifled my tears and walked back to the classroom as nonchalantly as I could, even though I was limping slightly. For several months after that humiliating—and painful—experience, music lost its magic for me.
Unlike Mr. Carpenter, the Master Teacher never beats students to force them to comply or to learn. Using a mixture of goodness and uprightness, the Holy One teaches willing pupils everything they need to know to live full, rich and fruitful lives. As I sit in the Master’s classroom, I expect to receive invaluable instruction that will guide me on my way through Advent and into the New Year.