Not So Loud!

HUF041BDuring one of my classes today I noticed a student furiously typing away on her smart phone. I do mean furiously. She was silent (except for the tapping of her fingers). At first I wanted to believe that she was taking notes. But I’m not that interesting. I am certainly not interesting enough to inspire furious note taking.

Then I thought that perhaps she disagreed with what I was saying. I wondered if, instead of voicing her objection, she was recording her rebuttal for future reference. But that didn’t seem likely either. She is a good student who is usually engaged. I was pretty sure that she would voice any serious disagreement.

Finally, I decided to say something. This is always a tough call. If the student is doing something they shouldn’t, then they are embarrassed. I don’t really have a problem with that. But if they are actually doing what they are supposed to be doing (like taking notes) then I am embarrassed. I guess I am more comfortable with their embarrassment than I am with my own.

“I have to ask…are you taking notes on that thing?” I asked. She looked abashed. “No…no. I’m sorry. I’ll put it away.” And she did.

I think in my earlier years I would have launched into a lecture about classroom decorum and respect. But I’ve since learned that when students are distracted, there is often a good reason. Pressures outside the class creep across the sacred threshold and their urgent whispers drown out my scintillating lecture. These distractions often come from things like divorce, death or shattered love affairs. As for the handful of instances where the problem really is a lack of decorum and respect, well those students are not intimidated by my scolding anyway.

After class the student came up to me and apologized. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to be disrespectful. I was in the middle of a long argument with my mother.”

“I know” I answered with a smile. “I could hear you shouting.”

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Published by

John Koessler

John Koessler serves as professor and chair of the pastoral studies department at Moody Bible Institute. His most recent book is The Radical Pursuit of Rest published by InterVarsity Press.

One thought on “Not So Loud!”

  1. I still remember one of those lectures in probably ’95 or ’96 on classroom decorum! A student in the back was sleeping during Pastoral Theology. Shawn and I were in the front row and received the opening salvo’s full-force. Ouch! I have always wondered why the man was so tired.

    The same thing has almost happened to me as a pastor. Someone doesn’t have the week’s Adult Bible Class lesson’s done and I want to make a snide remark. Or someone else comments on the lesson and I know he hasn’t completed it either. Deep down inside I want to say something about it in front of the class.

    Then I remember that I am getting paid to do this and sometime’s I don’t get it all done (but I am good enough to fake it a little) or I had to rush to get it done the last minute.

    Thanks Prof for the good reminder.

    Dan

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