In addition to my work as an editor and church organist, I help teach choir at a Christian high school. This week, in place of regular classes, the school put on a conference (masks required!) during which multiple breakout sessions were offered. I was asked, because of my particular background, to prepare a session on worship.
Now, the school tends to favor contemporary worship, whereas I prefer traditional. Wanting to bridge the divide between these styles, I presented on what I call “Cruciform Worship,” that is, an approach to worship that combines contemporary and traditional worship in an effort to re-unify the Church in the shape of the cross.
I’ll record and share my presentation soon. Right now, though, I want to extend a small thank you to the students who actually attended my session. Although I planned on a full lecture room, various factors (not the least of which being a global pandemic and increasing quarantine requirements) conspired against me and attendance at my session turned out to be rather sparse.
Rather than dwelling on this, I want to offer an open ‘letter’ to those students who did attend and participate in my session:
- To the girl who thanked me for my handout and unabashedly declared that she “loves worksheets,” thank you. Thank you for taking notes and showing enthusiasm, even when that is far from the usual or cool response.
- To the boy who sat shyly in the back but still dared to ask and answer questions, thank you. Thank you for coming to my session because you are genuinely interested, even though this meant coming and sitting all by yourself.
- To the boy who started off looking bored but ended up engaged and talkative, thank you for giving my session a shot, even if it may not have been your first choice. Thank you for being willing to learn something new instead of simply listening to a more familiar message with everyone else.
- To the entire volleyball team, who were required to come and sit far, far away from everyone else in order to avoid quarantine and preserve your chances at the championship, thank you for your positivity. Thank you for cheerfully listening to a lecture on music and theology and encouraging this new music teacher, despite her poor knowledge of sports.
As I taught today, I thought back to my own high school years. I used to be (and still am) the note-taking girl, the girl who showed up even if it meant that she had to sit alone because, while the subject was interesting to her, it was not necessarily popular with others. When I was a teenager, I had no idea how much it meant to my teachers that I liked their handouts and enjoyed talking to them about their subjects; I was too busy being self-conscious about the fact that I stood out to consider how it might have made them less self-conscious. In my very short time as a teacher, though, I’ve found that even just a few highly-engaged students can provide the motivation to carry on. Eventually, the others often join in as well. I now see that, although it sometimes felt awkward, my enthusiasm must have meant more to my teachers than I knew, just as the note-taking girl’s appreciation for my handout made the many hours of preparation seem less futile.
Admittedly, I was planning on a larger group today and was disheartened when only a few students and faculty members trickled in. And yet, I resolved to do my best for those independent, individual students who dared to stand out and show up because I know from experience how uncomfortable that can be. I hope that they found my teaching worthwhile, for they certainly made it worth my while.
I want to encourage you, Reader, and especially any young people in your life: If you are interested in learning about something, don’t wait for the rest of the student body to join you! Just go, write your notes, sit alone if you must, and don’t think twice about what everyone else is up to.