Repairing the Unfinished Masterpiece
This evening, I went over to some friends’ to tutor their 8th grade daughter in prep for a physical science test. The assignment was a simple fill-in-the-blank worksheet with the answers scattered through the textbook chapter. It was genuinely simple and mostly straightforward, but she was really struggling with it.
As I helped her by showing how to find the answers, I was trying to figure out the source of her trouble. I realized that this kind of assignment could sort of be compared to a treasure hunt. I asked her if she liked treasure hunts and she said, “not really.” Ahhh.
When she was out of the room, I asked her mom what the girl’s strengths were, apart from the swimming team I knew she was on. Turns out she’s very artistic with a good eye for color, design, fashion, audio/visual—pretty much anything creative.
Thus, when we finished the worksheet, I complemented her on some of the touches she had her parents make in designing their kitchen remodel and other things I knew she had done. Then, I sympathized with her lack of interest in science, and tried to help her see that eventually, what she learned in science would help her understand materials and colors even better, and that what she now knew intuitively, she would understand later more deeply and it would help her talents shine more brightly. She smiled, but it may have just been an effort to placate me.
Nonetheless, now that I understand her better, I think it will help me pitch the science at a more interesting level for her, and she will hopefully struggle less.
We all have different talents, and different kinds of intelligence, with a different balance of skills and intuitions. One of the keys to educational breakthroughs is to find each student’s nugget of strength and help them see how the lesson will guide them to their mother lode. It’s much easier one-on-one, and nearly impossible to do on the wide scale of the mega classes we often teach at the undergrad level. Still, being aware that there are different styles of learning and different priorities for learning can make us better educators.
Interestingly, Scripture has taught this for thousands of years. Jesus treated Mary and Martha differently when they said nearly identical words to Him. The trials and travails of saints throughout Scripture, and God’s interaction with each of them reveal a Father who knows His children intimately and meets them where they are, to bring them where He desires them to be.
Being Christlike is not some cookie cutter image of a felt board Jesus—it is the full expression of our individuality in honor of His creativity strengthened by a character redeemed from sin.
Imagine if you will, a masterpiece painting in progress, but with a rotten or soiled canvas. God’s redemptive power both finishes the unique painting and restores the canvas underneath so the whole is sound and all it was Intended to be. He completes and repairs together, both sanctification and redemption are His aims. And He accomplishes what He sets out to do.