For efficient teaching it is very important to have a curriculum and to plan and prepare every lesson carefully. But sometimes unpredictable situations occur in the classroom that we can use for teaching spiritual insights as well.
One day I was teaching one of my cooking classes. All the students concentrated on their recipes except one girl. She cut her vegetables hastily in small pieces, put them into a saucepan, turned the stove on at the maximum level without adding water or oil, and went away to talk to her fellow students. Normally I would intervene at once, but then I thought about giving her an opportunity to learn from cause and effect. I kept the stove in view while instructing the other students. As the saucepan began to smell I gave the girl a hint, but she didn’t react at all. Later another girl asked her, “Are your vegetables ready?” Finally, she remembered her duty and opened the lid of the saucepan. Instead of delicious braised vegetables, there was a thick black stinky mass in the pan. She was disgusted.
The student spent the rest of the time trying to clean the saucepan, to little avail. When the school bell rang at the end of the lesson, she showed me the saucepan and said, “I’m so sorry. I tried my very best, but I can’t get it any cleaner. I think I’ll have to buy a new pot. Next time I will be more careful.”
I smiled at her kindly and said, “It’s okay for now. You may go and I’ll fix it later.” It required some aggressive detergents and more time of scrubbing, but in the end I got the saucepan to gleam again.
The following week I asked the students, “Do you remember the burnt saucepan?” It looked brand-new to them. The absent-minded girl couldn’t believe it when she heard that the saucepan was the same one she had tried desperately to clean. She felt relieved that she didn’t need to pay for it.
I explained to the students how I had managed the change of the saucepan and added, “I’m so happy that I have someone who deals with the messes in my life, too.“ We reflected on the situation and talked then about sin and how Jesus copes with it: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness“ (1 John 1:9). Seeing the burnt saucepan before and after cleaning, the students saw the meaning of this verse vividly. Coming from an authoritarian home, the girl was used to be punished harshly. Experiencing grace and forgiveness was an absolutely new feeling for her. She beamed with joy and so did I.
Although the burnt saucepan was not in my plan, the incident led the students to a much deeper learning experience than was originally planned. May we all be well-prepared teachers who leave room for the Holy Spirit to guide us to turn even a mistake into a blessing for our students.