The mystery of the growing seed
Mark Behle – Lesotho
Jesus said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed…the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” (Mark 4:26-27)
Teaching young people is like planting lots of seeds. You never can be sure how those seeds will grow and bear fruit. You feed the students all the same nutrients (or so you think), yet the results can be very different. Only time will tell which seeds will bear good fruit.
Nearly ten years ago I started teaching at Masitise High School, an institution of one of Global Ministries’ partners in Lesotho, the Lesotho Evangelical Church. I started with 130 students in three math classes and finished with 110 in two classes. Most of them stayed with me through five years of learning math. A number of them went on for further education at various institutions in Lesotho, including the National University of Lesotho (NUL). Four of these students are pictured and will be graduating soon from NUL with degrees in economics, nursing and computer studies. They all live in the area near the school and I have enjoyed the opportunity of being able to keep in touch with them as they discovered, and met, the challenges of university-level education.
As the years have passed the average class size at Masitise has grown steadily. The current “crop” I am working with has two classes with over 70 in each. These large numbers make it difficult to provide adequate individual help. As some of the seeds sprout quickly and are ready for additional nutrients, others in the same class are lagging far behind in terms of their mathematical growth.
I often wonder how I can possibly have failed (both in terms of grades and communicating the material) so many of my students who seem not to have grasped what I have tried to teach them. I wonder what I could have done differently. Was there something I said or did that turned a student away? How many times were there indications of a need for help and I simply missed it or chose not to see it? Though I know I’m not the first teacher to ask such questions, they still come to me.
In the end I resign myself to what the farmer does. Try to do your best and leave the results to God. It is indeed a mystery how I am able to reach some despite my own weaknesses and mistakes. Paul says in I Corinthians 3:6, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” I give thanks to God for providing me with the students I have and making them grow!
Mark Behle is a missionary with the Lesotho Evangelical Church. He is a Mathematics teacher at Masitise High School, Lesotho.