Extending Grace in the Classroom

Redemptive Teaching

"Grace is not weak, nor is it easy to extend." – Lexi McNair

This year, BFA faculty were encouraged to teach “redemptively.” Before the school year had even started, we spent a lot of time together in a staff conference discussing what redemptive teaching might look like.

On the surface, this style of teaching meant that teachers were expected to allow a student to earn a grade, no matter how late they turned in their assignment, and retests were to be given in any case of failure. More importantly, teachers were challenged to love their students by extending grace, rather than ruling the classroom with law and consequences. In some ways this scenario sounded ideal. In other ways, it seemed to set the student up for failure in future academic settings. However, after a semester of trying to practice this, I can tell you that extending grace is not easy, nor is it a weak thing to do.

This semester I had a student in my Art Appreciation class who can speak several languages, but is challenged by everyday school work. Unfortunately, she failed her first few tests in my class, which was not a total surprise. I encouraged her to get help from other students and to make the effort to re-take the test. Because she did not take the initiative to improve, she was soon drowning in a sea of bad grades.

After the third failure, I became concerned that she would fail my class. I contacted her mother and expressed my concern to her. Together, we made a plan to get her daughter back on track. Step by step, I helped her re-do assignments and prepare for re-tests. The first re-test resulted in a grade that was not much higher than the first. The second re-test was better, but not significantly so. The last re-take was excellent! She eventually brought her test average from an F to a B. We rejoiced together! I didn’t think I could have been any prouder of her. On her next test, she earned an excellent grade on her FIRST attempt. I was ecstatic! She was all smiles, of course.

The result that we discussed at the beginning of the year, which was important in this situation, was that the student was cared for, encouraged, and given the chance to succeed. And she took it!

This story of redemption may come off as a cute anecdote, but I can assure you that it was a difficult situation. Personally, I found it hard to extend grace in this case. It took so much more effort to care for this student than the others. In my mind, I kept saying to myself, "She knew what would be on these tests, just like all of the other students." Extending grace meant a lot more work on my part, which is why I almost didn't extend it.

No matter how insignificant my Art Appreciation class may be, I knew that I needed to treat my student with the same love and care that I had come to expect from God, my Father. I may never look at teaching the same again.

Lexi McNair

Webmaster's Note: Lexi needs additional funding to be able to finish out the school year at Black Forest Academy. Would you consider helping her continue extending grace to students by donating to TEAM on her behalf? Just click on the GIVE button on the top right corner of this page, then click on GIVE NOW and follow the links. When asked to input the name of a missionary or project, click on missionary and type in McNair, Lexi. Thanks!

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