(19.) On Teachers as Live Wires

(19.) On Teachers as Live Wires

(19.) On Teachers as Live Wires

“In terms of the world’s sanity, Jesus was crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow Him without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under a delusion.”  (Frederick Buechner)

What did Jesus mean when he declared that His followers were the salt of the earth? Yes, salt was an ancient symbol of peace and commitment; it was also a preservative, of course; and yes, it stings while keeping certain contagious diseases from spreading. But have we forgotten that salt is spicy, that it adds flavor and zest and liveliness when applied?

Christian teachers  need to be live wires in the classroom and out, unafraid to spice things up, to apply seasoning to everyday life and learning. Even a superficial study of church history reveals that the saints were refreshingly divers and the unbelievers were boringly similar. Christian live wires are sorely needed in the world at large, and in the schools in particular, and here’s why:


1. They tend to use all the senses in their teaching. All human beings (even students) are not composed of independently segmented parts, identified neatly as spiritual, physical, emotional, social, etc. We are each one integrated whole, one piece of fabric with many colored threads and patterns. We are not merely a walking brain or a talking soul. Therefore, all the senses need to be engaged in order for true learning to occur. The more creative a teacher is with methodology, the greater the likelihood that learning will take place. Research backs this up: 45% of middle schoolers process information best through the visual mode, 35% through the hands-on, physical mode, and 20% through the auditory mode. Live wires tend to be the best at adapting to the styles of each student and the needs of each class, and teach accordingly, be it lecturing, coaching, questioning, supervising, provoking, storytelling, discussing, joking, or dramatizing.

2. They tend to take calculated risks. Live wires will try anything within reason to teach course content. They won’t resort merely to Sesame Street-time, but they will experiment with unconventional methods and unique ways of reaching the students: hands-on projects, emotional pitches, visuals, extensive interaction, varying formats, socratic walks around campus, laughter and humor, acting out key historical figures. They don’t necessarily rush in where angels fear to tread, but neither are they fearful of appearing foolish or different than other teachers. True Christian live wires would rather take their reasonable chances sailing in the right direction than bear the consequences of never leaving the harbor.

3. They tend to be more approachable to students. Live wires aren’t afraid to be human in the classroom. Naturally, there is an appropriate distance that must be maintained between student and teacher in order to gain respect, to control the classroom, and ensure a proper learning environment under the teacher’s authority. But let’s face it, we are all earthen vessels with blemishes galore whom God has chosen to reveal His glory and life to the world. Admittedly, there is no greater irritant than an eccentric with no redeeming qualities. Nonetheless, a real person with an engaging personality and a unique approach to learning can work wonders in and out of the classroom, making the classroom more appealing and the relationships more real.


1. They tend to get things done. “A few people appear destined to envelop themselves in trouble… They are the destroyers of serenity and the builders of the world. They choose to row upstream and drag trouble along in the wake.” This was said of a true live wire, Winston Churchill, by his biographer R. L. Taylor. Characters like Churchill accomplish great things by sticking their necks out. Some personalities can do that quietly, but the strong personalities simply cannot. Redeemed troublemakers are society’s earthmovers, without whom the world would die of stagnancy. Live wires are necessary in society, despite the fact that we may at times want to quote Aunt Polly of Mark Twain: “Why, he might even grow up to be President some day…. if they don’t hang him first.”

2. They don’t mind hot water. Christians who always play it safe are not fulfilling their call. Far too often ministers, for instance, have an acute failure of nerve, perhaps intimidated by the thought of being controversial or unpopular. Too many churches and Christian schools have become a religious version of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood… soft words in hushed tones with minimal courage and little relevance. Perhaps G. K. Chesterton said it best when he mentioned that he liked getting into hot water… it made him clean.

3. Our youth need salty servants. Whether we like it or not, Christian students tend to reflect our culture, and so are vulnerable to the powerful voices of this Age. Christian author Flannery O’Conner put it this way: “When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs as you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock… to the hard of hearing, you shout; for the blind, you draw large, startling figures.” In other words, Mr. Rogers may not communicate successfully to students in the throes of videogames, smart phones and the social media.

Let us continue to pray that the Lord uses us for His purposes, regardless of our style or personality; that He will show us how to be authentically salty without forcing it; that we will know when to whisper or shout, to draw plainly or startlingly, to relax or provoke. For true live wires, as we all know, are those who constant power source is the Holy Spirit, “the Lord, the Giver of Life.”