(13.) Open Door

(13.) Open Door

(13.) OPEN DOOR: Welcoming Students with Learning Differences and Health Needs.

“Only when we do the Jesus truth in the Jesus way do we get the Jesus life… It is easier to talk about what Christians believe, the truth of the gospel formulated in doctrines and creeds… And it  is easier to talk about what Christians do, the behavior that is appropriate to followers of Jesus, life as performance… But what tops the agenda for me is the Christian life as lived, lived with this sense of congruence between who Christ is and who I am… Christ is the way as well as the truth and the life.When we don’t do it his way, we mess up the truth and we miss out on the life.”  (Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, pgs. 334-336).

IF: As teachers/administrators who are Christian, we are being transformed daily into the likeness of Christ, complete with a mind and heart that is a new creation, making progress in thinking and living the way he would if he were us, with new inclinations, new instincts, transformed intuitions;

AND: The narrative of Jesus’ story, the gospel momentum, is inclusive. Jesus’ life story on planet earth centered on the underdog; the riff-raff; the down-and-out; the misfits and outcasts; the excluded or rejected; the disadvantaged; those who need an advocate; the marginalized; those who face hurdles in life. In the spirit of “downward mobility,” Jesus’ heart was oriented to the least, the lost, and the left-out.” (Joel Green);

THEN: Our transformation as believers will necessarily mean that we will grow in desiring what he desired, will get in synch with that particular Jesus way of life, with that dominant plot line in the Jesus story. This is true for believing communities as well;

SO: Wherever we go as Christians, whatever our calling or workplace, including education, we take the Jesus heart and mind with us. Our inclination will be to include, and our new natural desire will be to identify with those who are needy. We will without even thinking tend to say things like, “Come to us, you who are academic misfits and find life in school burdensome. Let’s see if we can help. If we can’t do this, we’ll help you find someone who can.

BUT: No school can be all things to all students. So if we are prone to want to open the doors to “those who are marked for exclusion” (E. Peterson), how widely do we swing those doors? Are there times we need to close those doors? Yes, we will have to occasionally say, “We’re sorry, but we aren’t equipped to serve you in the way you deserve.” That fact of life shouldn’t fill us with guilt, because that decision is based on what we believe to be best for each student. But nonetheless, it should grieve us to say that, because it’s counterintuitive to our new hearts of flesh. Reality teaches us, though, that sometimes we are not able to do what we might want to do.

THEREFORE: Yes, there is a price to pay for inclusive classrooms with a wide profile of students. It’s hard work for a teacher to constantly enlarge the bag of tricks, to be inconvenienced, to do more research and training, to move outside a comfort zone, to be open to new challenges and vulnerabilities. And yet, this is the Jesus story, the gospel narrative. If we don’t do school the Jesus way, we will lose his truth and his life as well.