Saturday, January 15, 2011

Chew Your Own Banana...PLEASE!

Hi, my name is Dee, and I'm a teacher.  It's been twelve minutes since my last teaching.  I've tried to quit, but I just can't seem to stay on the wagon.  For one thing, I love teaching.  More than that, I love the steps that comprise teaching.

STEP ONE: Learning.  I'm a voracious learner; I always have been and I probably always will be, and no one can REALLY claim to be a teacher without being a learner.  At school, my colleagues refer to me as "the research geek."  I admit, I encourage the epithet.  Remember that old commercial, "I hate housework, but I love a clean house"?  Well, I love knowing the answer to a question, so I have had to teach myself to love research, because dishes don't do themselves, honey. (You might have the money to hire a housekeeper, but I'm a teacher.  Do the math.)  So when someone asks me something and I don't have a clue, I do some research.  I have set two learning-related goals for myself.  #1) If I don't know, I will find out.  #2) I will learn at least one new thing every day.

STEP TWO: Thinking.  Lots of people are familiar with the acronym GIGO ("garbage in, garbage out") but anyone in the recycling business will tell you it doesn't always work that way.  A lot of the stuff I come across during the course of 24 hours is pure garbage, but it I bother thinking about it, I can often turn some of the trash into usable knowledge.  So, after learning a new factoid, I run it through the thought-processor and see what comes out the other end.  If more people took the time to do this, by the way, it would probably cut way down on prison overcrowding and give a huge boost to the economy.  Just saying.

STEP THREE: Sharing.  Teaching, like TV and football, really works best when there's a receiver in place because teaching is a team sport!  Unfortunately, most people I run into each day have no desire to be taught.  This is frustrating.  Imagine: you are a football quarterback but the rest of your team called in sick.  You have the ball but no receivers, so you have to run the ball down the field yourself.  Just how often are you going to score?  

Learner apathy (or absence) is understandable in elementary and secondary school.  What kid wants to spend his day in school being told what to learn?  It's a little harder to comprehend the phenomenon in college...presumably, students are there because they have a desire to learn. (That's why they're shelling out thousands of dollars per class, right?) But then, there's the general population: men and women who have "done their time" and should therefore be freed from the obligation to think, let alone think about something new.

It totally cracks me up when someone comes to me and says, "I really want to know more about God."  Whoo-hoo! I think. A seeker! Someone who wants to learn something!  Oh, what I fool I am!  He didn't say he wanted to learn.  He said he wanted to know.  Big difference, it turns out.

I tend to think in metaphor, so let me emulate Jesus here for just a moment and use a parable.
Johnny comes up to me and says, "Dee, I'm hungry."

"No problem," I assure him, and I point to the table on the other side of the room.  "There are some bananas over there.  Help yourself."

Without budging an inch, he repeats, "But I'm hungry."

"Do you like bananas?" I ask.  He nods.  "Well, there are a dozen bananas on that table, and you may have as many as you want."

"But I'm hungry, Dee."

I can see that Johnny is not getting the point.  Wanting to be of assistance, I cross the room, pick up a banana, and bring it back to Johnny.  "Here," I say, holding it out invitingly.

Johnny looks at the banana and begins to drool slightly, but makes no move to take it from my hand.  "I'm so hungry," he moans. I hand him the banana, but he lets it slip to the floor.  "Sorry," he whines. "I'm just so weak from hunger."

Pursing my lips slightly, I bend over and pick it up. I take him by the hand, press the fruit into his palm, and wrap his fingers securely around it before letting go.  Much to my relief, he manages to hold on without dropping it this time.  I wait for him to eat the banana, but he's not moving.

"Johnny," I say, "eat."

Obediently he sticks the banana in his mouth, peel and all, but immediately pulls it out again.  "It's nasty!" he says.

Hasn't he ever eaten a banana before?  "You have to peel it first, Johnny!" I snap, unable to believe this is really happening.  He just looks at me.  "Like this!"  I yank the banana from his hand, pull back the peel, and hand it to him again.  

He stares at it.  "I'm hun--"

"I know, I know.  You're hungry.  Eat the banana, you stu--"  I catch myself before saying something I will regret later.  Instead, I lean over, take the banana from his hand, and stick the end of it into his mouth.

Johnny sits there with a banana sticking from his mouth, half in, half out.  I wait.  He sits.  Then he mumbles around the banana, "Mm hnngrrr."

I push up on his jaw to sever a bite and catch the rest of the banana before it hits the floor.  He now has a hunk of fruit in his mouth.  I wait.  He sits.  

I wait.

He's breathing, but he isn't chewing.  His eyes are pleading, however, so I grasp him firmly by the nose and chin and begin working his jaws for him: open, shut, open, shut, open, shut... a few crumbs of partially-masticated banana leak out around the edges, but eventually most of the fruit is sufficiently chewed to go down.  Holding his nose shut with one hand, I massage his throat with the other until his reflexes take over, and he finally swallows.  "I'm still hungry," he says, staring at the rest of the banana without making a move.

Exaggeration?  Only a slight one.  What is it about our generation that demands product without production, success without effort, knowledge without learning?  The place where I see this most often is in the Church.  Most Americans own a survey I saw claims that the average home has THREE Bibles, yet fewer than 14% of Christians read their Bibles more than once a week. (Sorry, I just had to take a break here to go and do some research and make sure I had my facts straight.)

[Speaking of getting your facts straight: someone told a friend of mine today, "God told you not to judge" and "God totally changed between the old testament and the new testament."  This person needs to read the Bible before trying to teach what it says.]

Anyway, my clock is telling me it's time to go do something other than dump on the three people who might read this blog, so I'll give it a rest now.  But please, if you don't know something, why don't you take a few minutes out of your busy schedule to learn something?  And if you're hungry and someone offers you some food, please chew your own banana!


  1. You are amazing...and I am one of the three. :)

  2. I LOVE the chew your own banana analogy! I am also a voracious learner. And I adore doing research. Like you, I have also discovered that not everyone is a motivated "learner"! Most people want to be given the Cliff Note movie version sound bite. After all, they have been fed that way by television and movies for quite some time. To all who are apathetic: It's time to pick up your bananas and learn!