One of the most controversial and contentious doctrines in Christendom has always been the balance between faith and works. Are we saved through the grace of Christ or through our own diligent adherence to God's commandments?
One of the reasons I cherish The Book of Mormon is that it clarifies and expands the teachings of the Bible, particularly on this subject.
I know we aren't supposed to have favorite doctrines and gospel hobby-horses and I try not to, but I have to confess that I love the doctrine of Grace. I treasure this wonderful fruit of the Restoration in my own life.
Because it is something I feel so strongly about, I suppose it makes sense that I see echoes and glimmers in everything I do.
Including last week at school.
Last week, I was required to submit my student's grades for the first interim (which is private-school verbiage for mid-terms). The bulk of the grades I give to my chorus classes are based on their behavior in class. I reason that not all of them can control how well they sing, or how good their voices are--but they can be attentive and engaged in class.
This is surprisingly difficult for some students. They find it almost impossible to a) choose not to sit by their friends and b) not to talk when they are by their friends.
A number of my more outgoing 8th grade students struggled during the first few weeks of school--finding the temptation to socialize overwhelming. And so, they lost point after point, day by day.
When I tallied up their grades, I knew they--and especially their parents--would be unhappy with the grades they had earned. Especially since they are now in the process of applying for high school and getting good grades is of paramount importance.
Their behavior has improved recently, and if I was to do my grades in two more weeks, they would be in much better territory.
But, alas, grades are due when they are due.
However, because these students had improved--and were getting closer, I decided to make a deal with them.
I told them what they had earned and then explained that I would grade them today based on where they were headed--IF they continued on the same upward trajectory. I warned them that if they regressed, then their final grade would revert accordingly. In very simply terms, isn't that really what the Atonement does for us?
I felt good about doing that. I did have some students who have not made any efforts to improve, and they earned grades that reflect that inertia.
I know it's a small example--a couple of mid-terms grades for a couple of kids. But it made me happy to be able to pass grace and mercy forward a little bit.
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Thoughts about raising and teaching adolescents. You can read the complete series here. (What in the world are Middle School Mondays?) Click here.
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