November 18, 2020

A funny first grade virtual school story.  Last week, Rod was on-duty as the virtual school supervisor of our two youngest granddaughters. Six-year-old Anne Sophie is experiencing spelling tests for the first time in her life. She practices and is well-prepared for her weekly tests.

Like first graders everywhere, Friday is spelling test day. In the virtual setting, the teacher, who is visible on the screen, instructs the children to get their pencil and paper, write their name at the top of the page and today’s date, and then one-at-a-time says each word they are to spell. The finished spelling tests are scanned or photographed and returned to the teacher for grading.

This time was a little different. Earlier in the week she had discovered inadvertently how to turn on the closed-caption feature as any computer-comfortable curious child might do. She discovered that the closed captions helped keep up with the teacher.

So on Friday, imagine Rod’s surprise when Anne-Sophie turned around with delight and said, “Grandpa, this spelling test is easy because I can see the words on the screen.” Rod assessed what was happening, and said without missing a beat, “This is a spelling test, not a reading test, so you will need to turn off the closed captions.” Which she promptly did.

I’ve been thinking about that ever since. There are all sorts of unanticipated challenges for children (and their helpers) right now. Both of our granddaughters, curious as they are, push buttons that mute their sound, or bring up a game that begs to be played, or drops them out of the virtual classroom. I imagine no first-grade teacher envisioned the day when instructing students for a test would include a reminder to turn off closed captions.

I am amazed (but shouldn’t be) at how smoothly Rod handled the situation, cool, calm collected, and came up with just the right words. I imagine myself in that situation, thinking out loud, “that’s cheating” as I rushed to turn it off myself, tripping over myself to save the day. Imagine the guilt that might have caused in a precious child. It would have in me.

And I keep thinking about what it would be like to have closed captions in life – a sort of teleprompter that knows all the right words to say even before I need to speak. Words from Matthew 10:19 come to mind, “When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time.” Sometimes the words we speak are a balm for another’s pain, or a word of guidance or truth. The spirit enlivens them between the time they leave our lips and land on another’s open heart. That is pure grace, and all thanks and glory to God.

God, help us to use words to build up, to encourage, to speak truth with love this day. Trust that the closed-caption-creating Spirit is at work. ~ Anne

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