Master Teaching

a blog for teachers who follow the Master Teacher

Fluency in World Engagement

Fluency in Engagement

I’ve gotten myself in trouble more than once for not engaging in the world into which I’ve been sent. One time happened in Northeast India when a friend and colleague asked if I’d read a novel that was making waves. I spoke loftily of not polluting my mind. “But, Melissa,” she chided, “how can we speak truth if we don’t understand what isn’t.”

I came home to China and read the book. Most of it anyway. Then, when the movie came out, I helped students and colleagues sort fact from fiction. A few years later when a different movie got everyone talking, I watched it even though I don’t like disaster movies. People actually asked me—as if I were an expert—about the end of the world.

A second time I got in trouble, a colleague asked about a court battle in the U.S. that had attracted attention over here. To this day, I regret my uninformed response that gave him the wrong impression. And from that day, I’ve been motivated not only to read the news regularly but also from a variety of sources with differing viewpoints.

Experience, mine and others, has also taught me about engaging in the world. A former neighbor (an American) made quite an impression on her students with her knowledge of Chinese pop stars. She could even sing their songs at karaoke parties—well!—AND she enjoyed it.

Not long ago, an airplane carrying mostly Chinese passengers disappeared around the same time as a terrorist attack inside this country. Often it’s wiser here to let certain topics lie, but this time I brought them up because the news disturbed me too. As one colleague expressed, “It’s like watching a horror movie about another place except it’s real and it’s our country.” To enter into their mourning and fear was a privilege. To bring all before the throne was an honor.

I don’t have any advice for how you should or shouldn’t “pollute” your mind or spend your time. I read widely, but certain books (and movies) will never cross the threshold of my mind. And I will never become a karaoke singer of Chinese pop songs…or any song, to be truthful. How you engage in the world is between you and the Master and based on how He sends you.

However, when we do enter in, we may need some communication skills. Here are a couple of things that might improve our engagement fluency.

  • Our students and colleagues sometimes need a moral compass to point the way out of darkness, but what they may need more, or at least first, is a listening ear and someone to enter into their confusion, sorrow, or fear.
  • Entering in may mean exploring the other side of an issue or letting go of non-essentials. And it may involve a level of discomfort, or two or three. (Nuts! Does that mean karaoke queen is in my future after all?)
  • When the time is right to be someone’s moral compass, in my experience, two things that worsen confusion are: 1) skipping from Scripture to application without looking for underlying principles, and 2) putting words in the Master Teacher’s mouth.
  • Two ways to shine light without words are to respect the student or colleague we’re talking to and also who we’re talking about. (Chinese culture is teaching me to look at the whole picture of a person’s life rather than judging based on her/his mistakes or wrong ideas. When I do, respect comes much more easily.)

In the classroom and teacher’s office (karaoke bar too…and on social media), we’re not representatives of a way of life, viewpoint, or country. We’re ambassadors of the Master Teacher. Above all, may we be one with Him as He is with His Father.

Further exploration

What’s your perspective?

  • How do you enter into the world of your students and colleagues?
  • What communication skills do you use in order to engage fluently in the world?

Post Author

Melissa K. Smith

Photo Credit: niallkennedy via Compfight cc

4 comments on “Fluency in World Engagement

  1. Christina
    March 25, 2015

    Since I live in the U.S., one simple way to gain trust and build a connection with Asian students is to use their own social media, such as WeChat. Other Americans around them are not, so by using that you create an automatic link between you.

    The more difficult problem, for me, is entering into the confusion of other Americans. When they do not want a “moral compass”, how do you provide a listening, nonjudgmental ear without appearing to support darkness?


    • Melissa
      March 25, 2015

      Good point about WeChat (and other social media). It works over here for engaging too. 🙂

      That’s a really good question about entering into other people’s confusion, and it raises more questions for me: How should we approach people differently, the ones who know they are confused and those who think they’re not? Is it sometimes okay just to let some things go, to “choose our battles,” or should we always speak up? What role might asking more questions play rather than just telling people? (Something I’ve been working on for a while.)

      I like what a friend said on my Facebook page about this post: “It is important that you draw a line between the values they hold on to and the Master’s values we follow and to do so wisely and creatively (and present it to them).” Wisely. And creatively. Mmhh.


  2. Shelly
    March 26, 2015

    Melissa, I agree that asking questions to understand more completely is important. When we do that, it’s possible that their answers lead to deeper questions and even ctitical moments for speaking “wisely and creatively” about values (behavior?) we cannot support. We can’t be their moral compass, necessarily, but we can help raise their awareness that there is a moral compass. And keep loving them as the Father has loved us. Easy? No, but the Master Teacher helps us.


    • Melissa
      March 26, 2015

      I imagine I’m not alone in breathing a sigh of relief, Shelly, at your reminder that we don’t always have to be a moral compass. “But we can help raise their awareness that there is a moral compass.” I like that!

      A friend who works for a large company in a large U.S. city told me that although people aren’t necessarily interested in his perspective, he’s the “go-to guy” when anyone has a problem. Perfect positioning for a follower of the Master, I think.


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This entry was posted on March 25, 2015 by in communicating with students, engaging the world, Melissa K. Smith.



Photo Credit: Eric Fischer via Compfight cc
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