Thursday, 15 October 2009

Admitting You're Wrong: Of Frogs and Fellow-Workers

Last term, Joshua did a research project on frogs. In his final poster he wrote (among other things), "Frogs eat through their skin."

He was wrong. Frogs eat with their mouths. But despite his teacher telling him that he was wrong, and me telling him that he was wrong, and him not knowing where he had found that bit of information, Joshua stuck to his guns.

Tomorrow, Joshua has the opportunity to present his Frog Project at the class assembly. But his teacher, not wanting to reinforce this erroneous idea and spread Joshua's confusion throughout the school, told him he could not read it out unless he either

(1) changed it to say "Frogs breathe through their skin." (This fact is correct, agreed upon by both Joshua's teacher, myself, and Joshua, as well as numerous non-fiction books on frogs.) OR

(2) proved that frogs do eat through their skin, by finding a non-fiction source for the information. OR

(3) Agreed not to include the sentence in the absence of evidence.

Joshua's teacher let me know what was on the line, and this afternoon Joshua (and the rest of the kids) spent ages sitting snuggled on the couch with me, reading about frogs in some books from our home library. We started with the Family Guide to Nature from Reader's Digest. (Hearty thanks to my Mum & Dad, who handed that book down to us from their bookshelf a few years back!) From page 203, I read,

"Tadpoles breathe with gills, which some aquatic salamanders retain even as adults. But while mature frogs and toads have lungs, they get most of the air they need through their moist skin. ... The tadpoles of frogs and toads are vegetariansd, though larval salamanders feed on tiny aquatic animals. But as adults all amphibians are meat eaters."

At this point, I asked Joshua if he thought it was possible to eat meat through one's skin. He admitted that it seemed unlikely. I read on:

"Most species have long, [extendable] tongues that dart out with lightning speed to snap up any small creatures moving nearby. Larger prey is grasped with the forelegs."

I wasn't expecting anything from Joshua at this stage, but he burst out with a somewhat quizzical "I was wrong!

I am ashamed to say that I am never that quick to admit my flaws and faults.

I studied today in my Women's Gathering (Acts 15:36-40) about Paul being unwilling to work with John Mark because he had "deserted" Paul and Barnabas when they left Cyprus (on their first missionary journey out from Antioch). Paul chose Silas as his co-worker for a second missionary trip, but Barnabas was willing to give John Mark a second opportunity, and took him to Cyprus again.

We talked about how John Mark would have probably known about the reason for Paul and Barnabas deciding to separate. I wonder what he felt about Paul's rejection? Although the passage records Paul's description of the event as a desertion, Luke had earlier used milder language. Acts 13:13 records merely that, "From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem." The Bible does not record whether Paul was right to refuse to have John Mark come along. It gives no record of the success - or otherwise - of Barnabas's second trip to Cyprus with John Mark. Given that John Mark had been "with them as their helper" (Acts 13:5) on Cyprus before, he was Barnabas's cousin (Colossians 4:10), and Barnabas hailed from Cyprus (Acts 4:36), it seems likely that Barnabas and Saul may have been well suited as companions for a second trip to Cyprus.

Nowhere does the Bible record Paul apologising to John Mark (or Barnabas) for his rejection of John Mark. Nowhere does the Bible tell of John Mark saying sorry to Paul for leaving him in the lurch when they left Cyprus the first time. But the Bible does show us that they were later reunited and John Mark was again welcomed by Paul in his ministry.

In Paul's letter to the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse, he passed on John Mark's greetings, letting them know that John Mark might visit them, and if he did, to welcome him. Colosse was in Psidia, not too far west of the places where Paul and Barnabas had travelled to share the gospel after John Mark left them. It seems that Paul no longer feared John Mark would be unwilling to travel in those parts. At the same time, Paul wrote to Philemon and the church that met in their home in Colosse, describing John Mark as a "fellow-worker".

In Paul's last letter, 2 Timothy, he wrote asking that Timothy would bring John Mark to him (2 Timothy 4:11). Paul wrote that John Mark was "helpful to me in my ministry". So it seems that John Mark had gone full circle in Paul's esteem. At first he was a helper, then he was a deserter not suitable as a co-worker, then he was a fellow-worker who was to be welcomed by the churches, and once again he was helpful to Paul in his ministry.

It seems somewhere in there someone must have admitted they were wrong. Maybe Barnabas's second opportunity for John Mark to work with him on Cyprus showed that he was indeed a good helper. Maybe Paul apologised for misjudging John Mark; maybe John Mark apologised for leaving Paul. Maybe they both apologised and were forgiven. What we do know is that they overcame their differences and were able to work fruitfully together again. A little recognition of fault goes a long way.

I started this anecdote with Joshua's Frog Project. Well, we didn't stop reading about frogs when we found out they eat through their mouths and breathe through their skin. And I'm very pleased that we didn't! Because half an hour later, in Steve Parish's Amazing Facts About Australian Frogs & Reptiles, on page 12, I read aloud:

"Frogs do not drink through their mouths. Apart from a small amount of moisture from their food, they obtain nearly all their water requirements by taking in liquid through the skin on their undersides. The water passes into spaces called lymph sacs, then into the bloodstream."

So Joshua is content to amend his report to read, "Frog's don't eat through their skin. Frogs drink through their skin."And tomorrow he will read this startling fact out at his school assembly.

[The font used in the typing above is Sassoon Primary Infant. We bought it with some of our tax return money. Isn't it marvellous?]


argsmommy said...

Such a thoughtful way of tying in the two lessons. And Joshua will probably remember for the rest of his life that frogs drink through their skin.

argsmommy said...

Oh, and I do love that font! I was admiring it even before I read your note. : )

Mrs. Edwards said...

Yes, I agree about the font!
Sharon, I can learn from you in so many ways. I could imagine myself just insisting to my son that frogs didn't eat through their skin-- "end of discussion" sort of thing. How kind of you to spend the time with him researching about frogs so that he could come to his own conclusion about the facts.

But, you really have me curious about "The Jesus Christ Frog skims across the water, without sinking." Is this the actual name of a frog?


Meredith said...

How did the assembly go?

Alison Lacey said...

I really like how Joshua, the teacher and yourself worked through this problem I particularly liked that the teacher gave a number of options for Joshua to work through.Please let us know how is talk at assembly goes.

Sharon said...

Thanks for asking, Ali & Meredith.

The assembly did go well and he was very pleased with his effort. Unfortunately we were five minutes late and missed his talk! I felt like a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Mummy. We arrived just as the last student from his class was finishing her report.

We did get to see Joshua show off some art work he had done, and to sing through a song with the rest of his class. Although, that wasn't such a treat. Josh picked his nose through most of the song and I was thoroughly glad he was at least standing in the back row!

You know, raising children is a source of never-ending lessons in patience, humility, serving others, and all sorts of sanctifying things! My children truly are a precious gift from God to me.

~ Sharon

Meredith said...

Oh, I know that pain - missing the critical bit in a child's assembly. I missed R's pre-primary assembly item because it was on the same day I took N to the LONG booked Wiggles concert!