When learning hurts

The first class I ever taught to seminary students was about death. I was a graduate student myself at the time. I’m not sure why I picked that topic among the various subjects in a course on pastoral care, but I remember I had a well-prepared lesson plan, including an opening lecture. As I was speaking, I noticed that John, a student in the front row who was usually very engaged in class, was slumped down in his seat. He didn’t make eye contact with me even when I asked questions. When the class took a break halfway through the session, I realized that a group had gathered around John. He was sobbing uncontrollably, and others were trying to comfort him. I had no idea how to respond, but the…


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