Example #34 Triumphs and Disasters

What if revision classes taught students to share each other’s burdens?

Beth taught history and felt that revision was a difficult time for students so she decided to change her revision sessions and encourage the students to support each other.

"I began my weekly exam revision sessions with an activity called 'Triumphs and Disasters'. Students got two balloons each. On one balloon they wrote an example of one thing that they felt had gone well with revision. On the other balloon they wrote one thing that they were still having trouble with. We discussed these and we looked to see if we could match anybody up. Quite often one student will feel confident about something which another student had written on their disasters balloon. We talked about the disasters and suggested ways to help one another with strategies; some studying together or time with me. Once we had at least one way forward for every disaster we popped the disaster balloons in order to put them behind us and move on.

"This only takes about ten minutes, the key is that it is done every time to build up a pattern. I have found it knits the group of students together and it can spill over beyond my subject. I had pastoral responsibility for a cohort of students taking public examinations and introduced 'Triumphs and Disasters' to the voluntary revision sessions I used to run. These were aimed at students who didn’t have a quiet place to study at home, but they became popular with everybody. The practice of taking responsibility for gaps in each other’s learning had a noticeable outcome on examination days. I overheard conversations along the lines of, 'That question, that’s the one from my balloon, you helped me with that.' On results day the students were still mostly interested in their own results, but there was a sense that they were a little more interested in other people’s achievements too."

What’s going on here?

Beth saw revision as an opportunity for building a supportive community of students, addressing their anxieties and helping them take responsibility for helping one another.

She engaged students in expressing their concerns to one another (balloons), and led them to focus on mutual support through an interactive activity.

She reshaped her practice by using balloons as a focusing device, planning appropriate student interactions to create a cooperative and encouraging atmosphere (mutual support, recognition of problems and successes).

How do I do this myself?

What does this have to do with faith, hope and love?

The examination culture can reinforce a ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality, implicitly suggesting that loving others and sharing their burdens has less value. There is little sense that it matters if you work together on something, making a gift of the knowledge and skills you have to someone else. St Paul tells Christians to rejoice with those who rejoice and to mourn with those who mourn and to encourage one another (Romans 12:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:11). We can't share in one another’s 'triumphs and disasters' if we don’t know each other and if we are preoccupied with our own lives. Loving others in this way involves a move from self to others.

What difference does it make?

Stress can turn us inward and make us self-absorbed. We may not even see that somebody else is struggling too. Revision turns us inwards too, concentrating on getting the grades. Marks are important but they can be achieved within a different atmosphere and can be turned into a chance to strengthen community.

Where could we go from here?

Beth says: "'Triumphs and Disasters' can be adapted to lots of different contexts: I have done it as part of team building, in residential activities and in tutor groups. The key in all these settings is that it becomes a pattern for that group of students, not a one-off with a bunch of people they will never meet again."

Digging deeper

Some modern societies tend to stress the individual but the Bible stresses the connection between people and community. God is the father of all (Ephesians 4:6). As members of the same family all Christians are brothers and sisters regardless of gender, nationality or status (Galatians 3:28). Christian community is based on all being one in Christ and expressing that oneness in a compassionate lifestyle (Romans 12:9-10). It is lived out in supporting each other, sharing in working together for others, giving of time, wealth and self. The model for this is Jesus, who bore the burden of the sins of the world. This shows us that loving others means sharing in their suffering and helping them to carry their burdens and share their highs and lows (Romans 12:15; Galatians 6:2).

We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.
Dorothy Day

There is a sense of mutual responsibility that is taken for granted in the Bible. When Cain said, "Am I my brother’s keeper?" he already knew the answer was, "Yes."

A man of a right spirit is not a man of narrow and private views, but is greatly interested and concerned for the good of the community to which he belongs, and particularly of the city or village in which he resides, and for the true welfare of the society of which he is a member. Jonathan Edwards

Explore similar examples:

What if maths created a community in which all could achieve?
What if anxiety about tests could turn to thankfulness?
What if failures were seen as opportunities to serve?

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1Dear friends, God is good. So I beg you to offer your bodies to him as a living sacrifice, pure and pleasing. That's the most sensible way to serve God. 2Don't be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him. 3I realize how kind God has been to me, and so I tell each of you not to think you are better than you really are. Use good sense and measure yourself by the amount of faith that God has given you. 4A body is made up of many parts, and each of them has its own use. 5That's how it is with us. There are many of us, but we are each part of the body of Christ, as well as part of one another. 6God has also given each of us different gifts to use. If we can prophesy, we should do it according to the amount of faith we have. 7If we can serve others, we should serve. If we can teach, we should teach. 8If we can encourage others, we should encourage them. If we can give, we should be generous. If we are leaders, we should do our best. If we are good to others, we should do it cheerfully. Rules for Christian living 9Be sincere in your love for others. Hate everything that is evil and hold tight to everything that is good. 10Love each other as brothers and sisters and honour others more than you do yourself. 11Never give up. Eagerly follow the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord. 12Let your hope make you glad. Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying. 13Take care of God's needy people and welcome strangers into your home. 14Ask God to bless everyone who ill-treats you. Ask him to bless them and not to curse them. 15When others are happy, be happy with them, and when they are sad, be sad. 16Be friendly with everyone. Don't be proud and feel that you are cleverer than others. Make friends with ordinary people. 17Don't ill-treat someone who has ill-treated you. But try to earn the respect of others, 18and do your best to live at peace with everyone. 19Dear friends, don't try to get even. Let God take revenge. In the Scriptures the Lord says, I am the one to take revenge and pay them back. 20The Scriptures also say, If your enemies are hungry, give them something to eat. And if they are thirsty, give them something to drink. This will be the same as piling burning coals on their heads. 21Don't let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good. Obey rulers
1I don't need to write to you about the time or date when all this will happen. 2You know that the Lord's return will be as a thief coming at night. 3People will think they are safe and secure. But destruction will suddenly strike them like the pains of a woman about to give birth. And they won't escape. 4My dear friends, you don't live in darkness, and so that day won't surprise you like a thief. 5You belong to the light and live in the day. We don't live in the night or belong to the dark. 6Others may sleep, but we should stay awake and be alert. 7People sleep during the night, and some even get drunk. 8But we belong to the day. So we must stay sober and let our faith and love be like a suit of armour. Our firm hope that we will be saved is our helmet. 9God doesn't intend to punish us, but wants us to be saved by our Lord Jesus Christ. 10Christ died for us, so that we could live with him, whether we are alive or dead when he comes. 11That's why you must encourage and help each other, just as you are already doing. 12My friends, we ask you to be thoughtful of your leaders who work hard and tell you how to live for the Lord. 13Show them great respect and love because of their work. Try to get along with each other. 14My friends, we beg you to warn anyone who isn't living right. Encourage anyone who feels left out, help all who are weak, and be patient with everyone. 15Don't be hateful to people, just because they are hateful to you. Rather, be good to each other and to everyone else. 16Always be joyful 17and never stop praying. 18Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do. 19Don't turn away God's Spirit 20or ignore prophecies. 21Put everything to the test. Accept what is good 22and don't have anything to do with evil. 23I pray that God, who gives peace, will make you completely holy. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept healthy and faultless until our Lord Jesus Christ returns. 24The one who chose you can be trusted, and he will do this. 25Friends, please pray for us. 26Give the Lord's followers a warm greeting. 27In the name of the Lord I beg you to read this letter to all his followers. 28I pray that our Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you!
1As a prisoner of the Lord, I beg you to live in a way that is worthy of the people God has chosen to be his own. 2Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other. 3Try your best to let God's Spirit keep your hearts united. Do this by living at peace. 4All of you are part of the same body. There is only one Spirit of God, just as you were given one hope when you were chosen to be God's people. 5We have only one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. 6There is one God who is the Father of all people. Not only is God above all others, but he works by using all of us, and he lives in all of us. 7Christ has generously divided out his gifts to us. 8As the Scriptures say, When he went up to the highest place, he led away many prisoners and gave gifts to people. 9When it says, he went up, it means that Christ had been deep in the earth. 10This also means that the one who went deep into the earth is the same one who went into the highest heaven, so that he would fill the whole universe. 11Christ chose some of us to be apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors, and teachers, 12so that his people would learn to serve and his body would grow strong. 13This will continue until we are united by our faith and by our understanding of the Son of God. Then we will be mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him. 14We must stop acting like children. We must not let deceitful people trick us by their false teachings, which are like winds that toss us around from place to place. 15Love should always make us tell the truth. Then we will grow in every way and be more like Christ, the head 16of the body. Christ holds it together and makes all its parts work perfectly, as it grows and becomes strong because of love. The old life and the new life 17As a follower of the Lord, I order you to stop living like stupid, godless people. 18Their minds are in the dark, and they are stubborn and ignorant and have missed out on the life that comes from God. They no longer have any feelings about what is right, 19and they are so greedy that they do all kinds of indecent things. 20But that isn't what you were taught about Jesus Christ. He is the truth, and you heard about him and learnt about him. 22You were told that your foolish desires will destroy you and that you must give up your old way of life with all its bad habits. 23Let the Spirit change your way of thinking 24and make you into a new person. You were created to be like God, and so you must please him and be truly holy. Rules for the new life 25We are part of the same body. Stop lying and start telling each other the truth. 26Don't get so angry that you sin. Don't go to bed angry 27and don't give the devil a chance. 28If you are a thief, stop stealing. Be honest and work hard, so you will have something to give to people in need. 29Stop all your dirty talk. Say the right thing at the right time and help others by what you say. 30Don't make God's Spirit sad. The Spirit makes you sure that some day you will be free from your sins. 31Stop being bitter and angry with others. Don't yell at one another or curse each other or ever be rude. 32Instead, be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ.
1You stupid Galatians! I told you exactly how Jesus Christ was nailed to a cross. Has someone now put an evil spell on you? 2I want to know only one thing. How were you given God's Spirit? Was it by obeying the Law of Moses or by hearing about Christ and having faith in him? 3How can you be so stupid? Do you think that by yourself you can complete what God's Spirit started in you? 4Have you gone through all this for nothing? Is it all really for nothing? 5God gives you his Spirit and works miracles in you. But does he do this because you obey the Law of Moses or because you have heard about Christ and have faith in him? 6The Scriptures say that God accepted Abraham because Abraham had faith. 7And so, you should understand that everyone who has faith is a child of Abraham. 8Long ago the Scriptures said that God would accept the Gentiles because of their faith. That's why God told Abraham the good news that all nations would be blessed because of him. 9This means that everyone who has faith will share in the blessings that were given to Abraham because of his faith. 10Anyone who tries to please God by obeying the Law is under a curse. The Scriptures say, Everyone who doesn't obey everything in the Law is under a curse. 11No one can please God by obeying the Law. The Scriptures also say, The people God accepts because of their faith will live. 12The Law isn't based on faith. It promises life only to people who obey its commands. 13But Christ rescued us from the Law's curse, when he became a curse in our place. This is because the Scriptures say that anyone who is nailed to a tree is under a curse. 14And because of what Jesus Christ has done, the blessing that was promised to Abraham was taken to the Gentiles. This happened so that by faith we would be given the promised Holy Spirit. The Law and the promise 15My friends, I will use an everyday example to explain what I mean. Once someone agrees to something, no one else can change or cancel the agreement. 16That is how it is with the promises God made to Abraham and his descendant. The promises were not made to many descendants, but only to one, and that one is Christ. 17What I am saying is that the Law cannot change or cancel God's promise that was made 430 years before the Law was given. 18If we have to obey the Law in order to receive God's blessings, those blessings don't really come to us because of God's promise. But God was kind to Abraham and made him a promise. 19What is the use of the Law? It was given later to show that we sin. But it was only supposed to last until the coming of that descendant who was given the promise. In fact, angels gave the Law to Moses, and he gave it to the people. 20There is only one God, and the Law did not come directly from him. Slaves and children 21Does the Law disagree with God's promises? No, it doesn't! If any law could give life to us, we could become acceptable to God by obeying that law. 22But the Scriptures say that sin controls everyone, so that God's promises will be for anyone who has faith in Jesus Christ. 23The Law controlled us and kept us under its power until the time came when we would have faith. 24In fact, the Law was our teacher. It was supposed to teach us until we had faith and were acceptable to God. 25But once a person has learnt to have faith, there is no more need to have the Law as a teacher. 26All of you are God's children because of your faith in Christ Jesus. 27And when you were baptized, it was as though you had put on Christ in the same way you put on new clothes. 28Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman. 29So if you belong to Christ, you are now part of Abraham's family, and you will be given what God has promised.
1Dear friends, God is good. So I beg you to offer your bodies to him as a living sacrifice, pure and pleasing. That's the most sensible way to serve God. 2Don't be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him. 3I realize how kind God has been to me, and so I tell each of you not to think you are better than you really are. Use good sense and measure yourself by the amount of faith that God has given you. 4A body is made up of many parts, and each of them has its own use. 5That's how it is with us. There are many of us, but we are each part of the body of Christ, as well as part of one another. 6God has also given each of us different gifts to use. If we can prophesy, we should do it according to the amount of faith we have. 7If we can serve others, we should serve. If we can teach, we should teach. 8If we can encourage others, we should encourage them. If we can give, we should be generous. If we are leaders, we should do our best. If we are good to others, we should do it cheerfully. Rules for Christian living 9Be sincere in your love for others. Hate everything that is evil and hold tight to everything that is good. 10Love each other as brothers and sisters and honour others more than you do yourself. 11Never give up. Eagerly follow the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord. 12Let your hope make you glad. Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying. 13Take care of God's needy people and welcome strangers into your home. 14Ask God to bless everyone who ill-treats you. Ask him to bless them and not to curse them. 15When others are happy, be happy with them, and when they are sad, be sad. 16Be friendly with everyone. Don't be proud and feel that you are cleverer than others. Make friends with ordinary people. 17Don't ill-treat someone who has ill-treated you. But try to earn the respect of others, 18and do your best to live at peace with everyone. 19Dear friends, don't try to get even. Let God take revenge. In the Scriptures the Lord says, I am the one to take revenge and pay them back. 20The Scriptures also say, If your enemies are hungry, give them something to eat. And if they are thirsty, give them something to drink. This will be the same as piling burning coals on their heads. 21Don't let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good. Obey rulers
1Dear friends, God is good. So I beg you to offer your bodies to him as a living sacrifice, pure and pleasing. That's the most sensible way to serve God. 2Don't be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him. 3I realize how kind God has been to me, and so I tell each of you not to think you are better than you really are. Use good sense and measure yourself by the amount of faith that God has given you. 4A body is made up of many parts, and each of them has its own use. 5That's how it is with us. There are many of us, but we are each part of the body of Christ, as well as part of one another. 6God has also given each of us different gifts to use. If we can prophesy, we should do it according to the amount of faith we have. 7If we can serve others, we should serve. If we can teach, we should teach. 8If we can encourage others, we should encourage them. If we can give, we should be generous. If we are leaders, we should do our best. If we are good to others, we should do it cheerfully. Rules for Christian living 9Be sincere in your love for others. Hate everything that is evil and hold tight to everything that is good. 10Love each other as brothers and sisters and honour others more than you do yourself. 11Never give up. Eagerly follow the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord. 12Let your hope make you glad. Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying. 13Take care of God's needy people and welcome strangers into your home. 14Ask God to bless everyone who ill-treats you. Ask him to bless them and not to curse them. 15When others are happy, be happy with them, and when they are sad, be sad. 16Be friendly with everyone. Don't be proud and feel that you are cleverer than others. Make friends with ordinary people. 17Don't ill-treat someone who has ill-treated you. But try to earn the respect of others, 18and do your best to live at peace with everyone. 19Dear friends, don't try to get even. Let God take revenge. In the Scriptures the Lord says, I am the one to take revenge and pay them back. 20The Scriptures also say, If your enemies are hungry, give them something to eat. And if they are thirsty, give them something to drink. This will be the same as piling burning coals on their heads. 21Don't let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good. Obey rulers
1My friends, you are spiritual. So if someone is trapped in sin, you should gently lead that person back to the right path. But watch out, and don't be tempted yourself. 2You obey the law of Christ when you offer each other a helping hand. 3If you think you are better than others, when you really aren't, you are wrong. 4Do your own work well, and then you will have something to be proud of. But don't compare yourself with others. 5We each must carry our own load. 6Share every good thing you have with anyone who teaches you what God has said. 7You cannot fool God, so don't make a fool of yourself! You will harvest what you plant. 8If you follow your selfish desires, you will harvest destruction, but if you follow the Spirit, you will harvest eternal life. 9Don't get tired of helping others. You will be rewarded when the time is right, if you don't give up. 10We should help people whenever we can, especially if they are followers of the Lord. 11You can see what big letters I make when I write with my own hand. 12Those people who are telling you to get circumcised are only trying to show how important they are. And they don't want to get into trouble for preaching about the cross of Christ. 13They are circumcised, but they don't obey the Law of Moses. All they want is to boast about having you circumcised. 14But I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his cross, the world is dead as far as I am concerned, and I am dead as far as the world is concerned. 15It doesn't matter if you are circumcised or not. All that matters is that you are a new person. 16If you follow this rule, you will belong to God's true people. God will treat you with undeserved kindness and will bless you with peace. 17On my own body are scars that prove I belong to Christ Jesus. So I don't want anyone to bother me any more. 18My friends, I pray that the Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you! Amen.