What do I have to do to get a 75?

By:  Staci Stallings

Many years ago I was a high school teacher.  There are things about teaching that they don’t teach you in college.  One is the politics of teaching–navigating issues like the 75 rule.  Maybe they don’t teach you that because it’s such a thorny problem, no two times you face it are the same, and they don’t even know how to fix it.

Some of the 75 rule troubles come because of students.  They just don’t study enough.  Some are skating–trying to get by.  Some genuinely have learning issues and to them a 75 is like a 100.  For a teacher that magic 75 can be a real issue.

I remember it being a REAL issue once for me.  I had a very bright (but quite manipulative) student in senior English.  The kid could do the work, no question.  The problem was, he really didn’t WANT to do the work.  So he skated by, getting 20’s on the quizzes and 90’s on the tests.  When the six weeks ended, he came up with a 73 or 74 (I don’t remember which), and you would have thought the world was ending.

His father made an appointment with the principal and me to discuss this totally “unfair” grade.  After all, if his kid didn’t have a 75, he didn’t get to play basketball, and basketball was sacred!

I don’t know how many of you are teachers, but I can tell you from experience that facing a parent can be an intimidating experience.  After all, I was only 23 years old–the junior in the room by about 25 years.  And I’m called to defend MYSELF, nothing said about the student and his culpability in this matter.  So we talked about the quizzes, which of course were poo-pooed as being non-important if you could pass the test.  If you got a 90 on the test, you should get a 90 in the class–no matter that you didn’t do any of the homework or in class work along the way.

Suffice it to say, the kid ended up “getting” a 75–not because of me but because the principal “saw the parent’s point” and “adjusted the grade.”  That wasn’t the only time that happened either, and it was one of the reasons teaching kind of lost its draw for me.

But here’s the thing.  Many of us play life by the 75 rule as well.  This thinking is highlighted in the story of The Good Samaritan, not in the story itself, but in the questioning that leads up to it.

Here’s Jesus telling the story of the Prodigal Son, and the Pharisee (stricken with a bad case of Older Brother Syndrome) is just not pleased that the younger son was welcomed back by the father with open arms.  I mean, “HE DIDN’T DESERVE IT!”

So this Pharisee takes it upon himself to question Jesus.  “What do I have to do to have eternal life?”

Understand that this would be the equivalent question, “What do I have to do to get a 75?  What do I have to do to pass so I get to go and do whatever I want after that?”

Jesus asks if the man knows the law.  Of course he does.  It’s a ridiculous question.  He’s made a life-long study of the law.  He knows it backward and forward.  You give him a written exam, and he’s there.  No problem.

The problem is that this is not a written exam–it’s a heart exam, and by that standard, the man is not only under 75, he’s failing!

He tells Jesus the law says to love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and to love your neighbor as yourself.  See, he passed the written part.  The problem is, he hasn’t been doing any of the homework or classwork.  If he had, he would not have followed this up with, “Yes, but who is my neighbor?”  If he had been practicing this law, if he had taken what he knew from his head to his heart, he wouldn’t have asked.

Jesus then tells the story of the Good Samaritan.

I think in life we go through with a 75 rule mentality.  What is the LEAST I can do to get through this?  What is the least I have to give?  What is the least God expects of me?  What is the least I can do and still “pass”?

And so, we become stingy with our love.  We are stingy with our faith in others.  We are stingy with how much we help and how much we give.

Trying to skate through on our own strength is bad enough, but I think trying to skate through on our own, skirting the fine line between a 74.44 and a 74.50 is really, really dangerous.

Thank God our God is an extravagant.  He doesn’t love us at a 75.  He loves us at a 120!  All the time!  Every day!  Out loud!

So ditch 75-rule thinking.  Strive instead to give like your Father gives.  Trust me, you’ll get a lot closer to the mark like that.


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