Richmond Hill Middle School science teacher Robert Hodgdon recently published his first book “Christ in Your Classroom.”
Hodgdon was the RHMS Teacher of the Year for 20142015 and the Georgia Science Teacher Association’s Middle Grades Science Teacher of the Year for 2015.
He’s received teaching awards from the National Science Teacher Association, the National Association of Biology Teachers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and White Council on Environmental Quality. He was keynote speaker at the 2017 Georgia Southern STEM conference.
An Army veteran, Hodgdon grew up in Maine. He and his wife live in Richmond Hill and they are members of Compassion Christian Church. He wrote “Christ in Your Classroom” as a guide “for educators who wish to honor God through their work,” according to a preview.
The following are Hodgdon’s responses to questions from the Bryan County News:
Q: What made you decide to write a book? It’s a pretty big undertaking.
A: As I was growing in my faith, I realized that I was not a very good role model for Christianity and that was something I really wanted to change. I was particularly focused on modeling Christian behavior in my capacity as a teacher.
I didn’t really have a solid plan on how to do that, but I know how I approach learning something new when I have to teach it so I essentially started putting together a unit plan that I could follow.
Throughout the course of writing, though, I really felt God’s nudging to keep going with what I had started. I felt a strong sense this was something God had put on my heart. I worked on it almost entirely during my summer break for five years because I have so little time during the school year.
Q: Can you summarize the book for readers?
A: I did not intend for it to start as it does, but the first three chapters of the book are not specific to educators. They cover important principles of the Christian faith and emphasize that we cannot select one area of our life to improve when it comes to our faith.
There isn’t a God switch I can turn on when I step on school grounds so that I can be a better model for Christ’s behavior as a teacher. It is a matter of integrity. I cannot become a better model when I walk onto the campus. The person that walks onto the campus or into the office has to be the same person with regards to his or her faith that he or she is in all other areas of their lives.
The first three chapters focus on understanding the importance of commitment, faith, and humility. This is where I believe anyone serious about exploring or understanding our faith has to start. The application to the school setting in later chapters came only after I understood these three key concepts.
My favorite chapter is probably chapter four, “Loving One Another with Godly Love” because I believe what that means and looks like is largely misunderstood in our culture.
Q: Public schools are by definition public, meaning there’s no official religion and teachers can’t preach a specific faith. What’s your opinion on that?
A: If you open the school up to the teaching or promotion of one faith then you must open it up to all faiths. That is not something I would be comfortable with for my own children. That does not mean that any person of faith has to hide their faith from the students. Most of my students know I am a Christian. I am a member of a large local church where families of my students are also members.
Q: What’s been the response to your book from within the school district and from others outside the district?
A: Well, it has been early in the process so it is probably too early to tell. I joke with some of the people from my childhood that I felt a collective “thud” from all of them hitting the floor when the word got out in my home region that I had written a Christian book. Certainly there are people who have seen me act in ways that are in opposition to the Bible, and I understand that my credibility may be an issue for them.
I clearly state in the book that I am the least likely of people to write something like this because of my broad array of character flaws. I am my own most honest critic so I completely understand their uncertainty.
However, I would argue that snapshots of people are not the best tool for assessing a person’s merits. A lot of how any of us interact with our peers, parents, students and community stakeholders is not observed by a host of outsiders.
I have developed great relationships with many of my students, peers, parents and other stakeholders over the years, and that doesn’t happen if one is a total degenerate. There has also been a great deal of support and enthusiasm for the book from many members of our community.
I have no way of tracking sales until 60 days after the end of the fiscal quarter, but if the people who say they are going to purchase the book actually do so then I’d say it’s off to a good start. For me it is about getting the word out.
I am in the twilight of my career as a teacher and I know I will most likely never be able to live all of what I write about in this book. I understood upon the completion of the book it will probably help others more than it helped me because so much of this insight came so late to me. If this book has a significant impact on even a small number of people and then they impact others through their lives and testimony and so on then I feel I have done what God intended for me to do through the book.
My greatest hope is that these books find their way into the hands of college students preparing to be teachers or teachers who are new to the profession. If I could afford to give them away to future educators and those who are just starting out, I would.
I had one family purchase 10 books for a group of college students who are studying to become educators. I was really moved by that gesture and I have no doubt God is behind acts like this. I do not worry about how many people the book reaches.
There is an old joke that says, “Want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.” I can promote the book and others can help, but ultimately it is in God’s hands. If it is God’s desire that the book goes viral, it will go viral. If not, then it is simply not part of his plan for my life.
Q: Will you write another?
A: If it is God’s plan for me to write another book one day, then I will write one. I have a number of nonfiction stories in my head, but writing is a very time-consuming process. I would need to sell 140,000 copies a year of “Christ in Your Classroom” to earn what I make as a teacher, so I think it is safe to assume that teaching will remain the means by which I pay the mortgage.