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Those First Students

I’ve been thinking a lot about my first students from my first class this May. Been wondering about whether they and their families are in this same position. The never-ending cycle is real and haunts too many people in our society:

But this subsidized housing is all she can afford. Most of Houser’s paycheck goes for things like food, diapers and gas. And she says what look like luxuries are necessities for her. They’re also mostly gifts from family or friends. She says she has a car to get to work, a computer to take online college courses, a cellphone to check up on her son.

But there’s one thing Houser doesn’t have, and that’s a lot of hope for the future.

She says she feels stuck in a never-ending cycle, constantly worried that one financial emergency — like a broken-down car — will send everything tumbling down.

“Poor to me is the fact that I’m working my butt off. I’m trying to go to school. I’m trying to take care of my son, and that’s just not enough,” she says.

 

Silence

It’s been a week since I’ve been to this place that has slowly become a space where I have figured out who I am and what I am supposed to do with these breaths I’ve been given.

Sure, I’ve taken longer leaves of absences from this, but this time it was for a purpose not because of scheduling or overcommitting. I needed some distance as I delved into a weeklong look at Ephesians and processed through a death in our family. There’s an incubation process for deep study and for grief.

I’ve rarely found myself speechless. I have too many words and often have to remind myself to listen before I jump into a conversation with an idea that has sprung into my mind. This week, I felt myself moving from commitment to commitment in a slow molasses movement. My mind was telling me that I needed to remember everything, be everywhere at once, and my body was telling me to power down.

And I just wonder, as a pastor, what do you do in those weeks and days and minutes when life so silences you and brings you to a point of complete and utter standstill and wonder? Do you just stand before your congregation and ask question after question that has flooded your mind over the past week? Do you honestly recount the emotions and feelings you’ve been through or do you when it comes to Saturday night silence those questions?

Silence is  a powerful teacher.

It shows us that this life we lead where we think we can predict what comes next can be brought to its foundation and shaken in a way that reverberates in us as small players in its grand scheme.

And maybe that’s exactly what I needed to learn this week.

Parting Ways with Hebrew

After a yearlong journey, my formal studies of the Hebrew language end on Monday. It’s crazy for me to think that a year ago, I identified the markings on the classroom board as field goals posts and golf flags. Now, I know them as letters joined together to make words that tell a story of a people and their Creator.

Studying Hebrew honestly hasn’t been easy for me. I’ve put in long hours only to be stumped and puzzled even more. It was frustrating, but it also reminded me that I don’t know everything about the Bible. And that’s an important lesson for every developing minister to learn. If I don’t continue to question and put in long hours studying only to be stumped and puzzled, I might get to the point of thinking I know exactly how life works. I might get to the point of thinking I don’t need a Creator.

It’s always easy to provide these reflections when the journey is coming to a close, but it is very hard for me to maintain that perspective while in the midst of the journey. Luckily, I have a year of Greek ahead of me to help me work on that!

Full Friday

Whew! What a day!

I forgot what it was like to attend a conference and to not have a minute to sit down. You convince yourself that you are going to get work done while you are here and then you end up even busier than you thought. 

I find myself exhaustingly invigorated by the passion and the energy that surrounds teachers spending their own time to learn more about their craft. 

Stepping out of your classroom to see other teachers who are trying to implement best practices does something for your soul. 

You walk away knowing you are not alone and knowing that there are others in the trench next door. 

That will hold you almost as well as the good food!

Back to Conference Travel

It’s odd to me that this year is filled with teacher conferences again. 

I am trying to place my finger on just why that is and I am not sure if I have found it yet. Maybe it’s because I spent a year as a teacher without a classroom and have spent this year doing more work with teachers than in the classroom, but it seems I am not in the teacher club anymore. 

Here’s the thing that I’ve discovered though, you can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t not make a person a teacher. I still dream about my students. I still lesson plan on Sunday afternoon and I still get wary about full moons. 

Will be fun to be back in the saddle again! 

What learning Hebrew has taught me about myself and life

I like to consider myself a diligent student, especially when it comes to languages because I have been in a foreign country and I have taught a foreign language, so I know the frustration of being a teacher of languages. 

But if I am honest with myself, I haven’t been a good Hebrew student. 

I know that language learning means daily exposure and wrestling with the language. I know that’s even more important when you are learning a language with a whole new set of characters and a new reading orientation. So why haven’t I just done what I know works?

Because I’m busy, because it’s hard, because it takes longer and I could get a lot more done in the time, because, because. 

It’s easy to reason myself right out of studying for Hebrew. As I have caught myself making excuses, I’ve realized that I am quick to defend my choices, but not as quick to reflect on whether they are the best decisions. 

It’s hard to admit that you aren’t good at something. It’s even harder to admit that and keep at it, but no matter how old I get, I want to be someone who challenges herself to try something new and to stick with it even when it’s difficult and frustrating and exhausted. 

As we journey away from Thanksgiving and await Advent, I am thankful for a challenge that I am not sure I can surmount. I am thankful for learning something new, even if that means learning I don’t know everything. 

Are schools the next big market?

It’s not surprising to find that education is a huge market:

The K-12 market is tantalizingly huge: The U.S. spends more than $500 billion a year to educate kids from ages five through 18. The entire education sector, including college and mid-career training, represents nearly 9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, more than the energy or technology sectors.

I’d be wiling to bet that teachers aren’t going to get a cut at all of this.

Synergistic Experience

I’ve been on enough runs that I know a good one within the first couple of steps. I know whether my breathing is labored or whether it feels like my legs are stuck in molasses. When either of these things are off, then I know that the run is going to be one that I just have to make it through rather than one that I enjoy.

But when my legs aren’t heavy and my breathing is syncing with my steps, then I experience a synergistic experience that allows my thoughts to clear and my creative juices to begin to flow.

As I have been going back and forth with other educators via Twitter about the impact of Common Core, I can’t help but wonder if the fall holds more expectations to abide strictly by CCSS, which will weigh down teachers are they try to foster creative curators in their classrooms.

Can CCSS really be a synergistic experience that includes individuality and digital literacy or is it laboring our classroom time with an atmosphere that makes it hard to catch our breath?

Looking for a stronger connection

In preparing for a seminar for youth on social media, I have hit a brick wall. This is not uncommon, I often hit a brick wall in preparing to teach something new, especially when technology is involved; however, in this case I am stuck in the middle.

I have no idea if my students will have any sort of device when they come to my seminar because many of their leaders have taken up their cell phones. I understand the policy and the philosophy where this is coming from. In fact, this isn’t the first time that I have encountered this. I have had parents, fellow teachers and administrators who have limited access to technology and I can think around it.

But when is it going to be common place to find an audience who understands how incredibly deep and meaningful using Social Media in a learning setting can be? When is it going to become common place that instead of making rules to ban technology, we are actually going to have open and honest communication about this form of connecting? When are we going to recognize that maybe, just maybe, if students are connected to their devices, they are actually looking for a deeper connection from us?