Monday, December 30, 2013

God Became a Teacher

This weekend I read the book titled God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant. This delightful book and my musings on the meaning of the Incarnation led me to imagine what it might be like if God became a teacher.

God became a teacher
Just for a week to see what it was like.
God knew that teachers often invoked His name
To request a snow day or give voice to despair and sometimes delight
For patience on Friday afternoons before a holiday break

But mostly God became a teacher because He liked children of all ages and
He liked learning.. and wonder.. and awe
He wanted to be the kind of teacher who taught kids to notice everything that was good
And to not think they were ever too smart to learn more.

God was surprised to see all the things teachers did that have nothing to do with teaching:
Tie shoes, wipe noses. pick up trash, open lockers, sync the computer with the  projector and answer emails about bullying and the teacher's skit for the assembly.

But God tried to focus on the teaching and the learning and never ever say the words "state assessment" or "response to intervention" or "even "common core" even though it would make him sound like He was in the know about such things. He just tried to get his students to read a little longer than the day before, to edit another sentence and to realize that the Devil, his nemesis, didn't invent fractions. In fact God took the credit for that. 

God took the light into the rooms of fellow teachers and patted the shoulder of the novice teacher crying and told her it was okay and that He loved her optimism. God listened to the veteran teacher bemoan "today's kids" and reminded her that one student that day had raised his hand and cited text evidence when all the time she thought he wasn't listening. God stood in the staff meeting and beamed at this motley crew of overworked and underpaid saints who started out on this path for all the right reasons. God reminded them that whatever we do to the kids who drive us crazy, the parents whom we can never please, our most annoying colleagues, and the administrators who make us go to  an "ungodly"  (yes, he used that word) amount of meetings, we do to Him, to God. "So, love them anyway," God advised.

"Keep up the good work, " said God as He ended his twenty minute lunch and headed back to the classroom. "They are right about teaching though. It isn't rocket science." God picked up his lesson plan book, a stack of papers to be graded, and three detention slips. "It's harder."

Based on the book: God got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Marla Frazee.
Beach Lane Books; New York

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Show me the Evidence: Close Reading of the Gospel

Show me the evidence. Go back to the text. Support your claims and cite the examples. These are some of my stock teacher phrases these days. One of the best things about the new common core standards is that there is an emphasis on students supporting statements by citing relevant text evidence. I consider it good because if done well, we help students study text more closely and to analyze the author's techniques. If we have selected good text, we want our students to read, reread, and embed the pieces of knowledge in their own arguments or essays. It has been a little awkward to teach but in spite of my novice stabs in the dark, the students are coming along nicely.

 Before giving a test last week, I told my students I needed all complete sentences and appropriate punctuation as well as the required three pieces of text evidence.  The txting gen often totally forgets capital letters and punctuation marks and I for one don't LMAO when i c that kind of writing in their wrk. So, the thoughtful young author of the essay below was sure to include circles around his periods so I wouldn't miss them. In the margins of his paper he also included arrows pointing to the first piece of evidence, second piece of evidence, and finally the required third. Just in case I wouldn't  recognize them.

Sunday's gospel (3rd Sunday of Advent) was essentially about evidence. When asked if he was really the one who is to come, Jesus pointed to the evidence, "Go and tell John what you hear and see; the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have good news proclaimed to them."

This is the best news of Christmas. I love the excitement and the sharing, the music and the lights but I'm so over the frenzy and the gift lists and the overindulgence. I want my life to show evidence that I know the Prince of Peace and the one who came to fill the hungry with good things. I want to trust that he will lift up the lowly and remember his promise of mercy. As should we, followers of this baby King.

My hope is that my life will reflect evidence of the good news of the gospel.

Advent Blessings,


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Stay Awake:A Teacher's Advent

"...Therefore, stay awake! For you do no know on which day your Lord will come..." This gospel message, strange as it seems, falls on the first day of advent. Thanksgiving leftovers, languishing in the refrigerator, barely take on a chill as we plunge into the Christmas season. To feed our spiritual selves, we light the candles and celebrate the waiting and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Yet, here we are being warned about the second coming. Really, today?

All day, these words have roiled about, disquieting my complacency and causing me to wonder the meaning they might have. I have become, I realize, a liturgical soul. The seasons of ordinary time, Advent, and the rest lead me to wonder more about the seasons I am walking through and to want to understand the readings that fall from the pages of my prayer books on the known and unknown holy days. The gospel reading, particularly, read Saturday evening at church and again on Sunday AM from my Magnificat journal wash over my mind and heart and lead me to try to discover how they might impact my vocation.

Teachers are used to staying awake. Great students we often aren't as many a professional development provider can tell you after enduring the icy stares of teachers relegated to yet another inservice session! Our administrators know we complain long and loud about teacher meetings and  we gripe about the inattentiveness of our students and concurrently display that same level of distractedness when we are sitting in the one-armed desks with our faces toward the front of the room. We stay awake, though paying attention is sometimes another matter.

Perhaps in today's plethora of opportunities for distraction, that is the challenge. Not merely staying awake but being attentive:

- to the bundles of beautiful potential that walk through our doors
-to the needs of a society rich in goods and poor in spirit
- to the messages our students are bombarded with day after day which pull them from their true selves
-to the growth learners have, however incremental
-to the roots and family systems children represent and all the hopes and dreams which accompany these tender shoots
-to the honest appraisal of educational practices students are often able to give, unfettered by professional constrictions
- to the fact that while children and teens holler out loud for independence, they love bouncing against our boundaries and finding them immoveable
- to our call to be present to the irrefutable fact that each of our students is a child of God, always and everyday

An expression my father used to say comes to me on this day and is perhaps the message I am to stay awake to realize: "You are the bearer of God's infinite life."  It strikes me that if I don't get sleepy about this or crowd it out of my mind because I am chasing other ways to feel whole, I will be ready now and always for when Jesus comes. 

We are the bearers of God's infinite life. Let's stay awake to that reality.