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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Our daughter came to cook and freeze food for us so that I could get some reprieve from a combination of outdoor and house work. While and because she worked and because the weather and other responsibilities that didn’t allow too much outdoor work, I spent some time with the grandchildren.

Besides cooking, there was also homeschool, because in homeschool, “school is never out”. Of course, the saying alludes to the fact that all situations are opportunities, like the more traditional one pictured and all others, to learn and grow.

One day we took a walk at the local greenway, except we got off the beaten path to see something different. I guess we will call it a fieldtrip.

We actually walked about 2 miles after an hour or so of playing on the Beanstalk Playfort*.

The next day brought continuous rain, so while the my daughter worked and my wife and grandson napped, my granddaughter (E) and I went to the climbing wall.

With a little suggestion and growing confidence with exposure, she began using her toes more and getting to the top more. She met a girl her age with whom she climbed abit.

This was only E’s second time climbing but she enjoyed it thoroughly.

The old man couldn’t stay off of the wall either, even though he’s been declared a bit “off the wall” at times.

The unexpected part was that E had picked up my phone and was taking pictures.

We asked the employee behind the desk and new climbing friend of mine to take a few pictures. I would like to encourage you to check out Bigfoot Climbing Gym**.

I did a traverse around the children’s wall, which was quite challenging, especially these pink and orange holds. Actually, I couldn’t go up them at all and barely traversed across*** them.

We had a fun time and I read to her several chapters of “Tales of the Resistance”, second in a three book series, over the five days they were here. All were encouraged, but I think my daughter was just tired.

*Our local playground pictured here from the website, third picture down on the left.

**https://bigfootclimbinggym.com Check out the 1st anniversary events. It would be a good, inexpensive way to check out the gym.

***Is “tranversed across” a redundant phrase, or does it communicate, as I am trying to, that as I traversed I went across these to climbs?

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One of my principals came by the house today to place a sign in my front yard stating how proud we are that I teach. I retorted that I thought that I would not get a sign since I am retiring after this semester. No, she says, you should especially get one for all of your years of teaching. I met her husband, who is also a teacher and we began talking “teacher talk” (1). During this crazy time there is much talk about Earth shaking, or at least societal, changes coming to every area of life, education in particular. Both of them were congratulating me on my coming retirement, especially at such an opportune time. I related that it had occurred to me that this was a similar transition that my father had transversed in the late 1980’s as a 39 year veteran of drafting/designing. He said that it was the right time for him to go out because he was not interested in learning this new CAD drawing. He had spent a long career with paper and pencil, or pen on permanent drawings. And here I am, having made my decision to retire before the pandemic occurred, but all the more glad I am retiring once I realized that significant online schooling is coming. Actually, I am OK with the computer. I have some things to learn, but I’m not far from where I need to be. The problem is how to motivate, explain to, tell a story to, relate to, properly assess, or significantly influence students virtually. Suddenly I felt like a dinosaur when I had not felt that way two months ago. A new epoch of online strata had been added to a bed of the technology era. (2) It feels suddenly virtually impossible to teach students subject matter which was fluid such a short time ago. The Great Flood had come (3) and this terrible lizard was stuck in a mud bank.

In the same way that my father was useful to make corrections on line drawing in pen, so I may be helpful if the traditional classroom is a thing again. But as I told my principal, that’s someone else’s problem now. I see the kindness of the guiding hand of God’s Providence (4) in these circumstances. He is no less kind when we get stuck in the middle, for He has an eternal perspective. He is more concerned for our spiritual and eternal good than our temporal comfort. But from this poor man’s view, all is right at the moment with retirement.

1) Every group or profession has their jargon and shared experiences so that you can talk to a teacher from across the globe and laugh about the same tendencies among students and parents in both places, in the same way engineers or salesmen or carpenters can say others just don’t understand.

2) I hope someone understands my paleontological metaphor.

3) I guess some folks won’t catch my extended metaphor unless I say the great meteor rather than Great Flood, though I believe it to be the latter.

4) Notice that I did not say guiding hand of Providence as many of our Founding Fathers referenced, as if it were an impersonal force rather than a personal God.

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Just before the beginning of the pandemic shutdown, my wife and I went to my school district’s central office to meet with the retirement planner. After many questions I signed the papers to begin the process. I thought that I would be ambivalent about retiring, but my confidence that it was time to go grew as I filled out the paperwork and afterwards. That night I slept contentedly until around 4 AM, when I awoke thinking about retirement. I still had no hesitation, but a poem began to come explaining why I feel that it is time to go:

When the burning desire to teach
Is in its last throe
Gone the desire to grow and reach
Then it is time to go

Knowledge is sweet and learning is good
But when drive is low
To push another’s ought’s and should*
Then it is time to go

Against all odds some came to make
Understanding flow
But when each step uphill you take
Then it is time to go

Hard victories won, stories told
Wisdom you did sow
Delivery now stale and old
Then it is time to go

To new pursuits of love and life
Always change and grow
Putting aside the stress and strife
Then it is time to go

Now my long mission is complete
What good did I sow?
Confidence, ambivalence meet
Farewell, it’s time to go

 

Teaching is a stressful job, but I liked the interaction with students. For many years I felt that it was a calling. I have no regrets about teaching and I have no regrets about ending this stage of my life. I look forward to what God has in store for me. Now to start a new adventure.

*”Oughts and Shoulds” is phrase I have used over the years because it has significant meaning to me. But when I have voiced it, few others seem to understand what I mean. Legalism and compulsion say, “You ought to do this and you should do that,” or “You ought not and should not do that.” Grace says, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify”, and “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:23,31) But as teachers we are often compelled to compel the student who does not want to learn or make effort at learning. We should drop compulsory learning. Let the parents decide and compel those who won’t do their work to go home.

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I was so happy for and with my Sunday School Class this morning. I had come up with three lists that I thought would fortify their young faith. The first was evidences from the Scripture that Jesus is a man. The class gave me all seven of them. Some of the answers were synonyms for the words I had listed. This was not a review of a list we had recently gone over. This resulted from several months of emphasizing that Jesus is fully God and fully man. Could you come up with seven evidences from Scripture that Jesus is man like my 10-12 year olds did? Here is our list: 1) born 2) baptized 3) hungry 4) tempted 5) slept 6) bled, and 7) died. 

Our lesson today was about Jesus calling the disciples. It is amazing the trust that two disciples of John the Baptist had in him that they immediately followed Jesus when John identified Him as “the Lamb of God”. Andrew was one of those disciples, and when he found his brother Simon, he told him that “we have found the Messiah”. That is quite a statement for someone he had just met on recommendation of someone he trusted. But as Jesus told Nathaniel soon afterwards, “you will see greater things than this”, meaning the insight Jesus had into Nathaniel’s every move was “small potatoes” compared to the miracles he would see later. Their enthusiastic, new faith would be transformed into life-long, martyrdom faith. 

So, if these men were being called to be disciples, what is a disciple anyway? In that culture spiritual teachers would have a following of those who wanted to learn the teacher’s life and insights.* I asked my students to tell me 7 things that disciples do (They actually listed 8, but I forgot to write down the last one. before I left. And again, some of their responses were synonyms of mine): 1) follow 2) believe 3) learn from 4) obey 5) copy 6) tell (share, testify), and 7) represent.

By the time He got James and John on board** and Matthew hosting his friends to meet Jesus, we didn’t have time for my other list: Scriptural Evidences of Jesus as God. I’m glad I didn’t. It would be too much for one week, but we will talk about it soon. And here it is: 1) virgin birth 2) testimony of man (John the Baptist, Nathaniel, Peter, Thomas, etc.) 3) testimony of God 4) commanded nature 5) healed diseases 6) sinless, and 7) rose from the dead.

My hope is that the truth of God’s Word will sink in deeply so that the false doctrines of the world will not later drown their faith. It is so good to see them want to know truth.

*It is a far better way to teach and learn than we generally do today. Apprentices in a trade who constantly shadow a mentor/boss learn this way, but so much of what we pass off for education is assembly line, mass production. Eli Whitney’s interchangeable parts work great for reproducing gun barrels and stocks, but for critically thinking, problem-solvers, saturated in truth, not so much. On the other hand, for basic rote learning to put tools in the toolbox, it works fairly well if the toolboxes are willing.

**Really it should be “off board”, since they were on board when Jesus called them, mending nets with their father Zeb.

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I am amazed at times what a little rest and little reflection can allow to come around in our memory. The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of challenge by way of time pressure and emotional workout. So, even though today is also full of chores and duties, I had the privilege of sleeping late. But sleeping late for one in the habit of early rising is difficult. Usually 7 PM is all that I can manage, but it was a few minutes past 7:30 when I first saw the clock this morning, and my dear wife slept away. In the unhurried moments I lay musing on random thoughts when one came through quite clearly.

Do you remember the names of your elementary school teachers? Sequentially from 1st grade through 6th mine were Mrs. Denton, Mrs Gaston, Mrs. Henderson, Mrs. Gervin, Mrs. Tucker, and Mrs. Alexander. I know that a child’s view of the world and the addition of many years makes memories a bit skewed, but I thought of a few things I remember about them.

Mrs. D was a large lady. I don’t mean overweight, just a big person. She was kind but seemed sad. She had gray hair. None of my teachers were young. I always wanted to please my teachers and I wanted to do my best for her. One day during milk break in the cafeteria, I felt sick to my stomach and couldn’t finish my milk. Mrs. D would stand at the garbage can inspecting to see if we had finished our milk. I was nervous and dropped the carton, mostly full of milk, just before she took hold of it. It fell and splashed milk all over her dress. She had to go out and change her clothes. She was not happy with me. I don’t feel like that she held it against me after that. I think I remember struggling to learn to read and yet enjoying the new world it opened up.

Mrs. G was a small round woman who wore lots of jewelry and smiled most of the time. She was also strict. The first and last time I ever cheated on a test was on one of her weekly spelling quizzes. I wanted to do well but spelling did not and does not make sense to me. I used a little cheat sheet and she caught me. I was publicly shamed and worse, my parents were told. In this day and time publicly shaming is frowned upon, but I think it only hurts significantly because we tell children falsehoods about self-esteem the rest of the time so that they have “entitlement issues”. At any rate, I never cheated again, ever. I struggled in reading. After a short stint in reading group #1, I was demoted to the second reading group. My mother was told that I was struggling and it was suggested that I read extra at home. Mrs. G had a box of 2nd grade reading level books. I checked out one or two a week to read to my mother at home. I improved in reading, enjoyed the stories, being drawn most of all to facts related books. I am still a laboriously slow reader, but I understanding is good, and I enjoy an encouraging story or informative narrative. We still had nap, or quiet time. Most of the other students giggled and fidgeted on their mats, but I frequently went fast asleep. I distinctly remember several times awaking, disoriented and drowsy, to be given a hard time by classmates and defended fiercely by Mrs. G.

Mrs. H was almost certainly the youngest elementary school teacher I had and I’m pretty sure she was middle aged. She was innovative and energetic. She decided that our study of American History and the Capitol, Washington D.C., should have a visual. So she set out having us make paper mache models of the various buildings in D.C. I made a Washington Monument. By 3rd grade I had a best friend, Andy D. We loved math and did problems together. We liked science and talking about space exploration and going to the Moon. We liked drawing symmetrical shapes with ruler and compass. I grew up with mechanical drawing since my father worked as a draftsman for ORNL from shortly after the war.* So, Mrs. H selected Andy and me to draw out a map of D.C. with streets, bodies of water, and the locations of monuments and buildings all to scale. We did this on butcher paper laid out on the floor of a particularly large, empty classroom down the hall from her room. Andy and I would get to skip classes we did well in to work on the map. My childish memory wants to say the map was perhaps 20 x 30 feet in size. We spent many hours drawing, talking, and reveling in time together, just the two of us in that empty room. After all of the paper mache buildings were completed with white acrylic paint and all, they were placed on the map which was painted with black streets and blue rivers and pools, and large green spaces. The model that I had made was not selected and I thought it was better. Later someone helped me to understand that Mrs. H had allowed me the privilege and limelight of drawing the map. It would not be equitable to also place my paper mache monument on the map. During the next PTA meeting most of the school and their parents walked around the periphery of the map in that otherwise empty room admiring our work. It was probably the most unforgettable thing for me about elementary school.

Mrs. G was a thin, quiet woman. I somehow remember being a favorite of hers and growing in my love of learning new things. I had a vague memory of some written project that I did well on, but for some reason everything about that year is vague. In fact, even the room we were in seems vague, being set back in a corner at the end of the hallway. Mrs. G liked to keep the blinds shut so that the room had a dark, calm atmosphere.

Mrs. T was a fierce, little fireball who loved to raise flowers. She lived about a block from me in a little white house that was unimpressive, but the flower garden because of the small yard could not be anywhere else but next to the street, was impressive. When I would walk or ride my bike by her house, you could see the weedless beds of massive flowers of many varieties and smell them, too. Many evenings and summer mornings, Mrs. T was out weeding and replanting slips or cuttings. In class, she expected her students to work hard and behave, all orderly and well presented like her garden. I wanted to please my teacher so I did both. Good behavior produces good results. I was allowed to help the teacher and do work ahead of my grade. One of my best friends did something one day that set the class off and sent Mrs. T into a frenzy. It was warm and our school did not have air conditioning, so the banks of casement windows were laid open. A yellow jacket flew in and buzzed around the back of the room. Many of the girls screamed and others jumped out of their seats to get away. While Mrs. T was trying to settle the class, Jack jumped up with a new pencil, made noises as he sung his pencil like a sword, knocking the bee to floor dead on his last downswing. The class went wild with elation.

Mrs. A had to be close to retirement. She told me she had been a teacher for some period of time that seemed astronomical to my young mind. She always seemed to be happy and encouraging. I’m not sure if I am remembering correctly, but I think that I heard that she had had some deep hurts in her life, which if my memory is correct, made her demeanor all the more amazing. She liked to have classroom competitions and interclass competitions: weekly Spelling Bees, group math quizzes, history facts group competitions. I dreaded the spelling bees and seem to remember managing many 2nd places, despite my abhorrence of the art form. Mrs. A invited a number of her best students to come to her house a few times to study extra for a math competition that we went to. I felt so special eating a snack in her breakfast room with a few of my classmates. 

This commentary is a very narrow slice of what I remember about my elementary school years. There was baseball and bowling and bike rides and vacations and good grades and friends and chorus and library and safety patrol and playground (woods, swings and monkey bars and merry-go-rounds, kickball) and PE with the principal and plays and promenades and always working real hard to please my parents, my teachers, and make good grades and times with friends. But my teachers had more influence on me than I have previously given credit for in many long years. They may not have been the best teachers by modern pedagogical standards, but they had high expectations, rewarded what was good, punished what was not, and seemed to care about their students and their content. That was enough for me.

* I decided to say it the way we would back then instead of explaining it for the younger set. ORNL stands for Oak Ridge National Laboratory, site of the Manhattan Project where my mother was secretary and just a couple of years before my father arrived, and much of the focus of anything related to radioactivity studies. The war, of course, was World War II where my father had recently arrived home from when he began working there.

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It is very possible that you do not know what you fear most because you have not confronted that situation yet. There is also depth of fear and extent of fear, by which I mean absolutely horrifying as opposed to what you most guard against because it is constantly in your thoughts consciously or subconsciously. 

Evidently, I speak of the latter when I say what I most fear. I most fear being publicly humiliated for being incompetent and unprepared. I say evidently because occasionally I have dreams about just such things. I tend to have two kinds of dreams, those that may or may not seem significant, based on my emotional state after I awaken, but that I can’t remember any detail about, and those dreams that are very clear in every detail and seem to be communicating something profound to me or about me.

This morning was an occurrence of the latter. I am a science teacher. For some, what seems to me, a silly reason, I always have a few moments of first-year teacher nervousness about the first day of class (a tale tale indication of my greatest fear?). Now in terms of the school year, the dream I am about to relate to you is a mid-summer nights’ dream, making it all the more curious that it should happen, since school should be the last thing on my mind.

I was in a old school building that was very well remodeled. It was between classes of the last period of the day on the first day of class. I was required to rove to a different class this period, which when I have been required to do is the most bothersome thing to me, probably because it always involves some level of not being prepared for class when it begins. On the way there students in the bathroom were involved in some unknown rowdiness which my appearance and stern voice immediately dissipated. This further delayed my arrival to class. The students began filing out of the bathroom. I recognized most of them and many of them went into the classroom that I was entering. As we entered the tardy bell rang. The room was large with the classroom set-up at one end. Students were already in their desks. I knew all of the students, having had most of them the previous semester and others the year before. All of the students had attempted, out of a social habit that I have observed that makes them feel more comfortable, to sit in their previously assigned seats. Everything was in order except for one desk missing on the front row, so that a student assigned last year to that desk was sitting on the floor where the desk would have been. As I walked to the front of the room all faces turned toward me and the immediate thought came to me, “Why are these students here? I have had them all, most of them last semester, and they all passed (didn’t they?)?” I came to the desk, seeing that it was very neatly organized with every office supply gadget you could want and organizers for many colorful highlighters and markers. As I surveyed this wonder and the fact that there was not one piece of my papers, syllabus or otherwise, on the desk, the thought occurred to me, is this Earth and Environmental Science class that I have exclusively taught the last few years or the Chemistry class that I was told I might be teaching? If I ask the students which it is they will know that I am unprepared, not because I don’t know the subject, but because I have no materials to hand out and no lesson prepared. If it is Earth Science, I’ve done it so many times recently that I can totally wing it, but if it is Chemistry, as likely these “repeating” students imply, I’m clueless where to begin even though my head is filled with Chemistry facts. I stood overlooking the smiling faces in front of me, students who had likely taken Chemistry because they liked me as a teacher before, waiting for a spark of inspiration.

The dream ended by me awakening, lying flat on my back in the pleasant morning light and coolness, wondering what I would do next, and wondering why such dreams persist in my consciousness. Evidently, I fear being humiliated publicly for being incompetent and unprepared. Given that fact, should I share this dream?

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Time to graduate some students. It is a time for smiles and celebration and happy tears. The education we give our young is too focussed on knowledge and understanding devoid of moral evaluation, too lacking in wisdom for living and discernment for awareness of various dangers. I hope that I may be a mentor in thoughtful and careful living.

Knowledge leads to understanding
This path will serve you very well
To your mind and heart rewarding
In interactions it will tell

Acquire wisdom in your youth
Always prudent to do what’s right
Acting kindly along with truth
With wisdom overcoming might

Many deceived by false knowledge
Seek that you may discernment find
That at home or work or college
By truth delivered, sharp of mind

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It’s Marvelous Monday! Just before I stepped back out into the refreshingly crisp and slightly breezy 32 degree morning, I spied the signed that read “…Learning Commons, Encouraging collaboration, exploration, and creation. Supporting lifelong learning since 2007.” I proceeded to my parking lot duty station to stand watch just after 7:15 AM, making my school a kinder and gentler place to be. My mind began to stir with thoughts and comments I had with a student the Friday before concerning the way we do school. As the Sun rose above the small ridge behind the school into a nearly cloudless sky and a songbird repeated his song, my thoughts came together. 

Lifelong learners
They tell us we should be
But how do you touch the heart
By compulsion and decree?

Critical thinking skills
Synthesis to high degree
But without facts in their toolbox
What hope that they will see?

College is a must
AP courses, advanced degree
But where is creativity
Without time to explore and be free?

Learning is for high pursuits
For wisdom for you and me
But when will we understand
Growth of the spirit is key?

Look the look, play the part
Be all that you can be
But have you learned of heaven
To be eternally set free?

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Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18

CreatorWorship

Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains