Friday, December 27, 2013

"Help Me Overcome My Unbelief"

Well, I’m diseased…
Everything I read, see or experience I relate to teaching, learning and education. This diagnosis also causes me to avoid some things that are meant for my personal relationship with God as well as my family.

As I read an article by Terry Pluto, faith and sports writer for the Akron Beacon Journal, I was doing my best to relate his words to my teaching. In the article, “God Believes in Us”, Pluto says, “I need to remember that God believes in me even more than I believe in myself.” Now I could write a whole blog post about that characteristic of God. How, as teachers and leaders we should embody a faith in our students that surpasses their own. That was the point when God wrestled away the symptoms of my “disease” and shifted my blinders away from education and fixated them on Him. 

Pluto went on to refer to a story in Mark chapter 9, where a father brings his demon-possessed son to be healed by Jesus. In verse 23 Jesus said, “Everything is possible for one who believes.” While that is profound, it’s what is written in the following verse that God intended for me. The father in the story responds to Jesus with this desperate plea, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”  

I’m constantly asking God for “stuff”, but I can’t ever remember requesting a stronger faith. I always was in the frame of mind that it was my job to believe and have faith because God offers such an abundance of promises and blessings. But God used Terry Pluto’s words to set me straight; “I have to remind myself that before I ask God for anything else, I must ask him for more faith.”
This is exactly what I needed to hear, as my vision for this blog and my future in education was becoming much more of mine than God’s. I was feeling antsy about who was reading the blog and the possibilities it would lead to.
God really provided clarity through Hebrews 11. How ignorant of me to think that people like Moses or Noah, as well as the numerous others mentioned in the chapter, never had to ask God to help them overcome their unbelief. As we ask for an increased faith, I think we’ll gain contentment in knowing God maintains a holy perspective. Chapter 11 also describes all of these faithful servants as pleasing to God and commends them as righteous.

We very easily mask God’s power when we don’t ask for help. I think the song “Light Up the Sky” by the Afters displays the great contrast between a meek faith constructed on our own, and the faith achieved through God’s design.

Now when I seek the vision God has given me for education (in addition to anything else), I’ll sincerely start with, “help me overcome my unbelief”.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Raising Confused Children: The Effects of Contrasting Visions

One of my most cringe-worthy occurrences as a teacher is when a student simply asks, “Is this for a grade?”
In response, I usually maneuver by the honest inquiry with an ungraceful pirouette. I intend my reply to contain a powerful message about authentic learning and intrinsic motivation, but this is usually masked by a number of “uhhs” and “umms”.
So why do students ask this question and why do I have such a difficult time answering it?
When the school system, teacher, and the parent all hold vastly different visions for the child’s learning, the result is an innocent cry for clarity.

Background image courtesy of 

I created a word cloud using the text from all of my blog posts to attempt to understand my own vision better.

I think the largest words (most popular) from my blog’s representation would be replaced by the state and nation’s vision with words like, assess, compete, and knowledge. I highly doubt that the students and God would be at the center of their vision.
With the K-12 education being a $500 billion industry, it would be impossible to maintain a common vision. 
Yong Zhao, a professor at the University of Oregon summed up the priorities of America’s public education by saying, “By imposing upon schools and teachers unrealistic, meaningless, and arbitrary goals, high-stakes testing has corrupted the spirit of American education, intoxicated the education environment, and demoralized educators. By forcing schools and teachers to teach to the test, it has narrowed the educational experiences of millions of children and thus deprived our children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, of a real education. It has wasted valuable, precious, and dwindling public funds that could have been put into educating rather than testing our children.”

I’m envious of schools like Anastasis Academy (, where students are fed confidence and clarity while inhabiting a passion for learning. When a school can simply be stripped down to the students, their talents and interests, and the community’s resources around them, these kids are valued as a major contributor to their community and society. The way public education is currently run, is rapidly convincing citizens to view schools and students as a burden. How sad.