Sunday, January 12, 2014

The School and the Student: Who's Serving Whom?

The apostle Paul tells of his approach to ministry in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. The Message translation describes it as, “I kept my bearings in Christ – but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life.”
In order to communicate with and develop individual lives in a variety of cultures and communities, Paul went into their world and acted as a servant. What if our schools embodied these same attributes? Who is serving whom here? The schools today have not taken the time to experience the educational system through the eyes of the children. No set of standards or boxed curriculum can produce the learning that meets the needs of the kids’ futures. Especially when they are driven by uniform tests. It’s not productive to only know the needs, concerns, and interests of the students. We must come along side and live through their passions with them.
Not only do we need to implement this approach but we need to detox students from the definition of “learning” that school has branded them with. One of my fellow teachers, who is actively giving his students the opportunity to explore their interests and talents, tweeted this; “Freedom is the hardest part for the students to grasp.” Of course this generation of students lack a motivation and passion for learning because we’ve pushed our flawed structure of teaching on them. Marketing experts will tell you that if you have to continually push the product on the consumer then the product is broken. Federal and state legislatures continue to push a design of college readiness and rigor. Don’t get me wrong, these have their place, but above all, the child must feel that we (teachers, parents, and peers) are learning right beside them due to the genuine care and love we have for them.

Despite major contradictions between my philosophy of teaching and learning and those of the traditional school, I’m hopeful for an opportunity for educational reform.
A friend recently asked, where I was with my blogging and my search for ideal education.  I think the following works as an evaluation tool of my progress.
Seth Godin has said that a successful leader (and I think educators) can be compared to a good hockey player. They both require three main qualities: They must know what to do, have the resources to do it, and care enough to get hit.
At this point I feel comfortable saying that I possess two of these.
1.     I definitely care enough to get hit!
2.      I know what to do. (How humble of me)
-        Thanks to God’s guidance and the research of many smarter than me, I think I have an understanding of the critical components needed for an ideal place of learning.
I’m always searching for resources to make this happen. That means taking in everything fellow educators, parents, experienced administrators, and most importantly children can offer.
Joy in serving students.

Monday, January 6, 2014

An Answer in the Form of Questions (a lot of them)

As I am attempting to maintain alignment with God’s will and now asking Him to help me overcome my unbelief, I’ve discovered the most unique answer to my requests.
God has flooded my thoughts with curiosity and questions. Specific questions like…How can a school balance both developing children in living holy lives and also provide real opportunities to be salt and light? Could a school that is just grades K-6 or K-8 manage that balance? Will I be able to visit Anastasis Academy ( in Colorado, to gain understanding of all of the logisitics? How can a school with a small student to teacher ratio still provide teachers with plenty of planning time to collaborate and create dynamic learning opportunities? I could go on to fill pages with the detailed inquiries that have been placed on my heart.
You may be thinking, “How is this an answer to prayer?”
Amidst all of these questions, I have an unexplainable confidence in knowing these are God’s directed concerns. I’m pretty sure God welcomes my curiosity because it is no longer doused with doubt, but it is filled with fascination. As I looked at the many examples of faithful servants in Hebrews 11, I couldn’t help but assume that they were filled with questions as well. I’m grateful that questions do not have to equal doubt. As my fascination and contentment with God’s holiness increases, so too does my faith. It seems wherever I read about faith, there is a result of righteousness. Now there is a characteristic to work towards.
In Genesis 22:1-19, God tests Abraham’s faith. The only way Abraham could have been willing to follow God’s command to sacrifice his own son Isaac, was through a pure trust in the Lord’s holiness (completely OTHER and HIGHER than anything in this world). When we face tests of faith, God’s holiness is waiting on the other side, affording us a glimpse of his heavenly goodness. I wish the bible told us what Abraham was thinking as he led his son up the mountain to the altar. I’d like to think that his mind was filled with questions driven by wonder and reverence, with an absence of doubt. Ultimately, Abraham named that mountain Jehovah-jireh, meaning “The Lord Will Provide”.

As teachers and parents, our most promising learners are the ones who inquire with fascination and wonder. It is the ones that dismiss and/or mistrust our guidance that we really need to encourage and support. I would challenge you to reflect on where you might fall on this spectrum of faith.
I would anticipate that being a fascinated inquirer of a Holy God, is a very exciting lifestyle. May my faith increase to the point where I can refer to this journey as "The Lord Will Provide".
Joy in the limitless possibilities!