Friday, August 15, 2014

Classroom Teaching

It has begun again.

I have been back inside of those school walls again over the last two days. We won't have any students in our classrooms until Monday, but we are participating in our annual, obligatory institute days within the district. This is that time of year when all teachers find themselves sitting in meetings and sessions... attempting to learn how to accomplish all of the priorities that the government has sent down the proper pathways so that they can ensure that they have done everything they are supposed to do to turn teachers into good teachers... while simultaneously, these same teachers are attempting to create to-do lists of all the actual priorities that are immediately necessary for them to really be a good teacher. This can be exhausting.

Every once in awhile, during these institute days, there will be a presenter at one of these sessions who has been a teacher and remembers what it is like. Well, actually many of them have been teachers, but most only think they remember what it was like to be a teacher but they have forgotten, or quite possibly the reason why they "used to be teachers" is because they never should have been a teacher in the first place and they got out of it because they weren't very good at it, but now they are instructing other teachers how to be teachers. It's a mad, mad world.... Anyway... Every once in awhile there is a presenter who is actually a good teacher currently, and you can tell that he (or she) "gets it" ... not because they tell you such, but because they actually do "get it" and you can tell. Well, we had one of those presenters today. He presented information that we have heard before, but it made sense this time. He was interesting, he was enlightening, and most importantly for myself, he presented pertinent information.

During the presentation, he shared a quote from a guy named Lee Shulman, who is an educational psychologist. Here is the quote that he shared (I Googled it right after it was on the powerpoint):
Classroom teaching…is perhaps the most complex, most challenging, and most demanding, subtle, nuanced, and frightening activity that our species has ever invented….The only time a physician could possibly encounter a situation of comparable complexity would be in the emergency room of a hospital during a natural disaster.
~Lee Shulman, the Wisdom of Teaching
Now, obviously I don't think of teaching as something that we invented. Being a teacher is a characteristic of God that we might call communicable: It is an attribute that can also be applied to us. You could say that Classroom Teaching, as we know it, is an invention of people, but I believe that the good aspects of teaching can be traced back to the Great Teacher. But I am sharing this quote, not because I agree with the entire thing, but because much of what he says is quite accurate, especially in today's modern society. Teaching is challenging and complex, to say the least.

What always surprises me is how often one might encounter different people who love sharing a great quote about teaching or teachers... sort of like this quote or maybe even like that video where the guy talks about what teachers "make" ... but the ones who tend to talk in this positive, uplifting way are also the first in line to throw a teacher under the bus. Most specifically when their own children aren't performing well. Surely it was the teacher's fault! It is almost as if people love to glorify the occupation of teacher in a very general way, but with teachers that they actually know, they can only see their shortcomings and deficiencies. Besides... we all get the summer off every year anyway... right?!?

Well, I share this quote and my surrounding thoughts, not for my own sake, but for all of those teachers out there. It is a challenging occupation, more than most people will ever know, but it is also one of the most unappreciated jobs by those who are closest to a teacher.

Keep at it teachers!  You are giving the occupation a good name, whether those closest to you realize it or not.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

contribute a verse

I can remember watching Mork and Mindy as a kid. I recall laughing at the wonderful voice performance of the genie in the lamp. I've watched Jumanji with my sister countless times. I've enjoyed Mrs. Doubtfire and Night at the Museum, but this only scratches the surface of the many unique acting and voice performances of Robin Williams.

I always felt like I could know this guy. Watching his crazy interviews and live performances reminded me of what was going on in my head most of the time. He could also be a serious actor: from Patch Adams and The Fisher King to The Awakening and Good Morning Viet Nam, he had the ability to draw you into his performance... especially with his eyes... he had kind eyes.

To be honest, his portrayal of a teacher in The Dead Poet's Society played a significant role in my decision to be a teacher myself. From the Carpe Diem whispering scene to the brilliant "Oh Captain, My Captain!" near the end of the movie, Mr. Keating (Williams) embodied, so very closely, what I wanted to be as a teacher: outside of the box. In fact, I just spent the last half hour watching Dead Poet's Society clips on YouTube.

Obviously, I am mentioning all of this because Robin Williams was found dead in his home. As far as they can tell, he committed suicide. He was struggling with depression. This isn't the first time that there has been an entertainer pass away, that I knew I would miss. But with this death I find myself genuinely sad. Mostly because many of his roles portrayed a character that was so near to the grand story, but just missed it. In this video, there is the audio from a scene in the Dead Poet's Society:


Robin Williams definitely contributed a verse. I am just sad because it seems that such a creative mind may have missed THE Creative Mind. I hope that before he died, he trusted in the only one who can save men's souls and write our names in the Book of Life.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Praying for your Prodigal - Book Review

I listened to Praying for Your Prodigal while painting a room in my house yesterday. It was a short book, (just a little over an hour of listening time) but it really packed some emotional punches to the gut. Please don't misunderstand me... I loved this little book, and would recommend it to others, without hesitation.

On the one hand, this book breaks down the story of the prodigal son, considering each portion of this prodigal's journey. The exposition was good, and very practical, not only for considering a prodigal's path, but also when we look back at our own personal history, and consider our own prodigal ways. I could also tell that there were some thoughts that bled over from Kyle Idleman's other book, titled Aha!

On the other hand, the portions of the book that really gripped me were the letters from parents to their prodigals that began each chapter. Some of them were heart-wrenching. Others hit really close to home. A couple of them reminded me so much of my own children, that it left me wondering about their futures. The voice talent for this book did an amazing job of drawing you into these letters... it was as if I was actually listening to some of these parents... my heart felt exposed and vulnerable. To have a child wander away from God would be like ripping your own heart out and letting it wander around unprotected... outside of its ribcage, deep in my chest.

This might steer some away from listening to an audiobook like this, but as much as we want to keep our children buried deep within our chests, we must embrace this concept that (first) God loves them more than we do and (second) God knows where they need to go to get to where they need to be. I can't say that I have completely learned this, but I am getting there.

Kyle Idleman shares a prayer at the end of each of these short chapters. I greatly appreciated these prayers. I found myself praying along with him. Though my children are not prodigals, I know that one day they may be...

I highly recommend this book to anyone that currently has a prodigal... OR IS a Prodigal. If you have wandered from the God who loves you, then know how much He loves you! He sent His own Son, Jesus, to die on a cross for you. Return in humility, and you will find your Heavenly Father waiting to throw a party!

You can find this audio book through or

Monday, August 4, 2014

by no means

I just started a surprisingly good book. I just started it this morning, and I am already on chapter 4... or maybe it is chapter 5. Either way, I am working through this book quickly, but I say, "a surprisingly good book" because it has been on my kindle for a while. Usually when I get a new good book, I try to consume it right away, but this one has been hiding in the shadows.

The book is called How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home, by Derek Thomas. I will save a synopsis for when I am ready to give the book a full review, but I do want to share a quote from the book that prompted this blogging moment.
"Of course, salvation by grace rather than our performance can be seen as a license to sin (antinomianism). Paul's response in Romans is something like this: if we are not tempted to think like that, we have not understood the gospel."
I haven't thought of it like this before. Now, Derek Thomas has just been explaining our salvation by grace and the reality that there truly is, "... no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Our salvation not depending on our performance is so wonderful, but it is a little unnerving when you begin to understand it. He goes on to say,
"Grace must raise the temptation to think we can sin as we please; if it does not, we have not understood the true extent of grace. However, at no time can we yield to the temptation to think this way, because Christians are called to a life of holiness -- holiness motivated by gratitude for all that God has done for them in the gospel of Jesus Christ."
This is so true. Like I said, I haven't thought of it this way before, but the Gospel is really scandalous! I can hardly believe it sometimes.