Sunday, January 27, 2008

Effective Teachers/Effective People

What constitutes an effective teacher…. how about an effective human being? If you asked a million teachers this question, you would get a million varied responses. One thing I know for sure is that I would get different answers from effective teachers than from the ineffective ones. We all know who they are. Ineffective teachers are easy to spot to everyone, but themselves. I believe most ineffective educators don’t realize that they are this way. They have lost the ability to self reflect and lack the flexibility to transform even if they were to realize that what they are doing isn’t successful. These are educators who NEVER are afforded the opportunity to hear students say they are excited about coming to class, or to have parents (in public) say, “Yes, she is an awesome teacher”.

Quite the opposite is true for ineffective teachers. These are the ones who quite proudly proclaim it isn’t important what parents or students think. They make it known that because they posses some higher discipline or standard that they are exempt from the obligation to connect with students, let alone the educational community. How do I know all of this? I wish I could say it is because I have come into contact with one too many ineffective teachers (which unfortunately IS part of the story), but actually it is because there have been times in my career when I have felt unsuccessful. This ineffectiveness gnaws at my gut until I take the time to pause, reflect and change. Sounds simple, but it is far from painless.

Self-reflection is complicated. It requires us to be honest with ourselves. What’s more, it requires that we take responsibility for our actions and create a plan for change. If we aren’t up for change then reflection is pointless. Perhaps this is where ineffective teachers get hung up. As difficult as reflection can be, admitting that you need to change is even more so.

Maybe this is a human condition more than a “teacher” one. For instance, if we find ourselves in failed relationships of any type, it is rarely our fault, but more often we feel the failure is due to the actions of others. We even tend to blame spiritual emptiness on the lack of being “fed” by the church or blame God for abandoning us. It simply never enters our mind that it is our responsibility to seek the nurturing our own spiritual connection. As long as we blame and deny—we never are required to confront and transform. Honest reflection might be complicated, painful or even exhausting, but it is the answer to obtaining many of the life successes that we so adamantly pursue.

This I know for sure…

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

When I Can't Find the Words!

I haven’t written for a week. I simply don’t have much to say right now. Characteristically, I decided to analyze why. It could be a direct result of my plate being full - stuff like planning a wedding, preparing for two book clubs, teaching 120 students everyday, running a household, balancing the budget and simply keeping the plates spinning. For the first time in a while, I am speechless. It’s like I don’t have an intelligent thought in my head let alone one to share.

I know I need to exercise again. The first step has been taken—I joined the YMCA. Now, I just need to go. I am not terribly tired, just preoccupied. It is in times like these that I believe my ADHD goes wacko. Not only am I keeping the plates spinning, but my mind is spinning as well.

Finding moments of respite isn’t easy. It takes conscious effort on my part to slow down my heart and mind long enough to be recharged. I used to have a screened in porch that was my haven: my special place to find solace. More than once, I remember retreating to this special place in the middle of winter. I would take a space heater, a huge blanket, a big cup of coffee, and my Bible into this sanctuary as I refueled my soul. I really don’t have a physical respite at this moment. It appears as if this would be a good place to start my search for solace. If I can’t find that extraordinary place—I will need to find extraordinary time.

This I know for sure…
Dang, pretty long for not having anything to say...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Spiritual Choices

Spiritual Choices a Henri Nouwen devotional.

Choices make the difference. Two people are in the same accident and severely wounded. They did not choose to be in the accident. It happened to them. But one of them chooses to live the experience in bitterness, the other in gratitude. These choices radically influenced their lives and the lives of their families and friends. We have very little control over what happens in our lives, but we have a lot of control over how we integrate and remember what happens. It is precisely these spiritual choices that determine whether we live our lives with dignity.

I have been on this journey for over two years—from the most traumatic and painful to a newfound contentment and even joy. Along the road I have met many different travelers. It always amazes me at the lengths folks go to avoid feeling (or dealing with) pain. One person in my life even accused me of being a “downer” because whenever she experiences pain she simply “thinks happy thoughts”---geezzz—lucky her. Apparently she still sleeps with a husband who breathes in and out---ok---I digress…. What concerns me is this superficial “choice”— this choice to evade seems to imply the avoidance of working through the pain. I wonder if this strategy will end up backfiring in the future and the pain becoming overwhelming.

The pain of loss never entirely goes away; however, it is vital to make a conscious decision to work through it. Avoiding the lure of bitterness becomes another balancing act. The very thought of “choosing” to live in gratitude seems absurd at best. How can you be grateful while enduring such heartache? The answer is that WE can’t, but by living within our faith it becomes possible. When Don died, I wanted, more than anything, to make sure I appeared strong for my kids. What I found instead was the ability to recognize the “blessing in the thorn” The fact is that it is impossible to experience real joy without knowing the heartache of real pain.

This I know for sure…

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Resolution Solution!

Bridet Jones's Diary begins with 33 of her New Year's Resolutions. She provides a window into her character simply from creating the list. Tomorrow I go back to school, yes it stinks as all the other schools around us are out until Monday. In trying to create a writing assignment for my students that mixed the rhythm of the season (New Year's) and the craft of creating character, we are going to complete the following New Year's Resolution. I can't wait to learn more about my students through this activity--wonder what they will learn of me.

My New Year’s Resolution:
(or A Tribute to Bridget Jones)

I will not…
…jump to conclusions before getting all of the information, at least most of the time.
…drink a gallon of Diet Mountain Dew each day—half-gallon tops
…desecrate another moment trying to figure out why things happen
…waste calories on food that doesn’t taste good—
…squander my energies with negative talk.
…check my email continuously—keeping it to three times a day (morning, noon, evening).
…allow past mistakes/failures to affect the future.
…abdicate my responsibility to figure out what the heck is wrong with the dishwasher.
…allow the children to manipulate me into giving them money, letting them out of responsibilities or dismissing disrespect as teenage angst.
…yell first and ask questions later

I will…
…sing louder and more often in the car.
…watch less tv and read more
…not wait until the last minute to read the book club books
…get in touch with friends I have be inattentive to for far too long
…take a planned family vacation
…learn to write down passwords so that I don’t forget them.
…exercise more talk about it less.
…try harder to redirect the negativity around me
…not participate in gossip, hold my tongue and save my obnoxious opinions for when it is essential to use them.
…accomplish Guitar Hero on “medium” level---ok maybe become a proficient “easy”

This I know for relatively sure…
Now it is your turn---what do you resolve???