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Posts Tagged ‘Teaching’

The words of the title of this entry bring anyone, old like me, back to 1984.

Start watching at about 0:54 …

Oh, Mr. Miyagi, the great martial arts teacher, and Daniel, the bullied young teen boy. When Daniel gets royally beaten up, and he is fading into ‘La La Land’, he sees Mr.Miyagi take on the whole gang of guys who beat the stuffing out of him, and win! Now, Mr. Miyagi is a pretty inconspicuous karate master, as his day job is that of a humble maintenance man / gardener. And, he’s old! We’re talking gray hair (well, what hair he has left is gray), and he’s short (but there is not a bit of a Napoleon complex here).

I think that Mr. Miyagi is one of my first role models in working with students who struggle in school. The lesson I learned from him is that learning does not have to be direct. For him (and yes, I do realize ‘it was just a movie’, but I like to gleen whatever good I can from as many sources as I can find in life) teaching karate did not necessarily mean teaching karate through ‘doing’ karate, but through life’s day to day ‘stuff’ (lets face it though, he did get his cars waxed, fence painted, etc.).

For me, to teach a lesson to the students I work with, does not necessarily mean sitting a student at a desk with paper and pencil. As a matter of fact, that would probably be the least successful way to teach them. The (high school) students I get to hang with know they are not going to be a Math or English whiz. But, frequently, what they do believe is that they are dumb, stupid, and sometimes even useless.

It is, I believe, my job to convince them that school is something ‘ya just gotta get through, so lets get it done, and move on’ (they hear that one almost daily from me), and that their failures in school classrooms DO NOT indicate what their future will be. Each of the students I get to work with have a gift, and we need to search until we find it, and figure out how to use it, when they get out of this small microcosm of life, called school.

So, I get to take my students out of school (I swear they hear the Hallelujah chorus in their heads as we are driving away), and place them in work experience jobs. They have worked in grocery stores, warehouses, plant nurseries and stores. Presently we are taking on, not jobs but service projects. And, in the coming weeks they will go to the home of an elderly lady to wash windows, mow lawns, and anything else that could make her life easier. And, at the same time, they will be doing work that has meaning, has real benefit … gives them purpose!

Along with training, and exposure to different fields of work, it is the sense of purpose, the sense of place in this world that I most strive for, for them.

Sometimes what is student learns is far more than what the teacher teaches … and, sometimes that was the hope of the teacher in the first place.

So, back to work guys … “look eye, always look eye … come back tomorrow!”

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As I was preparing a post for today, my attention was diverted (in true undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder fashion) to a video, that moved my intended post to another day.

I am not a teacher, I have no calling to become a teacher, but I work in a high school. Although my ‘title’ is Educational Assistant, I prefer to view what I do as that of a ‘reINFORCER’ (I’d love to see that title on the school website … I wonder how many parent calls the school would get). You see I take what a teacher teaches to a full classroom, and then I reinforce the meat of the lesson to a few students in a variety of ways.

This video reinforces my heart-cry for the necessity of relationship within learning. As a ‘non’ teacher I have more freedom to look at the students as a whole rather than look at them through their academic, intellectual or social achievements.

About ten years ago I was introduced to a teacher who was leading a workshop on behavioral issues in the classroom. She started her workshop telling us her philosophy:

“If you want to change a student’s behavior,
you need to first convince them that
(real or perceived)
you like them.”
Carol Griffiths

After that workshop, I did not miss one of her workshops again for many years. She gave words to the cry of my heart for the students that I encounter each day. From that point on, I changed how I did my job, because now I had words to keep me intentional in the focus of my job.

This TED video reinforces that message. I cannot say that this change in my focus will improve the academic scores of the students I encounter (but how could it not?), but I do believe, with all my heart, mind and soul, that it will improve their future life.

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School is out! The year is done, and I find myself thinking about how it began, and now how it ends.

I love that I work in a high school. The benefits are so perfectly fitting with who I am. I get to take my kids to work, and bring them home. The hours I work are, predominantly, the same hours that they are in school. The maturity level of the students matches mine quite closely. I get the possibilities (just not often enough) of snow days! To top it all off, there are those enviable summer breaks!

My original plan for my summer break last year, had been to spend parts of the summer creating a plan for the work experience course I had taught the previous school year. I had so loved my job that previous school year. I was challenged by the students I taught, and by the new experiences and skills that I had to develop within myself to accomplish the tasks at hand. I was excited to develop it to the next level, and to dream about new directions that it might take.

Unexpectedly, though, last summer ended up being busier than I had expected, as I ended up taking on a summer job. So my planning and dreaming did not materialize.

When last summers ‘break’ was winding down, and I returned to school, I was surprised that my position from the previous year was not to be my position for this school year. My first reaction was to wonder if I had ‘blown it’ the previous year. Then I was disappointed. Then I was … lost. My vision for the future had changed, so much so, that I did not know what to do, what to say.

So, I dug in, and approached the new year, as if it were a new job … with my tail still hanging between my legs.

I discovered this year that I quite enjoyed being back in the classroom. I discovered that I loved assisting students in math, and that I should NEVER, EVER be placed in an English classroom to assist anyone (if you have read even one of my blog posts, you will know that I have no abilities or training in grammar). I discovered that I can quickly take a Bible passage and make it relevant for the students I am assisting. I discovered that, I may not be the best ‘teacher’ but I can encourage a discouraged student to the point where they are willing to keep trying. I learned that I can go from gentle to firm to gentle again, and that I must, in that order, if I am ever to convince the students that I am ‘for’ them.

I have been privileged to be placed into the lives of students who I was able to assist, and who assisted me on this journey of living and learning. They brought to the table suitcases full of ‘the past’ … and so do I. They also brought to the table empty suitcases, and I was constantly aware that ‘baggage’ was something I needed to prevent myself from packing into them.

All year, the constant voice in my head was telling me ‘it’s not about you” …
* when the students were not eager to work, or when they worked so faithfully
* when they did not give their all, or when they gave everything
* when they didn’t want to share, or when they would not stop sharing
* when they came to school faithfully, or when their attendance was sparse
* when they barely spoke, or when they spoke rudely

IT WAS NOT ABOUT ME! What I was paid for was for it to always be about them …

Now today is the last day before summer break. I will leave work today pleased with all that I discovered in so very many ways, knowing that next year is still a blank slate, and it might bring more discovery.

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With a title like this one, I know of at least one person who will read this blog post!

I have been married to my hubby for almost twenty-three years, and yes, he has taught me a thing or two. Probably not as much as he would have liked me to have learned from him in that time 😉 .

The best thing that he taught me has made me a better person, a better mom, a better neighbor, a better colleague and better at my job (probably a better wife too, but hubby would be better at discerning that). It is something that he told me he recently learned from an elderly retired pastor, but really he has been living it as long as I have known him.

This thing that I have learned from hubby is to take people at face value. To not impart guessing into their motives, but to accept them as they are.

It sounds good … it is not easy.

I am one who has a tendency towards discernment. I have an inner ability to grasp and comprehend what is obscure (definition thanks to the Merriam-Webster dictionary). Another way to put it is that I often get a ‘feeling’ or have a sense about individuals when I first meet them, that is often, but not always true. This gift tends to make me very open to some, and very guarded to others.

If I get a bad ‘feeling’ about someone, I tend to treat them with suspicion, distrust, and doubt. It is so easy for me to hang a cloud over that persons head, and for me to treat them in a manner in which they are convicted before they are even accused. I give no opportunity for them to plead their case. I act a judge and jury, and they are imprisoned by arrogant way I yield my ‘gift’.

What hubby has modeled, in my lifetime with him, is that he gives people the benefit of the doubt. He believes well of people, until he has evidence, from them directly of something different. He believes in people with no judgment on them. He gives them the benefit of the doubt. He always believes, always hopes, always perseveres.

Hum, that sounds familiar.

It sounds like 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered,it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

To love someone is to do all of the above. To pre-judge is to never allow others the opportunity to show their best side, and likewise it never allows us to show ours either.

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I often find that Christian theologians can be so … boring.

It is not their subject matter so much as their language, their … wordiness, their dissection of portions of scripture in a manner that both confuses my brain, and makes me want to take a nap … a long nap.

I am no theologian, and yet, as a believer in the triune god … father, son and holy spirit. I believe in the virgin birth, and the resurrection. There is much that I would call gray matter, but there is also much that is definitive … that is, black and white. And, if I were asked, what do you believe to be the most important theological principle to stand on, my response would be quick and confident, and would mirror the response of theologian Karl Barth (believed to be the most important theologian since Thomas Aquinas), “Jesus love me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”.

A childhood Sunday School song, with the most valuable message. Something written and presented so simply that even children (the least of these) could share in and understand. Something so deep and so packed with the gospel message that theologians have yet to unpack all that it presents to us.

Written over one hundred and fifty years ago, by Anna B. Warner (verse 1) and David R. McGuire (verses 2-3), and William B. Bradbury is credited for it’s musical score and refrain.

It is the first song I remember learning, as a child, and the first that I taught our three children. I remember clearly how, as each child had mastered the first verse, I would telephone my God-loving grandmother, to allow her to hear them sing the song that she had shared with me. Our youngest sang for her just weeks before she was face to face with the center of this songs words. My intent in teaching our children this song, was (and is) that if it can be woven into the framework of their being, they might always know throughout their lives that:
-they are loved
-the Bible confirms it
-they need Jesus
-He will be their strength when they have none
-they are loved by the one willing to sacrifice all for them
-they are loved by the one who will not stop loving them

If my children can grow up knowing that Jesus loves them, then I can leave this life in the confidence that they have a most firm (and not at all boring) foundation.

  1. Jesus loves me! This I know,
    For the Bible tells me so;
    Little ones to Him belong;
    They are weak, but He is strong:
  2. Refrain:Yes, Jesus loves me!
    • Yes, Jesus loves me!
      Yes, Jesus loves me!
      The Bible tells me so.
  3. Jesus loves me! This I know,
    As He loved so long ago,
    Taking children on His knee,
    Saying, “Let them come to Me.”
  4. Jesus loves me still today,
    Walking with me on my way,
    Wanting as a friend to give
    Light and love to all who live.
  5. Jesus loves me! He who died
    Heaven’s gate to open wide;
    He will wash away my sin,
    Let His little child come in.
  6. Jesus loves me! He will stay
    Close beside me all the way;
    Thou hast bled and died for me,
    I will henceforth live for Thee.

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