Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Beginning Again, with Trembling

I've shared before on this blog how much I love the rhythms of the academic year, with beginnings, middles, and ends. We are at the middle of the 2018-19 academic year right now...which means a new beginning as well. Today is the first day of the Spring semester here at Dordt--the last semester of "Dordt College" as we will become "Dordt University" as of May 13 of this year.

I love new beginnings. They also scare me a bit, as I confessed to my students in Introduction to Education this morning. I'm always anxious about meeting up with new students, but in a positive way--I think--if that makes any sense at all? The newness is so full of possibility, of promise. And I'm anxious that I might screw it up somehow, I guess.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

A Few Thoughts on Intentionality

It's been over a month since my last post. I'd like to say that it was an intentional break, but that's not really true--at least not entirely.

I usually try to write at least one post a week, which keeps me actively writing. And, as one of my friends has repeatedly reminded me over the past year, writing is thinking...and a big part of my job as a professor is thinking. So in this sense, blogging is almost a professional responsibility for me, or at least thinking about my teaching, and what I'm reading, and how I'm connecting with my field is, and that's primarily what I try to do here on the blog.

But as the busyness of the end of the semester and the Christmas season swelled, I just didn't make time for writing. And then I was out of town over the holidays and I intentionally left my laptop at home, to have an intentional break from all things work-related. And now that I've been back in the office for the past week or so, I've been preparing syllabi for the new semester, and working on a new course that I'm teaching for the first time, and making plans for some additional courses for the EdTech track in our Master of Education program.

I feel like I'm making excuses for why I haven't been blogging. The reality is that I have not been intentional about creating space for it. I haven't felt inspired to write lately, and even though it gives me a lot of joy, it has felt too much like, well...work.

It's funny: while I was in grad school, I was blogging actively...and I was busy all the time between work and class and homework (and trying to keep up as a husband and father and church member) and yet I kept writing. I think partly it was because I was in the habit of reading and writing ALL THE TIME in grad school, and blogging was writing "just for me," which made it a joyful, life-giving thing. And honestly, I had to be intentional about it, because I had so many other things going on in my life, that if I wanted to keep writing on the blog, I had to carve out 20 minutes here or there to work on a post.

And so I'm thinking now about carving out some intentional time each week just for blogging. If I put it in my calendar, will I be more likely to stick to it? Probably.

I'm a little late for making New Year's resolutions, so we'll just call this an "intention" instead.

So here's my intention for this spring semester: I'm going to intentionally carve out space a couple of afternoons a week for reading and writing, and I'm going to intentionally work on at least one blog post each week.

That's my intention, anyway. We'll see how this goes.

Image from Pixabay. [Public Domain]

You know what? I discovered something I find funny and odd: there's an awful lot of photos of laptops and coffee mugs if you search for "blog" on Pixabay. Seriously...you should check it out for yourself.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Pausing to Worship

One of the things that I love about teaching at Dordt is that we deliberately pause, right in the middle of our week, to spend time together in worship.

Chapel is not mandatory. No one compels students to attend. And yet, most weeks 600-800 people (or more) gather at 11:00 a.m. to spend time together in song, in the Word, in reflection, in worship. No classes are scheduled for this time. All the offices on campus close. The Library closes. And so we gather.

Our institution is not a church, and we do not seek to replicate churchiness, really. Chapel is not intended to be a church service either. But, as members of the Church, Christ's Body here on earth, students, faculty, staff, and even friends from off campus come together to focus on the Author and Perfecter of our faith in a communal-yet-personal way.

It's Advent season as I write this, the season of the liturgical year when we consider the lead up to Christ's first coming, and experience the longing for Christ's second coming. It's an appropriate time for reflection on just who Jesus is. Today's chapel time was an excellent example of this, and perhaps best exemplified through one of the songs that was part of the worship time today: "Is He Worthy?" by Andrew Peterson. The worship team was joined by members of the chamber orchestra and the choir to lead us into God's presence today as they played and sang this song.

If you're unfamiliar with the song, or with Peterson's music in general, I urge you to take five minutes to listen to it, to reflect, and--I hope--to worship.


True confessions: this is one of my favorite songs anyway (the whole album Resurrection Songs is fantastic, in my humble opinion) but hearing it played and sung live today got me all choked up, and literally brought tears to my eyes. And I've continued humming it throughout the rest of my day ever since chapel.

And that's the gift that chapel at Dordt is to me: the opportunity to pause to worship, to refocus, to get re-centered in the midst of the busyness of a work week, and to carry that on throughout my day. Pausing to worship shapes the rest of my work as well.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Thoughts on Seriousness


I had the opportunity to see Rend Collective in concert last night. I love this group! After the show my daughter said something like, "It's like we went to a concert and it turned into church, but in the best way." She's right about that--these folks are out to worship, and invite those gathered for the show to shift from "watchers" into "participants." You can't hardly help yourself when you see their infectious joy and celebration!


I don't know what my favorite part of the evening was. We talked about it on our drive home. Here are a few things I love about this group:

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Running on Empty

My lack of writing over the past couple of weeks tells at least part of the story: it's been hectic.

Two weeks ago I was at a conference, which was a fantastic opportunity for professional development and networking with colleagues. But there is preparation for being away from campus for several days. My students know, "Mulder never cancels class!--if I'm away, we meet online instead, or they have workdays for ongoing projects. And then there is the catching up once I'm back. (Email has become the bane of my existence.) As it happened, all of my classes had some sort of project or test scheduled for that same week as well. And of course, along with this pile of marking, it was also advising season, which means lots of extra meetings with advisees. I truly enjoy the work of advising students, but it's busy, and every situation is unique, which means individual planning, preparation, and problem-solving. And, in the midst of all of this, my dear aunt passed away, and so I was off and away for several days for a funeral, including hurried plans for online class meetings for the time I'd be away.

It's been hectic.

I'm tired.

Exhausted, really.

I'm running on empty.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Your Classroom: Collecting Wood? Or Longing for the Sea?

A Twitterfriend shared this one last week...

I love this word picture.

And doesn't it just capture teaching? Both the good parts, as well as the struggles?

There are some lessons that just feel like collecting wood. (I've had a couple of those in my Geography class lately, to be honest.) The discussions are halting and stilted. The students are going through the motions, doing the tasks and work assigned to them. But it feels like just drumming up people to show up and do it.

And then, there are lessons that feel like longing for the sea. (Thankfully, I've had a few of these this semester too!) The joy of learning is so obvious, so real...it's like you can smell the salt air and feel the wind in your face! And when we shove off from shore, we have a real sense of the immensity of the ocean of content we can explore!

What ships are you building in your classroom? And how are you approaching the shipbuilding? Do students feel that sense of longing, wonder, and excitement for the voyage? Or are they just looking for the next log to drag toward the beach?

Image by Alberto Jaspe [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

How to Make Homework that is Not Crappy

In a recent post I shared about a presentation I gave at a recent teachers' convention held on our campus. The title of my session was "Homework is Broken...But We Can Fix It!" If you've been reading the blog for some time, it probably isn't news to you that I think we can do better when it comes to homework in K-12 schools today. (If you want to read more, check out my #nomorecrappyhomework posts...)

Today, I got an email from a friend who was in that session. He raises some really thoughtful points about how he (and his colleagues) are wrestling with homework. Here's what he wrote (slightly edited for anonymity):