Wednesday, August 31, 2016

"Get To" or "Have To?"

Today I had one of those class periods I think all teachers dream of. Every single thing I planned just worked. Students were engaged, interactive, asking questions, collaborating, and--I don't think this is wishful thinking on my part--even enjoying the work.

At the end of class I walked back to my office doing an internal happy-dance-of-joy thinking, "I get to do this!" As in, "this is my job, but I feel like I am completely fulfilling my calling in this work!"

It's interesting for me to think about this. I'm generally a positive person, and I generally love my work as a teacher. This has been true at almost every point in my career. And, honestly, the times in my professional life where I felt like "I have to..." instead of "I get to!" were usually more about the paperwork, or external mandates, or friction with colleagues, or times I had messed up and had to make things right with a person I had hurt. Those things can definitely suck the joy out, for me at least. But working with students? Seeing them master a new concept, or even struggle their way through to developing that understanding is always a joy for me, and it never gets old.

I view my work as a teacher as a calling. I believe that I am called to serve, and the place I happen to be serving right now is the college classroom, teaching future teachers. I believe I have been equipped for this work, and I am fully using the gifts and talents I have been given. And maybe it's because I'm in this place, professionally, where I feel well-equipped because of my background, experiences, and education to serve faithfully--and even successfully. It's easy to feel "I get to!" in this kind of a setting!

Teachers, how are you feeling? Are you feeling like you "get to" work with your students, to help them grow and develop, to support their learning? Or are you feeling like you "have to?"

What will it take for you to move to "get to?"

Friday, August 26, 2016

What Kind of Work?


It's time to have a difficult conversation, teacher friends.

Here goes...

We have to think about what students are doing in your class, and why they are doing it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"I See My Name": To Know and to Be Known

It's the beginning of the semester, and I'm already struggling. Oh, I'm doing all right; I know my content, and I'm reasonably confident in my pedagogy, and I am as prepared as I can be. The struggle? Getting to know all my new students.

I teach Intro to Ed, which is a required survey course for all Education majors. If you come to Dordt College and major in Education, you'll take this course. I want to be clear: I love to teach this course; it is one of my favorites! But, because Education is one of our largest majors, I have a lot of students--about 80-100 each year, between the three sections that we offer. In the fall semester, I teach two sections of 32-35 students each. And here is the struggle: it's hard for me to get to know that many students when I only see them a couple hours a week.

When I was a middle school teacher, I had 40-60 new students every year, but it wasn't so hard to learn all those names. I think it was because I saw them every. single. day. and I was able to connect with them more quickly. With my college students, I only see them a couple times a week (actually, only once a week in Intro to Ed!) and so it takes me much, much longer to get all those names down cold. Last fall, I had most of them by the middle of the semester, but there were a handful of names that were elusive for me--five or six students whose names just wouldn't jump to mind for me.

And I hate that.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Educational Goals: Learning or Accountability?

In my Timehop today was a retweet of something shared this time last year by my Twitterfriend David Hochheiser (who is a wise, funny, generous educator--I've you're a teacher on Twitter, you should be following him.)

Here was the (re)tweet that caught my eye today:

I think he's right.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Being the Body of Christ: A Reflection from Camp

I recently spent a week serving at Royal Family Kids Camp. I was one of 74 adults there working with 38 kids from the foster care system. It's an absolutely amazing ministry, and I am proud to be part of our local camp.

People sometimes wonder what I do at camp. Maybe a strange stretch for a college professor to work with hurting kids?

That's me up in front, leading a silly song as part of our camp training.
Image by Royal Family Kids of NW Iowa [All rights reserved]

Officially, my role is to serve as a member of the music and drama team. We are in charge of putting on a daily chapel time for the campers: singing songs, reading scripture in a way that connects with the kids, teaching a Bible lesson each day, and putting on a drama. We are also in charge of "breakfast club," which is an hour-long time of fun and silliness (and sometimes serious stuff too) to entertain and engage the campers while their guides take a much needed break. (The guides are absolutely amazing, basically being right with their campers 22 hours a day.) role is to help out in entertaining and encouraging the campers, supporting the guides who work with the campers much more closely.

"But what do you actually do, Dave?"

To answer that question, I feel like I should quote Liam Neeson's character in the film Taken:
"I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career." 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

I Am Not Alone: A Reflection from Camp

Did you have a good week at camp??

So many people asked me this question at church this morning. I found it difficult to answer.

I spent the past week serving at Royal Family Kids Camp, a camp for kids in the foster care system. This was my second year with this organization, and the week at camp again stirred up all kinds of emotions. 38 campers were there, being served by 74 adults and young adults. The kids have all been part of foster care for reasons that are far outside of their control; they have been wounded by parents and others. The world has been hard for them, but many are incredibly resilient. That said, every one of the campers we served was hurting in some way, and many acted out.

Was it a good week?

Monday, August 1, 2016

Presidential Politics in 2016: Can You Make a Favorable Argument?

I generally try not to get too political on this blog, unless it's related to the policy environment for education. (And even then, the emphasis on political rhetoric is pretty thin.) But I'm making an exception here, because I use this space for working out my own thinking. So here goes...

Over the past couple of days, I've seen this piece by Wayne Grudem pushed on social media. It is entitled, "Why Voting for Donald Trump Is a Morally Good Choice." I read it. I am not impressed.

I find myself--like many, I think--unimpressed with either of the major-party candidates for President this year. I feel like I've had the same conversation over and over again with people in the past couple weeks:

"Who are you going to vote for?"
"Ugh...I don't know. Both choices stink..."
"Yeah, but you have to vote for someone. ______ is the lesser of the two evils, right?"

And there is the problem: the lesser of the two evils.

Is that really how we're voting this year?