Thursday, April 26, 2018

Transition Time: Celebrating our Student Teachers

Tonight we had a special event for our Teacher Preparation Program. Our club for pre-service teachers, the Future Active Christian Teacher (FACT) Club put on a banquet. This was a first time event, but I hope that we'll continue to have this in the future! The FACT Club leadership is pretty incredible, and a few months ago they proposed hosting all of the cooperating mentor teachers, the student teachers, the Education faculty, and--of course--all of the FACT Club members for an evening of celebration.

Wow, this was fun! Good food, good conversation, good opportunities to get future teachers, practicing teachers, and Education faculty together in a "not school" setting. Dessert was delicious too, of course...

Thank you, Dordt Dining, for always having my favorite chocolate lava cake...

And we had an inspiring speaker--the superintendent from a Christian school in our area--and several of the students offered words of thanks to the different groups represented there tonight.

I was asked to give a share some words of congratulations for our seniors who are in a time of transition: wrapping up this stage of their journey, and preparing to move into the next adventure...a classroom of their own!

Knowing I'm likely to go off the rails if I just ad lib, I wrote out my thoughts. What follows is what I shared as a blessing and send off for our seniors. This is one of those times when I feel like, "I get to do this!"


I was asked by the FACT Club leadership to offer a few remarks to the seniors. I’m thinking about you all, and how crazy these last few weeks of student teaching can be.

One of my longtime Twitterfriends tweeted out this gem yesterday:

Are you feeling that way, seniors? A former pastor once shared this wisdom with me, and I’ve carried it with me ever after: “For everything that has an end…that end must come.”

You are reaching the end of your journey with us at Dordt. You are nearing the end of your initial preparation to serve as teachers. And, you are (almost) at the end of your student teaching experience! When you head out from here to the next place, don’t be a stranger. When you’re back on campus, stop by and catch up! If we can help out and answer questions or provide resources, ask! And, a few years from now, when you’re thinking about a Master’s degree…well, I hope you’ll consider coming back to join us, studying online.

It’s a time of transition. Some of you have solid plans for next year already, some of you are in the process of applying and interviewing. It’s a stressful time, isn’t it? I remember that time so well…and it was 20 years ago for me. Actually, I remember a complicated mixture of feelings: relief that I was almost finished with my student teaching experience, excitement for heading into my own classroom next fall, and very real sadness, knowing that I was leaving Dordt very soon—leaving the friends and professors who had made a profound impact on my life. Maybe some of you are feeling one or more of these?

But from my current perspective, I have a different feeling, today, right now. I feel…proud...and grateful. I am proud of you! And, I am grateful for you! And, speaking on behalf of my colleagues, I’m grateful I’ve had the opportunity to serve you as one of your professors.

Teaching ED 101 is actually one of the biggest joys I have as a professor. You know, it’s the course that anyone in the Education department could teach, but I happen to LOVE teaching it, and my colleagues have graciously encouraged me to keep on teaching it. One of my favorite parts of this is that I get to meet up with you all as freshmen, and maybe even play a small role in helping you to discern your calling.

Do you remember that? Back at the beginning of your journey towards becoming a teacher? I opened with devotions every class meeting, and one of the passages I shared with you was James 3:1, which says, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, brothers and sisters, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” And…while some of your classmates heard this and said, “I’m out!”…you remained. You have been true to your calling, and you are now wrapping up your professional training.

And that feeling of being judged strictly? I suspect you see this more acutely now than ever before, having spent time with real kids in real classrooms, and being responsible for real learning over the past months, and having your mentor teachers and college professors continuously providing you with feedback and critique. It doesn’t stop there, either. Teaching is a public profession; others are always watching us, observing us, judging our work. But take heart: you’ve been WELL PREPARED to begin your work as professional educators.

But more than that, you’ve also been well prepared to live out your faith in Christ in whatever classroom He calls you to. You have been trained and mentored and prepared to step into that space where you are going to function as a leader. Do you think of it that way? School is kind of a grand game of “follow the leader” with students following their teachers’ leading. Don’t take that responsibility lightly! Your students will be looking to you, and following in your footsteps.

So here’s my encouragement to you, my “last word” so to speak: you can’t lead well unless you’re following. You’ve been called by the Lord to serve as teachers, true. But more than that, the call from the Lord for ALL of us as believers is, “Follow me!” And you, teachers, you will lead best when you are following Jesus most closely!

So, graduating seniors, who are nearing the end of this stage of the journey, congratulations on reaching this point! Yes, you’re ending this stage. But that means you’ve got a new beginning coming soon! Blessings to you all as you move forward, following Jesus, into the next stage.

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