Monday, August 11, 2008

Community blog

Krystal and me
(i seriously need to add more pics!)

Krystal, a close friend of mine and one of the girls in my community group, has started a community blog. It’s a place for others to share their thoughts and experiences on living in community. She asked me to guest blog so I posted something tonight. Anywhos check it out if you want.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Student's Loss of Hope

On Oprah today she did a show on how the American public education system is failing us. She started by comparing two different schools in her area. The one by her studio, or more urban area, was severely beat down and lacked things most of us probably think of as ordinary such as having instruments in the music classes. The suburban school they featured was of course just the opposite and had features like an Olympic-sized pool, fitness center, and an award winning music program. The point being to make us aware of the fact that though segregation no longer exists there still exists a great discrepancy between the haves and have nots in our public school system. Thus alluding to the fact that our “Dropout Nation” as Time magazine puts it is due to this discrepancy. Though one part I thought was interesting seemed to contradict this thought a little- they showed a well-to-do suburban school in Indiana where the drop out rate is 1 out of every 3 students mainly due to student apathy in regards to a high school diploma. Seems like such a young age to determine one’s fate in the workforce and future socioeconomic status.

As a public school teacher myself this obviously concerns me. But I think what bothers me the most is the loss of hope. Certainly instruments, better textbooks, and extracurricular activities greatly improve ones educational experience. I would never try to deny this fact. What I think the greater issue is however and the one the school in Indiana seemed to point to is that many of today’s youth just don’t care and have the lost the hope that there is a reason to. To me not caring about your education basically equates to not caring about your life…your future. Then that leads to the saddest realization of all: some of these children, possibly even in my class, do not care about their life or have a least lost hope that there is a reason to.

So what is my response as an educator? I teach in a school that supplies for students educational needs fairly adequately, much like the one in Indiana, so I’m not sure that is an issue I face personally. I think the more important issue is the unmet need of hope. But how do you give hope? How do you give hope to the kid whose family can barely afford food and never sees his parents because they work night jobs just to have the money to live? How do you give hope to the girl who has a learning disability and as a 4th grader has trouble reading 1st grade material? How do you give hope to the boy whose had CPS called to his house so many times it’s a running joke…though not the kind one laughs at.

The only answer I can come up with is love. But love is not a mere feeling; love demands an action, a response. In high school, the main people I remember in my life that gave me hope were my coaches. They showed me love by believing in me and encouraging me even when I made mistakes. They never gave up on me or let me settle for less than my best. Their love made my self-confidence sky rocket and a funny thing happened – I began to believe them and began to care more about other areas of my life too even school. Odd how that works isn’t it? How abstract things such as love and believing in someone can change their life. I mean it’s not tangible like a textbook or shiny new instrument and yet they took away a lot of despair I felt due to external factors they had no clue about. Don’t get me wrong tangible things can be greatly important and can definitely change a child’s life too, but sometimes its about something more.

So as I prepare for the upcoming school year my greatest challenge and motivation for everyday is this: How am I going to love my students today? How will I give them hope?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Taking Risks

In college I took a “ropes course” for one of my kinesiology credits. Pretty cool class actually. We walked high wires, flew through the trees on a zip line, and climbed tall rope ladders while being belayed by other students. I must admit walking the high wires terrified me to no end as I am immensely afraid of heights. After we were already halfway through the semester, I finally mustered up the courage to buckle up the belay and fasten my helmet. I must have sweated a bucket as I climbed the ladder in preparation for my “walk.” However afterwards when my feet were safely touching the ground and I could physically prove that yes I would in fact live, I became filled with such elation and excitement that I wanted to go again!

I guess it goes without saying that I’m not the kind of person who easily welcomes risks no matter how much I may desire the possible rewards. I like to know exactly the end result of an endeavor prior to the slightest pursuit of it. However I’ve found that to experience elation and joy you must risk the fall. Maybe this is a fairly elementary concept however I’ve been rather stubborn to accept this truth. I mean what happens if you do actually fall? What then? Truthfully it wouldn’t have mattered if I had fallen off the high wire because I was being belayed. Three other people were holding the rope that was in a sense protecting my life. I mean I would have slipped a little but they hopefully would have caught the slack. Not that in any way I wanted to experience this but I had to put my faith in them to literally catch my fall.

Unfortunately, my reluctance to take risks has reached much greater depths than a simple fear of heights. One in particular that stands out loud and clear in my life would be the risk of rejection. I read a quote recently that said you must have courage to live in reality. I must say that the reality of rejection is one that I avoid at all costs. Recently life has shown me the price of this fear. The main costs have been relationships with depth and meaning. I refused to accept the joy that resulted from the gifts of love and friendship out of fear.

Slowly I’ve discovered the power in shedding inhibitions and the freedom in making mistakes in my relationships. I’m finding joy in being vulnerable and accepting the imperfect me that is reality. So many years I was terrified to let others know me. The me that is seriously messed up and broken; the one that could easily fall off the wire. I didn’t trust there was anything to catch me and break the fall when I inevitably lost my balance. What if someone doesn’t like me? What if I’m too weird, strange, different or just plain unlikable?

To my amazement, a peace overwhelms me when I make the decision to take a risk in my relationships, and I become willing to reveal myself. A peace that I am being true to myself. I’ve started realizing that the truth is people may reject me but the even greater truth is that it is okay because God never will. His strength and unconditional love hold the ropes that sustain me and when I slip it doesn’t mean life is over; it just means I have to get back up and start again trusting that He still guides me. Therefore it doesn’t matter if I am rejected because even though it still may hurt it does not change who I am or His love for me. The God who created the heavens and earth is the same one who out of His infinite love will never reject me and that is the reality I am putting my hope in as I start taking more risks.

Romans 8:38
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Plea to my Lord and Savior

Please God give me peace and rest in knowing that you are all I need in this world. Show me how to trust in your love and goodness. Help me remember your love for me when the frustrations of life threaten to overwhelm, and I am tempted to figure everything out on my own instead of surrendering to your will. Give me courage to face hardships knowing that whatever the outcome you are there and will be glorified. Don’t let me settle for a life half-lived, a life of materialism and a continual lust for a life that never fully satisfies. Awaken me to the truth that your grace is more than enough. Fill me with knowledge that the life you want for me is more fulfilling than any life I could dream of for myself regardless of its outward appearance. I am in need of nothing; you are my everything. Give me a joy that only comes from trusting you. Teach me how to love. Remind me of your love and grace so that I may reflect it back on others. Place words of kindness on my lips and pure thoughts in my heart. Humble me to a hurting world so that I will be filled with compassion for your children. Above everything else, guide my hands and feet so that every move I make is in your step.

P.S. Please forgive me when I fail to do all of the above and don’t give up on me.
Thankfully and humbly yours,

Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

"We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."~ C.S.Lewis