Increasing Pedagogical Proficiency Through Reflective Inquiry-Based Initiatives

Translation: Becoming a better teacher by thinking about what would make you a better teacher. Also known as "metacognition." I think I'll think about this a little more. Would that be called "meta-metacognition"?

Ha ha! Did that really look like a blog post I would come up with? I just find it extremely humorous some of the terminology we throw around in the world of education!

Have a great day! More to come on Hebrews, among other things.




On Education, Again

The other day I was talking to a colleague about students and education in general. One observation that came of the conversation was this: if students cared, they would excel, regardless of a mediocre educational system. On the other hand, if a school has the best programs on the planet, if the students don't care, then it doesn't matter at all. The observation came as I reflected on the enormous amounts of energy and money spent on education. Honestly, if half the effort put in by administrators and teachers into education was reciprocated by students, many of the education woes of today would be nonexistent.

Again, this is not the case with all students, but it is a big enough problem to point it out. At least that's my experience. Others I've talked to share the same sentiment. There are a lot of people who just don't care.

So how do you change a culture that's been in place for a long time? How do you get people to care?

A Pretty Good Quote

I'm not too much of a quote guy. However, I ran across this quote from Stephen Covey's book, The Speed of Trust:

"There are no moral shortcuts in the game of business--or life. There are, basically, three kinds of people: the unsuccessful, the temporarily successful, and those who become and remain successful. The difference is character." - Jon Huntsman, Chairman, Huntsman Chemical

As one of my friends would say, good stuff!




On Education

Here is an excerpt of an email I sent to a colleague:

Recently I’ve had a lot (and I mean a lot) of people saying things to me (not only students, but other staff as well), “when will I ever use this in real life?” and “when will this information be useful later in life?” Statements like these are usually made with a negative attitude. The thought is, “this information is not worth learning.” (An aside to this is, who are we to place value on certain types of knowledge and information? But that’s another discussion!) What it implies to me is that my life’s work is of no consequence. I’m appalled that both students and some staff have this attitude toward education.

While this attitude is extremely discouraging to me personally, we can know something about the attitudes of those who make such statements. To these folks being an educated person is not important. These folks assume that education and job training are the same thing; I maintain that they are not. It is my opinion that one of the most fundamental privileges of the human race is to expand our knowledge of the world around us, to become informed in the sciences (math, biology, geology, astronomy, etc.), to learn about our history, to become well read in great literature, and to become writers ourselves. In fact, I would not think it too preposterous to say that it’s not only our privilege, but it’s our duty. God created us all with minds that have the capacity to learn and expand; wouldn’t it be correct to assume that God desires that we learn?

Nevertheless, we as teachers are fighting a culture that does not value education. So I guess my takeaway is this: how do we change the culture? How do we create a culture where being an educated person is of great importance? How do we pass on to our students that being educated is valuable?


Here's something else to think about: is being educated important?


Hebrews 5 (and the beginning of 6)

Verse 11-14

The challenge here is that the recipients of this letter haven’t grown in their knowledge of the scriptures to the point of understanding how Melchizedek is a type of Jesus (or he could even be a “pre-incarnate” appearance of Jesus Himself, as in Joshua and Daniel). The challenge for us is, are we growing in the scriptures, or are we still babes? Do we need others to teach us, or are we able to teach others?

Hebrews 6

Verses 1-3

This is an extension of verses 11-14 in the previous chapter. It is another call to grow in our faith and knowledge of the scriptures.

Verses 4-6

This is probably one of the most challenging texts in all of scripture. One portion of scripture that comes to mind is that of the prodigal son. There we can see the father waiting expectantly at the gate for his son with a broken heart, hoping that he will come back to him. This is from Luke 15. Of course, the parable may refer to Israel in its original context rather than an individual coming back to the Lord. I’ve personally seen people leave the Lord, leave their spouses and families, only to repent a real repentance later, and bear fruit worthy of repentance. I’ve also seen people leave their spouses and families (and ultimately the Lord) and never come back.

It should also be noted that, at least to some degree, we have all fallen into sin and “left” the Lord. But 1 John speaks to this…if we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, even Jesus Christ the righteous. I can only surmise that this decision to leave Christ is a deep decision of the heart, a decision that we as humans cannot readily discern, and thus we have a really hard time understanding what “impossible…to renew them again unto repentance” really means. These are the people who make their final decision to say “no” to the Lord.

Verses 7-8

These verses give us a feel for what this person’s life eventually looks like. It reminds me of Matthew 13:24-30, which is the parable of the wheat and the tares. The tares grow up with the wheat until harvest time. Then the wheat is gathered into the barn and the tares are burned. I guess it means this: are our lives representative of a meaningful Christian life, or is it “worthless”? Is there fruit or not? Are we being changed into His image?


The Lifeboat

In one of Donald Miller's books he relays this activity that he had to do in school. In this activity (and actually, I've done the activity myself as well in one of my high school history classes) there is a lifeboat with a limited number of seats. The students are then given a list of people: a single mother, a doctor, a teacher, a stay at home mom, etc. The students have to decide who is "worthy" to have a seat in the small lifeboat.

In my opinion, this is one of the most atrocious activities you can do with students. It forces them to place graduated value on human life. It forces them to "play God" in a sense, decided who lives and who dies. It's abominable.

Donald Miller then goes on to say that the same game plays itself out in real life. It's as if there is a lifeboat, and each of us has to prove to each other who deserves the "first seat" in the lifeboat. Who in society is the most important? Who has the most value? The prettiest? The smartest? The most athletic? It is barbaric, no doubt (and strangely enough looks like Darwinism, doesn't it? the survival of the fittest? When you tell people they have descended from primates, it's no wonder they will devalue each other and act like animals. By the way, where'd my prehensile tail go? I could use that every once in awhile.). And if you don't like to play the lifeboat game, jockeying with other people for position and importance, then someone tries to drag you into the lifeboat game, and they immediately begin to prove to you why you don't belong in the lifeboat. Sick, isn't it?

But you know, Jesus has His own lifeboat game. I love it! Here's the game told from Jesus' point of view:

"Hey, I know what you're going through. Take My hand and get in My lifeboat. And when you get in, I have this special spot for you here on the team. You see, on my team we love each other and hold each other in high esteem. You are of the utmost value here. I want you to help me pull more people into the lifeboat. You see here we try to get as many people into the lifeboat. There's room for everyone."



Being a "Grace-Giver"

I think it's extremely important that as we work with others toward accomplishing God's goal of reaching and impacting lives in our respective communities we give each other grace. We're an imperfect people, to be sure, and it is extremely likely that at times each of us is going to fall a little short. Many times, however, it makes little difference because things still come together, and people are impacted. As my pastor has said in the past, "It's not the end of the world!" As we seek to do our best for Him, He shows up, and works incredibly, even in the midst of our imperfections. Therefore we ought to be easy on one another, being merciful and gracious to one another, as we model to those we are trying to reach true community in Christ.


Spiritual Growth

This morning I read an incredibly profound statement in a book by Michael Yaconelli entitled Messy Spirituality:

"Physical and spiritual growth cannot be reduced to mechanics. I'm all for getting the mechanics right, but spiritual growth is more than a procedure; it's a wild search for God in the tangled jungle of our souls, a search which involves a volitile mix of messy reality, wild freedom, frustrating stuckness, increasing slowness, and a healthy dose of gratitude.

"Now are you ready to talk about spiritual growth? The kind of spiritual growth that begins with desire, not guilt; passion, not principles; desperation, not obligation? Are you ready to grow by traveling the road of failure, frustration, and surprise?" (emphasis mine)

This struck me so much that I audibly sighed. I immediately asked myself the question, "Is your relationship with God based on desire or guilt? Is Bible study and prayer an obligation or joy? Is service to God on your "to do" list or your "can't wait to do" list? How much passion is there in your relationship with God?"

How odd would it be if I sat my wife down and said to her, "Now I'm going to take the next fifteen minutes and talk to you."? And every two minutes I looked at my watch to see if the fifteen minutes were up. That would be incredibly stupid. But why do we do the same thing with Jesus?

May our relationships with Jesus be full of desire and passion, and may they look more like a marriage, or the relationship between a father and son or daughter. May it be that we hang out with the Lord like we hang out with our best friends...just wasting time, talking and laughing, telling stories and enjoying coffee, playing games and just being together, texting and emailing meaningless stuff, and telling stupid jokes on the phone just for the sake of laughing together.


A Little More On Anxiety

I'm still mulling over this issue of living a life full of anxiety. From time to time, each of us has a season where anxiety gets the best of us--where we can't help but stew over stressful situations at work, at home, or at church. It can't be good for us, either physically or emotionally. Some verses came to mind as I thought about this:

1 Peter 5:7

"...casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." New American Standard

"...casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you." New King James

"...Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you." The Message

Philippians 4:6

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God..." New King James

"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns." The Message

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done." New Living Translation

Lately I've been on this kick of checking out the same verses in a variety of translations. You can really get a good feel of the verse if you do this. It really gives you a little more depth into the gist of the verse.

Probably my favorite rendering of Philippians 4:6 is the New Living Translation: "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything." I love that. God calls us to a life of no worrying, no fretting, no stewing. Are you worried about something at work? Are you worried about something at church? Jesus wants to take care of that worry for you. Jesus is concerned even about our "smallest" of concerns--won't you just give it to Him so that you don't have to bear it anymore?




Something About Anxiety

Tomorrow starts the first day of the second semester...along with a whole new semester of stress!

I remember a message that our pastor gave a number of months ago from Ecclesiastes 11, and I decided to look up a few different translations of verse 10:

"Live footloose and fancy free - You won't be young forever. Youth lasts about as long as smoke." -- The Message

"Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, And put away evil from your flesh, For childhood and youth are vanity." -- New King James Version

"So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless." -- New International Version

"So, remove grief and anger from your heart and put away pain from your body, because childhood and the prime of life are fleeting." -- NASB

The advice from these verses is: live footloose and fancy free, remove sorrow from your heart, banish anxiety, and remove grief. Each is obviously a little different, but I take a great deal of comfort away from these translations. I take it to mean not to stress out too much at work because I'm young; don't let things get to me too much. Lighten up and have fun!