Friday, September 30, 2011

People don't care how much you know,

until they know how much you care.


Good morning and happy Friday! I hope this post finds you all doing well! I don't have a lot of time right now (what else is new?), but I thought I would post a few things today.

Life is very interesting sometimes. At times I feel that my life gives good material for a sitcom. Sometimes it seems that different events in my life would be best for case studies in abnormal psychology. And then there are times that my life is one classic cliche after another. Right now, the above cliche says almost everything I could say. If I ever doubted that the above is true, I certainly don't now.

I have to say, if I haven't yet already, that I really like my job. It's a ministry. Not just one in which I am required to impart information/knowledge or even one that is primarily about helping students think in a different way. That's all true, but it's also so much more than that.

What brings me to say this? Let me give a few reasons...

  • There is a young woman in one of my classes (I'll call her Lynn) with whom I got off on shaky ground at the beginning of the year. She always seemed to come in with an attitude and a chip on her shoulder. There was one day that I said to myself, "If she rolls her eyes at me ONE MORE TIME or does that neck rolling thing, I'm going to lose it!" She also turned in homework very sporadically... Her average was abysmal. Fast forward about 3 weeks... She started sharing different things about her life in her writing - in the journal entries the students write every day and in some of her homework assignments. As I read what students write, it is very important (in my opinion) that I respond in some way. Sometimes I put smiley faces or question marks... sometimes I ask questions for them to consider... and sometimes I write paragraphs. It depends. For Lynn, I've responded a lot. Mostly, I've validated her feelings and questions. I've encouraged her and also shared some of my experience of God. Well, to make a long story short, she now comes to my office every once in a while to give me an update on her life, her attitude is 100% better, I've seen her laugh (that's a big deal for her)... and she's doing her homework.

  • Not too long ago I returned graded journals to my students. A student said to me, "Whoa, you actually read these?!" To which I responded, "Well, of course I did. I enjoy reading what you have to say. Why else would I have you do them?" And the student said to me, "Well, some teachers don't really care enough to read things like this. That's cool."

  • A parent came up to me recently and said, "My daughter really likes your class." Because she caught me off guard, I responded with a mix of disbelief and surprise. "Really?" I responded. The mother continued to explain to me the reasons why her daughter says that. Part of the reason is because I care.

Okay. I promise I will not spend this entire blog patting myself on the back. :)

These are just a few antidotes that express a deep truth - not just a cliche. I have to say... I am deeply grateful that I have a background in pastoral ministry to compliment the background in education. Working in a high school, it seems, requires skills in education, knowledge of one's field, and skills in pastoral care/counseling. Well, I'm not sure that I should say "requires" but I will say that it has made a difference for me.

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Friday, September 16, 2011

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's (or sister's) eye,

but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?

Luke 6: 42a

TGIF my friends! Weeks are flying by like moments for me these days... We're mid-way through September already and I can hardly believe that. However, on the other hand, today I am grateful for a Friday. I need the weekend to catch up! And some time to breathe and reflect would be good, too...

People in the field of education have often said that students will live up to the expectations you set for them. If you treat young adults like maturing adults and expect from them their best, they live up to that. If you treat them like children and expect them to flounder, then that's what they'll do. Or so "they" say.

However, how does one find the line between expecting the best and expecting the impossible? That's the key question of the day - of the month, truth be told.

We're a month into classes. And I find I do honestly enjoy what I do. I've missed it over the years. I enjoy standing in a classroom engaging students in conversations... I enjoy the random questions they ask... and I enjoy the environment of a school. But, that doesn't mean that I do things perfectly in my expectations or in my pedagogy. Oh, to be perfect! That would be fantastic, as far as I'm concerned. As you might already know, I'm constantly frustrated with my own inability to be perfect! Good heavens, I thought I'd grow out of that. :) But that's a different topic for a different day...

Today I am reflecting on expectations -ones I place on myself, ones I place on students, and those I place on all the other people & institutions in my life....

When is it time to say, "My expectations are too high"? And when is it okay to say, "This is what I expect and you can do it!"? I find those to be very difficult questions! I find that it's also related to biases.

Everyone has biases and prejudices - whether we're conscious of them or not. I have come to realize that I admire intelligence and wisdom in other poeple. I'm drawn to certain people for that reason. It's because I wish I were more intelligent, truth be told (I'm very self-conscious about that)... And on an unconscious level, that has an effect on my world view and consequently what underlies my expectations.

Earlier this week I gave out progress reports to my students. I asked the students with grades less than 70 to have them signed by a parent/guardian. One student, with a 68 average, turned his in with a small sentence written in his handwritting. It read, "Sorry I'm not smart." This begs the question am I really asking too much?

I don't currently have any answers. In fact, I just have more questions. One month into school is a good time to evaluate. And that is my expectation for this weekend - to find time for evaluation and reflection.

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Then Peter said to Jesus, "Teacher, it is good for us to be here..."
Mark 9:5

Where, exactly, did August go? I can hardly believe it's already September 1... and yet, I also feel like a lot is different since the last time I blogged, I barely know where to start! Lesson from this... blog more often! :)

The last time I blogged I had been back in Dayton for about a week and I was preparing to step back into the world of high school – the world of endless questions and adolescent drama… Friday night football games and passing notes during study hall… rolling eyes and searching hearts… faculty commiserating and TGIF gatherings… Kairos retreats and the morning Pledge of Allegiance...

Now that I’m back, I have to say it is, indeed, good to be here!

I've never believed that I am the world's greatest teacher - and that is confirmed with each class period... And try as I might, it is really difficult to get 15 & 16 year olds to be excited about Scripture (at least not visibly... it's just not "cool")... But, even in light of these realities, I enjoy going to work every day. 7 years ago when I left Central Catholic in San Antonio I wasn't sure that I would ever return to the classroom or to a high school for any reason. It's amazing how a little maturing on my part, a recognition of my passions, and a much broader perspective on life & faith can make such a difference.

I've learned a few things in recent weeks. Allow me to share those with you...

  • Being a morning person or a night person really does have an impact on the work you do. Yes, there are teachers who are not morning people... and they're good teachers. And there are campus ministers on college campuses who are morning people... and they're good at what they do. But wow... it certainly is something when what you do matches your body's natural rhythms.

  • I am now old enough to be the parent of the students I teach. Let that one soak in. It doesn't bother me, necessarily. It's just odd, really. But what's good about that is that I am far enough removed from their experience that there is a level of respect for me as "elder" (Yikes! I don't like that word).

  • I'm still in a time of transition from campus minister to teacher. There is a difference. As a campus minister there is a different rapport with students than as teacher. It's subtle and nuanced, but it's there. Well, at least for me. And part of it probably has to do with changing age groups. High school and college are such different worlds...

  • Technology has come a long way since the last time I taught. On "Meet the Teacher Night" I said something about an overhead projector to the parents. There's no overhead in my classroom... there's a projector mounted to the ceiling with a remote I'm not always sure how to use. :) And I now carry a school issued laptop to my classroom and to my study hall - that's how I take attendance and project class notes. Crazy. In all honesty, I kinda miss the overhead. Who would have thought?

Of course, I paint this picture as if everything is coming up roses. And any of you who have experience with young people know that it can't be like that all the time...

For instance, I accused a student of lying about something a few days ago... Accused is probably too strong of a word, but it's the best word for this situation. I made an assumption and anyone with experience should know better. Since when do I assume the worst without reason? Where did that come from? That was eye -opening to me. Am I so jaded that I assume someone is not being honest? I don't think so, but it is an interesting question. And it's certainly something on which I should reflect...... I also held someone after class on the first day of school because of his behavior. Really? The first day of school? I never would have done that 7 or 10 years ago... Interesting.

Honestly, I think these particular things have to do with not wanting to be a push over or the teacher that gets walked on. And there's a valid reason for that to be a concern. However, there's a balance on which I'm still working.

However, the bottom line is this was a good move for me and I am grateful. I miss the students at UD and my former colleagues, of course. My hope is to find a way to continue connecting with them.

And so. There you have it. There's always more I could say... but I'm at school and I have work to which I should attend. I hope to blog again soon. Until then...

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N