Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Professional Goals for 2012

In addition to personal and family goals for the new year, here is my list of what I want to accomplish in 2012 professionally. Now, of course, I hope to get a new job and have published articles and help students be successful. And I certainly desire to see those things happen as a result of my actions, but what follows is a ("working document") list of only those things that I have control over. So, I take responsibility for carrying out these objectives:
·         Implement a new formative, student-guided, assessment system in my classes (which can serve as a "pilot" of a system to replace traditional grading)
·         Begin a “math academy” for parents at RBMS
·         Supervise an effective student-run peer tutoring program at RBMS
·         Share my learning with faculty & staff from the “Beyond These Walls” experience
·         Participate in implementing the “Four Expectations” on my campus
·         Apply and interview for an Asst. Principal position
·         Submit at least five article queries by June
·         Maintain “How Much Greater” blog with at least two posts per week
·         Read 30 books and write reviews on at least 20 of them (just finished one, and yes, I'm counting it!)
·         Write a simple church orientation/guide for use by groups in our area
·         Speak at least five times to churches/groups
There will be much involved in the process behind making many of these things happen. I need to work hard, and listen to, and learn from, many others along the way!
Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"I Kan't Taik Anuther Speling Be"

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the soft-spoken principal announced, “that ends another round.” It happened to be the tenth round of the annual Spelling Bee at my daughter’s elementary school, and the audience filled the gym with applause.
Ten rounds. By this point in the competition among third, fourth, and fifth graders, anxiety levels were through the roof, obviously more so for the parents than the students. The minute hand on the clock had rotated over one hundred times since the original 79 children took their places on the stage, and I felt exactly 100 times more nervous than when it all began particularly for one fourth grade girl – my daughter.
The sighs and moans, the “oohs” and “aahs,” were growing louder with each passing round as the disappointment became palpable for many of the kids, and their families, as they met untimely disqualifications. A queasy feeling was slowly growing in the pit of my stomach, while drops of perspiration multiplied exponentially and my own nervous movements became more noticeable. And to think, I was going to be the reassuring, soothing influence for my wife throughout this experience.
The first moments of the contest made it clear that I would have to be the calm in the storm as my wife gripped my arm with the intensity of an Olympic weightlifter when each young person approached the microphone to face the #1 fear of virtually every adult in the room – public speaking! It turned out that those first moments deceived me. Being calm was a distant fantasy; the storm had engulfed me. Still trying to present an outer shell of poise and serenity, inside I was being blown by every wind of emotion.
Next, round 11, with fifty fewer competitors. Anyone around me could have immediately diagnosed me with restless leg syndrome. My daughter stepped to the microphone and heard the lady’s voice declare, “The word is temperature.” In nano-seconds, my mind instantly figured out the conspiracy to take my child out of this competition with a word that has an unfairly placed ‘a’ in the middle of it for no good reason. I was convinced that justice would demand that she be offered up words like dad or big or top. I mean, come on, who do these people think they are, setting out to shatter the dreams of a nine-year-old?!?
Common sense returned quickly enough for me to hear her quietly pronounce each letter correctly. She returned to her seat and advanced to the next round. Oh good!
Round 12, as the only remaining representative of the fourth grade, I observed my child survive yet another overt attempt to eliminate her – paprika! Success. Oh no! That means another round.
Thirteen. Everyone knows 13 is an unlucky number. For the same reason that buildings don’t have thirteenth floors, should spelling bees not have thirteenth rounds? I made a mental note to contact the coordinators of such a poorly designed contest when this is over if my daughter were to meet her demise in a round that shouldn’t even exist!
Back to reality, the stage was filled with empty chairs, symbolic of all the fallen victims of the two-hour event. Only four students remained. No time for a deep breath. Suddenly, my little girl was again before the judges. The voice announced, “The word is carnivore.” I leaned forward and listened closely. “Carnivore – C – A – R – N – pause – I – V – pause – O – U – R – Carnivore.” And the storm left.
Carnivore. How appropriate! This flesh-eating, child-devouring, ruthless Spelling Bee committee had ambushed another innocent pupil.
In the end, my daughter achieved her goal of making the top five. She was dismissed from the stage with raucous cheering and instantly gained celebrity status as she walked quickly through the crowd of classmates on the gym floor. Giving and receiving high-fives and hugs from her adoring fans, apparently she had “arrived.”
The final three spellers lasted another two rounds. The winner was an amazing speller and I wouldn’t be surprised if she wins the county bee. Fortunately, I left for much more relaxing, less stressful rest of my day, working with groups of early adolescents and making presentations about the dangers of bullying. Compared to my morning, I was ready for such a peaceful walk in the park.

Friday, December 9, 2011

How Much Greater - Blog Launch

2000 years ago, one of the first apostles and missionaries of the new movement known as Christianity wrote a letter to a group of Jesus-followers in ancient Corinth. In it he describes that everything associated with their old ways of knowing God represented a fading glory. Then, he inspires and challenges with these words, "If what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!"

Much of the New Testament introduces people to this new way, which makes things that were impossible before available to anyone! Glory, perfection, righteousness, peace, truth, renewal...were now within grasp of every human being! All through Jesus Christ! Life and meaning had changed forever!

Because of this reality and its impact, the apostle Paul explains to all Christ-followers of that time that they are to be competent as ministers of this new covenant. Furthermore, in a letter known as Hebrews, readers are told clearly that this new covenant makes the first obsolete. It was said to be aging and disappearing even then. So, for us today, it has had plenty of time to definitely be dead and gone!

The old law was only a shadow of things to come; the reality is in Jesus alone (see Colossians 2:17 and Hebrews 10:1). And that reality is filled with grace and justice and freedom! And that reality is where we can and should live. And that reality is the one truth we must pass on to the next generation with more diligence and persistence than anything else! Then, they will realize HOW MUCH GREATER this new life is! Then, we will know HOW MUCH GREATER their existence can be!

Welcome to the journey!