Wonder #3

 

In Season 5 of Wonder Years, Kevin is in 11th grade. One episode refers to “The No-Man’s Land of Public Education“. Sometimes this is where I find myself when I’m subbing. I’m a teacher, but not a teacher. Many days I feel like a glorified babysitter, and that’s not what I want to be. I try to be an authority figure as well as a friend to the students. I strive to be pleasant, knowing that for some kids school is their safe place. But, some days, I just see this broken system and feel helpless.

Nothing seems to fit anymore” – this thought from the same  episode is one I can relate to on many levels. Literally, as I am fighting my clothes these days. Figuratively, as I once more face a summer with no work. My drive to be a teacher may never go away, but I just can’t see my way to going back full-time. My drive to write will never go away, but I can’t find a way to steadily earn money with my writing. Even being a mom doesn’t fit the way it used to. But, to everything there is a season.

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven – Ecclesiastes 3:1

 

 

 

Wonder Years Fun Fact:  KEVIN AND WINNIE’S FIRST KISS WAS THE REAL THING.

Advertisements

They Won’t Let Me Teach

 

“I’m a teacher, but they won’t let me teach – not the way I can. It’s just not worth it.” – Miss Shaw, the Wonder Years, Season 5

I recently binge watched the entire Wonder Years series. I’d say I teared up during about 80% of the episodes. But, I must reveal that Kevin, the main character, was just two years my senior. I’m talking the character, not the actor. So, all that 70s stuff, all those family issues, the clothes, the culture – that was my world.

Instead of my teen-self, one episode got to the heart of my teacher-self. Miss Shaw was an unconventional teacher. She loved what she was doing and it showed. The kids knew it and her fire lit them up. I’m not saying I agreed with all her methods. But, when she said, “…they won’t let me teach – not the way I can”, I felt like she was speaking for so many other teachers. I recently talked to a teacher who is certified and experienced in one thing and has a desire for it, but she is being forced to teach something else. That’s just sad.

I’ve been in four different school systems in the past few years as a substitute and I’ve seen the mindless test prep and the daily wasted hours in “study hall’ where maybe on a good day five kids were studying. I’ve been in middle schools where seventh graders can’t write a lucid paragraph; in high schools where students spent more time “googling” an answer on their phones than it would have taken to read the article in front of them to find the answer.

I’m not saying there is no good teaching. I have come across pockets of creativity and solid math lessons; I have met some very caring teachers. It’s not usually the teachers, but it’s the system, the “they” that Miss Shaw referred to, that is killing education in our country. And every June, there are teachers who decide, like Miss Shaw, “it’s just not worth it.”

 

“…So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way…” from Both Sides Now by Judy Collins

 

I’ve seen teaching from both sides now; as a full-time teacher and as a substitute. I wish I knew how to make a change.

 

Little Snippets

bell

In my day-to-day life as a substitute teacher, there are little snippets here and there that give hope. It may be seeing a kind child who does something nice for a fellow student without being prompted or acknowledged. It may be the words of appreciation given me when I am able to help with a math problem or give away a pencil.

Even, on a rare occasion, I find a gem in a textbook. The eighth grade World History book gave me some things to think about recently. The kids were in the section on ancient Israel and I came across these words about David (King David) :

“…David was admired for his military skills and as a poet…”

Now, David certainly had military skill, no doubt about that. He was also a great poet – just read any Psalm in the Old Testament that he wrote. Yet, I wonder if any kids who had no background knowledge of David would wonder at the combination of military skill and poetry. And, if those who did have some background knowledge would remember all the other aspects of David’s life. Did any of them know that he was in the lineage of Jesus?

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. – Acts 2:11

Or that he is described as a “man after God’s own heart?”

… He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ – Acts 13:22

Another excerpt spoke of Ruth, also in the line of Christ.

“…Ruth, who left her people to care for her mother-in-law, was seen as a model of devotion to one’s family”

Yes, Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. – Ruth 1:16

Snippets, little snippets. I keep looking for them.

Kid Picks for Martin Luther King Day

mlk

Martin Luther King Day is January 18th It has been a national holiday since 1983 and a school holiday for most children.  A chance for kids to stay home and chill. But, what if they spent some of that day reading about why they are home in the first place?

There are numerous fictional stories aimed at kids that bring to life the real struggle for civil rights. These stories can open eyes better than many a dry history lesson. I’m not saying as a replacement, but as an addition. In elementary and intermediate school it’s easier for teachers to integrate lessons and subjects, but in middle school it takes more effort and planning. That being said, what follows is a short list of well-written books that teachers could use, parents could suggest, or kids might just pick up and read. I’ve read each of these, and I’m sure there are many others out there.

 

FRANCIE, a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book, is a good look at life before the Civil Rights movement made its way on the scene.  This wonderfully written story, by Karen English, takes place in the 40s or 50s in rural Alabama. Written from the viewpoint of the title character, Francie Weaver, it tells of a life of hard work and discrimination, and how sometimes you just have to stick your neck out for the less fortunate.

 

THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM, 1963, written by Christopher Paul Curtis, is one of my favorite middle-grades books.  In fact, it tied in to the original title of my blog, now called Carry Me Home. This story begins and ends in Flint, Michigan, with a trip to B’ham in the middle.  Readers will laugh and cry along with the Watson family as the kids experience the south for the first time.

As in many coming of age stories, there is a loss of innocence and a struggle with the knowledge that the world is a complex place. This happens not only with the main character, Kenny, but also with his older brother, Byron. Though filled with humor, this book deals with racial issues in a way that opens the eyes of the reader.

 

GLORY BE is a middle-grades novel  by Augusta Scattergood. The story takes place in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer, 1964.

Glory is the main character who turns twelve on July Fourth, in the midst of a very unsettling time in the fictional town of Hanging Moss. (There is a real neighborhood called Hanging Moss East in Jackson, MS). The book is well written and keeps the attention of the reader. There are numerous other characters, including her sister Jesslyn; old friend-enemy-friend Frankie; new friend Laura; and the new guy in town who looks just a bit like Elvis. The author did her homework to make the story believable and accurate.

 

CROSSING JORDAN was written by an author who has a real heart for children.  “Sometimes an author writes a book because they feel they have to do something. CROSSING JORDAN is that kind of book. I wrote it for the girl next door and for any other kid who is being taught prejudice at home,” says Adrian Fogelin. I heard  Fogelin speak at a writers’ conference   and have since followed her on facebook and at her blog.

This book is a story of friendship amidst the backdrop of prejudice circa 2000. Cassie (white) tells the story of her budding friendship with Jemmie (black) who has moved in next door.  Set in Florida, where the author lives, it is a touching and believable story.

 

The books in this selection are suitable for younger children, also. And for adults, like me, who enjoy a good story no matter the recommended reading level.

 

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Love & DNA

gil

“…there is an absolute disjunction between our Father’s love and our deserving.” – from Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

I came across this quote I’d written down while reading Gilead and it was the word disjunction that caught my eye. I’ll explain about why later. Disjunction means a lack of correspondence or consistency.

There certainly is no connection between God’s loving us and us deserving His love. I speak for myself, but I know it is true for us all. What in the world can we do to deserve God’s love above anyone else? Or at all?  There are no works we can do to merit His favor.  There is a multitude of works we can do, though, to show our love for Him.

Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share,

I Timothy 6:18

So, back to the reason this word jumped out at me. In my latest long-term substitute gig, I’ve been teaching 7th grade science. We are learning genetics and just yesterday we talked about nondisjunction. As an English teacher at heart, this word threw me because it seems to begin with two negatives.  Even though my math skills are poor, I know two negatives make a positive, so now I’m confused.

Nondisjunction occurs in the process of meiosis when homologous chromosomes fail to separate properly during cell division. So, to back up, junction is the process of joining. So, that would seem to mean that disjunction would be a splitting apart. Which makes sense; it’s a lack of connection. So, it seems like NONdisjunction would be a lack of splitting apart. But, no, it is actually a lack of splitting apart correctly. NOW I get it! I feel much better.

Back once more to the original quote –  I am trying to put these thoughts all together. God’s love does not come to us because we deserve it. We could not apply the word nondisjunction to this situation, because there is NO correct nor incorrect lack of splitting apart of these two ideas – God’s love and our deserving. These two will never correlate.

One thing I do know is that as I learn the intricacies of DNA, I am more awed than ever at the way God created us. And more overwhelmed at the fact that He loves me.

 

Divine Synergism

 b5

In the divine synergism, God mixes bitter herbs and spices with other tastier ingredients to create the perfect soup.” – David Jeremiah

As I face this day of not going back to school, of not being in a classroom for the first time in 17 years, I know the LORD is with me. I can’t say I’m not fighting back tears, for I am. I can’t say I feel fantastic, because I don’t. But, I feel I am in God’s hands. I am secure in the knowledge that He knows what’s best for me when I just don’t get it.

And he sent me this today to help me through – an excerpt from a poem by Annie Johnson Flint:

So all things are working for the LORD’s beloved;

Some things might be hurtful if alone they stood;

Some things might seem to hinder; some might draw us backward;

But they work together, and they work for good,

All the thwarted longings, all the stern denials,

All the contradictions, hard to understand.

And the force that holds them, speeds them, and retards them,

Stops and starts and guides them – is our Father’s hand.