I'm just a wife and mother who earnestly desires to grow in my faith and it's demonstration. DISCLAIMER! I have absolutely no problem with women in the clergy. As a matter of fact, I have several female pastors who I consider friends. In my home, the pastor is a male so the pronouns I use to refer to a pastor tend to be male. This is not a statement of any kind. Just a reflection of my every day life!

Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Education and Creativity

Going a different route with today’s blog post.  A new school year is getting ready to start which means I’m revisiting some favorite educational TED talks as a motivation for the new year.  This is a long one but it’s worth the watch!  So click the link, save it as a favorite or bookmark it so you don’t have to watch it all in one sitting!

Time to Dust Myself Off

Someone once told me that it was okay to pout a bit as long as you admitted you were doing it, ended it, and moved forward.  Indulge me a bit as I do just that right here.

This past April I hit the 40th anniversary of my first piano lesson.  Somewhere soon here will be the 40th anniversary of my first piano recital.  I taught my first private piano student almost 30 years ago and it’s been nearly 2 decades since I taught my first private voice student.

I don’t tell you this to brag.  I tell you this to lay the groundwork.

Three times in the past three weeks, I have heard colleagues make statements like the following –

“I’m glad that the kids will still have music, art and p.e. during the standardized testing.  The real teachers need a break from the stress.”

“Standardized testing gets the kids wound up.  Good thing that they get to go to specials so the actual teachers get a breather.”  

I get it.  I’m a music teacher and according to those statements I am neither “real” nor “actual”.  Apparently I am more accurately described as “fake” or “virtual”.

*sigh*  Three times in three weeks I’ve been told by my colleagues that I am not a real teacher.  My degrees are real.  Both the Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts (major in Music Education) and my Master’s Degree in Education.

I get it.  Being a classroom teacher has unique challenges that I do not face in the music room and I have nothing but respect for those in the classroom.  But four out of five days each week, I go from teaching elementary general music in the morning to college freshmen and sophomores in the afternoon.  That large an age jump brings some unique challenges as well.

The final insult came today when one student said to another “I don’t know why she (meaning me) is so picky about the rules.  It’s not like music is a real class.”  Interestingly enough, that child’s classroom teacher is one of the one’s who has made a derogatory statement recently.  She was number 2.

So what do I do?

I get up tomorrow morning, grit my teeth, and head back into a work place where a handful of my colleagues are willing to belittle what I do and where I get virtually no positive feedback (with the exception some of the parents who spoke to me after the holiday program back in December!) and I do it all again.  I signed a contract and will honor the requirements of that contract because it’s the right thing to do.

More importantly, I will NEVER refer to the work that other teachers do as not being real.  I know from first hand experience just how lousy that feels and would never do that to another human being.

Education

As I look at the current stated of education – specifically the meddling of government in education – I’m more than a little distraught.  Education is the only field I personally know of where we use untested, unproven strategies and have no idea if they will actually work or not!  From the way the day is structured to the way students are divided by age even to the time of day that school starts, none of it is based on any reliable research.  And yet amazing educators are called to persist in a system that is very broken.  If only there was some way to allow educators to do what was truly best for the students instead of what was most convenient for the money people.

Chasing a Goal!

The first step toward becoming a certified Google Educator. After that, I can focus on becoming a Google Trainer!!

View on Path

Thus Far . . .

There is an old hymn entitled “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” that contains the line “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I come.”  As a child, I did not understand what the cranky old man from Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” had to do with faith.

Then I found the word Ebenezer in scripture and was even more mystified.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned a little more about the usage of that word and what part it plays in faith.  After a series of battles between the nation of Israel and the Philistines ended when God caused confusion among the Philistines which allowed the people of Israel to defeat them, Samuel raised a huge stone as a memorial to God’s provision.  The word Ebenezer comes from the Hebrew words Eben ha ezer which means “stone of help” (check here for even more details!)  In I Sam. 7:12 we read, “Then Samuel took the stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen.  He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

Ever since I discovered what “raising an Ebenezer” meant, Ebenezers have become a significant part of my faith walk.  No, I’m not running around putting stones down everywhere!  Most of my personal Ebenezers are in the form of jewelry (ask me about my thumb ring sometime!) or tattoos.

I discovered today, that there is a place in my life that serves as a HUGE Ebenezer.

Hubby and I had the chance today to go back and visit our Alma Mater, Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  My dear husband was especially excited to visit the campus.  The baseball program was stopped a couple of years after we graduated (hubby played for three years) and needless to say, he was disappointed.  The program will start back up with the 2013/2014 school year and due to a VERY generous gift (something in the neighborhood of $5 million) a brand new stadium has been built for the program!  Hubby wanted to see the stadium and, if possible, meet the coach.  He not only got to meet the coach, he was gifted with an official team hat! To say he was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning would be an understatement!

Everywhere we went on that campus, we found fond memories joining us on our walk.  From memories of the old baseball field – I spent many hours in the stands! – to the dorms we lived in, the memories were everywhere and quick to find us!

In the Faculty Hall of Honor, I found pictures of three of the music profs I studied with.

Doc StewartDoctor Richard Stewart (“Doc Stewart” as he was affectionately known) was the director of Chorale, the vocal ensemble I was in, but he was so much more than just a director.  He was a surrogate father, a mentor, and a teacher who understood the importance of investing in the young adults he was working with.  So much of who I am as a musician and director is due in large part to that man and his instruction.  My Sophomore year started on a really lousy note and this man was one of a few professors who took a vested interest in helping me walk through the issue and come out stronger on the other side.  He was, hands down, my favorite teacher ever.

I was very involved in the theater world on campus.  Dr. Orpha Galloway was Doctor Gallowaythe music director for each production I was involved with.  She not only gave me the chance to be onstage, she also took a chance on a college junior with a passion for musical theater and allowed me to serve as assistant vocal director for a production of Sound of Music (I worked with the nun’s chorus!).  She definitely possessed the skill to handle the job herself and it meant the world to me that she allowed me to stretch my own talents in such a way!

Joyce HornIn the fall of 1991, I had one class and a directed reading (think independent study with LOTS of reading!) and Joyce Horn had agreed to be my faculty supervisor.  I was trying to juggle college, marriage, and being a mother of a newborn during that semester and Joyce insisted that I bring my newborn daughter to our twice monthly meetings.  The actual academic discussion only took a few minutes so she spent the rest of the time loving on my daughter.  As a young wife and new mother living 2 hours from her own parents, this “adoptive grandmother” touched my heart and did much to keep my sanity intact.  I doubt she knows just how much her willingness to love on my daughter touched a young mom’s heart!

We saw the building where we went on our first date to an on-campus concert, our first apartmenttook a picture of our first apartment (over there to the right!), reminisced about the various places that were significant to our relationship and experiences, and marveled over how much has changed.  As we wandered all over campus, faces of friends kept running through my mind.  Many of them I have stayed in touch with (thank you Facebook!) and I am blessed to still call them friends.  As we prepared to leave, I was overwhelmed with how deeply I was affected by my time on that campus.  So much of who I am as a musician and a theater “geek” is due to the experiences I had on that campus and the leadership I worked under.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, we have spent some of our time in Grand Rapids driving past the homes we lived and the place where the girls took dance class.  Our conversation has been full of “I remember . . . “, “Oh my gosh, that’s where we . . . ” and we’ve spent a couple of days with dear friends who were neighbors for a few years and we’ve reminisced about our shared experiences more than 10 years ago.

Grand Rapids, Michigan is a HUGE “Ebenezer” in my life.  It was in that city that I met my husband, had all four of my children, “found myself” as a musician and theater performer, made lifelong friends and took my first steps into becoming who I am supposed to be.  Spending time remembering all that happened here has shown me so clearly just where and how God has led.  I’m reminded of how blessed I am and excited to see what is yet to come!

Growing Up

What is about to follow may end up sounding like a rant but I just cannot get this off my mind.

Hubby and I took our youngest daughter on a visit to the college she is planning to attend in the fall.  There were a significant number of students there and they were all being honored for earning one of the academic scholarships that the college has available (they have varying levels based on grade point and test scores).  In the opening session, some introductions were made and instructions given.  As they were getting ready to dismiss the students to their seminars and the parents to their COMPLETELY SEPARATE seminars, one mother just a couple seats down from me, leaned up (we were sitting near the front) and got the attention of the gentleman who had been giving the instructions (he was an administrator of some sort). She said, “It’s okay if I go with my student to her seminars, right?”  Without missing a beat the gentleman responded, “No.  You will need to go to one of the parent seminars.”  The student in question walked away with a smile on her face and the woman turned to her husband and said, “This is ridiculous.  How am I supposed to know if she asks all the right questions?!  There are things that I need to know so we can choose her college!”  I wanted to turn to her and say, “Ma’am, you’re daughter is obviously intelligent enough to win an academic scholarship, I’m pretty sure she can choose her college on her own and I’ll bet she can also figure out what questions she needs to ask!”  I kept seeing this woman all over campus as we went to lunch, toured the residence halls, etc.  And EVERY time I saw her, she was bugging some faculty or staff member with question after question.  I even saw her family walking with one of the tour guides (a current student) and MOM was walking next to the guide asking dozens of questions while her daughter – the potential student – was walking behind saying nothing.  Seriously, lady.  CUT THE CORD ALREADY!!!

I teach as an adjunct professor at a local Community College and I can tell you that the Family Educational Right to Privacy Act means that a student over the age of 18 has the right to expect that their educational information will not be shared with anyone.  Not even mommy and daddy.  This woman is in for a rough year next year.

Sadly, this lady is not an exception.  Colleges are having to take a tough stance with parents because there are many out there like the crazy lady that I saw today.  The intentional separation of parents at visitation weekends is just one step.  Some colleges are also going to a specific “check out” time for parents when they drop their students off in the fall.  In other words, at the time set by the college, the parents are asked to hug their student good-bye and leave!

Why does this bug me?  “Helicopter parents”, as they are not-so-affectionately known, cripple their children.  When we let our young adult or adult off-spring make their own decisions they may make a bad one (or two or three or . . . ).  But they have to make their own mistakes and learn from them.  It would be SOOOOO much easier if we could list for them all of our bad decisions and know that they would learn from our mistakes.  But they have to make their own mistakes.  They have to learn their own lessons.   Don’t get me wrong – I did ask the campus tour guide a question or two (about laundry facilities and mail delivery) and I asked one question in a parents Q & A about financial aid and general academic information.  I am NOT advocating total hands-off disinterest. But my daughter’s choice of college is HER choice.  She will be the one living on campus, taking classes, making friends . . . I’ve had my college experience and it’s time for her to get hers.

Time to Rise Up

I’ve started this post a dozen times – either in my head or on the actual computer – and I’ve rejected every attempt.  I don’t want to sound like I’m offering a simple solution to a complex problem and I know that there are those who I would consider brothers and sisters in the faith that may disagree with the stance I am about to take.  But the Holy Spirit will not let me give up on this so I’m back for yet another attempt and hopefully I get it posted this time!

The tragedy in Connecticut is still fresh in my mind.  I have been a teacher, I have children, I have a niece and a nephew in Kindergarten . . . you name it, I can find a connection that moves me to tears!  And I’ve watched so much anger and venom filling social media sites as people scream for answers.  Strong positions have been taken up on both sides of the gun control issue and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the whole issue of 2nd Amendment rights could become a very polarizing issue in our nation.

But I think there is another issue that needs just as much attention.  Maybe more.  It’s time to start talking honestly and openly about mental health issues without shame or fear of harassment.

Churches offer support groups for those recovering from all types of addiction, and some even offer counseling for couples who have been hit by the pain of infidelity on the part of husband or wife.  But for some reason, we still want to sweep mental illness under the rug.  In my research, I came across a research project that looked at school shootings from all over the world – both K-12 schools and colleges – from 1997 through 2012.  The number of shooters who were suffering from mental illness – AND being treated with drugs that are KNOWN to have dangerous side effects for teenagers – is shocking.  Nearly all of the shooters fall into that category.  For me, it leaves no doubt in my mind that a discussion on gun control is incomplete if we don’t address the mental illness that leads them to a place where they take such violent action.

I’ve had a handful of church friends over my 40 + years who have confided in me that they have been diagnosed with some form of mental illness.  They were afraid to do so because, in every single case, they were afraid I would see them as being “spiritually weak” or not having enough faith.  I was (and am) flattered that they trusted me with something so personal.  And it broke my heart to know that their fears were based on actual responses they had gotten from people in the church.

Our church buildings need to become safe places for those with mental illnesses.  We need to love on their families as well.  In the case of children with mental illness issues, the parents can struggle knowing how to ask for help, feeling that they did something wrong to “cause” their child’s illness and fearing that they will be shunned by their church family.

Mental illness is not a sign of spiritual deficiency or a lack of faith.  It is a chemical misfire in the brain.  Nothing more, nothing less.

So what can we do?  Encourage honest, open dialogue about the issue in our Bible Study groups, Sunday School classes, women’s groups, etc.  We need to come along side the families of those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness and offer whatever help we can.  Maybe it’s sitting through a doctor’s appointment with mom or learning the special needs of caring for a dependent child so mom and dad can go out.  Maybe it’s simply sitting with someone and letting them talk.  We need to understand what treatment entails and encourage those undergoing treatment because, from what little I know, it can take time to get the “meds” adjusted and treatment is a lifelong reality.

It’s time to remove the stigma from mental illness and I’m hoping that my brothers and sisters in the faith will rise up and lead the way, making our congregations places of refuge, support, and help for those who face the daily reality of mental illness.

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: