Hail, the Conquering Hero!

Boris2I am thankful for Joe Boris, a history/sociology teacher at State College Area High School. He is retiring this year, after 40 years at State High. The number of students he’s touched is in the tens of thousands and there isn’t one who knows Joe at all that doesn’t love him. Or at least will admit to it.

He was one of the most popular teachers back in my day (I graduated in ’80) and his reputation with students and colleagues alike has only grown stronger over the years. He has always put the students first…OK, maybe second after his wife.

His “trick” for connecting, motivating, challenging, and changing students’ lives? Trust. You knew you could talk to  him about anything and he’d listen. He’d give you wisdom if you wanted it…or  needed it. He’d help plan out a prank; he’d figuratively hold your hand if you pushed the envelope too far and needed to face the music.

He is a man of faith. Faith in God. Faith in his colleagues. Faith in himself. Faith in his students–and be sure to know that if you went to State High, you were his student, whether or not you actually took any of his classes.

I can easily say that my life is richer for having known him.

We’ll miss ya, Joe! Enjoy the garden!

Thoughtful Thursdays: On Teaching


I am thankful for the ability to ponder. To thoughtfully consider. To “split infinitives” as I please. To think. I think…

Thoughtful Thursdays are one opportunity for me to share and showcase some of the ideas, sayings, proverbs, quotations and clichés that inspire and motivate me.

So, what inspires me this week? Glad you asked…

I discovered a gem for teaching on Facebook a while back that does an excellent job of summarizing one of the reasons I bow to the inevitable and acknowledge that I am wired to teach. It is a pithy existential statement answering the question: why.

teaching for outcome

It’s on my Teaching Quotes page as well, but I want to showcase it here.

Grace Prep High School


I am thankful for Grace Prep Christian High School here in State College, PA.

I am thinking of them today primarily because they’re off on one of their “Air School” adventures: 20 miles on the Appalachian Trail, somewhere down in VA. Not sure exactly where since my nephew really didn’t make that very clear. Maybe when he gets home.

Of course, he had to talk to be at least a bit so he could swipe…ah, borrow, some of my backpacking gear. Oh well. I noticed that he missed my rain suit so he might get rained on.

Anyway, Grace Prep offers opportunities like this on a fairly routine basis. I encourage you to take a peek at what they are all about; check out their website.

Here’s their “40 Points of Grace” that you could consider their mission statement and philosophy…Definitely a fresh outlook on what education is supposed to be.

TEFL Options

I am thankful for choices, particularly regarding employment. As I mentioned yesterday, a contact I made suggested Taiwan as a potential location for teaching English, especially since I have some (limited) ability with Mandarin. And as mentioned yesterday, one of my concerns is my health care. Taiwan is a much better option than the PRC in that regard. Probably not as good as Korea, but I’m still just now getting into the research, so I really don’t have much data to make a solid opinion yet.

I just wish I had discovered the TEFL industry earlier in life. What an awesome lifestyle!



I am thankful for “friend of friends”. I just recently made a new contact through an uncle–a friend of his is actually teaching English in China. He responded to my questions with a wealth of personal experience and gave me some information that, for the time being, likely crosses China off my list of potential places for employment: health care is “expensive”–that is, takes up a pretty big chunk of available income. And I have more health concerns.

On the other hand, I hadn’t given Taiwan much thought at all, and that option could potentially open a lot more doors. I may have to do some serious work on my Mandarin, but I’ve already got a foothold (OK, a toehold), but it’s definitely better than my non-existent Korean.

And, while unintended, he helped me determine where my priorities really were, something I really knew, but wasn’t quite willing to put as much emphasis on. I thoroughly enjoy traveling and seeing new places, I like learning languages, and delving into other cultures. I also need to pay off school, so going solely for the fabulous lifestyle just won’t be enough.

For now…

On Being Challenged

I am thankful that I am being challenged, forced outside my current comfort zones, given the opportunity to grow.

I serve as a community Chaplain, focusing on youth. I have been involved in Scouting for years. The two interests merged when I began teaching the Protestant Religious Awards program (formerly called God and Country)–this year I am teaching the high school level class called God and Life.

I have literally decades of working with youth: as a Scout leader, youth leader, youth pastor, high school teacher, mental health therapist…and have primarily focused on the guys. After all, I is one. I’ve been where they are. I understand the little derlin’s.

Not so much with the gals. There are days I am convinced men and women are not at all the same species, but rather some kind of sci-fi symbionts.

And when it comes to teaching Bible related stuff, theology, ethics, language, whatever,  I’ve always had students that had some religious/spiritual/philosophical background.

This time, I am blessed with a single student in this session, a girl who is as close to a tabla rasa as I have ever even heard of, let alone has in my classroom. She doesn’t have any church background, doesn’t know any Bible stories…I’ve never run into that before. There’s nothing “traditional” from which to start, on which to build.

Like I said. A  challenge.

We’ve worked out (are working out) how to honestly/ethically meet the requirements of this award, while also making the experience meaningful to her. Let me be quick to note that the material is most excellently written and serves magnificently for the vast majority of the students who choose to pursue it.

My student is not part of that vast majority. They all have some background, some context on which this material can build. Hey, it’s a Protestant religious award. Catholics, Muslims and Buddhists aren’t all that interested; they have their own award programs to pursue.

Add to the mix here a time constraint. Oh, technically speaking, she may work on this award until she finishes high school. But the awards presentation is set for February (Scout Sunday, specifically), and building enough foundation or reframing the material for it to have some meaning for her is definitely going to be…intense. I could “let the chips fall where they may” and either not bother with meaning and understanding, per se (can she read and answer the questions, pass the course and get the badge), or go the other end of the spectrum and push for  relevancy and personal meaning/challenge for her, not finish by Feb, and simply remind her that there is no deadline other than getting it done before she finishes high school in another 3.5 years.

I’m wired as a teacher; neither option is at all palatable.

A challenge.

Fortunately, in addition to being wired as a teacher, I am also trained as a pastor; so while I have no clue as to what the future holds, I know Who holds the future.

I will almost certainly never see what kind of impact this class and I will have on this young lady. And I’m OK with that. I rarely see the harvest of what I planted. That’s the result of yet another blessing for which I am also very thankful. I had a Youth Ministry professor (my BA is Youth Ministry) who told us flat out that the only solid indication of what our impact was on the young people we served would be to see how they raised their children. And by then, of course, it would be too late to do anything about it.

That’s how I’ve sown all the seed I’ve planted over the years. And as real farmers ultimately must trust God for the end result of their labors, so too must I. I now find it to be sooooo much easier that way; do my best, my “due diligence” as it were, and trust that He will not only work out all the details, but correct, cover over, or otherwise bless the multitude of errors and mistakes I have no doubt made since I started. I am thankful that the errors I know about have been relatively trivial; at least I’ve never heard about totally screwing up someone’s life. And I have been tremendously blessed to have received comments and compliments about some good I’ve done along the way.

All I can say is that it’s a really good thing He likes working through imperfect people to get His plans accomplished. ‘Cause I’m really good at imperfect.