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!

Confirmation of Compassion and Witness for Wisdom

I am thankful for the Compassion and Wisdom displayed by numerous professional in yesterday’s School shooting.

For the teacher who told the children that the reason for all the hullabaloo at the school was because “a wild animal found its way in the school (no lie there, imVho), and the police officer(s) who told the children to hold the shoulders in front of them and walk out with their eyes closed to avoid seeing the carnage.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I spent some time working with abuse victims. Trauma can be compounded or averted by the (un)timely word spoken to a vulnerable person by someone they trust. As it is written, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” (Pr 18:21). Many of these children might be “traumatized” not so much by the actions they personally witnessed (as those relative few in the classrooms with the shooter) but by the actions and words of those adults around them. The kids themselves might or might not have seen anything. They might or might not have the capacity to understand what happened. They definitely have the ability to take their cues from those around them. Should those trusted adults pretend nothing happened? Hardly. Even if the survivors are prohibited from attending funerals and memorials, at the very least they will wonder what happened to their classmates. Should said adults seek counsel from the professionals who have worked with similar situations? Absolutely. Should they love on those kids? (Does that even need a rhetorical response?)

Much honor and respect, KUDOS, to that teacher and officer for not only doing something positive in a crisis, but doing a great thing under duress. Maybe the officer had some training. Maybe not. Pretty sure this was never covered in the teacher’s in-service training.

Let’s just say I’m not thinking such good thoughts about the media…vultures…who felt it necessary to interrogate any of the kids and the parents. невоспитанный


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.