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.


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.

Internet III: The Joys and Perils of Connection

I am thankful for the Internet: it allowed a former student of mine to find me and reconnect.

Granted, the outcome was very positive. Said student was even rather complimentary! Some might take that as a given, this student took the time and energy to look me up, right? I definitely appreciate those positive vibes!

Fact of the matter is, I am far from perfect. <collective gasp> I apologize; I should have warned everyone to sit before making such an announcement. But there you have it. I goof up all too frequently. Say days ending in “y”. (Which is not tomorrow, btw).

Anyway, while I have always tried my best, OK, usually tried my best, (more often than not?) to be conscious of the potential impact my interactions have on my students, even adopting the physicians’ “First, do no harm” perspective, I am never certain of how that works out.

Oh, sure, all of the students (to date) who have contacted me have been very complimentary. I could paste them up and have quite the “I love Me” wall. But there is always that niggling fear that instead of “looking me up”, there are some students out there that want to “hunt me down” for some off hand remark that just happened to hit them in a vulnerability. How’s that for a teachable moment or window of opportunity?

Am I really that paranoid? Nah. Although part of me prays: “Dear God! I hope so!” I am very aware of the impact I potentially have on “young and impressionable minds”. and that the difference between “raising up a child in the ways he should go” and “brainwashing” is largely a matter of perspective.

To sum up, since I have already been yammering too long: I take this very positive re-connection as an ongoing sign that I am God’s favorite. 😉   After all, the contacts I’ve had to date have been positive. So the “evidence” is in my favor to interpret as I will. Of course, that simply means that anyone who has felt less than warm and fuzzy when thinking about me just doesn’t feel vindictive enough to track me down.