Teachers Who Inspire

inspiring-teacher-quoteI’m doing what I have always wanted to do…teach.  I have taught all grade levels from preschool to grade twelve and my journey in the classroom began way back in 1977 as a student teacher.  I can remember my practicums vividly, especially one group of grade three students who decided to sit like “Mork from Ork” in their desks, heads down on the chairs, knees on the desk tops, bottoms pointing towards me.  When I entered the classroom that morning and saw that, all I could do was sit at my desk and laugh until the tears streamed down my face!  If cell phones had been invented then I would have hastily grabbed my iPhone and posted the picture on Facebook.  I’ll bet I would have gotten a million likes!

There was also the practicum from H.E… double hockey sticks!  A teaching nightmare that almost caused me to have a nervous breakdown.  It wasn’t the fault of the students per se, but a tyrannical mentor teacher, who hated the idea of someone usurping her role (even slightly) in the classroom.  It is interesting that out of nearly one hundred and fifty student teachers that started that year with me from the University of Victoria, only fifty came back to continue in the education faculty the following year.  Practicums had a way of weeding out those who could not “cut it” in front of the classroom.

But my journey with teaching did not start after high school, but long, long before then when I was a student.  I am indeed blessed that in my lifetime, I was fortunate enough to learn the art of teaching from master-teachers!  Memorable, caring individuals who filled my head with knowledge, built on the foundation of my dreams, and encouraged me to ask questions, explore and search for answers.  Mrs. Lees in grade four, Mrs. Peterson in grade five, Mr. Songhurst and Mr. Hopwood (Gr. 6 and 7) and then in high school: Mr. Parslow, Mr. Snider, Mrs. Lidster, Mrs. Oke and Mr. Sankey (my high school principal).  However, the most sparkling gem of them all was Mr. Tom Scrase…oh, how I loved every minute spent in his classroom!  He made history come alive for me, and challenged his students to do the unheard of…write a hundred page “Depth Study” as he called it, on a World War 1 or 2 event.  We didn’t work in partners either!  I remember I spent months researching and collecting pictures and reading book after book on the Holocaust.  (This was before the internet people!  It meant going to the library and digging through books, newspapers, magazines and microfilm and collecting data that way.  Also no computers or typewriters to use to write my report.  It was all hand written!)  I wonder what students, even university students would say today about getting that kind of an assignment and being told they couldn’t use their computers or the internet to aid them?

But we did it!  Even the students who were less than stellar in the classroom handed in a completed report.  Mr. Scrase was like our coach throughout the entire process, spurring us all on so that we knew when we handed in that assignment that we had REALLY accomplished something spectacular.  I didn’t know then but I have come to learn that it wasn’t so much the contents of our individual reports that he marked us on but the EFFORT we took in doing the assignment.  He gave us a seemingly “impossible” assignment and then applauded the entire class when we did the “impossible”.  I’ll never forget it!  I will also never forget how he spent time with us, talked with us, treated us with respect and listened to us.  He spent little time in the staff room because he preferred spending lunch hours in his classroom watching “Hogan’s Heroes” reruns with his students, pointing out historical “flaws” along the way as we giggled at the comedic aspects of the show.  And on occasion, when his call to pay attention in class went unheeded, he would hurl a piece of chalk in our general direction, that would bounce off the back wall above our heads and snap us to face forward.  He called it a “warning shot” :)  I will never ever forget Mr. Scrase.  (I named one of the characters in my “Love the Wounded” book after that beloved teacher.  It was my way of honouring his memory!)

I model some of my teaching after Mr. Scrase, although hurling chalk is strictly verboten :) I expect my students to try something that challenges them to go way beyond where they think they can go, or what they think they can do especially in writing.  Last year, I taught a creative writing class that had each of my students take on the NANOWRIMO challenge.  For those writers out there who have never taken on the National Novel Writing Month (November), it is to write 50,000 words in one month.  For those of us who have written novels, that word count is a small novella at best but for students who are in junior high, the thought of writing 500 words is a daunting task!  I challenged my students to write at least 20,000 words as their goal.  All of the students surpassed that mark with a few writing the full 50,000 words!  Again, it was not so much the story or content I applauded them on (although we spent the next several months editing and polishing the stories and learning a lot about building plot, characterizations etc. etc.) but I applauded them on accomplishing something NONE of them thought they could do: write a “novel” in a one month!  When I handed them their certificates of accomplishment, their faces beamed with delight.  I knew then how Mr. Scrase must have felt when he handed me back my Depth Study and saw the look on my face when I read his comments on the cover page: “A +++”  “A job well done!”

Yep, there’s a sermon illustration in that, I’m sure :)

 

 

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A Chasing After the Wind

Catch the windI love the expression, “A Chasing After the Wind”!  It brings up a word picture of someone going full tilt through life chasing something that is never meant to be caught.  It is an impossibility to chase the wind.  Sure, with modern technology we can “harness” the wind by allowing it’s power to spin turbines that become an alternative energy power source, but still the wind can never be caught.  It can’t be held in your hand.  To try to grab hold of it is a totally futile attempt at best and yet many of us try to do just that.

Wise Solomon in Ecclesiastes 2 admitted that he chased after the wind.  Someone called it the “I” Factor.  Notice how many “I‘s” are in the passage: “I tried cheering myself with wine,…I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards.  I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them.  I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees.  I bought male and female slaves…I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me.  I amassed silver and gold for myself…I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well – the delights of the heart of man.  I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me…I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure…” (vs. 3-10)

But listen to his words at the end of this: “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” (vs.11)

Solomon was “chasing after the wind” with pursuits that only would result in temporary enjoyment and short-term pleasure.  That is what is meant by “living under the sun”.  Earthly pursuits under the sun bring only temporary comfort.  We may delight in them for a short time but ultimately we must be prepared to give it all up when our earthly bodies die.

Solomon understood that…eventually.  It took him some time though.  He chased after the wind through most of his life and it cost him dearly.  He finally understood towards the end of his life that he should have focused more on living a life for God.  “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)

I remember after my Mom passed away from a two year battle with breast cancer my father and I had the unenviable task of going through her belongings.  I’ll have to write another time the crazy things my Mom saved during her lifetime but pertinent to this topic was when my Dad opened Mom’s wallet and took out all the contents and spread it on the table in front of me.  She had about thirty dollars and change, her driver’s license, several coupons, pictures of my brother and I and several credit cards.  For a few minutes my Dad just stared at it all and then he calmly went into the kitchen and came back with a scissor.  For the next few minutes he cut her credit cards to pieces.  All he said was, “She won’t be needing these anymore.”

It was true.  Mom’s life under the sun was over.  Her life with the Son had begun.

Foot in Mouth Disease

“Ooops I did it again!” quoting Britney Spears, I stuck my foot in my mouth and said something I will likely regret for some time.  As soon as I uttered the words I KNEW I had messed up.  Unfortunately once said the words could not be taken back.  It’s not like they dropped on the floor and I could just pick them up like the “5 second rule” when you drop some food on the floor and can pop it back in your mouth with no ramifications.  Nope, the words hang in the air and then vaporize like steam into the pores of the person in front of me.  From there, they become pin-pricks of infection and spread throughout the body but linger at heart’s door.  I ask for forgiveness but I know damage has been done not only to her but to me as well.

How can I undo the hurt?

I was diagnosed with “Foot in Mouth Disease” at a very early age.  The symptoms are obvious:

  •    * Not thinking before speaking
  •    * Speaking just to hear the sound of my own voice
  •    * Inability to take back words once said
  •    * Red cheeks flushed with embarrassment
  •    * Subsequent inability to look people in the eye
  •    * Guilt

The disease unfortunately never goes away.  I live with it daily but thankfully there are some natural remedies that help prevent a particularly nasty episode of “Foot in Mouth”.

  •   Admitting I have the disease allows me to always be on guard for flare-ups!
  •   Before opening my mouth I check for signs of various “foot fungi” ie: pride, selfishness, jealousy, anger, pettiness,  impetuousness, etc.
  •   I make sure I connect with the Great Physician for regular “heart” check-ups.  There is a known link between “heart” disease and “Foot in Mouth” disease.

So, I kneel before the Father again and ask forgiveness and ask for His healing yet again, not only for me but for the one who was hurt by my words.  Squelch the tongue’s spark, Lord!

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.  Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”  (James 1:19; James 3:5-6)

Dance Like No One is Watching

Confession time…again…I’m a Baptist and I like to dance!  Whew…just had to get that off my chest.  Now that I’ve admitted to it I need to add one more little comment…although I love to dance I don’t dance all that well.

One of my favorite shows on T.V. is “Dancing With the Stars”.  I love to watch “non-dancers”, like myself, learn how to dance from professional dancers.  Admittedly we only get to see the polished performance and flashbacks of practices, but still they make it look so easy.  Watching from the comfort of my LazyBoy, it’s easy to be critical…as if I could dance the Paso Doble any better :)

Many years ago, I thought I’d sign my husband and I up to learn some ballroom dancing but he balked at the idea, so I compromised, allowing him to wear his cowboy duds (and boots) to learn how to line dance.  We went with another couple we knew and for the most part it was just a fun evening out for the four of us.  We learned how to two-step and line dance and after six weeks we were ready to try out our dancing prowess on a real dance floor.  Unfortunately the only place to kick up our heels was in the local saloon and by the time we got there, many of the clientelle were already pretty lubricated and itching for a fight rather than a dosey doe around the dance floor.  Undetoured, my husband decided we were going to at least stay for a couple of songs, promenade me around the floor and then waltz out the door before a bar room brawl ensued.  The only trouble was, when we got on the dance floor, everyone was two-stepping in the opposite direction than us.

You see, we had learned to two-step going in a clock-wise direction around the dance floor, and at this establishment they were two-stepping counter-clock wise!  After being elbowed and jostled and sworn at for acting like non-conforming dance rebels, my husband took my hand, picked up his cowboy hat and we headed home.  We’ve never line-danced since.

I’ve often thought that somewhere in Calgary there must be a place for a pair of clock-wise, two-stepping Baptists to sashay around a dance floor, but I suppose I’ll never know now.  My husband is just not ready to take the chance again, and after all these years, I’ve forgotten the basics of two-step.

A while back a new family visited our church.  It was obvious that their young children had never been in a “conservative” Baptist worship service before.  Wide eyed and smiling, when the worship team started to play, one of the little girls made her way quickly to the front of the auditorium and with wild abandon spun and twirled and danced.  She closed her eyes and raised her arms up and I started to get teary-eyed watching her.  She was dancing like no one was watching her except for One.

I remember that little girl every time I break into my dance moves alone in the comfort of my home.   I find that some of my most elaborate choreography comes about when I put on some “praise” music and my dancing becomes an act of Worship rather than just dancing for dancing sake.  God doesn’t seem to mind that I don’t know all the steps, and that having “two left feet” is an understatement especially when applied to me, He just seems to appreciate the effort!

Psalm 150 “Praise the Lord.  Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.  Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.  Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.  Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord.”

 

 

 

 

Love (A Spoken Word)

god-heartHere is another inspirational poem by one of my students.  Enjoy!

Love (A Spoken Word) by Bethany (Grade 7 student)

Living, Jesus Loves Us

Everyone is consumed by His unconditional, unending love.

God’s strong arms are open for everyone.

Even the ones we push down, the ones we pushed away.

Jesus loves the people who laugh at you and call you a clown.

The people who are starting to stray, and couldn’t be enough.

His call to repent was not just given to the righteous and holy, but also to the sinners,

the murderers, the liars, the hated and the haters.

Living, Jesus Loves Us

He restated knowledge that we are all equal was spread.

We are called to love the sinners for we are included in that name.

For those who are found no longer stumble in the darkness,

but are brought back to the light.

Living, Just Loves Us

We judge and blame but in the end we are the same.

We hide things in ourselves we don’t want to share.

A hole burns in our hearts that we only know how deep.

But you can’t let yourself all into the bottomless pit

But instead reach out for God’s strong arms

Be consumed by His love and saved from the harm.

For if you don’t react soon, it will be too late,

and when He comes back your sin should be too great

Your sin should be too great.

But it’s not, it’s truly not.

Living, Jesus Loves Us

Jesus’ mercy is an ocean that will not fail to catch you

And what a glorious day that will be when God’s love consumes you like waves.

Because He loves you, He loves all of us.

No sin too great, no shame too deep.

Living, Jesus Loves Us

His Word is like a double-edged sword

protecting you from harm.

God is worthy of our praise day and night

We can join in with the creatures in heaven singing

Holy, Holy, Holy

is the Lord God Almighty

Who was and is to come.

For if God is for us who can be against us.

If the Creator of the universe

loves us unconditionally

who can stand against us?

Are you playing hooky from Church?

Don't Go to Church 4_ezrI am admitting to something that happened eons ago, but I suppose confession is good for the soul.  During the 1972 Canada-Russia hockey series I (along with my friends, Jean and Tanya) smuggled our transistor radios into math class and under the pretense of looking extremely studious during the class, we were in fact paying much closer attention to our radios listening to Foster Hewitt’s play by-play of the historic games, than listening to our Math teacher drone on about integers.  I suppose you could call it playing hooky while still being physically in the class.  I remember I had expertly concealed my headphone under my long hair.  Mr. Ruxton, our math teacher, bless his heart, turned a blind eye to the perceived ruse we thought we were perpetrating in his class.  It was only when a goal was scored and all three of us jumped up and cheered, without realizing we were still in class, that Mr. Ruxton frowned and then laughed at us when I said as an explanation for the outburst, “We are so EXCITED for math!”  He shook his head while the rest of the class giggled “busted!” and then he motioned for us to show him our radios.  We sheepishly obliged and then he asked, “What’s the score?”   I hated math but I loved Mr. Ruxton at that moment!

The next time I played hooky was during my second year of university.  I had enrolled in a linguistics class at the University of Victoria.  It was an elective course required towards getting my teaching degree.  It seemed EVERY second year education student had heard that this was a “gimme” class (meaning you only needed to attend, write the final and rarely did anyone fail this particular class).  140 students packed a small classroom the first day to hear a professor with even less personality than the teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off give his eighty minute lectures.  If you arrived late, you had to lean against the back wall for the entire ordeal.  After three lectures, I was looking for ANY excuse to drop the course, unfortunately I needed the course to get into my practicum year.  On the way to the fourth lecture, my fiance and his ne’er-do-well friend, Mike, waylaid me en route to the class and asked if I would like to join them for coffee at the Student Union Building.  They were in between classes and had a couple of hours before they had to be back.  I didn’t need much convincing, so for the next twelve weeks, I never attended another linguistic class, choosing instead to meet Mike and Charles for coffee.

Now kids (my kids especially), I don’t recommend this as an acceptable way to pass a course.  In fact, I am slightly ashamed of myself…slightly…

Leading up to the final for that course, having only attended three lectures, I spent a horrific, stressful weekend “cramming” for the exam by reading every linguistic book written by that professor.  (If his lectures were boring, his text books were equally so.)  I nearly cried when they put the test paper in front of me, knowing I was so unprepared.  So no one was more shocked than I was when I actually passed the course!  I was ecstatic until I heard that everyone else had scored an “A”.  Apparently one little essay question worth about 20% (one I left blank) was based entirely on a lecture he had given in the eighth week.  Knowing I had the chance to raise my grade point average significantly with that mark and instead I opted to play hooky, made me a little weepy.  A missed opportunity lost forever.

For some, going to church is not a priority in their lives, but for our family it is.  When my husband and I got married, we made the decision to plant ourselves in a church family and attend our home church every Sunday.  Certainly there have been Sundays missed over the years due to illness or holiday, but for the most part, we have worshipped regularly in our home church on Sunday mornings.  It has become an integral part of our life.  My three children grew up in our church.  From their days in nursery to College and Career our kids have been involved with the church.  Our church family has become as dear to us as our blood family, and in some ways we are more connected to some of them because we see them more often than we do our own family members who live so far away.  It was my church family that ministered to me when I went through breast cancer.  It was their daily visits and prayers that sustained me.  I know that I can call on any number of them for anything and they will be there.  They are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and our bond is that close!

Still there are some Sundays I will admit (I’m still confessing…) that I would much, much rather stay in bed and sleep in.  As much as I love getting together with my  church brothers and sisters, there are some Sundays I’d just rather curl up at home and play hooky.  Especially on those bitterly cold days we have in the winter months here in Alberta.  I would rather not get out of bed, get dressed, put on makeup, get bundled up to get into a cold car and drive to church.  The temptation to play hooky is great!  Oh and of course, let’s not forget those summer months too.  I know it’s necessary to make the most of summer because it is sooooo short a season here in Alberta but I noticed a sign on a neighbouring church the other day that read “Enjoy the summer, we’re closed until September”.  I suppose they figured it was better to close up for the summer rather than face empty church pews each Sunday while their congregants were on holidays.

Seems like a great idea…or is it?

When I read something like that it only adds fuel to all my other excuses for trying to rationalize my need to play hooky from church.

“Honey, you go.  I’ll have lunch waiting for you when you get home.” or “It’s a big church, certainly no one will even notice I’m not there today.” or “I’ve been in church every Sunday since Christmas…”

Yeah, after a while the excuses start to get pretty lame.

So then I decide to bargain a bit.

“How about if we stay home today, and I’ll make it up to God by reading the Bible more next week.”  (Oh, I forgot, I’ve been playing hooky from Bible reading for a while too… eeeeek!)

It is just about at that moment a light bulb goes on over my head and I realize that I need to check my heart condition.  Usually when I wanted to play hooky from something, it’s because my heart wasn’t in it in the first place.  In the case of my math class…well a hockey game took precedence over algebra.  To be honest ANYTHING could take precedence over a math class :)  My heart was definitely not into suffering through boring lectures in linguistics, but as I have told my kids throughout their school years, sometimes you’ve “got to do, what you’ve got to do” for the greater good.  Too bad I didn’t listen to my own advice way back then.

When it comes to spiritual things, including wanting to attend church (or not) or keeping up with Bible readings, or daily devotions etc., if I am considering playing hooky from these things, it’s because my heart just isn’t into it.  There can be numerous reasons for this.

1. Sin – the enemy has gotten a foothold somewhere in my life and I’m not willing to acknowledge it.

2. Spiritual Warfare – the enemy is attacking me knowing that if I “follow God with all my mind, heart and strength” he will not have access to me.

3.  My heart has lost interest.  A serious illness that needs immediate attention to find the root cause.  (Usually it has to do with self taking control of my actions instead of allowing God to have control.)

For some people, this malaise can last a day, a week, a year, or a lifetime, and when I start seeing and feeling the symptoms in me, I know I need to check my heart health immediately.

Recently I had a disturbing conversation with someone close to me who said they were “taking a break from God for awhile”.  How do you even do that?  I understand wanting to play hooky from church but from God?  I pondered on what the ramifications would be if the situation was reversed and God decided that He was going to “take a break from us for awhile”.  What if God played hooky from us?

“For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” (Matt. 13:15)

Dusk & Dawn

castle-mountainI taught a creative writing course at the Christian school I teach at and I promised to highlight some of my students’ work on “Journey Thoughts”.  I know you will join with me in applauding their outstanding work and I hope you will be as moved as I was by their inspirational writing!

Dusk & Dawn – a poem by Timothy and Elijah (Grade 8 students)

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” – Robert Frost

Exposition – by Timothy

I stand here on this peaceful dusk,

As sunset starts to gleam.

A golden shade of peacefulness

Majestic sunset’s beam.

The world is tired, filled with wear,

The villages asleep,

And soon to wake, when dawn sets in,

When sunlight becomes deep.

 

The mountains stand in harmony,

Protecting those who sleep,

The summer air caressing them,

For no, they do not weep.

And so they stand there purposely,

For fear they do not know,

And they protect whole-heartedly,

Beneath the moonlight’s glow.

 

And now the moon shines high, oh high,

And lights upon the stream,

That ever peaceful midnight scene,

This tranquil, lovely gleam.

A single shining moonlight’s sheen,

For blissful summer’s stream,

I stand there in the half moon’s glow,

This peaceful summer’s dream.

 

I stand here on this silent morn

The dawn is coming in

The river seems it’s ever still

Before the morning’s in.

The world hath not awakened yet

The silence here so grand

And such a lovely morning scene

This peaceful country land.

 

The sun comes peeking through the clouds

And lights upon the trees

That turn all luscious shades of green

Like gentle summer’s breeze.

It makes them dance so gracefully

Such bliss it fills my soul

As river ripples peacefully

And life now feels so whole.

 

A Kayak comes, two men aboard

The silence takes them too.

They are part of morning’s scene

As sun comes smiling through.

The harmony enlightens me

And I’m part of this scene

Sitting by the lazy river

Morning so serene.

 

Body – by Elijah

God creates these wonderful scenes,

That take your breath away.

It’s an image of intricate artwork,

So look at this beautiful day.

Just one of God’s amazing perks,

So come on and play.

The scenery around you is unbelievable,

Think for a moment and pray.

 

Coda – by Timothy

We are safe ‘neath His mighty hand,

We are His masterpiece.

Created in His likeness,

His love will never cease.

He will not tire, will not fail,

For sins He did repay.

We are safe ‘neath mighty gales,

And He’ll guide you today.

So do not fear, whatever falls,

For grace shall guide the way.