Thursday, December 22, 2011

Be still

One thing I have particularly enjoyed since I have been home this week is the opportunity to be still.  I almost missed this opportunity by trying to fit in everything I needed to do before Christmas....including socialize with friends.  Amidst the trips to Target and fighting traffic, I have taken time to be at home with a cup of coffee, my Bible, and the fireplace.

It amazes me how hard it is for people to be still.  Even when we have the opportunity to sit still, we don't.  We live in an electronic world that exists on sound bites.  We Google what we want to know and as soon as we've read the part of the information that gives us the answer, we move on.   We shuffle to our favorite song on our Ipod, listen to our favorite part, and then shuffle on to the next one.  We change the channel on the TV every chance we get to see what might be better on another channel.  We avoid live productions that we can't "mute" or "fast forward".  We choose DVD's and sound bites so we can stop and start at will, rewind when we missed something because we were talking, and come back to it later when we feel like it.

I have tried an experiment in my classes this year.  I have chosen a piece of choral music that lasts at least 3 1/2 minutes long.  It seems that 2-3 minutes is the maximum amount of time people will sit without "needing" to make a comment, think about something else, get bored, make eye contact with another individual, or fidget.  I will continue to play music for my students to practice the art of listening and being "in the moment".  I don't really know how to fix this glaring problem.  We can't take away progress and remove all their gadgets.  Teachers feel so defeated at times that we lower our expectations because we feel people aren't capable of listening or that we won't be supported by parents.
Society makes excuses for people who won't listen by blaming the teacher for being boring, the subject matter for being outdated, the method of delivery for only reaching one type of learner, and the list goes on.  I don't want to compete with gadgets and Hollywood style visuals.  God gave us five senses.  One of them is hearing.  I don't want my children to only hear what they want to hear.  I want them to learn to be still so they can hear the Lord.  I know God is capable of piercing the noise and pushing His voice through the noise of the world.  I don't know if He will always choose to do so.  "Be still and know that I am God."  If I don't learn to listen I will never hear my Shepherd's voice amid the noise and clamor.  Just like we savor a yummy piece of cake or our favorite dessert to the very last morsel, we should be still and quiet long enough to taste the very last morsel that God has for us in a song, in a scripture passage, in the words of someone older, wiser, and slower, or in a story.  It is important to remember that we have to learn to listen.  I don't want to teach my children that it is the responsibility of others to entertain them and keep their attention.  If they want to learn, they must choose to listen and learn.  I want my children to be responsible for learning.  I hope they will love learning and that those teaching them are passionate for their subjects, but I don't want them to expect entertainment.  I want them to learn to listen......really listen.

Don't fill the silence.   Oftentimes it is in the silence that God reveals Himself.  It is also in the silence that our minds are allowed to process information.  If we dump all the ingredients to make bread in a bowl and do not allow time for them to incorporate and blend evenly, our bread will not rise or bake correctly. Let's allow time for the ingredients of life to rise and blend.

Be still.
It's hard work, but will reap great results.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

And the award goes to......everyone.

It has been a very long time since I've written a blog post.  There have been many times over the last several months that I have had thoughts of topics I would like to write about and then I would forget them. I always thought I should take time to jot my initial thought down to remind myself later, but life always got in the way.  My job tends to run my day and my thoughts are usually put aside until another time....and then I can't remember what it was I was pondering.  I don't even know if I would consider it "pondering".  To ponder is to consider something deeply and thoroughly.  The nature of my days have not allowed for deep or thorough thinking.  My pondering begins and ends as a fleeting thought, much like a bubble that dissolves before you have a chance to even catch or pop it on your own.  Over the last couple of days I have been on Christmas break and have found a few hours where my mind has been allowed to linger passed the fleeting thought and actually step into the land of pondering.  It feels rather strange.  I hope I am able to make sense.

One thing that has been on my mind lately is the idea of rewards and expectations.   I was brought up to understand that there were things that were expected of me and it was my job to make sure I did those things.  There would be no payment for following through with what was expected of me.   It seems that over the years the idea that doing what is expected entitles people to being rewarded in some way.  If you are on a recreational sports team you receive a medal or trophy at the end of the season for simply being on the team.  Everyone gets an award.  I remember receiving my very first trophy for actually being the sole winner for an event I was participating in.  I was the only recipient of the award and it really meant something to me.  I notice that when my children get medals for being on a team, they often get thrown in the corner, lost in the back seat of the car because they never made it out of the car in the first place.  The award meant nothing to them.  I receive a pay check every two weeks for doing my job.  I don't get more money in a salaried job because I meet the expectations of my employer every day.  Exceeding the expectations of my employer might result in a bonus at the end of the year, a promotion, or an award of some kind.  If I do not meet the basic expectations of my employer I will, however receive a penalty, a reprimand, an infraction, a demotion, or lose my job completely.  The "reward" for meeting expectations is knowing I am doing the right thing, doing my job well,  and having a sense of peace.    If I find I am not meeting expectations, my peaceful existence is interrupted by the need to do better, being reprimanded by my superior, stress, urgency, and if bad enough, the possibility that I may need to look for another job.  Law enforcement does not reward me for driving the speed limit.  The IRS does not reward me for paying my taxes.  The power company does not give me more power for paying my bill on time.  

I remember teaching at a school back in the early 90's.  We had a new principal who was very big on self esteem and making sure every child felt important.  A teacher was called to a meeting with the principal and a parent of one of her students over a math grade.  The student earned a "D" on the report card.  The parent was upset because their child received a D and they didn't understand why.  The student seemed to know the material and did okay on tests.  The teacher showed the parent and principal that the student had failed to complete the majority of their homework assignments, did average on tests, and did minimal work in the classroom.  The principal began to question the teacher in front of the parent about the homework assignments.  The teacher gave examples where the student was expected to complete 10 math problems for homework and had only attempted two or three.  The principal told the teacher that if the student did two out of the ten problems assigned and did them correctly that she should award the student a grade of 100 on what they accomplished.  The teacher was speechless.  The principal made her change the grade.  I'll never forget that day as long as I live.  This particular teacher had been teaching for many more years than I had and she was completely baffled at the turn of events.  The student continued to do less than what was expected in the classroom and as little as possible.  I often wonder what became of him.  During this same year one of the special area teachers decided to run a contest between all their classes to see who was on time, on task, in their seats, in attendance, stations cleaned, etc....and the winning class would hold the trophy for that month.  Each month the class with the most points would hold the trophy.  The same principal stopped the contest because it meant that there would be classes that did not have the trophy because they did not exceed the expectations.  She was afraid this would damage their self esteem.  I think that is when I really saw the shift in thinking, especially in education.

I pray that I never fall victim to this way of thinking in my own parenting.   We might as well have no expectations and just allow people to do what they want to.  No one wants expectations to be outlined for them, but they sure have their own set of expectations on what they should receive for doing any work at all.

Good and honest labor.  Where did that idea go?  I used to have to go out and pick up the rotten citrus that had fallen off the many trees in our backyard when I was a child.  I can imagine the answer and reaction I would have received from my father had I told him how many pieces I had picked up and what I should receive for each one.  I knew what I would receive if I didn't pick up the fruit!

Thank you for the privilege to live in peace when I do my work. Lord, help me reward when it's worthy, award when there is merit, and praise when praise is due.