Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hope and Passion

Yesterday our county newspaper Isanti County News came to interview myself and my coworker Mrs. Gotfredson. We were the media spokespersons representing our school regarding changes that our school is making this coming year. At the end of the interview, the reporter commented that she had not seen so much hope and passion in a long time in a teachers. It will be out in next week's county paper and in the country living area here, we all still read the paper! I hope parents will see the hope and passion as well! That is what it is all about hope and passion. It carries over to all elements of my practice both as a teacher and of course, as a parent.

Hope by definition means a feeling of expectation. It is a noun and also a verb. It is my case, it is an action of my heart and of my mind. I rest safely in hope. It goes with waiting and anticipating some form of the unknown. I have always liked this verse from Romans 15:13

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” 

In C.S. Lewis work, Mere Christianity he said the following,

“We want something else which can hardly be put into words–to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” 

Hope is essential in continuing to live!  Hope is also essential for continuing to teach. Hope changes me. Hope changes how I teach. There are so many things that are happening in schools right now that one can see the “BAD” before they see the “GOOD”. There is so much good happening in schools. One of my goals this coming year is to fix my eyes on the good and draw that out! Magnify the good and not the bad. I try very hard to not let things get me down regarding work and I don't want negativity to affect how I teach. I have hope. I have hope in each student that crosses the threshold of the school. I will continue to have that hope as this new, fresh school year approaches. I pray to God that I can see the student as God created them. 
One thing that seized my heart in the movie Freedom Writers is when Miss Gruwell said to her student, “I can see you. I see you and you are NOT failing.”

 Years later, as in Friday, July 12, 2013 Malala Yousafzai said this to the United Nations, “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can save the world.” 

Malala is such a brave young woman who has hope in spite of the heart of darkness that was shown to her. Hope rises in her and it rises in me like cream rises to the top of the fresh cows milk. Hope is sweet. Hope moves us on top of our troubles.

The other thing that life is about is passion. By definition, passion means a strong and barely controllable emotion. It also means a state or an outburst of such emotion. Passion is also what moves us forward when the things of this world, life or profession just want to drag us down. The passion that God has for us is astounding. I love the lyrics of the song “Furious” by Jeremy Riddle;

“His love is deep, His love is wide and it covers us. His love is fierce, his love is strong and it's furious. His love is sweet, His love is wild And it's waking hearts to life!” 

The passion of the cross never fades from my soul. That is what it is all about. Deep. Strong. Barely controllable. Passion is beautiful. 
Passion also moves me forward in my profession. I love what I do. It is what moves me to see the heart of the child. To see their strengths. To waken up the heart of the child. To move them forward in their learning. To open their hearts to passion and compassion. It is what allows me to see students not as a data score, but as a learner with various gifts and talents manifested in different intelligences.

Passion for teaching is what allows me value the organic process of learning for each individual student to create authentic learning. Passion for teaching is what calls me to understand that to reach the mind of the child, first I need to touch their heart and let them know that they matter. Passion driven teaching is what kept me in my profession for so long without being bored after 20 years.

Passion driven teaching allows me to cultivate new ideas for my students, it allows me to see the value of passion time in school or genius hour or 20% time. I am excited for how we are going to move forward with that in a small way this year at my school with our exploratory options for students. Hopefully, next school year, not this, we will be able to include a student driven exploratory. This year, we are focusing on teachers and their passions and bringing them directly to the classroom. Mine will be about my heritage studying Latin food, dance and culture. Mrs Gotfredson's will be about quilting and its rich history, art and students will be able to design a quilt. At the end of our first trimester, we will have a hoedown to show the parents examples of our passion driven education outside of the common core. It is very exciting.

Passion is what allows me to create a great learning area in spite of limitations. This year, I am nestled in a second grade room teaching first graders while a coworker teaches second graders. This is not a situation for the feeble-hearted. This is a situation for the strong who are not shaken and are not moved. It is a mindset that is based on the decision that passion can happen anywhere. Learning can happen anywhere. I am glad that my administrator believes in me so much and in my coworker as well that we are competent to do this task that is set out before us. That doesn't mean that there are not kinks in the plan, it means that with my passion driven philosophy of education and that of my coworker, Mrs. Roberts, we will be able to create a wonderful room for our learners!

That same theme of passion and hope carried over to books I read over the summer. In the book by Ayers, To Teach, the Journey of a Teacher it was clear that without his passion for his profession and his hope that he could be a change maker, he would have quit teaching! It was those two things and the all encompassing elements of them that in the darkest days kept the light in him shining. I liked his quote toward the end of the book (p 165).

 “Goodbye to schooling that's arid, dry, self -referencing and self satisfied. Goodbye to teaching as a theory of the mundane, a trivial pursuit of the obvious. Welcome to an approach that is overflowing with life, crackling with the surprising and contradictory harmonies of love, stunning in its hope for a better future.” 

As I close, I will reflect on my strengths and the passion and hope that dwells within me regarding them. Here are my top strengths from the exercise and book Teaching With Your Strengths by Rosanne Lieveld, Jo Ann Miller and Jennifer Robison. They are:

  • Adaptablity
  • Belief
  • Connectedness
  • Includer
  • Learner
  • Positivity
  • Woo

There is no way I can be the person that I am nor the lead learner that I am without them. I believe that these strengths were put in me from my conception by the Almighty Father and it is my task on Earth with the time that I have to cultivate these strengths. That was a good book! It reminded me of the fact that God has placed in us gifts and talents and that they are all unique! They are all special. I matter to the Kingdom of God and to the world he made. My skill set and the talents and gifts there of are given to me as a right fit for my profession. They are also given to me to give God the glory.

Now, as a public school teacher, I cannot go about preaching on this. However I recognize this same truth in my students that I have had over the many, many years. They come with skills and talents given to them by God. My profession asks me to cultivate them, to bring them out! To show the students how to use them to the best of their ability. That is what God asks of me. That is what teaching is all about. 
It is a little known fact at that I also wanted to be a nurse and a nun up until the age of 5. The dream of being a nurse died with my disgust of blood. The dream of being a nun started with Maria Von Trapp and died when I realized that one could not marry. The dream of being a teacher, an educator lived on since that time. In less than a decade, I will turn 50. I remember when 50 was old, yet I think it is only now that I am becoming what the Lord wanted me to be, a tall strong tree. As my favorite song by Evie Karlsson from the 1970's called The Tree Song, goes on to say:

“I've got roots growing down to the water. I've got leaves growing up to the sunshine and the fruit that I bear is a sign of life in me. I am shade from the hot summer sundown. I am nest for the birds of the heaven. I'm becoming what the Lord of trees has meant me to be. A strong young tree.” 

 Hope and passion. It is all that I have that moves me forward in life, it is what I can give to students in my circle of influence. I give it freely.