Monday, February 2, 2015

Awakened Devotional: Week One - How I Learned Everything the Hard Way

This is a devotional for teachers based on biblical scripture; however, it is applicable for both non-Christian believers and those without a faith, too. The purpose of the text is to help re-center educators in their profession. As both faith and a calling to educate are the two driving forces behind Tutors by Base, I wanted to share my deeper study of the two...

Introduction: How I Learned Everything the Hard Way
*Though I strongly encourage proofreading, devotional responses are not edited; they are entirely unfiltered thoughts on the intersection of faith and education. Please keep your grammarian-esque thoughts to yourself. Thanks! :) *

Application Questions
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then given encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” (Rom 12:6-8)

1.  What is your teaching testimony? How has God grown you and taught you through your work?

Like the author Angela, I was a frustrated brand new teacher. Straight out of college, I was quickly bogged down by administrivia, nonsense that got in the way of my daily purpose—helping the students in my classes. I, too, found that the judgmental part of my nature reared its ugly head far too often; I was mad that parents were not only disinterested in the education of their children, but also that they would have the gall (!) to call me on a regular basis and request that their child not have homework because they had family activities that weekend. I was mad because I, too, would have liked time for family activities each weekend, but instead I spent my time grading and lesson planning. Despite only teaching for 6 hours a day, 5 days per week, my actual workweek ran closer to 80 hours. I wanted to inspire in my students a love of learning. By the time I had reached these 10th and 11th grade students, the majority of whom were described as “struggling” or “below standards,” they had readily dismissed school as an impotent institution in which they were incarcerated for 7 or so hours per day. So many had confidence issues, depression…I had students who were “cutters,” addicts, in and out of juvenile detention centers. I had one student arrested in my classroom (and several more outside of it), one student throw a desk and hurl profanities at me because he didn’t like his seating assignment (he was arrested later that day for selling drugs on campus), and another sweet, 16-year-old girl run away to another state to get married—she wanted her new husband to be able to sign her out of school for the day at any time she wished.

Heck, I should have known better than to go into the classroom. My poor mom was subjected to regular awkward conversations with my teachers on how I “didn’t seem to want to be there” during their classes. I was bored. By high school, the awkward conversations stopped; I had found new ways to entertain myself until the bell rang for freedom each day. I won’t recount my high school days here, though.

Though I love to teach, and have felt a strong calling to inspire and help others gain confidence in their academics—my first “pupil” was a fellow second grader who didn’t understand the word problems; the teacher soon assigned me to “tutor” several other students in the same—I had zero interest in the politics of local school districts (we won’t talk about my first encounter with the teacher’s union here either…) and the shenanigans of school policies and classroom management.  I just want to help students, and it took a lot of prayer to realize that the classroom simply wasn’t the way for me to reach my goal.

Man, that teaching testimony was a lot longer than I had intended it to be!  

As for how God has grown me and taught me through my work, He has taught me that what students truly desire is for an authority figure with whom they have developed a close working relationship to have faith in them. God has given me the skills to understand my student’s academic struggles, and he’s grown my ability to have the patience and empathy that I need to show them I believe that they can succeed in their goals. More so, he’s taught me that grades are not the end goal; learning is, and I’m still learning how to fully impart that to students caught in the quagmire of an education system that fails to accurately measure the intelligence of all learning styles.

Phew. So much for getting this done before the baby wakes up…

22. What are the unique abilities God has given to you which help you do your job well? How is God using your gifts and talents in your work as an educator?

I strongly believe that God has given me the following gifts to help others:
·         Understand – I have an ability to discern how people understand; this is definitely a “fruit of the Spirit,” as it’s something I’ve been able to do from a very early age.
·         Encouraging
·         Supportive
·         A caring spirit – I feel a love that exists that is far greater than myself; it makes me want to serve as a channel for good, helping others to reach their potential.

3. 3. What has God shown you about your purpose in education? Are there are particular areas in which you known He wants to use you to bless others or to make school a better place for kids?

I believe that if we’re listening, God opens doors in ways that He wants to lead us. At other times, I’ve felt called to help individual students in certain challenges in their lives; I have several students in mind whom I believe were the sole reason I was a tutor in a certain location for that period. For the last few years, I’ve increasingly believe that my purpose in education has been to encourage others who feel called to educate to pursue their passion; the classroom isn’t the only place to be an educator, and I believe it’s my purpose to help share that with those who wish to teach, but who don’t wish for the forum of a classroom. I can see how God placed certain jobs in my earlier career to help prepare me for this. Though I merely wanted to encourage others to tutor, He provided me with the toolkit to help others learn how to tutor and to do it well. In whatever I do, it should be for the greater glory of God, and so my purpose is to provide 1) the best possible training for my tutors—a BIG work in progress this month!!, and 2) help each tutor find students to work with so they can put that training into practice.

“To Do” Challenge
Make a chart of what I’m good at and what tasks are harder for me to enjoy, and then pray over the tasks.
Aspects of education that
I’m naturally good at…
Tasks that are either harder
or harder for me to enjoy…
Understanding student’s needs
Responding to email
Talking through concerns
Creating curriculum from scratch
Academic coaching
Socratic-style tutoring
Making uninspired curriculum more engaging
Keeping a clean, organized workspace
Engaging students in 1-on-1 learning
Keeping a work-life balance

Photo Source: Letterpress/69553732

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