New Journey….

For now this blog is on a hiatus…

I started on a new journey – one for my son who happens to have autism.

Join me on a yearlong journey of self-discovery and explanation…

http://366daysofautism.wordpress.com/

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Back to the Basics – Shoes Included

I love beginnings. I really do – fresh faces, fresh approaches, fresh pens, fresh undies. Let’s be honest here – new underwear and socks are THE DEAL.

The school year began two weeks ago and I finally caught a breath to reflect upon this newest beginning, to sit down and do some writing about my thinking over the summer, my thinking about the upcoming school year, my thinking about my children, my thinking about retiring (not me, but a mentor), most of all my thinking about getting back to the basics.

As I sit in my office and look out my window I see overcast skies, green evergreens gently waving in the cool breeze, and our stately Campanile. The beginning of the school year is forever nostalgic, but this year it strikes me even moreso. Maybe it’s because I’m aging, maybe it’s because I’ve finally moved into the comfort zone of teaching. I lovingly refer to this zone as the “I hardly wear heels anymore’ phase.

I look at the new faces in my classroom and think about what promise they have. This generation of students. This generation – the generation that have the birth year of my high school graduation. Wow. Just wow. Is this what middle-age does to a person? Does it make you think about where you’ve been and where you are going (in flats, no less)?

Possibly. Before school began this year we had a wonderful speaker, Dr. Maryellen Weimer, (check out her blog at http://www.facultyfocus.com/topic/articles/teaching-professor-blog/) come for our fall faculty workshop. She was invigorating, she was enthralling – she was everything right about having teaching as your passion (at least in my opinion). I often felt like she jumped into my soul and was simply using her own copy/paste function from my brain to her words. She wore flats.

It’s Not About You, I’m not sure she said this – but it’s the major concept that I took. It’s Not About Me. That resonated with me. While I wouldn’t classify myself as selfish (I love taking care of others…so I have a hard time thinking about me).

While we all have an impact on the lives of students, the truth is that they are their own person. We can help to influence, help to shape…but in the end, the choice is their own. The choice to listen. The choice to learn. The choice to act. It is just one of the many reasons it takes a village. It’s the reason that some students major in business while others become artisans. It’s the reason that my classes (in Communication Studies) giggle when I refer to the culture in the business building. Walk straight. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t smile. Don’t laugh. Don’t hug. And for goodness sake, don’t wear anything but khaki, navy, white, and black – and certainly not anything without a collar.

Sorry business folks…I’m sure you have some fun at our ‘free love,’ full of color, loud, and obnoxiousness. What is the result of this?

While I may influence one student, another can’t stand me.

I can’t take that personally…because it’s not really about me.

Whatever my students do not learn…it’s not about me.
Likewise
Whatever my students do learn…it’s not about me.

Of course what is most interesting is that teachers LOVE to take credit for their excelling students, but not so much the failing student. Really though, all we can do it provide an atmosphere that supports their growth and development, the rest is up to them.

So, what’s different about my teaching this year? Well, if it is a student’s choice to listen, learn, and to act then I need to ‘teach’ them to have passion for learning. More than anything else….to create an environment where passion for learning, listening, acting, and experiencing rises above all else. More focus on just that. Less of me, more of them. Trust me, it’s a hard switch. I am a performer – and I love making them laugh, I love watching their eyes stare intently at me, I love coaching them through a conversation full of self discovery.

But…I’ve already found that less of me and more of them is better. While my teaching has always been learner-centered, I’m making it even more intentional. It’s fun. It’s a whole lotta fun…like so much fun that I’m sitting, staring at this screen with wide-eyes and a big smile. It’s like merging Montessori concepts into a University classroom. Seriously, holy moley it’s fun.

This new generation – this is the deal. I’m telling you – they are good stuff. They are great stuff. Give them space and freedom. Allow them to learn without barriers. Allow them to dig in. Give them tough questions. Back away. See what they are capable of.

Coach their learning…the pontification is over. Why? Student’s don’t really care how smart I am or what I know. Honestly? Neither do I. I continue to learn and read and know and wonder and question – but for me. Teachers may have encouraged me, but it was ultimately me. I wanted to know more.

What students do care about is immersion. They don’t care what’s in a book. They want to know how it affects their life.

Thank the Lord. For real. Thank the Lord. This isn’t a generation of useless knowledge…it’s a generation of changing lives through knowledge.

So, now when I teach I take off my flats. I feel the ‘earth,’ I wonder, I hum, I wander, I say yes!, I get excited, I let them teach me…I need to wear athletic shorts because I get so fired up about their own learning!

Feels good to be back to the basics….in my flats.

P.S.You’ll still see me in heels – just know those are the days I have to meet with the grown ups who have lost focus of why they began teaching.  That education and true learning comes only as much as you can take off your shoes and relax enough to just ‘let it happen.’

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The Fruits of Testing

My children recently came home with their Iowa Assessments. As usual, both were concerned that their ‘bold, black lines’ didn’t go into the 90th percentile like many of their friends. Commence questioning, “I guess I’m not very smart.” “I’m sorry that I’m not good enough, mom.” “I wonder what questions I missed.” “See I told you I wasn’t very good at math, here is the proof.”

I wanted to scream. I wanted to rip those ridiculous pieces of paper into a million, zillion pieces. I wanted to yell “These bold lines DO NOT show your worth or value as a child.” Instead, I went to the basement. I found my own ITBS (Iowa Tests of Basic Skills) scores from the mid-1980’s (yes…my mom saved these along with my report cards and ‘Nikki can cut a straight line’ awards). They were shocked. I felt like I was in a time warp. As I looked at my own bold, black lines I was reminded of how I felt in 4th grade. I felt the same. I had that feeling in my gut, the feeling of ‘unworth.’ Yuck. Turns out these tests showed that I wasn’t very smart. Not at all.

My children didn’t understand – how could their mother, now a college Professor have only scored in the 40th percentile, in the 60th percentile, in the 80th percentile? This was the PERFECT time to really talk about learning and education and ‘worth.’

I shared with them that I am not (nor ever was) a good test taker. Tests make me nervous. I overthink everything. I told them I flunked my Driver’s Test. Laugh, because it is funny. On the test was a picture of a stop sign. The question was, “What do you do when you see this sign?” My children said, “You stop.” I told them I got the question wrong – commence hysterical laughter. Then I said to them, “I didn’t answer stop. I answered slow down. Because I could be two blocks away from the stop sign. I could see it 1/2 mile away. I’m not going to stop when I see it. I’ll stop when I arrive to the foot of the sign.”

Now they think I should take the ‘Driver’s Test’ people to court because their test was wrong and I was right.

Let me underscore this posting with the fact that I don’t have a better answer and I know the purpose of testing. I get it, I really do. We need standards. We must evaluate our students to understand what they do and do not know. For some occupations and curricular areas, testing makes perfect sense. This is really more of a rant about the purpose of education in general – a call for balance, a call for recognizing fireflies as much as we recognize superstars.

What are fireflies? A recent blog post from HandsFreeMama moved me in several ways. The post is about children who shine from within, not children who shine on a piece of paper. I felt a strong connection to this post, because I was that child – and I am raising those children. My question is, is there a way that we can recognize the ‘soft skills’ in the same way we recognize the quantifiable skills?

I despise giving grades. Really, it is the absolute worst part of teaching. I honestly wish that we lived in an environment that would reward students for learning, because they want to learn. I wish I could spend my time being a curriculum coach. Coaching each student through a self-discovery of ideas. Supporting their creative thought and exploration. I would guess that many of my colleagues feel the same.

A test tells me nothing. A test tells me that a student can memorize some stuff and spit it out on paper. A test doesn’t tell me what they are able to do, it tells me that are able to simply recall information. My students know this. I simply don’t test. An October, 2013 Forbes article lists the top ten skills that employers are looking for in 20-somethings.
1. Ability to work in a team
2. Ability to make decisions and solve problems
3. Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
4. Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization
5. Ability to obtain and process information
6. Ability to analyze quantitative data
7. Technical knowledge related to the job
8. Proficiency with computer software programs
9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports
10. Ability to sell and influence others

It seems to me that skills one through four, nine, and ten cannot be evaluated by a test. So, 60% of the skills that employers are looking for are ‘non-testable.’ Yet, our students feel their intellectual worth is designated by a bold, black line. This identification of intellectual worth begins early as evidenced by my 30 return to the gut-wrenching “I’m not smart enough” feeling.

So, what changed in me? How did I finally feel good enough? I went to college. When I went to college I realized that my ‘soft skills’ excelled. Thank goodness I had that opportunity, thank goodness I finally felt ‘good enough.’

How do we talk to our students about these ideas? I do it, I do it directly. I constantly remind them that their worth is not their grade – their worth is their journey. Their worth is how much they tried, did they do their best? Learning is not about the destination, it is about the journey. This spring my I had a heart to heart with my class. It was three days before their ‘big paper’ was due. I gave them a handout with the famous John Wooden quote, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” Did you do your best? Did you take the feedback you’ve received throughout the semester and do something with it? Did you reach out? Did you revise? Did you participate? If so, then you have done the best you can do – and that’s all you can do.

Your final grade is a piece of what you learned…but it is not the be all and end all.
1. You have learned to work in a team by participating in group feeedback sessions – along with that, you have learned humility in accepting feedback. You have learned how to use kind, yet constructive language in telling your peers your reactions to their work.
2. You have made decisions and solved problems while writing. Maybe your topic was too big? Too small? Maybe you had to choose between sources, whatever it was – you were constantly decision-making and problem solving.
3. You worked at planning your paper throughout the semester. This strengthened your time-management abilities. You learned to organize your paper in logical form and prioritize the writing and revising of your drafts.
4. You communicated verbally with people inside and outside of the classroom about the topic and your paper. You asked your parents, friends, coaches, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, Pastors, and ‘old’ teachers for feedback. You put yourself out there – you allowed yourself to be criticized.
5. You obtained and processes information. You found pieces of evidence. While your peers found ‘holes’ in your arguments, you searched to restore credibility.
6. You analyzed quantitative data, as well as qualitative data. You made sense of information. You practiced incorporating this data into your own ideas and writing.
7. You created and edited a piece of original writing.
8. You sold your ideas to me. You influenced others to care. How? By clearly articulating your ideas and arguments.

These eight ideas support 80% of the skills that future employers are looking for. They are not looking to see that you received an A in this course, they will interview you for the skills mentioned above.

So, shine. Shine from within. Shine in the process. Know that your worth is not a bold, black line. It is not a final grade. Your worth is about your growth and your ability and willingness to learn. I can’t quantity that, I cannot test those skills. The real test in life is not a grade, the real test in life is your ability to learn, grow, and change.

That is what I told my children. Your worth is not in this bold, black line. Sure, your math shows 47%. You know what’s at 100%? Your generosity in your willingness to give your $1 winnings to a charity (true story), your ability to share how you are feeling, your kindness in helping a friend, your willingness to experience new things, your worth is in life…not a quantifiable mark on a piece of paper.

So, your test in life? The test that truly matters? The test that should matter to you? The one from Galatians, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” There may not be a test to measure these things…but they are the most important.

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We don’t all belong here…but, we all belong here.

It’s been some time since I’ve posted, certainly not because I don’t have anything to post. My mind has not gone blank – in fact, quite the opposite. It’s been a busy semester – a wonderful semester. I’ve been able to keep up on grading and planning. My students are amazing.

Then, last week – I was struck. Struck down, more like it.

One of my students got up and began their speech with a rhetorical question, “How many of you wish you had more money?” All of my students raised their hand. I didn’t. My students stared at me like I had the plague. After the speech, a student asked, “What’s wrong with you? Really – you wouldn’t like to have more money.”

I haven’t been able to let that go. I’ve tried. Generally, when I can’t let something go – it means I need to write. It’s the reason I have three books ‘in process.’ Admittedly, I sometimes struggle to finish. I get to the 80% mark and then something else captures my imagination and attention. Oh well…one day I’ll finish.

What was my answer? It was one of those moments in ‘teacherland’ where you become acutely aware that you are about to teach something that is not related to your curricular area. It is the opportunity to teach something much more important. So…I took a deep breath….

“No. I have enough to make a house payment, a car payment. I have enough for groceries and to pay my bills. I have enough to go out to eat a couple times a month and maybe take the kids to a movie. I have enough for Girl Scout Cookies and for our church. Sometimes, there is a little leftover to put into our savings account, sometimes not. I have enough.”

Complete silence takes over the room. Pin drop silence.

“This is what I hope for all of you. That one day, you are content enough in your life that you stop wanting. Wanting is a vicious cycle. You will never stop wanting until you recognize all you already have.”

Now, a confession. I won’t be turning down any raises in the near future…but, I am content.

So…this has been bothering me. Then I met with some high school students about possible careers. When I asked what they wanted to do their response was, “I want to make a lot of money.” Now, I can’t seem to let any of this go (the very reason I blog).

I realize I may be in the minority here – but I never dreamed of making a lot of money. I dreamed of making a difference. I wanted to be an actress, Meryl Streep to be specific. But I didn’t want to be Meryl Streep because she raked in the dough on any given film…I wanted to be Meryl Streep because she was (and is) amazing. I was intrigued by her ability to bring such different characters to life. I wanted to be her because she was creative and loved what she was doing.

So, when do we begin to have these conversations with our young people? Conversations about passions, about gifts, about enjoying what you do – every single day of your life.

Recently I read the article “College isn’t for everyone. Let’s stop pretending it is.” (http://www.slate.com/articles/life/education/2014/03/college_isn_t_for_everyone_let_s_stop_pretending_it_is.2.html). I wanted to shout Amen from the rooftops. Finally, someone said it. College ISN’T for everyone. We don’t all belong here.

Yes, I’ve read these articles before. Every semester I see students who would most likely be happier in a trade occupation, but they came to college because that’s ‘what they were told.’ Ugh. This is awful. They came to college so they could make more money-people told them it’s the way to make money and we know that money is the road to happiness (if you could only hear the snark in my voice). It’s simple…we don’t all belong here, and it’s okay.

To be clear, I’m referring to college as earning a BA/BS. I’m not referring to advanced education where young people learn to be electricians, plumbers, or stylists (just to name a few). I do believe that advanced education, in whatever form, is of utmost importance!

I have a good friend that’s a plumber (yes, Tom – that’s you if you’re reading this). He’s AMAZING at what he does and he’s truly one of the happiest people I know. I have several stylist friends – and I love them. They are so full of life, they love what they do. They love it – EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

So, what is the connection here? Well – these articles about ‘College Isn’t For Everyone,’ well…most of the articles tout earning potential/power because of earning a BA/BS. Maybe, maybe not – I have plenty of carpenter friends that are raking in way more than I can imagine. I digress, my real point is this…

Why is it about earning power? How about we start to have a conversation about not choosing college, but choosing something because it makes you happy? If the path to YOUR happy is college – that’s awesome. If the path to YOUR happy is trade school – that’s awesome. If the path to YOUR happy is an apprenticeship – that’s awesome. If the path to YOUR happy is becoming a firefighter – that’s awesome. Our young people should be encouraged to follow their own path, even if less traveled – because we all belong here.

There it is. We all belong here. Where is here? Here is the world. Every one of us has something to offer. What if we really began to pay attention to what our gift is, instead of focusing on ‘making money’ and ‘having stuff.’ What if we really began to pay respect to everyone who works their passion and has passion for their work?

So, to high school students all over…stop it with the money stuff, please. One day the stuff you buy will be gone, replaced by other stuff….which leads to more stuff. The stuff won’t make you happy.

Ask your grandparents. They will undoubtedly tell you…
Ask a middle-aged 40-something who makes good money but hates their job. They will undoubtedly tell you…

Choose your here. Wherever your ‘here’ is, whatever your ‘here’ means – be present, be awake, be alive, be passionate.

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Teacher continually in training…Joshua, Luke, and Plato

I love beginnings – all kinds of beginnings…new babies, new relationships, new marriages, new jobs, new friends, and of course new semesters (or school years).

The beginning of something is usually filled with anticipation and excitement; of nervous energy and assured confidence. How to keep that anticipation, excitement, energy, and confidence going throughout the semester is the real trick.

I am a pretty excitable person – my husband says I have two speeds. 1. Fast and 2. Asleep. He’s right (even though I hate admitting that at times). I’m always working in some way – working on a new lesson, working on a reading, working on grading, working on updating websites, working on a blog…

I’m always searching for things that really speak to my soul – music, movies, books, quotes… Over break, I’ve spent some time contemplating two ideas and how I can better integrate those ideas into my teaching.

I recently started to follow this website: http://www.becomingminimalist.com. Joshua Becker has chronicled his family’s movement towards minimalism. Through their journey the, “…began donating, recycling, and removing as many of our possessions as possible. We embarked on a minimalist journey to own less stuff. As a result, we discovered more money, more time, more energy, more freedom, less stress, and more opportunity to pursue our greatest passions: faith, family, friends.”

One of my very best friends from college turned me on to the website. Mostly, because I was having a bit of a breakdown (okay, not a ‘bit’ – it was a full-on cryfest) while trying to ‘get it all done’ for the holidays. While most of the ideas on this website have been lifelong goals – I’ve begun to really think about minimalism.

I have too much stuff…so I’ve been cleaning and clearing house, cleaning and clearing storage, cleaning and clearing closets. I started selling it, giving it, and throwing it. Much of this started with Christmas. I just couldn’t get it all done…the decorating, the baking, the present-wrapped, the finals grading, the parties, the buying…in the midst of it all, I looked at my children. They don’t care about villages and snow globes. They care about me, being with them. So, I took my own advice and started to slow down – I downsized decorating from four totes to two. Let me tell you, that felt AWESOME! So, I kept going…

I have too much stuff…so I haven’t been buying much. What freedom! So much peace in not finding places for stuff or coming home with the guilt of overspending on stuff I really didn’t need in the first place. Most of all though? To be honest? Having the extra money to spend on the kids…or to really spend with them. I already have a trip planned to Minneapolis – to go to the Walker Art Center and a play at the Children’s Theatre. Last night I told them that in 2014 they will see the ocean. Their faces were priceless. I told them I didn’t know when…maybe we would just leave on some Friday and drive until we hit the beach. Then spend a day there, turn around and come back. We even asked Siri. She told us the nearest beach is 953 miles away. I’m very excited to work (literally) towards making memories, not getting stuff…memories.

I’m saving for memories…not something on a list. Something that isn’t easily quantified…that’s what I’m saving for.

What does this have to do with teaching? I have too much stuff…in my syllabi. Too much junk. Too many tiny assignments that give students 5 points here or there. Too many requirements. So, I’ve done away with most of it. They get points for some of the process and the final product, but that stuff along the way? No.

Why? Well…I liken it to life in general. As adults, we don’t get praise (or prizes or points) for every tiny thing we do. This semester I will be more intentional about teaching students that the unceremonious process (drafts, reflecting, prewriting, practicing) is actually more important than the ceremonious prize that exists at the end (their grade). Because learning (like life) is much more about the journey than it is the destination.

So, much like my own children instead of spending time on grading…I will be really spending time with them. Guiding, teaching, showing, telling, mentoring – the very reasons I wanted to be a teacher.

The second idea that struck me over break is a Bible verse. Whether you read the Bible fervently, use it as a coaster, or have never opened one…this verse is something we can all learn from…

Luke 6:45: A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

A renewed focus on civil discourse. In all of my courses. A renewed focus on spreading kindness. A renowned focus on words and the impact of those words. A renowned purpose on understanding (or at least listening and considering) each person’s journey. If education is about the journey and not a destination – then life itself, is the best teacher.

What can we learn from each other? In classic rhetorical fashion, Plato said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” How true and this verse reminded me of that fact….

If the words we speak resemble the condition of our heart…then let us always use words that build up, rather than tear down.

This semester I will let the fewer words I speak and the fewer assignments I give to students provide them with a deeper understanding of each others educational journey, of their collective life stories.

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Enlightened Entitlement

Well…present time is over, it’s time to put away the tree, and final grades have been entered. Time to begin again….

Oh wait, not quite yet. There is this new phenomenon that is happening to college professors across the country. People are often astonished when I tell them – but, the fact is that it happens. It happened today. The first email from a student asking for a grade change. No, I’m not joking. They earned a D. They received a D. They need a C- for the class to count.

The best part about this particular message was the fact that she admitted that she didn’t do the work, she admitted slacking off, she admitted not doing her best…but wouldn’t I just help her out? I should know that this was her favorite class!

I have so much to say about this. Primarily? No. No. No.

No to it all. Just, no.

I’m not even surprised when the messages come anymore. I remember when it first happened, I was stunned. I would have NEVER EVER – seriously…NOT IN A MILLION YEARS asked my professor for a grade adjustment. In fact, even if I thought they ‘figured’ wrong – I probably still wouldn’t have asked.

Is this part of the ‘Entitlement Generation’ that we hear so much about? Entitlement is the notion that we ‘deserve something for nothing.’ I often hear this phrase from many of my colleagues and friends…you know, “These kids these days…”

Well, I try not to buy into much of this – because every generation has its ‘thing.’ In fact, for every entitled student, I meet a student who does not behave this way. I am a Gen X’er – people said we were ‘disenfranchised, disgruntled, materialistic, and disloyal.’ In fact, I am none of these.

I had 115 students this semester. I heard from two of them. That’s actually a pretty good percentage and I think it most likely reflects society as a whole.

I’m not sure we actually have super-entitled students, I think we live in a super-entitled world. These students (I would argue children in many ways) are simply a product of their environment. These children learn these behaviors. So, maybe instead of blaming…we begin to really examine our own ideas and behaviors about entitlement. How do we refer to entitlement in front of our children? Our students? Our friends and family? Our neighbors?

What am I entitled to? From my perspective…not much. Really, not anything. Sure our government ‘guarantees’ me all kinds of rights…but even those rights can be taken away if I violate a law or make someone else angry. Then, I have to deal with my loss of those rights – my choices. I’ve made some pretty good choices and some pretty awful ones, the one constant is that I must live with all of the consequences. Why? Because I am the common denominator.

Whether those consequences were all my ‘fault’ or not – it was the life I chose to live. I’ve learned to deal with stuff that’s not my ‘fault’ because of my feelings over the word entitlement.

I am not entitled to Jack Squat. Seriously, I am not entitled to happiness. I am not entitled to peacefulness. I am not entitled to kindness. I have these things in my life because I choose to focus on things that make me happy, feelings of peacefulness, and having a [near] constant disposition of kindness.

I think about this entitlement most often in reference to death, wills, and chaos that can ensue in families. I often use this metaphor to teach my students about the reality of life and its ‘fairness.’

I am not entitled to Jack Squat. Let me repeat AGAIN. I am not entitled to anything. (PERIOD).

For one reason, being entitled to anything means that I MUST equally accept responsibility that I am also entitled to the opposite. It’s like Karma. I caution folks I know about Karma. It’s always ‘fun’ to say – “Oh well…he hurt me. Karma’s a b*tch and it will come back to get him.” Well, here’s the deal…what if your hurt and your pain is actually YOUR karma? Unless you have been perfect (please tell me if you are, because I’d love to meet you) then we need to be very careful about throwing that kind of stuff out into the universe.

If my parents were to die tomorrow (I sincerely hope not), man I don’t want their debt. For real…I can barely keep my head afloat!!! That’s the ‘equal and opposite’ argument. If I believe I am entitled to their earnings, then I am as equally responsible for their debt. Ugh.

Therefore, what they choose to do with their ‘legacy’ (or lack thereof) is their business. Seriously, I don’t care. I didn’t make (or lose) it. It is their choice. The older I get the more I understand my father saying, “Equal isn’t always fair and fair isn’t always equal.”

Entitlement surely comes from believing that fair and equal are identical in connotation.

I also think that part of this entitlement issue revolves around feeling ‘deservedness.’ I’m married and I don’t even believe I am entitled to his love. His love is a blessing. His love is wonderful – but I’m not ‘entitled’ to his love simply because I am his ‘wife.’ I will be eternally grateful for his love, for HIS CHOICE to share his love with me – but it is his choice, not my entitlement – not what I deserve.

Again, believing that I deserved his love would also mean that I deserve people being rude to me.

Maybe feeling entitled is the opposite of believing in grace and having gratitude?

Unmerited goodness, or grace is the key concept of my life. This helps me to be thankful (and therefore, unentitled) for just about everything and anything.

Really, what a strange dichotomy! In all honestly, I didn’t immediately say no to that student. Grace helped me to consider the student’s request. If the student had 69% and was close to that C-? Well, I probably would have taken the chance, provided an opportunity. But, they weren’t. 65% – a strong D is not close enough.

So, I guess it takes all of us. There are those of us who are entitled, those of us who live our lives in grace, those of us who are hard-core, and those of us who just really don’t care either way. Much like Newton’s Third Law: To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.

It’s no wonder that Sir Newton lived during the period of Enlightenment…for he surely understood the dangers of entitlement.

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What’s the rush?

It’s finals time in University land. A strange time filled with out of control tired laughter and tears (often simultaneously). Immense amounts of caffeine. Struggling students and professors, alike. All of us – in one boat, rushing to get it all finished in the nick of time.

The fall semester always seems rough because of its proximity to a lot of other ‘stuff’ going on in Christian homes across the country. I’m sure you know what I mean…

It’s ironic, though. Finals week and Christmas time have so much in common…

Why are we in such a rush? This has been on my mind for quite some time, and it’s taken me some time (which is pretty normal) to organize my thoughts enough to actually get them onto paper (or screen). The idea of time, rushing, hurrying, getting to the end quickly…I don’t always understand this.

The rush to get the right present for the right person is overshadowed by being creative, by taking time, by being selective, by thinking. Thinking about that person. Not just getting something from their list; instead getting something from your heart and mind to theirs. I get that lists are important, I personally am not a fan. Sure, I like some ideas to go off of – but I actually don’t like going straight from a list.

I also don’t shop off of people’s gift registries (gasp…I hear gasp’s from soon-to be brides). How dare I go ‘off the list?’ Well, I dare. I know, I’m a COMPLETE rebel. Once in a while I even put my piece of bread in the wrong side of the toaster!!! (Again with the gasps).

I like to get something different. Something that the person hadn’t thought of. Something unique. Something fun. I think it’s related to my quest to know others. To really know them…not just on the surface. To really create human connection…something that is surely lacking in 2013.

I guess it’s how I view the world. Why does the world need to be so prescribed, why in such a rush? It’s the same as education…at all levels.

Why are our students in such a hurry? At the University level we deal with what is referred to as ‘dual-enrollment.’ Essentially, High School students take college level courses in an effort to come with credit hours. Many of our Freshman actually come as Sophomores (based on earned credit hours). Why? Well…it saves money to take these courses at their local community college and it puts them ahead in the registration process.

So, first the money saved. Well, I guess the larger question that I want to ask students is, ‘Are you here to get a degree or an education?’ These are two very different ideas. A degree is something that will sit on your shelf, hang on your wall. An education is something that you will take with you, that will forever affect your life. Lots of people have degrees…fewer have an education.

If you are satisfied with simply getting a degree. Fine, be in a hurry to graduate. Do it quickly, get it out-of-the-way so you can hurry into the ‘real world.’ I know you must be in a hurry to experience the wonderful working world. A world that is filled with fun and glorious high-earning potential. A world filled with time-off for friends and family. A world that allows for late nights and sleeping in. A world that encourages personal growth and fulfillment through volunteering in communities.

Take the economic approach. It will cost you less dollars.

The working world folks are currently in hysterics.

If you are more interested in growing as a person, expanding your perspective, meeting new and interesting people, understanding different viewpoints, and experiencing culture. Well then, slow down. Slow down and allow yourself to receive an education. Don’t begin in High School, most of these students (not all – because there are always exceptions) are not ready.

I teach College Freshman – I guarantee that the growth that occurs in the academic and emotional selves are immense during the first year of college. You are experiencing the first real ‘away from home.’ One of the reasons I love teaching College Freshman is that I get to be a witness to this growth. The difference between an August College Freshman and a May College Freshman is un-measurable. I have the distinct pleasure and opportunity to be a witness to this growth. I get to watch them become adults (well…most of them). It is a pleasure, it is wonderful, it is heart-warming. An example of this growth came from an unforgettable student last year…

In class we spent a class period talking about language and its affect on relationships. Specifically, how we must be thoughtful about our word choice. On the docket that day? Using the word ‘retarded.’ Offensive to some? You bet. My favorite moment is when I ask students to raise their hands and admit using the term in the past month. Then, I inform the class my son is on the Autism Spectrum. So when they refer to something being ‘retarded’ they are in fact offending me. The nature of the word derives from mental retardation – at one time, this is how folks on the spectrum were classified. Are you calling my son slow? Dumb? I hope not, because he’s incredibly bright and talented. I also love him like crazy, so you demeaning him will not go over well. The mama bear will make an appearance and absolutely fight. This particular conversation also lends itself to a conversation about the prevalence of the word ‘gay.’

He came to me in February and said, “I was just sitting there with some really good friends and we watched a video on youtube about homosexuality [Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ One Love]. I don’t really know why I am sharing this with you but it really touched me and made me really think about the way that I have responded to the topic. [tears began to well in his eyes] Different comments I have made that are definitely hateful towards people who have “same love”, just make me think about how much of an asshole I have been.”

Then, he followed with an email, “…Anyway, I thought this song/video slightly relates to the conversation we had the other day in class about slang words that our generation has taken to be normal conversation material. That’s really all I have to say, so here is the video. Hope you enjoy as much as I did!”

That is an education, not a degree. That is what happens when students aren’t in a hurry. That is what happens in Freshman-level courses across campuses.

Don’t take the economic approach. It will cost more dollars, but will provide realizations, epiphanies, and understandings of the human experience that you cannot learn anywhere else. These experiences will help you understand people in whatever profession you choose to pursue. It will cost more money. The trade-off is that you gain a better understanding of the things we often are unable to quantify. I cannot ‘measure’ your emotional intelligence (EI). However, we know that emotional intelligence matters in climbing the proverbial career ladder. From Chapter 2 of Daniel Goleman’s book, The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace, “In general the higher a position in an organization, the more EI mattered: for individuals in leadership positions, 85 percent of their competencies were in the EI domain.” Interesting, the skills that propel you to the top of your career choice do not come from a degree, but from an education.

So, if you are in High School…allow yourself to be in High School. Soon enough you will have the opportunity to experience college. It will be here soon enough. Allow yourself time to enjoy your friends and family, work a part-time job, participate in all of the extra-curriculars you want. Allow yourself time to be sill,y to enjoy 17, because you will NEVER get that carefree time back. Stop trying to get ahead. Slow down and enjoy it.

If you are in College…stop being in such a rush to get to the rush. Instead, enjoy a daily rush from taking it all in, from experiencing the daily gifts that life teaches us. Get your rush there…from life itself.

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