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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