Wednesday, September 17, 2008


As a teacher in a Christian school, my desire is for my students to be like Christ. Ideally, that they would imitate me as I imitate Christ.

In Ephesians 5:1, Paul writes:

Therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children.

The word therefore calls us back to 4:27 where Paul writes:

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.

We are to imitate God. In holiness. In forgiveness. In patience.

The Greek word “imitate” is the same word from which we get the word mimeograph.

A mimeograph was a machine that first required the use of a typewriter. A typewriter was used to cut out a stencil of a printed page. This stencil was wrapped around a drum, and ink was transferred to white paper in the areas where the stencil was cut out.

A later development was the ditto machine, or spirit duplicator. This machine utilized a special paper in which text was handwritten or typed on a paper containing carbon ink, usually purple. The ditto “master” was then placed on a metal drum. As the drum was turned, either automatically or by hand crank, mineral spirits would dissolve just enough ink on the master to make a copy on white paper. A spirit master could often make up to 500 copies of a document before running out of ink.

This process was widely used in schools for years until photocopying became the norm.

Dittos, as they were called, were good likenesses of the original, but were often blotted or smeared with purple ink.

In our attempt to imitate God, we will not be perfect. Like the dittos that rolled off the duplicating machine, we will be useful, but we will not be perfect images of the original.

As teachers we need to remember that they too will be imperfect images of the original. The process of becoming Christlike takes time. And patience. And forgiveness.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thursday Afternoon Thoughts

It's the end of the fifth day of school. Two days last week. Three days this week. Actually four, but the high school is off-campus tomorrow for Camp Day.

Camp Day is a day of fun games and challenging Bible messages from a local pastor. Typically, the day sets the spiritual tone for the high school for the school year. In many ways, the senior class sets the tone. The underclassmen look to the seniors for their example.

I will miss most of Camp Day tomorrow. I have an apppointment in the morning to have my stitches (from my biopsy) removed. And another appointment in the afternoon. In between, my wife and I will drop by the camp to have lunch and take in a chapel session.

By God's grace, this school year is off to a good start for me personally. Although I am tired at night, and often in much pain by mid-afternoon, I wake up in the morning excited to teach another day. I guess that's the way it is when you are doing something that you love. When you are doing what you were called to do.

My daughter, a ninth grader, has been a true servant to me. She helps me get organized each morning. She makes sure I have enough water to drink. She brings me my lunch.

The other students are also helpful. They help pass out papers, collect papers, get materials for me.

Their cooperation and patience with me help enable me to remain in the classroom.

Next week is the first full week of school. The first such week is usually the hardest. Folks that do not teach - those with regular jobs that work all year - laugh at us and mock us, but they do not understand what being in the classroom is like.

From 8:10 until 2:50, my day is planned out for me. I am blessed to have a 25-minute lunch break apart from my students, but most of the other teachers have lunch duty. Have you ever eaten in the same room with 35 junior high students or 50 high school students? I teach six different academic subjects and proctor a study hall each day. The last "hour" of each day is my planning period. For most of the day I am "on task" with groups of students ranging in size from ten to thirty. I am constantly making decisions that involve their care and their future well-being.

I have held jobs where I could plan my own schedule - go to the restroom when I wanted, eat when I wanted, take breaks when I wanted, make a phone call when I wanted. Being a teacher does not allow for such freedom and flexibility.

I am not complaining. But if you have never been a teacher, you might stop and reconsider before making any comments about working only nine months out of the year or having three months of vacation. Many of us use our vacation time to evaluate the previous year and plan for the year ahead. Yes, the schedule of a teacher is great - especially if you have children of your own, but it does not make up for the busy-ness and stress of the school year.

Some teachers, no doubt, have it easier than others. Some may not take their position of influence serious enough. But most do. And most work hard.

I love being a teacher. I love working with young people and helping them grow in their knowledge and wisdom. I love it when the lights turn on and they grasp a concept. I love the unpredictability of the students. I love the various personalities present in the classroom.

I love the fact that my students teach me as much, if not more, as I teach them. I touch their lives and they touch mine.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

First Day

I woke up at 5:00 this morning. I was so excited. Today was the first day of school.

I wore a new tie today. A tie featuring cartoon characters. It was a gift from my son’s K4 class last year when I went in and read to the class. Blueberries for Sal. A great book for children.

I do not think that anyone noticed my tie today. But it made me happy to wear it. The bright colors. And the fact that my son’s class gave it to me.

After a brief meeting with all of the students in the auditorium, we met in our homerooms – I have the 9th and 10th graders, then resumed a regular schedule.

In all, I met with four of my six academic classes: physical science, chemistry, Bible, and life science. Junior high social studies (Pennsylvania history and geography of the western hemisphere) and biology will meet tomorrow.

My classes range in size from ten in biology to 35 in junior high social studies.

Each class period today consisted of arranging the students according to my seating plan, distributing and explaining the 1st quarter syllabus, distributing and surveying the textbooks.

I assigned homework in a few of my classes. After school, I discovered that I was probably the only teacher that gave homework – at least, that is what my daughter said. I am feeling a bit guilty. Not really.

I just got off the phone with a good friend from Georgia. We taught together for six years. We were the middle school science department. Ours is one of those rare friendships that perseveres through time and distance.

We were discussing the fact that I had six preps and he has only one – he teaches four periods of physical science. While my schedule provides for great variety each day, his requires much less preparation time. Both schedules have their benefits and liabilities.

One day has passed. 179 remain in this school year. I am determined to make the most of each day.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A New Perspective for A New School Year

Note: This entry is adapted from a post that appeared on my other blog, The Hokey Pokey Place. I thought it would be fitting as a first entry for this blog.

In an hour, we will be going to my office at the church/school so that I can catch up on some paperwork, do some planning for school, etc.

In two weeks from yesterday, my classroom will be filled with students eager to learn/hear my corny jokes/go to lunch/get to soccer practice/go home/get through the day without being embarassed. And I cannot wait! Well, I can. But I am really looking forward to being back with my students.

I have worked all summer to get prepared for the new school year. Despite all the planning, there is still this crunch time in the two weeks leading up the beginning of classes.

Perhaps it is the enormity of the task ahead. The grandeur of the task to which we have been called. [Teaching is a profession to which one must be called. You do not necessarily choose this life. It is chosen for you.] It is difficult to plan, control, and contain. But we try.

There is an incredible excitement about the new school year. [I pity the teacher that does not have that excitement. Perhaps, for her, it is time to move on.] There is a freshness. It is a new beginning. A new opportunity to influence lives for eternity.

By God's grace I am not the same person I was a year ago. Because of my experiences over the past year (cancer diagnosis, ongoing treatment and testing, being away from the classroom for six months), I have a new perspective on life and teaching.

I have always been intrigued by perspective. Ways of looking at things. Artistically. Anthropologically. We all have different ways of looking at things. Often we can look at the same series of events and arrive at very different interpretations and conclusions. It is based on what we have learned. Our personality. Our values. Our experiences.

Ultimately, all perspectives relate back to our view of God. Is God real? Is He really sovereign? Does He care about me? Where is God when I am hurting? All good questions that must be answered.

I am starting the year with a renewed perspective. I am not completely sure what that perspective is, but one cannot go through what we have gone through in the past nine months without a change in perspective. At least, I do not think it would be possible.

I think my renewed perspective is consistent with Deuteronomy 6. Teaching children to love God and to love His Word. Teaching by example. Teaching out of an overflow of God's grace. Teaching through pain and loss. Through uncertainty. Through doubts. Teaching out of a relationship of mutual respect and trust. Teaching children how to apply truth in the everyday activities of life. Taking advantage of teachable moments.

Being sensitive to God's timing. Stopping. Observing. Listening. Where is she? Where is he? What does she need in this moment to draw her nearer to Christ? Who is that boy in the third row? He is a child of God. He is of infinite worth and purpose. His creation. Created for His glory. Redeemed for His glory. Or in need of redemption. By the blood of Jesus Christ. The same blood that was shed for me.

I tend to think that I have less than two weeks to get my perspective straight. In reality, our perspective continually evolves over a lifetime as we grow closer to God. As we gain the mind of Christ. As we grow in our love and knowledge of Him. As we continue to experience the trials and challenges that God uses to shape us into who we were made to be.

My perspective will become very apparent to my students as we encounter life together in the classroom and in our community. God will use me to shape their perspectives. For better or for worse.

Perspective is not just something. It is everything.