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Community in a Time of Struggle

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Maintaining the Road of Learning

I have spent my entire life living in Michigan, the Great Lakes State, the state of ever-changing weather, the state with two seasons (despite claims to the contrary); Winter and Road Repair... a stateloaded with metaphor potential. And in as far as this is all true, I would like to link a Michigan-related metaphor to learning and an encouraging recent experience.
One month ago, I welcomed a brand new group of foreign language students into my classroom. This group had been blessed by the energy of a very gifted and caring colleague of mine for the first three trimesters of their learning, and because of this, I knew that they had come to me well- prepared. So immediately, on the first day of class, we launched into learning...learning about each other, learning about our interests, our fears, our hopes, all of those first day activities.
In a very short time; however, it became clear that this class was different from others that I had experienced in the past. The group represented a full sp…

Stress

Stress
“Mr. Pickerd, I just can’t do today!”
These words fainted out of her mouth as she drooped there in front of me.
“What on earth is wrong?” I asked.

This proved to be the right or wrong question at the wrong or right time…I couldn’t tell quite yet, because what poured out for the following minute or two became a litany of stressors in the life of this young student: test here, practice over there, paper due then, work in the meantime… The list continued. She felt driven to the point of confusion, of disarray, and was no longer able to focus on the moment.

My teacher (and more so my parent) heart wanted to sit her down and help her decide which of the too many activities was or were pressing her beyond her limits, but that wasn’t what she wanted. Time to put away the toolbox. She needed to lay it all out and be heard, nothing more at the time.

If this were an isolated situation, I might be able to chalk it up to a student who has opted to take on too much. That is not the case, though. …

Time

Time. Is it something I find? Is it something I make? Is it a priority? How do I spend it? Do I waste it? I can’t get more of it. How much do I have anyway?
How often I find myself asking these questions!
If my starting point for these questions is information-seeking, I may reach one set of conclusions. If; on the other hand, my asking the questions is more rhetorical… more meditative, I may reach an entirely different conclusion.
Right now, I am sitting in a very quiet room on the campus of the University where I am blessed to teach as an adjunct.  The day began at 3:40 a.m. I woke an hour early and worked my way through a cup of tea and a fresh shave before noticing my mistake.  Time.  Time gained or time lost?
At 5:00, I woke my son so that he could prepare for school and the zero hour that we both share. It begins at 6:23 each morning and thrusts us into another language before most weary eyes begin to quiver themselves awake. While having a short morning prayer and feeding our still …

Water, Tea, and a Spot of Time

Life seems full of coincidences.  We run into people just after we think about them.  We hear a song in our heads and shortly thereafter hear it on the radio. Sooner or later; though, what seems at first to be coincidence actually proves to have more purpose.  
Here’s an example…  I recently read the story in John 4 where Jesus was tired on a journey.  Being near Jacob’s well, he stopped for a while to refresh himself with a drink of water.  What came as a result of this water stop was a conversation with a Samaritan woman at that well.
Coincidence? Perhaps, but what came as a result of the conversation was life.  The words exchanged there were nothing less than an example of hospitality, love, care, and a model for us to follow.
Just a few days after reading this passage, I was blessed by an encounter with a student while I was on my way to fill my water bottle.  This student didn’t have the life matters of the woman at the well, but life was indeed weighing her down heavily.  She too was…

Window Streaks and Learning

Early in my marriage, my wife and I would infrequently haul out rolls of paper towel and window spray for the detestable work of washing windows.  One of us worked on the outside and the other from in the house. Inevitably, one of us would tap in the window and point to a streak or spot that the other had missed.  The trouble was that the person with the spot or streak couldn’t see it.  We simply needed to trust each other’s eyes, follow the pointing finger, reapply the spray and wipe a bit longer.   At times the work leads to laughter, sometimes not. Just this week I relearned the wisdom of this lesson again, twice: once in my classroom, once in another venue. Both reminded me of how much I need to continue learning. The classroom application came in a class in which I had been practicing a concept that I had been teaching the students for over two weeks and which would be on an up and coming test.  Though the students could work magic with the concept in a closed context (a school conte…

We each process differently. Speaking and listening in Teaching(or training, or training, or…)

We each process differently.  Speaking and listening in Teaching(or training, or training, or…) Over the years and decades of learning and teaching (and coaching and training…), I have been placed in so many different sets of circumstances in which I needed to stop, look, listen, and reflect about what I was doing. It always came at a time when what I was doing was either not working or not as well as I had hoped. Several weeks ago it happened again. During an evening class, I was pulling out all of the stops to teach a concept to a group of students. They too were putting themselves into the learning.  Yet, despite everyone’s effort, the connection I had hoped my class would make with the material fell short.   At the end of the evening, I asked the group to review and share with me what they had learned, and they did so quite well. Nonetheless, I sensed that their words masked the lack of depth of understanding. Their eyes, on the other hand, revealed all. Upon leaving the building I wa…