with the outcome
of a rain dance."
"Timing has a lot to do
with the outcome
of a rain dance."
OK, I know, we'd driven through a great deal of mountains to get to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, but we finally entered the official National Park of the Great Smoky Mountains on the first day following our long drives. We stopped at the interpretive center soon after arriving, but it wasn't open yet, so we took a short (very short) hike to a small waterfall. The trail was wide and pleasant, and the weather was optimal.
Just for kicks, I asked the ranger at the interpretive center where we would most likely spot moose. For the record, I know there are no moose in the Smoky Mountains, but I thought it would be fun to see the look on his face. To my chagrin, he didn't miss a beat in his response, telling me I'd have to travel far to the north to see them.
"Don’t pick a fight
with an old man:
if he is too old to fight,
he’ll just kill you."
Originally posted on August 9, 2016
You had to know this was coming. If you've read the rest of my Professional Pet Peeves, you just had to know I would make a post specifically about this. Please, oh please, do not tie yourself to a teachers edition, or a textbook for that matter. Do that, and you automatically tie your hands behind your back. Do that, and you relinquish your authority as an educator. Do that, and you are beholden to the megalomaniacal conglomeration of textbook frauds (I hope they weren't looking for me to represent them after I retire; that could've been a nice gig.).
You see, those books are just too scripted for me, and as a teacher I'm just not much of an actor. My teaching is real. I am real. My students are real. I am too passionate to shirk every last iota of creativity in my abilities and mindlessly follow that textbook.
Like often, I have to allow that everyone gets some things right, and that's obviously true of the textbook publishers. Obviously, with the amount of stuff they put in that TE, they're bound to get something right. Eventually. I just don't see any expediency in rifling through all the fluff when I can just as easily create it myself (or ask my peers for help, or even find it with a quick internet search).
Follow their script, and you'll soon find yourself behind. And you'll worry about it, won't you? Tie yourself to that teachers edition, and you'll miss the teaching of some very important skills or content.
So my advice to you - because I know you might long for some guidance - is to use the teachers edition only when you need it. Don't take it home, and don't leave it open to the next page. Don't follow along word for word or page by page. Use it, sparingly, when you're stuck.
And don't assume that it teaches the things you need to present! Far from it: that textbook does not know your students. It may even confuse you and your students, getting bogged in the mire of a so-called expert, doctor of educational discombobulation (DED). The DEDs believe your classroom is like a computer program. They sit in their university offices, and they create programs and flow charts that they think every student falls into:
If this, then goto there
If not, then goto another there
If neither, then return to there
If both, then stay here
The problem lies in the facts of nature vs. nurture - or rather the combination of the two. Those pesky kids of yours tend to come with their own quirks, strengths, and glitches, and no flow chart is going to scientifically work for them all. You have to know that's true! Do your students a favor: get your nose out of the teachers edition and look those kids in the eyes. See them as human beings and unique people - not as blips on your monitor to be systematically manipulated by the knobs and dials of a person who's not even in the room.
Wilson’s Creek is an important 1861 Civil War battlefield in Republic, near Springfield. The postmaster’s house has been 80% reconstructed on the large property, and we have been able to tour the house, which stands directly adjacent to the Wire Road, where stagecoaches traveled, delivering mail and passengers between points in Arkansas and Missouri.
While standing on the front porch of the Ray house, I could not help but imagine the ensuing battle in the nearby forests and cornfields. With little effort, I could easily envision soldiers fighting hand-to-hand. I could smell the exploding powder. I could hear the percussive cadence of the small arms, punctuated by the cannon blasts and the persistent shouts of thousands of frightened men as they ran into bloody fields.
The Ray family, however, did not have to imagine. They heard, saw, and smelled the event from their bedrooms, their basement, and their porch. Undoubtedly, they felt the concussive explosions translated through the soil beneath them. They could literally sit in a rocking chair and see the back-and-forth tide of uniforms and sweat, just as easily as I can drink a glass of iced tea while watching a documentary on the History Channel in my living room. Soon enough the battle would infringe greater upon their lives as their house was transformed into a hospital. Gray uniforms. Blue uniforms. Homemade clothing. All stained with the crimson blood of injury and death.
Reflecting on the events, of course, brings application as I realize we are not that far removed from the situation; there are people alive in the Missouri, today, who were born while Civil War soldiers were still telling stories about their experiences in battle.
But not only do are we close to the event, in the sense of passing time, but in circumstance, as well. I understand that we, too, are sitting in our houses on hot days as war is being waged in 360 degrees around us. The war, made up of small and large battles here and there, brings many casualties and fatalities.
Like the Ray family, in August of 1861, we can crowd ourselves into our cellars - as millions of unborn humans are murdered, as government officials force anti-Biblical opinions on their constituents, as media-stimulated youths gun down dozens of strangers in a theater or on a college campus, as people who dare expose their Christian beliefs, through nonaggressive statements, are castigated by amoral atheists, anarchists, and evolutionists.
Make no mistake: the Civil War was a turning point, a defining moment, and a tragic episode in the history of our modern world. The War on Christian Values is no less turning, defining, or tragic. As we recline in our La-Z-Boys, sleep on our memory foams, drink our diet sodas, and wile away on facebook, the blasts of these spiritual battles are spraying shrapnel into our Christian faces. As we relax, rebel yells are being shouted into our Christian ears. As we mind our own business, the ground below our Christian feet is shaking. One might think the sheer volume, the eye-stinging smoke, and the sulfurous and coppery stench would be enough to waken us from our apathetic stupors.
It would be wrong to compare ourselves with the great apostle Paul. Certainly most of us would come out of such a comparison – a contrast really – with a bleak opinion of ourselves.
In Philippians 1, beginning with verse 12, Paul writes, “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ [or “my imprisonment in Christ] has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.”
“[M]y circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel…” Another version uses the phrase “what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. Friends, the word “advance” is a military term that refers to the movement of an army into enemy territory. As the soldiers move forward, they clear the obstacles, open the roads, drain the swamps, and build pontoon bridges so that the whole army can advance unhindered (I wish I knew more about my grandfather’s experiences in the Seabees during World War II.).
Think for a moment about the long chain of events that led to this moment. It started in Acts 21 when he went to Jerusalem to make an offering in the Temple. Unfounded rumors spread that he had brought a Gentile into the sacred precincts. That led to a mob scene where Paul was severely beaten and would have been murdered if the authorities had not stepped in and arrested him. Eventually he was sent to Caesarea to stand trial as a Roman citizen. There he was held without bail for two years, narrowly avoiding being murdered by a group of 40 cutthroats who vowed not to eat or drink until they killed him.
Meanwhile he gave his testimony to Felix, the Roman governor, who listened attentively and then kept Paul in confinement, hoping for a bribe. Still later he testified in chains before King Agrippa. Eventually he was put on a boat with other prisoners and sent to Rome. But the boat never made it, eventually sinking during a violent storm on the Mediterranean Sea. Paul and other survivors were washed up on the shores of Malta where a serpent came out of the fire and bit him. Finally he was brought in chains to Rome where he was kept under house arrest for two years, awaiting trial before Caesar. Meanwhile his opponents spread rumors about him, attempting to destroy his reputation and ruin his ministry.
That’s the background of Paul’s statement in Philippians 1:13. As he looks back on all of this, he sees clearly that everything happened for a divinely-ordained purpose – the false rumors, the riot, the beating, the arrest, the four years of confinement, the public misunderstanding, the ruining of his reputation, the slanders, the whispers, the accusations against his name, the shipwreck, the snakebite, and his house arrest in Rome. All of it now is clearly seen as part of God’s plan to bring him to Rome at precisely this moment in precisely this situation so that he would be where God wanted him to be. Adversity is a part of the God’s Providence in Paul’s life!
We could spend hours making a list of adversities that Christians experience every day in our world, in our nation, in our state, in our city, and in our own personal lives. Maybe it would even be to our advantage to list them out, just as Paul did, in order to see the things the God has brought and is bringing us through. The gospel is advanced when we, through our circumstances, cause our brothers and sisters to more greatly trust in the Lord and “have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.”
Awake, oh sleepers! Lift your miserable bodies from your comfortable resting places, don your spiritual armor, and pick up your shield and sword! Walk together through the flaming missiles of deceit and evil. Take the high ground. Deny all advantage to the enemy. Defend and offend.
With God as our commander, we must ready ourselves with the ammunition of faith, aggressively fight the good fight, trumpet the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and conquer death in our unashamed response to the Gospel. No longer can we afford to be neutral eyewitnesses to the carnage. No longer can we afford to watch from a distance. No longer can we lean on our scabbards while the enemy blatantly fires darts in the direction of our narrow path. Through our struggles, God is glorified!
“An honest man alters his opinion to fit the truth;
a prejudiced man alters the truth to fit his opinion.”
After our pizza on the first evening, we looked through the windows of a moonshine facility to see the process in progress - the still, the fermenting corn, and the whole nine yards. It smelled awful and I can't imagine why anyone would want to put the product into his mouth, let alone his body. The best part of the evening, entertainmentwise was the bluegrass band nearby, which happened to be playing Rocky Top.
"Rivers do not drink their own water,
trees do not eat their own fruit,
the sun does not shine on itself,
and flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves.
Living for others is a rule of nature.
We are all born to help each other - no matter how difficult it is. Life is good when you are happy,
but much better when others are happy because of you."
While the local schools were in their last week, our family took off to the great green south - the Smoky Mountains. Passing through Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky, we finally found our way to Tennessee and North Carolina, where we would spend a week enjoying the natural beauty and some things that were not quite as natural.
In the second category is Buc-ees, the 21st-Century's answer to the Stuckey's of my childhood road trips. Buc-ees capitalizes on just about every perceived "need" of the traveler, beginning with so many gasoline pumps that they can hardly be counted. I wove through aisles and aisles of all sorts of merchandise for sale - tourist kitsch, snack items branded to the company, household goods, all kinds of souvenirs, actual groceries, and a lunch counter with live people building barbecue items that smell like heaven - to find humungous restroom facility, which was (as advertised) very clean. I suppose I must concede that these "convenience stores" are a must-see attraction.
I am always amazed to see the representation of black people in paintings of our founding era at all. For some reason, artists saw the need to include people of color, albeit in the background, in major portraits and in the scenes of major events. If they had not, much of the historical nature of an entire race would be gone.
I have seen Kaphar's work in person. In his portrait of Andrew Jackson, located in the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, a portion of Jackson is covered by what appears to be torn rags. I needed some help to understand the piece at the time, thinking that the artist was trying to get rid of history and make a political statement. It's so much more than that.
With a level head, Titus Kaphar explains how he begins the conversation using his talents, and it's worth a look. Take a moment and watch the TED Talk (above). Whether you agree with everything that this man says, it will make you think again.
“If we do not lay out ourselves
in the service of mankind,
whom should we serve?”
Our students at Pittsburg State University worked very hard, this semester. I was very proud to be a part of their professional semester, and I can say that some of these teacher candidates are among the best I've seen in my long career in education. ISABELLE and JOSEPH were especially honored at the ceremony as they were named Teachers of Promise.
In an unfortunate conflict of schedules, I had to miss this spring ceremony. I would have liked to see my students one more time and send them off into their new classroom careers. Most (if not all) of the students assigned to me this semester have already secured teaching positions and will assume new responsibilities in the fall.
“Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” (Philippians 4:1).
The call to “stand firm” refers to a soldier staying faithfully at his post no matter what happens around him. Let the enemy attack as he will, the soldier’s orders are clear: Stand firm!
This command was often repeated by the Apostle Paul:
Paul had a healthy respect for the devil’s attempts to discourage and distract the children of God. He knew that we would be sorely tempted to leave our post when the bullets of temptation start whizzing by our heads. So he repeats it again and again: Stand firm!
Stay in the Traces
Are you familiar with the term “Stay in the traces?” The phrase comes from the colonial period of American history when few roads were paved and people traveled by horse-drawn wagons. Over time the wagon wheels dug deep ruts that hardened until they were called “traces.” A good driver would make sure his wagon wheels were firmly in the traces, and then he let the horses pull the wagon to the destination.
Down South there is a famous national parkway called the “Natchez Trace.” It’s a lovely drive that starts in Nashville, Tennessee, and ends at Natchez, Mississippi on the banks of the Mississippi River. In the old days people who wanted to go to Texas would follow the “trace” from Nashville to Natchez. In a few places the old roadbed can still be seen—with the deep trace marks still evident after 150 years. To travel the road, you simply put your wagon in the traces in Nashville and just “stayed in the traces” until you got to Natchez—a few hundred miles down the road.
This is a parable of the spiritual life. Most days nothing exciting happens. Ninety-nine percent of life is ordinary. You get up, eat breakfast, go to work (or take care of the children), come home, eat supper, go to bed, get up the next day and do it all over again. And the day after that and the day after that. Day in and day out—this is life for most of us.
What is the will of God for you and for me? It is to get up each day and do what you have to do—cheerfully if you can, grumpily if you must. But do it nonetheless. Doing God’s will means staying in the traces of life day after day after day. Just do what God has given you to do. If you like it, that’s great. If you don’t like it, do it anyway. If you wish you were doing something else, grit your teeth and do it anyway. God blesses those people who do what they have to do each day—and do it even though they might prefer to do something else.
All of us are tempted to “jump the traces” from time to time. I can testify that I have never yet met a man or a woman who prospered after “jumping the traces.” You end up trading one rut for another plus you have guilt inside and broken hearts all around. If you “stay in the traces,” you may be bored tomorrow morning but at least you won’t be embarrassed or ashamed of the choices you made. Whoever you are and wherever you are and whatever you are doing, if you don’t do anything else, do this: Stand firm!
I can't help but have fond memories of last year's reward of being chosen as one of only 50 teachers to be shipped to Disney World in Florida for some pampering, special events, and training and insight into Disney ways of doing things. I met some amazing and industrious teachers from across the country there, as well.
We were treated to Main Street USA before the gates were opened to the public. We were followed around all over the place by camera crews. We got special tours of the Magic Kingdom. We designed our own theme parks using the Blue Sky method. We heard from Disney presidents and vice presidents, as well as Imagineers. We ate special meals, sampling from around the parks. We had special, reserved seating for the evening show at EPCOT. We sang and danced with a Broadway choreographer. We heard from a Broadway performer. We stayed in the fanciest resort. We rode Guardians of the Galaxy ride with the Imagineer who designed it on its opening day. And we had tickets for free time in all four Disney parks. All transportation and lodging was provided, and they even sent an extra check to cover income taxes.
It was a whirlwind, but an amazing experience of which I was proud and honored to be a part.
Click away for a more detailed record of the 50 Teacher Celebration.
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