Sunday, March 13, 2011

Freedom Writers

We showed my parents Freedom Writers last night.  Let me say up front that this movie is rated PG-13 for language and some violence, and it is rough in places.  But the things that Freedom Writers says about education and the influence that an exceptional, caring teacher can have on students for me outweighed the concerns.  I even let Jessica watch it, which I typically don't do with PG-13 movies.

Freedom Writers was required viewing for EDUC 688, which I facilitated earlier this semester, primarily because the school-level, teacher-level, and student-level factors that we had been studying were so evident in this movie.  It is based on the real-life story of Erin Gruwell, a first year teacher in Long Beach, California in 1994.  Erin chooses to teach at Woodrow Wilson High School, a recently integrated school that is struggling to adjust to the academic and social needs of a suddenly diverse group of students.  As Erin tries to find ways to relate to her students and make the curriculum relevant to the lives of her students, she is faced with either indifference or direct opposition by the faculty and administration of her school. 

Erin's students segregate themselves within her classroom, and she finds that trust is difficult to build with this group.  As Erin invests more time, energy, and money in her students, she finds ways to not only win their trust, but also to expand their minds and their worlds.  Exposing her students to writers that tell stories that they can relate to, she helps them give voice to their own stories and helps them learn to have hope in the future.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Resilient Life by Gordon MacDonald

A Resilient Life was one of the texts for the Education course I facilitated this spring.  We  used it to reflect on qualities that build resilience, both in teachers and students.  I think reading my students' faith reflections on this book was one of my favorite parts of the course. 

MacDonald introduces the topic of resilience as something he began learning from his high school track coach, and he revisits the running analogy and the influence of this coach throughout the book.  In this book he addresses the importance of "finishing strong", seeing the big picture, "repairing" the past, training to "go the distance", and developing and maintaining deep Christian relationships. 

The topic I found most challenging was that of repairing the past.  Often we go through life burdened by the weight of broken relationships, mistakes, and damaging experiences that we haven't quite put behind us.  MacDonald stresses the importance of repentance, forgiveness, gratitude, and learning from mistakes.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Although entertaining and easy to read, it contained challenging concepts that brought me back to reread the sections I found most difficult.  I recommend this book to anyone who sees life as a marathon.


A piece of writing

I started writing this reflection about 6 years ago, and never really finished it.  I tacked on a few sentences and thought I'd throw this out here.

Pulling Weeds

            I recently began weeding the yard of the house we bought last fall.  Because we were busy getting our old house ready to sell when we moved into this house, we didn’t do much more in the yard than try to rake up some of the thousands of leaves that covered the lawn.  (For people who had never owned a house with one full-grown tree, much less six, this was a daunting task.)  So when spring rolled around, we found ourselves fighting weeds and a variety of grasses that had decided to compete for space with our St. Augustine grass.
            When I began weeding, I started in a section that was primarily weed-infested, with little good grass in the area.  Pulling weeds in this area was fairly simple; the roots occasionally put up a good fight, but most of the time they came pretty easily.  Often the weeds were spaced far enough apart to prevent any entanglement which might make it harder to pull the roots from the ground.
            Then I moved on to areas where the weeds were encroaching upon areas already occupied by the grass.  As I tried to pull the weeds in this area, I met with resistance; the weeds were intertwined with the good grass.  Pulling on those weeds resulted in coming away without the roots or pulling out some of the good grass which had put down roots in the same place.
            As I was alternately pulling the tops off of the weeds without the roots and pulling up pieces of St. Augustine with the weeds whose roots I succeeded in wrestling from the ground, I realized how much this weeding process resembled my life.  Often the sin in my life is isolated or located in clumps of bad habits.  This sin responds fairly well to occasional weeding, yielding most of its roots with a continued application of pressure to pull the sin from my life.  Some sin, however, entangles itself with the good things I want to grow in my life.  These “weeds” are difficult, often yielding only the visible parts but leaving the roots when I attempt to disentangle them from the good qualities I am working to cultivate.  This sin reappears quickly and with more strength than before. 
Pride is one such weed.  It threads itself around the good deeds that I do and ties itself to the roots of those kind acts until they are imperceptibly but completely enmeshed.  When friends at the Crestview church suggested that I talk to the people in the worship ministry about signing up to be on the rotation of the “miked singers” at our worship services, I had to decline.  Putting a microphone in my hand during worship service makes it extremely difficult for me to focus on the message and the meaning of the song; I struggle with putting aside thoughts of how I sound and what others are thinking.  I still have much to learn about giving and serving, but for now I have to choose carefully and guard my thoughts to ensure that those acts come from the heart of a servant.


This blog will eventually include an assortment of photos, brief book and movie reviews, and ideas for enhancing learning at home or in the classroom.  Hope you enjoy!