Saturday, August 28, 2010

Someone's Thomas

My teaching has changed since becoming mom. There is no doubt about that. And in a word, it would be that I have become gentle.  [Don't ask my students. They would argue otherwise. Really.]

There are two ways to motivate students. No. There are two ways to motivate anyone: Fear or Love

Everyone knows what it is to be motivated by fear. Don't miss a utility payment -- someone might turn off your electricity.  Turn in your assignment or you will receive a zero. Do what is expected as my child or I will not speak to you.  Fear traps us between a rock and a hard place, leaving us often in a situation to do what is asked but developing a poor relationship with the person and/or a negative understanding of that experience if it is only fear with which we feel motivated.

But to be motivated by love? This is altogether different. How many of us feel motivated in a way that is encouraging and life-illuminating, in a way that makes us feel whole and free to do so. And how do you motivate students to love literature [or history or math and so on]?

Well, that's not really the only question we have to worry about. It is this first: How do you teach to each individual student? For, the student who feels he/she matters is the student who feels that your subject area might. .... or does!

And this is how I feel when a student approaches my desk, raises her hand, answers a question, shares his prediction, listens to me:

 You are someone's Thomas. [or Thomasina]

You have a story, an experience, a life much greater [to you] than what I teach. And while I will wrap you in English for 50 minutes [and not one minute less] and expect from you great achievements and no excuses, I will look at you and see someone's Thomas.

I vow to respect my students, to show them what it means to matter, to be patient, understanding, and gentle. All while being firmly structured in a practice of sharing with them the great conversation we should all feel compelled to take part in: Literature!

And when I pause from the debate, the questioning, the directions -- they don't realize I'm in absolute awe that there are 21 miracles looking back up at me.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

She Works with Willing Hands

When I was in high school I was, at more than one point, fueled by some evangelization gleam I sought to tote.  I was quick to see how much greater our lives could be if we all reached this epic level of purity and holiness I had envisioned.

My mom didn't seem too keen on my notions of grandeur. Instead, she would remind me to do the dishes. In fact, it went something like this: "You want to be a Christian? Do the dishes."  The snide remark would echo in my brain as an abhorred notion. How dare my mother corner me like that!

My mom also told me to thank God that I had the opportunity to clean; I had dishes to eat from - I should be happy to scrub them, I had clothes to wear - I should be happy to hang them, sort them, fold them. Yeah, I'm grateful mom. Whatever.

My siblings and I like to joke about the seemingly endless Saturdays of scrubbing, washing, folding, hanging, and so forth. It's our version of the "I-had-to-walk-to-school-uphill-both-ways-knee-deep-in-snow".  "I-had-to-wake-up-every-Saturday-without-fail-before-dawn-to-clean-until-I-became-emaciated-or-sick." I would moan, groan, and curse deep into the linoleum while my knees hardened into a numbed mess of floor cleaner. I would roll my eyes and grit my teeth when I heard we had another load to put outside on the ant and walking stick [Hello - FREAKY!] infested line. I would pray to God and ask for His mercy for whatever I had done to deserve a cruel, cruel mother.  And I swore to myself while furiously rubbing cleaner into the abysmal white of the shower I will NEVER do this to my poor children.

A few years later and hundreds of cycles of clean and dirty in my own home, I've had quite the conversion.

Beauty abounds in the home which is simply clean. Attentive love multiplies when household duties are taken care of in a fierce, organized, efficient manner.  And hard work, well, hard work is a great secret wonderment which sets our gratitude on fire.

These days I'm eager to wake up on Saturday [and Sunday] mornings to clean the stove [the one which whips up Chicken Cordon Bleu and Lasagna], scrub the tea kettle [the beauty that serves me wild berry tea and tricks me into being relatively calm during stressful conversations with my husband], detail the Medela breast pump and its dozens of parts and pieces [the bridge I couldn't currently live without], and spray the romper [which covers a ridiculously adorable bottom of my Bam Bam, my little guy, our Booter Binkie from the land of Stinky #2, my Boo Boo Coo Coo, our Thomas]... the one who just a few years from now will be cursing into the dirty grout he's scrubbing while I smile on with an affection and sense of humor he likely won't understand [for a while].

So, when I started reading Kimberly Hahn's Graced and Gifted: Biblical Wisdom for the Homemaker's Heart [or what I would like to think of as my current guidebook to being an awesome wife, mother, woman] and I saw that the first chapter was titled "She Works with Willing Hands", I thought to myself ...

Heck yes she does!