Imagine you’re attending the biggest social event of the decade, and everyone who is anyone received an invitation. Famous actors, politicians, religious leaders, business titans and a who’s who from the world of sports will be there, but unfortunately for them, so will you.

Yes, you received an invitation weeks ago, but you felt yours was more akin to a subpoena. You know your attendance is mandatory even though much of the A-list crowd detests he sight of you.

But It wasn’t always this way. At one time, you called these notable people friends, and they in turn, adored you, but no more. As you walk about the massive venue you feel their loathing eyes upon you and hear their whispered insults and curses.

This is what grocery shopping is like for me today.

I walk in the store and old friends like Aunt Jemima and her neighbor, Mrs. Butterworth, look at me as if I’m Judas. I hurry around the corner to escape the look of betrayal in their eyes and enter the cereal aisle. Cap’n Crunch sees me and raises his sword, Count Chocula bares his fangs, and on an oatmeal box a white-haired man in an old fashioned black hat bows his head and publicly prays for my judgment and repentance.

Read More
Risking Teachers' Lives

I am a very introspective person, an INFJ to be specific, and as such, I am capable of spending hours a day in quiet deliberations. Writing helps me distill those reflections down to something that is well thought out, encouraging, and hopefully, wise.

I do not claim to be a fountain of wisdom. As a matter of fact, if you looked at the earlier decades of my life, you would probably find that I acted wisely about as often as a stopped clock displays the correct time.

Despite the years characterized by foolishness, something remarkable has transpired in recent years. After trying to do things in all the wrong ways, I have discovered pearls of wisdom which had been hiding in plain sight.
The training in wisdom begins early. If you had kept recordings of your parents from when you were a child, you would hear an endless stream of things like:

Don’t touch that stove. You’re going to burn yourself. Don’t run with those scissors. Do you want to cut yourself?
If you don’t turn off the video games and study, you are going to fail algebra and have to retake it in summer school. If you don’t brush your teeth, you’ll get cavities. Do you really like having the dentist drill holes in your mouth?
Having survived childhood, we move into our teens and explore new ways to act foolishly. This cycle of foolishness and awakening keeps repeating, and all along we have, hopefully, reflected on our choices and gained wisdom.

Having lived now for 60 years, I see things much more clearly than ever before. Some of the things I see more plainly are unsettling, and even disturbing.

Read More
Faith in the Pandemic

In less than 2 weeks, I will walk back into my school building with other teachers for the first time since early March. That, of course, is subject to change because plans are apt to be revised when your school is near the epicenter of a COVID-19 hotspot.

Recently, a teacher from another part of the state asked me how firm our local districts’ plans were. I responded that most local districts’ plans were detailed and firm, but the plans were built on a foundation of Jell-O. Any little wind of change could completely upset plans that took countless hours to formulate.

It is a given that these plans will not please everyone and a recent informal poll of a teachers’ group I lead indicated that 80% of teachers were suffering “a considerable amount of anxiety” over the prospects of returning for face to face classes.
I did not attempt to break the respondents down into demographic groups, but I do know many of my fellow Christian teachers told me they were struggling with anxiety. Moreover, I have been battling anxiety personally, as I am in a high-risk group.

I have heard some Christian teachers express the view that they were not anxious about the prospects of catching the coronavirus. Some take it farther and convey the idea that no believer should fear to work in a potentially virus-rich environment. It seems like a spiritually perceptive statement, but is it?

Read More

Despite starting in my in mid-30s, I began my teaching career as every educator does, as a very green newbie. Over the 12 years I spent at my first school, I rose from being a novice, teaching geography to bored freshmen, to a department head lecturing to GT students in Advanced Placement classes.  My way through the various high school social studies classes was positively smooth compared to my moves through the school building.

In 12 years, I taught in 9 or 10 different classrooms. I once joked that I was the only teacher touring my high school. At first, I taught in whatever rooms were free during the period my class met. Yes, I was a floater. Some teachers were gracious and accommodating to me while I was in their rooms, while others welcomed me like I was a pernicious timeshare salesman.  

Looking back, I do not think badly of the less-welcoming teachers. They were booted out of their rooms on their conference periods and had to become floaters too. I have been on the other side of this too and I know how disruptive it can be.

Beginning with my third year I got a classroom of my own. Home sweet home, it was not.  Not that there was anything particularly wrong with the room. It had the same ancient blackboards and rattling air conditioners found in other rooms. It even had windows that were covered in Venetian blinds installed, no doubt in the waning days of the Eisenhower administration. 

Read More

Thinking about the choice between online only learning and returning to regular classes reminds me of a scenario I share with my economics classes:

Assume you could put seatbelts on every new school bus produced each year for $100 million. Further assume that all kids would wear the seatbelts and, as a result, 3 children who would have otherwise died in a bus accident, would be saved.

Then I pose the question: Would you vote to spend $100 million a year to save 3 students’ lives?

After students have had time to write down their answers and the rationale behind their decision, I will take a vote. The results are usually about 90 % in favor of spending $100 million a year to save 3 lives and 10% opposed.

There is great eagerness in the votes of the 90%, but only a sad resignation in the responses from the NO voters. The spenders are given a chance to defend their votes, and the comments are very predictable. Most of the arguments boil down to the belief that every life is precious, and we cannot put a dollar value on those lives.

Then it is time to hear from the people I jokingly refer to as “the cold-hearted crowd.”

Read More
Faith, Fear and the Wrong Wolf

The News: US returns to 1,000 coronavirus deaths in a day and officials warn pandemic will only get worse  (CNN)

God: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

John 14:27

Folks, I cannot add anything to God’s Word, but I would like to offer advice on how to apply this to our lives.

First, we must recognize that the words in these passages are commands. We are told “do this” and “don’t do that”, and these are contradictory to the way many think about our lives.

We often hear people say things like “I can’t help how I feel”.  To that notion I have 2 responses:

Read More

Do you remember the toughest teachers you ever had?

I do not mean the ones that held you to high standards in their field of study. Tough graders make accomplished writers, mathematicians, and economists.

The tough ones I remember tended to be generally disagreeable people. Some were cold and acerbic; others were more brash and volatile. Some had the persona of Army drill instructors talking to bumpkins fresh off the bus, and sometimes those bumpkins were young teachers.

My wife remembers one such teacher. This woman would spend the passing period between classes standing in the girl’s bathroom and shouting the time until the tardy bell rang. This was punctuated by pronouncements of the doom that would befall anyone who was late to class.

Read More

I am waking up this morning at a hotel in the shadow of Kyle Field in College Station. It is a vast structure with a dignity that is rare among football stadiums.

On games days, it is packed with excited fans engaged in a collective effort to cheer on their team to victory. While I have never been to a game at the stadium, it seems familiar from all the games I have seen on TV.

Watch any game played at Kyle Field and you will notice Aggie fans standing the entire game. This is a throwback to 1922 and a game when King Gill, a former Aggie player was called out of the stands to suit up and join his school’s team which had been decimated with injuries.

We stand at the forefront of a new school year, one that promises to be unlike any in the past 100 years. As teachers, we often feel we have too many hats to wear, and each year when we return we find the district has a new collection of Stetsons waiting for us.

Read More