1st Sunday in Advent
The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzzi’ah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezeki’ah, kings of Judah.
Isaiah 1:1, RSV
It is impossible to teach without a vision. You have to know where you’re going, so that you can get there. Otherwise, why bother to start out at all?
Visions. Teachers call them lesson plans. They don’t have to be detailed or elaborate, but they do have to point from here to there. Often, just a few words will do.
After choosing which state standards to teach for the day, my lesson plans usually look like this: “Introduce elements of poetry” or “Generate clarifying questions for Hatchet, Ch. 8.”
My principal doesn’t particularly like my lesson plans. “Could you make them more detailed?” she once asked.
I could. But I choose not to. Because lesson plans, like road maps, don’t show everything along the way. They simply indicate a path that goes from here to there.
I visited my family for Thanksgiving. On the 600-mile journey back to the remote school where I teach, I encountered a construction zone that was not shown on the road map. Traffic on the Interstate highway was funneled down to one lane, making harried drivers’ tempers flare. For many miles we inched along, stopping frequently as other drivers, who had disregarded the left-lane-closed-ahead signs squeezed—sometimes belligerently—into our long queue.
If I had known about this construction zone, I would have sought an alternate route. If the construction zone had been marked on the map, I could have avoided it and saved myself a lot of time and aggravation.
Unfortunately, teaching is a lot like that construction zone: There are always obstacles that impede progress in the classroom, and there’s no way to predict what those obstacles will be or when they will spring up. I have no way of knowing when F-Boy will choose to start dancing on his desktop. I don’t know when L-Girl will need me to explain a concept three or four times before she finally understands and we can proceed on our journey.
Effective teachers persist in spite of obstacles. Following even the sketchiest of lesson plans, effective teachers can move their students from here to there—or at least make some progress toward the destination. They may have to take an alternate route, but holding their vision firmly in mind, they know where they are going, and they keep leading their students in the right direction, despite obstacles.
Today is the first Sunday in Advent. It begins with a vision. The faithful know where they are going, but they don’t know what obstacles they will encounter along the way. Yet like teachers following lesson plans, those who hold fast to the vision, know that they will reach their desired end.