Category Archives: students

Advent: Day 12

I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.
Isaiah 41:18, Revised Standard Version

We are short-staffed at our middle school this year, and often teachers are assigned temporary extra duty—without extra pay, of course.
Several weeks ago, I was assigned to morning duty in the cafeteria, along with the other special education teacher. Presumably, we special ed teachers don’t have anything important to do in the morning before school starts, so we are at the mercy of the need of the moment. (We’ve also been pressed into service as substitute teachers.)
A middle school cafeteria first thing in the morning is a wilderness. Many of the students are half-awake, and they willfully (or sleepily) break the rules. Not a morning goes by but what I don’t have to say to students, “Take off your hood, please,” or “No, you may not go to the bathroom without a pass,” or “The next time I see your cell phone, I’ll have to confiscate it.”
After several week of standing guard in the wilderness, and fuming about it, I reluctantly resigned myself to my fate: I am going to be stuck with morning cafeteria duty for the rest of the year, so I might as well make the best of it.
This morning, out of sheer boredom, I started humming “O Little Town of Bethlehem” softly to myself. To my delight, I realized that no one could hear me above the din raised by several hundred chattering students. (Yes, despite their sleepiness, they can still talk.)
As I continued humming the familiar Christmas carol, while thinking of the words, the wilderness of the cafeteria suddenly became a place of beauty and grace. The “dry land” of the breakfast room became “springs of water,” nourishing my soul.
The church calendar contains as many as 34 weeks of so-called Ordinary Time, a season with no major celebrations.
Advent, however, is far from ordinary. It is a season of expectation, providing opportunities for me to see God change the most barren wilderness in my life into a flourishing field fed by springs of living water.

Advent: Day 10

Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind.
Psalm 26:2, Revised Standard Version

“We’re going to have the district benchmark test next week,” I announce.
All my students groan.
Inwardly, I do too. We seem to be testing our students incessantly. Sometimes it gets to be overwhelming, for the teachers as well as the students.
The district benchmark test, a grueling affair, is based on state academic standards, and is given three times every quarter.
The pre-test is for the purpose of guiding instruction: What do the students need to know?
The mid-term test continues to guide instruction, but the question teachers ask themselves changes slightly: What have the students learned, and what do they still need to learn?
The post-test, or final benchmark exam is a summative assessment that shows how well the students have mastered certain state standards during the quarter.
Teachers and students may despise testing, but it’s one of those necessary evils of the education system. Without testing, both students and teachers flounder aimlessly in the classroom.
Unlike a teacher announcing the date of a test, God makes no announcement, but is testing us continually.
And unlike the district benchmark test, which may contain as many as fifty questions, God’s test has only one: Do you love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself?
Students know that the only way to pass a test is to study. The psalmist knows that the only way to pass God’s test is to pray, and so he does: “Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind.”
As I pray with the psalmist during the season of Advent, and beyond, may I be able to answer God’s test question with a confident yes.

Praying in My Classroom

Wordle 16

A pilgrim looking for miracles,
I move from desk to desk,
reading the notes my students scribble
in their composition books,
their tender words
crawling across the page like lizards seeking light.
One of them writes of how he swept the horse stalls
before filling them again with fresh straw.
One writes of cement gushing from the chute of a truck—
the foundation for the family’s new home;
another of an early morning walk with his flock of sheep
before the sun ignites Tsé Bit’ A’í and it becomes
a fiery winged creature rising from the desert floor;
another of the rusty nails that pierced both his heels
three summers ago
as he scampered across a pile of old lumber behind his hogan—
he says you can still see the scars;
still another of how she torments
her younger sister without mercy—
“There’s something cruel in me,” she writes,
“and it wants Kelsey to hurt, hurt, hurt.”
And I pray:
Dear God,
even the prophets were not blessed like this!
I am standing on holy ground.
Do not remove my feet from this place
now or ever.

© 2011 by Magical Mystical Teacher

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