The Greatest Teacher

Plenty of education studies and books have approached answering the question: What makes a great teacher?

Jennifer Hogan has a wonderful blog on this specific topic found here:

As we approach the day before Easter, I’d like to reflect on the greatest teacher who’s been in our midst. Jesus Christ throughout the Bible made each moment an opportunity of teaching for those who followed him. Even up to his death on the cross, his actions teach us. There are three qualities in particular that highlight the heart and mindset of Jesus in his teaching:

1. No judgement against those he taught:

–> Throughout the gospels we see that Jesus resides with and teaches those that the religious elites despised. Tax collectors, prostitutes, and gentiles; they were all welcomed by Jesus and never sent away. He taught them and invested in them. What is even more incredible, were the 12 disciples that Jesus called. They were not highly trained religious teachers, they were fishermen, accounts from the period said that several of them couldn’t even read when they initially became disciples.

–> Our application? – Every child in our midst is worthy of our time and investment without judgement, but with grace. Many students had little control over the lives that were built for them when they enter the classroom. Our role is to equip them and prepare them for the world and life they will build for themselves.           

2. His teaching and actions are aligned: 

–> Jesus was not inconsistent. His actions were a direct reflection of what he taught. In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches the Beatitudes. This beautiful sermon summarizes the spiritual attitude that Jesus encapsulated with his life. We are not perfect and nor can we be perfect, but can we discipline our hearts and spirit to be more consistent in our lives?

–> Our application? – We tell our students to be eager learners. Are we as hungry and does it show up? We tell our students to have a growth mindset. When was the last time we broke the mold and tried something that stretched us? We tell our students not to procrastinate. Yet, I’ve got a pile of papers that haven’t been graded for two weeks… Our actions speak much louder than words. Jesus knew this and is why he died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. 

3. Jesus taught for application and living:

–> Jesus’ primary method of instruction besides direct modeling, was through parables. Throughout his short ministry on earth, he taught 39 parables that are directly captured in the gospels. It would be fair to say there were probably more that were shared by him beyond these. These parables many times left his disciples and followers confused. Yet, it forced them to continue to reflect and wrestle with what Jesus was teaching. In many cases, these parables were speaking about direct application to how we need to approach our spiritual and daily walk.

–> Our application? – I’m not suggesting we stop teaching content or even necessarily changing the way we teach. Yet, we need to have awareness in being responsive teachers. We should be prepared to utilize teachable moments that may carry weight beyond the content and into our students’ lives. I love the Habitudes series and if a teachable moment allows me to integrate it into a lesson, I will do so. I’m not only responsible for preparing the next generation of agriculturists, but I’m also preparing the next generation of leaders in our community and parents for our future students.

Thank you Lord for taking up the cross. May we seek to love as you loved and give our hearts to your service on this earth. To you be all the glory.

Everyone have a blessed Easter! ~Anthony           

Confessions of a Yes Addict — A Case of Failed Balance

Will you serve on the calendar committee? Yes, absolutely!

Will you help with the upcoming community fundraiser? Yes, no problem!

Will you serve on the Extension Board? Yes, I can fit that in!

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

When our blogging group #CompelledTribe for the month of March had the theme on the topic of work and life balance. I knew this was the opportunity to reflect on my own struggling approach to this part of my life. I’m trying to get better…I swear, but it has been hard.

I’ve always told myself I thrive under pressure…that my best work comes from being under pressure. This attitude has often left me eating off more than I can chew. Even more so, I know this mindset is false because as a student in college I made the intentional choice to not be involved in no more than two activities beyond my academic studies.

That decision allowed me to work a full-time job while attending school and pay for college with no debt. It also allowed me to save money so that my first gift to my spouse, Annelle, was a newly purchased car. It has been helpful to think back to that part of my life as an example of when I did it right.

Then I became a full-time teacher. Working in a small school everyone steps up (especially when the staff has 13 teachers total). That was my excuse. Then living in a small community, I’ve fallen in love with, there again is a lot of work to go around to an active few. Again, that was my excuse. As I have thought and reflected on this, I’ve quickly realized the pace I’ve set for myself and my family is not only unsustainable, but deeply unhealthy.

Saying yes to every opportunity means more than just another responsibility on my plate. It also means I’m saying no to something else. It’s saying no to the deeply rewarding pursuit of blogging. It’s saying no to spending time with family. It’s saying no to other opportunities that will mean more than the frivolous yeses I hand out each time I’m asked.

A strategic reset is the season I’m about to enter. Annelle is in the midst of a career change that will greatly alter our lifestyle. It’s both exciting and scary at the same time. As Spring slogs on, I’m adopting three actionable steps to help in this reset (and moving forward):

1. I will not say ‘Yes’ as a knee jerk reaction- I will go back and wait at least 24 hours to look at how the opportunity aligns with our family’s trajectory before I agree to a new responsibility. During this 24 hour period, I will also pray and visit intentionally with my spouse about whether to accept the opportunity as well.

2. Create a full (honest) inventory of all my current responsibilities and projects- I will sort these into four categories: purpose filling, get done and move on, as time allows, and required for life/work (the essentials).   
3. Taking back my mornings- there is a sweet spot time where my deep work and day setting occur. It is between 4am and 5:30am. This is when I typically delve into my devotional, drink coffee, blog/write/journal, and take time to think and reflect. These times since Spring began have been absorbed by other “pressing” items. I must remind myself daily that no work is greater than sharpening the saw of my faith, my strength, and my mind.

Thank you #CompelledTribe for selecting this as a Spring Theme! I’m so encouraged by the blogs in the group! 

The Underdogs

This March Madness will go down as a record-breaking, exhilarating ride. The year of the underdogs is a fitting name for what has happened during this post-season. Everyone loves the underdog…they cheer them on to victory and relish it when they win. Even if it’s against your own team, we seem to still accept a begrudging respect for them as an opponent. The key here is to never discount anyone. 

In the classroom, we have plenty of underdogs. The students coming to school from broken homes. The students we welcome on Monday morning who have not had a filling meal since Friday lunch. The students who have been told all their lives that they are worthless and will never amount to much. The students experiencing deep emotional pain and social exclusion. Do we cheer them on? 
Often, these are the students who we struggle to connect with, further disparage in the privacy of the faculty lounge as lazy and not going to make much with thier lives. Sometimes, we just write them off…how guilt washes over me when I think to those times where I was not the teacher and mentor the student was inviting me to be for them in that passage of life. 
What will the underdogs on our watch say of our efforts later in their lives? I pray they will say, “Mr. Meals never lowered his high, unbending expectations of me, he was filled with grace towards my choices, and he never, ever gave up on his belief in me.” What will your underdogs say of you?