Musings on everything about myself I don’t like.

This morning I had my first experience of “co-teaching” a class.  I taught a reading lesson to an eighth grade literacy class, and it was a ton of fun.  For the most part, it went great.  I didn’t bungle anything irreparably, the students seemed to react well to me, the room had a great energy and I didn’t find the “classroom management” (I.E, communicating expectations and enforcing consequences) portion of the day as difficult as I imagined.  Yet, there were a few things that were unexpected and unpleasant.  One was that my knee-jerk response to aggression is to smile or laugh.  That’s fine when you are watching TV or you can easily check out of a situation, but chuckling when one 14 year old boy smacks another 14 year old boy on the back of a head with a pencil when you are teaching a class is like saying, “EVERYONE GO CRAZY, NO RULES HERE, ‘KAY?”  Fortunately the situation was recovered quickly (paraphrased:  the dismissal bell rang) but it was definitely a learning experience.  Plus, it’s given me a chance to think about the parts of my personality that are less conducive to being an instructor.

  • I hate meeting new people.  I’m bad with names, I never know what an appropriate subject of conversation is, and my first thought on shaking hands with anyone new is “OMG GERMS” followed by “OMG NEW PERSON WHAT IS YOUR NAME I FORGOT” followed by “OMG AM I SHAKING HANDS RIGHT?” which inevitably leads to me blushing, mispronouncing my own name, or needing a stiff drink.  This is not exactly a great situation to be in when you’re going to meet 120 new people in a day and have to teach ALL OF THEM IN A CLASS.  Pretty sure that any school I teach at will object to me using a Borg numbering pattern to name my students.  “Hello student 5 of Language Arts Block One, that was an inefficient and ineffective approach to the essay task…”
  • Things like passing people in the hallway makes me break out in a sweat.  Seriously.  I start wondering if I’m walking normally, I worry that I may walk to close to them or them to me, I wonder if they are going to engage me in a conversation, I wonder if my smile seems fake, I wonder if this is a “hello, nice morning” situation or I should say nothing…  SCHOOL HALLWAYS ARE FULL OF PEOPLE.
  • No, really, I often worry that I don’t walk like a normal person.  I worry that I stand weird.  I worry that I sit weird.  I worry that I have a funny look on my face and don’t know it, I’m almost constantly sure that my hair is WRONG.
  • I’m in constant chaos with my assertive nature fighting my desire to never hurt anyone.   I find myself being strict and then regretting it, or being gentle and then regretting not being strict.  I am so incredibly paranoid about how to manage a classroom that is safe and orderly, and wondering how to walk the tightrope between the student’s needs (for structure as well as autonomy) and my own need (to be able to teach effectively).
  • Plus, what if I accidentally cuss?  I’ll probably cuss.  And knowing me, it’ll be a hell of a curse word.
  • I’m constantly going on rabbit trails in my mind that even my husband can’t follow. 6 hours of instruction a day for five days a week for most of a year = a whole lot of confusing innocent children with my Leporidaeian mind.  Sigh.
  • I often don’t like other people’s kids.  I know, that’s horrible.  It’s absolutely awful.  But I’ve been in the room with 7 year olds who I have a hard time seeing as people because in my mind they are just germ-riddled TV channel changing machines with no independent thought.  (I KNOW, THAT’S AWFUL OF ME.)  This problem often gets worse as kids age until they get about to 16 or 17 and have been humiliated enough to show some depth of rational thought (I KNOW I AM A BAD PERSON) so what if I’m teaching a bunch of empty headed kids who I have nothing but disdain for?  (I NEED TO SHUT UP OH GOD SAVE ME FROM MYSELF…)
  • I pretend to be this open-minded person who will debate about anything and always sees every side of an issue.  That’s who I want to be, and who I manage to be at times.  But then there are these other times where someone disagrees with me and all I want to do is shake their shoulders and say, “is there a brain in there?  How obvious is the right answer here?”  I’ve been lucky enough that in one employment my boss didn’t mind me openly contradicting him, and in my other job having very little to disagree about (there are only so many ways to pass out meds and clean toilets), and in my current position agreeing with my supervisor in everything, but the education system is FULL of debate, and I, um, debate much better on the internet than in real life.

Of course all of this is mediated, in large degree, by the fact that teaching comes naturally to me and language comes naturally to me and all of the parts of the job that have to do with teaching and language make me feel more alive than pretty much anything in the world other than raising my children and tolerating (er, choosing (er, loving?)) my husband.  But, seriously…. beneath this intelligent, put together, adultish veneer I’m still a paranoid antisocial awkward kid who hides in the bushes to read because everyone else in the world is awful.

And, my God, walking into a school makes that part of me SCREAM with agony.

I’ve still got a year to find a good therapist before I’m doing this full time….  hm…

Call me Candidate Warrior.

So I had my orientation to the teacher preparation program yesterday.  I’d spent the last month in a bit of a fugue, wondering if I was making the right choice.  The program is rigorous, and because it’s designed for people who work part time already it’s mostly evenings and weekends.  I’ve had my heart in my throat over the fact that I’ll be seeing less of the kids, and knowing I’ll have days to myself to work on writing and my own things has been no comfort.  Yesterday morning I joked to The Husband that maybe I should drop out and just keep working in my job as a tutor until I’m really sure about what I want to do.  He answered with an eye roll.

Yeah, I can be worthy of eye rolling.

So last night I walked into the teacher prep orientation and looked at all the faces of my peers shining with anticipation and I wondered if that was really what I wanted.  Was it?  At one point we had to share about what inspired us to become teachers.  “My eighth grade teacher always looked out for us,” one girl said.  “I really love being with kids,” said another one.  “I really enjoy math,” said another.   There I was, pointedly staying silent.  I wasn’t here because someone inspired me to want to take care of kids.  I was here because working as a tutor had shown me that people come into college with only a conversational grasp of language, and it dumbfounds me.  I want to be in a position to lobby for better standards for how language is taught and evaluated.  I want to start a national conversation about the role that language plays in poverty and economic success.  Maybe I don’t belong in a classroom.  This is not for me.  Everyone else here is so passionate about taking care of kids and here I am, just so angry that our system is broken.  Then we had to write a short statement about our goals and share it with a small group.  There were people sharing about creating a loving and safe environment and other ones about modeling good behavior, and then me with my screed about Bridges Out Of Poverty and how what home a child is born into shouldn’t be the major determining factor in what kind of language they are able to use as an adult; the language of negotiation is reserved for the upper classes and poor kids grow up only knowing the language of survival and intimacy, and we are failing them, and I want to see if it’s possible to tweak the programs we HAVE to teach to involve opportunities for kids to master the kind of language they need to better their position in society.

So I was chewing on my lip as we moved into the final portion of the orientation, where we talked about the rubrics and standards for temperament, character and behavior.  I’m so glad I hadn’t walked out before then, because suddenly everything changed.  As we discussed the framework for the education department’s philosophy we were handed a chart.  It’s one of those Venn diagrams, and the middle facet, the one that all of the other areas of professionalism overlapped in, was dedication to social justice.  One of my peers asked why that was there and I felt this sudden warmth in my heart, because I knew.  Because it was why I was so angry, why I changed my major in the first place.  And the instructor said words I’d said earlier that evening, even though he couldn’t have known it, he said, “what home a child is born into shouldn’t determine what opportunities they have in life.  Our role as teachers has to be making sure that everyone has the same chance, the same education, and the same ability to benefit society.”

I nearly screamed “AMEN.”

Then we talked about what kind of person you need to be to survive a career in education.  Sure, patience and compassion and consistency, which had been so exhaustively discussed, were on the list.  But it went beyond that.  Are your responses appropriate to the situation at hand?  Are you dedicated to self-reflection and self-improvement?  Do you seek out professional support and collaboration and realize you are incapable of individual success without others?  Do you seek out diverse opinions and examine all situations with multiple viewpoints in mind?

Suddenly the cry in my soul, asking what had I done and why, started to subside.  I found myself saying, “yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.”

He said that we need to be ready to fight.  “Teachers are held to the highest standard in society. We have to fight every day to exceed expectations and face every criticism with a smile and open heart. We guard the future.”  When your students see you in the grocery store, they are watching.  Their parents know if you’re in a neighborhood bar and how much you drink.  What you eat, what you wear, what you do, all of those things will be under a microscope.  In the world of social media you have to be careful of how and why you have a bad day, because people are watching.  It’s not for everyone, he said, so don’t be embarrassed if you want to change your major.  But it’s about what we’re fighting for, he said.  If we want a better society we have to be that better person for the kids who are entrusted into our care, and our first and most constant thought has to be why we choose to do what we do.

Yes, yes, yes.

We have to ask ourselves, he said, if we are strong enough.  “Are you strong enough?”

I was taking notes (of course), so I wrote in the margins, “perhaps I forgot to mention, I am a warrior.”

I am a warrior.  I can do this.  I can become a teacher.  I can become politically active.  I can write a doctorate thesis on uses of language in the home and television and on and on and on.  I can do this.  I WILL do this.  Because I’m not Teacher Candidate Lindsey.  No, I’m Teacher Candidate Warrior, and I have a mission.  Do I know why I care so much?  Why I’m crying as I’m writing this?  Why I threw psychology under the bus like last year’s fashion even though it was a lifelong passion?

Yesterday morning I may have said that I was confused, but I’m not now.

This profession ISN’T for everyone.  It’s for the people who have the strength, drive, and passion to never forget why we do what we do.  And we don’t do it because we’re softhearted and naive and rosy-eyed and just want to spend the day with kids (although there is that, too), it’s because we’re freaking warriors.  We have to be, because society doesn’t value education.

So we have to fight, and fight, and fight- in a world that thinks we don’t deserve to be paid, that we are failing as literary rates fall, that pans the profession on the evening news without a second thought, where kids come into the class more concerned with their kill rate on video games than reading a decent book, and where half of them are more distracted by thoughts of getting through the day than ever giving a second thought to their future.

A future that teachers have to fight for.

Because it’s not our fault that kids are failing.  It’s our society as a whole that has failed.

But teachers take responsibility for it anyway, don’t they?

We’re warriors, and that’s what warriors do.  They take up the sword and fight on.

Bloggy Potpourri

So today is my birthday.  Today is also the start of my first full week sans classes until January, which means my brain is actually functional in terms of personal thoughts instead of just school, kids, dinner, school like it seems to be during classes.  I have so many things I want to write about and can’t seem to keep a thought straight, so I’m just going to put it all out there, potpourri style.
* * *

I’ve changed my major.  I’m going to be entering into a teaching certification program next fall, where I’ll be studying English, Literature, and Language Arts with a focus on High School/Secondary education.  I’m going to… teach.  It’s a long way away from social work in some ways and only a short hop in others.  I had this realization that without language we really have nothing.  Without language people can’t grow, can’t succeed, can’t understand.  So I want to give people language.  That’s all I want to do.
* * *

On TV shows people always seem to see turning 30 as some sort of tragic event that has to be denied.  I’m turning 30.  My first reaction?  Thank God.  I’ve learned a lot.  I earned another year under my belt.
* * *

Newtown.  It’s this immense tragedy that I don’t have words for.  People react in anger, they react in demands, they react in grief.  People also react in love, and I think that gets overlooked.  So many people shared words and prayers, tried to find ways to send support.  I saw far more of that then I saw people talking about guns or prayer in school or God’s judgment on an unholy nation.  The love is so strong, the grief so sincere, the prayers so honest.  If you remember anything from this tragedy, remember that.  Please.

* * *

I want to write a poem.
* * *

I’m going to get back on the horse with regards to Ravens.  Really.  I’ve already started writing it again, and I made a promise to myself not to just abandon it.  One of my personal goals for the next year of my life is to be more intentional with the goals I set for myself and plan ahead for how I’m going to meet them.  I’ve always been good at that in SOME areas of my life, but other areas have really suffered, and blogging always seems like the first to go.  That’s a real tragedy because blogging has given me some really incredible gifts, and I don’t want to take that for granted.
* * *

Wreck It Ralph was a great movie.  I want to see it again.
* * *

Not so sure about the Hobbit.  I haven’t seen it yet.  I’ve seen mixed reviews though, and that book was my first love.  You know how sometimes you see a crush all grown up and you hate it, and want to forget that they got chubby and their hair was different and they’d suddenly become an obscene jerk?  I don’t want that to happen to the Hobbit.  No, no, no…

* * *

I could compare you to a winter’s night/

you are colder and far more treacherous.

(No, not YOU.)

If you want the whole poem, buy this book.

* * *

Oh, I, uh, wrote a book.

* * *

I’m currently editing and expanding Honest Conversations and plan to re-release it later this month, a sort of Christmas Present to myself.  It’s like moving back home, or like…  I don’t know, eating apple pie.  Comforting, but also a little strange.  Like chatting with an old friend but knowing that there are all of these years in between you, even if their voice still sounds the same.  I would say like falling back in love, except it’s not that sentimental.  It just is.

* * *

How is it that EVERY TIME I make cookies I’m wearing a black t-shirt and flour myself?  Every.  Single.  Time.

* * *

Sex and bacon.  (God wants us to be happy, folks.  He really, really does.)

* * *

God also wants us to learn self-control.  Those two things always seem to go hand and hand.

* * *

We’ll call it a day.  I miss you all.  I promise to write at least once a month.

Learn Tolerance, or Die Alone.

(For Kelly.)

Ever had a conversation like this?

Man:  Tolerance is a destructive force.  It erodes true belief.

Girl:  If you never tolerate the other side’s point of view, how can you expect to have an honest debate about the issues?

Man:  I’m not going to tolerate false beliefs. How can you ask me to debate the truth?  The truth harbors no debate.

So…  Maybe I’m watering down the true content and exaggerating the real words said for dramatic effect- but the principle remains true to form.  One person takes deep offense at tolerance because in their mind it means allowing an offense to the truth to continue.  Yet, simultaneously he is asking that his own views be tolerated and accepted.  (Or even affirmed.)

Here is the question to ask that man:  Would you rather be right and alone, or tolerant in the company of others?  Because to be so unnassailably intolerant means a life of isolation.  Why?  Because when we go to the grocery store, we are practicing tolerance.  We are offering up money to corporations who do not necessarily support our point of view.  (If you are conservative, check the amount of stores who offer money to left-wing political lobbies- if you are left-wing, check the amount of stores who offer money to right wing political lobbies.  Most corporations do both.)  It is nigh near impossible to live in the United States of America without corporately endorsing tolerance.  Paying our taxes is also an act of tolerance- as I can guarantee that no matter your affiliation, politically or religiously, our government acts on behalf of those you disagree with.

You may say, okay, this kind of tolerance-by-six-degrees-of-separation is impossible to avoid and thus must be accepted.  But let’s take this a step further.  Let’s look at humanity as a whole.  Have you ever (even once) met someone with whom you fully agreed?  We can all find people who agree with our most closely held beliefs, but at some point every relationship experiences differences.  My spouse is someone who I agree with eighty percent of the time- but don’t for a second  believe that the other twenty percent is insignificant.  When it’s things like how to best make eggs, you can roll your eyes and let go.  But sometimes in even the best relationship there is serious disagreement.  What do you do then?  Demand the other person agree with your point of view?  Tear them down until they are forced to capitulate?  Scrape away at them day after day, trying to win them to your side by hook or crook no matter what the cost?

At some point, isn’t the cost of relationship tolerance?  Don’t we all have to love and accept each other despite disagreement, or never know love and acceptance at all?

Church vs. Homosexuality

Why do so many Christians want to keep homosexuals out of their church?

The first time I ever wrote a post about homosexuality in the church, it was in response to a feeling that had been growing.  A feeling that this “church versus the world” mentality was self defeating.  And I was angry- really and truly angry- that the people who were getting sliced down in the friendly fire were some of the people the church needed the most.  I was tired of seeing confused and desperate kids be the ones who carried the heaviest burden in this war of ideas.  It was ideas being debated but kids being cut to the heart.  It was wrong.

But one of the questions I ask the least is “why?”

Why are so many Christians so bitterly against embracing gay believers?  It’s really worth learning what the reasoning is.  (And small note to my dear gay readers: the next segment may be incredibly painful for you to read- but if you can bring yourself to read it and leave the thoughtful, emotional, beautiful comments you so often do you may really help someone.)

  1. The belief that embracing sin means rejecting salvation:  Therefore, the logic says, if a gay person wants to be saved, they need to stop being gay.  And if they won’t stop being gay that means they are not saved, and our “Christian” duty is to convince them of their sinfulness so that they can truly be saved.
  2. The belief that sin breeds sin: Therefore, the logic follows, if gay people are by their very nature leading a “lifestyle of sin” then having them around means we will only be breeding more sin, and we can’t have that.
  3. The belief, based loosely off of Romans One, that in order for someone to be gay that they have already turned entirely from God: I set this one apart from reason one purposefully, because they are different.  Not leaving ones sexuality being a rejection of salvation is different from saying that you only got that sexuality in the first place because you have fully turned from God.  This logic reads that at some point the gay person made a “choice” to reject God and all of the goodness of God completely and lead a lifestyle of fleshly temptation alone, and to allow such a person in the midst of your congregation is just begging for trouble.
  4. The belief that gay people are harmful to Children: be it that they will sexually abuse your children, encourage your children to seek sinful gratification, or “recruit” your children for their causes- the logic follows that you cannot possibly allow them to be near young ones, especially in a context that would lead your little folk to believe that being gay is a-okay.
  5. The belief that the only reason a gay person would want to be around Christians is that the enemy sent them to spread confusion: and, to be honest, I’ve never fully grasped this one.  Is it implying that all homosexuals work for Satan?  Um…

All of these things hold a common thread- that being gay means being openly sinful, and that being gay means that you have in some way chosen not to follow a path of salvation.  The retorts to almost all of these also hold a common theme: a sexuality in and of itself cannot be sinful (it’s the heart of the person that matters), and a path to salvation isn’t like a transporter in a sci-fi flick.  You don’t stand on point A, hit a button, and magically appear at p0int Z.  You go through the journey, sometimes in confusing and mind-bendy order, and if you wait for people to get “holy enough” to join your church, you’re going to be passing judgment on pretty well the entire world.  Which is wrong.

I could write forever, but that’s not what I want to do right now.  No, right now I want to ask everyone who is reading this post who ISN’T gay to stick around long enough to read the comments from my gay readers.  See what kind of reaction this logic gets from the people it rejects.

Ask yourself if that’s really the “good news” your church wants to be spreading.

They say, I say.

Everyone knows what Christianity, taken as a whole, has to say about homosexuality:

  1. It’s condemned by the Bible
  2. It goes against the natural order
  3. It’s harmful to decent society
  4. It’s just… yuck.

Not everyone knows all of the subtext to that argument, but the overall thrust is clear:  gay people are bad/gross and we don’t want them around.  Sometimes I’m asked why I speak in such a guarded tone, allowing gay people to think that I believe being gay is “okay” and never pushing the issue of holiness.

The people who ask that question seem to be missing a very important fact:  I do require holiness.  I require the holiness of my fellow believers.  And I am mystified by the belief that it is holy to behave in a way that condemns an entire subset of the population without giving them a chance to get close enough to God to hear his voice.

The only time a gay person would attend a church, knowing the above four beliefs that most Christians have about most homosexuals, is if said gay person was already of the opinion that they wanted to leave their lifestyle.  Almost all ministry geared towards homosexuals is centered around the fact that it is a given that they SHOULD leave their lifestyle.  In fact, with meager few exceptions the only time I have ever witnessed a ministry to gay people that was centered around God’s love and desire to know them and NOT their need to change was when it was done by other gays.

There HAS to be another way.  There has to be a way that does not sound like condemnation, fear, and disgust.  There has to be a way that focuses on the immense love their creator has for them, and it has to be possible to get that message coming out of a not-gay mouth.  That is why I’m here.  It’s not about sin.  It’s not about who does and who doesn’t sin.  We all sin, and we all fall short.  We all have our own slippery slopes to debauchery and we all play with sticking our toes over the edges.  The point of discipleship is not to come up with a reproduceable model and to stuff everyone into it’s mold- it is to evaluate each person as they come and wish to become and to help them on their way.

If we start out with a list of sins we simply cannot tolerate existing, we condemn some people to never hear our voice or experience our ministry or feel God’s love through us.  I don’t care if the sin is homosexuality, heterosexual promiscuity, or drinking to excess:  Our goal HAS to be allowing people their own revelations of their sinfulness and coming to an INDEPENDENT will to change, through God’s grace.

Basically what I am saying here is that if God doesn’t want someone to be gay, and that person learns how to listen to God, they will hear it for themselves.  My job, as a Christian and a Christian teacher, isn’t to tell other people what God is saying to them- it is to teach them how to hear God for themselves.

But more than that- it’s my job to love them.  And love doesn’t sound like saying:  “you’re a sinner, you’re an abomination, the Bible condemns you, you’re hurting society, and besides which you’re just plain gross.”

If I ever gave a speech like that, how on Earth could I expect anyone to stick around to hear the good parts?

Not your comfort, but His glory

Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.   Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.   I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.   Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.   Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.  (2nd Corinthians 11:24-30)

I would say “I’m afraid my last post may have ruffled a few feathers”- but I’m not really afraid, I’m sure.  And I wouldn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable or bitter.  It’s just that there is a very important lesson to be learned here.

Our comfort, our temporal happiness, is of no value unless it brings glory to God.  Our success for the sake of success is useless- but our success for the sake of His honor is everything.  Our happiness for the sake of happiness alone is selfish- our joy for the sake of spreading that joy is worthy.  Possessions for the sake of status are idolatrous- wealth for the sake of upholding one another brings God glory.  And the list goes on and on.

Now, I ask this in all seriousness- who among us is so sure of their own value that they think that the Creator of All would deign to give them something for the sole purpose of their own temporary pleasure?  Now that question is double-edged, because I do believe that God takes great pleasure in our happiness.  After all, he’s painted sunsets that could shake you to the tips of your toes, he’s made fruit so sweet it makes your blood sing, he gave us SEX- obviously pleasure means something to God.  But pleasure for the sake of pleasure alone?  It’s empty.

The book of Ecclesiastes gives interesting counsel.  It says that all a man’s labors are a “mere chasing after the wind”, they will be destroyed by sun and famine and turn to dust.  So what are we to do?  Praise God when our cups are full, enjoy our spouses, take pleasure in what little good life has to offer.  And in the end, praise God, who pours rain down on both the good and wicked.

So is it all folly or not?  I find it interesting that Paul boasts not about his many successes, but that he does so ironically about his many percieved failures.  I wouldn’t think that being beaten, shipwrecked, and jailed would be the height of his career.  But yet he puts it forward as such- why?  Because it is in the fact that he has been beaten so many times and still gone forward, that he has been jailed and released, that he has been on the verge of death and still lived that God is glorified.

Think of Joseph, who was sold into slavery, falsely accused and jailed but through being so he managed to save his people.  Or Esther, that symbol of feminine strength, who had to trade her body for the queenship in order to save her people.  These are good, god-fearing youth that had to have gone through incredible pain in order to get to the point that they saw God’s will fulfilled.  Or Daniel, as another example, whose faithfulness was “rewarded” with a trip to the Lion’s den.  Shadrac, Meshac and Abednigo, who were nearly martyred.  Or the countless real examples of those who were faithful and died.

Should we curse God?

Heaven forbid it.  We should praise him.  Why?

Because despite his sending rain on both the good and the evil, he does care about us deeply.  Not about our temporary happiness, but about the deep and abiding joy that comes only from knowing that your life will serve a greater purpose.  Whether that life be “blessed” or cursed with bad fortune, either way you can live it as such that your life causes people to praise God’s name.

It may not get you a mansion and a porsche and a good performance review from your work- but leave those things for materialistic fools.

If I am to boast, I will boast of my weakness, so people can see God’s work in me that much more clearly.