The purest gold, the hottest fire

A high percentage of teachers quit after just a few years of teaching.  For a select few, it might be the right choice.  For the majority, more perseverance could have seen something miraculous occur.

The learning curve is steep, just like on a hike, but the view from the top is worth it.  We feel our reserves dwindling away during the climb, but at the top of the mountain, our confidence, strength, and vision are refreshed.  We return conquerors.

I empathize with those tempted to quit.  Feeling absolutely spent one afternoon after a very hard day during a very hard term, my head hurt too much to focus and I was getting nothing done in the supposedly productive after-school hours.  I locked up my classroom and started my drive home.  I am blessed with a beautiful drive over the Golden Ears Bridge.  It’s worth the money as God continually surprises me with breathtaking clouds painted with gold, silver, and red on their pilgrimage up the valley.  Today it was grey, like the rest of my outlook, and on the inside I was arguing with myself, testing whether fight or flight would win out.

“Look, God”, I told God, “I need you very much right now because I feel I am at the end of my rope.  I need your perspective and I need a reason for continuing to do this.”  I felt without hope and wasn’t in the mood for positive-self-talking myself out of it.  That’s why I knew that the next phrase I heard wasn’t me.  “Aren’t you honoured that I trust you, out of everybody, with my beloved children?”  God said some other things as well, but he had me at “trust“.  The tears began to flow and a weight lifted from me.  I returned the next day with refined perspectives, having rested in God.

Many people give up on the process they are going through because it is hard.  They sacrifice long-term growth for short-term ease.  Failing to appreciate the big picture, they mistakenly focus on the temporary discomfort they are experiencing.  But the purest gold is produced in the hottest fires.  Paul the apostle knew that well.  What is happening is refinement, and we will be better for it.

“I lift up my eyes up to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1,2)

by Craig Ketchum ’10

Travelling light, yet carrying much

Many teaching professionals are former idealists.   For some, the education sphere has been a gauntlet testing how long their optimism would last.  Others have retained their joy despite the years.  What is it that mysteriously bears us in opposite directions:  some, to despair, others, to hope?

We require a reliable and accurate compass to navigate the messy human relationships at the heart and soul of teaching.  Compasses are designed to point in a certain direction, but these devices can be affected by interference:  environments, vehicles, and even the carrier herself may alter the compass reading.  To keep our compass aligned with the Father, we must frequently offer him ourselves with our guards down so He may remove all impurities.  God promises us that the spirit of truth will guide us into all truth (John 16:13).

If we desire to be agents of hope, we have to travel filled with it.  Normally, things we carry weigh us down, but carrying God’s spirit actually lightens us (Matt. 11:30).  Moreover, stewarding God’s spirit means that we are able to connect others with Him, lifting their burdens as well.

As we journey, our experiences equip us with knowledge, references, wisdom, and strategies by which we develop as compassionate professional persons.  But the journey alone is not sufficient; there are many highly experienced people who are not agents of hope.  We ourselves must be filled by the God of hope in order to have any to offer.  We may be affected by trauma, disappointment, fantasy, or discouragement, but God provides us with the correct lenses for our past, present, and future — if we allow Him access to the deep places inside of us.

Carrying much of God’s presence is a mystery.  We are entitled to His presence as sons and daughters, co-heirs with Christ.  Yet He also seems to entrust us with more of His presence in the way a master trusts a faithful servant with greater responsibilities.  If we are faithful to steward God’s presence by responding to Him, listening to Him to govern what we do and do not do, He will bless us with more.

by Craig Ketchum ’10

Opening the door to reverence through silence

Silence brings you close to the fruit that words cannot express.”  St. Isaac the Syrian

I began my career as a ‘noisy’ teacher, believing my job was to speak and provide opportunities for my students to speak.  Time at school was meant to be filled with purposeful and meaningful learning activities and conversations that I planned for my active and engaged students.   Silence was imposed when necessary for learning activities to be completed, or simply for my own sanity when overwhelmed by the vocal demands of 26 six year olds for five hours, five days a week.   But these were meaningless silences, and full of the noise of my teacher agenda.

I don’t think I was the only noisy teacher.  There is a discomfort with silence in education.  We seem to fear it as much as radio broadcasters.  There is the sense that it is “dead educational air”.  We don’t trust or even really believe that there is something of value to be revealed in silence.  Many of us rarely take the plunge into the ‘eternal sea of silence’ ourselves.  We forget that true encounter, perfect communion, is only possible in a silence that flows from love –  “Be still and know that I am God.”  We forget what a pedagogical gift silence can be.  We forget to trust that our students can listen and receive and then offer from greater depth.  We forget that silence is the language of heaven, the cradle of incarnation.

If I weren’t such a noisy teacher and offered my students more silence and moments to float in stillness, they would get to hear more voices than mine and each others.  Their attentiveness would increase as they became used to being rather than doing and experienced, again and again, the reality of embodiment in this beautiful, good, complex, and suffering world.   They would see things anew, ask better questions, and find their unique place in a web of relationship.  Their hearts and worlds would be enlarged, and their egos made small in the humility of interdependence and communion.  They may even find themselves overwhelmed with inexpressible gratitude and compassion.  Most of all they would know that they are not alone for this is the true paradox of silence – it is noise that makes us lonely, separates us, fragments us, distracts us,  and it is silence that reconnects us, integrates us, transforms us and deepens us.

If only I weren’t still such a noisy teacher.

by Kimberly Franklin

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