The summer is drawing to a close and many of us who are educators are thinking about the school year that lies ahead. We are grateful for a summer of more time with family and friends, more time in creation, more time to think deeply about our work and about life. But likely, within each of our hearts, is the growing excitement of reconnecting with colleagues, meeting new students, starting new projects and getting back into routine. The educator’s life is a cycle of seasons – each season necessary and fruitful in different ways. We have good work to do and we are grateful.
The beginning of a school year is an intense time of planning and goal setting, both for and with students – and it needs to be. A reverence for learners would emphasize the importance of planning with students or at least with their unique needs in mind. I find a plan that is more of a ‘vision open to revision’, is inherently more inclusive of learners than a plan that is a blueprint requiring every detail to be implemented. Blueprints work extremely well for buildings, less well for human growth and flourishing. Blueprints assume a confidence that is not possible in the often messy, humbling, relational and dynamic context of teaching.
This week I was reading St. James’ caution to the overly confident.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4: 13-15)
It is easy to forget in a context of pressure to write and accomplish particular outcomes that we are a vapor and there is nothing that we do outside of the Lord’s will. It is easy to forget what the Psalmist says – that we set our time in light of God’s face. It is easy to forget, in our making of plans, that we are taught by God, helped by God, gladdened by God, led by God.
Even more tragically, when focused on our ends and then distracted by detailed means, we forget that each moment is a potential revelation, a possible connection with eternity, an opportunity for the “more” that we all long for – more presence, more peace, more communion.
May we learn to plan and then say, “If the Lord wills.” May we live each moment of our coming practice in the light of God’s face. May we learn to accomplish and say, “Thanks be to God.”