Want to discuss education?

This is a small plug for a site where I and a few friends chip away at the ideas behind “teaching redemptively” — applying the Gospel to the structures of education, not just the words used in the classroom or censoring textbooks or any number of surface-level attempts at biblical worldview integration.

The title of the blog is an homage to the book Teaching Redemptively by Donovan Graham, a work that profoundly affected the way I view teaching and learning.  Seeing how the Gospel transforms the very fabric of classroom structures, student-teacher relationships, and perspectives on the curriculum & subjects taught deeply changed how I approach discussions of education.

Finding myself in the company of a few colleagues who were studying at the same graduate school and absorbing the same viewpoint, we began writing — a little — in an attempt to tell some of our stories and unpack the day to day experiment of “Grace-based education.”

Our goal was to kick off a longer project of writing a series of case studies that illustrate or illuminate the principles Graham sets forth in T.R.   Names changed to protect the innocent and guilty, of course.

There’s much that we never got around to writing down, and some older posts that we might even wish to revise. But if you have any interest in thinking through what the Gospel means for education across all ages, we’d love for you to join the journey with us.

A note during the changeover:  I can’t update original author attribution until my fellow writers get over here to WP.  For the moment, all posts are listed under my name, but many were authored by my colleagues.  I’ll at least get authors listed over the course of the next few weeks.

Teaching Redemptively: A Blog on Grace-Based Education

TR blog shot

Yeah, shouldn’t we be working <40 hrs/wk now?

Cory Doctorow blogged about this article on Monday, and it seriously caught my attention. The original author, David Cain, wrote an essay after returning from 9 months backpacking and traveling. He’d realized that his return to North America immediately dumped him back into the frantic, frazzled life of a consumer. Though he was “richer,” life was much poorer. His 40 hour workweek trapped him in a cycle that cut out all of the enriching parts of life… and he began to realize it was all part of a larger plan:

I’ll lead with an excerpt:

But the 8-hour workday is too profitable for big business, not because of the amount of work people get done in eight hours (the average office worker gets less than three hours of actual work done in 8 hours) but because it makes for such a purchase-happy public. Keeping free time scarce means people pay a lot more for convenience, gratification, and any other relief they can buy. It keeps them watching television, and its commercials. It keeps them unambitious outside of work.

via 40-hour work-week as a tool of immiserating economic growth – Boing Boing.

and the full, original essay is here:
Your Lifestyle has already been designed



John Dewey, the landmark education researcher & philosopher, was famous for asserting that a student hadn’t really learned anything until he or she had taken time to reflect on the educational experience.

The last few months have been rich with educational experiences for me personally, often in the context of work. I’ve come to the end of a vast array of significant projects, culminating in a huge event on campus that was developed and managed almost entirely by me, my boss, and an event planner. The fact that everything went off pretty well is actually a picture of Grace if ever there was one. lol

So I’ve spent the past few days recuperating and reflecting.  And sleeping, napping, resting.  Those were some 60 hour weeks.

I don’t feel as euphoric as I thought I would — though the night before our big event, I was nearly giddy with anticipation of everything finally being DONE — like a plow horse who’s caught sight of the barn at the end of a very long and hard day.  That emotional numbness sparked some further reflection.

It’s not just that I want my work to provide a sense of reward at the end of big projects, though I always appreciate a pat on the back if it was truly a job well done.  And I take pride in my work, in providing quality execution or developing a good idea.

But what I really crave is fulfillment, a deep and rich sense of fulness that comes from doing what I was factory-built to do, and in a context that carries significance.

Apparently, I was crafted to help build up human beings — and that explains why I identify so strongly as an educator.  I love helping humans flourish as better versions of themselves.  Other work might be satisfying or provide me with a sense of pride, but event planning or even design rarely pulls out of me a deep happy sigh.

Over the past few weeks I’ve seen several of my former students, either by random encounter or at social gatherings, and their continuing growth into young adults resonates with me.  My work as one influential educator among many continues to pay dividends in my heart and soul. To watch them grow up, find their passions, discover career paths, select a soulmate — it’s incredibly satisfying and enriching.  It leaves me thinking, Yes. It was worth the trouble and toil and pain to be a teacher.  They are worth it!

I’ve commented before on the strong interpersonal dimension of my workplace orientation. Given a choice between a great job with meh coworkers and a mediocre job alongside my best friends, I’d sacrifice job quality any day to spend time working alongside people I love.

The old saw goes, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Or something like that.  And I realize that my bent toward relational teaching pushes me toward workplace solutions that look like teaching, instructing, communicating, and relationship-building, regardless of the type of “problem” we’re trying to solve or project under way.

But I’m realizing that I’m actually pretty good at anticipating how actions or policy or structures can either hinder or assist in developing positive relationships in the workplace.  I tend to feel in my bones the future effects of current decisions.  Emotional arthritis, perhaps, as the barometer shifts.

My interpersonal intelligence makes me a stronger employee … but it also costs me something.  I expend a lot of mental and emotional energy scanning for signs of distress — it’s a habit I picked up from constantly reading the emotions of volatile adolescents.  But it’s not really my job here to address any problems that could arise. In fact, it’s not even my job to worry whether there are problems at all.

So I switch off that unit in my brain (along with the teaching module and the counseling panel and the button that makes me laugh extra-loud).

Forced to restrain my personality and ways of knowing/working to fit a job — this is labor indeed.  Hard work.  I’m glad for the training session the Universe has arranged for me, but this wrong-sized hole is really starting to rub me in places.

I’ve never wanted to put a wall between who I am all the time and who I am “at work.”  (I realize my Texas-sized personality is probably too loud for my little office and the quiet administration building where I work, so I try hard to reign myself in …. but it’s hard. lol)   At points, I’m loud, bombastic, overly-talkative, too excited, too energetic, too fast to make a decision and jump off into a project, overflowing with too many ideas for other people to sift through, a bit too random, annoying in my habit of cutting people off before they’re done talking because my brain non-stop insists on guessing the ends of people’s sentences (because I’m too impatient to wait for them to finish).  All truth.

The irony is, that whole mess right there was the backbone of why kids who hated English classes still enjoyed mine. And why the kids who would be dropouts or failures when left to “the system” found themselves engaged and learning, sometimes despite themselves.

I’ve digressed a bit far in what I intended in this post, but perhaps the moment of blunt honesty will spark a conversation.

It’s easy to look back at teaching with wistful eyes and a fog that covers over what was broken and the legitimate issues which provoked me to leave the classroom.  Those reasons hold me where I am now — that, and an appreciation for the mission of the school where I now work.  It’s a mission I align with, one that I support and would like to further.

And I’m sure that I will be back in a classroom eventually.  I don’t think I can escape that destiny.

Till then, don’t take my musings too strongly.  Dashes of salt.

But I know some of you have walked this road too – of craving a deeper interplay between the work that eats so much of our waking hours and the hard-wired settings of our psyche. You too have filled a role you didn’t expect to be cast in, for the show must go on.

*salutes*  Hats off, fellow actors. Tell me how you did it.

Calm before the storm

Seriously, y’all.

We have done a ton of work at my office in the past month few months year.

I am nearly giddy with excitement to know that in just 48 hours, all of this will be over.   The 175 celebration extravaganza festival onslaught has been fun and all, but seriously.  I have worked on this long enough. lol

DVD artwork by Becky Sims
DVD artwork by Becky Sims

We’ve got a film now– produced, edited, wrapped, and pressed, including case artwork,

a full event planned (yay! posters! I got to do that part),

a museum exhibit installed (as you know, since I won’t shut up about it LOL),

a premiere event planned & ready to go (thanks, Liz Noblitt Phillips!),and about a thousand other things done.

Yeah, a magazine. That too.

Under the Towers stage
What an adorable stage, right?

No one has stabbed anyone yet and I think most of the event plans are in place for Saturday to be just awesome.  It looks like even the weather will cooperate.

And if things really are as smooth as they seem, once Saturday afternoon rolls around and the initial rush is over, I hope to sit under the trees in a camp chair and talk with friends while we watch the sun drop behind the Towers as music plays and a dude juggles fire.

Oh, and caramel corn.

Yay!  We done good.

But SERIOUSLY.   Way too much work, way too few people.

It’s 2am.  I’m wired like an electric fence. Haven’t sipped coffee since 11am, I promise.  It’s the nervous energy of a major event that could — probably won’t — spin out of control. What am I forgetting? What did we not think to do?  Who’s going to be offended at an honest omission that comes across as a slight? 

Gonna try to sleep now. Come see me on Saturday. It’ll be rad. I promise.


Humanities, Religion, and Higher Ed

Sanctuary for the Humanities – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

^^ Take a couple minutes to read the article here, by Christopher Noble.

Though I find myself deeply sympathetic with his premise, that only “people of the Book(s)” can fully value the humanities, there’s a lot about this article that bothers me.

For one, I think he caricatures agnostics and atheists.  I don’t find my friends who hold those positions to be less interested in texts and discourse; I think they’re far MORE engaged in the humanities than many religious people.

Second, doesn’t his argument dehumanize people?  He’s kind of saying, “The humanities don’t matter unless you believe in God.”  But I thought the humanities mattered because all of us are HUMAN ….  You know, imago Dei and all that…..