Monday, May 21, 2018

when God seems slow...

Why is God waiting? Why does He watch this world as it falls apart, just sitting back while it spins out of control? Why does He let bad things happen? why doesn't Jesus just come back already?

In the midst of all the chaos and unrest and fear, God is still at work. He is there with those who are in the fire. He is there with those who sink down into the pit. He is there when the earth shakes or when the flood waters rush in or when the stars fall from the heavens.

Because the thing is, if even one soul turns to Him in that moment, it was worth it. If one person sees the waves crashing around him and cries out like Peter did, "Lord, save me!" then who are we to say that God should have held back the flood waters?

Or, on a more personal side, if there was one single person who was drawn to God's side in part due to my brother's death, who am I to say that God should have spared him on that August day in Najaf? I know where my brother ended up. Why would I want to take that chance away from someone else?

It's easy to look at how things seem to be spiraling down and think that God should simply have the angels sound the trumpets and bring all His children home. It's easy to ask why He lets bad things happen to good people. What's hard to do, though, is to see the big picture. It's hard to see the good that can come out of something bad, the lessons that are learned in the waiting, and the light that shines brightest in the midst of the darkness.

"Now the Lord is not slow about enacting His promise—
slow is how some people want to characterize it—
no, He is not slow but patient and merciful to you,
not wanting anyone to be destroyed,
but wanting everyone to turn away from following his own path
and to turn toward God’s."
2 Peter 3:9

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

to the class of 2018

I have high hopes for you. I don't wish you fame and fortune, and I hope that's not what you spend your life chasing.

Instead, I wish you a good life.

I don't mean an easy life. Easy lives have a tendency to make weak people.

I wish you enough hard times to help you develop the grit you will need to become a strong person. Helen Keller once said, "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved." 

I wish you people who will stand against you, because it is only then that you truly develop an appreciation for the people who stand beside and behind you.

I wish you times that knock you flat on your face, because sometimes those are the only times that remind you of the importance of being on your knees before God.

I wish you boredom, because it is only when time seems to slow down that you take the time to look around you and notice the blessings of quietness.

I wish you hard work. Very few things in this life that are worth having come easily, so I hope you have the chance to work really hard for something incredibly important...even if the rest of the world thinks it doesn't matter.

I wish you love. Not the fairytale, happily-ever-after type of love. Instead, the 1 Corinthians type--a love that is sacrificial and protective and forgiving. A love that "can walk through fire without blinking," like Alan Jackson sang. A love that stands true through the ugly times and the hard times.

I wish you a goal you can't reach. I hope something you want stays just a little bit out of reach, because that's what keeps you striving to be better.

I wish you two sunrises--one you see because you stayed up all night, and one you see because you got up early. There's a different type of beauty in each.

I wish you tears over the loss of someone dear. As much as it rips a hole in your heart, you don't know just how deeply you love people until you've lost someone you never thought would be gone. I wish you the kind of sobs that leave you breathless, because it is only after the tears have finally stopped that you realize the importance of smiling through the memories that once hurt your very soul.

I wish you the opportunity to become a hero to someone, but I hope you don't do it for the recognition. I hope you brighten someone else's life just for the sake of it, because you want to make someone's day just a little brighter.

I wish you the chance to defend your faith, because it makes you stop and actually think about what you believe--and why you believe it. Blind faith is often dangerous faith, so approach God with your eyes wide open. I hope you are able to defend your faith with grace, humility, and clarity.

I wish you have a burden too heavy to carry on your own. Even the most introverted of us was made for community, and communities are made for helping you when you have too much to handle.

I wish you exhaustion, both physical and mental, because you don't know how far you can push yourself until you've reached what you thought was your limit--and then pushed further.

I wish you laughter that makes your stomach hurt, and I hope you share it with someone you thought you had nothing in common with.

I wish you the chance to get so lost that you have no choice but to rely on the kindness of a stranger.

I wish you the opportunity to spend time with somebody's grandparent, and I hope you take the time to really listen to the stories they tell.

I wish you a glimpse of this world through the eyes of a toddler, someone whose view hasn't been dimmed by cynicism and who still knows how to run without fear of falling.

Most of all, I wish for you to spend your life. Don't try to save up all your living for some far away tomorrow, because we aren't even promised the next breath. So take every gift that God has given you and pour them all out into those around you. Let Him use you, because His purpose for your life is so much more than anything you can imagine. Strive to become more and more like Christ, to follow in His footsteps even when--especially when--it's hard, to love the unlovables and reach out to the untouchables.

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Matthew 6:33&34

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

the agony of Christ

Have you ever prayed for rescue? I don't mean a nice, neat, "Dear God, please help me get through..." prayer wrapped up with a pretty "Amen." I'm talking about a gut-wrenching, tears streaming, no real words forming type of prayer, one without any real sentences and that's poured out in between sobs.

I've cried and begged, full of the knowledge of God's power. I know that He is the One who has the ability to control everything that happens around me. If He can speak this universe with all its intricacies into existence, it would be simple for Him to put a stop to whatever it is I'm needing to be rescued from--whether it is physical, emotional, financial, or psychological. I know that He can reach down and pull me out of any bad situation, so I pour out my heart to Him through one of those ugly cries, begging for Him to take away the pain.

And if God hears me, if He is truly listening and if He's truly good, He'll swoop in and rescue me. If I don't see things work out the way I want and expect, my human nature tells me that God didn't hear my pleas.

It's easy to forget that we aren't alone in our tears. When Jesus was in the garden, His own tears fell as He begged God to spare Him from the agony of the cross. His anxiety was so intense that His sweat was mixed with blood, a condition known as
hematidrosis which occurs when the tiny capillaries that feed blood to the sweat glands rupture, letting blood seep into the sweat. This condition is said to leave the skin feeling tender. Growing up under Roman rule, Jesus would have seen crucifixions. He would have known all about Roman punishment and all that it entailed. He knew what lay ahead.

He lived His entire life with the knowledge of the cross looming before Him, knowing that the prophet Isaiah was talking about Him when we wrote,

"Indeed, who would ever believe it?
Who would possibly accept what we've been told?
Who has witnessed the awesome power and plan of the Eternal in action?
Out of emptiness He came,
like a tender shoot from rock-hard ground.
He didn't look like anything or anyone of consequence--
He had no physical beauty to attract our attention.
So He was despised and forsaken by men,
this man of suffering,
grief's patient friend.
As if He was a person to avoid, we looked the other way;
He was despised, forsaken, and we took no notice of Him.
Yet it was our suffering He carried,
our pain and distress, our sick-to-the-soul-ness.
We just figured that God had rejected Him,
that God was the reason He hurt so badly.
But He was hurt because of us.
Our wrongdoing wounded and crushed Him.
He endured the breaking that made us whole.
The injuries He suffered became our healing.
We all have wandered off, like shepherdless sheep,
scattered by our aimless striving and endless pursuits;
The Eternal One laid on Him the sins of us all."
Isaiah 53:1-6

In that night in the garden, Jesus was in agony. He knew He was about to be beaten, bloodied, and broken by the very people He came to save. So He spent the night in prayer, begging His Father to rescue Him, to put a stop to the pain.
"When Jesus was on the earth,
a man of flesh and blood,
He offered up prayers and pleas,
groans and tears to the One who could save Him from death.
He was heard because He approached God with reverence.
Although He was a Son,
Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered."
Hebrews 5:7 & 8

"He was heard..." Jesus was not spared the pain of the cross. His tears in the garden didn't end there--they once again mixed with sweat and blood as He hung on the cross, the blood pouring from just about every inch of His body. It coated the wood of the cross, probably mingling with the others who had hung on that cross before Him. His blood mixed with the blood of thieves and murderers, the worst of criminals in Roman eyes, and He died the death of a criminal. He was ridiculed and spit on, beaten and mocked.
"He was heard..." Despite all He suffered, Jesus was heard. God didn't rescue Him from the bad situation. In fact, He put Jesus right into the middle of the worst punishment the Romans could think up. Jesus watched His friends abandon Him. He looked into the agonized eyes of His mother as He hung on the cross.

"Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through the things He suffered." When I've gone through hard times--the times that have left me crying those ugly cries that make your stomach hurt--there have always been lessons. I haven't seen the lesson in everything yet, but I'm slowly learning. That's not to say that I accept the suffering like Paul, saying that I rejoice in it. I still wallow in self-pity, asking "why me?" and begging for rescue. I'm still working on that lesson, I guess.

What I'm trying to do is learn from Jesus. I don't think it is wrong to pray for rescue. After all, Jesus begged for that very thing. What's important, though, is what He added to His prayer--
"Yet not My will, but Your will, be done."
Luke 22:42

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

the classroom as a basketball team...

You're a basketball coach. You got into the field because you wanted the chance to work with kids, to give back by helping kids develop into the people you know they are capable of being (because let's face it--coaches do so much more than shape players. They shape teenagers into the young men and young women they will become.). You know the superstars will be few and far between, but that's okay. You're happy to spend most of your time helping your players develop the basic skills they'll need to be effective on the court. You know that they can't move forward to accomplish big things unless they grasp the fundamentals.

Over time, though, something changes. Instead of having players who understand responsibility and the importance of self-discipline, your players start getting lazy. They stop coming to open gym and shooting around to practice on their own simply because that takes extra effort that they really don't feel like putting in. Basketball just isn't a priority to them any more. At first, that's okay. When someone stops trying, you can cut them from the team. But then, someone decides that every kid should have the chance to play and they do away with cuts. No big deal--you can just bench those players who refuse to work. If they don't put forth the effort, they don't get to play--it's as simple as that. You give everyone the workout and you teach them all the fundamentals, but if they choose not to work, that's not on you. The players are responsible for their own effort, because that's not something you can control.

Then one day, you're told that your focus has to change. You are told that there are too many players who aren't getting playing time. You explain why those players are on the bench, how they are skipping practices and barely working when they show up. You talk about the kid who doesn't even try when the team is shooting free throws in practice; instead, he stands at the line and plays around, tossing the ball up in the air but not actually shooting. Obviously, that explanation should be enough. You can't control whether or not a kid actually tries in practice, especially since the school has done away with cuts. And then they make another change--since basketball is something everyone should have some knowledge of, they are going to push every kid to play. Now, you will have a full team from 9th grade through 12th grade because 4 years of basketball are required for graduation.

And oh yeah--you are supposed to get 80% of those kids to master the game. That means they should be hitting 70% of their shots from everywhere on the court. It doesn't matter that some kids have the ability to shoot 3s and other kids struggle just to make a shot from right under the basket. You, as a coach, should find a way to reach each and every kid who comes through your gym. You should be able to find a way to motivate each one and encourage them enough to make up for any differences in ability levels, right? It's not just shooting, though. Your players should master everything about the game of basketball, including everything from dribbling around defenders to stealing the ball to running plays, and everything should be done with 70% accuracy.

By the way, you should really start using the internet to teach them these skills. Technology is a wonderful tool, and we should include it in every aspect of practice. Your kids should be able to learn just as well that way. After all, the school sunk a lot of money into programs that claim to increase accuracy and even make learning the fundamentals not seem like work. And we all know how much people (especially kids) value things they don't have to work for, right?

You know this isn't going to be what's best for the kids, but you're told you don't have a choice. You either do what's required, or you find a new job. So you do your best. You take those kids who have never been able to dribble, and you start working with them. Not only do you have to get them dribbling, though, you have to get them shooting 3s. So while you're trying to get them caught up on the basics, you're also trying to get them to understand the nuances of a good shot, an effective screen, and that 2-1-2 defense. You should also get them to develop an incredible court awareness. It's not enough for them to be able to do the skills when you tell them to; a good basketball player should be able to see the game as it unfolds and figure out which skills are needed and when: zone vs. man-to-man, or driving to the basket vs. setting up a 3.

It doesn't matter that you have a bunch of kids who have no interest in basketball. Even if they are an accomplished musician bound for Julliard, they still need to master advanced skills in basketball. That math genius who is doing Calculus at 14? Doesn't matter--basketball is required for her. Or the kid who is a computer aficionado and hacked into the Hubble telescope? Yeah, he needs basketball, too. That's part of a well-rounded education, and we need to show that all of our kids (not just the ones who want basketball to be part of their futures) are better at basketball than every other set of kids in the world.

It doesn't take long before your whole team starts to suffer. Since every player is supposed to get the same amount of playing time, your former stars are riding the bench more than they're on the court. In practice, you're stuck having them help the kids who are struggling with the basics, because you have to figure out some way to teach everybody separately, at the same time. The higher-ups have a solution, of course--simply have those more talented players move on and practice on their own. They should obviously be able to teach themselves the more advanced skills, right? Why should they need an actual coach when they have all these other resources at their disposal? Just give them some videos, diagrams, and a court, and they'll go on to develop their talents on their own.

It sounds insane, right?

Sadly, that's what is happening every day in classrooms across the nation. I'm a math and physics nerd, and I love the puzzles and beauty of those subjects. I think it would be wonderful if everyone loved what I love, but I know that's not the case. In fact, some people actually hate both of those subjects. And you know what? That's okay. Part of the beauty of people is that we were all created with different interests, strengths, and weaknesses. That's what makes things so amazing. If you are interested in something, that becomes your focus and your passion. If you don't like something, you leave it to others. You don't have to become 70% proficient in every topic. You try some things and fail spectacularly; you try other things and become an expert.

In our schools, though, somehow the people making the decisions don't see things that way. Teachers are expected to find a way to take a lack of ability and take all the apathy that gets thrown at them from kids who don't care and turn all of that into mastery of the huge list of topics that gets thrown at us.

We need to focus on individualized education, but not in the way that is being pushed right now. If a kid is interested in trade school, why can't that start in 9th grade? If we have a kid who is gifted with welding, or wiring, or engines, or a whole host of other things that I can't wrap my brain around, why do they need to sit in a classroom learning Algebra II or American Literature or (as much as it hurts me to say it) Physics? And if we have a student who is planning on medical school, shouldn't that student be given the chance to be in advanced math and science courses without having to be that kid who pulls everyone else along?  What about our writers? Singers? Artists? Farmers? Architects?

I completely agree that there are basics that every student should get. It's a throw back to the "3 Rs" of "Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic" that we used to see when compulsory school went to 8th grade. But when did we decide every student needed to be an expert in every subject?

And when are we going to realize that those making the decisions about education are pushing a system that isn't in the best interest of our kids, and start pushing back?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

let them be kids

I was at the park one day, watching my kids play. They were enjoying rolling around in the grass, climbing & jumping off the rope tower, running, and simply being loud. I sat on a bench nearby, letting them be kids.

A little boy ran by and then sat down in the middle of some clover and started looking for that perfect one. Almost immediately, his mom swooped in. "We don't sit on the grass--it's dirty," she said, pulling the hand sanitizer out of her bag. He was crushed. I can't say for sure, but it wouldn't surprise me if he had been searching for the perfect clover to show his mom.

That same day, I watched parents who stood right beside their kids the whole time. They were there in case of the smallest bobble, intent on catching them before they fell. After all, it would be horrible for that precious little one to get a scraped knee or a bruise, right?

Parents seem to swoop in at the slightest sign of trouble (or even when there isn't any real trouble), ready to save their kids from experiencing bruised feelings, bruised knees, or bruised egos.
  • Little Johnny didn't get invited to Little Joey's birthday party? Mom immediately calls to make sure the school knows her precious baby was left out, and soon the rule at school is that invitations have to include everyone (or at least all of the boys) if they are going to be handed out at school.
  • Sweet Susie gets cut from the basketball team and feels like she might somehow not be as good as the others, so pretty soon there aren't any tryouts anymore--everyone gets to play, and they all get equal time on the court.
  •  Poor Petey got a bad grade, and his parents automatically decided it must have been because the teacher doesn't like him (nevermind the fact that he never turned in a single homework assignment), and soon schools put "no zeros" policies in place--because we wouldn't want to discourage any of the kids.
Here's a novel idea: we should let our kids experience hurt.

My kids have fallen and scraped knees. They've been left out at school or not invited to parties. They've earned bad grades for turning in assignments late. They've found out the hard way that not everyone wishes you well when we had to deal with bad neighbors. They've dealt with the deaths of 3 different dogs. They've spent their whole lives with stories of an uncle they'll never meet on this earth. Most recently, my little girl has cried huge crocodile tears over a dying baby goat, one we brought in and bottle fed all weekend because she was born so much smaller and weaker than her twin brother.

And like every parent, it breaks my heart to see my kids hurting. I want to shield them from this world in so many ways because I know how much this world hurts. At the same time, though, I know that what my kids face now will determine who they will become in the future. If I shield them from everything that might hurt them now, they won't know how to deal with those things in the future. What's more, they'll miss out on incredibly important lessons:
  • When you get left out, you learn empathy.
  • When you fall down, you learn to stand back up.
  • When you make a bad grade, you learn to work harder.
  • When you deal with loss, you learn to appreciate those you have and love.
  • When you're let down, you learn to lean on the only One who always stands true.

As parents, we are supposed to protect our children. Most importantly, though, we are supposed to teach our children. Some of those lessons are wonderful: we get to teach them the beauty of the mountains, the peacefulness of the country, the magnificence of the ocean, the joy of laughing so much your stomach hurts.

But as much as we would love to focus on the good things and keep them away from the bad things, those hard lessons may just be the most important things we teach our kids. For us, a lot of those hard lessons will be learned on the farm--and for that, I am thankful.

Because, you see, facing hard times can build strong people.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Do you see the chaos or the Creator?

It's easy to look around at this world and see the chaos. News reports are full of earthquakes, fires, shootings, wars...if there's anything bad you can think of, you're probably being bombarded with it every time you look at a screen. It's easy to get focused on all of that and get discouraged. I have to be honest--I get into that mindset quite a bit myself.

"Instead, pray."
 Philippians 4:6b

Instead of focusing on the chaos of the creation, turn your attention to the Creator.

"God is our shelter and our strength.
    When troubles seem near, God is nearer, and He’s ready to help.
So why run and hide?
No fear, no pacing, no biting fingernails.
    When the earth spins out of control,
we are sure and fearless.
    When mountains crumble and the waters run wild, we are sure and fearless.
Even in heavy winds and huge waves,
    or as mountains shake, we are sure and fearless."
Psalm 46:1-3

Sometimes when we look at all the stuff that's happening, we lose sight of the fact that all of creation is still answering to the Creator. No matter what gets thrown our way or what mess we find ourselves in, we can have faith that He is still there, still loves us, and can still calm all our fears.

Friday, January 12, 2018

why teachers are tired...

I'm going to go out on a limb here, and assume that I'm speaking for a majority of public school teachers in the United States with this post. If you're in that category and you don't agree with what I'm saying, feel free to let me know. Honestly, I would love to hear from somebody who feels differently right now--it might help to restore my faith in our public educational system and the future of our country.

If that sounds a bit drastic, I'm sorry. Right now, though, my feelings about teaching, the students, the state of education, and the future of our country are all a bit raw and ragged. You see, I'm tired. If we're honest with you, I imagine any teacher you talk to would say the same thing right now.

First, we're burnt out. Yes, even those of us who have only been teaching for a few years, like myself. This is only my 4th year in a high school classroom, but I'm already in a place I couldn't have imagined myself being right now. I often leave at the end of the day feeling run-down, disappointed, and dejected. I ask myself on an almost daily basis if it's worth it. Is teaching worth the stress? Is it worth the tears, the sleepless nights, the shortness with my family? Too often, in too many situations, the answer is quickly changing to no for too many teachers.

We are in this field because we are people who have made the decision, for one reason or another, to spend our time teaching children. We want to make them smarter, more responsible, and just all around better human beings. We teach because it is the profession that was developed to touch every aspect of the future. The problem is, though, that is being taken away from us. Once, teachers were trusted to figure out the best way to reach the kids they taught. Teachers were seen--and rightly so--as experts in the field of education, and they were given the autonomy to make decisions that were in the best interest of the students they dealt with on a daily basis. Now, though, that has been taken away.

We are told what to teach and when to teach it. We are given standards (check over here for my view of those) and outlines and even, in some cases, scripts. That's the issue one teacher friend of mine is facing right now. This teacher has always been one every student loves, a teacher who focused on creative, innovative ways to reach kids and get them excited about learning. Now, this teacher is supposed to stand in front of a classroom of kids and teach them by reading from a script. Gone are the days of teachers being able to actually make decisions about their classrooms...

Teaching used to be considered "the noble profession." Teachers, after all, shape the future...right? As it turns out, that privilege (and great responsibility) is being taken away from us. Instead, it is the policy makers--people who haven't been in a classroom since they were students themselves, in most cases--who are determining the present status of education, and therefore the shape of the future. They hand down decisions based on the latest trendy ideas, and it seems like they never stop to consider whether or not those ideas will actually work in a classroom. They listen to big names and people who are making money off of systems and ideas and "teacher accountability systems" instead of the people who are in the trenches on a daily basis--the teachers.

And what about those ideas in themselves? What works in one classroom, with one particular group of kids, is just as likely to fail miserably in another classroom as it is likely to prove effective. The same goes for teachers--an approach that seems almost magical for one teacher is one that another teacher wouldn't be able to use in a million years. Take my husband and I, for example. Nathan dances around and sings in front of his kids at school. For him, it works. For the most part, I have those same kids in my classes (one of the consequences, for better or worse, of being in a small school). Ask any one of them what they would think if I started singing and dancing in class, and you would probably get a lot of answers that all had the same basic idea: they would think I had lost my mind.

What works for one teacher doesn't necessarily work for another teacher.

As teachers, we are now constantly being required to prove ourselves. It is almost as if our administrators are telling us, "You need to prove to me that you aren't a horrible teacher." If an issue arises, it seems the students are trusted before the teachers. If something goes wrong, it is automatically the teacher's fault.

~Low grades? Forget the idea that grades depend on the effort of the student; the teacher must not know how to teach the material.

~A student fails a class? It can't be because that student never did homework, never turned in assignments, and wrote "IDK" on half the test questions. It must be because the teacher personally had it in for that kid.

~Low Aspire scores? It can't have anything to do with the fact that the kids had already taken half a dozen standardized tests, or that they knew that their scores actually had no impact on them personally. It must mean that the teachers aren't doing their jobs.

We have dropped everything on the teachers. Teachers who are already stooped over from the weight of caring for kids they can actually do very little to help, in many cases. Teachers who are already over-worked and under-paid. Teachers who have to get more Professional Development hours than people in the medical field. Teachers who cry over kids who aren't theirs, who show up at all the ballgames because they know there won't be anybody to cheer for little Johnny otherwise. Teachers who stay at school for hours after everyone else has gone home, because they are trying to figure out a way to finish everything that is required of them.

While these things are bad enough for the teachers, we aren't the ones being most affected. We are, after all, adults. We can choose to walk away, to get a different job in a different area where the stress is different. We are making a conscious decision (whether it is a rational one or not is a different issue...) to stay in a profession that is slowly carving away pieces of our souls.

But what about the kids?

Sadly, that's a question that those making the decisions about education don't seem to be asking.

~What happens when you stop holding kids accountable for their decisions and actions?

~What happens to their future when they think the world revolves around their feelings?

~What happens when kids learn to think of themselves as entitled to things in life instead of as having the privilege--and responsibility--to earn things?

It used to mean something when you earned a high school diploma. My Papaw talked about being afraid to open his folder after he walked at graduation, because he wasn't sure that little piece of paper would be in there (it was). You had to work to earn it, and that wasn't something everyone had the drive and/or ability to do. Now, though, it seems to be a guarantee. Schools are judged based on graduation rates. Judged might not be the right word--bribed is probably more accurate. School funding is based on the number of kids a school has and the percentage of those kids who graduate. State and Federal groups hold the money over the school's head, with no thought for how that actually affects education. It used to be that disruptions in the classroom weren't accepted. Disruptive students were disciplined. The same goes for students who refused to turn in assignments. Now, though, we are told that we can't "drive kids away." Many schools have adopted "no zeroes" policies, because if a kid gets a zero, he may fail a class. And if he fails a class, he may get discouraged. And if he gets discouraged, he may drop out of school.

What gets left out is the end of that thought--the part that never gets mentioned, but is the reason behind the rest of it: If he drops out of school, the school loses money.

It seems as if those making the decisions about our schools simply see dollar signs when they look at our kids.

To be honest, we are failing our kids. It all gets dumped on the schools, and therefore on the teachers, but what are teachers supposed to do to counter the effects of a confused, chaotic world full of "adults" who live off of other people, never take responsibility, and require "safe spaces" to keep them from feeling offended?

I read an article that was written at the beginning of the 2012 school year that says the following:

"Deadbeat dads, pushover moms, vulgar celebrities, self-interested politicians, depraved ministers, tax-sheltering CEOs, steroid-injecting athletes, benefit-collecting retirees who vote down school taxes, and yes, incompetent teachers—all take their turns conspiring to neglect the needs of the young in favor of the wants of the old. 

The line of malefactors stretches out before our children; they take turns dealing them drugs, unhealthy foods, skewed values messages, consumerist pap, emotional and physical and sexual traumas, racist messages of aspersion for their cultures, and countless other strains of vicious disregard. Nevertheless, many pundits and politicians are happy to train their rhetorical fire uniquely on the teachers, and the damnable hive-feast on the souls of our young continues unabated. We’re told not to worry because good teachers will simply overcome this American psychic cannibalism and drag our hurting children across the finish line ahead of the Finnish lions.

Yeah, right.

Today, teachers across the land dutifully cast their seeds on ever-rockier ground. We were all told that a mind is a terrible thing to waste, and we all became adamant about education; but no one told us not to waste kids’ hearts or weaken their spines or soften their guts, and we long ago abandoned our traditional cultural expectations for children’s formation. I’m not calling for picket fences and Leave it to Beaver; I’m calling for childhoods that aren’t dripping with pain and disenchantment and a huge chasm where there should have been character-building experiences from the age of zero to five. That aren’t marked by an empty space where there should have been a disciplinarian. And a gap where there should have been a rocking chair and a soft lap waiting when the child was hurting. I am referring to missing ingredients that I now recognize as the absolute essentials, things I took for granted when I was too young to realize I had won the parent lottery.
Adults—not merely teachers—have caused these little ones to stumble, but journalists and nonprofits and interloping government experts offer not a hand to the young but rather a cat-of-nine-tails across the backs of their teachers. Injustice for teachers is confused with justice for kids." (

Those aren't the only things our kids are facing. Not all of our kids come from broken homes. In fact, a lot of kids have loving parents, safe homes, and warm food at night. Something else most of those kids have?


And within those phones, you'll find their lives. Those are lives of constant distraction, the constant seeking for attention, and constant need of approval. They are filled with social media, where a person's worth seems to be determined by how many reactions--good or bad--they can get from other people. Creativity, daydreaming, and just good old fashioned communication are almost a thing of the past. Study after study is showing how detrimental smart phones and other devices are, and yet almost every kid is carrying one around. I've seen kids who can't even talk yet who know how to use a tablet or smartphone.

And as a teacher, I'm told that I should use technology in my classroom. I'm told that since kids have shorter attention spans, I should cater to them by making my lessons shorter and more exciting. Instead of teaching kids to put the phone away, we're told, "The kids are going to use them anyway, so you need to find a way to have them use their devices in class." In a growing number of schools, there is even a push to have "1-to-1 capabilities", meaning we have our kids carrying around chromebooks or iPads or some other tablet around all day. What about teaching respect for others? What about the fact that studies are starting to show that there may be a link between social media and the rising rates of depression and suicide in teenagers? What about the studies that show people having "withdrawal symptoms" when they don't have their phones?

Teachers have been sounding the alarm for years, trying to warn of the harm that is coming to our children. What I'm afraid of is the possibility that things have gone too far. I'm afraid that teachers are too tired--

~tired of being blamed for problems they didn't cause

~tired of being told to solve the problems, but having their hands tied behind their backs

~tired of being seen as villains

~tired of being forced to do things that aren't in the best interest of the kids they choose to serve

~tired of having to pay for the bad choices and bad decisions of others.

If our society doesn't wake up soon, I'm afraid it may be too late.

I said at the beginning that this sounded drastic. To be honest, it doesn't even begin to do justice to the dire state of education in our country. 

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