Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Teacher Come From God

Tonight starts a new semester.  This will be my 14th year teaching a religious education class on campus at Brigham Young University.  Close to 6,000 students have sat in my classrooms through the years.  Some of them I now call my friends.  Some of them I remember fondly and wonder where they are and how they are doing.  Some of them I vaguely recall.  And still others, I might not know if I tripped over them.

I would hope that I fall into the first two categories and not the latter two for some of my former teachers.  At the very least I love my students while I am with them and then send them off into the world with all of the prayer and blessing I can muster.  I have felt that many of my teachers have done the same.

Whenever I contemplate a new school year, when I consider what kind of a teacher I have become, when I think about what strengths I have yet to develop there are three people I think about.  Three teachers who influenced me more than all the others.

Marta Kyte
When I was in fourth grade I had a wonderful teacher.  I was delighted when, in sixth grade, she showed up again at the front of one of my classrooms.  I have thought of Mrs. Kyte often over the years.  We moved to another state when I was in 8th grade and again in the 11th grade.  Each new school I looked for a Mrs. Kyte - someone who would make learning fun and inspire my mind with possibilities.  Some came close.  But none were ever just right.

There are often days when I sit down to plan a lesson and think, "What would Mrs. Kyte do?"  I know that teaching the story of the Children of Israel wandering in the desert for forty years isn't quite the same as teaching 4th graders about civic government.  But, she had Kyteland and I put stickers on my students and assign them to one of the Twelve Tribes then make them march around the lecture hall.

What I learned from Mrs. Kyte is that you have to connect abstract principles with concrete examples or your students never quite grasp the real world application of the things they are learning.  I also learned that the more senses you involve in the learning process the more likely they are to make those connections.  The more likely they are to remember what you've taught.  The more likely they are to be inspired to keep on learning.  It's true of nine year olds and it's true of twenty-two year olds just the same.

Matt Richardson
Though he taught at BYU for years, I never took a college class from Brother Richardson.  I did attend a lot of talks and lectures as he presented at Education Week and EFY.  I bought his "talks on tape" and learned to love his stories.  (I've even used a few of them from time to time.  I hope that's ok.)  I first met Matt in person when I was an EFY counselor.  I attended his classes.  I watched him with the teenage participants and with the (not much older than that) young adult counselors.  He was funny and kind and generous with his time and his talents.

I learned a lot from Matt about how to teach.  Have a lot of energy.  Be sincere.  Ask questions.  Take questions.  Read.  Write.  Talk.  Discuss.  Explore.  Imagine.  He always faced tough questions head on but with humility.  He clearly knew the scriptures and was a master of making connections from the scriptures, through the Spirit, into the hearts of those who listened.

The thing about Matt's teaching that has left the most lasting impression was how well he walked the talk.  I met his wife and children.  I spent time with him and them.  I heard them talk to and about one other with love and enthusiasm.  I watched how they raised their family and how they ran their home.  From Matt I learned that the most powerful teaching we do is when our lives are in harmony with the things we profess to believe.

My Mom
For the four years I was in high school my mother would get up each morning long before dawn.  In the dark we would drive down to the church building where she would proceed to teach 15 or 20 sleepy-eyed, high school students about the Gospel of Jesus Christ in that hour before school started each day.  She used the Bible and the Book of Mormon and the words of prophets as her texts.  She bore testimony with the Spirit.  She knew us and she loved us.

Many days I would come home from school and find her on her bed with books strewn around as she studied and studied and studied.  I heard her cry.  I heard her pray.  I heard her earnest conversations with my dad.  She knew that she couldn't impart what she didn't know.  She paid the price to know.  I try to do the same.

There are a million reasons why I am grateful to my mother for so many things in my life.  But, when I contemplate my role as teacher, it is her role as teacher that has informed the WHY of my teaching more than any other.  She loves God.  And, she inspired us to love Him as well.  I want to do the same for my students this year - and always.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back To School

Yesterday morning I had a doctor appointment so I left the house a little earlier than usual.  I had just returned from a nine day business trip.  My head was working out appointments and routines and what I need to get done at work, weighing that against what will actually get done before the day is through.

I don't have children.  I haven't talked to my sister (the elementary school teacher) in over a week.  My calendar says it's still summer.


As I pulled out of the garage I waved to the neighbors who were on their front lawn taking pictures of each child with shiny, new backpacks.  As I drove down the street I found myself in the midst of a parade of parents and little people with lunchboxes and younger siblings in strollers as they made their way to the neighborhood elementary school.  As I waited at the crosswalk I watched excitement and hesitancy all wrapped up in new, little shoes as some ran and some shuffled and each were hugged or high-fived by the school mascot in a big, furry costume with a sign around his neck that said, "Welcome Back!"

I made it about a half a block before I burst into tears.

All my mommy friends spent the day on Facebook sharing those pictures with the shiny, new backpacks and status updates about how hard the first day of school is for them or how brave they were because they didn't cry or how happy they are that their house is now quiet for a few hours each day.

All I could think all day was, "I may never know what it's like to walk my child to the first day of school."  And, then there more tears.  Lots of tears.  All day long.  And now, today, just writing this, there are more tears.

Someone.  Quick!  Help me plan a trip to somewhere exotic.  Or, maybe not plan it.  I'll just go.  All that spontaneity and sunbathing will make me feel better about being single and childless.

OK.  Probably not.

Damn, biological clock!

P.S.  - To my mommy friends, please don't feel any guilt over my "stuff."  I know you have enough guilt in your lives already.  Maybe ignore me and go read what this amazing woman has to say about back to school here or here.  It's way more uplifting and helpful.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Nearer My God To Thee

Do you ever meet someone who inspires you with a desire to be better than you are?

"Dull disciples will not light the way nor draw people to the kingdom."
(Neal A Maxwell)

A new student came to my class tonight. He was everything that is the opposite of dull - interesting, brilliant, sharp, full of light. He taught me quite a bit this evening as he commented and questioned and bore testimony. When class was over he walked right up to the front of the room and hugged me and thanked me. And I was humbled and grateful.

I looked into this young man's face and I saw the face of God. And I was filled with love. I was reminded of a desire - not so much buried as frequently ignored - to be equally yoked with a man who radiates such love for God and others. And I was just as quickly reminded of Doctrine and Covenants 88:40 and found myself struggling not to cry as I realized how far I have to go to be worthy of such a man. But, because love was present I found myself inspired rather than depressed.

"For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things."

Do you ever feel a desire for something so much that you literally ache with the wanting of it?

Very few things inspire that much raw emotion in me. However, I continually ache to BE the woman I desire to BECOME. Simply put, I yearn to be better than I am.

Full of Faith
With a House of Order

I often present myself to the world as if I were this woman. Much of the time I feel like a total hypocrite. But, every so often, I discover that by acting AS IF I am this woman, I have woven a small part of her into the very fabric of my soul.

"In announcing his famous 'as if' principle, William James said that if you want a quality, act 'as if' you already had it. If you want to be friendly, act as if you are already friendly. If you want to be courageous, don't go around talking fear and indulging in negative, un-Christian thinking. If you want to be faithful, act 'as if' you are already faithful. Do the things that faithful people do…Don't go around glorying in your sins and weaknesses."
(Sterling W Sill)

As I talked of Christ with 70 some odd students this evening, I felt that I was closer now to BECOMING the woman I want to BE than I have been in a long time. I was also reminded that the nearer I get to God, the further away I realize I really am.

But, something about this inspires me to "try a little harder to be a little better."

Friday, February 12, 2010

Lucky You

Do the people who complain all day long about their jobs ever stop to consider that maybe they should be grateful they even have a job? How I'm feeling right now…yeah, it's kind of like that.

I'm a pretty passionate person - passionate about my family and my career, easily moved to strong emotion when discussing my faith or my failures, strongly opinionated about quite a few things but always trying to reign in that passion to allow others to be heard and understood. And that passion is all pretty much positive. I'm happy and hopeful and forward looking. I'm content and concerned but optimistic. I realize that my life - even all of the things not exactly as I would wish them - are born of my own choices.

Consequently, it takes a lot to get me really riled-up angry. Maybe it's just the Valentine's Day vibes in the air but I'm working up a pretty good mad today.

Every day as I look through my Facebook feed and my Twitter stream I'm so disappointed by how many women feel it necessary to complain about everything they feel is wrong with their lives. But today? Today I find myself getting angrier and angrier at the amount of negativity being spouted about their husbands and children, about their roles as wives and mothers. Does it ever occur to them to be grateful that they have people in their lives to love?

There are some of us who long to bear the titles Wife and Mother and may never have that opportunity. There are some of us who have so much love to give and find ourselves funneling that energy into other, less worthy, outlets than nurturing a marriage relationship or raising righteous children. Sure, I know it's not all romance and roses and cute, sticky kisses from well-behaved children. I know that, like me, you still struggle with finances and self-image issues and disappointment bred of unmet expectations. Women are women regardless of their marital or parental status.

But right now I don't even have the hope of roses or sticky kisses. I go home every night to an empty house. And if I have one more friend tell me how much they would love that - I might punch them right in the face.

I mean, really, at what point does venting frustration go from being an honest expression of current emotion to being something much more consuming? Can they not see that they are becoming negative, unhappy people because that seems to be all they ever focus on? Can they not see the effect this has on their ability to love and nurture their husbands and their children and to feel that love returned?

Once a month I stand and repeat the words, "prepared to strengthen home and family." And I really try to do that the best way I know how - with my students and my friends and my siblings and their children. I believe that family is the basic unit of society. I know that the role of motherhood is sacred and significant. And if I can't be a mother I want to support the women in my life who do get that overwhelming, sometimes thankless, tiresome but awe-inspiring job. But, listening to some of you it makes me wonder why you ever got married and had children. Sometimes it makes me wonder why I would ever want to. And that makes me sad. And angry.

So - Happy Valentine's Day everyone! Go love someone for crying out loud - and be grateful that you get to do so.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Happy New Year

If you know me you know that I LOVE music - and that my taste runs the gamut. (I get that from my mama.) But, recently I came across a blog - which led me to a Twitter feed and a weekly radio program - all by a guy I knew in another lifetime (I think it was the summer I was 19). And let me tell you what - this guy knows music. He doesn't know yet but he has introduced me to a whole new world of music in the last few weeks, including this gem:

Thanks, Dainon!

With all that said, I've been pretty busy the last several weeks setting my business up for a record-breaking year to blog much personally. I wish I had a better excuse, like "spent a month in Bora Bora" or "boyfriend with unmet needs." But, there you have it - I've been doing genealogy. (It's actually a pretty exciting time to be doing what I do let me tell you what. More on that here.)

In the midst of all of that personal and professional preparation for an amazing 2010, I've been taking hits from all sides - snarky comments on blog posts, drama with some of my students, clients with completely unrealistic expectations, and on and on. I realize that it's because I've set myself up as something of a target. That will not, of course, deter me from pressing forward. I will do so, ever yearning to be better than I am in every arena.

Seems that I came across this quote today (made popular again because of Invictus - which I still need to see) at just the right time in my life. I love when that happens!

"It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls
who neither know victory nor defeat."
(Teddy Rosevelt, "The Man in the Arena")

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

No Clever Musical Title Today. I'm Having Some Deep Thoughts.

“Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government!”

I taught a Sunday School lesson a few days ago on “Being Good Citizens.” It was interesting to hear what people had to say. But, somehow I felt like I didn’t quite teach what I was supposed to teach. The discussion never reached the level of a discussion that I felt was useful and inspiring. I don’t know.

This week I am also teaching my last Institute class of the semester. Last night we talked about Alma giving up his position as chief judge to minister full-time to the people. Again, I tried to facilitate a discussion about the the responsibilities of politics and religion. It never quite got there. I’ll try one more time tonight.

In the meantime, here is my favorite quote of the moment as it relates to this topic.

"One of the best ways to learn what you believe is to learn what others believe, especially those who passionately disagree with you. You've got to understand how someone can be of good conscience and intelligent, look at the exact same issue as you, and come to a position 180 degrees opposite. One enormous problem we have in civil discourse today is that it’s so polarized; People tend to think that anyone who disagrees with them is either stupid or evil. They’re either too dumb to know the right answer, or if they’re smart enough to know the right answer they’re malevolent and want the wrong answer to prevail. To convince someone, you have to answer this question: If your mom came to these views, how would you try to convince her?” ~Ted Cruz (candidate for Texas Attorney General)

Also, a link to my favorite discourse of the moment as it relates to this topic.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Let It Snow

I went to my company Christmas party on Saturday night without incident. It started snowing on Sunday before church. I made it to Church just fine. But, on my way home I was slipping and sliding up my cul-de-sac and almost didn’t make it up my steep driveway. It continued to snow Sunday and into Monday and again on Tuesday. I didn’t leave my house until Wednesday morning.

By the time I got to the office Wednesday morning I discovered a nail in my right front tire. I probably should have stayed home today, too.

And that’s why you haven’t hear from me for a few days.