Tuesday, April 12, 2016

We Are Peter

We Are Peter
Every week I send out a list of resources (links, videos, etc.) to teachers as a way to sharpen their respective axes. One of the Teacher Resources I listed a few weeks back was a blog about the curse of knowledge (http://www.edutopia.org/blog/the-curse-of-knowledge-chris-reddy?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialflow). In it, the author mentioned a few of the components that we often overlook based on our current level of knowledge. Being experts in our fields and of our content, we can often forget what it is like not to have the knowledge or skills we teach to students. One strategy to combat this "curse" is known as spacing. The article says this about spacing: 
Blocked practice is ancient and is no longer considered best practice. An example of blocked practice is cramming. Though it feels like learning, blocked practice results in learning that is shallow, and the connections quickly fade. The preferred alternative is the opposite of blocked practice: spaced practice.
Exposing yourself to content and requiring your brain to recall previously learned concepts at spaced intervals (hours, days, weeks, or months) makes the content sticky and results in deeper retention with solid neural connections. As spaced practice is the way that you learned the content you teach, it makes sense to employ the same technique with your students. So thinking of your content as a cycle that is frequently revisited makes learning easier for your students while helping alleviate the curse.
While listening to the proclamation of the Gospel on Sunday morning, this particular concept bounced back into my mind. Peter needed frequent reminders of who he was being called to be. 

In Sunday's Gospel, Peter needs Christ to remind him, yet again, that Peter is the Rock upon which Christ will build the Church. Peter and the apostles, despite the power and hope of the Resurrection, have reverted back to being fishermen. They have gone back to their former way of life. The risen Christ challenges Peter in a fashion similar to the call of the first apostles, "Feed my lambs...Tend my sheep...Feed my sheep...Follow me." 

If Peter needed spaced reassurance of his dignity and worth, how much more do we need a similar level of affirmation? If we need this support, how much more must our students need it? From the repetition of concepts and skills, to reminders about expectations, to consistent positive reinforcement, let us be like Christ in offering these messages to our students as often as they need it to realize their God-given potential. 

Like Christ, let us be quick to show mercy. Let us willingly offer students our love. Let us see them for who they can become, not for what they are currently doing. Let us continue to place our hope in the fulfillment of who God created them to be and let us continue to demonstrate to them that Hope Will Rise! 

Peter, a liar, became the first Pope. 

Saul, a murderous soldier, became one of the greatest evangelists ever. 

Similarly, Jesus is doing something AMAZING inside of each and every one of us, including our students. Remember that we are loved by God and that God's love is enough to save the world. Therefore, we are enough and we can play a part in God's salvific plan! 

His Precious Blood is coursing through our veins. 

We are called to greatness. 

We are called to holiness. 

We are called to sainthood. 

"Feed my lambs...Tend my sheep...Feed my sheep...Follow me." 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Commit fully. Be creative. Orient the details.

I spent the  first half of Saturday scouring my house for the GFCI outlet that would allow me to reset the outlets in the master and guest bathrooms as well as the outlets outside of my house. Why these outlets would be wired together is beyond me. The bathrooms are on the opposite sides of the house. They are linked to all of the outlets on the outside of the house. And, the GFCI switch that would allow me to reset that circuit was not in any of those locations. 

For those who don't know, GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, and they are used on electrical outlets that are close to water - kitchens, bathrooms, garages, outside, etc. Many homes now have GFCI outlets on all fixtures. In my house there are two. 

The first was an easy find. It is in the kitchen and the black and red switches stand out clearly against the white outlet cover. It controls the outlets in the kitchen. 

The other, though, lay hidden for the better part of the day. I searched everywhere. I checked places twice. I looked in cabinets, closets, the attic, outside, everywhere. The geographical distance between and among the interconnected outlets clouded any logical answer.  

Finally, I decided to move my car out of the garage and give my search one last ditch effort. The old college try. Plugs that I knew of in the garage were working fine so despite my skepticism I started moving things so that I could see all of the walls exposed. Luckily, I wasn't into my search for long before I found it: a random GFCI switch outlet in the middle of the wall. 

I pressed the reset button. I went running into the house. I plugged a nightlight into an outlet in the master bathroom. Success. I cheered! I ran to the guest bathroom and did the same thing. Operational. Finally, I ran outside and turned on the fan on the lanai. Three for three. My daughters thought something really exciting was happening and wanted to see the switch I had found in the garage. Even their disappointment in seeing nothing more than an electrical outlet didn't dampen my happiness (although it did add to their belief that their daddy is crazy).

I share this story for four reasons:

1. I do not intend to quit my day job anytime soon. Even though I have two of them, I am not handy.

2. I found success only after I fully committed to the task. Moving my car so that I could actually relocate the boxes in the garage and not just step around them and half-heartedly tip and contort them allowed me to find this electrical needle in a haystack. There were multiple times that I was on the verge of quitting and just calling an electrician. But, I persevered. 

3. My perseverance paid off because I approached this challenge from multiple angles - looking online for tips, getting creative with where I would look, and increasing my level of intensity with each round of searches allowed me to find the switch. We can't just work harder; we must couple this intense effort with a constantly improving approach. 

4. I had to be meticulous in my efforts. I had to look into the minutiae of the circuitry of my house in order to get results. I had to get dirty to remove the junk that stood in my way. I had to search everywhere with precision. No stone could be left unturned. 

This quarter, let's get gritty in our approach to being the best versions of ourselves. Let's focus in on what we're doing with a laser-like scrutiny to find the reset buttons that we need to press in order to find even more success with our students. Let's creatively approach solutions to those obstacles that at first glance and even after three quarters have seemed beyond our grasp. 

Commit fully. Be creative. Orient the details. 

This quarter, let's be the best versions of ourselves and in turn pump out the best quarter ICS has ever seen. 

I'm ready.

Are you in? 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Shameless Audacity

Excellence in anything spurs excellence in everything. 

There's a beautiful moment in the movie Cars when the townsfolk of Radiator Springs focus on sprucing up their respective establishments as Lightning McQueen finally starts to fix the road he destroyed. They clean, paint, polish and refresh their tired town and restore it to a glimpse of its former glory.

Over the past few weeks, the following two posts merited a full read after appearing in my inbox and reminded me of the scene above from Cars

The first, a blog post from Dr. Christian Dallavis, zeroed in on the zeal needed to be an effective leader within Catholic education:

The second came from Jared Dees, the man behind The Religion Teacher, an on-line religious education resource. In it, Jared shares his vision for how teachers, catechists, youth ministers, and anyone involved in Catholic education can be effective:

In both cases, the pursuit of excellence was a common theme. To merit the term "Catholic" in the names of our organizations, our schools must intensely strive after excellence in education in the Catholic faith.  

Imagine a school that unabashedly puts Christ first. Imagine a school that focuses on excellence in Catholic education - ministry, faith development, service opportunities, retreats, catechesis, witness, evangelization - and how excellence in every other aspect would follow. 

Imagine a school that had the shameless audacity to truly inspire disciples of Christ. Imagine a school where the ministers of Catholic education had the reckless abandon to sing at Mass, attend prayer every morning, witness to one another about their "why", and rally around a common mission of being Incarnational to our students, families, each other and our community.

It's a school that would, very simply, change the world. 

Continue to become the best versions of yourselves. Continue to fight against the temptation to believe that you're not good enough, you're all alone, and that no one cares. 

Strive for excellence in all that you do, but especially your faith. 

Be blessed. 

Be unabashedly, shamelessly and recklessly bold for Him. Get fierce in your battle of prayer. 

Fight for joy.