Two of My Loves

I know I’m not the only one with this problem. In fact, I’ve talked to staff and students who share my struggle. I know that many of you can identify with this issue as well. I think it’s fair to argue that about 40% of the world is affected by the disorder of Unproductive Productivity.

You know what this disorder looks like. When one has something really important that they should be doing, but they accomplish a long list of OTHER things that they have been putting off instead. I submit to you a personal example. On the last day of spring break: I cleaned, I did my taxes, and I took care of my bills. These are all things that I don’t enjoy doing. However, I felt compelled to do them because I was supposed to be working on the yearbook. I just couldn’t bring myself to go back to the school again.

Now, as I sit at the school, I am struggling with Unproductive Productivity again. Thus, you have this blog before you. I’m completely distracted from my deadlines and the long list of things that I need to do to get ready for this weekend. I think the things I have to write about are relevant to the list of things I need to do. So, I feel justified in taking the time to write this post.

The actual blog, of which I speak of, begins here:

There are two things that I love more than anything (excluding family, of course) right now. The first is my small group. The second is my yearbook class. Many of my small group girls are involved in my yearbook class. So, I love my yearbook class even more.

All of my small group girls are extraordinary. This is true in many ways, but I’ve seen it in my yearbook class in particular. One of my girls is the senior editor this year. She is incredibly responsible, creative, and humble. So much of our yearbook creativity is born out of her vision. Another girl is the co-editor. Her job is to do what nobody else can do, or wants to do. She is a very hard worker and quite brilliant. Another girl is the lead photo editor. She has an amazing, artistic eye for photography and photo editing. We would fall behind without her. The last small group girl in my class is my business manager. She has worked incredibly hard for us and has lowered our costs quite efficiently. I could brag about these girls, as well as my other 3 girls all day, every day. 

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Something that always moves me about the small groups that I have led is how diverse they tend to be. In the past, I enjoyed the close friendships that developed in a group of girls that typically wouldn’t hang out together. Two or three girls tend to be more popular in youth group. One or two tend to be nerdier. Maybe one or two girls are athletes. The combination of students is different every time. 

This year, I have 7 students who call 7 different countries home. A few of them have the US in common. A couple of them have Switzerland in common. They all have Germany in common, of course. Yet, they have pieces of culture from: the US, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Azerbaijan, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Thailand, Japan, Russia, and Holland.  As important as those cultures are to them, they have their experience at BFA in common. Their all incredibly smart, but they have different interests. Some are into art. Others are into athletics. It’s amazing how unique they are. 

This year, student council introduced a theme for the year. That theme is that our BFA students are “Unique, but United.” I see this in my small group. They truly love and support each other in their uniqueness. They know each other’s stories and they appreciate their differences. I see this when they laugh together, when they support each other in hard times, and when they serve others in other countries. 

Over spring break, 5 girls from my group when on missions trips. Four of those students went on the same mission trip to Bangladesh. Here is the video from the Bangladesh trip:

My second love, as mentioned earlier, is yearbook. The most exciting part of this class is, unfortunately, the last month of actual yearbook production. This, of course, is the most stressful part of the year. I’m in the midst of it now, with only one week left to go. All of the students are feeling that stress and anxiety as well. This isn’t the part that I love about this month. What I LOVE is seeing all of the students doing what they are so good at. By this time, they have really developed their role in this class. They do their jobs so well. I work with a group of adults by this time of year, rather than the teenagers I started the year with. 

This yearbook is entirely their work of art. My only role is to enable the students to stay on task and to do what they want to do. The theme, aesthetic, photography, articles, and fact collection is all theirs. I could not be more proud of the work they are doing. 

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Different Perspectives

For the first two days of break, I joined the other remaining staff (that weren’t on missions trips with students) to Swiss clean* the BFA campus. It wasn’t a fun chore, in the least. Yet, I reminded myself that the work was minor in comparison to the hard labor that many of our mission teams were doing in other countries. This attitude was helpful, but I carried some pride because of the fact that I was spending my first opportunity to sleep in on working hard for the sake of others. The campus was about to be filled with educators from ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International) for the ICEC (International Christian Educator Conference).

A couple of days after spring break started, ACSI teachers arrived from around the globe. We had teachers from several European countries, Russia, Mercy Ships, and from all over Africa. The purpose of the conference was to provide professional development, training, and spiritual encouragement. Several workshops were made available, which provided specific information pertaining to different school subjects, integration of technology, leadership, and tips for working with TCKs (Third Culture Kids). We also had the special privilege of hearing from PhDs John Dickson and Mark Pike for our general sessions.

The small amount of pride that I had for my “hard work,” in preparing the BFA campus for this conference quickly dissipated when I began to hear the stories of other teachers that had gathered at BFA for this conference. On the very first day, I ate lunch with two girls who worked at the Rain Forest International school in Cameroon. Both girls snickered, respectfully, at the internet issues of our campus. They reported that they sometimes lose electricity all together. If this wasn’t enough to humble me, I met the director of the school of Mercy Ships (recently featured on 60 minutes) at a seminar on transition. Sometimes I find it hard to live every moment of my life in the same atmosphere in which I work. Yet, I found that this challenge was pretty easy compared to the teachers who travel with all of their students on a ship together, in close quarters. Lastly, all of my “hard work,” scrubbing our campus clean was soon made to look like a vacation in comparison to the extreme work that the staff of the Sahel Academy (Niger, Africa) had to do to rescue their school from the damage of the Niger River flood this year. All together, I felt the need to repent of my pride and of my complacency.

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Coming into this conference, I had low expectations and a feeling of obligation to be there. In the end, I felt incredibly blessed, encouraged, and challenged. For most of our visitors, staying here in Kandern was like a vacation. Our campus was a prototype for what their schools could look like in the future. BFA is much older and well established than most of their schools. So, it makes sense that our campus and technology is as progressive as it is. It’s logical that they would look to us for innovative ideas. However, the trials that so many of them have recently been through were far more inspirational to me.

On the other side of the spectrum. I spent the following week with a dear friend from SC and his girlfriend (a new friend of mine who teaches in a large public school in Lexington, SC). The purpose of their visit was to spend time with me and to see a little bit of Europe. However, as you can imagine, the career that we have in common came up in conversation quite frequently. My new friend told me all about how her entire school had iPads and how they were using technology in the classroom. She also shared with me the challenge of balancing love and grace with her students’ obvious need for structure, discipline, and authority. Discipline and authority are not void of love and grace, but the balance of these characteristics is hard, especially in a public school system.

The message that I kept hearing in every session of ICEC seemed to be this: the character and the competence of the teacher is the most important part of education. In many ways, this truth encouraged me, because I’m not the greatest teacher but I am extremely relational. I rely on my character a lot, rather than my experience. So, I find myself in an interesting place, with its own set of challenges. My fellow teachers in Africa are still bailing water out of their school. My fellow Christian teachers in Lexington are trying to show love through an authoritative position. Here, in Kandern, I’m just trying to follow the Lord more fiercely and humbly through His service. We all come from a different place, with a different perspective, but with similar goals.

I’m so grateful for the chance to look at education from multiple perspectives this break.

(I have added an ICEC tab with notes from all of my sessions if you are interested in learning more about my work or the truth spoken in our general sessions, by Dr. John Dickson.)

*American cleaning usually involves dusting, vacuuming, and basic surface scrubbing. German cleaning involves all of the above, as well as scrubbing base boards, mopping, and gardening. The Germans are serious about their gardening. Swiss cleaning involves all of the above, as well as serious weeding, radiator cleaning, painting, etc. It has become clear to me that Swiss clean means: it should look like I’ve never been here.