Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Waiting for Superman

In the craziness of late October, I found a few hours to take in the film Waiting for Superman.  The movie was thought-provoking, insightful, and frightening.  Painting a picture of education in America, Waiting for Superman unapologetically addresses several important issues with a no-holds barred approach.

The most frightening statistic to me was the lack of regulation of teachers.  In most situations, once a teacher is licensed (immediately after graduation), they are rarely given a thorough review again.  After two years of service, many districts award tenure to teachers -- regardless of skills or performance, making it more difficult to relieve under-performing teachers of their duties.   Consider the implications in other professions.  Lawyers and doctors who are found to be doing their jobs poorly are stripped of their authority to continue to practice.  Is the education of America's youth a less important pursuit?  Teacher evaluation must be standardized across the board.

When we become aware of the state of American education, it is easy to feel helpless and overwhelmed.  What can we possible do to change the situation?  Most powerfully, we can be informed and involved.  We as members of the voting public are the only voice of our nation's children.  In nearly every election cycle, new legislation is brought before us that will impact education.  To insure that students receive the best we have to offer, we must educate ourselves about the options, research the implications, and make our voices heard.

Our involvement must go beyond the voting booth.  Studies suggest that the best performing schools have a high level of community involvement.  Teachers and administrators cannot solve the problems we face in our education system;  if it was that simple, it would have been taken care of long ago.  However, when educators partner with interested individuals in their community, great change can take place.  What can you do?  Most adults (regardless of their educational background) can provide valuable assistance in some aspect of our education system.  The mere fact that an adult believes in a child's ability is often all that is needed to move a student from "high-risk" to "highly successful."

So what's your choice?  Will you continue to point out the problems with American education while refusing to get your hands dirty?  Or will you become actively involved in the process in some small way, becoming part of the solution to the students in your community?  Together we CAN make a difference!

Monday, November 1, 2010

On Assignment

Today, I had a pair of unexpected lunch companions who challenged me by their conversation.  I was joined by one of the students I tutor on a regular basis and her friend.  What began as a simple conversation between two non-traditional students and me took a decided turn towards issues of significance and eternal importance.

One of these Godly women began to share how she viewed her time here at the college as a Divine assignment.  She clearly stated that she did not confuse it with a specific ministry within the Body of Christ;  she is sure of her ministry calling to teach.  Even though her educational pursuit was her choice, she recognized the hand of God at work in regard to the choices she made and the people she encountered daily.  Rather than focusing on the interruptions of her day as an inconvenience, she chose to view them as additional assignments - an opportunity to impact her world with the Good News of the Savior.

I came away from that cafeteria table challenged and convicted.  What impact could I make if I viewed my many interactions as assignments and opportunities rather than merely inconveniences that interrupt my plan of action.  In the midst of my daily life, it becomes so easy to focus on the task being performed and lose sight of the people I encounter on the job.  What life-giving words may I speak?  How can I impact another's life?  How can they influence me?

What a huge challenge to me - and it was presented by a stranger in the midst of a busy lunchroom.  If I had followed my comfort-seeking inclinations, I would have walked away from the table and missed the entire lesson that was intended for me.  How I want to be alert and receptive to the many opportunities I have - even when I don't find myself in my optimum situation.  As I begin to see each opportunity presented to me, I will begin to fully discover and fulfill my life's purpose -- and THAT leads to real fulfillment and joy.