Break Every Yoke

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 24 2011

Big goals, stewardship, and neutrinos

Overheard during Guided Practice
R.: “I’m totally looking up Mr. K on Facebook.”

I have started writing this entry five or six times since last Friday, only to be thwarted each time by a sudden onset of writer’s block or severe exhaustion. However, now that it’s been two weeks since my last post, I feel like I’m due for an update, well-written or not. So please bear with me.

A lot has transpired since September 10, not least of which includes my Algebra 2 students taking their first unit exam. The average across the three blocks was 56%, which, considering the level of rigor of the exam (mostly graphing and free-response questions from the Regents) and my students’ diagnostic scores, is not great, but not terrible either. However, I know that we have a lot of work to do to meet our first big goal, which is that all students will be able to achieve 80% or higher on the end-of-course assessment. I also know that we have a lot of work to do to get ready for college- and career-level math (which, after all, is the point of that first big goal). That’s why I was so excited when J., one of my struggling and less invested students, declared to the class that 56% was “nothing to be proud of” and that they would have to work harder to meet their goals. I was also excited when a few students finally began taking advantage of my offer for afterschool tutoring and remediation, and a few others told me that they would cancel other obligations so that they could come in next week. I really hope it all pays off on the next unit exam.

Last week, Providence Public Schools assigned each first-year teacher an “Induction Coach,” who plays a role similar to that of the CMA or SMT at Institute. My Induction Coach is a lady named Mrs. T, and she taught ELA at my school for many years before joining the central office. During one of our ODCs (they’re not actually called that, but Institute has made me acronym-happy), I found out that her husband is a minister at a local Pentacostal church. Since then, most of our conversations have focused on God and our reflections on the Word. Even from the limited interactions that I’ve had with her, I’ve discovered that Mrs. T is a model of godly stewardship and trust in the Lord—a real-life version of the first two servants in the parable of the talents (Mt 25:14-30). Case in point: on one particularly trying morning when I couldn’t find my cabinet keys and consequently couldn’t set up my projector, Mrs. T (without being asked) located an unused projector in the library and brought it to me, saying that she had prayed to be able to help her first-year teachers that morning and was overjoyed that God had given her a chance to do so. I, in turn, was rendered speechless, both by her ability to procure a projector so quickly and by her selfless attitude of service. It is my prayer that I too would be able to find that much joy in serving my students, despite all the struggles that come with being a new teacher. After all, as Mrs. T reminded me later that day: “they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isa 40:31)

Although most of my days are still filled with teaching-related business, I’ve recently been able to find time here and there to do little things that I enjoy, like exercise, read books for pleasure, and, believe it or not, catch up with the news. Yesterday, I read an article on Reuters that completely blew my mind: evidently, physicists at CERN have measured the speed of certain particles—namely, neutrinos—to be faster than the speed of light. Now, just because I majored in astrophysics during my undergrad years does not mean that I am an authority on all things science. However, I have learned enough to realize how important of a discovery this is, if the data is indeed correct. To put things in perspective, all of physics for the past century—from the building of semiconductors, to the development of the laser, to the functioning of GPS devices—has been based on the assumption, postulated by Einstein, that nothing with mass can exceed (or even reach) the speed of light. This assumption, while bold for its time, has been tested and proven again and again. So you can imagine why the discovery at CERN has been met with such widespread shock and skepticism.

Yet, if the discovery proves to be accurate, there will be a part of me that is entirely unsurprised. Acknowledging the existence of dark matter and dark energy, scientists like to say that humans understand about 4% of the universe. Yet, if the universe was created by an eternal, perfect, omniscient God, then even 4% seems like a stretch to me. Indeed, if the universe is God’s handiwork, then it is a miracle and a blessing that we can even begin to comprehend it. I am reminded of Isaiah 55:

8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Perhaps the most amazing part is that this God of the universe, whose ways and thoughts are higher (much higher) than my ways and thoughts, loved me enough to die for me and bring me into fellowship with Him. How incredible and humbling! How liberating and empowering! Perhaps the angel of God was not being hyperbolic when he said to Mary that “nothing will be impossible with God” (Lk 1:37). Maybe, just maybe, God is strong and gracious enough to carry me through this whole teaching thing. Praise Him.

2 Responses

  1. carol

    i can’t tell you how much i love this blog :D your posts are so refreshing and it is so encouraging to see all the ways He’s been working through you :) thanks so much for these, james! hope i get to see you teach some day! i am so humbled by your posts! you’re an amazing teacher. :)

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