Posted in Miscellaneous

Precise Human Orbits

propicSince this is my last post before I head out to the mission field, I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while.  I’ve slipped into the 21-year-old version of a “last lecture” mentality.  (I hope I’ll be back to write after my mission, but that’s a little ways out.)

A few weeks ago, Michelle Marchant gave a beautiful devotional here on BYU campus and it got my spiritual/mental cogs turning.  Her address was entitled, “My Life is a Gift; My Life Has a Plan” (http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=2103) and in it she focused on how each of us in this human family is a child of God.  To introduce her topic, she shared the insight of her three-year-old niece who already understands that, “Heavenly Father made you and He made me.”  Sister Marchant talked about God’s universal, yet individual and personal awareness of each of us because He is an “attentive father.”

So, I’ve been pondering on how the knowledge of our divine heritage changes our approach to teaching.  When I recognize the inherent divinity in my students, how does that change how I think of them and how I teach them?

When I was abroad last summer, my class took a trip to Turkey where we visited the site of ancient Troy.  As we stood there on the ruins of a civilization fallen to war, my professor said something I’ll never forget, “The only way people can treat each other with such cruelty is if they dehumanize their enemies.”  If you cast your opponent as more beast than man, as a monster, as a savage, barbarian, etc., then you’re no longer fighting a man with a family and hopes and convictions and a future, you’re a fighting an inhuman entity to which you cannot relate.  It’s easier that way. When people recognize their brotherhood, they have a much harder time doing awful things to each other.

Moving along that train of thought, if we recognize not only our brotherhood, but our shared divine identity, our treatment of one another elevates accordingly. When I see my students as children of God, not just kids at an elementary school, I understand more of their potential. The responsibility of teaching God’s children is intimidating. How could I be worthy of such an important duty? That’s when I remind myself that I am also a daughter of God, and these little people who inspire me daily are my spiritual siblings. The camaraderie of being one of God’s children sent to guide and teach others of His children is a sweet feeling. The exchange between student and teacher as two beings teaching each other different lessons, emerges more clearly for me when I think about us as siblings.

I’m the oldest of eight kids in my family. As the oldest, being a teacher and leader has been the default for my life. My parents have always expected me to set a good example and help my siblings figure things out. I distinctly remember chats with my little sister when I was 10 and she was 8 where I would explain to her that she could learn things “the easy way” by listening to me or “the hard way” by finding out firsthand what happened if you crossed our parents. Teaching as a sister is a tender experience. You do it because you’ve seen what your little siblings will be up against and you want them to succeed. So you give them your knowledge to assist them in hurdling life’s challenges. And you remember the big sister or big brother figure who gave you that knowledge in the first place. And you know that your little sister, your student, will one day be someone else’s big sister, someone else’s teacher.

stars

In her talk, Sister Marchant shared my favorite Elder Maxwell quote.  The idea represented in this quote has been a pillar in my thought process for years now. “The same God that placed that star in a precise orbit millennia before it appeared over Bethlehem in celebration of the birth of the Babe has given at least equal attention to placement of each of us in precise human orbits so that we may, if we will, illuminate the landscape of our individual lives, so that our light may not only lead others but warm them as well.”

Thinking of teaching as an interweaving of human orbits in which we are siblings and children of God, makes the whole process seem so collective and synergistically oriented.  I love that!  Teaching makes us all part of a web of sharing knowledge, of melding our maps together, of forging a path arm in arm throughout generations to make it home together.

So I’m off, brothers and sisters, to teach and lift, to be taught and lifted, and in the end, to come home with you.

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Posted in Miscellaneous

Peace be unto thy Soul

stephanieSome of the recent events in the world have sobered me. When I hear about things like the bombing at the Boston Marathon and the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, my initial reaction is always shock and fear. These are scary times to be on the earth.

Then again, when has there been a truly peaceful time on Earth? I took History of Creativity this semester, and every period of history seems to have had its own problems and atrocities.

This last week, we were able to hear from our prophet and other church leaders in General Conference. It is amazing to me how they are able to understand what we are feeling and address those needs. Elder Quentin L. Cook addressed my concern about the troubles in the world in his talk, “Personal Peace: The Reward of Righteousness.”

In his talk, Elder Cook confirms that peace has been taken from the earth and there will be things that scare us. However, he also tells us we can have personal peace by living righteously. He said, “Peace is not just safety or lack of war, violence, conflict, and contention. Peace comes from knowing that the Savior knows who we are and knows that we have faith in Him, love Him, and keep His commandments, even and especially amid life’s devastating trials and tragedies.”

I love the positive spin that someone in my Foundations of Education class this semester put on this very situation. We were talking about all the problems that plague the educational system in America today. I was feeling rather down and discouraged, thinking about all I couldn’t do and how these problems were negatively affecting the children of today’s society. This classmate raised her hand and said, “Isn’t it great that we have so much to do? Yes, it’s sad that there are so many problems, but it gives us a mission, a purpose to what we do as teachers.”

After she said that, I started to view my History of Creativity class differently. Instead of seeing all the problems in history, I started to see that these problems were the inspiration of so much good creativity. Most good ideas or inventions are spawned from a problem that needs to be solved. Louis Pasteur invented the vaccination in response to a chicken cholera that was killing the poultry of France. Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation because of the corruption he saw in the Catholic Church. Mother Teresa was only able to help the poor in India because there were poor people to be helped in India.


As teachers, we will be working to help students in a time of turmoil. As we live righteously and do our best to help those around us, we will be able to have inner peace from knowing God’s plan and knowing that we have done our best. We have work to do in this world, and we can only do our best by being our best and believing in those around us. We can still have peace, even when we see problems.

I love the way that Elder Paul V. Johnson explains the concept of personal peace. He says, “We know that the savior has the power to calm our storms, but sometimes He calms our souls instead.”

I hope we all can find personal peace in this time of turmoil, especially finals.  Good luck!

Posted in Miscellaneous

Candy-Shop Learning

newpic-1If I’ve learned anything about learning, it’s that it is meant to be enjoyed. If it’s not enjoyed, it defeats the whole purpose–learning is meant to be exciting. One of my favorite things is to have a new concept click, to come to a new realization, or to learn a fascinating fact. We all love “light bulb” moments. The trick is to make each day of learning a light bulb experience.

We can look at learning as going to the grocery store to buy standard products that we use to eat and survive: bread, milk, eggs, apples. We mechanically walk through the aisles looking for exactly what we need, pay for it, and hurry home to get on to other tasks. Or we can look at learning like a child views going to the candy store. A visit to the candy store is a special occurrence, and the child looks around in awe. They savor the experience and look through every piece of candy trying to find what they would enjoy the very best. They then use their hard-earned stash of coins and dollar bills to buy the candy. The candy doesn’t even last for a whole day because the child quickly eats the much-anticipated candy. They get a “sugar rush” from eating it so fast.

I prefer the second analogy. The “candy” called learning is even better because it’s healthy for you! As future teachers, we will be able to either instill this excitement and joy for learning or we will contribute to students’ frustrations, dislike, or ambivalence toward learning.

This love of learning and the ability to enjoy it is transmitted from teacher to student subtly. It’s not something that can be taught, it’s something that has to be shown. That means we first have to acquire it ourselves. For example, when a student is struggling with a math problem, we can say, “I know, isn’t this kind of long and hard? But we need to do it.” Or we could say, “This is a challenging concept but after we work at it it’s going to be so exciting when it finally clicks.” In addition, instead of merely explaining a topic, we can show how interested we are in the topic as we discuss it. As I discussed in my last post, letting students ask questions can also be a way to stimulate enthusiasm. Through everything we do, we should make sure our classrooms and our lives feel like one big candy shop of learning.

Posted in Miscellaneous

“The Words We Speak”

ImageAs many of you know, we had a great General Conference over the past weekend. And if you don’t know what General Conference is, it is a conference given to the world by inspired leaders of the LDS church. There were so many wonderful talks, but the one I want to highlight is by Rosemary Wixom who is the Primary General President. She talked about how the words we say have a profound impact on the children whose lives we come in contact with. She counseled that we should use our words to lift children up. This talk is so great for parents, teachers, and really anybody who works with children. This talk is very inspiring and I feel I wouldn’t do it justice by simply paraphrasing what Sister Wixom taught. I will post a link to the talk, but I also want to share a few of my favorite quotes.

“One of the greatest influences a person can have in this world is to influence a child. Children’s beliefs and self-worth are shaped early in their lives.”

 

“How we speak to our children and the words we use can encourage and uplift them and strengthen their faith to stay on the path back to Heavenly Father. They come to this earth ready to listen.”

“To speak to a child’s heart, we must know a child’s needs. If we pray to know those needs, the very words we say may have the power to reach into their hearts.”

There are so many wonderful points in this talk. I think it is a great resource for everyone but especially for teachers who develop such close relationships with children everyday.

Here is the link to her full talk.