When I graduated from college I was given a tassel with blue and white cords and a small gold plate with the year 2018 stamped on it. This tassel was on my cap as I walked across the stage and graduated from Grand Valley after 6 years of college and the end of my 20 some years of education from kindergarten to college graduate. It's a time of change in my life as I start looking to start my career in teaching but I find myself looking back not to college but to high school.
In my last day of class with Ray Vander Laan all of the students were given titzits; a tassel that was worn by the ancient Jews to help them remember their role on this earth to be priests to the nations of the world. They were called to show the world what G-d is like. The titzit would have been worn on the corners of a robe, today they are often worn around the waist. The purpose of wearing this tassel was not to show some kind of academic achievement but to be very annoying. The titzit gets caught in doors, bumps against your leg every time you take a step, it's a constant reminder that you're wearing this thing. The thought behind this is that whenever the tassel causes you an inconvenience or you remember it's there you would reflect and think back on why you're wearing it.
This is how I want to live my life wearing a tassel that will bring me closer to G-d as I go throughout my daily life instead of one that is supposed to elevate my own achievements. The titzit will continue to challenge me and remind me that I am here to spread G-d's kingdom by being like Jesus and living my life the way he did. Jesus simply lived a life to honor G-d and that is what I must strive to do to in my everyday life. This is why a tassel that I was given by a Bible teacher in high school will forever hold more meaning to me than any award or achievement I receive because it challenges me to love whole heartedly and help those in need with every fiber of my being. That is the spirit I want to take into my classroom where I can make an impact on the lives of students. I want them to see that I will be there to support them and push them to be the best they can be. I want to lead by example and model for them what learning can look like when you give one hundred and ten percent.
This lifestyle choice is for all christians though not just me. Jesus called everyone that believed in him to be his talmidim. We often translate that world to mean disciple but it means so much more than that! The word implies someone that wants to not just be like their teacher but to be their teacher. We are all called to be like Jesus and make an impact on this world in the way he did. We are supposed to be his priests that live such different lives than those around us because we care for the helpless, lonely, and downtrodden. We are called to live like Christ in our daily lives, so grab your tittzit whether it's real or not and get out there to shape the world for his kingdom.
I've just wrapped up my college experience and I totally understand how stressful it can be to have three papers due, a project and have to teach at a placement every day. It's easy to get overwhelmed with everything going on from work, school, family and every other pressure life is throwing at you. Here are five different activities I use to help destress that are also educational or brain teasers so I'm learning something new while giving my brain a chance to calm down. Some are free others cost a little bit but all of these are worth your time and sanity it in my opinion.
3 Minute TED Talks
TED Talks are short only 20 minutes but hey you don't have that long well these TED talks are for you. TED started this new series of talks specifically designed to only last 3 minutes. The topics range from how to properly tie a shoe, a short story told through emoticons and how saying thank you can change your life.
This second option is a game about building a metro system. As it expands and grows you need to rework routes to ensure everyone gets to their destinations before time runs out. The simplistic art style and relaxing autogenerating music allows you to become absorbed in the game. If you're up for a challenge daily objectives with new rules like no moving track once it's placed are added to a special mode. On the other end of the spectrum there is an endurance mode that simply pits you against your own delivery rate. This gives a more laid back experience and time to walk away or tab out and come back to the game later.
Cost: 9.99 on Steam
Chrome Music Lab
Music is the universal language and google chrome music lab has many different experiments allowing anyone to create a song. Each lab has a different way to craft a song, one takes a drawing and makes it into a song, another gives you a cast of musicians and you tailor each individuals music. The most recent addition allows you to select squares and pick how the beat is played. No matter which one you pick to use I found it easy to get wrapped up for a few minutes in crafting my own master piece.
Do Nothing For Two Minutes
A website that starts a timer when you don't move your mouse or tap your keyboard. Sit still for two minutes and listen to the waves. If you move the timer starts over, so don't let your stress get to you, be still and relax. I use this as an excuse to pick up a book or my sketch pad and just not touch my computer for a couple minutes.
Emoji Scavenger Hunt
Last evening was the symposium for the partnership between the Buck Institute for Education (BIE) and Grand Valley State. Principles, administrators and teachers came to see each of the student teachers projects for their PBL lessons in the classroom. I had the unique chance to not only talk with may amazing educators but to create a video that was shown during the keynote speech. BIE wanted to to have a video of some student teachers and their students about their experience with PBL. I spent two weeks sitting in my co-student teachers rooms to get footage and interview students. The end product was praised by the two connections I had at BIE and I was happy with the way it worked out.
Before and after the keynote there was a time for each of us to stand by our projects and show off our work. I had the pleasure of talking with four members of the GVSU college of EDU staff, who asked about how I saw this working in the college classrooms. I would love to see PBL taught at the college level in a broader sense.
This semester I had the amazing chance to student teach at Kent Innovation High school. A school that is focused on the use of Project Based Learning and collaboration not just between students but also between teachers. I found myself in a room with of course my Cooperating Teacher (CT) and an english teacher. All of my history lessons were crafted with the english teacher in a way that students would learn historical content and english writing skills. My eyes have been opened to this new form of teaching and I hope to take this into my classroom someday even if it's just me making a conscious effort to work with an english teacher or any other teacher in my school.
One example of this collaboration at work was a lesson we did about the dust bowl when studying the Great Depression. We wanted students to understand the plight of those living out West. So I created an interactive presentation with Peardeck that students went through as a class. Kids were put in the shoes of farmers and tasked with trying to make money, they would buy supplies, plant crops, have the chance to take out loans to expand their farms. All was well... till the dust bowl hit. The activity was designed in a way that students would not make it out well. We unpacked what we learned as a group and then gave students their mini project for the week.
The chaos in the West gave the president reason to travel the coast trying to get people to understand that they needed to help out the farmers in the East. Students were tasked with writing a speech of their own and recording it on Flipgrid. The english focus of this project cycle was argumentative writing. Students once their video was recorded were responsible for responding to a classmates video and trying to find holes in their arguments. The original group would then come back with a rebuttal. This more tangible approach to arguments helped students start develop the right mindset before we dove into the actual writing.
I have seen first hand how history can come alive to kids even when learning about the details of the past if the content is engaging and relevant. This lesson ended with students looking at global events and how they might come to effect our country or even their own lives in the same way the dust bowl didn't directly affect those in New York but it would hurt them when less food was made and farmers didn't buy new equipment from the factories out East. That's what makes history jump off the text books and into kids lives. I like to think that I teach life lessons... and history, english or another subject is a vehicle my class will use.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
The Bible comes from a land of deserts that differs very much from the culture in which American Christians like myself live in today. This causes us to distort our image of the Bible and not take into account the region and the geography of the book. I've made it a personal and academic hobby of mine to study the Bible in it's context and the results are astounding for both my knowledge of the book and the reshaping of my beliefs that I draw from it.
When most Westerners picture the tree in Jeremiah we like to picture an oak tree but the acacia tree is most likely the tree discussed in Jeremiah 17. This image of a tree out in the middle of the desert surviving on very little water contradicts what most people would like to picture. This is the key to interpreting the verse. Instead of the verse sounding like a cheap way for God to say that people who do not practice evil will be rewarded we are given an image of a person that will once in a while receive from God. The gifts that are received are then meant to be used to help others.
There are two things that are very uncommon to find out in Israel; water and trees. Water is a very rare natural resource that can be found in two different ways standing and moving. Standing water or water collected in cisterns or pools is not often safe to drink. The very hot environment makes it very difficult to keep water like this for long. Water that flows from springs is called living water. Water is not the point of this entry. ( More on it later; on to trees) The region is so dry that there are no large trees that grow there. Wood has to be shipped in for large projects just like how Solomon received wood for the temple. The trees that do grow there are short, wide, bush like and very good at managing their water supply. This image is something more when we apply it to ourselves.
G-d calls us to be like this tree because we can give back to the community like it does with all it's parts but the shape and nature of the tree is also something for us to replicate. The acacia tree is used by desert dwellers to build tents, create medicine, start fires and so many other things in their daily lives. The trees of Israel are short and wide because they do not waste the energy it would take to grow tall and mighty. They are wide so that they can catch as much of G-d's sun as possible. They manage the small gifts of water that are given to them so that they can continue on being what they were meant to be. The roots of acacia's do not run deep to support themselves but spread out near the surface to collect as much nutrients as possible. Acacias gather to store up not to anchor themselves in this world so that they can stretch to the heavens. The shape is a scraggly mess of branches much like most of our lives and like us they were made like that by our creator. He did not design us to be straight tall trees. Jesus wants people who will be dependent on him not individuals who are caught up in their own image and believe they can do everything themselves. So what will you be for G-d; a Redwood or an Acacia tree?
There are many times in the Bible where the idea of meditation is mentioned. David in Psalm 1 says that he meditates on the word of the Lord. The image that most Christians get of this passage is of someone sitting quietly and reflecting. The word used here is Hagah (in Hebrew) and Hagah has a much more interesting interpretation. Hagah can be interpreted as growl or devourer.
The picture that is painted by this Hebrew word is a lion devouring his pray. If another lion comes over the first will roar and challenge the newcomers. This is the mentality we as students of this book should have. As one of my Bible teachers in High school said, “This is mine and I’m not missing one single scrap”. We need to ravage this book; tear it to shreds as we pull out every detail of G-d’s word. The Bible isn’t suppose to sit on our shelves collecting dust we need to use it everyday, tear into it and discover as much as we can about this story… this love letter from G-d to his people.
This is the philosophy and foundation for my faith and lifestyle. I commit all of myself to everything I am involved in. Teaching, learning, volunteering, I want to give one hundred and ten percent of myself so when I look back I will not feel guilty for not having done everything I could have to; reach that one student who was quiet in the back of class, make the best lesson or Bible study I could, or succeed in whatever I've set my mind too. I encourage you to live a life that tears at every scrap you have been gifted. Don't simply sit by and meditate or think about what you have been called to do with your life, take action build his kingdom!