Listening is key to our quest for deeper learning. And we need to listen in several different ways to best bring deeper learning to our students. This post continues in this series to explore who and how we need to listen to to allow our students to learn deeply.
Listening To Ourselves
Twenty years ago this November, I got out of my chair in my living room and put on my fleece lined jeans. Snowflakes as big as quarters were blowing past my window, so I knew it was cold and windy. I put on a couple of sweatshirts and a raincoat, and headed out into the weather. As I left my roommate asked what I was doing, and I said I am going for a walk. He asked if I had my cell phone with me, because it did not look like a good night for a walk. I did, so he let me go.
That night began a journey that has not ended. As I sat there that night before the first daily walk of the rest of my life I knew something had to change. I was overweight, tired a lot of the time, and could not do things that I used to love doing. My being was telling me in many different ways that I was not who God created me to be, and that I had to change acquired habits to get closer to who God wanted me to be. I decided sitting there that I would walk each day. The goal was six times a week, but if the weather or time got in the way I was not going to be angry with five. I also started small, with about a one mile walk. As time went by and I got fitter, better clothes and shoes, more familiar with the sidewalks in my area, and more sure of my footing the length increased, both time and distance. Looking back, one of the things I realized that day was that I had to listen to myself, my whole self. Jesus tells us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. In each of these areas, I needed to grow, but my heart, soul, and mind were screaming at my strength that it was not keeping up.
I remember well the first time I collected an assignment. It was the fall of 1994 and I was teaching Earth Science at Holland Christian High School. I had assigned a textbook reading with a worksheet to complete. When class started I asked the students to pull out their assignment and I walked around the room. Every student had done it. A bright new teacher and a bunch of newly minted freshmen all working together to achieve a perfect learning experience. As I wandered to the front of the room to continue my lesson I wondered, what if this work these students did was something more? What if it somehow mattered more? These questions, which I could have easily suppressed, shaped my teaching career and began a journey towards helping myself and others deepen the learning of their students. The questions provided direction for my entire career. I am glad I listened to myself.
Somewhere inside every teacher is a Deep Hope, at least that is what we call it in Teaching for Transformation. God made you, knit you together, to do something with specific talents and skills that are unique to you. You function best in this world when you are using those gifts. In fact the second century church father Irenaeus posited that the greatest glory you can give God is to use the gifts he gave you. As you listen to yourself you will discover more and more about how these gifts come together and give you a personal mission in this world. These moments of stopping and taking the time to reflect are vital to flourishing Christian life. I see this in Jesus when he retreats to the mountain by himself to pray. I see them in monastic and other retreat experiences that Christians attend.
There is more to Deep Hope than your own mission, because Jesus also knits our communities together in love. This knitting is most often expressed as the mission of the school, and truly deeper learning is achieved when you take your personal mission and apply it inside of the school’s mission. How are you going to live out your mission and advance the mission of the school?