Monday, August 19, 2013

Read the Signs

This one's for the teachers....
I envy musicians. Men and women who take center stage to perform, only to showcase their gifts and talents in the mode of musical entertainment.  Nothing beats a singer/songwriter who puts it all on the line and dedicates it to that special someone.  For one moment, I will do the same and throw this out there for all the educators who will be returning to the classroom in the days and weeks ahead.
This icon reflects Christ's two natures

On Friday, August 16, 2013 I spoke at the Archdiocese of San Francisco's Faith Formation day to over 150 K-8 teachers.  My talk, Morality Matters: The Spirituality of it All was content rich and example laden.  Thanks to the theologian Rev. Richard Gula, S.S. I was able to address his claim "Simply put, there is no morality without spirituality and no spirituality without morality.  To appreciate how the two are interconnected, we need to understand what each entails." And so we did.  For one hour, we unpacked what spirituality is and how it shapes our worldview. 

Spirituality invites us to go deeper.  We affirm this in the Nicene creed when we say "I believe in things visible and invisible."  Spirituality is the breath that gives us life; it animates our vision. It is about our relationship to what we love and what gives life meaning.  For the Christian, Christian spirituality believes that God's love for us is revealed in Jesus Christ.  His life—the Incarnation—gives ultimate foundation, meaning, worth, energy and direction for our lives. "The moral life grows out of the holy longing to love and to be loved." Indeed, morality is the public face of spirituality. Powerful stuff—no?

These statements are big and bold. Their implications are magnanimous.  I asked teachers to determine whether or not such claims resonate with their beliefs and whether or not my examples "checked out" with their experiences.  Enter in my instructional error.  Rather than ask members of the audience to break! and discuss and idea with the person next to them, I marched through the content.  Rather than require each teacher to write a thought or three, I carried on. I could see their minds processing and questions forming. Their body language was positive but it also needed to engage with another.  I regret the error.
A key concept from "Silver Linings Playbook" is read the signs.  I have prided myself for years on my ability to do that and resented those who did not—the priest whose homily never ends, the guest who never knows when to leave and my Napoloenic spin instructor who never gave us a break.

For about two years, I was a regular at my gym's 6:00 a.m. spin class.  I love completing my workout early in the morning and this class had a regular and fun crew of riders.  The instructor was hard driving (good) and moody (bad); we never knew who would show up (I suppose this kept it interesting).  One class, the playlist was limited to Def Leppard's album "Hysteria." Riders were livid that our teacher was unwilling to change the music; I loved every minute of it.
Regardless, the biggest challenge I faced in that class was the momentum the instructor held onto so tightly.  Ever cyclist knows that after a warm-up, the in class ride involves a number of circuits and "climbs" standing up from the saddle and sitting back down.  After a long and hard "climb," riders anticipate a downhill release and the time to relax and rehydrate (while still pedaling).  But Dave never conceded.  Rather than give us a break when we needed it (or thought we did) he would push us harder and further.  I suppose that was his style, his way to make us stronger and more fit.

For me, it backfired. I needed the break—both physically and mentally— so that I could come back ready to work harder.  I became distrustful of his method as I saw those around me struggling to keep up and stay with the pace.  Just once, I wish he had been slightly intuitive, that he noticed our sentiments. I wish he had just read the signs. 

And here I am all these years later, guilty of the same misdemeanor.  I write this posting not a self-flagellation but to offer a lesson learned. This year, I promise to Read the signs. I will take an inventory How are my students feeling? How is their energy?  Do they need a break? Are they still climbing? When the content is heavy or intense, take the pulse; what is their heart rate?  Build better and stronger, but don't be afraid to coast when the time is right. Your students will thank you for it. Ride on...

Photo Credits
Jesus and Fully Human, Fully Divine
Read the Signs
Spin Class

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