Saturday, August 17, 2013

What's in your backpack? tennis bag? heart?

It's back to school!  A time of year that is met with mixed emotions for teachers and students alike.  It's hard to say goodbye to summer—no alarm clocks, no homework or grading, or rules to break or follow. But, the promise of a new year, new friends, new challenges AND something no one, no matter what age ever tires of—those fresh school supplies. 
I have always been a fan of the Dixon Ticonderoga pencil.  I was particular about my binder and loved to pick out each and every folder (aka the PeeChee) for differnet subjects. I can also recall when I got to high school, it was very impoortant to me to have this one particular preppy red Jansport backpack.  I was ready to break the trend of carrying it on one shoulder only; I was in the two-strap camp.  I knew who else who their backpack as I did.  I can see them now...

How students carry their backpacks and what they carry is a question I challenged teachers to think about at the onset of the 2013-2014 school year.  In a talk called "Morality Matters: The Spirituality of it All," I invited 150 K-8 teachers for the Archdiocese of San Francisco to consider this image metaphorically.

Our students come to us with crowded backpacks, filled with homework that is complete and incomplete, corrected exams, and maybe even their favorite book.  But that backpack also includes their joys and burdens, questions and fears.  

They come to our classroom as their own individual person, but from a home or space that shaped so much of who they are.  Sometimes their backpacks are lacking—literally.  My sister who taught at a low income school often had to check that her first graders brought enough food for lunch. Too many of these boys and girls came from food insecure schools.  At other times, they are heavy—weighed down by problems that we may or may not be privy to knowing.  And every student (and teacher) knows that a light backpack is a treat—no homework! no books! no studying for tonight. Perhaps on those days, we can carry a friend's...
In his autobiography "Open," Andre Agassi said "your tennis bag is a lot like your heart—you have to know what's in it at all times."  A hope I hold for this year is to  make time to take inventory.  

As someone who spent 20 minutes cleaning out my golf bag today, Agassi's image is quite fitting, regardless of the sport. My golf bag was disorganized. I encountered a few surprise items, even a treat.  When I completed my task, I felt ready for my round tomorrow.  My heart isn't that much different.  My prayer this evening will include asking Jesus to take a look in there.

Perhaps you will let the Lord carry your backpack from time to time this year or ask Him to carry your students'.  Here's to the journey...summer 2014 is how many days from now?!

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