Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day: Not Just for Everyone Else

So it's Valentine's Day again, a day women with relationships can't wait for and women without them rue. A day men with relationships hope to get right and men without them do their best to ignore. It is as much a commercial holiday as Christmas has become, albeit the anticipation surrounding this holiday isn't quite the same.   But what is Valentine's day truly about? One complaint I have heard from some Christians about Christmas is that we should be celebrating Jesus all the year round, not just on this one day at the end of the year.   I think perhaps they have a valid point, though I love Christmas as much as the next person and don't think this perspective takes anything away from the joy of the holiday.  I digress.

The point is, the theme of Christmas is not one to be celebrated only once a year, but all 365. Can't we say the same for this holiday we celebrate every February 14th? But wait, you say, you've already pointed out that not every person has a significant other, someone they are "in love" with, and for this reason Vday means something different to them than it does to me! Perhaps, but I'd argue otherwise.

A couple years ago I got a tattoo, as was my wont in those days, of 1 Corinthians 13:4 (Love is patient...etc).  At the time, I'm not sure I understood the true meaning of this verse, mostly thinking it applied to the love of 2 individuals. Since then I've had ample time to wrestle with this verse, and I've come to view it in a different light.  While I still believe it applies to those closest and dearest to us, I've also realized how much more powerful, how deep, how broad sweeping these words truly are.  Christ called us to love not only those who love us, but our neighbors, our enemies, our friends. So, pretty much everyone. And if we take the definition of love that Paul gives in Corinthians, then that is quite the calling indeed. I'm not sure if there really was a St. Valentine (i bet google knows) but if there was, I bet this is more along the lines of what he would have wanted his namesake holiday to represent. To be patient with the clerk at Wal-Mart who is taking an eternity to ring you up. To be kind to the kid who just made fun of your haircut. To let that guy go ahead of you even when you're already late, cause you never know, maybe he's running late to. To not brag when you get the best grade, but to take genuine joy in the C student who squeaked out a B. To keep your cool when that guy on his cell phone cuts you off in traffic, and to let it slide when he does it again. And again. To always protect, to always trust, to always hope, to always persevere. Do these, and we can never fail.
Yeah, I think that's more like it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Some Days

Teaching is a struggle. At least it is for me.  It's a struggle to reach each individual student, while making sure not to leave any behind. It's a struggle to keep those gifted students intellectually stimulated while making sure to not teach over the head of those who are not on the same level.  It is a struggle because on a day to day basis you are never sure of what is going to work and what is going to flop. It is a struggle because of the attitude some kids bring with them. Despite popular belief, it is not my job to be your personal entertainer on a daily basis.  It is a struggle to compete with the countless distractions at these kids' fingertips. Ipods, laptops, and cell phones are now standard issue for teenagers.  It is a struggle to overhear kids being mean, cruel, and spiteful towards each other. A week doesn't go by I'm not taken with the urge to grab a kid and ask if it is really that hard to just be kind to each other?  It is a struggle to overcome the feelings of inadequacy that creep in. Am I truly the right man for this job?

But at other times, it is a joy. At other times I am reminded why I wanted to do this in the first place. I am reminded these kids are all ready to be molded, and perhaps I am right where I need to be. At other times I am reminded of the lack of positive influences in these kids' lives. I am reminded that to be adequate is to show up, to let them know that there is someone who cares about them as people, cares about their success.  At other times I am reminded that they are just kids, and I like kids.
Some days, I really enjoy this job.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Middle School Insights

So I've been a full time teacher now for 6 months and I have an observation. Well actually I have several, but only one I'm gonna talk about today.
And it is this: Middle School kids will believe anything you tell them. And actually, you don't even have to actually TELL them something, just imply it. For example: I have my middle school kids convinced that I not only speak Samoan (which I most definitely cannot) but that I also completely understand this ridiculous little language that they made up.  The best part is, I never actually told them I understand either of these, they just assume I do.  And you may be surprised to learn I accomplished all of this without lying to them. For the most part.
"Mr. Heintz, do you speak Samoan?"
"I go to Samoan language class every week."( This was the partial truth I just referred to. I've only been to that class once, but I figured they didn't need to know that.)
"Oh, really? What kind of stuff do they teach you?"
"Oh you know, all kinds of stuff."
"Oh." They think about this for a second. Then: "Like slang and stuff?"
"Like I said, they teach LOTS of stuff." Which is true, I just don't happen to know what any of it is.

And that was it. They no longer think it's safe to speak Samoan in front of me, which is perfectly alright with me since I have no clue what they are saying.
As for the incoherent made up language, you would think convincing them of my fluency in that would have been a lot more difficult. It was however, much easier.

One day, as they were conversing across the room in this ridiculous tongue, I glared at one of my students with my best "I know what you are up to" look and simply said "Jermichael" (name changed to protect identity, and because Jermichael is a way cooler name) and to my surprise he looks at me, and then goes "Shhh! Mr. Heintz understands us!" All their heads turned in unison to look at me, and each face's expression went through a progression that can best be described as, "No way, that can't be true. But, that is so crazy, it must be true. It is true! He Knows! and finally, How the heck did you do that Mr. Heintz?!"
And as they went through this progression in their minds, I sat there smugly with a look on MY face that said, "You're dang right I know."  That's me, Mr. Heintz, vanquisher of ridiculous, incoherent, unintelligible languages.  Haven't heard a peep in that foreign tongue since.

Now they just hold their folders up over their faces and whisper so I can't see. Im confident a solution will present itself.