Kindness-based School

After watching this video, I am inspired and encouraged.

Kicking off the year with my grade 10 Personal Planning class, we’re examining the story of Pay It Forward and thinking of practical projects we can do in our community.

Also related is this fantastic list of kindness ideas, which will ensure no student is without one:

Reflections: Perseverant Faith

“The testing of your faith produces patience” – James 1:3

In March, in the tiny community of Esperanza on the west side of Vancouver Island, our group was chopping wood when a hailstorm descended upon us with force, stinging the skin despite our jackets. We took cover until it lessened, then returned to our mauls. Our task was to serve the community by splitting enough wood to stock all the woodsheds. Having no alternative really streamlined our workdays: labour four hours in the morning, break for lunch, resume until dinnertime. Chopping was arduous but simple, as there’s one way to do it: hit the round in the right spot over and over again until it gives.

Many victories are possible through perseverance, and great harvests take time and work. Seeing results is encouraging, but we are tempted to live expecting rapid gratification. We rejoice over answers to heartfelt prayer and a return from seed we’ve sown. But when we don’t see them, faith is tested, sometimes in the company of frustration.

Faith is confident expectation. It involves waiting for something promised. Faith requires patience because everything doesn’t arrive at once, and we need a guard against anxiety about that. Patience allows the fruit of peace to grow.

Jesus declared we would receive the things we believe for in prayer (Matthew 21:22). Sometimes we ask amiss, praying our will be done rather than God’s. God, in his mercy, does not always conform the world to our desires! Yet despite that, God ardently desires for us to pray: “surely the sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing His plan to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).

Christ championed the virtue of perseverance in prayer. Perhaps we have not seen the wood split because we need to hit it a few more times. That’s one way to cultivate perseverance. God may be emphasizing work he wants to do in us to prepare the work he will do through us afterward. Though our prayers may be for the transformation of our situation, our prayers are simultaneously transforming us. Though it’s confusing and counter-intuitive, while you are interested in your destination, He is interested in your heart; entrust that to Him and he will prove trustworthy in it all. It is impossible for us to pray and for absolutely nothing to happen.

A Bad Evaluation

One can learn a lot from 8-year olds. I do every day as a grade three teacher.

Today the lesson I learned was on evaluating myself.

Emily, a third-grade student, was upset that she did the “baddest” on her power write (a writing assignment where students are given a topic and time limit to write as much as they can. They need not worry about perfect grammar, it’s an exercise in fluidity).

Emily was disappointed because she was only able to write 49 words about the different uses of helmets. “49”, she scribbled in large letters, circling it and adding the caption “baddest”, with two large X’s beside.

This reaction happened because she was able to write more words about another topic last week. Emily was trying to outdo her performance on another topic in the past.

What Emily will find out tomorrow when I give her her journal back is that my evaluation of her work is completely different. My comment on her page reads: “This is awesome, Emily. You connected the topic of helmets to some great facts and even personal stories! Well done.” I’m even considering giving her a Star of the Day certificate for her exemplary anecdotes.

As a beginning writer, Emily actually isn’t the best judge of her writing and how “bad” or “good” it is. It’s not just the number of words that count. If they were, then the famous poet by the same name, Emily Dickinson, wrote some truly horrible poems. In an instant, my proper evaluation of Emily, as her teacher and true evaluator, overturns whatever she may have thought about her performance on this assignment. Emily probably didn’t realize that there were other factors at play: I might have even given the class less time to write today.

God used this process to teach me a lesson. As I realized how Emily had wrongly judged her performance by using faulty criteria, he showed me how he is the only one who can judge justly.  Whenever I sit in judgement over myself, I’ll always give myself a bad rap because I’m horribly biased, my perspective tainted by my own perceived shortcomings. Despite what I may think of myself, God is the one with the criteria, and we may find ourselves, more often that not, judging ourselves with faulty criteria. But God overturns our judgments and tells us to listen to how He judges.

What’s truly ironic is that the times that we feel inadequate before God, believing we’ve failed his standards are likely the times we haven’t consulted him on the matter. Where does our righteousness come from? Not actually from our works at all. It was what Christ did that we were unable to do. That’s why the Bible says that the blood of Jesus speaks better than the blood of Abel (a righteous man by works). In fact, Paul uses the most coarse and base word in the entire New Testament to describe how worthless his own works were: “I consider them scubilon” (the first-century equivalent for shit).

It’s God alone who holds the standards by which he judges us – and he’s told us. It’s the standard of the blood of his Son – one standard, for all, for all time. God had one test, and Jesus passed with flying colours. He upheld that standard for all of us.

The name “Daniel” means “God is my judge”. That’s easy to remember; it’s my middle name. Now my job is to carry it well.