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09.10.2013

At first I didn't understand her question, her face looking at me expectantly from around her computer's monitor."What state is Germany in?"I'm sure my eyebrow lifted as I contemplated what she meant. State? Germany?It suddenly dawned on me that she wanted to know where in the United States Germany was. Germany, the country, in the United States.Her neighbor looked at me, too. She had already asked him, and he wasn't sure either.I gently (I think - I tried to be gentle) explained that Germany is its own country and that it is located on a separate continent from the United States.I write this not as an indictment of this particular student (or her neighbor) or in a mocking sort of way, but rather as a very serious, contemplative question that must be posed in every educator's mind.What in the world does this mean?When two students who have made it to high school do not know that Germany is a country, we must take this seriously. If they do not know where Germany is or that it is a nation, they must not understand exactly what happened in the Holocaust or the implications of that event either. (Am I right? Is...

15.09.2013

I wore my running shoes to church today. Some of you are saying, “So what?” If so, you might be among the throngs who now wear jeans and t-shirts to church on Sundays and don’t think twice about it. But for others, wearing running shoes and “street clothes” is a huge no-no, an offense that would bring down the wrath of the powers-that-be in your church.Please don’t assume that I’m passing any judgment here, because that’s the last thing I want to do. I’ve been a member of both camps.When I was a teenager, a woman I loved dearly told me that we have to dress up for church because Jesus wants our best. (In full disclosure, the topic came up because she was gossiping Sunday afternoon about the attire of someone who had not dressed up Sunday morning. Just so you know.) Naïve and respectful, I thought she must be right. After all, she was older than I was and had been serving in the church since before I was born. Years later, I realized that she might have just missed the whole message of the gospel. Jesus’ gospel, anyway. Some churches have their own. You see, Jesus has...

23.08.2013

“You’re fat.”“You’re worthless.”“You’ll end up in jail just like your father.”This week my freshmen and I talked about the power of words for both good and evil, and I asked them to respond to the quote, “Words break no bones, but they do break hearts.” And, let me tell you, there are some 15 year olds out there with broken hearts.I expected my kids to have some experience with word-wounds, but I had not anticipated the depth of what they would share. They wrote of parents constantly belittling them and peers teasing mercilessly. They wrote of hearing that they are good for nothing and have no hope for a bright future. They wrote of words they had said themselves and regretted instantly… They wrote, and my heart ached.I remember being their age and in their shoes, and I remember words from those days. I remember words and looks and rebuffs and sideways glances, and I remember the tears I shed. But even now, decades removed, I am hurt by those very same things. Your heart doesn’t have to be young to be tender, and you don’t have to be in school to be rejected. We all know the power that...