15 May 2011

the end of the beginning

Yesterday, there were two commencement exercises at dear old SNU. In one of them, I was able to walk with the faculty and be the proud parent of the Class of 2011 of SNU as they received their undergraduate degrees. In the other, I was walking as a student participating in the act of finishing my Master's degree. I say the act of finishing it only because I have 6 sessions of class left standing between me and the coveted piece of paper saying I have completed all the assignments, passed all the tests, created all the projects, and jumped through the inevitable hoops.

I cannot say it has been an entirely unpleasant experience. I certainly can see that I have grown over the past two years. I've written more regularly on this blog as a part of the reflection piece of the program, although not as regularly as I'd like. I've certainly learned to multi-task a lot better than in the past (if you know me you know that I have difficulty focusing on more than one task at a time, plus there is a bit of OCD mixed in just to make life interesting). I have made some connections with people who believe in education and that every student can learn (although some more than others, see? there is this thing called genetics and we don't all have the same ones). I have changed the direction of my career goals and feel that I may in some ways be able to affect change with more students if I am not in a High School Physics class for the rest of my life (it's kind of that whole give a man a fish vs. teach a man to fish).

I have learned a tremendous amount of information, strategies, a skills to work in the field of curriculum design and technology integration. Much of that information came as the result of research projects for class which piqued my interest and caused me to go deeper or even in a different direction to find the nuggets of information which really were worthy of my attention. I think I have been a positive influence on many teachers and I KNOW my colleagues have been a positive influence on me.

I've learned that I have abilities which surpass those I previously felt did not exist in my toolbox. My confidence in myself has increased exponentially (check out a class on quantitative analysis if you don't know what an exponential increase looks like on a graph) :-). It seems that the more I lear, the more desire I have to learn. It's almost as if I have begun to realize that there is so much more I need to learn to affect the kind of change in education I am looking to implement.

The most important thing I have learned is that I like to help other people. I am a fixer. A technical kind of guy. I have creativity, just not in the sense that I could take a blank canvas and create something someone might call art. I had the chance to see some of the senior graphic design students from SNU display their work. Yeah, not THAT kind of creativity. Those folks are amazing. (just like all of the rest of the faculty at that University). I am creative in the sense that if you can help me catch your vision, I can make that show up somewhere else. I did a group project with in my previous class and I got a chance to build a website for a fictitious bond issue. Now, that is by no means my best work, but I learned, through that project that with some input from others I can create something of which we can all be proud.

I have learned that getting to know your students and building relationships is more important than any content I could ever teach. Students won't be willing to buy what you are selling if you don't build some trust with them, first. Taking the time to invest in students OUTSIDE of the classroom is far more rewarding than anything we do inside the walls of learning. For the biggest part of this degree program I was (along with my lovely wife) the class sponsor for the Class of 2011 at SNU.

We attended Senior Celebration this past Friday night. The theme of this event was "Why Not?" I was privileged to speak during the event and there has been a defining moment in my life and educational career and that was becoming the class sponsor for these guys. We had so many parents come up to us and tell us how much they appreciated our involvement with their students but honestly when you lose yourself in building relationships, its so easy. And honestly, like any really good investment, you get so much more out of it than what you put into it. Michelle and I were so blessed to be a part of those lives (and will continue to be). That has really impacted the way I view relationships with my own students. It helps me realize that we have to meet students at their point of need (just like Christ does for us) and find out what they are going through before they/we can focus on what they need to get out of our classes. Now, I mentioned Jesus Christ there, so if you are uncomfortable, you can check out the writings of Abraham Maslow for the education perspective of that idea. (FYI, I'm somewhere right around the top of esteem, moving into self-actualization.)

I was visiting with Michelle (as we do often) about the things I've learned through this program and recent events in my life. I am truly beginning to see that if we focus on something other than ourselves and beginning to look around us for the needs of others, our faults/deficiencies/problems begin to pale in comparison to the problems being dealt with by others.

As much as I'd like to wrap this up with a bow and call it "done", the truth is I'm not done. I one class left (starting this next week) and it is with one of my favorite educators, my (soon to be former) principal. I wish I had a trite saying or quote from some great author or educational philosopher to summarize the events of the past 2 school years, but sadly I do not. I do have a quote that will hopefully help you realize where I am in my journey (I've used it before)
"There is a difference between knowing something and knowing the name of something" - Richard Feynman

I think I am finally at the point in my educational journey to know enough to know that there is a lot I don't know, but that I want to know more. That is what I got out of 36 hours of Master's level Educational Curriculum classes. It was expensive, but I suspect the payoff will be far richer than the (itty-bitty) raise in pay I'll get from the degree.

Thanks SNU for a great program. Now its time to take the first step towards a terminal degree; one that isn't in a very small, very conservative, christian University. Oklahoma State, here we come, see you in the fall!

02 May 2011

that time of year - an open letter to SNU's class of 2011

My amazing wife (@mishelleyb) is speaking in senior chapel tomorrow. One of the great things about being married to a great public speaker is that she tries all of her stuff out on an audience of one (that's me) before anyone else gets to hear it. I get to hear the raw emotion she shares before she becomes the professional speaker as she steps on stage. All of that to say, SNU Seniors (Class of 2011), if you haven't attended chapel at all this semester, you don't want to miss Senior Class Chapel tomorrow. BTW, its in Cantrell Hall at 10:50am.

She's going to share some things that will run the gamut of emotions:

  1. Tears - this is a new beginning and we'll be saying some (at least short-term) goodbyes in the next few weeks.

  2. Tears - the pride that we as your class sponsors feel at seeing you walk into the world as some amazing adults.

  3. Laughter - sharing some fun times we have spent over the last 4 years together.

  4. Reassurance (is that even an emotion?) - even though some things are in doubt in your future, we are sure you are fully prepared to meet the challenges that lay ahead of you.

  5. And finally, Joy - you have come to the end of your undergraduate career (except for those couple of folks who are taking a victory lap, you know who you are).

Graduation will be bittersweet this year in a way that is exponentially more meaningful for me than in years past. I have been blessed (as I know Michelle has, too) to be allowed to be the class sponsors with you guys over these last four years. I have learned what it means to live a life committed to Christ through the example of many of your lives.

I remember thinking about whether we should become sponsors for this class back in the summer of 2007. I didn't really know what it meant to be a class sponsor, but I can't think of a group of people with whom I would rather learn than all of you. We've been told we are great class sponsors, but I would say we have been fortunate to have the right group of people with whom it is so easy to build a relationship. Rest assured, deciding to become your class sponsors was one the most-rewarding things I've ever decided to do.

We've spent some late nights in class council meetings trying to figure out what to do when the class president decided to leave SNU in the middle of the year. Finals Fling during freshman year, did we really even plan anything for that? I don't recall. I've slept since then.

We've spent some REALLY late nights working to put together a totally new event, "Who's the Man?" What a blast that has turned into!

We've had what amounts to a high school prom for a bunch of Juniors and Seniors in college at a high school! (no dancing, not even Linda G!) Making the promotional video for this event was more fun than I have had in a long time! I love getting to play the "mean teacher", it wasn't much of a stretch, I suppose.

And just 4 short weeks ago, we made a mad dash to Colorado where we rode an uncomfortable bus all night so we could sleep in even more uncomfortable beds so we could have more fun than Christians should be allowed to have doing things like rock climbing (for the first time ever!), rappelling, zip-lining (is that a verb?), and running all over town, only to end up at the oldest Pizza Parlor west of the Mississippi so we could laugh so hard I nearly peed myself.

What a great life I have been privileged to live so far with the students of SNU. I can't wait to see what the next opportunities bring. I have met some of the most amazing people: marketers, managers, musicians, artists, designers, lawyers (to-be), ministers, teachers, athletic trainers, mass communicators, researchers, and all around non-specialists (you know who you are). If those of you reading this have lost faith in higher education, rest assured, the class of 2011 has some people who are going to do great things. I'm blessed to have been a part of your life for 4 years. Here's to the next chapter, its just the beginning!

Hey, Redwine, there ARE going to be other opportunities aren't there?!?