Sunday, June 22, 2014

Life Lessons

Some of the most frustrating moments of teaching teenagers occurs when you realize they are simply choosing not to be amazing. 

I'd spend hours preparing lesson plans, practicing methodology, waking up early, staying up late, eating yucky food court food, and all for what? - For the belief that this program could somehow truly make these students think differently about government and citizenship action.

I saw it work many times. Students who recognized the opportunity provided for them from either the wallets of parents, school funding, or fundraising, and made the most of it. I saw when students actually tried to answer the questions I posed, or do the assignments associated with our outings, they blew me away. They thought deeply and came out of the week wanting to be better and knowing both sides of most issues. They emerged empowered.

I also saw it not work many times. Students who came for a free ride around D.C, wanting simply to take photos and engage with their hand-held screens. They didn't want me to ask them any questions, they didn't want to "think," reading was too hard, and they just didn't really care.  I'd try my best to make them care, to pull deep thoughts out of them, to bring up interesting controversy, but in they end they choose what their experience was going to be. They emerged tired.

"It's so frustrating", I'd think. "I've prepared this amazing opportunity for them, and I know if they would just participate in it and allow me to help them, they would get so much more out of it. I know what it could be, and they refuse to enjoy it."
Then it hit me.

How often does God feel the same way? The, "I've prepared this perfect opportunity for you, your land of promise, and if you will just trust me and keep my commandments, which I've prepared diligently for your benefit,  I promise you will be so much happier." And how often do we simply choose not to participate, or feel that our plan for ourselves is far better? "I don't want to work hard, I just want to see the pretty sites and play around."
I need to trust. 

"For behold, I have prepared a great endowment and blessing to be poured out upon them, inasmuch as they are faithful and continue in humility before me" - D&C 105:12 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Close Up look at my last 6 mos.

It's been a whirlwind of a six months. With weeks including 14 hour work days and the frequent 2 week stints with zero days off, I had very little time to keep up with this blog. Sorry. But, now I will give you the Close Up look at my last six months working in D.C.

I saw a lot of memorials, cities, plays, museums, office buildings, cemeteries, and hotels. I taught countless amounts of workshops trying to engage students in democracy. I made endless amounts of flip charts for those workshops. I attempted to teach my students how to make a perfect group circle, to think critically, and what the words Political Efficacy mean. I learned how to bus surf. I met senators, representatives, teachers, administrators, interpreters, advocates, kids from all over the country, and your good old average tourists. I told a lot of jokes. I traveled by train, bus, foot, car, and boat. I ate far too many food court meals, and certainly too many hotel continental breakfasts. (I'll be ok if I don't have another Taco Sunday for a while) I learned how to maneuver around New York City and not get completely lost in Central Park. 

But that's really not the gist of it all. Wrap up hundreds of students taking a stand on issues like federalism, gun control, immigration, healthcare, war memorials, and citizen action, a staff of awesome idealistic post graduates, and a city with endless possibilities and tons of history, and you get just the tip of my experience working here these last six months. 
This job sure made me think about history and politics in a new way
Meal time = "Me" time for the instructors, especially on a travel week with middle schoolers. 
The best moments are when I sit back and watch my students engage. Here they are about to reenact "Picket's Charge" in Gettysburg
This City really became home to me
At the end of the week, I had my students track their "Political Efficacy" (their beliefs about how participatory they are in democracy etc.) This week made me endlessly happy as students placed their markers off the chart!
I made some great new friends
I got to see children wanting to be "up close" and participating

So there's a peek at my last six months. Who knows what the next six months will bring?

The Big Apple

I had the pleasure of not only guiding my students around Washington D.C. these past six months, but also trekking them up to New York City. I loved watching my kids from the rural mid west clamp on to each other as they overwhelmingly looked upwards at all the skyscrapers and forwards at the hordes of people approaching us. Needless to say, they never wandered off too far from me.

New York is pretty dirty and there are SOOOOOO many people, but it also has a lot of character all its own. "So Here's to you, New York, New York!!"
New York has fantastic Art Museums
I saw Central park in nearly all its seasons
Sensory overload in Times Square

Top of the Rockefeller Center 
9/11 Memorial 
The only tree on the World Trade Plaza to survive 9/11
It was New Amsterdam before it was ever New York
I got to take Students to a Broadway play each week :) 
Dinner in Little Italy cannot be complete without a Canoli from Ferrara's 
The Chelsea Highline is a lovely example of citizen action in a community 
I could People- Watch in Central Park for hours

I guess you have to see Lady Liberty