Sunday, January 23, 2011

It's a quiet Sunday afternoon here in my apartment in north Prague. Looking out my window, I can see the American residency, a hazy grey sky, and large flakes floating lazily downwards. Very restful and quiet, very appropriate for a Sunday afternoon.

This post should be shorter than most. As I've taken on my new duties here at CISP and taken stock of the new environment, one verse in particular has taken on new importance. It is a verse that has always challenged me, particularly given my tendency towards a no-nonsense, perfectionist work ethic. It is also a verse that has generally lain dormant in the back of my mind, too easily forgotten in the secular classrooms of my university. It is a verse that I am sure every one of you is familiar with:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. (I Cor. 13:1)
Much of the time, good teaching requires good speaking. First of all, I have to know what to say. My 10th grader, for example, are about to begin a unit on Romantic poetry. As I plan for that unit, I need to decide what I will say about Romantic poetry - their social criticism, their retreat into rural life, their preference for emotion over reason. Second, I have to know how to talk about Romantic poetry. My 10th graders will probably not appreciate an extended series of lectures that draw on what I learned in graduate school, and so I need to plan activities, games, and artwork that will help students learn the basics of Romantic writers. All this I need to plan, but it is not enough.

All the good teaching in the world is not enough, if my students do not know that I love them and (through me) that God loves them. It doesn't matter if students answer every question correct on the upcoming exam, or only a few questions correct; it doesn't matter if they bomb their Romantic Poetry project or ace it. It doesn't even matter if I am well-planned and poised before my class, or if I am a little disorganized and scatterbrained (and I am totally a scatterbrained person). What matters is that my students experience in my class the love of God.

For me, this is perhaps the most challenging thing of all, but one of the most important. My students here at CISP have a supportive, Christian environment; many are missionary kids and have strong families, but they are not exempt from the normal problems that students face. Like high schoolers in the US, these students face stress on a daily basis: the stress of grades and college plans, the stress of a changing body and eating disorders, the stress of a first boyfriend or girlfriend (or a first break-up), the stress of friends who are moving away as their parents return to the USA for furlough. They don't necessarily care about Romantic Poets. Nor do they particularly need, in the grand scheme of things, to learn about the Romantic Poets. They need to learn about the love of Christ.

I ask you to pray with me for all my students, that they will know the everlasting love of God, that they will experience His love on a day-to-day basis and that they will experience this love in my class. Please pray that, as I teacher, I will plan not only for the academic unit but also for the spiritual health of my students, that I will love my students and will not be simply so much noise at the front of the classroom.

As I end this post, I would like to wrap up on a light-hearted note. I'm finally starting to add photos, and since Facebook has most of the photos of my cultural / touristy adventures here, I thought I'd share some photos of day-to-day life in Prague. Today, I have photos of the Metro. Every morning, I take the Metro to school: I go down the escalators (pictured), towards Depo Hostivar, and sit in the crowded underground train. The church is at the Metro station Namesti Miru, and in Europe, is a fairly normal sight. I love living in Prague.

The Metro:

Towards Depo Hostivar:

The Metro train:

In a Station of the Metro:

The church at Namesti Miru:

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