Category Archives: teaching

Joy of teaching

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The greatest joy of teaching is NOT seeing heads full of knowledge but hearts full of Jesus. Of course, we do (try to) cram in a lot of studies into these youthful brains. We do (try to) prepare them for 4-year institutions. But sending them off to make millions and lose their soul is NOT what we are about.

Lighthouse Christian Academy has been my plowing terrain for six years, and another school year has concluded. Since I got off the mission field, it has been my mission field in America. We give the kids Bible and love. It turns out a lot of studies need love, and a lot of students want the Bible.

I taught U.S. Literature and A.P. Spanish this semester (and journalism). The kids learned about unforgiveness through The Scarlet Letter, Moby Dick and A Cask of Amontillado. They learned about transcendentalism, realism, modernism and post-modernism. They really got the chance to see if they want hopelessness to be their life compass.

What can I say about Spanish? Resulta que nunca nadie se esfuerza tanto como yo quisiera. Es difícil porque tratamos de reducir tres cursos de un año a tres semestres y ni modo los resultados no alcanzan mi esperanza. Pero todavía espero que ganen el examen de A.P.

And journalism? That’s always a favorite for me, though I think I put more effort into it than the students. Oh well.

A toast to all my fellow teachers out there.

 

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Reprise of miserable faces (the 2nd conjugations test)

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No, I don’t enjoy torturing poor children. I derive no joy in seeing them squirm and cry over impossible tests.

img_3394No. What I want to do is drill in solid Spanish, get kids to pass the AP test, form bilingual students. But sometimes my motivation exceeds theirs.

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This was try #2 to get these victims pupils to conjure up present, preterit, imperfect and commands — all in one test. 😦  Apparently, I ruined their day at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.

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I’m going to stop giving this test and hope they catch it in the future. This time I went blue too.

The face of misery (Spanish verb conjugation test)

img_3291Learning the rules of conjugating verbs is hard enough — let alone all the exceptions of irregulars. It’s like juggling balls — keeping them all in the air — to be able to remember and apply them all immediately as needed.

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Real tears?

My Spanish 2 students just completed the imperfect tense, which is the perfect time to sum up and see if they remember the other conjugations: present, preterit and command forms.

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The highest grade was a 69%, from my son, a native-born Guatemalan. (We were missionaries.) Not a passing grade at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica, where only a C is considered passing.

img_3290Conjugations belong to the branch of linguistics known as morphology, how words are formed. The dizzying array of conjugations in Spanish (there are 302 variations for each verb) frustrates native English speakers since the changes on the verb in English are few and simple. The poor student asks: Why?

Despite marketing (by Pimsleur and others) alleging that reciting and rewriting lists is useless, I still assert that the old style of learning is the best way to mastery. After all, it worked for me. I didn’t just “catch” Spanish by immersing myself in Mexico; I studied before and during my time of immersion at the University of Guadalajara (sí soy chivo, soy tapatío).

What do you think about conjugations? Can you post a more miserable, conjugation-learning face in the comments?

25 years later, I’m still teaching at Lighthouse

lighthouse-christian-schools-then-and-nowI oppose being promoted, even though kids I taught are now colleagues.

Actually, I was principal and owner of a school in Guatemala. But I kept getting out of office work and into the classroom. That’s where the real action is. That’s where people are. That’s where souls are won to Christ. You can have the administration, if you want.

Kids still need love. Where in other schools there’s bullying, we offer a safe place of vibrant acceptance. Where in other schools there’s ONLY college prep, we offer also Heaven prep. Where in other schools there’s ONLY keys to college entrance exams, we offer keys to interpersonal skills and successful marriages and families. We are a family. Where in other schools, a teacher works for his salary, we work for little or no salary. We have a much higher motivation.

It is my lifelong joy to see kids turn from sin to God, choose the path of success, flout the headlong rush of the world towards false happiness and select the enduring joy and peace of wisdom in Jesus.

And when these kids see you 25 years later, they thank you because you helped them at a critical juncture in life, the life-deciding moments of the teenage years. This, I feel, is more gratifying than a fat paycheck.

I’m going to go even further — at risk of dipping into narcissism. When you see kids 20 years later, you see a little bit of you in them. Because you helped their formation. And hopefully that little bit of you is a good thing.

And then you know that you didn’t make a lot of money. You didn’t buy a house. You weren’t the most beautiful or famous or adored.

You made a difference in this world. And so you can continue making a difference until you get your reward in Heaven.

And that is the reason why, after 25 years, I’m still teaching in a small Christian school in Santa Monica that is making a difference one life at a time.

Picture: left 1992, grades 7-11; right Sept. 14, 2016, just the sophomore class, my world lit students.

Got any ideas?

teacher appreciation day

I can’t think of anything. What comes to your mind? I don’t know what to tell my students at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.

Teachers who inspire

inspiring friendsIn 2007, Marcelino de Leon saw kids in the his neighborhood who didn’t sign up for first grade. Illiteracy is high in Guatemala, where people struggle to survive and have a hard time supporting their kids in education.

So Marcelino decided to teach them himself. Every Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 he taught nine kids first grade materials. When the next year came around four of those kids tested into second grade.

Nobody paid him for this. No one applauded. Marcelino didn’t get any awards. A professional teacher, Marcelino just wanted to help where he could. He lost track of those kids when he moved, but we expect them to find him one day and report on their success at college.

Marcelino helped us at the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta. As always, it was voluntary, since we were/are strapped for money. We charge most students a minimal fee, and it doesn’t cover expenses.

I was so impressed by his willingness to pitch that I offered to teach him English. Extraordinarily, after I left Guatemala, he continued helping our school.

It’s people like Marcelino who inspire me.  Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds — Heb. 10:24. He came to visit me today. I’m wanting to do more for God.