Monday, May 27, 2013


I asked for this. I did.
I have always wanted to be a teacher, and I wanted to teach a foundational subject, one that had the potential to influence a student's life no matter what.

I picked writing.

And so today I'm sitting at the kitchen table procrastinating. I have 30 more essays to read today, and to be quite honest, I don't want to read them. A few are excellent. A few are good. The rest are okay or not so okay.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm making a difference.  Did I do a good job? Why do so many students struggle with putting ideas down on a piece of paper? Why do so many students ignore or fail to process the information I provide? Why do so many students ignore or fail to process the information provided in high school? How can we teach more effectively?

I'm grateful for moments when I see students make significant improvement. Or when they learn how to apply rhetorical concepts outside the college classroom. And when I can encourage a student to keep trying.  I get more than a few of these moments over the semester, but the memory of those moments fades as I face the stack of papers.

College is hard. For students and instructors.

I have the privilege of hanging out with an awesome group of college students who attend my church.  They tell me I should just give everyone Bs and be done. I can't do that.

And so I'm sitting here grading. Well, technically I'm procrastinating by putting my frustration in this blog, hoping and praying for renewed strength when I return to the stack of papers waiting for me.

War and Peace

Last night I couldn't sleep, so I went downstairs to watch TV.  I'm not sure why, but sometimes watching TV puts me to sleep.  It didn't work last night.

I made the mistake of deciding to finish Tea with Mussolini. I wanted to watch this film when it was released in 1999, but never got around to it. I recorded it a few months back and started watching it a couple of days ago.  Mostly it's confusing.  European films often are.  The filmmakers just assume we'll piece together things that are only loosely implied.

Long story short, the film starts in the mid 1930s. A little Italian boy grows up around an eccentric group of elderly English women until his father sends him away to Austria so he can learn German. He returns just before England goes to war against Germany and Italy. These English women refuse to return to England, and when the war begins, they are taken captive and held against their will.

We don't see a lot of violence in the film. No one gets shot. No one dies.

But war isn't really like that. War is messy. Ugly. Frightening. Terrifying. Uncertain.
One day these women are hanging out in Florence, Italy, going to tea, spending time in art museums, sketching and painting. They love their lives.

The next day they are locked up in a tower.

And I wondered what that would be like.  To have bombers flying overhead and bombs going off around me. To see soldiers marching through my streets. With guns. And tanks.

Fortunately, I have never known war.  I don't know what it's like to have my world turned upside down.

This isn't true for everyone.  Ask families in Syria. Or Egypt. Or Libya. Or Afghanistan. Or Pakistan. Or Palestine. Or Israel. Or any number of other countries.

By luck, I was born in the United States. No one chooses a country or a set of parents or a time in which to be born, and so I cannot take credit for this.

I thanked God for peace last night. I thanked God for sunshine and the purple verbena outside my dining room window.  I thanked Him for the jasmine that fills our yard with intoxicating scents.  And for the sound of birds. For my husband. My children. The freedom to worship God. To study. Read books. Spend time with friends.

Because I live in the United States, I grew up in peace. As I reflected on this fortunate accident that is no accident, my heart filled with thanksgiving, and my mind relaxed. I began to drift off to sleep.

As my body and mind relaxed, I remembered all the men and women who have given their lives to defend this country over the years. They left families they love. They willingly faced war and death and uncertainty to defend the peace I enjoy today. Some never returned. Nearly every week I hear about men and women who die serving this country in war zones.

I thanked God for them. I prayed for peace. And then I fell asleep.