Sunday, August 10, 2014

Blessing Teachers and Staff

Many churches now have some sort of back to school ritual; will your church be blessing backpacks?  We will do that next week, the Sunday before classes start.

Today we will bless teachers, administrators, and staff.  From what I can tell, many churches now have a backpack blessing service or part of a service.  Some churches bless backpacks of supplies that they're donating to less fortunate children, while others bless the backpacks of children going back to school.  Some bless the children, not the backpack.

Our church blesses children and backpacks, which I've always thought was great.  We also bless teachers, usually on the Sunday before we bless the children, since teachers return to school first.  Lately, we've been including staff--anyone who works with a school in any capacity is welcome to come to the altar for a blessing.

As an administrator, I go up for the blessing.  At first, back when I was doing more teaching, I hesitated to go up with the other teachers, but my pastor was clear:  all teachers, from pre-K to college.  So, up I went, even though I thought I had the easier job.

Now I'm an administrator, and some weeks I feel I have the easier job.  Other weeks, I feel like teachers have the easier job, college teachers at least.

To an outsider, my job might look easy.  And as my grandmother might have reminded us all, it sure beats digging ditches in the heat.  But these days, as budgets shrink, it's not as easy as it once was.  Struggling to keep enough classes for our teachers is not as joyful as trying to find good adjuncts to teach the extra classes we once had to add because of demand that once we thought would never be filled.

This year, again my work life has changed.  A year ago, I had no idea I was about to start teaching online classes.  But the chance came up, rather suddenly, and I said yes.  I had been thinking that I needed experience teaching online teaching, but I had no idea how that could ever happen, since I had no experience.

But Broward College, a school which functions primarily as a community college, had an explosion in enrollment and needed more faculty.  A friend and a colleague had a teaching opportunity, and they asked her to consider other classes.  I happened to be sitting beside her when the phone call came.  She couldn't do an additional class.  When she hung up, I said, "I'd like to have that kind of opportunity."  She said she'd call BC back if I was serious.  I said yes without even giving myself a chance to consider everything that could go wrong.

She called back, and we got trained, and now we've been teaching online almost a full year.  It's been easier doing it with a colleague who's taking a similar journey.  We've taught each other a lot while we've been teaching the classes.

Online teaching is different from onground teaching--I don't have the kind of feedback that I'm used to having to evaluate my effectiveness as a teacher:  I don't see students responding in real time, and I don't watch them write.  But throughout the past year, I have had students write to me to tell me how much they've loved my class and me as a teacher. 

And as I've come to realize that I'm fairly good as an online teacher:  I respond to e-mails, I grade in a timely manner, I interact in as many ways as I can create.  I'm surprised to find out how many online faculty don't do this.

I'm doing this teaching in addition to continuing in my administrative position.  And later this year, I will go back to being a Reading Pals volunteer; I will help a first grader solidify their literacy skills.

So yes, I will be happy to be blessed today.  Anoint my hands with oil!  My hands metaphorically touch many other lives in a standard work week, both students and faculty and my fellow administrators.

Let me be blessed to be a blessing!

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