Beatitudes for Educators

Robert sent me two takes on the Beatitudes, both of which I have published below. The first is a spoof, but the second is most wonderful, irrespective of whatever faith one might profess, or not profess. Truth is truth in any form, and we can always use a reminder to not let go the hand of truth as we walk through these compelling and often mind boggling things that we call our careers in education.
Here is the first one, the spoof, which, were it not so spot on in describing what education has become, would be easier to laugh at. Oh well…
Version 1:
The Beatitudes for Educators [WARNING: Satire!]
by Mahanoy
Then Jesus took his disciples up on the mountain and gathered them around Him. And then He taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
Blessed are the meek,
Blessed are the merciful,
Blessed are you who thirst for justice,
Blessed are you who are persecuted,
Blessed are the peacemakers.”
And Simon Peter said, “Do we have to write this stuff down?”
And Philip said, “Will this be on the test?”
And Andrew said, “John the Baptist’s disciples don’t have to learn this stuff.”
And Matthew said, “Huh?”
And Judas said, “When am I ever going to use this in real life?”
Then one of the Pharisees, an expert in law, said, “I don’t see any of this in the syllabus. Do you have a lesson plan?  Is there an activity for each of the seven intelligences?  Where is the study guide? Will there be any authentic assessment?  Will remediation and extra credit be provided for those who did not meet class requirements so they can still pass?”
And Thomas, who had missed the sermon, came to Jesus privately and said, “Did we do anything important today?”
And Jesus wept.
http://www.streetprophets.com/story/2005/12/8/191837/697
[ed. note” My personal opinion is that Jesus would never have wept there. I think he would have had a good laugh and sent those boys back into action. That’s just my opinion, though.]
Version 2:
Ben, I’m sending along something my pastor wrote and shared a few years ago.
Robert
Beatitudes for Educators
By Donald Shoemaker, Senior Pastor
Grace Community Church of Seal Beach, California
(Reprinted from the Long Beach Press-Telegram, October 2, 2007)
My congregation has many people who serve in the field of education one way or another.  I honor them for their character and the quality and skill of their work.  These are people to whom we may confidently entrust the precious lives of our children for wisdom and instruction.
Each September we set aside time during Sunday services to recognize and pray for these people.   This year, as we prayed for them, I read the “Beatitudes” of Jesus (Matthew 5:1-12) to the congregation with a special application to educators that I prepared.  Truly these people are models of the “salt” and “light” Jesus calls us all to be in our world.  Here are these “Beatitudes.”
“Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
So, blessed are you…when your frustration level is so high and your human resources so low that you realize you must turn to God for renewed strength. “Blessed are those who mourn.”
So, blessed are you…when your heart is broken over how cruel people can be to other people and over how little children can become innocent victims of violence, even to the shedding of blood.  Blessed are you when you grieve over the children who come to school with the deck already stacked against them because their house is not a home and they have no real role models or incentives for being good.
“Blessed are the gentle.”
So, blessed are you…when you turn the other cheek, walk the second mile and continue to work with patience in a situation, even when it seems just about impossible.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
So, blessed are you…when your frustration over the lack of learned values, moral standards and discipline make you want to chuck it all, but you stay committed to your education task as a calling from God and you don’t forget the importance of your own moral nourishment.
“Blessed are the merciful.”
So, blessed are you…when you reach out your hand to a child desperately needing love and care and concern and assistance, who may not find it from anyone other than you.
“Blessed are the pure in heart.”
So, blessed are you…when you maintain your moral standards in the face of temptations to cut ethical corners and when others see you take your stand on principle, no matter the cost to you.
“Blessed are the peacemakers.”
So, blessed are you…when you intervene in the cause of peace, even at personal risk, and help children who don’t like each other to learn at least how to live civilly with each other and to practice the “Golden Rule.”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.”
So, blessed are you…if you are ever belittled or have to put your reputation or career on the line and pay a price for following the best values.
In all this God is well pleased with all you do and, in the end, that’s what really counts.

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12 thoughts on “Beatitudes for Educators”

  1. As always when I visit this site, I have read something that comes at an appropriate time. The first Beatitudes were funny and the last were beautiful. I do not know if either are enough to keep me going.
    I feel broken and have almost decided to give up this way entirely. I feel so weak. Working in a small town, small school, small department….and the only one doing something that does against the grain has caused so much stress. Somewhere along the way, I forgot I had no idea what I was doing and dropped the ball; ruined it for myself. My classroom management, for lack of any better word quite frankly, sucks. I feel as if it gets worse because I cannot get the “hang” of TPRS and kids are not used to thinking like this.
    The students are like the disciples of the first Beatitudes you posted. When your colleagues are doing book work, grammar exercises and worksheets and you’re the only one who is not….what are you supposed to do, non-tenured teacher? Being so new and uncertain about the method makes me stand out even more. It’s even worse. A colleague recently told me that I should teach how I want to teach although she thinks activities like a grammar exercise can really be beneficial for some students that need to process it differently. I could only meekly whisper out….If this is so, why did I not need a grammar activity to learn my first language? No really good reply. But if that is what I’m up against then, what the hell am I doing?
    Everyday I go to work with hanging head and heavy heart. I’m lost, angry, scared, stressed, insecure and tired. I’ve probably made it worse by having jumped ship from TPRS and then gone back and now I’m jumping again unfortunately. More worksheets and vocab lists and I don’t even know from what chapter I’m really working….
    Some time ago before I had really lost this much hope, I emailed the assistant superintendent for curriculum & instruction to request a private discussion about what I’m trying. What for? The meeting is coming soon and what do I say now? This person told me that they’d love to chat. Swell….I think now I’ve really done myself in. Originally, this was going to be a private email to Ben but since I saw these Beatitudes and they touched me to tears because I really feel the pain of it all, I figure I might as well post here.
    I feel so alone although I know someone out there might have something to say that could help. Thanks in advance.

    1. I know that you need a good pep talk right now, Jennifer, but I can only speak honestly and say that I agree with you. One could reasonably even ask if there is even a pep talk possible.
      What you said here:
      …kids are not used to thinking like this….
      is such a strong statement that it might point any intended pep talk in an entirely different direction, and that is to ask the very real question, “Can this be done at all in schools? Is not the toll on the infinitely small group of us doing this right now just too great? Is not the force of darkness as it is now manifesting in our schools almost completely in control of everything that we used to think of as human?” as per this quote from Christian Bobin that I referenced here on the blog earlier today in a post from John Piazza:
      “La terre se couvre d’une nouvelle race d’hommes à la fois instruits et analphabètes, maîtrisant les ordinateurs et ne comprenant plus rien aux âmes, oubliant même ce qu’un tel mot a pu jadis désigner”/”The earth is becoming populated by a new race of men who are both educated and illiterate , who have mastered computers and, understanding nothing about souls, have even forgotten what such a word may have once meant.”
      It seems to be getting to the point where the kids are just so wasted in every sense. Which then wastes us, right, because of the energy required to norm the room, call roll, provide the data, learn storytelling, etc.? The machines and the machine people seem to be winning. But they’re not. They never do, not even in the most fear inducing movies.
      The biggest indictment of the method is how energy-dependent it is. What does that mean? It means that the method requires real human qualities to work, not machine qualities. All the people in the room have to want to play for the method to work, which is where all the energy and thus the authentic acquisition come from. We know, as I tried to address in the “Pig” posts, that even one kid, one kid who has a dark heart and an untrained mouth can just POISON everything going on in a room.
      And if a kid doesn’t provide the poison, Jennifer, then colleagues like the one you desribe above will provide it, and when we least want it, right? In this sense, your point is not just a rant on the blog, but a very real question, one that should be taken seriously. I’m referring to this line:
      …if that is what I’m up against then, what the hell am I doing?….
      You have, Jennifer, in your honesty, done a wonderful thing here by expressing it on the blog. Most people would not admit what you say here. But, rest assured, most people feel some degree of what you expressed here every day. Some may have felt more despair than you have so eloquently and poignantly expressed above. Many of those are gone now, working in other areas, real teachers of children lost to the battle, defeated, our brothers and sisters. And in those still fighting, sleep is being lost every night, and dispositions are being challenged, those same dispositions that were meant to reflect the happy light of living and learning in joy on this most wonderful of all possible planets, crushed to the point you express here:
      …everyday I go to work with hanging head and heavy heart. I’m lost, angry, scared, stressed, insecure and tired….
      Those are real lines of poetry in my view. Honesty IS poetry.
      What you say there is how I have always felt in teaching, and not just since trying TPRS. Your words describe my career and, since we are talking about 35 years, a good portion of my life. My level of hopelessness as a teacher has always been off the chart.
      However, any hope I have had has come from people like you. You do not brook compromise and you do not entertain stupidity. Your drawback is simply your youth. Your intuition and your sense of what is best for kids is right, but you are too young to have the credibility to be believed when you gently walk up to those who choose to look through the telescope from the wrong end and gently suggest that they turn it around. You don’t have that authority yet. Nobody does. They bash Krashen and they bash all of us.
      I asked Krashen how long it would take once and he told me that it would take as long as it takes a bird to fly over a mountain with a scarf in its beak, and drop the scarf onto the mountain, wearing a bit of it away, with that happening once every hundred years, until the mountain disappears. Of course, that was from a Cubs fan. I don’t think it will take half that long, myself.
      So at least we have something we believe in here, right? Even if it isn’t working out in our classrooms as we want it too? It might someday, right? It just might! I have never come close to doing in my classroom what I think this method holds. That’s what we are dealing with here and why the traditionalists don’t want to hear about it – it’s pure dynamite. I was doing a story today for the final exam and I was “on” and the kids were on because they had to be and the thought that kept crowding into my mind as the stories went on was, “Good God, Ben, this stuff if fucking dynamite! Just look at what is going on here! Holy shit!”
      And Jennifer, maybe you can see it in terms of that line from Mary Anne Williamson who lectures on “A Course in Miracles”, something like:
      …some of your greatest successes you have judged to be failures, and some of your biggest failures you have judged to be success….
      Well, Jennifer, maybe it turned into a pep talk after all. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. What matters is this:
      Your tears water our future.

  2. I don’t know if I can say anything that might help, considering I am also still in the infant stages of TPRS. You sound like you have so much passion for your kids and for your subject, it would be a shame and a great loss if you gave it all up. When I felt down a little while ago because I thought I had done a really bad job during an observation, it really helped me what somebody else on the blog said. I don’t want to navigate away from this page, otherwise I might lose everything I’ve typed, so I’ll try to paraphrase: Sometimes our greatest failures turn out to be great successes, while what might appear to be a great success might turn out to have been a failure. What this told me was to keep doing what I’m doing, even if sometimes (o.k. most of the time) it is so damn hard and I doubt myself all the time. But when I am truly honest with myself, I know that the kids are still learning/acquiring, and much more so than with any other way. It is just more difficult to quantify those successes vis-a-vis the traditionalists. In your case, your the newest member in a what seems to be an established hierarchy. They probably make you feel like they have been there, done that, and that eventually you will come to your senses.
    I would keep at it, especially since you don’t seem to have your administration against you. Actually, they seem interested in what you are trying to do. You are new at this and working without a mentor in your immediate vicinity. Maybe you could tell them in your meeting how much you believe in the process but that you could use some support as you try to become the best you can be. Nobody has ever been born a master (I don’t think, except for Mozart maybe), so we need to practice, practice, practice.
    Sorry, I’m just rambling on, I don’t know if I am even making any sense to you. All I know is that I would feel so horrible if you gave in to the powers that be, and I don’t even know you.
    Please hang in there, we’re all rooting for you!

  3. My heart is breaking for you Jennifer. Your candor and honesty are bone crushing. I wonder what you would find most helpful at this time? I don’t think you should underestimate what those on the blog would do to help and encourage you. Could I ask what you might need at this time?
    I would echo Brigitte and encourage you to hang in there.
    Sincerely,
    Skip

  4. Jennifer! Oh dear!
    First, take a big breath. And then another. Keep doing this for about five minutes ( sitting or lying down …doesn’t matter. Just be comfy and watch your breath) and then go take a walk / run / bath / other activity you find nourishing.
    Know that we are all here to help, and we have all been (or currently are) in a similar state. I am also new to this path, and often feel completely lost. BUT like you said and know, you did not need grammar lessons to learn your first language.
    You have expressed clear passion for your students and for what you’re doing. I don’t feel qualified to offer specific advice, being new, but when I feel things going down the tubes I do lots of dictation and translation and reading. This provides that “school-like” ambience while still accomplishing the CI we know the kids need. I know Ben posted a “bail out” link with other stuff to have up your sleeve when the stories aren’t working.
    Right now many of my students are beyond wound…holidays coming up in addition to the crazy schedule with most of them playing (not one but…) two sports and the big play performance, etc. I am basically making it through each class by doing some Christmas songs (doing a modified version of the reading method) accompanied by a dictation or micro-mini story based on the song lyrics. For example: “There was a reindeer named Rudolph. He had a red nose. His friends laughed at him. He was sad and cried. One day Santa came and saw his nose… Etc… “you can make these up on the spot and dictate or write them down for a translation. You may need to use “prefab” stories that you make up about your kids, just for awhile, until they can handle the process. I’m kinda in that space right now with one group.
    Anyway, I don’t want to sound like “oh its easy just do this and you’ll be fine” because it is freaking hard work, but you are strong and you need to feel your own strength so you can make your choices based on what is best for you. It sounds to me like your stress level is off the charts. I have totally been there. As in calling in sick and staying in bed crying. Pretty much once or twice a year for…ahem…a lot of years.
    I guess the main thing is to not feel like you’re failing just because you dial it back to a level you can deal with. I know that there are ways to transition and work toward what you envision by taking small steps. You will find help here, I’m sure. Thank you for your bravery in reaching out. Sending you much love and peace and hugs! Please let us know what you need!
    🙂 Jen

  5. Dear Jennifer,
    First, please know that YOU are not failing. If things are falling apart, then there is a series of situations and events coming together that are causing this. Sometimes the universe is just beyond our control.
    Second, take a moment, take a deep breath, and ask yourself what you need to get through tomorrow. Is it a nap? A prayer? A friend? A walk by the water? Are you taking care of yourself physically and spiritually OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL? This matters much much more than what is going on in your classroom. If you are not, then you need to find someone to help you address those needs: a friend, a counselor, a family member…someone who will give you honest and caring support.
    If everything outside of the classroom is going well, then this is a growth opportunity that you can not only survive, you can grow from. In a big way.
    DISCOMFORT IS A PRECURSOR TO GROWTH.
    Growth never occurs from a comfortable place. Growth is never a comfortable process. It happens when where we are no longer fits who we are…or vice versa.
    So it’s perfectly okay for you to feel uncomfortable, frustrated and angry. Or depressed, discouraged and bleak.
    It might time for a ‘reality check”. What are your expectations for yourself and for your students? Are they realistic? Frankly, teachers’ expectations rarely are…and we set ourselves and our students up for a great deal of pain.
    My colleague and I were just talking today about student behavior. No matter how experienced we are, how well we have trained our students, how brilliant our technique is, or how fascinating our lessons are….students are going to be bored, distracted and sometimes badly behaved. That is what happens every day in every room. They are adolescents, trapped and seated in desks all day long.
    The best that we can do, every day, is to offer them structure, interaction, compassion, language and love. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, they outnumber and outpower us. That is the reality of teaching.
    It is no coincidence that this dark period is happening as the days get shorter and shorter. We arrive at school in the dark and often leave in the dark. The things that challenge us (and them) and frustrate us (and them) seem nearly hopeless. This too shall pass.
    If the following things are happening, then you are in a tough spot and need to meet with an administrator or a mentor for help in how to fix them:
    *The students are throwing things at each other or at you and won’t stop.
    *The students are shouting at, swearing at or threatening each other or you.
    *A significant percentage of the class is sleeping.
    * Large groups of students refuse to engage in any activity related to class.
    * The classes refuse to listen to anything you say.
    * Half or more of the students are failing your quizzes/tests.
    If the above is not a description of your classes, then you are ok. Really.
    We can help.
    Tell us ONE thing (yes, just one) that you would like to see your students doing that they are not doing. We’ll start with that.
    with love,
    Laurie

  6. I know exactly how you feel Jennifer. This time last year, it seemed as if none of my classes were cooperating with me. It was such a struggle to go to work everyday. This year, has been so much better, but there are still some of the same challenges and struggles. I definitely echo Laurie and can speak from the heart when I say it will get better, it just takes time 🙂
    Angela

  7. Jennifer,
    I would echo the sentiments of many on the list, that all of us have at one time or another, or for a long time, felt exactly the way you feel. And this blog is such a special place because we can all voice these difficult truths about the profession, how damn hard it is. The people who are judging us have no idea what it’s like to be in a room full of captive children, asking them to be present and interested in our class. If those critics are teachers, they are also shut off to these realities and so have no sympathy for your plight.
    I think of Ben’s words: Let your freak-flag fly. Confidence as a teacher comes with experience, years and years of the highs and lows that we see on this blog. But I think that you do have the power to make an important decision now, a decision that will empower you more than you know: the decision that you are okay with standing out, of being different, of being authentic with your students and unapologetic about the choices you have made. If this makes you stand out, then by all means stand out, stand out as the only teacher who really gives a damn about the human beings in your classroom. All of us freaks stand with you.

  8. Oh, all of this sounds SOOOO familiar to me! I am struggling, struggling, struggling. I absolutely LOVE TPRS, but feel compelled to give grammar tests (because I really don’t know how to give TPRS-type assessments – I don’t know if I am doing them right!) So, I revert to teaching grammar and giving grammar tests, and the kids BOMB them, and then I get frustrated that they are lazy and not trying – but I *KNEW* that they don’t study at home …..mostly because they can’t because of their home lives!!! Then when I try to do TPRS again with a mostly freshmen class (today) they were so excited at the Q&A and everyone was happy, and I turned my back to get something and a JUNIOR through an eraser at a freshman!!! Then another girl told me that someone else threw a metal piece from a binder at HER! I have never had this kind of behavior before in my 4 years of teaching…..I was so disappointed in them. I asked who threw the things, and of course NOBODY spoke up. So, I was handing out a sheet for them to practice (yes, GRAMMAR) conjugating verbs based on the subject, and decided to turn it into a quiz since no one had the “maturity to let me know who was doing the throwing.” As they were working on the quiz, I told them that if they own up to who did it, then I will not count these in the gradebook. well, I had a few students come to me after class and all gave me the same name (who I thought it was anyway!) But, I hate making threats like that!!! I want to teach and enjoy it and I want THEM to enjoy it! Thankfully I will not be in school tomorrow because I can’t take another day there right now. Yesterday I broke up a fight between a couple of girls in the hallway, and the one called me an insult and threatened me; then today after this breakdown of a class, one of my Block 1 students popped in the room and handed me a paper saying, “This is from my mother.” It was his progress report! He had been absent for a week 3 weeks ago, and still has not come in for instruction on what he missed. He tried to take the quizzes, but bombed them, so I just told him today that I *REALLY* need for him to come for help and to take those quizzes over. Well, since he has not been in to see me in the past 3 weeks, I added that to the progress report that he “needed more home study time; needs to come for help; is missing major assignments, parent conference recommended.” (all canned comments in the grading program). Well, the mom wrote me a HORRIBLE reply on the progress report, calling me “Sunshine” and telling me that I do not know how to teach, that I have been the biggest waste of her son’s time, and perhaps it will take me DECADES before I learn some teacher/student relationship skills!!!
    all I could say when I read this was, “WOW”. I then had a junior in my room for help who said that she knows all about that letter – all the freshmen in the class told her about it because the boy told all of his friends and showed them all the letter! (great for keeping respect of the kids!!) I brought it to my principal and, and he asked for a copy and is going to write a letter to the parent stating not to speak to his staff that way! (he is such a great guy! yesterday after I was threatened, he went out to Dunkin Donuts and brought me a coffee into my class and said, “I know you’ve had a bad morning. I’m sorry. Do you want me to take over your class so you can go and drink it?” (I said no – we have a new building, so no food or drink allowed in classrooms – but that was SO nice …..he really made my day!)
    SO, I know this was long Jennifer, I am sorry! But hang in there – you are NOT alone! I am in my 50s, only teaching for 4 years, first year with TPRS, and stuff like this bothers me and makes me feel like a failure, but I have to remember that I *AM* doing my best and I am fair and kind to each and every student — that mother’s letter reminded me of how much these kids need US….rational adults who can teach them how to express their feelings. (because this boy never talks to me or asks for help)
    thanks for listening everyone! I needed to get that all out, because reading those Beatitudes REALLY helped me today!

  9. I do think that we have a way of teaching that addresses classroom discipline and everything else you mentioned. It is a complete package, and the only problem is that it takes a long time to unwrap. But I would be surprised if anyone in our group disagreed with me that, once all the parts of the engine are put together and humming along, none of what you describe can possibly happen. Assessment is easier, class is easier, confrontation becomes a thing of the past because there is no time for it, as all minds are focused on the language, and parents who enable that kind of unconsionable behavior in their children will, one by one, have to shut up and bring the respect to our profession that we are now earning by putting a good product in front of the public, in our discipline for the first time ever.

  10. Reading this blog always helps me to remember that everyday all of us are struggling in our own classrooms teaching our own specialities. But the biggest struggle is to open our hearts and teach from our passion. That passion is energy draining whether we are teaching a language or math.
    We are vulnerable as we steer our little canoes along. We are buffeted by a thousand different winds of change constantly. It is hard to steer forward and find hope some days. And when our energy flags as most of us are finding at this time of year–too much to do– then the hopelessness creeps up on us.
    There is an old platitude for teachers–In a 100 years . . .if you made a difference in one child. I forget that on days when I’ve taken a screaming 5 year old to the office for being out of control or watched a middle schooler break down because no peer would talk to her. I dwell too much on the children and parents who sap me of my joy. Because I want to be a “fixer.”
    But, every now and then I remember I am blessed and I begin to count those who I know are different in positive ways because our lives touched one another. There is something I think in the air this year as we listen to the sad and awful news around us. I don’t think you are alone in this wondering if you are doing the right thing. But, I am so glad you spoke up.
    We all need the wake up call daily that we are choosing to do something very different in our work and we must approach it a step at a time not only to do right by our students, but right by ourselves. It ain’t easy for fixers not to have all the answers. It erodes our confidence. But, we will be better for the process. Because as Ben reminds us–we are only responsible for our 50%. We can’t force the rest of the world to do theirs. We can only do ours.

  11. Thank you — on a positive note…..I *DID* have a senior come up to me Block 2 yesterday and THANK me!!! I have them in literature circles now working with each other on Pobre Ana. I have been stressing to them in the first three chapters to figure out meaning from CONTEXT and use the vocab lists provided. Well, this senior walked up to my desk and said, “I have to thank you Mrs. T. I just retook the SATs, and I know I did so much better on the reading and writing section – I only left ONE unanswered. I learned how to read in THIS class – YOU taught us how to read “around” words and figure out meanings based upon context, and I was able to apply that to reading in English on the SATs!!! Thank you so much!” So, I have to try to remember the positives amongst this sea of negativity! 🙂
    BUT……then back to our dept’s curriculum vs TPRS……I was out today, and left a video for all classes to finish. I usually send in instructions to work on something else in case the video doesn’t work, or a sub isn’t available and they have to go with an ed tech to library or cafe. WELL….I ended up spending the night in the ER last night instead and when I got home at 5am I couldn’t see the laptop screen to write my alternate plans!!! and…..today was one of those days. I woke at 3:30 this afternoon and had an email from the principal saying that my sub had to leave mid-day, so my B4 could not watch the video. He had my colleague run off some worksheets for them “Ser/Estar” and “Ir+a+infinitive”, and they were complaining that they never “learned this.” So he asked me to be sure I collect them and grade them! Pre-TPRS this would be correct — they would certainly know these things by this point in the curriculum, but I haven’t taught “Ir+a+ inf.” yet! So, I just told my husband, “I guess I know what kind of story I have to teach on Monday and have them finish those worksheets!!!”

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