Friday, November 17, 2017

Teaching is the most important profession, yet, it’s treated like second class! Why?

I’m always incredibly amazed at the impact that teachers, tutors and mentors can have on youth and adults that come out of difficult circumstances! The difference that one adult who is persistent and caring can make is beyond measure! Yet, being one who has been around academic circles continue to be amazed at how the teaching profession too often is looked down upon and the usual joke is if you can’t do then teach. Why is it the case that celebs with next to little to offer to society are rewarded both monetarily and socially whereas teachers are usually left at the bottom?

I have witnessed firsthand the impact of many who have taught or tutored for decades change the life outcome of so many. Yet, sadly they won’t win any MVP award at the end of the school year. I had the privilege when I first moved to Phoenix to be involved with a local nonprofit whose passion was working with at risk youth. The founder was a local dad whose passion was to see his kids not be drawn into the gang presence in Chandler or the East Valley. I’m so thankful for ICAN (Improving Chandler Area Neighborhood) which has touched the lives of 1,000’s and taught those in the community that one person can impact a community!

The passing of Henry Salinas, ICAN founder, won’t make national headlines whereas the suicide of a 21-year-old rapper probably has already. Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Salinas, would have had an impact on Little Peep where his choice to keep trying at life could have helped him keep rapping. I will be the first to admit that I didn’t necessarily resonate with his music but get that he represents a generation of youth that face despair daily and the choice to live or quit.

I’m so fortunate to have many friends I have known for decades that continue to teach and impact students without any desire to be in the lime light or receive awards. One of my favorites teaches is at a private school, where she continues to purposely be involved in an under resourced neighborhood and should be the one to get a grant and a big thank you. She has brought youth to a tough neighborhood where her teens have painted houses of low income families, provided a baby shower a teen moms and now in an ongoing fashion helps a single mom home with hundreds of diapers every year.

I have had the privilege over the years with being involved with college students who are pursuing teaching as their professional goal. It has been so exciting to see these young men and women impact the lives of at risk youth. It’s their excitement about life and willingness to jump into the mess we call life that inspires me to keep going and not quit. Yet, as we jokingly discussed last week after a large group meeting with kids and teens that it would be difficult to raise a family strictly on the salary of a beginning teacher in greater Phoenix.

So why is it the case that athletes, music icons and actor/actresses get the limelight and monetary reward? Why is it the case that the union minimum for a NFL player is $200K and a teacher is fortunate to make $35K?  I do understand that the amount of commitment, training and ongoing pursuit of excellence in athletics is admirable. Yet, is it really worth that much more than a person who will daily chooses to face a classroom of kids that are attention starved, struggle with listening and sitting still and the farthest thing from their mind is reading?

Why is it the case that in other countries teachers are viewed as the super stars that are rewarded for their commitment to excellence in the life of a kid or teen that would typically become a statistic? I have another young friend who realized after graduation that her pursuit of a health care job wasn’t right for her but instead pursued teaching Biology to High School students. I know that each day of her first year will be a struggle to discover the methodology that will impact these teens to inspire them to choose learning instead of social media as their primary focus in life.

I have another friend who has been an inspiration to me as she has purposely brought her daughter to tutor kids from single parent homes. The ongoing impact this mom and daughter team will have is huge. I know that their heart’s desire isn’t for attention but to help a ten-year-old learn how to read instead of hiding and being embarrassed!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Scientific study leads to experiencing beauty in life!

I was having a discussion with a friend who is a PhD in Physics that enlightened me about his present passion of pursuing the Theory of Complexity. As a novice scientist type I attempted to throw in some of my philosophy of science jargon only to be taken back but delighted by his statement that discovery of new theorems always leads to beauty. I was a little shocked to hear that ascetics had something to do with pursuing the unifying equation that would ultimately explain the what and why of life!

As we exchanged thoughts on discovery and inspiration about scientific notions, after our tutoring with our kids, I was rebuffed to have not seen my friend truly as a coinsure of beauty! Isn’t it possible to step back and realize that the power of the mind is revealed through the wedding of science and the arts! Clearly the de Vinci types over the centuries have shown how many pursuing understanding of the universe are also ascetics whose self-expression reveal the beauty of life in its’ complexity through art.

Our discussion revolved around the present opportunity to still talk about the arts, God, science and understanding life in a way that shows the beauty of the universe. The reality is that in many ways man has advanced immensely in the last 100 years, yet, the ongoing study of the pyramids in Egypt show the wonder and mystery of the discovery of how the Egyptians did it! I stand back in awe as I consider the vastness of the universe the amount of energy being dispersed by our sun. I at times ponder what is the essence of a thought? Is it a chemical process that allows our minds to retain images, thoughts, sounds, smells, etc.… for a life time?

I know personally that the quest for understanding and figuring out reality is a noble pursuit even for a lifetime. The conundrum is that it seems like the more I learn the more I’m humbled to realize how little I know and more so how great is the study of life. I asked my friend whether he believed that scientific discovery was an inductive or deductive referring to the actual process of discovery. I enjoyed his quizzical response that showed it wasn’t easy to delineate the discovery of processes but the end result to him always produced beauty.

 I joked a little about how it shouldn’t be a surprise that ascetics and science go together in the unfolding of the essence of life and how beauty should be part of the methodology! As we were finishing cleaning up after working with 30 plus kids it struck me how mysterious life happens to be.  The puzzled look of a child who asks a profound soul searching question that I’m unable to address reminds me that man’s quest for knowledge and understanding of life will always continue.

Yes, life is a rather complex system and while I watched the beauty of a sunset it reminds me of the majesty of the world, the universe around us and the vastness of the Creator who designed it all!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Speak Up, Stand Up, Serve and confront evil!

I don’t know about you but I’m beyond the WHY question of the continued acts of violence against innocent people! It’s so tragic that a family lost 8 members while at church due to a deranged young man. Clearly something needs to be done between better regulations about gun sales and not allowing those with mental illness to have access to assault type weapons or any weapon!

I know that our world seems like it’s out of control between natural disasters, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires and an endless stream of mass shootings or use of vehicles to murder people. I believe it’s so critical that everyone stand up, speak up and serve to confront the ongoing acts of evil. One of the more important ways of expressing your heart is by speaking out but also by choosing to serve in your community and the world. This last Saturday I was so fortunate to have a group of over 200 friends join together to paint seven  houses of low income seniors.

The media too often only reports the tragic news of the day instead of balancing the news with the good that does take place every day in our communities throughout our world. Sadly, what we remember most is the tragic news. I know that it’s so easy to live life on the side lines and not be part of making a difference to overcome the evil that happens around us.

I know that the unsung heroes of the day will seldom be mentioned which is perfectly fine with me. More people need to stand up by doing something of value and substance that draws the attention of the world around us to the simple message that light does overcome the darkness around us. I know that it’s too easy for most to be silent and complacent in the face of real evil. The only way that good can triumph over the tragedy of the day is for more to stand up and literally put their life on the line to confront the darkness around us.

The more difficult topic to address is that I agree that even if you remove all guns, knives or ‘God forbid’ force everyone to ride bikes that ‘bad stuff’ will continue to happen. The root of the issue at hand is a ‘heart’ problem. We have a ‘fallen’ inner nature that sadly tends to express itself in ways that are fodder for nightmares. Spirituality, which has been cast aside, needs to come back to the forefront of life. Secularism and intellectualism must be more honest and transparent about the ills of human nature that they aren’t able to address and reflect on our spiritual problems that have caused the brokenness that is reflected in on going acts of violence.

I know that a person who has lived in the middle of hurt, brokenness, anger, resentment and fear is more likely to commit some type of crime against humanity. Recently the mass shootings or violence hasn’t been related to extreme terrorism or racism. The issue before all is to be more willing to address the spiritual vacuum in our own lives and in the communities around us. The unfortunate difficulty is that it’s not politically correct to talk about God, repentance, renewal, grace and forgiveness.

The goal of our present judicial system and penitentiaries should be to see lives changed and transformed! Instead we continue to have our prisons and jails become incubators that produce more violence and tragedy in our communities. So, it’s time to TALK about what happened and why! Yes, mental health is a tough topic to address and sadly the US continues to have the highest rate of death by guns in the world. Time to force our legislators to listen to common sense, reason and stay away from the powerful lobbyists that too often direct congress and the senate.

So, stand up, speak up and SERVE to make a difference!