Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas card letters (redux)

There are lots of opinions about this, and lots of disagreement. After reading through several of these letters today, I can’t help it, I have to join in.
I want to first say that all in all I like Christmas card letters, especially the combination of pictures and letters. I like seeing kids grow up, hearing about new hobbies and adventures, and basic information that makes me feel closer to friends and re-connected to faraway friends.
Okay, that said, there are some other thoughts I have that do not exactly lift me into the Christmas spirit when I receive them. Here are three things that are sure to cause a reaction in me:
1. Letters that pretend that life is only good. It may have been a stellar year, with grades and job opportunities and vacations that could only have happened once a century, but this year happened to be it. I’m not saying we need to be negative, just more or less real. The year will come, trust me, when there seems to be nothing to write about but heartache and struggle. That has to be okay to share, but it needs to be done recognizing that in the midst of the darkness there are always rays of light… this is Christmas, after all.
2. Letters that presents a parent (usually the Dad) the chance to be clever at the kids’ expense. We get these every year, to varying degrees of intention and subtlety. Sure, we all can forgive the innocent gaff or mild tease easily enough. But there are those people, and most of the time its the same folks year after year, who cannot seem to avoid taking the Christmas letter to “joke” about their kids in a way that demeans, dismisses, or simply makes fun of them. Lay off, already. Life is tough enough for our kids. Even if the intent is to rebel against all those letters that makes each kid out to be All-State or the next Picasso, in the end they feel it, and it can’t help but sting. This is a great opportunity to honor them, and their trajectory. Bless, don’t curse, and let the world know how grateful and proud of them you are.
3. This is Christmas, so why is it so hard to remember that in our letters? The ones that are the toughest for me are those that have the token God/Christ accolades, but the rest of the letter is about kids, friends, fun, trips, money, sports, you name it. I have been especially struck this year by those letters from Christian leaders where, if the expected “Jesus is the reason for the season” paragraph was deleted, one would assume they were lawyers, sports agents, or Cubs fans.
You might be wondering where our example of the “appropriate” letter is. I don’t think I’ll share it with you… this is a blog. I’m just tossing out some ideas for you. (Besides, I’m pretty sure we have violated each of these pet peeves countless times over the years.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What does a caring teacher look like?

Recently a college professor from the southeast asked me the following question:

"Can you describe a caring teacher? How does this person talk and act towards adolescents?"

A caring teacher looks beyond and through the layers of external performance, behavior, attitude, dress, or anything else that would shield a child from being vulnerable and known. They are then able to appeal to the inner sanctuary of the student who is attempting to find their place in a generally hostile and unforgiving world. A caring teacher sees gifts and talents standard measures deny; a caring teacher expects creativity and talent where society evaluates conformity; and, a caring teacher believes that every child is a product of themselves and an important resource to be nurtured, and should therefore be treated with the utmost respect and gentle care so as to draw out the innate best from the student.