Monday, March 30, 2009

Late Breaking News!

Hot off the presses is Aaron's first published article as a sports reporter for The Lanthorn, Grand Valley's newspaper.

see page 10

Water, is taught by thirst

Emily Dickinson is not one of my favorite poets. However, her poem "Water, is taught by thirst" is interesting enough to discuss:

Water, is taught by thirst.
Land -- by the Oceans passed.
Transport -- by throe --
Peace -- by its battles told --
Love, by Memorial Mold --
Birds, by the Snow.

On second thought, I don't like this poem either. I do like, however, the first line because it echos a crucial C.F.W. Walther quote that I recently read and used in my AP Lit. class:

C.F.W. Walther, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod’s first president, wrote a book called Law and Gospel. Arguably, it is the preeminent book on the important role and impact of the Law and Gospel. In his “Third Evening Lecture: on September 26, 1884” he quotes Luther,

“These two points must be made: The Law creates a thirst and leads us to hell; the Gospel, however, satisfies the thirst and leads to heaven. The Law states what we must do, but that we have fallen short of doing it, no matter how holy we may be. Thus it produces uncertainty in me and arouses this thirst.”

Walther follows this Luther quote with, “Such a thirsty person must do only one thing: Drink, receive the comfort of the Gospel. How a truly thirsty person is refreshed by even one small glass of water! But if he is not thirsty, you may pour glass after glass down his throat, and it won’t do him any good, it won’t refresh him."

Listen as Rev. Scott Murray of Memorial Lutheran Church in Houston, TX discusses a related topic, Gospel Reductionism on the March 25th broadcast of Issues, Etc.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


He's Joe College by day and AFlu by night. Yes, Left Field welcomes Andrew Fluegge.

Michigan’s performance in round one of the NCAA was like…
Michigan’s performance in the 1st round of the NCAA was like the now defunct LHN Mixer: nervous, under the radar, and wildly successful, yet most importantly…not happening again next year.
Michigan’s performance in the 2nd round of the NCAA was like the Homecoming dance: over-marketed, over-hyped, and severely disappointing; not to mention the referees made more calls than our walkie-talkie toting faculty.

How is the Wolverine food compared to the nutritious delicacies proffered at LHN? The University’s dining halls sport some of the most extensive international cuisine I have ever encountered. Unfortunately, I chose not to purchase a meal plan. So, most of my cooking involves a pot, boiled water, Spongebob noodles, and artificial powdered cheese mix; I guess anything is better than burrito day at the Mustang Café though.

What has been the most amusing statement uttered in class by professor or student? I don’t go to class, so I wouldn’t know.

The UofM campus is not noted for its conservative beliefs. Have there been any verbal-altercations? Just recently there was a parade of students using the tragic death of the Grand Valley student as a cheap medium for the legalization of marijuana. I couldn’t think of anything to clever say, so I went home and watched FOXNews. (Clarification: The young man was shot by police but did not die)

Please finish the following simile. Living with Chuck is like ________________.
Living with Chuck is like the voluminous $5 DVD bin at Wal-Mart: Disheveled, chaotic, and just generally peculiar, but if you keep digging around, a special treasure is uncovered, and that prospect always keeps you going back for more.

Bloggers across the nation are concerned. Do you have writer’s block or did you once again forget your password AND username? Just keeping everyone honest. Always be on the lookout. Plus, I sincerely want to get back into blogging.

What consumes more of your college life, writing papers or reading material for class so that you can write papers? The volume of reading material is much greater now than in high school, so reading takes up more of my time. Writing the papers is extremely important too, however. Whatever the case may be, be assured that I haven’t started until the day before it is due.

The LHN AP. Lit cronies are about to begin the epic Beowulf journey. Any advice?
Beowulf can be included in my all-time favorites from AP Literature. A few pieces of advice: Don’t be discouraged, be on the lookout for the lyrical translation, it’s a lot better than you might think- a totally different type of literature. I’m going to be selfless and not spoil anything, but stick with your gut when it comes to Beowulf’s characterization. Don’t let Mr. Brandt’s fence-sitting, selfish tactics change your mind.

Left Field Pop Flies:

Maize or Blue? Maize- an arrogant shade of yellow.
Louisville or Memphis? Louisville. Rick Pitino, enough said.
Bracketology or Marine Biology? Bracketology- imagine Dickie V, Save the Manatees, baby! I don’t think so…
Black Hole or Maize Rage? Surprisingly, the Black Hole. Check with Mr. Dumar, but it is impossible to directly observe a black hole, something Lutheran North is currently experiencing. In its prime, though, it was incredible. I’ve never been to the Maize Rage. I am a poor fan.
Forcier or Sheridan? 2010 commit from Inkster: 6’4, 200 lb., Dual-threat: Devin Gardner. Or Manny Harris.

English video projects or papers? Video projects gave me direct access to bagging big cookies and skipping class at will, because I had a video camera. Papers were more intellectually stimulating, interesting, and useful. I’ll go with papers, have to grow up sometime.

The NFL Combine: A New Way to Hire Teachers

“He threw hitches, slants, drags, curls, crosses, dips, comebacks, slots and posts. And he threw them well Thursday, completing 45 of 50. Matthew Stafford zipped the football with power and accuracy into a sturdy, quartering wind on the University of Georgia’s practice field,” wrote Lynn Henning of The Detroit News, describing Matthew Stafford’s recent performance in front of Lions coaching staff.

Somebody is going to draft this youngster out of Georgia partly on his performance during this workout. The NFL combine is a unique phenomenon. Team representatives chart how fast these potential draft picks can run 40 yards, how far these potential payroll players can blend, how high these potential employees can jump and how many double slants these potential money magnets can complete. Considering the millions of dollars at stake, considering the Lions’ 0-16 past, considering their looming future, there is a lot at stake for Matthew Stafford, for the Detroit Lions, for everyone.

So why not do the same when hiring teachers? Considering the future of these young men and women, considering the paltry results of too many schools, considering the invaluable worth of education, considering the declining math, science and reading scores, there is a lot at stake for students, for schools, for parents, for everyone.

An interview isn’t enough for teams that will invest millions into first round draft picks because the risk of failure is too great. Can you imagine drafting these athletes without watching any game films, without scouting any games, without attending any NFL workouts? If you did that you probably wouldn’t win a single game…oh, wait. I digress.

So instead of reading a resume and phoning sycophantic contacts, I say put your potential hires through an NFL-like experience. The typical combine has numerous stations evaluating skills deemed vital for the team’s success. Instead of stations, use rooms that represent skills effective teachers must possess.

Room 7:
Gather the most unruly hombres south of Hall Road and let the budding teacher enter the fray. Does screaming replace authority? Are detentions threatened but never given? Do curses surface? Are pages 203 –243 covered no matter what? Does the interviewee hand out a word-search while frantically searching the Help Wanted ads in Google? Or does he find methods that engage and challenge students? Does he demonstrate compassion and confidence? Does he remember what it was like to be an immature adolescent? Does he harness that energy while establishing and maintaining a classroom environment that demands, nurtures, challenges, invigorates?

Room 3:
Using a lesson plan from your best educator, lead the Potential Youth Nurturer PYN into Room 3 and just before closing the door whisper, “Teach what’s important”. What do you see as you peer from one side of the two-way mirror? Are ScornTron sheets handed out fifteen minutes later probing ever-important questions like, What year was the author born? What is the third word on line seven? What color is the main character’s coat? How many Bs are in Babar? Or does the PYN connect content with community by asking students to make literary, personal or global connections? Does the PYN ask students to demonstrate learning by applying concepts to ideas, works and experiences outside the classroom’s scope? Does the PYN intellectually challenge students in relevant, rigorous ways? Do questions work their way up the ladder of Bloom’s taxonomy or ignorantly sit on the first rung of recall?

The Assistant Principal’s Office:
Lead your gruntled, potential molder-of-young-lives – PMYL - into the assistant principal’s office where two very disgruntled parents wait, wanting to know why the new teacher gives so much homework. What reasons does PMYL give? Does he immediately play the authoritative because-that’s-how-I-teach card? Listen for his explanation. If it’s grounded in kill-and-drill philosophy, beware. Sharpen the pencil so you can write down names of other candidates. If his answer reveals a genuine and rigorous connection to learning, sharpen your pencil. You will need to get his social security number, address and other personal information for his contract.

Room 1:
Tell the potential onstage sage – POS - that it’s the first day of class and the students are excited about seeing their friends, excited about the first football game, excited about the Mixer Dance theme and excited about the cute transfer student. Excited about class? Well, that depends on how the POS handles day one. Monitor the closed-circuit classroom camera from your office to see the tone established on day one. Does POS attempt to scare kids into dropping the class or does POS reveal a firm command of every minute in an organized manner?

Room Switch:
Inform the prospective – PR - recruit the students he’s about to teach are the school’s brightest, teeming with potential Harvards, Yales, Michigans and MITs. The MCCs, MSUs and EIEIOs have all been expunged – nothing but the best. Press a lesson plan into his palms and whisper, “Make me proud.” What the recruit doesn’t know is these students are really leftovers from 118. Will he press autopilot and watch his classroom crash into a Lost island, never to be heard from again? Will he be at his creative and cognitive best to guide instruction and develop independent and critical thinking no matter the audience?

Room - Small Groups:
The only goal here is to use small groups to teach. Open the door and nudge Potential Teacher Person – PTP - into the room. How are groups formed? Are instructions and expectations of group behavior modeled? How is accountability created? Does the mayhem result in sharing of the ignorance? Do small groups become an excuse to finish the Christmas letter, last hour’s quiz? Does PTP engage discussion or update GradeBookDemon, FaceNovel, HisCorner and then whine about kids these days?

The juniors are taking tests so that leaves the remaining students sitting in class, ready to learn. Open the door for the Prospective Professional Educator – PPE – and let him teach. Does he call it a day, turn on ESPN and justify that if not every student is in class, learning isn’t valuable? Does he tell the educational refugees that it’s too much work to teach only the students that are in class? Perhaps PPE asks the students to debate an issue related to current classroom content. Perhaps PPE brings in some ancillary lesson that further strengthens current content being studied. Perhaps PPE contracts a severe case of Charles-I-Got-My-Money-Now-Out-My-Face Rogers-itis.

Before any contract is concocted, proffered or inked, the NFL combines require potential athletes to prove their worth.

Hiring teachers should be no different.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Any Reading Recommendations?

Next week I have a couple of days off from school. It's a welcomed respite.
Oh, I'm not frazzled, fraying or frustrated. It will simply be nice to have a couple of days off. Hopefully, the weather will be nice enough to get outside for a couple of Lakeside Loops on my bike. I have plenty of grading to complete so the time will be well spent.

However, with every vacation comes a pile of good reads. I always like to gather more books than I could ever read. It makes the vacation seem longer that it really is.

So far my book list has not reached epic lengths.

Teaching Law and Gospel by William Fischer .
I've read this several times and even had the opportunity to present it to Lutheran North's faculty. Recently, I dusted my old friend off and set it aside. It will be good to get reacquainted. An excerpt: "We can teach the law to our children, but that knowledge will not make them love their Lord nor move them to lead the life that pleases God. Why not? The apostle writes: "The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" II Corinthians 3:6

Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy by Gwyneth Cravens: I know, I know. I blogged about this earlier but it's time finish this fascinating read.

Literacy 2.0: The most recent issue of Educational Leadership. There are some fascinating reads in this issue: "The Importance of Deep Reading", "Are Digital Media Changing Language?". The best part of any reading experience is the opportunity to apply it to my classroom. This issue is teeming with potential.

If you have any recommendations, send them my way via Comments. Any suggestion that is used will receive a free autographed copy of Beowulf.

I've added Paul's letter to the Romans. This book in God's Holy Word contains my favorite text:

Romans 8: 37-39: No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lent: A sermon worth hearing

Reverend Borghardt of St. Mark Lutheran Church in Conroe Texas gave this Ash Wednesday sermon. The clarity and power of Christ is clear and strong.

Here are a couple of excerpts...

"Behold the Father’s love for you: Jesus who knew no sin has become sin for you. He became your punishment. He became your suffering. He became your beating. He became your flogging. He became your death.

Today, Jesus rescues you. He breaks into your world and like a child takes your face and turns it toward the Father. To tell you the hard word of Law. He has put ashes on your forehead. He’s reminded you of your death. Dust you are. Dust you will become.

But, your Heavenly Father has more in Lent. He has Jesus. Fix your eyes off you and bring them to the Cross. Watch Jesus making His Way to the cross for you through Lent!Watch what Jesus does. He did really completely fulfill the Law for you - every Law. He loved His Father above all things. He loved you as He loved Himself. He never sinned. Not once, not ever. And He did that not sinning for you.

Then, He took upon Himself your sins, your punishment, your beatings, your shame, even your death and suffered and died to free you from them. To wash your sins away - not with some false “it’s going to be better for you,” but by His holy precious blood and innocent suffering and innocent death. And all your sins died with Him. All your disobedience, all your transgression, all are forgiven. "

Listen to Reverend Borghardt's Sermon here.

Read Reverend Borghardt's sermon here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Preaching Christ

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” II Corinthians 1:3-4

We do not comfort those who are in affliction with our words, our wisdom our earthly understanding. We have the comfort of Christ, the comfort that comforts us, the Gospel message. It is this message, this Good News that we use to comfort those placed around us. Look around, there are plenty of people that need not just our temporal, earthly comfort but the eternal, heavenly comfort of Christ crucified. The comfort that our God has blessed us with, we give to those He has placed in our lives. The comfort of forgiveness is given to us in God’s Holy and living Word. The comfort of healing is given to us in the sacrament of Baptism where Christ enters our life and cleanses our sins, redeems us and gives us eternal life. The comfort of healing is given to us in sacrament of The Lord’s Supper where God gives us his Son's body and blood and the healing forgiveness that Christ won for us as He took on the sins of the world so we may rejoice in the eternal life granted to us.

I’m leery of overusing any word. However, God, through Paul’s text, assures us that the comfort we have through Christ heals all our afflictions and leaves us spotless, sinless, redeemed Children of God.

...and that's why I recommend this ten minute broadcast from Issues Etc.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Pondering Postman's Pontifications

"We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate...We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the old world some weeks nearer to the new; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad flapping American ear will be that Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough."
-from Walden, Henry David Thoreau, as quoted in the quintessential text all high school students and the parents of high school students must read, Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cap'n Crunch Decoder Ring

You don't need to be Fenton Hardy to figure this out. I offered my answer concerning last week's episode.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Tsol: DHARMA-like Encryption

Why there is nothing better than hunkering down into my favorite chair with a good read. Would there world were mine, I’d mandate such an important reading activity because it creates the opportunity to learn. Ben Ayliffe, Senior Nuclear Campaigner from Greenpeace UK, opposes nuclear power because he believe’s “it’s too little, too late to stop global warming.” Kill, destroy, decimate are all words used by many to articulate a naïve understanding of nuclear power including the waste produced by such power. John Kelly, a political scientist specializing in science and public policy, believes this waste can be safely deposited in the subseabed.

These are only a couple of nuggets o’ info. I recently discovered while reading Cravens’ book. My goal was to read this fascinating text in place of the once-inspiring, now-tiring television show, Lost. I think my time can be much better spent learning about the innumerable benefits of nuclear energy.
Oh, John Locke’s dead!
Oh, Kate’s frazzled because she thinks Aaron’s grandmother knows her secret.
Oh, no, Hugo hasn’t lost a pound since the show started and now he’s headed back to the island.
Oh, who cares? The writers have left too many questions unanswered; too many plot gaps and character conundrums that I no longer care.
“Hear the tolling of the bells, Iron bells! / What a world of solemn thought their monody compels.” Poe had it right because that tolling marks the end of the show and then of my allegiance.

On to life that matters. On to nuclear power.

“Nuclear power is unsafe and other alternative forms of energy should be used. What about solar power?” cry the fear mongers.

Cravens responds. “A nuclear power plant producing 1,000 megawatts takes up a third of a square mile. A wind farm would have to cover over two hundred square miles to obtain the same result, and a solar array over fifty square miles.” T. Boon Pickens may think wind farms and solar energy are great ideas until he sees them decimating his pristine landscape.

Common sense would seem to dictate that since 70% of the earth is covered in water, our energy needs can be quenched by this natural combination of one part oxygen and two parts hydrogen. One reason people fear nuclear energy is the potential for catastrophic tragedy.

“What if…” the mongers of fear query. Alright, let’s take this irrational fear, founded in hypothetical ponderings and contrast that with very real tragedy that happened in China in 1975 when the the Banqiao and Shimantan Reservoir Dams collapsed tragically endinig 145,000 lives, and decimating an estimated six million buildings. When the topic of safety surfaces in this discussion, facts must bob to the top while prejudice, steeped in and fueled by ignorance, must vanish.

Did I watch Lost? Like Jack and his Lost band of fugitives, you can find my answer in this encrypted post. Discover the encryption and give me your comment. The winner will receive an autographed copy of Beowulf: The Epic That Won't Die.