This summer has been the best summer of my life thus far. PERIOD!
It has been a summer of deep personal growth and an intense season of learning. As we prepare for another school year it is critical for each of us to reflect on our summer’s journeys and how they will shape our coming years’.
Here are the top five things I learned this summer and how they will influence the new school year:
- I REALLY enjoy learning new things…
This summer I’d taken on a new part-time job as a bartender at a newly opened Pizza Pub. This was a complete training on the job and I was fortunate to have a patient and grace-filled boss. Yet, after only a few nights I found myself memorizing the mixed drink recipes, I started digging into the chemistry behind the different cocktails, learning the sources and stories of our top shelf liquor, and on and on.
It has been exhilarating learning something so new and different. Then, I’ve also been stretching myself in our new shop challenging myself to work on various projects that have forced me to use our new equipment. This has been a little scary at times, but I’ve had great mentors who’ve come in and helped me find my bearing and comfort in safely using the new tools so I can share with my students this fall and spring.
- I need to connect meaningfully with others…
I’m an odd duck, I’m an extreme extrovert in contexts of small groups or one on one conversations. Yet, in groups larger than about five or six; I’m quite content sitting on the sideline and watching. This summer finally struck me on how much value I gain from the meaningful connections I make in these smaller groups and one on one interactions.
This summer I’ve had two different on site student interns working in our Ag Building. I cherished the opportunity to visit on a meaningful level with both A.J., our shop intern and Maddie, our office intern. Allowing them to share their desires for the life they want to live or grappling with the upcoming decisions life’s about to throw their way; it was in the midst of these conversations I realized how important it is for all of us to engage in these types of meaningful conversations.
This understanding of myself and others gave me the confidence to do something way out of my comfort zone. Typically, each year I go on a backpacking trip with a group of guys to do a loop trail. This year everyone had plans suddenly change and I was left alone. I visited with Annelle about striking it out alone and as long as I did just day hikes she’d feel comfortable with me going solo.
With no plans, I picked a random town in Colorado or rather…a random town of Colorado picked me. Marble, Colorado. I didn’t know a soul in Marble, but I decided to embed myself within the community and learn as much as I could from the locals, the history, and the culture of this little mountain town.
The experience was scary and exhilarating. With no schedule or agenda it allowed me the opportunity to meaningfully connect with locals, fellow adventurers, or passing through artists. The town was no more than a hundred of fifty (true locals) with numbers near 400 during the summer season. Then I happened to come the week of the Marble Symposium, which is an international gathering of marble artists from around the world who literally get together for a full week and carve marble together. I learned so much and interacted with artists from ALL OVER the world!
I know I freaked out some of the locals (at first), I could see them thinking who is this guy who keeps showing up at all the local joints day in and day out. Engaging one on one with anyone who was open to visiting. By the end of the week, however, even the locals at the coffee shop were opening up and sharing “locals-only” hiking trails that were unmarked, leading to spectacular scenery that was devoid of anyone else. They shared these little local secrets not because I asked, but because they shared how much they appreciated my desire to learn about them before I asked for anything in return.
I saw it played out numerous times, tourists barging into the coffee shop, “Hey, can you tell me about the roads to (insert name of a local waterfall).” They’d tell them, unaware that I got directions to an unmarked waterfall that was 10 times more beautiful, less than a five minute walk out of town. We often are so absorbed in our own little bubbles that we don’t credit, value, or even acknowledge the stories of the ones who’ve lived all their lives in the places we visit. This vacation was less about the sites I was going to see and all about the people I would meet; I was sure glad the other guys had to bail on our backpacking trip!
- Cultivating local professional development partnerships is the way to go!
Besides my week long trip to Colorado, I was a home body all summer. This was honestly great; especially since last summer I was home for a total of 10 days…not fun or relaxing. Therefore, this summer I challenged myself in developing a local professional development plan that would tap into our local resources. Within just a few miles of my school I found a machinist who was willing to mentor me through a few projects, a former shop teacher and retired cabinet maker, and a wood turner craftsman! These local experts spent hours one on one with me, honing my skills, providing immediate feedback, and shared a willingness to come watch me facilitate a class on those skills and provide further feedback.
What beats out all the other professional development I had traveled all over the country for with this type of local PD, was that I got in-depth training, they are a continual resource for our program and students, and we just added three new advocates for our program and the work we are doing with young people. There are tremendous professional development opportunities all over the place, but never overlook the local expertise that can be found in our communities. They have a desire to share and we are tasked in allowing others to feel a sense of value and contribution.
- My identity is more than my profession…
Often I equated my identity directly, to being a teacher. This summer was important in my development that I frankly realized that I’ve only been a teacher for a short sliver of my life; in addition, I’m on contract as a teacher for “186 days” (we all know that educators put in many more days than just what’s on contract), there are 365 days in the year! So, it begged the question who am I those other days?
Recognizing that I have more to offer this world, than just being an Agriculture teacher may seem like an obvious well no duh… Yet, honestly when someone spoke with me I think they would have struggled to see anything else beyond my passion for the agriculture program I guide. Visiting with others this summer I’ve been intentional about sharing the other aspects of my life first. My family, my passion for writing, my excitement in drawing connections to people I meet; these are just the tip of the iceberg! Owning these other aspects of my identity, has helped me feel refreshed about my purpose and role in education.
- God wants to use us…
Prior to this summer I would always say that everything I did was for the glory of God. Yet, saying it was simply not actually, doing it or living it out! This summer I’ve been intentional about quieting my soul and listening for the direction of the Lord. Doing this and trusting the nudging has led to some spectacular encounters this summer; all by the Lord’s doing.
God doesn’t need us, but he wants us! God wants us to act in the lives of others, God wants us to bless others and facilitate the movement of the holy spirit. God wants to use us! When I released fear, walls began tumbling down. During my trip to Marble, I opened myself entirely to the Lord’s leading, I’ve captured everything in my journal from the happenings of the week because some encounters were unbelievable!
One encounter is especially sheared in my mind. I met a marble artist from Mexico one morning at the coffee shop, we hit it off; I could sense the passion in his sprit, but also a sense of inadequacy. As he opened up more, he shared about how his family (several master craftsmen) were quick to interject and provide critical feedback on his style at home. He wanted to escape it. Yet, he came here to see others who were so far advanced in their own marble carving experience he expressed deep reservations about him being there.
That night, while sleeping I was awoken and began searching scripture, I had no idea what I was trying to find, but I had the weight of my artist friend on my heart. Exodus 35:30-33 was where the Lord took me:
30 Then Moses said to the people of Israel, “See the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, 32 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, 33 in cutting stones for setting and in carving wood, for working in every skilled craft.
I felt the leading I was supposed to share this passage and a blessing to my friend. Resistant would be an understatement. I immediately began expressing in my mind reasons for why this would be impossible, it would be awkward, what happens if he’s like nope get away from me weirdo, what happens if the locals think I’ve completely lost it. So with those selfish fears in my heart I went to the morning coffee shop.
There waiting for me was my friend. Gosh, I was like Lord why? Why are you convicting my spirit to share this with him? Grabbed my coffee sat with him and we chatted for a brief time. Then He stood up and was preparing to leave. I let him leave. Yep, you sure bet I did. I’m not going to be that guy, no sir. It wasn’t more than ten minutes later, he came back!! He had almost forgotten to pay for his coffee.
This time I gave chase when he left again. Outside the coffee shop beside my car I shared with him the scripture and blessing the Lord wanted me to pass on to him. I wasn’t prepared for what happened next, he was crying and I was tearing up, he shared that he had just given his life to the Lord a year ago and didn’t know if the Lord was in his decision to pursue this as he had so much rejection from his family and personal fears. The blessing he described was a God sent, exactly what he needed for this moment.
Here’s what I found out…we have no idea what others really need, but God does. If he spurs us for others, let’s do it! My selfish, self-concern, and pride almost had me withheld what the Lord wanted to share into this man’s life! God wants to use us…let him move and let us give chase!
This summer is exactly what the doctor ordered! It was filled with humbling growth, endless learning, and passionate refueling. Eager, yes, EAGER; is how I have described the coming school year.
Let us be eager to serve one another; eager to lift each other in our burdens, sorrows, and joys; eager to share love and blessings with one another. Eager to listen and eager to ACT on behalf of others and the Lord!
May each of our new school year’s begin with great great hope and peace! Take care friends!