Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Exponents

I'm pretty proud of today's lesson. It was the first time I designed a fully student-directed lesson. We're learning some laws of exponents, laws like what you can do when they've got common bases, or if you've got an exponent on an exponent:
3^5 * 3^2 = 3^7
3^5 / 3^2 = 3^3
(3^2)^5 = 3^10
for example. And I think the students really got it.

I broke them into groups of threes and fours and gave them three different problems that, in being worked out, hint at the above listed laws. It was great to see them working together, debating their answers, enthusiastically sharing their discoveries with each other, and doing all those synergistic things that you can generate in student-led, group-structured activities. (I'm also starting to see a lot of that in their work with integer operations, and especially on last Friday's lesson on the various effects of negative signs on exponents.) Being early into my second year teaching, I know I'm still pretty much a novice at the whole thing, but it's good to see that I'm on the right track to really mature pedagogy.

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I've been reading a lot of Jack lately and I will be for the next couple months. It's really refreshing in a "getting back to the basics" sort of way. Finished a really worthwhile biography on Mr. Lewis last weekend, and I've started reading through Mere Christianity for probably my fourth time. It's interesting, on a personal level, to see how I've matured intellectually over the past six years since my first taste of Lewis. Whereas I once honestly (innocently) considered whether or not C.S. Lewis' work might be inspired in a way not much different than the Bible, I find now I have a healthy critical distance between Lewis' beliefs and my own. Much more, I'm able to map out the weaknesses and strengths of Lewis' arguments in ways that previously escaped the weaker reasoning of my freshman/sophomore years.

I'm finding some new angles and questions for Lewis, too. For example, What is the compatibility of Lewis' logic with the twenty-first century man in light of the linguistic turn in contemporary philosophy to which he was rather self-consciously immune? And, Might it be valuable for Covenant Theologians to import Lewis' description of the "Law of Nature" (as he calls it) and use such language in elaborating the principals of the Covenant of Works? Further, Lewis' dealings with Christian dogma, especially with regards to theories of atonement, share a curious similarity to remarks made my men of FV/NPP sorts. Is this something we can attribute to the common influence of Anglicanism? Or is it a coincidence?

Anyway, I'll be (re-)reading through a lot of the Lewissian corpus over the next few months, and honestly, I'm pretty happy about it. Lewis, Wright, and Leithart being my three favorite authors, being forced to spend time with works I cherish and have long cherished is hardly a school assignment I'll be complaining about.

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Unrelated: That last post wasn't intended to be about anyone but me, nor should it be read as about anything but my own shameful spiritual struggles. Just in case there was any question about that. Also, it was written (with great intention) rather vaguely. Be careful about assuming you get the point. There's none but myself who should take offense to what was written there.

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Additionally unrelated: I've been meaning to make it a comment somewhere that all reductio ad absurdem arguments are (strictly speaking) inherently "reductionistic." Hence, the "reductio." So let's all be much more careful about what we mean by pointing out an interlocutor's "reductionistic" reasoning as if it were clearly a flaw. To illustrate that, when you strip away (i.e., "reduce") the pomp and trite argumentative garb of another's position to its plain and simple absurdity, you are not failing to be reasonable. Your opponent is simply failing to be honest.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

How's it going?

Well, for starters, the work is so much easier this year. I've got a significantly larger bit of control over the classroom, coupled with a better group of kids. I know a bit more about what I need to teach and how to get it done. I know how to keep the kids moving and I'm really enjoying it.

Also, the students are really enjoying it. Many of my students are coming to class with focus and even a bit of zeal. I've gotten so comfortable with what I'm doing that I'm able to entertain the kids a bit, laying on pretty thickly a split-personality of militaristic discipline and haphazard, sarcastic rambling.

Additionally, I'm no longer teaching just Pre-Algebra (which is the advanced curriculum for 7th grade), but I'm additionally teaching a standard Math 2 course, and an Intensive (read: remedial) Math course. This means that instead of planning for one class, I plan for three. I don't prefer this, but it's really not that overwhelming and, professionally, I'm sure it's good for me to be stretched. (Additionally, I've got the added challenge of a Puerto Rican girl who speaks very little English.)

I've taken on some extra duties. I'm now the person responsible for organizing and maintinaing data on my team and I represent us at a shared decision making committee called "Senate." Further, I've been appointed by the principal to lead an "Action Team" that deals with schoolwide concerns over the way data is collected, shared, and utilized at our school.

It's been fun. Also, my classroom looks pretty awesome this year. I get lots of compliments. (I've even worked in some Wendell Berry and Vern Poythress posters - shhh! Don't tell.)

...

Cathleen and I have visited all the churches that we are currently considering joining and we are now making second round visits. We've eliminated at least one choice from our list of six. So in about six weeks we will be making a choice about which church we'd like to start visiting on a regular basis. If it goes well, we could have a church home by Thanksgiving, or at the very latest, Christmas - which would be nice.

Ideally, I think I would really enjoy it if we ended up at a high-church ACNA Cathedral with a large population with a diverse demographic make-up. Alas - no such church seems to exist in Jacksonville. So no matter where we end up, there will always be something for me to whine about. Oh well.

Settling though I will be - actually, no matter what, both Cathleen and I will be settling for something - I really am looking forward to normalizing my religious life. Frankly, and to the point, I feel like over the past couple years, I've become increasingly malnourished, spiritually speaking. It's not a good thing either. I've come to hate pietism so much, that I have additionally grown to resent "piety" as well. I feel as though much of the confidence and (for lack of a better word) obsession I've had with Christianity and such has waned for want of not being so publically abrasive. This is in part due to a personal lack of courage on my part, combined with a cautious bit of indifference stirred by my own simple-mindedness mixed with a saturation of learning.

But what I really mean to say is that, I truly do miss those days, those nine months or so I spent at an Anglo-Catholic APA Cathedral, wherein such time I grew more as a believer than I think I ever have. Circumstances beyond my control ripped me from that situation, but I still remember the height of my faith in those days: I remember how, for the first time in my life, I would be thinking all Saturday evening, while I'm closing up a Starbucks, mopping floors at midnight, thinking with actual joy in my heart about the goodness to come when I wake in the morning. I still remember (I remember this whenever I take a bike ride) the Sunday morning bike rides to church, listening to Aaron Weiss guide me with his sad, sad songs, all the way to the House of the Lord. Much more, I remember the pleasantry of hearing week after week that my sins were forgiven and I, dog that I am, have been made welcome to sup with the Lord. I remember how it would nearly bring me to tears to sing hymns as the Holy Gospel would interrupt our song to tell us of our Lord Christ, only to be followed by the second half of our song. And I certainly - most certainly - remember the soaring of my baptized heart as we would, on high occassions, not merely confess, but sing the Nicene Creed, genuflecting at the appropriate parts. Never before in my life did everything I had been studying come together so harmoniously, suddenly making sense of all the things that previously had been mere abstractions to me. There was no longer any division in my heart between liturgy and life, and the worship of the Lord so stirred my passions that I would sing the various anthems of Christian worship all week long, unashamed to chant "It is very meet, right and our bounden duty, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto thee. O Lord, Holy Father..." while making lattes and washing dishes.

But Judaizers stripped me of that one glimmer of the Holy Spirit in my twenty-something years, and I ended up instead spending the next two years under the scrutiny of those less interested in the visio beata than myself. (This is too harsh, but bear with me dear reader, as I am only ranting.)

The bottom line is, I was in heaven for a time, and it's been my mission ever since to get back there. But until such a time, if I truly make the Lord my food and drink, then I truly must starve without him. My hope is that, in our quest for a church, I can find once again that sustenance.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Video Meditation on the Lord's Supper

This is why one of the primary criteria Cathleen and I have chosen for our next church is, at the very least, bi-weekly communion:
[source]