The Most Under Appreciated Occupation

Posted January 15, 2017 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, coaching, love, Parenting, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           January 15, 2017

                              

There are a number of educators in my family. My dad taught high school agricultural science for a year in Kentucky before family demands caused him to pursue a different career path. His mom, my Granny Wolfe, was a teacher. My sister and brother-in-law were both teachers, and in the last several years of her career my sister was really a teacher of teachers. I’m married to a wonderful woman who taught pre-school deaf children before we were married. She had graduated from Texas Christian University with a degree in deaf education. One of her sisters was in vocational education for close to twenty years, and now my oldest daughter, Kecia, is in her twelfth year of teaching fourth grade.

Back in the mid-nineties I served on the school board of the Mason, Michigan school system. In that capacity, two years of which I served as President, I learned the challenges of being a quality school system and the daunting challenges of teachers. Now I’m a substitute teacher, and about to start my second week as a long-term substitute in a seventh grade social studies class.

What I’ve discovered is that teaching is the most under-appreciated occupation in our nation. Others may disagree with me, based on their observations and circumstances. I won’t debate the situation with them. From my perspective, however, a teacher is like a person who is asked to build a mansion with a pile of sticks, a bag of nails, and a hammer…and to do it quickly and with quality!

A teacher is a counselor…for the student who comes to school dealing with the fact that her parents are divorcing…and for the student whose dog just got hit by a car the night before.

A teacher is a listener…for the classroom full of students who all want to tell her what they did over Spring Break…and the student who needs to share what someone had said to her in the cafeteria at lunch that was hurtful.

A teacher is an evaluator…of the research papers turned in by a hundred and twenty students, tasked with the responsibility of evaluating who made a determined effort and who didn’t, who gave their best and who gave the minimum.

A teacher is a presenter…of subject matter that must be informative, understandable, and interesting. The challenge of educating the gaming and social media generation demands creativeness and a number of ways to communicate the material.

A teacher is asked to prepare students for state assessment tests and expected to have their students produce great scores…even though they have no control over such factors as home environment, limited resources of a family such as food and clothing, and emotional issues that effect a student’s ability to perform well.

A teacher is asked to participate in a number of ways outside of the classroom…such as meeting with the other teachers of their subject matter, school staff meetings, training meetings, team meetings, support school functions such as concerts, games, dances, and fundraising efforts.

A teacher is expected to continue his education…learning the latest in curriculum material, the updated technology, the new school procedures, and also know what it is that his students are interested in.

A teacher is expected to be innovative…thinking beyond the box even though most of her school day deals with stuff that is in the box, developing new and better ways of teaching old things.

A teacher has a never-ending lists of tasks to complete…replying to parent emails, meeting with students who need a bit more help in understanding the subject matter, grading papers, entering grades, contacting parents about their child’s classroom behavior, doing bus duty, doing cafeteria lunch duty, cleaning the room, communicating with the administration, and trying to get a few hours of sleep each night.

A teacher is a planner….of the classroom presentations weeks from now, putting lesson plans together way ahead of time in case he catches one of the numerous illnesses that his students have been freely passing around.

A teacher is underpaid, but passionate about her opportunity to influence lives.

A teacher is a difference maker. When I look back at my school years and also years of college and seminary training there are numerous teachers and professors who still are very memorable in my memory. They challenged me, changed me and motivated me to be someone who lived a life of purpose.

So back to my statement! Teachers make up the most under appreciated occupation…and yet, perhaps, they make the biggest difference!

Going Back To Class…as The Teacher

Posted January 14, 2017 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, coaching, Freedom, Humor, Pastor, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          January 14, 2017

                                  

My Great Aunt Lizzie took art classes at her local community college when she was 96. I still have one of the canvas paintings that she created- a picture of the log cabin she lived in when she was a child!

I went back to school this week, also…at the age of 62 years and 8 months! The difference is that I was the teacher in classrooms full of 7th Graders who took the huge task upon themselves of teaching the teacher.

I did not realize that “7th Grade” qualifies as a foreign language. This week I gave them an assignment that involved making a brief presentation in front of the class about who each of them is…interests, background, hobbies, etc. Most 7th Graders are wired! They are into gaming, YouTube, social media, and their friends. After each presentation I allowed the class to ask some clarifying questions about the insights the presenter had given about their life.

Questions like:

“What’s your favorite video game? What level are you on at before mentioned video game?”

    “Who are your favorite YouTubers?” 

    “Who is your favorite character in Harry Potter?

    “What’s your favorite Drake song?”

    The education came in the answers. On the chalk board at the front of the classroom I had put two headings: Don’t Know! and Know. Under each heading I had drawn lines. To begin the week I had two lines underneath the “Know” column. It was to let the students know that there was very little that I knew. Worded another way, I was pretty much clueless about this teaching thing! Under the “Don’t Know” heading I had two columns of about a dozen lines each. As the presentations took place the students noticed that once in a while I would take the two steps to the board and add another line of something new that I had just discovered that I didn’t know.

Those discovered unknowns usually were new language terms of the “Seventh-ish” language. I’m just glad I won’t be tested on it next week!

I need to go to Best Buy and browse the video game section. I’m still more familiar with “Baywatch” than I am with “Overwatch”. “Titan Fall”…ahhh, clueless! I’ve heard of Madden 17, but I haven’t played it. I’m from the generation of kids who played Electric Football, that unusual game where you lined up the players on a tabletop football field, turned the power on and watched them scatter all over the place like out-of-control ants. It was a game that was tortuous to play, and after a couple of months got crammed into the back of the closet.

I was also taught this week by this squadron of 120 students that there are a number of 7th Graders who are dealing with some deep hurts and pains. There’s a lot of uncertainty about what is and what will be. Gaming systems, music interests, and YouTube are safe topics to dwell on, as opposed to split families, parents being deployed, and depression. In that respect, 7th Graders haven’t changed. Forty years ago when I was their age I was dealing with the confusion of adolescence, the stigma of being the shortest student in my whole grade, and being the new kid in a school where just about everyone already had their set of friends. I’m thankful to this day for Terry Kopchak and Mike Bowman who saw me as the new kid who needed some friends. My education this week taught me that in a world of rapid change and new terminology some things don’t change.

The good news is that we (the 7th Grade squadron and me) journeyed together well this week. Being a retired pastor I’ve always been the shepherd, but this week I was more like the sheep with 120 guiding shepherds keeping me under control and pointed in the right direction.

Becoming the Student Again…as the Teacher

Posted January 8, 2017 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, Freedom, Humor, Parenting, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        January 8, 2017

                             

    Tomorrow I begin a long-term substitute teaching position, traveling with a pack of seventh grade adventurers through Sub-Saharan Africa for the next couple of weeks. In preparation I went to the public library and checked out a bunch of books, including Fodor’s The Complete Guide to African Safaris! Of all the continents Africa is the one I know the least about…and thus, I will be the “lead student” amongst a roomful of students in the discovery process.

I grew up in a time of black-and-white box TV sets on which I watched two Saturday morning shows each week: “Tarzan” and “Jungle Jim.” Those adventure shows gave me a very distorted view of the Dark Continent. I thought most of the male inhabitants ran around in loincloths. I had a roommate in my years of seminary training who frequently walked around campus in a loincloth. He even performed our wedding ceremony in 1979…in a suit though!

So I enter the jungle of a new classroom Monday morning on a learning safari!

I’m thinking of making a trip to Barnes and Noble today to see if they have a CliffsNotes book on Long-Term Substitute Teaching! I can just envision how it might begin: 1) Be on time! 2) Make sure you’re zipped! 3) Don’t pick your nose! 4) Don’t be afraid! They won’t eat you!

I’m looking forward to my new education. I’m replacing a great teacher. The worst thing I could do would be to make social studies bland and a daily torture. I remember the history class I had my junior year of high school. We were arranged alphabetically in rows and Betsy Wolfe was in front of me. I can’t tell you how many days I got a few snooze moments as I hid behind Betsy. I was totally bored by American History at that point!

And then when I was a sophomore in college I took an American History class one term, taught by a professor named Richard Jennison. It was the only class I ever took that he taught, but he made history come alive. Wherever that spark of interest was within me, he ignited it for U.S. History. The next year I switched majors and become a history major. I look back at that and realize that Professor Jennison was the change agent in my life.

As I begin this new adventure I’m hoping I’ll come alongside kids in an adventure of learning, but, most of all, I don’t want any students to be like I was in that high school history class…hiding behind Betsy Wolfe with my eyes closed!

Confusing American and Sports History

Posted January 7, 2017 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, Freedom, Humor, Nation, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      January 7, 2017

                                 

My substitute teaching gig takes a new turn next week. I begin a long-term substitute teaching position at the middle school I have coached basketball and football at for the past 15 years.

7th Grade Social Studies! I’m trying to think what I learned in 7th Grade Social Studies. All I can remember is sitting beside Becky Beckwith, a cute blonde whose brother played on the Williamstown, West Virginia varsity basketball team. I had a hard time focusing on the Civil War with Becky sitting to my right.

Now I’ll be teaching 7th Graders!

I’m using this weekend to bone up on my American History. In the 50 years (Say it ain’t so!) since I was a 7th Grader I’ve pumped a lot of history into my brain…sports history that is! Now I have to untangle the two spools of thread.

When I think of Patriots I go right to Babe Parilli, quarterback of the Boston Patriots of the old American Football League, and graduate of the University of Kentucky when it was coached by Bear Bryant.

If a student asks me how many Senators there are I may correct him and say “were!” The Washington Senators, perpetual cellar dwellers of the American League. One sports columnist made the statement, “Washington: first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.” I’ll be able to tell the student that the Minnesota Twins exist because of the Washington Senators.

When we get to the Civil War and start talking about the Yankees I’ll have to be careful to not talk about the New York Yankees who began playing at the old Polo Grounds in New York. My disdain for the Yankees might emerge. I’m not sure how I got to the point of despising the Bronx Bombers so much. After all, my Topps ’67 and ’68 Mickey Mantle baseball cards were my most valued possessions. I’ll have to be careful when a student asks me about the biggest obstacle for the Yankees to not reply “the Red Sox!”

The subject of “oil” comes up and I may immediately go to the Houston Oilers and their running back Earl Campbell, or amaze the students with the facts that George Blanda played for the Oilers before he became an Oakland Raider. I may even transition into the Oilers transition to become the Tennessee Titans.

The subject of George Washington comes up and I’ll talk about the George Washington University Colonels basketball team and playing in the Atlantic 10 conference with teams like the Richmond Spiders and the Rhode Island Rams.

If we get to the California Gold Rush I’ll easily transition into the San Francisco 49’ers, and the days of Joe Montana and Steve Young, Jerry Rice and Dwight Clark. I’ll probably get caught up in the moment and start talking about Montana’s game-winning TD drive against the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII.

I’ll just have to be careful as I hold the minds of these thirteen year olds in my hands. At the end of my teaching when someone asks them who some of the Trailblazers were of American History I don’t want them to say Clyde Drexler and Bill Walton…although they’d be right!

Changing the ‘6’ to a ‘7’!

Posted January 5, 2017 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, Christianity, Community, Death, Faith, Humor, Pastor, Story, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

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                                                                                       January 5, 2017

                                     

    Perhaps you’re like me in some way! I know, I know, you’re NOT like me in most ways. Thank God! You probably don’t have your personal “blankie” that you still sleep with even though it looks like the dog chewed on it…for years! You probably don’t pronounce the days of the week with an ending syllable that sounds more like “dey” instead of “day.” And…I’m being vulnerable here…you probably don’t sleep with one sock on (usually the left) and one sock off!

But there is one way that I’m guessing you have been walking in the same footprints as I have the last few days. When I write a personal check I am still in the 2016 mindset. I’m having a hard time transitioning from the 6 to the 7. Even when I dated today’s blog post I began with 2016! About the time February rolls around I’ll get the hang of it…maybe!

Maybe you’re one of those that has his/her total act together and you’re able to change your life situations as easily as a Mustang stick shift. Plus you’ve never had a cavity, or anything below an “A”, have low cholesterol, can build that piece of furniture from Ikea without using the directions, and don’t snore!

For the rest of us, however, there are certain things in life that change that we struggle with. The calendar year is one thing, but, quite frankly, I am a creature of habit. I almost always get the Pike Place blend coffee at Starbucks, sit on the same stool for about the same amount of time. Even though I am a retired pastor it still feels weird to not be preaching on a Sunday morning (I do speak 2-3 times a month!). It feels really weird to have my Saturday nights freed up and not be honing the Sunday message.

For me routine is comfortable. Even going to Sunday morning worship is a comfortable routine for me…and it’s okay to be involved in some things that are comfortable and comforting. Life has enough twists and turns to it, plenty of gut-wrenching times that are discomforting and disconcerting. God doesn’t expect his children to be masochists who go looking for pain. Comfort is a part of the journey.

There will be things that I encounter this year that will cause my insides to tighten up, uncomfortable changes that are necessary and unwelcome news that bring me to tears, but I walk ahead with the One who walks close beside.

I write these words at a time that my dad is in St. Mary’s Hospital in Huntington, West Virginia. He’s had a tough week. He ’s also 88 with a history of heart episodes. As a family we know that he could live another few years…or not live to be 89 in mid-June. We are thankful for what has been, but we know that “tearful change” will come someday.

A year ago I changed from being a pastor to being a “retired pastor.” In recent months I’ve changed from being a retired pastor to being a substitute teacher who does pulpit supply. I was ready for the first change and, like a kid finally tall enough to ride the roller coaster, excited about the second.

Figuratively speaking, some days I prefer the calmness of the “Lazy River” ride, and some days I’m pumped for the heart-racing Magnum at Cedar Point. In other words, some days I just want life to be the same as it has been, and on other days I’m ready for a new twist and experience. Some days I just want to sit in Starbucks and drink four cups of coffee (free refills, mind you!), and other days I’m ready to take on a class of bouncing first-graders.

Change and challenges will come whether I’m ready for them or not.

That reminds me! I need to change the furnace filter when I get home! There…that’s probably another way you’re like me!

GoReadMe

Posted December 30, 2016 by wordsfromww
Categories: Christianity, Freedom, Humor, Pastor, Story, The Church, Uncategorized

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                                                                                   December 30, 2016

                                          

I’m thinking of a new venture called “GoReadMe.com“. It would be completely self-serving and ego-stroking in a culture that is self-serving and ego-stroking. The purpose would be to increase reader traffic at my “WordsfromWW.com” blog.

I got the idea in my sleep last night. Well, actually it came about the time my senior citizen body took a bathroom break from actually sleeping. I figured that if “gofundme.com” can raise over 3 billion dollars for special causes, perhaps a new “GoReadMe.com” might greatly multiply the viewership of the “Wolfe words” I hammer out.

Sounds crazy, I know, but a “GoFundMe” cause set up to help Betty White survive 2016 has raised almost $7,000 so far! What??? I’m not sure what happens to her on January 1, 2017. Perhaps a new cause will emerge to finance another year of survival for her.

On “GoReadMe” I could develop categories such as “Non-sensical”, “spiritually uplifting”, “for substitute teachers”, “family reminiscing”, and…”other.” Or perhaps, like when we would go to buy a new household appliance or television and then get the warranty pitch from the salesman…”This may have been assembled on a Monday when the workers were still hungover from the weekend. You never know, so you might want to purchase a warranty to protect yourself!” Maybe my categories would be the seven days of the week, because…you never know!

Bottom line…I am totally clueless about how to attract people to read my writings. If you have any ideas, please let me know! In a world that is wordy, getting more readership feels kind of like the owner of a restaurant attracting more customers so he can stay in business.

And please…please…please…I do not want someone to start a “GoFundMe” campaign to help Bill Wolfe survive 2017! I know Betty and I have the same initials and all, but…NO!

Year End Review

Posted December 29, 2016 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, Christianity, coaching, Humor, marriage, Pastor, Story, The Church, Uncategorized

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                                                                                   December 29, 2016

                                           

Most of us have gone through that white knuckle, anxiety-raising experience called “our evaluation.” For some it’s termed “job performance” and for others it’s the “year end review.” Whatever it was called most of us dreaded it with a passion, even though it usually ended up being a positive experience. I still remember the first evaluation I received when I was the very, very part-time youth director at First Baptist Church in Marseilles, Illinois. The pastor gave it to me and I thought it was totally unfair. My seminary professor who read the evaluation commented to me, “Sounds like he doesn’t care for you too much!” Perhaps that experience put the dread of evaluations in me. Funny thing is that the young people in that first youth group taught me a lot, and allowed me to figure out things. Forty years later I’m Facebook friends with a couple of them as we continue our journey, but from different parts of the country.

I’ve received evaluations that have helped me focus on areas of weakness and allowed me to become more grounded; and I’ve received evaluations that left me feeling defeated and deflated.

BUT now I’m retired! So who does my evaluation? There’s a few people who I’m sure would willingly volunteer, but…NO!

I guess it’s…ME! I guess I’m the one my evaluation falls to. Oh, I suppose Carol will continue to evaluate me in some ways, but that’s on a daily basis! Looking back at my first year of retirement after 36 and 1/2 years of full-time pastoral ministry means that I get to be my own judge. I have the honor of determining the good, the bad, and the ugly.

So here goes!

Needs Improvement- 

Time in The Word- Interesting that I thought I would have more time reading the Bible this past year, but it didn’t happen! I gleaned many things from it, but not nearly as many as I thought I would. No excuses or soppy-sounding reasons! It was just one of those things that didn’t happen enough. Hoping the coming year brings improvement here.

Time in Theological Reading- Pretty much like I just said above. My hope as I entered 2016 was to read some of those books of theology that have been in my personal library for…ever! Moltmann, Barth, Kung, Pannenberg…they’re all still there…staring at me with dusty covers!

Visits to the YMCA- Our monthly membership fee keeps going up and my number of visits keep going down. Playing basketball with “old farts” at 6 A.M. isn’t as likely to get me out of bed as much as it used to!

Average-

Since I’m evaluating myself I have the option of not putting anything as average. Seriously, the only thing I can think of as being average are the sack lunches I take to school when I substitute teach- peanut butter and honey on wheat bread, with a baggie of carrots and grapes, and a bottle of water…every day! TYPICAL would be a better word to describe most of my life. I go to bed about the same time each night, read at bedtime, sit on the same Starbucks stool, drink the same blend of coffee, play the same people over and over again in “Words With Friends”, type with the same three fingers (Notice I said “3!” One on my right hand and two on my left!), and watch the same TV shows week after week (mostly DVR’ed)…Elementary, Criminal Minds, and Modern Family.

Doing Well- 

Writing and Creativity- Today is the 167th posting on my “Words from WW” blog this year. Viewership this year increased by almost 30%. Feedback has been good, and I never seem to have a shortage of subject matter. I’m thinking about a book sometime entitled From My Stool At Starbucks. That’s where I write almost all of my blog posts…the end stool, mind you, at the right end of the counter that looks out at Pike’s Peak. Yesterday I came by Starbucks and my stool was taken, and like an old geezer set in his ways…I went back home! On the other side of things, I’m about 35,000 words into a novel, but I almost always do my novel writing at the public library! Weird, but productive! Carol thinks I have a girlfriend who works at the library.

Pastoring- I’ve transitioned, along with my friend Steve Wamberg, into being the unofficial pastors of First Baptist Church in Simla, Colorado. I say “unofficial”, but they even call be Pastor Bill now. I even received a mailing from our denomination’s region office last week inviting me to a conference in February that deals with pastoring the small church. Understand that all I’ve done so far is preach 2-3 Sundays a month, and lead the church in a couple of planning sessions as Steve and I help them figure out the future. I will probably never officially be pastor, but they see the two of us that way. And, quite frankly, I thoroughly enjoy the people there. They are great people who love the Lord and each other. It has allowed me to fall in love with the church again!

Coaching and Substitute teaching- I am extremely blessed to coach three different middle school teams…and to get paid to do it, and to mostly substitute teach middle school students. I love it, love it, love it! An added plus is all the writing material I receive from entering this world of adolescents. It’s like watching a new episode of The Wonder Years every day!

Spiritual Growth- This is a hard one for me to self-evaluate. Two of my best friends, Roger Mollenkamp and Steve Wamberg, continue to be my peer supports. We meet every other Friday at Starbucks for coffee, conversation, and each one of us has begun reading the book Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. I seem to be more grounded, and on a daily discovery of what God has me in the midst of. My writing is often a prime way for me to ponder and pound out on the keyboard what it is that God is saying to me. I also continue to be in a group of pastors called our “TIM group”…Together In Ministry…that meets monthly for study, sharing, lunch, and prayer. Great group! These two groups that I am a part of continue to challenge me and support me in my spiritual journey.

Frame of Mind and Attitude- Carol gets to evaluate me on this one. She has said, and told others, that I am much more relaxed and less stressed. My annoyances are now more with achy joints and cranky knees. Carol would tell anyone who wanted to hear that this past year has been a good year for me. Four vacations together: road trips to Arizona and Ohio, another trip by plane to Arizona, and an awesome trip to Hawaii. Frequent trips together to places like Target and King Soopers- something we didn’t do as much when we were both still working. In other words, we are mostly enjoying our journey into the world of the elderly!

Year End Evaluation- Keep on doing what I’ve been doing…just better! Value family and friends, for they are the ones who add richness and depth to the journey. Seek the Lord and be amazed at what is found! And have fun!