Posted tagged ‘innovation’

Lego Language

April 3, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         April 3, 2017

                                        

Our family of ten (Mom, Dad, 3 kids, two son-in-laws, and 3 grandkids!) just returned from Carlsbad, California yesterday after five days of vacationing. The resort we stayed at is directly across the street from Legoland, an unbelievable place of creativity and imagination.

I grew up with Lincoln Logs, wooden planks that could be put together to build…a log cabin! Yes, that was pretty much it! Now there is a plethora of different Lego “pieces!” When our kids were growing up, and were playing with their first Legos, they were able to choose between a block that was rectangular or another one half the size that was square. That was pretty much it! A little more flexible than my 1950’s Lincoln Logs…but not much!

At Legoland I discovered a whole new Lego language has been invented. I felt like an alien trying to order from a dinner menu without pictures!

I trailed the two older grandkids (6 and almost 9) into a “creating room”, filled with tables that contained various pockets of Lego pieces. Jesse and Reagan comfortably plopped onto two seats at one of the tables and started jabbering. I sat between them and looked confused. “I need a body,” Jesse exclaimed like a surgeon hovered over his latest transplant patient. “Here’s one, Jesse!” Reagan passed a Lego piece that was no more than two inches long to him. I sat there like a Basic Math student who had been mistakenly placed in a Calculus class.

“What’s this?” I asked, holding something that looked kind of like an ‘L’, “a leg maybe?”

“No!” Reagan snickered like I’d just told the world’s funniest joke. She didn’t go further, however, and tell me what it WAS, just what it wasn’t!

The two of them were creating Lego hero figures. After a few minutes I figured out what a body was and actually attached another piece to it. Understand that I did not know what the other piece was that I attached to it, but I did make it click into place. For all I knew I just attached a Lego throw rug to my body’s back!

The two builders were enthralled by the whole experience. I was enthralled by their understanding of this new language. I was not a good foreign language student in high school, college, or seminary. Spanish, Latin, and Hebrew were three attempts at being bi-lingual. Each one of them affected my GPA…in negative ways.

And now here was a new, innovative modern language that had no verbs. A generational gap  language that required more than a Lego bridge to cross! And it is amazing! Sometimes when a person is confused the coolest thing is to just step back and watch. In the distant hazy memory behind the two builders I could still see my Lincoln Logs, remembered the hours of happy play I had with them. That was now my connecting point with the “grand creators”, happiness! Happiness is a common language that crosses generations and circumstances.

Outside our creating room I could see a life size Lego person smiling at me! He understood!

The Most Under Appreciated Occupation

January 15, 2017

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!

Weathered Dreams

November 17, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                          November 16, 2015

                                          

We’re in the midst of a mid-November blizzard. Schools closed, roads closed, people stranded…all those signs that point to the wisdom of staying home. The wind is blowing like there’s no tomorrow. Snow drifts greeted me when I opened the garage door this morning.

Glad I got the lawn mowed yesterday!

This morning I looked out the window in our dining room to our back yard. On our wood fence in the back there is a sign that has been there for a number of years, almost like a picture frame, that says “Dream!”

It reminds us to envision, to imagine, to think the impossible.

But the strong winds and blizzard cold has loosened one of the nails that has been holding the “Dream” in place. Today it swings back and forth on the fence board with uncertainty, as if it has been abandoned. It conveys the mixed message of falling dreams, almost like someone imagining the “not yet” being pulled back down to reality.

Jesus was a dreamer! He preached about the Jubilee year of renewal, release, and redemption; encouraged kids to come to him; envisioned his death and resurrection, talked about healed people and exorcised demons. Of course, he did more than talk! He made what people thought were crazy ideas into realities.

Sometimes we’re guilty of raising up people of faith who have given up on their dreams. The dream sign is swinging back and forth in the winds of church life. The wisdom of how to raise up people of faith is tempered by the pull back into congregational conformity.

“God has given me a vision for helping people in the midst of addiction!”

     “God has placed a dream within my spirit to start a ministry where a team of people offers free vehicle inspections to senior folk.”

     “God has not allowed me a good night’s sleep because of a dream he has given me to mentor kids in reading at the local elementary school.”

     “God has given me a vision to make mittens for kids at the mission we support in British Columbia.”

Dreams come in all sizes and shapes, places and people. I’m convinced a big part of God’s masterpiece gets conveyed through the dreams of his followers. Sometimes they make perfect sense and sometimes, on the surface, they are lacking in common sense. How does the church keep dreams from falling? How do those of us who have been followers of Jesus for a long ways support the new directions of the younger generation?

It takes a bit of faith to see that lemonade comes from lemons. It takes an abundance of hands to be the under-support of a person’s dream that seeks to rise.

When the blizzard passes I’ll go out into out back yard and pound the nail back in place on our “Dream” sign. Or perhaps I’ll take the sign off from where it is and raise it up another six inches!