Tag Archives: Education

Mothering: Susanna Wesley Style

Sermon for Mother’s Day, May 13, 2018.  Susanna Wesley is one of the figures included in the Church of Resurrection’s, Leawood, KS, stained glass window which has loosely tied the sermons together for the past several months.

            Just imagine where The Church would be without mothers.   Mothers have raised children perpetuating their culture’s faith foundation even before Jesus was born.  Looking at the COR window, the images include other mothers, too, but Susanna Wesley cannot be ignored within our tradition.

John Wesley learned his faith and developed his methods from his mother’s teaching.  He along with his nine other brothers and sisters including Charles, were raised in a devout Church of England family.  Their father was Samuel Wesley, a priest in the Church of England, who even left the family for a year simply over a political argument with Susanna.

The article from historyswomen.com quickly introduces Susanna Wesley as the Mother of Methodism:

As a wife and mother in a small 18th century English parish Susanna Wesley herself received little recognition for how she managed her household, raised and educated more than a dozen children and coped with a sometimes impecunious, idealistic and occasionally difficult clergyman husband. Yet from her personal influence and loving home came a son who would experience a spiritual awakening and use that inspiration to begin a ministry that would fill a void in the national spiritual life and also develop into a world wide church. Indeed, it might be said that the movement called Methodism had its foundations in the home of Susanna Wesley.  [Accessed on May 10, 2018.]

 

I have no idea if Mom and Dad connected my name with Susanna Wesley, but I do know that Mom certainly referred to Susanna after I had my two kids.  Susanna had ten children who survived beyond infancy, but I clearly remember one of Mom’s pieces of advice that I am sure is familiar to many:  “You need to give each one an hour.  Susanna Wesley had ten kids and she devoted one hour to each one.”

Now, I am not certain if that is completely accurate, but I did find a similar statement in historyswomen.com biography:  She gave each child individual attention by purposely setting aside a regular time for each of them.  [Ibid.] A second website, christianitytoday.com, added this statement: Susanna made it a rule for herself to spend an hour a day with each of the children over the period of a week.

One thing I do know is that Mom greatly respected Susanna Wesley and so did her own son.  My mom also told me how the family’s home burned and John almost died. The biography on christianitytoday.com also affirmed Mom’s references:

After the fire of 1709 family discipline broke down, but Susanna managed to restore it later. She paid special attention to John, who was almost lost in the fire. He referred to himself as “a brand plucked from the burning fire,” and his mother said that she intended to be more particularly careful of the soul of this child that Thou hast so mercifully provided for, than ever I have been, that I may do my endeavors to instill into his mind the disciplines of Thy true religion and virtue.  [Accessed on May 10, 2018.]

 

Today we honor our mothers, true; but consider where today’s church would be without Wesley’s mother.  She was the daughter of a priest, she married a priest, and she mothered a priest (remember John Wesley was ordained in the Church of England as a priest).  Her personal upbringing greatly influenced her mothering.  One can only speculate how the scriptures prepared her for that role.

Looking at the Old Testament, the wisdom of King Solomon is found in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon/SongsSurely Susanna knew these words well:

Scripture:  Proverbs 22:17-21

17 Listen to the words of the wise;
apply your heart to my instruction.
18 For it is good to keep these sayings in your heart
and always ready on your lips.
19 I am teaching you today—yes, you—
so you will trust in the Lord.
20 I have written thirty sayings for you,
filled with advice and knowledge.
21 In this way, you may know the truth
and take an accurate report to those who sent.

 

Proverbs are“short, concise sentences that convey moral truths,” as explained in the Life Application Study Notes.  These statements cover

“a range of topics, including youth and discipline, family life, self-control and resisting temptation, business matters, words and the tongue, knowing God, marriage, seeking the truth, wealth and poverty, immorality, and, of course, wisdom [defined as applying knowledge/facts to life]. [p. 1306]

 

As Susanna was raised in a religious home, she must have known these proverbs well.  In an UMC.org feature by Joe Lovino, a letter she wrote to John outlines her mothering tips. The tips are outlined in these categories:

  1. Religious education
  2. Education
  3. Order and Discipline
  4. Sleep
  5. Meals and Dining
  6. Manners

 

Reading through Proverbs 10-24, which is titled “Wisdom for All People,” many of Susanna’s tips seem to echo several proverbs.

Additionally, Susanna practiced self-discipline, too. In fact, her prayer life was extremely important, and I stumbled into one blog that discussed her use of a “prayer apron”:

When Susanna was young, she promised the Lord that for every hour she spent in entertainment, she would give to Him in prayer and in the Word.  Taking care of the house and raising so many kids made this commitment nearly impossible to fulfill. She had no time for entertainment or long hours in prayer!  She worked the gardens, milked the cow, schooled the children and managed the entire house herself.  So, she decided to instead give the Lord two hours a day in prayer!

She struggled to find a secret place to get away with Him.  So she advised her children that when they saw her with her apron over her head, that meant she was in prayer and couldn’t be disturbed.  She was devoted to her walk with Christ, praying for her children and knowledge in the Word no matter how hard life was. [Accessed on May 10, 2018 at http://sharonglasgow.com%5D

Certainly today’s mothers know the difficulty of finding quiet prayer time; therefore, let us quiet our own lives, consider throwing an apron over our heads, too, and spend some time in prayer:  (The practice in our church family is to join in a time of prayer during our worship, concluding with the Lord’s Prayer.)

Reading through Susanna’s letter to John, provides today’s mothers solid advice on raising their families.  Even though few families have ten kids living in the one house, the wisdom of her motherly advice is worthy of review.

  • Religious education:

Devotions:  “The children of this family were taught, as soon as they could speak, the Lord’s prayer. . .

Worship and music:  “. . . the day began with reading or singing a psalm, reading an Old Testament chapter, and saying private prayers—all before breakfast.  At the end of the school day, they paired up to read a psalm and a New Testament chapter.”

Sabbath:  . . .The children “were very early made to distinguish the Sabbath from other days. . .”

  • Education

Focus:  School was 9-12 noon, and 2-5 pm

No goofing off:   “Rising out of their places or going out of the room, was not permitted unless for good cause. . .

Reading:  Each child was taught to read at age five. . .

  • Order and discipline

Routine:  a tight schedule. . . [with] times assigned for naps, education, meals, and bedtime.

Self-regulation:  Susana believed “self-will is the root of all sin and misery,” . . worked to help her children develop self-control.

Forgiveness  . . . never be punished for the same offense twice.

Peace  . . . household was not chaotic . . . much quietness as if there had not been a child among them. . .

  • Sleep

Bedtime  . . .all in bed by 8:00 pm whether they were ready for sleep or not.

Naps  infants . . . napped on a schedule. . .to bring them to a regular course of sleeping

  • Meals and dining

Dining  Mealtime was family time.

No snacking

Choosing meals  . . . expected to eat was served.

Medicine  . no problem when “. . . used to eat and drink what was given them”

  • Manners

Polite speech  be polite. . . [if] wanted something they were to ask

No lying  . . .if confess it and promise to amen, they would not be punished.

Respect for property  . . . taught to keep their hands off of another’s stuff. . .

 

Mothers all know the struggles to raise children, and Susanna was like all mothers yet today.  She knew how difficult managing a household can be much less homeschooling the ten children.  And among those ten children were two sons John and Charles Wesley.

The Church grew as John adapted his own organizational methods to take God’s message to those beyond the doors of the Church of England and even across the Atlantic to the United States

John’s brother Charles worked side by side with John and is accredited with writing so many hymns that appealed to the populace:

[Charles]was said to have averaged 10 poetic lines a day for 50 years. He wrote 8,989 hymns, 10 times the volume composed by the only other candidate (Isaac Watts) who could conceivably claim to be the world’s greatest hymn writer. [Accessed on May 10, 2018 at Christianitytoday.com]

 

Susanna’s motherhood was not easy.  Susan Glasgow’s blog summarizes Susanna’s motherhood:

A devastated home isn’t always apparent on first impression, is it? Susanna Wesley was married to a preacher.  They had 10 children of which, two grew up to bring millions of souls to Christ. That would be John and Charles Wesley.  It’s a powerful story if you stop there, isn’t it?

But, behind the door of her home, hopeless conditions were the norm.  She married a man who couldn’t manage money.  They disagreed on everything from money to politics.  They had 19 children.  All except ten died in infancy.  Sam (her husband) left her to raise the children alone for long periods of time.  This was sometimes over something as simple as an argument.

One of their children was crippled.  Another couldn’t talk until he was nearly six years old.  Susanna herself was desperately sick most of her life.  There was no money for food or anything.  Debt plagued them.

. . .One of her daughters got pregnant out of wedlock and the man never married her.  She was devastated, but remained steadfast in prayer for her daughter.

 

The Church continues through the efforts of mothers everywhere.  Susanna Wesley may be the mother of the Methodist denomination, but she is really the same as Christian mothers everywhere.  Her model of mothering includes the self-discipline of works of piety her son outlines:

  1. Reading, meditating and studying scriptures
  2. Prayer
  3. Fasting
  4. Regularly attending worship
  5. Healthy living
  6. Sharing our faith with others

 

The model of Susanna Wesley reflects much of the wisdom shared in the book of Proverbs.  As our opening scripture shares, we are . . .

17 Listen to the words of the wise;
apply your heart to my instruction.
18 For it is good to keep these sayings in your heart
and always ready on your lips.
19 I am teaching you today—yes, you—
so you will trust in the Lord.

Today, we can turn to Proverbs and share with others the wisdom, too.  If Susanna can do so, so can we.

[Distribute at least 30 proverbs among those in attendance and have them read them aloud to the others.]

 

Thank you to Susanna Wesley for her mothering skills.  Today, we can understand how challenging it is for mothers in our world by realizing that mothers have always managed life challenges.  The key is to study scripture and to raise our children the best that we can, teaching them the wisdom found in scripture.

Closing prayer:

Dear loving God,

Thank you for providing words of wisdom

as we find in the scripture.

Thank you for Susanna Wesley

raising her children in faith.

 

Guide us to continue following leaders

who live faithful lives  based on scripture.

Guide us to teach our children

to do all that they can for all they can.

 

May our efforts continue The Church’s work

carrying your story forward.

May our work demonstrate the true wisdom

in loving one another as we want to be loved.

 

Thank you for Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Thank you for Susanna, the mother of John.

Thank you for loving us, your children.

 

In your name,

In the name of Jesus Christ,

And through the Holy Spirit, amen.

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In reply: “Gone Missing” Letter to the Editor

In Re: Curriculum for the 21st Century: a reply to C.D. Rinck Sr.’s Letter to the Editor, March 21, 2018.

D. Rinck of Mission, KS, has a valid point. He asked, “ What happened to all those government checks and balances I was taught in high school?”

He goes on reflecting on his own education, “”They must have suffered the same fate as diagramming a sentence as I learned in English Class.”

Rinck should be concerned. Having taught for nearly 30 years before retiring in 2015, I have taught both—how to diagram sentences and the US Constitution. I also taught journalism.

The Constitution provides the clear separation of powers as a means of preventing any one branch from taking control. The checks and balance system is critical to a democracy including the republican democracy of the United States.

At no point should one branch have power over any other branch. In Sen. Jeff Flake’s comments to the National Press Club last week, the same topic of checks and balance is referenced.

Flake said, “Defending democratic institutions ought not to be a controversial idea, and hasn’t been until very recently. But recognizing that our institutions are under threat from within, with clarity, seems to me a basic obligation of the Article I branch of government—the congress, whose power is, in theory, equal to that of the president’s…”

Jennifer Rubin, from The Washington Post, was published in the KC Star editorial, “The problem: Flake can’t win in today’s Trump GOP” also focused on checks and balance.

American textbooks include the principle of checks and balance as a primary theme to be taught in civics and government classes. The class used to be taught juniors not freshmen as it is today. (And as an aside, I question whether freshmen are developmentally prepared to discuss the theory or to fully comprehend the value of the US Constitution.)

The American checks and balance system has also included an additional watchdog—freedom of speech that includes professional journalism. I taught journalism as the social responsibility as I was taught at MU during the mid-1970s. Journalists are to report the news objectively not subjectively, unless in editorials.

Our schools must teach students how to be critical readers, good communicators, and independent thinkers. I am concerned that emphasizing technology education and student achievement testing undermines what education must be.

Language curriculum needs to include sentence diagramming again. Diagramming teaches students how words communicate. Students need to understand value of the word, the difference in denotative and connotative meanings, and how to write clear statements. Sentence diagramming teaches analysis of language.

An example of applying critical reading and understanding language’s structure as evidenced in today’s KC Star article, “Trump’s phone call to Putin raises hackles,” about the President congratulatory phone call to Putin included one biased word: stubborn. Look at the paragraph.

“Trumps comments came five days after the White House imposed sanctions on Russia for its meddling in the 2016 election and other “malicious cyber-attacks.’ It widened what has become a familiar gulf between the Trump administration’s tougher actions and words toward Russia and Trump’s own stubborn reluctance to criticize Putin.”

Let the facts speak without adding the opinion.

Of course, our school’s curriculum and the emphasis placed on education must be a priority for our society, too. Our students will be left behind if the curriculum does not teach the skills to be critical readers, analytical thinkers, and good communicators.

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no. No. NO! Do NOT arm teachers.

I am a retired teacher.  I retired after teaching in alternative educational program for 20 years.  The President’s statement that we need to arm our teachers, much less to provide them a monetary bonus for carrying a gun into the classroom outrages me.

Teachers work to develop positive relationships with students.

How does a gun demonstrate trust?

Teachers already serve as surrogate parents (known by the legal phrase in loco parentis) while our children–students–are present on school grounds.

How does a gun teach students healthy relationships?

Teachers are coaches for our young people struggling to manage the game of life.

How does a gun teach life skills?

Teachers spend hours preparing lesson plans trying to teach basic knowledge in as many ways possible to meet the individual needs of the students.

How does a gun meet a student’s individual needs?

Teachers are paid only a nominal salary to fulfill all the educational, emotional, social, and basic needs for this country’s future.

How does paying a bonus to carry a gun improve the educational system?

The endless list of questions can continue, but there is absolutely no answer that makes any sense that our teachers should be armed.  Would this lead to colleges of education requiring certification in marksmanship?

The final suggestion that teachers be given a bonus for carrying a gun just appalls me.  We cannot pay our teachers a reasonable salary for all we expect them to do already, why would paying a bonus to carry a gun be appropriate?

Paying bonuses to workers who demonstrate exceptional salesmanship or innovative business skills has long been a practice in the corporate world.  Never, never has such a practice been part of the educational paradigm.

Gifted teachers focus on developing relationships with the students.

Gifted teachers focus on finding ways to teach to the individual needs of the students whether educational, emotional, social, or technical.

Gifted teachers operate out of a sense of unconditional love for the individual students who grace their classroom.

Why would anyone think it is beneficial to arm teachers in the classroom when their full focus is on doing whatever it takes to protect those kids in that critical moment that an armed intruder is storming through the school?  Stopping to pick up a gun and turn away from the kids may destroy the very lives they are working so hard to prepare for productive adult lives of our country’s future.

Do not insult the integrity of the teaching profession by rewarding them to carry a gun into the classroom.   No.  No.  No!  No guns in the classroom.  And absolutely no bonus to encourage these professionals to carry a gun.

Reward teachers by respecting the profession and paying them appropriately for being in loco parentis in those classrooms.

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Enough is Enough: School shootings

I just sent off a letter to the editor at the KC Star.  Sometimes I just have enough.  Even though I already posted once this morning, I turned to the electronic of the KC Star and could not stop thinking about what has happened in Florida.  I can’t let this slide.  I can’t say enough about how change is needed.  Therefore, here is one of my entries I am calling Enough is Enough.  Please share if you agree.

 

Seeing Florida mom Lori Alhadeff’s outrage pains me and justifiably so.  The raw emotion should trigger the entire country’s sense of enough is enough. She rightfully screamed into the camera and asked that our country fix a problem that cannot be ignored another day, another week, another month.   

As a retired teacher, I hear the news and cringe.  I know the faces of the students, and I know them personally.  I may have taught in the Midwest, but that does not lessen the outrage I feel as the long litany of school shootings continues.
Young people carrying guns in backpacks is simply unacceptable.  Young people in school must focus on preparing for the adult world being educated how to learn, how to question, how to create, how to dream.  Schools must be filled with teachers and administrators focused on teaching the individual to the best of that student’s ability.
Our society is out of time.
Stop reacting and start shifting the paradigm now.
Education has become a numbers game:  educating all students as a mass, not as indviduals.
Education must value the students each as an individual at all cost.  And yes, it will cost; but we must not allow the cost to slam the door shut on the country’s future.
Enough is enough!

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Reality through R-2’s class of ’72

Admittedly graduates of 1972 are facing a new reality–we are reaching traditional retirement age.  Last week my hometown class faced the reality with the death of our classmate Steve.  The event might not seem noteworthy, but only one other classmate Debby has died and that was due to a train wreck within the first year after graduation.

Flash ahead to the events of another tragic school shooting this week.  How do these become connected?  For my classmates education was valued.  We were taught that school came first.  We were pushed to focus on academics even before sports–I know, that may shock many today.

My parents tasted college, but never finished a degree plan.  We lived in rural American when family farms were the norm in the Midwest.  They instilled the value of education for my brother and myself so we did complete college, even achieving our masters later in our adult lives.  We were blessed to have our parents and live in a rural community.

Reviewing the circumstances of the 1972 Class from Montgomery County R-II, I cannot escape making observations that may be overlooked in our current school environments, especially after this week’s horrific Florida school shooting:

  1. Numbers.  The size of our schools continues to grow reaching the size of a city.  How in the world can students be individuals if they are forced to bump shoulders, often literally, in the halls and classrooms of a building?
  2. Testing.  Another concern is that success in school is based on numbers, not on student individual growth.  The individual is lost in the demand that testing prove achievement. Some testing is necessary, but just as a marker not a permanent diagnosis.
  3. Teachers.  Value teachers!  What other profession places educational demands at the cost of the individual without fair and equitable salary and benefits.  The profession cannot maintain the gifted teachers who are called–yes called–to step into the classroom alone with 20-30 kids who no longer value education and/or have no stable home environment to support them as they step into the classroom.
  4. Students.  Yes, there are those who do value education, are respectful, and have a supportive system, but sadly they are being outnumbered by the students on the opposite side of the spectrum who need schools to be a safe, supportive, nurturing environment that can teach them how to dream, set a path to reach that dream, and to work successfully towards that dream once they are fed, clothed, and housed safely.

The classes of ’72 is waning and the generations now entering into the profession of education may not have any of the critical skills or understanding of how to teach the masses who are now generations removed from the Greatest Generation and its values.

Do I have recommendations?  Certainly,

  1. Reduce the size of schools.  Create a learning environment that is safe, family-like, and supportive.  I realize the cost is beyond consideration, but why not be inventive and establish settings in some of the places that are unused during the school week.  Think about empty store fronts, empty Sunday school classrooms, office buildings.  Use the spaces effectively and reduce the physical size of the schools were kids are crammed into one place.
  2. Establish reasonable testing expectations.  Numbers are NOT the only way to measure student growth.  You cannot boil education down to one standardized set of scores.  No child should be left behind, but education is not about a set of numbers, it is about growth and nourishing our young people to be the best they can be.
  3. Value teachers.  Provide a reasonable financial package, including appropriate benefits for teachers that attracts them into the profession rather than turn them away.  Teachers are life long learners, but the salaries do not support continued education even while requiring more formal education.  Masters degrees are expected within five years of starting one’s career.  Sadly the income cannot sustain a teacher to live at a comfortable standard and pay for the coursework demanded of the profession.  There is very little incentive to invest in teaching as a lifelong profession, especially if wanting to raise a family, too.
  4. Students are important.  Every teacher must be taught the neurology of learning and the development markers that all students inevitably must face and manage.  Education is malleable, not concrete.  No one student follows a prescribed formula. Each student is different and all teachers must be taught to know that and even to recognize that reality.  Students must be valued.  Students must not be just a number.

Our society must accept the reality that we are far removed from the Greatest Generation.  The truth is the potential for each generation to be the greatest is always present.  The horror is that we are not acknowledging the potential in our individual students by the devaluing of the human factors in education.

Our culture places the dollar before education.  Education is how we make American great again.  When we prioritize the profession, the teachers, and especially the students then we will make American great again.  This week’s violence must not be forgotten.  Let’s use it as a cry for the change at the very foundation of our society–our education of the future.  This is the way to stop the violence in the schools–shift the value, even the paradigm, of education in our schools today.

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