Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Snow Day

There are so few words or phrases in the English language as capable of sending a frisson of joy and excitement through the student body as the phrase, "Snow Day." Last night, a little after 9:00 pm, the decision was made to cancel school today due to icy driving conditions and single-digit temperatures.

It is nice to sleep in two hours later than usual, to eat a leisurely breakfast, and to ponder the ways in which this gift of a day might be spent. Shall I read my book? Go to the gym? Watch television? Plot the downfall of my enemies? Who knows, who cares! The day is ripe with possibilities, with untold chances for enjoyment and rest.

I recall Advent of last year being so much more chaotic. A first-year teacher with three different courses, I spent as much of my time trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing as I did actually doing anything. I'm grateful that I'm a pretty quick study so that this year I have a good senes of my role as a teacher and Senate moderator. The busier I am and greater responsibility I have in the school, I find, the more joyful I am because the more I get to interact with the students.

Last week, I had a marvelous conversation with one of my students who has struggled with his faith. This, I assured him, is normal: if you're not struggling, you're not believing. As we talked, he asked me why it appeared that I read so much. Seldom, he observed, is it that I don't have some book in my hand on my way into or out of the class. Currently, I am reading a marvelous book by Denys Turner, the Horace Tracy Pitkin professor of Historical Theology at Yale University. The book is entitled Faith, Reason and the Existence of God is a profound meditation upon and defense of Vatican I's startling claim that the existence of God "can be known with certainty from the consideration of created things, by the natural power of human reason...". This is not a book for the faint of heart, but for those with an interest in Medieval theology and recent discussions in philosophy and theology, it's a brilliant work.  If you're not quite up to reading the book, I would suggest you watch the YouTube videos of Denys discussing the existence of God with Jonathan Miller. 

I mention this book for the following reason: I continue reading these texts - texts far, far beyond the ken of secondary school students - for the simple reason that my students deserve the best answers I can give them. When they ask me rigorous questions, I feel pretty lame saying, "Well, kiddo, you just have to accept this on faith." This is not to discount faith, by any means, but it is to say that these students are looking for something they can sink their teeth into. Hence the challenge I face to continue to think and read widely so that, when they pose their questions, I can offer them something to think about.

So tonight I will ponder the quote from Aristotle that eadem est scientia oppositorum (one and the same is the knowledge of opposites) while I sell t-shirts before the basketball game. I think this convergence of worlds - the world of academic reflection and the world of student involvement - has made for an amazingly enjoyable experience of as a teacher. As I reach the half-way point of my regency experience, I look with great anticipation to those challenges and questions that lay on the horizon and I run to them eagerly...with a book in my hand, of course.
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