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Servathon 15

400 servants.

25 non-profits.
1 amazing school showing love to 1 great city.
Every year, my school takes a break from academics for one day to show the love of Christ to Cincinnati.  Every student from every grade (PreK-12) takes part in some sort of service project either in our neighborhood or around the city.
This year’s theme was “Do Something” which is very fitting for a Christian school.  We spend so much time filling their heads with knowledge but sometimes we need to give them an avenue to do something with it.  The Christian life isn’t always about gaining new Bible knowledge but also applying it to life around us.
For the third year running, my job was to drive around and take pictures and video for our social media outlets.  Unlike previous years, I traveled by myself for the day, which gave me the chance to move at  a quicker pace.  I was able to stop at 11 locations, from a lush green park 3 minutes from our school in the suburbs to the streets of Over the Rhine, and I was deeply moved by all that I saw.
  • Our second graders gathered at a local park to clean things up — weeding, picking up sticks, and cleaning the playground — showing love to our local community.
  • We had high school students making lunch for the Ronald McDonald House. After taking my pictures, I couldn’t help but stand in the atrium and take it all in.  A lot of good work happens there.
  • Our students stood on the sidewalk in one of the most notorious neighborhoods in Cincinnati and made burgers and dogs to hand out for anyone walking by.
  • I couldn’t find parking at another location, but was able to pull up alongside two (legally) parked cars and take one picture.  Two high school students were shoveling dirt into a wheel barrow for a peace garden next to a church in Over the Rhine.
  • A group of students were cleaning and painting an art studio dedicated to giving special needs adults the chance to be true artists.  It wasn’t just cleaning and painting. The interaction between our students and the artists was amazing to watch!
  • Fifth graders sorted and folded clothes at a ministry designed to bring relief to disaster victims around the world — and were having a fun time doing it.
  • High school students cleaned and sorted products at a ministry aimed to give furniture to people who are getting their first apartment after being on the streets.

It was a day to be proud of my school and proud of these students who willingly helped their neighbors, their city, and the least of these around the world.

There are too many pictures to share here, but you can certainly look at our photo album on Facebook or the hashtag #serv15 on Twitter and Instagram if you want to see more.

And…My Job Takes a New Turn…Again!

I love my job. Really. I have the joy of teaching a subject I enjoy, experiencing kids of many ages, time to research and network, and the ability to try new things. I’m blessed to work in a school with great and caring colleagues and an overall desire to serve our community. Teaching at MVCA has been a great career change for me, and change continues to be what happens to my role as I continue into the next school year.  However, let’s take a step back before we step forward.

Some of the most innovative companies in the world have become innovative because they allow their employees to chase after their passions. The most famous of these companies is Google, which gives their engineers 20% of their work week to work on whatever project they want, but there are plenty of other companies that do the same thing further under the radar.

When I started my current computer teacher gig, I took that concept to my (now defunct) middle school class.  Every Friday became Innovation Day and students were given the time to work on projects that interested them. Little did I know that I tumbled into a growing wave of instruction called Genius Hour.  The concept quite simply is that students are more motivated to learn and will learn exponentially more if they can pursue projects of their interest. Of course, it’s not a “do whatever you want with this hour” type of thing. There is structure, but it’s just a different kind of structure. (Actually, “organized chaos” may be a better term than structure.)

To my surprise, I was selected to present Genius Hour at the Ohio Ed Tech Conference in February of this year. The cool thing is that my normal work week comes with a lot of “office time” when I get to read, research, and track down any ed tech topic that may tickle my fancy.  I kinda scared myself into reading up on all the Genius Hour literature I could get my hands on.  That’s where I found Pure Genius by Don Wettrick, which changed (once again) the trajectory of my career.

I started to dream of an Innovation Class in my school, like Wettrick did. Why dedicate a mere hour of the school week to innovation when you can go for broke and allow students to use ALL their class time to pursue their passions?  (I’m calling this Genius Hour on steroids.)

I am excited (and just a bit nervous) to say that my innovation proposal was accepted and I will be teaching two innovation classes next year, one in middle school and one in high school.  This is crazy (in a good way) for a few reasons.  First, there is the obvious fact that I’m an elementary teacher, not a high school teacher. However, there is the wild “outside the box” concept that is going on here. I honestly cannot tell you what will happen in these classes.  I am assuming the best, but think about the potential for famous musicians, singers, artists, authors, engineers, social activists, and business people who could sprout out of these courses.  I have a general road map how to get them there, but the reality is that I need to stay out of their way and watch them do awesome things.

I have no idea where this video came from, but it so ingeniously portrays the innovative spirit that teachers like me are trying to build into students.

Now, someone is reading this wondering why I’m bothering to tell you about it. More and more, I realize that telling people I’m a teacher is getting further and further from what we traditionally think of as teaching. It gets hard to explain, so I fall back on “I’m a computer teacher.”  I’m hoping this post can better help describe what will happen next year.

Oh, and for the fun of it, here will be my roles next year: innovation teacher, elementary computer teacher, social media coordinator, and TechLead.  It’s been a wild adventure at MVCA, and I’m excited to see what’s coming next.

Protected: March Part Two: Everything Else

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Man Camp

It’s been quite a few years since I’ve done any sort of men’s retreat, and I can honestly say I’ve never done one quite like Man Camp.  Our church just wrapped up a message series called Wolf Pack, stressing that men need a group of guys to help them grow in Christ.  Man Camp was a natural next step in the Wolf Pack mentality.  Imagine camping with… well… I’m getting ahead of myself.

They advertised Man Camp as a camping trip with 500 men from our church.  I don’t think anyone anticipated those 500 slots filling up in 70 seconds.  Yes, you read that right. They opened up the reservation web site at 6:00 one Thursday morning.  My friend Matt was going to get my ticket, but we wound up on the waiting list. The slacker wasn’t on in the first 70 seconds.  Matt wound up getting in on the first Man Camp, and I can honestly say I’m glad I missed it.  Single digit temps and 12 inches of snow greeted them.  I like camping and I like snow, but that’s crazy!

Fortunately, they had 700 guys on the waiting list, so they opted to have Man Camp 2 this past weekend, and I easily got into that round of camping.  The weather was considerably happier, though I did have a chilly night Saturday night.  We could see the ground, though.

I’m not hung up on the size of our church or anything like that, but I also think it’s important to realize the magnitude of our church for some of this to make sense.  We attend Crossroads Community Church, which has 5 campuses all around the Cincinnati area and over 20,000 people attending regularly.  That’s kinda big, so it’s no surprise that we had 1200 guys who wanted to go to camp. It’s also no surprise that I didn’t know anyone from the small group of 8 they put me in.  In fact, I could probably count on both hands the number of guys at my camp I recognized.  Still, it was a great weekend!

We were told from the beginning that what happens at Man Camp stays at Man Camp, so I will leave some things out.  Sorry.  You’ll have to go next year if you want to know what really happens at Man Camp.  Here is what I can tell you.

We were told to only bring the gear we could carry on our laps. We loaded on a school bus (well, 15 of them to tell the truth) and were packed in like sardines. After a half hour of driving, we arrived at our undisclosed location in Indiana and hiked with our gear a half mile to our camp area.  The campground was some guy’s private land he donated for the weekend.  Our group set up camp and got to know each other.

We were then given time to sit in personal reflection and given some things to think and pray about.  I immediately thought about how I can be a better and more understanding husband and father.  In this busy and digitally invasive world we live in, it was a relief to sit in the woods (literally on the ground) with only paper and pen to reflect on how I need to bring out the best in my girls and love them better.

Later in the day, we cleared fallen branches and other brush from a section of forest starting numerous massive burn piles.  I like fire.  That was fun! Not a single guy complained.  We all chipped in shoulder by shoulder as we worked on some other guy’s land.

I did something I don’t know I would have considered doing a year ago.  They had a group of guys there called the M*A*S*H unit. They were available to pray for anything we wanted prayer for. I went to two M*A*S*H guys and asked for prayer for my GBS. It was definitely outside my comfort zone, but I’m glad I did it.  My shoulder blade was sore from all the activity, and the pain disappeared within hours of the prayer and I was fine in the morning (on the cold, hard ground).  (Side Note: Two days of Man Camp and four days of hard labor at the Dunlap House during Spring Break, and I am doing better than I should be doing.  Miracle? I think so.)

My group spent lots of time sitting around our campfire telling stories and getting to know each other. Our stories were everything from funny to dead serious as we went from being complete strangers to good friends.  When I think of that bond, it is best demonstrated by how we hung together.  We had large group meetings in standing room only barn.  The first meeting, our group was interspersed around the barn.  The second, we were in a couple small groups.  The final meeting, we were all together in one gang.

Speaking of the meetings, not much is more exciting than standing among 499 other men, packed into a barn, all belting out praises to God.  On a normal Sunday morning, the music is so loud that it’s hard to hear yourself singing, much less anyone else.  However, with minimal music, the praise reverberated around that barn.  It was beautiful!

In fact, the beauty didn’t stop at the singing.  We concluded our last meeting with a baptism service in the lake.  Keep in mind that the temps couldn’t have been out of the early 40s and the water had to be frigid.  Guys didn’t have a ton of extra clothes.  So, they stripped to their skivvies and got in the water to proclaim their desire to follow Christ and serve Him… then get dunked.  Two of my group members were the first ones in.  How awesome!

I extended my wolf pack that weekend at Man Camp. It was definitely outside my comfort zone to do this.  No friends to help ease the social discomfort.  No plumbing.  No air mattress. But it was a great time to meet new guys, make new friends, and learn more about myself.

Really.  You should go next year (if you’re a guy, that is).

 

(Sorry. I have no pictures. They wouldn’t let us take phones, and I didn’t want to risk bringing the camera.)

Protected: March Part One: The Birthday Tea Party

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