Sunday, September 03, 2006

Sunday Sermon: Common Ground

In Philippians 2: 1-4 Paul reminds the church at Philippi that the body of Christ is composed of many different people from various backgrounds They are brought together due to their love of Christ. He reminds them that their common ground should encourage them to agree with one another, love one another, and work together with one heart and purpose.
I see the profession of education in the same manner. I even see it in our little corner of the blogosphere where we are from many different areas of the country or the world, and we gather together regarding our common ground.

For some of us our baliwick is classroom teaching, research, administration, or working with the physical plant. Some of us were in the classroom Friday, some haven’t been in a classroom for many years, and others have never been in the classroom. Some prefer a particular academic subject area, a particular grade level, or a particular school system. Many of us are in the public sector, some in the private, charter, or homeschool arena. We have differences in our learning and teaching style, our philosophies of education, and the manner in which we were taught to formulate lesson plans and units. Some of us have different opinions regarding the causes of student failure, lack of parental involvement, the seemingly continual failures of the United States educational system, and of course, I can’t leave out the many differences we have regarding legislation such as No Child Left Behind

Paul reminds the congregation at Philippi they all have different ministries. Some folks like to work with music, others hospitality, while others focus on outreach and missions. We all have our different areas of ministry. One isn’t any more important than the other because our goal is the same. The educator who has a differing opinion than I do regarding research or a particular learning style has just as much love and passion for their profession as I do. Our goal is the same.

So as educators what is our common goal?

The one ingredient in the early church was each person had their love of Christ in common….they were like-minded and shared the same values. We find this phenomenon at work at many points during our lives. I graduated with a fairly large class of seniors. Many classmates had been together since first grade. They might have belonged to different groups of friends, but they had the common ground of a history together. However, once we all became seniors I noticed a change. All of a sudden we all knew each other, spoke to each other. Many of the rigid lines between various socio-economic groups disappeared. I sat with people at lunch and hung out with people I had barely spoken to the year before. Why? All of a sudden we all had senior-itis at the same time. It was us against the rest of the school. We had made it. We were finally standing on the pinnacle of our twelve year school career.

Complete strangers become your buddies at the ball game, or the race track simple because you have the commonality of a team winning. Sometimes you strike up a conversation with a complete stranger because you find yourself waiting in a long line together at the Department of Vehicle or tag department. Your dismal position gives both of you common ground.

I also remember a common ground for Americans way back when on one very tragic September 11th day. How quick that common ground can become quicksand.

As educators, our primary goal is to educate our youth. We desire to do whatever it takes to give students every possible opportunity to learn. It would seem, however, that just like the early church our profession, though founded in commonality, doesn’t always move forward. We get mired in a morass of attempts to shove our own agendas down one another’s throats. Mentalities abound that scream agree with me or you’re simply not worth my time.

Paul warns the church at Philippi not to be selfish; not to live to make a good impression on others, and not to think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing.
Consider humility. The ancient Greeks believed any act of humility to be a sign of weakness……you would be exhibiting the mentality of a slave if you were humble in any way. Is it any wonder the Greek civilization failed while the Christian religion flourished.

Proverbs 11:2 states pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. The way I interpret this is it is ok to state your opinions, press your particular case, and get your point of view across, but also be willing to listen. Come to the conclusion that as society changes so does education. Be willing to consider your point of view isn’t working. Treat others, especially those that are difficult to deal with or have differing opinions from you as you would want them to treat you. Paul advised the church in Galatia, whenever we have the opportunity we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.

Folks, we are the educators. We are the ones with the years of study. We are the ones that read reams of research and testing data. We are the ones who keep screaming that we want to be respected as professionals.

In an environment where we are treated as know-nothings, government employees, and are lumped together in a group designated as “those who can’t make it in the real world teach” we need to treat each other with humility. If we continually tear each other down, attack points of view, fail to hear what the other person is saying, and attempt to one-up each other we are no better than our critics. Our common ground disappears beneath our feet, and the ones who suffer the most are our students.


Meredith said...

I really like the connection you have made with Paul's admonishons to the Philipians and our own vocation. We must have a common ground, and a common purpose, in order to be the best educators possible. Even though I am far away in Illinois, I am close to you in viewpoint, and I will join with you in applying Paul's letter to our lives.

EHT said...

Thanks bellezza, I must give full credit to my minister who inspired this post.