Thursday, September 08, 2016

Hands Down

I've had great fortune with student teacher aides over the course of my nineteen years at WCS, especially the past five. Since the fall of 2012, the Lord has blessed me with Megan Hill, Minna Wong, and Mi Ngo. This year, it's Jean who as a freshman in my Bible 1 class began picking out what I would wear the next day. Minna and Mi took on the role during their senior year with me and now Jean, a member of our class of 2017, is back in charge of that part of my life. She's good at it as the others have been. One less decision for me to make and I get many more compliments! One of Jean's responsibilities will be to advise me on next year's aide. She will have big shoes to fill even though Jean is only 5 feet tall. Jean casts a long shadow!

One task my aides have each year is covering the wall with the art work we do in all of my five academic classes. Each student will do four pieces of art on 8 1/2" by 11" white card stock over the year, comprising 10% of their grades. I make a big deal of having a colorful classroom and the kids' masterpieces are a big part of it. Our first project, as I told you recently, was the tracing of hands with individualization and decoration as each youngster sees fit. They are stapled on the wall and our Moms In Touch group comes by and prays for each child, hand on hand. It was Megan's and Minna's and Mi's job and now it belongs to Jean. It can be a daunting assignment, stapling close to one hundred sheets of paper on a wall while choosing which hand looks best where. The tough part, though, is keeping the rows straight. This was Jean's first crack at mass stapling and she had a hiccup. As she got about seven sheets across horizontally, it became evident her lines were going up hill. As she had gone up several rows instead of one long row at a time, it was impractical to take them down and start over, considering the damage which might be done to the hands. I left it up to Jean to fix it as she saw fit. She went to the far end and starting working backwards to negate the angle of the drift. She took unused sheets of the card stock and began filling in the gaps. She is finished with stapling all the hands and almost finished fixing the errors as much as humanly possible. It took a lot of work but the mistake is barely noticeable now. Jean is a perfectionist and she won't rest until she is satisfied with the result. That's why she is awesome.

Jean and I spent several minutes discussing what went wrong. My thought is that there were too many baselines for her to work from. There is a baseboard in the middle of the wall as you can see. Right above the baseboard is homemade border, which is not cut to identical standards so there is variation from piece to piece. And there is also something you can't see; the flags of Haiti and Honduras are also part of the wall and they were not hung identically, something I took care of this afternoon. We talked about how we will approach the next layer, stapled on top of this layer, in about four weeks. (Our next project will be one hundred individual Coat of Arms.) We will run a string across from one end to the other, measured from the floor. It might not be perfect but it will easier to stay consistently straight. I'm proud of Jean- it's been a learning experience for her.

During the past two days, I have used the hands' issue as a teachable moment with my classes. If Jean, or me, had stepped back and taken a long look, the problem could have been corrected immediately. But the further it extended, the more apparent the error became and the more difficult to overcome. I told the students that baseball fields are laid out from the back corner of home plate. If that marker is off even 1/8th of an inch, the foul poles will be off by multiple feet, completely distorting the entire field of play. So, what's the point? Our standards must be right. Our baseline must be accurate or we will be off the mark from the outset. As believers, we can have only one standard. Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 3:11, from the GNT:
For God has already placed Jesus Christ as the one and only foundation, and no other foundation can be laid.
Any other starting point can only lead to being off track and then, it can be difficult to chart a new path to align ourselves with Him. The good news is that we are redeemable, even when we stray, even if we have been lost! But like the Prodigal Son, we have to come to the realization there are serious problems and take the steps to make it right. Jean did and learned a valuable lesson, and I've just got to hand it to her. She's invested as well. Her hand is also part of the wall. And now, it's part of the solution.

Applicable quote of the day:
Mistakes are part of the game. It's how well you recover from them, that's the mark of a great player.
Alice Cooper

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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