The obvious answer is that the best things of life are not to be bought with money; it would be nearer the truth to quote the prophetic paradox, they are bought ‘without money and without price.’ – Dawson, William J., The Quest of the Simple Life, pg. 13
Prior to my graduation from college, I was completely oblivious to the condition of industrial agriculture. Thinking about the source of my food extended as far as which store I preferred to shop at and farmer’s markets were luxuries for those who had the means to be picky. Further, processed food was categorized in degrees; some processed food was less harmful than others (only true if you neglect corn’s invasion of everything).
My penchant for researching new ideas brought me to a series of fascinating documentaries that served to pull the veil back from the marketing facade of our food production models. I found myself at the table of micro-farmers, urban farmers, and advocates of sustainable agriculture.
I would like to invite you to the same table and pass along introductory documentaries that started my own venture. You may not walk away considering how you can contribute to sustainable agricultural production, but if you alter your ideas of food and consumption, then a goal has been achieved by those of us who produce (or aspire to produce). Continue reading
*Disclaimer: The account you are about to read should in no way reflect upon my former fellow teachers. The fact that they remain where they are despite knowing the truth of what I will describe should not be taken to mean that they tolerate or approve of the issues. Compassion should be extended to them as they endure factors that require them to remain, when they wish they could join me in departing. Finally, I attempted to reconcile with the parties at fault, but to no avail. I only record here a general account of the issues and will not name names or specifics.*
I have struggled a great deal as to what, if anything, should be said about the chief reason I departed my teaching career. A great battle has been waged in my mind because I fear that in revealing the nature of the most pressing facet, I will in turn cause injury to innocent parties. My most ardent wish is that the issues I faced be seen for what they are and that those who are co-laborers under such realities will be given compassion, understanding, and grace. The challenges of the system do not always lie with teachers, but most often with those who rule over the system. Continue reading
I had an obstinate craving for fresh air, unimpeded movement, outdoor life. I wanted the earth, and I wanted to live in the close embrace of the earth. Some ancestor of mine must have been a hermit on a mountain, a gipsy, or a peasant: I know not which, but something of the temperament of all three had been bequeathed to me. The smell of fresh-turned earth was a smell that revived in me a portion of my nature that had seemed dead; a flower set me dreaming of solitary woods; and I found myself watching clouds and weather signs as though my bread depended on their lenience.” – The Quest of the Simple Life by William J. Dawson
My parents can heartily testify that outdoor work was not my cup of tea growing up. Yard work was detestable to me and the last on the list of ways to spend a Saturday. As I think back on my youth, I am not entirely sure what it was about the work that I found so worthless and undesirable. Perhaps it was nothing more than a child balking at the assignments of parents.
The first memorable positive exposure to “blue-collar” work was while I was in middle school. I had the opportunity to work a summer with a family friend who was a HVAC technician and plumber. I spent the summer learning to install ventilation, furnaces, copper line, and troubleshoot systems. Many days were spent in houses with no AC, since that is the very thing we were installing, and sometimes without power to supply a fan. Continue reading
I recently finished reading W. J. Dawson’s “The Quest of the Simple Life.” Dawson recounts his escape from suburban life and pursuing a life fueled by “earth hunger.” Following the examples of such men as Thoreau and Wordsworth, he sought a deeper life than what he found in the metropolis of London.
Although published around 1907, it is striking how much of the issues of suburban life Dawson complained of still ring true today. Take for instance, this excerpt from Chapter 3, entitled: Getting a Living, and Living. Continue reading
In the fall of 2007, my freshman year of college, I took on a project for a Christmas production that promised a lucrative paycheck and entry into a field I was very interested in pursuing: technical theatre production. My task was to program and synchronize a 30 ft tall “tree” equipped with 500,000+ lights in which stood a choir, to the music of the program. (You can view an example of what it would have looked like here.) The process was complex and required much more than what I had been told.
During that process, while trying to complete school, I developed a stress induced ulcer. In the span of one month, I lost over 50 lbs as there were many days I was bed-ridden with acute nausea. For days at a time, I could not sleep or eat. One particular Saturday, I worked from 0800 to 0500 the next morning, caught one hour of sleep in an empty classroom and arose at 0600 to begin prepare the day’s services. Continue reading
The change occurred in the span of one week.
Though I had been mulling over the information for some time, once the trigger was pulled, one week was all it took. While visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Illinois, I brought up some changes I had been considering. In the safety and comfort of their home, we spent the week discussing different ideas, posing and answering various questions, and considering the long-term plan at stake.
For about a year I had been considering a change of career. Though I loved being a teacher, it just wasn’t paying toward my goals and aspirations. Further, the last year of teaching had proven quite difficult; challenges to my integrity, mounting stress under exceeding demands, and unresolved conflicts with the powers that be. (I was also quite worn on the windowless office I inhabited…”Don’t Fence Me In” comes to mind.)
After a week of deliberation, conversations, and phone calls, I was thrust into a new world. By weeks end, I had three prospective jobs with different companies and was enrolled in CDL school. After four years of teaching, I was about to embark on a career as an Over-the-Road Trucker (OTR). (I will pause as you recover from choking on your drink or cleaning up now spattered food.)
Quite simply put, it is one more step in my pursuit of a simple life.
You can blame Joel Salatin. After graduating college and struggling to find work, I stumbled upon a lecture he gave at Google. From there, it was a landslide of books, documentaries, and discussions with other farmers that an acute desire for a simpler, agrarian based life began to well up. Ever since that initial encounter, I have been on a quest to simplify and work towards a future homestead/farm.
I must seem like a lunatic to many. Indeed, I have received several reactions to verify that notion. A college educated, gifted and successful teacher upending his comfortable, white-collar life in the pursuit of the earthy and agrarian. Why?
It will take several posts to explain all of the facets that culminated in the sudden change of careers, but I hope that through my writings, you will understand my convictions and the reasons this change was necessary. Further, I hope that my life and writings will serve as an impetus for soul-searching, stock taking, and perhaps even a similar change in your own life.
From time to time, I will post from my collection of writings I have amassed while on the road, as well as quotes from readings I am undertaking. When the next change comes, I will chronicle my journey into homesteading.
Though the type of desk may have changed, I am still writing.
From the desk currently in Williams, Iowa,
Mr. Bluebaugh, aka TruckingProf
December was a month of many delays. With the hectic nature of this time of year, progress has been stalled far more than I had hoped it to be. I understand that it has been hard for sign ups to take place as parents and students both have been extremely busy. The weather also has not been our ally as the cold temperatures set in for the winter. However, it has been a great blessing that there has not been much snow fall yet this month! I am still ever more determined to make as much progress as possible before the spring.
However, due to the difficulty of getting sign ups, I have realized that perhaps our sampling of the student body may not be able to bear the full weight of the tiny house project. It has become necessary to seek help from the rest of the student body. Prior to Christmas Break, I sent out a letter to high school students and parents Continue reading
Professionalism weighs heavy upon me in the midst of anything I do. This attitude was instilled in me by my father who has been a top-notch salesman for over 20 years; often standing within the top 5 sales persons in his company from year to year. Further, professionalism has been in my recent deliberations concerning my career due to a recent survey I embarked upon regarding the doctrine of vocation (perhaps summed up best by Martin Luther when he said: God does not need your works, your neighbor does). Since I have been placed in the field of educational therapy, I am to glorify God in every aspect; one of those aspects involves professionalism and integrity.
It is important for Christians to practice with integrity and professionalism in the midst of a world, especially in special education, that looks down on Christians. However, if Christians are to practice with integrity there must be goals and plans in place for it to occur; professionalism does not occur overnight. Further, I believe that in order to maintain a professional practice, you must always be learning from colleagues and adapting your practice to ensure best practice methods. Professional practice requires ardent work, self-sacrifice, and faithful application of conviction and practice. Accordingly, when reflecting upon my own practice, there are two areas I wish to work on in the coming year in an effort to improve my professional practice.
First, I must be empathetic. I am not naturally empathetic when it comes to educational expectations. I frequently battle the temptation to chalk up a student’s shortcomings to conscious and willful laziness or a failure to apply one’s self adequately (though this does happen from time to time). When reading the chapter entitled “Empathic Intelligence” from The Clinical Practice of Educational Therapy, I was convicted of the role empathy is to play in our educational practice. Though there was much I learned this year regarding empathy and the practice thereof, there is still much I could do: daily practice patience when frustration is evident, continue to provide a safe, encouraging, and personable environment for therapy, and go out of my way to provide positive feedback and encouragement in progress throughout the year.
Second, I resolve to zealously learn my students. My students are made in the image of God and inhabit more than figures on a page; it is imperative that this never leave the forefront of my mind in my practice. As I learned this past year, interaction with my students extends beyond the therapy walls. Moving forward, it is my earnest goal to learn the academic desires, wishes, passions, ambitions, temperaments, study practices, and family dynamics of my students in order to fully accommodates their needs in a manner that involves them and is not merely about them.
What about you? Do you have thoughts regarding professionalism in your vocation? Share them in the comments below and let us begin a dialogue!
From the Desk,
Why do people respond differently to various situations? Whether explicitly stated or not, people possess a series of categorized beliefs about God, reality, knowledge, ethics and man (Nash, 1992, 26), known as a philosophy of life or a worldview. “A worldview, then, is a conceptual scheme by which we consciously or unconsciously place or fit everything we believe and by which we interpret and judge reality” (Nash, 1992, 16). Though many people may not be able to articulate their worldview, they no doubt have one. One’s worldview is either explicitly learned through dialogue, literature and diligent instruction, or it is implicitly learned through culture, role models, and literature. Finally, worldviews are always evident by the manner in which a person conducts himself or herself; though it may be in direct opposition to their articulated worldview.
When a worldview is based upon something outside of the self, something impervious to the whims and changing desires of the individual, solidity is found. However, when a worldview is based upon the self and subject to the ever-changing sea of human desires, the worldview produces confusion, inconsistency and contradiction. With such a fluid worldview, succinct and adequate answers to the questions of morality, ethics, law, and mankind cannot be given; rather, answers are subjective and subservient to preference.
The impact of a worldview upon education can be clearly seen in a cursory observation since it is the function of a worldview that allows an individual to interpret data and events and to assign them significance. Thus, teaching occurs through the filter of an individual’s worldview. Accordingly, to error in one’s worldview creates a foundation for teaching destined for catastrophe.
Philosophy of Life
I have found that there are two aspects of a worldview that are crucial in the arena of education: our view of God and our view of man. Our view of man, ultimately deriving from our view of God, necessarily forms how we teach. To have an errant view of God and man is to implement an educational philosophy full of holes and inadequate for the task. It is not enough to have a convenient answer when the task of educating successive generations is at hand; it is imperative that the right view be ascertained in order that right answers may be given to students’ questions.
Due to the fact that I believe God to be the sovereign, transcendent yet immanent, creator and upholder of the universe, his word has final authority. The laws he has set forth and the redemption he has provided govern how I live, and how I live influences how I teach. Further, my view of God necessarily informs my view of man. Man was created as the pinnacle of creation, yet due to Adam and Eve’s sin, the image of God has been distorted in every way. It is only through the redemption of Christ, given by God not earned by man, that man is made whole again through the process of sanctification.
Our view of man determines how we teach our students, to the end that we either teach solely to their mind, or we teach to the heart while teaching the mind. When I was in college, my theology professor instilled in his students the idea that you could have a perfect and sound argument for Christianity, but in the end the heart of the individual would trump the mind. Therefore, we must teach to the heart as well as the mind if we are to be effective. If we merely teach to the mind, all we have done is create a knowledgeable sinner whose driving force is still in need of transformation.
Philosophy of Education
The development of my philosophy of education occurred primarily in college, though there were some grade school influences. It was during my time in college that I became profoundly aware of the fallen nature of man and the fact that only God has the power to change people. Unless God is directing our methods, our efforts are frivolous.
Further, two teachers were instrumental in my growth. First, my fifth and sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Green, who handled her class with such sincere care while remaining steadfast in her standards. From her example, I seek to model the same tender sternness. Second, my college theology professor, Mr. Smith, taught me to ask deep questions and to evaluate everything including my own beliefs. From his example, I seek to encourage my students to learn the reasons behind the answers they hold, not simply to know the answer. It is only through the exercise of rigorous questioning that our beliefs are honed and solidified as iron sharpens iron.
In recent decades, the purpose of education seems to have shift from aiding individuals to use their created potential and glorify God through the gifts man has been endowed with, to creating individuals in manners that society deems appropriate or necessary, thereby molding society in their image and dreams. Here are the days of using education to shape society and gone are the days of God honoring education in the public sector.
Man was created with certain faculties that set him apart from the animals. It is through the faculties of intellect and will that man is to rule and subdue the earth. Education therefore, is to give mankind the necessary information and strategies that enable him or her to reach their God-given potential as the pinnacle of creation. It is through the proper acquisition of the faculties man has been given, that he most glorifies God’s handiwork.
With this view in mind, what then is the role of teacher in the classroom? Today, the teacher in many instances seems to replace the parents as the developer of children. There are many reasons as to why this should never be, no matter the situation, but perhaps the most necessary reason is that God has given a role to parents that no teacher can fulfill. Rather, the teacher is to partner with the parents in order to bring about the best educational decisions and results. It is through the unity of the parents and teacher that a school can aim to inspire students to reach their God-given potential.
In 1840, William Ellery Channing said, “Easy, pleasant work does not make robust minds, does not give men a consciousness of their powers, does not train them to endurance, to perseverance, to steady force of will, that force without which all other acquisitions avail nothing (Bennett, 2011 ).” This quote has had a deep impact on how I develop my instructional methods and curriculum. I believe that we should ever lead our students to high goals and quality. It would be easy to simply cater to the student, but without the consistent stretching of their minds, students may fail to realize exactly what they are capable of. Too much of curriculum today is soft, seeking to foster the students’ creativity. Yet, there are ways to foster that creativity without creating a lax curriculum. Because I know that each student has been created by God and endowed for certain tasks on earth, I assume that each student has the ability within them to master any subject. Therefore, curriculum should be robust in an age appropriate manner, ever aiming to grow them in maturity and critical thinking.
How then should we assess such a curriculum? Should assessment be based solely upon exams? I postulate that exams, though helpful, should not be the only means to assess a student’s mastery of a subject. I realize that exams are beneficial and to do away with exams all together is foolhardy, but other creative means should be sought, such as projects, class presentations, and dialogue. Creating diverse evaluating methods allows students who may not excel at test taking to prove that they do genuinely know the material.
Finally, I believe that classroom management should be conducted in such a manner that students realize the teacher’s goal is not a mere acquiescence to rules. Through our classroom management, the grace and love of Christ should be evident. This does not discount the times when proper discipline is to be enacted, but under such circumstances, we are to foster proper understanding in the students by working with them through their discipline. Further, in these times, perhaps the best option is not a cut and dry consequence but working with the student to bring about maturity and responsibility. It is not for our benefit that we desire students to follow standards, but for their benefit and safety. It is through submission to the leaders God has placed over us, regardless of whether we agree with them or not, that we honor God.
In conclusion, our teaching practice is informed by our beliefs about God and man. If these areas are not held in accordance with Scripture, we hold to a philosophy that does not sufficiently instruct the individual or foster their God-given potential. It is absolutely imperative that the foundation of our teaching practice be securely rooted in Scripture. Only then can we properly inspire students to achieve their God-given potential through excellent academics and a Christian environment.