Teach Me to Teach, Jesus- Establishing Vision

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.

Mark 1: 16-20

Jesus’ words tend to have an unorthodox effect on those to whom He is speaking.  In today’s reading, Jesus tells His first disciples in no extraordinary way that they would be “fishers of men” if they were to follow Him.  Such words must have been somewhat confusing to these first century fishermen, let alone for us in today’s world.

The truth is it isn’t what He said that made them react the way they did, it was how He said it.  The voice of Jesus rang into the ears of Peter, Andrew, James and John, but the vibrations touched their souls when He said, “Come, I will make you fishers of men.”  With such confidence and calmness, Jesus offered to them a way of life that involved not only mystery, but also vision.  In the back of their minds they knew that this loner on the shore knew what He was talking about, and they needed to follow Him.

Our students will recognize very quickly if we, like Jesus, have a vision for them.  It is of great importance that we develop this vision, then speak and act with great confidence in our abilities to teach them this vision.  Like Jesus, we must emit an aura of peaceful confidence that touches the souls of our students to the point that they will know that if they follow us, they will be successful regardless of how mysterious or difficult the path may be.

Today, let’s take a few moments before teaching and decide what our vision is for our students.  By the end of the year, what do we want them to have accomplished?  What expectations will we set to make sure they become successful not only in our classroom, but in their other classrooms after they leave us? What individual goals do they have for themselves?

When we implement our vision into the hearts of our students and unify our efforts with theirs, we too will be a “fishers of men,” just like Jesus in today’s reading.

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Teach Me to Teach, Jesus- “Jesus with skin on”

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 1: 14-15

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus begins His ministry in Galilee.  Before He starts, however, John the Baptist is arrested for his “outlandish” prophesies and proclamation of repentance.  How very strange that, after John’s arrest, Jesus travels on and continues the same gospel message of repentance.  Where John left off, Jesus continues on.

On our first day of school, we made the connection with John the Baptist in that we were given the task to “make straight Jesus’ paths,” and “prepare the way of the Lord.”  We then retreated to the desert of ourselves and looked deep inside to prepare the way of the Lord into not only our hearts, but the hearts of our students as well.

Today, following the example of John the Baptist, we sacrifice ourselves for the Lord’s sake and allow Him to pick up where we left off.  From this moment on, although we are present in the classroom, it is Jesus who will guide our souls in every decision we make if we allow Him to do so.  We must abandon our own plans and trust in His.

Allow the following story to illustrate.

Once day, a mother took her child by the hand and led her into her room.  The child was both excited and afraid to find that, in the place of her old crib, there was a new bed with covers decorated with beams of sunshine and clouds.  Her mother told her that she was a big girl now and that she would not need a crib.  Tonight, this little girl would sleep in her big-girl bed.

After tucking her daughter in, the mother walked halfway down the hall and waited.  Knowing her daughter, she suspected that she might have difficulty falling asleep in her big-girl bed.  Sure enough, no more than 5 minutes later, her daughter called for her mother.

“Mommy?  I’m scared.”

The mother did not want to intervene.  She wanted to instill on her daughter a great faith in God rather than a great faith in her mother.  So she replied, “It is fine, honey.  Ask Jesus to protect you.  Do not be afraid.”

Her daughter did not speak for a while.  The mother felt that her solution had worked and that her daughter had truly put her faith in Jesus to protect her.  A few minutes later, however, the voice of her daughter came calling out once again.

“Mommy, I’m scared.”

The mother once again replied, “Don’t be afraid, honey.  Ask Jesus to protect you.”

This time, the daughter answered without hesitation, “Mommy, I already did.  But I need Jesus with skin on!”

With great humility, the mother walked back into her daughter’s room and sat next to her daughter.  She then hugged her until she fell asleep in her arms.  While she lay there, she reflected on how honored she was to be “Jesus with skin on” for her daughter.    

In our classrooms today, let’s imitate the example of Jesus.  Let’s be “Jesus with skin on” for our students.  Let’s lead by example, with integrity, justice and most importantly with great love.  There is no better way to teach the Gospel.


Like this post?  Want to have one like it every time you get ready to teach? Download 180 of them right now and be set for the rest of the school year, or buy the paperback.

New duds (I’m moving my blog)

Hey all,

Just FYI, if you are a follower of my blog, I will no longer be posting through this wordpress.com site. My new duds can be found at the new and improved tjburdick.com (powered by wordpress.ORG).  It has been a lot of work, but so worthwhile.  Please, if you like what i do, head over there and subscribe.  I’d love the company.


I can’t afford to be a “good Catholic parent”

My two year old is getting more precious (and vocal) by the millisecond.  Her sponge-like ability to retain information for longer periods of time and then have that information explode at the most inopportune (and hilarious) moments is uncanny.  And as we giggle our hineys off at her innocence and pure joy, the vibration that resonates in the back of our minds while we enjoy this time in her life to the fullest is- what we are going to do to educate her and her sister in the most Christian (Ok, Catholic) way possible?

Here’s what my Catholic prejudice tells me:

TJ, you have two options- either send them to Catholic school or school em’ yourself.  

And then, my economic stinginess pipes in,

Ha!  Silly Catholic boy, don’t you know that costs money?  You are a Teacher.  So is your wife.  If the pay freeze continues in your district, you’ll just barely be able to send them to public school!  And you want to pay Catholic school tuition or, perish the thought, ask your wife to stay home with the kiddos and teach them yourselves?  That means you’d have to survive with just your tiny, insignificant, public servant’s wages.  Then it will be ‘good luck if you want to follow God’s order to be fruitful and multiply’.  You can’t be serious!

Dang money.  Dang it all to heck.

Please pray that my kiddos can be taught by the most capable teachers in their lives during their school years and beyond: their parents.  I don’t want to miss a single inopportune (or hilarious) moment with them.  I also want them to know, love and serve God in the most profound way possible.  My wife and I can make that happen if my pay-scale will play nice.

Image Credit:the-friat.blogspot.com

Help a poor Catholic school for immigrant children at no cost to you

Our parish school can receive $45,000 in repairs if we get enough people to vote. Your votes can put us on top. All we need you to do is two things:

1. Go to http://www.sanjuandiegoacademy.com/ and vote
2. Spread the word on facebook, twitter and Email.

Ready. Set. Go!

The invisible decade on my rosary

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the different types of religious congregations that help make up the Catholic Church. Writing it was like spiritual therapy because for years I have been discerning where my spiritual talents could be most useful, which Saint could mentor me towards earning my heavenly crown and those of my family.  St. Francis? Our lady of Mount Carmel?  St. Dominic? St. Ignatius?

Today, I am pleased to announce that the Big Therapist in the sky has astounded me once again with His wisdom.  Upon praying the rosary, a sense of belongingness that was silently coaxing me towards a particular religious charism shone through… and it came in the most peculiar way:

This is my rosary.  It was a birthday gift from my wife that I received back in 2010.

Did you notice something different about my rosary?  It has six decades.

Why? Wouldn’t that anti-liturgical?  Truthfully, I don’t know.  I’ll let you battle that out in the combox.

I learned how to pray this sixth decade from a very lesser-known religious congregation called the Christian Brothers.  They are consecrated laymen who vow poverty, chastity and obedience to the superior Brother (not a Bishop) who then answers to the Pope.  They are teachers and dedicate their bodies and souls to the ongoing construction of the God’s Kingdom as teachers.  Since I am a teacher, I gravitated to their founder’s spirituality.  St. John the Baptist De La Salle, while not very well known in the U.S. is worldwide thanks to his Brethren.

Back to that sixth mystery. It turns out that the Lasallian rosary is always prayed with a sixth decade which bears no evangelical mystery.  Instead, it is prayed to strengthen the community through consecration to Mary and her Son, Jesus.

“The sixth and final decade is dedicated to the Lasallian community which I love so very much.”

These are the words I’ve recited thousands of times prior to beginning my secret sixth decade.  Now, it is not longer a secret.  I am Lasallian.

Here are a few problems with that:

The closest Lasallian community is located 3 hours away from me so I can’t be considered an “official” part of their community.

The Lasallians have no “Third Order”, so there is no real enrollment into the community besides what we experienced while serving with them as missionaries.

Finally, almost nobody knows who they are in the U.S. which makes it hard to connect with other Lasallians.

And so, I have no real merit in saying I’m lasallian, but I sure as heck hope that merit is earned by living as one.

What about you?  Have you ever had a calling to serve but couldn’t realize it?  Do you have a secret prayer that is hooking you up with some extra graces?

Teach Me to Teach, Jesus- Getting to Know Our Students

At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

Mark 1: 12-13

One of the behaviors that God has allowed us to understand through the study of psychology is that, when confronted with something new or dangerous, our animal instincts kick in and the “beast” within us will either “fight or flight.”   Our students will do the same because it is imbedded in their human nature to do so.  This explains why during our first moments together some of our students naturally hide their true selves behind the mask of their own defense systems.  In thinking about how they will survive in their new surroundings, they go into “fight” or “flight” mode.

Jesus was tempted by Satan beyond the norms of all human temptation to choose the worldly promises that Satan offered.  Jesus could have easily “fought” or “flew” away, but He stayed and overcame the temptations of the devil.  Jesus prevailed because He wore no masks.  He had no reason to defend Himself.  He knew He was God’s Son.  The victory was already His.

We too will be tempted to hide our true souls and sacrifice it for the “beastly” qualities of our human nature- anger, disorganization, inconsistency, and self-love.  If we look into our souls and find the qualities that God placed in us when He gave us “dominion over the beasts,” (Genesis 2) we will find faith, intellect, hope and love.   With these gifts, we wear no masks; we have no reason to because we know we are God’s sons and daughters.  We share in the same victory of Jesus.

After watching us demonstrate these virtues, our students begin to do the same.  They lower their natural defenses and begin to open themselves up, some sooner than others.

God has called us to be more than just mere animals, He has called us to be both teachers and students and at the same time His sons and daughters.  How beastly a world it would be if we treated each other otherwise!

Like this post?  Want to have one like it every time you get ready to teach?  Download 180 of them right now and be set for the rest of the school year, or buy the paperback.