Monday, March 7, 2011

Consistency Teaching

Things have been pretty stable lately.  This is darn amazing.  So much so that I sometimes forget that I'm only a substitute teacher and that our in comes nowhere near to match our out.  But life, it seems, can't be content with permitting anyone's complacency.  More amazing--and markedly pathetic, really--it doesn't take very much to remind me how fragile things really are--how much I so entirely rely upon others, and, more than anyone, one Other.

For the past couple months now, I've been subbing for a seventh grade science teacher.  While I've learned that eighth graders are not universally worse than seventh graders (I taught eighth grade science next door before this, you may remember), the general pejorative classroom management issues have been offset by the convenience of daily, full-period "preps" (generally, in block schedules, like that of this school, teachers get one prep every other day).  While I can't say I've particularly enjoyed my work this go 'round (I'm not preparing the lessons, and while this makes things simpler--less demanding--it lends a certain degree of detachment--of disassociation), it is yet satisfying to work with kids and teach them something and whatever else and all the other personal benefits one might gain from teaching.

My current gig was originally set to last out through the first week of May.  I got an email this past Saturday that says otherwise.  I've got somewhere between two and four weeks left here, and then....  Who knows?  Objectively, this is just fine.  It's a big school.  There are lots of subs needed.  It's an even bigger school district.  You do the math.  I've got pretty much nothing to worry about.  Yet I worry.

In my previous job, I made good money.  Subbing, I don't.  Despite this, there was far more financial stress before than now, because back then I had no idea when/if I was going to get paid, if it would be a full check, a partial check, or if my boss would find some way of worming out of paying some portion of my check for whatever little fiscal invention he might tease out.  Here, subbing, I know exactly how much I'm making, when it will come, how much will be held for taxes, when my statements will be available, and so on.  It is remarkably consistent.  This is remarkably comforting!

But consistency, no matter where it is, so often reveals itself an illusion.  The pieces are all inter-reliant.  If one thing doesn't fall into place--like having a job to go to! --then the rest sloughs away.  It's an emotional thing, this stability--this consistency--and, really, how often are emotions stable?  I find that I'm a remarkably stable person by appearance, but that doesn't mean things are churning tumultuous beneath the surface.

I didn't have a specific thematic intention when I began this post.  And now as I write, I find my mind bending constantly (that's an important word here, measurable as it is against "consistency" and "stability") toward God.  Really, the consistency is not an illusion.  It is my faith in it that havers.  I am inconstant.  My job stability falters.  Not God.  And as Life reminds me that I'm not in control, I am reminded (intentional passive!) that God is.  Really, He's never let us down.  We've always had our needs provided, and often miraculously.  Regardless of all the inconsistent parties and influences around me, One is not.

And thank God!  The next thing will come with or without my foresight, and food will still be on the table.


  1. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."--Psalm 46.

    I love that verse. "Very present." In other words, God's faster to help than Watson is to buzz in.

  2. That Psalm produced another great verse (among others), and my favorite:

    "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth" (v10).

    And I hope God's faster than Watson, since a person (inasmuch as you can consider either of his rivals "human"), beat him to the buzzer--not to mention his shaky accuracy!

  3. It also was the inspiration for Luther's "A Mighty Fortress is Our God", so a pretty elite psalm, I'd say.

  4. That has always been one of my very favorite hymns. I'm a little embarrassed that I didn't realize it was Luther, but there you go. From an entirely musical preference (though, obviously, with a hymn like this you can't separate the music from its spirit), you should youtube performances of this by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which, by ANY standard, is one of the best choirs in the world. Whoa. Stills my heart!

  5. Oh, I love the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I'll have to watch it.

    Yeah, so obviously it's really big in the Lutheran Church. People have referred to the song as, "the battle hymn of the Reformation." Unfortunately, back in the religious wars, it was often LITERALLY a battle hymn.

  6. That's brilliant!

    The Mormons had (and have!) different battles, but our anthems were others. I'm actually generally saddened by how infrequently we sing "Mighty Fortress" in worship services. Of course, our lay-organists are often a little stymied by the relatively difficult accompaniment. I wouldn't know the difference if hadn't had my grandmother around growing up. She was a professional organist, and recognized once as one of the greatest. She ATE UP that music, and had the uncanny ability to make anything so much greater than the dots and stems on the page; and when the source material is already so fantastic....

    Anyway, I don't know if he's done an arrangement for it (I'll have to look it up myself), see if you can find one put together by Mac Wilberg. Dang!