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Archive for the ‘Westminster’ Category

A Beautiful Season

In Arts, Places & Spaces, Sports, Westminster on May 19, 2011 at 9:27 pm

"I love baseball.
You know it doesn't have to mean anything,
it's just beautiful to watch."
Woody Allen in Zelig

I hung up my baseball uniform today. Granted, I hung several of them up (uniform collection is one of the least glamorous parts of high school coaching), but I paused an extra moment when I came to number 20. Though I had picked it last year simply because it was the biggest jersey available (ahem), wearing it this year ironically corresponded with our JV team's final number of wins this season – the most victories for a JV baseball team in Westminster's 28-year history.

Huddle with Tickets

I mentioned the irony of my number to the guys in my pre-game talk last Thursday – the last game of the season and the one we needed to win to reach 20. As there are no playoffs or post-season games at the junior varsity level, total number of victories would seem all a JV team can shoot for to register its existence. But in baseball (as in most sports), record (we were 20-2 on the year) rarely captures what a season means to a coach and his players; relationship does that.

While we had our share of ups and downs, we loved one another even (and especially) when we didn't always like each other. Sure, there was plenty of competition for positions and no one wants to ride pine when his team is on the field, but the guys worked through a lot of that early in the season (sometimes with a little help from their coaches) and came to be each other's biggest fans.

Out of 22 games, no lineup was the same (Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is not the only one who can manage by "platoon"). At the JV level, our goal is to play as competitively as we can while playing as many as we can – winning games and preparing guys to be able to one day contribute at the Varsity level. In addition, JV provides the opportunity to call up some guys from our Freshman team (in only our second year, they went a very respectable 9-4 this spring) to see what various winning permutations the future might hold.

For some this season, action on the JV (or Freshman) team may have been all they saw, but they played a lot, learned a lot, and won a lot. For others, contributing at the Varsity level came sooner than later, as we played our last four games without three of our sophomores who got "called up" and are still playing as our Varsity just won districts on Wednesday for the sixth straight year.

District Champions

One of our JV player's dads sent me a gracious email summing up our season this way:

"Our family appreciates the time you gave to coaching the boys the past two years. You somehow managed to get playing time for everyone, which doesn't happen much in high school baseball, and you did it without weakening the team's performance in any way.  That's an impressive accomplishment for any coach."

I received several notes like this from parents, and being the affirmation junkie that I am, appreciated every one of them. Still, the one thing that meant the most to me this season happened after our 19th win. We were playing a 4A school (Westminster is 2A in size) and the opposing team's coach had told his team that we were not any good; he did not even have enough respect for us or our program to throw an actual pitcher against us, but simply plucked an infielder and had him awkwardly pitch.

We ended up winning, 18-3. After the game and our normal post-game meeting in the outfield, the guys made a few mini-speeches and handed my assistant coach, Slade Johnson, and me a manilla envelope with 15 tickets to a Cardinals game. Their parents had chipped in on so that we could all go to a game together (which we did Wednesday night after having the guys over for grilled hot dogs and wiffle ball – see below).

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After handing over the tickets (and with even bigger "ah, shucks" smiles than before), the guys made a few more mini-speeches about my leaving for Oklahoma and presented me with an authentic Rawlings bat with my name engraved in the barrel and their signatures scrawled on the bat head. Marveling at both the beauty and the meaning of the piece of wood I held in my hands, I nearly cried at the classy thoughtfulness of it.

Baseball Bat

The next day, we won our twentieth and final game. As I was walking off the field after shaking hands with the other team, the Lord gave me an idea for our post-game meeting. Since I had received a bat from the guys the day before, I thought it might be a good idea to rightly set up my successor. Grabbing my coach's fungo bat, I made my own mini-speech and presented it to Slade, who will be overseeing and coaching the JV and Freshman teams next year. He was thrilled (notice Lil' Blue in his hand below).

Passing the Bat

After the meeting, as Slade and I were walking back to the dugout, the guys presented their final gift to me: my very first water cooler shower. Strangely (and after the initial cold shock), I was honored by this just as much as I was by the bat the day before. Why? Because my players felt comfortable and secure enough in their relationship with their coach to have some fun with me. The day before they had honored me with their respect; now they honored me with their trust. I don't know if they caught it or not, but it was a beautiful illustration of how we are to walk with and enjoy our relationship with God.

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It was a special season – one that I will take with me to Oklahoma and hold onto for years to come. I told the guys that, if they work hard and commit themselves to each other in doing so, I believe they have a great chance of one day winning a state championship. I also told them that, if and when they make it that far, I will be catching a plane back to St. Louis to be there. I think they believe they can do it. I think they believe I will, too.

So, for all you baseball fans out there, there's your post-season wrap-up. Thanks to my players, their parents, my fellow coaches, and the Lord God who gave us baseball. The only season that can top this one is still to come…and will play on through eternity. Look for me: I'll be the one in the coach's box down the third base line…

(Thanks to Dale Froeschner and Megan for the photos. For Megan's thoughts, click here.)

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Worldviews Summarized

In Education, Westminster on May 9, 2011 at 9:20 pm

One of my fellow Worldviews teachers (whose room I use for my own section of seniors) summarized the flow of the Westminster Christian Academy Bible curriculum with the first two points below.

One of my other colleagues (whose sense of humor is bigger than his professionalism) added a third point for the benefit of my seniors during sixth hour.

Dunham Worldview Pic

Warren Smith, to be mocked by you is indeed to be loved by you. Thanks.

The Boys (and Girls) of Summer

In Family, Places, Places & Spaces, Sports, Westminster, Young Ones on March 31, 2011 at 8:10 am

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It probably has something to do with living in St. Louis, but I always find myself writing a post on the occasion of Major League Baseball's opening day. As usual, humor me.

Whether or not she meant for the opportunity to coincide, Megan scheduled a tour (via Groupon) this past Sunday afternoon of Busch Stadium III. It had just snowed the day before and there were at least a dozen people on the field trying to dry things up; otherwise, we and the 20 other people on the tour pretty much had the place to ourselves.

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As you may know, St. Louis is a great baseball city with the second-most World Series championships to its credit (10; only the New York Yankees have more at 27). Somewhat unrelated (but interesting nevertheless), we've also had a fair number of official logos during this time (Slugger Bird – fourth from the left – was always a favorite of mine).

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The history is rich, and some of it is represented at different locations throughout the stadium: vintage uniforms encased with pennants and other timeless memorabilia; a tribute to former Cardinals radio announcer, Jack Buck; various World Series programs and trophies scattered here and there.

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The Redbirds aren't the only ones who open their season this week; Westminster's baseball season started for us as well. This is my second year coaching the junior varsity/freshmen at WCA and I have an unbelievably talented group of guys who really love the game. It's also a treat to be part of a coaching staff under head coach Rich Van Gilst (now in his 28th season) and with pitching coach Andy Benes, former Cardinals pitcher who spent 14 years in the big leagues.

Last week, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ranked WCA's varsity team number one for small schools in St. Louis. My part in that (along with stellar assistant coaches Slade Johnson and Micah Gall, two guys in their twenties who were both solid players in high school and college) is to build guys into varsity-level players during their freshmen and sophomore years. While we're certainly not the only ones investing in their baseball skills (many of our guys play baseball year-round for other coaches), it's fun to see "our boys" do well when they get the chance to play up.

For instance, two days ago, Ben Lovell, my top pitcher from last year as a freshman, started his first varsity game as a sophomore, going six innings and getting the win against one of the big Parkway public schools (check out his post-game interview). Last night, due to some injuries with some of our seniors, Mark McFarland, another sophomore, got "called up" to do some varsity relief pitching and threw two innings and also got the win. Today, a third sophomore, Davis Vanderslice, is making his first varsity start, and I'm confident he'll do well, too.

Sure, I hate to lose the guys from the junior varsity team, but it's fun to both help prepare and celebrate with them before and after their "big break." It's also fun to "call up" a few freshmen to help out on the junior varsity level in replacement (having lost two of my sophomore starters, I'm starting two freshmen pitchers in games later this week). Finally, it's very enjoyable to win games with guys at the junior varsity level (we won our first game 7-0 by playing really good defensive against another of the big Parkway schools).

Tonight, after our JV and Freshman games were canceled due to rain (the joys of playing baseball in March in the Midwest), I came home and played catch with my two youngest, both of whom are learning to love baseball as much as their two older sisters. It's amazing how much they've improved in their catching and throwing since last year, all from simply growing one year older. We laughed, we talked, we threw, we caught. It was fun.

At whatever level – half-pint, freshman, junior varsity, varsity, the Majors – baseball is the same great game that gets the entire city of St. Louis excited when the boys (and girls) of summer show up and start playing in the spring. It's as perfect a game as there is, and I'm glad to relive my love for it as a former pitcher/player and now as a coach.

Play ball! And go Redbirds!

(For more baseball thoughts over the years, click here, here, here, here, and here.)

The Biggest Curriculum Film Stretch Contest

In Education, Pop Culture, Television, Westminster on December 15, 2010 at 10:48 am

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It's finals week, and let's be honest: teachers can only grade so much for so long before they start to get a little loopy. That said, here are the entries for a little contest my fellow colleagues and I created via email in between proctoring/grading exams (you'll notice the entries got shorter as the contest went one, presumably as tests were turned in).

THE CONTEST

In the spirit of having very little to do while kids are taking a test, I’d like to announce the first ever Biggest Curriculum Film Stretch Contest. The idea is to incorporate into your curriculum a movie that, let’s face it, has SOOOOO little to do with the topic at hand that it’s almost laughable, but there’s enough in common so that you could almost, almost make a rational argument to show it.

In other words, if you taught at a public school and had tenure and wanted to read a magazine for a week, what would you show?

I’ll start. When I was student teaching, I was asked to teach a sociology unit on aging. I had never had a sociology class. I knew nothing. I needed something to teach for the whole week. I showed Cocoon.

Beat that.

THE ENTRIES

History: In order to understand the tensions inherent in two competing superpowers leading us to the cold war, I give you…Top Gun.

English: In order to understand how to appropriately structure paragraphs and give students a reason for learning how to write, I believe it would be appropriate to show the entire first and second seasons of Murder She Wrote.

Chemistry: In order to understand the science of life, we shall embark upon an entire quarter viewing of Sex and the City.

Counseling: In order to understand multiple personality disorder in psychology, we would watch Me, Myself and Irene.

Math: For a unit on Consumer Math and Personal Finance, I would show Gossip Girl.

Physics: As an application of the mathematics behind physics, I would show the entire Battlestar Galactica series.

History: I would pick the following movies for my unit on Westward Expansion (because why make it a week when you can make it a whole semester?). In order to explain the development of railroads out west with immigrants I would show Shanghai Noon starring Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson. Have to deal with the mistreatment of Native Americans, so I would knock out Avatar and would also for sure show Pocahontas. Sticking with the Westward expansion theme, we finish it off with Wild Wild West.

Elective: All we’d do is watch Sesame Street – it has nothing to do with what I’m teaching, but it’s age appropriate and uses lot and LOTS of pictures. In the afternoon it would be Barney…if my kids aren't taking their afternoon naps already.

Western Civ: Regarding the insurrection in Iraq and Afghanistan and how to end it using teenagers with bows, arrows and .22 caliber rifles, we would watch Red Dawn.

Math: Concerning angles and vectors, we would watch Bend It Like Beckham.

Biology: Concerning stupidity and genetic disorders, we would also watch Bend It Like Beckham.

Western Civ: For a unit on what it would be like to drive across Kansas seven consecutive times, we would watch Ghandi.

Industrial Arts/Driver's Ed: BJ and the Bear.

Outdoor Education: Cliffhanger.

History: Concerning Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSS), Rambo I & II.

Life Skills: For education in tolerance and understanding how to be more culturally sensitive, we would watch The Smurf Movie.

Ethics: In order to understand the nuances of ethical casuistry in 1980’s rural Idaho, we will immerse ourselves in the world of Napoleon Dynamite, watching the film on Monday and Tuesday, using block day to study the film’s climactic “dance of redemption,” and then choreographing our own versions for an assembly performance on Friday. (Optional weekend event: awkward junior high-esque dance in overly-streamered gymnasium).

Staff Development: For professional development for summer seminar teachers, we would watch Meatballs.

Counseling: For a look at what happens when you fail all your classes, we would watch Summer School (starring Mark Harmon).

History: For greater understanding of the long-term effects of the Treaty of Versailles, we would watch Die Hard (ticked off Germans).

Physics: For greater understanding of velocity, gravity, and combustion, we would also watch Die Hard (ticked off criminals).

Life Skills: I’d do a unit on how broken father and son relationships can be healed by aliens invading earth, a la War of the Worlds.

What say you? Any you would add? Any you've sat through as a student? Feel free to add your own curriculum suggestions as part of the online version of our contest.

A Night in the Life

In Calling, Pop Culture, Westminster on November 15, 2010 at 9:08 pm

So I’m lying on the couch trying to finish up a lesson plan for tomorrow morning, when an email from one of my students drops into my inbox:

“Mr. Dunham, I was wondering if you knew where in the New Testament Paul talks about the church dealing with a man sleeping with his mother? Thank you.”

Chuckling at the brief and bizarre nature of the request, I write back:

“A little random, but okay. 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 describes the offense.”

The response:

“Thank you so much. I need it for an essay I am doing on Woody Allen.”

Just a night in the life of your friendly neighborhood Bible teacher…

A Pre-Election Thought

In Calling, Education, Politics, Thought, Westminster, Young Ones on October 31, 2010 at 5:10 pm

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A fellow colleague sent the following email to our faculty last week:

"I heard this story on NPR this evening regarding skills the next generation needs in an increasingly competitive job market. Such skills include: 'Analytic and quantitative skills; social awareness (social IQ as I call it); creative problem-solving; the ability to be adaptable; language skills, foreign languages; and then of course, communications skills.'"

I wrote back:

"Whew. Looks I’m off the hook. No one’s calling for ethics (obviously)."

Folks, regardless of your preferred political party, say a prayer when you vote on Tuesday that, in the midst of all the politics and power grabs this fall, God would mercifully cause our elected leaders to grow and follow a conscience informed by a biblical ethic. I can't think of a more needed skill for Congressional-types and kids alike.

Music Week 2010

In Education, Musicians, Westminster on September 24, 2010 at 9:12 am

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Here are the songs from this year's Discerning Ear Project in Ethics class. The gist of the project is that the kids bring in music (MP3s with lyric sheets) and explain it as fitting in one of three moral categories (good, bad, or neutral); thus, we spend the week listening, discussing, and debating meaning and morality.

After they spend a week wrestling through the difficulties of trying to categorize their music (dualism example: If there's some good and some bad in the song, does that then make it neutral?), we then talk about a more Reformed way of approaching things, asking what we can affirm in each song, what we should challenge, and (and this is where it gets dicey), what our listening responses should be in light of passages like 1 Corinthians 10:31, 1 Thessalonians 5:22-23, and others.

There was plenty of new music this year that I wasn't familiar with, but I confess nothing really stuck out enough to make me want to instantly (or even eventually) download it. Take a look through the songs and bands and let me know what I ought to take a chance on the next time I have some iTunes money.

  • 100 Years by Five for Fighting
  • Accidents Can Happen by Sixx A.M.
  • American Honey by Lady Antebellum
  • Apologize by One Republic
  • Away from the Sun by 3 Doors Down
  • Beauty from Pain by Superchick
  • Bicycle Race by Queen
  • Billionaire by Travie McCoy (featuring Bruno Mars)
  • Black Rock by O.A.R.
  • Buddy by Musiq Soulchild
  • California Stars by Billy Bragg and Wilco
  • Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin
  • Chicken Fried by Zach Brown Band
  • Chop Suey by System of a Down
  • Cleaning this Gun by Rodney Atkins
  • Dance Anthem of the 80’s by Regina Spektor
  • Dead and Gone by T.I. (featuring Justin Timberlake)
  • Dear Life by Anthony Hamilton
  • Dynamite by Taio Cruz
  • Eclipse (All Yours) by Metric
  • Everything by Michael Buble
  • First Date by Blink 182
  • Ghetto Gospel by Tupac (featuring Elton John)
  • Grassman by Dodgy
  • Handlebars by The Flobots
  • I Am the Walrus by The Beatles
  • I Run to You by Lady Antebellum
  • I Was Made for Lovin’ You by KISS
  • If It’s Love by Train
  • If You’re Reading This by Tim McGraw
  • Imagine by John Lennon
  • Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars
  • King of Anything by Sara Bareilles
  • Lasso by Phoenix
  • Laughing With by Regina Spektor
  • Live and Let Die by Guns ‘N Roses
  • Love the Way You Lie by Eminem (with Rihanna)
  • Maxwell’s Silver Hammer by The Beatles
  • Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson
  • Mr. Brightside by The Killers
  • My Generation by Nas and Damien Marley
  • My Heart by Paramore
  • Narwhals by Weebl’s Stuff
  • Needle and Haystack Life by Switchfoot
  • Not Afraid by Eminem
  • Play the Song by Joey & Rory
  • Pray for You by Jason and the Long Road to Love
  • Put Your Records by Corinne Bailey Rae
  • Roxanne by The Police
  • Scapegoat by Epik High
  • Second Chance by Shinedown
  • Show Me What I’m Looking For by Carolina Liar
  • Sing for the Moment by Eminem
  • Snuggle Song by Schnuffel Bunny
  • Sorrow by Flyleaf
  • That’s What Youth Is by No Brain
  • The Cave by Mumford and Sons
  • The Man Who Can’t Be Moved by The Script
  • The Show by Lenka
    Tricky by RUN D.M.C.
  • Queen Jane by Bob Dylan
  • Walk Like an Egyptian by The Bangles
  • What I’ve Done by Linkin Park
  • Where is the Love? by the Black-Eyed Peas
  • Unthinkable by Alicia Keys
  • Vengeance by Yngwie Malmsteen
  • Yellow Submarine by The Beatles

Summer Seminar Washington: A Summary

In Education, Nature, Places, Science, Travel, Westminster on July 26, 2010 at 7:51 am

As you know if you've been following along, I just recently returned from my third Summer Seminar, this time to the Pacific Northwest. One of the students' assignments was to journal their thoughts regarding the intricacies in nature that we saw on the trip. Not wanting to miss the opportunity myself, I pulled out my own journal and wrote a bit. Here (with a few pictures the students took) is what I wrote:

Summer Seminar is blowing me away right now as we process the intricacy of all that we're seeing. I confess I'm at a point where, as I consider our experience at the Hoh Rain Forest with what we saw earlier today at Ruby Beach's low tidal pools, I'm struggling a bit with my faith that God really created it all, is sovereign over it all, is aware and at work in it all. The complexity of the way the different systems complement and interact with each other is just so mind-boggling; likewise, the beauty is amazing as there is form and function, aesthetic and efficiency, and I marvel at the creation – process and product – wondering how God can be the Lord of it all?

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Strangely, the experience causes one of two responses in me: the first is the realization that, once again, I have made God too small and in my own image; the second is the recognition that I can become numb to creation and wonder if, maybe, it really is the rarest function of random chance and evolution, for it all seems so big (too big) for anyone (even God) to have created and set in motion and rule over. This is just the Pacific Northwest! What about the rest of the U.S.? The world? The universe?

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The Christian worldview, both theologically as well as ecologically, does not work with a small, ethnocentric god created in my own image. I forget (again) how much work it is to keep from limiting my understanding of the person of God, but am reminded (again) by His creation of plenty of reasons that help me doubt my doubts.

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I do not believe the world's existence to be luck or chance. God has taken credit for His work of creation, and I am wrong to limit His person in the face of the reality of the intricacies I see in the world. My limited understanding of all He has made does not negate the truth that these ecosystems and their connections (which are difficult to fully comprehend) were and are under God's sovereign reign.

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My mind, as well as my heart, can only grasp so much. The main question
I've been asking myself on the trip is what does it all mean?
What do I and these kids (as well as the world and its inhabitants)
take away from all of this creation that might change and bring
contribution to God's world? How do we translate our awe at God's
intricacies into actions on behalf of them?

Re-reading my entry and seeing the pics brings to mind the beginning of Psalm 14:

"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'"

Lord, forgive me for my doubts…and keep me from being so foolish before You.

Twilight It Isn’t

In Books, Education, Nature, Places, Science, Travel, Westminster on July 9, 2010 at 5:36 am

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I'm flying to Portland today in preparation for Westminster's Summer Seminar in Washington, which starts tomorrow and runs for the next ten days. We've got 22 soon-to-be-seniors and 7 staff (none of whom are pictured above) going on the trip. Here's a tentative (read: weather-permitting) itinerary:

July 10, Saturday
Rendezvous with students/staff in Portland, OR
Lunch
Transport to Forks, WA (yes, I know this is where the Twilight "saga" is set, but no, that's not why we're going there)

July 11 or 12, Sunday or Monday
Forks logging and mill tours
Hoh Rain Forest hike
or
Hurricane Ridge
and Crescent Lake

July 13, Tuesday
Tidal pool study at Ruby Beach
Transport to Mossyrock

July 14 and 15, Wednesday and Thursday
Mt. Rainier
or
Mt. St. Helens

Transport to Deschutes River state park

July 16, Friday
Hike Mt. Hood (Copper spur: 7.8 miles)

July 17 and 18, Saturday and Sunday
Raft Deschutes River

July 19, Monday
Holiday Inn Express, Portland, OR

July 20, Tuesday
Depart

Core classes include:

  • Is This the Way It’s Supposed to Be?
    This core will introduce the tension of needing a vital raw material, yet wrestling with the consequences of acquiring that resource.
  • The Biology of the Old Growth vs. the Modern Lumber Industry
    This core will explore the idea of an old growth forest juxtaposed with a replanted forest: Can we simply replant and expect to sustain the old growth ecosystem?
  • The Way It Should Be: Systems That Function
    This core will explore ecosystems functioning as they were intended to and seek to understand that species work towards the benefits of the entire system due to a “biological Invisible Hand”.
  • The Cedar as Central: The “Buffalo” of the Pacific Northwest
    This core will explore the Native American view of the old growth cedar as central to their survival and how the same cedars are central to the survival of Forks, WA. Students will understand the centrality of the cedar to an old growth ecosystem and its species. A comparison will be drawn to the buffalo on the Great Plains. What are the differences between the White and Native American views of these natural resources?
  • Sustainability
    This core will explore author Lynn White’s claim that a Christian worldview with its notion of dominion is ultimately responsible for the ecological crisis. Students will also interact with Francis Schaeffer’s "Pollution and the Death of Man" as a counterpoint to White’s ideas and will seek to explore a proper Christian view of dominion with an emphasis on sustainability.
  • Mt. St. Helens: A Theological View of Restoration
    This core will explore the gradual, natural restoration of Mt. St. Helens and the parallel idea of God’s restoration of Creation from a Reformed eschatological position.
  • The Economics and Politics of Logging: What Will It Cost You?
    This core will explore the costs of proper dominion. Considering that the whole Old Growth debate is driven by the economics and politics of rationing a scarce resource, students will be introduced to the notion that proper dominion will be costly to their generation.

Students are to have read The Final Forest: The Battle for the Last Great Trees of the Pacific Northwest by William Dietrich and written an introductory three-page response essay before the trip. They'll then submit five revised journal entries, culminating in a five-page essay due at the end of the month. I'm responsible for the reflecting/writing/grading aspect of the trip, as well as for publishing a book compilation of the students' best writing and pictures.

All in all, it should be fun. If I see Edward or Bella, I'll say hello for you…

Last Day

In Education, Pop Culture, Westminster on May 28, 2010 at 8:40 am

Here's what I posted on my classroom door this morning, the last day of final exams:

“Mr. Dunham, do you have our tests graded?”

“No (insert name), but thanks for stopping by to say thanks for a great year.”

“You’re welcome. When will my test be done?”

“Today is Friday; grades are due Tuesday. Sometime between now and then, I’m sure.”

“Okay. Can I see what you’ve graded so far?”

“No.”

“Can you just grade mine real quick so I know what I got?”

“No.”

“Is this another one of those rare-but-important lessons in delayed gratification that challenges my moral therapeutic deism?”

“Yep.”

“Thought so. Hey, I guess I learned something after all. Thanks for a great year, Mr. Dunham.”

"You're welcome."

School's (almost) out for summer. Paging Alice Cooper…

Summer 2010 Preview, Etc.

In Books, Calling, Education, Family, Humanity, Internet, Musicians, Places, Places & Spaces, Theologians, Thought, Travel, TV, Vacation, Web/Tech, Westminster, Writers on May 23, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Sitting here on a Sunday night listening to some Lucinda Williams and doing a little writing. It's been a while since I've done a summary post of sorts, so since Megan and the girls are out of town and we're collectively an entire season behind to really make the LOST finale worth watching, here are a few things I've been thinking about and/or looking forward to:

School: This week is finals week, so I'll be spending most of my time grading. The good news is, unlike the past three years when I was evaluating projects and papers, I'm going into finals week with nothing other than finals to grade, so that should make for a little less consuming week in general.

In other school news, I've signed on for another year at Westminster, but my role is changing a bit as I'll be leaving the world of freshmen New Testament behind for fourth section of sophomore Ethics and one section of senior Worldviews next year. I'm glad for the transition all around.

One last note on the school front (this time the homeschool front), we're going to be entering a new stage of education here at home. This fall, our two oldest girls will be full-time students at Central Christian School in Clayton, while Megan continues leading the Classical Conversations group and homeschools our younger two (here are details from Megan's perspective).

Summer: In addition to writing (more on that below), my primary goal in June is to hang out with the little ladies, read some books, and get a few projects done around here. In addition, I'll help coach our Westminster summer baseball team for a week in June, as well as get trained on some new school information software, as I've been asked to be a mentor teacher to the rest of the staff this fall.

July ups the ante considerably in terms of travel, as we're planning a family trip to Colorado Springs, as the girls are now old enough (somehow) to attend The Navigators' camping programs (Eagle Lake and Eagle's Nest) we helped lead back in the day. I'll try to see as many folks as I can in a few days' time before I jump on a plane from Denver to Portland for my third year as part of Westminster's Summer Seminar. This time, I'll be investing ten days with 25 soon-to-be seniors in Washington state instead of South Dakota, after which I'll fly back to Colorado and then we'll all drive back to Missouri.

August sees staff reporting as earlier as the week of August 9th, but I'll have a few publishing projects to edit and design from the Washington trip, as well as a fair amount of prep work to finalize for my new
Worldviews class. Orientation starts the 12th and the first day of class is the 16th.

Studying: Despite baseball high-jacking my time and energy, I've been reading in a couple areas of interest this spring, not the least of which has been the study of the end times, or eschatology. N.T. Wright's book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, has been helpful, as has revisiting my notes from seminary (particularly Dr. Dan Doriani's notes from his Epistles and Revelation class). Of the three years I've taught Revelation to my freshmen New Testament classes, I feel like I've done the best job this year.

I'm also finishing up a couple books on education, namely John Dewey and the Decline of American Education by Henry T. Edmondson III, Curriculum 21 edited by Heidi Hayes-Jacobs, and The Secret of TSL by William Ouchi. It seems I've been reading these for a while (and I have), but there's been some good content that's come as a result.

Looking ahead, I have some Worldviews reading to do this summer, including (Re)Thinking Worldview by J. Mark Bertrand; The Compact Guide to World Religions edited by Dean C. Halverson (ed.); The Journey by Peter Kreeft; Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey; and The Universe Next Door by James W. Sire. Should be fun.

Writing: Now that my second book, Learning Education: Essays & Ideas from My First Three Years of Teaching, is finished, I'm turning back to finishing the ThirtySomewhere manuscript this summer. I'm still looking for a formal publisher to get behind it, but now that I've experimented with the self-publishing gig a bit (and am still experimenting), I may go with what I've got at some point this fall and see what happens. We'll see.

I plan to continue blogging here, though I really wonder how much people are interested in anything longer than 140 Twitter characters these days. Speaking of which, I've enjoyed Twitter enough to keep using it, but there again I just have no way of really knowing how far the medium's actual reach is so as to invest more time in it. Oh well.

Guess that's it for now. There's more, but this is long enough. I'll try to post a few more thoughts later on this week (nothing brings out literary creativity like the desire to avoid grading). Have a good one.

Let the Commencin’ Begin

In Calling, Education, Seminary, Westminster on May 19, 2010 at 10:43 am

I finished my last seminary class on Monday with my Educational Capstone portfolio and presentation. Unless I hear differently between now and then, I'm set to graduate from Covenant with my Masters in Educational Ministries (for those keeping score, I graduated last year with a Masters in Theological Studies).

Five years – that's how long all this has taken. When people ask if I'm planning on going for a Ph.D., my answer is standard: "I'd love to (and I really would), but only if someone else is paying for it." (Feel free to submit all benefactor/patron/Sugar Daddy offers in the comments below.)

As a way of bringing some initial closure to my seminary days (and as some pre-celebration before graduation on Friday), here's my final reflection paper from my Capstone project. For what it's worth…

In considering my Educational Capstone experience, my feelings are mixed, though not in an altogether negative way. As was intended, I can vouch for having a sense of accomplishment from looking back over coursework from my education career at Covenant. I can also give testimony that the portfolio concept of review intended to capture and showcase such accomplishment is good and one I enjoyed very much. That said, my mixed feelings regarding the Capstone stem from my own imagination of how much more this final seminary class could have been had I not been so involved in, well, my education career.

Reading through my portfolio, one thing I consider a huge strength of my Educational Capstone experience has been my opportunity to be an education student while working as a full-time teacher. The benefits of having a hands-on, ready-made laboratory of learning are innumerable and really comprise the theme of my enclosed book, Learning Education: Essays and Ideas from My First Three Years of Teaching. It’s been a great opportunity and a real advantage for a multitude of reasons in my time finishing my education degree.

However, I can’t help but wonder how my experience might have been different without being a teacher while taking the course. Had I been a full-time student (rather than a part-timer perpetually scrambling to make time to attend class meetings and complete various stages of work on assignments and projects), I wonder what different themes might have been more dominant in my encounter otherwise. It’s not that I regret the challenges of the past three years, but I do wonder if/how I would have learned and applied the theories, concepts, and applications of Christian education differently if I weren’t so desperate to use them immediately on a weekly/daily basis.

In looking back through assignments, reflections, concept maps, outlines, and notes for my project, the general sense I had was that, because of my life situation (full-time teacher, part-time student), I probably rushed through absorbing many of the conceptual and technical theories in order to get to the application of them as quickly as possible. In other words, it’s not that I don’t understand many of the presumptions behind Christian education, but I don’t feel they are as much in the forefront of my mind as I would like since I’ve had to focus so much on doing the actual work of educating throughout my time.

Thankfully, I realize that none of this is without potential amendment, and I am certainly willing and able to design a summer course of my own to review what I may have been forced to hastily read and try to understand (and I did read, by the way, every assignment with highlighter in hand). The question, of course, is will I this summer? And if not this summer, this year? And if not this year, then when?

But here is where the two main points of what I’ve learned in my course of study – God as Master Teacher and Teacher as Learner – bring comfort and hope. While my formal degree program of study may be coming to a close, God’s program of study continues, and if I am at all “smokin’ what I’m sellin’” when it comes to teaching and my passion for it, I do not doubt that my study of all things education is still really just beginning.

As I know to be true (academically as well as experientially), we tend to learn when we’re curious, and even writing about my curiosity of what I may have not fully grasped makes me want to start all over again in two weeks with Michael Anthony’s Introducing Christian Education to figure out the questions to the answers for which I’m looking. This, I suppose, is the fun part about the field of education – the accepted default is not that one has learned all one needs to, but that one has learned much about all there still is to learn – and this is the sense I have finishing my degree, which seems good to me.

My other thought with regard to my Educational Capstone is how so much of my life has seemed designed to support what I’m doing now. This should not surprise me, as I believe in a sovereign and involved God who often blesses His people by surprising them with His creativity, but there were several tangible times across the semester when I vividly recall sitting back, shaking my head, and marveling at just how something I’d already learned and experienced was of benefit to me in the here and now.

Truly, God does not waste life. The examples are myriad: growing up on a farm and learning the value of hard work; being a student who always seemed to love school; playing sports and always wanting to coach; participating in extra-curriculars of music and speech and being able to speak with a measure of understanding in both; approaching college for both the personal development as well as the academic degree; investing ten years in youth ministry with The Navigators and learning so much about kids, leadership, and the practical realities of ministry in the process, all while working in areas of graphic design, public relations, program planning, counseling, and administration; receiving training in Reformed theology in seminary and (finally) being able to name the doctrine of common grace as so much of the explanation for my perspective on culture and people – by God’s grace, everything seems more intentional than accidental.

My Educational Capstone experience has helped me recognize all this in both tangible and ethereal ways, and I’m grateful that I can not only say it is so having learned as a student from God the Master Teacher, but that I also know it is so, as the desire to teach and to learn in service of Christian education continues to burn within me. It is one thing I do not doubt, but instead resonate with the psalmist when he writes:

“O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” (Psalm 71:17-18)

And for that – all of that – I am most grateful. Thanks for a great education experience.

Out Standing in My Field

In Education, Places & Spaces, Sports, Westminster on May 14, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Coach My first year as a junior varsity baseball coach has officially come to a close. We finished 13-8 – a good season, especially after starting 0-4 in early April. We had a great mid-season run in which we won 12 of 13 games, and we could/should have won four of the seven games we lost, as they were all 1-2 run games.

The three things I preached all season were the importance of attitude (heart), ability (hands), and adaptability (head). Because of the nature of JV baseball – games bumped, umpire no-shows, guys transitioning from varsity – the adaptability point became a favorite joke for the team (as well as our only hope of making it through with our sanity).

A personal highlight was working with JV assistant coach, Slade Johnson. Slade played four years at WCA before playing ball at Wheaton College, and he's starting down the path I just finished – taking classes at Covenant while beginning his teaching career at WCA this coming fall. He brought energy and experience to our team, and we co-coached our way through the year pretty much on the same page the whole way through.

Craig and Slade

We had some Field of Dreams moments as well as some scenes straight out of The Bad News Bears. We had a variety of personalities on the team and some players with multiple personalities on the field. We got better as the season went on and learned to play the game with intensity and pride. We made mental errors that led to physical ones we had to shake off, get over, and move past. Parents were supportive and got behind us, and Megan and the girls were our biggest fans.

The Baseball Ladies

In addition to trying to help the guys learn the fundamentals of baseball, we had plenty of opportunities to help them learn some fundamentals of life; sports – especially team sports – are so good for this. Some things I heard myself say repeatedly this season:

  • Practice doesn't make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.
  • The only thing you can control when bad breaks happen is how you respond.
  • Sometimes you have to deal with bad or unfair calls, so start now.
  • It's only the first inning; relax.
  • Respecting those on your team can sometimes be hard, but it is not optional.
  • Don't make excuses; take responsibility.
  • There's nothing you can do about it; it's not your fault.
  • Let me do the coaching; you do the playing.
  • Win humbly; lose graciously.
  • Play the game and have some fun.

JV Baseball 2010

While we had a few injuries and the occasional sore arm, nothing was paralyzing or fatal, which is not insignificant when one considers the number of baseballs flying around practice, warm-ups, and games during the course of a season. I'm sure we had a few bruised egos here and there (cursing, throwing equipment in frustration, or showing up late without reason guarantees time riding pine), but those heal eventually and "build character" as my father used to say about all things hard.

As much as I could write about the season, this picture with Mark sums up what WCA JV baseball is all about – smiles, smudged eye black, and dirt on the uniform. Love it.

Craig and Mark

(Special thanks to George Sneed and David McFarland for a season of great pictures.)

Learning Education: Second Endorsement

In Books, Education, Seminary, Westminster on May 10, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Here's a second endorsement for Learning
Education: Essay & Ideas from My First Three Years of Teaching
,
this one from the seminary professor level:

Learning Education (cover)“How
does a teacher learn how to teach? Craig answers his own question by
weaving together a colorful tapestry of reflections, papers, logs, and
reviews from his own early teaching odyssey. Teachers from every
experiential strata will identify with his heartfelt descriptions of the
highest highs and lowest lows. They will also appreciate Craig’s
ultimately hopeful, redemptive tone that reminds us that the best
teachers are those who love to learn. They are those who take their cues
from the Master teacher who embodies the grace and truth Craig so
skillfully reflects.”

DR.
DONALD GUTHRIE
, PROFESSOR OF EDUCATIONAL MINISTRIES, COVENANT
THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

If you haven't done so yet, click here
to order
your copy. And please help spread the word via your blog, Twitter, or
Facebook account.

Learning Education: First Endorsement

In Books, Calling, Education, Seminary, Westminster on April 29, 2010 at 10:05 am

Here's the first endorsement (a very kind and gracious one from my own Head of School) for Learning Education: Essay & Ideas from My First Three Years of Teaching:

Learning Education (cover) “Teachers learn most of what they come to know and trust about teaching during their first three years. Craig provides an insightful and compelling practitioner’s view of the joys, pitfalls, and non-negotiables of the early years that are the building blocks of successful teaching and effective learning. His reflections will resonate with the veteran teacher, as well as encourage those beginning or establishing their careers in Christian education.”

JAMES C. MARSH, JR., HEAD OF SCHOOL
WESTMINSTER CHRISTIAN ACADEMY

Click here to order your copy. And please help spread the word via your blog, Twitter, or Facebook account.

Now on Sale: Learning Education

In Books, Calling, Education, Seminary, Westminster on April 27, 2010 at 6:39 am

My second book, Learning Education: Essays & Ideas from My First Three Years of Teaching, is now available through Second Drafts for just $12.75 (+$3 for shipping).

In addition, purchase my first book, TwentySomeone: Finding Yourself in a Decade of Transition, and get the best price available at just $10 (+$1 for shipping).

To order online, go to the Second Drafts storefront and click the book(s) you want, add them to your cart, click checkout, and pay via PayPal (allow 7-10 days for delivery).

Storefront
If you'd rather pay by mail, indicate which book(s) you want, add $3 for shipping for your first book (+$1 for each additional book), make your check out to me, and mail to:

Craig Dunham
7419 Canterbury Avenue
St. Louis, Missouri 63143

Be sure to include your shipping address with your order (allow 7-10 days for delivery). Questions? Feel free to leave them in the comments and I'll get back as soon as I can.

Thanks in advance for your order, as well as for spreading the word
about the new book.

Learning Education: The BookShow

In Books, Calling, Education, Seminary, Westminster on April 22, 2010 at 10:11 am

Here’s a sweet little preview of my forthcoming book via Blurb‘s BookShow widget. While the book will be in paperback instead of the displayed hardback, you can flip through the entire thing below and get an idea of its “plop” value.

Blurb’s prices are way high for individual orders, so I’m working on a little storefront you can order through to get Learning Education at a 23% discount (from $20.55 down to $15.75, which includes shipping – I’ll even sign it for you). This will go live on Tuesday, so check back then to place your order.

In the meantime, I’d really appreciate your help in spreading the word about Learning Education. As it’s obviously written with educators (particularly new educators) in mind, would you mind emailing every teacher you know and linking them here?

And, since we’re coming up on graduation season, don’t forget that TwentySomeone makes a great gift for college graduates and their parents alike, so let them know (again, I’ll have a special deal on the storefront Tuesday – I’m happy to sign those as well).

More as I have it. Thanks for your help.

Learning Education: The Introduction

In Books, Calling, Education, Seminary, Westminster on April 20, 2010 at 9:43 am

I’m celebrating a milestone of sorts today, namely the third anniversary of officially being hired as a teacher at Westminster Christian Academy. In honor of the day, as well as that Learning Education releases in less than a week, I thought I’d post the introduction to the book here. Hope you enjoy.

On April 20, 2007, I was a second-year seminary student with an undergraduate degree in geography who wanted to write and teach for a living. I’d already written my first book, but the only real classroom credential I could list on a resume was teaching Bible part-time at a classical school the year before. My mother was an English teacher for 30 years, and my grandfather had been a beloved elementary school principal for 40; maybe, I thought, that would count for something.

There I was – a guy in his mid-thirties with little formal classroom experience and no education degree – applying for a Bible position that over 50 others were applying for as well. Married with four daughters, I’d spent the past 12 years raising support as part of our camp and conference ministry, but since I was no longer camping and conferencing, the support was running out. I was only halfway through seminary and had failed Hebrew twice; a full-time teaching position just seemed out of the question.

Gracious personal references somehow positioned me as one of the top three candidates applying for the role, but I still had to convince the administration I knew something about teaching (or at least enough to get hired and learn what I didn’t). After a shaky interview (remember my qualifications – or lack thereof), I taught an 80-minute Ethics class I’d prepared on the eighth commandment. By God’s grace, I received a round of student applause at the end of the class (a first, I was told), and a phone call later that day informing me I got the job.

Now began the real education…mine. Finishing my degree while teaching full-time gave me a chance few teachers get – take important education classes toward qualifying me for what I was already doing as a real teacher. Forget eight weeks of student semi-teaching; this was a daily do-or-die, trial-by-fire, multi-year, hands-on reality…and the best (and hardest) training for “learning” education.

Meant to be as much memoir as methodology, Learning Education chronicles these first three years and what it was like to go to class in the evening, learn something new, and try it out with students the very next morning (honestly, some of the best lesson plans my first year were little more than this). I wrote a lot about what I was learning as a student, and even more about what I was learning as a teacher (though I wouldn’t say the two were or are mutually exclusive by any means).

While most of the material is comprised of edited blog posts and submitted seminary papers, I’ve also included interviews, emails, lists, notes from reading logs, quotes from articles and book reviews, and anything else that seemed to make summarizing sense of my experience. Read the book straight through, or pick and choose according to your interests. I won’t promise you’ll become a better student or a better teacher, but my prayer for you – as it was for me – is that you’ll become better as both.

April 27th is the official release day, so mark your calendars and spread the word. More to come between now and then…

Learning Education: The Cover

In Books, Calling, Education, Westminster on April 18, 2010 at 4:19 pm

I just uploaded the file for my first self-published book called Learning Education: Essays & Ideas from My First Three Years of Teaching. The book is 5X8 and runs 120 pages in length. My proof copy is due here on April 26th, and the book should be available and ready to order on the 27th. In the meantime, I thought I'd post the cover here (be kind, as the designer's a little sensitive about his old-school Photoshop skills…ahem).


Learning Education (cover) 

Lineups 2010

In Sports, Technology, Westminster on March 28, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Baseball in glove

My fantasy baseball league (Crooked Numbers) had its draft this afternoon. It's my first time playing (I got Megan to field a team as well), but nobody mentioned the draft itself was going to consume two whole hours of a Sunday afternoon. As there are 11 teams in our league, the process took a while, but I was impressed with Yahoo's interface and draft kit, so at least it didn't feel clunky…just long.

Neither Megan nor I have any idea what we're doing in terms of baseball fantasy (we prefer the real stuff), but for those who do, here are my 23 drafted players here at the start of the season:

Pick #, Player, Position(s)

1. (6) Joe Mauer C

2. (19) Aramis Ramírez 3B

3. (30) Adam Wainwright SP

4. (43) Robinson Canó 2B

5. (54) Mariano Rivera RP

6. (67) Billy Butler 1B

7. (78) Bobby Abreu OF

8. (91) Yunel Escobar SS

9. (102) Jason Kubel OF

10. (115) Jair Jurrjens SP

11. (126) Brendan Ryan 2B,SS

12. (139) Rick Porcello SP

13. (150) A.J. Burnett SP

14. (163) Stephen Strasburg SP

15. (174) Miguel Tejada SS

16. (187) Joe Nathan RP

17. (198) Rajai Davis OF

18. (211) Carlos Ruiz C

19. (222) Maicer Izturis 2B,SS

20. (235) Tim Wakefield SP

21. (246) Melky Cabrera OF

22. (259) Andy Pettitte SP

23. (270) Joba Chamberlain SP

I feel pretty good about the majority of my picks, as I've got some
superstars (Mauer, Wainwright, Rivera, Abreu), some solid position
players (Cano, Escobar, Ryan, Kubel), and just to keep it interesting, some risks (Strasburg). My one certified dud draft pick was Joe Nathan, as apparently he is scheduled for Tommy
John surgery soon (information that would have been helpful yesterday). Whups.

Anyone playing fantasy baseball with a comment or two? Care to post your roster and compare? Any counsel or strategy for this rookie?

In semi-related news, I'm dealing with a completely other set of rosters as Westminster's underclassmen baseball season begins tomorrow with a four-game junior varsity tournament (M-TH) as well as a freshman game on Wednesday. I've been working on my signs all weekend long so I don't look like I'm having a seizure down the third base line, but I'm not quite there…yet. Come on out if you're in the neighborhood. Go Wildcats!