Education Feed

Remote Kindergarten: More Thoughts on Week Two

Field Club sign
Sebastian and I have gotten into a decent routine this week, and I've been able to get more work done while attending Kindergarten than I expected, but generally only stuff like answering e-mails, but nothing that requires too much creativity or focus.

Breaks are fun--light saber battles and tossing balls around.  

During bedtime this week we finished our first big boy book--The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  I had tried the book once before when he was younger, but it was too early.  He was really into listening to it this time as we've read it over a few weeks.  And it was a joy to watch his excitement responding to various plot points and particularly as we neared the end.  Which of course has a great old fashioned "The End."  Now he can't wait  to move on to Prince Caspian.  

Funny thing--I suggested maybe reading The Horse and His Boy next, but Sebastian said, " I think we should read them in the order that the author intended."  No argument here.

During non school times, he's been enjoying exploring his iPad some.  He's taken lots of pictures, really enjoys the drawing app, and yesterday, with new headphone provided by the district, was record himself talking.  "I don't want you to listen, Dadda.  It's really scary."

Last week he traded his toddler scooter for a razor that was in the church Thrift Shop.  He's taken to zooming back and forth to church with me on it and then riding around the church hallways.

I've been wondering this week what I most remember from Kindergarten:

  • The kids crying on the first day.
  • The kid who could snap his fingers, and I couldn't no matter how hard I tried.
  • Getting kissed by Kristy Holstein.
  • Having to sit in the corner a lot for talking too much.
  • Riding the bus.
  • Recess
  • PE class
  • Art class
  • the Science Fair

What do you remember from Kindergarten?

Remote Kindergarten: Week Two

So, last Friday, after I had already posted my thoughts for the day, we received an e-mail from Omaha Public Schools stating that parents had been listened to and that hours of online instruction for K-2 would be dramatically decreased.  Other changes included more breaks, a longer lunchtime, and that specials would be optional.  Some of these things our particular teacher had already been doing, but we had heard horror stories from other friends, including one couple whose son was online for seven hours the first day of Kindergarten!

For our class the new schedule went into effect on Tuesday.  The bulk of instruction is in the morning.  One downside has been that now we get one twenty minute break in the middle rather than a couple of smaller breaks, which I actually think is better.  The extra length to lunch isn't relevant for us, as his required time is over before lunch, but I am glad to not have to be rushing to get back on at 12:20, especially because we often moved from the house to my church office during the break.  Now we can have a more leisurely and relaxed lunch.

Specials have been moved to 3 p.m. and are now optional.  Of course it's not idea to label music and art as optional.  And 3 isn't the greatest time.  He doesn't have much focus at 3 even if it comes after a long break.  This week he hasn't tuned in much to the specials as I had scheduled most of my stuff in the afternoons and wasn't going to reschedule (the thing on Friday had already been rescheduled twice as OPS kept changing the school schedule).  

On Monday we tuned into "music" class but fifteen minutes in, when we still hadn't done any music, he wanted to log off, so we did.  For a kid who loves to sing, takes piano and dance, he was very much looking forward to and was quite disappointed by that experience.

I must give credit to the PE teacher for having done the best to adapt her subject to the online format.  And that seems ironic, as you can imagine she was the one teacher least likely to be using much tech in her normal classes.  He had a lot of fun with yesterday's class, but logged off after about forty minutes.  I'm not sure why they are sticking to a one hour format for these classes with the online delivery method.  Thirty minutes would be sufficient.

This week we've done more math and he's really excited about it.  He keeps wanting to work ahead though and the teacher has cautioned against that.  This made me reflect on my time, as a high school senior, serving on my school system's committee to research and implement outcome based education, which allowed students to move at their own pace with more individualized work.  Whatever became of that model?  

One thing that has been added to the schedule is one hour of one-on-one instruction a week, divided into two thirty minute slots.  I think this is a marvelous addition and look forward to that happening next week.

I've spent all week sitting beside him at the work table, and I think that's helped.  We do lots of the activities together, and I ask supplemental questions.  Sadly, I've got some of the songs stuck in my head already; one night, I awoke in the middle of the night, with one playing on repeat in my brain!

I continue to struggle with the teachers insisting that students sit quietly and listen with nothing in their hands.  I can get Sebastian to sit and listen and participate, but he needs to be drawing, painting, building something if there's not an activity going on at the time.  But he's been called out a few times, to my chagrin.  A friend who does online corporate training messaged me about how in that world they understand even adults need things to do to occupy their hands while engaging in online learning and how much more that is true for five year olds.  This friend sent me a lot of articles and research to read on the subject.  After doing all that reading, I finally messaged the teacher about it today.

I must say I struggle with the aspects of education that try to create conformity of behavior.  I struggled with that myself as an elementary student.  It's been nice to read a few of my friends saying the same about their educational experiences (including one in her nineties).  I don't want him to associate learning with someone's definition of proper behavior.  I understand the need for classroom management, but also know how vital play, movement, and creativity are to his brain at that age.  

One more comment.  Every day the class goes over its five rules.  The fifth rule is "Keep your dear teacher happy." I get what she means by that but I also find it really creepy. Almost Orwellian.  In particular the "dear" which associates too closely in my mind to "Dear Leader."

Sebastian did turn in his first homework (see above)!

Remote Kindergarten: My Day "in" Class

Thank God it's Friday.

The OPS iPads come with a built in hotspot.  Ours didn't work this morning.  We ended up using our own WiFi and were late getting out and had some connection issues throughout the day.

As the week has gone on, I've tried to create greater physical distance from Sebastian's school space and where I was and what I was doing.  I didn't want to hover either to distract him or dominate him.  I wanted him to have his own experience, and, gosh, I can't imagine teachers teaching with all those adults hovering around the edges.  As an educator myself, I'd find that incredibly weird.

But I have been participating in songs and some activities.  One of yesterday's songs was an earworm the rest of the day and night.  :(  There has particularly been nostalgia involved in saying the Pledge of Allegiance together in the mornings.  And I really like the mindfulness meditation they do each day (today's involved tree pose), though, frankly, I'm doing it every day and he isn't.

Today, after hanging around for a bit (in the easy chair drinking coffee and reading the paper), I was doing a few chores (like hand washing and hang up masks to dry) before my plan to settle down and read in my bedroom.  Yet, each time I checked on Sebastian, he was away from the computer.  The last time, he was hanging upside down from a living room chair.  He had already this morning said he didn't want to do school, that it was too boring, so quick rethinking was needed.

I decided that maybe I should try sitting right there beside him?  I got my laptop out and some of my books and plopped down on my great-grandparent's table right next to him.  He was really excited about it.  

And, it worked. He stayed much more engaged the rest of the day.  Of course, this was my day off from church, so I don't have that kind of freedom every day.  We'll see what might work next week.

But, it did mean, I was attending and observing everything closely.

Early in the morning, one of the girls in his class just asked the teacher, "We did letters yesterday. Why are we doing them again today?" And I thought, "Oh honey, you're going to have a long thirteen years of school."

So, one of my concerns for weeks has been that I think the entire structure (including such things as quarters and semesters) needs to be thrown out and the whole enterprise reimagined with this different delivery method.  That includes the normal structure for a school day and how many things are taught.  Which is probably way too big a demand, but, it's where we find ourselves.  My Associate Minister says about her church children's programming, "What works in person can't just be videoed or livestream."  Agreed.

One thing the teachers are relying on is using videos.  But it doesn't always work or work well to share a screen to a huge class of kids and play a video.  For example, during an alphabet song this morning, when the sound was on letter M the image was still on J.  At least for us.  That just sows confusion.  And later in the day the art teacher played a video about primary and secondary colors, which was completely unnecessary.  Plus, the first time through, she forgot to share her screen and then played it a second time.  We had already heard the audio and did get to see the images (again, with a delay).  Why not just talk about primary and secondary colors and hold them up?  Why use a crutch?

But this delay also works during the live instruction.  Often the teacher's video would freeze while her audio didn't.  One time this afternoon she was asking for kids to point out the difference between two pictures, and our screen didn't have any pictures on it, just the frozen face of the teacher.  

Overall, it was a good day.  There were more activities, more actual things to do rather than listen to, and he was more engaged.  Though, he's not going to sit there and stare at a screen without having something in his hands to occupy him, and I really wish they would surrender that expectation.  He even got called out a couple of times, and if that continues, this fierce advocate of his child will say something.

When it came time to color the sheet for the letter B, I had already spent time laying the groundwork for following the instructions.  In the moment I decided got get out the sheet and another piece of paper and asked him to follow the instructions for the sheet but color the other paper with all the colors like he wants.  That worked.  Also having me right there to help with it as well.  And as he finished a task and was waiting for the class to move on, I'd fill the space by us doing something else.

We also did some math (which he really liked ), some activities with play-dough (which were a lot of fun), and a fun game where she sent them searching in their house for objects of various colors.

Art project

Sadly, the great disappointment of the day was art class.  That was the post-lunch specialty, and we were all excited for it.  Of course there were initially some tech issues.  Then, because this was the first time with this teacher, she wanted to go around and have everyone introduce themselves.  I get it.  But we've been doing that all week, it takes up too much time, involved too much technology troubleshooting, and bores the socks off of my kid.  So I quickly grabbed our own paper and paints and we started painting while respectfully listening and watching.  But thirty minutes into his first Kindergarten art class, they hadn't done any art.  They'd spent most of that time on the intro, then the completely unnecessary video (twice), and now he was basically done with that segment, though it still had twenty more minutes to go.  That time was spent trying to teach them how to open one of their apps for drawing.  So the session was mostly about how to use your iPad and almost nothing about creativity (teaching kids how to open and use other apps while the tablet is necessary for the live instruction is puzzling and weird in its own right).  He did enjoy the app once they were finally actually using it.   But the whole thing seemed damned absurd and mostly a waste of time to me.

One of the final segments was the guidance counselor and she seemed fun, but as with many of these things, the time slot is too long for the attention span for remote learning.  Not sure when that is going to be figured out, because we parents knew that in the spring.  Halfway through what was otherwise a good and engaging lesson, he was standing up, looking out the window at a flock of birds in our front yard, so we walked away from the table and went to watch the birds and grabbed our Birds of Nebraska book to identify and learn about them.

Remote Kindergarten: Day Fifty-Seven . . .

Fresh flowers for school
. . . It's only day three?

So, I don't know that I'll blog every day this entire experience, but it is a strange, weird, unique time in human experience, so if I've got stories to tell and any time or energy to tell them, I'll keep sharing.  Today I've been relatively unproductive on what I really needed to accomplish (sermon writing), so why not.

What was good today?  Morning routine with a nice walk worked.  I decided to cut some fresh flowers for his work area.  He can handle more of the technology, so I moved farther away (all the way upstairs after a leisurely read of the paper and drinking of coffee).  There were more activities to engage him.  The teacher had learned a few things to help the tech (in the morning).  And this time when they sang they all unmuted, which was more engaging and fun.

But the morning session had fewer breaks.  At one hour he was begging me for a break,but right then they were actually doing something, so I sent him back.  

Later he said the dreaded, "I'm bored."  Some activity he had finished quickly and didn't want to sit while others were finishing it.  He kept coming upstairs the rest of the morning.

It's SO odd getting to see this side of your kid when usually you leave it to the professionals.  

The most interesting experience of the morning came during an activity when they were working on the letter A.  They had a sheet to color.  All the spaces with a capital A were to be colored red and those with a lowercase a were supposed to be green.  Sebastian brought a vivid rainbow colored page to me.  Me: "Your teacher knows you can color a picture, she wants to see if you can follow directions." S: "I can't JUST color with red and green. I HAVE to use all the colors."

There are sheets for every other letter in the folder.

So, what do you do here?  I'm sure an experienced Kindergarten teacher knows how to thread this needle been achieving pedagogical goals of teaching letters and following directions without snuffing out individuality, creativity, artistic expression.  

When we logged onto the afternoon session, there was some technical issue--everyone's mics were working and the little boxes where there where everyone's face should have been, but no one could see anyone else, including the teacher.  After a few minutes of them trying to troubleshoot this problem, I just logged him off.  

He ended up watching Super Why this afternoon, so that seems educational enough?

I poured a glass of wine and took a nap.  When is summer break?

And thank you to the clergy colleague who said, "Covid parenting sounds so hard.  I think if you got up, got dressed, and brushed your teeth, that's an accomplishment."

Remote Kindergarten: Day Two

Hey, that was better already.

Plus, Sebastian's really enjoying it.

First tweak to the day we did on our end--we got around early and fast enough this morning to go for a short morning walk before virtual class.  It was a lovely 66 degrees outside.  Will try to make that a routine as much as we can, though will also try not to sweat it when getting ready, eating breakfast, etc. uses up all the time.

Already today required less parental involvement as he's already better with the tech and it seemed that many classmates were too.  But he was still running in to ask and tell me things all the time.  He had more difficulty just sitting there particularly when they were only listening and not actually doing anything.  They don't want the kids distracted with things, but I think Sebastian sits quietly, listens, and even engages when he keeps his hands busy. 

He's really itching to do things, and it's still early with them going over some basics.  I think he's used to all the activity of his preschool where he's already learned a lot of things.  When they were actively doing something he was engaged.

Also, early in the day I, while I was working in the kitchen, I overheard him ask the teacher if they could have more songs today.   She said she had already planned that.  He had mentioned it to me last night, and I had told him that he should simply ask.  So proud that he did.

Another humorous moment.  Yesterday they did jumping jacks.  He's been in dance class, so he said, "That's echappe."  Today when they did them again he asked, "Why are they using the wrong word?"

Some good news--neither the kid who constantly raised his hand yesterday nor the kid who constantly was unmuted during conversation with an adult did that today!  We heard from a lot more kids, which was fun.

The one extended activity of the morning was the teacher having them draw a picture of themselves following some directions about colors to use and how to draw various body parts.  Sebastian didn't seem to have much patience for that.  He did draw a picture of himself, but on his own terms and not following directions.  It's odd as a parent to be so aware of what's going on in the classroom and then to puzzle over the approach.  He's always been used to art time being an expression of creativity and not following rules. He made his don't want to face when I tried to encourage him to do it the teacher's way.

They had a MUCH longer lunch and recess break, which was great.  It was also enough time for us to move down to my office, which has been our current plan--at home in the morning when they were doing their primary instructional work and at my office in the afternoon when they have special classes and close out the day with story time and songs.

Today he occupied his break times with a lot of ball playing, swinging, and riding his scooter.  A good balance of activity and screen time.

The special class today was PE and that actually worked quite well remotely.  Kudos to the PE teacher!

Remote Kindergarten: Day One

Pour me a beer.

Overall, it went well, and Sebastian was excited and seemed to have enjoyed himself.  I like his teacher, and she did a marvelous job of understanding the limits of what the kids could do today and how to structure breaks.

How weird to have parents and other adults hovering around the margins, aware of everything going on.  I really feel for the teachers.

The day began with having to instruct kids on how to use the technology.  Something that wasn't mastered today.  For some reason, particularly in the afternoon session taught by the computer teacher, she wasn't able (or just wasn't) to mute individual students.  I lost track of how often I heard, "A--- your mic is on" as we all listened to him and an adult converse with one another.

The most exciting part of the morning for Sebastian was going over all the books and supplies in the bag sent home from school.  He was so fixated on the math book that he didn't necessarily get what came after that.

We also learned which kid raises his hand with something to say to everything (fortunately, it wasn't my kid).  

One struggle was how to introduce so many kids.  It is going to be difficult to do remote class with a full-sized classroom.  They should really think of how to break them up into smaller groups.  Because going around and having each kid share something took an exorbitant amount of time, especially when almost every single time that also involved reminding them how to use the technology (which was clearly also part of the point).  But it was easy for my kid to zone out listening to all of this from kids he's never met.  I thought of how bored he could get with Preschool Zoom share time, and that was with kids he'd known for years.

Lunch seemed too short and rushed.  It was supposed to be lunch and recess.  We headed outside to play, then saw a beautiful butterfly and spent minutes watching it, then we came in to prepare lunch together, and almost didn't have time to eat it.

The afternoon session with the computer teacher was not as successful.  For one, it began with almost fifteen minutes of her having an IT issue that she was troubleshooting live with all these five-year-olds sitting there.  Nor did it help that she used a powerpoint (not very effective in this setting).  And then she followed it up with having each kid share something.  Which they had already done that morning.  Sebastian completely checked out at that point.  So, this special class really needs to be much shorter in length in this format.  One of the struggles with all of this how much almost everything needs to be reconceived from the ground up instead of trying to simply taking what one normally does and moving it online (this is really, really hard).

The afternoon share time, in particular, was troubled by the kid who kept unmuting his microphone but also multiple distractions.  When it was a kid's turn to share and they unmuted their mic you heard all sorts of things (and I was in another room, not even the person actively engaged in the class).  We heard screaming babies, loud television being watched apparently by someone else in the house, dogs barking, conversations, and even some sibling's teacher as that sibling was sitting nearby also on their remote class.  All that distraction drove me batty, and I'm not a five-year-old trying to learn.


It was also interesting getting some sense of the variety of accommodations parents are making for this to work.  Some kids had a quiet work space and an adult reasonably nearby to help.  Others didn't.  Others were clearly sharing space with siblings.  Some were in daycare situations.  One distraught daycare worker interrupted the afternoon session thoroughly confused (we all need lots of prayer and alcohol).  Fortunately no parent inserted themself in what was going on; I had worried about that.

I think the parents/guardians might need to find a way to connect and brainstorm our ways to support what's going on.  I know that we preschool parents really pulled together in the spring and that helped a lot.

I imagine even after one day, teachers are rethinking a handful of things and adapting what they had already rushed to plan.

So we can prepare for lots of distractions, boredom, lots of breaks.  But Sebastian is also really excited to learn and is very excited by having his own tablet.  He seemed to have a good day.

At Home: Dadda's Preschool

Yesterday, Tuesday, March 17, I was up early with lots of energy.  I had researched and planned the day's lessons and activities from all the great ideas friends had shared on Facebook.  I cooked everyone a nice big breakfast.

Sebastian seemed pretty excited about the idea of Dadda being teacher.  I knew his teachers usually started with "What do you know about X?"  And I had watched a video about using concept mapping, so I pulled out our little blackboard and started with "What do you know about space and planets?"  The answers--the Earth has lots of things, the Moon Landing, the Sun is bright, Venus, Mars, and Saturn's rings.  A fruitful beginning.

Concept map of planets

Using the Preschool's daily schedule as a guide, I realized that the sit-down learning times weren't long, so there's not a lot I had to plan in that way for the first day.  We rounded out the first session with a Story Bots video rap about the Planets, which we repeated at the end of the day.

With that intro we headed down to the office, which we plan to do every day for a little change of scenery.  While I got some work done he did a great job of entertaining himself and Nash our puppy.

One of the beautiful things occurring right now are all the people sharing things online--musicians recording music, authors reading books, museum creating virtual tours, folks sharing activity ideas for kids, etc.  I spent a lot of the day posting such resources to my congregation's Facebook group to give people ways to stay engaged.

When we got back home we watched Stories from Space, as an astronaut read one of his favorite books, Ada Twist, Scientist.  After this one of those unplanned moments arose.  He asked a question about moons, so we googled and NASA has such great resources online, we watched one of their videos about moons in the Solar System and Sebastian was really excited to learn there were so many, that Saturn has more than 80, and that Uranus has ones with ice volcanoes.  

Fortunately yesterday was nice and sunny and we played out side for good stretches of time. He's SO good at t-ball batting that we had hoped to get him into spring sports; another thing that will wait.  Today it's raining, so we'll have to do some things on our front porch.


Sebastian was also eager to help prepare lunch; he's always liked cooking.  And later in the day he helped me collect the trash, sort the recycling, and carry it all to the curb--chores he's not assisted with in the past.

In the afternoon and evening there ended up being more TV time than I had originally planned, but there's only so much one can do to entertain and engage one's child, particularly when one still has work to do.  But we kept alternating with little lessons, play, and other activities.  His preschool sent along a special St. Patrick's Day yoga routine, which we did together.  He kept telling me, "Here's how you do it."


Speaking of St. Patrick's Day, we did venture away from planets for a while in the afternoon to read about St. Patrick and to dance to Celtic music.


By late afternoon this Dadda was pretty worn out, especially imagining weeks of this routine.  Fortunately a good friend who now lives in California called and we video chatted for a long time.  Reconnecting with folks also stuck at home is going to be one of the beautiful parts of this.  Sebastian and I plan to connect with a family member or friend every day.

In the evening we were in the backyard and neighbors to the east and south were both outside, so we chatted over the fences.  I can imagine there will also be a lot of this going on.

We weren't successful in getting the Metropolitan Opera's stream of La Boheme to work on our TV, but we did watch it on my phone, curled upon the couch together.  Sebastian watched for 45 minutes, far more than I expected, with lots of questions and me having to explain everything.  He was very upset when we finally stopped, because we were well past his bedtime.

The Influence of Donald Wester: Part Three

One of the virtues of a small liberal arts college is that there is a greater chance for direct, personal relationships with senior faculty even when you are an undergrad.  For example, the first semester of my freshman year I had been in the Wester home, which was an inspiration.  Don and Janie had built a home that with the best available technology of the 1980's was energy efficient and environmentally sustainable.  It was filled with Janie's art and Don's books.  Books everywhere, but well organized, in wooden shelves with glass doors.  

My sophomore year I began working with Don as one of his graders, a job I kept for three years.  As his student employee, I grew personally close to Don and benefited from the many conversations.

One day he mentioned reading a book that week, which to me was shocking, that he could read the entire book in one week. When I said as much, he said he did that all the time and assured me I would one day too.  He was correct, of course, as I now read 70-80 books a year.

Working for him, I also became the tutor for Intro to Philosophy, hosting a weekly session with students reviewing what they were doing in the class and answering their questions.  This was my first opportunity for teaching philosophy.

I remained living in Shawnee the five years I commuted to the University of Oklahoma in Norman to work on my Masters and Ph. D.  During those years I was an active member of the First Baptist Church of Shawnee where the Westers were members.  So through those years of grad school at OU, my friendship with Don deepened.

And we live in a small world, as my connections to the Wester family have grown.  Son Mike and I served as deacons at First Baptist Shawnee.  When I moved to Oklahoma City in 2005 to pastor at Cathedral of Hope, Tom Wester attended the church.  And then I was very surprised when I moved to Omaha in 2010 and son Donald Junior was a member of First Central.  Donald and I became good friends as well, initially bonding over stories of his dad.  I got to participate in Donald’s ordination, and he even served on the staff of First Central for a while, before moving to Arkansas to pastor.  Don, Sr. participated in the ordination service for his son, a fun moment for me.

This week so many messages have been shared by former students and colleagues about Don and his impact.  Today we will celebrate and honor a great legacy.


The Influence of Donald Wester: Part Two

On May 9th of this year I sent the following e-mail to Donald Wester, Junior about his dad:


I'm grading final exams from Intro to Philosophy. One student wrote about how he's long struggled with proving the existence of God and that he was very disappointed with the day we spent on the traditional arguments. But then we read William James and he discovered that we don't need to prove God's existence.

Reading the essay made me think of your Dad, from whom I learned that. Now 27 years later I'm passing those lessons on.

Which also reminds me I brought up your Dad in worship planning yesterday when Stephen and I got off on a discussion of Nietzsche's criticisms of Christianity. I mentioned how your Dad taught me to interpret Nietzsche, that basically the criticisms have some validity and any thoughtful person of faith needs a response that survives the criticisms.

Anyway, thought you might appreciate these stories.


Don Wester, Sr. for decades taught a class entitled "Fundamentals of Philosophy."  It was a sophomore level course required of all religion and ministry majors, the only other philosophy class they were required to take beyond Intro.  It was something of a rite of passage, which means many experienced it as a stumbling block.  The course was part of the genius of OBU's curriculum at the time--before all these young (mostly) men were turned loose on the church, they had to spend a semester with Don Wester.

Wester's textbook for that course was simply the Library of America volume of William James's philosophical writings--Pragmatism, A Pluralistic Universe, Essays in Radical Empiricism, the Varieties of Religious Experience.  William James is not a conservative evangelical, so his works were a definite challenge for most of the students in the course.  Many struggled with it.  I know because I was also Wester's grader for three years, which didn't give me a lot of confidence in the future of pastoral ministry. :)

Which gets me to Don Wester's intellectual project.  

As Don told the story, he was a rural pastor who decided to become a foreign missionary--the plan was to go to Indonesia.  He was smart enough to realize that much of the Christianity he knew was deeply Western, influenced by Greco-Roman thought forms.  He didn't think Indonesians should have to first accept the legacy of Greco-Roman thought before becoming Christians, so he realized he needed to figure out what Christianity was more basically, freed of Greco-Roman philosophy.  Or to put it more simply, Christianity without Plato.

This is a more challenging project than you might realize.

Wester never did end up on the mission field, but the intellectual project remained.  And it is one he passed on to his students.  The intensive study of William James was part of this.  I absorbed his love of James (in my Intro class we read Pragmatism).  I adopted his overall understanding of the history of philosophy and its relationship with Christianity.  I too wanted to understand the history of ideas so that I might know where certain ideas came from and what effects they had had.  The framework I learned from him still shapes how I think about new ideas and how I teach them to my students. 

One implication of this intellectual project is how we think about God.  Wester rejected the notions of omnipotence, omniscience, and impassibility, as they were inherited from the Greeks (Parmenides really) and not the Hebrews.  Being persuaded by Wester on these points opened me to Whitehead's Process Thought, for he too rejects these concepts and conceives of God differently.  

When I took Fundamentals of Philosophy, my final paper was entitled "William James's Concept of God."  Wester marked the title as being wrong and then explained why to me.  James doesn't think we have a concept of God, but a perception, an experience.  He let me rewrite the paper.

Sunday I preached a sermon which explored the myriad ways one could interpret the Letter of Jude.  The sermon was written before Don Wester died, but I dedicated the sermon to his memory, for he taught me to explore truth in this way.

How does one measure the gift of an intellectual worldview?  Especially when his teaching helped me to keep my faith by seeing things in a new light?  

Hauerwas's letter to college freshmen

This delicious paragraph:

Books, moreover, are often the way in which our friendships with our fellow students and teachers begin and in which these friendships become cemented. I’m not a big fan of Francis Schaeffer, but he can be a point of contact—something to agree with or argue about. The same is true for all writers who tackle big questions. Read Plato, Aristotle, Hume, and John Stuart Mill, and not just because you might learn something. Read them because doing so will provide a sharpness and depth to your conversations. To a great extent, becoming an educated person means adding lots of layers to your relationships. Sure, going to the big football game or having a beer (legally) with your buddies should be fun on its own terms, but it’s also a reality ripe for analysis, discussion, and conversation. If you read Mary Douglas or Claude Levi-Strauss, you’ll have something to say about the rituals of American sports. And if you read Jane Austen or T. S. Eliot, you’ll find you see conversations with friends, particularly while sharing a meal, in new ways. And, of course, you cannot read enough Trollope. Think of books as the fine threads of a spider’s web. They link and connect.

occurs in an enjoyable essay theologian Stanley Hauerwas wrote for college freshmen in 2010.