“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Monday, December 07, 2009

The 40 year old virgin

Not too long ago, there was a movie out called The 40 year old virgin. I didn't see it, but I am confident I know the premise. How can a person be 40 years old and still be a virgin? For a Christian, the answer is easy although living up to the requirements is not as easy. For a Christian, a 40 year old virgin is someone who is not married and is doing their best to be obedient to God's commands. Society treats such persons as fools. I would honor such a person as a saint! You see if you are not married and you are not a 40 year old virgin, you are either living under God's forgiveness for your failings, or you are needing God's forgiveness for your failings. In the overwhelming majority of areas of my life, I am the former. I am living under God's forgiveness for my failings. But I want to take this discussion in a different direction. That is, if you are a person who is doing what is right, what you should be doing, you will not always be celebrated by society, you may actually be ridiculed, called a fool, or disdained. As a Christian, one of the best things you can do is learn to pay no attention to those in the world who would criticize you for doing the right thing, like being a 40 year old virgin if you are unmarried.

I have visited many special education classrooms for students with severe disabilities. Some teachers stand out from others as really getting it. In one of those settings, I supervised a teacher who was excellent at data collection on educational programs for her students. That is important because students who often make slow progress need teachers who are accountable to ensure that they are making progress. So this teacher who was one of the best in this area that I have seen, has become embarrassed about the fact she takes data. Why? Because those around her tease her about her efforts to be accountable. As a result, she at times does not share the hard work, good work, that she has been doing.

In my classes for teachers who teach students with severe disabilities, I often tell them that there will be great pressure on them to be mediocre. Believe it or not, it often comes from the districts and from other teachers. People are often threatened by excellence because it shows them it can be done, and may make those over them expect excellence of them as well. So what do they do? They tease and criticize those who are doing well in order to protect the marginal way they are doing things, are doing their work. Rather than seeing themselves as a part of a team, they see themselves not wanting to raise their standards.

Albert Pujols is arguably one of the best baseball players ever. But imagine if his teammates teased and criticized him about how many home runs, or RBIs or MVP trophies he received. Rather than criticize, they should celebrate him. He not only makes them look good as a part of their team, he raises the standard for them to aim at, and shows them what excellence can actually look like.

That is what good teachers need to do. I talk to those in the administration above my teachers, and I know the kinds of things THEY say about excellent teachers. They are extremely grateful to have teachers who are doing it right, whose standard is not the positive regard of their peers who do not reflect the best practices. So if you are doing your best to serve your students, to serve God through your work, ignore your detractors who fear that you make them look bad.



Pilgrim said...

This is true.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea that teachers could be looked down upon for doing a good job. But now that I think about it, it really makes a lot of sense. It is sad that some teachers are lazy and do not want other teachers to go over and above their calling, because that will make them look bad if they do not go over and above as well. As a future teacher, my goal is to do much more then expected of me, it makes me a little nervous that other teachers might not like that. I do not plan to go into teaching disabled students, I do feel there is a lot more pressure on those teachers then on others. I can completely understand why the teacher you discussed would take down detailed data. It seems to me that to keep track of everything especially in a special Ed class, is very important. As a future teacher, I look forward to what it has to offer, but pray that I can make it through teaching without too much trouble. I also pray that I can take on any ridicule that comes my way, like the forty year old virgin did in the movie.

Anonymous said...

After reading this article, I am appalled that such a situation would occur. That is not to say that I am naïve to the thought process that comes with human nature. But rather, I am appalled that individuals would allow such a thought process to be displayed for all to see. My heart is saddened by the teachers who are not doing their job the best they can even when they are aware of changes they could make to improve their students learning. Yet at the same time I am proud of the teacher who is going above and beyond to provide the best learning environment possible for who students.
Although the idea that someone would sabotage another individual for doing excellent work seems absurd, I have come to realize through experience that it is not uncommon. For example, when I played basketball in high school I always tried my hardest by giving all the effort o had to offer. Whether it was sprinting to the side line or diving for a loose ball I wanted to try my hardest. In response, my teammates would sometimes try to tell me to not try as hard or get upset when I did. They did this because they didn’t want to have to push themselves but if I did then that meant they needed to or they would look bad.
This is my way of relating to the story given in this blog. It is my hope that teachers would begin to focus on the true meaning of their job as a teacher which is to provide the one’s students with the best learning environment possible. As a result, lives will be impacted and minds will be molded.

Heidi said...

To be honest, the title of your post was the main thing that caught my attention. But as I continued to read, I was so intrigued by the points you brought up related to this movie. I also have never seen it, but knew the basic premise of the movie. But I had never related this to the concept of settling for mediocrity and how if you're not like the rest of society you should be embarrassed of yourself. I completely agree that our American society sees people who are single and 40 as having failed in life. Even I am guilty of thinking this way to a certain extent. When I hear someone is 40 and single I automatically think, “What’s wrong with them then?” Yet as Christians, they are to be commended for their obedience. I was struck by your quote, “As a Christian, one of the best things you can do is learn to pay no attention to those in the world who would criticize you for doing the right thing.” Learning how to put up that filter and not let other people affect you, is the hard part. Relating this to education, honestly I had no idea that the education system would actually push for me to be mediocre. As a future teacher, I was thinking it would be the exact opposite. But after hearing the story of this special education teacher who has become embarrassed of using her excellent gifts, it gives me a heads up that the world’s standards even apply in the classroom. It’s not going to get better, if anything I’ll have to fight harder above the norm to strive for excellence. My heart and my goal is to be the best teacher I can be for the Lord and not for man; its good to know the challenges I’m going to face before I’m there.

Anonymous said...

I have heard some saying that if you raise your head about the crowd you are going to get hit in the head or something like that. I feel in life if I aim for above average all the average people get mad. So I have standards and goals. People will not stop me.

Anonymous said...

I'm a 41 year old man, moderately disabled since birth, severely socially disadvantaged for life, and still very much a virgin, after all these years. I've learned to be very proud of this, because it's all part of who I am!

Anonymous said...

Every detail about this blog was very well thought of. It was extremely well put together. I began to think about my own experiences with the “shaming” that comes when you do the right thing. It makes no sense whatsoever, yet it is celebrated to taunt a person who chooses to do the right thing. I loved the comparison between the star player on a baseball team praised for his efforts to better the team as a whole as well as their reputation. Now if only we as a society could celebrate people for doing the right thing, wouldn’t our standards be forced to rise as well? I feel like this is the problem; people fear having to do more or make harder decisions. People are lazy. The idea that doing the right thing could bare shame to the person doing it with an honest heart is hard to fathom. God chooses these people to be leaders by example. It is through them that others see His word still in place and that people hold high values in His name. My question is how can we change this as teachers? How can we create an environment where teachers do not tolerate this sort of shaming?