Friday, October 16, 2015

I do course-correct every 20 years......whether I need it or not.

So I had a real epiphany this morning while talking to my sister, Jamie and then in a follow-up conversation with my wife. Shocking, I know that I shut up long enough to listen to two people. : )

One of the biggest things, if not the biggest thing, that I struggle with is my job. I have a great job......please hear that. I make good money, I sit at a desk and listen to Spotify and eat junk and use my brain instead of my back. Many people wish they had my job. I also have benefits and all the time off I want to take. (translation: We don't have a vacation policy. You take off what you want to take off.)

But, here is my struggle: I'm never happy. Let me tell you why.

So here is how I look at things. In a job, there are priorities:

1. Pay (because that's why we work, to get paid)
2. Benefits (because if there's going to be something 2nd on this list, for a family man, it needs to be benefits)
3. Vacation

And my job has all of these in quite sufficient supply. Again, I'm not complaining. In 4-10 below is where I struggle. (in no particular order)

4. Training
5. Culture
6. Happiness
7. Co-workers
8. Fringe benefits
9. Growth
10. Environment (desk, office, computer, etc.)

I have always had, since I've been in technology, the top three. I have been truly blessed with good pay, full benefits for my family and all the time off I want to take. But where I end up changing jobs every year or two is I let 4-10 get me all upset and push me out the door. Silly, I know. "Be happy about the first three Burkey!"

I'm always kind of chasing to get all of the first three PLUS all (or most) of the last 7. It won't happen in my opinion. There is no job that satisfies all 10. I need to get over it. This is good stuff if you're me. It's a real revelation!

Now, that is what I worked out with my sister on the phone. Here's where my wife took it three-dimensional. My wife said that in the list of my priorities (which you can see here) I'm really messed up. Here is what she meant.

I'm letting DETAILS...UNIMPORTANT, SECONDARY DETAILS from my #4 priority steal my joy and rob me of time and attention on my first three priorities.

Mind = Blown

I'm so caught up in not liking some co-worker or my monitors not being big enough that I chase around new jobs and in the process........I forget about God and our relationship. I upset my wife by changing jobs all of the time. I run my children through the ringer with my mood swings........ it's pitiful, I know.

Now. I don't know what to do about this but I have to believe that this 'awakening' moment today is a start. Not the end, but just a start and being able to do a personal inventory and adjusting your course and attitude is key. It's key my friends. I will be further contemplating this over assured. Let me know your thoughts on this if you're still awake at his point. : ) Scott

Monday, September 14, 2015

Engaging Students on Sunday Morning

Getting middle schoolers to open up and talk is difficult. (Boys especially....) One of the classes I took recently at a local training session was on engaging students in small groups. Too often we talk for 45 minutes to the kids and then expect them to retain everything we covered. (and have fun while they're learning!) Kids oftentimes have an attention span of less than 20 minutes when sitting and listening to a speaker. 20 minutes at the most! We also expect that we can put two chatty kids next to each other and they will not talk to each other. : ) 

One quick thing before we start the list. A key take-away from the instructor was that "anything between you and the students is a barrier." What he meant is podiums, tables, printed materials or a lot of distance is a physical and mental barrier. Get close and speak naturally. Be comfortable and confident. Know your material and make eye contact with the kids.

Here are a few ideas that came out of the training:

1. Learn to be conversational. Talk with your students, not 'at' them.

2. Observe other teachers. Much is to be learned by a wise teacher from observing other teachers' styles and applying some ideas into your own style.

3. Practice your teaching actions. There's nothing wrong with practicing engagement in smaller settings or in personal conversations.

4. Use inflection. When you speak, vary the pitch and emphasis (and volume) of your voice. I also use a lot of hand gestures and motions, but I'm normally pretty caffeinated.

5. Exaggerate conversations. Use relative stories and examples that get the students' attention.

6. Focus on individuals. Call students by name and use relevant examples of things that are of interest to the students.

7. Ask questions. Using a few well-planned questions that start conversation can be great to get the students thinking and talking! When you ask questions....let them answer! Giving them the answer is paramount to letting them off the hook. It's okay for them to think. It's okay for them to look up and research answers. It's even okay for them to disagree. Talk about differing thoughts and opinions. Be sure you circle back around to land firmly on the truth before moving on to the next concept.

8. Provide visual aids. Lots of boys learn through seeing and visual aids like videos, graphs and white-board drawings are things they can relate to. Girls in middle school are competitive and a little more mature than boys their age, typically. Activities are always good like lists or games.

9. Arranging your chairs in the room is something to consider as well. Get at eye level with the learners. If you are sitting with them or at approximately the same eye level as them they will be more receptive. Put them when possible in a semi-circle and sit in front of them.

10. Teach less. You heard me right. If you cover a few key points, engage the students in lively conversation and keep driving the points home multiple times you'll leave a lasting impression on them. Repetition is key! We'd all rather that the students really learn one or two key points than be flooded with 15 points that overwhelm them and cause them to tune out.

One final thought is that we see a lot of kids on Sunday morning that are half asleep and their mind is on food. Sometimes the students come in with Dr. Pepper or candy that their parent has allowed them to have. (Before 9:30 a.m., yes, I don't get it either!) But I digress. I am encouraging each of you to contact your students' parents soon and ask them to help you teach by making sure their students come in on Sunday with a full night's sleep under their belt and a good breakfast in their routine on Sunday morning. Parents want to help and this is a very important way for them to do just that!

I'm leaving out some of the suggestions and I hope you will take a minute to share your suggestions in the comments below. Let's work to really speak love and truth into the hearts and minds of these young people. Thank you for teaching this year!

Scott Burkey

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Four C's

One of the things I've always said is, "You may not agree with me but you'll always know where I stand on things." This blog post is no different. I make no apologies for my priorities in life though I know everyone doesn't share my philosophy. That's okay. You should come up with your own 'guiding principles' that you live your life by though. Try it!

So I'm a big believer in any team or company or organization (or family!) needs to have a plan or a target to hit. Every time somebody in that company or in that organization comes up with an idea for what to do it should be held up against the goal and questioned, "Does this idea or action take us towards our goal or distract from achieving our goal?" Let me share my priorities with you.

Relationship Priorities:
1. Creator
2. Companion
3. Children
4. Career

In short, I work to make sure my spiritual life is in order above all else and then I make sure that my partner Tessa and I have a strong relationship. I value my children who depend on me for so very much and then finally, lastly, I put time and energy into my career. In this order. 

Here's what I mean by the first one. The most important relationship I have in my life is with God. If I'm not right with Him I'm not right with anyone. Here's another thing I've found. (Again, it's MY experience.) Anything I put ahead of God in my life He removes it. 

That is a bold statement, I know. Stick with me. I believe that God wants a relationship with me and if I put, let's say, fishing or running or material things over Him in my list that He will remove that distraction. 

Now, what's become recently important to me is this; If I say my relationship with my wife is the most important human relationship I have but I don't treat it as such then I'm just paying it lip service. I have to, again, hold up my behavior and decisions on a daily-basis against this list and ask myself if I'm really treating my relationship with my best friend with the proper respect and importance it deserves. This is one of those introspective moments that comes up frequently where the men are separated from the boys. I either want to honor my relationship with my wife or I'm full of crap and I want to just say it but not do it. It's tough. Family leaders know this. 

My children come next. Though I want to add in here that this is not linear by any means. I don't say, "Well, kids, I'll play with you after I read the Bible for an hour and take your Mom out to eat." Sometimes I spend time with my kids when my wife and I had other plans. Sometimes I have to work late and I miss dinner. You know what I mean, it's not literal on a daily basis. 

My career. Oh.........what a love/hate relationship I have with my career. Guys, it's SOOOOO easy to work to avoid other things. It is so easy to work because the family finances are tilting the wrong way. It's so easy to stay just that much longer at work because the guy down the hall needs something and you want to deliver. Granted, sometimes you have to focus extra on work. I get that. God says that a man that doesn't work doesn't eat. (2 Thes 3:10) I'm with  you. My Dad always said that charity begins at home and that there is no shame in paying the bills. I agree. But I know when I'm putting my career ahead of my children and my wife. I know when it's in the way of my relationship with my Creator. They all know too. : ) It's obvious to everyone IF I'm honest with myself which leads me to my final point here. 

Regular self-evaluation and reflection is of vital importance.  I would imagine that John Wayne-types think it is silly to take regular time to sit and reflect and pray and meditate (listen). But then again I'd imagine John Wayne had a lot of time in the saddle on long cattle drives to reflect on life. : )  My point here is that I have to honestly ask myself if my priorities are in the right order or not. To do that and really evaluate it I have to be quiet physically and mentally. That take discipline and practice. Shutting my brain up is a difficult thing to do when my heart needs to speak. 

So there it is. That's what I think about, seriously, on a daily basis. Am I putting God first? Am I overworking? Am I building a relationship with my wife? Are my kids getting what they need from me? It's not simple work to ask (and answer) these questions but it's important for me to do so honestly.