Thursday, October 22, 2009

Contextual Education Leaves Me Bloody

by Scott Dalen

Sometimes my contextual work puts me in a situation that makes me appreciate something that I had previously taken for granted. Other times, it leaves me bloodied and bruised…quite literally. This week, I experienced both.

Last night I wrapped up a confirmation class that I’ve been teaching for the last 5 weeks. As the class was completed, I wanted to get the follow up records done right away. This a fairly simple process of going into the file of each student and signing off that they completed the class.

My requirements for passing the class are admittedly pretty simple. If you show up and make at least some attempt to participate in discussion, you are pretty much good to go. If you miss a class, I offer make up work and will give credit for the class period. I try to be understanding that things can come up, so I do allow 1 class period as grace, so out of 5 weeks they need to get credit for 4 of them.

Well, one would think that it would be pretty simple to tabulate who passed and who didn’t, and in retrospect it was pretty easy. However, it took a lot more time than I expected. First I had to go through the attendance sheets and figure out who missed what class, then I had to go into each students folder, which of course are mixed in with all of the confirmation kids (not just the ones taking my class). This whole process took me half an hour, and by the time I wrapped it up, I was one of the last people to leave the church.

This helped me appreciate the work that teachers do outside of class to make sure that everything is in order and accounted for.

Now, on the other subject.

One of the small duties that I do is assist the alter guild with one task. We have a cross in the middle of our narthex. The cross beam is about 15 or 20 feet off the ground and the alter guild likes to hang a drape in whatever color is currently featured in the season of the church. About 2 years ago, I happened to be walking into the church to see my wife at the exact time that they were drawing straws to see who got to put up the drape for the first time.

“Scott, do you mind climbing ladders?”

“Sure, I can do that.”

At that instant, this became my job. So whenever, the vestments on the alter change, I drag out the extension ladder and climb up…hang the drape and climb back down. I’ve been lucky…the color has been green for several months now. I’m out of practice. Side note…Holy Week is a pain from this perspective because the color changes about 2 or 4 times.

Tuesday I was at the church and decided that I would change the drape as Reformation Sunday is coming up this weekend. Time to go red. Keep in mind, I’m out of practice. As I was setting up the ladder, a couple of staff members came out and were talking to me, which distracted me as I lifted it up against the cross. What I failed to notice was that I had it backwards. So when I went to push it up higher (to reach the cross beam) I unlatched the legs and it all came sliding right back down at me.

Now, fortunately I wasn’t on the ladder yet, but I was holding onto it. It slid down and nicked one of my fingers on my right hand (minor, not a big deal), but it caught a pretty good chunk of the same finger on my left hand. I stood there for a moment thinking “That hurt.” The pastor looked at me and asked “Gonna try that again?”


I was a little flustered by the whole thing, not to mention my finger was bleeding like crazy. So decided that I would tackle the drape another day. I bandaged up the end of my finger and headed for home.

The good news…I didn’t quite amputate the whole finger…in actuality I really only skinned a small portion next to my fingernail. The other good news…I managed to put the drape up yesterday without anymore injuries.


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