The MTR Class of 2015 celebrated their graduation with a Masters in Urban Education at the annual MTR Victory Party on Friday, May 15. Christy Anderson, graduating resident of the Class of 2015, shared the address below.
Good afternoon, Class of 2015. Here we are. At the end of a long road…it’s not really the end.
Rather the end of the beginning. When David asked me a few weeks back to give the resident address, he asked me to provide some sort of a review of our residency year. My mind immediately went to TIME magazines “year in pictures” but I thought “Hannah already covered that at mentor appreciation”. I considered taking us on an interactive walk through the MTR 2015 Facebook group, but ya’ll…we talk on there way too much for that. I sat painstakingly scrolling for 15 minutes one day determined to get to the bottom. Would I use David’s e-mails? I could do that. Post some nice capitalized, bold-faced words on the screen. Let the coursework talk? “In the words of Tim Keller…” But that didn’t exactly convey the messages I wanted to send. So I settled for a conglomeration of them all. It doesn’t allow me to wrap it up with a nice, neat bow, but it captures who we are, what we went through, and the things we accomplished. With no further ado…here is our year in review
It started out like any good summer camp does – ice breakers on ice breakers on ice breakers. We all approached those first few days differently. Many came in bright eyed and full of excitement. Some came in with pits sweating. We were reluctant, hopeful, skeptical, self-protective,encouraged, the list goes on…But we all had one thing in common; we came expecting something from MTR and one another and believing something about the work we were about to do here in Memphis.
As the summer progressed, we began to conform those expectations and beliefs to those of MTR and those of our Creator. That’s not to say that we all came out the same on the other end, but we did begin to take on a shared mission for our city and common vision for what that may look like. We learned to view our work as part of God’s work of reconciling the created to Himself, to one another, and to creation. We began to learn the importance of engaging and sympathizing with the stories of those we come into contact with – whether those stories are a minute or centuries old. We learned to lament the broken places and turn to God for justice. We learned how we would best go about coming alongside God in His fight for justice. And we fought to break free of an “us” and “them” mentality where it is our job to educate others out of brokenness.
Stepping back and connecting reconciliation to God’s story helps us move away from dramatic visions of fixing the world, as if our job were to provide solutions to problems outside us. If Christians believe anything, it is that no one—including ourselves and the church—is separate from the brokenness as an untainted solution to the problems of our world…The dividing line between good and evil runs straight through each one of us. (Katongole & Rice, Reconciling All Things)
We were filled to the brim with words of wisdom like this. We read and read and read…and read some more. All the while forming a community. MTR is masterful at facilitating that. I can’t speak for you all, but I found this summer living in community to be life-bringing, encouraging, energizing, protective and filling. I can’t tell you how many Facebook posts from the summer had to do with people eating together, offering to feed someone else, or for a few of us…asking to be fed by someone else. Watermelon, chips and salsa, guac, sushi, kombucha, spaghetti squash, waffle cones [only on Wednesdays], donuts, gluten free and dairy free treats, coffee, Jerry’s snow cones, pancakes…
We enjoyed game nights, afternoons on the lawn, Memorial Day parties, group dinners out, AMERICA World Cup watch parties, study breaks, summer concerts, karaoke nights, Redbirds game and so much more. There were a couple of videos on Facebook that I wanted to insert here – Johnathan reading like a farmer, Mitch doing Tooty Ta, Jasmine and Ben belting it at karaoke, – but I couldn’t figure out how to insert them from Facebook. You’re welcome.
And at the heart of it all…whether thinking about our work as teachers, coaches, community members, friends, or family, the goal of our summer was to realize our role in seeking reconciliation for our city. Corbett and Fikkert said it best in When Helping Hurts…
It all goes back to the definition of poverty alleviation. Remember, the goal is to restore people to experiencing humanness in the way that God intended. The crucial thing is to help people to understand their identity as image bearers, to love their neighbors as themselves, to be stewards over God’s creation, and to bring glory to all things.
Fall came and with it came the excitement of being in the classroom – finally ready to put into practice all the theoretical, practical, and theological beliefs and skills we’d been filling ourselves with for the last 3 months. Little did we know that we weren’t really all that prepared. Not sure what you all thought we were going to do, but I subconsciously believed that my perspectives and belief in my students alone would change their academic performance and foster behavioral success. Ha! So we failed…and we failed…and we failed again (Thanks Robin!)
The fall was hard as we fought to manage our time, keep up with our goal of 100% of residents doing 100% of readings (Sorry, Robin…), honor our mentors, find success in the classroom, and keep up with our social lives (more like lack thereof). Christmas break came as a welcome reprieve from the stress, drain, and strain of fall focus.
Spring brought the stress of Lead Teach but it also brought a lot of freedom. Back again were the Saturdays of old (though many were spent planning or prepping for Monday). Classwork was less. Planning became easier. We were granted control. We tried out our own styles and felt the pressure and responsibility of being on our own in our classrooms. It was a lot of work, but it was liberating! Maybe we would make it at this whole teaching thing after all…
And then as an act of mercy, the Lord granted us 1, 2, 3, what seemed like endless days off for “Snowpocalypse 2015” just after most of us finished our Lead Teach experiences.
Our Spring semesters looked different as “by mentor and coach discretion” took on many forms. Some of us gained free time as instructional responsibility slowly dwindled. Others were thrown back into – or simply kept on – lead teaching. We took field trips, enjoyed fun in the classroom, led projects and programs.
Job talk picked up. I loved hearing the buzz about who was interviewing where and what jobs people had accepted. Shelby County schools’ deadline made (and still makes) many of us nervous. As we depart from here there are many things we know about one another and many things we don’t.
In fact, in thinking about what I would say about Spring, I was struck by how much I truly don’t know about everyone’s story. At first, this was disheartening. How could I walk through this difficult season in community with these people and still feel disconnected from your stories. It made me realize how much of a blessing this year has been for us and for the city. We represent 60 stories, 60 experiences, and give or take 1,500 years of experience that is being leveraged to reconcile relationships here in Memphis. We have experienced change together – deep, lasting heart change.