October 2012 – On Gentleness and Zeal

Tim Joy

Something happened to my hair!

Starting out year 30 in Catholic education and in my third year as Principal of a pretty cool place – De La Salle North Catholic High School in Portland, Oregon.  Each year, we focus through retreats and workshops on a theme connected to our Lasallian tradition.  For the 2012-2013 school year, we returned to St. John Baptist de La Salle’s original list of Twelve Virtues of a Good Teacher and settled on two: Gentleness and Zeal. There’s an article posted in the Catholic Sentinel about this.

The students we serve require both.  Gentleness on the part of an adult is a recognition of a wound in the other.  St. La Salle spoke of this often in his writings, most compellingly in The Conduct of the Christian Schools: “children often carry burdens that they themselves cannot bear alone.”  Zeal is a deep and replenishing well one taps when both teacher and student may be at wit’s end.  Zeal is not just working hard, but working hard when it seems that no one else will.

In these virtues, students recognize a presence that holds them special. And they are.


March 2012 – Working at a Cristo Rey School

De La Salle North Catholic High School in Portland, Oregon, opened in September 2001, a week before 9-11.  It was then the first high school in the country to replicate what Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago was doing – providing low-income, urban students with both a corporate internship experience and a college-preparatory curriculum.  In Chicago – a seat of both Fortune 500 companies and Catholic education – the model was a no brainer.  In Portland – with only two Fortune 500 companies and a miniscule Catholic presence – the model seemed a real stretch.

De La Salle North’s AP Calculus class tells only a small story of what is happening throughout the school.

We are but one of 24 Cristo Rey schools throughout the United States, each one a place of opportunity and educational innovation.

September 2011 – Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve

Click for video

At De La Salle North Catholic in Portland, Oregon, our students experience a different kind of college-bound experience.  Listen to a handful of juniors and seniors talk about their teachers and their work.

Students take a rigorous slate of courses from 9th through 12th grade as well as work in a corporate setting five days a month.  This unusual but demanding combination challenges students to reach for colleges and life dreams.  It is very hard work, but their dedication sustains them.

July 2011 – Some Things never change

Theodore Giesel’s genius creations – and the delight of my childhood.

Next to Curious George, the Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss was my favorite book as a child.  It’s simple.  Wasn’t it obvious that the book was set in Portland: “The sun did not shine/It was too wet to play/So we sat in the house/All that cold, cold day.”

Of course, I also grew up with three brothers, so an afternoon with the Cat as well as Thing 1 and Thing 2 was like an afternoon with three Joy boys.  Mayhem and mischief!

There is something inspirational (and a bit irrational) about Thing 1 and Thing 2:  two quirky Seuss-beings, eyes closed, but nonetheless sprinting into some future adventure.  Let’s just do the very next thing that pops into our imagination! And, so, they captured the headlong hopes of a child growing up in a dutiful, Teutonic home.

Five decades later, I long for their thrill-seeking.  In a way, new inspirations come – lean into life, do the never-did-that-before things I have long wanted to do.  Like compose this blog. Or write my novel. Or engender systemic change in schools through systems thinking. As the Cat said, “We can have lots of fun that is funny.”

June 2011 – Sustainability and Systems Thinking

June 21, 2011 Conference at Gladstone High School, Gladstone, Oregon.  Click me for information!

Tim will be presenting at the Sustainable Schools – Sustainable Solutions Conference in June 2011.  His talk is called “Northwest Rhythms: Learning a Beat.”  He will talk about system dynamics as both world view and a set of skills that ultimately facilitates people thinking about sustainability in a pragmatic and analytical way.  There will be some math involved, some poetry, some new symbols, and lots of story-telling.

The whole deal about sustainability is knowing the limits, living inside the natural rhythms of a place.  We don’t have much good practice with that, and system dynamics helps people understand what constitutes a system and what just ain’t so.

Spring 2010  – Room 201 in the late afternoon

Teaching is stressful, even for the  level-tempered Tim

Teaching seniors can take a lot out of a guy.  Fortunately, it also breathes in some deep life.  Near the end of a day at the end of the year, a student wanted a photo.  We had been studying Chinese short stories from the 1960’s and reading about socialist literary criticism, so I can understand that their intellectual interest might have been waning.

“You mean, for instance, something that shows how you’ve changed me?”

“Mr. Joy . . . that would be perfect!”

Holding up my hand – “give me a moment” – I struck this pose. Yeah, seniors can sometimes do this.

July 2010 – The California Redwoods make one dream that all things are possible

At the base of the mighty Redwood, one can only be humble

Trees can teach us a lot about living, not the least of which is our own humility before them – big ones usually have us by a few hundred years.  In the Redwoods, one steps into a fold of time – the scale dwarfs what we know. Being among them conjures the timeless and heroic.  Listen to John Muir: “Sequoia have come safely through all the geological changed & storms that have fallen upon them since Cretaceous times, surviving even the crushing destroying ice sheets of the glacial period.”

When the Scottish explorer David Douglas traveled down the Oregon Territory’s Columbia Gorge in the 19th century, he witnessed stands of trees that were 30 feet in diameter and more than 200 feet high. It was the stuff of legends.  The Oregon timber industry built its foundation from harvesting the fir trees that now bear his name.  In a few places in Oregon, one can still see virgin stands similar to what Douglas came upon – near protected stands around Crater Lake, the Oregon Coast, and Mount Hood. They can take your breath away.

July 2009 – Sustainability Education Summer Institute (SESI) on Bainbridge Island

Bainbridge Island, Washington – Tim presents at the Sustainability Education Summer Institute in July 2009

One of the things Tim does is talk in front of groups about system dynamics and seeing the world in an entirely new way.  He is especially happy to do this in front of teachers – the one group that will likely change the world.

In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, Tim spoke to gatherings at the Systems Thinking/Dynamic Modeling K-12 Conferences around the country. In summer 2009, Tim went back on the road to talk with an amazingly open and vital group – teachers in middle and high school who are dedicated to teaching sustainability. His talk was called What You Get Is What You See.  It was enough to create hope that change is scratching at the door.

Tim with youngest daughters at Multnomah Falls, Oregon

Tim attends the CC-STADUS Summer Institute  . . . life changer!

In 1993, Tim landed in a workshop with Diana Fisher and Ron Zaraza.  There, he learned about system dynamics, and from there his life changed.  In recent years, he composes STELLA models for English, Science, and Social Science; contributes to the K-12 listserve as administered by the Creative Learning Exchange; writes about teaching and learning; and generally clamors for change that will allow young people to live their lives.


One comment on “JoyBoy

  1. I am going to DC at the end of the month to the International System Dynamic Conf. A bunch of us are talking about K-12 ST/ SD. I have a poster that will be shown. Your name is on the poster, in small print to be sure, but it is there. I would send you a digital if you give me an email. It’s a big file.
    Dexter Chapin
    Seattle Academy

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