Friday, May 15, 2015

A Year in the Life?

Good Morning BET's!

Yes, it has been almost an entire year since my last post.  For as much as I love writing, you would think this would be a bigger priority for me.  Oh well.  Today is a new day!

As many of you know, last June, I took my first teaching job at the high school level.  I am teaching Business and Computers in the Culver Community School system, in Culver Indiana.  As the year is coming to a close, I thought I could reflect on what I have found and what this journey has done for(to) me.

As we started the year, I was ecstatic about the opportunity to connect with kids and to teach them so much that I had stored up over the years.  I was wide eyed with the possibilities and my imagination ran wild with thoughts of the intellectual exchanges I would be having with the students.  This alone, made sleep almost impossible for the first few weeks.  And then, reality set in.

The students weren't nearly as eager to engage me in intellectual tennis, as much as they were to just figure out why a 50 something would start his teaching career in this small rural Indiana town, and even why a 50 year old would change careers at this advanced age.  So many questions.  I was the new kid again.  The students wanted to figure me out.

As the year progressed, I found that what the students wanted from me more than anything, was the chance to be heard.  The opportunity for them to speak to me as an equal, and not just as a kid in my charge.  For those of you who teach at the high school level, you know what a balancing act this can be.  But, oh, what a magical dance!  I proceeded with two left feet, but have made strides throughout the year.

As November approached, my rallying cry was "Only ______ more days until Thanksgiving, and then just three more weeks!" Enough said.

As we entered the spring semester and the snow days piled up, I saw a side of the students I hadn't yet experienced.  A realization in their minds that makeup days are worse than coming to school on scheduled days.  While I appreciated the decisions made by the administration concerning our safety, snow days became more of a hassle, and no matter what anyone says, they never seemed like a day off.

As we moved into the last nine weeks, I realized that my complaints from first semester had turned from, "How many days until Thanksgiving?!", to "Why do I lose my students so much for testing?!  I need more time with them!"  The need to put more information in these kids brains seemed to be of more importance now than it had been in the past seven months.

And then it really became clear to me.

No matter how much wisdom or intellectual matter I throw their way, the most important part of what I am doing is the part that can't be measured on a standardized test.  The most important part of what we do, is that we are here, every day for the kids.  We are a great constant for them...possibly one of the few consistencies that they have in their day.  I have come to this conclusion:  I have much more to offer these kids, than I have to teach them.

So, year one, almost complete.  The kids are starting to check out as the final three weeks wind down, and I am very very tired.  It's a good kind of tired though.  It's been a good kind of year.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Kinders Rock! That's What Makes Them Beautiful...

Good Morning BET's!

The end of another school year is upon us, and I am already feeling the tears welling up in my big melon.  The summer is such a long time for me to not see these kids.  The school year will begin anew in the late summer, and the little cuties will have grown.  Some of them will not be little anymore, and will have moved on to the Intermediate school.

So, I have to remember when they were just brand new Kinders here at Jefferson.  I have to search my memories to see the shy little kiddos that first stepped in that big metal door that they couldn't yet open, nearly six years prior.  Thinking of how shy they were and how curious, and how they have become less shy and more curious, warms my heart.  It also gives me joy in seeing the new group of kids that have come so far this past year.  And many thanks to the greatest Kindergarten Teachers in the solar system, Mrs N and Mrs. G!  You two are amazing and loved by so many who see you work and love these kids every day!

So, as I wipe a tear from my eye, I want to share with you a short video that Mrs. N captured yesterday at the annual talent show.  There were many precious moments, but this one is extra special to me.  It will be a time capsule of these wonderful little souls, and a way for them to see the wonder in their own eyes, and the freedom they had in expression at this age, for a lifetime. I had to rig this, so just humor me and follow the link to the video.

Amazing, am I right?!  So, when the world gets on your last nerve this summer, and you need a lift, just remember this video of these wonderful kids!  They don't know they're know the rest.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Memorial Day and PTSD: Honoring All

Good morning BET's!  Today I will stray a bit from my usual topics, which I do frequently,  to honor our heroes for the Memorial Day weekend.

PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is rapidly becoming an epidemic in our culture.  Although we have known about it for years, it has come to the forefront as do so many other disorders we don't fully understand, with the increased military presence all over the world.

According to the Mayo Clinic, PTSD is defined as, "...a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event."

With the advent of recognition for this disorder affecting more current service people, many veterans from as far back as the Vietnam conflict, the Korean war, and even World War II have come forward with their struggles due to events they experienced while serving our country.  As with so many of these disorders, for years people just assumed that this was just the reality of fighting in a war.  It was an expected outcome from this pressure cooker of  a life in the service.  Many people, including health professionals treated it as something for which the person just needed to "get over", or "move on".  But with so many recent veterans coming forward there has been an increased awareness of the disorder, and an increased desire to find appropriate treatments to better fight this debilitating disease that affects over 5 million people annually.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that this affliction also affects non military personnel as well.  Many people who have struggled through the loss of a loved one, or any traumatic event deal with this disorder on a daily basis as well.

While there are many treatments currently offered to address this horribly painful condition, there has not been a clear medical breakthrough that distinguishes itself from the other forms of treatment.  Many people just trudge through life fighting this painful battle alone.

If you know of someone, a loved one, a friend, that suffers with this condition, I urge you to seek help from a qualified mental health professional.  There are many resources out there that can help you get the ball rolling. Just search the internet and you will find copious amounts of information regarding the diagnosis and treatment options for this disorder.  I have include a few links below to get you started.

In closing, I want to just say thanks to all of the veterans who have served, and died so bravely for the freedoms we enjoy today.  And let's not forget the soldiers who may not have lost their lives on the battlefield, but may be at a heightened risk because of PTSD.  I salute you all, and pray for you to be able to get the help you need, and know that the people of this country have your back this time.

This is the National Center for PTSD: 

This is the Mayo Clinic site:

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Day Late and A Mother Short

Happy day after Mother's Day BET's!

I tried to write this yesterday, but was thwarted by a longing for my Mom.  This may sound silly to some, but let me explain.

We lost mom in 2011 at 82 years old, sort of out of the blue.  She was living on her own and thriving, but just sort of slipped away from us in a hurry.  My dad had passed the year before, and I truly believe, that after 63 years of marriage to the guy, she just longed for his company again and let herself go to him.

Now, about my amazing mom.  Mom had an unusual gift in parenting her children.  She was able to see past the surface, and look inside each child and find that one spot.  That one spot that meant everything to us.  For example, when I was looking at colleges and my future, she caught me off guard with a comment one day in the kitchen.  I was walking the path of just going to college to get a degree, with no direction at all.  As I was cooking some chili from scratch, she looked at me and said, "have you ever thought about culinary school?  You love to eat, why not do something you really enjoy?"

I know some of you look at that statement and are saying, "Umm, I think she was making a larger statement here."  At first, that's what I kind of thought, too.  But as we talked, I could see that she was sincere in her query, and that she had noticed something about me that I hadn't.  I not only loved to eat, but I enjoyed the creativity involved in building something from a bunch of smaller pieces.  Eventually, I would buy a restaurant and let that love release to the people I served everyday.  While that didn't pan out as intended, (pun intended), to this day I love to cook a variety of dishes.  Some of my recent creations include, venison heart, cow stomach and a beautiful beef liver!  Not all in the same setting, praise the Lord.

While I didn't heed her advice about culinary school, the conversation gave me a perspective on life that I relish today(pun also intended).  This perspective that drives us, what really makes us love life, may not be something we see for ourselves.  We have to allow others to notice and bring it out in us.  In a million years, I never thought I would enjoy working with elementary students.  But a friend of mine gave me that perspective recently with a comment she made.  She said, "You have a great ability to 'be present' for kids.  You make them feel that they are the only thing that you are about in the time you share with them."  Thanks Genie!

So, while my mom really lived this and modeled this for her kids, I think we all have these ideas about people we are close to everyday.  Don't let this information sit in the back of your head any longer.  When you see a gift in someone, share it with them!  Let them know that they are blessed with something that others may not see, and that they should 'let it out'.

I would be terribly remiss if I didn't mention my wife in this post as well.  She had a very special relationship with my folks.  My mom was a mentor to Bren over the span of our relationship, and Bren loved the fact that she was important to her.  I still joke that I think my parents actually liked her more than me.  Brenda has been an incredible mom to our boys, and to countless children that she has touched as well.

So today, look deep into your relationship with your mom, and remember the one thing that she did that made you feel like the only one in the universe.  Then go be that example to someone who you believe in.  That's what mom would do.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Pay It Forward Friday!

Good Morning BET's!

When I think of Paying It Forward, I think of doing good deeds for someone in need, and the resulting "Butterfly" effect that this may have on society.  I know, I watch too many movies, but I do believe these actions can have an enormously positive effect on the lives of those around us.  Today we will look at Paying it Forward from the perspective of elementary aged kids.

The letter below was written by a third grader at an elementary school after certain, unsavory behavior caused their class to lose some privileges.  Even though it was written directly after these unfortunate events, I think the wisdom in its simplicity speaks volumes and can be applied to all of our lives.  Take a look.

So, let's take a look at a few in particular that maybe we can all use on a daily basis.

#1  Plant flowers.  Always a good idea and a way to brighten up the landscape and be green.  Two birds!

#4  Bring food-Not Home Made.  Food is always a good go to.  I love the fact that the stipulation is for non home made food.  Not sure about the message being sent to the parents of this child though.  If you are the parents, you might need to mix it up a bit.

#18  Don't say people stink.  Common sense to most of us and just good policy...even if they DO stink.

#27  Don't wear shorts or dresses in winter.  Pragmatic to the core, this student is really going deep on the paying it forward plan.  There are a variety of reasons this is a good idea, but somehow by abiding to this one, someone else is benefiting.  For instance, you don't want to see me in shorts or a dress in summer, let alone winter!  Point made?

So, as you go about your day today, think of ways to pay it forward.  Focus on making a difference in the lives of those you meet.  Incidentally, feel free to use any of the above.  You're welcome!