Category Archives: teacher

Lessons

Be kind.

Help others.

Event + Response = Outcome

Everyone is just as busy as you are. We all have the same 24 hours.

When you’re feeling down, do for others. It will make you feel better.

When making a parent phone call, put yourself in that parent’s position and ask yourself what you would want to hear.

You can’t take words back.

Don’t speak in anger.

The universe listens and responds.

The Serenity Prayer is real.

The Golden Rule is real.

Say yes more.

Learn to say no.

You do you.

Written goals are better.

Dream big.

Make your own fun.

Perfection is impossible.

Deadlines are deadlines.

A clean desk is possible.

A messy desk isn’t a moral failure.

Ask.

Listen.

Love.

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Save the Public School: VOTE

There is a villain in the Oklahoma teacher walk out, and his name is Harold Hamm. Honestly. Mary Fallin is his partner in villainy.

For the last two decades the American public has watched while states led by radical conservatives cut taxes on corporations and destroyed public services while doing so. The experiment has led to massive cuts to education, healthcare, mental health facilities, special needs services and more while the income gap has gutted much of the middle class.

I knew this, and still I was shocked to read that Hamm, the 28th richest man in the US and one of the world’s top 100 richest men lobbied the OK lege against a tax hike.

Giant corporate tax cuts supposedly work like this: giant rich companies led by billionaires pay low, low taxes or no taxes, hire tons of people and pour money into local public services.

But it hasn’t worked like that. Instead companies like Hamm’s have grown bigger and richer while those giant corporate tax cuts have led to crisis after crisis. And current far right Republican leaders continue to cut and cut and cut.

It hasn’t always been this way, I don’t think. But it’s where we are now, and it’s our fault. We keep allowing culture wars to control our votes and we keep these people who are decimating our public schools in office.

People, there is only one way to fix this problem. Vote the current leadership out. Show up at the polls in November and tell the Harold Hamm’s and Mary Fallin’s we are done with their nonsense.

Texas: this is OK focused, but listen up. We are headed in the same direction courtesy of Abbott and awful DP. Our power rests in our vote. Don’t let this continue. Vote them out of office.

The World is Changing

When I was in college, I had to take speech to graduate. I HATED talking in front of people, but as my professor told me, if I wanted a degree, I had to do it.

I survived.

Today I’m a workshop speaker, I’ve spoken at school board meetings, I’ve given speeches at rallies, I’ve presided over meetings. All of that still makes me nervous. I’m not sure any of those public speaking moments would have ever happened if Dr. Dencil Taylor hadn’t told me I had no choice but to speak in front of my class. EVEN though I told him I’d get sick. He was heartless.

Actually what he was was a master educator who believed more in me than I believed in myself.

Today speech class is no longer part of the required curriculum in Texas colleges. The lege decided it wasn’t necessary. EVEN though public speaking ability is one of the skills business leaders say is absolutely essential to success.

Recently I read about a university that is cutting liberal arts majors. On further investigation I found this is a common theme in higher education. The reason given over and over again: it’s tough to get a job with a liberal arts degree.

The world is changing, and not for the better, if a degree that encourages you to think and read and write can’t translate to a job.

The world is changing, and not for the better, if we only look at education in terms of vocation.

I was alarmed when students said they didn’t want to take high school journalism because they didn’t want to be journalists. I mean, let’s be real, high school IS NOT ONLY about what you’re going to do later in life. And it shouldn’t be. Shoot in all likelihood students will change their major more than once in college if they go to college. They’ll definitely go down different career paths regardless of whether or not they get a degree.

There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with vocational education, but for us to make all educational decisions through that limited lens is a huge mistake.

And that mistake is the same mistake universities that choose to discontinue liberal arts degrees are making.

The world is changing. Training for a vocation is not enough. Students need to be able to think critically and problem solve and write and analyze data and think some more and work in collaborative groups and think some more. They need to learn how to be flexible and understand the difference between fact and opinion, and they need to understand the power of propaganda. And they definitely need to know the past because it serves as a lesson, a warning, a road map to our future.

Yes, we need vocational education. But vocational education is not all we need.

Liberal arts subjects help us navigate that changing world. Removing them from the curriculum is the wrong answer to a real issue.

The world is changing. Absolutely.

Taking a Break

When we finished the yearbook Thursday night, I posted a year in review of pictures showing the editor from summer camp to the very last layout submission on our Facebook page. It was beautiful and fun and reminded me of all that’s good about social media.

On Easter I liked a memory photo of President Obama and the former First Lady reading Where the Wild Things Are to children. It was beautiful and funny and reminded me of all that’s good about social media.

And then I read the comments.

I sat there at my mother-in-law’s house reading one racist awful thing after another, getting angrier by the minute.

Then I posted a news story and that same anger reverberated through me as I thought about OK teachers making such a small paycheck and retirees making a pittance after insurance. Then I started researching healthcare and medical costs in the US and posted and someone said “Thanks Obama” and my head nearly exploded because yeah, it really sucks that insurance has to cover pre-existing conditions and can’t cap our care and states that expanded Medicaid have decent healthcare for decent prices but big pharma and insurance are definitely going to bankrupt any of us who happen to fall ill…..and I realized…..

Social media is killing me.

I didn’t take my blood pressure, but I felt it skyrocket.

I like debate. I love the people I debate with. I have had lots of friends who have different political persuasions, and in the past it was fun to disagree.

But…

Not now.

Now I’m angry.

Or I’m bored and I start checking out what’s going on and an hour later I’m laughing at a video of some little kid I don’t know instead of talking to the people I do know.

Or I’m checking out twitter to see what the political pundits are saying.

Or I’m saying amen to Collier because awful Dan Patrick IS killing public education and people who vote for him are voting me out of a job and voting kids who aren’t independently wealthy out of quality education.

Or…

The list goes on and on and on and on.

Social media is infinite. It’s amazing because of its reach and the connections we make. It’s awful for the same reason.

So as I sat there realizing how worked up I was over something that had been debated to death, as I said “people are so stupid!” I looked in the mirror and saw me.

And I deleted the social media apps off my phone.

My goal is a week.

I should do more.

We’ll see what happens.

March For Our Lives

A first this week. A disturbing first.

I woke up terrified after a school shooting nightmare.

It feels stupid to even write those words. A nightmare. Big deal, MB. Not real. Deadline brain causing chaos. Do some meditation and let that nonsense go.

Except

It felt so real. And awful.

Again, nightmare. Not real. Ridiculous when seen in the shadows of the thousands of kids and teachers who haven’t had the luxury of waking up to escape that awful reality.

In the midst of my nightmare, I processed that for me it wasn’t real. I don’t understand the science of dreams, but I was able to tell myself to wake up so the nightmare would stop.

After, I lay there in my bed staring at the ceiling with that awful sense of dread coupled with the knowledge that it was all a dream so the emotions weren’t real.

But they are real.

They’re real because it seems like every day there’s a new story, a new horror, a new nightmare that won’t stop because as a nation we refuse to say enough.

But that’s changing.

I’m working today so I can’t join the March For Our Lives. But I’m there with the marchers. My voice is loud, my voice is clear.

We don’t want to take away the second amendment, but enough is enough.

It’s time for common sense gun regulation.

No more assault-style weapons owned by the general populace. We don’t need weapons of war in our gun safes because they’re fun to shoot. And you’re not going to take on the entire US military with your personal stash of guns and ammunition.

We need to end the days where an 18 year old can walk into a gun store and buy assault style weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition and then shoot people in a school, a church, a mall, a movie theater.

I’m not a gun expert, but I am a teacher, and enough is enough.

Today thousands will March For Our Lives.

It’s time.

Enough is enough.

Dear Teacher

Another broken child walked into a school and committed mass murder.

Another broken child lots of teachers had tried to reach.

And tomorrow we will face classrooms full of kids, some of whom are also broken. And we will still try to reach them. We will still pray for the miraculous moment a connection is made and the most awful of the most awful won’t happen, and we won’t ever know how close the most awful was.

We’ll walk into school tomorrow and look around and reevaluate our shelter in place plans and talk to each other about those plans. We’ll probably debate gun control and teaching the vote and what that looks like.

But we’ll also do our jobs and make those connections with kids.

Some of whom are broken.

Prayers for us all and prayers for all our kids.

Our hearts are breaking as we go through this again.

Lockdown Lesson

There was NOT an active shooter on my campus today, thank God.

But…

I got to teach media lessons in real time today while in the midst of two lockdowns that lasted a total of about three hours. Lockdown one was during my class with my students. Lots of rumors flying to which I could say “document your source” calmly. The second lockdown, called when kids were in the hall passing to their next class, ended with me having a roomful of students, most of whom I didn’t know. They were freaked out and I was trying to be calm and help them be calm and quiet too. When the rumors started flying I asked if they were getting that news directly from the source or from someone who got it from someone who maybe got it from someone they said was the source. One thing’s for sure: phones have changed everything.

Fortunately, the person allegedly responsible for the phoned in threats that caused both lockdowns has been caught.

Today stunk. I was there because of deadline. I’m glad I was there because the kids needed me. We didn’t meet deadline. Only the editor came in after school, and I understand. Sometimes there are bigger things in life than deadline.

In 24 years of teaching this was only my second time to be in a situation like this for more than an hour or two. The first situation was with a bomb threat at Rider. We were outside for hours. It was lunchtime, and the kids were great even though they were hungry. The bomb squad from the base was there, superintendents came out, the local news showed up. That was almost a party. The second lockdown today was the opposite of that. The fear I saw on kids’ faces today was the worst thing I’ve experienced in teaching. It was worse than watching the second plane hit on 9-11 with a room of my kids. It was worse because of the news yesterday and last week and the week before and the week before that. That second lockdown terrified the kids at first. It terrified them enough they were silent for 60 minutes. It terrified them enough that they did exactly what I told them to do, no questions asked, even though most of them didn’t know me.

It’s not okay.

It’s not okay that we as a nation just shake our heads and say we wish there was something we could do, but we can’t.

There was NOT an active shooter on my campus today, thank God.

We need to find a way to make that the last fear of kids on lockdown instead of the first.

Another New Year

Another new year means another year of this blog.

So much has changed since I started this. Even the address, since it started on LiveJournal. I’m not even sure WordPress was a thing yet when I started this. I know iPhones weren’t around yet. Social media was pretty much MySpace, Messenger apps and, if you were a kid, texting. If you wanted to communicate with someone, more often than not you picked up the phone and called or went to where they were.

Back when I started writing this I was in my 30s with a junior high aged daughter struggling with my weight and writing rejection. Back then Brian and I didn’t go to church regularly, we’d never been part of a small group, I was a Republican, Meredith and McDreamy weren’t even a thing.

Back then I felt like I should be able to juggle everything and still have time for me, and it made me so angry that that wasn’t a thing.

Time flies.

The world changes.

I know I don’t post often these days. I’m going to try to do more in the run up to the mid-terms.

/Rant

Especially to help get the word out that politicians are purposefully killing public schools, but we can stop them if we vote them out. They use “failing schools” rhetoric to rob from the public and put $$$ into the pockets of the for-profit charters springing up all over the place.

Rant end/

A lot has changed over the years, but a lot is still the same, too. And for that I am thankful.

I swore I wasn’t doing resolutions this year, but I have one. That one is this:

I resolve to remember that words are only good if they’re backed up by actions. That’s my focus this year. Action. Persistence, practice, passion.

Happy New Year!

Together Again

A million years ago Sandra Scheller allowed me to observe her journalism classes at Rider High School when I was an MSU student. After four years she let me take over the Rider newspaper after I was hired as an English teacher.when I left Rider last year Sandra took the newspaper back after 22 years. Now we’re at Gloria Shields Workshop together. Life is so awesome. 

The kid who knows too little

The girl drove me crazy.

She always called me over, always wanted me to hold her hand and walk her through what to do. She’s in a huge class of students who…keep me on my toes. And she wanted my attention 100%.

The thing is she has a great eye, and she’s super creative, and she seems to be a good student. Except in my class. 

In my class she lost 30 photos. In my class she didn’t follow the step by step instructions printed on the sheet in front of her. In my class she wanted my every moment and that just wasn’t possible.

Frustration set in, on both our parts.

Until the middle of second six weeks when she asked a new question. So how do I make a new PowerPoint again? And the girl sitting next to her added, “What is an attachment?” And the one next to her said, “I never really used email before.”

And just like that I realized for weeks I’d been speaking a foreign language to these kids. And the “Mrs. Lee, Mrs. Lee, Mrs. Lee,” girl was actually the brave one willing to ask the questions.

It took three class periods, but in the end they knew what to do, and now when they walk in the classroom, they do amazing work. We lost weeks because I let my frustration get in the way of finding the positive and I didn’t bother talking to and with them to see if I could understand what the heck was wrong.

Ugh.

Something to remember for next year.