Tag Archives: college

Moments

Moments.

Small ones.

Life changing ones.

In one way life is simply the collection of moments. Everyday has the possibility of pain or happiness, even in a routine day there is beauty and love.  As I thought about the 18,252 days I’ve lived, there have been some life changing moments that are easily recognizable. But also, there have been small everyday moments that have proven to be foundations for me. This post has been a challenge, but here are my top five moments from the last 50 years.

Number Five

Calling my wife back, who was then just a classmate, after I hung up on her the first time. I barely got up the nerve to call her the first time to ask her out. We were in the same college class, “Discipline in the Classroom.” We debated against each other, she was smart and presented herself well everyday. I was the kid in the back with a coffee and my hat backwards, always willing to give my opinion. 

People still wonder how we make it work after 23 years, but it would have never happened if I didn’t squelch my fear and call her back after hanging up the first time. 

Number Four

Chasing my dream of being a head football coach and accepting a position that I had some reservations about. Those reservations turned out to be true. I was fired after one year. 

So many changes happened because of that choice. Some of them were tough on me and the family. There were positive outcomes, too.  That’s the complexity of moments.

I learned some hard lessons. I’ve let go of my dream of being a head football coach. I trust my gut instincts more. I learned that a strong family sticks together when things get rough.

Number Three

Holding each of my children the day they were born, except my second son who experienced a medical issue. We didn’t get to hold him for a few days.

That moment when I held a son or daughter in my arms, the world disappeared. Their little hands clenched, eyes closed, chest moving up and down, the moment they start this journey of life. The weight of knowing that I was responsible for their foundation wasn’t heavy, though. That responsibility was the meaning of fatherhood, and I still enjoy fulfilling that role in their life.

Number Two

One of the most pivotal moments in my life happened when I was 16 years old. I decided to take control of my life and essentially walk away from my family history. The moment was a decision that has been messy, filled with pain, anger, and a mix of other consequences. But I don’t regret it.

Number One

The moment happened during football practice my eighth grade year. At the time it was intense for practice, but looking in from the outside, nothing life changing. Until each day passed and moments presented themselves that reinforced the lesson coach gave me that day.

I wish I could give you my backstory up to that day in practice, but this is a blog not a book. Let’s just say I had gone through a lot of craziness already in life by the time I was in eighth grade. I was the tailback for the team, already a filling out as an athlete. On this day, I wasn’t running with much power. I was going down pretty easily at the first level (at the line of scrimmage).

Coach had had enough. He held my face mask as he ripped into me about my effort. I don’t remember everything he said, but the message was that I was too strong, too good to run like I was. I was in tears. He called a basic dive play. I was mad. We ran the play. I couldn’t see anything because I was crying so hard. Coach blew the whistle and screamed for everyone to freeze. 

Then he said,“Jamey, turn around!”

I froze on his first command. I was staring at the tennis courts and the street that ran in front of our school, trying to catch my breath. I turned around when he told me to. There was a line of players on the ground where I had run through the line.

“That’s how strong you are,” he said. And we returned to practice.

At that moment I understood his message, but didn’t know how important it was for me until I found myself needing that reminder when life was tackling me too easily. I remember that day. I remember that lesson. Even now, at the age of 50 life tries to take me down. But I know I am strong because of an everyday moment. Thanks, Coach.

Tomorrow’s post will not be so heavy. Tomorrow I’m going to share my top five songs, which is difficult in it’s own way!

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What are you doing?

The video was produced by my son. This is our first poetry video. We are working on a new video as I write.

My third daughter is teaching herself how to play songs on her keyboard. She learned the opening to “Purple Rain” for me.

I took my daughters to a crane viewing site by the river to learn how to draw landscapes.

I know life is challenging right now. I am teaching English online. My kids are attending college through kindergarten on line.

It is tough in so many different ways. But maybe this is also an opportunity. An opportunity for you, for your family, to do something you didn’t have time for… to do something outside your normal routine before the pandemic. Maybe, just maybe, now is the time to build your skills to go after your dreams.

What are you doing, today?

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Throwback: Graduation Speech 2000

I was doing some digital cleaning of files on my computer when I discovered my graduation speech for the class of 2000 at Pawnee City. This was my first year teaching. I had a thing about entering the room, making a “Grand Entrance”. This speech took me down memory lane…

 

About 18 years ago you all made a “Grand Entrance” into this world. You wailed, you cried.  Your parents wailed and cried.  Neither of you were sure of what was going to happen.  The future was a closed door.  But together you opened that door and traveled to this moment. This door.  Graduation.  Most people think of this moment as an ending. I ask you to think of it as a chance to make a “Grand Entrance”.

Yes, you are leaving the halls of Pawnee City High.  Leaving those oh so comfortable desks. Parting ways with my oh so efficient pencil sharpener. Never again to sit on the “sharing stool”.  No more watching us teachers lean against the wall. You are done with all the intellectual endeavors.

However, what lies ahead is a world totally different then what you are leaving.  This ceremony is your first step into that world. And your only chance to make that “Grand Entrance”.

Some of you will go on to college (a totally different type of intellectual endeavor), others the arm forces, while some will take on the responsibility of working. You may have an idea of what you are going to do, but deep down you are unsure of what lies ahead.  What is behind this door? I can’t tell you. Your parents can’t tell you.  But don’t be afraid. Open this door with passion. With the lessons we, your parents and teachers, have given you. With your heart and soul, open this door with your own style.

For unlike 18 years ago this “Grand Entrance” is a solo. This is your opportunity to change your world. How you enter this next stage, how you enter through this door, will set the tone for your life.

If you enter with your head down, scared to see what is there, you will miss so many opportunities.  The only view you’ll have is of your shoes. That’s not nice. Unless you spend as much as I do on shoes, then that’s a different story. Of course my wife has curbed my spending a little. But I do have a baby on the way and he or she will have the coolest shoes. Oh, did I just get off the subject?  Sorry seniors, a flash back to AP English!

If you enter looking back from where you came from you’ll never get the chance to be a better person. All you will have to measure your life by is what you did in high school.  Plus, you will probably be knocked down from any obstacles that lie ahead. That’s not nice.

If you enter running just trying to get to the next door, more than likely you’ll end up missing the perfect opportunity for you and smashing your head against the wall.  That’s not nice.

But open this door. Take a second then make your “Grand Entrance.”  A 360-degree spin.  A high swan like leap. Walk through the door with an “It’s all good in the hood” swagger. Whatever kind of entrance you make let the world know who you are and that you are here to live.  You are here to view what is possible, to grasp the best opportunity for your goals.

I welcome you all to the graduation of the class 2000.  Be prepared for a little wailing and a lot of crying. But most of all let us enjoy the “Grand Entrance” of this class into the world.

Seniors you have my permission to go, but this time you don’t have to come back.

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Student Assignment

One of the reasons I love teaching is when a student connects the class work to their life. When an assignment becomes more than just a grade. For my English Composition course the students end the year with a research based persuasive essay. I have all kinds of assignments built around helping the students produce that final essay. One of those assignments is to write a letter to an authority connected to their topic. Throughout the last 18 years those “letters” have actually been used by students to make a difference in their schools or communities. This year one student tackled a serious issue, binge drinking.

Now, Anthony is a non-traditional student. He is a father and is working a career change. And his letter to an authority was an honest letter. After you read it, you’ll understand why I wanted to share his work.

18 November 2016 

Dear Parent,  

 This may go without saying, but I’m asking you to stay very involved in your child’s life as they go through college and into life beyond. Please make sure they are not falling prey to an issue many young people face today. There is a problem that is not only prevalent in this area, but all across the nation. This problem is binge drinking in our student body. As I write this, college students across the nation are gearing up for a fun Friday night. Going to the liquor store for the first eighteen pack of the weekend, maybe a bottle or two of fireball. There is a game tomorrow, so surely the booze will be flowing at tailgate parties. That’s tonight, tomorrow, and tomorrow night to drink as much alcohol as one can.  

Binge drinking is defined as more than five drinks in a two-hour period for men. For women, it’s more than four drinks in the same period of time. According to the C.D.C. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), almost 90% of alcohol consumed by binge drinkers in the U.S. today is by people under 21 years old. Those who admitted to binge drinking are fourteen times more likely to get behind the wheel and drive while impaired.  

As a student myself attending college I have seen this first hand. Not only in the student body but in myself. I have been in the shoes of the hung over youth. The boy who wakes up not knowing where he is or how he got there. Trying to make sense of the night or day before. Only guessing at whether I hurt anyone or just what happened. All of these situations seem to be the social norm. Usually talk during the week consists of how much was drank or just how drunk they got. Blacking out seems to be the goal. This is activity is very dangerous.  

Drinking and college go together like a hand and glove. It has been a cultural rite of passage for American youth for generations. It may be impossible to completely stop drinking for a good time or to relieve stress, but discouraging underage drinking and binge drinking could lead to better grades, increased overall health, and decreased chances of alcoholism. All while diminishing accidents or fatalities associated with alcohol.   

I’m asking you to let your children know that you care. Your influence may mean more to them than you think. Just talk to them about the dangers of overindulging. Education, love, understanding and communication are the best tools to reach them. Misery is not required for one to be happy. 

Sincerely,  

Anthony

 

Thank you, Anthony, for letting share such an honest and powerful letter.

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What I Learned from My Students

It has been an interesting year for a number of reasons. But this post is about what I’ve learned from my students over the past year. Some background information, last year was my first year teaching a regular lecture college course for Central Community College (CCC). This semester I am teaching an online course for CCC. In the past I have taught the early entry courses for seniors taking dual credit courses through CCC. Even though I taught a college course, my everyday teacher life was centered in the high school routine. There is a difference between high school students and college students at CCC. This is what I’ve learned.

Education Matters

Even though I lost students over the year to a wide range of issues (I’ll talk about that in a few lines), students understood that gaining an education was important for them to reach their professional goals. I had one student who used her lunch break to attend my class. She would arrive a few minutes late, in her nursing outfit from work, and was raising a family. Another student had worked construction for almost two decades and loved it. But an accident kept him from returning to that job. He was studying business in hopes that he could return to the company in a new position.

My students understood that getting an education was going to help them reach their goals. But it is not easy.

Life Can Be a Hurdle

In high school, life is school. Football games, dances, school, they are all part of the everyday experience. For many of my students at CCC class was just a section of their life. I had students in class that ranged from 18 to 63 years old. I have a student right now who is traveling the world and taking my course online to get some general education credits handled before he comes back to the States. I had a young man at the age of 21 who had already gone through rehab twice.

I am proud to be a part, however small, of their lives. But life did cause some hurdles that challenged my approach to teaching. One aspect was the workload I expected from them. It made me think about what was really important for them in my course. This was hard for me because I love sharing extra material, to try to foster learning beyond the curriculum. I had to consider what I asked of them regarding assignments and homework. Not that I took it easier on them, but it forced me to align my course work according to importance and expected time spent on it. A simple example is that I used class time to handle small assignments and tried to give feedback on those right away because many of the assignments connect to their essays (which are the major assignments for the course). This allowed my students to work on the essay at home with more confidence in their ability to accomplish the writing.

Education versus Learning

This area is still challenging me, and maybe it always will. But not in the way you might think. I know many of my students only take my course because it is a general education course that all programs require. I actually lean on that idea to emphasize the importance of taking the course. I repeat, over and over, and over, that the number one goal is to help them become better writers for this course, for upcoming courses, and even for life. I present them with a WHY. Many of my students just want the credit, I know this. But their learning is their education which is their life, their goals. My battle is in creating a course, an assignment, or developing content that aligns to that WHY. And yes, I believe it matters.

The student who used her lunch hour to attend my class has two children and she revealed why it matters. During one session on writing with tone/voice, I was discussing how this characteristic of writing was the reason we like certain books, songs, and other media. I continued to expand on how important word choice  was in creating that tone or finding their own voice. Unbeknownst to me at the time I connected the WHY to her life when I lead a discussion on how hard it can be to write a personal letter to someone expressing our feelings (word choice/tone). I shared a personal example of writing a card for my son, and even how hard it was for me to get that card right. I happened to then share that that type of writing was just as important as an essay for my class, which I believe. At the end of that semester, which ended in December, that student sent me an email to tell me that she was excited to write a Christmas letter to her children and husband sharing how much she loved them. She wanted to make these letters a new tradition for her family.

What my students taught me was that education matters, for their goals, for their life.

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We Need Libraries

Last week I read, “School Libraries Are Under Attack,” by Debra Kachel and was saddened by the stats provided in the article, “In 1991, there were 176 certified librarians in Philadelphia Public Schools. Today there are 10.” Debra Kachel provides even more devastating statistics that reveal too many schools are losing their libraries. I couldn’t help but to remember how important libraries were to my intellectual and personal growth.

In college I spent at least one night a week in the library. I miss looking through the microfilm and microfiche files. I used to read the New York Times from the 1800s. I got hooked reading it when I was writing an essay for my History of Psychology class. Even when I wasn’t doing research, the library was the place to study. Trying to study in my dorm room was nearly impossible. But at the library I could take up a whole table with my books, pens, and notebooks. It wasn’t all academic though, maybe it was the environment, or the question, “What are you studying?” when my friends saw me, but some of the deepest conversations with friends happened at the library. I was never kicked out, but I remember a number of times my friends and I would be asked to keep it down. Sometimes the conversation was based on class material, but so many times our talks developed into life questions we were struggling with. It was safe to explore our doubts and fears below the halogen lights and surrounded by shelves of ideas as the outside world became dark..

heartofschoolAs a freshman I was introduced to my favorite book of all time, Catcher in the Rye. I remember walking into the library and asking our librarian ,Bill Fagan, if I could check out the book. He stood behind the counter, looking down on me, and then said, “I think you can handle it.” The librarian is the identity of a library. The article, “School Cuts Have Decimated Librarians”  reinforces this idea,  “She (Bernadette Kearney, a librarian) knows who likes to read graphic novels and who’s a fan of biographies. She tailors her collection to teachers’ projects, and she is forever coming up with reasons – Harry Potter quizzo at lunchtime, anyone? – to make the library not just a place to study, but the heart of the school.” For the next four years I would discuss the next book I should read with Mr. Fagan.  Sometimes he would have a book waiting on the counter for me.  He would do this for everyone that used the library.

Besides helping me achieve my academic goals, to introducing me to a life changing book, a library saved my life.

During my junior high years my friends and I would play Dungeons and Dragons in a conference room at the Converse County Library on Saturdays. We unpacked our dice, decided on the adventure book, updated our character sheets and spent the afternoon being heroes. I don’t think my friends knew that the library was my second home.  That when we were done conquering a dragon and they went home, I would sit and read until the library closed, like I did almost every night.

My house was actually just across the street from the library. I ate breakfast, took out the trash, and would wait for my favorite song to play on the radio so I could record it onto a tape in that house for a year, but I lived at the library. My mother and her boyfriend lived at the house. This post is not about what happened, but to be honest the library was my safe haven.  I don’t remember the ladies who worked there (I am sorry for that), but I was safe there.  They suggested books for me to read, would let me ramble through the aisle, randomly picking a book to read in my favorite chair, which somehow was always open for me. I see my local library fulfilling the same role for others.

On most Saturdays you can find my family at the Hastings Public Library. There are a variety of people on any given Saturday. Kids playing Minecraft on the computers, someone filling out tax forms, another person getting copies, and a group of men, paper in hands, talking about the weather. The library is the heartbeat of a town, of a school, of a society. I don’t like to think about what that future might look like. Neither does Debra Kachel, teacher for the School Library and Information Technologies Program at Mansfield University (qtd. in “School Cuts Have Decimated Librarians”), “We are soon going to have an entire generation of school students who have gone kindergarten through high school and who have not known what a school library is, and have not had access to those resources to learn,” Kachel said. “I find that unconscionable.”

We need libraries, now more than ever.

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