Tag Archives: school

That’s My Song

Title with cassette tape

We are in the second week of school. We have our routine. Part of it is the drive to school. We have a certain radio station we listen to, we talk about the upcoming day. This morning my youngest daughter was enjoying the drive to school because the radio seemed to play all her favorite songs.

As soon as the music for the next song started to play she would say, “Ooohhh, I like this song!” Then she would read the title of the song off of the display and start singing along.

Singing with her, I was reminded of the simple joys in life.

Especially right now. Life is different. Part of our routine is making sure everyone has their mask for school. As a nation, I feel like we are crumbling under the weight of all the lines drawn in our society. Political. Cultural. Pandemic Issues. So many issues dissecting us, cutting up our sense of community and identity as a nation.

These are troubling times.

Yet, the simple joys intertwine in our daily life. A good cup of coffee. Hot cheese bread at dinner. Snack before bed… and a daughter who likes the next song on the radio…

“Ooohhh, I like this song!”

One of the songs we jammed out to…

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pandemic thoughts

Today is March 22, 2020.

Tomorrow our school will be continuing learning online.

Yesterday, at three different times, cars ran red lights. When I returned to my van after grocery shopping there were four, FOUR, shopping carts around my van.

We made chocolate chip muffins today.

The newspaper today had an article about what to do if a person’s home life is violent during this time.

Sports, concerts, and eating out have come to a halt. But home cooking, games of pitch and speed, and movie nights are popular in my household.

And just like other times, I wonder about the deeper meaning of it all.

Another article’s headline in today’s paper read “The New Normal”. But I disagree with that idea. This will pass. It will take time, but it will pass. Will anything change? Does it need to? Here is what I’ve learned so far…

First, everyday life can change for so many reasons. We have the popular idea to live life before you die, but honestly, our lives can “change” at any moment. This pandemic is forcing people to evaluate their lives in new ways, to actually see what their foundations are.

For some people they are forced to spend time with their family. You would think this would be a good thing. Sadly, it is not. As an educator, I know that some students are hungry right now, lonely, and even afraid. My heart has trouble with this knowledge for two reasons. One, because of my past. The second part is the question on how this is possible. I don’t know the answer. Family is one of my WHYs. I am not a perfect father or husband, but I take pride in building a home for my wife and children. I don’t understand why others don’t.

Activities are part of our culture and part of my family’s everyday life. Many people are talking about how the pandemic is revealing who is important in our country. The situation shows the disproportionate importance we give to athletes and celebrities. I agree, but that is not the factor I am talking about. This situation has taken away the opportunities many people have worked hard for. This is a negative outcome of our current state that hurts.

Nebraska was one of the few states to still play their boy’s state basketball tournament. As a dad, I was blessed to see my son play. However, all spring activities are on hold and will mostly likely be cancelled. I am the senior class sponsor for my school. That means I am responsible for graduation. We haven’t dealt with that situation yet. Our school’s musical is on hold. My second son is a high jumper. My oldest daughter doesn’t get to take her art field trip.

Sports, concerts, all activities are good for us as individuals and as a society. Honestly, even when you go out to eat at a local restaurant you are experiencing someone’s dream come true. Have we placed too much importance on these activities? Yes, but it is the wrong importance. Being a fan of a football team should not be a life or death situation. It should be a celebration of the opportunity to witness someone realizing their goals. To share in the joy of individuals doing something that sparks their spirit. This situation is disrupting people’s pursuit of their dreams. That is a heavy cost.

But maybe as a society we can celebrate these activities when we get to chase our dreams again.

I think that is enough rambling for now, thank you for reading.

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I’m Not OK

It was a tough day.

I learned about the song, “comethru” from a senior for an assignment last semester. I like incorporating music into my lessons. It allows me to see a different aspect of my students. This song was shared during our study of the book, Night. In chapter 6, Juliek plays a last “concert” for the prisoners with his violin. The students had to share a song that lifts their spirits when life gets rough.

Life is rough right now.

This morning the students were allowed into the school to get their stuff and talk to teachers about how their classes would be handled online. They were allowed in by grade every hour. At one point I had about 20 seniors in my class. They were laughing, enjoying the chance to be together… maybe for the last time as seniors.

“Five More Minutes” by Scotty McCreery was a song submitted as a poetic song for our poetry unit.

A classroom, a school, is an intense snapshot of life. Everyday is filled with the full spectrum of emotions. Of victories and heartbreak. Personal growth and steps backwards. Each student has their own journey, yet it is shared with everyone in the classroom. Some of the fears are the same for every student as they walk the path to graduation. But right now, we are all sharing the same fear and anxiety of the present moment.

For a few moments, I felt OK this morning. After everyone left, a senior came back in, hand out toward me. “I need one more,” he said. And we did our handshake that we do everyday in class…

I’m not OK now… But again, I should listen to my students… Another song submitted for an assignment.

 

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Blueberry Muffins as the World Changes

Earlier this morning the scene in our kitchen was the same as it is most Sundays. The family eating blueberry muffins, eggs, and sausage. Except we were eating at 8:10 a.m. We usually eat around 7 a.m. so that we can attend church at 9 a.m. Today, we are watching the service on TV.

Our oldest son was not at the table, he was heading back to college to get stuff from his dorm because his college was going online only in a week.

The mood in the kitchen was joyful and tired. We were less than 24 hours from watching our second son win the consolation game for state basketball. We were tired from all the emotions we experienced during the tournament. From winning the first round game, losing in the semifinals (a tied game with 6 minutes left), and winning the third place game. But only family was allowed to watch the games.

In a time when we are supposed to be practicing ‘social distancing’, I saw sons hugged by fathers and mothers after the semifinal loss. Hugged for minutes. Tears shared by all. And I saw the same after the team’s victory yesterday, just with a different emotion. Of course the senior parents held their sons the longest during the celebration.

This morning life felt normal while outside our doors things are crazy. Uncertainty fills the air as we wait to see what changes come next. What I do know is that next Sunday we will have blueberry muffins as a family, no matter the changes that occur in the world.

 

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Little Treasures

My morning routine is different this year. My wife heads to school with our two middle daughters. My oldest son usually heads to school soon after. I wait another 40 minutes to take my youngest daughter to preschool.

This week my daughter and I have been playing a game she created, “Treasure.”

We start at the front door.

Our river.

Which is really a river. We cross the river by rope, or bridge, or however she decides we can cross. Next, we find a treasure hiding in the jungle (living room).

Our treasure chest.

On the drive to preschool she retells of our adventure with joy in her voice.

But what I have discovered this week is that little treasures are everywhere. Most of them are right in front of us.

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I Love School

This morning my youngest daughter informed that she loved school.

“Dad, I love school!” my daughter randomly exclaimed from the backseat.

“That’s cool,” I replied.

“Dad… Do you want to know why I love school?”

“Yes, little one. Why do you love school?”

“Because I get to do jobs.”

Now, we had been discussing the fact that this week she was music helper. Next week she gets to be “fish helper.”  Other jobs that I am aware of are line leader, lunch helper, and some job that is connected with the activity areas in the classroom.

My daughter is five years old. School is pretty awesome.

What happens?

Where does the joy go for students?

This post is not going to answer that question. It is too big for a simple blog post. But my daughter reminded me that for most students, the start of their school experience is filled with joy. With a love for helping. Filled with anticipation to feed a fish, pass out music sheets, and to enter the doors of their school every morning.

I can’t change the whole landscape of education with a blog… but for grammar today we are using Grammar Rock… at least the students will be humming in the hallways.

Hopefully you will, too.

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Off to Grandma’s house we go, talking all the way

Life can teach you powerful lessons, if you listen…

The last couple of days life has revealed how important talking and listening is to our relationships. Here are the dots I’ve been given to connect.

  1. Taking my youngest daughter to grandma’s house in the morning.
  2. An assignment in class
  3. Focus on the Family program

Dot 1

For the last two days I have driven my youngest daughter to grandma’s house because her preschool doesn’t start until next week. Grandma’s house is 35 minutes away. For the last two days I have answered questions like:

“Why does the moon move?”

“What is your favorite place to go?”

“What is your favorite stuffed animal?”

It has been a joy talking with my daughter. When she liked an answer, she would say, “Oooooh, I like that, too!”

With six children, we have a busy schedule. It is not often that we get specific time to just talk with a single child.  We do have family time at dinner, or traveling to an event, that allows us to talk. But the specific one-on-one time is rare. Answering questions on the way to grandma’s house has reinforced the importance of finding time for each of my kids.

Dot 2

To start the year I have a small unit for the seniors that focuses on being successful next year at college. They write an email to a professor, they create a resume, stuff like that. The first assignment is to answer some questions about their college and life next year. Questions like:

Where is the Registrar’s office? Who is a contact person?

Who do you contact for safety issues?

Where is your favorite restaurant from campus?

This lead to a lot of conversations, as a class and with a single student as we tried to navigate a college’s website. Through the class period we would also talk about break and Christmas gifts. One moment in class got me thinking about the importance of talking… one student asked me about my New Year’s resolutions. Then another student asked about what Christmas gifts I got.  This was the only class that that type of conversation happened, but it made me feel like someone else cared enough to know something about me. Isn’t that the heart of our life? To know that someone else in this great big world, which at times is so harsh, cares enough to listen to us.

Dot 3

After dropping my daughter off this morning, I listened to Focus on the Family. Jim Daly  interviewed Ron and Deb DeArmond about their book, I Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last. One of the focal points was about communication in marriage. During an answer Deb said that you hear with your ears, but listen with your heart. True communication is not just talking, but listening, processing, and showing you care.

It is a simple picture when you connect the dots: real conversations matter. Real conversations are an act of love.

I think the world needs more talking and listening…

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Throwback: Letters

Notebook with pen

As the new school year looms around the corner, I thought I would have a little fun by writing a small series on some of the differences between our times growing up. Aspects I feel my kids are missing in their lives that kind of defined my time in the 80’s. These posts will be published on Thursdays for the next couple of weeks. To start, I am going to discuss writing letters, with a slight lean to those awesome high school love letters…

Remember passing notes in class?

I always thought I was sneaky by scratching my neck and dropping the note down my back onto the desk behind me.

Or I would fold up the note and push it through the little vents of the locker of my best friend or girlfriend at that time.

Or the simple process of handing it to someone as we passed in the hall.

Today my kids just text, and most of that communication is emoji based, and that is the deeper aspect they are missing. Being able to express their emotions through writing. Now, I’m not declaring that my high school letters would make Ralph Emerson jealous, or that my best friend and I wrote about theories on how we could graph life on an X, Y, and Z axis… wait we actually did that… anyway… Writing letters was part of my everyday routine.

Social connections are an important part of the teen years. Writing letters helped build those connections before texting. It improved our connections (and writing) because the blank page called to us to fill it with meaningful things. A one line note was not worth writing or reading.  If the letter was for a girlfriend, it had to be romantic, if not kind of cheesy… (looking back now. At the time I thought I was suave).

Today, though, my kids just text a face with a heart or something. What does that even mean? Because of technology there is no separation between people, meaning they never spend time wondering if their girlfriends are thinking about them right at that moment. They will never be pleasantly surprised when they open their locker to see a note.  As an English teacher, they are not challenged to write, to consider word choice, to bridge their emotions to the written word.

Do I text my family and friends? Yes, but at times I still write a card or note. There is something magical about receiving (and writing) a letter. I miss those days…

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Your Story. My Story. Our Story.

Your Story.

On Saturday, I attended the wedding of a former student, Jason. The wedding was centered on the couple’s Love Story. The program shared important dates for them; first road trip, first date, the day he proposed. The ceremony, also, intertwined their Love Story. It was a beautiful moment… in their Life Story.

The wedding party had seven former students; the officiant, the groom, an usher, and four of the groomsmen. Not to mention all the other former students I visited with during the reception. It had been over 10 years since I had seen many of them. Many of the conversations centered on how life had changed for all of us. Trying to tell our Life Stories in 10 minutes. In one way it saddened me. To know, that at one time, our stories were being written together. Now… the stories are separate. In fact, even though Jason and I have kept in touch (mostly through Facebook), the wedding was the first time I met his bride.

Isn’t that Life.

You have your story. I have my story.

But, even in small moments, it is our story. And that is the greatest aspect of life I know. Each of us plays the role of protagonist in our lives. We forget that we are characters in other people’s stories. I was the English teacher, the coach, and for some of my students, something more. Jason and I spent hours playing basketball and talking about life. For each of my former students there was a unique aspect to our relationship. For example, I gave one student a quote every month for a year. I will admit to feeling a sense of pride knowing that those memories were part of their stories. To remember the good times and the rough times because we wrote that part together, just in different perspectives.

Even though our stories are now being written separately, it doesn’t mean that we didn’t play an important part in the past. Because isn’t that what makes a great story? Moments that are worth remembering. Stories that are retold. Being remembered by someone. Yes, you have your story. I have my story. But really this life is our story.

(A little trip back to eighth grade…)

 

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Why Love

Tilte with boy running with balloons

A simple question keeps running through my head lately; ‘Why Love?”

Why anchor my life on Love?

Why not money? Why not success or pride? Why not fame? Why not Hate? These things seem to work… watch TV or YouTube to see how many times these characteristics get likes or shares. The guy tailgating me has a nicer truck than me (and I’m even in the right lane going the speed limit). I still tip even when my family is treated like nobodies at a restaurant.

Really, why not instill a selfish attitude in my children? It would be easier to send an email to the school complaining about something instead of listening to my children, asking them how they can make it better or how to work through it. I can teach them to not care about teammates or friends. The feelings and aspirations of others are not their concern. If they are going to make it in this world they have to go for theirs and pity anyone that gets in their way. There is no such thing as loyalty or dedication…

But I don’t. I do my best to choose Love.

Why Love?

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to try to answer that question through a series of posts exploring how Love works in building an incredible life.

Why Love? Join me to find out why.

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