Ummm. . .

There are many reasons for why I’ve been absent from this blog for over a year.  Many of them have to do with having a Senior in high school, now Freshman in college–changes to my job and getting myself established in a new class with creating curriculum and managing over 400 students per year for the past two school years–and creating four year high school plans for them all–plus the 100 that can’t fit into the class.

More than anything, I’ve been tired.  Just flat out exhausted mentally.  I come home after my day of wrangling 30-36 kids per class, cook dinner, and collapse.  Things are beginning to settle in a bit–and I need to write.  I need it for my brain and to remember things–times, events, emotions.  I need it.

Instagram gets most of my thoughts and traffic these days, but that is not REALLY writing.   It’s like fast food when what you REALLY want and/or need is some good, home cooking.  And writing is a good thing.  At least for me.

Last year my word was “perspective.”  This year my word is “this.”  It was inspired by the picture below.  A gal I follow on Instagram saw it outside of a dance studio.  It seems  like nothing. . .it’s not really a big word, but it can mean so much.this

When Victoria was about 3 1/2, we got a box of hand me downs from my friend, Carolyn.  I opened the box and began taking the clothes out as Victoria and I discussed what she wanted to be for Halloween.  All of a sudden, she spotted something in the box, reached in (almost fell in–it was a big box), grabbed a shimmery, shiny, slippery, satiny pink and silver spangled item of clothing and said, “I want to be THIS!”  She didn’t even know what it was–but whatever it was she was going to be it.

So–to me, “This” means whatever is in front of you–whatever you set your mind to do–whatever is your focus needs to be it.  No multi-tasking or running off and doing something else that crosses your mind.  THIS–this moment, this conversation, this nap, this meal, this time with my child or my husband or my friend–THIS is where my focus should be.

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2016: Perspective

IMG_7373I am sitting at the breakfast table across from my son.  He is 14 1/2, and has a set of glowing blue headphones on his ears.  We both have laptops in front of us.  He asked what I was looking at.  I told him my blog, then said, “I haven’t written anything in 7 months.”  At which point he applauded.  I asked why he was applauding that, and he said, “Well, at least you aren’t blogging every day like you used to.  You used to spend HOURS on the computer.”

Ah. . .how things have changed.  Now HE spends hours on the computer, and I was just pondering trying to write a post each day to get back into the swing of things.  I am not even really reading blogs anymore, but I need to.  It offers a different perspective on life–what people ponder and reveal and think.

So, on this first day of 2016, I will say that writing is a priority this year.  So is drinking plenty of water, getting good rest, continuing to take care of my body and spirit as well as the bodies and spirits of my little family.

This year is a biggie–Victoria will graduate in June and be off to college in August.  That is not a change I look forward to for me, but it is an adventure I look forward to for her. Thad begins high school in August–without his sister here to guide him and encourage him and make him laugh when we can’t.

Last school year, our principal (young guy) chose one word for 2015.  His word was “finish.” He was working on his doctorate, in the middle of his first year of being a principal, etc.  So, FINISH.  That was a good word.

I have thought about one word for 2016.  There were a couple in the running:  Endure, Faithfulness. . but sitting here just now with me bemoaning my lack of writing and Thad applauding it, I think I have chosen my One Word for 2016.  Perspective.  Much like a just right Christmas gift, or a new pair of shoes, I knew it when I saw it. It fit. It was right.

Perspective.  Perspective on the past and on the future.  Perspective on how my children, my husband and I all view a situation, an event, a memory.  Perspective on them growing up and us growing older.  Perspective on where I live and what I do and how I do it.  Perspective on the students I teach and how we interpret the same information differently.  Perspective on how long it’s taken me to develop or break habits. Perspective on events and choices and decisions.

There is a song by Garth Brooks that most people don’t know.  It was from his ill-fated, short-lived adventure as Chris Gaines.  The song is “That’s the Way I Remember It.”  It’s a song about perspective.

It’s only natural with time
Details can somehow slip your mind
Something so sweet, though incomplete
You fill the spaces in between

It never will be that way again
Maybe it wasn’t, way back when
To my heart and soul
This is the way the story has to be told

That’s the way, I remember it, I remember it that way
From the day, I was living it, I remember it that way

Some of our stories fade as we grow older
Some get sweeter every time they’re told
That’s the way, I’ll remember it that way.

2016:  Perspective

 

 

The Same

Romans 8:11 “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”

ford-truck-aug-2006.jpg

Long time ago when Thad was barely 3, and I first went back to work, I drove Tony’s truck.  It was a five-speed, on the floor, Ford F150.  I also drove it when I was pregnant with Victoria which was interesting enough. . .but by the time it was “my” vehicle again, both the babies were born and riding to school with their Daddy every day.

Each morning, I would get up, get dressed–get the kids downstairs and fed and hugged and hugged some more, then I would leave for work dressed in  my cute, home-sewn skirt and some pastel top–teacher flats–hair coiffed, makeup applied, perfumed. . .and off I’d go.

More than once at a particular traffic light at FM1960 and Jones Rd., I would have to stop and wait several minutes to turn left to head to my campus.  During those times, I got more than one strange look.

Everyone from teenagers to truck drivers would look over at this beat up, faded, rusty, beleaguered pick-up (like people do who sit at four minute traffic lights), yet inside sat a  relatively young AND relatively plump lady dressed nicely for work–NOT the doo-rag/baseball cap wearing, scruffy, flannel-shirted geezer they expected to see.  (Nothing against doo-rags, caps, flannel, OR geezers).  Their faces registered sleepiness or boredom, then shock, then either surprise or humor–and quite often I received a wave or a thumbs up with their chuckles–a head shake as if to say, “Well, if that don’t beat all!” A curly-haired, 30-something lady was not the status-quo for a vehicle of such. . .character.

And that is how we are isn’t it?    To the outside world, at a glance, we are beleaguered.  Worn out.  Scarred.  Dusty.  Rusty.  Bent.  “Hard-pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted, struck down. . .” (II Cor. 4:8&9) There is an expectation of how we will behave–respond–react.  Many days we, ourselves,  feel each dent and scratch.  We stutter and stop when the clutch is released rather than move along.

Yet a closer look–a time to stop and ponder–one more turn of the key with a firm foot to the gas shows those nearby and reminds us that we are NOT crushed or in despair or abandoned or destroyed.   “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made HIS light shine in our HEARTS to give us the LIGHT of the knowledge of the GLORY of God in the FACE of Christ.” (II Cor. 4:6) The LIGHT of the knowledge of the GLORY of God in the FACE of Christ is to shine from OUR  faces–from our smiles–from our eyes–from our souls–clean, shiny, dressed up, and smellin’ good!

“Therefore, we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (II Cor. 4:16)

Rusty, dusty, bent? Yes.  But on the inside–renewed, clean, whole, sanctified, and purring like a kitten!

 

Chopped Poetry: The results

This is an actual letter that I sent to three administrators and the P.A.S.S. teacher (a different take on adaptive behavior programs–kids who have very specific acting out tendencies) regarding one of the most surprising results from Chopped Poetry.  This came from an 8th grade student that I teach.

——————————————————————————————–

I did an experimental lesson in my room last week over poetry.  It actually went pretty well, but I had to share this one with you.  The kids picked an envelope with “ingredients.”.  This student chose free verse.  In the envelope were the following items that HAD to be in their poem:

Type: Free Verse
Topic: Music
Figurative Language:  repetition, personification
As it runs through the wild
listen to him
 
The shriek of his roar,
his footsteps like thunder against the
ground.
 
When he runs
The wind whips by him with a cry.
 
This is Heavy Metal.
This is freedom.
by Zach Simpson (name changed)
 
Once I had completed the explanation and directions for the students, I went to wake  Zach up to tell him the directions.  When I shook his shoulder and said, “Zach?”  He didn’t even raise his head–he just whipped this paper out from under his face and held it aloft.  I let him finish his nap.
——————————————————————–
Zach’s “target behaviors” that he must avoid to participate in Friday Funday are being verbally and physically aggressive toward teachers and students as well as leaving the instructional area or school building without permission.  I have seen none of those behaviors, but I do spend the better part of most days silently determining when to let him sleep and when it’s time to wake up and do work.  Some days this job is more rewarding than others.   Not only did Zach get a nap this day, he also got a 100.

Chopped Poetry

So, in 8th grade Language Arts, we are talking about figurative language and how the graphical elements and word choice in poetry creates meaning and how we can use those elements to infer and draw conclusion blah, blah, blah. . . . .BLAH.  I have a FEW teenagers who are interested in the mechanics of poetry, but most of them are flying under the radar to avoid persecution by their peers.

Not only that, but my kids just got back from a week of vacation and weren’t buyin’ it.  I HAD to CONNECT.  SO, I showed them THIS little video (which you are welcome to watch should you so choose) just to get them INTERESTED. Who,  exactly, can resist the theme song to “The Fresh Prince of Bellaire?”  Seriously.  The video uses that to explain narrative poetry/ballad.  Then it uses other popular songs or videos to go over other types of poetry.  We didn’t really spend much time on sonnet, but I DID tell them that it was a good introduction to what they will see very soon in high school.

Anyway. . .this morning, I had a BRAINSTORM (along with finding the video) while brushing my teeth and being late for school.  I decided to do “Chopped: Poetry.”  Have you ever seen “Chopped?”  It’s a Food Network show where four chefs compete for $10,000.  There are judges and time limits but the clincher is that there are “secret” ingredients in a basket that the chefs MUST use in their dish preparation.  Some of the challenges have included the following basket ingredients. . .

Dessert: prunes, animal crackers, cream cheese                                                            Appetizer: watermelon, canned sardines, pepper jack cheese, zucchini         Entrée: blackstrap molasses, red snapper, parsley root, dried cranberries

Tomorrow, my kids will get a “basket” (an envelope. . .) with their “secret ingredients” in it.  They HAVE to use these “ingredients” to create their poem.

Type:  Acrostic                                                                                                                                   Topic:  Music                                                                                                                          Figurative Language:  Onomatopoiea & Metaphor

Today while showing them the different forms (they had to take notes), I was explaining haiku.  This was my haiku on teens.

Teenagers are like,                                                                                                                       “Awesome, ratchet, hastag, Bruh!”                                                                                                They own the language.

My second period suggested I change it a little to this:

Teenagers be like,                                                                                                                         “Awesome, ratchet, or nah, Bruh!”                                                                                                They own they language.

I must admit to the second version being nails on a chalk board, but at least they PARTICIPATED.  We’ll see. . .

There are five types of poetry, six different topics, and ten different types of figurative language that I mixed up.   This will either be a moment of fist-pumping “YES!” or a crash and burn of “OH, THE HUMANITY!!!”  Maybe even both. . .in the same class period.  I can pretty much guarantee both in 2nd period for sure.

 

A Word on Words

Back in March, I sent the following e-mail to Stephanie.

“I am trying out some new fonts for the luncheon invite, so I typed up my typical alphabet line

Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz

And totally realized how teeny, tiny are the building blocks of language.  Seriously.  It looks even smaller on a full sheet of paper.  Seriously.  How do we communicate with that?

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

That’s not much to work with.  No wonder communication is so precarious.”

This lightning bolt of revelation and awestruck surprise was much like the day Tony and I were driving out to our building site (otherwise known as our house now).  I was holding a smallish digital camera in my hand and was suddenly overwhelmed with the thought that the images I took with that camera were immediately visible to me.  I could save it or delete it, and did I have the means and equipment at my immediate disposal, could go and get a copy of that VERY IMAGE at that exact moment to travel down the road with us in real, actual form rather than digitally alone.  I said something of that sort to my husband–gushing as I normally do when things like that occur to me–

“Can you believe that I can take a photo of our children RIGHT NOW and then HERE IT IS—in my hands.  It’s just information on a tiny little card the size of a nickel, but it JUST happened, and now I can see it.  They are THERE in the back seat, and they are HERE in this little camera.  It blows my mind!!!  Isn’t that AMAZING????”

“No.”

“NO?????????????????  You don’t find that AMAZING???  HOW can you NOT find that amazing?”

“I watch Star Trek.”

Thus is the mystery that is communication.

I haven’t communicated on this blog much this past calendar year.  It has been a busy year.  In fact, I can say in all honesty that I has been chock full ‘o activity and exhaustion on various levels until JUST the last week or so.  Our summer has been a busy one–and that is good in and of itself with memory making and travel and summer time activities.  But LIFE has been busy for quite awhile now, and it is good to have it slow down.

Tony and Thad are in the gameroom playing Mario Cart.  Victoria is in San Antonio with her Girl Scout troop.  I have a moment to think–to read–to write–to communicate.  What a pleasant thing.

I want to write more.  And so, I am.

 

 

Just do it.

I love to write. It’s not that hard for me. I am able to fire off 500 words in nothing flat. So how come I’m not blogging? I have all manner of stories and thoughts and things practically running laps in my brain. Hmmm. . .that will be something to ponder later.

Tonight, I read Stephanie’s blog post. She is kind of doing a post a day type thing–and she really IS doing it. I love it. I always know whatever is there, I will be happy that it is waiting for me to read.

So. . .here goes. My daughter is getting entirely TOO lovely.
Seriously.
I know this happens, and I embrace it. . .but seriously.

On another note, Thad is growing too, but he still does stuff
like playing “The 1812 Overture.”
On his teeth.
With a comb.
Also seriously.

Tomorrow I get my very first student teacher ever. I have fixed her a spot to land and a little basket of goodies, and I hope she’s ready for the likes of me. She will not see an immaculate classroom that stays neat all day or is even neat when I leave it, nor will she see a refined educator, but she will see REAL teaching–the good, the bad, and the junior high. Her name is Wendy. And since I found out (last Friday) that she was coming, I have thought back to the lovely soul that mentored me; Mrs. Ballard.

She was 42 and pregnant with her first baby. (It just struck me that I am 43–thankfully not pregnant, but marveling at how she did it.) She also had gestational diabetes and had to watch what she ate. I mainly remember her eating tuna sandwiches and carrots when what she wanted was a package of Nutty Bars and a big glass of milk. I also remember her eating a lot of Tums. (A proclivity that I shared with my own pregnancies–the Tums–not the tuna.) Because of the change in her diet, she had actually LOST weight during her pregnancy, and her maternity jeans had gotten too big, so she wore regular jeans with a rubber band through the button hole, looped around the button. I was amazed at this trick and appalled that I did not know about it sooner. She was sweet and dear and kind and PATIENT above all else. She went into pre-term labor three weeks before I graduated. The School district in Searcy played a little fast and loose with my up-coming certification and just let me act as the sub for the remainder of the year. That amounted to three weeks without pay and two weeks with.

I will never forget the day I took the kids on a field trip to somewhere that was more than an hour away. At one point, I looked around the bus and realized that besides the driver, I was the only adult on it. And I was really just a kid atop an adult shaped step-stool at the time. It scared me half to death. What kind of IDIOTS turned me loose with their children and allowed me to take them somewhere in a motor vehicle? I very nearly had a panic attack right then and there. . .but I couldn’t, because I was THE ONLY ADULT ON THE BUS!!!! Frightening.

(Seriously)

I went to see Mrs. Ballard one night after her baby was born. It was spring. She and her husband lived out in the country, and he had just tilled their garden to begin planting for the summer. The dirt was rich and black–fragrant, slightly damp and loamy–the dirt of my childhood. I couldn’t resist. I didn’t even ask permission. I pulled off my socks and shoes and went running through their freshly turned up garden in my bare feet. They stood and laughed at this crazy woman-child.

And then, I went in to see the baby for the first time. A beautiful little girl. She was tiny. I marveled at her too.

Mrs. Ballard had a BIG basket of goodies for me full of awards and post-its and colored Sharpie markers and stickers and an EZ-Grader that I have to this day. (It says “Miss Watts” on one side and “Mrs. Langley” on the other. I also used the pretty Sharpies to draw balloons all over it.) In her sweet generosity, she gave me the stipend (pittance more like it) that she received for having had me in her classroom as an additional student. She said she thought I had earned it more than she had. That is SO not true. Obviously, I will never forget her. She’s been on my mind.


A very PATIENT advising teacher, a very tiny baby, and a very young, IN LOVE WITH TONY LANGLEY, “Ignorance is Bliss” me. With dirty feet from running through a newly tilled garden.


Not long after–still young–still IN LOVE–still ignorant, but not blissfully so anymore. *Sigh.* My first class of kids. I am taller than them, but that is about it. I remember EVERY ONE of their names.

Prayers for Wendy as she begins her Adventures in Jr. High, and prayers for me as I do something new yet again. The learning? It never ends.

Seriously.