Thursday, June 04, 2015

For the love of Photoshop...

In my classroom, there are two types of students - those who love Indesign and those who love Photoshop. It's really that simple.

There are also a a few idiosyncratic students who prefer Illustrator, After Effects, and Garage Band. Then, there are those who like Publisher, but we tend to ignore those admirations.

For the most part, it's a clear cut love for either ID or PS.The problem is the love affair is short-lived. There is a 50-minute window in which my students are allowed to learn about the design software and then they must venture back into the undoodled world. Our students have MacBook Air laptops, but they do not have the Adobe Suite on them. So, the endearment is usually confined to the classroom.

So, what can you do? While there is not another application quite like Adobe's Photoshop, there are some alternatives.
  1. Pixlr is for photo editing and effects. Online or offline. Browser based or native app. Mac or Windows, as well as iOS and Android. The toolbar is most similar to Photoshop, so it is the one I prefer students to use outside of class.
  2. Sumo Paint is an online image editor and is focused more on illustrations, rather than photos.  
  3. Gimp is best for photo retouching, image composition, and image authoring. It is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It can be used on Mac or Windows. 
  4. Photoshop Express is by Adobe, but it is limited in that you can only upload a jpeg and it has less features than the full version.
So, this summer, when you are bored and wish to put your photo into the background of a historical picture of JFK or swap your face with a presidential candidate, you have some options.

Peace out. 
Blessings.
T.S.



It's not about you...

I've done everything imaginably wrong as a teacher.

I've called students by the wrong name. In the second semester.
I've lost projects that needed to be graded.
I've given assignments that flat out didn't work.
I've worn my shirt inside out and didn't notice until 6th period.
I've stared at a roomful of teenagers and could see that watching an episode of South of Sunset was more interesting than listening to me.
I've given A's when students didn't deserve it.
I've given F's when students did deserve it.
I've meant to praise more, but allowed paperwork, emails, and phone calls to overwhelm me.
I've allowed negativity to get the best of me some days.
I've written lesson plans and, for educational assistance, Googled objectives, before/during/after, and rubrics and still not understood what I wrote.
The list could go on and on...

In all of my failures, doubting myself, and wondering if I'm doing any good at all, I remember one thing a former journalism professor told me, "It's not about you."

That advice really fits for anything in life. Because, it really isn't about me. It's always about the students. It's why I choose to become a teacher.

When I turned 40, I suppose you could say that becoming a high school teacher was my midlife crisis. Although I was working in my dream job as managing editor of Longleaf Style magazine for The Anniston Star, I left to teach high school. Some celebrated and some pondered my mental status.

Well, I just finished my third year of teaching and I realize there are so many things I would have never learned in a newsroom. (No offense to my former co-workers as you may relate to a lot of these).

  • I've learned how to awkwardly Dougie and to Nae Nae,
  • I've learned that teenagers have dreams, but are sometimes scared to dream.
  • I've learned teenagers may stare blankly at you, but they are listening. Sometimes, they just like to stare.
  • I've learned that there are life lessons in everything. Literally. Just ask my students.
  • I've learned that jumping jacks are a good thing when they are dragging. (Thank you Ron Clark for that validation.)
  • I've learned that it's OK to eat lunch alone, but it's much better when you eat with a friend.
  • I've learned to laugh at my mistakes. Because, honestly, most of the time the students are already laughing.
  • I've learned to listen. I mean "Deer in the headlight" and "I'm not moving until you are finished talking" kind of listening. Sometimes, teenagers just need to be heard.
  • I've learned that teenagers think they are the only ones who make mistakes and they need compassion, not condemnation. 
  • I've learned that F10 is your BFF when you allow students to choose the music.
  • I've learned that when adults believe teenagers are all thinking about immoral and illicit things, some are really thinking about how they will eat that night or if the power will be on when they get home.
  • I've learned that my "last nerve" is really longer than I thought.
  • I've learned that choosing to be "too nice" is always better than the alternative.
  • I've learned that my heart has multiplied. Because every time a student has graduated, a piece of my heart is released into the world. Every new student has filled that empty spot and the growth continues.
So, as I venture into my fourth year of teaching, the main thing I'm going to keep in mind is that, It's not about me. It's about them. I'm going to repeat it over and over and over....

Selfie with some of my students at the 2015 Alabama SkillsUSA competition in Birmingham, AL. We pretty much rocked. 

Thanks for reading. Have a blessed day!
Theresa



Monday, February 23, 2015

The Road Paved with Wisdom

I read a sign recently that stated, "Rules are made to break." I used to believe that and I tested it in my youthful days. But, the older I get, the more I cherish the simplicity of living. I don't look at rules as something to keep me out of life, but to keep me alive.

In reading Proverbs 3 recently, it really hit home that God rewards us for our devotion to Him and following the rules He sets for us. It's not for His good, but for ours. Because He loves us.

In reading the wisdom of Proverbs 3, there are 10 things that really stood out to me. Along with the rules God gives, there are 10 rewards when wisdom is the path taken. It's pretty clear that God wants us to treat others with love and kindness. He wants us to trust Him. He wants us to show wisdom in the choices we make.

I've simplified the chapter, but I think you can see clearly when we follow what God has set before us, we will not have shame or doubt littering the road we travel. Instead, our road will be paved with wisdom.

Read Proverbs 3:1-35 here.

1. Don't forget His Commandments.
Reward: Long Life and Peace

2. Be Merciful and Truthful
Reward: Favor and High Esteem with God and man

3. Trust in the Lord
Reward: He will Direct your Way

4. Fear the Lord and Live a Holy Life
Reward: Health and Strength

5. Give First Fruits and Store
Reward: You will be prepared

6. Take Corrections (ouch, this is a difficult one)
Reward: Reveals Love

7. Seek Wisdom and Wise People
Reward: Tree of Life and Happiness

8. Be Wise and Discrete
Reward: Safety, Rest and Peace

9. Be Kind to Others
Reward: Blessings from God

10. Be Humble
Reward: Inherit Glory and No Shame. 


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Apology to Three

Have you ever noticed that the number three is somewhat of an odd-number out? One is a lonely number and pairs are exceptional and balanced. But, when you add one more to two, which every math genius knows makes three, something changes.

Three is a crowd.

Three is the bear who suggests leaving porridge on the table to take a stroll in the woods with two other bears, only to have a sleepy intruder sample his porridge and break his chair.

Three is like a wheel that doesn't have much use unless you add another wheel, which is only good if you are riding a tricycle. Then again, a bike on two wheels is much more fun than a tricycle, which can be easily throw you off balance if you shift your weight too far to the left or right.

Three is that person who can't seem to get the message that he is irritating when he constantly tells computer algorithm jokes and no one gets them.

Truth be told, three is the guy who bought a sword at a novelty shop and bragged to his two buddies that he was an expert swordsmen and ended up a musketeer.

I admit that I haven't always been fond of three. To me, it seems like bad things always seem to happen in threes. But, lately I've had to face my own harsh judgement towards three.

Three is a precious baby who was produced from the union of two.

Three is that person who rescues you from a lagging conversation between you and a guy telling jokes about computer algorithms.

Three is a number multiplied by it's square. There is a joke about this a guy was telling recently, but I sort of checked out...

Since I'm now a teacher, three is tenure.

But, what I realize most of all is that three is the Holy Trinity - the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost.

So, with that, I officially apologize to three for all the years of  believing you were odd. Even if you are odd cause you are not even...




Sunday, June 29, 2014

God loves ugly

I'm not sure why so many women hate themselves. We are our own worst enemies. We hide behind masks of Almay, Bare Essentials, and CoverGirl. We embellish ourselves with vanity and pride. We completely ignore our heart.

I'm most bewildered at Christian women who look in the mirror and can't see their beauty. 

I love the song God Loves Ugly by Christa Black. It's not a new song. It was released in 2010. This song is a real journey. In her book, God Loves Ugly and Love Makes Beautiful, she reveals her own struggles with childhood sexual abuse, an eating disorder, and depression. 

I can't relate to the sexual abuse, but I can relate to her struggle to love herself and see herself as beautiful. Sometimes, I turn on this song and just listen to it over and over. I soak in all the words and allow them to permeate inside my head and heart. 

Her song has power because it's her personal realization that what the world sees as ugly, God sees as beautiful. It's a song that I encourage you to turn on, then close your eyes and focus on what she's saying. It's a great song for those days when even Almay, Bare Essentials, and CoverGirl can't help you.

Listen here>> God Loves Ugly by Christa Black

"You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you." Song of Solomon 4:7



Friday, January 31, 2014

The Empty Chair

In one brief moment, I realized that all of the questions I had about my new journey had been answered. God’s reply wasn’t in words, but in a gut-wrenching feeling that I was right where I needed to be in that moment.

“Please don’t cry, Mrs. Shadrix.”

I could barely breathe, much less talk. The more I tried to contain the lump in my throat, the harder it was to hold back tears.

There had been many times when I doubted myself. I wondered if I had made a mistake of leaving a job as a magazine editor, which I loved, to venture into a career that I knew nothing about. 

At 40 years old, I became a high school teacher.  And, in my 40 years, I had never encountered a 16-year-old pleading for me to not cry.  

I looked around the room at the other students who were holding back their own tears. Each of us desperately tried to avoid looking at the empty chair in the classroom. But, it was there and it showed us no mercy.

Just a few days earlier, the orange chair embraced life as she casually took pictures of herself on her computer. Wearing a pink shirt, she took a few pictures of herself on her classroom Mac computer before the bell rang. One was silly and one was sweet. So fitting.

Her big eyes had a way of taking hold of your soul. Even when she was being mischievous, looking in them left you powerless.

She was sitting in that orange chair during the first weeks of school when I called her name and asked her to meet me in the hallway.

She had lied to me about something the day before and, as I told her, lying was something I couldn't tolerate.

Her mouth said, “I didn't lie,” but her eyes said, “Please just love me and let me get away with it.”

“Yesterday, you looked me right in the face with those angelic eyes and you lied to me,” I told her. “I care about you and I can’t let you get away with lying.” 

Caring about her meant I had to write her up.  It was my first lesson in teaching. It's not about being mean, but it is passing on life lessons to young people. 

She will never know that I didn’t feel prepared to teach and that she was the first student I had to formally discipline. She will never know that I didn’t even know how to complete the discipline form.

She will never know that if I could go back in time, I would spend every moment in class letting her know that I did, in fact, care about and love her. I would beg her to not go out on a late night ride with her friend.

I would plead with her to have mercy on me so I didn’t have to hold back tears when talking about her death to her classmates.

I would beg with her to not leave that chair empty every day.

No one really prepares you for dealing with the death of a student. But, God did prepare me.

When I was able to talk, I asked the class if they had ever heard about the stages of death. I asked if anyone had ever even talked to them about death.

The room was silent. 

"No one talks about death, Mrs. Shadrix," one student whispered.

In that moment, I realized that when I was a young woman and changed my major from journalism to social work, it was God.

In that moment, I found myself pulling out of my memory, Elizabeth Kubler Ross and the five stages of death from her groundbreaking book, 'On Death and Dying." It was God.

I realized that the brief time I spent working for Alacare Home Health & Hospice prepared me in some way for that moment. It was God.

In that moment, I realized when I left the world of social work behind me to take a dream job at The Anniston Star and Longleaf Style magazine, it was all God.

In that moment, I realized becoming a high school teacher was all God.

In that moment, I stared at the empty chair in my classroom and knew I would never forget the life that it once supported. I knew the pain of mourning is real. The denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and anger are all real.

Day in and day out, other students fill that empty chair now. Stories about that mischievous girl, who made everyone call her "Tha Boss" are told. Sometimes there are laughs and sometimes the words trail off. Questions of why are still asked.

I try not to ask why. I only imagine that now, instead of sitting in that old orange chair in my classroom, she is sitting next to a throne and her angelic eyes are now seeing Him. It is God.


In memory of Brittney "Tha Boss" Bonner.
4/24/1996 - 12/8/2012


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Ordinary Teens, Legendary Shots

By Theresa Shadrix
Longleaf Style magazine
Winter 2010/2011

   Legends are usually born because people seem to have an internal hunger for accomplishment, even for greatness. We lift up those who are bigger than life or have excelled with high expectations. Not too many legends are born from boredom.

Carson Stalnaker, 17, is a typical teenager and it was a typical day five years ago that he and a group of friends were playing basketball in the driveway of his Hoover, Alabama home. “We were bored in my driveway and just started to shoot,” Stalnaker said.

Stalnaker and his neighborhood buddies were all around 12 years old when they bounced basketballs off his house or from his neighbor’s roof and into his portable basketball goal. The shots started off pretty simple and soon morphed into what seemed the impossible. The neighborhood boys probably all had dreams of playing in the NBA, but that wasn’t on their minds that day when they first attempted their shots. Instead, they wanted to get amazing basketball shots, ones they deemed “legendary,” on video so they could compile it into a DVD and sell it to the friends. As modern youth, they decided to upload the homemade videos to YouTube.

It was word of mouth and the click of the mouse that helped spread the word about the kids from Hoover with the “legendary” basketball shots. Since they called their video compilations “The Legendary Shots” that’s the name that stuck. Stalnaker and his basketball posse are quick to point out that they are not legends. “We are just normal kids,” he says.

From the driveway to YouTube, the boys and their shots piqued the interest of a public relations firm and their basketball shots were featured in national Hampton Inn ads. The first commercial aired in December 2008, then others ran in January and February 2009. A fourth one ran in January 2010.

More national attention came last year when Evan Sellers made a shot from atop the Vulcan stature in Birmingham in August 2010 and the “Legendary Shots” crew was crowned king of “The Farthest Basketball Shot.”

It’s interesting to note that a group of Texas A&M students started their own trick shot team called “Dude Perfect” in 2009 and they claim to have made the “World’s Longest Basketball Shot” from the third deck of Kyle Football field at Texas A&M in September 2009. Between fans, it’s a battle of “longest” versus “farthest.” The Dude Perfect team was selected in the most recent Hampton Inn ad too. But, you won’t hear any of the Legendary teens complaining and they refuse to say anything negative about Dude Perfect.

Stalnaker noted that they’ve been making these shots and posting them online for over five years and they aren’t out to make this into a contest. “We just want to have gas money to go to places and make shots.” He also noted, as did Stalnaker’s mom, Jill, that they don’t want to do this for the rest of their lives. The teens are all high achievers in academics and plan to go to college to pursue careers. “We all want to go to college,” John Massey said. “And we want to share the love of Christ.”

Dude Perfect is complimentary as well. “We want to support them. We think it’s cool that they use their platform to also glorify Christ.” said Tyler Toney, Dude Perfect Co-Founder. The Texas group mirrors the Alabama teens in more ways than trick shots uploaded on YouTube and Hampton Inn ads. Both groups have a strong Christian influence and raise money for charity with profits from advertising on YouTube. Stalnaker said they are supporters of Compassion International and Project125K, which seeks to assist orphans in the United States. Dude Perfect also sponsor children through Compassion International.

There are distinct differences between the two groups as well. The Legendary Shots are normally driven to locations by their parents, the only hint of management is Jill, and their website is far from flashy. They are, as Stalnaker likes to point out, just a group of teens that likes to have fun.

While Stalnaker and his friends may have changed physically in five years, not much has about the way they get the shot. In September, I witnessed first-hand as the teens attempted shots at Talladega Superspeedway. While only one teen can make the shot, others assemble a line to retrieve balls and help with direction. The Legendary Shot crew at Talladega was Carson Stalnaker, William Snoddy, Evan Sellers, Chase Martin, Jeffrey Higginbotham, Bryan Anderson and John Massey. Most of them grew up in the same neighborhood at Hoover. Martin and Stalnaker had a chance meeting with Sellers on a family vacation at Panama City about two years ago.

Of course, the youth bounced basketballs and filmed them and Sellers became a part of the Legendary crew. Sellers played basketball until 9th grade and was a quarterback at Pinson High School his junior year, until he suffered a back injury. He didn’t have to think twice about joining the group when they returned home. “It something we go out and do to have fun. It’s one of those hobbies we do.”

At Talladega Superspeedway, Stalnaker is clearly the one everyone looks to for guidance. After an interview with TV24, the boys began scouting possible shots at the track. The first shot, by William Snoddy, was on turn four on the track. But before that could happen, the boys had to pump air into a few of the 11 basketballs they had gathered from their homes .

Then, with the assistance of the dads, the goal was set up on the track. Snoddy climbed the 33-degree asphalt track and started bouncing balls. Everything is off the cuff and there were no painstaking measurements done by the boys. “Move a little to your right,” one would yell. “Hey, throw harder,” from another. Finally, after about 15 minutes, Snoddy made the basket on the 57th attempt and everyone, myself included, screamed with excitement.

The second shot by Stalnaker from the top of the Gadsden Tower, was, according to Talladega Superspeedway president, Grant Lynch, the tallest spot in Talladega County at 140 feet. Battling wind, gravity and a three-phase power line, the attempts were a little more risky. Lynch was a little nervous when the basketballs bounced off the ground and hit the power line a few times. After 45 minutes, Stalnaker made it on his 62nd shot. “I high-fived my mom,” he laughed.

A third attempt by Evan Sellers from the top of the Scoring Tower was halted because the wind became so intense and the teens really wanted to take a ride around the track in the pace car, courtesy of Talladega Superspeedway.

Rumors of the boys faking their shots hold no ground for everyone who witnessed the patience and perseverance from that day. And, they all point out patience is what it takes to make a legendary shot. “You gotta keep shooting. Don’t give up and keep trying,” Stalnaker advises.

And keep trying they will do indeed. Big Communications of Birmingham asked the group to make shots at various well-known landmarks in the Birmingham area. Stalnaker’s mom, Jill, said they will continue making legendary shots as “long as it doesn’t get in the way of grades.” Until then, they will be ordinary kids who just don’t want to be bored.

Check out the Legendary Shots on YouTube. Click here.
Theresa Shadrix is managing editor of Longleaf Style magazine and has yet to make a legendary shot.