Tuesday, November 07, 2017

I broke up with my desk

I broke up with my desk. 

I removed it from my classroom without a single thought about it. It served no purpose and I had no emotional attachment to it. So, breaking up was not very difficult. I almost feel heartless with the lack of emotion I have about getting rid of it. Who just tosses a desk to the curb as if it has no purpose? To make matters worse, I replaced it with a media cart and a metal organization shelf. I sometimes imagine my desk peering into my classroom and becoming downtrodden over seeing me with my media cart in such educational and organization bliss.

However, to be honest, my desk stressed me out. 
I stared at it and was overwhelmed by the stacks of papers and random items that students gave me.  I once opened the middle drawer and found a back scratcher that was in the shape of a small hand and tiny pink toothbrush. Why were these items in my desk? At some point, they were handed to me as keepsakes and I tossed them into the abyss without regard to them. My desk had become a black hole. We lost respect for each other.

When I made the decision to say goodbye, I had no instructional strategy or advice from an educational expert to guide me. I didn’t even have a hallway conversation at the tardy bell with a co-worker. I simply walked into my classroom and I could not stand the sight of it. 

My desk mocked me with its mountains of paperwork that I intended to file and the piles of lesson plans that I planned to develop. I often hoped that if I dug around, I would find a secret map that would lead me to a hidden treasure. But, in reality, all I found was a toothbrush and a small metal hand.

I’m mature enough to admit that my desk was probably relieved that I made he first move in the breakup. After all, I forced it to hold a random toothbrush and back scratcher. Who knows what else I would do it in the future?

Truth is, I rarely sit down in my day. I teach Advertising & Design and Yearbook. My students are active and I like to walk around and view their progress. On the occasion that I am siting, it is either at my classroom computer next to my students or a tall stool that I can easily move around the room with my media cart. 

Ah, that media cart. I’m not one to boast about relationships, but I will admit that I’m rather smitten with my media cart. It offers everything I need. My laptop fits perfectly on the top and I have room for a few papers. My media cart knows that if it offered me a lot of space, I would, no doubt, take advantage of all the space and overwhelm it with papers. My media cart moves with me. It is there for me. It simply gets me.


If you are thinking about breaking up with your desk, think about these things:

You still need a working space in your classroom that is just for you. I have two spaces. My media cart is for my laptop and daily walkabouts. I also have a classroom computer that is placed with my students. Even when I’m sitting and working on projects, I’m next to them. Bless their hearts, they can't get away from me. So, make your space work for you, but don’t distance yourself from your students.

If you can’t get rid of your desk, think about placement. If your desk is at the front of your classroom, then consider moving it so that it is part of the student’s environment, not a barrier against it. Also, while you still have your desk, write down the main storage you will need if you get rid of your desk. One by one, create space in your classroom for those items. Do not tip off your desk about the impending breakup. Play it cool. Clean out the drawers one at a time. You can slowly work your way into the breakup, instead of throwing everything on the floor and giving your desk the boot.

If you sit down a lot, ask yourself if it is for you or your students. I mean it. This is a tough one. Teaching is tiresome. However, doing walkabouts often in your classroom keep your students engaged in the activity. If you sit a lot, what message are you delivering to your students? If you can sit among them, try it. Keep in mind, you may freak out your students at first. However, I promise you that the more you are engaged with your students, the less you will need your desk.

Theresa Shadrix is an IDEO Teachers Guild fellow. She encourages you to Defront your classroom and set it up for student-centered learning. 

  • Move the teacher’s desk to the side (or remove it altogether)
  • Ask students to help design different class configurations for different purposes, and create “reset” options

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Failures of Learning Lead to Success

By Theresa Shadrix

Education has never embraced me, but I have pursued it like a relentless groupie.

In July of this year, I received an email that I failed two of my English competency exam questions and would not graduate with a Masters of Secondary Education/English Language Arts as planned.

Ten days later, I flew to San Francisco as one of ten inaugural IDEO Teachers Guild fellows.

How does a failure like me get chosen to be among so many winners, I wondered?

Learning has never been easy for me. I have failed more times than I care to admit. I don’t know what it’s like to make the highest grade in the class or to be recognized at numerous honor award ceremonies.

My high school guidance counselor told me that I was not college material and, instead of pursuing journalism or teaching, I should get married. On paper, I wasn’t college material. It didn’t seem to matter that a house fire left me homeless during my senior year. Or that my parent’s divorce was so tumultuous that my younger brother was put in foster care.

The reality is that I almost didn’t finish my undergraduate degree. But, the whispers of my grandmothers to "get an education" were loud and constant. So, after I married in 1991, I worked full time and matriculated at a local university. In my last semester, I took 21 hours, was pregnant with my first son, and made the Dean’s List. I graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) in 1996. 

Education has never embraced me, but I have pursued it like a relentless groupie.

I worked as a social worker and then as a journalist for several years. When I turned 40, I wanted to become a teacher and devote my life to helping students who need encouragement to excel and learn beyond their expectations. So, I started graduate school and accepted a position as a Career Technical Education (CTE) teacher. I took night and online courses, while learning a new career as a full time teacher. 

It wasn't easy, but it was an adventure of learning. You see, education has never embraced me, but I have pursued it like a relentless groupie.

The devastation of failing two competency questions this summer was a reminder to me that I did not belong among the highly educated. 

It didn’t matter that I worked full-time as a certified CTE teacher while pursuing a graduate degree and was a wife and mother of two.

It didn’t matter that I passed two national NOCTI exams in Graphic Communications and Advertising & Design and two national Praxis exams in Secondary Education and English Language Arts. It didn’t matter to me I passed the state Basic Skills exam and national edTPA.

It didn't matter that I passed four college competency questions in secondary education and two in English Language Arts.

All that mattered to me was I failed two questions. 
I will learn from this failure in hopes it will help me succeed. Then, I will share with my students. I hope that it will help them realize that failures are not the barriers to learning. Giving up is the barrier. In order to have success, we must have failures. In order to be educated, we have to learn.  

I don’t blame these two professors for my failures. They are geniuses who should not lower their expectations because of what I lack. They don’t know my journey or my story or that books have been companions to me during many tough trials. They don't know I started graduate school in 2011 and that I pray this journey will end in November when I retake the exam questions.

They don't know that education has never embraced me, but I have pursued it like a relentless groupie.

Edit: One week after my mother-in-law passed away, I took the exam again. Considering the emotional toll of what I had been going through, I barely remember the day. I did pass and am grateful to those who encouraged me in my journey.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

On your mark, get set, go!

"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win." 

1 Corinthians 9:24

On your mark, get so, go was the commanding charge that many of us had in childhood games. Racing as fast as we could go, we set out to not just run the race, but to win it. As the class of 2017 prepares for their race, I thought it was fitting to ask some friends about their life advice to graduating seniors. Congratulations Class of 2017!  Now, on your mark, get set, go!

"Be true to yourself." 
Eve Cole

"Always check your grammar." 
Julie Wells

"Don't let your education end with the conclusion of your formal studies, be it a high school diploma or your Ph.D. A fulfilling life is about learning new things every day. First, learn to use Spellcheck." 
James Firth

"Call your mom!" 
Teresa Harris

"Every day!" 
Tina Horn

"Take some time to see the country, the world if you can and enjoy a break before real life starts." 
Jackie Maskew Cavallin

"It's okay to change your mind and to not have it all figured out." 
Ashley Marie Toney

"If it all doesn't pan out the way you planned, God has something better in mind. Trust Him." 
Kristy Austin-Payne-Pate

"Learn to budget." 
Ariel Edwards

"Remember where you came from as you look to God for where you are going." 
Tina Horn

"Live at home with your parents as long as you can. Really, I would say allow Christ to lead and guide every move you make. Depend on Him and relax in His mercy and grace." 
Shawn Mason

"Stay focused on your ultimate goal in life. & remove any distraction preventing you from accomplishing that." 
Randell Curry

"Do not be afraid to fail. Through persistence and failure you will become stronger and more equipped for success." 
Uncle Brien Holcombe

"Stupid mistakes are okay but always have a mindset to accept the consequences and fix them. Nothing last forever and everything will be alright in the end. There's nothing wrong with admitting that you are wrong. Always take an opportunity when it provides itself. Don't ever give up but know when something is worth letting go. The truth is always important and saves a lot of trouble in the future. Education is important but values and morals are more important . Always try something new because there's no telling if it can change your life. I've personally learned these so far in college and they're the only ones I can think of off the top of my head" 

Nathan Gilbert

"Move away from home and learn who you are. Travel on a budget (it makes it fun and you can travel more). Plan for your future financially. Continue meeting new people and making new friends. Put your phones down and really talk to people that are all around you. Lastly, love every bit of life and find someone that loves life and Christ as much as you do!" 
Ashley Adams-Webster

"Remember that only reason and science will bring you through." 
Bob Shier

"Stay healthy" 
Derryl Groce

"Having knowledge is not the same has having wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to use your knowledge for the better." 
Stacy C. Smith

"Pick your battles, let God have control." 
Annalisa Amerson

"Use your knowledge to the best of your ability to excel in all areas of life. Stay clear of drugs and shady types of individuals. They get you in trouble. Wait until you are done with college to marry and start your family." 
Tonya Bailey

"Don't be afraid to be a little lost. You don't have to figure out the next 30 years of your life next week, next year, or even in the next decade. It's ok not to know what you want to do or be. As long as what you want to be allows you to be you. Many successful people reinvent themselves at 28, 38, and 48 so don't be worried about being 18 and not being sure. It's important to understand that life is more of a journey than a destination, and it's ok to take detours, revisit the map, and change paths. You can't put the next 40 years in the proverbial GPS of "you" and follow it to a T. They'll be construction along the way, but that's ok... Breathe, smile, and be happy. You'll find your way along the way. "
It's important to understand that life is more of a journey than a destination, and it's ok to take detours, revisit the map, and change paths. You can't put the next 40 years in the proverbial GPS of "you" and follow it to a T. They'll be construction along the way, but that's ok... Breathe, smile, and be happy. You'll find your way along the way. " 
Will Estell

"Try everything (unless it's drugs) that you're interested in." 
Cindy Woodard

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding! And ALWAYS wear sunscreen!" 
Martha Bain

"Don't register for 7:30am classes in college because you "got up that early all through high school and are used to it." It's objectively a terrible idea." 
Jonathan Gamble

"College is so much more fun when you know you'll be graduating debt free, with a degree in a practical career field with steady income. Risk taking is fine but you don't want to be financially irresponsible." 
Hannah Gay

"Just because something doesn't turn out the way you think it should, trust that God holds it and you and move on! not everything is easy, and just because someone else is doing something doesn't mean you have to the same. learn to love yourself and laugh at your mistake. take it one day at a time. and when you're late, you're already late might as well get breakfast too. " 
Raegan Thompson

"As I overheard my college junior tell a 15 year old the other day " choose a career path doing something that will make you happy , it's not all about the money " 
Kim Harris Guthary

"Find something you love to do, and work hard to do it well. And GET A JOB...You'll feel much better about yourself if you are supporting yourself." 
Lisa Sosebee

"Be an open minded leader and always willing to admit your mistakes. But above all love God." Anne Bradshaw
"Be true to yourself. God placed you here for a unique mission. If you follow through you will always have a sense of belonging to a greater cause. You will find joy and purpose in the lessons you learn. The lessons serve you or teach you what you need to share with others. Live close to nature and remember the heavenly light that you will return to someday when your mission here is done"
Anita Armbrister

"Follow your passion and do something you love. Adulting and working is hard enough...do something you love so you will be happy. Money isn't everything! You can't put a price on happiness and joy each day." 
Cindy Pair

"Keep your eyes on Jesus and get connected with like minded students if in college or not." 
Diane Smith

"Keep in mind walking distance between classes and how much time you put between each class. Schedule classes wisely. Also, email professors a week before classes start to find out if textbooks are gonna be used in class." 
Taylor Davenport

"Nothing in this life is free. Hard work pays off and so does networking! And high school is not the pinnacle of your life." 
Suzy Lindblom

"Consider other careers that doesn't necessarily need a 4 year college degree. Find and develop a trade!" 
Sally Duke

"Ask yourself who you want to help. It will do a great deal in leading you toward a fulfilling future. And, don't wait until you have all the resources/money/answers. Just start with what you have and go from there." 
Patrick Hallowell

"Never let someone influence your decisions that doesn't have a record of success! In the work force be kind and respectful to all people no matter their position there is no difference between the janitor and the CEO when it comes to respect!" 
Shawn Austin

"You can't say, "Read the Bible and follow its words. However, you can tell them to see faith, peace, strength, and joy." 
Sherry Kughn

"The medial tasks you take seriously and do your best at pay off. There is always someone watching." 
Angela Barnett

"Dream Big!!" 
Barry Russell

"Pick a career that involves something you love spending time doing! Something that you will be excited to get to everyday! You don't want to dread your day everyday!" 
Amanda Watts

"Pay your Civic Rent .....and ...if you don't lie you don't have to remember what you said!" Chip Howell

"Stay focused on your future don't let anyone sway you to get off your path. Get more education on your career.and keep steady" 
Cathi Handy

"Always try your hardest even on things you dislike. Even go out of your way to accomplish things. Employers watch for the ones that strive to improve every day. Might get yourself a raise! Also to try to make someone smile each day, you never know if that one person just needed that." 
Ryleigh Clark

"No matter what life throws at you never, ever give up. What you think is the worst thing to ever happen one day may turn out to be the next day's biggest blessing. Hang in there and trust the Lord with EVERYTHING!" 
Kelly Cline

"Follow your heart. God will lead you toward your dreams and sometimes your idea of your dream won't be what God's idea is. Welcome the change. Don't let failure get you down. Remember, you're following a path less traveled. If it was easy, everyone would do it. The difficulty makes it worth it. Don't be afraid to take chances. Oh, and don't take any class before 9 a.m. unless you have to." 
Sierra Hill

"Stay positive and always hold the door open for the person behind you. You never know who they might be." 
Stella Thomas

"Tomorrow is for second chances. Not for procrastinating."
 Sonya Bedford

"Get a job!" 
Kathy Murphy

"First-if you don't know Jesus-let me introduce you; Second-pray hard; Third-follow the Holy Spirit's leading as your life will be the BEST it can be...because you were created for a specific purpose." 
Carol Stewart

"Serve God, pray about everything, learn to manage your money, stay healthy and enjoy your life!!!" Vicki Pontero
"You may fail once, twice or even three times. Just pick yourself back up and try it again. In other words, never give up because once you do, that's when failure sets in." 
Kizzie Gooden

"Know that you will make mistakes, forgive yourself and learn from them, pray and follow God's advice (even if it's not what you want to hear), be nice to everyone, you never know what they've been though or what they may be dealing with, if you don't love your job look for another one, always have a dog...they will always love you, just because everyone else is doing it, doesn't mean it's right, don't always believe what you hear, every story has two sides, if someone really loves you they will not be mean to you, don't settle for less than the best...wait on your Prince or Princess....last one... don't use run on sentences--lol." 
Lori Campbell

"When you find your true love, hold on and fight for what you want. But real love will always find a way of working out...even if it takes 25 years to find it again." 
Sherri Allen

"I have always told both of my boys that nobody said that life is fair but hard work will pay off and the world is theirs!!!" 
Carol Lee

"Pay your bills on time.
Save at least a dollar from every paycheck. 
Take care of your family. 
Your word is your bond.
Lynn Fendlason

"Set "Achievable " goals. Don't set yourself up for failure. One step at a time!" 
Ken Rollins

"It's not your failures that define you.. it's how you move forward after.. 
.. treat the Janitor with the same respect that you would treat the President, you never know when you might encounter these people later in life 
...stay humble and have the same dignity behind closed doors that you portray in public (you sleep better )
And take ownership of your errors,
The whole band isn't always out of step.. sometimes it's YOU
AND SEND THANK YOU NOTES!!! When you receive a gift, when you have a job interview.. when someone helps you"
 Trayce Austin

"Your planner will be your best friend." 
Emma Foster

"Let fear drive you to chase your dreams! Don't miss out on things in life for fear of failure or what others think. Learn from your mistakes, but never let fear keep you frozen in life. Let it push you!" 
Addie Shake

"U DON'T have to figure everything out right now....Don't do what your parents or anyone else wants U to do but find your own passion and do what makes U happy....AND always be nice to everyone along the way cause U never know who will be your BOSS one day!!!" 
Tara Hazle

"Don't waste time and money not being 100% sure about what you want to do. At this point you should know what your passion in life is. If not, then you should sit down with s life coach to pin point what truly drives you. Don't be guilty of following someone else's dream for your life." 

Bob McClain

The past whispers constantly

This is a story of the power of listening to someone's story and caring about her journey. Still today, it makes me cry thinking about this adventure we had.

The past whispers constantly
Published in Longleaf Style, Summer 2009

The past can be haunting. For some people, lingering questions of “who am I” often distract at inconvenient times. Maybe it’s a family reunion where one blond is surrounded by a sea of dark hair. Sometimes it’s in the doctor’s office where the family history is left blank on the forms.

At other times, it is meeting a stranger and wondering, “Could she be my mother?”

Not all adopted children wonder about their birth families, but, for some, the past whispers constantly. Anniston resident Catherine “Cathi” Handy heard those whispers and grew weary of trying to drown them out. “I tried for years to find out who my birth mother was, but I didn’t know what to do,” she said. It was never a secret to Cathi that she was adopted.

The one thing that was a secret was her birth mother’s name. Any reference to her identity was blacked out on adoption papers. Cathi had treasured a few facts, she knew she was born prematurely in New Haven, Connecticut, on December 14, 1949, and she was adopted on September 17, 1950.

She knew a few nuggets about her birth mother; a single mom, abandoned by her sailor boyfriend, who was in her sixth month of pregnancy when she contacted Catholic Social Services about adoption.

“She felt unable to provide a home for her child without the support of a father or her family . . . adoption is in the best interest of the child,” the adoption papers read. Cathi’s mother also added a few details of her own, like the fact that her birth mother died. Cathi always felt this wasn’t true. A strange intuition?

Perhaps. After graduating from high school in East Haven, Connecticut, Cathi married and had two children, Jo-Ann and Steven. After her husband’s sudden death of a heart attack at 31, she was a single mom working labor jobs to pay the bills. Eventually, she re-married and moved to Alabama and came to work at The Anniston Star in the building department. In the midst of her adult life, she attempted to find information about her birth mother and even left a letter with Catholic Social Services.

She heard nothing.

Life went on.

The Search 
There are times when a conversation is idle and has little life-changing value. But, often, if you listen closely you will find something priceless.

One morning in October 2007, Cathi and I, a friend and co-worker, had our usual chat about the day’s work and somehow her love of opera came up. She said something like, “I wonder if my birth mother liked opera.” I was curious about her comment. I had to know more.

As I listened to her share the disappointments about not knowing her medical history and exactly where she fits in a the family tree, I wrote down all the details she had gathered through the years. She was ready to know more. Besides, her adoptive parents were both deceased and she felt a quest for the truth would not be painful to them.

“I had a good life, I have no regrets.” she told me. I wanted to help Cathi. As a former church social worker, I had contacts. My first call was to Catholic Social Services in New Haven, Connecticut. The organization emailed an “Adoption Reunion Registration” form, which Cathi and I completed on October 31, 2007. If her birth mother had completed the same form, then she would be reunited.

We hoped against hope. I also made a call to the probate office and inquired about adoption laws in Connecticut. Then, we waited. After several months, we knew the next step had to be taken. So, on May 9, 2008 we completed a “Search” form with Catholic Social Services and sent it along with a $200 search fee.

Then, we waited some more.

Occasionally, I called the caseworker and told her all about Cathi’s excitement and prayers while inquiring about the search. Since the adoption was in 1950, our contact had her work cut out for her. In July, the caseworker called to tell me that she was being reassigned, but she wanted resolution on the case before she left.

Cathi and I got to the point of not even bringing up the search when we passed each other in the hall at work. We just nodded. Our patience couldn’t handle the pressure of conversation.

Then, On September 9, 2008 I received a call from the new caseworker. The news was not good. She faxed a death certificate. I called Cathi and told her that I had news.

As we sat in my work area, I started to cry as I told her that her birth mother died of breast cancer in 2004. Along with our year-long search, Cathi’s journey ended. But, much to my surprise, Cathi said, “But, you know her name!”

She then whispered “Mary” a few times. Also, she wondered out loud if she had any siblings. Cathi and I had been on this quest too long to stop. We were committed to the search. I called the local newspaper in New Haven to get a copy of Mary’s obituary and was referred to the library. After another form, another fee, and another search, a copy of the obituary was mailed. Cathi now had the name of Mary’s husband and children. A quick Internet search yielded an address.

Cathi wrote a letter. More waiting.

Almost a year to the date from the beginning of our search, Cathi received a phone call from Ellena, her half-sister. I received a call from Ellena as well. It seemed she had been searching for Cathi for many years, as had her mother.

Mary and Ellena didn’t have much information to help in their searches. Mary, Ellena said, had been told that her baby died. She always felt it wasn’t true. Strange intuition indeed.

Mary’s Story 
Mary was, in fact, an unwed mother in 1949 and was “promised the world” by her boyfriend, until she got pregnant that is. Raised in a strict Roman Catholic Italian family, Mary’s father was abusive and put the 19-year-old out of the house. She lived with family and friends. Since the time her mother died when she was six, Mary had probably never felt more alone. She turned to Catholic Social Services as her last resort.

When Cathi was born in 1949, Mary was still under the influence of her strict father. She was torn between doing what was right in the eyes of her culture, family, and faith regarding keeping her baby. She knew her firstborn was a girl, but she never got to hold her baby. After her discharge from the hospital, Mary went back and told them she changed her mind and wanted to keep her baby. She was informed the baby didn’t survive. She went back again a few days later and was told again the baby didn’t live.

She was taught to not question authority; so she went on with life. Mary married the love of her life and they had three sons and a daughter. Ellena told me that she and her father were the only ones who knew about Cathi, but it wasn’t something she talked about much. When she died of breast cancer, Mary told her daughter to find her sister. It would be na├»ve to say that this story had the happy ending that Cathi, Ellena and Mary dreamed about. As the two sisters get acquainted, the life of their mother is resurrected through memories. This is not always a comfortable feeling for other family members, such as Mary’s 80-year-old husband. He held the secret close to him during his 54-year marriage and from their church and community. It’s safe to say that even in death, Mary is under the influence of a strict code of silence.

Now, after finding each other, Ellena and Cathi are getting to know each other and plan to meet in New Haven In July. Cathi plans to take Ellena to the opera because she has never been. They will hug, share stories and visit Mary’s grave. More than anything, they will realize that Cathi, Ellena and Mary are not connected because of a haunting past, but through their roots.

Theresa Shadrix is managing editor of Longleaf Style. She counts her experience as helping Cathi locate her birth family as a precious one. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

“Where’s Bronner?”

An honest and uncompensated review of Bronner: A Journey to Understand, written by Sherri Burgess.

On Jan. 19, 2008, Sherri Burgess’ life was altered the moment she asked her two sons, “Where’s Bronner?”

In the moments before, Brooks, 8, was playing Wii, Brody, 6, was watching a movie, and Bronner, 2, was playing with toys.

In the moments before, her plan for the rest of the night consisted of giving Bronner a bath and reading to him before bedtime.

In the moments before, her life was charmed and she was a princess living her happily ever after.

“Where’s Bronner?”

The answer would force her on her reluctant journey that offered no respite, no rewards for travel, and no earthly destination. The luggage required for her journey could not be contained in a rolling cart, but in the pages of the most cherished book of her faith. The ticket for her journey had been purchased on her behalf on Calvary.

“Where’s Bronner?”

As she saw him face down in the family swimming pool, she ran to her beloved baby and pulled him from the water. All efforts to breathe life into his body failed.

“My whole life – everything – was over. Not that I had given up yet. I thought he could be revived. I was hoping for resuscitation, but, even so, I knew that from that moment on nothing would ever be the same.” (p. 55)

Her life would never be the same and it was forever altered. However, it was not over. Her days were now measured by the moments before and she plunged into the one thing that had sustained her long before that night – Jesus.

Sherri mercifully prayed for God to save her son. She writes that God not only didn’t answer her prayer, but He knew what was coming.

“He, Himself, allowed it because He knew He could use it to bring glory to His name and to His kingdom, to bring lost souls to Himself, and to refine a couple of Christians who were too caught up in the things of this world.”

In Bronner: A Journey to Understand, you will read the details leading up to that moment the Burgess family was forced to reconcile to the fact Bronner would not be resuscitated. 

And, you will read about the gut-wrenching realization that not all of our prayers are answered in the way that we like. Most of all, you will read about the total dependence on a relationship with Christ.

I heard Sherri speak at a women’s conference at First Baptist Church of Anniston at McClellan a few years ago. What moved me was her love of scripture. She did not allow her grief to define her journey, but rather what God says. As she encouraged the women to be relentless in our pursuit of our Savior, it occurred to me that He had been preparing her for her journey long before Jan. 19, 2008.

Those who do not follow Christ can’t fathom that her unanswered prayer and her complete and total reliance on Christ could sustain her. But, that is the beauty in her journey. 

She writes from honesty, from pain, and she writes from the joy in knowing that when she asks, “Where’s Bronner?” she can answer without hesitation that he is with our Heavenly Father. 

This review is posted on Amazon as a verified purchase.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

For the love of Photoshop...

In my classroom, there are two types of students - those who love Adobe Indesign (ID) and those who love Adobe Photoshop (PS). 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. 

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. 

2017 Edit: I'm completing my fifth year of teaching and I could also add that saying goodbye to students is one of the most difficult encounters in the journey. However, learning about their adventures and moments of the transition from teen years to young adult is so rewarding.

Thanks for reading. Have a blessed day!

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.