Book Browsings #3: Voices

 

tiaIn Book Browsings #2 I referenced the writing club I sponsored. It was called the Young Author’s Club. I found a copy of the first, and I think only, issue we put together. The girls chose the name Voices for the title. It had four sections: Book Beginnings, Short Story, Poetry and Essay. As I look over the list of contributors I can see most of their faces. Tia was the one who came to me with the request to sponsor the club. I still keep up with her via Instagram and occasionally her blog.  She works in publishing among other things. I still have the scarf she brought me back from China when she visited there with her parents. Her mother, Yulin, was our parent sponsor and a huge help. I can semi-recall the faces of Kylie, Haley, Anna and Jakob who also contributed work to Voices.

One essay, by Anna Rea, came, as I recall, from a short in-class writing prompt. Hers was titled How to Be a Bad Neighbor.  Pretty hilarious! Here are a few excerpts:

Every person in their life comes across a bad neighbor. Why wait for a bad neighbor when you yourself could be a bad neighbor? In a few easy steps you could be the most hated person on the block…

One of the many things to do to be a bad neighbor is to have parties. Now, not just any party. It has to be a loud, all-nighter. …

Another thing that really gets your neighbor mad is having an obnoxious yappy dog…

Step three of how to be a bad neighbor is to leave your garbage cans out for long periods of time….

Finally, the most important part: HOLIDAYS! Around Christmas you have to buy those big, blow-up things… you must buy at least six of them. 

I loved teaching these kids. They were not just smart, but funny, fun-loving, caring, and full of energy. One student, Caroline, really stood out. I got to know her through her writings, but also while visiting her home when we were working on a charity project and meeting her mother and younger brothers. Her mom was just one of many parents who supported me and my students that year. Caroline graduated from Princeton and is now a fellow at  Washington University School of Medicine. She is following in the footsteps of her grandfather who was a prominent and well-loved physician in Jacksonville.

JP is a logistics officer in the Marines and living in Hawaii. Carson, now married, comes to mind whenever I see the scarf he brought me back from his trip to Vietnam where his grandfather was in in the war. Same with Harrison, who brought me playing cards from his trip to Africa.

I will always be grateful for the students who crossed my path and left a footprint. I am thrilled whenever I happen upon good news about one of them.

 

 

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Adventures in Subbing #7

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Usually I love subbing. I post funny or sweet things that happen on twitter with the hashtag #ilovesubbing. The last few weeks I haven’t been able to do this. I have not faced such disrespect in a classroom as I have on this particular job. So, instead this is what I ended up tweeting in frustration:

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So, I’m counting down – 9 more days. But I got to thinking, there have been a few, very few, good moments in between all the stressful hours.

Like the  eighth grade girl who came up and presented me with a bracelet she’d made me out  of purple thread. I had her tie it on for me and I’m still wearing it.

And there’s the sixth grade girl who has given me a bunch of hugs. I needed every one of them.

And the seventh grade boy who shared some banana chips with me. He also talked to me about how he takes medicine to help him focus and how he can go for days without eating. The boy who sits next to him is almost totally mute. I do my best to give him attention so he doesn’t fade away into the middle school dust.

There is a website where you can watch live video feed from cities all over. I watched some from New Orleans the other day. People wondering up and down Bourbon Street in the last day of Carnival celebrations. They all dress crazy and act like they are having a grand time, but it looks so empty. Then, I stand by my door in between classes and watch the kids wander up and down. Both of these are loud groups of people. The difference is that when the warning bell rings, the middle schoolers make a run for it. The people on Bourbon Street wander aimlessly until the sun comes up or they pass out – whichever comes first. They never hear the warning bell.

 

 

 

Avetts in October #12: Say Love

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Living of Love – TAB

“You  can drive a man into devilry by contempt. If you want to melt him into goodness, try love.”  – Alexander Maclaren

Note: Maclaren was born in 1826 in Glasgow, Scotland. He received his BA from the University of London before he was 20, then began his ministry at Portland Chapel, Southampton, England. After 12 years he went to Union Chapel in Manchester where he remained until 1903. His words have been a great help and comfort to me for the past year.

In anticipation of The Avett Brothers concert on October 25th, I have been writing a series of blog posts connecting some of their lyrics to words of some of my favorite authors. Back in August and September many educators all across the US were going back to school with the goal of connecting with their students. As a former full-time teacher and current substitute teacher this idea rings so very true.  Just last week I was in a fifth grade classroom and inevitably a few students felt they needed to guide me in the ways of their teacher’s discipline plan. They felt I needed to put some of their classmates names on a list. I refrained. I know they were only trying to be good and wanted to be sure I knew it. I made so many mistakes in my classroom discipline back in the day. Just as in parenting. So, I now approach subbing just like I do grandparenting. I “Say Love”.

If the days aren’t easy and the nights are rough
When they ask you what you’re thinking of
Say love, say for me love
Say love, say for me love…

And yes we live in desperate times…

Say love, say for me love…   – Living of Love

 

I love how the audience sings along in this video. Can’t wait for the 25th! 

 

 

Thoughts on the words of J. Gresham Machen – Think for yourself

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art-Stuart Miles

J. Gresham Machen lived from 1881-1937. He was a Presbyterian churchman, a New Testament scholar, a Princeton Theological Seminary professor, founder of the Westminster Theological Seminary and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Machen is considered to be the last of the great Princeton theologians. The quotes in this series come from his book, “Christianity and Liberalism”.

“It is usually considered good practice to examine a thing for oneself before echoing the vulgar ridicule of it.”

I’ve learned, and am still learning, the wisdom of this statement. I think this thought can apply to many different situations, not just religion.
Some other example where it might apply:

  • Homeschooling – often people want to put down homeschooling based on traditions. They are so used to the public school system, the way they were raised, that they jump to conclusions. I did this years ago when our friends were the first people I knew who had decided to homeschool. I thought they were nuts. Little did I know.
  • Outward appearance – the old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” applies here.
  • Vegetarianism – I am not a vegetarian, but I certainly see the wisdom in it.
  • Alternative medicine – Many of our nation of pill takers don’t question all the prescriptions they are handed. Many people think those who prefer natural methods are wackos. Not so.
  •  Everything you read on social media. Nuff said.

South Georgia College Tigers 73-77 Baseball Reunion

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May 6, 2017

For one group of guys from a small school in south Georgia, it was baseball that knit them together  and drew them back, over forty years later, to relive the glory days. During a weekend in early May, members of the South Georgia College Tigers, 1973-1977, met in Douglas, Georgia to reunite and reminisce about their college days, and to catch up on the years since they’d last seen each other.

John Brown, who now resides in Florida, started a facebook page for the reunion and organised the details. Members traveled from Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and various parts of Georgia, many bringing their wives along. Among the group were several that had been drafted and spent some time in the minors, some that still coach, and one, Joel Crisler, who still pitches in a 35 and over men’s league.

During Friday night’s Meet & Greet, the words “remember when…?” resounded throughout the room. Like kids in a candy store with hits and runs and stats, the players gathered around the table in the middle of the room which was covered with newspaper clippings, score books, yearbooks, and other memorabilia. These pieces of the past sparked memories and stories and the phrase “the facts don’t lie”, all in good humor. Afterwards the men, with nicknames like Tater, Woody and Grits, stayed up late into the night in the hotel lobby, telling not only baseball stories but tales of college antics from years past. The stories went from dorm pranks and streaking to memories of their beloved coach, Clyde Miller.

Tim Spivey, who met his wife Mary Beth in Douglas, still had a copy of  Coach Miller’s rules, which were a sign of the times and got a quite few chuckles, especially the rule that said “no mustaches, goatees, mutton chops, afros, plaited or braided hair. Keep your hair short enough  that your helmet does not  fall off when running.”

Randy Felix, recalls the first day he arrived on campus. “Coach said, ‘I made you an appointment for a haircut,’ and I went right over and got it cut.”

Beginning with “do not sulk”,  and including “correspond frequently with your parents,” which would mean actually calling (probably collect), or writing a letter,  the rules covered nearly every aspect of a player’s life. Miller even told his players, “There are several churches in the Douglas area that would welcome your attendance.”

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The coaches kept up with their players to the point of dropping by a dorm room on occasion. Bunky Ennis recalls, “Coach Miller and Coach Childers did visit the dorm room one day. They left real quick, mumbling something about a pig sty and the smell was awful.”

Twelve years ago South Georgia College joined with Waycross College  to become South Georgia State College and their new mascot is the Hawks. On Saturday, the Tigers, wearing jerseys brought out of campus storage,  and the Hawks joined together for the first pitch as the old timers tossed out balls to the current team.  Jokes abounded as the No Tobacco signs clashed with Red Man and the players with flowing locks took the field.

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Emotions ran high this weekend. The good-natured arguing was balanced with bona fide compliments such as, “Charlie’s one of my favorite people in the whole world!”, spoken by  Bubba Dubose as he awaited the appearance of Charlie Baker of Jacksonville, FL. Charlie arrived with Rusty White, not a ballplayer but an honorary member of the group, also from Jacksonville.  

Saturday night’s dinner held a wonderful surprise. Ted Miller, Coach Miller’s oldest son, drove over from Augusta, GA for the evening. Ted had  been about ten years old the last time most of the guys had seen him. He teared up as he spoke, as did many others after him. “I grew up with 25 older brothers every year,” Miller said.  Now a teacher as well as an umpire/referee,  he talked about all he’d absorbed from the players as a child and all the lessons he put to use as a player himself.  

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Ted Miller – photo by Carole Wilson

Clyde Miller died in 2005, but his legacy lives on. Speaking about the impact of Coach Miller on his life, John Brown said, “He taught us about managing our lives. This was my family here.” Brown recalled how he looked forward to returning to campus after every school break.  These sentiments were echoed throughout the night by others, reminiscent of the lyrics from In My Life  by the Beatles:

“There are places I’ll remember all my life, though some have changed…     Though I know I’ll never lose affection for people and things that went before, I know I’ll often stop and think about them…”   

Marshall Justice summed the weekend up when he said, ” It seems like the only times old friends get together are at weddings and funerals, but then there are special times like the SGC baseball reunion.”

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Photo by Carole Wilson

This is one group of baseball players, from one little school in south Georgia, But, there are schools all  across the country where baseball draws boys together and grows a group of men. Baseball is a game of skill and precision. It’s an American sport that endures. Another of Coach Miller’s rules was “Choose your associates wisely. A person is only as good as the people he chooses to be around.”  This group of players chose to be around each other again and it was as if the years melted away.

They Won’t Let Me Teach

 

“I’m a teacher, but they won’t let me teach – not the way I can. It’s just not worth it.” – Miss Shaw, the Wonder Years, Season 5

I recently binge watched the entire Wonder Years series. I’d say I teared up during about 80% of the episodes. But, I must reveal that Kevin, the main character, was just two years my senior. I’m talking the character, not the actor. So, all that 70s stuff, all those family issues, the clothes, the culture – that was my world.

Instead of my teen-self, one episode got to the heart of my teacher-self. Miss Shaw was an unconventional teacher. She loved what she was doing and it showed. The kids knew it and her fire lit them up. I’m not saying I agreed with all her methods. But, when she said, “…they won’t let me teach – not the way I can”, I felt like she was speaking for so many other teachers. I recently talked to a teacher who is certified and experienced in one thing and has a desire for it, but she is being forced to teach something else. That’s just sad.

I’ve been in four different school systems in the past few years as a substitute and I’ve seen the mindless test prep and the daily wasted hours in “study hall’ where maybe on a good day five kids were studying. I’ve been in middle schools where seventh graders can’t write a lucid paragraph; in high schools where students spent more time “googling” an answer on their phones than it would have taken to read the article in front of them to find the answer.

I’m not saying there is no good teaching. I have come across pockets of creativity and solid math lessons; I have met some very caring teachers. It’s not usually the teachers, but it’s the system, the “they” that Miss Shaw referred to, that is killing education in our country. And every June, there are teachers who decide, like Miss Shaw, “it’s just not worth it.”

 

“…So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way…” from Both Sides Now by Judy Collins

 

I’ve seen teaching from both sides now; as a full-time teacher and as a substitute. I wish I knew how to make a change.

 

 

Ray Bradbury Was Spot-On

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“More sports for everyone, group spirit, fun, and you don’t have to think, eh? Organize and organize and superorganize super-super sports. .. With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers, grabbers, snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative creators, the word ‘intellectual,’ of course, became the swear word it deserved to be. “ – Beatty in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

What insight Bradbury had here! I am still amazed at his spot-on look into the future. Now, I love a good baseball game, as long as I don’t think about it too deeply. I like to hike and swim, and I used to like to ride a bike and skate. But, I am so not a huge fan of pro sports, or even college sports around here ( sorry Alabama). I think it’s because I see what Bradbury saw – that sports has been given a much higher priority than education in many arenas. And if a kid can run or throw or win, he is often allowed special privileges and not held to the same standard as those who would rather read than race.

Oh, yes, the pursuit of happiness in full swing.

“Ask yourself, What do we want in this country, above all? People want to be happy, isn’t that right? Haven’t you heard it all your life? I want people want to be happy, people say. Well, aren’t they? Don’t we keep them moving, don’t we give them fun? That’s all we live for, isn’t it? For pleasure, for titillation? And you must admit our culture provides plenty of these.” – Beatty

Oh, Ray, do you know we even have a restaurant now called TGIF? If you listen to the radio (another entity that’s becoming extinct) it’s all about the weekend. What are you doing this weekend? How was your weekend? I have fallen into that trap, too.

But, really…….

That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.
Ecc. 1:19

Click HERE for a review of Fahrenheit 451 by Linda’s Book Bag