Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Final Quarter: Charge!

The school year is three fourths completed, and it’s time to reflect.

In a word, I’d say, “Oh, yes!” (Sure, that’s two words, but “Oh, yes!")

Last year I decided to take advantage of an opportunity to switch from junior high to elementary. As with any immigration, there were certain “push” factors and certain “pull” factors. But there is always this warning regarding change, “The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence.” But… sometimes it is! Oh, yes!

So, I am very happy that I made the change. It has turned out splendidly. I enjoy the campus, the students, the teachers, the staff, and the families. The irritants are minor, but the rewards have been significant.

Now, as the end of the first year looms, I’m pausing to reflect and predict.

Reflecting back, I’m surprised how quickly the year has passed. I’m encouraged by how smoothly the transition was made. When misgivings and self-doubt arose towards the end of the summer break, I threw myself into the new challenges. Instead of looking back, I pressed forward. As a result, my outlook improved, I was happier, and I was more prepared as the year began.

The staff and students were welcoming and helpful. My new assistant was pleasant and competent. Oh, yeah! Together we learned the ropes, forged a program, and rolled with the punches.

One hundred and thirty-five days later, it’s all good!

Managing change is challenging, but God has “CARE” packages hidden along the path of life. I looked for, and I found, His help. I muddled on, and I prospered: my students benefited.

I’m glad, that in His time, I’ve “graduated” to the elementary school setting. It’s been rewarding to help students and to serve as a positive role model to so many students.

I’ve found myself thinking many times this year, “And I get paid for this!”

But in addition to reflection, I want to predict and plan. Next year… what will I change? How will I improve? What changes can I make to make my program more effective, more appropriate, and more relevant?

I don’t know… yet. (But I’m posing the questions.)

As the fourth quarter unfolds, I’ll be a reflective educator. What worked? What didn’t? What have I learned? What will I do different next year?

Later on, I’ll figure out how to implement the changes. For right now, I’m simply pondering what changes are needed.

My aim is to create a stellar program: a program of help and support that is life changing, life altering, and life improving. Thirty years from now, I want students to reflect upon our interactions with awareness and gratitude.

Not every student will look back and recall a life-changing experience, but it won’t be for lack of effort on my part!

So where am I at? 3/4ths of a school year down: 1/4th to go. I’m ready to build on the foundation that has been laid. Some may be fighting burn-out, but me? I’m ready for the “kick.” That’s how races are won. (And I like winning.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Writers’ Workshop: Innovator in Medicine – Elizabeth Blackwell, MD.

About five years ago I wrote a biographical sketch along with my students. I chose Elisabeth Blackwell, who was a medical pioneer. I admire innovators, change agents, and those who persist in the face of adversity. Perhaps that’s what drew me to choose this Innovator in Medicine.

Innovator in Medicine – Elizabeth Blackwell, MD.

All women working in medicine owe a debt of gratitude to Elizabeth Blackwell who was the first woman doctor in the United States and England.

Born in England on February 3, 1821, Elizabeth’s family immigrated to the United States before she was 10. Her parents had many children and it was a great shock when, after the family had moved to Ohio, the father died suddenly.

Elizabeth and her two sisters started a small school in their home to support the family. When her brothers were old enough to work, they took over the support of the family and Elizabeth was able to think about college and her dream of becoming a doctor. But there was a problem. Medical schools in the US did not admit women.

Elizabeth didn’t give up. She was finally admitted to a medical school in New York after all the male students voted to allow it. She had difficulty finding a place to live because the townspeople didn’t want a woman at the college. After working hard, Elizabeth graduated, but her dreams continued: she wanted to become a surgeon.

Elizabeth went to France to study surgery, and after a long search, she found a hospital that would train her. Unfortunately, she contracted a disease, which blinded her in one eye. This ended her chance of becoming a surgeon.

She came back to America lonely and discouraged, but she didn’t give up. No hospital would admit her patients, so she started a clinic. Later she started a hospital and a medical college.

In her later years, she moved back to England and became the first woman doctor there as well.

Elizabeth Blackwell died at 89. She was a medical pioneer who dreamed big, never gave up, and overcame many obstacles by determination and hard work. Elizabeth Blackwell’s life is a true story that teaches us many valuable lessons.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Writers' Workshop: My 80th Birthday -- letter and poem.

I had so much fun with the pseudo-predictive piece: My 81th Birthday, I did two companion fictional pieces: A Friendly Letter and a Poem. (My Language Arts class had been studying both forms.) Here are the results:


Dear Joanna,

Thanks for your visit. I’m enclosing a little story I wrote, My 81st Birthday, plus a poem. Both explain what was going on in my head when you came to visit. Sorry for not getting it, and for not asking you more questions. Thanks for still loving your dad, even when he’s falling apart. Thanks for the lift.



PS: Please share this with Abby and her dear Danielle.
PPS: I have the volleyball sitting on top of my TV.

Here’s the poem:

Now I Get It!

A volleyball inscribed to Danielle.
I had no idea there was writing at all.

I didn’t see the writing.
I couldn’t read the card.
I didn’t know that getting old
would be so dog-gone hard.

But I kept on asking questions,
and I learned about the ball.
I learned about Danielle’s love,
and I began to bawl.

I may not see or hear too well,
but I’d better not just fake it.
I need to still be honest,
and admit that I don’t get it.

Dear Joanna, Abby, and Danielle,
thank you for your gifts.
Your visit, your thoughts, your words,
have given me a lift.

Great-G-pa Don

Monday, March 23, 2009

Writers' Workshop: My 80th Birthday?

One way to improve your writing is by writing, so in my English Language Arts classes, we wrote. Back in April of '04, I had my classes do a quick write using a prompt from The Writer's Block: 786 Ideas to Jump-Start Your Imagination. The prompt was, What if someone gave me a _____ for my ____birthday.

I wrote along with my students and composed:

My 80th Birthday

I was 80 years old. What was my daughter thinking when she gave me a new volleyball?

I guess I should backup to the beginning. It started when Joanna brought Abby to visit me in the hospital: the convalescent hospital. I’m not sick mind you. I’m just old and my body is failing. I’m too much work to have in one of my kid’s houses, and I don’t mind. It’s part of getting old.

But anyway, my 80th birthday came. It was kind of a milestone since both my dad and granddad never made 70 years. All the kids came, and the grand kids. I got some presents: socks, a clock radio with huge numbers, a head set for my TV, so I can turn it up real loud, and a volleyball. A volleyball! What’s an 80-year-old going to do with a volleyball in a convalescent hospital?

“Mr. Evans? Are you awake?”

It was the nurse.

“Mr. Evans, it’s time for your meds. Wake up!”

“Oh Lorraine, I’m awake,” I protested. “I’m was just resting my eyes a bit. Not sleeping. Just resting my tired eyes.”

“Okay Mr. Evans. Whatever you say.”

“Lorraine, can I ask you a question?”

“Sure Mr. E. Shoot. What’s your question?”

“I can’t figure out why my 56-year-old daughter would give me a volleyball for my birthday. I’m way too old to play.”

“You mean this volleyball?” said Nurse Lorraine as she poured out some water to go with the pills.

“Yes, that’s the one.”

“Well, it’s not even quite new, you know. And it’s got writing on it.”

“What? Writing? What’s it say? Man, these 80-year-old eyes are getting tired. I didn’t know there was writing. What’s it say?”

“Game ball 11/07/33. To Danielle McGowan – MVP.”

“Danielle? Well, that’s my great grand daughter. She’s only 10.”

“Well there’s a card here too, Mr. E. with a volleyball on it. Maybe it goes with the ball?”

“What does it say, Lorraine? I couldn’t read it. I just looked at it and smiled when Joanna and Abby gave me the ball. My eyes are getting bad, you know.”

It says, “Dear Great-grandpa, I couldn’t come to your birthday party today, because I’m in an All-Star volleyball game. I’m only 10, and I’m the youngest on the team. We’re in the finals this weekend. Last weekend I was voted MVP of the game. I wanted you to have the ball since you got this family playing volleyball back when you were young. When you see the ball, think of me, and know that me, mom, and grandma all love you and appreciate all you’ve given us, including a love for volleyball. All my love, Danielle.”

“Well, Mr. E. I guess that explains it.”

I thought to myself, Well, I guess it does, but I couldn’t say anything ‘cause tears were running down my cheeks, and I was softly sobbing.

It started out as a very disappointing gift, but once I understood, I learned that I was still loved and appreciated, even if I was 80 and falling apart.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Writers' Workshop: Gepeto is Found!

Another piece of writing from my junior high teaching days (May '04) as I practiced the craft of writing alongside my students:

Gepeto is Found

"Here kitty, kitty, kitty. Here kitty, kitty, kitty." Anne's anguished cry beamed out into the falling darkness like a fog horn trying to warn ships in a dense fog. She was trying to bring her cat Gepeto back inside. Gepeto was lost.

Gepeto was a black cat, kind of skinny, with a smallish head. Gepeto was an inside cat and Anne was worried. It all started when her son Joseph had left the door open too long this morning as he was leaving for school. Gepeto was in a playful mood and was running around the house. The door was open, and out he ran.

Gepeto was a well-loved cat. Anne had gotten Gepeto four years ago when a friend had moved away. Gepeto was going to the pound until Anne stepped in with an offer of asylum. Gepeto got a new home and a new love: Anne.

Anne was a cat lover. She had had five cats of her own when she had left Maine to move to California. The Gepeto Project was one of her ways of showing gratitude for those people in Maine who had adopted her cats. Anne was worried for Gepeto. And rightfully so.

Three days passed before they found the body.

Joseph was raking leaves in the back yard when he discovered Gepeto's stiff body under a bush. It looked like a car had hit Gepeto; not enough to kill him outright, but enough to end his new life in Anne's home.

Joeseph knew that Anne would be heart-broken at the news, but he knew what he had to do. He left Gepeto under the bush for now and walked slowly to the house to give Anne the bad news.

* * * * *

Since this is Sunday morning... I'll give a ray of hope that the story doesn't have... A line from a song: "Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal."

I see in my own writings echoes of the melodramatic bent of my youngest daughter. What goes around comes around. ;-)