Thursday, March 31, 2011

Is it really so Hard?

Today as I leafed through the daily newspaper and glanced over the eye grabbing headlines I was just about ready to toss the whole thing into the recycle bin (The bathroom trash can) when an article about our current President's desire to cut our dependence on foreign oil by one third by the year 2025. The article spoke of his desire and how that this was one of his stated goals less than 3 months ago when he spoke in his State of the Union address. The article continued to explain that the President did not offer any plan as to how we could do this but did make the excuse that the current events in the world had taken our government's attention since the day of his speech. In the media's view it is obvious that the events of the world have out weighed the importance of our domestic recovery and that it was only natural for it to take a back burner. After all our government can only do so much!

As I read this I wondered to myself what has changed? Do we not live in the day of greatest advantages ever? Do we not have the most educated population that America has ever seen? You see I ask this because it does not appear that we, as a country are able to solve our own problems! I say this as a teacher of 5th grade students who are studying the Civil War, Slavery, and the many other events that filled this portion of America's timeline.

Let us look at the year 1862. Abraham Lincoln has been President for 1 year, the Civil War has just begun, and our government has authorized the greatest national project ever undertaken...The Transcontinental Railroad! This project was the answer to 370 years of exploration for the fabled Northwest Passage and with it's completion the United States would be connected from sea to shining sea. So I ask you how was it possible for the government of 1861 who was engaged in the worst conflict this country had ever seen to under take such a monumental task? They turned it over to private industry and allowed them to do what they do best.

You may look at this and say what does this have to do with where we are today? Let me answer you by saying that our government of 1861 offered some great incentives to the companies who were willing to undertake such a task. They gave them land and money! Each company received 6,400 acres of land and $48,000 in government bonds for each mile of track they laid. Simply put they were rewarded for success. If they failed they got nothing. Progress was rewarded not failure.

So in the end the government of the 1860's saw our country through a Civil War and also oversaw the greatest project ever under taken to date. Both changed our country forever. Our leaders, both elected and those in the business world could learn a lot from the past!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

with no thought in my head

I find that it is always easy to write when I have a clear thought or focus but what I do not like is those moments in life when I am feeling uninspired and lacking creativity. It is my believe that if we make ourselves reflect on these moments of emptiness that we often can walk away feeling renewed and inspired.
 As a teacher I find this to be very important. Everyday has to be new. It has to be charged with creativity and energy. I am the tool of change that my students are depending on to make a difference...a positive difference in their lives. This change can not must happen now......and it must happen does not matter if I am tired, cranky, sick, or longing for spring kids need change. They need energy. They need me to bring the best I have to offer everyday.
 Therefore, I often have to look deep inside myself and find that place where all things creative come from and tap an energy that allows me to work beyond my self imposed limits. I refer to this as putting on a mask or a hat. Much like an actor who leaves themselves behind as they take on a roll. Most rolls we have in our life are bigger than ourselves...teacher, father, husband, friend, son, brother....each roll is the roll of a life time! When combined they are the things legends are made can anyone live up to such a roll. The answer is that we must forget ourselves and think of our audience...put their needs above ours. When we are able to do this then we are able to inspire and lead! It requires a lot of energy and a commitment  to our cause.

So as I begin to feel a little more inspired I will leave each of you with one more thought....when you settle to just do the bare minimum who suffers?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

In a Quiet Moment

Once, long before children and before I became a teacher, I used to have days filled with quiet. I remember that in those days it seemed that it was my soul goal to find ways to fill that quietness with motion and noise. I never took advantage of the time and just sat back and reflected on the day by kicking up my feet with a good book while listening to the wind rustle through the trees. Now it seems as though I long for the days of peace and quiet.
But there no longer are days but only moments. Often we do not even notice them because they are surrounded by turmoil and upheaval. each fleeting moment of peace seems to be lost because we no longer live for the moment but rather have already moved beyond that moment and the next and even the next. With many of us so easily wishing away a day, week, or month by our simple desire to reach a time of quiet and peace.
If there is one thing I have is this...that tomorrow holds no more peace for us than today. That our only hope of peace lies with in ourselves. We have the power to find the peace we need as walk from moment to moment, as we take a breathe of air before we start our next task, or those rare moments when we actually find ourself alone because everyone else's schedule coordinated into a whirl wind that some how left us behind. What ever the moment...take a second and pause, reflect, enjoy, refrain from feeling guilty or driven to do something with our moment ....just be at peace!

Monday, March 21, 2011

When no one hears you

Have you ever had the feeling that no one is listening? Or maybe that you are being ignored? It is an interesting observation that many people are very in your face and demanding when they need you to do something for them but when the table is turned and you are the one seeking help...where have all the people gone?

This is one of the most frustrating things that I faced as an adult. I have never understood how someone can tell you what a great idea something is and then start making excuses as to why they are unable to help fulfill the idea. Do they really think we are idiots? Come on and step up to the plate and tell us the truth..."I do not care one bit about what you are doing so please quit wasting my time!" at least that would save me the work of trying to schedule around your schedule so that you could be part of my big idea that you say you support and would love to be part of if you could just make it work out.
Do you remember the story of the little red hen who wanted to make the bread but no one would help her? They all were to busy and had many excuses to not help but once the bread was out of the oven they had no problem lining up and asking for some. Of course the little red hen was much more altruistic than I. She allowed them all to have some. Me? I think I am of the mind set that I would have to tell them to go pick there own grain and make their own bread as I sat in front of them eating my loaf of bread!
Some would say that this is not a very Christian attitude to which I say you are correct. However, I also read where God does not like the Haughty or the slothful. So if you are to good to help or to lazy to help please do not whine when you do not get invited to enjoy the fruits of others labors. As for me...I am sure that by the time my bread is out of the oven and cool enough to eat I will have decide to call everyone around and invited them to share in the bounty of my labors.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

On the First Day of Spring

Today we mark the first day of Spring on our calendar and sigh with relief as we see the Daffodils and the Forsythia burst forth from their wintery sleep. Our moods take on the same kind of change as the sun warms our face we cannot help but to smile and treat others a little nicer...a little warmer. But before I spring forward I wish to reflect back on the winter that has passed.
It seems that this winter was filled with many days of coldness and rain that soaked us to the bone. Their were days when the wind seemed to find its way through ever part of our being. And when we felt we could stand no more the sun would vanish for weeks at a time. It was as if our very existence was being put into question or at least our survival.
This type of winter produces to groups of people...the lonely...those who are not able to get out and visit and therefore must spend days on end in their house alone...and those the wished they were know the one who is stuck in their house with the whole family and no way out. Cabin fever, stir crazy, loony, psycho, at the end of our rope...what ever the term I was there! But, since I was in no mood to re-enact the movie Psycho or The Shining...I had to get a grip and channel that energy some way some how.
Now I know many of you go to the gym or work out on a tread mill or some other altruistic way of releasing your negative chi for something I am one has ever chased me on the tread mill so why run? And the whole gym thing seems like a big scam to take my money and sit back and laugh as they watch me have a heart attack. So instead I worked on what would make me happy. Some days that  meant that I stopped and took a nice long nap, other days it meant that I took on some project around the house, or I even broke down and played with my kids. In the end I found that on the days when I pushed through and did something extra I felt great and on the days that I took a nap because I was tired and unwilling to put up with anything so I went and took a nap I also felt great! So in the end...Winter came and went no matter what I did about it at it own sweet pace. My reason for rehashing this is that Spring has come and will soon be gone no matter what we plan accordingly, cease the day when it is appropriate and by all means nap often so that you can enjoy all that spring has brought you!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Finding Room to Grow

  It is not easy to be human and to have our short comings or weaknesses laid out for us. When this happens it is with in our nature to protect ourselves and to blame the others or to make excuse or to deny what is true. Whether it is a friend, spouse, family member, boss, or our preacher that hands us our hat it all comes down to one question....are we willing to grow? The answer is not easy. To say we need to grow often implies that what we have been doing is wrong and that we have been failing at whatever role it is that we are being judged at. But in reality it means that we have reached a place and a level of success in what we are all ready are doing and that we are ready to achieve more. If we choose not to grow than we face the chance of becoming stagnant in what we are doing. It takes courage to grow. We must start by admitting that we must learn more, rely on others to help us, and that we may fail along the way. If we do not face these type of struggles than we are not growing. Growth changes us. Growth takes energy. Growth makes us better. The opposite of growth is decay. For those who refuse to grow the will face decay...they will loose the edge they once had, they will become smaller and weaker, they will be left behind. A friend of mine wrote that it is not only the children who grow but also the parents. How true that is. We must all continue to change, grow, and adapt to what is going on around us. This does not mean we must waiver on our believes or our principles but rather take those principles to a higher level and learn how they will drive us as we change. I look forward to growing! It means I am a living, thriving creature who is full of life! I will grow!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Power of One Good Teacher

In today's world of high stake testing and teacher accountability we are led to believe that it takes a village to raise a child and that if the child turns out bad then the village must be burnt to the ground and all of it's inhabitants ritualistically sacrificed to the education gods in order to correct the great mishap. But what about those of us who remember what it was actually like to be a student?
I was not a fan of school! Let me say it a different way...I greatly disliked school! It was not because I did not have friends, a sense of belonging, or bad teachers because none of that was true. As a matter of fact I had great friends (many of who I am still in contact with today), was very active in sports, and had teachers that went above and beyond everyday! But in the end I did not like it, neither here nor there...I did not like it anywhere! I guess it was like sending me to the ballet everyday. It did not matter what they did or which story they told it was still the ballet and I still did not like it!
Was this the fault of the school system? Was it the fault of my teachers? Maybe it was the fault of my family! Or perhaps it was who I was! I specifically can remember many of the things that my teachers did along the way to make learning fun...I had teachers who buried artifacts in the yard of the school that we later had to go and discovery, map, and make a hypothesis about the culture we were uncovering. I went to a school that had an outdoor science lab that students used to explore all aspects of life science. I had computer and math teachers who wrapped their teaching around real life. All of my teachers were student centered and at the cutting edge of their field. Despite all of this I did not like school!
Needless to say that the further I went through school the worst my grades became. I tried to play sick as often as I could. By the time I was a sophomore I had become a C/D student and had no desire to even try. I hated school! But then something happened!
In my junior year I took a life science class with a teacher who made a connection with me in a way that no other teacher had before him or since. He did not work with me personally and he actually may have a difficult time remembering me as one of his students. What he did was he spoke in a way that helped me understand how to be a successful student. It was not the content but the delivery that made the difference! Quite simply he was the first teacher that taught me about me and what I needed to do to be successful. He moved the ball into my court and the rest was up to me! In one grading period I went from a C/D student to a straight A student! All because of one teacher....
SO in the end I guess I want to say that many of our students do not like school and yet we expect them to act like it is the best thing in the world...we need to understand that school is not every ones favorite place! Second, very few people who are teachers are doing it for selfish reasons and that they are actually very talented people who have been asked to deliver the highest quality of education ever expected in the history of our country with the largest lack of resources ever facing our education system. And finally, many students are just waiting for that one teacher to make that connection.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Placebo Effect

Today I sat wondering how do any of us know if we are truly happy? Oh I are going to start telling me about how great everything is going and remind me of all the blessings but before you do let me thought came from thinking about medicines and wondering about those people who are in these studies and are given the placebo instead of the real deal. Some of those people feel better and are even cured by the placebo and go away sure that their life is better because of the medicine the are taking. But are they? If they truly have only taken a placebo than their illness is no better they only believe it is...and if they were later told that the medicine they were taking was only a placebo than would they start to regress and want for the real thing?

Maybe now you see where I am going with this...if not just ha g on because we are almost see many of us say we are happy and we act happy and we act as though our lives are perfect. But what if they are not? What if the life you are living is a placebo? Would you want to know that their was a better life waiting for you? Would you walk away from your placebo to get the real deal?

Unfortunately, I believe that most of our society is doing this today. They look at their happy life and begin to wonder if there is not more. Soon they stop wondering and start looking and actIng. Unfortunately, these people usually find out that they had the good stuff to begin with and find themselves on the outside looking in.

As for me I just have to look at my wife, my son, and two daughters and I know that I have the real thing!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Monster Storm!

Now let me start by saying that I hope everyone in the path of this storm has a warm place to stay and that everyone stays safe. I in no way am making light of your situation! With that said I will begin my rant!

I will start with our weather forecasters who have been warning us of the impending doom. I believe that almost a week ago we were told to be prepared for a storm that will dump 6 + inches on the Louisville area. As the week went on they started to back peddle and create room for error by talking about the shifting jet stream, the fact that most of the snow falling from the clouds melts before hitting the ground and on and on it went. Finally 2 days ago they started to call this a rain event but spent most of the weather time talking about the non-viewing area that was "just an hour north of us" and how they would be getting the snow and ice...we apparently were to far south and our snow and ice was melting before hitting the ground. I believe they really felt that by covering central Indiana we would feel that it was a very near miss.

Well let me tell you a thing or 2! First when snow and or ice turns to liquid before hitting the ground we call it rain! Not snow...not ice...but rain! Second...stop spending the entire news time covering the weather for areas that cannot even see your broadcast! I am sure that if you try you could find a snow storm of the century some where on the planet everday if you wanted to....please show me what is going on in my town! Finally, stop threatening us with weather events that you have no true idea of what is going to happen! I am ready to find me a weather bug like Granny on Beverly Hillbillies used!

With my rant ended I now wish everyone a safe night!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

In response to Egypt

What can one say? As we turn on the evening news and see the world in Egypt turned upside down. As a teacher of American history I cannot help but to think back to our own time of political upheaval that led to the American revolution or the anti slavery movement that freed a people or the anti prohibition movements that over turned a constitutional amendment or the activist movements of all the brave women who earned their right to vote or the civil rights movements that brought about equal rights for all Americans. Each of these started as a group of citizens who loved their country enough that they wanted better for it and understood that it could be better.

These movements did not kill our nation but instead breathed live in to her and caused us to strive to be something more than we were. This is my hope for Egypt. As they begin their path of change may it be change for the better and change for the good of all and not just a few. In the land where some of the oldest and greatest forms of civilization have existed and have inspired mankind for thousands of years may their actions in the coming days, weeks and months once again serve to inspire the world as to the power that mankind has when it strives to work together to create a better way.

So as we head to bed here in America let us remember the struggle of those in Egypt as they strive for freedom!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Upon Turning 45

45 ....this was once an age that I considered to be old and I am not even sure that I ever thought about what life would be like at this age. I have said before that from a meta cognitive point I have often thought about my own dad while I have been making my way as a father because Jacob and I are the same age apart as my father and I and I am also almost the same age my father was when I was Jacob's age! This has provided many interesting moments for self examination. But we will safe those for another day.

Today I am more interested in turning 45. Turning 45 means that I have been alive in the 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's, 00's, and 10's. I have also lived in two centuries and 2 millenniums. I have also been alive for 16.436 days. I have seen our space program put a man on the moon, build the sky lab, fly many space shuttle missions, and build the international space station. I have lived through Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Clinton Bush and Obama as president. I have seen the transformation of technology from computers that took up entire rooms to the Ipod and Ipad....from the party line telephone to a telephone clipped to your ear.....I have seen gas prices go from 32 cents a gallon to $4.40 a gallon. And I have lived to see the days in which evil has come to be called good and good...evil.

But in the end it has been a great ride and the biggest changes have been made with in myself. If you have been a part of this journey than I owe you a thank you for touching my life. By doing so you have helped me to grow and change and have helped me become who I am today.

With that I will say happy belated birthday to me for this is one day late....and an early happy birthday to my son who turns 16 tomorrow! May your journey be as wonderful as mine has been so far!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Rolling Ball

Have you ever been sitting in a science class where your teacher is explaining the forces of motion by drawing a picture of a large ball sitting at the top of a hill? If so then you know that that ball has POTENTIAL ENERGY and that when an outside force that is greater than or equal to the mass of the ball acts upon the ball that the POTENTIAL ENERGY will transform into KINETIC ENERGY because the ball is now in motion. As the ball continues to roll down the hill we learn that there are outside forces working against the ball's state of motion like GRAVITY and FRICTION and that no matter the amount of POTENTIAL ENERGY that this ball once had these outside forces will eventually rob the ball of all of its KINETIC ENERGY and the ball will once again return to a state of rest. And such is the state of motion.

We of course are not unlike the ball. Each of us is filled with a certain amount of POTENTIAL ENERGY that just needs the right amount of encouragement or persuasion to get us out of our state of rest and into motion. The interesting thing is that it does not matter how much POTENTIAL ENERGY an object has if it is never put into motion. This is also true of each of us. After all, it is not the state of rest that matters but the journey we take while we are in motion that really counts!

For it is in or journey that we live and experience life and change those things we come in contact with. Sure there will always be those who try and get you down (GRAVITY) or who work to stop you (FRICTION) but they can not do so without you entering into the state of motion. And while we are in that state of motion we can make a difference. And always remember, that GRAVITY and FRICTION have not stoped you, they have simply returned you to a state of potential just need another little push to get going again!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bird Feeders: An allegory for Society

As I stand with my back door wide open filling my bird feeders one at a time and refilling the bird bath, I am struck by the image of all the birds fleeing for safety as I opened the door. You would think that after some 5 years of providing feed for my feathered friends that we would have a more trusting relationship. After all, I am the one sacrificing my hard earned money to provide them with a source of food and unfrozen water. But in the end, they are only here to take my food and drink my water with no intent on friending me.

Now do not get me wrong, I do enjoy seeing all of my feathered visitors filling my feeders every day. It is a wondrous sight to behold. And over the years, I have gotten to see some birds that I am sure that I would have never seen with out the feeders. But still, in the end I am no more than a free meal.

As I thought on this, while filling the feeders, it reminded me of people and the issues we have in our society today. With our down turn in the economy and the slow recover their are many people who have been forced to depend on others for assistance whether it be the government or family or a neighbor. For those parties who have the ability to help it feels good to see others be blessed by what we have and we hope that some how these people will be blessed. When these people become frequent visitors it is easy to believe that they have also become our friends. (and this does not just pertain to the needy but to customers, students, parents, patients, doctors, or any other place where we can become regulars!) But in the end we are all just like the birds at my feeders. Once we get what we need we fly off to be with our own family and our own friends. As the old proverb from the 16th century taught us "Birds of a feather , flock together."

So in the end if just because you request the same waiter, always use the same hair stylist, have had the same doctor for years, or have helped the family down the street through a hard time do not expect them to leave their flock to join yours. After all, would you leave yours so easily?

In the end I will have to be content with the fact that my feathered friends are fat and happy on this cold winter day!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Giant Squid

I remember the first time I read 20,000 Leagues under the sea. The only reason I picked the book was because of the giant squid on the front of the book! I wanted to read about the battle with this horrible monster that was attacking Captain Nemo  and his crew. But, as I read the book I began to understand a certain discord ran through the story. I became less sure if the Squid was really a monster and more uncertain about who the real villain was in the story.

I have come to realize that the battles in life are more about figuring out who is really good and who is really a monster. Often the giant squid is just a side attraction in the battles of life and if we get distracted by the battle with the squid then the world sneaks up and takes us by surprise.

In the end it is best to keep our eyes focused on the prize and let the world fight with itself!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Trouble in the Air

The Fluff in the Tuft spoke with a huff..."How queer to hear the sound of fear coming through the air!" For the Fluff could fell a strange tickling in its ear that was coming from some where near.
In the thrush just past the brush there came a sudden hush.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Teenage years

You are warned about the terrible twos but does anyone really tell you what it is like to be the father of a teenager? I have heard from many the words "Just wait!" but what does that mean? As the father of a 16 year old and a 13 year old I am sitting here and wonder what it is I am supposed to be waiting the end I guess I can make a list:
I now have to wait for the shower
I wait to use the bathroom
I wait for the over flowing trash to be taken out
I wait for a new trash bag to be put in the can
I wait to use my house phone
I wait to use my computer
I wait for them to come to the car after school
I wait for them to make 4 trips back into their friends house to get all their stuff
I wait for them to come to the dinner table so I can eat
I wait for them to show me the papers I have to sign yesterday!
I wait for them to pick up their rooms
I wait for them to call and tell me when and where they need picked up
I sit here typing waiting to find out if their plans will out weigh my plans
I wait for my turn to pick a show to watch
I wait at an inconspicuous spot for them after a movie so I do not cramp their style
And I wait, and wait and wait.....I am not sure that this is what my friends meant but it is what I do. I sit back and wait and watch as my children find their place in the world. It is not easy and I do not always wait quietly but I can tell you that so far it has been worth the wait!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Road

The Road is an analogy for the travel we are each on every moment of our life. Some times these are well trodden and well marked paths and t is easy to see our way. Other times the roads are less traveled and oft hard to see. But the most interesting times are those where we find ourselves in a place where there are no roads and we must make our own way and trust in our own navigation. These are the times that are filled with fear and excitement. The challenges of the unknown.

It is my intent to record the road on which I travel. Not the everyday walk but instead those times when I find myself in the uncharted waters of life. Hopefully I will learn as I reflect on the coarse that I have taken.