Tasting Room Closing 11-16-13 h

Last night (November 16, 2013) one of my favorite hangouts closed. I suppose it is weird that my first post in over a year is about a wine lounge but the closing got me thinking about the places we go in our daily lives and who we let in our interpersonal circles when we spend time there. Each year, each month, each week, each day, every hour somewhere we all do our favorite jaunts to our “spots” (or whatever we call them) to close out a period of time of our lives. Each place has a particular meaning to us and why we spend so much time there but we do “just because” and while some of our friends or acquaintances don’t understand, we continue to go to places where we feel normal.

I like wine. Period. No doubt about it.

Everyone who knows me knows that. When I go to a place to have wine, I hope they have more
than just three choices (red, white, rose…blah!) and that there is a selection of the local fare of several countries that I have grown fond of over the years. However this post is less about that and more about the experience. Over the years I have met many people who were also “regulars” from many walks of life who enjoyed wine as much as I did. We talked, we laughed, we shared stories, we sometimes vented. We were from different professions, different walks of life, but bonded nonetheless.

Now many times each week, as we frequented our place, a strange thing happened. We realized that we kept coming because we expected to see each other rather than just to enjoy wine. Enjoying each other’s company became the light of the moment rather than trying something new. The place we had grown to love had become a respite from our busy weeks, a pause from the hustle and bustle of our daily professions. No matter how many stories we told each other, secretly envying each others jobs and lives, the brief and consistent times we spent together made it all worth while.

We all have those places.

Each one of us has one, or several, that throughout our crazy weeks we look forward to going to those places that remind us that life is normal again. For instance, this closing made me think of other places I went to that I took for granted that will always be there that closed. My cleaners for instance. 17 years I went there. Went there so much they practically watched me grow up. When I walked in, I didn’t even have to fill out a ticket for my cleaning. They just said “Hi Marc!” and took my clothes and sent me on my way. The trust had been established over the years that my items would be handled with the care as if I had cleaned them myself.

Then one day “Chuck,” decided he had enough.

To say I was devastated would be an understatement.

After the initial shock wore off (seemed like an eternity) my second thought (after the sadness of knowing I wouldn’t see Chuck again) was: ” Where the *&^%% will I find someone to clean my clothes now!”

I must have said that out loud because Chuck howled in laughter.

Anyway, fast forward to November 15th and after a long day at work I went to “the spot.” The look of shock on their faces threw me for a loop.

“I’m so glad you came!” They said. When I asked why, they said they were closing.

After I picked my mouth up off the floor I struggled to find the word………….”Why?”

They told me and for the rest of the night, I was in another world. Reminiscing over the last 10 years, when it started, the ups, the downs the good times, the not so good times. They invited me to come down for the final evening and said all the “regulars” will be there and I said I would try.

While I was sitting at home the next night they called me and told me to get down there. The owner was there, greeting those she had known over the years, and I wondered how I had not met her in the years I had been going there. Funny thing is that she was wondering the same thing out loud, though she recognized my face.

The “regulars” showed up, one by one. We hugged, we laughed, and we shared stories from the years. We teased the executive chef over some of his “interesting” creations that we had the pleasure of trying (sorry Mark…I had to go there LOL).

We even fought back tears.

At the end of the evening we all said that we would keep in touch and try to find another place to go. I do hope we do but knowing what happened to The Friday Club when they broke up the wish seems hollow. The Friday Club was together for 8 years before our spot closed down. We still hang out, go to dinner or sometimes the Cubs games, but it just isn’t the same. We watched each other grow in our lives and jobs, graduate from medical school (Go Frank!), support each other through prosperity and through unemployment, and celebrate birthdays and holidays together.

We loved the camaraderie that formed from the karma of good people getting together in one place simply to have a good time.

Then one day it ended…

…and we are still looking for a new place.

In the end of the current run of me frequenting this great wine lounge, I can say that I have met some really good people and had some really good times. I even got a souvenir during the final night, a signed wine menu. It was a cool gift, but I realized that really I got something more valuable than that, more valuable than the great tasting wine I have tried over the years. I had established friendships that have lasted over time and hopefully will continue.

I realized that these are people who I have come to love and enjoy seeing. That we go to these places, see the same people, and know that in our busy lives the things we look forward to seeing will still be there.

Until they are gone.

Now that doesn’t mean that is bad, it just means that the moment has run its course and we should feel fortunate to have experienced it, if only for a brief time.

I could go on but I will close by saying some circles just can’t be replicated and that is probably a good thing because if everything was the same then nothing would be special (100 points to the person who can name the movie reference that came from…if you still don’t know, here is the hint).

So I will cherish the memories of my little place. On that night, we raised one last glass and said one last goodbye. We shared hugs and reminisced over all we have seen and talked about. To the owner, all the managers, servers, and of course the “regulars” I want to say “Thank You!” for an amazing 9+ years. You all will be missed but certainly not forgotten. I hope our talks, stories, hugs, laughter, and friendships continue in the next chapter of our lives in our new place wherever that may be.

I love you all.

Here’s to you.

Tasting Room Photo 3

 

The story that just had to be told

So the last time I wrote about this topic I talked about the rare moments in an educator’s career that keep us coming back to work each year.

To refresh your memory, I referred to those rare moments where through all the struggles, hardships, joys, and pains make it all worthwhile.

The precise moment in a student’s life where the light of learning “turned on?” and whether or not you (or I in my case) would notice it if you were there.

The last time I talked about this here on this page I talked about the most recent time I had that experience and one I would remember and cherish for the rest of my life.

Well, I am proud and humbled to say that last year I had two of these experiences….. in the same school year.

Allow me to tell the story.

Remember (refreshing your memory) that “due to factors out of my control, and above my pay grade, I had to teach classes as well as complete my administrative duties each day.” Last year, I taught in a primary special education classroom, but the bulk of my experience is in high school classrooms.

Look at the picture to your right.

Say hello to Dewan Smith.

Yes that’s right, that’s his actual name. More on that (as to why you see his actual picture and know his real name) later. Beautiful boy isn’t he? I get goose-bumps at his smile when I saw it every day.

Dewan came to my class with a slight autistic disability, but with significant learning disabilities. He, as a few of the other students, was also an emerging reader, knew almost no sight words, and couldn’t write anything other than tracing letters and copying words given to him. He could not add or subtract even the simplest of problems and had a non-existent number recognition skill. He literally could not do much of anything.

And he was in the second grade.

Just as with the other student, Marc, I began to teach him and really work through his struggles though in this case and unlike the other student, Dewan was extremely apprehensive in trying to do anything independently. He was so used to “looking cute” and having things done for him and having the answers given to him that when it came time to “stretch his academic limits” he fought back tooth and nail.

And OH BOY, did we fight, argue, yell, scream, push and push back with the learning.

He wanted to be the baby boy and not do his work, I wanted him to be the young smart man I knew he could be and do his work well.

I would try to teach him his sight words and teach him to read books at the kindergarten level to begin with and he was having none of that. He wouldn’t even try to read. Even his classmates begged him to try.

I told him “I don’t care what you say, just try to read. You won’t grow as a reader, or as the good student I know you can be if you never try!”

His strength was in auditory comprehension. He could tell you things about what he had heard but in no way could he express himself in written form. I often told him “I know you can get this because you can tell me about it with no problem long after I tell you about it.” Dewan would just smile and give his usual cute little laugh, but still would barely try to do any work unless he could get someone to do it for him.

My aide and I used to both push him and tell him to try on his own and that we were not going to do his work for him. He would cry, pout, fall out on the floor, and throw a tantrum but we never backed down because we both knew that when he learned to work independently, he would grow by leaps and bounds.

Day after day, month after month this went on. I would see little spurts of success here and there, and when I complimented him, he would revert back to his former self in the shell with the baby smile that just melts your heart.

Pure manipulation. Though frustrating at times it was very cute to see.

And I couldn’t get enough of it but I would never let him know that.

We had a phone in the class and I would have to call his mother often to the point where she just began to pop up at will. She frequently told me “something told me inside to come to the school because your son (that’s what she called Dewan) wasn’t acting right.

His mother (who has since become a good friend) was in and out of my class daily. Part parent, part classroom volunteer, part enforcer to her son, we worked hard to push Dewan and bring out the intelligent young man that was trapped inside him.

Even though I pushed him hard with his work, Dewan was always extremely pleasant to me and all his peers. He spoke to me every morning with the most adorable smile and heartfelt greeting with a sunny grin and hug to match. He also would ask what I was going to teach him each day and begged for me to give him work to take home, however I didn’t do that because I knew his family was doing his work for him. I spoke to his mother about that and she said in the shyest voice, “I know I baby him, he is my only son. I know I tend to do it for him but I just want him to do well.” I had to tell her constantly that doing the work for him was holding him back and unless she lets him try (and sometimes fail) he won’t grow because he will always wait for someone to do things for him. She thanked me and said she would work on that, which she did.

Every day I would pull some of the older students in the class for a reading group. I had Dewan sit with the group, with a copy of the story and listen but not ask him to read it because it was above his reading level. Though he was slowly learning new words and how to recognize them, he still could not fluently read even short pieces of text. Soon, his classmates began to ask Dewan to read sentences of the stories and even help him with pronouncing the words. Dewan would try, many times making mistakes, but making progress nonetheless. Through working with me and with his classmates, Dewan began to develop more confidence and started volunteering to try to read parts of the stories in the reading groups. He even began to decode unfamiliar words using strategies he learned in class. This made his classmates proud and they gave him encouragement each day which also gave Dewan much joy.

It was a pleasure to see.

Over time, Dewan started trying to read books, mostly at the kindergarten and first grade level, and with his mother in class on some days, he took pleasure in demonstrating how his reading was improving to her by reading aloud. She asked me to send more stories home and when I did, he would come to school the following day beaming over how much he read the night before. He even demanded to show me that he was not only learning how to read, but that he was understanding what he read by telling me summaries about the stories given to him.

One day during the final month of the school year, Dewan and I were reading a short story, one he had not seen and heard before. Dewan read some paragraphs, and I read others. Just like before with Marc, my attention became distracted and I looked away but what pulled me back to pay attention to Dewan was that I noticed that he just kept reading the story himself with no difficulty on his own. He looked at me, eyes beaming with that smile that melts the heart and said: “I’m reading all by myself!”

Once again, right at that precise moment I could see that the learning light within him turned on.

The story was at the second grade level.

And I had to fight back the tears of joy that began to stream down my face.

The next day, Dewan’s mother came to the class (she had since began to volunteer in the class on a regular basis) and when she came in I asked her to sit down because I wanted Dewan to make me proud again by showing her what happened yesterday. I called Dewan over, and asked him to read the story he read the day before. One that he had never saw, and one I didn’t send home for him to read for homework with his mom.

Dewan began reading, and as each word exited his mouth, a tear formed in his mother’s eye until she was crying with utter joy. She looked at me, her face flush red, tears flowing down her face and said: “I have waited for this day for so long! I prayed every day and night for this day, where I would see and hear my son read!”

And we began to cry together.

Her dream of seeing her son read and learn had been realized.

She thanked me for all my hard work, though I really didn’t want the credit since Dewan was the one who put in all the effort to learn to read. I was just there for the ride….so to speak.

The next week our school had its award assembly. I lined up my class when it was my turn to present their awards and gave a brief description on what each student did to earn their award. When it was Dewan’s turn to receive his award, I called his mother to stand next to her son, and told the same story you just read today.

I was honored to present him with the award of “most improved reader” in my class. I also told the story to the audience of what we went through that school year.

As I told the story, I choked up again and cried with joy.

So did the parents in the audience.

So did the staff.

So did other students.

And so did his mom.

The look of pride on his mother’s face was priceless.

When I say there was not a dry eye in the room that is an understatement. Everyone cried tears of joy for someone who truly deserved it. The feeling and positive energy in the room was amazing and heartfelt.

It was a moment I will never forget.

As I have said before, we as educators often describe moments where our students are learning and what happens in that moment. But when we are there on the exact moment where the learning begins, it truly is a special experience. One I am humbled to have experienced twice last school year.

Dewan’s mother is a very spiritual person. Though I am not as much as her, I can say I have been blessed to have met her and to have been able to teach her child and be there when he was able to read at his grade level 10 months after he was not able to read at all. She tells me all the time that things happen for a purpose and though I say those moments are extremely rare, I know she would disagree with me and tell me that there is a plan and purpose for everything. I simply feel privileged that I was there to experience his “learning light” turning on and I will cherish that moment and respect that it was given to me.

You may be wondering how Dewan is doing currently.

He is in the third grade, reading material at the second grade level.

He is still the most beautiful, pleasant boy you will ever meet.

And I couldn’t be more proud.

This school year I don’t have a class to teach every day and I miss teaching him dearly. There is something about being there when a student is growing that just warms you up inside. It can bring an inner peace and an outward aura that shuts out all the issues that we as administrators (and educators) go through each the day.

There are days I where I just cant get enough of teaching kids.

Because above and beyond everything we deal with on a daily basis, what really matters are the students we are charged to educate every day!

So why did I use his real name and picture?

Because Dewan Smith deserves it.

And because Ms. Smith insisted that I tell this story.

“Everyone who has a child, especially those with autism, and has wanted to give up thinking that their child just won’t get it needs to hear this story” she told me.

“Just tell them that they shouldn’t give up. It may take a while, but their child will get it eventually, just like Dewan did.”

“Tell them because there are others struggling with the same issues and could really use the inspiration that Dewan’s story can bring to them.”

I have been going back and forth with that request for months on whether I think I should use his real name and picture, but I can’t escape the conclusion that she is right.

We only have few opportunities as educators or even as human beings to touch and inspire the lives of others. As Dewan’s teacher, more so than being the assistant principal, I know that what is truly important is that whether good or bad, day in and day out, everyone has a special gift and can learn more than they realize as long as they have someone who believes in them. In every moment where we are dealing with children, there are times we want to give up and quit. It is precisely during those times where (as Ms. Smith would tell me) life shows you that our efforts are very much worthwhile and that we all have a purpose in life.

As I said in the previous time I wrote about this topic about Marc and am referring to Dewan this time: I miss having him in class and sincerely hope I have the opportunity to teach him again. If not, I will cherish the moments I was with him and appreciate that I was able to experience twice in the same school year, the rare moment a young man began to realize he could learn.

Until that day, let me say “Good luck Dewan!” I look forward to watching you grow into the intelligent, successful young man I always knew you could be!

How I got started with my terrible addiction

Sorry I haven’t been around for a while. Been pretty busy lately but I do have some posts in the works. Couldn’t decide which one to post first so I decided to talk about my favorite aggravation (ahem, pass-time)…golf

Who/What got you interested in golf?

This question was posted in an online golf forum I participate in. Got me to thinking about how I came to be so attached to a sport other than the one I grew up with (tennis) and the one I thought I would make a career out of. So I decided to share what I posted there…here.

Well it all started with my college roommate and best friend. We used to buy each other a gift on each others birthday and the gift would be something that would try to “one-up” the previous years gift AND the gift from the other person. Well at the start of the Tiger craze years ago he really got into golf but had never played. He got a starter set, and read magazines and went to the driving range and learned. He told me to learn it with him but I was really into tennis at the time, playing in two adult leagues and being a certified professional (Certified by the United States Professional Tennis Association! Boo-yow!).

I told him that even if I wanted to play (I didn’t), I couldn’t find a set of clubs because I am left handed and stores just don’t carry left hand sets in stock. He is also left handed but decided to learn right handed for whatever reason. He told me why, but I have long since forgotten.

Anyway, one day he calls me and says that he got my birthday gift and I need to go to his cousin’s house to pick it up. I was thinking “what could he have come up with this year?” but I went anyway. I get there and his cousin is laughing and hands me this HUGE box. Inside was a left hand starter set (Northwestern….remember those clubs?). All of a sudden, like planned perfect timing, he calls me and says: “Now you have no excuse to learn with me and play!” All I could do is laugh. Remember that commercial where the guy just goes around saying to his friends “I love you man!” when they do something good for him? Well, that’s what I was thinking at that moment.

He took me to the driving range, and I tried to hit the ball and was immediately hooked. One week later, reluctantly I went to the course with him, complaining all the way about how I will be embarrassed at how bad I will do. He says that everyone starts somewhere and that I shouldn’t worry about what people will think. I shoot 135 that day and the next day we go out to the same course and I shoot 125. The next day, I went looking for lessons. Thinking “this game is hard enough WITH the fundamentals, then it certainly will be no fun WITHOUT them!”

Long story short, 11 years later, I have quit tennis, have had 4 personal coaches, played in two national golf leagues, played in one world-wide amateur tournament (the World Amateur Handicap Tournament in Myrtle Beach), gone through 5 custom golf sets, spent close to 20K on golf (equipment, balls, trips, tournaments, etc.), and have played in more states than I can count. The only thing I haven’t done is played with the guy that got me started. He has since gotten married, had 4 kids, and has NO TIME to play. I playfully curse him when we talk for giving me this addiction and he just laughs. Maybe one day we will play again but he says I won’t enjoy it because he hasn’t picked up a club in years, and me…I can’t put them down.

In sickness and in health

I must admit I am not much of a religious person in the belief that the world will come to an end soon at the hands of some worldwide plague.

I do however know one thing. If the world were to come to an end from an apocalyptic plague, it won’t be in the form of some religious aftermath.

It will be from the millions of children who come to school, sent by their parents, carrying the plague themselves.

For the last 8 days I have been extremely sick. I still went to work and tried to make it through each day but I felt like I was going to pass out at any given moment. Somehow the combination cocktail of the Ebola virus and the plague the students brought to the school beat me down.

Do you know what happens in a school when an administrator or teacher is sick?

All fighting among students stops.

The students become loving and caring individuals toward each other.

Disciplinary referrals suddenly go to zero.

They sing in harmonious unison.

And the students turn their attention and torment toward the poor sick educator.

Do you know what it’s like getting ten million questions fired at you from multiple sources, at once while you are sick? They demand that you calculate Pi (to the last digit without a calculator) and prepare them for a debate with Mensa International all while demanding the answers for the meaning of life.

Torture.

And they love it.

I just hope I get better soon because experiencing that ring of torture (where happy children are dancing and singing in unison over my grave) would be the absolute worst way to die.

Catch me if you can

I will be turning 43 years old this year.

One more year gone and another year wiser.

Of the many duties we administrators are charged with, the one that probably takes up the majority of our time and energy is to maintain discipline among the student body and keep the climate of the school pleasant, inviting, and nurturing.

In all my years in education and on this earth, what never ceases to amaze me is how kids assume that adults never had a childhood and a wealth of experiences to draw upon.

They really do believe that every little prank or infraction they can muster is something they just invented at that moment or dreamed up the night before. They just refuse to believe that these same things that get them in trouble are things we did over 30 years ago, and sometimes did them better.

They also wonder why we catch them so quickly.

Take for example the elementary school student who cuts class. Now unlike high school, elementary school students tend to remain in one of three locations throughout the day: Class, lunch, and P.E. Any other times, before and after school on the playground, they are being watched and supervised by many eyes that catch the precise moment when they are about to spring their act on an unsuspecting victim.

When an elementary student is missing, they are usually found within minutes and when that happens, they look at the administrator as if to say “How did you know I was here?”

Sometimes I think they believe they are invisible.

These same students are the ones who run away when they get caught.

Where do they think they are going to go? Do they really believe we will never see them again?

I don’t even chase them anymore. I just show up at their “hiding spot” and watch them look perplexed from wondering how they were found so quickly.

Reminds me of the time I got caught cutting class…once. I really thought I was never going to get caught.

Which is why I was hiding in the bathroom across the hall from my class.

I also chose the perfect day to cut class.

The day I was caught, was the very day my dad was to be a guest speaker for the very same class I was cutting.

That was back in 1984.

Even though the kids don’t know it now, as the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. I don’t think the kids can come up with something I haven’t seen (or done) before years ago.

Like I said, we were doing this same stuff over 30 years ago.

Say What?

 

If you know what’s wrong with this picture…

thank a TEACHER!

Technology (and Teaching) versus Trees

There is a war going on.

It’s a war being waged on two fronts and has been the longest running war in my recent memory.

One that threatens to totally annihilate the other side and drive them to extinction.

What war might you ask?

The war between the increase of technology and those who are “tech savvy” and the “old schoolers” who tolerate technology and its uses but cling to their old ways with a death grip.

The “tech savvy” says that technology is an essential benefit that will only improve our lives and remove us from the days of being slaves to the mountains of paper record keeping.

The “old schoolers” say that there MUST ALWAYS be a paper record of everything because computers and technology breaks down and the only way paper can be eliminated from their lives is to pry it from their cold dead hands.

Who is winning this war? No one.

We are at a true deadlocked stalemate.

While the advent of computers and technology makes some of our more mundane tasks in education more “efficient” and “paperless,” the “old schoolers” find new ways of re-introducing their time-tested ways of record keeping that stem from the times when monks sat in caves scribing on stone tablets.

Take for example:

1. Computerized attendance recordkeeping. How many times do we as administrators tell the teachers “keep your attendance on the system” only to have them keep paper records of their daily attendance instead and claim when asked: “I can’t access the system and get into my account?”

2. Inter-school and Intra-school communications. Schools and districts send communications through email. What do the “old schoolers” do? Print them instead of reading them on the computer and never discard them. They just keep them around, “in case” they need a copy. Needless to say they never need a copy and at the end of the school year when they are cleaning out their classroom, they have a small mountain of paper to move.

3. This is my favorite: Special Education Individualized Education Plans. Have you seen a typical Special Education office within a school? It’s a fire hazard waiting to happen. Boxes or cabinets stuffed with envelopes, folders, and binders of records for each student with special needs. Some of those require entire drawers or shelves for a single student. Districts have databases of these documents yet we STILL keep entire ROOMS of paper backups of files. We enter this information into the system then PRINT the paperwork. I actually worked at one school where in a routine check, the Fire Marshall told us to move the office to another location in the school because the current location was a danger to spontaneously combust and burn the school down.

Simply put, I actually think that the more we increase technology, especially in the 21st Century which is supposed to DECREASE the amount of paper we use, the more we INCREASE the amount of paper we use. It’s almost obscene.

Isn’t this the decade where years ago predictions were abound that we would be a paperless society? That by the year 2000 hands and wrists would be singing for joy because writing would be a thing of the past? Where students would be dancing in the streets because they would no longer have bad backs from lugging 80 pounds of books to-and-fro each and every day?

Environmental groups sing in chorus lines protesting the amount of paper we consume on a daily basis.

Are there any trees left on the planet? I wonder because at a few schools I have worked, the budget amount for copy paper (and other forms of paper; construction paper, bulletin board paper, etc.) resembled the national debt.

So what do we do? How do we solve this war and end it? We: being the individuals on the front lines of this battle.

Who will win?

Educators and the education field are certainly not exclusive to this war. The fields of medicine and law (ever been in a law firm or in a district court office), and a few others can also claim sides to this battle.

Each has soldiers who are on the side of innovation and on the side of resistance.

One side embracing new technologies and shunning the use of paper, the other side fiercely entrenched in bunkers loaded with paper piling up to protect their ways.

These same “old school” soldiers complain and fight back against the “tech savvy” with the argument: “handwriting is going to the dogs, since the kids don’t write anymore!”

The “tech savvy” fire back, saying: “our students need to embrace and continue to become more technologically literate to compete in a global society!”

See how they, the “tech savvy” fight with the language of Education and send their lobs of artillery through computer networks toward the enemy front lines.

What do the “old schoolers” do? How do they fight back?

They print the emails, arrange them in chronological order, punch holes in them, collate them, categorize them, color code them (with more paper mind you), and put them into binders, and send them back to the “tech savvy” weighing them down with loads of “backups” hoping to defeat them.

Stalemate.

Finding Silence (and Solitude) in a Sea of Sound

“Find your Happy Place, Happy!” said Chubbs.

You know I had to get my first golf reference in sometime didn’t you?

There is a time each day where I reach the point of no return with external stimuli.

When so much noise, talk, emotions, and elements of the job reach the boiling point.

I was watching the news recently and a story came on which said that our brains need some downtime during the day for us to stay alert and effective. That our brains and bodies are not equipped to be “on” for long periods of time without stopping.

I certainly agree.

As any administrator knows, we are “on” 24/7 and are expected to keep going non-stop no matter what is thrown at us. However, try to take a moment to yourself and it is almost frowned upon. On the other hand, how about you just try to take a moment at all.

Good luck with that.

I get to work early just to be in my office and have some  “me” time. I almost have to sneak into my office because once people find out the time you as the administrator gets to the office, that’s the time they will be there to “discuss” something with you. If you come in earlier, and they find out, they will be there earlier. Parents. Teachers. Students. Etc.

Yes students (By the way, parents, don’t drop your child off at 6:45 a.m. thinking someone will be there to greet them and supervise them when the school opens at 8. We are a school, not a day care).

Sometimes I wish my brain came with an off switch. That way when I am in my “Happy Place” I won’t think of anything except what I want to. That is if I want to think of anything at all. Not the school, children, life, or whatever.

Nothing.

Silence is an unappreciated gift these days, one that students don’t appreciate either.

Why is it that when two students are talking, they are screaming at the top of their lungs even though they are right next to each other? Also, why do they seem to go crazy in a silent room? It’s like their brain suddenly goes haywire and forces them to make noise as if the silence is abnormal.

Teachers who are parents themselves also have my sympathy. How they get though the day with 24 hours of stimulus and sound is beyond me. One high school teacher I used to work with used to say the funniest thing about not being able to find his “Happy Place.” He used to say: “I teach first through eighth period each day and when I get home with the kids I have to work through periods ten through fourteen!”

So I try to find my “Happy Place” during the day to give my brain a rest. Sometimes it’s possible, many times it isn’t. Are we as workers, and not just in education, reaching the point where taking a break during the day is not possible? How many times have lunches become working lunches, if there is a lunch at all? And how many times are we expected to not take lunch, work straight through the day and somehow remain alert and effective?

I hear teachers say all the time: “Sometimes I don’t even have time to go to the bathroom!” I certainly sympathize though many people don’t. They really believe that people, and especially teachers should be able to go non-stop all day and not be worn out at the end. No matter what the students have done all day, no matter what was thrown at you all day, when they come to you at 6 p.m. (after the 100 people who came before them) they look at you and say “what’s wrong?” (and get irritated at the look you give them) not knowing or realizing that at the end of the day we just need some time, just a moment, for ourselves.

People seem to forget that educators are people too.

It is at those moments, many times where it seems like my office is the designated complaint center that I sometimes threaten (privately of course) to put a sign up in my office that reads: Your crisis is not my emergency!

I envy those people I know who can take a lunch or even a break and find their “Happy Place.” I used to know of a teacher whose school was three blocks from a golf driving range and he spent his lunch break there, hitting balls, enjoying his “Happy Place.” He would then come back to the school, refreshed, re-energized and ready to tackle the rest of the day.

Two of my other friends are able to find their  “Happy Place” too. My friend Phil finds his place on a treadmill at 4:30 a.m. and Kim finds hers sitting at the Friday Club with a glass of wine, reading a great book (How she can do that with all the noise around her is beyond me but highly impressive).

Mine is sitting in total silence. For about 30 minutes when I get home after being “on” for 12 hours straight.

No sounds, no talking, no phone, no computer, no television, no lights…and no people. Just sitting and thinking about walking the perfect golf course, overlooking an ocean. Nothing but me, the ball, perfectly cut grass in the fairway, the hole on the green, and plenty of sunshine.

Bliss.

So no matter your profession, no matter what you do, you should find your “Happy Place,” go there, and give your brain a rest sometime each day. You will be much happier and healthier for it.

Trust me.

This is a little off topic I know, but this is something that has been on my mind for several days.

It seems that more and more, each and every day, a part of our community disappears. A part of our lives that we were used to seeing every day, everywhere no matter where we were. Any city, any place, any time, there they were.

Whenever we needed our literary works sent to far off places, there they were ready to accept them without complaint. We gave them our words, knowing they will be safe and sound, to be magically transported to where we wanted them to be and to the people we wanted to see them.

They were a staple of our communities. And now, more and more they are harder to find. If you are lucky enough to find one at all.

The few that are left (if you can find them) should be placed on some kind of “endangered” list before they all are gone for good.

I wonder if when they are all gone if people will speak about them as if they are reading an obituary (“We are gathered here today to pay our respects to a part of us that is gone…”). Or how we will describe them to the next generation what they were when they see pictures of them or when they come across the real ones saved or the replicas in museums.

I know you may be wondering where I’m going with this, my sarcastic side out in full force.

Where did all this come from. Well I had some words that needed to be taken from me and I couldn’t find my trusty delivery method. My little blue friend. I searched and searched, driving in my car for blocks (which seemed like miles) only to give up, defeated. I wondered where they all had gone. Who had taken them away?

Do you know? Do you know where they have gone?

Did you guess what I was talking about?

Hope you got a chuckle and a smile out of that. Have a wonderful week!

The rare moments that keep you going…

Often times in an educator’s career we talk about the rare moments that keep us coming back to work each year.

Those rare moments where through all the struggles, hardships, joys, and pains make it all worthwhile.

How many times have you been there at the precise moment in a student’s life where the light bulb of learning “turned on?” If you were there, did you notice it at that very moment?

I can count only three moments in my 16 years in education, but the most recent is probably the one I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life.

Let me explain.

Due to factors out of my control, above my pay grade, and for another discussion, I have to teach classes as well as complete my administrative duties each day. This year, I am teaching in a primary special education classroom though the bulk of my experience is in high school classrooms.

Earlier this year I received a student, lets call him Marc, from the early childhood special education class. He transitioned to my primary special education class in the first grade, at six years old. He rarely spoke, knew few words, was an emerging reader, and couldn’t write anything other than tracing letters and words given to him. I began to try to teach him though his struggles made him apprehensive and defensive toward any new learning. He often refused to try to speak or write, choosing to just cling to me and follow me wherever I went in the classroom or school.

Soon Marc decided to say a few words to me and eventually we began to talk albeit only a few words each day. I would read to him and sometimes Marc would try to repeat the words back to me. I also made words on lined paper and Marc would trace them and sometimes say the word if I said it first.

Though he wasn’t much of a conversationalist, Marc spoke to me every morning with the most adorable smile and heartfelt greeting with a sunny grin and hug to match.

One day Marc and I were “reading” a book, Marc repeating the words I was saying softly while looking at the pictures. My attention became distracted by another student and I looked away but before I knew it, my attention snapped back to Marc because I suddenly realized that he was still reading on his own. I looked at him in the eyes, his eyes wide with joy, and he yelled out: “I’m reading!”

Right at that precise moment I could see that the learning light within him turned on.

We as educators often describe moments where our students are learning and what happens in that moment. But how many of us can pinpoint the exact moment where the learning begins? How many of us can say: “I saw it the moment it happened?” Those moments are extremely rare, and our profession allows us the privilege of being there to experience it during those special times they occur. They should be cherished and respected.

Well, to continue, Marc kept on reading and reading and reading. When he finished one book, he ran to get another one and read some more. Once he completed that book, he ran to get another one. This went on for quite some time that morning. It actually was a pleasure to see and I tried hard to fight back the tears of joy that I hadn’t realized were streaming down my face from seeing the delight in Marc’s eyes and soul because he was reading for the first time in his life.

Later in the day he also began to write…on his own. No tracing, no prompting, and with no assistance from me.

For the remainder of the day, I couldn’t give Marc enough work to do. He just kept asking for more and more work. He was so proud of himself and I couldn’t be happier. If I tried to go help another student, he ran and tugged on my shirt to give him more work or show me what he had just completed or just read.

Needless to say this was on of the proudest moments of my life not to mention my career. Though the life part of this statement is far more important.

For the next few weeks, I saw Marc make leaps and bounds in his learning and the happier he got with the increase of what he could do made my heart fill with happiness. Sometimes I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t wait to see Marc the next day. Even his classmates became inspired to do more because they saw what he could do and remembered where he started. The others said: “If he can do it and learn, then so can I!”

Now, I wish I could give you a happy ending to this story and say that moving toward the end of the year Marc has surpassed his grade level and grown tremendously. However, unfortunately his mother decided to move and transfer him to another school.

I miss him dearly.

We only have few opportunities as educators or even as human beings to touch and inspire the lives of others. Though I was Marc’s teacher, I do believe I was the one being taught. Marc showed me that through it all, good and bad, day in and day out, everyone has a special gift and can learn more than they realize as long as they have someone who believes in them. At those moments we think we are ready to give up and quit, life shows you that our efforts are very much worthwhile though they may not come up as quickly as we would want them to.

I hope I have the opportunity to teach Marc again (or be taught by him again).

If not, I will cherish the moments I was with him and appreciate that as an educator and as a man I was able to be there the moment a young man began to realize he could learn.

Because at that moment, at 6 years old, his potential was endless: his growth pointed upward toward infinity.

Good luck Marc. May our paths cross again one day and you realize your true potential and success.

I have a hug and a smile waiting for you on that glorious day!

 Page 1 of 2  1  2 »