Monday, February 27, 2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What would I do?

I started writing this blog post several weeks ago after watching what was going on in the nation and in my state as well as others regarding public education. I then saved it intending to get back to it a little bit later that day. Instead other things intervened, as they often do in life, and the post was pushed to the back of my consciousness - never completely out of mind - but not at the forefront either.

Last weekend during a conversation with a friend who is also a teacher, we talked about what we would do if we weren't in the education profession any longer.  I made a somewhat facetious remark that I'd love to own a bookstore so I could read all the books. It was the second time in as many days that a friend and fellow educator brought up that question and the idea of this post resurfaced. My friend made a statement something to the effect that having been in education as long has he had, he wasn't sure what he would do. I had a similar thought. I have spent so much of my life either in this profession, or preparing for it - quite literally half of my life if I consider my schooling - that it is a conundrum for which I have no clear answer. Again, I dusted off this post and worked and reworked it, then set it aside.

As I've listened the past couple of weeks to what is coming down the road for public education, much of it punitive at the least and retributive at the worst, I realized that I couldn't put off completing this post any longer.

I went into the education profession because I cared what happened to the children who were placed under my guidance. I wanted to make a difference in their lives like so many of my former teachers made in mine.   I wanted to be in a profession where, by and large, most people felt the same way. I didn't become a teacher for the pay or having the summers "off." (Which is a whole different post perhaps I'll tackle some day.) Yes, there are teachers that are less than effective. There are people in any profession who are not effective or who reflect poorly upon that profession because of their words and deeds. Does that mean I paint the whole profession with a broad brush and write them all off because of a few outliers who skew the perception of what the majority do?


Yet, it seems as though everything that I have worked for in the past several years is under attack from the very people who should be the most supportive.

I am all for accountability for teachers and administrators. I don't think many people argue that isn't necessary - just as there needs to be accountability for ANY profession. But accountability in what form and for what purpose? When you consider all that is now considered part and parcel of what constitutes public education it is daunting. Additionally, there are more stakeholders in this situation than just teachers and administrators. Where is the accountability of the parents, students, communities, and policy makers? Where is the consideration of all the consequences both intended and unintended that come as a result of mandates - many unfunded - that are passed down from those who have little to no experience in the actual system of public education?

Here are two very powerful pieces from the perspective of a teacher who says it far more eloquently than I can.

I urge you to read them and share them.

This also brought to mind a story told by Jamie Vollmer a former businessman and critic of public education who is now a proponent. I think it makes several valuable points.

Image found here.
Does the fact that we are not able to choose our "raw material" excuse us from giving our best effort in educating the children we serve? Absolutely not! But, by the same token, you cannot judge public education and its facets through the lens of a corporation or business that has more control over its variables. We are dealing with human beings not pieces of plastic or metal that you can melt down and rework to suit your purpose!

I can honestly say that I don't know where the future of public education lies. Many days those glimpses of the future I do see can be mighty discouraging.

What would I do if I wasn't an educator?

 I don't know... but in the current environment, maybe I need to find out....

And yet, then I think of what really drove me to become a teacher and has kept me in the field regardless of the ups and downs - the children. There is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing potential wasted. But, conversely, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing the moment something clicks with a child. It's those last moments that help me hang on when I feel the most like moving on to something new. I can't control the world, or the nation, or even my state. I can control how effective I am in my classroom and my school. As in the story of the starfish, I may not be able to change everything but I can make a difference every day in the life of a child. I just hope I continue to get that chance.

It came to me
When I was young
That I would never be
       A great philosopher
       A healer of wounds
       A doer of mighty deeds
       A finder of hidden treasure
I am but a gardener
Simply a planter of seeds
A waterer of saplings
Encouraging tender shoots to burst forth
Overshadowing the gardener
As branches stretch ever nearer
The great vast expanse
I am not forlorn
That the world
Knows not my name
I am content
That the seed sown
In the midst of the tumult
Has thrived and now
Sends forth seeds of its own
For me to plant
And nurture
And love

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Life Through My Lens - Salt Wash Sunset...

Evening sunlight sifted over the silent sandstone slabs as I paused on my journey back home to try and capture a few frames of the setting sun over the wild and ever changing landscape.

The tranquil moments left me longing for more.

Sadly, the sun set and I had to continue the final leg of my journey home. Still, I have those few moments of peace and beauty to sustain me until I can find my way back.

Adventures & Misadventures of Daily Living

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Office bling...

A little while ago I mentioned that I had added a bit of bling to the walls of my living room. I then said that I had a few more photos I planned on adding to my school office. These are the prints that I added to the walls in my office. As I said before, I'm sure it's only the beginning. 


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Life Through My Lens - The day dawn is breaking...

I had planned on going in a completely different direction when choosing the photo to share this week.

Then as I was leaving for work on a brisk and foggy morning I captured these...

How could I not share...?

Adventures & Misadventures of Daily Living


Every month I, with the help of my faculty, choose a book for me to read to our student body. These generally are books that we try to link with positive character attributes that we want to encourage our students to develop.

On this Valentine's Day our book was Heartprints, by P.K. Hallinan.

The book describes a variety of ways to leave a "heart-print" including sharing a smile, lending a helping hand, providing a listening ear, and so on. The repeated refrain throughout the book as each act of kindness is described is - How many heart-prints will YOU leave today?

After I was finished reading the book to the students I encouraged each of them to spend some time in the next few days leaving "heart-prints"on the people around them. Each student was given a heart to write something kind they did for someone else, or something kind that someone else did for them. I plan on placing the hearts throughout the school to remind us how to treat others. (I got the idea from a friend who did something similar with his class - though he had his students do it anonymously. Maybe we'll try that next year... :-) )

Hopefully, it will make a difference. 

So, I'll finish my blog by posing to you the same question.

How many heart-prints did YOU leave today?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Life Through My Lens - Giddy-up...

Can you see it?

Abajo/Blue Mountains, near Monticello, Utah

The other day, I had the opportunity to drive through the rugged terrain of southern Utah. Near the small town of Monticello are the Blue Mountains. On one of the peaks of the mountain range the vegetation has grown in such a way as to create the illusion of a blaze-faced horse, leading it to be called Horsehead Peak.

It's a little grainy, but here is more closely cropped picture of the peak.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I love to see the Temple...

Monticello, Utah Temple 
I had the opportunity to attend the Monticello Temple with a friend of mine today. She was invited by the family of a young lady in our ward to be at the Temple when she went through for the first time. My friend didn't feel comfortable driving the distance on her own and asked if I would drive her down and attend the session as well.

Now I must admit - though I am ashamed to - that it has been far too long since I have taken the opportunity to attend a session.  Life just seemed to get in the way. College courses and assignments came and went. Workshops and conferences filled weekends. Family events took precedence. Visits with friends filled other hours. There were a thousand and one excuses I told myself each time I failed to follow through on plans to go. Many of them were valid and reasonable, but they were ultimately, just that - excuses. So, it was with gratitude, and a bit of apprehension, that I went today, hoping I wouldn't flub anything up too badly. 

Upon entering this sacred place I was greeted in hushed but friendly tones and guided where I would need to go. As I waited for the session to begin the quietness and peace of the room lent itself well to prayerful pondering. Removed from the din of the outside world I turned my thoughts away from the hustle and bustle of every day and instead focused on praying for guidance, healing, and peace for those whom I care and for myself. 

The familiarity of the experience, even after my long absence was soothing. As I went throughout the day, in many ways it brought to mind my own experience in going through the Temple for the first time over a decade ago. The quiet expectancy, the reverent tones, the beauty of the surroundings, the peace and comfort that fall upon questioning, troubled, and weary hearts were in abundance on this late winter afternoon, as they were back then.

I needed that today. 

I can't say that I had any startling epiphanies. I saw no burning bush. Manna did not appear from the heavens. Any angels who may have been in attendance were purely unseen.

 Still, I left the beautiful edifice feeling a sense of peace that I hope will stay with me for a while.

I truly do "love to see the Temple..."

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Life Through My Lens - Perspective...

As I wandered the city streets I took camera in hand...

and tried to look at things from a new perspective...

Not a bad idea every once a while...

in photography...

and in life...

Adventures & Misadventures of Daily Living