Sunday, August 13, 2017

I am not successful.

I was asked one day if I felt that I was successful and I said, “No.”

And I meant it too.

What a surprise. Most people would say the same thing, I am guessing.

Hell, sometimes just getting up the next day and facing it again is a success. This year I have referred two girls to hospitals for cutting themselves and many would say that is a success in itself. At the time though, I didn’t feel like it was much of a success as they were taken away against their will. People would say that they are getting the help they need. It is funny how teachers feel that way so much.

There are days in my past where I have felt like the biggest loser in the world and that all the work I have put into something turned out to be useless. They day I was fired from my passion of teaching was the most mountainous heap of failure. It has been the worse I have endured yet. Getting a new job in TN and starting over could be considered a success. It might be, but there will always be that idea tucked in the back of my mind that I was not good enough. . .. I was not successful in holding my job. I failed.

Success could be having a strong family but there are days in which I feel like I am failing at my job as a husband and father. There are hard days the test my resolve. My oldest in not letting go of his anger, selfish, and greedy ways. I am a supportive husband. Why is she still struggling with depression and anxiety? My younger boy is so dependent and clingy showing no signs of being independent. I often wonder if he will ever grow to be his own man someday.

Then there is me. I am very talented and can do many things. But I make mistakes and I do fail a lot. Why then, when I can be so good at so many things do I focus on all the stumbles in my life? Why do they stand out in my mind? I will not even think a second about throwing together a drawing or building a table without plans but the day I was fired? Well, it was like I was reliving it all over again. I struggle with my faith. I want closer friends or even more friends but it is hard to put time into a friend when you are a teacher and a father and a husband. . . A lot harder than people realize. There are all those goals I set for myself and they fall to the wayside. What about all those?

You see, these things eat away at us. I would guess that anyone that reads this would be thinking of all those things that they are lacking or failing. It is just human nature, isn’t it?

So, that leaves the question of what is success?

Success is perspective. I can look at all those things I have done and are doing right now and see the failures in them. Or, I can look as all those things I have done and see what is succeeding. If I look at the failures, then I am sure to fail more. If I see the successes, then I will be more likely to succeed more. It is my own perspective unhindered by other outside opinions that is the key. It is what I see that makes all the difference. Don't let others define your success. They don't know how much you started with and how far you have come in your struggles. I think this is where the feeling of failure sneaks in. Success is perspective. It is your perspective alone.

It is hard though. I look at where I have been and what I have done compared to where I hoped to be and it doesn’t seem very successful to me. It is an allusion though. I am doing alright. Not great or outstanding but far from failing. I am doing alright. I bet if you look back and scan your past. . . you probably are too.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Teachers are held to a higher standard without empathy.

We have been told a lot that teachers are held to a higher standard. It is true whether we accept it or not. But, on the other hand, we are people too. We are people that have feelings, lives, families, friendships, and hobbies. We are held to a different standard though and we are unfairly expected to give up some behaviors that are harmless to the average person but frown upon as a teacher.

I will use Alcohol as an example. If you listen to a teacher talk about alcohol, it would be fascinating to hear what they say. Phrases like – “I never buy alcohol in the town I live or teach,” or, “I drive 30 miles to a liquor store,” or, “I never have a beer for dinner, there is too much of a chance that a student or a parent seeing me and telling,” flow freely and often. But why? Why is consuming alcohol deemed an unfavorable behavior for a teacher when it is acceptable for others?

Obviously, everyone knows the answer to that one. It is a behavior that is associated with deviant behavior and lawlessness and a person with no self-control. It is practically a sin and every person that has anything to do with children should be as dry as the desert when it comes to drinking alcohol. It is of the devil!

Well, I disagree. My wife shakes her head at me because I will have a beer for dinner sometimes or I will walk into a liquor store in the town I work to buy a bottle. Sacrilege! Do I have to explain why or if I am right in buying it? No. I don’t have to explain anything. I am a person and a human being and a citizen in this country. I am over 21 and am fully lawfully able to buy alcohol for myself.

And I am bound by the same laws to be responsible with consuming it.

As a teacher, I will add one more caveat to this. I am a role model. I don’t mind and I take that part of my job extremely serious. I feel it is unreasonable to hold a teacher to a standard of not consuming alcohol. It is not right. We are people with more stress than the average person and we need a chance to relax and unwind. We need to be social and be part of our non-school families. On the other hand, we need to model the moderation and behavior of wise consumption of alcohol. Getting inebriated and acting a fool is not good role modeling. Having one brew for a whole dinner and walking out an hour later fully in control of oneself is good to see.

So, when you see a teacher that is out and about, take care to not judge them too harshly. Sometimes it is hard to put your game face on as a teacher. We are people. We have hard lives sometimes just like anyone else. Be empathetic and generous to us with your interaction. We are people and that sometimes is ignored with quick judgment and fast accusations.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What is in a name?

In school one day, I was asked how I would have felt if she didn’t take my name when we were married. I said that it would hurt my feelings. The girl who asked me said that was a bit old school and times has changed. I guess that was an insult or something. I told them it certainly has. I then said that I hope that I have been living up to it.

After they expressed confusion I elaborated a bit for them. “You see, she just didn’t change her name when we were married, she changed her identity. On that day she no longer was her maiden name. . . she is now my name. As teens you all know how important your identity is. You all work very hard to make yours and keep it safe . . . violently some times. Well, she shed hers on our wedding day. I don’t know about you but that is a lot to live up to. Men will never understand how internally deep a commitment this is to her since they are never expected to give up their identity. But girls are expected to do that. It is kind of the whole submission thing in our society but I take it more as an expectation that I have a job to make sure she never regrets it. I need to remember this and live out this expectation that she has taken my identity and has told the world she is symbolically part of me. I must not fail her expectation or it will be a step to losing her.”

A moment in Wally World got me thinking...

Yesterday in Wally World I answered my phone as I was walking down the isle and if any one knows me, I answer "Hi beautiful" when I talk to my wife. Well, a woman who was looking in my direction gave me the biggest radiant smile until she saw that I was on my phone. She looked down quickly as she noticed this and started to walk away. I finished my call and talked to her for a moment. She said she felt so good when she thought I called her beautiful. I said that she was a pretty girl and that I hope she had a good day. I got me thinking about how people should be given altruistic compliments. Maybe that would make a lot of people's day.

It also got me thinking about how I talk and address my wife. We would have a lot better relationships if all men did the same---

Never call them names or say ANYTHING you will regret - even when you are mad. It can NEVER be taken back.

Tell them every single day how much they are loved and needed- be specific.

Tell them what you love about them - be specific and even when it is silly sounding. I told her how I like the curves of her foot the other day. It was true and I said it when I thought it.

Always talk to them in a soft or normal voice and without anger. Most of the time you are not angry with them anyway.

Have a loving name that you use only for them and you never call anyone else. They will notice, trust me.

Repeat these often even when you are told that it is not needed. It is needed- everyday.

My proposal was personal.

We were watching another one of those shows. You know. The type where a guy goes all out to propose to his girlfriend. She turned to me and said that she wished I had done more in an off hand comment. She has said it before and I am sure it is not really a regret but more of an announcement that she wanted my proposal to be more public for us to brazenly tell the world that we are in love and we will be together forever.

And I get that, I really do. There is some stigma about showing off to the world an exclamation of love. It is a reality drama thing. But that is not my thing. I took her out to a nice dinner and we spent a lot of one on one time together. Then I took her back to my dorm room where the lighting was low and the place was quiet. I had a card that distracted her while I got down on one knee and asked the question. It was just us.

Nothing grand and nothing over the top.

Weeks before that night I Prayed to the good Lord. I promised that I would love her and keep her for the rest of my life. We would become one flesh as the Bible puts it and God would look over us as we fulfilled our roles in our union. As far as I was concerned, we were married as of that moment. I had taken it to the Lord and made my promise. All I had to do is ask her if she would do the same. A ceremony and signing a paper is just formalities.

I wanted it to be just us. To me, our marriage would always be just us. I knew that when all the hoopla was over and all the guests were gone, it would be her and me. And, that was the way I wanted to start our life together. I wanted her to know that I wanted her as my wife not as a way to show off to others ( although I do) or as a trophy or show. I wanted her as my wife because she blessed me everyday with her commitment, kindness, and love towards me. I wanted her to know that we, together, make our marriage, not other people and their ideas and thoughts. Just us. Our marriage was a marriage of just us.

So, in a dorm room with soft lighting in the quiet still night, I laid my mind, heart, and soul bare to ask her to be my wife. Even though I was nervous and shaking, I was confident that she would say yes because she was my blessing for being faithful. She is my proof of a Loving God. And she said yes.

I know that I can have some untraditional ways of doing and thinking of these sort of things but this was right and the right way for me. It fit what I feel our marriage is. It is us, through thick and thin. No fan fair or over the top show. Our story of faithfulness and dedication and selfless love is our thing. Who needs to be so extravagant with that kind of love?

Wife Rant

Ok, I talk about my wife and my family a lot. . . Especially my wife. It does not mean I am “whipped” or that I my happiness depends on her or that I idolize her. It means that I recognized the blessing that was given me and I thank the good Lord for having our paths cross that January day back in ’96.

And while I am on the topic, I hate the stereotypes of men that are perpetuated by the general public. I break stereotypes and I model new ones. I love tools and building things like the next guy. I really like to camp and grill and watch football. I also like to cook and clean and changed all the soiled diapers when my boys were babies. I can sew and draw and iron cloths. I am empathetic and caring. I am emotional sometimes. You may think it is a bit girly but I am just a “do everything” kind of Guy. Why not? Stereotypes are for those who lack the drive to broaden their horizons and restricted by fear of other's opinions.

I have been told that I couldn’t make it without her. I can but why should I when we are a team? I proposed to my wife and made her a promise I intended to keep for my lifetime and hers. I made that same promise to God and meant every word of it. If he calls her home before me, I will make it. It will be hard but I will grieve and miss her every day that I move on because I WILL move on. She would want me to and that is what I would do.

So what if I talk about my wife so much? There is NO person who is around me who does not know where my loyalty lies. I don’t make it a secret. I don’t say things around guys like I hate being married. Guys seem to think that it is expected and they give into it for some silly reason. You know . . . those statements like – the ball and chain or my old lady or anything that would suggest that being married is not what I thought it would be. My marriage is EXACTLY what I thought it would be because I spent a long time figuring out what I wanted and then looked until I found the person that fit it. No settling. Why would I go and say otherwise?

I look around and see all this pain and hard roads people have had with their relationships. I am sorry to see it really I am. I think it has to do with all the stupid expectations of what a relationship “should” be that the media spews out like the next epidemic. The reality shows that are not real and the cute and supposedly earth shattering profound short statements that wallpaper Facebook and such. You want the perfect relationship – search deep into yourself for your wants and needs, observe what will and will not work for you, don’t rush - take your time and don’t settle, and for goodness sake – you be the one that knows what you like and don’t like not your friends family or some other source.
If you think my marriage is not that great or perfect. . . well you can just go back to yours and I will stay with mine. When I am at home with her, all is fine by me and you are not there. Figure out how much I will take your advice. We work because we have chosen to be with each other and that is the place we most want to be. If you don't like seeing so much about her. . . well there is an "unfriend" button. Use it.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

One last note,

        I am a teacher. I teach people. Kids. I am pretty hardcore if you ask anyone who is in my class or knows me as a colleague. I am serious about my teaching. The education field is hard though and getting harder. We are loosing respect and confidence with all this testing and teacher bashing lately. You can see how it affects our profession with high turn over and unprecedented declines with people deciding to go to college to become a teacher. 

      This is the last lesson I have for my students and it has nothing to do with curriculum or tests. It has nothing to do with policies and agendas. It has to do with people . . . kids. I think our policy makers are not really in touch at all. They truly don't see schools as places full of human beings with feelings, hard lives, and the struggle of grown up into adults. I want my kids to know that they are people and were worth something to me by the way that I treated them. So this is my One Last Note to my kids since they are more than data points, they are people.     

So here it is - One Last Note-

         My job involves more than teaching science. I must teach life lessons also. I have to portray to you, through actions and modeling, important skills that will help you succeed. Hopefully you have picked up on these particular lessons:

1. Accept everyone for who they are and be able to work with them. They are people and have feelings just like you.

2. It is ok to be wrong. Own up to it and either accept your shortcomings as just the way you are or work to improve upon that shortcoming.

3. Be more that just equal with your treatment of others, be fair.

4. It is healthy to laugh at yourself, and it is ok to let others laugh with you.

5. Love what you do for a career; it makes your job more than work. It makes it fun.

6. Look forward to what you want out of your life and don’t let petty stupid stuff get in the way of your goals.

I hope that I not only have taught you these lessons but that I have stuck to these personal rules of treating others in my class that I feel are vital to building good relationships with anyone. In addition to showing you the above through my actions and behavior, hopefully you have seen my personal way of running my class by noticing:

1. Never, ever, ever, ever, get personal with a student when disciplining. Stick to the  behavior I want changed and the behavior that I want it to change to. Attacking a student personally is wrong and cruel. Never say anything that you don’t mean. Once it is  said, you can’t take it back (even with a sorry).

2. Never hold grudges. Students make mistakes just like I do and have bad days. Start  every day (and sometimes just the next time you talk) as if all are bygones already and  nothing happened.

3. Never take out your problems with one student on another.

4. Try your best to make sure every single student feels how you truly care for each and    every one of them.

5. Apologize when you are wrong. You would expect them to.

6. Don’t be a hypocrite. If you ask them to do it, you do the same and vice versa.

7. Finally, as best to your ability – Say what you are going to do and then do what you  said you were going to do.

 You guys are my kids and will always be my kids. I wanted you to learn the science but I wanted to you learn these other lessons even more. If you have seen them and know what they look like in practice, I am happy. Take care and do your best in school!!!!