Monday, January 26, 2009

Twenty Years Ago Today!

My son was born twenty years ago today. I can’t believe how quickly time has past. He was born at 2:43 in the afternoon, which no one I worked with will ever forget as it was the EXACT moment the last bell of the school day sounded, my favorite time of the day=) I remember both grandfathers scurrying around the hospital nursery, twenty-pound video cameras in hand trying to out do the other at the art of video-documenting this momentous event. You see Chad was the very first grandchild on either side of the family.

For choosing to get married terribly young, I did make the decision to wait seven years before starting a family. Chad’s father and I had the blessing of cultivating our relationship before beginning a family and when it was time for the arrival of our first child, we couldn’t have been more excited or more ready.

The past twenty years have flown by. I have had the privilege of watching my little boy grow into an amazing young man. Life has been blessed, but not always easy. Forced to become the “man of the house” way too young, Chad stepped confidently into the responsibility with honor. Through thick and thin, he has learned to discern and accept what life has thrown his way.

Watching as he maneuvers each life experience and as he melds his knowledge of the world with what is good and right, has been a journey worth experiencing. Chad explores wholeheartedly his future; never dismissing any of life's possibilities. “Difficult” or “demanding” don’t seem to impede his vision. I also observe the way he loves, and am thankful for the years of influence his father obviously had upon the way he respects, honors and is devoted to another.

There is no instruction manual that accompanies children. You dedicate them to God in front of witnesses, knowing they aren't yours to begin with. You do the best you can, hoping they grow into stable, secure adults. You cherish each moment and pray you don’t squander the limited time you have to guide them, yet all too soon they are grown up. Today, I honor my son on his 20th birthday: a man who is one of the brightest lights in my life. I am sure his father is looking down with pride, cheering him on and knowing the impact Chad will have on his world. That is his legacy.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Learning Styles and an Epiphany

Earlier this year, my students completed a portion of a learning profile to help me not only get to know them better, but also to guide my mode of instruction. As they completed an “All About Me” poster, a segment of the poster was set aside for them to record their learning styles. In a nutshell, they were to choose which analogy best described them as learners. Here were their choices with very simplified definition….

Paper clips are mastery learners, organized and attentive to detail.
Teddy bears are interpersonal learners and relationship driven.
Magnifying lens seek understanding through questioning.
Slinkys are self-expressive, creative and high-energy learners.

I shared these traits with my students; stressing that one was not BETTER than the other, only DIFFERENT. This may have been the most important lesson I taught all year. I then asked them to discern what type of learner they thought I was---99 percent said “SLINKY”. They were right. When analyzing other teachers in our building, the students were equally insightful and recognized where each teacher fell on the spectrum as a learner. We discussed what this meant for them as students (for example a Slinky in a Paper clip’s classroom) and especially what it meant about the way each of us learns. I had one student say, “Geez, this makes perfect sense. I sure could have used this information last year. It would have saved me a lot of time in detention.” Everyone giggled—even me.

What I didn’t tell them is how the “normal” (I know, that’s an oxymoron) classroom is made up ….
33-35% are paper clips
18% are magnifying lens
33-35% teddy bears
18% Slinkies
Interesting to say the least. These categories not only define the classroom, but also define the workplace, church, or social group.

Now, be this as it may, each learning-style brings certain challenges to the classroom. “Paper clips" learn step by step; "magnifying len"s learn doubt by doubt. "Teddy Bears "want everyone to feel comfortable and worry more about the emotional well being of others. "Slinkies" need movement and choice. Can you see the challenge?

Many dropouts are Slinkies, because school doesn’t tend to lend itself to their needs. With this in mind, I turn to my last hour class of seventh graders. After the first week of school, I was convinced that these students were going to be the end of me. Engaging them is exhausting and motivating them seems impossible. Now I know why---of the 15---12 are Slinkies. What’s worse—they have a Slinky teacher.

Now, several months later—we have grown to understand each other and I can’t wait for my seventh hour to arrive. Slinkies—unite!!!

Pushed Out of the Nest

My first post at “50-something Moms Blog” went up today. This is my maiden voyage outside of my personal “blog-sphere” and hopefully the first step to writing outside the box. I would like to give a BIG shout out to Ann at Anniegirl, for giving me this big push "out of the nest" and supplied me the connection to this fabulous group of women writers. Thank you so much Ann. You are a true inspiration.

I am contracted to write at least write two posts a month, so that means deadlines---I know what you’re thinking; “Marsha doesn’t do deadlines”, but this will develop the discipline I believe writing requires. The hardest task has been to write a bio for myself. Have you ever had to come up with an "essay" introducing yourself? It isn't easy. You want to include the important information while sounding chic and credible at the same time. You have to interject just enough humor (or sarcasm) without coming off as "trivial". Anyway, if you have a moment check out the site and let me know what you think. On second thought, let me know what you think as long as what you think is positive.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

It's a Family Affair

Rosanne’s post about “Aunt Jenny…Ten Year’s Younger”, got me thinking about television shows I enjoyed when I was young. I had a great conversation with her as we reminisced about television lore. One of my favorites was “Family Affair”. Monday nights were sacred, as I would make sure to be home for every episode. I longed to live in a penthouse apartment on Fifth Avenue with Uncle Bill and Mr. French. The closest I ever came to any semblance of this type of life is that my nephews call me Aunt Sissie (not Cissy, like the show—but close).

Consequently, I ordered all 5 disc of the first season of “Family Affair” from Netflix. I have been watching each episode with a nostalgic eye and expected to persuade the boys to watch it with me again, for posterity---most likely won’t happen, but I will give it a shot.

I made several observations while watching disc one that were NEVER apart of my childhood memories of “Family Affair”, perhaps age and prudence has more to do with my insights than anything else. In the very first episode, Uncle Bill returns from a business trip abroad. Mr. French, being his “gentleman’s gentleman”, begins reviewing Bill’s itinerary---while Uncle Bill is taking a bath (yes, an odd scene today). Of course Uncle Bill smokes on the terrace—a HUGE “no-no”, and in another scene, Buffy, is being dried off after a bath—totally naked. Even at 6 years old, you don’t see that on television today. It made me realize that we have lost societal innocence – for lack of a better term. A case could be made for this being a good thing as well as a sad state of affairs.

The most prevalent memory, which has tugged at my heartstrings, is that of Mrs. Beasley. One of my prized possessions as a child was my Mrs. Beasley Doll. If you remember, Buffy NEVER went ANYWHERE without Mrs. Beasley. They were constant companions. When I viewed Buffy carrying her beloved doll around the penthouse, it was like connecting with a long-lost friend. I am not sure what happened to my Mrs. Beasley, but I would love to have her today--“My bestest and closest friend,” as Buffy would say.

It is interesting how pop-culture defines our memories. We recall songs, television programs or movies that mark our most treasured life experiences. How about today? What will mark the life experiences of our children? The Family Guy? The Simpsons? Desperate Housewives? Hmmm….

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

They Never Cease to Amaze Me!

I hate it when I underestimate kids. I have been a teacher long enough to know better. This past week has provided me with incredible insight from my students. Following my personal exercise in choosing a touchstone word (see previous entry) and creating a vision board, I decided to present the same task to my students. What I received was beyond my wildest expectations.

To the left is a photo of a few touchstone words my middle school students created (wish I could have photographed all 120).

In addition, I asked the students to write several sentences explaining why they selected the word—here are a few responses.
My touchstone word for 2009 is…
…acceptance because I want to accept the way I am. I am weird, funny, pretty smart and cool to be around and I want to accept that for a change. I also want the people around me to accept that this is who I am.
…change because I go through a strict routine each day and repeat many things. Finding new friends, being adventurous and showing willingness would all be good changes for me.
…meditate because I need more focus and peace. I need to learn to focus on one thing.
…generosity because I think I need to be more giving. I could help out with things more at home and give up my own wishes to make others happy.
…trust because I need to gain my parents trust back. I also need to gain more trust from my bus driver.
…confidence because if I don’t start believing in myself I will never succeed.

The honesty of adolescent children mystifies me. They can peg themselves, as well as the adults in their lives, with more precision than any “shrink” and are far less expensive though more blunt and less congnisant of your feelings.

The next class period, following our selection of touchstone words, we discussed “vision”. We talked about what it meant to look ahead to the future and make decisions based on what we want to become, how we want to live, what we want to possess etc… I then presented to them my 2009 Vision Board (aka and explained the importance of having a visual reminder of our hopes and dreams. One student said, "Yeah, so we won't forget, right Mrs. C-P? 'Cause I forget or lose something everyday."

"EXACTLY!" I retorted as I let them loose to create their own vision for 2009. I wish I could have filmed the presentations of their boards. It was inspiring to watch kids articulate their dreams and “get” what it means to have vision. Many of them included their touchstone word in their vision boards; spoke of wanting to be more environmentally conscious, or friendlier; of wanting to vacation in the Bahamas or go on a cruise; of desiring an iPod, new cell phone or paintball gun. More than anything, they seemed to enjoy exploring the vision and creating a reminder of what to strive for this year. Yes, they never cease to amaze me.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Touchstone Word of the Year

My disillusionment with New Year’s Resolutions has caused me to search for an alternative goal-centered activity; one that would be more meaningful, less cumbersome and easier to attain. In my quest, I stumbled onto an idea from a fellow writer’s blog ( Her challenge is to come up with one word that defines this next year—a touchstone.

This seemed a daunting task, to come up with one word to define my entire year, but on Ms. Kane’s blogsite I found an exhaustive list of powerful words from which to choose. Normally, I am a very impulsive person; when given a task I generally act quickly and decisively without much forethought. Not this time—this time, I scoured the list. I studied it and even meditated on a few of the words for inspiration; hoping one would stand out as an obvious choice. Instead, several words jumped out at me—words like: integrity, courage, discipline, hope—all good, perfectly applicable to my life, but none of them seemed to encompassed my conception of a 2009 touchstone. So in a bit of frustration, I put the idea on the back burner and decided to give myself some time to really think it over.

Following dinner at a friend’s home this weekend, our gracious host gave Kent and I a small booklet entitled Continuous Revival by Norman Grubb. What makes this book even more of a treasure is that our host highlighted portions of the book that resonated with him. It was while reading this modest, but powerful book that it became clear what my touchstone word would be for 2009. It was if the word jumped off the page and right into my heart.


According to Grubb, revival simply means, “the reviving of dead areas in our lives”. He continues to reveal that contrary to our human limitations, revival is NOT merely something we pray for and wait to occur, but “revival in its truest sense is an everyday affair right down within the reach of everyday folk-to be experienced each day in our hearts, homes, churches, and fields of service.” Yes, it is clear: revival is just what my life needs. In 2009, REVIVAL will be at the core of my actions. Renewing those dead areas in my life-the areas in my heart, home, church, job and life which I have allowed to lie dormant for far too long will now be my focus.

Revival of relationships
Revival of a healthy lifestyle
Revival of spiritual aspects of life
Revival of service
Revival of purpose
Revival of talents
Revival of rest

If you decide to do the same, and create a touchstone word for the year, let me know. Post it in the comments or create a link back.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Best of 2008

Marsha's Best of 2008
Best Event of My Year: March Wedding – our simple and intimate ceremony was by far the highlight of my year. Living life with Kent continues to be “the best”.

Best Family Event: Family reunion in Arkansas- there is something about connecting with your roots and those folks who share your heritage.

Best Read:
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett – best book by far that I have read in years

Best Surprise Movie: Slumdog Millionaire – surprise movie of the year. I loved it from beginning to end.

Best in Television: House/24 – plain great writing and acting

Best Decision: Starting to run/bike/swim –. I just need to get back to it—soon.

Best Monthly Events
: Book Clubs – The best-buddies and the church-ladies are both the fabulous.

Best Comeback: Coffeehouse Theology Sunday School Class – for the first time in 20 years, I look forward to going to Sunday school every week. I didn’t appreciate how intelligent, insightful and wise my mother is until having the opportunity to sit under her teaching.

Best in Music:
Lenny Kravitz –It’s Time for a Love Revolution

Best in Christian music: Chris Sligh – Running Back to You

Best in Education:
PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support) – most effective education practices in my career. Of course it is because at my school there is a total buy-in AND an exceptional PBIS team.

Best Card Game: A tie between Dominion and Great Dalmuti (check them out at The Boardroom)

Best Strategy Game: Pillars of the Earth

Now it is your turn. What would your best of 2008 list look like (or your worse). Either link back or post in the comments. Com'on now---share---you know you want to.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Status Bar as a Learning Tool?

I love Facebook. It is, for the social butterfly in me, the best way to keep up with and connect with folks. Little blurbs of activity plaster the pages of Facebook and through multi-clicking of the mouse I am privy to a snippet into the lives of those I care about or am networked with in some fashion. The idea of the “status bar” fascinates me most. From the “status bar”, I know if Marc is watching football or playing games. I know if Sandra is off to the store or paying bills. I know if Evan is watching “Pinky and the Brain” or studying theology. My question is, do I need to know this? Or perhaps am I looking at this “status” tool totally wrong. Perhaps the “status” bar is really, well—an art form. Stay with me here…

As someone who values “good” writing, I find it challenging to create a succinct, informative, yet voice-filled “status”. It is remarkable what you can learn about a person through his/her “status”. Here are some examples:

A.B - wants to know why a woman in her 30's still loves White Castle cheeseburgers.
C.D. - is glad the holidays are finally over.
E.F.- is praying as I watch our teens ski down the big ER visits this time...please!
G.H.- wishes just the kids could go back to school on Monday and I still could have a few days by MYSELF!!!!!
I.J- is home. R. is fine. We are telling him "chicks dig scars." All is well.
K.L.- is watching house in japanese videos cuz he's so desperate to see season four.

Each status tells a story or is a window into the personality of its author. It is as if each author is crafting, for his audience, a concise synopsis of his current condition. Isn’t that what writing is all about - creating voice for your reader so that he wants to read on, investigate further or simply care about what you are writing, even if it is written in the vernacular?

Perhaps, as educators, we shouldn’t dismiss unconventional writing forums as rubbish, but instead embrace them as potential learning opportunities. How about a mini-lesson on writing an effective “status” on a social network? Talk about engaging the students—now there’s a topic that would grip their attention.

No one can deny that children are writing more today than any generation before. It may not be the writing of our ancestors (or even our parents), but we must acknowledge, as well as address, all writing forums as opportunities to hone the craft.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

To Make an End Is to Make a Beginning

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.

And to make an end is to make a beginning.
T.S. Eliot, from his poem, “Little Gidding.”

Ah—a new year: 2009. Traditionally, at this point, we create grandiose promises to others and ourselves that we will somehow live better in 2009 than we did last year. While this is a noble undertaking, the mere completion of such lists often leaves us with feelings of apprehension, as we seldom are able to live up to the expectations we set for ourselves. Every year I do this. I create a list of ambitious goals designed to construct a more fulfilled life for the next year; by March we are discouraged and disheartened because we have failed so miserably in my attempt to accomplish our set goals.

2008 was a memorable year. I experienced great personal triumphs and few personal disappointments. I climbed to the apex of joy and fell to the depths of discouragement. I, at times, was proud of my life choices and at others extremely embarrassed by them. Thank heavens, as T.S. Eliot so eloquently wrote, “last year’s words belong to last year’s language”. Though we reap the consequences of our choices, we also are granted a chance to begin anew.

This year, instead of creating a list of resolutions, I wish to “await another voice”. I aspire to be open to 2009 and whatever God has for me with only one goal--that by the close of 2009, I can say that I have lived the year with honor and integrity. This is not taking the “easy way out”, on the contrary. It will require far more from me than merely checking off a list of resolutions; it addresses the core of possibilities. It takes into consideration who I am and aspires to the person I can become.

With the end of 2008, comes the hope of 2009; “to make an end is to make a beginning". Here's to our beginnings...