My Journey of Life and Learning (with occasional digressions)

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Monthly Archives: March 2017

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Open Letter to High School Class 2020

By way of set up, allow me to explain that I substituted today in my absolutely most favorite 8th grade History class. Great day! They were studying the Civil War…most comprehended the role that the Missouri Compromise (It had something to do with Missouri, right?) played in the tensions prefacing the conflict. The understood the argument about Federal and State powers. No problem, they grasped the basics and I filled them in a bit more regarding Andersonville POW Camp, how the non-discovery of antibiotics contributed to the mortality rate and emphasized that even though some women fought along side me during the war, that the normal soldier was they same age as my students, roughly 14 years old.

This fact struck me for a moment. In the next election, in 2020, these darling little creatures will have a voice over the management of the United States of America! I managed to remain upright at the thought and asked them what the point of studying History was. Of course, the silly answers flew, “So we can learn about old dead guys,” etc. I explained that there’s an old saying, “Those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it.” I pointed out that State rights versus the federal government has always led to debate. They actually grew quiet and seemed to be trying to digest what I was telling them. “You people witnessed one of the weirdest elections in our nation’s history. Next time it happens, what will you see? What will help you determine your vote? Is it going to be the next mega-superstar? Will news organizations become even more propagandizing loudspeakers for various parties? Will other parties be able to get their food in the door and free us from this two party debacle we subject ourselves to?” A few blank stares, a few looks of concern…I left them hanging, “Hey, this is your world. What’s it going to become and, more importantly, why?”

NOW — on a totally different sail tack — I pray to the Lord that I can get my resume picked up and can get a teaching job. I KNOW it’s a good resume and I’m confident that if I can ever meet with a hiring authority that I can land my teaching job. It’s just such a pain )-;! Oh well, I’m doing this because I WANT to teach, I feel passionate about my subject and enjoy all the time I get in the classroom – and it’s mostly productive. Students in the district now kind of have me figured out.  I make them work, but will give them lots of freedom, until they violate it, then it all goes away.

Alright, submitted four updated resumes this evening. Let’s see what happens! woo hoo!

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“Gummilumps”

Long ago, I read a short story by an author who talked about the small tokens and gifts that they had received from their children over the years. A plain, ordinary shoe box housed these treasures which the author lovingly called “gummilumps.” The box contained macaroni necklaces, pressed flowers, a feather glued to construction paper and a rock that was suspected to be an arrowhead. I suppose all parents have a box of gummilumps that they treasure.

I accepted an assignment to fill in for a sixth grade art class and, having not been with students that young, I was intimidated by these small creatures. Were they going to behave, attack, have a mishap, sneeze on me…the list goes on. One of them approached me after class and handed me this picture:

 

Picture of Mr. Matthews

Drawing of Mister Matthews by a sixth grade artist

 

My heart melted! The fear was gone, hasn’t returned and I was even able to comfortably fill in with third graders. I have only mental pictures of their faces when I read to them during “story-time,” but that goes right into my treasure box along with the masterpiece. When I’m fortunate enough to substitute at that school, I always break into a grin when I see that little artist…

In high school English, I had the honor of reviewing the play Macbeth with a group of rather active seniors. The play is intense on many different levels and lends so much to discussion. Some students engaged, others relentlessly tried to text and “snapchat” with buddies. I fostered student discussion as well as I could, but when the bell rang and they all left, I stood there for a moment wondering if anything had been absorbed at all. I went back to the teacher desk to write up my substitute notes for the day. Atop my yellow notepad was the following note:

Thank You Note

I sat down and took a long drink of water. I reread that note and smiled. The student who left that note may never know how they validated my efforts to become a teacher. They didn’t sign it. I’ve been in that class many times since and no one has ever approached me about it. Maybe it’s most effective if it remains anonymous. After all, can anybody ever say from where a refreshing breeze comes?

So…thus far, these are my first two physical gummilumps from my students that I will always treasure. I don’t know if there is a big enough box to contain all the gummilumps that have come as high fives, fist bumps, unexpected hugs, smiles, “a-hah” moments of comprehension, or other wonderful moments that I’ve been privileged to share with these wonderful little people. The best part is that I’ve only been doing this since October, 2016, so I’m confident there will be plenty more coming my way!