Monday, September 27, 2010

Eudaemonia #2

hearing students talk excitedly about their upcoming field trip for AP Art History to LACMA

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Eudaemonia #1

kids eating cake

Introducing Eudaemonia

When my friend and colleague, K., gave this mug to me two years ago, I knew it would become one of my favorites.  Seeing it in the morning, filled with freshly ground, just- brewed Starbucks coffee, inspires me to think about what recent little moments have produced happiness.  I am a firm believer that we find what we seek, so I am on the lookout for happiness.  Sharing these moments with others makes them even better, so this new feature of More Than I Should Bear is born.  And please, share yours, too -- either here or on Twitter at #eudaemonia.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wonderfully Weary

I have been tired this week.  The kind of tired where I can hardly keep my eyes open once I sit on the couch after the boys are in bed.  The kind of tired that has me hitting the snooze button three times in the morning. As I sat here tonight wondering why I have been less-than-energetic, I reviewed some of the highlights (and low points) of my Thursday.  Today, I (and not in this order):
  • Cheered for our outstanding, improved and inspirational students at a rally
  • Joined in happy birthday for a colleague at lunch
  • Laughed with a student about planning a “whine” and cheese party in pre-finals December
  • Conferenced with four students, two of whom are not “mine,” about their college essay applications
  • Had an impromptu, hour-long heart-to-heart with my mom
  • Took the boys out for ice cream
  • Helped my first-grader do three pages of math word problems – amazed at how he is growing!
  • Read the boys a chapter from Hatchet
  • Allowed a headache to increase in severity until I left work 30 minutes early and came home to puke, then sleep for an hour
  • Responded to several student emails requesting progress updates, recommendations, and advice
  • Chatted with a friend on Facebook about families and why we love and “the opposite of love” them
This is not unique to me .  We all have days, weeks, like this.  And I am not trying to garner sympathy or pity (although the "nursing" I received from my husband and boys was certainly appreciated!) because this is not an accident or misfortune.  This is the life I have chosen for myself.  And crazy as it sounds, I wouldn't have wanted to do any less with my day.  One verse I have tucked into my heart, James 1:2, keeps things in perspective: "Count it all joy..."  I may get tired at times, but even learning to admit that is a sign of my growth.  No matter what each day brings -- the temptations, the failings, the trials, the triumphs -- each teaches me something about myself and others.  Each makes me wonderfully imperfect.  And ready for a nap :)
This isn't post-related, but I love pics of the boys conked out in the car

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mission Statements

"Any entity that attempts to operate without a mission statement runs the risk of wandering through the world without having the ability to verify that it is on its intended course."

I spent the morning leading a workshop on teaching Sunday School for pre-schoolers.  We talked greeting visitors, establishing sign-in procedures, preparing the classroom environment, engaging our learners -- every aspect of the Sunday School hour.  As we neared the end of our time together, I shared with the group that even though everything we had covered was worthy, that ultimately, the single most important element of Sunday School for pre-schoolers is that in church, they feel love.  In church, they feel love.  All that we do to prepare for and deliver those Sunday School lessons will not make one bit if difference if we do not accomplish our primary goal -- in church, they feel love.

As I stated this, my confidence in the statement made me sit up straighter, made my voice more steady and made my heart full.  I knew the truth of this statement, I believed it, and I wanted to share it with others.

And then I started to wonder, could I make a statement about that for the work I do in other areas of my life? The single most important element of education for high school students is that in school, they_______.
How about for my family?  The single most important element of my family is that as a family, we ______.  These were much harder for me to complete than the Sunday School one was.  Then again, Sunday School is one hour a week -- maybe that limited time frame allows for a more focused mission.  However, shouldn't it be easier to determine the top priority for something (like family or career) that dominates our lives?

As a family, about and respond to the needs of each other?

In school, they...learn how to learn?

Those seem good, but are they the essence of what we do?

As part of my school's staff and leadership team, I have discussed mission statements, vision statements, goal statements, all kinds of statements over the past year.  I like the process and feel it is worthy, but it seems no matter which statement we craft or choose, someone takes issue with it.  Someone wants it stated a different way or worries it will give us permission to ignore other needs.  I think another problem may be that we fear making these statements because they immediately make us accountable.  What happens if we do not accomplish the statement?  What happens if someone realizes we fell short of our vision, our mission, our goal?  And perhaps most scary of all, what happens if we actually have to change in order to fulfill the statements we make?

So, facing that fear, here I go:

The single most important element of Sunday School for pre-schoolers is that in church, they feel love.
The single most important element of education for high school students is that in school, they matter.
The single most important element of my family is that as a family, we take care of each other.

And I am willing to fail, willing to fall short and willing to change to make each of those statements as true as it can be.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Patricia Gulino: Love and Light

I am so thrilled to celebrate the wonderful Patricia Gulino in the first Teacher Testimony of the 2010-2011 school year.  I am moving beyond the walls of my school to feature Mrs. Gulino who teaches at one of the other schools in my district, Chaffey High School.  Although I have known Patty for years (she is the GATE Coordinator for her school as I am at mine), I asked her to participate in Teacher Testimony after she was nominated by a former student of hers who described her as "one of the most influential people of my life." Patty has been teaching for 22 years and currently teaches Art History for 11th and 12th grade students. 

SE: Why did you decide to become a teacher?
PG: A complete love of the history of art and a need to communicate that enthusiasm to others led me to look for an avenue to spend my day talking about it.  While I could have chosen work in a museum, I believe that the museum environment would not have offered me the daily opportunity to bring the subject alive.

SE: How did you choose what subject/grade you wanted to teach?
PG: After spending some time student teaching in a high school, I knew that high school-age students were the right audience for me.  I guess I am still very much in touch with the teenager I used to be.

SE: What have you learned about yourself and the world by being a teacher?
PG: The young adults I teach are open, caring and generous people….because of them, I am optimistic about the future.  I am honored to be in their presence every day…they are a great gift to me.

SE: Did you have a teacher who inspired you when you were in school?  
PG: I had some wonderful university professors who still inspire my teaching today.  Perhaps because I did not experience especially inspiring high school teachers…I am dedicated to helping my students see our study of art history as valuable and worthwhile every day.

SE: When your students look back on their time with you, what is it you hope they remember?  
PG: I hope they remember that my love of art history, and respect and caring for them, resulted in a memorable learning experience.

SE: If you were speaking to a brand new teacher, what one piece of advice would you pass along? 
PG: Respect your audience…good preparation is a must.  A positive teacher will result in an affirming and collaborative learning environment.

SE: What has been the most touching?   
PG: The incredible tears when seniors graduate; their expressions of gratitude and love of the visual arts.

SE: What goals or dreams do you have for yourself in terms of your craft?  
PG: Excellence.  I want to be able reach every student every day.

SE: What metaphor would be most appropriate for you as a teacher? 
PG: I strive, like so many of my colleagues, to be like a ‘lamp of knowledge’…warm, illuminating and compelling.

SE: Any other info you'd like to share?   
PG: I love Paris.

Patty has been an inspiration to me in so many ways. Her passion, her confidence and her love of the arts make her a natural superstar. But her graciousness, her vibrancy, and her willingness to celebrate the talents and beauty in others make her shine even brighter.  Instead of basking in the spotlight alone, she widens it to include all of the students and colleagues who are blessed to have been touched by her.


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Friday, September 3, 2010

Writing, On Purpose

I want my students to love writing.  I want them to know the power of language and I want them to wield their word power thoughtfully and with purpose. But what purpose?  And whose?

We (meaning us crazy, dedicated English teachers) often say we work to instill a love of writing in our students; yet, we determine almost all of what (and why) they write.  How can that inspire love?

We love that which helps us be our best selves.  We love the friend who gives us honest, sincere advice.  We love the parent who encourages our endeavors.  We love the job that allows us to change the lives of others.  We love the hobby that provides a vehicle for our creativity.   We love the spouse who listens to us so we can face each new day with confidence.  We love the child whose sense of wonder at the world and lack of restraint when doling out kisses gives us a fresh perspective and renewed hope.

So, if we want students to love writing, the purpose must be personal.  As Jim Burke stated in his blog this week,"all writing is personal, an extension of ourselves, a record and part of the process by which we create ourselves."  If all writing is personal, what is the writing of our students saying about them?  What are we giving it a chance to say? If all we do is teach students how to address a prompt on a standardized exam, we have not really taught them to write.

And, "So what?" some might say.  So, not every student leaves his English class itching to write. So, not every student enjoys composing an essay.  Is that so bad?

I might not think so if I had never seen a writer be born.  If I had never seen the excitement that comes when she finally has just the right words on paper to explain how she feels.  If I had never seen the pride that comes when his words make people stop and listen.  If I had never seen the one who blends into the background finally find that words are a way to stand in the spotlight. But, I have. And I have seen the struggle and the shame of those who cannot express themselves through writing.  They hide their thoughts and, in turn, themselves, fearing that someone will see them as less because their knowledge of grammar is lacking or their words become a mud puddle on the page.  When we teach our students to see every piece they write as a reflection of self, when we teach them how to balance writing for a purpose determined by someone else with writing for a purpose they determine, we give them the armor they need to walk in the world with a wonderful knowledge of and peace with who they are.

The blogging bug has bitten some people close to me.  I could feel threatened -- hey, I'm the one who blogs around here! -- but I'm not, not at all.  I know what writing does for me (see my About Me page if you have not)  and I am learning that it has the same effect on almost anyone who finds the courage to do it. Anais Nin said "the writer shakes up the familiar scene and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it."  I believe, as if by magic, when we are writers, we see a new meaning in ourselves.

PS: Blog away, boys.  Write until you love it.