Monthly Archives: October 2011

Something for Everyone?

I attended a conference today for a student who’s been struggling with the transition to high school.  His mom told us several enlightening things:

  1. He has ADHD. (To borrow a phrase from Russell Peters, Quietest. ADHD. in the world.)  He is also medicated.
  2. He came from a small, very strict, Christian school that he had attended since the age of three.
  3. He has to catch the bus at 5:51 in the morning and thus has a 4:30 wake-up time.

All things considered, I’d say he is doing very well for himself and I’m surprised that he hasn’t detonated far more spectacularly.  But mom is not pleased with the low grades and thus the reason for calling the conference.  We offered some suggestions and encouraged the student to advocate for himself, which is probably not altogether easy given his mother’s personality.

Several of my higher-ability students have expressed frustration with the school culture, and one student withdrew at the end of last week most likely due to the climate.  It pains me to see students with so much potential miss out on the opportunity for free college credit because of other students who are goofing around and misbehaving.  Forgive me, but I don’t feel like they deserve it as much.  And of course, as a public school, we can’t turn anyone away and apparently cannot even make recommendations that this school is not a good fit for a child.  (I’m thinking of the child with clear mental health concerns that most likely needs medication, therapy, and home-schooling.)

I suppose on the one hand, the higher-ability students most likely have more resources at home that will enable to succeed wherever they go.  But the reality is that very few schools offer early college programs, and frankly I don’t think we should have to be a garbage disposal for Columbus.  Do all students need a safe place to go to school?  Yes.  But do I feel like that is our main purpose?  Honestly, no.  Does that make me a terrible teacher?


Hello darkness, my old friend

In lieu of a written post which is probably too difficult for me to manage right now:  an accidental self-portrait that reflects the interior room.

(By accidental, I mean it started off as my third foray into acrylic painting today.  I used this ad for H.Stern jewelry as a model just to see if I could come anywhere near it, then realized that her posture was pretty close to what I’ve taken to calling my Dream Self.)

I painted a self-landscape before this on Saturday, but I think I need to do just a little more with it before I consider it done…

Boys and Girls Together

My friends Beth and Corey got married this weekend, and I’d like to say a few things.

  1. This union should count as a second-generation match facilitated by yours truly, because Danielle came to church with me two years ago and met her husband there and subsequently brought her friend Corey who then met his wife.

    Their first dance, to "Where I Land," is possibly the most beautiful first dance I've ever seen.

  2. This was the first wedding I’ve been to since 2007 where I didn’t have to do anything!  No tying rings and ribbons onto programs, no cursing at the printer, no rehearsal-night meltdowns, no clipping thorns off roses, no taping balloons to hanky-panky-mobiles, no 8-hour cake ball marathon…and to be honest, I kind of missed being involved, but it was certainly nice to be able to just…attend.  And wear ridiculous shoes.

    You know you live in a house full of women when...

  3. “It’s really great when your friends marry your friends, and when your friends are friends with your friends…basically, it’s just awesome!”  My favorite part about weddings is the way it brings people together, not just the couple but the people who love them and each other.  Sarah and Madeline came back into town and it felt almost like undergrad again. I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times…when one or both are around, the world spins just a little bit straighter.

    I've declared this to be a new tradition until every foot in the picture is married...

  4. The inspiration for this picture came from a conversation at the Good Neighbors Picnic when someone asked Beth who her then-fiance was.  “He’s the one in the gray shirt, jeans, glasses.  Er, wait.  No, the other one.”  That’s when we noticed the striking resemblance among our three tall, dark, skinny Continuum boys.  I would be tempted to follow that pattern, but I think my insatiable melanin-balancing instinct will inevitably lead me back to the blondes.

"We can't help it that we all like tall, dark, bespectacled younger men!"

Even though Beth and Corey have quite a few friends in common through church, it was fairly obvious who was with the bride and who was with the groom.  The bride’s friends were exuberant, dance-happy females (toting accessory significant others when applicable), and the groom’s friends were math students who played board games.  I guess opposites really do attract, huh?

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Love and Logic

Something happened among all of last week’s mayhem that first made me feel disgusted and angry, then disappointed and sad.  When I got back to school after being sick on Tuesday, I decided to do activity stations, which was a terrible idea on many levels.  (Freshmen + change in routine = disaster)  At any rate, during my last class of the morning, which is arguably my squirreliest group, a student (or poltergeist) absconded with my laser pointer.  Already overwhelmed by the stress of managing simultaneous lab stations for three straight periods, crashing blood sugar, and complete lack of nutrition in the previous 24 hours, I asked one of our deans to come and help me address the issue.

He told my students that unless someone came forward with the laser pointer, the entire class would receive a punishment.  I was immediately uncomfortable with this, but at a loss for what to say, and at any rate, the students were tumbling out the door to their next class anyway.  After my dean and I talked about it today, I proposed a more natural, rather than punitive, consequence, namely that the class would not be able to do the lab for which the laser pointer was originally purchased, since there were now not enough materials for everyone to participate.  But then he added that there would still be consequences for the person who made the poor choice, possibly on the level of suspension (though he said this only to me.)

Several students bawled that a laser pointer was cheap enough to replace, which only showed that the point being made about respecting others’ property was completely lost on them.  And that was the point when I stopped feeling irritated and started feeling unutterably sad for a child whose moral compass is so completely underdeveloped.  I’m sure the vocal ones weren’t the only feeling that way, and I can’t help wondering whether how I would have reacted at their age in a similar situation.  (But I also have a hyperactive guilt gene that was possibly even more active when I was younger, so it’s probably an invalid comparison.)

The flash of insight about natural vs. punitive consequences came from the book our dean of students gave me, Teaching with Love and Logic.  The idea is that natural consequences that are relevant to the offense make more of an impression than punishments assigned out of anger or annoyance.  This is why detentions seldom accomplish anything, in my experience, and why I hesitate to give them out.  (Though there are consequences for that choice too, to be sure.)  And while I understand that there do need to be consequences for this person’s actions, and I certainly do not want to undermine our dean’s authority, I can’t help but feel like the offender would be justified in not saying anything.  There is still a fear-based punishment attached, and I can’t see any reason why the person would want to come forward.  My dean did point out to the students that I had advocated on their behalf, which I didn’t expect but certainly appreciated.  Not that this is a game of good cop bad cop, but I’ve worked hard to gain the trust of my students and I don’t want this incident to hurt that.

Still praying about what Jesus would do (where’s the bracelet for this, huh?!) and thinking about the story of the persistent widow.  Maybe if I just annoy them enough about it, someone will step forward just to make me shut up…

Luke 16:4-5 – For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’

Creative Team

Creativity requires caffeine!

From the time I was a small child, my healthy imagination has met my constant need to make things: prose, poems, pictures, pages, paintings, pots,  and far too many things out of yarn.  It seems to be a healthy way for me to connect with my inner P–that is, to focus on process, since very many of these endeavors yield less than perfect products.

I’ve also learned, especially in the last few years, that creative freedom is something I look for and value in a work environment.  One of the teachers I observed and field-taught some lessons with was very by-the-book, here’s-what-I’ve-always-done, and wasn’t always open to trying new things.  I will be the first to admit, though, that my conflict with her originated in no small part with my own need to prove myself competent by refusing to use her materials.  And of course, once I became a teacher myself, I realized very quickly the value of using things others have developed–but it’s not often that I don’t add my own twist to things, if only because of the population of students we serve.  Maybe it’s the 7 in me that is always asking, “But can we do this differently…and better?”

When I returned to Columbus this summer, I was able to reconnect with my church and joined the newly-founded creative team.  The rationale was that we needed to balance the often cerebral tone of our Sunday discussions with emotional, artistic expressions of faith, whether through videos, music, imagery, or making prayer beads.  It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable experience so far, not only because it lets me flex my creative muscles, but also because it has helped me connect more deeply with the people at church.  (We are also extremely efficient during meetings, which pleases the J in me immensely.)

Saturday night Scattergories


The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

So much for my photo-a-day plans.  This week never quite got off on the right foot for some reason, and a vicious bout of stomach flu Tuesday followed by a nasty cold threw everything even further off track. I am still trying to get caught up work-wise and clear an emotional logjam along with my copiously lubricated nasal passages.  I have pictures and stories to share, but those will probably come along tomorrow when I am not under the influence of cold medicine.  Because that is the perfect state in which to grade student papers instead, right?

Drugs are bad, kids. Very, very bad.

Good Neighbors Picnic

I am up past my bedtime and probably wreaking havoc on my melatonin production to bring you this post in a vain attempt to not fall hideously behind.  Weekends tend to be photo-ful occasions, but that gives me plenty of material to blog about throughout the week, right?  So I’ll be posting several photos but probably not 200 words for each of them because I really truly enjoy sleep.

On Saturday our church was once again in charge of clothing distribution at the Good Neighbors Picnic for the Homeless, though this was my first time actually volunteering.  It was monstrously cold and blustery, but that only underscored the importance of getting people the warm clothes they’ll need to make it through another winter.

Wendell frequently seems to be given the role of hostess

I spent a bit of time guarding the back gate with Arika and directing people toward the line (see above photo).  Arika has a gift for warmth and hospitality, which I encountered full force many moons ago when I first came to Chi Alpha and quickly learned the unique power of a Hawkins Hug.  She also majored in photography and is a licensed art teacher, so she is one of my favorite people.

My fellow Nikon-mommy.

(At one point it started drizzling so we both tucked our camera-babies under our coats and looked quite great with lumpy child.)

Clothes, clothes, clothes!

Beth then rotated us to shopping hostess, and we guided guests through the line and helped them find clothing in the desired sizes and styles.  As I was working the last shift, it was easy to see the area of greatest need:

From what I saw, the ratio was maybe 60:40 men to women, and the big sizes of clothing tended to go quickest.  As I was guiding a woman through the line and waiting for her to pick through the piles, I caught myself thinking at least once, “Beggars can’t be choosers…” a refrain echoing what I thought while volunteering at a food pantry several years ago.  But once again I remembered that no one should ever have choices taken away from them by circumstances.  No one likes cold pancakes.  No one likes wearing unflattering clothes.  A person’s a person, no matter how small…or XXL.

True Buckeye spirit

As things were winding down, we packed the remaining clothes into bags and boxes and into a truck for delivery back to the storage unit.  A few stragglers wandered by while we were cleaning up, and I overheard the guest on the left ask if there were any scarves left.  I turned around in time to see a volunteer (in the blue) take off her own OSU scarf and tie it around the woman’s neck in a gesture of profound compassion that really touched me.  There was an acute shortage of scarves this year, so I think I know what my next knitting mission is going to be.

There was also a volunteer group taking pictures of guests and printing them using mini photo-printers, which is very similar to what I was envisioning last week for some sort of holiday outreach.  I’m sure many of our guests as well as our friends in Weinland Park do not get family photos taken very often, or else those photos have been lost in multiple relocations.  How nice would it be to help them make and send Christmas cards or framed portraits?  (Paging Nicole Becker, call me re: Pearl House also, yes precious.)

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