A book is a friend for life. The words stay with you, even when you put the book down.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Game's Afoot

In addition to teaching 5 hours of classes, I also have a class of "actors" last period of the day for a class affectionately called "Speech and Drama". In effect, the school has given me carte blanche to take a bunch of unusual children and give them a safe place to be themselves.

Lately, this means playing board games. Well, sort of.

First, we took on Quelf. (If you've never played, you're missing out on HOURS of excitement!) This was the perfect thing for my goofy bunch!

Then, the piece de resistance: Life Size Clue! We designed the stage as the board, brought in props, and performed as the characters! Each pair represented a character from the classic game. So fun! And it was a great way for this crew to learn stagecraft and terms (stage left, anyone?)

Stay tuned for more episodes from this (clearly) unique class!

That Crazy English Teacher

I've been called that before.

Now I think I wear it a bit like a badge of honor.

Yep, I'm that crazy English teacher your children warned you about. I am always doing some kind of project with one or another of my classes.

My junior English III class got to experience this first hand. Or should I say hands on?

We had just finished reading one of my favorite short stories from their textbook: Outcasts of Poker Flat. And one of my favorite activities to do with this story is to experience life from the viewpoint of an outcast. This meant going outside (gasp) and walking around in the sunshine (gasp) while using our imaginations (gasp gasp).

They soon discovered this may be one of the most memorable activities of class this year. And I look forward to sharing even more of our adventures in the future.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Little Paint

When I walked into my "new" classroom for the year, over the summer, for the first time, I just stopped in disbelief. It was hideous. The walls were a depressing shade of "prison blue", the ceiling looked like it could cave in at any moment, and there were stacks of this and that everywhere.

How could I teach here? And honestly, how could my students learn in an environment where even their teacher was unwilling and uninspired?!

(BEFORE: July 25)

So, armed with a bucket of paint and a few purchases, my team of intrepid young people helped me attack the room. Now, it makes me happy to be there! (And it only took a few dollars and a week out of my summer to make such an improvement in the room -- and in my attitude!)

My gorgeous classroom, Aug 2:

Please especially note the tree crafted by my daughter and her friends. It makes me so full of joy every time I see it! And it's right across from my teacher desk. :)

Diving in to Teaching Life

This year, after 8 years away from full-time classroom teaching, I'm back in the classroom again.

At first, I was filled with trepidation. Could I really do this? After all, it had been so long! Did I even remember how to teach English? And would it be any good if I did?

I spent the summer writing lesson plans, studying texts, reading online, and even attending a week-long workshop. That workshop was the best thing for my morale (as well as my teaching). I learned so much, not the least being reminded that I CAN DO THIS!

I determined that I was going to "teach like I mean it"! This is my CALLING, not just my profession! So, we're going to do some creative projects throughout the year. I hope to document them here (just so I can look back and see that I've "done something" with my time this year).

The first day of school began with an activity I discovered this summer, called "6-Word Memoirs". Basically, you use six words -- and only six words -- to write something about your life, your personality, a description of your self and your outlook on life. Here's mine from this summer:

Every student got to write one on my whiteboard. Some were fantastic, some were funny, and all were evidence of this student body that I'll be spending every day with this school year. I'm so proud of them and their willingness to jump right in with my craziness.

Here's the board, followed by a few of my favs from the student works. I'm looking forward to a unique and crazy year!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Words to come...

I need to write.

I do. But my heart still feels like stone.

After we lost my mom-in-law, I wrote. A lot. And I ended up with a children's book. It did indeed help me work through my grief. And it's a treasure of thoughts that my daughter will appreciate down the road.

I need to write. The thoughts and words fill up my head, tugging at my heart, and streaming down my cheek when I least expect.

I need to write. The story is there inside my heart. But I can't.

I will. Just not yet.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Be Strong and Courageous (Joshua 1:9)

a poem about Jerry, and about all of us


Like the smallest guy in class playing football with junior highers
twice his size and pulling his own weight

Like the little league baseball player with broken fingers never
quitting even when he could

Like the student who captained his academic team as an 8th grader
because he was the only one with prior experience

Like the avid reader who swore he was not a Slytherin, though he
was...and earned the right to Gryffindor House, at least in 8th
Grade History

Like the kid who found Jesus (and a church home) and never
stopped inviting his mom, his best friend, even his best friend’s
parents, until they came too

Like the young man on a mission experience using his Boy Scout
skills to benefit a whole village


Like the father torn with grief holding the young mother when she
no longer has the strength to stand alone

Like the class of 8th graders sitting together at a funeral even
though they’re not sure what to do, just supporting each other

Like the circle of friends sharing their favorite quote about Ohana
in front of a crowd, even though their family is “little and broken”

Like the best friend heading to school for the first time without the
guy he called brother, knowing it won’t be easy and going anyway

Like a youth group coming together for the first time after losing
the sunshine and finding a way to laugh again

Like the mother who finds the strength again and again ...

to put one foot in front of the other

to stand before hundreds of people and share a bright
memory even though her heart is shattered into millions of pieces

to join with the church family for worship even though her
memories are nearly close enough to touch

to encircle herself with the Ohana family of young people who will always call her “Mom” even though the center of the circle is unseen.

Yes, I’ve seen extraordinary strength and courage.

I can find the strength and courage to walk this valley, too.

On Grief

People deal with grief differently. I write.

It's been a rough month, frankly. There have been lots of mornings I didn't want to even get out of bed, didn't want to remember, didn't even want to think about what the day would look like without Jerry. And yet ... there is something incredibly healing in being able to say his name, in being able to write about the awesome young man he was, in being able to see pictures and videos of Jerry being Jerry. I think, perhaps, the hardest part personally was giving myself permission to grieve. You see, Jerry was not my son -- but he was so much a part of our lives, he certainly might as well have been! He's present in too many Facebook photos to count; he's in a third of my profile pics and cover photos; he's been at my house and in my youth group and under foot since forever (Kindergarten). I felt like he was mine. But he wasn't really. And it's been hard to give myself permission to grieve. What right do I have?! Well, he was mine. And this is how the grief process works for me.

I write.

So, I thought maybe I could gather some of this month's Facebook writings here together on this blog. Maybe it will make more sense as a whole. Maybe it will just make sense to me. Ah well.

April 20, 7:54 p.m.
Prayers please for a dear child!

April 20, 11:58 p.m.
Cyril kids, the pastors in town will be available at school tomorrow morning. Most of us, Rachyl and Jaxom included, plan to be there tomorrow. Shoulders to cry on and shoulders to hug. Missing our Sparklez for sure.

April 21, 6:46 a.m.
We all grieve differently. Me, I write. Woke this morning (if you can call this awake) with a gaping chasm in my heart. I may not have given birth to this boy, but he was my son nonetheless. Lots of moms feeling this way in Cyril today. And one more than the rest, more than we can say, we love you, Kristi.

April 23, 10:03 a.m.
Ohana; never forgotten. — with Rachyl Carlson. "Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind, or forgotten." -Lilo

April 25, 9:11 a.m.
Your presence and support much appreciated this morning as we try to say goodbye to Jerry Lewis. If you are available, join us at the gym at 10. — feeling heartbroken.

April 25, 1:49 p.m.
Blue sparkle roses for our Sparkles today. Class of 2019 Ohana. (Thanks, Kenzie Grace and Tina R Young.)

April 25, 8:18 a.m.
This morning, I'll be at worship with my church family, for the first time without Jerry. There will be smiles and tears, likely at the same time. I would greatly appreciate your prayers this morning.

(Our youth group, last Youth Sunday.)

April 25, 10:05 p.m.
It was good to sit in a circle of friends this evening. We need each other, for sure. Love you, Delbert, Christine, Kristi, Jason, Rachyl, Haley, Kenneth, Jaxom, Rilee, huge hugs to all!!!!

April 29, 7:19 a.m.
Woke exhausted this morning. Need strength just to make it to school today.
"I know I'm not strong enough to be everything that I'm supposed to be. Hands of Mercy, won't you cover me, Lord, right now I'm asking you to be strong enough."

April 29, 11:17 a.m.
Missing Jerry like crazy today. This pic is from last year's dance recital. How I miss this face! Each day, it seems, is full of more moments.
Like this pic: he HATED sitting through dance recital! But put up with it because that's what family does. It's hard for Rachyl and Jaxom right now without this guy they call brother.
I know she would love to have family and friends come support her Friday evening at Dance Recital. Ohana means everything.

May 11, 4:23 p.m.
A moment, frozen in time. The auditorium, full of antsy students and eager parents. The room suddenly hushed, breaths collectively held, all eyes turned toward the podium. Behind the microphone, her voice tremulous but strong, the young mother shared a gift with a class of 8th graders - her kids - minus one very important young man. You could have heard a pin drop in the silence of the moment. A hug for each precious soul, a sparkly cross in memory of her Sparklez, a connection few will understand. A moment, a stillness, a memory, but a reminder that Jerry Lewis will always be with us. I don't know how you measure strength, but here in Cyril, our strength is family. ‪#‎sparklesmonday‬

May 18, 8:07 a.m.
Dumbledore: Still?
Snape: Always.

So, how can I explain the depth of my grief? Words fail. I miss you, Jerry Eugene Rath Lewis. Always.