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A friend posted this story to Facebook, a story about high school students run amuck.  An unpopular girl named Whitney was named to the Homecoming Court–as some kind of a joke–and the greater community reacts with love and acceptance.

What’s galling about this particular form of bullying is that the students who counted the votes and turned in the results are monitored by adults.  Somewhere along the line, an adult–probably a teacher–saw this result and allowed it to go forward without a word to the students.

Yesterday I subbed in a local high school.  A girl sat alone at the end of the back row while her classmates worked in groups.  I knew the moment I saw her expression that she was new to the community.  I asked her to confirm.  She told me people behaved better in her other classes.  After class two boys remained behind so I asked them why they thought their class was comfortable ignoring the new girl.  One said, “But she’s been here all year.”  I reminded him she didn’t know anyone.  His reply surprised me.  “I’m in Link Crew,” he said.  “I’m on it.”  I was surprised because Link leaders shouldn’t have to have a random sub appear after four weeks to identify the new kids.

Whitney will see (or has seen–I’m not sure when Homecoming is!) half the town turn out for the Homecoming Game.  Alums who have never returned from a game will be there to cheer her on.  The number of likes on her Facebook support page outnumbers the number of people in her town.

It never hurts to be kind.

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Sometimes events become so widely commented upon that we bloggers have no choice but to weigh in ourselves. Such is the case with this year’s most-shared graduation speech, by English teacher David McCullough.

My view reflects my status as what I call a “late Boomer,” one of those kids born after the “early Boomers.” The “early Boomers” came of age in the 60’s and got all the press. They organized protests and sit-ins, and burned their draft cards. “Early Boomer” women got the same jobs as “early Boomer” men. They hated Nixon, hated their parents, and named their children Willow. In contrast, we “late Boomers” came of age in the 70’s. With no trails to blaze, we hung out at the mall, attended emptying high schools, and became the first viewers of MTV and SNL. Our President told us we had a crisis of confidence, and we had no trouble believing him. Have you seen the movies of the late Seventies? Chinatown. Marathon Man. Dog Day Afternoon. Taxi Driver. Everyone dies. And then, we got married and had children.

Finally, we were in charge. Finally, there was someone on the planet who would listen to us.  Boy, did we screw up.  We have raised the most entitled and whiny bunch of navel-gazers on the planet.  We didn’t mean to.  It’s just that all those downer movies and speeches and the economy led us to believe we had so little to look forward to.  Instead, the economy went nuts, and we had our children during the good times in the 80’s and 90’s.  We were like Depression-era folks, telling our kids how awful it was in the bad old days, before we all had cable and color televisions and computers for finishing our homework.  We bought our kids graphing calculators and told them about the $100 Texas Instruments calculators that could do square roots.  We filled the coffers at Gap Kids and Abercrombie and Fitch and the American Doll store.  We reveled in the marvelousness of it all.

And into this atmosphere comes English teacher David McCullough, who finally sets them straight.

“Yes, you’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped. Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again. You’ve been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored. You’ve been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie. Yes, you have. And, certainly, we’ve been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs. Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet. Why, maybe you’ve even had your picture in the Townsman! And now you’ve conquered high school… and, indisputably, here we all have gathered for you, the pride and joy of this fine community, the first to emerge from that magnificent new building…

But do not get the idea you’re anything special. Because you’re not.”

Bless you, Mr. McCullough.  Bless you.

 

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Finally!  A WordPress Daily Post that speaks to me!  I’m talking about the one by Darryl Houston that asks how I feel about swearing in my writing.

I don’t need it.  And I’m not trying to make any particular statement.  I just believe we can communicate without swearing.  And given that I’ve written a YA Christian book, I think swearing might put off some of my readers.

On the other hand, when I’m in the classroom reading another writer’s work aloud to my students, I read it as written.  I never cover up swear words or change a written word to something more palatable.  (One exception: I don’t read a particular word found in Huck Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird.  I’ll say ‘N-word.’  I’ve heard ELL students use the word without realize it’s offensive, and believe it’s more important to help them understand that it’s a word that shouldn’t be used.)

What do you think of the amount of swearing in books?  If you’re a writer, how do you decide how much to use?  If you’re a reader, what do you think of foul language??

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This morning the radio station I listen to shared stories of how people felt God at work in their lives.  You know, those little things that happen that are too wonderful, or too amazing, to be coincidences.

My husband and I have felt God at work in many ways in our lives recently, but not in ways I necessarily wanted to share.  So I challenged myself to write about them.

We had a fortune.

We had the kind of fortune that lets you stay home and volunteer and coach Little League and just generally hang out with the kids.  By local standards, it was a small fortune.  We didn’t found Amazon or design the 747 or write the code for Windows.  We don’t have a second house or an exotic car.  We did have a boat, but the kids didn’t much enjoy it, so we sold it.  It was a nice, little fortune.

Then, in October of 2008, we lost it, right along with everyone else.

Backup investments?  Yes, we had made many smart investments with our money.

In real estate.

Which was, in addition to the stock market, the other investment to take a huge hit that autumn.

So there we were, with a son in college, a daughter hoping to attend grad school, a huge house payment, no jobs, and no money.

We slashed our spending.  We stopped eating in restaurants.  We called the cable company and asked about less expensive options.  We cancelled the athletic club and the monthly visit by the lawn care service.  We no longer have the windows cleaned each spring.  We ate lots of rice and noodles.

I checked job listings on CraigsList and told everyone I knew that I needed a job.  I wasn’t worried about my prospects; I have retail management experience and retailers always need managers.  Dave’s position was less optimistic.  He’d worked in sales and had been a company Vice President, but having spent several years working for his father, he worried that his list of references might be a tad weak.  On the plus side, he had only recently completed a program at South Seattle Community College in Aviation Maintenance, originally thinking he’d like to own a plane and felt he should know how to keep it running.  Wondering who on earth might hire a former salesman who could fix planes, he visited SSCC to get his transcripts.  Upon hearing that he needed work, the department offered him a job teaching in the program.

Was that you, God?

A couple of weeks later, we got a letter from our mortgage company, which I opened in fear.  It began with a reminder that we had an adjustable-rate mortgage.  The letter began to shake in my hands.  And then I read that our mortgage payment would be going down by a few hundred dollars each month.

God?

I earned a teaching degree back in the last century, and after all my school-related volunteer work, I wondered if I could teach.  .  The Principal at my children’s school had insisted I would be an excellent teacher; her encouragement played a huge role in my interest.  But still, I wondered if I really wanted to begin a teaching career at the age of 49 and I didn’t know if I could get my credentials reinstated.  I visited a couple of classrooms at my son’s school.  I went online to check out the process for renewing my credentials.  After watching a couple of teachers in action, I knew I’d like to at least sub for a while.  I could get my teaching certificate for a small fee.  Within weeks, I had sub assignments—and what’s more, income.

So did God speak to me back in college, or now?  Was that God or the Principal insisting I could teach?

Dave and I are average parents at best.  (You may have heard about our inability to take care of money.)  We accepted that our kids carried on the family tradition of earning grades below their obvious ability levels.  We didn’t harangue them after their sports events.  We bought cars for kids who had B averages, and we paid for their insurance.  Heck, we even paid for college.  Feeling even more terror, we sat down with our kids and explained our financial mess.  They responded by getting jobs.  Immediately.  During an economic crisis.

Was that God?

When I was in college, I majored in English and had a hard time choosing a minor.  In those days, anyone with a teaching certificate could teach in any classroom.  I didn’t need to minor in Social Studies or Math or Science.  I took enough classes to know more than a high-school senior, and felt well-prepared.  Besides, English teachers can teach Drama, Newspaper, Yearbook, and Debate.  God had other plans then.  When I graduated in 1982, the economy was worse than in 2008.  School enrollments plummeted as the Baby Boomers finished their collective educations.  I never got a teaching job.  Meanwhile, state and federal laws about teaching changed.  By the Spring of 2009, teachers had to be “highly qualified” to teach any subject.  So the only things I could teach were English, my major, and Reading, which was my minor.  I had chosen Reading because I wanted to be able to teach the low-achieving students as well as the high-achieving ones.   I thought I was doomed.  No one would need an English teacher who didn’t even have a Master’s.

But lots of schools needed Reading teachers.  In fact, my qualification to teach Reading to middle- and high-school students made me a sort of rare bird.  I interviewed for two jobs and got one of them for the 2009-2010 school year.

You again, God?

My husband taught two quarters at his new job and then had to take half of fall quarter off.  As a non-tenured instructor, he couldn’t work all four quarters of the year.  But then someone recommended that he get tenure and his school began the process of qualifying him.

Wow.  That had to be God.

I didn’t get to keep my Reading job.  Despite my minor, I lacked the ability to coach other teachers on helping students with Reading.  I lacked classroom management skills.  I was woefully out of date on the research in reading instruction.  So I applied to grad school and got in.  I couldn’t stay in (I bet you can guess why!!) but in the two quarters I could afford, I took a class on Education research, which gave me access to all that research I’d missed, a class on assessment, which clarified my muddle thinking on setting learning goals and then assessing them, and on teaching reading to English Language Learners.

In other words, exactly what I needed.  Thanks, God.

In the following year, two amazing things happened:  the woman who replaced me turned out to be the best mentor I could wish for, requesting me as a sub whenever she took a day off, and I worked nearly full time as a substitute.  Every Reading teacher—there aren’t many—requested me to sub.  The English teachers I’d met the previous year requested me as a sub.  And my years of volunteer work truly paid off.  I had at least one friend in nearly every school office.  When they realized I was available to substitute, they requested me well in advance for assignments as long as two weeks.  The more I subbed, the more confident I became about my classroom management skills.  A year of subbing was the best experience I could have hoped for.

One sub job was especially helpful.  I spent two weeks subbing for a para-educator, which took me into the classrooms of a half-dozen teachers.  I learned as much as the students!!  While they learned Math and English and Science, I learned about differentiated instruction, classroom logistics, handling unexpected situations, and about working with kids who have special needs.  I learned how to monitor a room full of students using PC’s.  (I went to school long before the release of the personal computer.  Even though I had eight years of experience as a sales manager at Microsoft, I still couldn’t quite predict the many ways thirty 16-year-olds could find to get off task in a computer lab.)

Than you, God, for giving me exactly the training and support I needed.

In the fall of 2011, I received a call early one morning from a local middle school.  They needed a sub for 2 periods in a Reading class.  I was reluctant to take the offer, because I already had a full-day assignment that day and hated to cancel it.  But the woman told me the job was open, and they would need me for several days.

Thank you, God, for that steady assignment.

I discovered when I arrived that the students in these two classes were unhappy and disruptive.  I worried about whether or not I could do a good job, but I knew their curriculum and I knew how to get along with students.  Oh, and the Assistant Principal, the Principal, and the district’s Literacy Coordinator remained in the classroom with me for both periods.  After the day’s classes ended, I made a couple of recommendations which turned out to be ‘spot on’ as my British friends say.  I also made a fairly good impression.  I taught for four days and then wasn’t called to come in the following Monday.  I was disappointed, but figured the school wanted to evaluate some other subs.  That lasted two days.  On Wednesday, the school called and asked me to come back.  I’ve been there ever since.  And today I got word that I’ll probably be there in the fall.

Thanks, God, for creating a job only I could do.

These stories represent a tiny fraction of the times God has spoken to us or stepped in to direct our paths.  We have many more.  What about you?  Has God visited you lately?

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Kristen Lamb

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