Category Archives: education

2019: Old Ends and New Beginnings

2019

Ah. 2019. It is off to a good start, even if it wasn’t exactly the start I expected. There is so much going on that I am just now writing about the new year nearly two weeks in. After an incredibly interesting and complicated 2018, I may just get the opportunity to finally move forward with long-term goals I’ve been working towards over the last five years or so. Here is the update.

Russell Canoe Livery – Those of you who know me know what a big role the canoe livery plays in my life. Garrett and I will soon be the owners. I’ve spent almost all my 38 summers working and playing at the campground.

I’ve wanted to computerize our operations since I was a teenager. After slowly putting things in place over the last several years, we can finally take online reservations. Last year I took control of our website and overhauled it. I’ve also built active Facebook pages for both our main location in Omer and our Crystal Creek Campground. At this point, I am proud of what I have built from nothing. Stay tuned as I still have to tell the story of the extensive damage we experienced last year.

Not even two weeks into the year and one of my projects for the canoe livery this year is largely finished.

Teaching/Education – With my teaching certificate in hand, I am now looking for a full-time teaching position for the 2019-2020 school year. I am certified to teach social studies, Spanish, and business classes at the secondary level (grades 6-12). I have experienced extreme highs and lows in my teaching career thus far. Fortunately, I now have a much better idea of what I am looking for in an employer in the education sector (school district) thanks to my varied substitute teaching experiences. With apologies to Dave Ramsey, I will always have the heart of a teacher.

If I do indeed land a full-time teaching position this fall, I will formally start my teaching career exactly 40 years after my mother began hers. My resume and portfolio are updated and ready to go!

new beginnings

Church – My family’s church, which I attend regularly during the school year, is about to fundamentally change. It looks as though we will end up with a fundamentally new church when the process is all said and done. The building and many of the people will remain, but there is uncertainty regarding everything else.

I am excited. When the dust clears, there may be more opportunity for me to become involved. I am all about new beginnings.

Personal/Family – This fall I intended to begin the process to become a foster parent with the intention to foster to adopt. Unfortunately, I know enough about the process and similar situations that I found myself wondering if this is truly what I want to do. I want to be as clear as possible: Becoming a mother is a non-negotiable for me.

While I may consider other forms of adoption, I need to go through the process to become a foster parent. If nothing else, I will have everything together when I am ready to pursue any form of adoption.

On a personal note, there is nothing holding me back from a new relationship in 2019. Finally. I finally came to terms with the fact that I may have to do this all alone. So what? If I meet the right man, great. If not … there are way too many other things I need to do in my life.

House – Most of my things are actually in my home after being stored for so many years in my parents’ pole barn. I am slowly getting things where they need to be and how I like them. The next step: remodeling! That will have to wait until I get my career on solid ground; however, there is nothing keeping me from planning (or dreaming).

Genealogy – At the end of last year, I solved one of the biggest questions I had with regards to my family history. It was as simple as asking the right question in front of the right person. I am so close to solving another. So close. The second question has led me on quite an adventure. Once I have a definitive answer, I will share it here. It is quite a story – and it deserves to be told.

As you can see, there is so much to look forward to in 2019. It is shaping up to be a year of completing long-term projects and pursuing new beginnings. I hope to share it with you all. Stay tuned …

humble and kind

Of Reading and Writing: An Overview

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My ability to lose sight of my love of reading and writing never ceases to amaze me.  At times, the strength of the connection between the two comes back at me two-fold, and I fall in love all over again.  For example, years ago I read Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose.  It forever changed the way I read and how I view the time I spend reading.  If I were to make a list of books that profoundly shaped who I am today, it would certainly be at the top of the list.  Currently, I am in the middle of rereading it.  When I read it years ago, I borrowed it from the library and carefully noted its recommended reading list.  Today I purchased the Kindle version for easy annotation (Kindle books versus traditional books is another blog post altogether – one I plan to write soon).  I am picking it apart in hopes of learning why it resonated with me so deeply.  That, in fact, is the entire point of the book.  We learn to write by dissecting what we read.

Recently – as always – I came across the perfect books at the perfect time.  I just finished The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller and Susan Kelley.  Of course, there is a story behind my love of these books.  Incidentally, I had the opportunity to hear Donalyn Miller speak at Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) a few years ago while completing my teaching certificate.  Knowing that she was to speak on encouraging students to read, I eagerly headed to SVSU on a cold, snowy Saturday morning hoping to learn more.  I hoped to learn how to reach students who do not like to read.  The entire concept of not loving – nevermind liking – to read is completely foreign to me.  That day I left inspired to create an extensive classroom library in spite of the fact that I will not be teaching English Language Arts (ELA) classes, along with her latest book, and little else.  She encouraged us all to reach those students who do not see the connection between reading and pleasure.  Her ideas were (and are still) practical; however, I still was not convinced that I could make a difference as a non-ELA secondary teacher.

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Fast-forward several years and my sister happens to mention the book The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.  It immediately rings a bell, we discuss it, and I have to read it as soon as possible, along with the sequel.  There is so much to discuss in both of Donalyn Miller’s books.  The ideas she presents should be the focus of reading education, but that would require a fundamental shift in how reading is taught at all levels which is a shame.  Both books deserve their own blog posts, as well as a post tying the two together.  Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller and Susan Kelley inspired me to reread Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose.  It is an example of what Donalyn Miller coins “wild reading” in action and demonstrates how “wild readers” stay inspired, continue reading, and challenge themselves.  I am now convinced that I do indeed have a role to play.

Stay tuned for a series of posts discussing the many angles of all three books, as well as my own take on the importance of reading and writing in my life.  It is taking center stage now for a variety of reasons.  I am still patiently trying to create a writing and reading routine that works for me.  I will not let this go.  It is too important, and I have too much to say.

Writing 2

A Fresh Start

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No matter how many times I start over again, it never gets old.  I love feeling as though this time I may get it right.  This time, there are many loose ends I need to complete.  When I think about all I have experienced over the last five years, this isn’t surprising.  First, I moved in with my grandmother in November 2012 to help take care of her.  Nearing 88 years old at the time, she needed company and no longer wished to drive.  Unfortunately, she became incredibly sick that winter and ended up needing nursing home care.

A year later, I decided to go back to school to earn my teaching degree.  I started substitute teaching and taking classes.  In April 2014, my other grandmother passed away.  Even though I didn’t see her daily, I was close to her too.  Shortly thereafter, my relationship with my boyfriend of 10 years dissolved in the worst way possible.  In May it will be nearly four years, and it still hurts at times, even if I have no regrets about the outcome.

As I finished my classes and student teaching, my surviving grandmother became less active and generally sicker.  She passed away just shy of her 92nd birthday.  On Sunday, it will mark one year since she passed away.  There are several other details I could include here, but I had to see for myself, in writing, some of the major events that have marked these last several years.

I am still going through my grandmother’s things and mine as well.  I am still coming to terms with no longer being a student.  When I returned to the classroom after almost exactly 10 years since I graduated from Michigan State University, I realized how much I missed it.  Before I move ahead, it is necessary to appreciate where I have been.

It is now time for me to figure out what I want out of life.  There are some non-negotiables.  I will be a part of the canoe livery, I will have a teaching career, and I will eventually adopt.  It is the personal details that I need to work out, and I have no idea where to begin.  It is so tempting to compare myself to others and feel as though I should have accomplished more at this point in my life.  I just have to remind myself that it is my life and no one else’s.

fresh start

New Year, Old Question

Think for YourselfHere goes nothing. The new school year is upon us. In late June, I accepted a position teaching Spanish and world history at an alternative high school. At this point, as I have completed several professional development sessions and prepared my classroom with my colleagues, I can safely say that I feel right at home. I am eager to meet my students on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

This upcoming school year is the culmination of several years of taking dozens classes at both the local community college and university, seemingly endless testing, and hundreds of hours in countless classrooms both as a student teacher and a substitute teacher. I am as ready as I will ever be. While it would be a flat out lie to say that I am not nervous, I can safely say that I prepared. Better yet, I am excited.

Over the last five years, I found my way out of depression and an awful relationship. I didn’t focus on anything other than completing my education and training to become a teacher. I am now well on my way to becoming “me” again. The questions I face now are as personal as it gets. I am now where I want to be with my career. I just need to stay on my current path. The same cannot be said for my personal life. Frankly, I am unsure of what I want anymore. It is true that I want more than anything to be a mom. That is non-negotiable. I will adopt. Beyond that, I do not know.

The details get me. I find myself wondering if I truly want to do this alone. I know I can do this on my own, but when I am completely honest, I do not want to raise a child alone. It doesn’t mean that I won’t or can’t do it alone. I know I can, and I will. At the same time, I want a man in my life that I can count on. I want someone to share all of this with day in, day out – an actual partner. For several reasons, many of which are way too personal to share here, I don’t see it happening. My instinct is to be as happy as possible alone, focusing on what I want and starting a family alone. I am afraid of shutting the right man out. It feels as though I am caught between doing nothing and risking utter humiliation. Again.

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The Day I Became a Teacher

At this point, I’ve logged hundreds of hours in the classroom due to fieldwork, student teaching, and substitute teaching. As a sub, there isn’t much I haven’t done K-12. Yes, I’ve even subbed kindergarten, although I now avoid if I can. It isn’t that I don’t like young students. I do, and some of the best days I’ve spent subbing have been in 1st grade. I can understand why my great-aunt loved teaching 1st grade so much. The problem is that many kindergartners don’t quite get school yet. The whole idea of a substitute teacher throws them off, and it can become a nightmare if you don’t do things in exactly the same way as their regular classroom teacher. One would think that by now I would feel like a teacher, especially after completing student teaching. Well, I didn’t fully realize that I didn’t until Friday, March 10th, 2017 – the day I became a teacher.

There is some background I can’t get into, but it is enough to know that on that particular Friday, I headed to Oscoda High School to support a student performing with the Pinconning High School Band. They were competing against several other local high school bands. I wasn’t prepared for the reaction of some of my former students (from my experience student teaching at Pinconning Middle School/High School). As most of the classes I had during student teaching involved 8th graders, I hadn’t expected to see many of my former students that day. I was wrong. I saw several of my former students, and one look on their faces made me realize how much they appreciated the fact that I came to watch them perform. One student even caught up with me in the parking lot as I was leaving. He just wanted to thank me for coming out to support them. The funny thing is that I hadn’t even thought about that when I had decided to go. I am glad that I had the opportunity to support them though. They certainly deserve it.

What I call the public part of teaching always takes me by surprise. It really shouldn’t. My mom taught all throughout my childhood, and due to the fact that she knew so many people in our small town (not only did she spend most of her teaching career at the same elementary school, she had grown up in the same town as well), it always took us much longer to do the grocery shopping after school. I dreaded having to run errands with her as she always ended up talking with someone when all I wanted to do is go home. It didn’t take long for the same thing to happen to me. It took me by surprise then, and it takes me by surprise now. For whatever reason, that experience at Oscoda High School will stay with me. When I finished my student teaching, many of my students were sad to see me go. I reassured them that I would be back as a substitute teacher, and yet, this semester it hasn’t worked out (yet) for me to sub at Pinconning Middle School/High School. At least I had the opportunity to see a few of them that day. I will always consider March 10th, 2017 the day I truly became a teacher. It reminded me of why I decided to become a teacher after all these years:  The students.

Discouragement

There are few things I find more depressing than a teacher discouraging a student. It doesn’t matter what level, students should never feel that a teacher doesn’t believe in him or her. Unfortunately, teachers like this exist at every level. I found myself thinking about this recently when I came across one such teacher, now retired, in my daily life. I never had her as a teacher, but she always seemed to go out of her way to be negative. I occasionally see this women in my business life, and she well knows that I went back to school to become a teacher. It never fails: She always brings it up and always acts as though I will never find a full-time teaching job. Excuse me? Neither one of us knows what will happen. Thanks for the vote of confidence.

The worst is overhearing negative teachers talk. One woman bluntly stated that she would pay for her children’s college educations in full, as long as they did not become teachers. I didn’t say anything, but that statement didn’t sit well with me. If that teacher happened to have my child as a student, there might be cause for concern (frankly, I am being nice here).

Even as a high school student, I went out of my way to avoid such teachers if I could help it. I knew of one teacher who had years earlier discouraged my aunt from pursuing her chosen profession. He didn’t particularly like my family. Fortunately, my aunt didn’t listen to him and went on to have a successful career in her chosen field. Well, for whatever reason, he must not have made the connection that I am related. I had to have him for one class, and it was OK. However, I did have a choice as to what I could take as a senior. Even though most of my peers took an additional class with him, I chose a different class. I am so glad I did. The last thing I have ever needed in my life is someone to tell me that I can’t do something. I am already my own worst critic, and I know that I am not the only one.

How many students have been discouraged from trying something new due to an overly critical teacher or parent? What a sobering thought. I am convinced that everyone has innate talents; some people just haven’t discovered theirs yet. Imagine if we were all a little more supportive and a little less critical of those around us. What a wonderful thought. So many of our biggest, toughest problems might actually be solved. Maybe people wouldn’t turn to drugs and alcohol quite so easily if they felt what they did mattered, that they could contribute to society.

This actually gets to the heart of what I believe to be wrong with society. We are too hung up on perfection. We don’t value ingenuity. We don’t honor work ethic the way we should. We don’t honor true diversity of talent. Well, I guess I’ll leave it there.

Perception Is Reality

One of my former bosses used to say that perception is reality. At the time, I didn’t fully agree, but the more I thought about it, the more I recognized the fundamental truth in that saying. It goes along with the saying “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right” (Henry Ford). I have to keep telling myself this, but it goes beyond personal plans and self-determination. I took it a step further and realized that it definitely applies to politics.

Without getting too overtly political, all I can say is that whomever controls the narrative controls the perception of reality. This is why fake news and outright media bias is so dangerous. Does it happen on both sides? Yes, of course. I’ll leave it up to my smart readers to determine where the truth actually lies. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this gets to the heart of my political beliefs. It gets to why I believe what I believe. This is also why it is so difficult to change another’s political opinions.

More than anything, I am truly tired of people telling others what they should believe. Excuse me, am I not capable of making my own well-supported decisions? It doesn’t matter if it is politics or something else, I will not blindly follow anyone or anything. Will people try to persuade one another? Sure. No problem. I am always willing to listen to a well thought-out opinion. That is not what I am discussing here. I am talking about the arguments used by many that state if you are x, y, and/or z (for example, a woman, college educated, etc.), you must believe 1, 2, and/or 3 and lockstep with this politician or political party. It happens. It happens every single day.

This entire idea can be taken one step further. It explains some detrimental beliefs we have in our society. The one I want to talk about here is the belief that everyone needs a college education. While I don’t necessarily believe that college is for everyone, I do believe that everyone needs some kind of additional training or education after high school. Unfortunately, we as a society place a much higher value on a four year college degree than we do trade school experiences. The sad thing is that we need people to become electricians, plumbers, builders, and so much more. There are many people out there who much rather work with their hands than do straight academics. Unfortunately, many of those students are talked into four year degrees when they might be much happier learning a trade. In the end, our society loses. We have gutted the trades, and those who pursued a traditional four year degree instead are left with a mountain of unnecessary debt. By the way, there are so many other examples.  This just happened to be the least controversial example I could think of at the moment.

I suppose my biggest frustration is that so many people do not base their perceptions on the truth. The truth doesn’t seem to matter much anymore. This sad fact is precisely why we are not resolving any of our political, economic, or social issues. No one wants to listen to anyone else.