Friday, May 20, 2016

Books on the Nightstand

The School Administrator, the professional journal for school superintendents, often features a bio on a superintendent who has achieved some notoriety.  One part of the bio I always note is what they call “Books at the Bedside.”  I guess the idea is that knowing what these great leaders are reading in bed might give us some insight into their character. 
I decided to take a picture of the books beside my bed and concluded that my character is old, dusty, scattered, varied and mostly unfinished.  I’m not sure what these books say about me, but I’m going to give you the big picture.   I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. 
On the top of the pile is an easy read by Barry Schwartz called Why We Work.  It’s a good analysis of the research behind why we do what we do.  What motivates us in our work?  What do employees really want from employers?  Interesting, but no big revelations for the school business.
Beneath that I found You Are Not Special by David McCullough, Jr.   A 30 year teacher and father of 4, the author has great advice for today’s teens.  This was a best seller based upon the author’s commencement address and other clever musings.
Then there are a couple of books that are there for those nights when you toss and turn and can’t sleep.  Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates is a collection of quotes, many yoga related, by the author and others about how to live a meaningful life such as: “You may not be what you think you are, but what you think, you are. Jim Clark”  
And there’s The Complete Book of M*A*S*H.  Lots of trivia on the TV show. Yes, I was a huge MASH fan.
There’s How Children Succeed:  Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough.  Great book based upon recent research into how children learn and succeed from challenging environments that can help us recognize how to especially help teach children of poverty. 
There’s the book of West Virginia Curiosities, a Christmas gift from Jacque, about roadside oddities from my home state.  Yes, I’ve seen most of them.
There’s a magazine and there’s a cookbook.  We have lots of cookbooks.  And there’s an iPad.
Finally, there is this treasure - my father’s primer The Child’s World.  I found it in a box of stuff my mother gave to me when she was moving to a senior community.  In pencil, on the inside is the date 1-5-34.   He would have been 5 and ½.  There’s also his name written in cursive which I doubt he wrote and some child art that I like to think is from his hand.  Dad never went to college, but he made sure his three kids did.  Thanks dad.
So, that’s it.  You can draw your own conclusion.  I’ve decided it’s time to clean off the nightstand. Six-months from now I’m sure there will be a new stack.
What books are at your bedside?  


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Without Teachers, We are Nobody

The first full week of May is Teacher Appreciation Week, a time to celebrate the hard work and dedication of those folks who dare to be teachers.  Those individuals who choose to spend their working lives in close proximity of children and young adults - teaching, coaching, nurturing, cajoling, supporting, guiding, loving.  Yes, I said loving. 

The good ones love their kids in proper teacher ways and show it in their own special ways – like spending their own money to buy clothes for that special one, giving hugs when appropriate, sharing snacks and treats for rewards, laughing and being silly, letting them see the human side, listening to their stories of home life or comforting the loss of a gold fish.

Unfortunately, teachers don’t often know if they really made the difference in the life of a student until years later.  So for the short term they get feedback in smiles and hugs and thank you notes from parents and the occasional special gift.  

I had some good ones.  It’s strange what I remember.  It’s all about connecting to kids.

·         Mrs. Janes, fifth grade, who tolerated my desire to keep the classroom supplied in guppies.

·         Miss Lyons, 7th grade, who did not get mad when I nudged her back in the crowded hallway, thinking she was a girl I liked.   

·         Miss Ford, creative writing, who prepared a lot of us for college and let us be funny at the same time. 

·         Mr. Weber, theater, who let me hang out in the wood shop.

·         Mrs. Christian, chorus, who let me drive her station wagon with 2 other guys to set up the risers in advance of the choir. 

·         Ms. Huber, Alg.1 and Trig, got me through. 

They were good.  Serious about their work, but made it interesting.

This time of year I like to fondly remember also those eccentric one’s who make me smile when I think of them.

Mrs. Hardmore – My 1st grade teacher who, upon learning that a certain little boy was kissing the girls on the playground, admonished the class that from now on “the boys will kiss the boys and the girls will kiss the girls.”  Probably the only time my father sided with me instead of the teacher.

Mr. Sutton – My 6th grade teacher who was also the principal of our small elementary school.  Always with his thermos of coffee and a finger in his nose.  Each year, someone put Ex-lax in the thermos.  He probably knew.

Mrs. Fromhart, French, her room was so highly perfumed that we all smelled like girls after class.

So, tell me or someone you know about your favorites.  We all have them and some funny stories as well.