Only Perfect People Need Reply

tumbleweed wrangler

 

Please remember that very few of us have it completely together.

 
We’re all bobbing along a spectrum of togetherness and only a handful of us are at the far end of zipped up. Some of us are at the floating-in-space end. Most of us are traveling somewhere in between (depending on the day, the hour, the minute) like  tumbleweeds rolling through the countryside in want of a place to rest.
 
Some people are skilled at making it seem like they are cool as can be all of the time, but in reality, most people have no idea what they are doing and we’re just hoping no one else notices.
 

 

Remember this because I know there are people out there who feel bad when they see how lovely other people’s lives appear to be.

 

Remember that if you are a person wondering why other people have more pristine lives than you that you are probably doing okay and if you’re not, other people will help you, if you ask.

 

Remember that if you want to portray a perfect life, it might actually hurt someone who is observing.

 

Be real, if you can.

If you see someone looking all perfect, most likely, they are just really good at filters–literal and metaphorical filters.

Correct me if I’m wrong, perfect people.

life: magic and adventure

This is cross-posted HERE.

Last night I was fortunate enough, along with my husband, daughter, and father-in-law, able to see Dr. Jane Goodall speak on the opening night of her lecture series in my hometown of Omaha. The tickets were free to the community thanks to the sponsorship of Dr. Goodall’s good friend, Omahan and fellow conservationist, Tom Mangelsen.

My mini-takeaways from Dr. Goodall’s lecture:

  • Life is full of magic.
  • Don’t squander opportunity.
  • Books. Read them. Read, read read.
  • Social media can be used for good!
  • Risk leads to learning.
  • Learning is everything.
  • Love and compassion DO make a difference.
  • Dogs are great teachers.
  • Life is an adventure.

Press Conference by UN Messenger of Peace

United Nations Photo via Compfight

A mix of takeaway and reflection:

Apathy is a problem today–for adults, but of even more concern–for young people. (I am a teacher, so this is something I see everyday.) One thing that Dr. Goodall said that touches on this is: “When youth loses hope, there is no hope.” Something that I would love to be able to do is to tap into my students’ passions and ensure that apathy is not an option for them. I want them to care about something–anything–so much that they can’t be apathetic about the world. I have felt the sting of apathy in my own life. It is easy to become numb. It is easy to brush off the things that we care about because sometimes caring about things hurts. Apathy can be a form of self-preservation. When you know that there are people out there hurting animals, when you know that there are people out there raping the land, when you know that there are people out there who don’t care about other people, sometimes it’s easier to steel yourself to avoid the pain of awareness. The pain of awareness can force one to act. Action isn’t easy. Apathy is. This is exactly why apathy is so dangerous.

When youth loses hope, there is no hope.

~ Dr. Jane Goodall, March 11, 2016, Holland Performing Arts Center in Omaha, NE

It’s hard to be one person trying to make a difference, especially when it feels like, as an individual, you can’t make one. Last night, Dr. Goodall addressed that. She reminded us that there are people in this world who do care. The reason we have 500+ whooping cranes in the world right now, when not too long ago we only had 12, is because people cared about them (and what it would mean to lose them).

Dr. Goodall spoke of the children she worked with through Roots and Shoots. (Some from the Omaha group were in the audience last night.) She talked about how kids “get it”. She talked about a young person who made sure to turn off the tap to conserve water, instead of allowing the tap to run unnecessarily. That one young person might not make much of a dent in the water conservation movement, but if that young person and other individuals band together, it does make a difference. When there is a network of people working toward the same goal, a change will be made. Sometimes it’s hard to see the big picture when you’re just existing in your own little bubble. But that shouldn’t stop you from doing what is right. When you do the right thing it adds to the sum of all the other people doing the right thing. When you give up, it subtracts from the good of the cause.

There are so many things that we do every day that are detrimental to the world around us. When you go to the gas station and you buy a disposable beverage container, that’s a decision that is detrimental to the environment. That’s a decision that I make far too often. When you decide to drive somewhere when you could easily walk or ride a bike, that’s detrimental to the environment. When you give in to societal pressures on food choices, on the vehicle you drive, on how you spend your time and money, ask yourself if it’s something you need, or how it might affect the environment.

There are four things that give Dr. Goodall hope. 1. youth (As long as we have young people who care, we have a fighting chance.) 2. the human brain (The human brain can be used to think up all sorts of awful things, but it can also be used to think up amazingly wonderful things too. It’s the wonderful side of things that give us hope!) 3. the resilience of nature (Dr. Goodall’s discussion of Gombe National Park’s regeneration is good example of this.) 4. the indomitable human spirit (Dr. Goodall herself is this personified!).

She shared with us stories from her time on her grandparent’s farm. She grew up in London, so although she was able to interact with pigeons and earth worms, she didn’t have much face-to-face time with animals, until she spent some time on her grandparents’ farm. She says she was born loving animals, so this was nothing new, but this face-time awakened the young scientist in her. She recounted wondering from where an egg was issued, since she couldn’t observe a hole the size of an egg anywhere on any of the hens she’d encountered. No one in her family seemed to have a satisfying answer, which spurred her to seek the truth on her own. This led to her hiding out in the coop quietly, (much to the astonishment of her family, who had no idea where she was) long enough to find the answer to the question that no one seemed willing to give her.

She also had no problem naming some of the things that are harming our world in a scary way (in her word’s “Climate change is real. Science tells us so.”)–reckless burning of fossil fuels, cutting down trees (something that gets worse and worse each year in Nebraska–the supposed “Tree Planter’s State”), and the consumption of cattle. She said, “It’s strange that people believe in unlimited economic growth on a planet with finite resources.” She mentioned all of the similarities between chimpanzees and humans and noted that humans are the smarter of the two species. Our DNA is very similar, but humans are superior in intelligence. She noted sadly, “The creature with the most intellectual capability is destroying its own home.” The message here? Ask yourself, “How will what I do today–in this very moment–affect future generations?” It seems so lofty, but if we work toward a better future, we will have a better today.

Dr. Goodall’s lecture last night made me feel so much better about Truth Farms CSA. We started this business three years ago. We had fantasized about it for long enough. I finally told Caleb that if we weren’t going to do it, we could no longer talk about it, so we did it. He quit his job (big risk) and we shifted our focus to learning everything we could about responsible, sustainable farming. (He already had a background in horticulture, but there is always more to learn.) Then we put what we already knew and what we learned into practice as best as we could. We made our mission to treat our animals kindly and with compassion and to be stewards of our land. Even though we’re doing many things right, there are so many more things we could be doing. Dr. Goodall touched on the detrimental effects of agriculture, which is not a popular stance in Nebraska, understandably, considering how much our economy relies on the industry. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about how to make it better. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t act on making it better. We don’t make very much money running our CSA, but we believe in what we do. Our hope is that one day all of our customers will have gardens of their own and we can share and barter the way people used to.

Hearing Dr. Goodall speak of her hope for the future gives me hope and it also reminds me that apathy is not an option. Even though it hurts to build awareness of all of the ugly things going on in the world, it is up to us to confront it and to take small steps to add to the network of small steps that people are taking around the world.

Seeing one of the people that I’ve admired since childhood speak last night was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I don’t want to squander her message. Apathy is the enemy because apathy makes it easier to ignore the things that you can do better. I am happy to think of the things that my family and I do right, and I am overwhelmed to think of all of the things we do wrong or could do better. The hard part is keeping that fire alive so that we continue to care and continue to strive to do better.


I encourage you to learn more about the Jane Goodall Institute and consider supporting this worthy cause.

Also, if you live in southeast Nebraska, or are visiting, please stop and see Tom Mangelsen’s amazing art gallery too. Tom, if you’re “listening,” know that you gave Omaha a huge gift when you sponsored Dr. Goodall’s lecture. It’s easy to look at Dr. Goodall’s body of work and be inspired by it from afar, but it there’s no comparison to seeing her speak in person–the compassion in her voice and the kindness of her posture. A sincere thanks to Tom Mangelsen and anyone else who made it possible for the Omaha community to see her speak in person. My daughter, who is 13 will remember this for a lifetime.

The Truth Farms CSA crew: Steve, Caleb, Jodie, and Adeline

The Truth Farms CSA crew: Steve, Caleb, Jodie, and Adeline

I am an activist teacher.

X is for...340/365

Creative Commons License AndYaDontStop via Compfight

It’s amazing how a 20-minute conversation can change the way you view yourself. Just like that, I became an activist teacher. 20 minutes! I have never thought of teaching as a political act prior to today, and I feel naive admitting this, because now it seems so obvious, but in the interest of transparency and honesty I’m sharing this with you, dear reader. I’ve always considered myself a little bit of a quiet system bucker, even in my earliest days of teaching, but the word “activist” wasn’t on my radar in relation to ME.

Today the class I am in went and visited another class that has been studying teacher activism. We rotated through two of three stations and in one of the sessions they asked us to think of a time when we opposed a policy, curricular choice, or something else in our school and what step we took to oppose it. It was very easy for me (and my colleagues) to come up with several examples. The older I get the more squeaky of  a wheel I become. I cannot stand idly by and allow things that are not good for our students to happen.

When I think about the educators I admire most, (from those I’ve studied –John Dewey, Paulo Friere, Ira Shor, bell hooks, Jean Piaget–to those I’ve grown to admire more recently–Rick Wormeli, Ken O’Connor, Sir Ken Robinson, Diane Ravitch, many of my Twitter friends–and those I know personally–you know who you are …) I have come to realize that one of the reasons I am drawn to them is because they stand up for what is right for students.

Every time I make a decision in the interest of my students, even if it goes against the status quo, I am an activist. Every time I post something on my blog that aims to change the way someone thinks, I am an activist. Each time I defend public education to the naysayers, I am an activist. Each time I stand up for my students, I am an activist. Acknowledging this makes me feel brave.

I might be taking small steps in the world of activism compared to other more public figures in education or even some of you that I know more personally, but as my confidence builds, so shall my activism, especially now that I know I am an activist.

 

 

On Bravery

5835392158_abebab8369AshtonPal via Compfight

There are different kinds of bravery.

If you say an act takes bravery it does not diminish other acts of bravery. It does not lessen the courage that another act takes. It doesn’t make anyone else less of a hero.

Who owns the word courage? No one. No one person owns any word or color or cause.

For some courage means fighting for other people’s freedom and comfort. For some, it is heroic just to get out of bed. For others, it is admitting publicly who you truly are.

You might not recognize someone’s act as being brave, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not.

Know that one type of bravery does not weaken the others.

My bravery is not better than your bravery; it is just different. It’s still bravery!

Usually once you understand something, it becomes less of a threat. Sometimes it’s a small tweak in perspective that can change the way you see the whole world. Often, once you understand people who are different than you, you can love them. On occasion, it’s seeking understanding that takes bravery.


It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.

~ Harper Lee in To Kill A Mockingbird


This is cross-posted here –> I have thoughts sometimes.

Kids these days: They just don’t know how to communicate …

 

The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings.

~ Kakuzo Okakaura

There are all sorts of posts on social media and comments being made about how “kids these days” are becoming less social and less able to interact socially/intelligently because of smartphones and tablets and computers and drones and wifi and cyborgs … (WATCH THIS–> We are ALL cyborgs now. ~ Amber Case)  but I can tell you that this weekend I took a road trip with three 12/13-year-old girls who spent the entire weekend reading, writing, researching, AND speaking with one another both through traditional language (speaking), through writing (texting, messaging) and through visuals (Instagramming, SnapChatting). They type; they talk; they make videos; they share images; they giggle; they consume viral content; they CREATE content; they experiment; and they are just like I was when I was 12, except that they have modern technology–(just like I had modern technology when I was 12. It just happens to be 26-year-old technology at this point in history).

Here is one of the many non-digital activity the girls participated in this weekend.

Here is one of the many non-digital activity the girls participated in this weekend.

 

I understand why people see it this way. There are people (kids and adults) who over-use the technology that is so readily available to us. There are people who rarely see sunshine, or have hunched backs from constantly huddling over screens. There are people who have taken waaaay too many pictures of themselves (myself included). But, I do not believe for a second that modern technology hinders communication. Social media is a form of literacy. If you don’t learn it, you will become, in a way, illiterate. Refusal to learn is refusal to live life to its full potential.

The girls spent a lot of time using their screened devices. I am the mean mother who still hasn’t purchased a smartphone (nor a stupid phone) for my daughter, but she has an iPad from school and her friend has two smartphones, so she let my daughter borrow the smartphone she no longer uses, as a wifi-ready device for the weekend. There were several remarkable things I’d like to note about what happened our trip.

On the way to South Dakota, the girls decided that they wondered what it would be like to time-lapse themselves for the entire way there. One of the girls time-lapsed herself sleeping the other night and that idea spurred this idea. They set up one of the iPads and began time-lapsing the trip. Then they decided it would be pretty awesome to not only have a time-lapse of themselves, but also of the road, so they set up a second iPad. We had simultaneous time-lapsing going on. It was a rather nifty experiment.

This was part of our self-guided statue tour of the USD campus.

This was part of our self-guided statue tour of the USD campus.

 

The next thing that happened was they did a lot of sharing through digital communication. They also talked … a lot. They would be talking while they were sending each other digital content. Color-me-impressed with how much talking occurred this weekend. (It was nearly non-stop.)

These girls are documentarians. If you wanted to create a timeline of our weekend, you could. You might be overwhelmed by the massive body of work, but you could definitely chart our activities through the girls’ pictures and posts. At the end of the trip, my daughter’s two friends told their moms to follow me on Instagram so that they could see what their weekend was like. As a mom, I would really like to be able to see that. If my child is away from me, I would find it a blessing to know what she did while she was away. (Now that my oldest daughter is away at college, this is especially true!)

Anytime the girls were unsure of something, they researched it online. The answers are there. We were able to talk about website credibility through this. We were also able to practice concert etiquette–one of the important components being–>put your phones away during the concert! When the girls started to interact in catty ways with girls who weren’t physically there, we had the opportunity to talk about how staying out of “the drama” of being a girl is really better than engaging in it. If someone baits you online, it’s best to not take the bait! We had some excellent conversations. If someone says “like for a #TBH DM” don’t hit LIKE. Don’t do it! I learned some things this weekend, but I think they did too.

We saw three separate concerts while we were at USD this weekend.

We saw three separate concerts while we were at USD this weekend.

 

At one point during the trip, there was a “fight,” as often happens when you get three girls together for any extended period of time. After said fight and after a little parental intervention (AKA group therapy sesh), I witnessed the three girls work out a problem they were having through Snapchat. One of them sent an (intentionally) unattractive photo of herself to the other with the message, “Why can’t we be fweinds?” right before the concert started, and then they were all holding in laughs and giving each other knowing looks that conveyed “WE ARE FRIENDS” or “fwiends” if you will. Up until that point, I thought Snapchat was a good-for-nothing app that served only as a way to send inappropriate images to one another under the guise of “safe anonymity”. It still CAN be that–no doubt about it–but if we educate our children how to use such apps responsibly, then amazingly enough, even Snapchat can be useful.

In addition to all the things I mentioned above, we also saw three collegiate orchestral, concert and symphonic band concerts, went thrift store shopping, took a self-guided tour of the statues of the USD campus, went swimming, sang songs, visited the National Music Museum where we were all able to take a crack at playing the gamelan and my youngest daughter got to spend (face-to-face) time with her big sis.

We took three "groupies" as the girls called them or "us-ies" as Dave Guymon calls them (which I favor due to the connotation of "groupies" in my generational vernacular. We took one at every concert.

We took three “groupies” as the girls called them or “us-ies” as Dave Guymon  calls them (which I favor due to the connotation of “groupies” in my generational vernacular). We took one at every concert.

 

So, do these devices make us less social? NO. We may socialize in different ways, but we are not less social. Are kids super-self-centered in that they take a thousand selfies per minute? YES. Have you ever heard of a generation of adolescents who have not been self-absorbed though? They may have shown their self-absorption in other ways, but kids have always been on some level (varying by individual, of course) of the belief that they are the sun and the rest of the people in their lives are the world–revolving around them. Being self-absorbed at that age is NORMAL. My friends and I used to stare at ourselves FOR HOURS … (no hyperbole here … ) in the mirror making weird faces and bursting into laughter. HOURS. Now, they just do it into a screen and possibly make a montage of the most awkward photos or a mashup or a meme. If my friends and I could’ve done the same, we would’ve.

YES: Our kids do lead digital lives, but they haven't stopped interacting socially with one another. They just are doing it in new ways. Their kids will do it in new ways 20 years from now. Just like I did in new ways than my parents. It's called change. It's what happens as time marches on.

YES: Our kids do lead digital lives, but they haven’t stopped interacting socially with one another. They just are doing it in new ways. Their kids will do it in ways currently unimagined  20 years from now.

 

Balance. Of course, we need balance in everything we do–not just in digital VS. face-to-face interactions, and technology vs. nature–but in work vs. play, health vs. indulgence, physical vs. mental activity, fun vs. serious, and so on. Technology changes communication, but in my opinion, communication is easier today than it has ever been. Communication is more creative today than it ever has been. And kids are the same as they ever were; they just have new ways of expressing themselves.

In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.

~ Eric Hoffer

Diamonds: The Beautiful Thing About Today

Joy is not in things; it is in us.
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Tc Morgan via Compfight

I would like to say that Maya Angelou’s worldview shaped mine, including the way I view what it means (and how awesome it is) to be a woman.

I love Maya Angelou.

She is and always will be one of my favorites. She was one of the LIVING poets that I shared with students. I love many of the things she said over the years during speaking engagements and interviews, such as the idea that people won’t remember what you say or do, but they will always remember how you make them feel … about how we can be a rainbow in other people’s clouds … about how we are only as blind as we want to be … about how growing up means we stop blaming our parents … about the greatest agony of all–bearing an untold story within oneself … about how we can change because of something that happens to us, but it doesn’t mean we have to be reduced by it … about how love knows no boundaries … about how we should seek life’s laughter. There is more.

I would like to say that Maya Angelou’s worldview shaped mine, including the way I view what it means (and how awesome it is) to be a woman.

MY all-time favorite Maya Angelou quote comes from my all-time favorite Maya Angelou poem, “Still I Rise.”

It goes a little something like this:

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

When I read those lines for the first time … I was just like BOOM. YEAHHHHH. Still. I. Rise. I am woman! THIS, ladies, is how you SHOULD feel … most of the time. THIS is how you should approach life.

Maya Angelou captured the POWER of the WOMAN. WITH WORDS.

The beautiful thing about TODAY is that from this point forward Maya will live FOREVER through her words and through the worldview she shared with her readers and loved ones.

iThank You.

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

This job keeps me busy. I am grateful for that. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I wasn’t busy, but sometimes I wish I had more time to write. So, I’ve been trying to make more time lately. I’ve been participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this month, and I am definitely not on point with where I should be in the highly coveted word-count game, but I’m further along that I would’ve been had I not participated in NaNoWriMo. As I tell my students, where writing is concerned, a start is better than a nothing.  Then there is this blog. I must make more time for this blog. Writing keeps me sane. Publishing for a genuine audience holds me accountable. Sanity and accountability are valuable commodities.

But what this post is really about is gratitude. So let’s get there …

I am thankful …

… for God and family (biological and chosen) above all (Duh. This seems to go without saying, but I cannot leave it off.)

… to be my students’ teacher.

We are a very serious bunch. And, yes, we are a single-gender class, but we still miss our man, Tim B.

I’m also thankful that my students humor me so often. (“Form a semi circle on the floor so I can get all of your heads in here. Okay no. Let’s make that a full circle. Come on, smash in there. There we go. A little to the left. Now right. Now everybody–cheese!”)

world lit in the great outdoors

… to work with colleagues whom I genuinely admire.

my travel buddies

at ESU 3 with Mrs. Janda

… for #nebedu, #nebedchat, #engchat, #edchat, #silly, and for Twitter, in general, as a daily source of professional development, inspiration,  humor and friendship.

… to have the honor of teaching my daughter and her friends during their final year of public education.

Homecoming 2012

… to coach students who have a passion for theater, for art, and for living life to its fullest potential.

just another day in Forensics class

the one-act ensemble and the Happy Princess

drama in drama class

... for being able to occasionally conduct class outside.

the straight line experiment

blog tag

… to work in a district that values innovation and professional development. (It’s good to be a Trojan!)

… for apps, especially photography apps.

iSwapFaces: Steven Franklin

PopDot: Matt B.

Retromatic: Mia

… to work in a community whose members value education and support the children and teachers of our schools.

… that I live in America.

… for this guy (I know this is old, but it’s still one of my favorites):

!BREAKDANCING BEAR!

and all the levity the internerts provide me.

… that one of my students is also participating in NaNoWriMo and is much closer to being on point with word count than I am.

… that I had time to write this post.

 

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.

~Epicurus