Category Archives: The Writer

Big Shoes to Fill

Standard

Kelsey big shoesI think my daughter was about 3 when I snapped this photo of her.  Look closely at her feet.  You’ll see she is trying on my high heels she found near the front door even though she isn’t even really dressed for the day yet.  Doesn’t every kid do that at one time or another?  My shoes look so big on her feet.  As it turns out, those shoes and that role became her dream.  I’m sure those are the heels I had on as a taught that day.  Kelsey attended the school where I taught, so it wasn’t such a stretch to understand why she wanted to grow up to become a teacher.

But life did a reversal on us and today I try to fill her shoes.  You see, Kelsey was diagnosed with brain cancer when she was only five.  The brain radiation required for her to survive, altered her IQ significantly.  Radiation that kills cancer cells also kills healthy brain cells.  So not only did Kelsey battle cancer she was changed from having an above average intelligence to becoming what society politely calls “special needs.”

Watching this happen to her changed me dramatically as a teacher.  I learned what it feels like to sit on the uncomfortable side (the parents’ side) of the IEP table.  I experienced how it felt to see her friends begin to turn away from her.  I helplessly watched her social loneliness during the high school years.  This changed me as a mom, a person and especially as a teacher.

So what did I do about it?  I’m not a celebrity.  I can’t challenge big stars on TV to dump buckets of ice water over their heads even though watching Kelsey’s battles felt like ice water being dumped on me daily.  Celebrities wouldn’t answer any challenge from me.  Day in and day out, what did I do?  I’m a teacher.  So I talked about Kelsey in my classroom.  I made students understand her battles.  I made them think about what it would feel like to walk in her shoes.

In one way I was very lucky.  I happened to teach high school students who wanted to become teachers.  I assigned each of them to write an essay about what it would feel like to walk through a day of high school with a disability.  I made them put into words what it would feel like to walk into a cafeteria full of typical kids if they had a disability. How would it feel to walk in the hallways or go to a dance?  I made them share those essays out loud.  They hated this assignment because it made them feel so uncomfortable, but they did it…for a grade.  Before they wrote these essays I read an essay that I had written about Kelsey.  I wrote it in Kelsey’s voice even though she didn’t actually write it.  I used exactly the words she had shared with me about the rejections she experienced.  To hear her true story made them squirm in their seats.

When I spoke at teacher conferences, I used to give out my essay to other teachers.  I’ve received letters and emails from teachers all over the country who have used this essay in their classrooms.  The title?  ‘Nobody Wants to Have a Disability, But I Have One.”  I made each of them start their essay with the words, “My name is (and they had to use their own names) and I have (name a disability).  Then they had to write about a full day of school with that disability.  I made them focus on their feelings, not just the facts of the disability.  How did it feel to walk through a day of school with that disability.

As they read these essays orally one after another, I could feel a shift in my classroom.   They hated the activity but they won’t ever forget it.

Then I had my Teacher Academy kids (high school juniors and seniors who wanted to become teachers) start a Friendship Club with the high school kids in our school with disabilities.  We planned monthly shared activities with them.  I watched true friendships form.  No matter what subject they planned to teach in their futures I wanted them to understand how it feels to be excluded.  I wanted all of them to become teachers who included everyone.  I wanted them to change the culture within their future school buildings.  I believe once we actually have to face the feeling of being excluded, once we can link a personality and an actual person to a disability it can’t help but change us inside.

Often I am invited to give speeches to special educators and I enjoy those invitations.  But I MOST like to talk to what we call “regular educators.”  I like to share stories with teachers who haven’t been specifically trained to work with kids with special needs.  Those are the teachers who most need the messages Kelsey shared with me.  I’m a “regular educator” myself and Kelsey experiences first had to change me.

A strange and unexpected thing happened as I shared Kelsey’s message.  This is something I didn’t plan at all.  As a direct result of hearing about Kelsey’s experiences, an amazing number of my students became special educators themselves.  (Today we call them intervention specialists).  Let me repeat, this wasn’t at all my goal, it just happened.  Without even trying I dumped buckets of ice all over them.  Just putting a person’s name and face to the experience drenched them with new understanding.  They now wanted to become change agents themselves.

Kelsey's lessonsSadly Kelsey didn’t live to fill my shoes and become a teacher herself.  She died at age 16 after an eleven year on-and-off battle with brain cancer.  Today I still attempt to fill her shoes as I share her story one student at a time.  We teachers sometimes have more power than a celebrity.  One day at a time, one student at a time, one story at a time, we change the world.  We have the power of a thousand buckets of ice if we just recognze it and use it for a positive purpose.

One day while teaching some aspect of child development in the classroom, I told another story about Kelsey.  A student asked with impatience in her voice, “Why do you talk about Kelsey so much?”

Now you know.  I have big shoes to fill.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the authordauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Schedule Dauna Easley to speak to your group:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

What Do Great Teachers Do?

Standard

Krista Ramsey

I belong to a Writers’ Group at my local, Midpointe Library in West Chester, Ohio.  This past week I was especially excited to attend because we were going to have a guest speaker – a lady I have admired for quite some time.  Our guest was Krista Ramsey from the Cincinnati Enquirer.   Not only does she write beautiful thought provoking articles, but she frequently writes about issues involving education which is a subject near and dear to my heart.  (As all my readers of this blog are aware).

During Krista’s talk about her writing she shared with us how her writing dream began.  She was in elementary school when a teacher, Mrs. Moomaw, required all the students in her class to write a poem.  She chose Krista’s poem and asked her to read it aloud in front of an auditorium full of people.  It was as simple and yet as significant as that…a vote of confidence from her teacher.  It was that very day that Krista began to think of herself as a writer.  “If my teacher thinks I am a writer, then I must be good at it,” she shared her childhood rationale with us.

“I believe a good teacher wills you into your gifts.”

                                                                                        Krista Ramsey

I couldn’t agree more.  Ms. Ramsey worked on her writing craft for many years but she confessed she didn’t always have the confidence to call herself a writer aloud.  She became an English teacher first.  And yet that one day with Mrs. Moomaw and one act of recognition by a teacher influenced her life in such a way that the writing dream never went away.  She steered herself as directly as possible toward that target that her teacher had revealed to her.  Now all her readers and fans can enjoy her written insights regularly.  As a fan of Ms. Ramsey’s writing, I personally want to thank Mrs. Moomaw.

I was struck by the life experiences that I shared with Ms. Ramsey. It was a similar event in my life that fueled my dream of writing.  I always knew I wanted to teach, but I also harbored a secret dream of becoming a writer.   That dream was not encouraged by anyone for many years.  In fact all evidence pointed to the foolishness of harboring such a dream. But just as in Krista’s case it was one teacher and one particular day in a classroom that gave me the courage to continue to allow my dream of writing to percolate until its time.  Without that one particular day and classroom experience, I doubt if I ever would have written the books that I have authored.

As Ms. Ramsey continued to talk with us about writing, an audience member posed the question, “How do I ever get the courage to call myself a writer?  When am I a writer?”

I loved Ms. Ramsey’s response.

If we told ourselves we have the gifts we want to have, how much more of an impact could we have on the world?

BINGO.  That, in a nutshell is the premise of my entire second book, TEACH…To Change Lives.  A great teacher does reveal talents to their students, but they do so much more.  They teach students how to discover, nurture, and have the courage to develop their own talents.  Ultimately that is the foundation on which to build long term success in life…not just inside the classroom….but in life.

In today’s world we change, not just jobs, but frequently entire professions, multiple times if we want to continue to grow and succeed.  Careers will exist within the next decade that are not even on the horizon today.  We can’t possibly train our students for those careers currently.  They aren’t in our textbooks or even measured on current standardized tests.  But we can train students to recognize their talents and give them the courage to pursue those new careers as they emerge.  THAT is precisely the most important job of an effective teacher.

I consider myself a teacher first.  But that is not my entire identity.  Sometime during my life path I became a professional speaker and then a writer.  In truth, my ability to speak to and encourage a group of people is probably my greatest talent and yet I didn’t recognize that until I was in my forties.  Thank goodness I had the courage to embrace that skill rather than deny it as something for which I didn’t have a college degree..  At the time I entered college I had never heard of a professional speaker.  I didn’t know they existed.  My books happened because audience members asked for them. They willed me to write my first book.

Back at the library someone asked Krista if she had written a book.  Her reply?  “Not yet.”

Whether or not a book exists, there are some things I know for certain after being in Ms. Ramsey’s presence for only about an hour.  Krista Ramsey is an author.  Her non-fiction books are already written, she just hasn’t put a book cover on them…yet.  She could write marvelous fiction if she so desires.  She is also an effective speaker and something of a philosopher.  She could be a counselor if she made that her choice.  The teaching profession lost a great teacher when she moved into journalism. I’m sorry for the students who didn’t get to have her daily influence.  She certainly would have been a gal who would have taught in such a way that she would have changed lives in the process.  She would have been just the kind of teacher who discovered multiple talents within her students and willed them toward those gifts.

Sometimes you feel a kinship with a person from across a room.  I felt myself nodding in agreement at every statement she made.  When I mustered the courage to speak she was nodding my way too.

And so it is with great teachers and their students.  We learn from one another.

Show Your Work: Austin Kleon on the Art of Getting NoticedTEACH...To Change Lives

 TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Invite Dauna Easley to speak to your group:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

 

 

 

 

Teaching the Important Things

Standard

Teaching the Important Things

Last week I went to lunch with Josh, one of my former high school students.   There he is grinning on the left.  He is just about ready to graduate from college and has begun the job search.  He joked about his major:  English and American Studies.  He also has a minor in film.  He has begun to circulate his resume, but so far has received no invitations for an interview.

I asked Josh about his dream job.

Right now I’d like to do something with my writing.  I would especially love to write about films or music.  But who will ever believe  that I could do that?  How do you impress anyone and get them to take a chance on you, when you are fresh out of college?

I’m fortunate.  I positively know Josh can do all of these things. I began reading Josh’s writing when he was only seventeen.  It was clear even when he was in high school that he had a major talent for writing.  He was always interested in plays, characters, settings, and how to impact those scenes with just the right music and dialogue.  He is a director (or novelist) in his soul.  I’ve also watched him act in productions and lead a group of a thousand teens as a Master of Ceremonies on the stage at a national conference.  It is so gratifying as a teacher to sit with a young person and absolutely know in your gut that he will be a success.  I am probably even more excited than he is to watch this all unfold.

This weekend I also attended the college graduation party of another former high school student, Nicki.  She is now a respiratory therapist.  She has her job already lined up.  Remember I taught these students in a Teacher Academy program.  I spent two years with them teaching them everything I knew about the teaching profession.   And yet some of my former students have steered into completely different paths; lawyer, forensic accounting, an engineer who wants to design prosthetics,  signer for deaf children and adults and a great variety of other careers.  While the vast majority of the students I taught have gone into the teaching profession, many have chosen completely different paths.

Choosing Your Own Path

Does that make me feel like a failure?  Not at all.  Why?  Because fortunately I didn’t just teach my students about teaching.

  • I taught them about pushing outside their comfort zone and refusing to give up on a dream (any dream) because of fear.
  • We talked about facing failures and how to not allow those failures to defeat you but how to turn them into a success.
  • They practiced how to give an effective speech.
  • In my classroom they learned that most people in American today don’t just change jobs, they change careers several times in their lives.
  • They learned to listen for negative self talk and replace it with positive messages to themselves.
  • How to use the power of persistence to accomplish anything you want to achieve.
  • We practiced writing a resume and being interviewed.
  • As a group we learned how to survive when someone you love turns their back on you.  (Believe me that is an important skill needed in a classroom full of teens.  If you don’t think so, look at teen suicide rates).
  • They learned how to create a persuasion presentation.
  • We talked about the importance of living their lives with balance and how to notice when your own life is out of balance.
  • They learned how to express themselves through the written word.  Boy did they learn that!
  •  There was hardly a day in my classroom when I didn’t orally read a small piece about how someone who is now successful overcame obstacles in their lives.

In short, we talked about every aspect of life…even when they thought they didn’t need it or want to discuss it.

You know what scares me?  Given our country’s current preoccupation with test scores, scripted education and the push to cover pages 74- 79 today, how many teachers will never get around to the important stuff?  If I had chosen to teach only about teaching, I would have probably realized something like a 20% failure rate.  But instead I feel like every time a kid I’ve taught finds their passion and has the courage to pursue it, I can count that as a “win.”

Most of my former students will be amazing teachers.  The rest of them will be equally incredible at whatever they choose to pursue.  I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of all their lives.

Josh, who isn’t becoming a teacher, has already promised to mention me in his acceptance speech for the first big award that comes his way.  I know this is going to happen.  If you know anyone who is hiring a writer or is working on a film, I suggest you hire Josh immediately.  That way you can also look back and say as I will, “I just knew from the very beginning, he was going to be a success.”

How to reach Josh Chamberlain?   j3.chamberlain@gmail.com

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Invite Dauna Easley to speak to your group:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

 

 

 

 

Great Teachers Put Compliments in Writing

Standard

put compliments in writing

As you begin your school year, I want to toss a challenge to you.  Every chance you get to compliment a student, do it.  Don’t just think good thoughts.  Voice them.  But my challenge goes further than that.  Give your compliments ten times their power by putting those positive comments in writing.

At a graduation party I attended a few years ago, I noticed a small note I had written rather spontaneously to this particular graduate.  It was framed and on display on a table among items that defined the graduate’s life.  This note meant so much to her that she wanted to share it with others.  That simple gesture humbled me.  When I saw that hastily written note, I was a little embarrassed at the old note card I had quickly selected to use when I wrote to her.  That particular note card had actually kind of yellowed a little.  It was one that had come from the bottom of a box and had clearly been sitting in that box for years.

Yet while I stood there berating myself for not choosing a fancier stationery, the bigger more important message gradually began to occur to me.   This quickly written message was so important to this young lady that it was framed.  She wanted everyone who came to her graduation party to read it.  At this writing I can’t even remember what I wrote; but it still chokes me up that she framed it and put in on display.

 What touched and frankly scared me so much was the importance that she gave to that note.  It gave me a mental reminder to always picture this note when I wrote to a student in the future.  I wanted to remember the power of even my quick notes and promise myself to only use stationery that wouldn’t shame me if a written message turned up framed and on display at a future graduation party.  I feel certain this young lady will never forget the contents of that rapidly composed note.  Written words have a way of branding our hearts.  What it said took me minutes to compose, but the message will encourage her for a lifetime.

Written words from a teacher have such power to push our students toward success.

Use that influence.  Don’t passively wait for the chance, make the opportunity.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Teaching Strategies

Standard

teaching strategiesThe Lesson

We were going to make a memory.  I mentally pictured one of those warm and fuzzy moments between my students and me.  Planning all the little details was giving me a great deal of pleasure.  On our high school career campus where I taught at the time,  all the buildings surrounded a courtyard.  The landscaping in this opening was minimal, especially at this time of year.  It was autumn and most of the trees had shed their leaves, but one spectacular tree was left.  Its leaves shone a brilliant crimson in the sunshine.  I decided to take my class outdoors under this single beautiful tree to make the moment memorable.  I knew they would enjoy the break from our windowless classroom. this would alert them to the importance of the occasion and help cement the memory.

Why?

Something positive and significant had happened.  It was an event of great importance to me; I had just had my first article published.  Admittedly, it was published in a small local newspaper.  Technically, I hadn’t sold the article.  No money was offered or expected.  Yet still I felt high on success.  An article I had written had been published with my own byline. They even spelled my name correctly… a rare event. This had been a long-term personal goal and a sense of pride was flowing through me. I wanted to mark this milestone with my class.

the lesson

Goal setting is something I try to model for my students.  I didn’t realize until I started teaching teenagers how lucky I had been in my life.  Setting goals was something my mother taught me at home.  I was surprised and sorry to note that this skill was particularly lacking in many of my adolescent students.  How fortunate for me that my mother had taught me all the steps.  First dream. Then visualize your dream.  Begin to make it real by finding a picture of what you want and displaying it. In my mother’s home, this meant the kitchen refrigerator.  List the steps toward accomplishing this dream and take the first step.  As soon as possible, take another step.

Role models are the best teachers, I believe.  Sharing my dreams, my accomplishments, and my setbacks with my students is one of the most powerful things I bring to the classroom.  My students knew that I wanted to be a published writer.  My frequent failures and rejections I shared with them too.  How better to make them capable of facing failures in their future than to admit my own and let them watch me continue working the steps toward a dream, even after a failure?  They teased me about my dreams, but they humored me too.  Naively, I visualized how excited they were going to be for me…how this tiny but significant event in my life would motivate them to set new goals and give them the courage to dream a little larger.  I could mentally hear the song ‘I believe I can Fly’ serenading my soul.  I looked forward to the last class of the day when this tremendous bonding moment would take place.

I Had Forgotten One Thing

goal settingTeenagers sometimes use automatic weapons to burst your bubble when a pin would do the job nicely.  Oh, but it was a humbling experience.  When I told them we were holding our class outside under a beautiful tree, amazingly but immediately the complaining began…

Why do we have to go outside?

It’s freezing out here!

Where are we supposed to sit?

There’s not enough room on this bench!

I’m not sitting on the concrete!

Why are we doing this?

This is soooo dumb!

And my personal favorite….

                                              Do we get a grade for this?

Disappointed and through clenched teeth, I growled.  I mean I really growled.  (Clench your teeth and snarl when you read this).  We…are…making…a…memory!

mad teacher

Though it wasn’t audible, you could feel the expletive at the end of that sentence.  Some of the students quieted down, but several continued to grumble throughout the whole activity.  I told them the about the significance of the occasion.  I showed them my byline in the newspaper with my name on it.  They were not impressed.  I read the story aloud to them.  It was a touching story about planting tulips with my daughter and about how the reappearance of those tulips each spring signaled that she had survived another year cancer free.  They were not touched.  I talked briefly about the importance of having meaningful goals and celebrating successes when they occurred.  The exact moment I paused in my speaking someone said,

Can we go in now?

Totally deflated, I nodded.  A few of them actually sprinted for the door.  I had never before seen them run.  They sure didn’t run when they were coming to my class.  I walked back to the building slowly, feeling completely rejected.  I made a mental note never to try anything which even remotely resembled this activity ever again.  My self-esteem couldn’t survive it.  My wonderful lesson felt like it had been ground through the garbage disposal.

The Revelation

the lesson

About a year and a half later, Edie, one of my new graduates came to school to visit me.  While we were catching up I shared some of my current good news with her.  I had just received a book that contained an article I had written for A Fourth Course of Chicken Soup for the Soul.  I showed her the book autographed by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen.  She gave me the most startled look and said something quite odd as she extended her arm in my direction.

Mrs. Easley, feel my arm.

I was puzzled but I wrapped my hand around her arm as she went on…

I have goosebumps.  Can you feel them?  You’ve given me goosebumps.

Then she said something even more surprising…

“I can remember the day you took our class outside into the courtyard to read us your article that was in the newspaper.”  Her voice was full of awe as she continued.  “You told us on that day that you wanted to have a story published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.  I can’t believe you have accomplished this!  I’m so proud of you.”  She gave me a big hug and then sat down to read the story.  I watched her read as I blinked back tears.

How different were our memories of that day.  I was certain that I had reached no one.  Frankly, it was a horrible memory for me.  And yet here was proof that my message had been heard.  I have no recollection of telling my students that one of my goals was to be published in Chicken Soup for the Soul.  I’m certain I did, but only because Edie shared her memory with me. What an incredible lesson she taught me on that day.

In even our bleakest moments as teachers,

we may truly be accomplishing so much more than is apparent.

Edie taught me that. I will try and remember this forever.  Quite by accident, I learned about the positive impact I had made on an afternoon I felt was a total failure.  I had literally seen and felt the evidence.  Goosebumps are not to be taken lightly.

teacher

A Celebration!

TEACH...To Change Lives

Just this week my second book for teachers,   TEACH…To Change Lives has become available on Amazon.com.  Woo-hoo!  Purchase a copy to thank or encourage a teacher or future teacher.

It is full of classroom ideas and inspiring true stories.

Each MONDAY in August and up through September 10th, I will post an inspiring true story about teaching.  Please pass the word along to all your teacher friends.

Thank you for reading my blog! 

The Secret Dream

Standard

Some Dreams We Share with the World

Thank a teacherFor as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to become a teacher.  This dream was conceived unintentionally by observing an enthusiastic third grade teacher named Mrs. Waggoner.  She didn’t prepare a lesson about careers.  She didn’t ask us to write about what we wanted to be when we grew up.  She simply taught with joy.

Looking back I realize that my parents’ philosophy of child rearing -had they chosen to write it down- would have read like this:  “Do your chores and then go play.”  I had no complaints about that style of parenting.  I did my chores and then ran outside to play until the lightning bugs appeared.  I loved being outdoors and enjoyed a large circle of neighborhood playmates.

But in third grade I discovered a teacher named Mrs. Waggoner.  She was unlike any other adult I had ever encountered.  What made her unique?  She actually enjoyed playing with children.  She would enter whatever game we had devised and laugh with us.  Noise didn’t bother her.  Messes didn’t annoy her.  Instead of telling us to simply sit down and draw a picture during those long winter indoor recesses, she would have us push back all the desks and she taught us how to square dance.  She’d holler out the square dance calls and dance with us, clapping as she skipped around the room.  I was mesmerized by her and studied her like she was some kind of a science experiment.

 teacher

Consequently it was when I was only eight that I decided I wanted to grow up and enter a profession in which I could find as much joy and fun as Mrs. Waggoner. I began to fashion child sized classrooms on the porch, or in the garage.  That dream of becoming a teacher I made public and I rushed toward that goal as though racing along a zipline.  By age twenty I was teaching third grade myself.  Thank you, Mrs. Waggoner for revealing a career path I would love for decades.

 The Secret Dream

writing

But I also had a secret dream.  Maybe you have one too.  I wanted to become a writer.  I can’t pinpoint when this dream was conceived within me.  It wasn’t as clear-cut as meeting Mrs. Waggoner.  I just knew I enjoyed writing stories for fun. I wrote stories for myself and sometimes shared them with my family.  As a teenager, I wrote a collection of very mediocre poems that I kept hidden away.   No one encouraged me in this dream.  In fact, I rarely revealed this interest to anyone.

Why?  Every time I wrote a story or an essay for an assignment I was given a grade of a B minus.  B minus people don’t excel.  B minus people need to look elsewhere to succeed.  So I kept this interest tucked away in a private place. This dream percolated on the back burner, just below the surface of public admission for many years.

Ironically, it was once again a teacher who finally gave me “permission” to allow my writing dream to begin to grow.  She wasn’t royalty, but her name was Miss Throne.  Really.

Miss Throne’s Threat

She was my freshman composition professor at Miami University.

She issued a threat on the first day of class.  She circumvented any effort at tact and told us that most of us would fail her class.   We glanced at each other stunned.  She pointed out that we weren’t in high school anymore.  While we may have been making an ‘A’ in high school English, that didn’t impress her one iota.  She was the Marine drill sergeant equivalent of a college English prof.

 I had never seen an A for my high school writing efforts and I felt my already sagging confidence plummet.  In fact she claimed that most of us would make an ‘F’ on our first writing assignment.  Worse.  All our writing would be done during class with the topic only provided on the day of the assignment. No opportunity to refine and improve would be granted.

It was a grim group of students who showed up for that first classroom writing assignment.  She didn’t smile nor did we.  She distributed our blank blue books and then chalked our essay title in giant letters on the blackboard.

I Am An Eccentric

Decades later I still remember that title and the fear. We wrote furiously until she ordered us to stop.   The next class day was even more sullen as, sure enough, she began to hand back those blue books.  I saw, F, F, D, D-, D- – .  I even spotted an F- !  She wrote those grades in HUGE red pencil on the covers of the booklets.  Public condemnation with no apologies.

What did my booklet say?  She didn’t even return it to me.  I said absolutely nothing.  I figured she had ripped it to shreds in frustration.  You could hear a fly sweat in that classroom.  Silently Miss Throne made a throne of the desk in the front of the room as she perched on top of it and stared at us.  No one said a word.

Then quietly she began to read to us orally.  My essay.  I slid down as far as possible in my seat.  It was several minutes before I realized with astonishment that she liked it.  I have never been more surprised or embarrassed by anything in my life…not even to this day.  My grade?  It was an A minus, minus.  Miss Throne adored minuses. But the grade was no longer of any importance.

That was the day that I realized with stunning clarity that taste in good writing is subjective.  That was the day that I knew that I would allow my writing dream to continue to percolate and grow.  That was the day that I internalized that one day I would have the courage to write and make my words public.  It didn’t happen quickly, but it did happen.  First I became a teacher.  But, now also, I had permission to write.

Teachers Touch Eternity

write

TEACH To Change Lives

Please understand that as a teacher myself, I do not approve of Miss Throne’s methods.  I don’t believe you get your best results from students through intimidation.  I tell this story to prove another point.  Miss Throne does not remember me.  She doesn’t remember my name.  She doesn’t remember that day.  But notice the power one teacher had in my life, in one hour of one day.  I no longer felt that I had to squelch my secret dream.  That one day gave me the courage to write my first book.  My third book Teach…To Change Lives will be available at Amazon.com soon.  And Miss Throne is in it.

Never give up on a secret dream too soon.

A Kick in the Pants

Standard

Sharing Talents

I have a lovely friend named Candy, who I met in college at Miami University too many decades ago.  I always admired her and wanted to get a little closer, but I did something really stupid.  I got too busy with life and didn’t pursue a friendship my instincts told me would be valuable.  I’m sure none of you are stupid enough to have ever done this.  But I can be short-sighted like that.

Don’t let the picture scare you.  Candy, fortunately didn’t die.  I’ll tell you about the tombstone in a minute. When I retired from teaching last year I finally had my second chance to reconnect with Candy.  I got just a little bit smarter and I did it.  I found an email address in an old Christmas letter and I contacted her.  We have been exchanging enjoyable emails for over a year and catching up on our lives.  What a lovely gift I gave myself at this point in my life.

Discovering Treasures

One of the wonderful talents I rediscovered in Candy was her writing.  She is simply a beautiful writer.  I’ve complimented her on her writing style frequently and encouraged her to share her talent with others.  Candy was an only child and confided that she really wanted to write stories about her parents.  They are both gone now and she realized if she didn’t write about them, who would ever know them once she was gone?  Memories of them would be lost to the world.  But this wonderful friend is something of a perfectionist.  She is her own worst critic.  Too many of us do that to ourselves.  Don’t we?  If these stories couldn’t be absolutely perfect, she told herself, “Why begin?”

That is when her annoying friend, (yep,me) after reading one more delightful email from Candy complimented her one more time on her writing and then posed this tactless question.  “Do you really want to take this talent to the cemetery with you without sharing it with anyone?”  See tombstone above.  Oh, I can be such a thoughtless and undiplomatic nag when I spot a buried treasure.   It’s that somewhat ‘tact free’ approach to kicking people in the pants that made me a good teacher.  

Guess what?  I don’t remember using that sentence on her.  But she just sent it back to me yesterday.  It was pretty embarrassing to realize how I had worded that challenge.  But I forgive myself, because she has started to write wonderful stories about her parents.  It worked.  Her parents are reborn as she makes them come alive in her writings. 

So now, I’m asking you.  “What talent do YOU have that you are saving for the cemetery? Is that really the best use of your talents?”  Of course, none of us plan to take our talents to the grave.  Would it take a terminal diagnosis to get you going?  What are you gonna’ do about sharing those talents today?  I’m here to nag you just a little bit about it. 

This week in addition to my blogs, I’ve written two pieces I’ve submitted for a writer’s contest and a publication.  I might not win.  They might not print my work.  Rejection isn’t fun.  In fact, rejection stings.  But picturing that cemetery keeps me trying. What about you?