Tag Archives: writing

What Do Great Teachers Do?

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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

 

 

 

 

Great Teachers Put Compliments in Writing

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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 Celebrations and Frustrations

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Celebrations

What I learned from bloggingRecently while navigating through the pages that support my blog site, I stumbled upon a page full of statistics where I learned that…

…during the past 90 days my teacher blog

at DaunaEasley.com

has been read by people in 35 different countries! 

                                   I was amazed and humbled.

A person writing a teacher blog should probably never admit this; but some of those countries I had never even heard of.  (Thankfully I didn’t teach high school geography).

Sometimes it is a lonely commitment, to sit down at my desk in my home and type my heart out about the teaching profession I love.  You wonder if anyone will ever value (or even read) the words that you write.  Thank you loyal followers.  You make my efforts feel so worthwhile.  At 3:00 am (yes that is the current time when I’m writing this), it helps to know that my words are welcome in places around the world I will never have the opportunity to visit.  I am in awe.

Teaching Frustrations

frustrationsRecently while watching a young student teacher assign homework to a group of middle school students, I heard all the young teens groan.  What was their frustration?  Their homework was being assigned out of the textbook.  Their texts were huge and they didn’t want to carry the book home in their backpacks along with all their other texts.  The teacher gave a brief apology.  “We don’t have paper to use.  The budget is low.  We have to use our textbooks for homework. Sorry.”

I know when I start to describe this dilemma there will be people who won’t understand.  They’ll tell me that no child in Africa has a textbook and they would be honored to have one to use.  Other people will tell me about classrooms around the world where the entire class must share a pencil or scratch their calculations out with a stick in the sand.  Maybe, in hindsight, I shouldn’t have even brought this up when I have just bragged about 35 countries reading this blog.  Awkward moment.

However, can you imagine corporations in America telling their employees to market, design, and produce a product without using paper?  It is a ludicrous notion.  And yet it happens in our classrooms all the time.  Teachers are routinely asked to teach without supplies as basic as paper.  For decades I have listened to administrators beg and then threaten teachers not to use paper or copy machines.  School budgets simply can’t absorb the cost of paper or copy machine repair.  Taxpayers will vote for building a new school.  But they will not vote money for a school operating levy.

broken political promises

Before every election, politicians make hefty promises to support education.  After every election they promise taxpayers to make hefty budget cuts.  The first to be deserted?  The schools…more correctly…the students.

I once wrote a humorous piece on copy machines in schools that I will share here.  If you’ve never worked in a school, you won’t believe it.  But every single situation is something I have experienced while teaching in schools in America.

Copiers

I’m not talking about kids who don’t want to study and look on classmates’ papers during a test.  I’m talking about machines that copy worksheets, newsletters to parents and homework assignments.  Here is  the reality within schools.

school frustrations

  • The only safe and accurate assumption to make is that no school in America will ever have a copier for teachers to use.  Don’t set your standards too high.  The reality will hurt too much.
  • I don’t mean that there won’t be one on the premises.  Usually if you know where to look you can spot one.  In my job before my last teaching job, I could spot one near my classroom.  It was in a small room with glass windows, but the door was locked.  You could see it and salivate, but that was all. I struggled for five years to get a key to that door.  Remember this is a true story.
  • If you ever actually spot a copy machine on school premises don’t get too excited.  Some copy machines are never allowed to be used by teachers.  Only administrators and secretaries have the authority to use them.  Intelligence and advanced degrees won’t buy you the right to touch them.
  • If the copy machine assigned to teachers is on, it will ask for a password.  But the password you’ve been assigned will never work when you need it most.  In some instances it will never work at all.  You will have to exchange other school supplies (like staplers, and 3 hole punches) to use the password of another teacher.  But they will never let you know their password, they will only tap it in quickly with their hand covering the little window on the machine.  They are not fools.  Teachers with working passwords are like English royalty.  No working password?  Learn to curtsy.
  • If you report to your administrator that your password is not working they will tell you to fill out a form…these days online…and send a request to technology.  You will never be able to find the name of the form. It will probably be named nwpw#3256.  That stands for non-working passwordThey throw in the numbers because they are afraid you might figure out the name of the form and consequently use paper and toner.
  • If you ever get a password and see a copy machine with no line next to it, trust me it isn’t working. Go ahead.  Don’t believe me.  It may appear to be working. Unfortunately you will only believe this after it eats your master copy.
  • No matter how early you arrive at school or how late you stay, the copy machine will always have a long line next to it.
  • If you arrive at 5:00 am and there is no line next to it, you will be in charge of turning it on.  It will take forever to warm up.  If you stand there and wait, forty-five minutes later you will finally figure out that it isn’t working.
  • If you turn it on to warm up and come back twenty minutes later to run your copies, there will be one person in front of you at 5:20.  They will be running 30 page packets.
  • No plan bell is ever long enough to work your way to the front of the copy line.  You will make it to the front of the line at the exact moment you have to be back in class teaching.
  • If you finally do get to the front of the copy line and are excited, you are only moments away from discovering that the person in line in front of you jammed the machine.  They will never admit this and you will be left trying to unjam his jam and everyone behind you will believe you broke the machine.  They will be complaining about you all over the building that day.
  • If you find that the machine does not have a line, your password actually works, and it doesn’t show a jam, there is only one possible explanation.  There is no paper left in the cabinet.
  • If you report to the administrator (or more probably someone he has designated) that there is not paper in the cabinet, she will tell you that you must order copy paper from your budget.
  • You have no budget for ordering paper.
  • Kinkos (is that still their name?), Staples and Office Depot know all these facts and love them.  Their stock is buffered by the long line of teachers who use their take home salaries to buy copy paper and run off work for their students.

Thus I return to and stand by my original premise.  No school in America will have a copier for a teacher’s use.  We can replace  chalkboards with wipe off boards and sometimes even smart boards.  Every kid can carry a cell phone and an electronic notebook.  Those that can’t, will soon have to walk to the public library to submit their work online, because no school in the Land of the Free can afford copy paper.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Autographed or in large quantities by the author:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Full Circle

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Full Circle

A True Story

Dedicated to All Teachers Who are Returning to their Classrooms in August

When I began to teach about the profession of teaching with high school students, I gave my students a unique assignment. I asked them to write a thank you letter to the best or most memorable teacher they had ever experienced.  The power of this assignment was amazing.  It required my students to focus on the qualities of great teachers and describe those attributes in written words. We could never find all of the teachers my students wanted to thank, of course, but it was a triumph every time one of them received a response from one of their treasured teachers.  They would bring those letters to class and share them orally with everyone.  All the other class members would start hoping anew that they would be the next one to receive a reply.

The first time I ever tried this activity with high school students, I tried to locate Mrs. Harriet Ranson, my former high school science, biology and physiology teacher. As a teenager back in William Mason High School in Mason, Ohio I have to confess, I thought she was boring.  It wasn’t until I attended college that I discovered, too late, just what a great teacher she had been.

At Miami University in the 1960s anatomy and physiology was what we fearfully called a ‘flunk out’ class. If you are from my era, you know the kind of class I’m describing.  The students gathered in a huge auditorium.  The professor was way down in front, barely visible, giving prolific notes, never pausing to explain.  The text was as thick as an unabridged Bible.  Then on test day you’d discover that nothing in the notes or the book had anything to do with the questions you were expected to answer for a grade on the test.  Brilliant students were failing the course.

It wasn’t far into this potential nightmare that I came to an amazing realization. I was having no trouble with the material. While students much brighter than I were at their wit’s ends, I simply somehow knew the answers. It was an astonishing discovery for me, a triumph I owed completely to Mrs. Ranson.  In high school she had quite frankly taught me everything I needed to know about college level anatomy and physiology.

thank a teacher

I knew then what I didn’t have the maturity to realize in high school.  Mrs. Ranson was an incredible teacher.  I started feeling guilty.  I promised myself I would write her a thank you letter and tell her so.  My home town of Mason was small at the time.  I even knew exactly where she lived.  But weeks turned into months, then years, and too quickly even decades.  I never did write that letter. 

It wasn’t until I gave my own students this assignment that I decided to finally follow through and write Mrs. Ranson a long overdue letter of gratitude.  I wondered if she remembered me.  I thought it would be neat to bring in a letter from one of my own former teachers and read it to my students.  But I had waited too long. People can move quite a bit in twenty-five years.  I tried hard but I simply couldn’t find her.

Even more years slipped away until later at my thirty-year high school reunion, I finally received a clue that helped me locate her.  I was asked to be the speaker at our reunion. What a compliment! I was pleased but also more nervous than when I speak in front of an audience of strangers.  Though I was forty-eight years old I felt like a gawky teenager.  But once I began speaking I relaxed; my friends laughed in all the right places and we had a ball.  But it was during this speech, in a poignant moment, I decided to thank Mrs. Ranson.  She wasn’t there, of course, but at least I had the chance to express my gratitude in front of an audience who knew her and would understand.  As I talked about my college experience with the physiology class and the debt that I owed Mrs. Ranson, you could see heads nodding all around me. It was clear, we all agreeed.  Mrs. Ranson was a great teacher. And yet, how many of us actually took the time to say ‘thank you’?

class reunion

One of the big surprises of the reunion evening was that Mrs. Kathy Ross, our old English teacher, actually attended our reunion.  We couldn’t believe it.  Most of us had assumed she was dead.  But we learned that evening that while we had been seventeen and eighteen, she had been only twenty-three and twenty-four.  She had aged well too.  That night we were asking her questions like, “Were you in my chemistry class?” And she would respond, “I was your teacher!”

About a week after my reunion speech, I received a nice card and a note from Mrs. Ross.  A complete thrill.  She told me what a great speech she thought I had made.  Is there anything better than your high school English teacher complimenting you on a speech?  Nothing. Even when you are pushing fifty that still feels wonderful.  I felt like a high school kid again soaking up a teacher’s compliment.

But that card also included two challenges.  First she asked me for a copy of my speech.  I was in trouble there, because I don’t really write out my speeches. I know the stories I’m going to tell and the points I’m going to make, but I never completely write it out because I don’t want my speech to sound memorized.  But how do you tell your old English teacher you didn’t write it down?  So I quickly sat down and typed up what I could remember about what I had said.

Mrs. Ross also wrote, “If you are really sincere about thanking Mrs. Ranson, I have her address.  She moved to Florida years ago, but we still exchange Christmas cards.”

The Letters

There it was in front of me more than thirty years later –  Mrs. Ranson’s address.  Thankful for the second chance I immediately sat down and wrote Mrs. Ranson a letter.  I told her about my college course and let her know how indebted I was to her.  I even sent her a copy of my reunion speech. (Thanks to Mrs. Ross’s assignment, I now had a written version). Amazingly in only two weeks I received a reply.  The answer was handwritten on a yellow legal pad by her husband.

Dear Mrs. Easley,

Thank you so much for your letter and the speech you made at your thirty year class reunion.  They could not possibly have arrived at a better time.  Harriet is currently in the hospital…My wife has not responded to the medication and has been unable to communicate with even me for several weeks.

I took your letter and a copy of your speech to the hospital.  She was unable to read them, of course, so I read them aloud to her.  When I told her who they were from she immediately began talking… all about you.  She told me all about your science project. She remembered and told me that you were a very good student. This is the first conversation I have been able to have with her except for a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ in three weeks.

I have made copies of your letter and your speech and sent them to our sons and their families.  Again thank you so much for taking the time to write. I know these are things we will keep forever.

Sincerely,

George Ranson

 

A teacher and her student

Reaching out to each other

Reconnecting after thirty years,

Each validating the importance of the other.

Did you ever doubt that there is a special bond

Between teachers and their students?

I don’t…not anymore.

The Story Continues…

thank you to my teacher

Mrs. Harriet Ranson
1965

Dauna Easley
1965
Look at the length of cheerleading skirts back then!

For many years the story ended this way.  I had the opportunity to travel the country talking to and encouraging teachers and this was one of the stories I always shared.  It never failed to moisten a few eyes. Many amazing things happened along the way.  When I was speaking in Los Vegas a gentleman came up to me following my speech and revealed that he had been George Ranson’s business partner for years.  He thanked me for sharing such a wonderful story about Harriet and George.   Always after I spoke teachers approached me from the audience and wanted to share stories of special teachers from their past. Many promised to go home and write to them.  And they did.

When I wrote my first book for teachers, Teachers Touch Eternity, I included the Mrs. Ranson story. I tried to send the Ranson family a copy of the book.  But the Florida address was no longer current.  I had lost them again.  It took me many months to locate them once more.  I finally learned that George had passed away and Harriet came home to Mason and lived in her son’s home.  She was bed ridden and not always cognizant by then.  But I went to her son’s home and gave them a copy of the book.

book coverOnce they read the story, they were so touched, that they read the story aloud to Harriet many nights before she went to sleep.  They claimed that she loved hearing it. The family was so moved by the story which was about their mother and contained a letter from their father, that they bought several copies of my book as a memorial tribute to their parents.  They passed them out as a surprise to the extended family members on Christmas Eve that year, and read the story orally to all of them.  That scene gives me goose bumps when I think about it.

Then when Harriet passed away, the Ranson family asked me…her student…to give her eulogy. 

I was proud to do so.

Never, ever underestimate the power of the bond between a teacher and a student.  I believe teaching is a profession like no other. If you enter into it with a desire to honor and elevate not just your students’ knowledge but also their entire lives, you have chosen the right profession.

I’ve just written my second book for teachers.  TEACH…To Change Lives.

Mrs. Ranson’s story is only one of the stories and classoom activities I share in the book.

 Available at Amazon.com

teaching

 

 

The Secret Dream

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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.

Moments Matter

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Making the Most of Moments

I’ve heard it said that we don’t remember days, we remember moments.  As I think back over my own life I believe that’s true.  The good news is moments take less time than elaborate events and time is a commodity most of us have in short supply.  Most moments that mean much to us simply evolve spontaneously.  But as we build a life of value, embracing the moments when they happen means a great deal.

I remember one significant moment in my life that didn’t even involve a single word. My youngest daughter, Kelsey endured two long battles with cancer.  During her second battle in her teen years while I drove her to the hospital for treatments, I knew she was uptight about all that would transpire, though she never would verbalize her fears.

I fell into the habit of putting my hand on her knee as we drove to the hospital.  One time as we drove there I was lost in my own silent thoughts of dread and I didn’t put my hand on her knee.  After a while she quietly picked up my hand and placed it on her knee.  No words at all.  But we were then connected.  She was telling me she was scared but didn’t want to talk about it. She was telling me that she needed me present with her. It was a moment I will never forget.

Another lighter moment happened in my classroom as I was preparing my teen students to go on a trip out-of-town for an educational conference.  I spoke to them seriously about our upcoming stay in a hotel.  No one was ever to be in the hotel hallway alone.

“Even if you are just going for a bucket of ice, you must have a partner with you,”  I warned.  “Never talk to strangers or enter the room of someone you’ve just met no matter how nice they seem.” I continued sternly.  The atmosphere was very sober as I wanted it to be.

At precisely that moment there was a knock on my classroom door.  A man wearing the uniform of the technology department whom I had never seen before, was looking for the room which housed the media brain of our building.  That particular door is somewhat hidden.  You must pass through another room that has no posted room number in order to find it.  I tried to describe the process to him, but he was still confused.  I stepped outside my classroom, walked a few feet down the hall, opened the unmarked door and escorted him inside to point out the door he was trying to find.  I was back in my classroom in seconds.

One of my female students with a gleam in her eye said, “Excuse me, Mrs. Easley.  Didn’t we just see you leave your friends and go into a room with a strange man who you didn’t even know?”  I tried to stay serious but the whole classroom dissolved into laughter.  What followed was an out-and-out giggle fit that went on and on.  Every time I tried to get the class back on track someone would start laughing again, usually me.

It was a spontaneous moment that none of us will ever forget.  I’m sure long after I’m dead and buried if those students get together to talk about old times, one of them will say, “Do you remember the time Mrs. Easley left the class and went off with a strange man?”  And they’ll laugh again.

What makes me proud?  I was “present” in those moments.  I connected with Kelsey’s message when she needed me.  And I collapsed in laughter when that was the only response needed.  I embraced the moments.  That’s why those moments will live forever.

This is an excerpt taken from my upcoming book:    Teach     To Change Lives 

A Kick in the Pants

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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?