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Curriculum

One of the disadvantages of being part of faculty instead of administration in the school system is that I have no ability to impact curriculum in any way. While I have no specific training in curriculum development and implementation, I have seventeen years in the classroom and double that in mothering. Along the way, I have often thought of worthwhile additions to make to the subjects that are taught.

The first subject that I would introduce is that of surprises. Everyone appreciates surprises and I would teach both the value in surprises and their implementation. My guess is that this would be a subject that my students would quickly embrace. They always show excitement when I surprise them and I would capitalize on that enthusiasm by showing them the endless methods by which they can surprise others. The positive consequence is delivering happiness as it is received.

My second inclusion would be courtesy and respect. These concepts are parts of most school rules and priorities but I haven’t seen any specific actions designed to acknowledge and appreciate either of them. Having been almost knocked over in the playground and slapped by a student, I am certain that our youthful population could benefit from some old school etiquette. Yes, I realize that this is a subject matter best introduced at home but when we have no ability to influence home learning, the classroom is the next best venue.

The final component that I would like to teach is that of finding fun and gratification in the world without benefit of electronics or toys. Many schools are extremely proficient at taking students to certain events outside the school such as 4H or fire departments, both of which are excellent ideas. My inclusion would be to take kids to assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. Our seniors have so much to teach and children have so much to learn from the generation that preceded that of our parents. This would be the ultimate win-win – seniors benefitting from the presence of young lives and students realizing how much of their present is derived from the past.

As a substitute teacher who often sees new students each day, I will remain resolute in educating outside reading, writing and arithmetic when I can. Creating, respecting and appreciating are always in my briefcase, next to the pencils and candy. All of them are critical to producing the next great generation. Shalom.

 

If I may assist you in any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com and I hope that you will use this address only for business purposes.

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Don’t ask

From the time that most of us were very little, we were taught that it was a good idea to ask questions. If you tune into a household with three or four-year-old children, you’ll hear the word “why” more than any other. My take on this is to call it intellectual curiosity, a quality that I revere and encourage.

As I get older (not to be confused with getting old), I have started to believe that sometimes it’s better not to wonder. Never will I cease learning, investigating and discovering information that I find meaningful. But I am thinking that sometimes the brain benefits from not asking why.

Please allow a few examples. In spite of having moved out of Austin, Texas over twenty years ago, my husband is a serious and dedicated University of Texas fan. He is not an alumnus, nor are his sons. It’s better in general not to ask why.

And speaking of rabid, why are Nebraskans so passionate beyond reason about their cornhuskers? Is it genetic or geographic? The same could be said about Green Bay Packer or Oakland Raider fans.

Then there are the New Mexico drivers to whom I’ve referred on several occasions. It doesn’t surprise me that our drivers are ranked among the top ten worst states in the US in which to drive. Rather than wonder why so many persist in driving 20 to 30 miles per hour over the speed limit, I’ve stopped doing so. Maybe if I don’t ask why, my frustration will diminish.

Why does the letter carrier arrive at exactly the same time that I want to collect mail? Why does my cell stop announcing texts? Why are all the avocados as hard as plywood when I need them for a recipe?

Some questions must be asked – why does that child behave as he or she does? But I’m learning that occasionally my intellectual curiosity is more appropriately put on time out or saved for fourth down situations. Shalom.

 

If I may assist you with any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure to do so. You can reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com, but please don’t send spam.

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Importance

One of the things that we thinking humans often do is minimize our importance. There are as many methods for doing this as there are situations in which we find ourselves. Most recently, I was pondering my communication from God and immediately terminated the process with the idea that God had much more important issues to address than mine.

In addition to that manner of thinking inappropriately limiting God’s abilities, it serves to diminish my overall value. If I think about it long enough, I can identify a litany of examples where we subordinate ourselves when there was no justification in doing so.

Every time one of my students inquires about asking a “dumb question,” I quickly respond that there are no dumb questions – it’s simply not smart to hold back on asking questions. We often refrain from sharing important information from our physicians, attorneys or accountants. Somehow, we believe that what we have thought to say is not noteworthy enough to utter.

While I often ask people behind me at the grocery store if they would like to go ahead of me, that’s not in the effort to make my time insignificant. The same is true of allowing people to enter a highway by creating a break in the traffic. Those are simply good manners and kind gestures.

But when we extend that to, “You go ahead. My time doesn’t mean anything – I have nowhere important to be,” we sabotage ourselves. Or we can cancel an “optional” appointment such as a haircut or massage, in order to see someone or go somewhere that can just as easily be scheduled at our convenience instead of theirs.

This is not a habit that we want to teach our children. Every appointment, opinion, position or possession that we own is as important as those belonging to others. When we minimize and de-emphasize ourselves long enough, we find ourselves firmly established in the inferior position.

It makes more sense to posit our relevance whenever and wherever necessary. The busy, competitive world is eager to hand us sufficient negativity to diminish us and it is only through persistence and pride that we can hold up our heads and be whoever we want to be. Shalom.

 

If I may assist you with any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure and privilege to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com.

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When I grow up

A short and somewhat chubby third grader tells me, “I want to be an astronaut when I grow up.” His classmate, a very thin and fragile little girl, advises that she wants to be a firefighter. Very often, I ask my classes what they aspire to become in their lives.

Under no circumstances and for no reason will I ever criticize, contradict or minimize these dreams. To begin, I have no right to do so. More importantly, we adults do these children a huge disservice by suggesting that their expectations are unrealistic.

If I think about my own childhood, women either got married or became teachers but rarely both. My dad was forever reminding me and others that I was going away to college to acquire my Mrs. degree.

For fear of sounding as if I am grandstanding for women’s rights, I’m extremely glad that opportunities for women have dramatically improved. Would my life have evolved differently if he had encouraged rather than insulted my intentions? It’s difficult to say. Ultimately, I achieved what I intended, often in the face of gender discrimination.

But I won’t allow my students to ask that type of question of themselves. What characteristics present in third or any other grade are nearly irrelevant. That generalization, however, does not apply to passion.

Passion is an emotion that I seize and explore as thoroughly as possible. We can’t create it but we can identify and champion it. If you want to be a police officer when you grow up, I’m sure that you’ll be able to become one. No matter what and no matter who tells you otherwise, you can be what you want to be.

It used to be that height, weight, gender and other factors served to prevent us from pursuing various endeavors. Much less of that now exists. But our students may continue to receive negativity from parents, grandparents or classmates.

Many of us can speak literally about the teachers or other adults who had lasting influence on us. My experience suggests that most of this takes the form of enthusiasm and encouragement. We can also learn from those who worked to discourage or insult our aspirations.

Help those who can benefit the most from the help to build dreams. It’s likely that each of us who touch the lives of others have the potential to make profound impacts on them. As I often mention, we will never be able to calculate or measure how much influence our words and actions will have. Shalom.

 

If I may assist you in any of your writing endeavors, it will be my pleasure and privilege to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com.

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Simple logic

A lady we recently encountered reported some of the events experienced by her eight-year old in public school. From what she described, the child was guilty of several relatively minor infractions.

Apparently, the behavior misdeeds were in rapid succession. Because I’ve seen all ranges of mistakes and unfortunate behavior by students, it’s difficult to surprise or shock me. But these were minor – get in line now and your homework was due this morning.

The teacher’s responses were extremely harsh. Now you’ve lost your field trip privileges for the week. Next time you do this, you don’t have any free time for the rest of the school year.

Unlike most of us who reside either in the past or the indefinite never never land future, kids understand only the present tense. Why would you threaten an eight-year old with a long-term deprivation?

If I were the child, I would think, Why should I behave? What else can you take from me? My question becomes, what happened to asking why work wasn’t completed or why are you having such trouble following the rules?

There’s plenty of time for kids to endure sincere hardship and scarcity. Rather than demonstrating power, the teacher might have witnessed more positive outcomes with understanding and empathy.

Yes, I realize that I’m hearing only one side of the story. But the lesson remains: Give children (and adults) as many chances to excel as you can create or promote. The possibilities are excellent that remarkable actions will ensue. Shalom.

 

If I may assist you in any of your writing endeavors, it will be my privilege to do so. You can reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com.

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How you feel

As I become older, I am aware of how many people I have lost and how many have been lost to those I love. While I object to spending a great deal of time in grief and sadness, I do think about the opportunities missed to tell those we love exactly how we feel about them.

My experience says that men have much more difficulty with expressing their feelings than women. Obviously, that generalization is subject to countless exceptions. Some women don’t know how to or refuse to express their feelings, especially when it comes to loved ones. And likewise, some men have no difficulty whatsoever in discussing their feelings, to significant others or family members.

What’s the reason for this reluctance to talk about our emotions? There are probably as many reasons as there are people who can’t or won’t. And while I make no (ridiculous) attempt to change this, I do have some gentle suggestions to make.

Many of us who have lost those closest to us did so without ever hearing the feelings that they had for us. It would have been soothing to hear a, “I’m so proud of you” or “I’m glad that you’re my daughter” or something along those lines. While I have many family members and friends who are lavish with their compliments or gratitude, some kindnesses and words can never be duplicated.

As one who feels strongly about articulating how we feel about others, I urge you to waste no time in telling those closest to you how your life is defined or amplified by their existences. For me, I find myself also guilty of not telling those closest that they are as wonderful as I find them and how proud I am of who they are and what they have achieved.

My irreplaceable and uniquely magnificent children should know that they are my greatest gifts and that I am grateful that they call me Mom or Mommy or Mother.  If you are likewise blessed, waste no time in detailing how you feel, in spite of how often you’ve said it or thought about saying it. This is not done in the spirit of anticipating last breaths but more in making every breath matter. Shalom.

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A chance to succeed

A common expression that has always intrigued me is, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Another version of this is, “You can’t hit anything if you don’t take a shot.” And there is, “How can you hit anything if you don’t shoot?”

Wayne Gretzky, famous and hugely successful hockey player, is credited for the first version of this. For hockey, the expression is apropos and makes perfect sense. In the game of hockey, you can’t score a goal if you don’t take a shot at the net. But thanks to a dear friend and some further thoughts about the quote, I have concluded that there are other interpretations that make sense to me.

Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” It occurs to me that there are efforts that make more sense than committing a process on impulse or knee-jerk reaction. In fact, maybe it’s the shots we don’t take that have greater significance than those that we do.

The first example that I can identify is part of parenting. With the years of experience and exposure that we have over our children, it’s easy to do things for them. Math problems, shoe tying, bathing, letter-writing and thousands of other learning tasks can be completed more quickly if we do them ourselves instead of letting children devise their own problem-solving. But it’s generally a mistake to take over those efforts instead of letting our kids find solutions.

With another interpretation, taking only some shots instead of all seems to be a more prudent path. Because I am not a hunter, I can’t speak to waiting for the “perfect” shot to take down game. But as a parent, educator and writer, it does make sense to wait for the right time to make certain that my deeds have the greatest chance of success.

Maybe it’s simply a matter of timing. Maybe it’s identifying the best possible space to make our feelings known. Or perhaps if we are always in the process of taking one type of shot or another, the potential is diminished for any one of them to succeed. And so, taking every available shot may be good advice for hockey, it’s not necessarily viable for the rest of life. If we seek to do something or write something that is worthwhile, being selective rather than random sounds like a preferred trajectory. Shalom.

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A matter of taste

Every now and then you run into someone who expresses a hatred for kids. “So glad they are theirs and not mine.” “Don’t know why anyone would have kids.” “Why would I have kids? Dogs are a lot less trouble.” Every time I hear one of these statements or many others, I cringe and think about how much that person is missing.

It’s always possible that these are folks who were unable to have kids and/or partners with whom to raise them. While I understand the habit of dismissing or insulting that which we can’t have, I still cringe but always hold my tongue.

What’s wonderful about kids? They are color and handicap-blind. They want uniqueness while finding reasons to do those actions that are similar to those of neighbors and friends. They have a remarkable selective memory for faces and names while they forget directives delivered as much as a minute ago.

Very often I am glad that some people aren’t parents and wish that some who are had stayed with dogs. These are the dispassionate or misguided adults who ignore, mistreat or otherwise harm children. Victims such as these are easily identified – they are needier, more likely to cling to an attentive adult and illuminate the room when recognized for an accomplishment.

Kids frequently present me with gifts that they have created. These are notes, drawings, fortune-teller toys, stickers or bracelets. For reasons that I don’t fully understand, I have saved all of them and they occupy large folders on my office bookshelves. The specific donor is not important. What matters is that I notify all my generous students that I cherish and maintain all of their gifts.

Where do our children learn that it is gratifying to gift to others? In some cases, my students are from families with insufficient resources to provide numerous toys or clothes. But they all understand that something handmade is special and precious, offering their creations to a grateful teacher.

What really is wonderful about kids? The youngest have no filters whatsoever and tell you whatever is on their minds. While this is a practice that may not work well in the adult world, for me it is just fine. And so, my collection of gifts continues to grow. Shalom.

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Lessons

Why would I be surprised about learning something each day I am in a classroom? The kids do – we educators work quite diligently to ensure that learning takes place, whether in big chunks or in subtleties.

Yesterday’s assignment for them required creativity. They were given a drawing and instructed to make it into anything they wanted. It’s practice in thinking without limits and with no possibility of making a mistake in interpretation.

What’s the lesson? Allow for self-expression minus self-criticism. Write or sing or dance or draw without conditions or judgments, internal or external. It’s the process of creation that is paramount. What happens thereafter is secondary.

Next segment was about trust. When I told students to get their computers and do whatever they wanted, they all went to educational sites. There’s a message there about assuming integrity. Of course, if these had been eighth graders instead of second, we might have had other directives. You could easily make the case that I’m in a second grade classroom by intent, just as I am not in an eighth grade environment.

Later I get an opportunity to direct kids through a fifteen-minute writing event. To one young man, fifteen minutes was an eternity. To another, it was an invitation to display every written page he created since October. And to a third, it was hardly enough time to describe his thoughts and dreams.

Clearly, the good writers wrote while the others found numerous methods to avoid or postpone. Lesson learned – those tasks that appear simple or enjoyable to some are torture to others. The lesson included an illustration, after the writing was completed. Not surprisingly, one girl went directly to the picture with not a word on her page.

The last notion I learned was during the math segment. While a few students breezed through four pages of math problems, some required my assistance for each effort. What was the lesson learned? Once again, it is imperative that we educate one student at a time, with each one advancing at his or her own pace. Maybe it’s a life lesson. We move through our tasks, required or optional, at the pace consistent with our abilities and tastes.  Don’t ask me to sit in front of a sci-fi movie when writing a blog will be a much greater gratification. Shalom.

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Growth

Most of us have encountered one or more people in our lives who profess to be completely happy with who they are. It sounds like, “I’m fifty-something years old and I’ve done alright so it’s a little late to change.” The age is insignificant to me because I feel very strongly that we are all in a position to do more and to get better at whatever it is that we do.

Like so many others, I’ve done what I do for quite a long time. My writing began in college and has never ceased. At the same time, I have been working for many years in sales and health care, I’ve been a parent for quite a long time and have spent almost half of my life as a wife. Happily, I’ve had the privilege of educating young minds for close to two decades.

In spite of all that tenure at so many positions, I have never reached the status of complacency. Almost daily, I make errors large and small as a wife, teacher and mother. No-one is keeping score. And ultimately, I hope that those whom I touch will believe that I am sincere and perfectly well-intentioned.

But regardless of age or acquired experience, I will never feel that I have accomplished enough or too much. When my body says that it’s time to stop enjoying my kindergarteners, I will resign from teaching. And while I suspect that there won’t be an occasion to stop telling my stories and teaching through words, my goal is to improve my agility with those words with every blog or essay.

Sometimes I wonder why I never reach the stage of sufficiency. By no means am I suggesting that I am unhappy with who I am or what I create. There is always an opportunity to grow through reading more, writing more and thinking carefully before hitting any type of send button. Learning is growing and growing is improving. For as long as we can continue to build ourselves and our resources, the world will be enhanced. Shalom.