Why I’m Glad I’m Not a Kid: Part One

Recent trips into the classroom at one public school where I work has inspired a series of blog posts. In fact, it’s reminded me to be thankful I’m not a kid these days.

My main job is to be a writing superhero. My alter ego works as a substitute teacher in local middle and high schools. There are plenty of things there to inspire my creative side, as many blog posts attest.

Unfortunately, all is not magic and unicorns in the realm of public education.

I’ve known this to be true for many years. It’s the main reason I decided NOT to pursue a degree in education when I went back to college in 2010. But in the final weeks of the school year, it was reiterated to me.

Why am I glad I’m not a kid?

Because education in the 21st century is all about meeting regulations and ranking well on state assessments.

Back in my day, school was about learning to read, write, do sums (and other math you never use in real life) in a social environment where you were expected to get along with everyone.

Learning at School?

Isn’t school supposed to be for the purpose of learning?


And not learning how to bully others. Or make excuses for late homework. Or perfect the art of doing as little as possible.

Believe me. Spend a few days in the average public middle school, and you’ll start to wonder.

Who decides what kids are taught in school?

Did you say the teachers? You’re wrong if you did.

Not even the school board has the ultimate power over curriculum.

Nope. Big Brother gets to say what will be taught in school.

Or else.

The fact they require kids to spend weeks and months learning things that do NOT help them understand their culture or prepare them to be an adult isn’t even the worst of it.

It’s not?

High school teachers and counselors in our school district have been heard to say, “Middle school doesn’t really count.”

So, what are they doing there? Why are we wasting six or seven hours of our time hanging out in classrooms?

Every day of school should be preparing kids to be responsible adults. Primary school should focus on the basics of reading. Once they get to third grade, throw in the basics of math. Without those two things, they’re not going to be able to succeed in the upper grades.

Nor will they be able to fill out a job application or make a budget.

Citizenship in School

I’ll be the first parent to tell you that it isn’t the school’s job to teach my kid to be a decent human being. Sorry. If you wait until your kid’s five to start teaching courtesy, discipline and respect, it might be too late.

It is NOT the school’s job to teach my child values or how to treat other people.

School needs to be a safe place to learn the complexities of social interactions.

How do I react if I have to work with a stranger? What if I get stuck with someone I don’t like? What should I do if my teacher doesn’t like me?
And the answer is NOT tell my parents and have them call the school to put me in an ideal situation.

That’s not life. School social settings should prepare kids to face the interactions they will have in the workplace. We’ve all had to work with someone we didn’t know or didn’t like.

I might be the only one who’s ever had a boss that I didn’t get along with, but I’d like to think it’s a common occurrence. And my mom didn’t rescue me from that person because that’s not what being an ADULT is about.

Staff at school should model ideal behaviors, sure. They shouldn’t tolerate bullying. Yes, they should keep kids from beating each other up because school is supposed to be a safe place.

Natural consequences should be allowed to fall on students in cases when it doesn’t mean bodily harm. For example, if you’re late too many times to work, your boss will fire you. There should be consequences for being late to class.

And I don’t want to hear your excuse. You either have a note from an adult…or you don’t. That’s all I need to know.

We’re only hurting the future of our society by failing our students in school. They deserve to learn to read, write and do math, and they should be held accountable for obeying the standard of conduct required in the schoolhouse.

Politics in School

I’m not saying that learning and citizenship don’t happen in schools these days. But those aren’t the priorities.

Government has their fingers in the U.S. educational system, and they like to generate red tape. Schools rely on the government for funding, so they have no choice but to march to the regulatory drumbeat.

Or they can shut their doors.

What happened recently to remind me of politics in school?

A teacher who taught both of my sons and I’ve worked closely with for a decade is transferring to a different position. I didn’t know asking her about it would open a can of worms.

The school has decided to combine language arts and social studies for middle schoolers. This isn’t a new or unusual thing. We had it before when the students could have a humanities block—two class periods for this class.

That isn’t what’s happening. Teachers will be expected to cover the learning goals for both subjects in one hour.

Furthermore, they’ll only receive one day of training on how to do this.

I hope the trainers are handing out Time Turners or some other magical device that will stretch one hour in to two (or ten).

How can students be expected to learn twice as much content in half the time? How can teachers be expected to teach twice as much content in half the time?

The biggest problem I have with this: the school is doing this because of budgetary constraints. They will use fewer staff to teach in this way.
Because money is what education is all about in our world.

I’m sure schools were funded the same way when I was a kid, but there weren’t common core standards and annual state assessments back then.

We went to school to learn how to be a productive citizen of the United States of America. That’s why the founding fathers pushed for public education for all people.

Kids these days are getting the short end of the learning stick. And our country will reap its dues when these under-educated people are running our country in a couple decades.

Are there things you’ve noticed about kids in school that make you grateful to have grown up in an earlier era?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

Back in the Classroom

Once upon a time there was a girl who loved to play school. She didn’t care if she was the teacher or the student, she just loved school. That little girl jumps for joy every time I get a call to substitute teach.

If you know me at all, you understand I have a LONG history of spending time in the classroom. My longest employment was with the St. Helens School District, where I worked as a classified substitute and temporary classroom aide for six years before getting a regular job.

My first two years were as a cashier in the cafeteria at a grade school (while still taking the temporary overload classroom aide positions). Finally, I managed to land a job as a special education instructional assistant at the middle school. I was there for seven years before leaving to pursue this writing gig.

Now I’m back in the classroom. Because this writing gig feeds my soul and keeps my hands and head flying in numerous directions, but it doesn’t pay well. Not with all my contracts being for royalties only. And I don’t push or publicize my self-published titles.

The Position

When I began pursuing my English degree, I planned to get a restricted substitute teaching license when I finished. That was 2010. At the time, there was a shortage of substitute teachers and some of our best subs had degrees in anything BUT education.

All that changed in 2012. School districts all over Oregon were down-sizing (had been since 2007). Suddenly, there were more licensed teachers than positions. The substitute pool became bloated with all these graduates who couldn’t score their own classroom.

Most of the districts rescinded their use of the restrictive substitutes. People who had these licenses were allowed to continuing working until the expiration. No new licenses could be issued.

When I graduated in July 2013, that was still the state of things in the substitute teaching world.

This fall, the substitute pool was depleted. Not enough people floated in the thing to cover vacancies.

The major school districts went on a recruiting campaign. They sent out a flyer to all the school reinstating their use of restrictive substitute licencees to fill classroom teacher roles.

The secretary at the middle school where I worked kindly forwarded the email to me. Her note: “There are plenty of people here who would love to see you subbing in our classrooms.”

Alrighty, then.

soitbegins

The Process

First step: Attend a half-day conference-like event at the NWRESD (Northwest Regional Education Service District). They supply subs to most of the districts in northwestern Oregon.

At this event, you found out how the process worked, completed an interview and filled out an online application form. They would notify you within a week or two if you were selected to continue in the program.

Hurray! I was selected.

Step two: Register for the ORELA Civil Rights examination and pass it ($95).

Then November happened. As you know, I was writing a novel in three weeks and taking a week-long vacation to the Oregon coast for Thanksgiving with my sister.

Step three: Attend a full-day training session at the NWRESD offices.

This is where we learned about the expectations of the job. Also, they gave tips and tools for surviving in a crazy classroom. The best part was acting out different scenarios.

Yep. I can still perform the role of snotty, rebellious teenager with pizzazz.

We also filled out all our employment forms and had our photos taken for an identification badge. I still have yet to see that badge, so who knows if the paperwork is even ready.

Step four: Complete the fingerprinting and background check process ($74)

I performed this step the Monday before Christmas, but the state never acknowledged it until a month later.

Step five: Submit the application with the appropriate fees and information (including certified transcripts). The fee had to include a $99 expedite fee or else you wouldn’t see your license until June. Just in time for it to expire. The application fee was $129.

Step six: Get a bunch of emails from the state acknowledging every slip of paper they get. However,the email stating what is still required – which is what the HR gal said they would send – never came.

Ever.

Two month after I sent the application (does that sound like expedited service to you???), I got an email stating my license was issued. There would be no paper license mailed and I should print the email for my records.

The Payoff

When I wrote this post, I had been in the classroom four separate days. However, I haven’t completed a payroll cycle yet.

I’m hoping theirs a payoff. It seems like the figure was $150 per day (before taxes, of course), I haven’t seen any actual money.

If you do the math, you can see that I’ve spent close to $300 to get the license. And it expires June 30, 2016.

Here’s hoping the renewal process involves fewer hoops and red tape. The next license will be good for three years.

I’ve discovered a renewed ear for teenage dialogue already. Getting back among my target audience is one of the primary reasons for going through all this rigamarole.

The State sent me a questionnaire about the fluidity of the process. Do they really want me to complete it? I think my numbers will skew their data toward the negative end of the scale.

The good news: I’m out of my office and in the classroom, interacting with teenagers.

I’ve missed these guys.

Dear Teenager: Your Dress Code isn’t about Sexism – Part 2

This is part three of a series of rants inspired by this lovely meme:

Is this really about treating girls like sex objects?
Is this really about treating girls like sex objects?

Maybe you’re bored with discussing school dress codes and sexism. Believe me, it was tedious to be confronted with it day in and day out when I worked for the school district.

Why can’t the kids just follow the rules?

Because they’re teenagers, and that means they push every boundary, looking for inconsistencies to exploit. It helps them form their own worldview.

And the physiology of this age group is mostly what I’ll address today, as I approach the teenage boy ogling the girl in a dress that reveals more than it conceals.

Dear Teenage Boy-

Do you know why we’re meeting today? No?

Let’s talk about first period. What happened in there that might have prompted me to call you down to the office?

You’re right. She was uncomfortable with you staring at her chest. It was highly inappropriate.

Again, you’re right. She shouldn’t have worn that dress, but not for the reason you said. Let me direct your attention to the Student Handbook. (See the reference here)

The same physiology that makes girls burst into tears over the slightest thing, makes you unable to look away from visual stimulation. In fact, men are visual creatures, attracted by what they see.

That’s the reason we have these rules. We understand that you’re hard-wired to pay attention to what you see. We’re trying to keep you from seeing things that would distract you from learning.

That’s why you’re here at school, you know, to learn. And one thing we want to teach you is to respect other people.

That’s not our job? You’re probably right. But if no one else is going to do it, then we’ll take up the banner.

Back to how to treat people with respect. In the future, what might be the right response in a situation like this?

Now, get back to class. I don’t want to take up too much of the in-class instructional time with this meeting.

Sincerely,

Your School Administrator

******

No shame and no blame placed on either student in these encounters. Facts – the written rules – were presented.

Will that boy stop having sexual thoughts when he sees girls? Doubtful. That’s part of his physiology.

Should he learn to control his reactions? Yes, but that comes with maturity. And isn’t a guaranteed outcome. I’ve had full-grown, gray-haired men give me the heebie-jeebies by staring too long.

Did the school reinforce his misconception that women are sex objects? (Can we say for certain he thinks that?) I don’t think so.

And every school administrator I know addresses these things as quickly as possible so students can get back where they belong. In the classroom.

Plenty of students think school is all about socializing with their friends. That’s why they don’t take the rules seriously. Or show up late to class. Or forget about doing homework.

The real concern that should be spurred by the meme above is that school has become another platform for protest. Is that really in the best interest of those young people who need to learn to read, write and balance their checkbooks?

Yes, this is the end of my lengthy soapbox discussion of dress codes NOT being about sexism.

What else might you say to this young man? To the school?

Thank you for humoring my long-winded diatribe. I hope it was a little bit entertaining or thought-provoking.

School Begins: So will this argument about dress code

Is this really about treating girls like sex objects?
Is this really about treating girls like sex objects?

Most of the time, I just blow off the millions of memes I see on Facebook, especially when they’re obviously nothing more than a soapbox. For some reason, this one stabbed deeper than others. Because enforcing a dress code has nothing to do with shaming or promoting misogyny.

I worked in the public education system for nearly fifteen years. I sent girls (in 7th or 8th grade) whose breasts were hanging out of their strappy camisole to the office for a “real” shirt.

I am a die-hard believer of successful education, which means I support dress codes. AND there’s no point in having rules if they aren’t going to be enforced (state and federal governments might care to remember this).

Since I’m a woman, it’s obvious that I don’t hold these beliefs because I believe I’m nothing more than a sex object. Of course, I am from a pre-70s generation, so I’ve probably been brainwashed by societal norms *rolls eyes.*

Anyone who knows me is doubled over with laughter. Here, let me give them a moment to collect themselves.

This meme is a perfect example of the tendency in American society to blow every little thing out of proportion while claiming it has something to do with discrimination.

Alert: Dress codes exist everywhere

At the schools where I worked, guys were dinged nearly as often as girls for inappropriate dressing. Mostly it had to do with their pants pulled so low those boxers they wanted everyone to see were hanging out.

The rule: undergarments can’t be on display.

How many of us would go to work with our undergarments on display?

(Other than those of us who work at a home office where sweats and pajamas are part of the norm.)

School is about preparing young people for adulthood.

Unfortunately, some people are counting on the school system to teach their kids things that only parents should be addressing.

“Because what if those parents don’t talk to their girls about menstruation or birth control?”

Yeah, what if that happens. Because that happens quite frequently? Systems are being constructed around the exceptions in society rather than the majority.

And I probably just offended someone with that statement. Maybe even a multitude of someones. Please read on before you compose your diatribe for my comments section.

You can’t change physiology, folks. Teenagers are walking hormones. They’re going to be distracted by things like what a person’s wearing.

How can a teacher compete with that?

A girl who’s worried about being told to cover up her assets isn’t thinking about how her education was interrupted by this trip to the office. Do people really think that? Or is that just a reason they know will bring attention to their gripes?

In fact, most of these teenagers would go along and get along if media didn’t push issues like this to the forefront of everyone’s mind. I’m not saying they would be drones, but they’d learn. In this case, they could understand the point of enforcing the dress code.

It has nothing to do with discrimination. It’s not about reinforcing some perspective that women are sex objects.

It’s about teaching people to follow the rules.

I’m not going to bring in the statistics about the ever-increasing misdemeanor crime among young people. You live here. You know it’s a problem.

Maybe it’s because rather than telling kids, “Those are the rules. We don’t have to agree. We don’t have to like it. But we do have to follow them;” parents and media are encouraging them to defy the rules they disagree with.

As if teenagers need any additional incentive to buck the system.

The fact is, we do have to follw the rules. At school. Or work. In public. Otherwise, there are consequences.

At home, dress how you want. Watch what you want. Drink it, do it, knock yourself out. At home, you make your own rules.

But rather than bashing the school’s standards, support them as necessary for that time and place. Fight them through regular channels if you truly feel they’re unfair, biased, or out-dated.

For the next two weeks, I’ll post on this topic again. Next up: a letter to the teenage girl referenced in the meme that started this fire under my feet. The third post: a letter to the teenage boy supposedly being taught to regard girls as sex objects.

What do you think? Feel free to disagree with me. All I ask is that you use the same amount of respect you want when people argue against you.

What makes some people love to read?

love2readbooks

Considering the fact that I want more people to read my blog, I’m certain I don’t read enough other blogs and post comments as much as I should. This reciprocity is one of the best ways to get people to visit and comment on my blog. So they say.

There are a few blogs that I simply adore and I read them faithfully. I don’t always comment – unless they spark a thought in me that must be expressed. One such blog, written by Jami Gold, caused me to think deeply for several hours and days. Read it here.

In short, she discussed how she lost her love for reading because of the way the subject was addressed I school. Since I’ve heard similar things from my students, I know she’s not an anomaly. How can we address this very real problem in our society?

Not promoting a love for reading is only one of many problems in the public school system. In recent years, the press to interest students in math and science has overwhelmed the classroom, thanks to media attention. The truth is, a student won’t be able to access the information in any subject if they can’t read.

Arguably, the ability to read is not the same beast as the desire to read. They are the same species, though. If I want to read, I will learn to do it. If I can’t read, I certainly won’t have any interest in doing it.

Jami shared how a school system in her area asked all students to read or skim a list of books for their upcoming school year. At the beginning of the year, the students choose their four favorites from the eight or ten they read. During the year, they will analyze their chose books in small discussion groups with other students who also chose that book.

This is a great plan, in that it eliminates the aspect of being forced to read a book that holds no interest for you. Everyone responds better when they feel they participated in choosing their outcomes, as well. Small group discussions are an excellent way to discuss elements of literature like plot, theme, characterization and symbolism.

Every plan has drawbacks. The one I see in this case is that many students will NOT read or skim the books. When the time arrives for them to select their books, they’ll find out what their friends are choosing and pick that.

When the time for discussion comes, they may still not have read the book and will just be faking their way through in order to complete whatever the larger, graded assignment might be for the book.

I think back to what made me love reading. I learned to read before kindergarten, sitting beside my mom while my sister read her books from school aloud (she’s two years older). Mom loved reading and invested in library cards or us at an early age. One night every few weeks, we headed to the public library and picked out something to read.

The idea of NOT reading didn’t even occur to me. Reading was the social norm in my home. Even my non-communicative dad read a pile of Zane Grey westerns. While my husband’s family parked in front of the TV, we were in different chairs reading. It might have been nicer to be interacting socially (we did play tons of games but my dad’s volatile moods limited how often that would happen for the four of us).

What about today? I know that I can just look at my sister’s kids and my kids and draw a conclusion.

My sister Connie did the whole library card thing with her three children. The main reason for this was because she home-schooled them; thus the only access they had to a library was when she took them. All three of her kids enjoy reading and will read for pleasure. Sure, they love playing video games, too, but it isn’t an either/or decision. I’ve bought books for them on many occasions – at their request.

On the flip side, my boys are a 50/50 split. I read aloud to them when they were preschool-aged and until they became involved in too many other activities (my oldest was fourth or fifth grade). First, it was the Chronicles of Narnia and then the first three Harry Potter books. I let them choose, but most of the time they were happy to listen to whatever I chose for them.

We didn’t go to the public library. They brought home Scholastic book order forms and I purchased them what they wanted. My oldest son loved fantasy. My youngest son wanted the newest book of world records. Can you guess which one loves to read? Although he still has to be invested in the characters before he will choose it on his own. He has read five or six series and I’m trying to hook him up with some adult fantasy now.

Is the library the difference? I’m not so sure. I failed to mention that my sister didn’t have regular TV. They bought DVDs of series and movies, but the push toward prime time viewing didn’t exist in their home. My sons are not totally sold on watching TV either, but they do view things online.

I think the establishment of normal is the answer.

I’m not pointing fingers here, but my husband doesn’t read books. In our nearly 26 years together, I recall him reading exactly one fiction book: Jurassic Park. He reads manuals and texts to gain certification in his field. Since he teaches at church, he reads the Bible and commentaries.

Read for pleasure? He camps in front of the TV for his recreational entertainment. It’s not unusual to find us sitting together on the couch. I have my iPad and am reading a book on my Kindle app. He’s sprawled against the pillows flipping between a police show, some so-called sitcom or a car program.

In my sister’s case, all five of them spent time reading.

I know my scope of study is pretty limited. I think the shared genetics adds an interesting twist.

I read to escape. I still can go on a vicarious vacation through reading fiction. Perhaps my children have nothing to run away from and that’s why they don’t dive into books like I do.

I’m not a scientist. I am a writer. Writers need readers. This idea that reading fiction has no value deflates my career possibilities. Especially if teenagers buy into it since I’ve written a fantasy series with that age group in mind.

What’s your take on this subject? Do you think family pattern or school dictate in the case of liking or hating to read?

Banning Unrealistic Expectations

Unrealistic expectations about body image

In a society where expectations rule decision-making processes, it’s past time to understand the difference between those that are realistic and unrealistic. We owe it to ourselves and our families to put a ban on setting unreachable standards.

Beginning on March 10, a series of posts about expectations has been featured on this blog. The links will be provided here, but for those of you joining discussion today, let’s recap.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize unrealistic expectations are dangerous. They derail dreams and avalanche over hopes. Not just for young people either, but the danger to them is greater because they are still forming their values and personalities.

One expectation that seems to be gaining momentum is the idea that everyone needs to go to college. Even human resources department feed this fiery craze by making a college degree required for an entry-level position. Nothing is more damaging to a person than to have a boatload of student loans for a costly degree that doesn’t net a career placement.

A high school diploma is essential. Unfortunately, bureaucrats making exit exams a requirement to attain one have boarded the crazy train. Too many courses required for a high school diploma have no practical value. It’s time to return to the basics of education rather than making high school all about preparing for college (see previous paragraph about college expectations).

Another thing that discourages many teenagers is the push toward knowing what they want to do as an adult. Some high schools build four years of education around what a 14-year-old says he wants to be after he graduates.

How old were you when you knew what you wanted to do for a living? Are you doing that thing you first dreamed was so awesome? It took me right at 40 years to finally follow my dream.

Along with all these unrealistic expectations, I wrote a post about things we should expect. None of these have to do with the economy; all have to do with character. Every human on earth should be expected to work hard, be responsible and accountable for their choices and actions, and show respect to others.

Unfortunately in our world, decisions about graduation requirements and acquiring a college degree to sort mail are above our pay-grade. In our push to have everything handed to us, we’ve handed the control to government and industry.

If we really want to keep unrealistic expectations from ruling our lives, we need to take back control. I’m not talking about a revolution. Let’s start small, bucking the system by becoming involved.

Maybe attending a school board meeting to share your views about ridiculous standards is a start. Everyone pushes you to write or call your congressman. How many do it? How many have well-constructed, reasonable arguments to present?

If you’re a parent, you can start by teaching your kids about responsibility. Theirs. Don’t perpetuate the fallacy that government will fix all their problems. Those bozos on Capitol Hill have demonstrated how to make mountains out of molehills and accomplish very little that benefits the average citizen.

Don’t let the media convince you to look a certain way, buy certain clothes, or drive a certain car. Check out those Hollywood icons and athletic superstars. An unhappier bunch of people you may never find. These are the trendsetters we want marking the path for us to follow?

 Can we ban unrealistic expectations in our world? Share your thoughts. Let’s talk it over.

Can I Learn from someone I Don’t Like?

 

In the world of writing, I’m a newbie. As far as expertise in the genre which I’m writing, I have none. For these reasons, I sought instruction from someone considered an authority in the genre of science fiction and fantasy: Orson Scott Card.

I purchased the book How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy over a year ago, shortly after I decided to write a young adult fantasy novel. Rave reviews and recommendations from writers I trusted spurred me to make the investment in this slim volume.

At that point, I hadn’t read a single book written my Mr. Card. It didn’t matter. As an instructor, he came highly recommended. As a writer, his long list of published novels, many of which were best sellers, and his numerous awards seemed like firm second opinions.

Then I read Pathfinder. It’s an interesting blend of science fiction and fantasy (since the main character, Rigg, has a special ability). I enjoyed the story – right up until the end.

More recently, I read Ender’s Game. I noticed that Card used the same style of prefacing each chapter with a scene happening outside the main action as he had used in Pathfinder. They divulged information and motivation for the benefit of the reader. In that book, these scenes were actually things that happened in eons past that would eventually help the reader understand the conclusion of the book.

I surmise the purpose for these additions is three-fold: build tension, exposit backstory and offer information the protagonist doesn’t have.

I don’t care for this style of writing, especially not for young adults. I’ve worked with reluctant and struggling readers for the past seven years and this sort of writing confuses and frustrates them.

Okay, but Shari, isn’t that just a small percentage of the young adult population? You might be surprised to learn that according to findings presented by Scholastic only 50% of young adults claimed to read for pleasure. Percentages decline for 16-18 year olds (school work and extracurricular activities are peaking then).

Back from the statistical tangent: Orson Scott Card is surely an accomplished writer and an authority in his field. I haven’t been impressed with his fiction writing.

The How to Write book netted a slightly different response. Card freely shared his methods for finding ideas and nurturing them to the point where they can support a story. His insight into world building – essential for fantasy writers – helped me outline rules for the magic used in my current novels.

In short, Card taught me important things. If I had decided not to read his writing instructional manual because I didn’t care for a couple fiction stories he’d written, my writing would have suffered.

We can all think of experts we aren’t impressed with in one way or another. Why would the field of writing be any different? Any expert with the inclination to share their wealth of knowledge deserves our attention.

What are your experiences with this phenomenon? Have you ever been surprised to learn from someone who your preconceived notions tempted you to disregard?

Graduation Celebration

When you arrive at a fork in the road, take it” – Yogi Berra

One journey culminates with a gathering of people whose support made the journey bearable.

I’m proud to display my outstanding graduate award and as soon as my diploma arrives in the mail, I’ll be putting it in a place of honor as well.

My motto: Don't just do it, do it best
My motto: Don’t just do it, do it best

Unfortunately, the end of this road means the beginning of another one. There is no standing still in life – only moving forward.

I’ve already laid out my writing schedule (along with my summer list of projects that need to be completed around the house). For more on this, come back in two weeks.

Today, however, my son, my niece and I will celebrate our accomplishment with family and friends. Feasting on homemade food, the three of us will bask in the glory of this moment.

Then, we’ll begin again. A job hunt for my son will eventually yield him a paid position, the first of many in his working life. Beginning a Master’s program is up next for my niece.

Fortunately, all of you will get to join me as my quest for completing a young adult fantasy novel becomes central. I’ll throw my name into a few hats for paid gigs. But mostly, I’ll do the work in order to reap the benefits of my perseverance.

In fact, completing my Bachelor of Arts degree only reaffirms that I am capable of climbing the mountain named Publishing and leaving my flag atop it.

Is it Summer Yet?

Only two more Wednesday blogs until my job gets its summer furlough. In four more Wednesdays, I’ll be officially finished with my Bachelor of Arts degree.

Thankfully, the sun has been shining. In Oregon, May and June are often wet and windy. God demonstrates his sense of humor by making a mockery of most weather reports for the Pacific Northwest.

This year, I’ve been able to stop taking that little white supplement of Vitamin D on most days. My preferred method of garnering my daily allotment is soaking it in through my dermis. Sunshine replenishes that essential vitamin and sparks my creativity.

This time of year brings on a different mentality in my students. They are ready to break the chains of school schedules. Who can blame them? Of course, that adds stress to my job.

After a wild day at the middle school, the only way I can focus on accomplishing my papers and projects for the last undergraduate courses I will ever take (*pumps fist wildly, while dancing around her chair*) is by reminding myself of the completion date.

The end is in sight. I’m no racehorse; you won’t see me sprinting wildly and with abandon toward the finish line. Who has the energy for that?

That goal line is like a carrot dangled on the far side of a gaping chasm. (Okay, maybe a glittering diamond ring or two-weeks in Cozumel.) A single rope gyrates in the wind, but if I don’t look down, I can make it across. One foot in front of the other, one day at a time…until finally – I’m across!

The countdown may be continuing, but I refuse to focus on what comes next. It’s not the destination – it’s the journey.

Do you agree?

Check out: THREE MONTHS OFF? What I wouldn’t give for a summer vacation by Kristen Lamb.

Still Learning at Every Age

This is borrowed from Carla Foote the blog manager for Weekly Refill.

“Apparently when Michelangelo (painter, sculptor, architect, poet – original Renaissance man) was 87 years old he said, “Ancora imparo” – I am still learning.

Reasons to stop learning (most of us won’t articulate these, but they are in the back of our minds when we step back rather than forward towards a learning opportunity):

  • Fear – of what others will think, of looking stupid, of being wrong, of not being able to accomplish whatever we want to learn
  • Time – to accomplish something new, we need to set aside time, make it a priority and stop doing activities that are less meaningful
  • Settling – the comfort and safety of the known can cause us to settle for staying stuck, rather than trying new things
  • Lack of      imagination – we have never pictured ourselves doing the new thing – being a lifeguard, writing a book, climbing a mountain, speaking in front of a crowd, telling our story

Reasons to keep on learning:

  • Stretching – it’s as good for our minds as it is for our muscles
  • Stewarding – we have gifts and influence we can invest for the kingdom, in every season of life
  • Serving – the lifeguard learns so she can save a life – I learn so I can serve my community in some way”

What are the reasons you give for either backing away from new experiences or embracing them with gusto?

As a middle-aged college student, I’ve obviously decided that I have more to learn. In fact, when I graduate next month *cheesy grin* I will still want to keep learning.

If I stop learning, I believe I’ll shrivel up and die. My brain craves new information and experiences. I don’t want to ever say, “I’m too old for that.”

This old dog is happy to learn new tricks.