Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Teaching: It's not for the weak

Successes for today--Number 1:  A powerpoint presentation that effectively (in my opinion) shows students how to write a thesis statement and incorporate research in a paper.  For the last two years, I've been working through the trial and error methods in order to determine the most effective way to share this information.  Let me tell you, some of those methods have been sad.

I've been frustrated; the students have been frustrated.  I was ready to throw in the towel.  Thankfully, I found some really great guides on the internet and used them to compile some pieces of information that have worked really well so far.  Apparently, the key is to break the research paper down into bite-sized pieces as the students need it.  I had been front-loading--that is, providing ALL the information before they needed any of it.  Simply put, it was information overload.


Successes for the day--Number 2:  A former student came by today to see if I would be willing to look over a paper introduction.  I didn't mind and we had a nice chat.  He told me about his college English class, but the best part was this (which I am putting in quotes even though it's not word for word):  "I'm so glad I had your class, Mrs. Houseman.  Half of the stuff the other students really seemed to have a problem with I already knew because of you."

I can't tell you how great it feels to have someone validate your work.


Still on my plate: The first speech team meeting, head dean obligations for the junior class, grading, laundry and I probably really need to shave my legs sometime in the near future.

I've been really tired this week.  There are multiple reasons I haven't been able to sleep, but it doesn't keep me from feeling frustrated.  And I am.  I'm just frustrated.

I AM thankful to have experienced two successes in the same day.  It's rare, but maybe I'm due for a series of successes in the coming months.

It sure would be nice.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Another Bucket

I'm making an honest attempt to find a bit of "me" time in every day.  It's difficult because I really enjoy teaching and I would immerse myself in lesson planning and grading...and my personality would probably suffer as a result (and it's a little sad as it is).  I'm also attempting to keep "me" time from including the thousand gripes living inside my head.  Why concession stands draw concern from a community when unrealistic test score expectations do not I will never understand.

And before I get caught in that tangent, I'd like to join the Bucket List brigade and contribute my thoughts.

I'm going to start with 25, just like Sarah did, and some of these things are very close to being realized :) 

Before I kick the bucket, I'd like to...

1.  live in a house with a red front door.  December 2010

2.  visit Paris, Spain, Greece and Mexico.

3.  start my Master's degree (Aug. 2011)

4.  have kids.

5.  write a book.

6.  get my brother to read The Kite Runner.  (Feb. 2012)

7.  live debt-free.

8.  take Salsa lessons with Chris.

9.  figure out how to avoid alienating people.  (May 2011--living in freedom to Christ alone)

10.  be a part of a real mystery theatre.

11.  participate in a read-aloud events for children.

12.  host a movie-marathon night where we project films on a sheet on the back of my house.

13.  own an outdoor kitchen.

14.  learn to play the guitar well.

15.  write a hit song.

16.  read Orthodoxy and finish The Everlasting Man.

17.  buy a paddle boat.

18.  own the perfect couch.  (February 2011)

19.  cook a gourmet meal--preferably a French one.

20.  weigh what my license says I weigh.

21.  encourage at least one person in their relationship with Christ. (Let's be realistic.  I'd like to do this on a regular basis, but I'm going to consider Women's Bible Study meeting the criteria--3/2011)

22.  finally figure out that Proverbs 31 Woman thing.

23.  own a really stunning pair of pink (or yellow!), snakeskin, high heels.

24.  have the ability to run an entire mile without stopping.

25.  meet my grandchildren.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Inadequacy of Time

I hate the phrase "Time heals all wounds." I hate that stupid phrase because it's a lie--plain and simple. Time doesn't heal anything. Time just puts more distance between the memory of what was and the actuality of what is. And if that's healing, we're all in for a world of hurt.

There's nothing wrong with putting distance between yourself and a hurt and allowing that distance to take your mind off of it. It keeps us from dwelling on the unfixable. The problem is that distance will sometimes sneak up on you. All of a sudden, the senses take over and the realization of hurt and/or loss is tangible again--as though weeks and months haven't passed at all.

So as far as healing is concerned, time is useless. And you can quote me on that.

I guess the one thing that time might provide is a renewal of hope. So as the minutes pass, like they are meant to, we have the opportunity to reach for the possibility instead of the might-have-been.

I guess I just wonder what you do with the might-have-been in the meantime?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Heart of Art

I love artists who are able to capture the deepest recesses of the heart and turn it into a tangible experience for the masses. And when you find those people, I think it is absolutely imperative that you share their work.

Nichole Nordeman's songwriting has always struck me in that way.  Sometimes I feel like she was able to say something that I've been struggling to feel or understand for ages.

There are painters--like Klimt or Degas--who are able to take a dream and make it a reality without losing the dream-like quality.

And now, there are Jeremy and Erin Plemon.  The video below didn't just have me in tears.  I nodded my head through the entire thing because I completely get it.  And it's nice when someone is able to put your heart into words.

Congratulations, Plemon family.  Play on.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Cycle

This is the third year I've started the school year in a classroom of my own as an official part of the faculty.  You would think that after three years, it would get easier...but I'm betting there are some teachers who would tell you that after 30 years, it's still not any easier.

"Complicated" isn't really about the students or the class schedule or the material.  It's about my presentation of the material.  I'm constantly asking questions:  Am I giving them too little?  Too much?  Do they have plenty of time to work in class?  Do they have too much time?  Should we be moving faster?  Slower?  Do they understand what I'm telling them?  Do I need to give them more background information?  Less?  Have I explained what is required?  What, exactly, do I want them to get out of this lesson?

And the list goes on and on.

Part of my hesitancy in education is my inability to determine how I feel about a good  number of factors.  Homework, for example.  I have no idea how I feel about homework.  I don't want to give a ridiculous amount of work, but I also think it's good to make the students responsible for something every now and again.  Paired with that is my concern for the students who don't have access to a computer--except at school.  I know they could stay after or come in early, but both of those options are limited.  Someone has to be there to supervise, and few students (or teachers!) get to school before 7:15 am.

My ultimate goal is to give students the capability to reason through a problem, and determine the necessary steps to solve it.  I think that lesson can come in a variety of forms--writing a research paper, working on a group project, participating in a class activity, etc.  But in the end, the lesson is always the same.

The process is cyclical.  With that in mind, it doesn't seem so unreasonable that the teacher who is trying to reason through a problem is also trying to teach students how to do that very thing.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lessons This Week

Things I've learned this week (or made myself more aware of...so far):

1.  Red doors are awesome.

2.  Having husbands home when you get off of work is super awesome.

3.  The local fair gives you the opportunity to reconnect with people you've missed; however, it also gives you the unwanted opportunity to reconnect with people you've successfully avoided for the last year.

4.  When asking students their ages in order to make a point about behavior, realize that it's possible those ages fall between 14 and 17.  Then, all of a sudden, the actions seem completely appropriate somehow.

5.  The actions of a 14-17 year old, while unsavory from time to time, turn into a spectacle when perpetrated by someone over the age of 22.

6.  Owning a license to teach English does not make you the world's leading expert on the process that surrounds the research paper.

7.  There are students in the world who will be as annoying as possible in class, and then, when given the opportunity to be completely annoying for a class sanctioned activity, refuse to commit any annoying behavior.

8.  People will sometimes surprise you.  And that's often enjoyable.

9.  First hour prep is definitely preferable to 5th hour prep--long lunch or not.

10.  High school is much better when you are no longer a teenager.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

No pictures, please

Where have I been you ask?

Well, the answer the that question is actually fairly varied.  If you've followed this blog for a while, you'll know that I don't have a lot of free time during the school year.  I have tons of papers to grade (it's my fault since I give so many writing assignments), and I do a lot of lesson planning for the classes I teach (three preps...and I'd take more).

But recently, I've had less time because I started...


No, I don't have pictures.  Nor will I be attempting to get any.  Lil' bro does come up to the school about four days a week to run with me.  My ultimate goal?  To have the capability to run a 3K if I wanted (not that I will ever "want").

I don't really like running.

But I do really like seeing Lil' bro...and since he's the one member of my family I don't see with any regularity, it's nice to have the time.

And the running hasn't killed me.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

I left my home in Georgia...

There are a hundred things around this house that are awaiting my attention.  The kitchen could use some tidying, the laundry isn't done and I'm pretty sure Alex had his way with the carpet in the yellow room...again.  But I'm not paying attention to any of those things.  I'm sitting.  Not, unfortunately, on the dock of the bay, but I think that if Otis were to visit, I might sing with him.

Wonder what it was that caused him to pick up and leave for the 'frisco bay?  Was it the monotony of the ships rollin in and then rollin away again?  And what sort of monotony did he find in order to make that dock his home?

Maybe sometimes you just get stuck.  The only things worth looking at seem like they are behind you, and anything that is on the horizon doesn't look too promising.

So I guess I'm just going to sit here and realize that at least I haven't roamed two thousand miles just to make the same place my home.  I never left.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Back to school...back to school...

Tomorrow marks the end of the first week of school.  Thankfully, all of us have survived (so far).  Honestly, though?  I really despise the first week of school.  Don't get me wrong--I LOVE to teach.  And I love school once we get going.  But I can't stand lining out all of the rules and expectations, blah, blah, blah.  I say the same thing every hour.  Sheesh.  Even I'm bored by the end of the day.

That said, I'm excited about the school year.  I have a good set of kids.  I love what I do, and I'm thankful to have another opportunity to share what I love.


Quick subject change:  If you are a praying person, and you read my blog, would you mind praying for me?  I don't have anything super serious going on, but there are a few things that I've been praying about that I wouldn't mind some support on.  Mostly, I need prayer that addresses my issue of borrowing trouble.  I know each day has enough trouble of its own, but that doesn't stop me from adding issues to the hour.  There are a few other private things that you can lift up for me if you don't mind.

Thank you for your support.  You are welcome to leave prayer requests in my comments box or email me.  I believe in the power of prayer :)

Again, you are also welcome to become a follower.  It makes me feel special (haha).

Monday, August 16, 2010


This is my 100th post.  In honor of it, I'm asking you to click the "follow" button and become a follower of my blog if you aren't already.  Simple things thrill my heart ;)

And what better space to recognize my hopes for the upcoming year?  One hundred normally sounds extremely accomplished; I'm not.  But I thought it might be sort of nice to set a visible foundation for myself for the months to come.

As a teacher, I face stress.  I see it in the form of deadlines, requisition forms, expectations (from local and state governments), difficult students and even more difficult parents.  The easiest way to head stress off at the pass?  Develop a clear plan.  Will it eliminate ALL the stress?  Well, if you don't know how to answer, we aren't living on the same planet.

1.  Don't yell.  No one wants to hear someone yell, and I can't think of any person who really responds to yelling.  Anything you can say can be said in a normal voice.

2.  Set the rules and follow them consistently.  It's one of the only ways to maintain a sense of fairness in the classroom.  However, realize that those rules will sometimes require review for exceptional circumstances.  Make every effort to help students understand their responsibilities in those exceptional circumstances.

3.  Don't take responsibility for things that aren't yours.  Students will fail to hand in assignments.  They won't always pass tests.  Sometimes they forget things you've taught them.  Sometimes they act like houligans.  Treat the behavior accordingly and then let it go.  You can't keep them from messing up from time to time.

4.  Don't enable students.  Realize that the lessons best learned are the ones learned from experience.  People don't gain any experience when someone constantly cleans up the mess they made.  Also make it clear that failure to plan doesn't constitute an emergency on the part of the people who don't fail to plan.

5.  Listen.  Like your students, you will make mistakes.  Take responsibility for what you've done and make amends.  Also know that some of the greatest resources at your disposal are different view points.  Don't shut them out (parents, students, etc.)

6.  Keep the lines of communication open.  Students and parents might be intimidated to approach teachers in order to discuss concerns.  Automatically becoming defensive will do nothing for your conversation.  Find a way to make others comfortable so that the conversation doesn't stop.  And then, refer to number 5.

7.  Your job never was to teach them what to think.  They have minds.  Don't numb them.  Maybe they do have to sit in your classroom 5 days a week, but that doesn't mean it should be a wretched existance.  Get them to taste, touch, see, smell and hear the things around them.  Teach them how to think and process--preferably with a variety of sources.  That is what makes an education useful.

8.  Understand that you may be the only person who cares anything about that student.  Don't take that position lightly.

9.  Realize that sometimes people go through things that have nothing to do with work or school.  Many of them try very hard to keep those things out of the public eye.  But some hurts run deep, and emotions are sometimes visible.  It never hurts to keep those things in mind when dealing with another human being.

10.  Remember that Christ knew you, and redeemed you anyway. 

Those are my notes to myself.  Have anything to add?  Leave it in the comments, or feel free to comment on my thoughts. 

Oh, and welcome back to school.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Praying the Word

Prayer group has been a life saver for me.  I maintain that if you begin to pray scripture, and you do it consistently, your prayer life will change.  Don't know where to start?  Choose a scripture and pray if for your life during this season.  I suggest Ephesians 3:20-21.  I've mentioned before that I'm praying for God to be more than all I could ever ask or imagine.  It comes from that particular scripture.

Tonight, I just want to glorify God and praise Him for what He's doing in my life--for what He will do in the days, weeks, months and years to come.  I want to be overwhelmed with Him and consumed by His presence.  I'm still praying specific prayers for specific situations, and they are all tempered with a knowledge of Who He is.

Psalm 148
Hallelujah! Praise God from heaven,
praise him from the mountaintops;
Praise him, all you his angels,
praise him, all you his warriors,
Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, you morning stars;
Praise him, high heaven,
praise him, heavenly rain clouds;
Praise, oh let them praise the name of God—
he spoke the word, and there they were!

He set them in place
from all time to eternity;
He gave his orders,
and that's it!

Praise God from earth,
you sea dragons, you fathomless ocean deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and ice,
hurricanes obeying his orders;
Mountains and all hills,
apple orchards and cedar forests;
Wild beasts and herds of cattle,
snakes, and birds in flight;
Earth's kings and all races,
leaders and important people,
Robust men and women in their prime,
and yes, graybeards and little children.

Let them praise the name of God—
it's the only Name worth praising.
His radiance exceeds anything in earth and sky;
he's built a monument—his very own people!
Praise from all who love God!
Israel's children, intimate friends of God.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Books, Coffee and the People Who Sell Them

Because of you, we learned to love lattes, fraps and espresso (if they are made by someone who knows what they are doing).  We developed a love for scones and time perusing shelves and shelves of awesome reading material.

We discussed authors and specific works, and the fact that some of us may never warm to the idea of the Nook.  We knocked on doors to eat in the break room, learned that you can find the strangest things in a bathroom, and not all B&N customers are dignified.

It's been a good ten years, Big Bro.  But now you're moving on.

Yep, last night was Big Bro's last night with Barnes and Noble.  He recently graduated with an engineering degree and will be starting his Master's work in the fall. 

Well done, Big Bro.  Well done.

Since it was his last night, we, of course, had to visit him. 

Mom ordered a frappacino.  An interesting conversation followed.

Mom:  It's hard to find good help these days.  I had to ask them to add whip cream and he didn't put carmel on the top like they usually do.  He had already put the lid on, so he had to squirt whip cream in through the little hole on the top...and then I didn't want to ask for carmel.  I thought it would upset him.

Big Bro:  You ordered it with nonfat milk.

Mom:  So?

Big Bro:  So they assume you want a nonfat drink.  They aren't going to add whip cream if you order it with nonfat milk.

Mom:  Yeah, but I got nonfat milk so I could have the whip cream and carmel.  It's a fat exchange.

Big Bro:  *rolls eyes*

I guess you could say we gave him a fine farewell.

And since I'm fond of sharing my purchases:

It's not a designer handbag, but it's metallic-y goodness.  And I love it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

If you give a kid a cookie

If you give a kid a cookie,
He'll probably want another.  And another.  And another. 
Until he's suckered several people out of several cookies.
At least six.
But he'll be excited about your offering.

If you give a church a vision,
it might just want to meet the needs of the community
so that the community may know
the Love of Christ through sacrifice.

If you give a man some time off
He'll eat pasta.
He'll hang out with his wife.
(Obviously, right?)
He'll want more food.
Great food.
Amazing food.
And his wife will want to buy him gifts.
Mostly because she'll remember what is awaiting
his attention when they return:

But don't let all of that
distract you from the kid
who really wants a cookie.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


The little, white box I type in here often does nothing for my creative thought.  It's actually pretty stifling.  There are times when I'm so excited about something I want to share, but I have no idea how to organize those thoughts, and, since I'm not having a face-to-face conversation with anyone, I'm always afraid that what I'm saying isn't going to translate.

But right now, I don't really care.

I am overwhelmed with God.  Completely and totally.  I want you to know how good He has been to me...to my church...to my prayer group women.  I shared recently that I've been praying Ephesians 3:20-21 for this season of my life.  Not only do I feel that God has been "immeasurably and abundantly more" than I could've possibly imagined, I love that He has overflowed into the lives of the people in my church.

I struggle so hard with certain things in my life.  I'm not alone.  Many people we touch on a daily basis are facing struggles that they feel they won't survive.  But the joy in those situations is that Christ can and will speak restoration to our hearts.  As Selah sings, "When anything that's shattered is laid before the Lord, it will not be unredeemed."  I am so thankful for redeeming grace and restoration.

And it doesn't end with restoration.  Christ rejoices in our redeemed and restored hearts.  How could I be anything but thankful? 

Has anything super miraculous happened in my life recently?  Outside of a realization of God's perfect grace?  Not really.  But I can believe that miracles will happen.  I can believe that there is more restoration to come.  I can believe that God is going to do more than I could ever conceive.

Actually, I take that back.  It's pretty miraculous that God is willing to answer my prayers for a regular reminder to trust Him.  I'm thankful He is present and guides me when I'm willing to listen.  I'm overwhelmed with who he is and what He will be.

Basically, I'm just amazed. 

"The LORD your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with his love,
He will rejoice over you with singing"
Zephaniah 3:17

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Along for the Ride

I hope you're not getting tired of house pictures, because there's going to be a series of them until the whole thing is finished.  We've got a lot to do together--pick paint colors, install cabinets, put the closet together, purchase nice bookcases, find hardwood flooring, pick out rugs, purchase furniture--not necessarily in that order.

I was just thinking that with a 6 month trip ahead of us, it might be nice if I checked to see if you were enjoying the ride.

Glad to have you along.

You have to admit that while this project took a while to get on its feet, it's pretty satisfying to see this:
Turn into this:
in a matter of days.

This side view is my dad's favorite angle on the house, so I thought I'd share that first.  I think he's right; it's beautiful.  Whoever says construction is not art has never watched a house like this go together piece by piece.  They know exactly how to fit angles and cut siding and make it look like everything I've imagined for the last 3 years.

The white trim on the roof of the porch really does wonders for that part of the house, too.  I was excited before, but the more I see, the more I like. 

Do you ever just have a sense of peace about something?  That's what Favorite and I had with these house plans.  As soon as I saw this one, I knew it was perfect.  I showed Favorite a couple plans I had found the day I looked, and when he saw this one, he said, "That's perfect."

After all the horror stories we've heard about building a house, it was nice to have such a sense of peace about the plans--which I understand are some of the hardest things to agree on.  And, for the most part, our disagreements have been minimal.

Favorite is always nervous about money, and it's probably a good thing.  A healthy understanding of money keeps us (and by us, I mean me) realistic regarding amenities.  I can be reasonable, but I can't lie:  I would jump at the chance to have quartz counter top and I can't help that I love cherry wood.

Despite what my cousin Sarah calls "Wine taste on a beer budget," I really think our choices to date have met our desires without becoming too terribly pricey.  Let's face it.  Sometimes the adage "You get what you pay for" really is true.

Unfortunately, that argument didn't work when I showed Favorite the quartz.

Then he looked like he was going to vomit.

Actually, that's a regular occurrence any time we mention "House necessities." 

But that's another blog for another time.

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
since as members of one body
you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in
you richly as you teach and admonish one
another with all wisdom, and
as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual
songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, whether in word or
deed, do it all in the name of the Lord
Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him"
Colossians 3:15-17

Summer Reading Update

School starts in a week and a few days.  A week, people.  One week.  Seven days.  Where did the summer go?  That deadline has definitely given me focus--to improve a few lesson plans, to get my classroom together and to put my game face on.

But it's been a great summer.  I haven't read quite as much as I would've liked, but I will continue to work through a few books during the school year.  I just don't have nearly as much time to devote to books when I also have papers, journals and other assignments that require attention.  Not to mention time with Favorite and house projects (which I will update later this evening).

At any rate, here are the books I recently finished:

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert--I don't agree with her religious ascertations, but I love her writing style.  Gilbert has a wonderful way of drawing you into her story.  I tasted every single one of those meals in Italy (and was super jealous I couldn't actually partake) and found myself jealous that she wanted to learn a language simply because she thought it was beautiful.  I also developed this odd "dream-like" state regarding her ability to pick up and travel in Europe and Asia for a year.

The Romance Readers' Book Club by Julie L. Cannon--I found it on an endcap at Barnes and Noble and it was super-cheap.  In addition, the back of the book made it sound like an easy read; it was.  Am I going to recommend it?  Well, it wasn't a horrible book, but it wasn't the best thing I've ever read, either.  There were parts that were amusing, and it only took me an hour and a half to read it.  So take it for what it is.

Please Stop Laughing At Me...by Jodee Blanco--I bought this book to add to my library of autobiography/memoir/biography in my classroom (since the sophomores have to do a project with this type of book).  I agree that school bullying is an issue.  I think that Blanco has a pretty compelling story; however, her writing is bland and unemotional.  I think it's likely that this book became a New York Times Bestseller based on the subject matter, because there were points in the story when I wished Blanco's writing style conveyed the amount of emotion her experience obviously opened in her.  That said, I still think it's worth reading.  Sometimes it's hard to remember that it's rough navigating the world as a teenager.

Under the Dome by Stephen King--Stephen King fans, you might want to skip this review.  I am not a Stephen King fan.  In the past, I have really enjoyed a few of his short stories/novellas ("Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption," "The Body"), but I have never really liked any book he's written.  This book is really no exception.  I thought the synopsis on the back was interesting enough, and there were parts of the story that were really well done.  For instance, the concept of vying for power in a small town was exceptional; however, there were too many things that were downright bland.  Many of the characters fall into the bland category.  In fact, I found it hard to keep many of them straight because they were so unimportant and bland.  Too many of them seemed similar.  Likewise, when I found out what was actually causing the dome (no, I won't ruin it for you in case your opinion will differ from mine), I just stared at the page and said, "Really?  Seriously?  That's what he came up with?"  So do what you want with this information, but know that I remain unimpressed with Stephen King on the whole.

In between a few of these books, I also picked up (and reread) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsThere's something to be said for characters that practically jump off the page.  Stephen King could learn a thing or two from these books.

Currently Reading:

Crazy Love by Francis Chan--I'm not very far in because this is a book that has to be considered and savored.  So far?  It's well worth reading.  Sometimes I forget the greatness of my God.  It's nice to have a reminder.

Action Strategies for Deepening Comprehension--I'm sure there was just a collective groan from the blogosphere regarding this educational piece of literature, but I'm telling you that it's actually an interesting read.  I love it when something like this gets my creative juices flowing and reminds me that education was never supposed to be about cramming my students' heads full of random knowledge.  It was always meant to be functional.  I am reminded that one of the questions I should be asking myself when I create lesson plans is "What is the purpose of this information?"  In other words, how will this benefit the student when s/he leaves my classroom?

The reading will continue.  The house building will be updated and school will start in just over seven days.  And I'm thankful for the opportunities each of these things affords.

"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven"
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Don't be fooled by the rocks that I got...

He's still Jenny from the block.

No matter where he goes, he knows where he came from.