The gears are still turning.

I got a call from a teacher friend yesterday.  She calls a lot, actually.  She likes to use me as a sounding board as she plans out her curriculum and lesson plans.  Yesterday she was formulating a plan for an independent reading project, but over the years and countless phone hours we’ve hashed through job applications, challenging students, and administration difficulties as well as mountains of curriculum ideas.  Truthfully, she’s very good at her job, so my end of the conversation usually ends up sounding like various forms of the phrase, “yeah, that sounds good.”  Occasionally I offer ideas or raise a concern or two, but mostly, I think she just needs to talk through whatever it is that she’s planning, and I’m an understanding ear willing to listen.

I like it.  I feel like it keeps me fresh, keeps my brain engaged in a field that could have easily passed me by time after time.  It’s funny when I compare our career trajectories, though.  We like to say we’ve had some very similar experiences.  We met in college and went through our first year teaching at the same time.  A few years later we found ourselves job hunting again at the same time.  We’ve both worked in an urban demographic for a year, and both left knowing that it wasn’t the right place for us.  We have a similar way of relating to teenagers, both enjoy teaching literature more than writing, and share many pedagogical perspectives.

Keep reading!

Strong for Someone Else

“It hurts!”  She gasped and sobbed as she stumbled along behind me.  “It hurts!”

“It’s OK, I know.  We’re almost back.  We’ll be OK, you’ll see.  You can do it.”  I kept up what I hoped was a soothing monologue, all the while ignoring each new scratch and cut tearing at my legs.  I was hurting, too, but I knew her pain was worse, so I kept calm for her.

It’s the first time I remember having to be strong for someone else.  I was in middle school at the time, spending a week of my summer at an overnight camp.  I’d befriended two girls named Ashley and Hannah who had come to the camp together.  The three of us became good friends over the week – though apparently, we didn’t try to keep in touch at all after camp was over.

One day, the counselors took us all out to an island in the middle of a lake.  I’m sure memory is skewing the size of the island in my head, but it seemed quite large to my pre-teen eyes.  The counselors had organized a game of capture-the-flag over the whole island, and soon we had all fanned out, roaming the land and trying to get past that invisible center line.  Of course, my two friends and I stuck together as we explored.  We weren’t the most aggressive capture-the-flag players, but we participated with the best of them.  However, that day, we soon forgot all about teams and flags and trying to be sneaky.

Keep reading to find out what happened!

Young American Restorations

American Restoration

American Restoration (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My husband and I recently began watching our way through the first two seasons of American Restoration through our Amazon Prime account.  For those unfamiliar with the show, it follows the work of Rick Dale of Rick’s Restorations.  He and his employees take old pieces of Americana that are rusted and falling apart, and they restore these artifacts to like-new condition.  My husband likes the work and the craft of the show, seeing the process of restoring old, rusted, broken items into gorgeous pieces that look brand new.  The attention to detail, the mastery, and skill in their work is pretty impressive.  However, I find myself just as engaged with watching the relationship between the father and the son on the show.

Keep reading to see what makes these guys so special

Someone Other Than Miley

Alright, I’ll take the bait.  I wasn’t going to write about Miley’s and Robin’s infamous VMA performance, because quite frankly, I didn’t want to give it an ounce more recognition than it deserves.  I realize I live in a world where I can’t walk through a grocery checkout line without learning something new about one of the Kardashians or the latest member of The Bachelor cast.  What I haven’t figured out is why I should care about that stuff.  But this particular event has crossed the bounds of gossip magazines into even my pop-culturally-ignorant consciousness.  And so, since this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge is about this topic, and since I’ve built my platform on the potential for greatness in young people, here I am, adding my two cents to a topic that I’d rather let slip quietly into oblivion.

Miley Cyrus left a mark on the world with her performance that day.  She made people notice her and talk about her.  It may not be positive attention, but no one can deny that the eyes of the world are fixed on her for the moment.  In America’s outrage, they’ve plastered Miley’s twerking body all over the news and in front of my eyes.  I didn’t watch the VMAs, and yet I’m still inundated with her tongue-wagging image.  But to those outraged at her performance, I have a request.

Keep reading, and I promise to only say Miley one more time!

Real Life World-Changers

This week I had the opportunity to witness amazing examples of teen leadership.  I’ve read the stories of world-changing teens and seen the absolute potential pulsing in my classrooms, but I haven’t had many opportunities to work with living examples of what’s really possible.  This week I did.

I should probably toss on a disclaimer to this post before I get any farther.  As I write these words, I’m exhausted.  Like, sitting-on-the-couch-staring-off-like-a-zombie-more-than-I’m-actually-looking-at-my-computer dead.  My muscles certainly are not working correctly, and my mental state is questionable at best.  I apologize now for any incoherency that may work its way into these ramblings.  I could detail the many contributing factors that brought me to this point, but I’ll sum it up in the words “teen retreat.”   Continue reading

6 Reasons Teen Blogs are Awesome

*Note:  Many people stumble across the post through the search term “teen blogs.”  For a list of blogs that I follow authored by teenagers, please check out the post My Dream Class, and scroll down to the end of the article.

Office Products

I still get distracted in this aisle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wish blogging had been a “thing” when I was a teenager.  Instead, I went to high school during the age of AIM chatting and the beginnings of MySpace profiles. During the early college years my friends and I joined LiveJournal and Xanga, which technically count as blog sites, but we just used them to chronicle our daily activities for each other.  Then Mark Zuckerburg invented facebook and we all abandoned our web diaries for the world of social networking.  And while all this was going on, I was writing.  I wrote all the time as a teenager.  I wrote poems, unsent letters, and long, rambling overflows of powerful feeling.  I just didn’t show them to people.  I wonder if I would have if blogging was the accepted, respected venue for amateur writing that it is today.

I enjoy browsing around WordPress, exploring the work of other writers and deep thinkers, and I especially love it when I find a well-written blog authored by a teenager. Continue reading

Why We Need to Explore Teenage Talents

As I keep reading StrengthsFinder 2.0 and work through the assessment, I find myself once again pondering the ideas of Emerging Adulthood and identity explorations in teens.  I went back and reread Jeffrey Jensen Arnett’s chapter on “The Road Through College,” and I think this is where I have my biggest problem with the whole concept of emerging adulthood as a good thing.  Here’s how Arnett describes the American system of higher education.

“College in the United States is for finding out what you want to do.  Typically at four-year colleges, you have two years before you have to make a definite decision and declare a major.  During those two years you can try out a variety of different possibilities by taking classes in areas you think you might want to major in.  And even after you declare a major, you can always change your mind — and many emerging adults do.

“Their college meanderings are part of their identity explorations.  In taking various classes and trying various potential college majors, they are trying to answer the question ‘What kind of job would really fit me best, given my abilities and interests?'” (118).

See, I have a problem with that.   Continue reading

My Next Step – Rethinking “Classroom Management”

I knew that if I was to seriously discuss bringing strengths-based training into high schools, I would eventually have to read this book.  I honestly wasn’t that excited to read it, because I kind of figured it would just be a repetition of what I’ve already read in Find Your Strongest Life and The Truth About You by Marcus Buckingham.  I’ve stayed away from the books written for business managers because, well, I’m not a business manager and have no intention of ever becoming one.  But about a month ago, I was in Barnes & Noble and saw StrengthsFinder 2.0 on sale, so I bought it.  Now I’m sitting around waiting for my transcripts to come in the mail so I can apply for an Illinois sub license, so I figured it’s a good time to force myself to actually begin reading the book.

I’ve only read about 10 pages so far, and I’m already feeling the urge to stop and write a blog post.  Yes, it is more of the same.  Yes, I’m already familiar with the concept of spending time focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses.  But what is surprising to me is my own perspective as I begin to read.  While I have no intention of ever becoming a business manager, I am a teacher.  When the book talks about managers focusing on their employees in the workplace, I began to think about how I as a teacher focus on the students in my classroom. Continue reading

Advice for Teens, as Posted on FailBlog

*UPDATE:  Please check out my post The Judge Gilliam Challenge for more information on the story behind this article!  (Judge Gilliam is the “judge who regularly deals with youth” that originally wrote these words.)

crazy parenting fails - Advice for Teens

I could hash over why FailBlog decided to categorized this article under “Parenting Fails” – I honestly can’t tell if they posted this because they agree with the article or because they disagree Continue reading

Success in Excitement

“Your ability to excel at an activity depends on your ability to be excited by the activity. Excitement drives practice drives performance.” – Marcus Buckingham

This quote showed up on my facebook newsfeed a few days ago, and despite the fact that I haven’t had a chance to blog much, the quote is a good reflection of what’s been on my mind the the past month. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been teaching College Discovery classes for The Princeton Review this month.  I’m almost done with my last week, and it’s definitely been an interesting experience!

If the class from my first session was essentially my dream class, my second session has been made me think quite a bit more.  They are a good group, but they do keep me on my toes – both because they’re a bit more chatty in class and because they ask a lot of interesting questions.  One of the things that’s come up several times is the idea of passion and success.  We’ve discussed the definition of success and finding the right match for colleges, subject majors, and career choices.  But a lot of these discussions still leave me with questions.  Some students know exactly what they want to do, but others have no clue.  I don’t have the tools to help them narrow their choices yet.  But I like the Buckingham quote, because it equates success with excitement.  That’s when a job becomes a vocation – when a certain love and excitement accompanies the work. Continue reading