Like a Moth to a Flame

Teaching at two of South Carolina’s technical/community lessons taught me lots of lessons and shaped much of my behavior. I learned to multi-task, prioritize, manage stress, work with a variety of different people, and change with the times. Because of the experiences of those decades, I know which battles to fight, how to form alliances, and how to sidestep negative energy. And that was even before stepping into a classroom! I learned those lessons in the hallways, offices, and off-campus when struggling with different issues.

Sometimes I wonder if my experiences honed me or whether it was just a good person/environment fit from Day One. Over the years, I saw many people come and go, and sometimes it was clearly because they didn’t understand the magnitude of the task at hand. I don’t think magnitude is too powerful a word here. As someone near and dear to me recently said, “Teaching is hard.” He was right. It is hard, and it’s not for everyone

For about a dozen years I served as department chair for the social sciences and humanities department, and one fall semester I hired an adjunct faculty member to teach economics. He looked so promising! Poised, confident, and knowledgeable, he appeared to be the part-time teacher sent from above.

All was well for the first week. Monday of the next week, however, he was a no-show.  One little class did him in. All those students (25), all that preparation, so many details like financial aid forms to sign, attendance to keep up with, names to learn, questions to answer. He had misjudged the nature of the work involved, and I truly feel confident in saying that he has never taught in any academic setting again.

I took to the profession like a moth to a flame. Sorry about the cliché (sort of). I had to work like the dickens (oops, another one), but I thoroughly enjoyed most of the experiences I had and the people I met. Most of my co-workers were fine people whose hearts and minds and energy were directed towards helping their students. As in any profession, there were a few who were arrogant and dismissive (to students), but they didn’t last long.

Time to bring this to an end and get on with my day. I’ll have to mull over the person/environment fit a little more. I do think it’s incredibly important in career choice. I also think that the profession and all that it entails continue to hone and shape the person.

I’m not complaining one iota. I am saying that even in “semi-retirement” I still have a hard time relaxing. I still prioritize, multi-task, rub shoulders with fascinating people, and sidestep negative energy whenever possible.

Comments from anyone about teaching or about the person/environment fit and its importance? Any advice or experiences to share about your profession?

 

 

Books Save Lives

Books have saved my life…and my psyche. My name is Jayne, and I’m a bibliophile.

My name is Jayne, and I’m a bibliophile. So are some of my friends. My children are too. In fact, I borrowed this quote from my son Paul’s blog (http://pbcrolley.tumblr.com) because I liked it so much.

“I know that books don’t save lives on the grand scale. They don’t end wars and such. They don’t cure cancer. But at the same time, books saved my life. And I know they’ve done that for friends of mine. Writing and reading bond me to other people—at its best, literature makes me feel less alone in the world. Great people, great books, great music—these are things that remind me of what beauty people are capable of creating and spreading through the world. So, maybe books do save lives—just not in a dramatic way.” Rob Roberge: The TNB Self-Interview (via synecdoche

I bought a Kindle a few weeks ago and am absolutely loving it. Where I go, it goes. I can even take to church because I’ve downloaded the Bible and the Book of Mormon on it. Today if I tire of reading my latest book delivered by Whispernet, The Motion of the Ocean, I can read bits and pieces of the other 27 books lined up at “home.” Last week Martha and I visited a book store at Edisto, and I bought six books. Six books! Isn’t that a bit excessive for one visit? Yes and no. They were gently used books shelved in the back room of the shop and so their prices were greatly reduced. Plus, I bought two of them to give as gifts.

As we were looking at the selection, I spied The History of Love, a book I’d heard described on NPR and had ordered from Amazon the week before. Martha bought it that afternoon. I wonder if she’s begun reading it yet. It’s none of my business of course. It’s just that yesterday she mentioned her obsession with books and declared that her book buying frenzy had to cease, at least until she read those she’d recently purchased. My other friends are like this too, especially Connie and Kristi.

My children love books too. While their tastes and interest vary widely, they’re all three Harry Potter fans. The girls love all sorts of fiction, and both read an array of nonfiction based on their current lifestyles, Carrie about raising children and Elizabeth about teaching and decorating. Lately, Paul seems to be reading more psychology and counseling material since that’s to be his life’s work. All of them know where to find spiritual words of wisdom too. All know where to read reminders like “Live in thanksgiving daily.”

Books have saved my life…and my psyche. My favorite book from childhood is The Little Engine that Could; because of it, I’ll usually keep on keeping on even when the journey gets rough. I say “usually” because there’s no sense in trying to control the uncontrollable. A favorite from adulthood is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, no surprise to the people who know me. Dr. Covey’s words reminded me that I and I alone am the master of my fate and that it’s fruitless and a little crazy to blame other people for unhappiness or lack or growth. This morning I dipped into Simple Abundance by Sarah ban Breathnach and was reminded that “Even lousy days possess hidden wonder.” I’m thinking of the novels I’ve read this year and how each one has expanded my horizons and yet narrowed the gap between my fellow earthlings and me. In my book club, we’ve read several books about women and their choices, and I’m amazed at how despite race, socioeconomic status, culture, and century, we’re more similar than not. We face the same battles, heartaches, joys, anxieties, and dreams.

Is there a book that changed your life? Tell me about it.

Goodbye Mommy Duck

I was feeling icky this morning so I took some long overdue sick leave to get body and soul together. Reading, writing, and watching a little television were my morning accomplishments, and this afternoon I made a batch of Chex party mix before going in for my evening class. I also rallied long enough to do a couple of loads of laundry and take a shower.

No, the purpose of this blog is not to bore you with the mundane details of my day but rather to let you know some things I learned this morning. As mentioned above, I watched a little bit of t.v. early in the day, namely the Today Show. I was just about to turn it off when I heard some diaglogue about bath toys.  My ears perked up because not only do I have several bath toys on hand for my little granddarlings to play with when they come to visit, but they also have quite a few in their home tub. Don’t most kids?

Apparently, the answer is yes. Most children have a plethora of ducks and rings and dinosaurs to make their bathing time more special, but what neither they nor their parents know is that those toys are bad news. Full of germs, bacteria, and this sleazy, oozy, slick black stuff, the toys being shown on Today were repulsive when their surfaces were viewed under a microscope.  Since moisture is the culprit, the doctors being interviewed admonished parents to dry and put away the toys  between uses. Plus, they warned that any with holes where water could enter were especially harmful.

I marched into the bathroom and tossed the mommy duck and her babies who have been resting there for at least six months. They all have holes in them, and so does the little pad where they rest waiting for the grandchildren to pick them up to play. Sometimes I’ve seen the smaller babies put the ducks in their mouths! Never again! According to the doctor, the bacteria from the toys can cause diarrhea, intestinal upsets, weakness, and even skin problems.  

It gets worse. I also learned that in addition to the harmful effects of the bath toys, bath water itself is filled with bacteria and all sorts of creepy microorganisms from the children’s bodies. This is not the kind of information a grandmother wants to hear before 9:00 in the morning…or at any time.  

After being educated by television on the perils of bathing with toys, I came across some other  alarming information in a newspaper. Apparently our homes are so infested with bacteria and all sorts of nasty stuff that it’s a wonder we aren’t sick all the time. From the carpets to the air itself, we’re surrounded by minute particles of vileness that affect our health. Stuff lives in carpets. Well, I sort of knew that, but it’s not something I want to dwell on.

 If someone in our household is sick, he or she is constantly exhaling germs and contaminating the air. When the person recovers, those sick germs are still there IF you never air out your house. Since many Americans live in closed up houses or apartments, where do you think those germs go? Nowhere. They linger in the air just waiting for another victim.

This has got me thinking of a couple of contradictory platitudes. Knowledge is power, but ignorance is bliss. Or should it be ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power?  I’ll leave that up to you to decide. I’m glad that I got a little more educated today so that now I can change things to make sure my home is more hygienic. At the same time, that blissful ignorance was less stressful.

Weekend Getaway to Atlanta

Before yesterday, I’d never tasted citrus rice before. Ummm. It was delicious, especially the small chunks of pineapple. On our way back from Atlanta, some friends and I stopped in Madison, GA for lunch and a bit of antique browsing. We ate at the Chop House, a wonderful diner with sage green walls and huge windows overlooking the tree-lined streets. We opted to sit outside on the Chop House Patio where the ambience was even better. Except for the occasional cigarette smoke wafting over from a nearby table, it was what Van Morrison would call fantabulous. The food, the conversation, the temperature, the gentle breeze, our fellow diners, our server, the white china rimmed in black, a small lizard, and the sight of the surrounding trees beginning to change colors all combined to make it memorable. To add the icing on the cake, Nancy regaled us with hilarious tales of her father during her dating years. It’s always good to laugh and talk with friends.

To backtrack a bit, the four of us went to New York together in May and seemed to get along well (except for that business about leaving me at the Brooklyn Bridge, that is). Just kidding, Lisa.  Anyway, with one trip behind us, we knew that we traveled well together and that we liked many of the same things. Hence, when I learned that Chicago was playing in Atlanta at the fabulous Fox Theatre, I asked it they’d be interested, and they said YES. We asked some other people if they’d like to accompany us, but they all declined. Maybe next time.

 We left Nancy’s around 10:00 a.m. Friday morning, and after a couple of stops along the way, we finally arrived in Atlanta six hours later. Our husbands and families probably won’t be too surprised to learn that we talked pretty much nonstop. As a consequence, we came up with solutions to the nation’s healthcare problems and education issues. We also discussed the economy, SC’s recent embarrassments, and the lack of civility that surrounds and astounds us.  We also talked about more down-to-earth and personal topics, but I’ll never tell. Suffice it to say that we all agree on the importance of family, past and present, and relationships.

Before the play on Friday night, we ate at an Italian restaurant near the theatre where the food was good, but the atmosphere was anything but. The acoustics were horrific, and finally the four of us gave up trying to have any semblance of a conversation. After dinner, we walked down the block to the fabulous Fox where we were greeted by a tall, courtly African American man whose hospitality and Southern charm were contagious. Once inside, we admired the atmosphere and décor, especially the star studded ceiling.

I think I speak for the four of us when I say that the production of Chicago was well worth the price of the ticket. The lead roles played by Velma and Roxie were especially riveting. These women are so talented! While we thought that Jerry Springer did an okay job of playing Billy Flynn, we were disappointed that he didn’t dance more. He just seemed to lack the razzle dazzle of Richard Gere who played that part in the movie version.  The only “fly in the ointment” that evening was the price of souvenirs. I really really really wanted a tee-shirt that said “Not guilty,” but $35 put it out of my price range.

After the musical, we went back to the Georgian Terrace where we had reservations. It’s a lovely hotel with lots of good feng shui, and I especially liked the marble floors and the sound of mellow, jazzy music in the background. Before retiring to our room, we sauntered through the restaurant that had both inside and outside seating. 

Saturday morning, Nancy visited with her son, and Paul and Amanda picked up Lisa, Martha, and me, and we breakfasted together at the Flying Biscuit.   Since I got to break bread with two of the people I love most in the world, this event was especially sweet for me. Our round table was beside an open window (literally no pane) and was painted with stars. Stars and flying biscuits adorned the walls of this unique eatery as well. As we dined, we were treated to close up views of walkers, joggers, and dozens of dogs. It was nice to be in midtown Atlanta with its teeming life and variety. If you ever make it to the Flying Biscuit, be sure to sample the cranberry apple butter. Amanda, Martha, and I highly recommend it. Breakfast complete, Paul drove us to see the Margaret Mitchell house. Since Martha teaches literature and Lisa teaches history, seeing it was a fitting way to end our short but exciting trip to the big City. 

On the road again, our conversation resumed. As mentioned above, we did a lot of talking about our families, especially those ancestors who have influenced us so much. At this stage of my life, I LOVE that stuff, the links from the past to the present and the consideration of  how those links will affect the future. I’d write more about it, but it’s time to do some serious D2L work and some preparation for tomorrow.

Study Hard

Gee whiz. Call me naive, ignorant, misinformed, or uninformed, but I just cannot understand the hoopla about President Obama’s education speech yesterday. I heard it and felt like saying, “Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for telling the young people of America that education is important AND that it takes a lot of hard work. “ How can the parents of the nation’s children be opposed to that? Don’t they know that education is the ticket to a better life for their little darlings and that it comes with a price?

From teaching Human Growth and Development, I’ve learned that accountability is BIG today. From reading the newspaper and online sources, I’ve learned that most people think that accountability rests with the teachers and administrators, not with the students. To solve these shortcomings and problems, homeschooling, private schools, charter schools, and all kinds of other options have become available. Are they successful? Not always. Not if the parents don’t get involved with the education of their children. Do they check their homework? Take an interest in their courses? Go to parent/teacher conferences?

Last week I read an article in The State by Dr. Steve Millies, a professor at one of SC’s colleges, and I found myself thinking, “You’re so right!” I could identify with his experiences completely. He sometimes asks his students if they think he should be accountable for making sure that they learn, and they always say yes. He then asks them how many completed the reading for the day’s class, and perhaps two or three hands remain up. What a glaring disconnect between what students expect from their teachers and what they are willing to do on their own!  Folks, I see this attitude in my classes every day.

I agree with Dr. Millies in his assertion that we indeed have a problem with public education in America. I also agree that that the problem doesn’t rest solely with the schools and teachers but also with the parents and students.  Turn off the television set and read a book.  Listen to our president. He knows what he’s talking about

Congratulations Grads!

Happy FoursomeThe Grads

 

A week or so ago I blogged about three recent graduates in our family, but I didn’t write very much about them, mainly because I was waiting for some pictures. My son who just graduated from Coastal Carolina University with a degree in psychology refused to march with his fellow graduates. I tried guilt, bribery, shame (look at your little nephew who’s actually walking in a 4 year old kindergarten ceremony!), and indignation…to no avail. I even solicited the assistance of his bride Amanda. No go. He and his brother-in-law Bryan had decided not to do it and that was that.

 

Amanda and Rebecca, Bryan’s wife, decided that their husbands deserved a little fanfare, so yesterday my husband and I cruised to Myrtle Beach for a surprise shindig honoring Paul and Bryan (see the happy foursome in above pictures). It was well worth the trip, especially when DH later told me that he thought he saw Paul’s eyes light up when he saw us. Thanks Hon. I’d like to think so.

 

Anyway, I’m exceedingly proud of Paul and his accomplishments. As I was reading The State newspaper one day this week, I came across an article about Chick-fil-A adding some new food products to its already great selections. Yum. I’m looking forward to the chunkier chicken salad sandwich on wheatberry bread. It’s going to be nice to have a choice of a small coleslaw or carrot and raisin salad instead of waffle fries too…although I must say that I LOVE those waffle fries.

 

But I digress.

 

The purpose of this post is to say that while reading this article, I was overcome with a feeling of just how much Paul has accomplished in the past five years: completed a mission in another country, learned to speak another language fluently, graduated magna cum laude from college while working full-time at Chick-fil-A and handling church assignments, and married a beautiful young woman who is perfect for him. It’s pretty astounding really. I thought of how “easy” in some ways it must seem to him to currently work a regular day shift with no worries of studying, attending classes, doing research projects, or writing papers. As I was thinking of that, it hit me again how hard he’s worked and what he’s accomplished.

 

Right now Paul is waiting anxiously to hear some positive news from the graduate school he wants to attend. He’s trying to chill, realizing that since CCU had a record number of graduates, it takes a while for final grades to be sent to the various graduate schools.  I’m not sure what’s going to happen for him, but whatever it is will be good.  I hope he enjoys this “in-between” place and realizes that it’s necessary in order to get to what’s ahead. Being in-between isn’t permanent, but it is necessary.

 

I’m so proud of Paul and the man he’s become. Does it show? I’m including one of his favorite quotes to the blog, one that I recently sent to him. Enjoy.

 

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

 

You Go, Girl!!

Upon re-reading the “three graduates” post, I’ve decided that the tone is a little too preachy for me. The post has that know-it-all tone that’s just not indicative of how I am…or at least not of how I want to come across. At the same time, working in education over three decades (my, how time flies) has taught me tons of lessons, one of which is that unless you have some incredible talent, family money, or some other exceptional attribute (think Anna Nicole)  that provides the lifestyle you aspire too, then education is (I’ll say it again) the ticket.  Semester after semester, year after year, I hear life stories to confirm this, and this morning I want to share one.

It’s of a young woman who wrote a beautiful yet heart wrenching essay about the seemingly never ending series of dead-end jobs she had held. Her conclusion: “Education is the only answer that can prevent disrespect, encourage self value and allow our families to survive beyond paycheck to paycheck.” Before writing the conclusion, Rene told of a couple of job situations that tore at my heart, not only because I know this outstanding young woman and hate to know that she was mistreated but also because her essay awoke my consciousness to the fact that there are untold numbers of women who are experiencing exactly what she did.

Why don’t I just stop yakking and insert one of her stories? The only thing I’ve changed is the name of her employer.

 

 One of my first minimum wage jobs was at the age of 18, working as a third shift convenience store clerk. I had a son about a year and a half old. I worked from 11 p.m. until 7 a.m.  because I figured if I worked while he slept, I could spend more time with him during the day. One night my son got sick and I had to go to work. I called my manager, John, when I got there to tell him of the possibility of having to leave if my son got worse. Around 2 a.m. my son’s temperature spiked up to 102.5 and my mom couldn’t get it to go down. I called John and he refused to come to the store and allow me to leave. He said my first responsibility was to the store and if I left, he would fire me. I tried everything I could to make him understand that I had to take care of my son, but he believed that I had no choice if I wanted to keep my job. He believed my duty to the job and my need for it would outweigh the duty to my son; therefore, I would keep the store open.

That night I had to make a decision that could possibly cost me my job. After John hung up the phone on me, the decision seemed much clearer. I decided I could find another minimum wage job. I locked up the store and left a note on the door. I had only been in the emergency room about an hour when I was called to the pay phone. John asked if I was going back to open the store when I finished at the hospital. I think it was that very minute that I realized that this man had no respect for me as a parent or even as person. I hung up the phone and went back to my son. Later that afternoon, once I had gotten my son home and in bed, I took the keys back to the store and I told John I wouldn’t work for someone who thinks very little of me or my family.

Needless to say, I found another minimum wage job a couple of days later. I did something some people can’t do. I walked out and took a chance on finding another job. Some people would have stayed because they really didn’t feel like they had a choice.”

 

Rene wrote of a couple of other situations and of her feelings that eventually led her to pursue an education. This young woman is now a police officer who is pursuing a four-year degree “in her spare time” and who is one of the biggest advocates around for higher education. She talks daily to people, especially women, encouraging them to take the first step towards a better life for their families. Rene thus describes the plight of minimum wage mothers: “Our main concern is to survive another week. As we struggle to survive another week, it is a persistent fight against no respect, no self value and no education.”

 

I have other stories, but I’ll save them for another day. This morning I just wanted to get another pitch in for education. Whether it’s one course that will improve job skills, or a certificate, diploma, or degree, it’s the way to a life with more choices and more respect.