Friday, March 29, 2013

Proofreading, pastries, perfection, and passions (not necessarily in that order)

Facebook truly is one giant, digital time-suck. I'm often addicted to endless scrolling through statuses and pictures that, while sometimes interesting, is mostly just a replacement for other things I should be doing. Occasionally Facebook (and the people posting on it) has redeeming value with some inspiring, thought-provoking, or unique content that makes me feel a little better about myself for spending so much time on it.

Today was just one of those days.

I should have been focused on the productive to-do list I made the night before, and instead found my way to Facebook. And then I was stopped by a post from Hy-Vee:
What do you do when a kid named Henry points out your mistake and laughs? You make his day.
With donuts.
Thanks, Henry.
I had to click the link. For multiple reasons.

  • I love Hy-Vee. I love food. I actually love grocery shopping. And Hy-Vee is a company that I've worked for on and off again in a variety of capacities for many, many years. Hy-Vee will always be my company. 
  • There is a kid named Henry who is engaged in literacy. I'm passionate about literacy development and education. No matter where I go or what I do in life, those two topics will forever spark my interest.
  • In all aspects of life and work, people make mistakes. There is no such thing as perfection. Yet, we all love to be the person to catch those mistakes, especially when they are glaringly obvious. And, honestly, props to people who catch mistakes because there is a great deal of fun and amusement in being the person to notice the obvious infraction. I have previously written about my own embarrassing written mistakes: Rules, mistakes, and considerate corrections.
  • Throughout my dedicated years working in a grocery store, I have countless stories of grammatical, spelling, incorrect word choice, and punctuation mistakes that have made it on signage, oblivious to the creator. Sometimes those mistakes are caught before they are displayed for all to see. Typically, they are never noticed until it has been broadcast to the world and overlooked by many. 
  • I love donuts.

So, like I stated, I click on the Facebook link. Eight year old Henry was amused by the incorrect signage at Hy-Vee. His mom took a picture of it.

Then she blogged about the experience in the post Donuts & . . . on the blog Turn up the Valium. You must read what she wrote there along with the follow-up post The Tasty Typo.

While the mistake on the signage is amusing--along with being the true "hook" of the story--what I find most compelling is the important power of education and how one attentive, bright, eight-year-old applied something he is learning in school to his everyday life.  

I now attribute Facebook to making me productive, leading to this blog post, and therefor have no guilt as I return for more endless browsing, craving some additional inspiration.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

To This Day

In my obsession with TED talks and YouTube, I stumbled upon a fabulous spoken word poem, "To This Day" by Shane Koycz. It is an insightful and personal video about bullying, which, apparently, has been getting great attention on the internet. The poem itself is quite powerful, but when you hear it set to animation there is a richer layer of added meaning. It is seven and half minutes long.

I don't mean to brush off the seriousness of bullying with some light-hearted story, but I have to share with everyone what happened yesterday with Charlie, the bully. For those of you who have read my other posts, you are aware that anytime Charlie is let out in the back yard unpredictable events are bound to occur. Yesterday morning was just one of those times.

Charlie and I were up early. He immediately wanted to go out back, so I let him outside and watched from the back door window (since the back door doesn't lead directly out to the backyard, Charlie has to walk nine feet to the open gate by the garage). I can be an impatient person and wanted to be doing something while waiting for Charlie to do his ritualistic rounds of smelling everything in the yard while finding the perfect spot to do his business. Just standing at the back door is boring.

Honestly, the decision to multitask was probably a poor choice on my part; I'm just not good at it. I began to make coffee, opening up a new bag of grounds given to me by Michelle's parents for my birthday. After I broke the seal, I realized that this particular coffee didn't have one of those twisty things attached to close it back up. I needed to leave the kitchen to get tape or something from the other room to seal up this bag. Keeping a careful eye out the window, I didn't see Charlie. He must have been behind the garage. I waited. Still, there was no sign of Charlie. I made a calculated decision that I could make it to the other room and back to the kitchen without Charlie knowing.

Quickly, I retrieved the tape I so desperately needed and returned to the back door of the kitchen. Even still, there was no sign of Charlie. Doubt entered my mind. Was I not fast enough? In that brief moment, could it be possible that I missed him, and he slipped from the open gate, down the driveway, and to the front of the house? It has happened before. As my confidence in my multitasking morning began to diminish, I put the coffee away, stayed put at the back door window, and waited. No Charlie.

Then, a mad flash of a black and white cat whizzed from around the corner of the garage, through the gate, Charlie sprinting behind it in full speed, and both quickly disappeared out of sight down the driveway. I didn't have much time to think, half amused and half pissed that this was actually happening. I opened the back door and pretty much screamed, "Charlie, get back here!" at the top of my lungs, hoping he would hear. I know the dogs inside the neighbor's house heard, because they immediately began barking. I'm sure my neighbors were pleased.

I waited. Charlie did not appear. I began to wonder how intent he was on catching that cat and how far he had run in the front yard. But I wanted to keep the faith. So I didn't dare take a step down, out of the house, onto the driveway. Rather, I just left the door open and yelled Charlie's name one more time.

That was when I heard the pitter-patter of paws hitting pavement up the driveway. Charlie rounded the corned of the house, stopped, looked at me, and just starred at me, communicating his dissatisfaction with me ruining his early-morning bullyfest. "Get inside," I commanded.

I'm just surprised the cat didn't put up more of a fight. It was just as big as Charlie.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Week

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. Do what you want with that. Enough said.

Yesterday was not a good teaching day for me. For those teachers out there, you know how terrible the bad days can feel. And I can honestly say, I haven't felt entirely appreciated going back into the classroom. You go into teaching knowing that teenagers generally are not going to appreciate you. Oftentimes they view teachers as obstacles, people to subvert, push up against, argue with, disrespect, and I could continue with the list of those not-so-fun descriptive words. As the adult (and teacher), you go to work every day accepting teenagers for who they are, and do the best you can. But the bad days can weigh on your being like no other.

Thankfully, that was all yesterday.

Today, I felt appreciated. The teenagers were still their normal selves in all their glory. The revealing moments that capped my day today transpired during after school club with Mr. Pernicek. It's not really a club. Rather it is when students show up for extra help in the basement of the school where my classroom is located. More than a handful of students voluntarily stayed over an hour to do academic work. They genuinely wanted to improve and do well. There were several impromptu lessons:
  • How to take a run-on paragraph and change it to a solid paragraph of sentences.
  • How to come up with vivid, descriptive words using
  • Where to put commas in a compound complex sentence.
  • How to connect opinions about a book to life in a short essay.
  • How to write and punctuate dialogue.
  • How effort, time-management, and focus in school makes life less-stressful.
Most of the teenagers said thank you on their way out of the room this afternoon, their grades rising, and their sense of pride and self-worth intensified.

On an unrelated note, TEDxYouth@Lincoln is coming together nicely. Check out this update.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Achieved another year

There are many birthday cliches and traditions. Yesterday, I achieved another year of life on this planet. I celebrated with friends, my wife, and family. I ate some birthday cake. I went out to dinner and drinks. I ate more cake (and a cookie), a traditional nod restaurants give their celebrating patrons. I received gifts. Phone calls, texts, and Facebook messages reminded me of the wonderful, supportive people  in my life. Yet, I'm left thinking about two cliches:

I don't feel any older.


Time seems to go by faster the older you get.

Honestly, I'm not quite sure what it means to "feel" old. I'm certain it will happen at one point, and then, maybe, I'll feel wiser, accomplished, or fulfilled. Since the passage of time has not left me with any profound feelings of age, I wonder why each year increasingly seems to speed by faster than the previous one. Am I trapped in some strange birthday paradox? Or is this just a common experience we humans enjoy on our life journeys until we wake up one day and think, Oh my gosh, I feel old?

I guess until that happens, I've gratefully accomplished the past year, and I anticipate the gathering momentum of my next birthday.