Teachers

Jack4thGrade Jo1stgrade

It’s the first day of school and while I’m excited for my fourth and first grade children to kick the year off, I’m praying especially for their teachers today.

Teachers are perhaps the most important adults in our children’s lives after their parents (and in some cases more than their parents). Teachers definitely deserve more than they get in so many ways. And teachers have a HARD job.

I cannot imagine the difficulty teachers face everyday in dealing with all of the different backgrounds and circumstances that show up in their classrooms every morning. Most of us spend the majority of our day with adults. While the adults in our lives certainly bring baggage to the workplace that affects who they are and their performance, they are ADULTS, and most of them are able to put those things aside long enough to get their work done. But a teacher is dealing with kids who have all manner of challenges in their lives and aren’t emotionally mature enough to know how to deal yet.

Can you imagine having a classroom of 25 9 year olds? Now, how about if half of them have parents living in different houses? What if 4-5 of them didn’t eat much for dinner last night or didn’t get breakfast before school because money is tight at home? What if another 3-4 are sexually or physically abused by an older sibling, neighbor, or uncle? How about the 8 or so that have learning disabilities but are ashamed of it so they try to hide it? Not to mention the 15-20 that are so insecure and nervous most days that just getting on the bus is a challenge to overcome.

I don’t want to think about the baggage that I pile on my fourth grader when I lose my patience with him in the morning about getting his shoes on or getting his teeth brushed. What kind of challenge am I handing his teacher by dismissively telling him he won’t have any trouble making friends this year when I know that it is one of his biggest fears? I can only imagine what state some of our kids show up in emotionally every morning.

So this morning, I’m praying for teachers. I’m praying that they have patience beyond any reasonable human allotment. I’m praying that they can discern the difference between struggling and troubled. I’m praying that they are flexible enough to provide all of those different kids the space to learn in their own unique way. I’m praying that they are firm enough to instill discipline and boundaries because kids are longing for it. I’m praying that they will inspire my kids and all of the kids they teach the way many of my teachers inspired me.

And this morning, I’m thankful for teachers. Thankful for Mrs. Kaveney, my third grade teacher who had the courage to tell my parents she thought I should be held back even when my academic numbers said differently. Thankful for a group of junior high teachers at Metcalf School who didn’t let me coast by when they saw I had academic potential but cared more about sports. Thankful for Coach Hubbard who modeled for me how to treating kids with respect on the court earned their respect on and off. Thankful for Ms. Scott, the best teacher I ever had, the one who instilled a passion for history in me, and the most influential adult in my life who I don’t share a last name with. And thankful for Tim Dillon, my Milligan College American History professor and mentor who not only taught from a place of passion, but cared for his students from a place of passion.

Today will be a great day for my kids because of the caring of their teachers and I am who I am today because of the teachers who cared for me. Pray for your teachers and the teachers of others today and every day.

Facebook Photo Free

chalkboard

Yesterday on my morning run I got to thinking about this past weekend’s activities and realized in horror that I had a FACEBOOK PHOTO FREE WEEKEND!

Once I calmed down my breathing and regained my composure, I started to reflect: Why do I care if we did anything this weekend that was worthy of posting to Facebook? How shallow am I that I was thinking about all of the cool things I saw my friends post from their weekend and didn’t have anything to share? Does every weekend have to be Facebook worthy?

You see, this past weekend revolved around the list above which we wrote on our chalkboard wall in the kitchen – not much exciting stuff there. The kids are going back to school soon so we’re getting in organizing and prep mode which is pretty much what we did this weekend. That isn’t to say that we didn’t have some great family time. We did our back to school shopping together (challenging), went for a drive in the country (fun for me), ate all of our meals together (always entertaining), Jo and I went to the Farmer’s Market in Davidson together (daddy/daughter time), and we got almost everything on our list done with minimal meltdowns (victory!).

So what is my problem? Why the Facebook Photo envy? Why the sense of failure? This morning I had a little longer run planned, so I had some more time to reflect on my Facebook Photo Free weekend. And here is the conclusion I’ve come to…I need to break myself of the prevailing belief that if something doesn’t get posted to Facebook it either didn’t happen or isn’t important. I have slipped into believing that I have to somehow show others all of the great things I’m doing or they aren’t important. While I do see the value in sharing some of the paramount moments of our lives with friends and family that we don’t get to see often enough, I must remember that posting those pictures doesn’t validate the experience. The experience itself and the impact it has on our lives validates the experience.

When our family spends the weekend camping in the mountains, it isn’t the cute pic of my kids hugging by the fire that makes it worthwhile, it is the fact that our 9 year old learned how to build and start a fire that is important. When my wife and I get to go away for the weekend or catch an infrequent date night, it isn’t the picture of us in front of the swanky restaurant looking all nice that makes the evening, it is the quiet in our conversation where we just look at each other and smile that reminds us what 14+ years of love has been like. When we get together with friends or family and enjoy days of great food, fun, and fellowship, it isn’t the posed shot we finally convince the kids to stand still for that makes memories, it is the first backflip off the top of the pontoon that stands out. And when I travel the globe and go for a morning run, it isn’t the selfie in front of some iconic spot that makes me love my job, it is the fact that the run is an important part of doing my job well that matters.

The fact of the matter is that our Facebook Photo Free Weekend was pretty awesome. We got the kids talking about what they would like about living in the country, we experienced the complete opposites that are Jack (2 minutes to pick out school shoes) and Josie (20 minutes to pick out school shoes). We got some great new books at the library and bought some local meat, bread, and veggies at the Farmers Market – both of which gave us interesting conversation over dinner. Jessi and I had a unhurried chat over coffee on the front porch one morning and both participated in some yard work (me begrudgingly). We had pool time and quiet time and family time throughout. It didn’t need a photo to sum it up and just one wouldn’t have captured all of the moments that made it great.

Make no mistake, you’ll continue to see photos of my highlights on Facebook because I’m still vain enough to think that people care about what I do and my mom likes to see pictures of her grandkids. But when you see those pics from now on, keep in mind that they’re just glimpses of life. Theres a whole lot more, good and bad, going on and that is what is really important.

Living Well Traveled

harley

Someone told me recently that they thought I was ‘interesting’ because I am so well traveled. I thought that was a huge compliment! Ever since then, I’ve been dwelling on what is it about traveling that makes someone more interesting and thinking about the value of travel to one’s life.

I have been traveling, and loving it, for most of my life. When I was a kid, my mother was a teacher and my father was a pastor, so summer break was for VACATION. Our family wasn’t inclined to Disney World or to “lay on the beach” type of trips. Instead we were road-tripping fools. Before I graduated from high school we had done a trip West that included Yellowstone National Park, the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, and Northern California. We’d done a trip East that included Cooperstown, NY the upper Northeastern states, and a couple of weeks on an island off the coast of Maine (twice). We’d done Washington D.C., New York City, and Gettysburg and surrounding battlefields. On the years we didn’t do big trips, we were heading to our grandparents for weeks at a time in rural towns in Illinois. Every trip was non-stop and every trip was an adventure.

As an adult, I’ve had the opportunity to do even more amazing travel. I’ve been to 49 of the 50 states (I’ll get you someday Alaska) and Puerto Rico. Fun-loving roommates and college friends got me off campus exploring not only our Eastern Tennessee mountains, but extended trips to Moab, UT, Canyonlands NP, and other Southwestern wonders. College basketball, both as a player and a coach, afforded me trips to Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Prague, Ukraine, Dominican Republic, Idaho, and some of college basketball’s most iconic arenas. An adventurous wife and 5 years of marriage without kids allowed for a dozen 14ers in Colorado, a trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and numerous backpacking trips all over the country. Finally, a couple of jobs that put me on the road have provided even more travel opportunities all over North America and beyond.

Through it all, I’ve seen some awesome places – some fantastic, some quietly amazing. I believe that the secret to travel making you more interesting boils down to 2 things: 1) going places on your travels that most visitors skip over and 2) slowing down and paying attention to the people and places you are visiting.

These two things became very evident to me this week on a ‘work-play’ week of travel. Our family drove to Wisconsin to visit my in-laws for a week, and while the kids and Jessi were enjoying Grandma and Grandpa’s, I took off to visit with some clients. The night before I flew out, Jessi and I took a ‘date night’ down in Dubuque, IA, where we enjoyed a cocktail and watched the sunset from Timmerman’s Supper Club overlooking the Mississippi River.

Timmermans

This throwback to the 1960’s was an amazing place with an incredible view and an interesting history. Definitely not the type of place that most visitor’s make it to. I then took off to Tulsa, OK for some meetings, where I had the chance to see the statue below called “East Meets West” at the 11th Street Bridge on old Route 66. While I was there, I met the grandson of the man in this car who gave me the behind the scenes history lesson about the creation of Route 66.

Route66statue

When I got back from my business trip (where I also had the chance to explore Oklahoma City with some locals), I grabbed a car and head North out of Dubuque to the in-laws. On the way home, I made a side trip to a place I’d seen the sign for many times, but never visited: The Potosi Brewery and National Brewery Museum in Potosi, WI. This village of 800 is several miles off the main highway, which is hundreds of miles from the nearest interstate. What I found was an amazing little museum (pic below) that told the story of brewing in Wisconsin and around the country, some good food, and great beer.

Potosi

What happened this week made me a more interesting person, I believe. I experienced some places that not only added information to my brain, but color to my life. I talked with people who were REAL, not tourist attraction attendants trying to put on a good face. I ate food that was prepared with care, not a microwave. And I spent time with people who love what they do and want to share it with others.

I could have just as easily stayed in the hotel, eaten at the Olive Garden next door, and driven straight to and from all of my meetings. Maybe I should have spent a little more time on email in my room or made a few more phone calls, but I didn’t. Instead, I chose to live well traveled and I am more interesting for doing it. Travel is what opens our minds to the possibilities the world has for us, but only if we travel well. So next time you’re on the road, find a way to get off the beaten path and talk to the people who’ll make your life more interesting.