The Truth about Summer School

laffy_taffy__82431Summer school is hard. The kids don’t want to be there. The teachers don’t want to be there. But here in Texas, if students who have failed the state tests in 8th grade want a chance to move along to 9th grade, summer school is a necessary evil. I say “evil” because that is how it is viewed. Call me weird, but I kind of like it. I like the camaraderie in my little class. “We’re all in this together and we will prevail!” As a teacher, you don’t have many days to build a sense of family in summer school. But kids need to feel engaged and welcomed if you want them to connect with what you are trying to teach them. If you are just there to pass the time and collect a paycheck, you are not doing these kids any favors.

Here is a little secret: if kids don’t like you, they won’t listen to you. This is true for kids and adults. Haven’t you ever been rubbed wrong by a presenter in the first couple of minutes and then you zone out for the rest of his/her speech?

Summer school students have 8 short little teaching days to absorb some nugget of truth that will help them answer a few more questions correctly on their tests. That is not a lot of time! You have to get in there, connect with them, and give them some tips to hang onto when they go in to take that test for the third time. The connection is key. I have attempted this by starting each morning off by sharing Good Things. Good things is a strategy taught through the Capturing Kids’ Hearts program. Kids have the chance to share whatever “good things” are going on in their lives. Kids really do want you to know about them. They want to share their stories. We all have a desire to be known. It is sad, but many of these kids don’t get that need filled at home. They are the strugglers; those kids who act out and get in trouble because they don’t have anyone at home intricately involved in their lives.

So my summer school tips are:
1) Take a few minutes each day to show them you care about them. Ask them about themselves. Then listen.
2) Follow up the next day on what they shared the previous day.
3) Be patient. More patient than comes naturally.
4) They won’t remember your name. (Miss! Miss!) But remember theirs.
5) Bring candy. If nothing else, a well-timed piece of Laffy Taffy will make them close their mouths long enough that you can tell them that tip that you’ve prepared for the day.

Kids need adults who care. If you are reading this, then I bet you care more than a little!
Happy teaching!

P.S. Nobody likes grape Laffy Taffy!


Grand Canyon

My family and I returned this week from our first trip to the Grand Canyon. Forget healthcare and work assistance–the government should provide a free trip to the Grand Canyon for every American. I knew it would be big. I mean, it IS called the GRAND Canyon. But when we stepped off the shuttle bus, and I caught my very first look, my breath caught in my throat. It was beautiful. The expanse between me and the other side was filled with a beauty I simply wasn’t prepared for. It was dreamy. I can’t imagine that those cliffs out there are real, firm, hard, stone that can be touched because it presents as untouchable. It was honorable to be in the presence of God’s Creation in that way. The same God who allowed the green way across the street from my house allowed the canyon to be shaped. Yet, I have no awe for the green way across from my house. I should, perhaps.

If you go, stay for a sunset. Please. It will fill your heart with happy and wonder. Let me know of your experiences at the Grand Canyon. I’d love to hear them.


Thank you, 2016


With the reported deaths of George Michael and Carrie Fisher, 2016 has gone into the toilet for thousands of people. Life was fine, they were preparing for the new year like everyone else, when all of the sudden, WHAM! 2016 is now the worst-year-ever, and we should just say, “Screw you, 2016! You totally sucked!”

The close friends and family of these celebs are no doubt heartbroken. And those of us who appreciated their entertainment and admired their work could rightfully feel a sense of sadness and loss of the era they represented. Death IS sad. It wasn’t how God intended it to be from the beginning, so it isn’t natural to our hearts. But for everyday people to be ready to declare the whole year a “year of suckage” over it doesn’t make sense to me. And, I think it cheapens true loss. Be thankful if the worst thing that happened to you this year was that George Michael or Carrie Fisher died. My friend lost her 2 month old grandbaby this year. Another friend lost her dear husband, who was a mentor and father-figure to many. I learned last week of the murder of a 19 year old boy who attended a conference David and I spoke at last year.

If you have expressed words of strong emotion over these deaths, I say this not to judge you personally. I am mostly confused by those ready to declare the whole entire year as a throw-away over it. We can’t control how we are affected, but we can take a moment to put it in right perspective before reacting. Is the whole year really a total bust over those particular two deaths? Spoiler alert: Celebrities are going to die in 2017, too. Probably even celebs you don’t expect to pass away. Ask yourself, “Why the emotion?” Maybe the celeb-death melodrama is a product of our society not knowing how to put feelings into words. Perhaps we don’t put in the effort to find the right vocabulary to fit a situation in an emotionally-appropriate way. Or maybe we, as individuals, don’t do the hard work of soul-searching to figure out why a situation affects us the way it does. Maybe in our desire to post quickly to social media we take the easy way out with words like “devastated.”

Earlier this year, when I learned of the death of music legend Prince, I was shocked. I cried. And then I tried to figure out why I was so sad. I mean, I didn’t know him; I knew his music. I truly enjoy listening to his music and singing along with it. Then I realized I was angry that I would never get to see Prince in concert–and that was something I have wanted to do ever since 1985. My sense of loss was really the loss of a goal of my own. I was mad at myself for never buying those concert tickets.

Thank you, 2016 that I rang the new year in with my family at my side, hugging and giving new year’s kisses. Thank you for introducing me to Camp Gladiator, where I’ve made new friends and have been able to strengthen my muscles. Thank you for the outpouring of friendship Cooper’s teammates showed in the spring at the district track and field meet that made the news and brought Cooper such a sense of pride. ( ) Thank you that I got to see Kacey perform in Beauty and the Beast. Thank you that Ben’s horribly sprained ankle healed. Thank you that we got to see family and friends in St. Louis, Chicago, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota. Thank you that we got to marvel at Mount Rushmore and take selfies with historical monuments. Thank you that we got to visit three MLB stadiums. Thank you that we got to join in the joy of the Cubs winning the World Series. Thank you for my job and the new friends I have met. Thank you for the books I have had the privilege of editing and being a part of the celebration of their release. Thank you that when my tire blew out on the highway, Ben and I weren’t hurt. Thank you for the scholarship prize awarded to me two weeks ago. Thank you for my children. Thank you for our family’s trip to North Carolina this Christmas.

It really isn’t the year 2016 I thank–as if 2016 is a person or deity in control of this world in which we live. I really thank Jesus. I thank God for all I have–including the privilege to have prayed for the baby that has been lost, for my friend who is grieving, and for the family of the boy who has been killed. I don’t know where George Michael and Carrie Fisher are in eternity. I can surmise based on their public statements, but I didn’t know their hearts or what may have happened in the moments leading up to their deaths. As good and bad happen to us going forward, I pray for right perspective. To bring words of healing. To be there for my friends who grieve and for the love of those around me when it is my turn to experience true loss.

I am thankful for 2016 and I pray for the wisdom to be thankful for all that 2017 will bring.