Saturday, June 20, 2015

Summer Staycation

Cummer Museum and Gardens
Jacksonville, Florida

So I woke up this morning and opened the newspaper.  I spotted an article about the Whitfield Lovell "Deep River" exhibit at our local art museum.  Because of the shootings in Charleston, the museum was not charging an entry fee, so I asked my husband if he would like to join me.  He has been to the Cummer numerous times because he is a visual artist and an elementary art teacher.  At first, he declined.  Then agreed to go if we could extend our visit to include the Riverside Arts Market.  I had never been there, so I agreed.  I had read about the "Deep River" exhibit and wanted to see it.  He was rather cynical about the entire thing, but we went with an open mind and neither of us walked away disappointed.  

As a matter of fact, we were blown away by the flood of emotions we felt as we stood there, immersed in the Lovell exhibit.  Tears were streaming down our faces.  It was incredibly moving.  There were so many parts to the exhibit, but each part featured Lovell's haunting Conte crayon portraits of African Americans who fled from slavery to freedom by crossing the Tennessee River.  The exhibit used sculpture, video, drawing, sound and music to draw you into the experience.  I have never experienced anything like it.  I highly recommend it, especially if you a not a connoisseur of art.  This is art, but it is different and it will move you.  I promise!

If that weren't enough excitement for one morning, I found the most incredible vendor at the Riverside Arts Market.  This woman takes photographs of items all over town - each one representing one letter of the alphabet.  You get to be the artist and put them together to create whatever you wish.  I am a great fan of mosaic and was able to construct this visually engaging piece while standing under the Fuller Warren Bridge.  My husband is going to frame it for me as a "back-to-school" gift in August.  I am in love!!!!!!

I will hang this proudly in my classroom next year!
Soooooooooo excited!!!!!

Until next time...

Thursday, June 11, 2015


So.......we made it to the end of another school year and it has been both exhilarating and exhausting, invigorating and infuriating -- and it has finally come to an end.  To recap a few memorable events from the 2014-15 school year...

We received a bomb threat last fall and had to evacuate the building.  We sat in the stadium for over an hour while the bomb squad searched the building.  They found nothing.  In October, my mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer and I became a caregiver once again.  There was scuttlebutt surrounding our football team's quarterback. One of our finest teachers died of a massive heart attack less than one week after retirement.  Another had a stroke and was forced into retirement before she was ready.  Others left mid-year, overwhelmed by their students or their schedule.  They simply walked out the door.  There were ups and downs this year, but nothing could have prepared me for the handwritten note that was left on my board on the final day of classes from one particular student.

This student is one of those kids who has so much potential, but has absolutely no idea how to channel his unbridled energy to reach that potential.  This is a kid who did everything in his power to provoke me, begging to be thrown out of my classroom on a regular basis by his poor choices and ill behavior.  This is a kid that responded to correction only when it was to his benefit to do so.  This is a kid whose parents love him dearly, but have absolutely no idea how to help him succeed in life.  This is a kid that is starved for attention and will do whatever it takes to make sure others notice him.  This is a kid I hope will graduate one day -- even though the odds are currently stacked against him. 

I learned early on in the year that this child would require "tough love" and I was not going to give up or give in to him.  I wrote referrals, I made phone calls home, I separated him from anyone who would become a distraction to him -- I rode him like a cowboy rides a bucking bronco the entire school year.  I would not let up.  I doled out consequences over and over again.  Consistency was the key.  I used every trick in my "bag of tricks" with this kid.  By mid-year, he was responding to correction appropriately.  The phone calls home subsided.  If I re-directed him, he complied.  Progress was being made, however, I looked forward to the end of the year when we would part ways and move on to other things.

I figured he would be so relieved to be rid of me that he would walk out the door at the final bell and never look back.  Maybe he was relieved, but he didn't leave without expressing his heart with a note he wrote in red on my board. 

I was overcome with emotion as I stood there staring at that board.  I began to cry.  I could not stop the tears.  I had a student officer meeting right after school.  When they came in, I was still crying.  I explained to them that this kid is the reason I wake up in the morning, get dressed and drive to school.  This kid is the kind of kid that brings meaning to my day (along with a lot of frustration).  I am certain that I have made an impact on this kid.  I desperately want this kid to succeed and I know that I haven't seen the last of him.  He will be back.  He proclaimed as he walked down the hallway that I was his favorite teacher and he wished me a happy summer.  Unbelievable.

There is a verse in the book of Philippians which reads, "Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."  (Phil 4:8)

I did my best to search out the true, the noble, the right, the pure, the lovely and the admirable in this child for an entire school year.  My prayer is that the seeds I sowed in him for the past 180 days will one day mature and bear fruit in his life and this fruit will be "excellent and praiseworthy."

Until next time...