August 11, 2013
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What a week! Obviously the Supreme Court knows how to give us all some talking points over the July 4th weekend. Skipping the obvious disagreements that people have regarding the (mostly) 5-4 decisions, we have become a nation whose identity has become sharply divided along lines of personal choice and beliefs. If our country reflects the Supreme Court (and it seems to), hot weather locally will be the least of our high-temperature discomfort. We did get a mild reprieve in the EPA decision, which instructs the agency to consider the cost of their decisions on the public they serve.
When budgets are tight and declining student enrollment is a reality, it can be unsettling. When I was hired to replace an English teacher 18 years ago, the high school boasted over 850 students. When we went on field trips or sporting contests, coaches were given money to defray the cost of student meals.
You’ve heard about Bruce Jenner transitioning to Caitlyn status because you can’t get away from all the media coverage.
In staying current on actual events that affect our lives and shape our future, I find a mixed bag of hope for our beleaguered local economy and school district budget.
If you follow politics, you likely identify yourself as conservative, liberal, or maybe even libertarian. If you vote, you are likely to look for either Republican, Democrat, or a third party choice.
As the academic year wraps up, it has been a tumultuous time for teachers in our district who have taken on the burden of carrying the heavy load of financial insecurity, academic scrutiny and leadership adjustments. As teachers enter a second year of pay freezes and continued budget cuts, it can be difficult to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Finances can be arranged a number of ways, but one thing is certain: teachers were expected to do much more with less and less this past year than at any other time during my 17-year tenure.
Asked by members of the community to deliver a short address to those attending Baccalaureate this year, I thought back to one of my favorite books written many years ago that taught me some life lessons that have carried me through both good times and bad.
Graduation season is upon us and people want to know what to tell those who are preparing to go off to college, find a job or experience a little rest and relaxation. After the flurry of fist bumps, endless hugs, countless celebrations and a few speeches; graduates will be left, just as we were, to figure out how their years of education can pay dividends.
So much has been written about mothers, bordering on the obvious to remind you of their critical importance in our culture. But traditions built up around celebrations are the glue that hold societies together and each one of us has a mom that made a life-affirming decision to carry our burden until we were strong enough to “think” we could do it on our own.
After reading selections from the New Testament and Quran in our Western Literature class, the assignment was to develop a social contract that reflected the diversity of thought found in the two selections. Keep in mind that each of these religious works have exerted a tremendous influence on our Western culture historically and still do today.
Would you consider voting for someone based on the fact that they reflect the values you believe are important to get our country moving again? How often have you been asked to vote for someone in a national election because of their skin color, gender or religious beliefs? Isn’t voting for someone simply because they might represent a particular aspect of projected historical importance intellectual bondage?
We used to call it humor and it was common for people to tell stories and jokes that would ease tension and bring a light to a dark and dreary day. Now people are so concerned about who might see their story or hear their joke, that most have simply stopped sharing. Too bad... the world used to be a fun place before we all started taking ourselves so seriously.
Christians all over the world just celebrated a miraculous event commonly referred to as Easter.
Spring has sprung around town and our local public schools have this week set aside as break time. Officially referred to as Spring Break, a week off that prepares us for the frenetic finish to the school year. Some people use the break to travel and enjoy the sunshine while others use the week to get a few things done around the house.
The election season is in full swing and the candidates are starting to make their run for the biggest prize American politics has to offer — commercial spots on television, radio and social media that bash the other candidate instead of describing how our country will be better for electing them to office.
I’m not a scientist, but I read about science quite often and stay well informed. The news I’ve been reading lately makes me very concerned by the absolute certainty that some in the field are describing as “settled science” implying that anyone who disagrees is obviously uneducated, ill-informed, conspiratorial, ignorant or just plain stupid (and likely an oil-loving, coal-supporting, anti-environmental, greedy capitalist).
Signs are popping up all over the community as our local citizens vie to represent us on city council. All of them have ideas for making our city a better place. Ideas are good, but I hope each candidate will remember some of the bedrock ideas that make serving the public such a privilege.
I recently accompanied my son to Denver for a College Preview Day where I learned seven things over the course of a day-long tour and seminar that have adjusted my perspective on how we view our most precious and productive resource:
Thursday evening at Moffat County High School, you are invited to speak and hear thoughts concerning the future prospects for our school district. As a parent, I am deeply concerned about our school district. As a teacher, I have personally experienced depleted resources over the past 16 years and as a taxpayer, I want assurances that monies raised to supplement our school district will be used wisely.
He dropped back and put the ball in the air and the intangibles took over. The firestorm of criticism that ensued made every critic and armchair coach an expert on what “should” have happened. Few remember the undrafted rookie who made the play of the year down on the one yard line, an improbable interception with time expiring, stopping the opponent’s touchdown that would ensure victory with just seconds left during the most watched Super Bowl in history.
Times are tough, but times are tough all over, I thought, while speaking with one of our county commissioners this past week. I asked if there was any positive or inspiring news about our county in general. He stated that the commissioners are definitely going on the offensive this year and plan to do all they can to promote our county and the possibilities that exist in our expansive area.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” The most famous portion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech given at the Lincoln Memorial just 19 days before I was born.
I love watching the Broncos and proudly support one of our favorite Colorado football teams. The prognostication before last weekend’s game was as well-intentioned as the excuses made after the loss to the Colts. The Indianapolis quarterback lived up to his name in a very lucky performance validated by the uninspired play of the Broncos. Clearly and objectively, the Bronco’s performance was slipping weeks before Sunday’s playoff loss, especially on offense.
Your career choice might be a real downer. A recent study reported in The Atlantic magazine indicates that depression can be directly linked to the type of job you choose and experts calculate the cost to the economy in lost production at $83 billion dollars a year! This is serious stuff and we all should be aware of the jobs that might cost us more than the benefits they promise.
I have celebrated the New Year 17 times in our fair city, am raising a family here, care deeply about our community and have high hopes for our small city not just to survive, but to thrive. I know you do too, and you want things to be better in 2015 and beyond and that all we need is the right plan!
It’s Christmas, but it’s going to be difficult to celebrate. It’s a time when we all take some time to think back over the past year and make some decisions about how we want 2015 to look. But, when tragedy sucks the wind out of our sails, asking the really tough questions seems wholly appropriate.
During the holiday season, you’ll have the opportunity to do something for someone in need or make something right, and for most of us, it will come down to being available. It’s an “opportunity cost” and it reveals much more about our true nature than we care to admit. Most of our holiday schedules will be so packed that the cost of opportunity will outweigh the benefits.
A look at 2035? In 20 years? Is this survey for real? Twenty years down the road and many people in our community will be well into retirement and old-age, myself included. Planning and setting forth a vision is important but this seems like just another exercise in making our town think that “experts” and “consultants” (for the right price) are concerned about our future. Information and facts are a great resource, but I happen to believe that we have a rich collection of home-grown experts who know exactly what our town needs.
Sometimes columnists just have to brag about the people that make their community such a great place. We can easily name people who make life almost unbearable but too often our focus strays away from those who make a difference. Paying compliments can be uncomfortable, because we feel like we have to include as many people as possible but the spotlight will focus on a particular group this week.
If you’re like me, you have nothing to be thankful for this year. “Nothing” was the only word that came to mind this week. Nothing has been happening to me all year and I didn’t even realize it because I was so focused on “something.”
How often do you make a decision based on emotions? “Follow your heart,” the saying goes, and we soon find ourselves in compromising situations, of our own choosing, blaming others, and deflecting responsibility.
This past week two news stories have torn at my heart and challenged my conscience. Two young women, each stricken with rare forms of brain cancer, made two very different decisions.
I love Fourth of July celebrations in our country and have enjoyed some very happy times with fellow Americans who understand the importance and uniqueness of Independence Day.
“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day, fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way. Kicking around on a piece of ground in your hometown, waiting for someone or something to show you the way.” — Pink Floyd, “Time”
Based on the weather, it appears that summer is in full swing. Father’s Day is behind us, Whittle the Wood had a spectacular turnout and orange colored signs are appearing all around town.
A conundrum: something puzzling or confusing. It’s not popular to admit that you might be puzzled or confused about any particular subject these days but then again, I’ve never claimed to be the sharpest tack in the box. So maybe when you see me around town you can help me out with some of my “confuzzlement.”
It seems logical to me that we all have this inward compulsion to beat ourselves up about things that we struggle with or find difficult. Throughout the past 15 years in public education, the various models of management have focused on input from outside groups to help manage strategy and share in decision-making.
Memorial Day begins for our family with a traditional remembrance of those who have fallen. We attend the service at the local cemetery and listen to each one of the names of men and women who have died in service to this country or have passed on and are being honored for their service.
Have you ever wondered why food companies charge more money for a smaller product and call it a “healthy serving?” Why people who insist on everything being fat-free and sugar-free are usually the ones struggling with weight? Or a teenage athlete who insists on the “very best” (most expensive) apparel or shoes because it will, “make me play better” or, “if I look good, I play good.”
The last few weeks of school is a huge, positive experience for many of our students as they wrap up the school year and get ready for summer. Most are reveling in the knowledge that the past year has taught them some very important subject matter, how to manage their time and meet deadlines.
Mother’s Day will be celebrated this weekend, and I hope every mom will be honored and remembered for all that they do and how much they mean to all of us. I’m a dad, teacher and coach, so I see moms in action everyday and my own mom was no different. So, I just want to say thanks!
If you have ever read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, “The Great Gatsby,” you know the various moral dilemmas the narrator finds himself in as he tries to negotiate his version of the American Dream. By novels end he has had enough of careless people who smash up things and “creatures” then retreat back into their vast carelessness and leave other people to clean up their messes.
A coach can have a lasting impact on a player in ways that even the coach might not even imagine. I remember Coach Kushner always telling me, “Lance, you know who your biggest enemy is — it’s not the guy across from you — it’s the guy inside your head!” As I embarked on my own coaching career, his words become more meaningful with each passing season.
It’s easy to sway an argument with the infusion of some potential monetary gain. It’s even easier to justify and rationalize an act by comparing it to another and saying they are similar. The whole notion of legalizing marijuana has been built upon the legalization of alcohol. Both are drugs, I’m told. Both are mind-altering, I’m told. One is now regulated because it is legalized — so why not the other, I’m told.
The younger generation is falling behind! Standardized test (ACT, SAT) scores have dropped and we are in crisis mode, scurrying about enacting legislation to get the kids up to the standards of the world they will have to compete with in this 21st century!
A colleague sent me an article to read a couple of weeks ago, and six of the writer’s words shocked me at first, and I thought, “Yes, this is important, but so are a bunch of other things.” I really pondered the article and the words that it spoke about how our children perceive their performances. I mean, we obviously love sports and all those extracurricular activities, or we wouldn’t talk about them all the time and get our kids joined up as soon as they are old enough.
It’s a classic story and one that warms my heart each time I hear it, or read it in a book. A life separated by the deep chasm of loneliness and despair. A life that is lost because of the painful reality of not knowing who is genuine and who is not. It begins simply enough with hopes and dreams and a willingness to believe that almost anything is possible — but it isn’t.
What makes sports and activities so meaningful is how they allow kids to express their unique, individual talents, to contribute to a team and to have fun. But sometimes it isn’t so fun for parents, and I think I know why.
I donate blood every year because for all practical reasons — it’s easy and I get to eat some free food when I’m all done. What is interesting though, is how differently people react to giving.
GRIT is the willingness to stick to a plan (stay in school, stay on the team), practice delayed gratification (practice skills now for winning later), make decisions in the present that will help in the future (listen the people who are trying to help you), and see present problems as challenges to be overcome (losing and low grades don’t automatically mean you are a loser or stupid and vice versa).
Just how do we see our community? One of the many period pieces we read in American Literature is, “A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.” Douglass was a slave who eventually freed himself and went on to become influential in the abolitionist cause. The narrative contains a powerful quote that we explore as a class: “…I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact.”
The study of Realism is one of my favorite literary periods in American Literature. Students have an opportunity to understand the consequences of seismic events that took place in the late 1800s and the early 20th century.
Many people, myself included, spent the weekend (and last night) huddled around the television watching NFL playoff and College Bowl games. I’m not as concerned about the outcome as I am the response of those involved. January can be a difficult month as our favorite teams are eliminated, the holidays have passed, bills are due, the days are short and Spring seems far away. When teams are eliminated from playoffs, the response is generally one of disappointment coupled with the rationalization that next year will be better. In reality, this is the only approach that favors the future.
In 2014, we can all dare to dream! As 2013 was winding down, I was thinking about this past year and the many hurdles we faced as a school and as a community.
Public schools are failing our kids! Teachers are being told that students can’t read, write or do their arithmetic. Parents are complaining about substandard test scores and students are complaining about classes that aren’t interesting, inspiring or worth their time.
Students have spent the last two weeks making certain that children and families in our community are taken care of in the form of various food drives or adopt-a-family efforts that speak boldly of the spirit of the season.
Students at Moffat County High School decided on a major shift this year and voted in a new schoolwide saying: “Dare to Dream.” The banner hanging in the commons area during the past three or four years read, “Every Student Will Graduate” — and more than a few students have, which is something we are very proud of as teachers.
I always ask students how the Thanksgiving break was (and it is truly a break for the kids) and some of their answers reveal how truly different we view the five day respite from school. Most answers fall along the lines of eating way too much and doing way too little. Sandwiched between those responses are the rather revealing (sometimes too much) accounts of domestic debauchery and kindred kindness. Most students are proud to give voice to their traditions of thankfulness and generosity and a few students confess heartily their compliance in the less traditional acts of Thanksgiving.
We enter the seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas after having celebrated the sacrifice of our military and the protection of our liberty. Students in my class learn that liberty, as we define the principle, is the right to self-determine.
Ben was 17, fighting with his brother, getting into trouble with his parents and essentially out of work. Growing up in Boston was tough and his disagreements with his family led him to make a life-altering decision: He would leave his hometown to discover if he could make it on his own.
I wish every sports season finished with players hoisting the championship trophy, knowing the very last contest proved they were the very best team for that brief but lasting moment in history. I was part of a National Championship football team over 30 years ago, and I still remember the feeling when the clock counted down to zero and we cheered knowing that for this time, in this place, for this moment, we would be recognized as the very best.
When asked to vote on an amendment that involves a tax increase, I go to our future voters to get their opinion. When I engage students in a discussion about taxation (investment, as it now is described), the views almost always are in support of helping others — a worthy responsibility of our government.
We’ve been beaten over the head enough with test scores and how our sports teams are struggling. We hear enough about how public schools are failing our children and how teachers don’t care about kids. But the return of “full-on” homecoming activities supported by our local Booster Club and administration is a testament to the care and spirit we can achieve as a community when given the opportunity.
I will celebrate my 16th Homecoming as a teacher and coach at Moffat County High School this week, and the excitement for events, the anticipation of wins and the Bulldog spirit continue to be on display in our school and in the community.
Confrontation is generally described using particularly strong adjectives that imply physical harm or destruction. But the confrontation of ideas can be the most powerful and serious encounter we have with each other.
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away there was a most imaginative woman of enduring beauty and intellectual prowess. She held court with the famous and waited patiently for prince charming all the while impressing those around her with her powers of intuition and discernment.
Our American story is one that necessarily involves struggle, hope and perseverance. William Bradford set sail on the Mayflower, settled upon a compact and founded Plymouth Rock but in the ensuing struggle lost his wife (literally) and half of those who put their trust in him for a better life.
Many of our modern heroes are perfectly human in their imperfections but cast a large shadow over the society they feel compelled to protect. The hero in a teen's life isn’t always from stories of Zeus or Apollo or even knights in shining armor. Today, a hero can be someone as humble as a firefighter or a teacher.
I was really frustrated this summer when my kid’s vernacular was reduced to: “bring it” when compelling another sibling to a challenge of some order or type. So, I used my coaching voice (it’s how I describe raising my voice for emphasis) and told them to stop. I told them that it served no purpose to use such a trite expression for every single situation that might spark a disagreement or provoke some kind of competitive contest
The school year has officially begun and students are now in the thick of some pretty cool changes at the high school. Most students will find the new schedule a bit different than the rapid pace of a seven period day.
The game of life isn’t really that complicated when we do one thing — practice the Golden Rule.