Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Just Another Day

January 20, 2009

A trip to the grocery store. Dinner at Aubrey's. Tom's birthday. A snow day. ...and a new President. Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in just after noon today as America's 44th president. Why is this one different from the previous 43? What about Barack Obama's inauguration attracted over one million people to Washington, D.C. just so they could say they were there?

I wasn't even born when JFK was sworn in, but I'd venture to guess that the Obama presidency has as much, or more, promise as the days of "Camelot." Today was filled with emotion for me. Watching George W. Bush pass the torch to Barack Obama made me wonder; what must Bush be thinking? Is he relieved to be out of the spotlight? Is he thankful that he will no longer be the butt of every late night talk show host's jokes? Was it hard to take down pictures and pack up personal belongings from the White House? Does he leave feeling that he did the best he could as president? Say what you wish about George W. Bush; the man has class. His wife is a true, gracious lady. The abuse he suffered over the past few years was enough to make the kindest person bitter, angry and defensive, but not W. I'm sure the critics will make a joke out of it, but he always spoke with kindness and an ease of spirit in the harshest situations. He saw our country through many tragedies- September 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina, The Gulf War, and the defeat of Sadaam Hussein. George W. Bush does not deserve to be spat upon by the citizens of this great country; he deserves our respect. I believe he made the best decisions he could based on the information that was made available to him. Granted, some of the information was inaccurate and resulted in serious errors in judgement. I'm ashamed when I hear people malign George W. Bush. I refuse to repay evil for evil and treat Barak Obama with the disrespect that was shown to Bush.

So here we are. America's first black/African-American president. Actually, he's bi-racial, but who cares about the hyphens anyway? A lot of us do. We take pride in our unique heritage. We embrace our "melting pot" culture...until it causes us to be treated differently from others. I am a Boring-American. My ancestors were Europeans who probably came over on the Mayflower. I'm a blonde, white girl born and raised in the South. My eyes are blue and my parents and grandparents stayed married to eachother their entire lives. To my knowledge, I have no abuse in my family. We don't drink to excess or use illegal or prescription drugs. I have never "inhaled." Why do I feel the need to apologize for this? Am I a minority now? Do I get special rights and privileges that others are denied? Am I entitled too? I hope not.
As I watched the Obama family make their way to steps of the Capital, I was struck by the incredible strength of our nation. We are different, but we are Americans. This is a great country, founded on ideals that others deemed impossible to uphold. "In God we trust." Let's pray we continue to trust in the One who has poured His blessing out upon this nation.

But what do I know? I'm just a middle-aged wife, mother, and middle school teacher...who loves this country very, very much.

Obama's Speech, January 20, 2009

Inaugural Address
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
My fellow citizens:
I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.
So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.
That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.
These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.
We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those
who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.
For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.
For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.
For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.
Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.
This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.
Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.
What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.
Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.
As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.
Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the
justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.
For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
This is the price and the promise of citizenship.
This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.
This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:
"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."
America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.


The Reach Them to Teach Them Story

Executive Summary

8.8.88. August 8, 1988 was a life-changing day for me. I accepted my first teaching job with Knox County Schools in Knoxville, Tennessee. After seventeen years in the classroom, I prepared to begin my eighteenth year “on the other side of the desk.” My formal education, while excellent, could not have prepared me for what being a teacher would require from me. Had I known that in the years that followed that I would be challenged beyond my perceived limits; that I would experience elation , frustration, satisfaction, and heartbreak each and every year, would I have chosen this profession? Or perhaps a more accurate question- would this profession have chosen me?

Teaching is a calling on my life, a unique privilege given me and many others who truly understand the essential role we play in molding young people into the adults they will one day become. For many children, teachers don’t make a difference in the lives of their students; they are the difference. This concept is the heart of Reach Them to Teach Them.

Eighteen years after accepting my first teaching job, my professional life had taken several dramatic turns. I spent nine of those years teaching in elementary schools in rural, urban, and suburban communities. I served as the Director of Children’s Ministries at a local church for three years. Then in the fall of 2004, I took on the challenge of teaching middle school.

Middle School. America’s gauntlet for adolescents. Middle school is the testing ground for cruel comments, peer pressure, failure, and self-preservation. Middle school is where kids who struggle find that being “bad” is preferable to being “dumb.” What fertile soil for planting seeds of self-confidence and identity in the lives of kids!

When I began teaching in 1988, a family friend gave me a “congratulations on your new job” gift. The gift was Guy Doud’s Teacher of the Year cassette tape. The recipient of the 1986 National Teacher of the Year, Guy Doud, eloquently related classroom stories that brought tears of laughter and heartbreak. It wasn’t until years later that I would fully understand the impact that Guy Doud had on me as a teacher.

April, 2008
One day that stands out in my memory is the day I shared a poem from Dr. Guy Doud’s book, Molder of Dreams, with my eighth grade Reading classes. The poem, entitled Please Hear What I’m Not Saying,” examined the practice of wearing masks to hide who we really are from the outside world. “Don’t be fooled by me. Don’t be fooled for I wear a mask, a thousand masks, and not one of them is me…” Our class discussions about this poem broke down the walls between the cliques. As my students and I explored the idea that every person risks rejection, fear, and ridicule when we remove our masks, we forged an unbreakable bond. After school, I reflected on the day’s lesson and what it was that made the lesson exceptionally effective.

After evaluating the lesson, I was moved to write Dr. Doud a thank you note. Surprisingly, he responded and informed me that he had retired from teaching and makes a living as a motivational speaker. Then God started opening doors. I mentioned to several other teachers at my school the possibility of having Guy Doud come to Knoxville to remind us of our “calling.” I also mentioned this dream to my small group at church.

That day in April, I was given a vision to remind people in positions of influence (teachers, youth leaders, parents, etc.) of the enormous privilege we have to invest our lives in things that have eternal value. Guy Doud’s tape served as a reminder to me of the power of my influence in my classroom. I used to listen to the tape when I felt discouraged, frustrated, or just felt that what I was doing wasn’t making a difference. I must have listened to that tape ten times a year for eighteen years!

With my friends behind me and the Lord in front of me, I took a step of faith and booked Guy Doud to speak in Knoxville on the day before the students returned to school from summer break. (Bear in mind, the biggest event I’d ever planned was a birthday party)! In those early stages, we had no idea how we were going to pay for this endeavor. Then we experienced the first of many miracles. An anonymous donor placed a cashier’s check for $3,000 in my mailbox at school. That check signaled to me that we were onto something very special. Guy Doud did indeed speak to a crowd of nearly 500 people of influence and we were on our way!

After the first event in 2006, our team was faced with the decision to quit or stay the course. We had succeeded in pulling off a successful event. The crowd left inspired, post-event feedback was positive, all bills were paid, and we were finished…or were we?

The questions began as early as the night of the event. What’s next? Who’s our next speaker? Where do we go from here? Our team was anxious to carry on, but I was hesitant. We needed clear direction. Our success surprised us. Then we experienced another miracle.

Word of our vision reached Ed Jessup, a high-ranking marketing executive with Case pocketknives. In the spring of 2007, I was invited to meet with Mr. Jessup for the purpose of sharing our dream. After sharing our story, Ed was convinced that the message of Reach Them to Teach Them must be shared with a broader audience. Under his tutelage, I learned the power of dreaming big, and never being intimidated or afraid to ask. Mr. Jessup threw his full support and the expertise of his staff behind us. With his head for business and our determination, we were ready to carry on our mission.

As Ed Jessup walked our team through the process of writing a marketing plan, we were challenged to consider businesses to approach for corporate sponsorships. An obvious choice for consideration was Chick-fil-A. Janice Halliday and Travis Spiva joined us at the table as representatives of Chick-fil-A to gather information about Reach Them to Teach Them to share with the local owner/operators.

We took a significant leap of faith and booked the Tennessee Theatre which seats nearly 1700 people. Along with the challenge of finding sponsors, we needed to secure our speakers and fill the seats. Dr. Doud was all set to deliver the message with passion and power, but we needed bigger name than Guy Doud to garner the crowd we needed. As I researched Chick-fil-A, I came across a book authored by S. Truett Cathy entitled, It’s Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men. This book summed up our mission. I felt that our “big name” for 2007 had to be Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A.

Janice Halliday agreed to make the call to the corporate headquarters. She was told that Truett was unavailable on the date of our event; he’s already booked at least a year in advance, and he’s over eighty years old! Janice shared the name and number of Mr. Cathy’s assistant with me so I called the corporate headquarters and my request was politely declined. There was virtually no chance to have Truett Cathy speak at our event.

Our team explored other possibilities with the challenge of finding someone who fit our mission. We were looking for someone with a story to tell, not a polished storyteller. No matter how hard I tried to dismiss Truett Cathy, I could not shake the feeling that he was our man.

We concluded that we had to find a way to share our mission with Mr. Cathy, and I was commissioned to write a letter detailing our organization and mission. Mrs. Halliday made her second call to Atlanta with the intent of ensuring that Mr. Cathy would read my letter. She was assured by Truett’s assistant that the letter would be read. No promises of anything more.

Three weeks later, I made the call to Chick-fil-A’s corporate headquarters. Much to my surprise and delight, Mr. S. Truett Cathy agreed to speak at our event on November 12th. AND we secured our area Chick-fil-A owner/operators’ support and enlisted them as our title sponsor. In addition to Chick-fil-A and BreadBox, we added Citadel Broadcasting, WBIR-TV, the Knoxville News-Sentinel, American Book Company, Print One, Case, Inc., Jessup and Associates, and Knoxville Leadership Foundation to our growing list of supporters.

Knoxville Leadership Foundation served as our administrative partner for 2007 and 2008. As a registered non-profit, KLF was able to manage our books for us and provide our sponsors with the necessary paperwork for tax-deductible donations. With their established reputation in the community, we were able to garner support from individuals and businesses that might not have otherwise taken notice of us.

One of our marketing strategies was to establish an army in the trenches, so to speak, by hosting a pre-event at a beautiful outdoor pavilion on the lake. Our invitation-only guest list consisted of those individuals in strategic positions of influence. We included business leaders, school administrators, church pastors, coaches, teachers, and others with a proven record of leadership. Our goal was to share the purpose, passion, and vision of Reach Them to Teach Them and enlist their full support. By providing dinner, goody bags, and an inspiring message, we were successful in introducing our organization in a positive light and establish “point men” in strategic places to share our message with the “influencers” we sought to reach.

As Reach Them to Teach Them took giant steps in 2007, our team realized that one “event” per year would not have the impact on the community that we desired. We were determined not be satisfy ourselves with a “good show.” We wanted lasting impact.

The Dream Team concluded that we must strategize ways to replenish the emotion and passion for influence evoked on the night of event. Another marketing strategy we used was the creation of a DVD. “The Story Behind the Glory” consisted of personal interviews with local celebrities and successful business leaders who shared their stories of the people who made the difference in their lives. By providing stories of what can happen in the lives of young people when people of influence pour into them, we hoped to reignite the flame of passion that is often all but extinguished by the pressures of the daily grind. Paid for by an anonymous donor, every person in attendance received this DVD free of charge.

With two successful events behind us, Reach Them to Teach Them had at last established the foundation on which to build a viable non-profit organization.

There was no doubt that we were impacting our city. There was little discussion about whether or not to continue on mission. Our Dream Team was fully on board. We were an all-volunteer organization with a proven track record of success. We had corporate sponsors committed to stay the course through the turbulent economy and most importantly we had the lives of young people at stake should we decide to quit. The price was too high for us to consider altering our course.

Our third event, held in October, 2008, brought Dr. Don Bartlette to the stage. Dr. Bartlette’s life is an unforgettable testimony to the power of one person to make a difference in the life of another. His presentation entitled, Macaroni at Midnight, has been shared over 8,000 times throughout America and Canada since 1972. Again, Hallerin Hilton Hill was an integral piece. This year, Hallerin spoke on what it means to have a calling, and the importance of believing in young people. We added a couple of new elements to the program in 2008. We invited a local high school student to sing, “What About the Children?” Cavanaugh Mims garnered a standing ovation. Another first was having our title sponsor, Chick-fil-A provide a complimentary dinner at the theatre as a tangible show of appreciation for those who invest their lives molding the dreams of young people. This was a huge success as many of our guests came to the event directly from work/school.

Event Summaries
August 10, 2006
Our first Reach Them to Teach Them event was held in the sanctuary at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church. BreadBox Convenience Stores was our sole corporate sponsor. Dean Winegardner, President and CEO of American Book Company, agreed to provide transportation in his private plane for Dr. Doud. Local radio talk show host, Hallerin Hilton Hill, served as emcee, and a local youth group provided musical entertainment for the evening which drew nearly 500 people. Our first attempt at reminding and inspiring those in positions of influence in the lives of children was an overwhelming success and proof that God can use ordinary people to do extra-ordinary things.

November 12, 2007 – It’s Worth It!
The historic and majestic Tennessee Theatre was the setting for Reach Them to Teach Them-It’s Worth It! Hallerin Hilton Hill served as emcee and awed the crowd with his dynamic performance of his original song entitled, “It’s Worth It!” S. Truett Cathy filled the seats as predicted and shared a special moment on stage with his son and current C.O.O. of Chick-fil-A, Dan. Reach Them to Teach Them board member, Jo Bruce, testified to her husband’s powerful legacy. Ken Bruce served as principal of Campbell County High School. Mr. Bruce was shot and killed by a student in his office at school. But Mrs. Bruce’s story did not focus on the death of her husband, but rather on the lives of those who were impacted by his influence. And once again, Dr. Guy Doud touched the hearts of everyone in attendance and challenged all of us to “reach them” before we “teach them.” Approximately 1,500 people attended.

October 28, 2008 – The Power of One
Scott Cagle emceed this year’s event. Hallerin Hilton Hill shared a challenging and powerful message, and Dr. Don Bartlette shared his triumphant personal story of the power of one person to positively impact the life of a child. Cavanaugh Mims performed “What About the Children?” His rendition of the song brought the audience to its feet and moved many of us to tears. Chick-fil-A provided dinner to all in attendance. The addition of American Print Solutions and the increase of support from American Book Company enabled us to provide complimentary tickets to all teachers who pre-registered on Knox County’s Teacher U. Most area school systems awarded two hours of in-service credit for attendance. Over 1,600 people attended this event.

Where We Are Going

I’ve seen kids so starved for attention, that a smile opens the door to their over-burdened hearts. My heart breaks for these children. The pain, disappointment, rejection, and fear they have experienced in their lives seem too much for young hearts to bear. However, I’ve had a front row seat to watch what God can do when a caring, responsible adult steps into their lives. Making a difference in the lives of kids doesn’t take a lot of money. We don’t need new programs. It doesn’t take a new charity or a new foundation. Honestly, all it takes is for us to see the need and use what we have to meet the need. Sometimes it can be something as simple as a handshake or a hug. The one thing it does take is time. But as you know, it is time well spent because any time “lost” is actually invested and brings returns far more valuable than one can imagine. I believe if people of influence in the lives of young people could see what I’ve seen, they would make conscious decisions in order to positively impact the lives they are privileged to touch.

What if every teacher, scout leader, youth pastor, and parent consciously took the time to establish a positive relationship with the young people in their lives?

In five years, Reach Them to Teach Them will host events in 25 cities in the southeast United States. Each event will serve 1,000-3,000 people of influence. The impact of this effort will be profound.

The need is too great to ignore. In the last 30 years, America’s educational system has dropped from number one in the world to number 18 (2003 UNICEF study). We are frantic to find a quick-fix to the problem, often blaming the schools, the parents, the students, even the media. I believe we must first look to ourselves and be reminded that when we get our relationships right, the pieces will fall into place. We will see the increased test scores. We will see the light come on in the eyes of our young people. We will be the change that we want to see in the world.

Consider this: The three year history of Reach Them to Teach Them shows that our message has great appeal to educators. Consider the impact on our nation when 1,000 (teachers) x 25 (events) = 25,000 educators are trained, motivated, and inspired to ensure that EVERY child has an opportunity to reach his/her maximum potential! When Reach Them to Teach Them effectively shares our vision with a minimum of 25,000 people per year, then not only are their lives changed for the better, but also the lives of the young people they serve. If each of those influencers successfully reaches 10 children that may have otherwise fallen through the cracks, that means the lives of a quarter of a million children are positively impacted because someone took the time to intentionally be a positive person of influence in each of their lives. For many young people today, positive adult role models don’t just make a difference in their lives; these role models are the difference.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Burning the Boats - There is no Plan B

My head is spinning with ideas and thoughts for Reach Them to Teach Them. I have a strong feeling God is working His kind of miracles behind the scenes. He has proven Himself faithful every step of the way. My fear is that I will get in His way.

I have been learning a lot from my "followers" on Twitter. After two months of "getting the hang of it," I think I'm finally catching on. I'm praying for divine appointments ahead. Wouldn't it be just like God to use an unlikely venue like "Twitter" to provide an opportunity to share our dream?

Kevin Kragenbrink sent an encouraging email yesterday reminding me that "there is no Plan B" and once again, my mind was off and running! Then Anthony Ingram called with the suggestion that we consider involving youth (14 years and older) as part of our Dream Team.

I'm amazed that we have so much talent and passion at our table. This is a team that only God could have brought together! With the addition of Kevin as our strategic coach, Theresa as our training team leader, Miles at a place where he can devote his passion and spiritual gifts to our mission, Ed with his computer expertise, Summer's creative ideas and Anderson's administrative skills, Jo's incredible passion and love for children, Dave Gorden's connections with the National Speaker Association...and I haven't even mentioned my incredible supportive family! My dad, my mom, my sisters, my children...even my husband has put up with this crazy dream for four years!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I Got the Power! (teaching, that is!)

New year, new ideas. I took the plunge and tried some of the techniques touted in Power Teaching, and was most pleasantly surprised in my students' response to them. Truth be told, I kinda liked it myself! Every day this week I left school feeling like I'd been successful in accomplishing what I'd set out to do, AND I had a great time doing it!

We lost a little momentum on Thursday when I showed the movie "Paperclips" and didn't have a lot of student/teacher engagement. Nonetheless, my PowerTeaching is catching on. Several other teachers at WVMS have expressed interest in observing my class, and I have already scheduled another teacher's visit from Farragut in two weeks. Hopefully by then I will have trained the class well and learning will be full throttle!

We're preparing for a unit on "The Diary of Anne Frank." The kids are excited about learning more about the Holocaust. The group of kids I have this year are primed and ready to make an impact on the world. If I don't take full advantage of this opportunity, then I would do them (and myself) a disservice.
Enough about "the office," Chelcie moved back into the dorm at UT this week and her presence is already missed and noted around the house. Glad that she's able to fully experience college by living on campus. Drew's report card came in the mail today and I am proud and happy to report that he pulled down a 4.0 the first semester of his senior year, just don't look too closely at the course load he was taking! 'Atta boy, Drew! Hope Scholarship, here we come! Kinda nice to win $8,000/year without ever buying a ticket! Thank you, Dreamers. for funding my children's college education!
Tonight, Sam is out on the town at his first ever sleep-over b'day party. He's six years old! What are those parents thinking?! Tom, Drew, and I cashed in a Christmas gift card by having dinner at Outback. I opted for the talapia and fresh veggies and earned my membership into the "Clean Plate Club!"
Two young men stopped by the house today to hangout with the kids and me. Keenan and Matt enjoy just being with people, and they are quite pleasant to have around. Keenen is a junior at 18 years old. Bless his heart. I so wish I could help this polite young man. He always answers me with "Ma'am" no matter what I ask. Why do we feel the need to eliminate vocational school? There are people who excel in vocational areas. Why deny them the opportunity to succeed in school for the first time in their lives?! Decision makers, take note! We must not lose these kids! By forcing them into an academic curriculum that does not meet their needs and continues to label them failures amounts to educational malpractice! The end result is that they drop out of school at their earliest opportunity or sink into depression and forever doubt themselves and their ability to contribute anything meaningful to this world. God doesn't make junk! These kids are treasures! We must unbury them before they suffocate!
But I digress...must take a break and will post again when my heart rate returns to normal.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Letter to My Students - January, 2009

January 6, 2009

Dear Future Freshmen,

Here we are again! I told you on the first day of school that this year will absolutely fly by! Your last year of middle school is halfway over already! High school is just around the corner! Just think, by this time next year, you’ll be halfway through your freshman year! High school years are unforgettable! I’ll never forget the four years I spend at Farragut High School. My advice for you is to work hard; do your best because it matters. Your grades matter because they determine whether or not you’ll get in to the college you want. Don’t live with the regret of knowing you could have done better, you just didn’t think it mattered.

I have set several goals for this year. Some are kind of silly, others are serious, and some are just intended to help me be a better person. I try to set my goals in categories.

First, I look at my faith and set goals that will help me grow stronger in my faith. Next, I look at my family. I try to think of ways I can be a better mom to my children and wife to my hubby. This also includes my extended family. For example, I want to send pictures to my grandmother and aunt who live in another city so they can feel like they are a part of our children’s lives. I also set goals related to my health. This is one area that I lack self-discipline. I have decided to allow myself one Coke or soft drink per week (I really want to cut them out entirely). Exercise also falls into this category. Ugh! It’s tough for me to stick to a schedule, but I am committed to walking twice a week. Another area that I want to make changes in is teaching. I want to be the absolute best teacher that I can be. This means I have to constantly be on the look-out for inventive, creative ideas. I also have to be willing to change the way it’s always been done. This can be scary and risky, but I know that growth involves change and if I’m serious about my goal, I have to embrace change. Reading the latest young adult literature is a must for me to be an effective teacher, so I have set goals for reading. My friends are important to me, so I have to work to maintain those relationships to ensure that I don’t get so caught up in my own life that I neglect my friends.

All in all, I have set goals in the following areas:

1. spiritual- This can include spending some time in reflective thought, getting involved in a youth group, praying, talking to your parents about what they believe, etc.

2. personal- This can be anything that YOU want to improve about you. Do you want to have more friends? Did Mission Unstoppable light a fire in you to get involved in our community? What do you need to do to make that happen?

3. physical-How do you want to improve or maintain your health? Exercise and diet are obvious areas, but what about what you put into your mind?

4. professional- Your job is to be a good student. How can you do better in this area? Keep an agenda? Study every night? Read more?

5. intellectual- How can you improve your mind? What kinds of things interest you? How can you feed your mind and improve your academic grades?

6. relational- Do you want to keep in touch with friends more often? How about your relationship with your parents? Do you want to get to know them better? How can you improve your relationships with other people in your life?

Setting so many goals involved some thought and discipline. I realize that I may not meet all the goals that I set, but that’s okay. I can always try again. By setting goals, I chart the direction of my life. Without knowing my course, my life would just evaporate with no purpose or meaning. My life is too important for me to allow that to happen.

I don’t know if you’ve ever given much thought to directing your life in the way in which you want it to go, but get ready, ‘cause you’re going to do it now. In your response back to me, I want you to set at least one goal in each of the areas listed above. Give it some thought. Make your goals meaningful to you. Think about where you’d like to be this time next year and write your goals to help support those dreams.

This grading period, we’ll spend a little time studying “The Bard,” (gotta’ be a smartie to know who that is); and we’ll read a play based on The Diary of Anne Frank. I think you’ll enjoy all of it, but it won’t be easy, so prepare to work hard. Remember what you put into it is what you’ll get out of it.

Here are some tips that will help you succeed in my class this nine weeks. First, always say thank you when I give you something. If you don’t, I will take it back. Reasonable? Second, be as organized as possible. I will do all I can to help you, but the bottom line lies with you. Third, complete your homework on time. Finally, enjoy yourself! Life is all about experiences-the ones you make for yourself and the ones you make for others. Remember to LOVE LIFE!

You may have noticed that I didn’t ask as many obvious questions in this letter. That’s because I think you are now capable of writing back without so many prompts. When you write back to me, tell me about anything you want. This may include your family, your fears or hopes about high school, ideas for our class, etc.

Thank you for being the students you are. Each and every one of you brings something unique to our class. Believe it or not, I missed you guys over the break. I was ready to come back to hear your jokes, stories, adventures, and just see your faces again. Let’s get through the winter blahs by making it better for each other!

Well, I suppose I’d better wind up my letter #3 now. As always, I am anxious to read your responses to me. Unfortunately, I cannot mention any specific names in this letter. Maybe next time… Please give me your best work. This assignment should be fun, yet challenging. If you choose to give me rotten work, I’ll make you do it again. I love you too much to let you be a slacker, so do it right the first time, ‘kay?

In anxious anticipation,

Mrs. Crawford

94.5 School Days 'til Summer Vacation

Busted! I posted a status update on Facebook that asked the question, "How many days 'til Summer Vacation?" and one of my current students commented, "Gee, Mrs. Crawford, do you really hate us that much?"

Of course I responded truthfully that it wasn't the students I dreaded but the EARLY MORNINGS! My body has to get reacclimated with retiring before midnight and rising before the sun. Actually, today was a great day and I found myself easing into the new year without too much resistance.

This morning, I picked up Sherry and Angel at 7:30 and we headed over to the new Hardin Valley Academy for our "motivational" event. Chick-fil-A served "chikin" biscuits and scrumpticious cinnamon rolls. There were many familiar faces as teachers from South-Doyle, Karns, West Valley, Bearden, and Powell met together for the first time.

Our speaker, Riney Jordan, did a great job sharing funny stories of his experiences as an elementary school principal in a small Texas town. Most of his humor was self-depreciating as he poked fun at his hairpiece, his religious convictions ("you're just gonna have to get over it!"), and his family, particularly his second child, Todd. He used the acronym HELP to define our role in the classroom.

H=Hear them
E=Encourage them
L=Love them
P=Prepare them

Our job as teachers is to "H.E.L.P." kids. He shared his personal story of a teacher who saw potential in him and even helped him acquire a college education to achieve his dream of being a teacher.

After his speech, we watched the documentary, "Paperclips" which was filmed in Whitwell, TN just 20 mi. outside Chattanooga. Wow. Imagine the learning that could take place in our classrooms if we weren't so tied to the test!

The morning concluded after a 16 yr. old girl, Amanda, shared her personal story about being involved in the Paperclip Project. She was poised in the midst of "technical difficulties," and everyone loved her courage. (I was only slightly distracted by the fact that she sounded exactly like Kellie Pickler! "Hungary? Hungary is a CUN-TREE?"). I know , I know, I'm bad!

We grabbed a quick lunch at Sam and Andy's and headed back to "The Valley" for a little room time. I'm looking forward to trying out a few "powerteaching" strategies tomorrow.

Back at home, it was hotdogs for dinner. What? You thought I was a gourmet cook? Addie updated the dry erase board in the kitchen with a cute 'n' clever Valentines theme (future teacher?), and they both worked hard getting their toy closet organized! Sam and Addie and I started the novel, Bud, not Buddy. Two chapters into it and they're hooked.

Chelcie heads back to UT tomorrow. I'm sure going to miss her. It's nice having her around.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

...like a Walk in the Park!

Ahhhh, the last day of the long winter break. And boy, it sure has been a long one! When I think about all that has happened over the past ten days, I'm amazed that I'm still standing! Without going into too much detail, let's just say I'm glad to be able to continue my story in 2009. Deep breath...

NorthStar Church this morning at 11 was quite emotional for me. Sometimes I am absolutely overwhelmed by the love of my Savior. Holy, holy, holy...is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come. With all creation, I sing praise to the King of Kings, You are my everything, and I will adore You! ....even more in 2009!

Crazy Knoxville weather brought temperatures in the mid-60s today, so Chelcie, Addie, Sam, Taylor, Marley and I went for a walk at Lakeshore Park. I'll let the pictures tell the story.

2009 is starting out pretty tough, but greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Reach Them Reaches Out and Papaw Plays Games

Theresa and I drove to Cleveland, TN to meet with Marquita in order to share the "dream" of Reach Them to Teach Them. The first question I asked Marquita was, "Do you see a need for the teachers and coaches in Hamilton Co. to be encouraged and reminded of the power of their influence? Are there teachers in the classroom who have lost sight of the privilege we've been given to impact the lives of young people?" I knew her answer before she said a word. Literally, tears pooled in her eyes.

How have we gotten so far off track?

We spent about an hour and half dreaming and sharing vision together. We see a world where... every child has the opportunity to reach his/her maximum potential! If only!

Marquita plans to attend our strategic planning meeting on January 19th. In the meantime, I'm praying that she will have many opportunities to cast vision and share the dream with the yet to be formed "Hamilton County Dream Team '09!"

With three years of success under our belt, it's time to reach out to other cities in the southeast U.S.

Subject Change!

Tom and the little kids went to Atlanta for a Hanukah party at Tina's house. I opted to say home with Chelcie and Drew. As it turned out, I made a good decision. Chelcie, Drew and I went up to Grandmom's and Papaw's house and we all played board games together. For the first time in my life, my dad played too!

We shared some lasagnae and some laughs. As we enjoyed time together, it occurred to me that someday, I'd look back and think of this evening as "the good ol' days!"

I have been blessed with wonderful children. May I never, ever take them granted.

Friday, January 2, 2009

...and then the COPS came!

Well, 2009 has gotten started off with a bang! I'm ready to retreat to classroom to escape all the excitement. I'm just gonna put it out there and tell the story just the way it happened, no foolin'!

Marley, the Poop Machine, woke me up dark and early at 5:30 because she had to...do her thang! The warmth of my covers and the pounding of the rain on the skylight made me ever so resistant to provide her with the relief she craved. But, like me, she's a persistent little pooch, so I, very gently mind you, led her to the door and nudged her outside. I'm assuming she took care of her situation because when I woke up twenty minutes later, there she sat, looking as cute and demure as ever, pleading with her big brown eyes to allow her admittance to the castle. I cracked open the door and stepped aside, as the little varmit nipped savagely at my ankles with her razor sharp teeth.

That's how the day started, but it gets better...

My goal for the morning was to finish filling out Chelcie's college paperwork, so she would be all set to complete her final registration for Spring semester. Very stressful for me! I have this theory that if I get the most dreaded task finished first, there's no where to go but up! So I was determined to get this completed asap.

As is typically the case around here, my children, affectionately referred to as Bonnie and Clyde, Thing 1 and Thing 2, Hilter and Mussolini...(pick one), started a bicker-fest that had me ready to string them up by their toes! This one was at least a 9.8 based on my most conservative assessment.

Allow me to set the stage...rainy day. New puppy. Late nights. Early mornings. No school. BOREDOM. Sure, I threatened and I warned, I promised and I bribed, but there was no end in sight. The high pitched screams, the "I'm telllllllllin' Mom!" "She started it!" "He hit me first!" You name it, they said/did it. Side note: Ya' think kids have a built in sense of when a person REALLY needs to concentrate and focus?

Enough detail. I think you're with me. Finally, I realized I had to take a break to remedy the situation before blood was drawn. I pushed my papers to the side, gently closed my laptop, and as calmly as a civilized human being could muster, I cooed these words to my offspring..."Both of you, to your room NOW!!" (enthusiastic coo) In hindsight, perhaps I was to blame for the antics of the morning, but I desperately needed some relief. I set them both up with books to read and a ten minute time-out and headed back to table with the hopes of finishing my detested task in ...well,...ten minutes, of course!

The first 2.5 minutes were relatively calm, but then I heard the murmurings of a pending explosion. I determined to work harder and faster as I raced against the imaginary clock ticking down the seconds 'til disaster struck! With only 3 minutes remaining in my ten minute respite, I was again jolted out of my focused "zone," by a very loud, very persistent knock on my front door.

The front door? No one comes to the front door at my house. We're back door people. I hadn't heard a car. I peered out the window but could only see the shadow of someone at my door. Creepy and strange. I used the safety rules I had taught at school and did not open the door but instead asked, "Who's there?"

"Knox County Sheriff's Department, Ma'am." Refrains of "bad boys, bad boys, whacha gonna do? Whacha gonna do when they come for you?" played in the back of my mind. I breathed a quick prayer that whatever it was that brought the po-leese to my door, would be something God would give me the strength to handle. Then I opened the door.

"Ma'am, we received a 911 hangup call from this residence." HUGE rush of relief washed over me before I called my little darlings from their bedrooms. If only I'd had a camera to capture the look on Addie's face when she rounded the corner only to find a very large, intimidating officer of the law in full uniform! Looking back on it, I have to laugh, but at the time it was important for her to learn what happens when 911 is called. Soon after Addie, came Sam. I calmly asked them (I'm serious, I WAS calm. I promise) if they had called 911. Sam wasted not a moment informing me that "Addie did it!"

As Addie broke down and cried tears of remorse and regret into my belly, I explained to her that 911 is only for real emergencies. To which Sam explained in all the sincerity a six year old could muster, "Addie said it was against the law for boys to hit girls and since I hit her, she was calling to report me."

The officer was very understanding and kind. He said that whenever there's a hangup call, the dispatcher calls the number back. When they did that for my number, there was no answer. (The reason being that that $%#@*& dog had finally settled into her kennel for a long winter's nap and I didn't want to phone to rouse her from her slumber, so I turned off the ringer)! I apologized to the officer and he was, fortunately, satisfied that all was well at the Crawford abode, then he headed on his way.

As soon as the door was shut, Chelcie emerged from her cave to hear a first-hand account of the drama she had so blissfully slept through. We grabbed her camera from the table, just in time to snap a blurry picture of the patrol car heading up the hill in front of our house. (I'll post the picture later). As for the rest of my day? Let's just say it truly WAS all up from that point on!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009-The Year in Pictures

1-20-09 Barack Obama's Inauguration

1-19-09 1st SNOW DAY of 2009

One Year. One Day at a Time. One Picture at a Time. No text. No pressure. No problem. We'll see.