Sunday, November 27, 2011

You Have Beautful Eyes, Ma'am...

5 words.  Big impact. 

My eyes have been growing older lately.  Not me of course, just my eyes and I've struggled this Thanksgiving break with being able to see the fine print.  Lately they've also been stinging and watering a little...maybe allergies.  Anyway, I've been feeling kinda, not-so-pretty lately.  Pictures of wrinkles and such...I need a haircut.  You know the drill.  Well, today after working at the Fantasy of Trees for 4 hours, I drove thru McDonalds to grab a bite to eat.  Rainy, yucky November Day.  When I cruised around to pick up my sack o' calories, the young man handed it out to me and said, "You have beautiful eyes, Ma''am."  I was stunned.  I murmured a thank you and headed toward home all the while thinking, Do I?  Do I have beautiful eyes?  I pulled down my review mirror to take a look. 

I remember a song entitled, "if You Said My Eyes are Beautiful, It's because they're looking at you,"  I thought about how important it is to fix our eyes on Jesus.  It is He who is beautiful and it is He who should be reflected in our eyes. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Updating the Life Status

It's been nearly two months since my last post, but so much has happened since then I couldn't possibly catch up.  Here are the biggies-
Food City came on board with Reach Them as did Comcast and Boys and Girls Club to make it possible for us to end the year in the black and ahead of where we started! 

I had the opportunity to speak at Jack and Sue's church in Halls and John Jones from Food City came by to give me a check for $5000!  Amazing drive to Halls in the rain.

Planning evaluation scored all 5's!  Yay!  The two nights I was up 'til 3AM paid off!

Reach Them was one of the best event EVER!  Manuel Scott is a HIGHLY recommended speaker.  Hallerin remains my all-time fav Knoxville superstar!

Lori hosted Halloween dinner - Manny was late, but dinner was fabulous!

Prayers have been answered like crazy - above and beyond my wildest dreams.  Our Dream Team is amazing.

Addie is doing a great job in 6th grade and the braces she had put on this year make her look so "middle schoool-y."

Finally, Sam has discovered Reading with much thanks to The Hunger Games.

Addie's soccer team bonded through the unexpected death of Barry Long, Erin's daddy, and a hero who walked among us.

Pinterest is taking WAY too much of my time.

Ricky still lives in my house.

I had my formal evaluation on Instruction today and it was less than perfect, but I'm glad it's over.

Tom and I went to SharpTop as adult guests during Young Life camp.  Good times!

Grandma Crawford passed away last Saturday.  We're going to Greensboro on Thursday for her funeral.  So sad to see things change and grateful for the time we spent at the beach through the years.

My classes are da bomb!  My students are hilarious and smart.  They are well-behaved and fun to be around every day.  Now if I could only find the time to give them the best 7th grade experience they could ever imagine!

Time to plan!  And go to bed. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Back on the Gerbil Wheel

Yep, it's that time of year that I find myself on the spinning gerbil wheel that takes a brief pause at Christmas, but spin furiously until the last day of school...and I love it.  I am happier when I'm busy.  I need something to do.  Yes, I know there is always something to do, but I need something that satisfies me, something that challenges me, something that causes me to depend on my God to make it happen.  My every day classroom adventure provides the challenge and reward I need and Reach Them to Teach Them provides the faith builder I crave.

This week, I spoke with Scott Fitch at HT Hackney and he agreed to provide over 2,000 bottle of water for our Reach Them to Teach Them event on November 1st.  He even went above and beyond and said he could provide customized labels with our logo, mission statement, and other information we'd like to include. 

Our Two Rivers event was last Tuesday and much to our surprise and delight the weather was gorgeous and warm, but not too hot.  Vallie Collins had our crowd absolutely mesmerized with her survival story of the Miracle on the Hudson.  She is a polished, professional, and endearing speaker! 

I shared the mission of Reach Them to Teach Them by putting a face on our mission.  With Dakota Lee as our emcee and my powerpoint detailing Field Day 2010, I shared two extremes- Dakota, Mr. Hardin Valley Academy, and Martez, a little boy who needs someone to love him.  I was thrilled to have Nick Reveiz in attendance as my story centered on his willingness to let Martez sign his UT shirt in permanent marker.  Chelcie didn't mind having Nick there either!

Our silent auction went well, as everything sold, and our live auction brought energy and enthusiasm to our mission.  David Pozy did a great job bringing humor and financial challenge to a crowd with limited financial resources.  Next year we'll do a better job filling the seats with those who can help us financially.

Some highlights of the auction were UT skybox tickets that went for $950, and lunch with Inky Johnson that sold for $350.  All in all we raised about $7,000 which is not bad for our first attempt.  Especially when we consider that the event used to cost us money.  Youth Transitions provided a delicious "upscale-ish" meal for our guest and as usual, our volunteers were over the top when it came to customer service! 

We had about 75 guests which is fewer than we wanted to have, but we know that God had just the people there who needed to be there and we give Him all the glory and honor and praise for His answer to our prayer.

We have one month to go until 11.1.11!  I could never imagine that time to pass so quickly once school started! 

Friday, September 16, 2011

School News

It's official.  Yes, I have the best classes of any teacher in any school in the entire United States of America!  My students are the smartest, most thoughtful, most well-behaved CHAMPIONS in the world!  True, West Valley is vastly different from SMG, but I know for sure that there are at least 26 CHAMPIONS that come through the doors of SMG in the two years I was able to teach there.

We've already learned so many new things in the first five weeks of school.  We've mastered foreign words and phrases, Greek and Latin word parts, theme, plot, point of view, genre, time period and culture words, and we're ready to start our first novel on Monday!  I have a few students who struggle and seem as if they may be misplaced in my class, but I believe they are capable of rising to the occasion.  Absences are still an issue for me.  There's no way to recreate what happens in our classroom by sending home an "assignment."  I wish parents could understand that it's not a matter of picking up make-up work.  Their children MISS valuable learning experiences when they are not in class.

My colleagues are wonderful people and I'm so grateful for them and for the opportunity to share ideas with them.  I wish I had more to offer, but my middle school skills are a little rusty.  In spite of that, I believe this may the year to get my land legs back and push myself professionally to a higher level of teaching.  I've already found myself pushing a little harder to find the BEST stuff to do each week with my students.  They are responding in amazing ways.  I'm going to post the text from a few emails I've received since school started just to keep my motivated.



Hi Coach Crawford,

I want to thank you for the letter you sent home regarding Hunger Games.  I so appreciate you making sure parents are aware of what our children are reading and for respecting us enough to communicate that prior to starting the book.  I look forward to the discussions our family may have.

I also want to thank you for being the kind of teacher that middle schoolers so need and love.  My daughter has been psyched about Reading since the first day she met you. 

In support of what you do,
Mother of a 7th Grader
----------------------------------------------------
 
Thank you so much for the information and invitation to the 11/1 event. We would love to attend and look forward to the opportunity to be a part of something like this.

Thank you again for what you are doing for my son.

Mom



From: AMY CRAWFORD <amy.crawford@knoxschools.org>
Sent: Wednesday, September 07, 2011 7:46 PM


School Fusion has not been functioning properly for about two weeks. My understanding is that "they" are aware of the issues and are working diligently to correct them.  Please let me know if the Fusion issues aren't resolved by early week.  I wish I could offer suggestions, but I'm technically challenged myself!

As teachers, we are all in the business of inspiring, or re-inspiring dreams...at least we should be...Knowing that we are making a difference is the reason why we do what we do.  Thank you for sharing your son's positive response to our "Locker Room."  I am grateful for your support.

Check out our website for Reach Them to Teach Them http://www.reachthem2teachthem.com.  I'd like to invite to attend our 11.1.11 event as my guest.  Your children are welcome to join you.  Just let me know if this looks like something in which you'd be interested.  No one should ever be with a dream.

Dream BIG!

Amy Crawford
865-603-3046


Sent: Wednesday, September 07, 2011 1:49 PM
To: AMY CRAWFORD


Thank you so much for your response. There's something wrong on School Fusion because I'm unable to access any of your files or send a message. I apologize for the previous message's errors; I'm typing on my phone.

I haven't dreamed in a long time. As a divorced parent of three (4, 8, and 12), I'm usually functioning in "survival" mode. You are reaching my son with your teaching style. He taught the younger ones the 'I want it, you've got it' over the weekend.

I want that intensity for my family too. Middle school has eroded the relationship that I once had with my son. So, my dream is that God restore that and my son's desire for doing his best. Dream BIG?! Thank you for the reminder. I barely sleep much less have dreams anymore. But Proverbs 29:18 says 'where there is no vision, the people perish..." Again, I am challenged.

If there's anything I can do to assist, please do not hesitate to let me know.

Have a great day,
Mom



From: AMY CRAWFORD <amy.crawford@knoxschools.org>
Sent: Wednesday, September 07, 2011 12:39 PM


I haven't entered the project grades yet because some students still need to do their presentations.  All grades will be updated by Friday afternoon.

Thank you for your support and encouragement.  I enjoy having your son in class!

Dream BIG!

Amy Crawford
865-603-3046


Sent: Wednesday, September 07, 2011 12:26 PM

Coach Crawford,
I was reviewing my son's grades on the parent portal and noticed that he has an N for last week's project grade. I watched him work on the notecards with his dad during the week, asked my son about the presentation over the weekend, and he said that it went well. So, I wasn't sure if the grade hasn't been recorded or if my son was not honest with me.

My son used to love learning and putting forth the effort. Now his academic pursuits are frustrating to watch and I feel like the Gustapo every time I aske about school. He doesn't write down assignments, all of his work is shoved into the binder. And he's not completely honest about homework.Again, I am extremly frustrated.

Thank you for any information that you are able to provide. If you'd rather call, please contact me at _____.

Have a blessed day,
------------------------------
I just wanted to say thank you for all you have done for my son.  He is an amazing child, regardless of his issues.  I wanted you to know that you were the only teacher he wanted to keep.  He mentioned you specifically when I was explaining to him what happened today.  You are his "favorite" class.  I'm not trying to make you feel bad.  I just wanted you to know how special you are (and have always been).  He asked my husband about "the challenging question of the day?"   He said it did not occur during class time.  Is this something he could continue to do, even though he is no longer part of your class?  I still believe you could be an amazing coach (on the side lines) for my son.  He actually cried today when I gave him the news.  Thank you for anything you can do.  
 
 
It's notes like these that keep me in the game whenever I feel like giving up.  Knowing that I am exactly where God has called me to be and that He is using me to have an impact on the students He brings my way, keeps me inspired.  
 
**I've taken out specific names in the emails to maintain confidentiality.  When possible I replace the names with "son" or "mother"

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Exceedingly More Than We Can Think or Imagine....

Just enough time to document the journey tonight.  Whew! What a ride this God-given dream has been!  This has been an eventful week.  I had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. Jones and Mr. Breedon from Food City yesterday and they were kind enough to invite Joe and Ken from Coca-Cola to join us.  As only God could do, He allowed me to effectively communicate our "big dream" and I left the table excited, confident, and optimistic.  Food City has agreed to provide the food for BOTH events and Coca-Cola left the table with "You have sold me 110%!"  Coca-Cola wants to share our dream with their "people" then we'll talk about what their involvement could look like.  I'm in awe...

Then Phil sent an Inky quote as our Thursday morning motivator. I sent it on to Inky with a message about the people he is reaching through his words, then Inky emailed me back that he had just left a meeting with FOOD CITY!  Crazy, crazy divine appointments to be sure - It just so happened that a gentleman who runs HT Hackney happened to overhear John and Inky and expressed a desire to be involved.  John called me this afternoon and shared that Hackney can donate all the water we need... with specially designed labels!

I'm overwhelmed, in awe, and humbled.  To God be the GLORY indeed.

Special prayers tonight for Hallerin's family as they cope with the death of his mother today.  She leaves a legacy.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Miracles and Mustard Seeds

Week 3 already?  The days are sifting through my fingers faster than I process them!  My days back at West Valley are marked with a renewed sense of purpose and the resolve not to let minor inconveniences bother me...ever.  My students are absolutely the best kids I have EVER taught in 20 years!  They are polite, funny, intelligent, thoughtful, and insightful.  I'm almost afraid to say anything about them because it truly does seem too good to be true!  Of course, there is no perfect school and there ARE some challenges, but so far, at least when it comes to me and my neck of the woods, I'm happy to show up every day and do my "thang!"  My 7th grade colleagues are supportive, hard-working, and a pleasure to work with...I feel as if I am a part of the team, and it feels good to contribute.  I love the fact that there is very little "drama" on my grade level...at least any that I am aware of! 

Parents at WVMS have generously opened their coffers and provided the resources I need to be effective in our Locker Room!  At last count, I had over $75 worth of iTunes gift cards that allows me to incorporate music into our Reading curriculum.  Yeah, our Locker Room is going to be ROCKIN'!

Reach Them to Teach Them is on the brink of something BIG, something I believe God has had in the works since the beginning...We're talking seriously with Food City about the possibility of being a title sponsor.  Food City has brought Coca-Cola to the table and we're meeting together next Wednesday.  Greater things, Lord.  Greater things...

God has provided a fresh, new team of volunteers who have stepped up to the plate with renewed energy and sense of purpose.  I know that this vision is from God.  I know I must be faithful in my actions and trust Him to do the rest. 

I wish I could ramble on longer, but dinner doesn't cook itself.  I miss my Chelcie.  Gotta get some Nutella to lure her home. 












Saturday, August 20, 2011

Week One is in "Da Books!"

It's 7:52 on Saturday morning, and to be honest, I'm surprised I'm awake!  I thought I'd probably sleep through the entire weekend due to the exhaustion I'm experiencing!

The first week back at school is always tiring, but be it my advanced age, or the change in grade levels and schools (again), I'm pretty whipped!

I have returned to West Valley with a new appreciation for my colleagues, students, parents, facilities, and opportunities.  I've learned that there is no "perfect" school and no matter where I go, there will be aggravations, frustrations, and things that try to steal my joy.  The key to being grateful is to look at the good things instead of focusing my energy on the negatives.

The principal surprised me this week by asking(?) me and Mr. Burnette to take on the 2011-2012 yearbook!  Let's just say my world was temporarily rocked!  Fortunately, I was able to step out of the project to focus on learning a new curriculum and get re-acclimated to middle school.  Whew - THAT was a close one!

My former students have been heavy on my mind this week.  I pray for them by name as they cross my mind, and I visualize their faces as they move on to fifth grade and acclimate themselves to a whole new school experience.  Mamie sent me a sweet message through School Fusion.  Here's her message as she wrote it and my response:

MAMIE  to "Coach" Amy Crawford   (Aug 18, 2011 4:52 PM)
I MISS YOU! I WISH YOU WAS HERE

"Coach" Amy Crawford to MAMIE    (Aug 18, 2011 5:22 PM)
Hi Mamie!

Oh my goodness - I miss you soooooo much! I have thought about you every day since school started. I hope you are working super hard. I'm so proud of you and I want you to keep in touch with me. You can send me an email anytime and I will always try to write you back as soon as I can. I'm teaching 7th grade now and I like it a lot, but I miss MY CHAMPIONS and our Locker Room. Please tell everyone at SMG I said hello. Thank you for your sweet message!


Love,

Coach
My prayer continues to be that I don't settle into my new digs and forget...I try to keep my SMG memories fresh in my mind so that they don't fade from my mind.  I continue to tell people who ask that my experience there was one of the most challenging experiences I've ever had!  I'm grateful for the opportunity and I love my Champions.  My fear is that I'll forget the underlying lessons I learned.  Lessons like how important it is to try to understand the life experiences of others in order to understand their motivation.  
My new "Champions" at WVMS are a fabulous group of 7th graders.  I can tell already that they will keep me challenged!  They are enthusiastic, energetic, and incredibly bright!  I feel like I'm teaching in the ocean because they are truly like sponges that are just eager and ready to soak up whatever information I have to share with them.
Having my precocious Addie right down the hall in sixth grade is such a treat!  We enjoy driving to school together and spending time in my classroom after school.  I'm seeing her in a whole new way.  She's no longer a dependent, little girl.  She's becoming such a confident, beautiful young lady!  I'm so proud of her!

With Sam 2 miles away at Lotts, and being able to drive him to school is a joy!  I feel like I've been so far removed from my family and their lives that being with them again is an appreciated blessing.  It feels like I am "home" again.

Drew moved back to Chattanooga yesterday and once again I'm struck by what a wonderful son he is.  My mom mentioned to me that she has never heard him say anything negative about anybody else...EVER!  What a testimony!  I wish she could say that about me, but I fall far short.  Drew is also appreciative of the "little things" that he has.  He doesn't complain.  I could, and SHOULD, learn a lot from him!  

Chelcie has had a very rough week.  She's had to deal with tuition issues.  She's struggled with getting her schedule to work out the way she needed, and it's been a huge source of stress for her.  I've kept her in my prayers and fought the urge to come to her rescue as she stretches herself beyond what she thought she could do.  I remember how hard it was to cross over into adulthood and how I resisted the tough stuff too.  Goodness knows in times of crisis, I still want to go "home."

Katie and Mom have jumped right in and helped out with the kids.  Katie even picked up Addie at school yesterday and took her to the doctor for her first check-up in over 3 years!  She had to have shots, but got the all clear to run cross country for WVMS.  

Mom let Sam hang out with her yesterday even though she is carrying a heavy load herself with her brother being critically ill, Aunt Donna had a heart attack, and Nina is ninety years old and under tremendous stress as she worries about the health of two of her three "children."  



Life is a challenging ride, but there are amazing blessings everywhere!  I choose to look for the blessings this week!





Thursday, August 18, 2011

This Facebook Post Made My Week

Tonight, a teacher in your neighborhood is excitedly preparing for your child's upcoming school year, buying supplies, revising lesson plans, and hoping to share their love of learning with your child. In the minute it takes you to read this -- while you watch TV or surf the Web -- teachers all over the world are using their "free time" to invest in your child's literacy, well-being, prosperity, and future. Re-post if you appreciate a teacher! (This is for you Amy Crawford)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

First Week Back

What an eventful first week back at school!  No one could get into the building because the floors were being re-tiled.  This made the challenge of getting my room ready even more challenging, but ready or not, here they come on Monday!

I just have enough time to hit the highlights of the week in the hopes of remembering details to embellish my experiences at a later date.

Monday was a great day!  Just waking up and knowing that I didn't have to drive for 25 minute just to get to the school was a huge relief.  Even the smell of West Valley, every school has a distinctive smell, ya know, was a comfort to me.  It just felt like home.

Tom, Jackie, Ali, Livvy, Ashtyn, Addie, and Sam helped move all my bookcases, file cabinets, boxes of books, etc. into my classroom in 95 degree heat!  Hot, hard work that only true friends and family who love me would do for me.


Tuesday afternoon I had a Dream Team meeting and although everyone across Knox Co Schools was SLAMMED with work to do, we had a great turn-out and got many things accomplished. 

A neighbor had a tragedy in her family and Mom, Lori, and I made dinner for her that Mom delivered for us.  

Wednesday's great news was that I was allowed to make an announcement for Reach Them to Teach Them to all the middle and high school Reading and Language Arts teachers, Russell Biven was our kick-off speaker, and then I had a second meeting with the folks from Food City!

What a special connection we had!  They enjoyed hearing my story and felt that they would be able to help build our dream.  Chris Harper with Youth Transitions may also benefit from our meeting.  I definitely feel like Food City is a strong contender for our title sponsorship position.  One of the biggest takeaways was the Vice President of the Knoxville area asked me to speak for 30-45 minutes in Abingdon, VA to all of their store managers about the power of influence they have in the lives of young people.  There will be 300+ people there!  They also shared the name of a powerful young speaker that we could contact about sharing her story with Reach Them.

Touching on the highlights only is tough here, but I'll control myself...

Thursday was an all day work day.  I left school at 6:30.  Friday was a BIG DAY for Addie.  She had her first trial run-thru as a middle schooler!  She survived...THRIVED, actually.  She had a blast!  We also made a quick run to A.L. Lotts with Sam so he could meet his new 4th grade teacher, Mr. Pickwell.  It's Mr. Pickwell's first year and he's going to be great!  The traffic and huge throng of parents stood in sharp contrast to last year's open school at SMG.  What a difference! 

I find myself thinking of my SMG kids and fellow teachers and when I do, I pray for them.  I do not want to ever forget them or my experiences there.  Yes, where I am now is radically different, but I left a piece of my heart in my Locker Room and in the hallways of SMGMTA.
















Sunday, June 19, 2011

Perspective

Okay, so now it looks like I got a bum deal on my third solo car purchase.  It appears that the transmission has completely died on my "new-to-me" car that I have official owned "as-is, no warranty" for 16 days.  Lexus of Knoxville estimates the cost to fix it at $5003.86.  Nice, huh?  Yeah, I thought so too.  But hey, it's just a car. 

God has been reminding me all week how blessed I am!  I have the most incredible children in the world, each one unique and delightful in ways I can't begin to count.  My husband is working his tail end off to make life better for us.  My sisters and my parents are all in town, healthy and supportive of my crazy dreams!  We love each other more than words can say.  My roof doesn't leak and my belly is full.  My friends are the best I could ever hope for - so what if I have a little car trouble...okay, A LOT of car trouble?!

After the tragic news about the passing away of Addie's 5th grade classmate, I received some horrible news about one of my former 8th grade students.  Tyler Bradley passed away unexpectedly last Wednesday.  He was only 19 years old.  Tyler was one of my favorite students.  When I had him, he lived for girls and football - not necessarily in that order!  He always had a mischievious grin on his face and a little "rascal" twinkle in his eye.  Yet just beneath the surface was a little boy who longed to be loved and accepted.  Sometimes he tried a little too hard to be funny; he said things that come out wrong sometimes and several of his peers found him arrogant or cocky, but all it was was his heart's desire to be loved. 

I remember that on the last day of eighth grade, Tyler picked up a pair of scissors and cut off a lock of his curly brown hair and told me I'd better keep it forever because he was "gonna be somebody" someday.  Then what happened?

How could a young man with so much going for him find himself without hope?  How could he get so far off track that he saw no other option than to take his own life?  Was there anything I, or anyone else, could have done to prevent him from making the decision to permanently stop his suffering? 

God, give me eyes to see and ears to hear what You see and what You hear!  Use me in this world to reach out to lost and hurting people, especially those who try to hide their pain.  Grant comfort to his family- to his mother and brother.   Use his life to make a positive difference in the lives of those he left behind.

Thank you for Tyler.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be his teacher.  Help me to be a better teacher for knowing him.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Little Cabin in the Woods

Well, my week in the mountains has come to an end, but what a great week it has been!  Monday, Sam and Addie and I had a great trip up and we were soon joined by Lori, Natalie, and Lauren.  We headed to Gatlinburg for a little walk about town.  Dinner at Blaine's and an adventure in the Mirror Maze was capped off with a trip to a nostalgic candy store.  Sam and Addie opted for root beer and wild cherry drops.  Lauren got a little stressed about not being in bed at her usual bedtime, but she did a great job hanging in there with the wild girls. 

Back at the cabin, the girls bedded down on the sofa bed while Lori took the upstairs bed.  Sam and I had some mother/son snuggle time and we were all sawing logs by 12.  Sam woke me up at 4:00 by yelling, "You LIED to me!"

Tuesday morning Grandmom joined us for a hike to Abrams Falls.  We had a lot of laughs in spite of how uncomfortable I was when nature called.  Of course the highlight of the trip was the Cades Cove soft serve ice cream as a reward for surviving the wild.

We all headed back to the cabin, exhausted, but satisfied. Lori, Natalie, Lauren and Grandmom all headed back to K-town which left Sam, Addie, and me to fend for ourselves. We had a laid back evening with Bagel Bites for dinner, America's Got Talent and The Voice for our evening entertainment.  All three of us snuggled in the big bed downstairs and although I was a little apprehensive about staying there without another adult, morning came quickly and we packed up Addie and headed to Knoxville.

My lunch with Hallerin was fabulous as it always is and I left filled up and encouraged, ready to run after God with my life and seek His direction instead of my own.  Hallerin's idea for 11.1.11 is as simple as 1 + 1 = ? and I can't wait for him to bring a powerful message of what it really takes to impact lives for eternity!

Sadly, Addie received word that a little girl from her 5th grade class had passed away, so she and I went to the funeral home to meet Taylor and comfort Courtney's mother as she grieved the loss of her little girl.  This was Addie's first time to see the body of someone she had known.  She was a little unsettled by it, but knew that the body was not Courtney and she could tell that Courtney was gone.

Tanya brought Spencer over to spend a few days with Sam at the cabin with us.  Once Tom got home, we followed each other up to Pigeon Forge Pizza Hut for a LONG dinner of pizza and wings.  Back at the cabin, Tom worked, and I made popcorn and cookies for the boys.  Addie had already gone to Elkmont with Taylor.

Tom left early Thursday morning, so the boys and I headed into town for bumper boats, putt-putt and go-carts topped off with Powerade slushies and a bag of ice for me!   Jackie and Livy came up about 2:00.  We went back to town for another round of putt-putt and dinner at Calhouns.  The kids have played corn hole and frolicked in the hot tub.  Life is definitely good.

Friday morning we headed to Gatlinburg for a little people watching and shopping.  Lunch as the Old Mill Restaurant was scrumptious and now we're headed out for a play.  Tomorrow brings soccer in Chattanooga and life picks up its pace again back to the real world!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sunshine, Smiles, Popsicles and Sandals

Well, Addie and I are excited!  Our long awaited Chacos arrived today just prior to our departure to "our" cabin in Pigeon Forge.  We loaded up our new wheels and miraculously made it to the cabin faster than we anticipated.  We were delighted with the updates - a new superBIG deck complete with hot tub and comfortable chairs!  We also feel much safer now that a security gate has been installed at the bottom of the driveway.  It can get a little freaky at night when I'm the only adult around)!  Too many Friday the 13th movies at an impressionable age I suppose...

Sam and Addie and I made a quick run to Walmart before Lori, Natalie and Lauren arrive.  Lauren told Addie she was bringing along her Bible just in case we decide to do a Bible study, so we may have to make the most of our "Girl Time + Sam" and see what the Lord has to teach us while we're out of the rat race for a few days.

It's just not the same around here without my #1 daughter, Chelcie Brooke, so I hope she'll decide to make an appearance.  Drew and Tom may come up on Thursday.  I dream of the day my entire family can spend some time together for the simple purpose of enjoying each other.  Addie is headed to the Elkmont campground on Wednesday, so I've only got two days with her here.  It gets crazy sometimes.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Prodigal Son and "Substitute Preacher Boys"

While Scott is on sabbatical, NorthStar Church has been blessed with "substitute preacher boys." Today, we heard from Buddy Sexton.  I'm ashamed to admit that when I know Scott isn't going to be preaching, I'm sooo tempted to rationalize not going to church.  Then I remind myself that Church should not be about me.  Church is all about Him.  I was distracted by the Nadal vs Federer French Open Final, but somehow managed to turn the TV off and take a shower in time to make it to the 11:00 service.  I didn't see anyone I knew when I got to church so I sat alone, but it turned out to be a good thing because God had something to teach me that I may have missed had I been distracted by familiar faces around me.

Like most effective speakers, Buddy opened his message with something funny.  He shared a story about an older lady who had recently learned to text message.  She looked at texting as another way to minister to people and generously communicated with others in an effort to encourage them.  Unfortunately, she misunderstood the acronym "LOL" to mean "Lots of Love" when it actually means "Laughing Out Loud."  Just imagine the responses she received when she sent "Lots of Love" to folks who missed church or who had recently lost a loved one.  I couldn't help thinking of Kris Jones and her sweet, optimistic outlook on life!  "I'm not a loser - I'm a WINNER!"
 
Buddy also made the comment that sometimes fish don't know they're wet, so he wanted to share with the NorthStar congregation that God is at work in our church.  Great and miraculous things are happening here.  As he prayed for us, he asked God to "awaken sleepy hearts," and I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit that I needed to avoid the Snooze button today in church, so I paid attention...and took notes!

The passage from which Buddy shared came from Luke 15.  He started here:
1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 

Then he shared that there were two main groups of people following Jesus.  The first group was described as "tax collectors and sinners" and the others were the "Pharisees."  The main text of the sermon focused on the familiar story of the Prodigal (wasteful) Son.
Here's the text:
 11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.    13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
   17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
   “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
   21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
   22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
   25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
   28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
   31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”


The highlights of the message for me were as follows:
  • Sinners want to come to Jesus, but they do not want to come to our churches.  Big Questions:  Why?  What can we do about it?
  • "Welcome" in the context of this story means to "excitedly anticipate something as Simeon anticipated the birth of Jesus.
  • If my personal identity is wrapped up in what I do or what I have, then God will sometimes take those idols away from me in order to break me and sanctify me. I know this to be true in that the past two years at Sarah Moore Greene have humbled me more than I ever would have believed I needed to be humbled...but I did.  Buddy gave examples:  Just look at how short her skirt is!  That is SO inappropriate!  or Can you believe they spend their money on flashy things like that?!  We've got money too, but we don't spend it like THAT!  Did you see how much make-up she had on?!  etc., etc.  He then drew the parallel between the way we judge people just like the Pharisees did.  If we're all swimming from San Francisco to Hawaii and someone is 2 meters behind me, I'm NOT ahead of him!  We're BOTH going to drown before we get there! 
  • When Jesus shared the story of the two sons and their loving father, He was sharing a parable of sinners, Pharasees and our loving Father, Jesus Christ.  The heart of the father is full of compassion.  The wayward son's heart is full of sin.  The faithful son's heart had changed from a focus on a sweet, loving relationship with his father, to a strict set of rules to be followed.  
  • RELIGION has replaced RELATIONSHIP.
  • The older son's job was not to reap his father's harvest. (entitlements?  God owes me because I..., I DESERVE this..., etc.)  The older son's job was instead to reproduce his father's heart.  BIG IDEA - It's not my job to receive heavenly treasures/blessings; it IS my job to reproduce the heart of Jesus in my life.
  • Buddy shared some of his personal stories about his father.  Apparently, it was a rowdy guy who liked to drink, gamble, and hang out with those who enjoyed the same.  But one day his father won "a huge wad" of money through gambling and took it to a single mother who had recently lost her home.  Then Buddy shared something that was so profound to me.  He said, "I can stand up here and be a seminary graduate, "Mr. Substitute Preacher Boy," but I've never given a huge wad of cash to someone I didn't know just because they needed it!"  
  • Verse 20:  When the son was far away, the father ran to him.  The father wanted everyone to know that when he brought him home (in HIS robe, wearing HIS ring) that the son BELONGS to the father.  --Oh how true this is of our Father's love for us!  
  • The enemy constantly reminds us of our failures, our "foreign countries" where we go to do bad things we know we shouldn't do, our shortcomings, and our disappointments BUT Jesus knows all of it and says we are HIS!
  • Verse 31:  EVERYTHING I have is yours.
  • A little taste of heaven is to be with the One who ALWAYS knows me most, and ALWAYS loves me most.
  • What brings God joy?  Getting back his child.  To the "Pharisees/us" He asks, "Why didn't you go get him?"
  • My job is to replicate the heart of my Father.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Summer Adventures and Moo-Fest, 2011



Sam's sure to be winning entry

Addie's sure to be winning entry
Preparing the winning entries

Getting tatted up

They got in a little trouble in McMinn County







Finished this fabulous book today - highly recommended read!

Don't be fooled by the C-O-L-D.  Note the outside temp is 102 degrees!
I love these two sooo much!

Moofest, 2011.  Cross that one off my "bucket list."  Got 'er dun today!  Athens, Tennessee will never be the same after being invaded by Sam and Addie Crawford.  Even temperatures in the high 90's couldn't stop us from seeing for ourselves what all the fuss is about!  Now we know.  I'll just let the pictures tell the story and spare you the details.

Never let it be said that Crawfords will pass up a free Krispy Kreme doughnut - Nuthin' doin!  We also made an appearance at National Doughnut Day yesterday to scarf up a "hot doughnut now!"

Thursday, June 2, 2011

"Get Yer Feet Offa My Dash!" (Blind Side)

For the past two days I've been on a quest.  It's been grueling, challenging, enlightening, confusing, and at times it has been humorous.  As with many of the things I do, I've found many reasons to smile through the pain, and sure enough- it was worth it in the end! 

I bought a car today. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

One Dream of a Dream Team

Even though the weather was nasty - scattered storms, cloudy and dreary...even though it was "Check-out Day" in most Knox County Schools...even though we're all so tired  this week that we can hardly think straight...we just had one of the most positive, talented, energetic groups of people assembled ANYWHERE on the planet at our Dream Team meeting! 

Again, I'm reminded that this "Big Dream" is God's vision and regardless of how overwhelming it gets for us, He is One who will make the dream come true - His way - not ours.  We must always be cognizant of the fact that there is no stress on our dream team.  This vision is not up to us; it's not on our shoulders, it's on His.  I'm pretty sure He can handle it!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

PAID UP!

I was feeling blessed and my heart was full as I made my home from school today.  As usual, I made my way through the Sonic drive-thru for a large cup of ice, a bag of ice, and a small unsweetened tea.  Yeah, I know what's good and I'm freaky with my eccentric  habits!  Anyway, as I paid my $3 and something, I noticed that the total due from the car behind me was less the change had coming from my $5 bill, so I told the cashier that I'd like to pay for the person behind me as well.  Random acts of kindness do more for me than the person on the receiving end, so it was with selfish motives lest you think I'm "good" when I'm really not...

Then the cashier told me something that brought a smile to my face and filled my heart.  When I told her what I'd like do for the car behind me, she smiled and said, "That's great!  You know I was here one day when we had FIVE cars in row pay for each other's orders!"  I couldn't help thinking to myself what would happen if the world "Paid it Forward" a little more often, and "Paid Attention" a little more closely.  We've got to get our eyes off of ourselves and onto the lost and hurting people of this world! 

The Season Ends

The Champions have left the Locker Room.  They won't be coming back.  The team has disbanded.  Many left for the last time yesterday.  One of them never had the chance to say good-bye.  Or receive his trophy officially declaring him a "Champion."  Or read the thoughtful letters written by his teammates stating all the things they love about him.

Although I never received official notification, word on the street tells me that he was suspended for being disrespectful in PAC.  If only I'd known.  I would have taken him back in the classroom in a heartbeat!  I've sent his trophy, his letters from the Champions, and his report card by way of another teacher who was making a similar delivery to his neighborhood.  My gut tells me I should go myself.  My heart tells me I couldn't take it.  My "blog conscience" now convicts me that if I'm truly going to "Chase Lions in Tennessee," then I'm going to have to quit running away and do the right thing.  I'll let you know how it goes...

One of my most challenging students brought me a hanging basket of geraniums today.  She said her granny wanted me to have them.  Funny, because her granny just told me last Friday that M. comes home from school every day saying that she wants to buy this or that for Coach Crawford.  Another challenging, but so incredibly lovable student wrote me a very special thank you note that I will post here soon.  Every one of them hugged me fiercely before they left for the day.

Interestingly, we completed our eleventh novel today.  Just as I closed the book for the last time, the announcements came on the intercom instructing us to prepare for dismissal.  Funny how just as one chapter ends, another begins for all of us. I'm sure there will be more on this as I pack and process this week.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Long Goodbye

Coach Crawford, quatro Champions, and Nick Reveiz
I knew going in that I was only going to stay for two years.  Addie starts middle school.  Two years is long enough to gain an understanding of what it's like to teach in an urban school.  Perhaps my experience will have an impact on test sc-sc-scores (that part kinda hangs in my throat).  Maybe I can make a difference in the lives of my students.

Let's just cut the crap.  The two years passed quickly (in hindsight).  The Champions made a HUGE difference in my life!  My fear now is that I will forget.  I'll walk right back into my "comfortable" life and forget that there are children 10 miles away with hearts as big as Texas, with enthusiasm that would shake Neyland Stadium, with eyes that light up when they "get it" for the first time, with hearts filled to overflowing with generosity to the point of sharing their last dollar to buy something for me, with no one to cheer them on in the game of life, with no bed, with no lunch money, with no one to applaud wildly when they receive a trophy for being a Champion for the first time in their lives.

Oh God, I pray for these children!!!  I pray for their parents.  God, help them see that their child needs them to support their efforts at school.  They need cheerleaders.  They need a soft shoulder to cry on, and a willing ear to listen to them.  I pray for their teachers, Lord.  Give them an abundance of patience!  Help them to understand that what they see may not be what they get; that the walls of defense and self-preservation are thick and often seemingly impenetrable. Give their teachers special insight into their future.  Help them to water the seed that lives dormant in each child, just waiting for a teacher who loves them to awaken the possibility that lies just below the surface!  I pray for YOU to set up divine appointments in their lives so that doors of opportunity will open for them that might otherwise remain closed.  Help others who meet them to notice the "Championship" potential in them.  Oh God, most of all, thank You for the privilege You have given me to play a small role in their lives. 

Thank goodness I've been busy.  If I had the time to fully process and THINK about the past week, I'm sure I wouldn't be able to function.  K. will not be at school tomorrow.  He hugged me so tightly today, it took my breath away.  He cried.  He smiled.  I'm changed for having known him.

J. will not be at school tomorrow.  Forever in his memory, I will be the teacher who sent him to another teacher's classroom for the last hour of the school day on his last day of school.  ...Ugh!  Failure!  He was fighting, being disruptive, saying hateful things to other students.  I wanted him to stay with us.  I gave him many chances.  He just couldn't handle it.  When he refused to come into the classroom after recess and instead chose to pout outside, I felt his behavior had to be addressed.  In hindsight, I see now that he was trying to process the changes that are to come.  No more Locker Room.  No more Coach Crawford.  No more... This child is nine years old and has already lost his daddy.  He was stabbed to death.  No more...  So many family members.   No more... God, I could have taken the time to introduce him to the One Father who will never die, never leave him, never fail him as I did today.


Tomorrow several of my Champions will arrive for the last half day of school.  There are no desks, posters, MVPs, Team Rosters, DOLs, or brightly colored student work displayed on the walls.  The Locker Room is bland and empty.  It's the Champions that give life to our Locker Room. Without the Champions, the Locker Room becomes a trailer.   It's the Champions that bring hope.   It's my goal now to keep "hope" alive....forever!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Best is Yet to Come!

Needless to say, Chelcie won that battle of the heart and I must confess to no regrets.  We loaded up the car and headed to pick up Lakirra @ Weigles then on to Amya's house, just down the street from last year's super-Champion, Rudy!  Once we were loaded up with Sam, Addie, Chelcie, Me, Amya, and Lakirra, we were off to Game Time! 

At first glance, the turnout was disappointing, and my heart ached for those with the vision and dream for what could be.  I've been there and I know all too well how it feels to KNOW in your heart that God has a plan only to have our human definition of success define our dream as disappointing at best.  Flashback to Reach Them to Teach Them, 2006 at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church.  What's 500 when 500,000 need our message!

The kids were a little slow to warm up, but were soon nothing but giggles and grins.  With rain showers, cool breezes, and hungry bellies, we decided to stick around to hear our favorite Champion, Nick Reviez, speak, then we'd head out for pizza.  All went as planned until we pulled into the parking lot at Zaxby's.  My phone beeped.  A text from Jackie told us that we were going to have to (get to?) head back to the stadium.  Chicken fingers to go and a change of plans (thank God!). 

Back at the stadium, we met up with Jackie and then things began jammin!  The praise and worship music was starting to take effect and I found myself with hands raised in praise with feet jumpin' up and down like I haven't done in years (inside, I wondered where I was finding the energy and if I'd be sore in the morning!)! 

Then came the moment of Truth.  The Gospel message.  The Good News.  Jesus paid our debt.  He offers us the gift of eternal life.  Do we see our need?  Do accept His gift?  A free iPad for everyone has no value to me unless I accept the gift... Close your eyes, bow your head...raise your hand.            A little hand beside me made it's way to the sky...did I peek?  You bet I did!  My precious son, Sam, had just made the most important decision of his nine-year-old life!  He was Heaven-bound! 

Little did I realize that just two seats away from me, my precious girls Lakirra and Amya were making the same decision...to follow Christ!  The prayer wrapped up, those who prayed were encouraged to make their way to the front of the stage.  Sam nudged me, "let's go!" he said, then when I started forward, he stepped back.  Amya and Lakirra both said, "we need to go!"  So off the four of us went to take the hands of people who know Christ as Lord and are willing to lead others into an eternal relationship with Him. 

My eyes filled with tears.  My heart was overflowing.  My soul was satisfied.  My son was saved.

That Still, Small Voice...and a Pain the Heart

I'm way too far behind on my blog story to have any hope of ever catching things up to date, but this one simply can't wait.  I must do it (whoop! whoop!) now.  (The "whoop-whoop!" comes from a Ron Clark inspired technique to generate enthusiasm and student engagement every time they hear me say, "do it.."  But I digress...) 

Last week was fun, busy, action-packed, and exhausting!  Tuesday was spent at  the Smokies game in 80 degree heat with pounding sunshine and little breeze.  Wednesday was an ALL DAY trip to Wonderworks bringing us back to school at 6:30PM.  Thursday was Field Day, 2011- another hot and exhausting day in the pounding sunshine.  Friday we FINALLY completed all 14 research papers complete with covers, bibliographies, outlines, rough drafts, and final edits!  To say last week was busy would be putting it mildly!  By Friday afternoon, I was spent.  Totally.  I even posted on my Facebook page that I was too old for this stuff.  Never before had I so looked forward to a weekend with no kids just to catch my breath and recharge for the homestretch of our last full week of school.

Friday afternoon I stopped by West Valley to meet with my new principal, Mr. Nealy.  He was gracious enough to take me on a tour of the available 7th grade classrooms.  I chose a former Science room closest to the back door.  We had a nice chat, and I'm ready to get started.  Already dreaming about 7th grade lessons and 7th grade lives.  Tom and I took the kids to the movies with Chelcie and went to Brixx to enjoy a "date night."

By Saturday morning, I was thankful for a soccer-free weekend and looked forward to working on 7th grade plans, reading some books, and dreaming BIG on Reach Them to Teach Them ideas.  Then Chelcie sent me a text (cue Twilight Zone music). Here's the transcript of our message exchange:

Chelcie:  Are you taking any of your kids to gametime?
Me:  Don't think so.
Chelcie:  Why not?
Me:  No room in car.
Chelcie:  I have a car.
Me:  Who do you want to take?
Chelcie:  Whoever wants to go.
Chelcie:  No?
Me:  No what?
Chelcie:  No you aren't going to ask them!  Why wouldn't you??
Me:  Do you want to call them?
Chelcie:  Fine.  I will.  I literally don't understand why you won't.  This is such an opportunity.
Me:  I have addie, sam and taylor.  Room for one more.  I'll be happy to take someone.
Chelcie:  You know SO many people who would love to drive your kids.  Isn't doing things like this what reach them is supposed to be about?? I'm just really confused.  I thought you were planning on taking them.
Me:  Chelcie, I've been with them all week.  I need a break.
Chelcie:  Really.  Fine.
Me:  I'll try to call one or two.  You pick who.
Chelcie:  You know them best.
Me:  I asked amya.  Waiting to hear back from her.
Chelcie:  (Smiley face)
Me:  I've called charis, amya, and jalen.  No luck so far.
Chelcie:  Well at least you're trying
Me:  Are you going to drive?
Chelcie:  Yes I can/will
Me:  And lakirra...
Chelcie:  None of them can go?
Me:  Left msg for amya lakirra.  No go on charis and jalen.  Wanna call isaiah d.? His mom yelled at me the last time I spoke to her.
Chelcie:  Uhhhhhhh
Me:  Lakirra and amya are coming!
Chelcie:  Yayyy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Me:  And you are a pain in the heart
Chelcie:  Sorry (smiley)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day, 2011

A letter to my mom...

May 8, 2011


Dear Mom,

Well, it’s the Saturday night before Mother’s Day, and I know my homework is due tomorrow, but I’m staring at a blank computer screen having no clue as to how to begin a letter to one of the most influential people in my life.

Just knowing you’re there for me has gotten me through so many difficult times in my life.  You are the one person on this planet I can go to when I just need a place to vent, celebrate, cry, be still, or just talk about the details of the day.  Your door is always open and you’re always willing to listen.

God has given you a supernatural intuition to know precisely when I need you.  There have been numerous times over the past few years when I’ve been precariously close to the cliff of despair, but before I fell, you would call or send a card, or share a meal, or take a walk with me, and by the time I left you, I was reenergized and inspired to stay strong.

I remember how excited you were to meet your first grandchild...and how excited you were to meet your ninth!  You have been there to hold, cuddle, feed, and play with each and every one of our babies and to model for Lori, Katie, and me exactly what it looks like to be a loving mother.

I remember when I was teaching my very first class of second graders and didn’t have enough parent chaperones for our field trip to the Apple Barn, so you came along as “Mrs. Crawford’s mom!”  At A.L. Lotts, you’ve stood in for me when I couldn’t be “Mom” because I had to be “Teacher” so that Sam and Addie never had to feel that no one cared about them.  You’ve supported my efforts to “change the world” through Reach Them to Teach Them and you’ve been there to share my joy as God has opened the floodgates of Heaven and poured His blessing down on our dream.

I’m grateful that God in His infinite wisdom found a mother for me who loves me, prays for me, and puts up with me.  Our family has been divinely blessed.  We’ve had many more smiles that tears; many more good times than bad; and much more health than sickness.  Through it all, we’ve been able to count on you to be the glue that holds us all together.

I’m learning from you to hold my tongue when I want to lash out and say things that I’m sure to regret.  You’ve shown me how to look for the good in things when the bad seems to be the most obvious.

You’d think that at 45 years old, I’d feel like an independent adult, but I know I still have so much more to learn from you!  Thank you seems painfully inadequate to express my gratitude for the sacrifices you’ve made for me, and for the unconditional love that you’ve generously poured into my life and the lives of so many others.

I’ve always been proud of my mom.  In fact, as proud as I know she is of me and my family, I’d have to say we’re all prouder of her!
My words have been many, but I really only needed four to say how I feel about my mom:  I love you, Mom!

NJHS Induction Speech

I am honored to be here celebrating your success tonight.  As a former faculty sponsor of NJHS, I know how difficult it is to be selected for membership in this prestigious organization.  Tonight’s ceremony is evidence of your success.  Your name in this program is evidence of your hard work.  I say “evidence” of your success because YOU are a success long before you receive the recognition for it.

Every day you show up for school ready to learn, every day you faithfully complete your homework; every day you volunteer for community service, every day you take on additional responsibilities to strengthen your leadership skills, every day you see a need and use what you’ve been given to help meet that need...YOU ARE A SUCCESS!  Just because others don’t recognize your success every day, doesn’t diminish the significance of what you’re accomplishing on your way.  Tonight is your night of recognition.  Your parents, friends, and family members are here to celebrate your faithfulness to the process of succeeding.  I’d like to encourage you tonight to continue that process. 

For the past two years, I’ve been “on leave” from West Valley Middle School and it sure feels great to be back!  I’ve been on a bit of an adventure and I’d briefly like to share with you one of the reasons why I left and something I’ve learned from some pretty amazing 4th graders!

Five years ago, I was give  a huge dream to change the world.  You see, I was teaching 8th grade here at WVMS, but ten years ago, I taught third grade at A.L. Lotts, so I had some of the same kids in my 8th grade class that I’d as 3rd graders five years earlier.  You may be able to relate to this...Do you remember how excited you were to come to school when you were in elementary school?  Do you remember going to Target or Walmart when the new school supply list came out to pick out your stuff?  Do you remember how you could hardly sleep some nights because you couldn’t wait to get to school to participate in some special activity your class had planned?  Remember Fun Day and recess?  Ah yes, the good ol’ days, right?  I used to get my third graders so pumped up about school that they’d be foaming at the mouth by the time they got off the school bus!  Those were the good ol’ days for me too.  

When I started teaching 8th grade and got reacquainted with my former students, I couldn’t believe how much they’d changed.  No longer did they look forward to school with eager anticipation.  Now, it seemed like they just endured it.  Most were successful students like you all, but they had lost their passion for learning.  I tried to figure out why.

Part of the reason for their apathy was due to the fact that many of their teachers were too tired and burned out to bring passion to their classrooms.  Many teachers loved their subject but didn’t much care for their “subjects.”  Some teachers had just lost sight of the reason they chose education as their profession.  I wanted to change that and remind them that the only thing that REALLY matters in their classrooms is their students.  As a result, I started an organization committed to the power of influence that teachers have in the lives of their students.  Now over 1600 teachers come to an event at the Tennessee Theatre to be “inspired” to use their position to positively impact the lives of their students. 

A few years ago, a radio talkshow host was speaking at this event and he put up a picture of a swimming pool on the big screen and he asked the 1700 teachers in the audience, “How do you teach a child to swim?  What’s the one thing you HAVE to do in order to teach someone to swim?” ...Get in there with them!

Well, that got me thinking...What would happen if I “got in there with” the most challenging students in our city?  What would happen if I left this amazing school with incredible kids and supportive parents and went to a place where I could truly make a difference?  Hallerin’s swimming pool speech got me dreaming about not doing what is comfortable, but doing what is right...

But I’m like you...I DO my homework, so I met with the Director of Knox County’s Urban Schools and she shared a story with me that convinced me to “jump into that pool of uncertainty” and pray that water would be in it.  (Share story)

After that, she had me hook, line, and sinker!  EVERY student matters.  EVERY person matters.  Honor Society Inductees, YOU MATTER, and so, as recognized leaders in your school, my challenge to you is to leave this gymnasium tonight committed to the goal of ensuring that everyone in your circle of influence is positively impacted by knowing YOU!  I’d like to close by sharing a story about how powerful our actions can be in the lives of others.

Frog Lesson

A group of frogs was traveling through the woods, and two of them fell into a deep pit.  All the other frogs gathered around the pit.

When they saw how deep the pit was, they told the unfortunate frogs they would never get out.

The two frogs ignored the comments and tried to jump up out of the pit.

The other frogs kept telling them to stop, that they were as good as
dead.

Finally, one of the frogs took heed to what the other frogs were saying and simply gave up.  He fell down and died.

The other frog continued to jump as hard as he could.

Once again, the crowd of frogs yelled at him to stop the pain and
suffering and just die. He jumped even harder and finally made it out.

When he got out, the other frogs asked him, "Why did you continue jumping? Didn't you hear us?" The frog explained to them that he was deaf.  He thought they were encouraging him the entire time.

Two lessons:

1. There is power of life and death in the tongue.  An encouraging word to someone who is down can lift them up and help them make it through the day.

2. A destructive word to someone who is down can be what it takes to kill them.  Be careful of what you say.  Speak life to those who cross your path.

Special is the individual who will take the time to encourage another.  May your words be a blessing to someone today.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sharing Dreams

Whew!  What a great week!  Still having a hard time processing the fact that I will not be back at Sarah Moore Greene next year.  There have been innumerable moments of greatness in our Locker Room.  I've been allowed to see into the lives of some of Knoxville's most precious, innocent children.  I compare the process of leaving with what happens when two different colored pieces of construction paper are glued together, then pulled apart...a little bit of each piece is left behind on the other.  I know I'll never be the same, I just hope I never forget and I'm afraid that I might.

I had the opportunity to share some of my lessons learned with the WestKnox Kiwanis Club last Tuesday.

Sherry Storms gave me the opportunity to speak at the National Junior Honor Society Induction Ceremony on Thursday evening.

I spoke with Jack Nealy on the phone Friday morning and he challenged me to change grade levels when I return to West Valley in the fall.

I have a lot on my mind, and no time yet to process...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Life GIvers

I had initially titled this post, Life Savers, but then I had a change of heart.  There are people in this world who add to life and those that subtract from it. Then there are those who neither add, nor subtract, they just...exist.  There really is no way to save life, is there?  We are given 529,600 minutes a year - if we don't die.  (Random documentation:  Osama Bin Laden was killed by US Navy Seals last night.  People rejoicing in the streets).  We can't save our 529,600 minutes; we have to spend them.  It is what we spend them on that determines the value of a life. 

Forgive me, as I process this as a write it... We can chose to spend our minutes stockpiling material wealth, but the wisest and richest man who every lived (King Solomon) said that it's all meaningless.  He would know, right?  We can spend those minutes "investing" in others and sharing the love of Christ with them.  But all that happens AFTER we lose our life in surrender to Christ.  In Matthew 16:25 Jesus states, "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it."  Kinda crazy, losing what we never had to begin with in order to find what we tried to save, but couldn't.  In light of today's experiences, it is starting to make sense to me.  Scary, no?

Jesus Himself said, "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew 6:20)."  God is teaching me by humbling me.  He is making sure that my life is completely dependent on Him.  I do not want to disappoint Him, but I do.  Sadly, I do.  I feel like Paul felt when he wrote the words,  "18 I know there is nothing good in my sinful nature. I want to do what is good, but I can't. 19 I don't do the good things I want to do. I keep on doing the evil things I don't want to do. 20 I do what I don't want to do. But I am not really the one who is doing it. It is sin living in me.(Romans 7: 18-20)."  Kind of sounds like something I'd say... a little rambling, kinda confusing, but if you hang in there with it, it starts to makes sense.

Today was a field trip day for the Champions.  Out of my 14 students, only 6 were permitted to attend the year end Behavior Award Trip to the movies.  We went to see Disney's newest "African Cats."  Incredible piece of cinematography and storytelling.  Several moments were blog-worthy, but one of the most insightful comments was made by a little girl whose father is in prison.  There are many children living in her home and DHS has been called on numerous occasions regarding the physical safety of the children.  At one point in the movie, a young lion was faced with ensuring her survival by staying with the pride, or putting herself in harm's way by staying by the side of her weak and dying mother.  The little girl beside me leaned in close and whispered, "I'd stay with my momma!" Really?  REALLY?  In spite of all she's been through, Momma still wins.

Another heart-breaker moment.  I was leaving school and noticed a little girl holding open the door to the outside, holding her eye and crying.  Another staff member spoke to her, then went through the door.  When I realized she was crying, I had to ask her about it.  I said, "What's the matter, Honey?"  No answer.  "Are you okay?"  Again, no answer.  "Are you hurt?"  I gently pulled her hand away from her eye and noticed a big, red mark on her forehead.  "What happened?"  "My momma hit me..."  "Where's your momma?"  "Over there."  When I looked toward the parking lot, I noticed a large woman with her back to me walking toward her van.  I decided to try to defuse the situation by speaking to her momma in a non-confrontational way.  I made an innocuous comment about the warm weather and headed to the safety of my car, still at a loss for the appropriate action to take.  I'm STILL at a loss... I will pray for this little girl.  If you're reading this, will you pray for her too?  I don't even know her name, but God does.

My "Life Givers" today were Jackie, Mom, Chelcie, LeeAnn, Windy, Desiree, Tee, Summer, and Kelley.  Tomorrow, I will look for moments to give life to those who cross my path!  

Yeah, It WAS that BAD!

Update time yet again!  Someday I hope to have moments of downtime to reflect and process so that my writing  will have some sort of common thread throughout, but for now, I write for the purpose of documentation purposes.  Here's a synopsis:

Last week we had some wild and crazy weather - Monday, a HUGE storm pounded us, but hit UT campus particularly hard.  Musta just been a warm-up, because last Wednesday brought national news making tornadoes and severe thunderstorms unlike any I've ever seen!  The kids did absolutely great through it all.  I was particularly concerned about Sam because he's been terrified of storms since he was a little boy.  Warnings were abundant throughout the entire day.  The superintendent made an announcement that "No teacher was permitted to leave the school and students would not be dismissed from the building in the event of inclement weather."  This sent the teachers into a near panic attack - "They can't force us to stay here!"  "I live in another county!"  "I've got kids too!" "I have to let my dogs out!"  ...Not exactly the calming effect we needed under such circumstances.  As it turned out, students were dismissed on time and no one was required to stay beyond the contract day.  Another morale blow however was that one minute prior to the end of contract time, the principal made an announcement "per the superintendent that all teachers in the building must send an email confirming that we didn't leave early."  Not exactly a "warm fuzzy" for some already aggravated teachers and staff. 

I headed home amid radio warnings of eminent severe weather.  By the time I got to Papermill, a tornado warning was issued.  I called Chelcie and insisted she get home immediately.  She headed to the UT library to "study."  I really, really wanted her home with us, but she's an adult now so I have to let her make her own decisions. 

We had heavy rain and powerful wind, but nothing compared to the hype...until about 8:00.  Once Addie and Sam were tucked soundly in bed, the hail started, mildly at first, but increasing dramatically until it literally sounded as if angels were pelting our house with baseballs!  Power went out about 8:15, but was back on about 10.  We all retreated to the basement and I kept in close contact with Chelcie via cell phone.  We got hit with three pretty intense rounds of rain, hail, lightning, thunder, and wind.   Thousands of people had roof damage.  Many lost windshields, and cars were dented all over so they resembled golf balls!  It was a wild and crazy night to be sure, but we were all dry, safe, and together.  None of us cared about the cars and still don't.  So what if they're dented? 



Monday, April 25, 2011

A Little Spring Storm

video
As I was sitting on my back porch blogging away, a little spring storm crept up on me...

I love storms.  The kids were at soccer, and Tom was at work, so I was looking rather foolish giggling and grinning and grabbing my camera, but it was worth it.  Now I have my little storm preserved here for my enjoyment anytime I need a little clean up.