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Saturday, October 31, 2015

When the Chair Hits the Classroom Floor

This last week I have found myself constantly with an image of a desk in my mind’s eye.  There was a girl, there was a resource officer, there were other students, and there was a teacher.  But, what stands out most to me is the desk.  I think that there was one other person in this nation that may have been even more affected than I was by the sight of that desk and it hitting the floor.  I’ve been thinking about her a lot this week.

We have to go back to 1997 for this to make sense.  Since we have to go back 18 years, right about this time of year, which should clue you in to the impact.  I was a 7th grade teacher in a large suburb of a city in the Deep South.  We’ll leave it at that for the location.  I was teaching a small class that was labeled “Mixed Resource Special Ed”.  These were kids that were generally in mainstream classes except for their math and English because of the gap between them and their peers.  I was out of my trained area and most likely out of my depth.  This was my last classroom in a school setting.

To the point.

This collection of students ranged from one that was on the spectrum with obsessive/compulsive tendencies to a couple that I was convinced at the time had made themselves “special ed”. This had come from their behavior over the course of their years of school. The defiance and unwillingness to comply directed toward me daily – and I’m sure I wasn’t the first – had left a few in this group grades behind in reading and math skills. I could see the ones who tried, but just couldn’t get it.  They needed this class so badly.  They didn’t need the added distraction of the others.

The end of the first quarter brought exam day.  The instructions were simple.  When you finish your work sit in your seat quietly until the others are done.  Simple.  Just sit, no talking. Simple.

This proved to be too hard for one girl.  This is the one I referred to at the beginning.  Sitting was not on her agenda.  Being quiet was not on her agenda.  I had to go to her twice to remind her to sit back down in her seat and stop talking.  She was up and leaning over to her right to talk to another girl.  Twice.

At first there was the sly grin of “you caught me”, then the pain must’ve started.

“There’s blood on the floor!  There’s blood on the floor!” from one of the students.

She held her left hand up and looked down to see the blood.  Something was wrong.  The end of her ring finger was missing.  It lay on the floor inches from where the edge of the desk had hit the floor.  The ceramic edge had cut it off from her weight.  She was holding on to the side of the top when she had leaned to far and tipped.

Just sit.  Simple.

We got her in the ambulance with her fingertip and the local hospital performed reattachment surgery.  It was unsuccessful.  I knew this would impact her for the rest of her life.  This, after all, is the finger where a wedding band is placed.  The part I haven’t old you yet is that both of her parents are Deaf.  That capital D is intentional, it’s cultural and part of who they are.  If your parents are Deaf, you communicate with sign language.  You need both hands.

I looked this student up on Facebook the other day, and I found her.  I scrolled through photos of her and her children.  In ever shot where her left hand was visible it was covered by her right or the last two fingers were folded under.  My heart ached.  This event had become part of who she was in every photo and how she carries herself.  I imagine there is shame, possibly some anger directed toward herself, probably more than a dash of regret.

Just sit.  Simple.

I wondered what she thought when she saw that desk on the news hit the floor.  What did she think about the girl, the officer, the girl’s future, her own past?

My heart ached for a former student and for a student I’ve never met.  It still does.  

I think about that teacher. 

I became the teacher that cut your finger off if you talked in my class.  No, really.  I was the one.

How will this teacher be known?

I’m not writing this to comment on the specific actions in that classroom in SC.  I’m writing about the fact that when I see those videos, I see the desk hit the floor.  We all bring our histories with us and they are the filters for our eyes.  It’s hard to overcome, but it is also just as hard to read into a situation you may have never experienced.

The chair tipping wasn’t an isolated event in my shared experience with my student.  It didn’t stop there either.  I spent hours in the hospital waiting for her to come out of surgery.  I was there with her parents.  The school hadn’t thought to summon the interpreter for the hospital.  Fortunately, this was my trained area. I was at the hospital the next day as well.

That was my last year of teaching.  She is the only student whose name I remember.  She is the one I think of when I see that chair hit the floor.

Photo is of a similar Virco Martest 3000 Series 3700BR Student Desk (3700BR) from Amazon.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Dipping My Toe in the Water

I look back at the date of the last post and see August 5.  August 5!! That was two and a half months ago guys.  Where did the time go?  I'll tell you.  Allume.

I have so many thoughts still rushing through my mind.  I think of spreadsheets and hard work and a bazillion emails.  But I also think of challenges, and encouragement, and so many encounters.  Each one of these is working in me to change me and inform my viewing of the world.  I'm not sure I can accurately put into words the impact.  I'm not sure I really know yet.

I do know I want to go back through each of the keynotes with a clear head and no distractions. I'm sure I missed so much even sitting 20 feet from the speaker.  I'd love for you to watch them, too, and share your thoughts.  To get the most from them, I suggest watching them in order.  You will have a greater sense of how the weekend unfolded and see the guiding of the Holy Spirit over the message that developed.

You can check out those videos on the Allume website under the Resources tab.

I heard a clear word for me.  I don't want to share that yet until you've had a chance to watch them for yourself.  I'll share more about that soon. I'm still realizing implications that I hadn't considered when I first realized what was being said to me.  I think this here little blog is directly impacted.

So as I shake the dust off around here I ask that you forgive the disarray and have a little patience with me.  I'm dipping my toes back in the water and it may take me a bit to get used to it all again.  Say hi, won't you, just to let me know that it is still really all functioning.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Back in the Holler

Hollows, or "hollers" as it comes out of my Appalachian mouth, are all over the place where I was raised.  They can be hidden and unknown to the outside world, outside of your immediate family anyway.  My great-grandparents lived back in a hollow, and we would walk there, back through the woods and down over the hill from my granny's house.  You could drive there, but what does an 8 year old know about directions for a car to follow.  I was more concerned about the split rail fences, grapevines, and not getting caught on barbed wire.

Then there were other hollows, I couldn't tell you where if my life depended on it.  There were steep hills, creeks, huge trees and the best blackberries and black raspberries in the world.  All wild.  The wild always taste better and nothing you can buy in a store, or even a farmer's market for that matter come close.

I've been spoiled by the wild.  I've been away from it for decades, but there is a disappointment that rises in me whenever I'm given the tame version of blackberry cobbler.  Who in their right mind would ever be disappointed by hot blackberry cobbler with melting vanilla ice cream?  I will tell you. The one who has tasted the wild, free, picked in the blazing sun covered from head to toe to defend from bees and snakes berries, that's who.  And in the dead of winter, those berries pulled from the freezer are a gift like no other.

We've lost sight of the wild, the Eden that we were created for, that was created for us.  We've forgotten that it exists and we settle.  Settling can look like many different things: rebellion, apathy, complacency, acceptance of a tame version all planted in neat rows where UPick 'til your heart's content, but then it never really is.  Content, that is.

Amber Haines takes us with her through a journey from a backyard Eden, through the wilds of rebellion and isolation, and then...... well, I'll let you find that out for yourself.  The words flow like a rushing creek over smooth stones and jagged rocks into rapids.  This is poetry that sings loud like cicadas, smells heady like jasmine, and tastes sweet like the singular drops of honeysuckle.  But poetry and metaphor are the lures that often make us miss the reality that the metaphor exists to glorify.  If we're not careful, we'll settle for the beauty of words, over the beauty of The Word. Because where our words can never be completely satisfying or fulfilling because they are broken, we must rely on a Word that was broken for us.

The hollow is not just a place between two hills, but the place inside of us, the God-shaped void. The wild that can be found there with the Creator of this universe takes us back to freedom in Eden and makes us whole.

Amber will be speaking this year at the Allume Conference, October 15-17, in Greenville, SC.  I'd love for you to join us.  You can find out more and get your tickets here:

Wild in the Hollow is available now wherever you choose to buy books.  I thank you in advance for choosing here if you use this affiliate link.  I was provided a copy for review by Revell, but as always, all opinions are my own.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

That Time I Fixed My Dishwasher

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  I appreciate it anytime you use them.

Linking up with Works For Me Wednesday at Giving Up on Perfect.

I get an extreme sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when I do something by myself. Specifically, when I do something that I might have otherwise hired out to be done by a professional. The fact that I also save significant amounts of money at the same time is the cherry on top.

Last week we discovered that a post that holds a wheel on the top rack of our dishwasher had broken. In fact, three of the four were broken. When you combine this with the fact that the door started leaking, I was ready to just pitch it and get a new one. I know that sounds a little overblown, but we’ve had issues with this dishwasher since day one.

After a bit of technical research on the Google machine I discovered this is quite common. I used my model number to find the part number that would need to be replaced. I intensified my research by digging deep into You Tube for how-to videos. Lastly, I pulled the trigger and ordered the part from Amazon after an online chat to determine that the new metal parts would work in the place of the plastic ones. Two guesses as to why they are now made of metal instead of plastic. You got it – they were constantly breaking!

Thanks to Amazon Prime, I had the parts the next morning and it was time to get to work.

I extricated the top rack from the dishwasher, laid out my parts, queued the video and broke bad on those busted parts. All went well until the very last piece, which needed a torx driver for the supplied screws. I knew we had one, but apparently not here, so off to for same day pickup. They are a Pure Charity partner, so I love ordering online to pick up later.

Once I had the driver, the 4 screws were tightened in a matter of seconds.  The rack was reinstalled and VOILA! Fixed! For less than $40 we had a rolling rack!

Funny thing, the door stopped leaking. The malfunctioning rack was keeping the door from closing completely. It still needs to be lowered in the back a bit, but that’s a job for another day and will require 2 people.

Here’s to hoping that the feeling of satisfaction continues and makes me want to load and unload it regularly simply to feel that smooth gliding. I am more deeply invested. Ownership drives my participation. I also love doing things with my hands. Win–Win!

Now it’s time to toot your own horn.

Are you a DIYer? What task have you completed that gave you the same sense of satisfaction?