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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Guest Blogger- Grandpa A: Life In The Wisconsin Northwoods Beginning 1927, Anee-I-Over

Lessons Learned: Guest Blogger- Grandpa A

It All Happened In A One Room School: Anee-I-Over

Anee-I-Over is not big in the Olympics; in fact, it’s not included in the phy ed program in any of our schools or colleges. It was big, however, in One Room Schools of yesterday because they had no gyms, no swing sets, no merry-go-rounds  or baseball diamonds, and no coaches, only a three acre field with a schoolhouse, a woodshed, a pump house, and two outdoor toilets, one for the girls and one for the boys. Who could ask for anything else?

Anee-I-Over was an outside game and could be played with as few as two people, however, the excitement heightened when you had four or five on each side. The only equipment needed was a rubber ball about the size of a tennis ball. The game started when half of the players lined up on one side of the schoolhouse building and the other half were on the other side of the building. One player would throw the ball over the roof of the building, and one of the players on the other side would catch the ball before it hit the ground or on the first bounce. The object of the game then was to run around the building and hit one of the other side’s players with the ball. Half of the catching team would run around the school building one way and the other half of the catching team would run around the school building the other way. No one on the throwing team knew who had the ball, so trickery and deception and an accurate throw served well. As a player on the throwing team was hit by the ball, he became a member of the catching team. This game was good for both recesses, the lunch hour, and before classes started in the morning.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Don't You Tell Me We Can't Have Fun!

Lessons Learned


It was June and the first full, exciting, wonderful, glorious month of summer vacation. June was, unequivocally, one of the grandest most longingly anticipated months of the year, at least for the elementary school-aged boys in my home.  The June first morning weather report stopped us in our tracks, however. The meteorologist predicted significant rain in both the short-term and in the long-term of days ahead, and we were hoping beyond all hope that the foreboding forecast of supreme sogginess was a silly mistake. No way.  Can’t happen.  But the gray sky and air heavy with humidity did nothing to redeem our hope, until at last, the clouds cracked open thus beginning the unending deluge. It rained and rained and rained and rained. The unrelenting downpour saturated the ground carving muddy trenches through the newly seeded, newly washed away lawn.  With noses pressed to the windows, we watched and waited. To be sure, there were moments when the rain slowed and then stopped, but those moments didn’t last long, and although we did go outside when we could, we invariably came back in soaked and mud-covered. Now, soaked and mud-covered are not distasteful costumes to wear, at least among the members of our family, but the Great Lake sized puddles all around definitely curtailed the biking and boarding trail-riding adventures synonymous with summer fun.   Rain, rain, and more rain day after drippy day the same. Grrrrrr.  That’s it. No more waiting. Time for action. You simply cannot wait for the conditions to be right to have fun, you must make the fun. So, in that spirit, we pitched a tent on our screen porch and it became our vacation cabin. Each day, we carried different toys, activities, and projects into our vacation cabin, brought the dog, too, and for hours on end we played, built, listened to stories, nibbled on camping snacks, and enjoyed our vacation from, and in spite of, the rain. We vacationed the entire month of June in our cabin on the porch and honestly it was one of our most delightful vacations ever. With July came the sunshine and the heat and a new attempt at the lawn. Out came the bikes, scooters, and skate boards as the ground firmed up and beckoned the summerly  frequent neighborhood kick-the-can extravaganzas. Some complained that we lost June that year because of the rain, but I think we took the rain and made of those lemons a sweet and delicious creative lemonade known as camping on the porch. It was the longest, most fabulous vacation cabin adventure we had ever enjoyed before or since. It was a treasured, excellent time, that year it rained the entire month of June.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Are You Brave Enough To Say Who Cares About Being Popular?

Lessons Learned

Pursuing Popular? What Exactly Is It?

Popular. Popularity. Some people long for this with a raging passion that is fierce and all-consuming. It’s a must-have. It’s a must-be. And to not have is pretty much to not be, at least in the rules of popular. But what is “popular?” Is it a status? Is it an aspiration or an achievement or a goal or a scheme? Is it even real? I believe it is illusive and fleeting regardless of whatever else it is. I believe it is synonymous with power, that is, until it suddenly dissolves. Anything wrapped in power such as “popular” has high bully potential, and this certainly is the case. Popular is most often maintained through fear; fear of being in, fear of being out, fear of being nothing but invisible as deemed by the “populars.” I have even observed teachers who have so feared the wrath of the populars, that they allowed accountability inconsistencies to exist in their classrooms; accountability inconsistencies clear to all but addressed by none. The power of popular is very tricky to handle and almost always causes some degree of pain to someone.  I believe it has some very treacherous and destructive propensities, as well. I believe popular emotionally resembles a house of cards, which, upon its collapse, leaves a horrific wake of devastated, shattered self-esteems and desperately exposed and tramped upon feelings, which in some instances never in a lifetime recover. Why? For what purpose?  To be the king or the queen of the pile of what? And yet dreams of “popular” dominate an adolescent mentality until alas this hope of all hopes is ruthlessly dashed by another heartless aspirer, whereby one is overtly and publically deemed uncool and thereby thrown out of the running for popular. Who picks and chooses? Who sits in this omnipotent judgment seat of exalting one aspirer and crushing another with frivolous flippancy?  Is popular a supreme to the absolute extreme rendition of the classic tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” where everyone but the emperor sees the lunacy and the tragic hilarity of the situation?  To pour one’s heart and energies into the pursuit of this particular illusion of popular, which seems to be very real and important when caught in the swirling sea of it, with thrashing and drowning part of its diabolical protocol, is to leave little heart and energy available for the pursuit of more meaningful, more lasting, more healthy, and more honest aspirations. How does one determine one’s gifts or strengths or aspire to reach one’s best if one is caught in the mire of clawing toward popular?  Fear and creativity cannot coexist well. Creativity’s very nature denotes uniqueness, originality, imaginative freedom, and wonder-filled curiosity, none of which bend to the conformity expectation of aligning with popular. Popular remains the best possible copy of what the world tells it to be, and creativity simply will not be contained as such. To not align is to be discarded. To be discarded is to be relegated to nothing status, to invisible, and if a heart is strong enough to bear this, it will emerge liberated and peaceful and on track to identify gifts, develop them and use them to chase dreams and bless the world; a wonderful place for creativity to dwell and flourish. Can we help our children with this, or are we just as tangled up in it as they?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The International Day Of Peace: September 21, 2014

With the International Day Of Peace fast approaching, September 21, 2014, we, as teachers and parents, neighbors and workers, are challenged to assess our own personal efforts on behalf of peace. Peace in so very many ways is a deliberate choice to be others-centered, patient, gentle, thoughtful, compassionate, tender-hearted, and kind. Peace cannot live well in a place where the air is thick and angry with loud polarizing dogmatic opinions which seem to so quickly become fiercely held narrowly scoped self-serving demands. Louder and louder we get in our attempt to make our point over the ever growing cacophony of everyone else attempting to do the same. Louder and louder the opinionated roar deafens and frustrates and alienates and infuriates, until the pitchforks appear and threaten, and then the strongest arm becomes the voice that silences the rest. Pointless. Fruitless. Hate-evoking. No. This cannot be the way we live or teach our children to live. To come together under a peaceful umbrella and then play nicely together in the sandbox of life, we need to reach and see beyond ourselves and listen to our neighbors. We can disagree and still be loving and respectful. Despite your politics, your sports teams, your perspective on issues and headlines, at the heart of you is your heart; precious, unique, valued, priceless. You are uniquely gifted and critically important. So too is your neighbor. Peace begins by turning the volume down, laying the opinions aside, turning the selfishness off,  and loving your neighbor. It's time.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

How Do You Raise Creative Kids?

Lessons Learned

Creative Kids

How do you raise creative kids? In our highly structured, overly scheduled, and incessantly measured world, the answer to the creative kids question is one that most would rather not hear for it requires a brave leap off the lock-step treadmill upon which we and all of the Joneses ceaselessly, exhaustedly, and occasionally resentfully race each day. The dial of popular thought and status quo sets our pace, and we run and our children run because everyone runs.  We do because they do. We run because they run. We sign up because they all sign up.  Don’t  misunderstand here, though, activity is important, involvement is good, and engagement is meaningful, but we all know if we look honestly at ourselves, that we completely tend toward extremes and a distinct compulsion in the direction of obsession. Too much. Too, too, too much.  Too fast. Too much, too fast to have time to breathe, to enjoy, to think, to savor, to relax, to imagine, to play, to create is unequivocally our collective MO.  To raise creative kids, you need to give them time, margin in their schedules, to creatively play. Just as calisthenics are exercises for the body, so is play the exercise for creativity.  And play that nurtures creativity does not mean TV and movies, hand-held devices and all other screens; play that nurtures creativity means paper plates, sticks, blocks, paper, crayons, brown paper bags, wood, paint, duct tape, sugar cubes, glue, recycled materials, and an endless stream of ordinary items that undoubtedly lead to extraordinary ideas and creations with the added and very illusive ingredient of time.  The sandbox and a hose are brilliant for imaginative adventures. Blankets over chairs and end tables are brilliant for imaginative adventures. Brown paper bags for wreaths, cowboy vests, pirate hats, stuffed with newspaper for large bricks, woven for placemats, and on and on as far as an imagination can travel, these are the quintessential imagination enhancers and play exercisers. How do you raise creative, imaginative, innovative-thinking kids? Let them play. Put away the schedule for a while, and let them play.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

That Day, September 11, 2001.

Lessons Learned


It was a Tuesday morning and, at our Lutheran Elementary School, we were in chapel preparing our hearts for a precious time of worship. I was at the piano filling the sanctuary with familiar music, drawing us together. There was a calmness. A stillness. A blessed peace. The moment was unexpectedly punctuated by a teacher hurriedly striding up the center aisle toward the piano. His face reflected grave concern and his words to me just then scalded my heart and evoked deep, incredulous, and pained shock. The Twin Towers had been attacked. Attacked! His announcement at chapel was a call to prayer for our country, for families and children, and all involved and affected by this horrific tragedy.  We prayed and prayed and prayed and wept together and alone. The air in chapel was thick with fear, anxiety, disbelief, uncertainty, anger, sadness, and questions.  It was a very vulnerable and raw time with emotions fully exposed. Pilot parents. Flight attendant parents. NY family members. Traveling family members. Friends. Neighbors…. No one was untouched. No one was unscathed by the fires of this senseless, merciless, cowardly act of terrorism. We prayed some more, much more. Together we sought refuge and comfort and peace and hope under the mighty wings of the Almighty. Our Rock. Our Redeemer.  Our shelter in the storm. When life doesn’t make sense, He makes sense. When life’s promises are broken, His promises remain.  He is faithful. Our chapel that day was unlike any other chapel, for we truly, honestly needed to lay our very real, very gripping fears at the foot of the cross of the One who understands pain and will walk with us, carry us through life’s deepest darkest valleys. The chapel became even more that ever a haven of peace and comfort during the next several weeks as whole classes and individuals would come to be still and pray. 911 changed us all.  The why’s of it we will never understand. The heroism demonstrated we will never ever forget. The images of the moment will be indelibly etched into our hearts and souls. It was the day our nation wept as one.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How Do You Learn To Be A Teacher? By Witnessing Excellence.

Lessons Learned

Maybeth: A Life of Serving Others

In retirement, one is compelled to reflect on a career, on life, and on moments that shaped, defined, and solidified the commitment to and affirmation of a particular path or life trajectory. One is compelled to consider opportunities, open doors, and answered prayers that brought great confidence and great hope to each faith-filled step forward through the years. One is compelled to recall with excellent fondness the beautiful individuals whose gifted, gracious lives indelibly touched and deeply inspired one’s own  dreams and subsequently one’s own work. One such individual for me was Maybeth.  Maybeth was a member of the church I grew up in. She was a teacher whose amazing life tremendously influenced and inspired my teaching.  Maybeth was born in the late 1800’s. Her sharp, inquisitive mind and fierce commitment to learning propelled her to the top of her class each year in school. She went off to college where she studied to be a teacher. In college she met the love of her life and they were married soon after graduating. With great hopes and dreams and nothing but brilliant promise before them, they set out to share their gifts and touch the world. Within a year or two, however, her sweetheart and soul mate unexpectedly passed away. Devastation seared her heart ,and her shattered dreams lay shrouded in the black agony of deep excruciating loss.  How do you forge ahead, so young, alone? Maybeth chose to pour herself completely into her teaching, her students, and service to others around her.  She became the life-changing teacher that students never forgot. During the summers, Maybeth would travel to Taiwan and teach English to children in an orphanage. Every summer throughout her teaching career and then beyond. The children loved her and she loved them. When ultimately the day came that she could no longer make the trip to Taiwan, she chose to use her sewing machine to make clothes for the children at the orphanage. Every summer, she sent many large boxes of beautiful home-made clothing  stitched and packed with the greatest of love to the precious children who held her heart. She gave all she had to do all that she could and in so doing she brought infinite blessing to countless others, which in turn filled her heart with wonderful and immeasurable joy.  The inspiration of her passion has rippled for generations. Her life lived for others taught me.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Guest Blogger- Grandpa A: Life In The Wisconsin Northwoods Beginning 1927

Lessons Learned: Guest Blogger- Grandpa A.

The One Room Schoolhouse

A journal is a daily record of events and observations that occur. My journal should have begun sometime around September 1, 1932 when I started first grade and I learned how to write or print.  My first grade teacher, Miss Carlson, at the Carl Von Linnea School, would not be pleased with the progress I made in writing if she were to read my writing today. That first year was a learning experience for me and my other 13 classmates. Most of the country school teachers had two years of college education, and in many cases, the teachers were not much older than some of the eighth grade students. I recall there were five in my first grade class. Four of the five graduated from college and one became an MD. The teacher taught all grades and all classes, taught music, drama, phy ed, supervised the cleaning, the heating, and was in charge of discipline. I don’t recall my problem, but I remember spending a good deal of time standing in the corner in the front of the classroom. We lived over three miles from school. One of the parents, Enoch Johnson, converted his car to a bus and transported those of us from the Minnesuing area to school.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

An Excruciating Recess

Lessons Learned

The Broken Arm

It was broken, of that there was no doubt. The bones in the lower arm were out of place and the pain of that must have been beyond excruciating.  Five minutes earlier, the first graders were all joyously and energetically swinging across the monkey-bars, laughing and cheering one another on. It was really a happy, sunny, very typical noon recess. Until the fall. Just a simple slip of the hand caused the fall onto a grassy spot, and it wasn’t even particularly high, but the landing was just right, or perhaps just wrong, to create the break. An audible collective gasp by the bystanding students, pierced by a heart-wrenching scream, followed by a low steady moan which was shrouded by an eerie playground silence, all occurred within seconds of time and perpetrated the evacuation of the playground, the call to 911, and a small circle of very focused and very concerned staff caregivers  positioned around the very brave first grader. “My brother,” the first grader whispered.  Within moments his big brother was delivered to the child’s side. Smiles, through the pain, were exchanged, and then began a faithful brotherly vigil that brought peace, comfort, security, and strength. A remarkable, beautiful demonstration of the power of family love.  Their eyes remained locked, the moaning ceased, and together they would fight through this. Very few, if any, words were shared. The peace was in the presence; the very familiar presence. Right there, right then, in the noontime breeze, on the playground grass, through intense and agonizing pain, a little but very brave first grader drew great, almost unimaginable strength and courage from the presence of his big brother, as together quite lost to the rest of us they awaited the sound of the siren and the arrival of the paramedics. The healing had begun.