I don't know what to do about it. We're about a month away from returning to the schoolhouse for another year. We're starting to miss our friends and teachers, but we're not quite ready to give up our break time.
In fact, this summer has been busy! I have been trucking my own two children between grandparents and home, summer school for one, volunteer work for the other, and Bible camp for both. That's not to mention a couple of short vacation stints, camping, swimming, and hiking, as well as keeping up with yard work, organizing the garage, and meeting with roofers and insurance adjusters.
Mostly, I have spent my summer preparing and preaching sermons for congregations in Nevada, Missouri, Columbus, Kansas, and Grove, Oklahoma. On any given Sunday, I'm driving to one of these locations to deliver a Bible class lesson and a sermon.
I have also put together my newest book - the first non-fiction volume I've attempted. Titled There's No Busyness Like School Busyness, this one is for teachers - hopefully enlightening, and empowering, hopefully helping them think beyond what is expected and getting the creative juices flowing, hopefully motivating them to do things differently and play to their individual strengths.
And now comes the time for getting the room put back together. After summer school and carpet cleaning, I went to the building, a few days ago and put most of the furniture back in its place. I've moved a couple of things around since last year, but just about every table has boxes on it that need to be put away.
I'll be back in there soon enough, selflessly sacrificing muscle and sweat for the sake of my students, spending my imagination and time to make 2017/8 the best year possible for them.
I look forward to the school year beginning. Perhaps then I can relax.
Ron Clark never seems to mince his words when he passionately writes about education, parenting, and working hard. In Move Your Bus, he continues to speak to the needs of workers (in our case, educators). Mr. Clark recognizes that there is a group of people in the organization who run. That is, they go beyond the finish line. They reach beyond the expectations of their positions.
At the same time, there are others in the group who also want to do well. They aren't running, but they are doing what is expected of them. They still want to move forward, they may not have the energy and drive to do so. Says Mr. Clark, these are the Joggers.
Still others are only walking. The walkers are doing little to get the bus to its destination.
Let's consider what Mr. Clark has to say about validating Joggers and Motivating Walkers in this section of the book:
The title appealed to me, but as a person who has read hundreds of middle-grade fiction offerings, I knew what this book was going to be about - another book that portrays a person with disabilities as the victim of bullying. That's a saturated topic these days - almost trendy even - so I'm not always excited to read more of the same.
I get it. People who are different get picked on for their differences.
But I also understand that we are each different, and that means we all get bullied.
We deal with problems of this type in education every year, so anytime I can find good literature to help, I am eager to use it.
At the same time, I am always skeptical. It seems that for every 20 books with this theme, 19 of them are preachy.
Thankfully, author Lynda Mullaly Hunt does not preach to us and make us feel guilty for not having dyslexia as her main character does. In fact, I had a pretty good picture of a student that fit the mold of this main character. I was also looking carefully at the example being set by her new teacher Mr. Daniels. I liked the way he calmly handled situations and quietly made Ally feel like a champion.
I did feel like Ally and her friends had some pretty mature conversation styles, though - uncharacteristic vocabulary phrasing, and style for children their age. Because of this, I was constantly reminded that they were being manipulated by an adult author.
Surprisingly, I got into this story, and I was able to find reality inside of their dialogue.
There were some loose ends that I was longing to get tied up. For example, I wonder what happens to the bully at the end. Even if I don't like sequels and book series, I could easily see her becoming an interesting main character in another Lynda Mullaly Hunt novel. I wish Mr. Daniels had dealt with the bully in Fish in a Tree with the same compassion he used with Ally. Instead, he seems to blow her to the side as he dangerously leans toward showing favoritism to Ally.
I recommend this book for students in my class to read, and I'd be interested in hearing their opinions.
Still, the beauty that is right here "in our own backyard" is astounding. George grew up under the supervision of the Carver family. After a difficult infancy, in which he lost his mother, Carver explored the Carver farm, and the foundation for his legacy was established here, in southwest Missouri.
I did not focus on taking pictures during our visit, though I could have spent hours getting just the right angles and focus. The visitor's center has been significantly upgraded in recent years, and it's truly a jewel of our area. On display are some of the items with which George and the Carver family actually interacted. There are several hands-on nature items in there, as well, but I was especially drawn to Carver's Eight Cardinal Virtues. Things like this let me know that our emphasis on good citizenry is something that has been around since the beginning of humanity. For years, people have striven to teach children the ins and outs of having proper relationships with other people.
Outside, however is the place where visitors really get to interact with George. Imagine what it must have been like for his mother to give birth to George in the small cabin that was here. Imagine exploring the forest and creek with the young boy as he "put down his roots" in learning about plants. Imagine meditating as you walked the banks of the old pond.
The Carver house is here, as well, but not in its original location on the property. On my walk to the house, while traipsing around the pond, I like to find these markers with quotes from George Washington Carver. Most people probably walk right by, not "wasting their time" reading things like this, but I love the tranquility the area lends to the pondering of such thoughts.
Move Your Bus may take some time to work through reflectively. Author Ron Clark divides the members of an organization (in our case, a school) into different categories, based on their attitudes and their abilities to contribute to their jobs. In the coming weeks, I'll work through some of these, starting today with a note about the Runners. We'll revisit the Runners in later reflections, as well.
In these first few pages, Mr. Clark describes the Runners and their sacrifices before talking about how a leader (in our case, the principal or superintendent) should support and encourage them.
Within every type of organization, it is the Runners...who provide the locomotion.
I wouldn't claim to always being a Runner by a long shot, but I try. I try by being an innovator and a creator. I try to run by dreaming of better ways to do things. I certainly have been a Runner from time to time, but there have been moments when I have slowed to a jog or even a walk. There have been times when I've felt like picking up my feet and riding along while other people push the bus.
...I have often heard Runners say they feel guilty about spending less time with their own kids in order to contribute to the organization; yet they continue to make the same choice to put their job first. I have also seen Runners neglect their health in their zeal to put the organization first...
One of the things I stress in my new book, There's No Busyness Like School Busyness, is the need for teachers to take care of themselves. I the teacher is unhealthy, you can figure the students aren't getting the most out of her class. In my own book, I equate this with the mask that drops in an airplane. The flight attendants always deliver that spiel about securing your own mask before helping children with theirs.
Runners are not without their faults. They still make mistakes. They still get themselves into precarious situations. I like that Mr. Clark says to let things slide. That project or that class is the Runner's "baby". To criticize it is to criticize something very special, and the Runner can be discouraged quite quickly.
As a leader, when you are dealing with these high-achieving Runners, you have to keep in mind the sacrifices they are making. You also have to treat them with some amount of reverence - and by this I mean tempering your criticism and allowing some things to slide, because you don't want to break the spirit of a Runner...
Still, Runners are prone to spend lots of time thinking about their craft, so Mr. Clark recognizes that he has to take care of them. If one does not take care of the engine, the car becomes pretty useless over time.
A few years ago, that happened to me. As I mentioned earlier, I felt like pulling up my feet and riding for a while. In fact, I might have even been dragging behind the bus. That's how a Runner feels when things overwhelm him. I describe it a little better in my book, There's No Busyness Like School Busyness, which will be available before the end of this month. In the meantime, get your principal to read Move Your Bus by Ron Clark. If you're a Runner, you can appreciate the care that Mr. Clark puts into his Runners. We would all appreciate that kind of support from our leaders, wouldn't we?
And while Runners are indeed the backbone of an organization, they still need support and direction in order to keep up their hectic pace. They may also need some guidance in terms of how to work with others, particularly their slower colleagues, who may feel some resentment toward them...
I struggled with the text for the back cover of my new book, but I think it turned out OK. This is the design of both covers and the spine. Editing is complete, so hopefully, I'll have these ready soon for the most nerve-wracking part of the process - publishing.
Time to get out of town
Out of the city
Out of the neighborhood
Away from the concerts, the theme parks, and the sports arenas
Away from the job, the school, and the people we know
Away from the politics, the neighbors, and the traffic
Away from social media, cable news, and gossip
Out - into nature
Out into the world
Out into our beautiful state
One of the most descriptive children's authors of all time lived in Mansfield, Missouri. Laura Ingalls Wilder was a traveller, living all over the United States during her lifetime and enduring some of the hardest physical challenges of her day. In the last years of her life, Laura and her husband Almanzo settled outside of Mansfield.
At first, the couple built a small cabin, adding a room to it shortly after their move. The add-on was moved to become the first room of the current white house that sits on the farm. It's hard to believe that this house was expanded one room at a time.
Almanzo's and Laura's daughter, Rose, was a highly successful author before Laura entered the field. Returning from Europe, Rose had a house built nearby for her parents. The Rock House is where Laura wrote her endearing and descriptive Little House books. Of course, the Wilders preferred the old homestead, and it didn't take very long for them to move back.
Opened just a year ago, the new museum - just a hop, skip, and jump from Rocky Ridge - houses an extensive collection of artifacts from the Ingalls and Wilder families and their associates. Pa's fiddle is there, of course; it is removed from display and played every year at a special festival on the grounds.
We were amazed by the number of items on display in the new facility - much improved and expanded since our last visit. I was struck with how average this family was. This couple lived and worked, struggling to make a living. It's hard to imagine them driving into Springfield to shop, but they did. Visiting this museum and home place is not like visiting Abraham Lincoln's house or Elvis Presley's house; there's a different feeling here, one where the subjects are regular folks. You can almost relate to them, and looking at the artifacts they left in their wake is like a trip through grandma's attic
The most important part? The artifacts here are real. Very seldom will you find a card that says something is a reproduction of or similar to something that the Wilders owned. The papers are real, their handwriting is real. I always appreciate interacting with items that were actually used by historical figures.
From our area, it's only about a one-hour car trip to Rocky Ridge. It's a cool little treasure practically in our own back yard.
Realizing there is no way out, I pull myself up and head to the shower. I rub Zest soap under my nose and let it sit there. Now, I am not sure if that is healthy or not, but it sure wakes me up. I drive to work and walk into the school building, willing myself to make each step. And as I walk into the building, something always hits me. It's the feeling that keeps me going and that pushes me daily, and I think I want to be part of something special!
It is refreshing to hear that model teacher Ron Clark, Oprah Winfrey's first Phenomenal Man, has trouble waking up and getting himself in gear for teaching. It helps the rest of us to realize that teaching is not easy.
Still, Mr. Clark's energy is high and infectious when students are in the room. He encourages the teachers at his school to dream and to run. In Move Your Bus, Clark describes a little bit of the devotion that his teachers have to their students. I have used the term, Get serious about having fun, with my classes in the past, and I don't think it's a stretch to say that's exactly what they do at the Ron Clark Academy.
So Andy stepped up his game. He had many wild ideas about how to better engage his customers and improve the product they received, and he experimented with implementing even the most farfetched of them. Although his methods were unorthodox, he started to see results. Andy didn't know it at the time, but he was dabbling with a process that the business world today calls disruptive innovation.
In this book, Ron Clark applies his educational motivation and philosophy to the corporate world, as well. I thought the book was going to be watered down from his previous volumes, but Mr. Clark was able to pull out new stories, and it was still very much about school.
I really like the term disruptive innovation. We really get a good picture of the type of thinking Mr. Clark encourages among his staff. I buy into this, too. I enjoy innovating lessons, manipulating the pieces, and going at things from a different direction. At the same time, the challenge is to do things right, with the right focus and motives in mind. I must strive to maintain a purpose for my class.
It's interesting that Clark addresses his infectious spirit, later in the introduction to the text, though that may not be his exact intention with these words:
My key message is to have high expectations of people - because when you do, the people around you will meet those expectations...I believe that all truly inspiring leaders...know that, in addition to having high expectations of others, they must hold themselves accountable for equipping people to meet those expectations...
When I visited the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia, one of the things I heard loud and clear was, "Teach to the top." At the time, I was flailing with all of the talk of differentiation in education. It wasn't working for me to try to fit in with the trendy expert-of-the-week teaching styles, and teaching to the top gave me permission to run my classroom in a different way. The experience of my visit helped bring some light to a very dark tunnel. I remembered, then, that I could do more and go farther if only I could figure things out.
I needed to return to expecting success from all students. I needed to understand that I could lead like a shepherd. I needed to know that I didn't have to sacrifice some students for the sake of others, but that I could help them all. I also needed to understand this:
I've always tended to see the big picture - the forest - while ignoring the details - the trees. When that happens I find a lot of blank faces staring back at me from the peanut gallery. Kids who have listened with the intention of learning, but who couldn't learn, because I wasn't really teaching. I could show them a masterpiece, but unless I taught them the art of painting, they would never produce a masterpiece of their own.
Those details are constantly on display now. I, too, will explicitly teach skills that I never thought needed to be taught. How hard is a handshake after all? It turns out to be much more involved than we thought.
Right now, I'm loving the writing process. As I edit and revise, I am always surprised at some of the weird mistakes I've made along the way. Truth be told, I've read some sentences that...well...let's say they just didn't make sense. I have no idea what I was trying to say. Editing saves the public from reading the nonsense I've written, in spite of what you've heard, revising is fun. I love moving paragraphs around and figuring out how to make sentences richer. My goal is to put something out there that readers will understand.
Please look for School Busyness to be available before the fall semester begins. It's everything I've learned about teaching, along with some of my experiences from the past three decades.
Below is the Table of Contents for my new book.
The newest book in the D. Ed. Hoggatt catalog focuses on teaching. I've collected my thoughts and reflections into one volume for educators - There's NO Busyness Like School Busyness. A majority of the text has been completed and is currently being proofread and edited. I hope to offer this book online before school begins.
In this volume, I go all the way back to the beginning, when I had to interview for my first teaching job in Oklahoma. I talk about the journey from that first class in the inner city, through my experience with the terrorist bombing four and a half miles from our class, and the 2011 EF5 tornado that cut our school year short in Joplin.
While short accounts of those events are part of School Busyness, they are not the focus of the book. Instead, I wanted to share some of the lessons I've learned in the last 27 years - the ups and the downs. In fact, the book begins with this:
After nearly 30 years as an educator, after experiencing many ups and downs, I set fingers on the keyboard and intentionally pattered out some wisdom that I hope makes sense. Whether you’ve been in the classroom for a quarter century or you’re just starting out, you should find something here that will help you along the journey.
This book is intended to make teachers think and give them some practical tips and ideas to help them develop their teaching muscles. Hopefully many will find it useful and maybe even motivating.
School Busyness will join my middle grade fiction offerings,
all of which are available on my author site and from Amazon.
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