Communication

As someone who studied in the college of communication, I have heard many definitions of the word communication. In school I took six general communication courses as part of my degree requirements. Each of these classes started with a definition of communication, and not one professor used the same one. This scenario speaks to the difficulty of defining and understanding communication.

One of the most common textbook definitions of communication describes it as the process of generating meaning by sending and receiving verbal and nonverbal signals. This is a very basic definition, but it really captures communication as a process of interaction between two beings. Models of communication are based off of the process of a sender and receiver transmitting information.

This is the most basic description of communication, but it leaves a lot to be desired. It mentions the process without mentioning the complications. The problem with communication is not the process, but the mishaps that can occur when the process is disrupted by a distraction, a language barrier, a failure to understand tone/insinuation, etc.

When we think of everything that can go wrong when exchanging information between a sender and a receiver, the concept of communication becomes a lot more messy.

It's important to acknowledge how people like to be communicated with. Affective communication occurs when you understand how different people take in and perceive information. Throughout their lives, people will perceive information different ways. The way a child understands information is vastly different from how an adult would understand the same information. Other things that affect communication are a person's background, upbringing, status and culture. Remember to be mindful of these factors because this is the only way to effectively communicate with others.

-          Bria

     One always hears Communication is a two-way street, yet increasingly nowadays it is not. I’ve been teaching a business communications class to my high school students, and I note the consternation on their faces as I help them understand that the burden of communication falls on them as future employers. I understand that burden all too well. At our school, I am in charge of the announcement sheet, the calendar, follow-up phone calls and updated emails. There are just as many people for whom communication can’t come fast enough as there are those who have no idea there are announcement sheets and a calendar. It’s a tough gig!  I feel like I am communicating constantly, but I really have no idea how many actually read my messages.

  Another reason communication is one-way nowadays is because so many choose to use what I would call back door communication. Forms include texting, memes and tweets, and selfie photos labeled with location. It seems people would rather talk at people than to people. Hi.  I’m alive and I am here (location noted) today.  This meme sums me up today.  Word doesn’t have emojis, so putting a string of them to illustrate my point is out of the question, but you get my drift.

     Ironically, I have more students who talk incessantly than ever before.  I wonder if there isn’t a correlation between lack of communication and never really listening.  When a child repeats his story until he gets a reaction from me, I postulate that he is used to not being listened to, and he has learned to continue till someone listens. 

     With so many things competing for our attention today, I urge you to make the “live” communication a priority.

-          Michelle

Communication, in its truest sense, is a two-way street.  If it is not two-way, it is hardly communication at all.  The field of education has studied this topic again and again, and offers some of its findings.  Student learning seems to increase when communication between student and instructor is two-way, rather than “I lecture and you listen” communication.  Communication can be accomplished, good or bad, through body language only.  Specific outcomes must be kept in mind to facilitate good communication.

            If a school wants to have a good support group, it is necessary for the school personnel to communicate with parents often.  When educational staff and parents work side by side, a wonderful spirit of “ownership” in the school is developed, and pride is manifested.

            I have found through the years that first-hand communication is far more reliable than second-hand information.  One of the lessons I learned in my graduate courses was how to deal with a “Boss Cow” syndrome.  There is always someone wanting to fill any vacuum that may appear in an organization.  This move for power is usually accomplished by leaking important information which no one else knows about.  To counter such moves for power, an administrator needs only to feed that person the wrong insider information.  When it is leaked, the “boss cow” loses face and credibility.  Such are the games of administration!

            This blog site has taught me a lot about communication as I have seen the wide variety of opinions expressed by my daughter and grand-daughter.  Because we were each born in a different decade, word choices, idiomatic expressions, and emotionally charged words we use are as varied as the wild flowers blooming here in spring.  It has made me more aware of the need for me to check for my students’ understanding of the illustrations and examples I use when teaching them a concept.

            The process undertaken for the AdvancEd North Central team visit to our school was excellent in promoting communication among students, faculty and staff, parents and patrons.  The result of all that communication was positive support and a spirit of brotherhood in our school.  We’ve always had an open-door policy which welcomes parents into the school; however, good on-going communication has made the experiences even more enjoyable and fruitful.  

-Kay

Perceptions

         Perception determines the actions people take in life.  If the perception is correct, success usually follows action.  However, often times, the perceptions people have are tainted with biases and misinformation.  Thus, the results may be less than satisfactory.

            I am a realist, and as such, I try to paint an accurate picture of life’s situations.  I do not seek to hide my head in the sand such as the proverbial ostrich.  I try to choose my words and actions wisely so as not to offend the listeners.  However, I consider it wrong to paint a rosy picture for children when the surrounding situation is anything but rosy!  Gifted children especially have the ability to understand the vulnerabilities of life. 

            As we faced another week of a horrifying gunman’s attack upon innocent people in Las Vegas, I found myself having to discuss the event in my classes as students found a way to approach the subject.  These children are not deaf…they hear their parents talking…the TV and radio news blaring… and people on the streets discussing events uneasily.  My job becomes one of helping them to decipher and discern.

            Throughout my career, I have met parents who have sought ultimate protection of their children by expelling the TVs from their homes, stopping newspaper subscriptions, and allowing the children no interaction with technology which might bring them face to face with the reality of the world in which they live.  As time has passed, I have seen some of those same children emotionally drained as they tried to cope with some of the realities of life.  They just weren’t prepared to face such events.

            I believe in being proactive.  There is a wonderful web site that teaches children about 50 ways to escape from an abductor…some ways are absolutely brilliant.  How many people have taken the time to share such information with their children?  It is very useful information to have.  Most of my students have never sat with a parent and discussed a family plan for escaping a fire in the home, or how to find a family member should they become lost or separated from the family. 

            What I find really frightening is that most children only know a key to punch on their phone for an emergency.  They do NOT know their own home address, phone number, or numbers of other family members.  Their pact answer is, “My phone has the number for me.”  It has never dawned upon them that phones can be lost or broken…or even out of battery power. 

            I grew up right after World War II, so I was made to participate in the required bomb drills held in our schools.  I grew up studying the escape routes to exit St. Louis, Missouri, in case of a nuclear attack.  Even as a child, I remember questioning the possibility of escaping the city by way of one-way traffic routes.  If people were not polite and not used to taking turns in daily life, how would they be expected to do so in such an emergency?

            I try to give my students assurances that God loves and cares for us.  I tell them that we have been given a magnificent brain with which to think and reason.  Therefore, let’s learn common sense ways of dealing with the possibilities that unfortunate events might bring into our lives.  My strength in God and my prayer life have served to guide me through some pretty awful circumstances.  I seek to help these children find the same strength.   

-          Kay

There’s a new buzzword in professional development clinics:  generational fluency.  Generational fluency addresses the need for companies and businesses to recognize that they very likely have four generations of workers within their workforce, each with their own perceptions.  The four generations are the Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and the iGen, in order from oldest to youngest.  

     One can see differences in communication (face-to-face vs. text or picture), in the “work week” (traditional 40-hour work week vs. flex-schedule), and in the way workers get their information (supervisor vs. the Internet).  A lack of awareness of these differences can cause misperceptions about those in differing generational groups. 

     That last statement seems pretty obvious, huh?  My students and my own children, however, teach me every day that we do not think alike.  If I don’t take the time to understand what they are doing, I sometimes perceive that they don’t care.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, I find that my children and my students care a lot.  A whole lot.  More than I ever remember caring at their age.  Goodness, at my daughter’s age, I had been married for a year, moving straight from my father’s house to my husband’s house, and I was actually guilty of believing what everyone used to joke about:  “Of course, I still have money.  I still have checks!”

    I have encouraged my students to think of school as their job.  In fact, they do have “jobs” within the school day, and they get “paid” credit score points for the work.  Those points open up privileges.  I don’t think it’s the credit score points that motivate my students to take their jobs so seriously, though.  I think my students are more aware than any previous generation that jobs will be hard to come by as more and more employment is automated.  In an effort to distinguish themselves, they perform their duties with a maturity that is admirable.  Because of that, I take my responsibility to perceive their intentions correctly very seriously. 

    I’d like to challenge you today not to just assume that everyone thinks and acts as you do, and that those who do not are somehow subordinate to you.  With just a little bit of inquiry, you might find that what you perceived to be thoughtless actually might be very carefully thought-out.

-          Michelle

Nowadays we live in a society of perception versus reality. We are constantly seeing our lives through the biases of our own perceptions. The way I see something is not the way you see it and vice versa. The problem is that sometimes the way we perceive a situation is not based on reality.

As humans it is innate that we often react based on emotion. We perceive a comment as offensive when there were no harmful intentions from the speaker, or we assume a certain look from another person is more than just a look. This causes us to internalize emotions that should never have to exist in the first place.

I am definitely an offender of this issue. I wear my heart on my sleeve and take things more seriously than I should sometimes. This causes nothing but heartache and sleepless nights for me. A lot of people have this issue, and it is one that is hard to overcome. It’s so easy to read into a situation and let our own perceptions overtake the reality. This can be harmful because it causes us to make up stories in our mind that don’t exist. We replay and replay situations in our head, creating stories about what the other person was thinking, or his motivation behind using the words he did. This pattern is so easy to fall into, and it is incredibly harmful because it allows us to spiral into emotions and stories that don’t exist.

So how do we break the cycle? It’s not easy. You have to make a choice to give people the benefit of the doubt rather than assume the worst of people. You have to stop replaying situations in your head and take them at face value. You have to make an effort to stop assuming the meaning behind a look or something someone says to you. This is way easier said than done, but if you can start to accomplish this in some capacity, you will save yourself a lot of grief. Don’t base your feelings on your perceptions; live and work in reality to maintain your sanity.

-          Bria

Scheduling

Scheduling is easier to do than it is to actually carry it out.  Most people fall victim to over-scheduling themselves.  I am no exception!  My problem is that I am a person of my word.  That means if I say I will do something, I WILL do it!  As I explained in a previous blog about commitment, I may kill myself trying to fulfill a promise, but I committed to it, and I will DO it!

            I am trying to juggle classes at school this year.  We have gone to departmentalization in grades one through five.  That may seem easy; however, try to visualize moving five grades of students in the hall at the same time, from classroom to classroom on a weekly schedule where each day is a rotation of classes with a different teacher.  Needless to say, it requires our undivided attention…much like herding cattle!  We’re in the ninth week of this rotating ritual, and I do see some light at the end of the tunnel.  It does require consistency!

            Our biggest hurdle is to overcome the students’ habit of tuning adults out.  When told to move or do something, children usually say, “Okay…in a minute…”  When parents get busy or forget to check on the progress since the request was made, the children continue with their chosen activities and no action is taken.  Thus, we must change that usual reaction of children to one of prompt attention.  If we fail to be consistent, we will be in the same situation as parents often find themselves.

            I must admit that it would be easier to forget trying to schedule classes or activities, but I feel the children will suffer in the long run.  Learning to be on time and in the right place are skills that will make these students of today better citizens of tomorrow.           

-           Kay

Scheduling is one of the biggest pain points in my life right now. I have known about the deadline for this blog post since Saturday, and here I am again doing it at the last minute. I always tell myself that I am going to get ahead and give myself some breathing room, but I get overwhelmed in my own schedule and end up doing most things on the day of the deadline.

Working with events, I spend a good portion of my day scheduling events, classes, workshops and parties. I have been working with this company for six months and occasionally I still overbook myself to absurd amounts. When I am looking at something that is two months out, I tend to be unrealistic with how many events I can handle in one day. Then I get to the day of, and I want to kick the version of myself that determined that schedule.

I’m sure that I am not the only one with this problem. A lot of us tend to believe that we can take on the world. Whether you are scheduling your day, your month, or your five-year plan, remember to be realistic and manage your own expectations, as well as the expectations of other people in your life. Setting a realistic schedule and not overbooking yourself will help maintain your sanity and will set you up for more success than if you are scrambling to fit everything in. On the days that I am overbooked, I tend to get sloppy with small details and I let some things slip that I would normally have taken care of.

When I am responsible with my scheduling, and I give myself enough time to conquer everything.  I feel in control of my situation. It’s incredibly easy to over-commit ourselves. Remember to give yourself some breathing space. Not everything is as urgent as it might seem. Schedule down time and days off and activities that make you happy. It is great to schedule the important things in your life, but it is important to include rest time in your schedule as well. We are getting to the point of the year that many people experience seasonal depression. With this comes anxiety and a feeling of overwhelming stress, merited or otherwise. Get ahead of this feeling and create time to relax and recover. It is okay to take the time to put your well-being first. Keep up on your schedule, but between meetings and appointments, schedule yourself an hour to watch your favorite television show or to take a nap. This approach will make everything seem more manageable.

-       Bria

   If you’re like me, you schedule your free time because work consumes every waking moment! I won’t attempt to advise you on lightening your schedule because I can’t figure out how to lighten mine. Instead, I want to talk to you about your older child/teen’s schedule.

  There are often only two camps when it comes to children’s schedules. One camp says that kids need to be allowed to be kids, and as such, nothing beyond school should be scheduled for them. The other camp tries to give wings to every passing fancy, even if it prohibits being home before eight in the evening every night. I’d like to encourage you to set your tent up somewhere between these two camps.

  If your child is in school, he has a job. His job is to make himself as marketable for college as possible. If your child is doing that correctly, then he is involved in not only the academic day, but also extra-curricular activities that make his college resume look good. Add doing well in homework so as to attain the highest GPA possible, and your child has a pretty full schedule.

   Some kids have extra-curricular desires, however, that are not offered in school. That is when you should facilitate that desire. The danger comes when you facilitate every desire.

   One of the greatest things you can teach your older child/teen is how to keep a schedule. If your child is a teen, and you are still packing his afterschool activity bag, you are failing at this. It is not wrong...nay, even encouraged… for you to let your child face the music for forgetting the correct shoes for soccer or the music for piano lessons. It’s through these consequences that your child learns how to maintain a schedule and all that encompasses. It is also okay to say to your teen, “Put dinner with the family on your schedule at 6:00” or “Don’t schedule anything for that free Saturday next month; we’re having a family day.”

   I’m not going to insinuate that mentoring your child on scheduling will protect her from 70+ hour work weeks when she grows up.  But knowing how to schedule dates and family time and fun just could save her sanity!

-       Michelle

Everything

“Everything,” is the grandest overused superlative of all time. We use the term as an inclusive way to speak generally about something without providing more specificity. I am a major offender of overuse of the word everything. When it’s a bad day, everything is wrong. When it’s a good day, everything is great. I overgeneralize and overanalyze and overuse “everything” when I don’t have the patience to be more specific about what I’m feeling.

This isn’t a problem that only affects me. My generation as a whole tends to speak in superlatives. Exaggeration has become so common that advertising agencies have begun coaching brands to communicate with Millennials using superlatives. Clickbait article titles are rampant. Companies pull us in by claiming to be the biggest, coolest, newest, hottest product in the world. We feed off of these superlatives because we feel validation from being associated with them. By wearing the coolest brands, we feel like that makes us just as cool. All of this feeds into the insecurity and need of approval that many of us face.

Beyond the affirmation aspect of the use of superlatives, we use words like “everything” to avoid exploring feelings and emotions that are more specific. When we are upset, it is just easier to answer the, “what’s wrong” question with, “everything.” This acts as a way to suppress our darker emotions and keep them bottled up inside us. Needless to say, this is an unhealthy way of dealing with our problems. Society has put us in a difficult position because it asks us to be able to do everything while simultaneously stigmatizing our methods of coping with these expectations. This is not a sustainable way to carry out our day-to-day lives. We cannot do everything; we just can’t. Pretending like we can do everything can make us look good for a short period of time, but no one can keep up that pace. Try to remember that you don’t have to be everything. Do you best, do what makes you happy, do not try to be everything.

-Bria

   I just gave the “your child can’t participate in everything” speech to the parent of yet another 6th grader trying to do it all, and it suddenly hit me: Why doesn’t someone talk to my mother! I can think of maybe four things at the school in which I don’t have some involvement, and I know my family members are in the same boat. My children are continuing the tradition in their jobs. All of us feel, though, that we must do this to offer quality service.

 So, I’m wondering if maybe I’m doing a disservice to my students by not allowing them to learn early to juggle multiple activities with little sleep. After all, I am training them to be good leaders, and good leaders lead from the front. That means they will be super-busy leaders. Why not let them experiment early and then teach them how to pick and choose and learn to say “no”?

  Saying “no” is an art. We who are super-busy are sometimes that way because we actually believe the maxim “If it is to be, it is up to me.” This makes us highly susceptible to false guilt.  Just this week, I was asked to take on two more huge responsibilities. I did not feel guilty saying “no” to one and redefining the nature of the other responsibility so that I could successfully participate. I considered both a personal victory in my life because I did not allow myself to be guilted into yet another commitment.

   Determining which activities are necessary to keep our job or grow our business or be considered an active member in our groupings is one of the hardest things we have to figure out, but it’s not impossible. Doing everything is impossible, but discerning in which we should participate and which we should not is not. Hard, yes... but not impossible!

-       Michelle

Everything…this is surely a very broad subject for this blog!  The first thought that comes to my mind when I say “everything” is a recollection of my own distorted thinking.  When I am having a very bad day, I will often find myself asking, “Why does everything have to happen to me?”  And usually, upon the very completion of the question, I hear my inner voice saying, “Really?  Have you counted your blessings lately?!”

            It isn’t until someone understands that terms like “everything” are “all encompassing” that the misuse of the word stops.  I doubt that any of us have ever had an experience that was truly made up of everything that could possibly come our way.  When I had a very bad automobile accident on my way to school one morning, I had a “life passing before my eyes” moment.  As I saw the car coming towards my passenger side window, I thought, “So this is how it happens.  I didn’t even get to tell my family I love them or good bye.”  Thankfully, a voice in my head said, “Press the pedal.”   I did, and was able to move enough that the approaching vehicle t-boned me at the rear seat window.  I did not lose my life that day, but I had a new respect for life.  I tell my students as often as I can that we all should live this day as if it were going to be our last.  Try to tell your family how much you love them.

            As I watch the survivor stories from the recent hurricanes and earthquakes, I recognize that everything with which we surround ourselves adds up to nothing when compared with the lives of people around us.  We live in such a paradox: storage buildings and sheds dot the landscapes to provide enough space for everything we call “ours.”  Yet, our homes are often larger than any living quarters of the past.  Perhaps we have believed the advertisements of the media and just cannot fathom being the only one in our neighborhood without the latest gadget!

            My prayer is that, like Paul in the Bible, I will be content in whatever state I find myself.  As I teach my young students, I will continue to remind them that we don’t have to have “everything” the world offers to be truly happy.     

-          Kay

Standards

    The third Saturday in September is always a rollercoaster day of emotions.  Every year on this day, I travel with some students to the BEST Robotics Kick-off while other students of mine stay in Lawton for all-region honor choir try-outs.  The day starts at 5:00 a.m. and ends with the posting of who made the choir just prior to 10:00 p.m.  Fill the in-between space with seven hours of round trip driving and the excitement of learning our game field for the season, and one has the recipe for high anxiety.  The finale of the evening is the most stressful, though.  I always call the ones who made the choir first.  It’s easy to deliver good news, and the families are always so happy.  But calling or texting the families of those who didn’t make it is so hard.  The standard for making the choir changes based upon those trying out.  They accept the top third or so.  The cut-off score changes from year-to-year.  Trying to explain to a disappointed student or parent that they did a good job – the standard was just higher than their score – is so difficult.

   It’s easy to spout about the standards we have, but I’ve noticed that we compromise our standards often in order to avoid the uncomfortable conversation in which we tell someone he’s not met the standard.     When we feel so strongly about our standards, why is it so hard to enforce them?  Maybe it’s because we’re afraid someone’s going to hold us to higher standards than we hold ourselves, and we’re hoping the mercy we show will be shown to us!

   Whatever the reason, one thing I know for sure:  we have to have standards.  I’ve had at least two children this week blame their brain for their bad behavior… like the brain is some possessing entity they cannot control!  They didn’t make that up on their own.  Someone has told them that their brains are not old enough to process right and wrong yet.  That someone was wrong.

   When we allow our children to believe that they are “the greatest” or “not responsible” or any of the other delusions of grandeur we parents sometimes place on our children, we are doing them a disservice.  This is precisely the reason I make my students compete.  They will never know how good they really are at something till they put their “stuff” out there against others like them.  The aforementioned robotics competition is a great way to show my secondary how to meet a standard.  They are going to spend six weeks making a robot and a game strategy, and documenting every second of the six weeks while simultaneously promoting STEM.  In the end, four teams out of twenty will have met the standard well enough to advance. 

     If your child wins, then he can declare himself “the greatest.” Fortunately, he doesn’t have to be the greatest to advance in life, but failure to set standards for our children now could result in their failure to meet the most important standard later:  being able to get a job. Comfortable or uncomfortable, standards are our friends!

-          Michelle

Standards factor into to a lot of segments of our life. Personally we have standards for how we present ourselves, what we should achieve and with whom we should associate ourselves. Professionally, standards and expectations are set for us regarding how we should behave, work, dress and interact with coworkers or customers. These are both necessary and subjective, depending on your situation. It healthy to have standards professionally and in your personal life that you strive to live up to.

Standards become an issue when we think about society’s standards for us. On a base level this can be okay. There are basic rules and laws that keep us safe and maintain peace and order. Beyond that we see a societal push for standards that seem unattainable to the common person. By far the biggest perpetrator is the media. As someone with an educational background in advertising, it's frustrating when people blindly blame the media for overarching problems without calling attention to specific issues and instances. To a lot of people, the media is conceptually a big brother conglomerate that dictates what we do and why. I personally believe that the media has become a safe target upon which we focus all of our grievance; however, there are elements of the media regarding shaping standards and ideals that I believe are harmful and disparaging.

In a broad sense, the media shapes and distributes the majority of our nationwide/global communication. It is the voice that tells us what is happening in the world. Aside from the traditional news media, there are social media, magazines, lifestyles blogs and gossip websites telling us what is cool, what is attractive, what we should look like. This is one component of the media that I find damaging.

All of these sources point to the same standards of beauty that are very specific and very hard to achieve, isolating those that do not fit in that box. Beyond that, it’s impossible to maintain these standards if you do choose to comply, because beauty ideals change and evolve. While we are still a culture that values fair skin and thin but curvy (in the right places), fashion and makeup beauty standards evolve drastically every few years. Using eyebrows as an example, in the late 90’s/early 2000’s thin eyebrows were in. Women tweezed and plucked their eyebrows until they were tiny lines on their foreheads. As we moved into the second half of the 2000’s, we saw bushy eyebrows come back. Now in the 2010’s, if you don't line a fill in your eyebrows, then they aren't good enough. The same analogy can be used for lipstick, eyeshadow and hair colors/styles.

One of the most alarming things I've seen lately is a number of articles saying that “breasts are out and it's all about the backside now.” While young women can learn to fill in their brows and change their hair if they feel they need to maintain society’s beauty standards, this is straight up body shaming. I read several articles discussing how no one cares about breasts anymore and now girls need to have large butts to get attention. Disregarding the blatant sexism of this article, it is a great example of how the media dictates standards of beauty that are impossible to emulate.

As we see more and more young people suffering from depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. It is important to remind them that the media’s standards of beauty should not dictate their self-worth. Body positivity is a very important concept to introduce to your child at a young age. In this day and age, there is no way to protect your child from these damaging messages. Beauty standards are constantly reinforced through advertising, television/movies, even the games your children are playing. Because you cannot keep them from taking in this media, you must arm them with positivity and self-worth so they will not internalize it. By instilling these values in your children, you will provide them the necessary skills to combat harmful standards throughout their life.

-          Bria

Standards …often the topic of conversations, but seldom the final destination of most.

I, for one, have always been a champion of standards-based curriculum and testing.  When I was young in my career, I was very miffed that my students worked hard to meet my school standards, but when they entered a neighboring district, those very standards hurt them.  Honor society was based upon a report card grade standard.  So, students who couldn’t even do the math for sixth grade level, but who were given a grade of “A” made the honor society.  My students who were working on advanced concepts in pre-algebra and pre-geometry and made a “B” were not able to be inducted into the society.

That situation caused me to lobby hard for compatible standards across the state for all schools.  That was several state superintendents ago, and I have seen standards change several times since we first adopted PASS skills.   Even those first attempts were less than we had envisioned.  Perhaps the biggest let down was how political the standards game became.

I still teach and plan curriculum for our private school based upon standards.  We are more likely to use the term benchmarks rather than “skills” since we view education as a continuous progress model.  No two students will ever be exactly alike in their educational needs.  Thus, it is noteworthy to celebrate benchmarks reached and to set new goals for attainment.

My greatest fears, however, are that standards will continue to be lowered in our nation’s schools.   In these current times, we seem more interested in making students feel good than we are in teaching them to put forth some grunt to reach a goal.  It is obvious from talking with many students that there isn’t a lot of “grunt” available these days.  Now, I will admit it still exists on the sports fields!

I learned in my Masters’ program that when a teacher has risk involved along with the students, the results are usually more positive.  Thus, music teachers and coaches had the best relationships with their students and usually had the most positive accomplishments.  Why?  Both had something to lose if it didn’t go well in performance.  So, to be equally successful in the standard classroom, teachers must risk something, too.  One cannot just “do” or “give” education to their students.  They must have a vested interest along with the students.  Articles I’ve read in recent years seem to extoll lessons learned from very stern teachers.  Perhaps the reason they were looked upon as very stern teachers, was that these teachers had standards which made students reach and accomplish great things.  So today, I take my hat off and salute all those teachers with vested interests in their students.   

-           Kay

Constant

Depending on the way you view it, constancy can be comforting or daunting. On the one hand, constancy is necessary and reassuring. It’s the morning routine, the familiar coworkers and family members you come home to after a long day at work. On the other hand, you could view your life as the same work… day in and day out.

There is something comforting about some things remaining constant in our lives. It’s nice to know that our loved ones will continue to love us and maintain the relationship we have built with them. Similarly, it’s nice to know that at the end of the day, we come home to a house with water and electricity. It’s nice to know that the things we enjoy about our lives have some level of constancy or permanency.

Constancy becomes an issue in regard to the negative aspects of our lives. Right now, I feel like I read at least one article a day that discusses the fact the Millennials are significantly poorer than their parents were when they were that age. I, like most people in my generation, am living that reality. I am working myself almost to death, often putting in 60 or 70-hour work weeks. I come early, stay late and often end up coming in on the weekend. Despite my hard work, I can barely afford my life. Right now, I am five days away from payday and I have basically nothing to my name. This cycle of being broke for the majority of the month is the constancy that I am dealing with right now. I have a routine of using my entire first paycheck for living expenses and then just holding on for two weeks until the second paycheck of the month, and then trying to prepare for the next broke period to the best of my ability.

I am not the only one in this position. Almost everyone I graduated with is in a similar situation. One of my coworkers and I often joke about the poor things we do to get by. One time, I had a breakfast event at work. The hosts over-ordered and ended up with an entire extra catering size tray of breakfast potatoes. They were traveling out of state and couldn’t take the leftovers with them. Typically, I leave leftovers out for the members that work out of our facilities. However, I had so few groceries that I ended up taking home the potatoes. I had eight eggs in my fridge and I had been to the grocery store the night before and picked up ½ a pound of salami from the deli for $2.35. That night I combined the ingredients and made hash that I ate for every meal for the next eight days.

I tell this story not seeking pity, but to acknowledge that constancy can also mean an overwhelming struggle. Right now, our country is being plagued with hurricanes and storms that are ruining people’s lives by breaking their constancy. Whenever something tragic happens in our country we rally together as a nation with donations and volunteer to get these people back on their feet, while there is no real, sustainable effort to help people whose lives are constantly difficult. This country is hard on low income families. It is expensive to exist in our society and for people who are barely getting by, there are not a lot of resources.

I’m going to break through this constancy, I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and when I come out of this I am going to be better for having experienced it. The one thing I want to learn from this and share with you is to be aware. Don’t assume anyone can afford anything. Not even a cup of coffee. You never know someone else’s situation, so please remember to be sensitive to it.  The comforts that are constant for you or even for me are not a luxury that a lot of people experience. Never take anything for granted and never lose touch with the reality of the majority’s constancy.

-          Bria

Constant… that pretty well describes the meowing of my cat.  He never can be satisfied with the food we purchase for him…and he lets it be known from morning until night.  His meow sounds exactly like the words, “right now!”  So, I associate today’s subject word with nuisance.

                However, I am also aware at this very moment of the news broadcasts about hurricane Irma in the Florida Gulf coastal areas.  I’ve heard that winds are constant at 70 or more miles per hour.  When I think of some of the storm winds we have here in Oklahoma, I shudder at the thought.  Can you even imagine listening to the howling and the flying debris for hours on end during the slow-tracking hurricane?  People are probably very aware of the constant beating of their hearts in fear and panic.

                I also think about the constant stream of noise which seems to surround us every minute of our busy lives.  City traffic and noise settles to a low din, but it seems to always be there in the background.  The use of cell phones in public has added another dimension of noise to our lives, as people share some of their most personal thoughts loudly in restaurants, in aisles of the stores, and as they walk down the street.  I’ve had to retrain my mind to not suspect people who seem to be carrying on a conversation with themselves of being schizophrenics.  I have to remember the little hands-free device is often hidden behind their ears.

                Years ago, I would take my students for a walk in an adjacent field to a small grove of trees.  I assigned them to a partner with whom they could talk as we walked.  However, once we arrived at our destination, no talking was allowed.  We were to enjoy nature at its best…quiet and isolated from the noises of the city around us.  Each time we did this, I found one or two students who just could not be quiet for the thirty-minute period.  They had to make some kind of noise.  Perhaps they could not stand to be alone with their own thoughts.

                Today, I am aware of the need for noise exhibited by our students.  Many think they cannot study without music or a video of some kind playing while they attempt to study.  Even my first grade students seem not to be able to stand sitting still with nothing going on at the moment.  They will complain, “What are we going to do?  What’s next?  Why are we sitting here?”  Meanwhile, I am thinking to myself, “Why can’t first graders and their teacher take a nap?  It sounds good to me!”

                One of my favorite verses in the Bible is, “Be still and know that I am God.”  I have many fond memories of quiet times spent on a hillside boulder listening to nature around me.  I close my eyes and recall midnight walks under the stars at Windemere Baptist Assembly on Lake of the Ozarks.  And last of all, I remember the deafening quiet of the first big snow of the year in St. Louis during my childhood.  The blanket of snow deadened the usual constant noise of the city…and I would stand on our front porch and just listen to the quiet as huge flakes fell from the sky.    And these memories bring me constant joy and peace of mind.    Kay

Negative:  a constant drip.  Positive:  a constant source of revenue.  Common theme:  always there. 

    Having a large percentage of military, our student population at Lawton Academy does not have much that is constant.    Our desire to meet the needs of our students is definitely a constant, though. 

    The word “constant” often has a negative connotation in our society.  “Constant talking,” “Constant whining,” “Constant coughing.”  I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, “You are constantly happy.”  Always happy, sure.  But the word constant seems to be reserved for a perturbed statement.

    When used as a noun, though, constant becomes quite positive.  The constants in my life?  God’s grace and guidance, my families’ love for me and mine for them, satisfaction with my job, my faith.  I’m salaried, so a constant paycheck is definitely a good thing!  I’ve lived in my house for ten years now, and I am constantly re-falling in love with it.

   There are so many constants we Americans take for granted.  Constant running water, twenty-four hour stores that constantly offer us purchasing opportunities, constant entertainment.  It’s only during an interruption in these “constants” (like the hurricanes we’ve been experiencing) that we realize how much we depend upon them in our lives. 

   As I sit on my favorite sofa, with its me-shaped impression made by me constantly sitting in the same place, my mind turns to those who have lost their constants over the last two weeks.  So many people have no constants anymore.  Every meal, night’s lodging, and next bath is subject to change and uncertainty. 

    I know you receive a constant barrage of solicitations for donations at the register this time of year, but I ask you to please reflect on the constants in your life, and consider giving to those who have lost them all.

                                                - Michelle

 

Cycles

Cycles, repeated patterns in life that give us structure and continuity, are certainly welcomed by me.  I teach my students to look for cycles in every area of their lives. After all, the human brain looks for patterns and will strive to make patterns out of seeming chaos.

            I have lived long enough to have witnessed many cycles come and go and return again.  I have even benefitted by keeping some of my more expensive clothing until the cycle of styles made them stylish once again.  It is possible to identify decades in the U.S. through the cycles of clothing, makeup, music and movies.  This certainly makes it easy to hold costume parties. 

            My chosen field of work is education, a profession which undergoes constant cycles of rebuilding and tearing apart accepted norms.  I have seen good come out of these cycles, and I have seen the proverbial baby thrown out with the bath water.  I have learned to accept each cycle with a grain of salt.  However, some of the cycles have developed into a worthwhile cause: all children can learn if you present the information to them at their level of understanding.

            Stages of learning as recognized by Piaget are types of cycles.  The progression from one level to the next may vary age-wise, but usually it will not vary in order or sequence.  Such cycles or stages give us assurance and a means to check our children’s growth.  I am thankful for these age-proven cycles which can serve as guide posts to me in helping children learn. 

            I also teach children about the water cycle, the rock cycle, and the carbon cycle.  As they see how these cycles progress and then repeat the process again, I remind them of the old adage, “What goes around comes around.”  I hope my students will accept the challenge to practice the Golden Rule, pay it forward, etc.  I believe the world would be a better place if we could recycle these traits of love and caring.     

-          Kay