Disclosure Form for Counselors to Fill Out and Give to Prospective Clients at First Meeting

If you were seeking a counselor for yourself or a family member, what would you consider important to know about their beliefs and values? Please comment on these possibilities and add any other ones you would include.

Disclosure  Form for Counselors to Fill Out and Give to Prospective Clients at First Meeting

(And for the client to fill out if they choose after reading the Counselor’s answers.)
I (believe, don’t believe, not sure whether I believe) in a higher power, we call God.)
I (believe, don’t believe, not sure) in a God of unconditional love
I (believe, don’t believe, not sure) in a God who keeps score.
I(believe, don’t believe, not sure about) life after death.
I (believe, don’t believe, not sure) we must accept Jesus as Savior and Lord to get to heaven.
I(believe, don’t believe, not sure) the 10 commandments are the basic requirements to be a good person, worthy of heaven.
I(believe, don’t believe, not sure) all a person has to do to be good is not purposely harm others.
I(believe, don’t believe, not sure) we are called to love all people the same as Jesus did.
I( believe, don’t believe, not sure) there’s a hell for sinners after life.
I(believe, don’t believe, not sure) that there is a God that is actively involved in human lives.
I (believe, don’t believe, not sure) that God allows consequences for our choices and actions while we are still alive so we will become better people.
I(believe, don’t believe, not sure) that marriage is valid only between a man and a woman.
I (believe, don’t believe, not sure) that marriage is valid only when neither party has been married before.
I (believe, don’t believe, not sure) that sex outside marriage is sinful for anyone.
I( believe, don’t believe, not sure) in abortion.
I(believe, don’t believe, not sure) in abortion under certain circumstances.
I( believe, don’t believe, not sure) that it is wrong to kill even in war.
I(believe, don’t believe, not sure) in capital punishment.
I(believe, don’t believe, not sure) it is all right to kill in defense of my property.
I(believe, don’t believe, not sure) that mercy killing or assisted suicide is wrong in any circumstances.
I(believe, don’t believe, not sure) that suffering is part of life for everyone.
I(believe, don’t believe, not sure) in the efficacy of prayer. I(believe, don’t believe, not sure) in what we call miracles because they are beyond our understanding. I believe in (all, most, none, don’t know) of the teachings of (Buddha, Mohammed, Jesus, etc.) I(believe, don’t believe, not sure) we are both forgiven for the harm we do and called to forgive others. I(believe, don’t believe, not sure) a person must belong to a particular religion to have eternal life.

The Others

Beyond our edge lies another country.
The others live there-right beyond our edge.
A country’s edge drawn black-lined and defined,
us and ours-and then-the others.
A land’s edge or a skin’s edge or a mind’s edge;
no inside-out and God knows-no outside-in!
Is it really clear where we stop and an other begins,
even those, we once would call our friends?
Have we made a God of LAW that wars with the God
of COMPASSION who surely cringes and protests
when we brandish our brutal selfishness
wounding all the weak and vulnerable
who stumble in its path and lie there bleeding?
Does the crusade demanded by another idol,
the ever restless idol of THIRST FOR POWER,
that seeks to wall the borders of earth’s bounty
and seal doors that once offered sanctuary from evil,
now dare try to wrap even our hearts with concertina wire,
like the many map lines of history’s territorial greed?
Is nothing sacred? Is nothing safe from hubris?                                                                                     Wake up, people of good will!                                                                                                                         The time has come to expose this egomania                                                                                             and challenge people to believe once more                                                                                               in the possibility of joy from open hearts                                                                                                 and the sense of safety that only love can bring.

Adolescent Sex Is as Addictive as Crack Cocaine

Adolescent sex is as addictive as meth, crack cocaine, alcohol, or nicotine. Once teens start having sex it’s like two right handed children playing left handed catch with a live hand grenade. I was a “wait ‘til you marry” person, not because I was a “goodie two shoes,” but because I was a devout coward. In my day there were immediate unpleasant consequences for getting pregnant outside marriage And we weren’t surrounded by people selling sex as the only reason for living.                                                                                                                         But today’s world is simply saturated with sex in almost every ad, book, movie, and on line site. The culture no longer supports abstinence or even monogamy. No matter how good, articulate, loving, and supportive we are as parents……it is like sending our children into war with water guns. Kids have way too much freedom at very young ages, both the opportunities and stress of unchaperoned situations, and less immediate consequences than older generations had. And like all adolescents they live in the moment, oblivious to any life long consequences. Or they are like most of us are about death, not believing pregnancy or disease will happen to them.
Short of locking them up from 12 to 21, I have no simple solutions. I believe and talk about a loving forgiving God, but what I probably never stress enough is that neither love nor forgiveness protects us from the consequences of our bad choices. Without obvious consequences we will just keep making them. That’s not what a loving God wants or allows for us.
In our teens most of us aren’t yet sure who we are or if who we are will turn out to be sufficient in this world. Sex isn’t just amazing pleasure, it makes us feel like a hero or princess…..we are #1 with someone. We are not alone anymore as we do the work of separating who we are from who our parents are.
We don’t realize that need is not love and that infatuation doesn’t last. Learning to love takes years of learning to make unselfish choices. When we make our lives incredibly harder by creating another life that we aren’t yet equipped to nurture, finance, and protect by putting their many needs before our wants, our infatuation seldom has a chance to become love. The overload of challenges may well freeze us in our immaturity and lock us into remaining overwhelmed immature children making bad choices for much of our lives. So many lives are stunted from choices made in the teen years.
And for most youth the danger of disease has no more personal reality than death.   No matter what medicines are available, the consequences of STD’s and even the side effects of medicines for them can permanently diminish the joy of sex and complicate relationships. Today even many adults assume there’s a medicine for everything. But the reality is that as soon as we find a cure for one disease, another disease appears.  The sad reality is that often the victims are youth who plan to abstain from sex until old enough to make a life commitment, but are overwhelmed by cultural circumstances.
Many people of all ages assume a fetus is not a person and if we are the type of person who doesn’t naturally consider possibilities, we may not worry much about emotional repercussions from having an abortion. But in my 78 years of life, I have witnessed the changes in personality traits that people experience as they enter different stages of life. I am convinced that even those that do not feel guilt, worry, sadness or even curiosity about their unborn child at the time of making the choice for abortion, will eventually have to deal with those.
I think society has pretty much obliterated fear of hell. What no one warns is that bad choices can turn our life here into a hell,.
Parents, tell it like it is. They may not hear you, but at least you will have tried.

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Midlife Crisis

This author is one of my favorites. Normally extremely funny and informative about the beauties of South Africa. This shocked me and prompted me to not only pray for this country and its poverty, but to help make others aware of this tragic state of affairs. Pass this on please.

23thorns

This morning I woke up to find that I had been invaded. Violated. I turned on my tablet to be greeted by a cheerful message informing me that my blog was doing rather nicely. This seemed a little strange, since I haven’t been a particularly diligent blogger of late. I logged on to see what was up. This. This was up.

 Photo673.jpg 

I had apparently posted it yesterday. Twice. Which would have been a curious thing to do. If you had to ask someone who knows me to sum me up as quickly and efficiently as possible, they would show you that image and say “Do you see this? He is the exact opposite of every single thing you can see right here.”

So what was it doing there? Twice? Well, thereby hangs a tale. Let’s start with lions, shall we…

If you spend any time out in the…

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A Sign of Hope: An Easter Story

My heart sank and I felt a wave of nausea as I read the thermometer. One hundred and four degrees.
“Oh, God. Not again please,” I whispered, as I coaxed medicine into my feverish son. While I was fixing him juice, the telephone rang insistently until I finally answered it.
“Eileen,” a neighbor said, “you need to get over there to my granny’s old home place and get yourself some of those daffodils. They’re just coming up. If you plant them now, they might go on and bloom for you next month.”
“I can’t take Tommy out today, Mae. He’s running fever again. Besides are you sure it’s not stealing??
“Naw. There are thousands of them now, all from the ones my granny planted years ago. They need thinning out, so they’ll keep blooming. I’ll come over and watch Tommy for you.”
“Well……Okay,” I answered hesitantly. “I’m just putting him down for a nap. Come in about twenty minutes.”
I sighed as I hung up. I didn’t really feel like going out in the cold January weather, but I couldn’t think of any more excuses. I picked up my three year old son and began to rock him to sleep. His face was flushed and his thin little body felt hot against mine. Poor Tommy. I hope this isn’t going to be another long siege, I thought silently.
“I love you, little one,” I said softly.
“Love you,” he whispered hoarsely, patting my face gently as his eyes began to close.
As I carefully put Tommy in his bed, I heard my neighbor come quietly in the front door.
“Hi, Mae. Thanks for coming. He’s restless, but I think he’ll sleep,” I greeted her. “But I don’t have anything to put dirt in. How will I carry the daffodils?”
“They don’t need dirt. Just put some newspapers down in the back of your station wagon. Get yourself a lot. They’ll look great along your driveway and out front of the house.”
A few minutes later I gasped and shivered when the cold wind hit me, as I got out of the car. I wished fervently that I hadn’t agreed to do this. I started digging as quickly as I could, eyes tearing from the wind. I dug for several minutes, then thought about giving up and going home. Each time I’d begin to straighten up, I’d see another thick clump just barely pushing through the frozen ground, seeming to beckon to me. I kept going until I had almost filled the back of my stationwagon with hundreds of bare bulbs.
When I finally got back and sent my neighbor home with thanks, I went to check on Tommy. He tossed restlessly in his sleep and when I touched his forehead, it almost scalded my hand. Tommy had taken a turn for the worse, so I forgot all about the daffodil bulbs, as I spent the next two weeks caring for him and making trips to the specialist fifty miles away.
With trembling voice, I finally admitted to the doctor how frightened I was, when Tommy’s fever ran off the thermometer and there was no way to know how high it was.
“Don’t try to bring it down below 104 degrees,” he advised me. “If you do, it will shoot back up fast and that can cause a seizure. He catches everything because the hole in his heart valve lets blood circulate without being purified by the lungs. We’ll try another antibiotic. If he has a virus, it won’t help, but we can’t risk this going into pneumonia. We’ll consider surgery when he’s four, but we need to get him stronger first. Bring him back in two days, if he’s not better.”
I drove us home through a flood of tears. Tommy whimpered listlessly, his eyes too bright and his skin too pale under the flush of fever. My spirits matched the bleak January landscape.
I spent the next two days and nights struggling to keep his fever down. Sometimes he lay in my arms limply. Other times when the fever shot beyond the measure of the thermometer, he would chatter brightly, using words far more complex than his normal vocabulary, reminding me of the possibility of brain damage.
Two days passed and his fever was still shooting back up off the thermometer. Trying yet again to bring it down slowly, I put him in a tepid bath, that seemed to hurt his hot skin and make him shake with chills. He looked like pictures I had seen of war orphans with their ribs showing and their sunken eyes pleading. He looked at me like he was asking mutely, “Why are you doing this? Why are you hurting me? Don’t you love me?”
As I wrapped him in wet sheets and sat rocking him, both of us were sobbing. I even yelled out loud, “Where are you, God? I pray and pray and you do nothing. This is an innocent child. Why do you let him suffer? What kind of God are you? A cruel God? An impotent God?  Where is the loving God of Jesus? Have you abandoned us?”
As, I exhausted my anger, memories of God’s many gifts of grace in my life flooded my mind and I began to pray again, “You are my God, the only God I have. I have seen Your awesome glory in the beauty of Your creation and I have felt the depth of Your love through Your son, Jesus. So, I, like Paul, will try to praise you at all times, in joy and in sorrow. Right now, I can’t feel it, but with my will I praise you. I thank you for the many times you have blessed me and for the grace you have poured into my heart even in my darkest moments. But, please God, help me know you are with us in this. I feel abandoned.”
Then I began to dress Tommy for another trip to Nashville. As I carried him to the car, I was stopped in my tracks by an incredible sight.
Hundreds of bright yellow daffodils in full bloom completely filled the back of my car. It looked like Easter morning! I felt like God had put His arms around us and whispered, “See, I am with you always. Don’t despair.”
I drove to the doctor’s singing hymns of praise.

(More about Tommy’s healing later.)

Important Things I Learned from First Graders When I Was Forty

Thirty-five years ago when I taught a combined first and second grade class, it was an unparalleled opportunity to see human beings in an unvarnished state. At that time children weren’t being sent to daycare at birth, and kindergartens were non-existent in small towns and rural areas like ours, so the strongest influence in most of my young students’ lives had been a relatively accepting and affirming mother or grandmother. The children hadn’t been lacquered with social conformity yet and their unique personalities and ways of responding to life hadn’t been labeled or graded.  It was an amazing experience of the delightful, though challenging, diversity in human nature. Seeking different approaches to teaching, so the explosive joy of learning could happen for each child, was a fascinating puzzle.

The effects of prior influences such as family economics were definitely identifiable, but still somewhat malleable.

When Larry, a well scrubbed youngster with a home haircut and rural speech patterns, was obviously being excluded from group play at recess, I checked it out. David, the local bank president’s son explained simply, “We don’t play with the Crocketts.” But when I said gently, but firmly, “Here, you do,” he and his peers accepted it cheerfully, glad enough to have another male team member in a class where girls outnumbered boys. They didn’t need much encouragement to let gender outweigh adult social divisions.

Larry was already a survivor. If he hadn’t lived on a dirt road that ran through a creek, he would have been called street smart.  He had a pragmatic approach to coming up with answers.  When he was put on the spot, you could see him scanning the room for clues, the alphabet around the black board, the bulletin board for words, the clock for numbers, and as a last resort, his neighbor’s paper. If even that failed, he would simply invent an answer. Often they were close enough to count.

Another child, Peter, taught me a lot about the influences of birth order in the family.  He was a funny, loveable, cowboy-booted second grader, who was the youngest of eight children. My primary education classes had stressed that the timing of birthdates in the calendar year could make a child, particularly a boy, unready developmentally for particular learning tasks.

When the time came to begin cursive writing instruction, Peter’s uncontrolled scrawl in printing cast serious doubt on his fine muscle control.  Since several late enrollees in second grade had left us short of cursive writing workbooks, I decided to solve both problems by holding Phillip back on starting cursive writing. Unfortunately, I had already given out the workbooks, so this meant taking Peter’s back to give it to the latest newcomer.

The next morning Phillip’s distraught mother came to me before class, describing Peter’s tearful outrage over losing his book, his very own personal book that already had his name on it. He had cried himself to sleep and for the first time didn’t eagerly rush to get ready for school.

I took Peter to the teacher’s lounge and apologized with deep regret for taking his book away.  But, I pointed out how uneven and hard to read his printing was and told him that we needed to work on that before he had to struggle with an even more difficult style of writing.  I gave him his cursive book back, along with some extra printing practice pages, and challenged him to practice extra hard on printing so I could move him into cursive as soon as possible. That evening I stayed late carefully copying and running off mimeographed pages from the cursive book for the newcomer. (There were no scanner/printers back then.)

The next morning to my amazement, Phillip brought in several sheets of perfect printing.  In the following days everything Peter printed was perfectly shaped, sized, and spaced.  By the end of the week, Peter successfully moved into cursive writing.

Motivation is an wondrous thing.

The problem is that individuals vary greatly in what it takes to motivate them and as teachers, we tend to use the approach that works on us.  As the youngest child in a large family, Peter was the pet, adored and babied by all.  He had never been pushed to meet external expectations.  He taught me that my personal style of motivating only by affirmation might not always be appropriate.

As the saying goes, “Some people need to see the lightOthers need to feel the heat!”

At the same time, I wasn’t the only teacher learning new things.  Our third and fourth grade teacher, a somewhat prissy young man just out of college, learned the hard way not to let a tiny nervous overachiever named Meredith sit on his teacher manuals while under the stress of taking tests.  I nearly choked trying to stifle my laughter when he called me out into the hall in a state of indignant horror.  I don’t know what he did while his new manuals were being ordered, but he definitely wasn’t interested in drying out his old ones!

The Merediths with nervous bladders are already overburdened by inner pressure, but the Peters will coast and underachieve without an external push.  Motivating is half the battle in teaching.

Millie, a beautiful child with huge brown eyes, had no known father and a teenage mother who had run away from the responsibility of parenting.  But her grandmother and extended family came to all teacher conferences, programs, field days, and often to even have lunch with her. Toward the end of first grade, I began to chide Millie gently about not finishing her math work.

“Oh, Mrs Norman,” she responded. “I’m very good at reading.  Do I have to be good at everything?”

Though fortunately unexpressed, my gut-level response was, “Of course!”

My particular personality, reinforced by a strongly academic father, had bred in me a strong need to excel in everything. I hadn’t always succeeded, but at that moment, I recognized how compulsive I still was about trying.  For the first time in my life, I questioned just how reasonable this compulsion really is.  So, I hesitated and gave the question serious consideration.  After a moment, I replied, “No, Millie, you don’t have to be as good in math, but there are a lot of things in life that take at least knowing how to add and subtract, even fun things like shopping.  You need to keep on trying; don’t give up.” She seemed to accept that and went back to work on her math paper. In later years when teaching older students with learning disabilities, I used menus from McDonalds in teaching both reading and math.  It at least gave them a reason they understood to struggle to learn something that was so frustrating for them.

Richard, a newcomer late in my second year of teaching, was repeating first grade.   He seemed intelligent, but definitely not inclined to do his work. In reading group his mind was obviously far away, even though he needed to be listening to gain familiarity with many of the words.  I took him aside and asked him why he didn’t listen in reading group to help himself recognize the words when it was his turn.  He said the stories were boring and he had already heard them all.  I laughed, which obviously surprised him.  So I explained, “Richard, how many times do you think I’ve heard these stories?  Don’t you think I find them boring?”  He looked puzzled and didn’t reply.  “Richard, I have five children of my own that have brought these same books home to read to me. Then, I heard them all at least twice again last year, and now am hearing them over this year.  Richard, these stories were boring the first time I heard them.  Sometimes I want to scream out loud, when I have to listen to them again. Do you know why I keep listening?”  Richard shook his head, big-eyed with amazement.  “I do it because I want you to learn to read.  I want you to soon be able to read interesting, even exciting, books you enjoy.  If I care enough about you learning to read to put up with hours and hours of listening to boring stories that I’ve heard over and over, shouldn’t you care enough to listen for your own sake?”  Richard looked thoughtful and finally nodded.  “OK, Richard, you are going to try hard to listen and watch the words so you will remember them and learn how to read better stories and I am going to listen and try hard not to scream.”  Somewhat to my surprise, Richard did try harder and did begin to read better.  I don’t think it had ever occurred to him that a teacher could be as bored as he was, yet keep on listening for his sake.

Janette, whose parents didn’t even realize it, came into first grade reading on at least an eighth grade level.  I quickly put her to finding her own library books to read at her seat while the rest of the class was doing reading readiness work.  But, Janette was an extrovert who loved working in a group and getting good feedback for her correct answers, so I let her work in the group two days and read on her own the other three.  As I began to teach math however, I discovered that having taught herself to read, Janette experienced needing to be taught math or even techniques in art as being stupid. She  mentally blocked out my explanations.  She felt she had to puzzle out everything on her own.  And when she couldn’t make her art look as good as her friend’s, she simply turned off to art.

One day she even had a meltdown in the lunch room, because previously having always brought her lunch, she didn’t know to carry her tray to the kitchen window.  When we lined up to return to class, I requested that whoever had left their tray, please carry it to the window.  Janette returned to the table, but stood frozen in humiliation with tears streaming down her face.  Before I could figure out how to help her, the principal came in and asked loudly, “What’s the matter with you, Janette?  The class is waiting on you.”  When Janette didn’t respond, the principal berated her, reminding her that her parents would be very disappointed in her for acting like that.” Janette remained frozen and mute.  I didn’t know how to intervene at that point, so I just took the rest of the class back to the classroom out of hearing.  Eventually Janette reappeared, red-faced but no longer crying. She was subdued and mute the rest of the day.  She also brought her lunch from home the rest of the year.

For me, the whole experience was like seeing my childhood pass before my eyes:  The years of learning everything the hard way.  Of feeling stupid if I didn’t learn something easily and quickly, of completely turning off to art, because it didn’t come naturally to me and I couldn’t start out as one of the best.  I recognized then that some of us are either born, or have become by first grade, unteachable.  Self-taught doesn’t just apply to the unschooled.

Twenty years later I read about right-brain and left-brain modes of learning and that there were ways to get into right-brain mode for drawing and painting.  So at sixty I took up art, knowing that mine would start out as the worst in the class, but finally believing it was not only possible to learn, but it really was all right to have to be taught.  A couple of years later, when my art teacher was moving to another city, she asked if she could use my sketch from the first day of her class along with the picture of my two-year-old great-grandson that I had done at the end of the nine-week course, as an advertisement for her classes.   Since this captured perhaps my greatest accomplishment, becoming teachable, I gladly gave her permission.

So not only are teachers challenged to teach, but also to find ways to help the unteachable accept being taught.

As an extrovert myself, I love hot teaching both as a student and a teacher.  Hot teaching is where the teacher throws out a question or a controversial statement and the students shout out answers or arguments and a fast-paced discussion is kept up with everyone joining in whenever they want.  It’s noisy, fast, and sometimes funny, but since extroverts need to say things to even know what they are thinking, this is extrovert heaven.  Of course it is at the same time, introvert hell.  Introverts need time to figure out what they think and even more time to figure out the best way to express it.  By the time they get it together, the extroverts have moved on to something else.  I still would want to at least sometimes balance the working alone times, teacher monologues, and teacher controlled dialogues with some hot teaching.  But I did discover that I had created a monster for the teachers of the higher grades.  Years later I ran into the fifth grade teacher and he asked, “How in the world did you teach Janette, Dolly, and Serena?  Did you just let them shout out answers whenever they felt like it?”  Of course, that was exactly what I had done, though just in  designated group times.

I had developed my own strategies for switching back and forth between traditional and more free-wheeling times in the classroom. I developed learning centers and allowed the students to go quietly to them whenever they finished their workbook exercises while I was working with other groups. Since Peter Pan was a current movie favorite, when I wanted everyone back into their seats quickly, I called out, “ALLIGATOR!”  Once a child was back in their seat, they were allowed to start saying, “Tick Tock, Tick Tock, Tick Tock” until the last child was in their seat.  They got into the spirit of this so much, they sat with their feet up off the floor out of the alligator infested water,  until we stopped the chant.  Of course, the underlying assumption was that the last child was alligator lunch.

That generation of children didn’t seem nearly as susceptible to terror as mine had been.  They loved catching flies to feed to our class pet, a venus flytrap. But during my second year of teaching, I had to give this up.  Several months into the year, many of the children came in telling me with big eyes and stricken voices of the story on the evening news about a child in Florida actually being eaten by an alligator. Our game had suddenly become too real for comfort.

Though my class of twenty-five students would be considered a small group, it encompassed two grades.  Normally both first and second grade students would have at least twenty minute reading group time with the teacher each day.  That meant the least amount of reading groups with approximately the same level of skill would be two to each grade.  And then there would be  several students needing more help than that.  And with two grades, the most advanced group of the first grade learns very differently than those needing the most help in second grade, so even those can’t be grouped together.  In primary grades the basics like reading, math, and phonics/language skills need to be taught in the morning when young students (and older teachers) are fresh. Time for four to five reading groups, two periods of math, two periods of teaching phonics/spelling/language skills is a squeeze.

I alleviated some of this pressure by recruiting parent volunteers to listen to the more advanced groups read in the cafeteria. I also used them with one or two less skilled readers at a time.  This inclusion of both advanced and slower children kept the time with volunteers  from carrying any sort of label for the children.

A wonderful serendipity for me personally was discovering that I could also use grandmothers for this.

My own mother had come to live with us in the country, because she was beginning to have problems functioning on her own in the fast pace of Houston, Texas.  We didn’t even know the name Alzheimer’s then, but later realized that she was in the early stages at that point.  We knew she needed to stop driving, but this left her stuck out in the middle of nowhere by herself all day, week after week.   Since she had taught secretarial skills in a business college,  I tentatively tried bringing her to school with me three days a week.  It turned out that she related wonderfully to the children.  They all pleaded for chances to read to her. I suspect she had a stash of sweet rewards in her purse.

As the mother of five, I too had learned that with young children, the more immediate and appealing the reward, the better the chance of reinforcing the behavior. So, I started my teaching career with a desk drawer full of candy mints.  They were popular, cheap, and not messy.  After a couple of weeks, Serena, a particularly energetic second grader, arrived at school with a sack of sugarfree mints for me to use for her rewards.  At first, it hit me as kind of pitiful and ironic that she was furnishing her own rewards, but she seemed perfectly happy with this. And the blessing for me was that I recognized the advantage of sugarfree treats.  Adding to the energy level of first and second graders isn’t something a forty-year-old teacher wants to do.

I also discovered fairly early on that some children have two-track minds.  I guess they would be today’s multi-taskers.  But, when they are being expected to sit still and just listen, if you don’t find a way to keep the other track busy, they will find a way that distracts the other students.  I am disconcerted by students not looking at me when I am speaking. But I found by randomly asking for feedback while allowing those children to doodle, that they actually were hearing what I was saying. When it was time for important instructions, I would just say, “OK, Let me see your baby blues and browns.”   That reassured me and focused any dreamers.

I wish now for the sake of a first grader that came to our school late in the year,  that we had known at least what we do now about Autism.  Ernie, like Janette, came in already reading anything and everything.  But he read with rapid-fire, machine gun speed without inflection and without any understanding of the meaning.  I did not have a clue what to do.  And to add to the problem, when I gave instructions or told him to clean up the mess under his desk, he just stared at me like a deer in the headlights.  Obviously, he was not processing what I was saying.  I spent  time condensing paragraphs to one or two sentences  and creating simple questions for a volunteer to use with Ernie on comprehension.  We started this too late in the year to see much result, but I realize now from having a granddaughter with Autism, that he needed much more extensive and basic language therapy than we knew about then. I often wonder where Ernie is now and how he has fared.

My first year I was totally unprepared for a phenomenon that occurred around eight weeks into the school year.  For many, though unfortunately not all, there’s a magic moment in learning to read.  The parts seem to come together and the mind simply “gets it.”   It’s awesome. That first year it happened simultaneously for a group of the first graders.  Several students came up to me, exclaiming excitedly, “Mrs. Norman, I can read!  Listen!  I can read.”  And they could, smoothly and with expression that showed understanding.  Before long most of the first graders were reading out loud at whatever their level of skill was with great enthusiasm to anyone willing to listen.  I jettisoned the lesson plans and declared it “Reading Day.”  Everyone was allowed to find a book they could read either at their seat or in a group.  The second graders got into the spirit and made themselves available for consultation on difficult words.  Even the first graders, who weren’t “there” yet, seemed infected with reading fever and were willing to give it their all.  Nobody even wanted to stop for lunch.  They all complained when I told them to line up.

It was a joyous and memorable moment.

But at the end of the year, tests showed that more children than should be were reading below level. No one turned off to learning in my classes, but I knew that when they could not manage content focused materials in later grades, they would.  I was a conscientious and creative teacher.  I loved the children and they loved me.   The parents loved me and the principal loved me. But I was not the right teacher for basic skills such as reading and math.

I learn by grasping concepts and then connecting details to the relevant concepts.   I scan material for ideas without reading every word.  Repetition bores me silly, particularly of details.  My mind makes connections without having to consciously go through consecutive steps.

Most people do not learn this way.  About eighty percent learn linearly, step by step.  Also,  for them repetition is the soul of scholarship.  The few of my students whose minds worked like mine raced ahead of grade level, learning joyously almost on their own.   But the majority struggled, since I found it almost impossible to explain things in ways they could understand and because I did not stress repetition of detail nearly enough.  To the detriment of those students, it took me two years to realize this.  A reality that makes me sad even now.

When I gave notice because I didn’t feel I was the right person for teaching basic skills, the principal, school board, and parents wanted me to teach third and fourth grade.  But, when I thought of those delightful children, whom I truly loved, having me for four years in a row, I regretfully declined.

Years later, I studied Carl Jung’s personality types and became a consultant on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.  There is a lot of relevant research on the effects of mismatched teaching/learning styles.  It demonstrates clearly why I was wrong for the task, though not for the children.

The Fart

hmmm……need a tee hee right now…hope it lightens someone else’s mood too…..

Laughter: Carbonated Grace

A fart
like a burglar
dropping the silver
shocking the night silence
and creating its own pin drop quiet
freezing everyone’s natural responses
leaving all innocent by-standers pregnant
with explosive tension nervously repressed.
No one can think of any appropriate action to take.

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Fatty, Fatty, Five Foot Four – Can’t Get Through the Kitchen Door ( or I’m Heavy from All Those Stones I’ve Already Thrown at Myself)

Reread this and heard somethings I need to remember.

Laughter: Carbonated Grace

With some hesitation, I am entering the fray started recently by someone’s criticism of an overweight television personality.

A couple of years ago, I lost about twelve pounds, because of knee problems, surgery, and a slow recovery due to my pain being prolonged by Fibromyalgia.  The simple fact was, I was bed-ridden, sleeping a lot, and couldn’t get to the refrigerator on my own.  Encouraged by this, I went on the Adkins diet and lost thirty-three more pounds.  I looked so much better that some people didn’t recognize me.  I felt so much better that my whole pattern of life changed.

But I’m still addicted to food.  It’s just that since I like meat, fish, eggs, cheese, leafy green vegetables, and nuts, I can now pretty much eat all the time and gain weight slowly enough to have some control over it. (However, my husband dislikes most meat and all…

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I Miss the Possibility of Her

My friend of over forty years, Norma Parham, died last week. She was a very interesting, talented and paradoxical woman. I miss having her to call and laugh with about aging. For the last year she had been a resident in a nursing home in rural Hickman County, where she played the piano for the residents and had just bought a ukelele to learn to play. She was the only Republican I ever knew that subscribed to Communist magazines in the 1970’s. They were delivered in brown paper wrappers. She grew up Church of Christ and converted to Catholicism. Though getting a Masters in Religious Ed made her a skeptic about taking scripture literally, she loved the psalms. Her mind was analytical, but at heart she was a mystic. She wrote poetry, painted, sang, and could tear up a piano playing everything from Boogie Woogie to Beethoven. She loved shooting my Pollyanna ideas down. She taught for 36 years. When I started teaching, she advised me to not smile for the first six weeks. When asked what it was like in her first years of teaching with several grades in one classroom, she said it was like herding cats. She spent summers either traveling or studying abroad on her own. She grew up in Hickman County in the country without indoor plumbing and with heat from a wood burning stove. After teaching about thirty years, she had a rather cynical opinion on the direction education was headed. So, when the new principal, a hardly dry behind the ears coach, called a meeting for all the teachers, she sat in the back row reading a newspaper. After a while the young new principal suggested that she might learn something if she stopped reading and listened. She carefully folded the paper and took out a pencil and pad and took notes for the rest of his talk. When it was over, she gave him her “notes,” suggesting that he might find them informative. The paper was completely filled with his grammar mistakes and her corrections. She was one of a kind. I miss the possibility of her.

Religious Rant for the Day

Theologians are theory people…and yes we need theory people…but they often miss the obvious. Yes, God is awesome, way way beyond our human understanding, worthy of our praise and admiration, but God is also practical!

YES! PRACTICAL! The BIG TEN weren’t traps, tests, or a spoil sport kind of thing. They are the incubator that helps keep us alive until we and finally all humanity mature enough to love others as much as, or like Jesus-more than-our small selves. They are for OUR protection! God is FOR us.

What about number 1? Does God need our love? God doesn’t NEED anything! WE need God What we admire and love, we try to be. But how do we imitate a God beyond our understanding?  Duh! God’s goodness and love is fleshed out, visible, understandable, in a prototype so to speak: JESUS, a human growing into a Love that’s way beyond the “Big Ten,” a human struggling with the human suffering of sadness, discouragement, rejection, fear, and physical pain…but always open to God, both within and in others, open to grace to make the loving choice in the end, a human that moves beyond the “Minimum Ten” to fleshing out the beatitudes…a whole other level of love.

“Sins” against the Big Ten are just plain stupidity, once you realize that Jesus showed us that this very fleeting life isn’t all there is and that instant gratification and gathering toys are for children and need to be outgrown before we can move on. The truth is that coveting, stealing, killing etc., end up making our lives miserable, even hell.
And it takes finding that source of grace which we call God, both within and outside ourselves to out grow our childish shortsighted selfishness .

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