Saturday, March 15, 2008


The choir was gone this week--on tour, so several of my classes
were smaller than usual and a couple were decimated.
We did puzzles--Bible puzzles of all kinds--and we worked on
research papers and personal manifestos.
We even took a walk one sun-filled, wind-blown afternoon.
Some of the students thrived on the one on one attention.
My seventh-graders did all the puzzles and asked for more.

Instead I gave them chess, Stratego,
Authors, and Bible trivia.

It was a relaxed week, for them, full of smiles and cozy times.The seniors worked on papers, the sophomores wrote stories,
but my junior class surprised me. They sighed, grumbled and muttered just loud enough to make sure I would hear and be properly insulted:

"Busy Work".

It seems that the ultimate insult to a student is to be given busy work.

Yet as I pondered, it seemed to me that all work done well is busy work. . . and any work which teaches in the working or dislodges the mind--overcoming the inertia of rest--is valuable work.

This is a message for my "I'm so bored and can't handle a little free time" students:

So school was different for you this week. There were no lessons in English or history. There were no notes in Bible; no tests in math. Life departed from your steady diet of pizza and taco grande. What you didn't realize was the veritable smorgasborg spread before you in this unusual five days. In chemistry you made huge progress on piecing together a class quilt. In Bible you learned how to do a cryptoquote and read scripture as well. You played academic games; you helped pack away all the theater seats in the auditorium so the janitor could clean the floors over spring break. You filled in for various kitchen jobs and developed a better appreciation for those who normally leave class early so they can help in the cafeteria, and though all smorgasborgs are not about food, you even got to eat fresh strawberries over ice cream and pork chops with gravy. You watched movies, you got scheduled quiet time to get ahead on your reading requirement for the quarter, and you ate cherry filled donuts made by the home economics class remnant.

Yet all week, you dragged your feet and murmured.

If my name had been Coach, I would have made you run laps and run laps and run laps. Now that's busy work. Yet even in that, there is strength and training. Can't you see what I'm telling you? Life is all about work, and I fear for those who disdain it.

Sunday Scribblings

Friday, March 14, 2008

Fresh Spring "Round-Up"

My neighbors’ sprayed gardens show “care”
For blue-green’s the color they wear
My own is quite brown
I’ll never live down
The lack of my lawn savoir faire

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Final Thirteen Proverbs

(At least until next year)
I had to use these last thirteen. My students are eagerly awaiting their guesses in print. (Once again, the real proverbs are at the bottom. Just in case you are shaky on your axioms.) See earlier lists of proverbs here and here.
Thursday Thirteen

1. The first step is...
... before the second step

2. The way to a man's heart is...

3. Too many chiefs...
... equals a war

4. One swallow does not...
... fill you up.

5. It takes two... play a three-legged race

6. There's more than one way chicken

7. The spirit is willing... but the mind is asleep.

8. Misery
(True for me, anyway)

9. Don't judge a man until know how much money he makes. (I'm not sure I'd want my son to date the little girl who said this.)

10. The best things in life are... chocolate

11. Don't bite the hand...of someone who will bite back

12. Nothing hurts like..... the dickens

13. The Pen is mightier... than the pencil.

(I'm not sure why, but fully one third of the students responded with this guess.)

The Real Proverbs
1. The first the hardest.
2. The way to a man's through his stomach.
3. Too many chiefs...not enough Indians.
4. One swallow does not...a summer make.
5. I takes tango.
6. There's more than one skin a cat.
7. The spirit is willing... but the flesh is weak.
8. Misery loves... company.
9. Don't judge a man've walked a mile in his shoes.
10. Don't bite the hand...that feeds you.
11. Nothing hurts like...the truth
12. The best things in life...are free.
13. The pen is mightier than the sword.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Next Twenty Years

Seven years ago on Thanksgiving they made a list in Sunday School: "Things I'm thankful for", and while they fidgeted and complained and racked their brains for new, expensive gifts, not one remembered to thank the Lord for healthy legs and bones that worked and grew year after year. She sat writing fiercely--a long epistle of gratitude. At the top of her list was "wheelchair: I'm thankful for my chair". She lived in the chair.

Yesterday, early in the morning, before anyone was up, she died quietly in her sleep. It was sudden, unexpected; yet people were thoughtfully resigned when they heard the news. Somehow they felt that she had already outlived her life expectancy.

"Out lived?" Well I should say not. "Lived out" is more like it. For although her body was stiffled and twisted with a genetic disorder that crumples the bones, her mind and spirit looked outward with life, growth, and understanding. Her entire family wrapped themselves around her and the life they saw and loved. They took her to school, to church, to games, to vacations and to academic team tournaments. Last year she graduated as valedictorian of her class, and this year she started college....still outliving and living out past the expectations of many who did not know her well.

Yesterday was her birthday. For nineteen years I saw her as a smile and a pair of sparkling eyes. She thought and talked and laughed and wrote and played monopoly.

For the next twenty years she will dance.

Monday, March 10, 2008

We Are Too Mortal

We were not meant to die. I know it. See how the life in me cries out for living. Whenever a friend dies, however remote and distant from my circle of daily encounters, there is a solemn hush; a pause that cuts into whatever mundane activity I had planned for the day. It's a quiet rebellion for the outrage.

We were not meant to die. For while all the other dimensions: height and breadth and length are expanders--extending our reaches in two directions--time only goes one way. Time is broken. We gasp at the flying of days and the fearsome reflection that ours are numbered, that all those we love are getting older and falling. No.

We were not meant to die. We were meant to soar on angel wings, to plummet and not crash. We were not meant to spend our physical lives repairing what deteriorates. We were meant to "grow in wisdom and understanding and favor with God and man".

We were not meant to die. And so we sing sad songs and wrap our arms about ourselves and others. We hold on to the life we have, lest it slip. We take comfort in prayers and the arms of our Creator. For it seems we've fallen into a hole, a dark and dreadful hole, so we dare not kick the ladder. Above we see the light of a world as it was intended to be...and will be...when we are once again immortal.

When death is dead and gone, our lives will once more carry on, and the solemn hush of awe we feel for the passing of Death will give way to shouting.

We were meant to live. And we shall.