After This…

How many times in my life have I said “after this…” then I would be able to do the things I’ve always wanted?

I set goals, I long for change, yet the day-to-day spirals beyond my control. The lie I tell myself, the lie we all tell ourselves at one point or another, is “after this…then I’ll be able to do that.”

As if life will somehow slow down or stop entirely, allowing us to engage in a Thoreau-like existence of meditation and self-improvement in wood cabin, off the grid, away from society.

I caught myself thinking “after this…” today, as I once again face down three months of rehearsals and individual practice time for the musical, while still teaching, while overseeing a student news organization and co-managing sports broadcasts, while still serving at church, while still maintaining relationships.

“After March,” I caught myself thinking. As if March and the end of the musical didn’t signal a chain of interviewing journalists for next year’s staffs, or commence soccer and baseball broadcasts, or who knows what else. Life won’t get easier in March. Or April. Or May.

Even in the summer, though I’m not tied to as strict a schedule, the days and weeks somehow fill and I catch myself saying “after summer…”

I’m sure life has been like this for a while now, a constant stream of responsibilities and personal pursuits, at times quarreling for my attention because I say to one, “After this…” and ignore the other. For some reason—age? experience? necessity?—I’m grasping more fully the reality that “after this…” doesn’t exist.

Each year as people start making and sharing resolutions, whether it’s setting SMART goals or selecting a word to live by or scribbling a bucket list of longed-for accomplishments, I am tempted to join in. As if “after December 31” will signal a complete change of character and I’ll be wealthier, thinner, smarter, more productive, or less single in 365 days.

Instead, I’m shifting my paradigm in 2019: eradicating the trap of “after this…”

I need to embrace the 14-hour days as evidence I am physically and mentally healthy enough to handle that kind of load. I need to look at my calendar objectively, and find the pockets of time that appear—and then fill those pockets with endeavors that don’t include time-wasting vortices. I need to say yes a bit more often to friends and family, to view that time spent as energizing (because it almost always is).

“After this…”, I’ve learned, is a surefire way to collect a few regrets. So if you are also feeling the pull to start something new, as many do with the advent of a new year, I have two suggestions:

  1. Do things.
  2. Don’t wait until January 1.

Letter From A Sick Teacher

So I caught a little virus.

It was a bit worse than previous colds I’d had. This one brought along a couple friends, 72-hour Fever and Total Body Aches, and I was forced to take two days off from work.

This is not easy for me to do, to take time away from my students. When I taught English, I could leave reading or writing assignments and grammar exercises and call it good. But in my electives world, it’s a bit tougher to be gone.

Not only was I too weak to go to school or do any schoolwork, I could not even stay awake through the next film in my movie project, “The Great Ziegfeld.” So you get to wait another week for a movie review.

This virus lingered for a good week; even yesterday I could barely accomplish the few tasks I deemed necessary for a successful week, and when my editor-in-chief asked me if I could read stories so she could publish them, I responded “Are they time sensitive stories, or can they wait until tomorrow?”

If you’re not familiar with the Action for Happiness project, every month they produce a calendar of ways people can be a little happier. This month is self-care September.

This is a well-timed experiment for me, as I was forced to do next to nothing for seven straight days–a reminder that if I don’t take care of myself, I am absolutely of no good to anyone around me.

I loved this tweet from a fellow educator:

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Dear teachers and students, can we all follow this advice this year, and can we all give each other a bit of a break when we notice people on the edge? Then maybe we will stop wearing exhaustion and stress as badges of honor, stop compbragging (complaining yet bragging at the same time) about how much time we spend at work, and start living slightly better lives.

 

 

 

Keep Families Together.

Real quick, before I get on with my day:

I get that immigration is a complicated and divisive issue, but I like to think that most people would agree that separating families at the southern  border is excessive. (I have seen no reports that this is happening at any other borders–if so, please let me know.)
 
Today, if you have five minutes, please consider calling your U.S. senators and ask them to support a bill called “Keeping Families Together Act.
 
I called Senators Sasse and Fischer this morning, and staffers picked up on the first ring. When I’ve called their offices on other issues before, that rarely happens. People are there, and lines are open. It takes two minutes to say “Hey, I’m not wild about the reports of families being separated at the border. Can you please tell the senator to act on proposed legislation to prevent that from happening?”
 
Also, phone calls > emails > tweets. Even leaving a voice mail is better than an email.
 
Also, only call *your* senators. Calling senators from border states does nothing, unless you are their constituents. (And if you live in Arizona, please consider calling Jeff Flake’s office and remind him of the photo he tweeted earlier this week…)
 
I have to believe, at least for today, that we the people can still affect change, but it will only happen if we raise a little hell.
 
Here’s some links to statements from faith leaders and organizations over this new practice of separating families:

And finally, at the risk of hyperbole: if you’ve ever read or learned about events in human history where people in power excessively oppressed others and thought, “I would stand up to that. I would never let that happen,” it’s happening now. Do something.

Oh, Teenagers.

In recent weeks, I have read and heard a myriad of complaints about today’s high school kids. I am weary of the broad brush used to paint these individuals.

I’ve been teaching high school now for 17 years, and every year, I defend the kids I teach more and more. And while I readily admit there’s some kids that have tested every nerve, I have a news flash for you:

The adults in public education have made me want to quit way more often than the kids.

Teens are impetuous?

So are adults.

Teens are self-absorbed?

So are adults.

Teens are easily manipulated?

So are adults.

Teens are disrespectful?

So are adults.

Teens are reckless?

So are adults.

Come at me with all of your examples of teens who are just The Worst, and not only will I counter with teens who are just The Best, but I’ll also provide examples of adults exhibiting the same behavior you’re complaining about.

It is unacceptable to point to the younger generation of your choice as the source for societal problems. It is past time we start harnessing their passion, ingenuity, and skills to make the world better, instead of scrutinizing their methods as impractical, based on the sole reason of  “that’s not how we do things.”

Stop vilifying teens, start listening to them.

Stop ostracizing teens, start mentoring them.

Every day, teens impress me. Every day, teens surprise me. Every day, teens inspire me.

Allow for the possibility that they can do the same for you.

 

 

#CureHazelwood

Thirty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided, 5-3, that high school student journalists should not be afforded the same First Amendment rights as professional journalists.

They decided this, despite the decision 20 years prior, that neither students nor teachers shed their constitutional right to free speech when stepping on school grounds. Instead, the Rehnquist court decided to splice up the First Amendment: Mary Beth and John Tinker had a right to free speech, because it was not sponsored by the school. The journalists at Hazelwood East High School did not have a right to free press because the school paid to print the paper.

That’s the watered-down version, of course, but you get the gist.

Thomas Jefferson said “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” What better place to train student journalists of this vital responsibility than in a school setting, with supports around them, so that should they choose journalism as a career, they have a strong foundation in ethical, solid journalism?

I’m probably being incendiary here, but I wonder what the current journalistic landscape would look like if 30 years of Hazelwood did not enable the censorship of  thousands of high school and college journalists (because yes, while Hazelwood’s intent was to stifle high school press, college administrators misuse it on their campuses to censor their journalists). Would we have journalists better trained in law and ethics? Would we have more journalists well-versed in reporting and fewer journalists well-versed in people-pleasing? Would we have journalists more interested in reporting news than moderating pundits? Would our news networks contain a little less public relations work and demand a little more accountability?

We’ll never know. But we might be able to turn the tide.

Currently several states have pending legislation that would restore full First Amendment protections to student journalists. One such bill, LB 886 in Nebraska, would protect high school and college journalists. The bill specifies that stories that are libelous, violate state or federal law, incite violence, disrupt the school day, or invade privacy of sources are not protected.

This bill is not a free-for-all for students to turn their newspapers and websites into mini-TMZs.

But it could allow students to report that a principal lied during the hiring process.  Kansas, by the way? They have a state law that protects high school journalists. That’s why those reporters could write this story.

LB 886 could also prevent the current PR nightmare Herriman High School is managing:

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Utah? No law there protecting student journalists. And now, the administrators have become the story. (I was a newspaper adviser in Utah for a year, and before my students even had a chance to publish one story, he told me, “The Supreme Court says I can censor anything you try to publish, so let’s make this a good experience for everyone.”)

When I think of the stories my students could write but don’t, for fear of censorship, it breaks my heart. And I’m lucky–I have a supportive administration that trusts me to do my job as an adviser. But I know my reporters self-censor all the time. To be honest, I probably point them in that direction sometimes, as much as it pains me.

Thirty years is too long. It’s time to cure Hazelwood. Our liberty depends on it.