life beyond the well…


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Impact Trumps Intention…

When I was a teacher, I constantly heard the following statements from students:

“But, I didn’t mean to…”

“Ms. Davis, that wasn’t my intention…”

“I was just joking…”

Between hearing that and hearing an excellent principal at a KIPP school in New Jersey speak about impact versus intention, I knew I would eventually have to write about this.

Here’s the bottom line:  Impact trumps intention.  Period.

Or as I heard the KIPP school principal say, “Impact eats intention for lunch every day of the week.”

While it sounds mean, it doesn’t matter what you intended to do.  What really matters is the impact that is a result of those actions.  I get so tired of hearing people try to excuse their impact because of their intentions.  It’s nice that you didn’t mean to hurt my feelings, or that you didn’t intend for that to happen; but it did.  I need for you to own your behavior, and stop looking for me to excuse it because it wasn’t your intention.

The best way to fix this is by being thoughtful and intentional in our words and actions.  If we are always looking to say what we mean, and if we mean what we say; there is less chance that we’ll be in a situation where we have to retract our words or apologize for our actions.  Taking time to think about the consequences and repercussions of our behavior can go a long way.  And we must stop looking to apologize away our behavior.  Apologies don’t fix everything, and we can’t expect an apology to heal a wound.

In this new year, I encourage you to not just think about your intention, but the potential impact of your words or actions.  Let us always look to leave a positive impact and impression on others.

Be encouraged!

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Question: Is “smart” something you ARE or something you GET?

As a teacher, I’m a firm believer that smart is something you get.  You can work hard, push your limits, read more books and become “smarter”.  It’s one of the reasons that I push my students so hard- because I’m understanding that there’s always more knowledge for them to acquire, thereby making them more knowledgeable and smarter.

However, when I posed this question to my students last week, their answers differed from mine.  This isn’t wholly surprising- I’m coming up on 30, and most of them are between the ages of 15-18; therefore our life experiences and thought patterns are different.  Nevertheless, I was surprised at the number of students who believed that smart was something you are inherently; in the sense of, either you have it or you don’t.  Quite the interesting mindset, to say the least.

So, I’m posing this question to you: Is “smart” something you ARE or something you get?


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One Year Later.

“I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up DOES rejoice. Still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend.” – Morgan Freeman, The Shawshank Redemption

 

 

 

He was my friend.

I say that with caution, but not hesitation.  It’s taken me a year to realize that he was more than my student, but he was my friend.

It’s taken me a year to write this, because quite frankly, I knew that once I wrote the words, I couldn’t take them back, and I would have to admit that it was real.  I would have to admit that the news that came late in the evening of March 7, 2011 was true, and that he was no longer with us.

As a teacher, I accepted the grim reality that at some point, I would lose a student.  It’s unfortunate to think that way, but it’s true.  I never expected that I would lose a student so soon, and that it would be THIS student.

You see, we expect to lose the students who cause trouble, create mischief, diddle and dabble in things they know should be off limits.  But when you lose the kid who embodies all of the superlatives, Mr. “Most Likely to Succeed” who was also Mr. “Athletic”, while simultaneously able to be the “Best All-Around”, it rocks you to the core.  If you could measure his life trajectory, you’d find it to be off the charts.

And perhaps it is fitting that with a life trajectory that’s off the charts, that we now find him in heaven instead of with us.  I guess the world wasn’t big enough; that God was taking him far higher than we could ever imagine.

But I miss my friend.

I miss seeing him at Little Caesar’s, eagerly serving pizzas as if he were working in the most prestigious place; like the kitchen in the White House.  I miss seeing his little green Toyota speed out of the parking lot after school, humming the beats to some of the most ridiculous rap songs ever heard. I miss seeing his lanky swagger in the halls, floating a full head above most of his classmates and teachers; yet still a kid at heart as he packed his Transformers backpack full of AP Chemistry materials. I miss this kid, who responded to my correction with “Yes, M’aam.  I will do better.  But tell me, ‘How are YOU doing?'”

I miss my friend.

One year later, I still miss my friend.

As I watch your classmates delight in the countdown of days until they walk across that stage headed to the colleges of their choice, I miss you.  As we fill up the wall of acceptance with letters of college acceptance, I find myself wondering which letters I would have put up that would have had your name on them.  As I watched your teammates on the basketball court in the gym that is now named in your honor, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would have been like to see you on the court.

But all that wondering comes down to one thing: I miss my friend.

My friend, you are truly one of God’s best. I am so grateful that I was able to be a part of your journey; but that you were able to be a part of mine. You not only made an impact on people’s lives, but you left a legacy in our hearts. I hope we always make you proud.

 

Memory Music:

 


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Friday Favorites- Texts from My Students

I don’t think it’s a secret that I love my students and my alma mater dearly.  Both of them have a special place in my heart and receive a lot of my love and attention.

When God allows those two things to merge together, I feel even more blessed.  Especially when it comes in the form of receiving text messages like this:

Student 1: “I received my acceptance letter from UNC!”

Student 2: “I was just accepted to the University of North Carolin at Chapel Hill :-)”

I’m relatively emotional ANYWAY (another post for another time), but when you have the opportunity to work with students, share your love and passions with them, and then watch them pursue that on their own- and the result is successful- the feeling is overwhelming.

I’ve known many of these students since I’ve been at this school, so I’ve watched them grow over the past few years.  It is always my desire to see them excel; to have a life of choice, one full of “want-to” not “have-to”.  

I was in tears after receiving their text messages (and a few phone calls) because I’m so excited about the things to come in their lives. Every day these students trust me and other teachers at our word- that the hard work will pay off, that the struggles they’re facing are common AND that they will overcome them. And then there are days like this where they really, truly believe you.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to serve them.


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Again- Insufficient Parenting

I thought when I wrote this post on insufficient parenting, I had, for the most part, covered my bases.  And then you have those moments that will let you know just how wrong you are.

Insufficient parenting has gone to another level.

It’s a normal day at work. Students are being students.  Teachers are being teachers.  The day has gone by relatively smoothly, and I’m in my room prepping and reviewing materials for my class, which starts in about 20 minutes.

Out of nowhere, I hear what sounds like the gym erupting in cheers after someone made the game-winning shot. I brush this off, thinking that a class got a little too excited.  But the noise continues.  And gets louder.  Finally, I get up and rush down the hall to the cafeteria, to find it buzzing with energy and excitement.

Outside the cafeteria on the sidewalk, I see a young lady surrounded by her peers.  They appear to be calming her down.  I see another young lady being escorted to the office by a teacher.  And I see a parent of the first young lady, who seemed to arrive really fast for something that just happened to pop off.

I go in the cafeteria and start calming kids down; making sure they are quiet and in their seats.  Then I ask other teachers what happened.  And then I learn of the ULTIMATE case of insufficient parenting.

This ALMOST altercation, loud ruckus, disturbing my work time…was caused by a parent.

A PARENT came to the school, cornered a young lady so that her daughter and her daughter’s friends could fuss her out.

Really?  Sigh.  I can’t make this up.  But you’re a GROWN woman.  Why in the WORLD are you SO involved with your child’s drama that you are coming to school to instigate a fight?

Let me be clear: I am in full support of parental involvement in the life of their child.  I encourage it.  I believe and know from experience that it makes a difference.  HOWEVER, that DOES NOT mean that you should be at your child’s school as a GROWN WOMAN instigating fights with teenagers.  I’m sorry for the confusion.  When you do that, you’ve crossed the line into the realm of insufficient parenting.

So yes.  Just to be clear: being involved in your kid’s life is good.  Helping your kids instigate fights with others is insufficient parenting.

That is all.


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Sometimes My Students Overwhelm Me…

It’s Monday.  I’m moving slow. I’m trying to get my work done in the most efficient way possible.  I’m sitting in my classroom, working; but also listening to the class that’s taking place.  Senior English, filled with a bunch of students who I love dearly and who frustrate me just as much.

Their conversation is on justice and revenge, based out of their current reading of the book “Flight“.  The question posed to the class is about what constitutes justice, and if/when you should pursue revenge…or the idea of “an eye for an eye”.

Most students are explaining why they would pursue revenge and why revenge could be a form of justice.  And then I hear this comment:

“If somebody killed my mom, justice for me would be forgiveness.  If I pursued revenge, I would still have greed and hate in my heart and I wouldn’t feel right; so I feel that the ultimate justice is for me to forgive them.”

The emotion that I felt as I processed that statement, and what it meant was overwhelming.  As I thought about that statement, my eyes welled up with tears.  In a culture that promotes “an eye for an eye” and always getting even as a means of getting ahead; I praise God for students who know and understand the essence of love and forgiveness.

Out of the mouths of babes…

Peace and blessings…


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Friday Favorites: My Students

I love my students.  I love my career.  While I don’t always love what it entails, I am extremely grateful that I have a job, and that I have a job I love.  I know that many people are not in the same boat.

My students are awesome.  I don’t know that there are enough words to describe them, but the joy that I feel in my heart when they greet me in the morning, come chat with me at lunch, hug me after being accepted to the college of their choice, text me to ask me how my weekend was, call me to schedule lunch/dinner while they’re home from college…it’s amazing.

This is not to say that they don’t frustrate me.  They do.  Frequently.  However, my goal is always to love them to death; my prayer is always for God to make up the difference where I lack.

I’m blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of their journey.

Until next time…


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Stuff My Students Say

I can’t make this up.

My students say some of the most hilarious things I have ever heard.  Here was today’s exchange:

 

Male Student: “Ms. Davis, can Jesus read my mind?”

Me: “I’m sure that He can.  Why do you ask?”

Male Student: “Oh NO! If He can read my mind, I’m in trouble.”

Me: (laughing) “Why are you in trouble?”

Male Student: “Because, Ms. Davis.  I just saw Ms. _______ and WHEW.  Man, Ms. Davis.  Y’all be lookin’ so good…”

 

Just another day at school…


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Today I Wanted to Quit

Today was a rough day. I can’t really identify why, but it was. Taking a step back, there’s not one clear thing that made today a “bad day”. But…it just wasn’t good.

I wanted to quit.

There are days where I don’t feel cut out for my job, my environment, my life as it is at the time. I wish I could go to something familiar; where people love me for me, where it’s not all about business, where I’m not oscillating between managing adults and supervising kids.

I know this is not forever. But it seems like it’s been long enough.

The truth is that it HASN’T been long enough. Because if it REALLY has been, God would have swooped in and changed the circumstances, and I’d be on to the next challenge. As much as life is about challenges, it’s about lessons. And there are things that I need to learn in this space so that I’m fully equipped for the things to come.

I wanted to quit today. It showed on my face. No less than 10 students who I love as if they are my own saw it on my face. I did them a disservice. I did me a disservice. I did God a disservice. Because despite how unhappy and dissatisfied I was with today, I am overwhelmingly blessed. I live a life of choice. I wasn’t worried about how I was going to provide dinner for myself. I wasn’t worried about where I was going to sleep tonight.

But just as I struggled with this feeling of wanting to quit, my mind sifted through the list of emails I received today. And my focus began to change. Because what I want to do now, is make tomorrow WAY better today. I hope I never have another today. (Technically I won’t, because it’s impossible, but you know what I mean). I have to choose to never have another today. I can’t control situations, I can’t control circumstances, but I can control me.

“…I can think of a thousand reasons why I should quit. They make it hard on purpose… there are lives in our hands. There comes a moment when it’s more than just a game, and you either take that step forward or turn around and walk away. I could quit but here’s the thing, I love the playing field.” -Greys Anatomy

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” -Galatians 6:9

Peace and Blessings…


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Kids Say the Darndest Things…

Today in class we were discussing college majors with the students. As we discussed different majors, students began to inquire about what major they would need for a certain career. And then we have this question:

“What major would I need to have if I wanted to do subpenises?”

Eyebrow raise. Mouth drop. Wait, what?

Turns out the student wants a career in the criminal justice field. He’s just unable to pronounce the word “subpoena”…

Until next time…