Second Chance Love

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The Gratitude Gospel: Day 2

“You saved me from the streets.”

It’s not something I like to discuss – the horrible things my students have encountered in their lives. But my teaching always seems to bring it out.

Drive-bys. Drug rings. Gut-wrenching poverty.

If college is designed to prepare young people for the real world, I think it falls short in doing so for inner-city youth. It takes several class periods before they even feel comfortable removing their backpacks, if it happens at all.

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A Veteran’s Lesson in Courage

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Excited to share my first guest post! Thank you to Grinia at Mirror & Soul for the opportunity and to all the veteran students who have made me a better teacher, mother, and learner.

“A Veteran’s Lesson in Courage”

I could tell he was nervous. There is this dance of eye contact aversion that my quietest students have perfected. But I teach at the college level – composition, to be exact – and public speaking is a rite of passage.

In full disclosure, I had been anticipating this moment for over 24 hours. The student, a veteran in his mid-20s, had a story to tell.

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The Ones I Couldn’t Save

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Several years before I became a mother, I was a high school English teacher…and probably inappropriately maternal.

One particular student comes to mind from my first year in the classroom. He demonstrated a gift for the written word. His passion for music was contagious (think drummer). And his family was in the midst of a financial crisis. He always seemed to end our conversations with the same urgent question: How am I going to survive? 

But I am a teacher, and – every so often – I struggle with a God complex. I want to save every last one of my students.

As an unmarried, 23-year-old I couldn’t offer him money or a safe home. He did, however, mention that his birthday was quickly approaching. And so I did what any loving woman without children would do.

I celebrated him as my own.

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The STEM Needs the Flower

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Oh, Ronald Reagan. In 1983 his administration presented A Nation at Risk, a report that would forever change the game in American education.

In short, it claimed we had everything to fear. We were falling behind. Our teachers weren’t good enough.

And so began our collective sprint to a finish line where all children succeed, where domination in math and science would be as natural as breathing. To achieve these goals, however, we had to shed the excess – the nonessential.

And, just like that, the STEM virus began.

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Finding Hope in Our Homework

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“Homework will make your life better.” It’s a line I shared with my students over and over when I taught high school English. But, the truth is, that was before I was really an adult – and long before I had children.

From my own perspective, homework opened the doors of opportunity. The classroom environment has always produced considerable stress in me, but – on my bed late at night – I found the freedom to work through problems and write papers without the pressure of feeling that everyone else knew more than me. Homework, in many ways, was my safe space.

Just this week a note for parents from a teacher in Texas went viral, as she boldly announced an end to “formally assigned homework” in her class. The Internet may have rejoiced, but the teacher in me has serious questions: What, then, will fill that homework time?

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What’s Your Best Blogging Advice?

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Kids will try anything. Really. Just a few weeks ago, my son turned three and we surprised him with the ultimate old soul gift: a hula hoop. Immediately, he was intent on mastering the toy.

If I remember nothing else in all my life, I will forever retain his laughter bouncing off the walls in our home. With each attempt, he learned a new technique. With each attempt, he gained confidence. With each attempt, he overcame his mistakes.

Yesterday evening – just as the sun was fading – I peered at my son with a jealous eye as the hoop made six complete rotations: I want to be that kind of writer.

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The Career Not Taken

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When you are a parent, first birthdays always have a way of misting the eyes and evoking strong emotions. Just yesterday my little girl was afraid to take a step, and today she is sprinting. Twelve short months and all that remains are the final traces of a precious baby, our last.

I told myself I had it together. I told myself I could do this. But, the truth is, I have regrets.

I didn’t read enough stories.

I didn’t savor the middle-of-the-night embraces.

I didn’t slow down.

And – here on the other side of one – is where I begin to ponder other roads not taken.

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Oh, the Decisions You’ll Make!

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Decisions can be suffocating – much like graduation robes. In May 2006, I pondered this exact thought as I walked across a very long stage. College was over, and finally my life would fall into place.

I would attend graduate school and pursue a career in education. I would marry a good Christian man who was well on his way to becoming a doctor. We would have two children, and I would perfectly balance motherhood and my career.

Little did I know that in a few short years, I would lose it all – the teaching career, the doctor, and the guarantee of motherhood. Continue reading “Oh, the Decisions You’ll Make!”