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Blog . . . actually Vlog: Reflections on Storytelling

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Reflections on Running: Part One

Once upon a time, a girl started running. She was nursing a broken heart, and she needed to do something hard and rewarding. (Is easy ever rewarding? Hmmm, I wonder.) She stepped out of her back door and ran until she estimated she had gone as far as she could go . . . and still make it home. Later she discovered she had run just a little over a mile on that day.
Over the next three years she ran, sometimes with consistency — three or four days a week — sometimes with month-long gaps in between, and, during a particularly satisfying stretch, 5-6 days a week, training for two marathons in one year.
A pulmonary embolism in year six (and a scary doctor) slowed down her progress, and a demanding job made it easy to spend several months each year not running.
But still . . . every time she saw a runner on the road, she looked longingly. She remembered the joy of listening to footfalls landing, one after another, for miles and miles and miles. She remembered the rhythm of breath and beats an…

This is My Story

In the spring of 1986 I told the story of my brother’s proposal as a part of my lesson on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29 — a lesson that I was delivering in my English methods course as a senior at the University of Idaho.

Ten years and hundreds of students later, I was still teaching a version of that lesson to my freshmen at Kellogg High School, and the story had grown to be a more integral, a more intentional, a more dramatic part of that lesson. This story brought some sort of magic to my classroom. Students leaned in, faces and postures transformed, and sometimes tears welled up in their eyes. It was the best day of the school year.

When I moved to Timberline High School in the sixteenth year of my career, I was reluctant to bring my sonnet lesson to this new venue. Moving to a new school had brought an unexpected dip in my confidence. Storytelling calls for a certain amount of vulnerability, and I just wasn’t sure I had enough courage to go to that vulnerable place. One day I took the r…

Surely God is in This Place

A friend wrote today to tell me how our music had been a "necessary balm" during her stressful week. She described some of the events of her week, and I would have to say "stressful" is an understatement. Still, I was delighted to hear that our music had brought her some peace in the midst of it all.

But it was her final sentence that has lasted throughout my day: surely God is in this place.

I had checked my email, while my students watched a short film clip, and when I read that phrase I felt it down to the soles of my feet. I felt its impact so profoundly that I had to put it away for later. The lights were about to come up.

So tonight I went to her message again: surely God is in this place.
Surely God is in this place.

Of course I know this. I know He is an omnipresent God. I know He is sovereign. I know He has me (and He has you) in the palm of His hand. I know it.

But somehow my friend's words--coming as they did after a story of mishap and injury--helped me k…

Unleashing Greatness

A year ago I watched with pride as my seniors delivered their senior presentations. These TED-style talks, 8-12 minutes in length, brought out the very best in most of my students. They were creative, authentic, professional talks that combined many of the skills that we worked on all year: developing arguments, incorporating evidence, integrating narrative, and, perhaps best of all, speaking with authority and passion.

For years now students have delivered these talks while standing in the front of my classroom. But in a moment of epiphany twelve months ago, I caught a new vision for these presentations. I could see my students standing on the stage in Timberline's beautiful auditorium, microphone in hand, stage lights shining, and a large screen behind them replacing the small one in my room.

This idea, so potent, so vivid in my mind, filled me with joy and excitement. My heart raced every time I imagined how spectacular this could be. I could imagine them upping their presenta…

Inspiring Idaho Teachers

My dear friend Simon Miller, tech guy extraordinaire, innovative teacher, dedicated husband (and father of four), and one of my honorary brothers, was interviewed two weeks ago for a podcast dedicated to honoring inspiring educators/unsung heroes. Anyone who knows Simon would agree that he is most definitely an inspiring educator, whether he's teaching high school students, the faculty and staff of the Kellogg School District, or his many friends (like me), who turn to him in times of technological need. You can enjoy his interview here:

Coach Miller then nominated the brilliant Tammy McMorrow to be interviewed the following week. If you don't know Tammy's blog and you're an educator or a parent (or just alive), you should check it out: Forever in First.

Tammy and I go back a few years, too . . . to the day she was born. She is my cousin, my second-best friend, the best singer I know, and my CD-making…

I'm Counting

I can picture myself as a preschooler (back when preschool literally meant "before school"), discovering that I could count all the way to 100. What a joyful revelation!

Forty-some years later, counting is still an important part of my life. I find comfort and joy in numbers. 
I love watching the balance on my mortgage go down--even though it moves very, very slowly. And budgeting night is something I look forward to every month. In fact, I've been known to use it as a reward for myself: grade 20 essays and I get to budget!
When I have a pile of essays to grade I make stacks of five or ten (depending on how long the essays are), and I give myself a reward for every stack (10 minutes to eat or watch television, for example). 
To manage those really big jobs (like the senior research papers, which take about an hour each) I use a quota system. Once upon a time I thought grading 15 research papers in a week was a reasonable quota, but then my AP numbers grew from 50 to 150 (one…