People Across the Sands from My World

My 3 teachers at Universidad Autónoma in Guadalajara México 1996.
My 3 teachers at Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara México 1996.

I spent the Summer of ’96 as an exchange student at Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara. I was finishing the last Spanish Conversation class requirement for my MA from Cal State Fullerton. I met so many amazing and generous people down there. My instructors were students themselves but they were so curious about America, Disneyland specifically. They’d all never been yet I had a season pass in my wallet. They really admired America. The way of life down there was definitely not as posh as what I had grown up in. It was a coming of age time for me.

Es difícil a decir cuántos personas conocen yo fui al Guadalajara estudiar Español in mil novecientos noventa y seis. He escribido much en mi blog sobre la experiencia. Todavía, artículos en un blog son perdido y olvidado rápidamente.

It’s difficult to say if many people know I went to Guadalajara to study Spanish in Nineteen Ninety Six. I’ve written in my blog much about the experience. Still, posts on a blog are quickly lost and forgotten. Though I was already 26, I was sheltered most of my youth in the wealthy town of Mission Viejo. This adventure taught me more than just Spanish. I use my Spanish daily as a 4th grade publish school teacher in the High Desert of California. At least 1/3 of my students are Hispanic in Spanish speaking families. Beyond that, it taught me about another part of the world. I saw a different way of existing, of being. Poverty was everywhere and yet people were making life work in the sun, across the sands from my world.

Today, I’m very proud that this 45 year old white Irish teacher from Orange County does all his parent conferences without needing an interpreter! I have much to say about that time in Mexico and words will be coming out of me until the day I die. I’m not sure if you knew that about me and many more probably will not as this post inevitably fades into the archives. Tat’s how it is with blogs. Posts have a mixed shelf life. Mine seem to be actively read 1-5 days at the most. Regardless the life of these words however,  My time in Mexico in me forever.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma.”

5/27/2015 – Sharing the Gift of Me

What if I have it all? I don’t wanna miss it. What if 89% of the world wanted what I have … right now? Why am I wanting anything more. What if i knew when I walked into a room or if someone clicked onto my website, I was already a winner in their mind. No need to prove it. That might affect some things. What if I knew I was a gift to the world but only when I was rested, positive, healthy, and relaxed? I’d work to be that way every day. I’d buy tools to help me create and innovate my gift so as I share it with others, they are pleased and motivated.

A reader came into my class today and read us “The Quiet Cricket.” It was her gift to the kids. What a metaphor. Would you walk into a foreign place where you had to find your own way around to give the gift of you? She did. My kids’ smiles happened as a result. They get tired of hearing the same voice every day. She broke up that monotony for them. This is it, there is no trial run. I want to live my life expressing thanks to those who share their gift with me and work to offer mine in the most understandable and helpful way possible. One way I give to my family is by finding hidden gems to watch. Tonight I plan to do that, plud everyting else I can to share the gift of me.

Staying Healthy and Inspired as a Teacher

Those with careers in teaching are often under pressure. The administration wants the paperwork turned in on time and the parent wants accurate and full reporting of their children. Your own family wants and deserves your complete attention. Of course, as a teacher, this is your job so we shouldn’t whine too much about it. At the same time, it can feel overwhelming to have so many precise demands. It can affect you. A teacher’s mental and physical pressures should not be permitted to go on too long. The teacher must be a responsible professional and take care of her/his own needs first then the rest. This is a basic truth whether you teach English abroad or elementary school here at home.

There are certain basic “self-checks” you can do to remain sound of mind and body health in the classroom. Here are a few I do at yearly intervals:

  1. Check your blood pressure. Demands of kids and work can really raise this. If you don’t know already, a healthy blood pressure is below 120/80. If you neglect this, a heart attack or stroke could occur which would make you unable to be a great teacher.
  2. Plan your exercise routine. By that I mean, plan something you know you can do consistently and vigorously. For example, I really enjoy running outdoors but I seldom get to it. On the other hand, using my treadmill is much easier to be consistent at. If I choose the running plan, I will likely get no exercise whereas the treadmill is easy access and likely to get used. Vigorous exercise helps circulation and keeps you laughing through those challenging days.
  3. Get out of the house. If you are married, take your spouse out on a date. If you are single, go out and do something you love alone or with friends, good old fashioned “rest and relaxation.” You are “Mr. Riley” all week long, now go be you!
  4. Do your favorite pastime.

More than any tip, remember this: Those in education jobs are no good to your students, your school, or your own family when you are mentally or physically spent. Be responsible about taking care of yourself first and then the kids. Recharge your batteries. They will thank you for it!


This post was published first as Staying Healthy and Inspired as a Teacher on Dynamite Lesson Plan.

Teacher Baggage Check


My baggage is the set of bad people I’ve met in education. There are knit-pickers and critics and downright rude people that go into teaching. There are also refreshing, creative, innovative, inspiring ones and I hope to be counted among the latter group. I’ve had people yell at my kids in line to lunch, tattle to the Principal about me when I made mistakes, leave me nasty notes, and even up and pull their kids out of assemblies only to later blame me for their immaturity. I’ve seen and heard it all from bad teachers. The oriony is, some of these teachers actually produce good test scores. Since that’s what we reward as a culture, they seem to just get meaner. I think my baggage or being hurt by what a few crotchety colleagues have said or done to me has left me defensive and defensiveness saps from crativity and innovation.

My boss told me recently I seemed different. As we talked I surmised she was referring to the fact that I wasn’t “bringing the spark” to every room like people are accustomed to me doing. This is precisely because of the baggage, some of it new stuff. I need to push all that down and continue to be curious about better ways to reach learners. That is how I have an effect on my students as well as on my colleagues. If I allow them to get to me and nurture a culture of “entitlement,” ie; I deserve to tell them off and defend myself, I will cease to be a creative “spark” on my campus. People go through moods, I need to just let them and remember to not burn bridges.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Baggage Check.”

Dead But Not Gone

I haven’t had any memorable “horror” type nightmares in recent years. I can tell you a few I had when I was a kid but let’s stick to a recent one. I did have a nightmare recently that I came into my house and found a strange man hanging out with my kids. They seemed to adore him. Apparently, he had thought I was dead and so was rekindling a friendship he had with my wife. I empathize with guys who go through divorce and face this scenario. It was horrible! I felt “absent.” My wife was away at work or something and this guy seemed very inquisitive as to whether I would be back in the picture or not. I did not like the “vibe” of the conversation. Odd might be a step toward describing how it felt.

It wasn’t jealousy per se but rather that left behind feeling. My kids were laughing so hard playing with him and they even recognized I was their dad but they kept playing with this new guy. I remember when I woke up I felt really strange. I didn’t even tell my wife about it because it felt so real. We did have a hypothetical discussion that day about what would happen if I ever died, would she remarry. I would absolutely expect her to, no one should go through life alone unless she/he wants to. That’s what she told me though, she’d stay a single mom and would have no desire to date if I died. What would it matter to me, I told her. I’d be dead. I think having the dream was weirder than it happening in real life. What a trip to get a glimpse into a what-if scenario. Dreams are gold for that.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Nightmares.”

Focus on Three Things (or less) Today

tumblr_m8z4yltfxY1qiph2fo1_500If you are a high achiever who has 110 things on her/his to-do list today, this post may not be for you.  If you want to be a high achiever but get overwhelmed at times, this might be more suited to you. I was talking to a new friend, Justin, the other day through emails about how we can get over indulgent in work and actually be less effective.  That conversation made me think up a challenge post to my readers:  I want to tell you to focus on only three things today. You decide what they should be.  You’ll be tempted to focus on more, but limit yourself.

As a teacher, I tend to get bogged down in all the demands from the district and parents.  Sometimes, it can sap my energies.  The professional solution is to focus my energies with an almost tunnel vision on no more than 3 things.  I can still do other things, but my success for the day will be determined on whether I got those three things accomplished.  For example, tomorrow my 3 are: 1) Multiple meaning words, 2) Finalize my parent conferences calendar, and 3) Teach the final 2 math concepts we’ll be testing next week.  There are many other things I could/should be worried about, but these three are the most important.  I will name the day a success when these three things are done.

It is the regular attention to goals that makes me feel like a great teacher.  I wasn’t born great and I do not remain great just because of what I have done.  My puritan upbringing cringes at calling myself “great,” but I am simply referring to the data that says: I set goals and achieve them.  To me, for any occupation or endeavor in life, that is success.


This post was published first as Focus on Three Things (or less) Today on Dynamite Lesson Plan.

Only an Act of God Could Stop Them

121342Three guys walk into a bar, one pulls a gun on the other two and they follow suit, “What do you think you’re doing clearing out of town with my money!” One of them says with gun drawn.

“What the heck do you mean, you took the money sack in the last town, and I aim to get it back!” A second one says. The third is the deputy and he is obviously alarmed by what is transpiring so he orders both of them to drop their weapons. They of course do not.

“Throw down your weapons I tell you in the name of the law!” The deputy by now is pretty visibly upset. The two men explain with the whole bar watching stunned that they aim to kill each other if they have to but one is lying. They say they’re gonna have a draw at noon, when the cuckoo clock strikes. After a long long shouting match, the bartender walked out and said,

“Okay, so you’re gonna kill each other … fine. Before you do it, let me get the crucifix statue off this here shelf so the Lord can maybe throw a miracle down here. He lifted the heavy statue off the shelf next to the clock. The story ends with the two men witnessing what they thought was a miracle. They put their guns away and walk out dazed by what they feel is the Lord’s hand. This is loosely based on an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode I watched yesterday. You’ll have to check it out yourself to see how it ends. It’s streaming on Netflix. Thanks to John Holton for reminding me of this Hitchcock show. In some ways I like it better than the Twilight Zone.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Fill In the Blank.”