…And then I woke up…

Musings of a hostile therapist, writer, and teacher

Why Antiques are Beautiful — September 29, 2013

Why Antiques are Beautiful

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The internet is a funny but scary thing.  All of us can jump online and in the space of a few paragraphs establish ourselves as experts.  The easiest subjects about which to do that is parenting and education.  After all, we all have had parents, and most of us have been to school.  Our individual opinions on the subjects should have a lot of validity.  Right?

In a recent internet post complaining of the school she had chosen for her child, the strongly opinionated Ms. Lugie (who tried desperately to cloak herself in internet anonymity although her identity is easy to discover with minimal sleuth) stated that “my child’s teachers just LOVED entering zeros into the grade book. It’s statistically impossible to recover from zeros and an antiquated notion of grading at that.”  As a government school employee who chose private school for her child, her idea was similar to those of school systems in the US and Canada who have made giving students zeros for assignments not completed a thing of the past.  The theory behind the policy is that schools exist to teach students information.  Giving a child a zero does not teach the student anything, but merely penalizes the student in a way from which they cannot recover.  They learn nothing.  But do they? (For a story on the no-zero policy, go here: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/04/25/no-zero-policy-reversed-edmonton-schools_n_3155630.html)

With the focus in government education on core curriculum, there is a stressing on objectives that are taught only directly in educational goals according to subject matter.  What many teachers and parents realize is that there are many other lessons that we teach students that are part of what I call the “paraclassroom.”  These are subtle lessons that may not always be objectified in classroom goals.  One of these lessons is personal responsibility.

Unlike parents with whom I began working when I began teaching in 1987, or even ones that I worked with at the beginning of my counseling career in 1997, some parents today resist the discussion of personal responsibility.  At one point last year I was told by a mother that her child was too young (at ninth grade) to learn personal responsibility.  She argued that it was the teacher’s job to follow up with her child to make sure that she turned assignments in, or completed activities.

In my counseling work with typical students and students with learning differences, I have stressed the importance of “life skill teaching.”  To be successful workers, students will need to learn skills such as completing projects on time, working together with groups of workers, and making their differences work for them.  While different students work at different speeds and need different amounts of understanding and training, removing zero from the grade options of middle and high school students is harmful to the student who needs to learn that there are real consequences for work not done.

Old-fashioned?  Thank God, yes.  I love Ms. Lugie’s designation of giving zeros as “antiquated.”  I happen to love antiques.  They are beautiful and often reflect back to a wiser time, a time when parents knew how to hold their children responsible and “trained them up in the way they should go.”  Some lessons are more important than curriculum reform would like to admit.

Why me? — September 20, 2013

Why me?


Before we go much further in this blog-writing thing, I wanted to briefly share a little about me.  It will make stomaching the tougher things I have to say in later posts easier since you’ll be able to say, “Bless his heart; he doesn’t know any better.”

As my bio says, I was born in Savannah, Georgia.  What it doesn’t say is that I was born to an overall terrific Christian family who, because of some dangers reported in public schools at the time, sent me to a private Christian school.  I stayed in that private school from kindergarten through my graduation.  Some of my experiences were good, and I met some powerful Christians that were great examples to me.  Others were not, and I had teachers who admitted to the class that they were not even believing Christians.  Both types of people taught me a lot about Christian education—the negative and the positive aspects.

When I went into teaching English, I thought I’d be doing that for the rest of my life.  That’s why I almost immediately began and completed my Master’s degree in English education.  But God had a way of shaking things up when He shut down the school in which I was working.  All of a sudden, I saw Christian parents in a different way.  I experienced the gossip.  I experienced the lashing of the tongues of Christians in the parking lot.  I watched mothers and fathers destroy the lives of administrators with innuendo.   I also discovered the hypocrisy and agenda-setting which plagues many Christian school boards.  It was a faith shaking experience that made me leave Christian education for two years and teach in a secular private boarding school.  The experiences in working with the boys in the boarding setting convinced me to get a second Master’s degree in Professional Counseling and begin pursuing the hard, long road to state licensure when I was at first thinking of getting my Ph.D. in Creative Writing.

Why do I tell you this?  As I speak to you in future, (hopefully) weekly posts, I want you to know my angle.  Yes, I’m a writer.  I’ve had poetry and short fiction published in a variety of venues and journals, and I continue to produce.  Yes, I’m a teacher.  Currently, I teach AP Psychology and AP Literature and Composition, the two courses I ADORE.  Yes, I’m a principal.  Officially, I’m the Principal of Faculty and Counseling, meaning that I often teach teachers, and supervise a counseling program.  Yes, I’m a therapist.  I’ve worked in private practice for over a decade with teenagers suffering from anxiety and mood disorders.  I’m a mutt of occupations.  In short, I’m a writeapalist.  You have to know my background and the way I think or you simply won’t get why I harp on the things on which I harp. In fact, I harp on things so much I often pop the strings.

Philosophically, I believe that it’s time for us to let our kids learn responsibility and sometimes fail, our fathers lead, and our mothers nurture.  When we try to keep any of those family members from completing their tasks, none of them thrive.  I believe that the Christian worldview is the only one that makes sense in any rational terms, and I believe only a Christian can have full total mental health although many choose not to.  And I try to remind myself that we should all take ourselves a lot less seriously than we do.  BUT I don’t expect anyone else to agree with me on any of these points in order to get along with me.  I love a good argument.

There are many of other things I can share with you—like how I’m an introvert and basically melancholy/choleric—but that’s all you get for now.  Everything that is to come will make more sense.

The Counter Intuitive Prayers — September 3, 2013

The Counter Intuitive Prayers


My family and I have a weekly ritual: Dance Moms (don’t judge). My daughter is very involved in dance, and we often laugh at the silliness and drama that goes on in this “reality” TV show. In this week’s episode a mom said that every parent has to be on the lookout for opportunities for his/her children, no matter what. She was countered by a mom who said, “But are you teaching her to be a good person?”

That got me thinking about my mom. She was not a super saint by any means, but she taught me a lot. When she was about to go home to be with the Lord in 1987 and leave behind a husband, a college senior, and a high school freshman, she spoke to me about what God had taught her about prayer for her children. She said she had learned to pray what I have begun calling “The Counter Intuitive Prayers” as she prepared to meet her savior in glory. She said she prayed, “Have them fail so that they may learn success in Christ. Have them be lonely so that they may find a friend in Christ. Have them be poor so that they may find riches in Christ. Have them be weak so that they may find strength in Christ.”

Wow. Quite a different prayer than what parents usually pray; isn’t it? Try and pray it. If you’re like me, the words are difficult to pray because we’d like to see our children spared from such things. When Margaret Cooper Peeples, my mom, was eternally healed from cancer, we found the following poem in her Bible. I now have it framed and hanging in the entry way of my house. It is not a great piece of literature. However, I think you’ll find it moving.

A Mother’s Prayer

by Phyllis Didriksen

I do not ask for riches for my children,

Nor even recognition of their skill;

I only ask that Thou wilt give them

A heart completely yielded to Thy will.

I do not ask for wisdom for my children

Beyond discernment of Thy grace;

I only ask that Thou wilt use them

In Thine own appointed place.

I do not ask for favors for my children

To seat them on Thy left or Thy right;

But may they join the throng in Heaven

That sings before Thy throne so bright.

I do not seek perfection in my children,

For then my own faults I would hide;

I only ask that we might walk together

And serve our Savior side by side.