Senior Project 2017 – Teaching Self-Empowerment and Significance

Seniors at Sheldon High School are required to complete a senior project. They can choose any project, but it needs to be challenging, take at least 15 hours to complete, and be something they have never done before. After completing the project, they present it to a board of teachers and community members and talk about what they did, why it was challenging for them, how Sheldon prepared them for such a task, and what changes they would make if they were to do it again. It should be an exciting and challenging culmination of their high school experience. For many it is.

In recent years students have become aware of my love of running and have asked me to mentor them in a running project for their senior project. I welcome the opportunity to introduce them to the trails and try to encourage them to run on dirt when possible.I take this very seriously.

I take this very seriously. I have created a training plan that is a combination of Couch to 5k, Hal Higdon’s 50k training plan, and a plan designed for me by a mentor and coach that has helped me tremendously. I talk about nutrition, both during the race and leading up to it. I teach them about hydration and how to plan for that. I introduce them to Strava and follow them on the app so I can encourage them. I offer them group runs so we can get out on the trails they will be running on during the race. This is also accompanied by a lesson in recognizing poison oak and avoiding rattlesnakes.

This year I had 6 students planning for a 35k. A few years ago it was rightly decided that half marathons are not enough of a challenge and the minimum distance was raised to a marathon. I lobbied to allow a trail 35k (only 3 miles short of a marathon and on trails). 4 seniors ran this race a couple of years ago and tore it up. This year none of these seniors had any running experience. I gave them a plan that would take them from walking a couple times each week to running a weekly distance just over the race distance. I also had a student running a marathon and I had him on approximately the same program. Another student was training for a Tough Mudder. His program included weights and upper body work for the obstacles.

Everyone was enthusiastic for a while. Things got sloppy pretty fast.

My Tough Mudder was using a different APP and did not check in with me again. Because of the nature of Tough Mudder (it’s possible to skip any and all obstacles and still “complete” the course) the distance is not enough to be a real challenge.

My marathon runner had his race canceled and, instead of coming to me, his “mentor,” he went to the head of senior projects and, somehow, convinced her to allow two half marathons to satisfy the requirement. In my opinion, unless he ran them both the same day, that is not the same.

I watched the others as their training diminished and they fell further and further behind. I offered to take them to run the course a couple weeks before the race, but not one took me up on it… or even responded.

Race day came and I was entered in the 50k on the same course. The guys took off with youthful enthusiasm and soon discovered the difficulties of running on trails, of running in the heat, of running 22 miles when you have only run a total of about 30 in preparing over 15 weeks. Two of them missed a turn because they didn’t see the sign and did some “bonus” miles.

The advantage of being 17/18 years old, is that you can go out and hike/jog/run all day and still get it done… even without proper training.

As a teacher/coach/mentor, there is little as frustrating as having those you are trying to teach dismiss your expertise and then watch them suffer the consequences of their poor planning.

Truth be told, I’ve been that kid. Sometimes, I’m still that kid. I’d like to help these students learn that lesson from my experience, but some lessons have to be learned the hard way. I may get discourages sometimes, but when I do I think about the other students who have worked hard, followed the training, and accomplished great things.

Last year a young man trained hard and completed a 50k for his project. He came in 2nd in his age group in 5:34. Not bad for a first ultra. He still runs and is currently serving our country in the Marines National Guard.

The year before, a young lady completed a half marathon. She was not in very good shape when she started and, even though she slacked on the training, it motivated her to keep conditioning and recently posted a very confident picture in a sun dress. The confidence she now has in herself, she told me, has a lot to do with running and getting in better shape.

The first year I mentored a young lady to run a marathon. She completed it in 6 hours and raised money for charity at the same time. Afterward, she told me that if she could do that, she could do anything. A few days later she ended an abusive relationship with an older boyfriend. Confidence earned through running and facing challenges.

So, I’ll keep doing this because I love the trails, I love the kids, and the ones that truly do great things because of what they learn from me far outweigh the ones that just go through the motions, if not in number, certainly in significance.

Gentlemen (and Ladies) of Sheldon High School

SSgangA new club was formed at Sheldon High School this year. Junior, Elijah Rasheed recognized that style, fashion, pride in appearance, and manners seem to be missing from many young people today and he wanted to do something about it. Partnering with Mr. McMorris, they formed The Gentlemen’s Club. As you can imagine, getting teenagers excited about a club focused on manners and dress is no easy task, but they kept at it until it was noticed by designer Scott Conner at Sterling Scott ties. Scott offered to create a line of ties specifically for Sheldon High school in colors and themes that exemplify Husky Pride. He offered us a promo code for 50% off and promised to give 15% of profits back to the school.

We gathered a few students and went to LA for a photo shoot and the ties were named for those students. We even had the club featured on Good Day Sacramento.

Our first efforts were to reach students, parents, and teachers. Then we reached outside the school into community, including businesses and the mayor’s office – if you see Kevin Johnson, ask him what Sterling Scott he wears! We soon realized that, even at 50% off, many students could not part with $50-100 for a tie, no matter how much they like it. Through generous donations from the Elk Grove Auto Mall, Crown Realty, and Les Schwab Tires we were able to purchase over 20 Scholarship Ties to give to students that would like one, but can’t easily afford one.

It was amazing to see all the Sterling Scotts at graduation. sterlingscottgradsWe are now able to give close to $300 to the Choir to help with their plaques that they have earned and almost as much to help with the cost of Sober Grad Night. We also have a lot more interest in the Gentlemen’s Club for next year.

If you would still like to purchase a Sterling Scott Tie at a discount, you may do so using promo code HUSKIES33 for 33% off anything on the site.

Buyer’s Remorse

Anybody spend too much at Christmas? Years ago, when I lived in the Bay Area, I would get off work on the last work day before Christmas, and do all of my Christmas shopping on the way home. I would go from store to store down The El Camino until I found gifts for everyone on my list. If I were left on my own, I would still wait till the last minute to do all of my shopping and then I’d spend way too much. I get caught up in the moment, swept away by the emotion, excited to give gifts that I know will thrill those that get them. Of course, the bills do come and I have to figure out how to pay for it all. Fortunately, my wife shops throughout the year and finds great deals on great gifts and sets them aside. It’s a different kind of excitement to find out Christmas morning what I got everyone, including her.

Maybe you’ve bought a big ticket item recently? It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now you have to pay for it, and maybe you’ve started second guessing yourself. You think that maybe you can’t afford it after all. Maybe you wish you hadn’t bought it. It happens a lot. So much so that there is a legal loophole to get out of a contract. You’ve probably seen it. Anytime you buy something on a contract, there’s that little clause you sign that says you have three days to change your mind, but after that, it’s yours. It’s called the Right of Rescinder. It’s there so that if we get caught up in the emotion of the moment and buy something we really can’t afford, we can change our minds and undo it. It helps people avoid defaulting on debt and the horrible consequences that can sometimes go along with that. Although, even that does not always go as it should. I remember, a few years ago, when we bought our car. We had fallen victim to a bait and switch and ended up buying a more expensive car than we had wanted. We took it back within the three days and tried to return it, but they wouldn’t honor the 3 day right of rescinder. That was in 2007 and we still have that car. It turned out OK and that dealer has since gone out out of business. Not that that has anything to do with buyer’s remorse, but I did feel somewhat vindicated when they closed up.

So, anyway, I was thinking about this and connecting it to other choices we make and how some (many?) of those choices fall short of what God expects of us. We know we all fall short, or go astray. I was thinking about the Right of Rescinder that we have for the things we buy into that give us buyer’s remorse.

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

We buy into things that we shouldn’t. Some of those things we buy into are because we are deceived into thinking that something bad is good. Some of the ways we fall short are errors in judgement, lack of wisdom, or experience. Some are actual choices we make, where we know what we ought to do, but we don’t, or we know what we ought not to do, but we do it anyway. Paul suffered the same fate:

Romans 7: 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

Maybe you have felt that way from time to time. I know I have. In some way or another, we all buy into lies the world tells us. I think there are three kinds of lies that we may buy into at various times in our lives.

“I’m not good enough.”

We know we are going to screw up, so what’s the point in even trying? Sometimes, when I’m driving, and a police officer pulls in behind me, my thoughts go to all the potential mistakes I could make that could get me pulled over. Am I speeding? Did I come to a complete stop? Did I signal? I know I’m going to get pulled over, maybe I should just floor it and run this stop sign and get it over with. Of course I don’t do that.

The world, and Satan try to convince us that it doesn’t matter what we do because we can never be good enough anyway. Of course, like all lies, this contains a certain amount of truth. We will never be good enough, but that is where Jesus comes in and His sacrifice brings us healing and and forgiveness. Since God sees us through the filter of the Blood of Jesus, we are good enough; not by anything we have done, but in spite of ourselves and entirely because of what Jesus did.

Do you ever believe you’re not good enough? Maybe you need to realize that Jesus’ sacrifice is a gift and not something we earn.

“It’s really not that bad.”

There are variations on this. Things like, “no one will notice,” and “everyone else is doing it.” We justify things we do like, being less than honest on our taxes or keeping extra change when we get too much at the store. I have noticed, in recent years, a trend among students at school that seems to be that “anything I can take without getting caught is OK.” It has become more obvious and more blatant, but don’t we all do that to a certain degree? “Everything’s legal, if you don’t get caught.” Right? Where do you draw the line? What is too much?

The world tries to convince us that some sin is OK, or, at least, not that bad. Jesus, on the other hand, taught that we should be perfect, just as our Father in Heaven is perfect. Clearly, not possible without His grace, but it’s still what are to strive for and justification has no place in it. Jesus justifies us, in spite of our sin; we cannot justify our sin.

Do you find yourself thinking that your sin is not that bad? Have you ever thought “at least I’m not like…” or, “at least is didn’t do…?” Maybe you need to accept that any sin is enough to separate you from God.

“That’s not what God meant.”

This is, literally, the oldest lie in The Book. The serpent told it to Eve when he said that God didn’t really mean that she would die from eating the forbidden fruit, but that she would become like God. We have many ways of buying into this lie too. We say that it doesn’t apply to us because the Bible was a different time and circumstance. We claim that people are being too legalistic. We interpret God’s commands to suit ourselves.

Jesus said:

Matthew 5: 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

So, clearly, every command is of equal importance to God. He never placed any priority of one over another. Do ever find yourself interpreting God’s Word in a way that excuses or permits something, or benefits you in some way. Think about how God really intended His Word to be understood.

Jesus broke it down into two simple concepts. Love God and love others. Yet, we still find ourselves making choices that benefit our own worldly desires. We still find ourselves buying into the lies that the world tells us.

In spite of all of this, Jesus freely forgave us all. He came to give us abundant joy. He came to free us from the bondage that comes from buying into the lies.

I think Paul summed it up very well in his letter to the Romans.

Romans 8: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

And, prior to this, in our memory verse:

Romans 6: What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

We all make bad choices sometimes. We all have regret. The Grace provided by Jesus means that our debt is paid. That doesn’t give us permission to make bad choices, but it does mean that we can let go of our past.

Truth be told, the grace of God means that Jesus takes away buyer’s remorse for the bad decisions we make, but our challenge is still to not buy into the lies.


Organized Chaos

Now 1/4 of the way through the school year and I’m still not really clear on exactly what Common Core is, but then, neither is anybody else.

I have made two significant changes in the way I teach. The first involves putting the students in groups andgroups letting them figure things out for a while. More often than not, they are able to come up with a solution or a reason by discussing among themselves.

The second change is waiting. This is difficult for me. I have to give the students time to figure things out. I feel like I only have so much time to cover so much material and, if I wait, we will never get there. The waiting makes them think, however, and getting students to think is really my primary goal. Another challenging aspect of this is that students have been conditioned to wait for someone else to give them the answer. They believe that if they wait long enough, the teacher or another student will tell them the answer and they won’t have to figure it out. It’s really a game on both sides and by me out-waiting the students, they are the true winners.

I’m accustomed to having a fairly controlled class where I present material while the students take notes. They copy my examples and then try a couple on their own and we check them and then they ask questions. This is not the way it goes anymore. Now, I present a problem and they discuss how they might solve it. Being teenagers, the conversation quickly and easily diverts from the topic at hand. My task is to cruise around the room from group to group, providing prompts, questions, and encouragement. I can’t stay too long at any one group because as soon as my attention is focused on one, there is at least one other going off on a tangent somewhere. To the casual observer, it probably seems completely out of control. Often, it does to me as well.

At this point (midterms) I’m not seeing much of a difference in the grades of my students over previous years. It’s hard to say if they are learning more, but they are not scoring higher on tests. I am seeing an increase in what I consider to be good (or productive) questions and more often than not, students are able to answer those questions.

Truth be told, there will always be some great new method for teaching, but I believe the significant changes in students’ lives come from the relationships they develop. IF I can connect with them on both an intellectual and a personal level, I have a better chance of helping find success in whatever they attempt. The  biggest benefit from common core, may be that students learn how to better teach themselves, so they will continue to learn when a teacher is not present.

And now, for something completely different

The first two days of the new school year under my belt and I have to say I’m pretty excited about it, but last week I might not have said so.

I’m sure a lot of you have heard at least something about Common Core State Standards. In theory, it all seems like a good idea. Shouldn’t an Algebra class in Sacramento teach the same things as an Algebra class in Iowa? I have had students move into my school mid year and they can’t transfer their knowledge because the classes are so different in scope and sequence. It certainly seems that if all the states had the same standards, then students would be better prepared for their next step, whether its college or trade school, or a career.

There are two entirely different sets of problems with the whole thing. The first is what most people have heard about. The federal government has too much control over the minutia of our lives. I’m not going to disagree and what has the federal government ever done really well anyway? The second set of problems is significantly more important. No one, up to this point, has been able to tell teachers exactly what Common Core means to the classroom. The early implementation at the elementary level has largely been chaotic. Most students and most parents do not even understand assignments that have been sent home. In an effort to encourage students to think “outside the box,” teachers are presenting assignments in a manner that is just confusing. They don’t seem to understand the difference between allowing different thinking and forced confusion. The idea is to let students learn in ways they feel comfortable with, but too often it has been about forcing students to be uncomfortable.

Clarity snuck into our pre-service meetings this year. Other than the fact that we had three days to change everything, I finally began to see some benefit potential for the new way of learning… and that it isn’t really new. Many of the teaching strategies that I learned in my credential and masters programs, and have been discouraged from using in my current assignment, are exactly what we are being asked to do now.

So, I rearranged my classroom in groups. The first two days have been a total divergence from what I have done for the past 10 years or more. Rather than present a rule, show a process, deliver an example and then let the students try on their own, my new process is to present a problem and let the students develop a method to solve it amongst themselves. The different groups communicate and find multiple paths to the same solution. They talk to and encourage each other. The students dictate how the material will be taught. Not what is taught, but how it will be taught. The students show me where they are and I can then take them from there to where they need to be. Students have less homework and more responsibility. Students learn to learn.

Truth be told, I’m still not excited about the federal government managing my classroom, but I am excited about the amount of learning that will go on in that room this year, by me as well as my students.

It’s not about me…

FLTR6aIt was nice to be back on my home trails this week. It’s amazing how good we have it with all these beautiful trails so close to home. I wasn’t really thinking of this as a race, as much as a fully supported long run.

I started out a little fast, but settled into a fairly consistent pace after that and, although the plantar fasciitis started FLT1bothering me after 14 miles and my legs were screaming at me because of the amount of long runs I have been doing lately, it was a great run. Inside Trail did a wonderful job with the aid stations and marking the course. If they can keep me from getting lost, it’s a good day! Aid stations were extremely well stocked and they had just what I needed all along the way.

I enjoyed running with Diane and Ron for a while and seeing friends at aid stations and along the course. Crystal and Hassan always make any race a good race. Finally meeting Alisyn face to face and running somewhere increasingly behind Diana really made me feel like I was just out for a run with friends. I also had some quality solitude time on the way back as I found my comfort zone and just cruised along with no one passing me and me passing no one for quite a while.FLTR5 I tired at the end (again 3rd race in 4 weeks and still really recovering) and I thoroughly enjoyed the post race massage offered by The Traveling Masseuse.

Some of my FTR friends finished their first 50k at this race, so congratulations to Damin and Jen on their great runs. Once you go ultra – you never go back! Jen won her age group and Damin took 3rd in his. As it turned out, I took 3rd in my age group, as well. This was likely due to the fact that there were only three in my age group, but I’ll take the extra medal.

But that’s enough about me, because this race was about these guys…FLTR4

I have been truly honored to be asked by several senior students at Sheldon High School (where I teach math) to mentor them in running related senior projects. Earlier this year, Anna completed a marathon, running her first ever race (a 5k) in the process of her training, as her second race ever. Emily completed a half marathon in March. Nick and Carla finished half marathons on Saturday (Carla on road and Nick trail), while Diamond volunteered instead of running due to injury. At the same time. Abdul, Xavier and Taylor ran the 35k with me. Well, I was with them for the first half mile.

Since it was an out and back course, I got to see them again, still very close together, when they were on the way back and I was not quite to the turn around point. They ended up finishing 4th, 5th and 15th overall and 1st, 2nd and 5th in their age group. At every aid station the volunteers told me how impressed they were with these young men and how strong they looked.










The best part came today, however, when one of them came in to see me and told me how much he enjoyed the run and that he would like to do more.

I’m so impressed with these young men and women facing difficult challenges, pushing through and accomplishing their goals. I feel amazingly privileged that they asked me to be a part of it.

Truth be told, the more I do this, the more I learn it isn’t about me at all. It never was!

San Diego – Navy Tour


the beach at Coronado Island

As an educator, I am always on the lookout for better ways to answer the question “when are we going to use this?” Recently, I had the opportunity to tour the Navy base at Coronado Island, near San Diego and I found more answers to that question than I had expected.

Although my father was in the Air Force (before I was born), I have never thought of the military as a first option for post high school. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly support our armed forces and have great respect for those young men and women who dedicate any portion of heir lives to protect and defend our nation and our freedom. Still, when a student discusses their higher education plans with me, I have never offered military service as a first option.

 When the application was sent out from the local Navy I thought it might be interesting, so I applied. The Navy footed the bill and picked me up at my home on the Monday of Spring Break and drove me to the Sacramento airport. I flew into San Diego and was met by the host of the program, Chuck Roeder, and Chief Luis Chavira, who was our escort, driver, tour guide and all-around general good guy for the week. After getting settled in the Naval guest housing on base, we had a nice dinner in old San Diego and got to know each other.

The trip included tours of an air craft carrier, a submarine,

Obligatory selfie in front of the USS Carl Vinson

Obligatory selfie in front of the USS Carl Vinson

a destroyer, the SEALS training facility, the helicopter hanger and a water side cruise around the harbor. What I was most impressed with was the technology involved in all the positions within the Navy. Since math is my subject of instruction, it is exciting to see so many real applications in the real world where I can tell my students; “hey, not only can you use this, but you can use it to make a living and to serve our country and get your education paid for by the military!”

I learned that every person in the Navy is first trained t be a fire fighter. I found this particularly interesting. My son (he’s almost 10) has been saying he wants to be a fire fighter since he was 4. He then wants to learn “to build stuff.” I interpret that to mean that he wants to be an engineer and the Naval engineering education is among the best in the world. There are 5000 personnel on an aircraft carrier. Every single one of them learns how to pilot that floating city. Under-water welders (frogmen) have to undergo intense training to be able to do that highly specialized job. The list goes on and on.

USS Ronald Reagan from the deck of the USS Carl Vinson

USS Ronald Reagan from the deck of the USS Carl Vinson

Whether a student joins the Navy and makes it a career, or just stays in long enough to get their education and then move on, the benefit of serving in the military is much greater than I had thought.

The military offers experience, in sometimes high pressure situations, in ways that even the highest of education facilities cannot create. Imagine, two people graduate high school at the same time. One goes to college and gets a degree, while the other joins the military. 4 years later, one has an education and the other has the same education and 4 years serving their country and working the job they hope to get. If our student in the service stays in for 20 years, at the same time our college-only student has a degree and 16 years experience working their way up the company ladder, the military student is now retired, has 20 years experience, including experience leading. Should they choose, they now get hired as their old classmate’s boss and when they both reach retirement age, our military student is collecting two retirement checks and living large at a relatively young age. I’m not saying that a person could get rich in the military, but I was extremely impressed with the fact that they are now taught how to manage their money and plan for retirement. It is definitely hard work, but that hard work pays off many times over.

Truth be told, most employers are looking for experience to go with education when they hire people. The military can give them that and, while it may not be for everyone, a student can learn a career, learn to manage themselves, their money and other people. They can learn the value of service and hard work. this is certainly a viable option for any student willing to work hard to make a good career and a good life for themselves and their family.

 **for more pictures visit my facebook page

Oh For The Love

steep ravine start

happy to be back on the trail

I started running to lose weight and get in better shape. I soon found a rekindled love affair with running and, especially, the trails.

Last year, I set some aggressive goals and pushed myself to try to reach them. Not only did I not reach two of my four goals, but I injured myself in the process and started to not enjoy running as much. It usually takes long distance runners years (much more than 2) to get burned out, but I could tell I was headed that direction and I didn’t want to be.

steep ravine ocean view

amazing view of Stinson Beach from the Steep Ravine Trail

Time off! Time off was a must.

I took three weeks after CIM and then an easy trail run. A 10 mile trail race a few days later and the Plantar Fasciitis returned. A lot of stretching and 18 days later, I ran the Steep Ravine 25k in Stinson Beach. I was undertrained, although the rest had done me good. But this is not a race report.

Running through the trees and in and out of the view of the coast, I found a peace that I had been missing since I could not run, due to my injury. Climbing the steep hills, although exhausting, was also exhilarating. I stopped often to take pictures and walk breaks as needed. Most importantly, I remembered what I love about running.

Steep Ravine Trail

running through the redwoods on the Dipsea Trail

Being! Just existing with nature. I find myself on the trail more than in any other place. Nothing of the troubles and concerns of life matter when I am on the trail. The people I run with, whether I know them are not, create a family-like camaraderie beyond almost anything I have found elsewhere. Above it all is the peaceful contentment I find in solitude on the trail, and the communion I find with God in the presence of His magnificent creation.

So I am returning, not just to running, but to the love of running. I have no fear of failure, for my only goal is to run. I have no time constraints, nor pace objectives. I may get faster. I may not. Of only one thing I am certain, I will run… a lot.

goat hill

part of Goat Hill on the Way To Cool course

This week I returned to my home trails. Running with many friends in Cool for the upcoming 50k. I found myself alone on the trail several times throughout the day. It was during this time that I realized what changes I need to make in my running… and in my life.

I need to do more of what I do for the love of doing it! I have always advocated doing the “right thing for the right reason,” but I am not sure I have always kept track of what “the right reason” is.

I think I may have stumbled upon it…

LOVE! Perhaps it seems silly, or something, but, as Paul McCartney once said, “what’s wrong with that?”

My greatest peace comes from three things (maybe four): running, music (I like almost everything), and nature, the forth is probably motorcycling, but that’s another blog. In fact, when I am running in the mountains, listening to my iPod, I reach a near perfect place for me. When my legs are so tired that they lose their feeling and I’m somehow still moving fast enough to feel a breeze on my face… when I can smell the trees and the near by stream, and classic rock, blues or country is thumping in my ears, I am totally disconnected from everything except where I am and what I am doing.

Why can’t I do everything I do with that love? Seriously! Why can’t I?

mountains above Cool

mountains above Cool

I don’t see any good reason. I teach because I love math and I love my students. I play and sing because I love music. I run because I love running. I write because I love writing.

Truth be told, There’s enough of hate, anger, frustration, etc. I’m not going to add to that. It won’t be an overnight transition, but I will get there. The focus of all I do will be love. Besides, what’s not to love?

Do you need to be mentored? Do you need to be a mentor?

The short answer is “YES!”

There may be a time for the “sink or swim” method of teaching, but that is not mentoring. Mentoring is beyond telling, or even showing, someone how to do something. It is a steady guide through the learning and/or growing process that ensures the success of the individual being mentored. Above all, mentoring requires trust.

I’ll share with you two examples….

I love to snow ski, but it didn’t start out that way. When I first went skiing I asked a friend of mine to show me how. He said, “It’s easy. Go to the top, point your skis down and, by the time you get to the bottom, you’ll know how.” Well, long before I got to the bottom, I had given up. I took my skis off and walked down the hill.

On the other hand, a few years ago, I decided to take up running. This is something I had done from time to time, but I bought myself some new shoes, started running around my neighborhood and entered a couple of 5k races. Then I met a guy who also ran and asked me if I wanted to run together.

He showed me some different places to run. He always made sure I was doing OK. He checked on me if I was having a hard time keeping up with him, and made sure I had enough water. He taught me about Gu – on the run energy food, easy to carry, easy to consume. He introduced me to running culture and to other runners. He also introduced me to trail running. After one of our runs (I had said that I was not interested in running anything longer than a 5k (3.1 miles), he told me we had just run about 6.5 miles and maybe I should do a 10K with him on New Years. That was 2012. I relented and have since run several 10ks, several 10-mile races, 2 half-marathons and my first marathon. In August, I will be completing my first 50K and I am considering a 50-mile race next year. I would not have been able to do that without his mentoring. I am now getting ready to mentor a good friend of mine, as he gets ready to run Tough Mudder in September. This is a 10-mile race with obstacles and lots of mud, ice water, and electric wires to run through – but that’s a whole other message by itself.

Mentoring isn’t really mentoring if it doesn’t lead to further generations of mentoring.

It’s not enough to teach someone how to do something; we must also teach them to teach others how to do so. You might say, “I’m not a teacher. I could never do that.” But everyone has a different part to play and everyone has different strengths. We have been given those strengths to use to help others, as well as ourselves.Each part does its own work, plays its own part in building up the community. You don’t have to be a teacher to show someone else what you know. However, you do have to have patience and, most importantly, I believe, a love for what you are doing and a love for the one you are mentoring.

So, are you ready to develop mentoring relationships? Here are a couple of tips and a couple of warnings…

Mentoring relationships cannot be forced, but they must be sought out. As you travel on your journey, look for those further along than you from whom you can learn and look also for those behind you on the path to which you can provide guidance and encouragement.

Build trust and friendship before you offer instruction. No one wants to be told what to do by someone they have no relationship with.

Lead more by example than by words.

Be patient. Don’t rush it. Relationships take time to develop and sometimes they just don’t. If you find one that doesn’t work, keep the friendship, but find someone else to mentor or to be mentored by.

Don’t take on too much. Jesus mentored 12 men. One of them didn’t follow. I think, that for most of us, two or three is the maximum. One at a time is probably enough, but it depends on the time commitment necessary and the time you have to spend.

Everyone should be mentored AND be a mentor. If you have not been mentored, find someone who is able and willing to mentor you. If you are currently being mentored, start looking for someone to pass it along to.

Mentoring is essential in sports, business, education, hobbies, religion, community… really, everything.

Truth be told, mentoring looks like this:


– people guiding each other through rough waters by reaching forward and backward… all the time.

The Best Part of Teaching

People frequently ask me why I like teaching high school. Often, this question comes from my students. I actually enjoy witnessing the cognitive development that takes place during the teenage years. Prior to this time in their lives the majority of their views and opinions come from one of two places: either they have heard it from their parents, so it must be right, or they heard it from their parents, so it must be wrong. However, as they get more involved in high school, expand their circle of friends and influences and begin having individual experiences apart from their families, they begin to form actual opinions on their own. For the first time they build their belief system based on their own experiences and not only those of their parents. Obviously, the influence of their parents is still most significant and gives these young people the starting point for everything they will ever believe, but now they get to add to that the influence of others and their own development.

The other day, in my geometry class, we had the opportunity to go off topic a little and discuss some current events and issues that will affect us all. Fortunately, I have created an environment of trust and freedom in my classroom where students may feel safe in expressing their opinions. I was impressed with the courtesy that was displayed and the respect that the students had for each other and their differing points of view. This was no light weight discussion. Topics moved quickly form the current scandals facing our federal government to gun control, abortion and the death penalty. We have students with polar opposite opinions and everywhere in between.

The most important task facing educators is teaching our students to boldly express themselves with kindness and respect for others and to form those opinions from informed positions.

Truth be told, some of the most significant learning happens when we step away from the curriculum and let the students express themselves and apply what we have been teaching them in a real way… and the students learn then too.