Since I don’t have TV (have I blogged about that? There’s an idea for a post. . . ), I listened to the memorial services held on Sunday on the radio. NPR had great coverage of the one in New York City as well as Pennsylvania. As I listened, I cried quick, heavy tears. I can’t fully explain where the tears came from, but I know a part of it was more than just my sappy, sentimental self. I can cry at nearly anything involving family members losing loved ones, and the people reading the names of their lost loved ones easily set the waterworks in motion. But, there was something else. I think it goes back to that day.

I was walking down the hall to my locker at my high school, a few weeks into my Senior year, on September 11th, 2001, when I noticed my English teacher, Mr. Phillips rush across the hallway to my Government teacher, Mr. Turner’s room, saying something like, “Gary, you have to see this.” I would later learn the first tower had already been hit, since it was an hour past 8:46 a.m. in NYC. I immediately sensed that something was wrong. Perhaps it was the tenor of Mr. Phillips’s voice. The next thing I remember was choir class, and I think we watched some tv. It gets a bit blurry ten years later. I’ll stick to the most vivid memories.

In Drama class, we watched the plane hit the second tower, live. I felt disbelief and then dread. The disbelief came from the action-movie impression that crash portrayed. I truly felt like it was some sort of Die Hard movie or something. Then, I realized I had just witnessed the death of many, many people, and I realized the crashes weren’t just crashes. They had been planned. I instantly felt a rush of anger sweep over me. The injustice! Who would do this? How could this be allowed to happen? What was next? Would this be World War III?

I’m sure throughout the day we were somber, questioning, and completely unable to focus on school work. I wonder how I would deal with a situation like this in my classroom today. By the end of the day, I loaded my stuff onto the bus to head to Jewell, KS for a volleyball triangular. I didn’t feel like playing volleyball. I had thought they might cancel it. Yet, I knew cancelling it would not make as much sense as going ahead. After all, we were so very removed from the East, and it wasn’t like we were in imminent danger.

On the way out of town, I witnessed my first and last traffic jam in Miltonvale. Everybody was parked in lines around T&T Service, one of the two gas stations in town. Somehow, they’d gotten word that gas prices would go up! I remember us girls staring out the windows in awe of so many cars downtown, and, I’m sure, with a new anxiety, seeing our parents and friends’ parents acting so strangely.

At the volleyball triangular that night, I reflected on how minor a role sports should play in one’s life. Winning and losing is so trivial compared to life and death, war and peace, the past and the future. I didn’t care if we won, and I don’t even remember now who won. I do remember the time in the lobby between games. A TV was on and there was live coverage on the news of the bombing of Afghanistan. The screen showed a grainy picture of an orange glow off in the distance, shining against a dark, deserted landscape. This was the moment at which I nearly panicked. All I wanted to do at that point was go home and be with my family. Apparently, we were at war with someone and from this moment on, my life wouldn’t be the same. At least, those were the thoughts of an almost-18-year-old farm girl from the middle of Kansas.

Looking back, the ways in which my life is different are quite subtle. There is more security at airports, but that has affected me exactly five times since 2001. Many of my peers, just turning 18 and possibly motivated by the attack, signed up for the military in the months that followed. Yet, only two of those were my classmates and none of those were my close friends. I am so proud of the men and women in my age group who pursued a military career during this time. They have been fighting a difficult, technological, new war bravely, patriotically, and sacrificially. They make me proud to call myself an American.

I think the greatest thing that changed for me after Sept. 11, 2001 was that I had a new appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes in our government. People are working daily to address the threats to our nation, and they don’t get noticed for their successes, but they get lambasted for their failures.  An article this past spring in Time magazine deepened my appreciation for these security officials. Reading the article was akin to reading a spy thriller, and I finished it in awe of how much we have to be grateful for to live in a country with people who work daily to protect us.



The Sixth Year

Well, I have officially kicked off my sixth year of teaching and coaching Forensics, along with my second year of coaching volleyball! The first week went well despite some health issues I had. I survived!

The best part about teaching is the kids. Once they were finally in my room on Thursday, I got an extra burst of energy. I’m so excited to get to know them! At this school, I get a new crop of students every year since I teach Freshmen and Juniors.

The best part about coaching volleyball happened on Friday, our fifth day of practice. My middle schoolers this year are quite inexperienced in volleyball, and some are inexperienced in simply exercising and moving their bodies! So, we have a lot of work to do! But, the first day we did this certain passing drill, they only had 16 or 18 good passes. On Friday, they started the drill off with 5 perfect passes in a row (followed by an outburst of cheering and encouragement from the whole team) and ended up getting 28 good passes! So, it felt like things finally came together a bit, which was a huge encouragement to me. We haven’t even learned about hitting, blocking, or digging yet, since we needed to work so much on serving and passing. But, that is middle school volleyball for you. I LOVE getting to teach them from the start how to play correctly!

Back to Blogging With a Book Review: Tim Tebow’s Through My Eyes

I’m sure the whole world has been just waiting for me to blog again! HA.

My last post was about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m now in that light! :) And, honestly, it’s just as wonderful and just as terrible as I thought it would be. This summer is my first free one since, oh, probably about 10th grade. But particularly, since I have started my teaching career, I’ve been busy with either classes or a job the whole summer. This summer, no classes. And I miss them. Surprisingly, I’ve found it difficult to be without stress. I guess I just operate best under stress. However, I’ve been given a wonderful opportunity to read the books that have been waiting for me. Maybe I’ll write about some of them. Also, I’ve been able to do a bit of planning for next year, which is nice strange. . . I mean, I’m going to have a plan? Well before the year starts? What a novel idea! I already have the first nine weeks of Freshman English laid out, including that dreaded grammar instruction.

Volleyball camp is coming up. Can’t wait to get on the court and teach the little girls to love volleyball!

Since I don’t have Internet access at home, I can’t post all that often, so I think this is going to be a long one. I’m at the library. Can I just say that public libraries rock my world? Free internet, free books, free newspapers, and when I logged on today, they had an ad on their website for free music downloads. LOVE IT!

Okay, a book review. Here it is. I bought Tim Tebow’s Through My Eyes and finished within 24 hours. Loved it! It’s possible you haven’t heard of him, if you don’t pay attention to football, so let me oblige. Tebow won two national championships at the University of Florida, was up for the Heisman Trophy three times (the first of which he won–after his sophomore season), and was a 2010 first round draft pick for for the Denver Broncos. Those are just his football accomplishments. He has done and is so much more. The son of missionaries to the Philippines, he is a miracle baby, the youngest of five children, and has grown into a man with a desire to use his football platform (his word) to spread the message of Jesus. I hadn’t heard of this guy until after his second Heisman nomination, but once I started paying attention to him, I began to be more inspired than ever to be more open about my faith. His book has only inspired me more.

I’ll admit this book might be a tough read for a person who doesn’t know anything about football. He almost takes you through every game of his college and professional career play-by-play. Of course, this is only five years, so it’s okay that he’s so detailed, even telling about each of his injuries. I enjoyed hearing his mindset as a team player and leader. He also gave lengthy descriptions of his workouts, which sounded insane, yet inspiring. He detailed his relationship with his coaches, Head Coach Urban Meyer and Strength & Conditioning Coach Mickey Marotti. I could identify with that as well as with the descriptions of his encouraging, faithful parents and the crazy stories he related of growing up on a farm, getting “Farm Strong.” I felt like I was reading about MY life! :)

Throughout the memoir, Tim weaves snippets of spiritual discussion and inspiration. He doesn’t shy away from the tough questions, like “Why does God let bad things happen?” and “Why doesn’t God always answer my prayers?” and “Which way do I go?” As he discusses God, he truly gives readers the gospel message in a non-preachy kind of way. He simply explains why he believes certain things, usually backing it up with scripture and then helps the reader directly (in second person, even) apply it to their lives. What an encouragement!

I highly recommend this book to you if you fit in any of the following categories:

  1. A Coach
  2. An Athlete (current or former)
  3. A football fan
  4. A Christian
  5. A mother of boys
  6. A teacher of football players
  7. A farm kid
  8. A sports fan (especially of the SEC)
  9. A high school student
  10. A college student

You will find something in the book to relate to the very experiences you are going through or have gone through. Tim Tebow leads a very public life, as most star football players do, and he is one of the good ones, who is trying to do good things. He stands for things in this world that other people scoff at, and those people are eagerly awaiting his public mistakes. Say a prayer for him when you think of it.

This one’s for you, Madre.

Mom told me I should blog again. I suppose she’s right. After a crazy first nine weeks here at my new school, I’m settling in pretty well. Here’s  list of new things I know:

1. I love coaching volleyball. More than I love teaching. Crazy? Nope. I love it!

2. Middle school girls are hilarious. They made me laugh every day at practice!

3. I’m a competitive person. Twice this year, we were up 24 or 23 to 9, and I turned to Randy, my assistant coach, and said, “We can’t let them score another point. I want to beat them 25-9.” We did. Twice. (But, I didn’t realize I was that ruthless?)

4. Winning a tournament championship is more fun as a coach than it is as a player!

5. Losing a match (yes, we only lost ONE this season!) is worse for a coach than a player.

6. I love adolescents. Not adolescence, mind you. Adolescents. Even when they are difficult. It is so fun to figure out what makes them tick, how to motivate them, how to encourage them, and how to inspire them to become better in everything.

7. God brought me here for a reason. My superintendent (with a little help from God) convinced me to help bring FCA back to the school. We had our first huddle tonight.

8. What other reason am I on earth than to share the message of Christ with people? That was the “help from God” my superintendent had. After he asked me if I would lead it, I very quickly said, “No.” But, he and his wife told me to pray about it, and it just hit me one night. I need to do this. Ever since then, people have come out of the woodwork, so to speak, to help me! This is God’s plan. I’m so thankful to be used by Him!

9. No matter where I go, I will love the people there. I have missed my old friends and students more than I thought I would! This past weekend was a blast, catching up with some of them at Dave’s! :) I laughed until my abs hurt and I was almost crying. Thanks, Willards!!

10. In year five of teaching, things are easier. I don’t stay at the school nearly as long anymore! Life is good!

11. When professors tell you the project you spent so many day’s worth of hours on was “splendid,” tears can ensue. One more paper down. Four to go. :)


The Last Class

Today was the last day of classes for my Masters degree in English. The listening, notetaking, and discussing is over, and now I can concentrate on writing papers (five of them) and studying for the comprehensive exam in March. If all goes as planned, I will graduate in May of 2011!

I’m a bit apprehensive about having enough time to get my papers finished before May because Thursday isn’t the new Friday anymore. My new school is not on a 4-day week, so all those weekends I spent last year writing three papers? Non-existent. However, I one less prep at my new school, so there might be more time. But, really, there won’t. With a new school, new texts, new students, and a volleyball season to coach, I will struggle to find time to write.

It’s amazing how much work goes into teaching. Once the first day has passed, it is literally non-stop work until the end of May. At least, it has been for me these first four years. Maybe the fifth is easier? I hope so! That way I can write my papers, take my exam, and then I won’t HAVE to read another book for the rest of my life.

Of course, I will read books. Just not books that come from a list put together by a professor. Rather, I will read the books that have been waiting on my shelves for so many years. Ooo! And books that I buy because they sound interesting! I have a list!! I can’t wait! :)

A random note: if you have an iPod shuffle, use it to go running! It is fabulous.

Job Searching

I’m searching for a job. This is a first for me. So far, I’m not stressed out about it. There has only been one rejection. I’m waiting on two schools to call me for an interview. Things will be fine. I am a bit surprised about the time and effort job searching requires. Filling out repetitive forms, contacting your references for recommendations, scheduling interviews and going through with them. One of the prospective jobs might have a volleyball coaching position. This really excites me! Watching our girls play this year, with so much talent, but needing a bit more coaching, was difficult for me. I almost wanted to be out there!

My first real coaching experience was as an Asst. Freshman coach while I was student teaching. It was exhausting, and I wasn’t even in charge until October when the head coach had her baby. I found out that it takes a lot of energy and focus. Just like playing volleyball, but definitely with more emotion and brains put into it. As a fifth-year teacher (which I will be next August), I will be in a better position to handle a head coaching job. And, I’m glad I’ve had the experience of building up a Forensics program. Some of those ideas and methods will transfer over to a volleyball job.

Speaking of Forensics, my team went 2nd in the League tournament last week! They did such a great job! We’ve had a successful season, qualifying 10 (one more than last year) events for the state tournament in Salina. I’m so excited for that big meet, and I hope my students beat out some of our rivals from this league at State! :)


Well, the last post I wrote discussed the issue of leaving or not leaving. Is it possible that, a mere 5 days later, I know which decision to make? So far, I haven’t heard that the guy actually resigned. But, I’ve decided that even if he does, I will not leave here. Several reasons play into this. 

Forensics–My team is good! And, we’re only losing two students to college. So, I’m excited and inspired to do more and better things with them next year! 
Four-Day Week–With the cuts KS has been making for school budgets, our School Board is desperately searching for solutions to stay in the black. A 4-day school week is a real possibility. I would love to get in on that–not only for extra time at home on the weekends, but also to simply experience it. I may be in a position someday where people want to know if a 4-day week is a good idea, etc.

Volleyball–The JH vball coach resigned her position last week. The job pays even more than Forensics, and I’m actually trained to do it! I need to make a decision quickly. Do I want my first two months of school to be INSANE? With Fridays off, it couldn’t be that bad, really! This would be a great time to jump on board and get some true experience at running a team. Then, I can move on from here with that experience under my belt.

Oh, another choice. :)