Category: education

Writing and Reading for Children and Teens

This is a quick post- (Believe me I will do my 3rd interview I just want to make sure it is well thought out and that my political opinions are explained adequately).

On Saturday I went to an awesome literary symposium put on by the Provo Library.  This was with my friend Emily Whitman who has been my BFF for 11 years.  With 2 kids and my busy work-life it is harder to get together than I would like, especially a full afternoon so Saturday was such a treat.

We got to meet Haven Kimmel who wrote the wonderful memoir A Girl Named Zippy- a book which holds a special place in my heart because it is about growing up in Indiana.  I have never met an author that I admire and it was so interesting to hear her perspective.  She seemed a little melancholy over the recent changes in the publishing industry and said:

“I’m not sure how to continue in an art form that has changed so much that I no longer know how to perform it.”

But she was also very funny and there was a spirited debate over the advent of ebooks.  In her mind they lessened the archival nature of a library, created a technological ‘upgrade’ need and excluded the poor/disadvantaged from the freedom provided by free books.  It was interesting to me because I purchased a kindle in August expecting to love it but I haven’t.  I rarely use it and prefer a real book that I can write notes in and arrows (I know you can do that in a kindle but I find it very tedious).

In fact, if anyone wants to buy a traditional 3G kindle I will give you a good deal (of course, they came out with the fire literally 2 weeks after my purchase!).

Anyway, the second session of the conference was on teen literature.  While it was interesting I disagreed with the attitude of the presenter.  She was a teacher in the public school system and to me she had a very defeatist attitude (she was a perky lady but still defeatist).

One of the first things she said was ‘It would be nice for my students to be reading more challenging books but at least they are reading’.  Then as she continued one of her main qualifications for a book being a good recommendation was that it was ‘really fast’.  I felt like she said that phrase 30 times in the hour. (Tell that to all the kids pouring through Harry Potter at 0ver 700 pages).

Her attitude annoyed me because I feel it is emblematic of a culture of compliance that we have in nurturing children and teenagers.  We could encourage them to do better, be more, but instead we are happy with the least modicum of effort.

I’m not saying every child has to read Foucault and Thoreau but let’s not assume they can’t.  Let’s see the greatest potential in all the people around us whether it is reading, dieting, learning, whatever. The greatest people in my life always saw my potential, the biggest disappointments failed to help nurture me (I still feel some resentment towards my high school choir teacher who stomped on my talent so hard I didn’t sing for 7 years in public after).

Once a child/teen is presented with reading options and they chose Diary of a Wimpy Kid, no problem.  At least they are reading something over nothing. (I have never read Wimpy kid but that was just the example the speaker used about what her high school senior kids are reading). I just want the options to be presented and to not assume they will immediately go for something less challenging.  I hated that assumption growing up.

It turns out there is quite a lively debate on this topic on the web spawned by an article in the New York Daily News by Alexander Nazaryan.

http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/pageviews/2012/01/against-walter-dean-myers-and-the-dumbing-down-of-literature-those-kids-can-read-h

http://oinks.squeetus.com/2012/01/in-which-i-gamely-stick-out-my-tongue.html

I’m actually inclined to agree more with Nazaryan.  As mentioned above, this feeling comes from the way I felt as a child.  I hated being pandered too and treated like I was stupid because I was young.  I wanted nothing more than to be shown the respect I felt I deserved.  I wanted to be heard and taken seriously from a very young age.

One of my greatest goals if I am ever a parent is to let my children win an argument.  This might sound funny but I want them to know that they have the ability to think things through on their own and that Mother is not always right.  (Not every argument, but I want my kids to feel a freedom of expression and to learn to back up their thoughts as well as they can).

Basically my feeling on writing for children and teenagers is summed up best by Dr.  Seuss (a man who is about as creative as it gets, so proof my approach does not limit magic or youthfulness in kids):

I don’t write for children. I write for people.” Or, as he once told an interviewer, “I think I can communicate with kids because I don’t try to communicate with kids. Ninety percent of the children’s books patronize the child and say there’s a difference between you and me, so you listen to this story. I, for some reason or another, don’t do that. I treat the child as an equal.”

Finally, I think most teens are turned off of reading not because of difficult, boring books but because of the way those books are dissected in the classroom.    If kids were allowed to present their own point of view instead of over-analyzing character motivations and styles I think they wouldn’t be as turned off.  I think it is more a matter of approach than the material itself.

For Christmas I was debating about getting my 12 year old sister Pride and Prejudice, but I did and she was excited.  I could have gotten her Prom and Prejudice (as suggested by the speaker) but I had confidence to give her the real thing.  I think with a little digging we can see the literary potential of all of the people around us, especially the youth, and their life will be better for the faith we show in them.

It is also important to remember that you aren’t going to win with every suggestion.  They might even hate what you put out there for them to read but I think that is good.  Development of a critical eye and a well reasoned mind is part of the learning process.  I read Scarlet Letter as a teen and hated it, still do, but you can bet I can explain why I dislike it so much! I could then, I can now!

So, that’s my opinion on that.  What do you think?  How do you think we should approach reading for teens and children?  Are the classics still relevant and important to introduce or is just getting them reading enough?

(Nice what I think of as a quick post… 🙂 )

Interview Part 2

I know you are all anxiously awaiting my next entry in this trilogy of interviews, so I won’t keep you any longer.  Here goes…

Marriage/Courtship-

What do you think makes a good marriage partner?  I think it is just that, a partnership.  There shouldn’t be a sense of domination in any way.  Nor should one spouse feel overly defined by roles or responsibilities but the entire marriage should be a joint responsibility.

Too many people lump the decision of having kids and getting married together.   The two should be separate choices.  You should ask the question do I want to be with this person if we don’t have any kids at all?  Then you can say as a separate question will he be a good father?  That said, I really can’t imagine anyone that I would want to marry that wouldn’t also have the qualities of a good father but I think the 2 questions should be separate.

To me a good test of a relationship is will the person sit through something they don’t care for just because you are in it.  I’m not saying they have to love it but is your participation enough to count them in.  This is true for both people in the relationship.  He better get used to sitting through a swim meet and cheering and I can go fishing or do whatever outdoorsy thing he loves.  The other person’s happiness should make you happy most of the time (we all have our moments).

Another test- does the person make things fun that would normally be a drag.  For instance, I’ve always said I want to go dancing with my boyfriend.  I hate dancing, so if I can have a good time doing that we have genuine chemistry.  Maybe that’s silly but there you go.

Finally, the best couples I know have an intellectual chemistry which is tough to define.  Do you find the person you are with interesting? Not that they have to be interested in the same things per say but do they approach problems with a similar vigor, are you fascinated by the world?  Do you listen to each other in a complimentary way?  I could never be with someone who thought I was dumb or vice versa.

Why do you think so many marriages fail?  Actually in my life not many do.  Amazingly enough at 30 not one of my friends that I have seen get married has gotten divorced.  I have met friends after they were divorced but never seen the entire process from someone in my peer group.  Even in the Mormon church it seems highly unlikely that there wouldn’t be 1 couple.  None of my cousins or siblings have gotten divorced. Perhaps that will happen in this decade but so far so good.

I think when marriages do fail it is usually because of selfishness.  People begin to feel that their needs are more important than their spouse, and a partnership becomes 2 separate entities coexisting.  Every situation is different and some times people just aren’t compatible but I think usually there is some kind of selfishness involved.

How can you comment on marriage as a single woman who has never had a relationship?  Well, it doesn’t take getting shot to know it is not a pleasant experience.  Some things you can extrapolate as an observer of life and human nature.   I’m sure I will learn a lot when it is my turn but a girl can’t spend 3 decades and not develop any of her own ideas on the topic, so there!

I also have relationships that while not romantic have taught me something about how they work.

Family-

What is your ideal family?  I have no ideal.  I have never been a dreamer in that regard.   I’ve only had one time in my life (BYU) where an expectation lived up to lead up.  Most of the time it is best to take things as they come and be grateful for what you’ve got.

Will you be happy unmarried, without kids?  Yes. It has never been a big dream of mine to get married or have kids.  There are lots of reasons why but all I’ve wanted since I was a toddler (literally) is to be on my own, making my own life choices.  If the situation comes I will be happy and grateful but I don’t think there is anything wrong with being happy if it doesn’t.

If you did have kids how would you want to raise them?  What is important to you in parenting?  I believe that kids should be in the world but not of the world.  So, yes expose them to movies, literature, friends, education, but do it in a way that maintains their innocence as long as possible and allows them to have true fun.  I don’t think kids should be manipulated to be mini-parents.  They should be guided and counseled but also feel free to express their own views and ideas.  I want my kids to know that I like being with them and that they matter to me and to God.

I do love the homeschooling movement and feel if done well it can give your children the best opportunity to flourish.  You can communicate with your child in a way that no teacher can (as wonderful as they may be).  The argument against homeschool is always a social one but I feel this is silly because public school can be just as much of a social nightmare.  Any education requires monitoring by a parent and an active voice that makes actual learning the priority, not the grade received.

I love that with homeschool a parent takes ownership of how and what is taught to her child. She takes ownership of her child’s peer group, social activities and moral teaching.  Not that they don’t have those things, as some might claim, but they are guided by a parent.  There may be some who want to offer their children up to the alter of community good but not me.   It may seem odd for a single girl to have an opinion on homeschool but I think you will find there isn’t much I don’t have an opinion on!

(I will add that clearly homeschool doesn’t work for every situation.  I’m just saying that it would be my first choice if given the chance).

What did your parents teach you about parenting/life?  My mother continually teaches me to nurture others.  She is a very selfless person.  In fact, she even gave up her freedom of movement when restricted to bedrest for most of her 6 pregnancies.   This was a very difficult time for our family but she taught me that sacrifices are the most golden family moments.  Its like on my mission- the moments where I had given my all, were the one’s where I became a true missionary.  The moments in a family where you give all is when you are a true family.

My Dad teaches me each day to find joy in the journey.  I get stressed out with the details of life.  I put loads of unneeded pressure on myself and always have.  He has always been someone who can see a way out of stress and is a true optimist. He also has a zest for life that I admire and hope to emulate.

Friendship-

What do you think is a true friend? In the quest to save the family sometimes I feel we could focus more on friendshiping in the church.  Especially in the single-world friends have been a huge support for me.  As wonderful as my family is when I think of the trials of my life I can also see a friend who was there to see me through.

I’ve also had so many laughs with friends over the years.  A true friend loves and deserves love back.  A true friend sacrifices time to be with you.  A true friend has chemistry that just works.  A true friend listens when you need to vent and gives you frank counsel when required.  A true friend you could see every day and yet go years and still have that connection.  A true friend should not be work in the traditional sense.  It should be a happy work. (Its actually hard to describe a true friend, but you know it when you see it!).

One of the things I have struggled with in the last few years is maintaining an active social life.  It used to be so easy for me to gather people together.  Now it seems so difficult.  Even to have lunch with a friend can take weeks of planning.  I wish I had one friend I could call on a Friday night with nothing to do and do something.  That almost never happens.  People are just too busy.  Even getting people to come to book club or other activity can be so hard.  I’ve noticed I have more success with dinner parties or when hosting something for my swim group.  Not sure why but I’m trying to figure it out.  I love to entertain and would love to plan cute get-togethers.  After the year I’ve had I kind of got out of the habit. The Christmas Swimfest gave me a ton of confidence and I already have a Valentines Swimfest in the works.

It just sometimes feels that while friends are so important to me, they are less important for people with families.  There are exceptions which I am very grateful for and I understand the predominance family should take.  That said, it can still be hard and lonely to feel that everyone else has moved on to the next step and you are still in college-mode.  As much as I loved college nobody wants to be at the same spot forever.

Work/Adult Life-

What is the hardest thing to do as an adult?  Finding balance. It always seems that one part of my life is taking over whether it health, work, family struggles, exercising whatever.  Achieving balance is the goal of a lifetime.

In what ways has adulthood disappointed you?  This is such a good question for me because I wanted to be an adult so badly.  I would say the greatest disappointment is the mundanity of life.   I don’t know what exactly I expected but so much of life is routines and doing the same thing over and over again.  Even in the most glamorous jobs there is a fair amount of tedium. Its just part of adult life.

I also wish I had taken more advantage of time off as a young college student to explore or go places.  I think because my parents traveled I assumed I would be able to do that later, and I have been very blessed in that regard, but its hard!  Its hard to find the time, get off work, get ready, catch up when you get home etc.  Its something I should have enjoyed more when I had the chance.

I was also in a rush to finish everything.  I set a goal and I want to get it done now. This is why weight loss has been so tough for me because it is not something that can be done right in a few months.  It takes years, a lifetime really.  I don’t like things that take a lifetime!  Again, I should enjoy the journey more.

If you could have your dream job what would it be?  I think it would be cool to work in a political campaign.  I also love public speaking and think I might take a stab at politics some day. I feel I would be a good advocate for causes I believe in but I am sure the whole process would drive me crazy (again the waiting and the tedium are my struggles!).  Also, I think it would be great to teach college, especially at BYU.  I have pondered a PHD before but there are so few positions in the liberal arts that it does not seem like a good choice.  Still, it would be my dream job.

Are you disappointed to not be doing your dream job?  Yes but I’ve learned that how I work is much more important to me than what I am actually doing.  Working from home and being my own boss is worth any sacrifice- even working in accounting all day!  I get chills and feel nauseated at the thought of going back to ‘cubicle Hell’ as I call it.

My only regret in working alone is I don’t have the chance to mentor people.  I benefited greatly from mentors in my youth and I hope to someday have that chance as an adult.  I’ve enjoyed teaching in my ward the last 2 years and feel I have been a mentor to some of the younger girls (and I feel I mentor my younger siblings) but I’d like to find someone that I can really guide and mentor.

What is your greatest flaw?  Definitely holding grudges.  I grew up seeing the world in terms of bullies and victims.  That’s how I survived.  I learned that people who abuse do it again and I kept them in that spot forever.  There are still people from my life that I struggle with anger and resentment towards.  I know it only hurts me but it is tough.  I get better each year at forgiving and hopefully by the end I will be something like my Grandpa Richards who loved unconditionally.  That is my goal to be like him because he was so much like Jesus.  My relationship with Christ helps polish me each day and that includes grudges, resentments, fears and everything else.

Do you wish you were skinny?  I’d be lying if I said No. As I mentioned in my last post judgement has always been tough for me to absorb and unfortunately being fat carries tons of judgement.  I still feel great resentment at anyone who places a label on me because of my weight.  It would be nice to not deal with these judgements. However, I suppose society would just find something else to judge and I’d have to deal with it.  I do appreciate the strength my journey has given me and being heavy forced me to rely on God for praise because in a few moments that was the only place I could get it.  And maybe I do a little bit of good correcting prejudice and speaking out.  If that was the case, it’d all be worth it.

Well, that’s a lot.  Probably more than any of you care to read but it does me a great deal of good to say it.   The next entry will be on my views on the political and social issues of the day.  Should be pretty fun!   (I have had an interest in politics since I was in grade school and voted in every election since I turned 18.  It is very important to me).

School Shopping

Today I was on the radio!  There is a local call- in talk show (not a hard core Republican show but more about local matters) called the Doug Wright Show on KSL.  I’ve always been impressed with Doug’s hosting abilities and combined with Doug Fabrizio on Radio West on KUER  (local NPR station) I think Utah has 2 of the best radio hosts in the country (both oddly named Doug!).

Anyway, today they were talking about ‘school/teacher shopping’. This is the phenomenon in education where parents ensure their children have the best teachers/schools and may even try different teachers out to see if they are a good fit for their child.

Here is my call in.  I am at 25:10.(A little under half way through)

Rachel\’s Call

It may seem strange for a single girl like myself to have passionate feelings about this topic but it all goes back to my upbringing.  When I was in the 4th and 5th grade I began to be bullied fairly roughly (is there a nice way to be bullied?).  During those years seemingly out of nowhere I gained a lot of weight.  This led to kids shoving me into water fountains, calling me ‘dog’ and asking me ‘what kind of dog food my mom fed me?’ etc (you get the idea).

Seeing the problem, my parents took action and met with the teachers.  Unfortunately these particular teachers were very inattentive and passed off our concerns with a ‘boys will be boys, kids will be kids’ type of attitude.  They actually told my parents ‘there is nothing we can do’.  Thankfully my parents pulled me out of public school and sent me to Reid School in Salt Lake City, UT.

I am so grateful to my parents for making this choice.  I know it was a sacrifice of time and money but it really did change my life.  At Reid School I felt loved and accepted. Plus, they taught me to master topics both in the short-term and long-term.  What matters at Reid School is mastery and improvement, not in a particular grade or score.  Each child is individually monitored and then learning is tailored to challenge and encourage their individual learning style and personality.

Even though I was only at Reid School for one semester it had a dramatic impact on me.  First of all, it taught me that my parents really were watching out for me.  This was during a time when my parents had a lot on their plate- my mom had just had a baby with bedrest, my Dad was working overseas in Japan a great deal, and they both had demanding callings in the ward.  To know that my parents were watching and cared enough to remove me from a bad situation meant a lot to me then and now.

this was me during the bullying time. Such a cute kid. My heart goes out to her when I see this photo

Secondly, it taught me to never look at a situation as a closed book.  To fight for your own happiness- a lesson I have had to continually relearn throughout my life.  My father is particularly good at this type of thought.  There are always new and interesting options with my Dad.  We do not need to accept the first helping that life puts out for us. Most of the time we can ask for more, we can fight for more.  This is especially important when it comes to our kids.

I know there are some who say ‘if you pull out your kid from a bad school/class than the school will never get better’.  Well, my response to them is- that’s just too bad.  If there ever was a time for me to be selfish it is with the raising of my children (if I ever have them).  If I have kids their happiness will be my top priority and I will not offer my children up on a sacrificial alter of a failing school/teacher.  I will do what’s best for them period.

Does this mean I will never put my children in public school?  No.  It means I will do exactly what this program talks about- teacher/school shop.  I will consider ALL of my options and find the solution that is best for my child.  If that is a great public school teacher than so be it.

I highly recommend watching the documentary Waiting for Superman.

Something Funny

Goodness knows with the tragedies in Tucson and the smaller difficulties in each of our lives we could all use a good laugh.  I laughed pretty hard when I read this and hopefully you will too.  It’s amazing how 2 people  (particularly a man and a woman) can be on the same planet physically but be on entirely different ones mentally! See below:

doesn't it seem like men and women often see things through such different glasses?

The assignment from the teacher-

Today we will experiment with a new form called the tandem story. The process is simple. Each person will pair off with the person sitting to his or her immediate right. One of you will then write the first paragraph of a short story. The partner will read the first paragraph and then add another paragraph to the story. The first person will then add a third paragraph, and so on back and forth.  The story is over when both agree a conclusion has been reached.”

“The following was actually turned in by two English students, Rebecca and Gary.”

Rebecca

At first, Laurie couldn’t decide which kind of tea she wanted. The chamomile, which used to be her favorite for lazy evenings at home, now reminded her too much of Carl, who once said, in happier times, that he liked chamomile. But she felt she must now, at all costs, keep her mind off Carl. His possessiveness was suffocating, and if she thought about him too much her asthma started acting up again. So chamomile was out of the question.

Gary

Meanwhile, Advance Sergeant Carl Harris, leader of the attack squadron now in orbit over Skylon 4, had more important things to think about than the neuroses of an air-headed asthmatic bimbo named Laurie with whom he had spent one sweaty night over a year ago. “A.S. Harris to Geostation 17,” he said into his transgalactic communicator. “Polar orbit established. No sign of resistance so far…” But before he could sign off a bluish particle beam flashed out of nowhere and blasted a hole through his ship’s cargo bay. The jolt from the direct hit sent him flying out of his seat and across the cockpit.

Rebecca

He bumped his head and died almost immediately, but not before he felt one last pang of regret for psychically brutalizing the one woman who had ever had feelings for him. Soon afterwards, Earth stopped its pointless hostilities towards the peaceful farmers of Skylon 4. “Congress Passes Law Permanently Abolishing War and Space Travel,” Laurie read in her newspaper one morning. The news simultaneously excited her and bored her. She stared out the window, dreaming of her youth — when the days had passed unhurriedly and carefree, with no newspapers to read, no television to distract her from her sense of innocent wonder at all the beautiful things around her. “Why must one lose one’s innocence to become a woman?” she pondered wistfully.

Gary

Little did she know, but she had less than 10 seconds to live. Thousands of miles above the city, the Anu’udrian mothership launched the first of its lithium fusion missiles. The dim-witted wimpy peaceniks who pushed the Uniilateral Aerospace Disarmament Treaty through Congress had left Earth a defenseless target for the hostile alien empires who were determined to destroy the human race. Within two hours after the passage of the treaty the Anu’udrian ships were on course for Earth, carrying enough firepower to pulverize the entire planet. With no one to stop them, they swiftly initiated their diabolical plan. The lithium fusion missile entered the atmosphere unimpeded. The President, in his top-secret mobile submarine headquarters on the ocean floor off the coast of Guam, felt the inconceivably massive explosion which vaporized Laurie and 85 million other Americans. The President slammed his fist on the conference table. “We can’t allow this! I’m going to veto that treaty! Let’s blow ’em out of the sky

Love Hate Relationship with Technology

Yesterday I had a few friends over for book club.  As we chatted over Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns the topic of technology was introduced.  In the novel the spirited grandfather named Rucker resists technology coming to his life and the town of Cold Sassy.  He does so because he knows it will change everything (which it in fact does- even changing the name of the town).  He also resists it because it takes away some of his power, prestige and control.  Here’s a man who is wise and weary being trained in technology by his young grandson. Eventually Rucker gives in and embraces technology to impress his new, spirited bride.

Love Technology-

In a certain way I can relate to this dilemma.  There is no doubt my life is better because of technology.  Even just a few years ago I could not have managed both my jobs from my home office like I do today.  I LOVE my job and am so grateful I can- receive calls about the properties at anytime, do team view chats with colleagues, have conference calls over the internet, email documents quickly etc.   The internet also makes it easy to advertise our rental properties.  About 80% of our referrals come from a website called www.vrbo.com– a site which charges only $250 a year for an ad (small potatoes when it comes to advertising budgets!).  I don’t even know how we would get the word out about vacation rentals before the internet.  I guess through the newspaper?

I also completed my education mainly via the internet.   I received my MBA from University of Phoenix using their FlexNet program which is 1/3rd ground, 2/3rd internet.  This convenience allowed me to squeeze my education into any gap of time.  I could turn in papers, or watch lectures at 3am.  I received my degree while working thus eliminating some of the debt incurred using traditional methods of education.  Working while going to school also allowed me to apply the concepts from class in a “real world” setting.  This was often more valuable than anything taught by a professor or included in a textbook.

I love technology because of the ability it gives me to communicate with loved ones at low cost.  My sister is in England and I miss her greatly.  However, thanks to Skype I talk to her through a video-chat for free as long as I want!  This would have been $100’s just a decade ago.  Through blogs and facebook I can also see photos, read updates and keep at least a passing acquaintance with friends that are far away.  In my fantasy everyone would be living close to me, and I could drop in unannounced for visits, chatting merrily together…..But in the meantime I enjoy the little online tidbits I get from gone but not forgotten friends.  With my recent fitness goals I have also used the internet to help keep track of my training, share my journey  and receive support from everyone- even total strangers!

There are so many other ways technology benefits my life.  I could go on about my favorite gadgets (DVR and IPOD being at the top) but I won’t bore you.

Hate Technology-

Despite all these advantages sometimes I hate technology.  I feel like it has made people cold, non-familial and rude.  Gone are the days when you were expected to visit and talk with people you didn’t like.  In previous societies people needed each other more for survival.  One of my favorite things about old books like Jane Austen’s novels is that the characters always had something nice to say.  Even if she hates the woman she is talking  with, the Austen hero would be forced to ask “How is your mother’s health?” or “Is your family well?” etc.  Now even  with people we like, we screen calls, fail to respond to texts, and ignore emails.  I think I would die of shock if someone actually RSVP’d to one of my parties.  Most of the time it is a text a half hour after saying they can’t come- if that. I have friends and colleagues that have become almost impossible to reach over the phone.  It is all texting all the time.  I am sorry but sometimes I actually want to talk to a human being!

Part of the problem is our lives have become more complicated.  I recently got a new computer and have been amazed at the difficult process of installing, loading programs and getting it ready.  My laptop is only 2 years old but it seems archaic compared to the new desktop.  I’m no expert, but I don’t think things changed as quickly in Austen’s time.  Life was simple consisting of work, family, marriage, daily sustenance and socializing.  Technology can feel a like an insatiable appetite ever looking for the next great life-saving meal (or in this case gadget).

I  check my emails many times a day and am constantly updating facebook, twitter, my blog etc.  I am also always working and even though I love my job it can be a bit invasive.  They say that responding to an inquiry within 2 hours gives you an 80% higher chance of booking the reservation.  Knowing this, it makes it hard to turn my phone off or not check my email because I feel guilty about the leads I’m missing.  My greatest blessing of flexible work can at times become a curse.  Sometimes I just turn it all off anyway and enjoy life, but I don’t do it half as much as I should.

I won’t even get started on the woes of dating and technology.  Too many men my age are addicted to World of Warcraft, Everquest, and Command and Conquer.  I have been in conversation with boys (inviting them to a party or something) when they actually will forget I am in the room they are so entrenched with their game.  The real world is staring at them in the face, talking with them, and they would prefer the virtual world.  It makes me crazy!  That’s just one example of technology messing up dating.  It’s too easy to be a hermit, or even just lazy.  People used to feel more of a drive to find the “third place” in their lives- a place where they could interact with the community, make friends and maybe find love.  Now the “third place” is the internet, which is lame if you ask me.

It’s always interesting to see around Christmas time my friends and I usually go on more dates.  This is because many guys are encouraged to bring dates to company parties.  When given a reason they date, but if left to their own devices it  becomes more rare.  In previous generations there were more reasons to date- to find a companion. If only for survival, a spouse was essential.  I don’t know if that makes sense!  Let’s just say it takes a lot to get a guy to ask a girl out now-days.

Anyway, I will continue my love-hate relationship with technology because its not going anywhere!  How do you’all feel about it?

I think this clip expresses my feelings well:

Funny Glimpse into the Past

Here I am with the floppy disk!

Change

Change the poem, change the line,
change the meaning, change the rhyme,
change the outcome change the plan,
change the mood, change the man.

Change your looks, change your smile,
change your going, stay awhile,
change your past, change your time,
change your future, stay be mine.

william greer

Today I was filling up my new bookcase (which despite purchasing 4 bags of books from DI leaves my other bookcases markedly sparse!).  While personally oogling over each and every book- even the ones from my childhood such as the boxcar children and babysitters club- I started looking at my old books from college.  This is always a sentimental trap for me because I look at my college experience as the most defining one of my life.  My mission was the most difficult, college was the most defining.  I know it is such a cliche but I really did find my voice as a young political philosophy student.  All of the sudden I had the words to say what I had been feeling my entire life.  I can recall the first moment of reading Plato (something most would shutter at) as one of the most liberating of my life.  Particularly his teaching on forms- the belief that eternal forms have always existed.  He uses the example of a chair. We know something is a chair because it uses the form of a chair.  Abstract concepts are the same way.  We know what justice is because it fits the form of justice.  There were so many times in my life when I had been trying in vain to describe my heart and to know that this struggle with words was eternal was an ah ha moment if there ever was one!  Since then I have had many ah ha moments but none came with such fluidity as they did in college. Suddenly reading became easy and fun, writing (and even grammar) became a passion and learning new concepts an adrenhaline rush.  This love of learning has never left me and I believe is now one of the distinctive parts of my personality.

Anyway, as I was reminiscing with each old book I came across a book from my Marriage and Family course (ironic that I took 3 such courses I know!) and from inside the book fell out my old floppy drive from college!  What a blast from the past that was.  I knew it was the floppy I relied on because it was black with a green and white label.  I used to put everything on that floppy (everything that would fit that is!).  At the time it seemed more than sufficient for my back up and storage needs.  Looking at it now it has 1.44 mb. To put things in perspective one song on Itunes has 5 mb.  My current ipod has 160 GB.  The flash drive I carry on my key chain has 4 GB and my back up capabilities are over 1 terabyte.  This means that in my personal back up system I have over a million floppy drives! Amazing.

What am I getting with all those bytes- tons of added photos, videos and software space, back up for many projects, and perhaps most importantly thousands of downloaded songs and cds at my disposal. With all that I am only using about 1/3rd of my storage capacity.  It is hard to imagine filling it up but I am sure someday I will.  Perhaps someday I will be looking at my loud noisy back up hard drive and think it is so old fashioned- just as I am with the floppy drive.

That said- I wonder if my life really is any better?  Back then I still had a laptop with music files, software and was completely satisfied.  In fact, I would love to be able to look at this floppy and see what kinds of projects I was working on and items I thought important enough to save.  Most of it is probably papers that I put on the floppy to print at the SWKT computer lab (my printer was notoriously fickle- something that doesn’t seem to have changed much with ink jets!)

Do you all ever have moments like that where a simple item will start you down the reminiscing trail and lead to questions, to pondering?  Happens to me all the time.  Please share!  I haven’t had a comment in a while.  Not since my President Obama post and let’s be honest you guys don’t want me doing political posts all the time do you!!  (Btw, I’ve lost 8 lbs so far on my new fitness regiment but that’s for another entry!).  Thanks for reading.

Hurray for Dr. Holland!

I just found out today that my mentor and friend Dr. Matt Holland had exciting news- he was named as President of Utah Valley University in Orem Utah! This is a large college nearby my Alma Mater Brigham Young University. The school has 23,750 students and was recently upgraded from a college to a university.

I can’t think of anyone who deserves this more.  I met Dr. Holland as a student in political philosophy in 2001.  I had taken classical political theory previously, but I hated the teacher.  He was one of those teachers everyone said was “easy” but I found it boring.  I actually stopped attending after a while and just turned in my tests. I thought the class was so obvious and boring.  Despite being absent I still passed the class and gained an appreciation for philosophy.  For some reason I decided I wanted to be a teaching assistant for a political philosophy class (which is odd considering my experience with the class).

To improve my grade I took the class again for summer term and was lucky enough to have a brand new teacher named Matt Holland.  I loved all my philosophy classes, but Dr. Holland’s was special.  He just made me want to be a better person, to look at these theories and see how they could improve my life and the lives of those I love.  All of my philosophy classes helped me understand the world, helped me understand myself- and helped me know how to express my soul.  I remember in high school feeling like I could never convey what was inside my heart- the thoughts were there but the words would always disappoint.  It such a cliche to say but it was in college I found my voice.  Dr. Holland inspired this journey.

Just before his class was ending I approached Dr. Holland about being his TA (and when I say approached I mean I called him about 15 times in 2 weeks).  I knew that I needed to be persistent because I didn’t have the greatest GPA. Let’s put it this way- there were definitely students with higher GPA’s he could have hired. Something inside me knew I needed this experience. To my delight a week or so before class started Dr.  Holland called me and said “So, you want to be my TA hah?”.  After that, I was hired along with two of my best friends in the major Raelene Kochel (now Bradley)  and Bob Floyd.

See if you can feel my enthusiasium from a journal entry dated 09/01/01 (just after getting the job)?:

Oh, that’s right I am going to be a TA. I haven’t told you about that yet! I ended up getting an A- in my 201 class and I asked Dr. Holland if I could be a TA and he said sure! I am so excited. The best part of it is that I am going to be TA’ing with my friend Raelene who is super nice. She is honestly probably my best friend in the political science major. I really want to become more involved in the major this semester because this is my last chance. This TA will be a start….I am kind of scared to be a TA but I think it will be a super good experience and Dr. Holland is super nice. So, I am excited (If you couldn’t tell!).(09-01-01)

Now listen to a letter I wrote (don’t know if I sent) to my parents  just after my job is finished:


I think out of everything I am the most proud of my work with Dr. Holland. I have been thinking so much lately and I know that I am a better person for all that I have been experiencing. It’s intimidating to get up there and teach other students or grade papers, but he makes me want to try harder. My hope is that maybe when I see you again at Christmas, that you will be shocked at how much I have grown and changed.(12-09-01)

It’s hard to explain how a simple college job could be so important to me.  I cry whenever I think about it.  As part of this job I graded papers and tests, tutored students, created multimedia presentations, and even instructed the class on grammar once!  I’ve always respected that Dr. Holland never  questioned our grades, never second guessed us.  He had faith in us.  There were times when he gave correction but it was in a way that motivated, not discouraged.  Dr. Holland was without a doubt the best boss I have ever had. I wanted to be great because I knew he believed in me.

It was also a great experience to work and instruct students.  I remember the first time I connected with one.  It was an older Latino woman who was struggling to understand Plato’s cave. I could not figure out how to explain this concept in a way that an ESL student would understand.  After several attempts it finally occurred to me to ask if she had seen the movie the Truman Show?  She said she had.  I then showed how the set Truman is stuck in is similar to the cave.  Everything surrounding Truman is like the shadows in the cave- they aren’t real.  They have been placed there by the director, just like the shadows are placed in the cave by the philosopher kings.  She got it!  It was so exciting to see the light bulb moment in this student.  It made me feel smart, made me feel confident, in a new way.  I owe that moment to Dr. Holland and his faith in me.

Once I finished being his TA, I had Dr. Holland as my professor for my senior capstone class.  It was possibly the best class ever.  There were only 7 of us in the class- and Raelene and I were the only girls.  Last year I asked Dr. Holland if he’d seen anything like us again and he said “No, you two are legends”! He also said Raelene and I were two of his favorites! (That meant a lot to me!).

I started this class determined to get an A.  Despite learning a great deal in my classes, I often felt frustrated by my inability to get A’s.  I wanted to show Dr. Holland I could get an A in the most important class- the senior capstone.  I also wanted to prove to myself I could do it.  The class was on the philosophy of Thomas Jefferson and the main assignment for the class was to write a 20 page paper on his political philosophies.  I chose to focus on Jefferson’s theories of education. Here is the link to the paper if anyone is interested in taking a look:  Senior Capstone Paper.

Anyway, I worked for hours on the paper.  My friend Marcus and I met in the law library and poured over them again and again.  It only ended up being 20 pages, but I felt like I had written a book. It was one of the few moments in my life where I can genuinely say I did the best I could. I put in every ounce of effort I could.  I felt that way when leaving my mission.  I felt that way when leaving my job last year, and I felt that way then.  I always try to do my best work but this was something different.  This was my heart and soul.  Dr. Holland recognized that and was very encouraging.  In fact, when others in the class wanted to extend the date of the paper he called me to discuss it.  I felt that an extension would be one more example of how I worked the hardest but then ended up the same as everyone else.  Perhaps this comparison was beneath me but I just felt like I had earned the highest grade in the class for once in my life.  I wanted to prove to Dr. Holland and to myself that I could do it without any extension or help.

Finally I turned in the paper and low and behold an A! It still holds up as one of the best moments of my life. To end the class Dr. Holland gave me a book called Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.  It has since become one of my favorite books (anyone who has been in a book club with me can attest to that).  The inscription on the book reads:

Rachel,

I hope you enjoy this stirring narrative of a female slave.  I believe it embodies many ideals you seem to cherish and represent yourself!  Courage, discipline, and freedom for all– especially those who lacked it in previous societies.  It’s been a great delight having you in class.  Both as a student and  teaching assistant.  Good luck, Prof.  Holland.

This meant so much to me.   It’s hard to describe.  It just did. Still to this day, I feel motivated to do my best because of Dr. Holland’s faith in me. I don’t want it to have been for naught. I want to mean something to the world.  I know I can accomplish great things.  That is the power of a great teacher.  Dr.  Holland isn’t perfect.  He was just the influence I needed at that moment, at that time, and he rose to the challenge.

Everyone has key figures in his or her life- people who if they made a biographic film  would have to be in it.   My parents, my siblings, my grandparents, Dr.  Holland and a few key friends would have to be there. I am not a believer in total fate, but I do believe that each person has key people who we are supposed to meet along the way- both people we need to help, and that improve our lives.  Dr.  Holland was such a key person for me. I am grateful that he took the time to nurture my intellect and encourage me to do my best. He saw a potential in me that I didn’t even see in myself and once again- that’s a great teacher.  I am so excited for his future as the President of UVU, and I wish him all the best.  Good luck!

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