Saturday, February 24, 2007

Journey and Friendship

My friend Peterson just wrote an excellent post titled "The Many Flavors of Gays". I've never met Peterson "live" and in person but we've talked on the phone many times. He was one of the first to contact me and offer comfort and support when Tdub seemed to have so hastily made his exit from our marriage and his entrance into his life as a gay man. Peterson has been a blessing to me during this difficult leg of my journey. So MANY of you have (see my blogging friends links for specifics!) but right now, I'm going to write about Peterson! :)

My friendship with Peterson is what being a Christian looks like. Gay or straight. Peterson defines himself as a quirky, queer Quaker and an ex-gay survivor. He travels all over the world presenting one-man shows about all sorts of issues related to being queer in pretty much any fashion. He's such a great friend to me that I don't have to worry about offending him as I attempt to describe what he does and use words like queer. I can complain or rant to him about what I see as problems "the gays" have brought upon themselves. We can find humor in the hypocrisies of evangelicals, emergents, gays, straights, heteros, homos, or just plain weirdos! Peterson and I don't agree about everything. We listen to each other. We talk. And then, we pray.

Several weeks ago, just after my divorce was final, Peterson called to check on me. More often than not, that's how it goes. Most of my friends (and family) know that I'm not so good at remembering to call people. Actually, it's not the remembering, it's staying focused long enough on the thought of calling to actually do it. I tend to get distracted somewhere between, "I need to call Daddy" and the actual act of finding the phone and making the call. Nevertheless, on this particular evening Peterson had called to "check in".

We talked for a while and then he asked if we could spend some time in prayer. And we did. It was silent for a good bit because that's the Quaker tradition. Peterson prayed, then I prayed. We prayed for guidance, comfort, peace.

We didn't pray for an end to the gay/straight culture war or for gay marriage to be approved. We didn't pray for all the gays to become chaste or all the straights to....uh....ok, that works.....become chaste. Peterson didn't pray for God to reveal to me that homosex is really part of His intent and plan for mankind and I didn't pray for Peterson to really and truly meet Jesus so he can become straight and fulfill his destiny before Jesus comes back and he's left behind.

We just prayed for each other as individuals. And it was sweet and most importantly, I sensed God's spirit. Our various doctrines and theologies do not prevent us from simply loving each other and praying together.

We are all on a journey. Like the Ethiopian Eunuch. He was headed toward Jesus and had been for some time. His encounter with Phillip, and his baptism, were a part of that journey. I am blessed, again and again, that Peterson and all of you have become part of my journey. My prayer is that my part in your journey points you toward Christ.

love and grace,

View Current Blog

Monday, February 19, 2007

Ready or Not....Here We Go

Tomorrow is the day. The TAKS writing test. My success for the year will be measured in this one fell swoop. Feb. 20. The data will "speak" and that's that. Touche'.

My teaching partner (we each have one-half of the 7th graders for writing instruction) and I pooled our classes together today for testing procedural review and some "down" time. My
(ms. whitley's) "twin" sister, Fi Fi, who lives in France, visited today and prepared a snack in fine French form. The kids seemed to really enjoy it. I enjoyed it. My teaching partner enjoyed it, and I'm exhausted. Below are the pictures of Ms. "Fi Fi". It was pure silliness, and yet silliness has it's place; does it not?

Bon Appetit!

love and grace,

View Current Blog

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Another little "rant" about school culture. Sorry folks, it's what I do. And candidly, having taught Art for the previous three years, I'm a bit shell-shocked by the changes that have occurred from my time of last being "in the classroom" as we call it.

The whole thing gets my crusading type spirit in a perpetual spin, something like a Katrina that keeps coming over, again and again. We have these violent stormy periods, a calm while the virtual eye passes, and then another violent beating. However, in "education world" Katrina keeps changing course and turning around to re inflict her ravages....over....and over...and over.

We were all called upon to come up with a presentation based on our findings in the DATA. I did what I was asked to do. I've been looking at the DATA all year. It DOES help. I won't deny that. But, I wonder at times if we've become so DATA-driven that we've forgotten to recognize the big picture of humanity. I'm talking about the way we relate to students as well as the way administrators relate to teachers here. Oh well. What do I know? ;)

Here's the extra "essay" I wrote and turned in with my findings.

What Data Can’t Tell You

Data is a wonderful tool. The data I’ve been able to retrieve on my students has assisted me a great deal in my ability to serve them and meet their academic needs. I can easily pull up a chart or a graph and locate exact areas of weakness and strength for individuals and groups. I can group them by class, ethnicity, economic status, gender, and, I imagine, if I were so determined, I could rank them by the number of hairs on their heads and come up with some sort of correlation between that number and the data. However, there are many things that the data can’t tell you.

I have no data pertaining to the levels of trust, relationship, self-worth, conflicted emotions, anger, or difficult circumstances that my students face. The aforementioned data is vital to my ability to meet the academic needs of my students. This is data that I must collect, over time, and through the relationship that I build with them on a daily basis. This is data that can make or break me as a teacher. This data doesn’t make or break me based on how many circles they color in correctly on a standardized test. That will come. It makes or breaks me based on whether or not my students feel valued and worth listening to as an individual. While I work diligently to ensure that each of my students achieve the best possible score they are capable of achieving on the test, it means little to me if they put more value on what the test says about them than in what they themselves know they are capable of achieving outside the walls of my classroom and the bubbles on the test.

The test is only one step in their journey toward success. Many of them will become successful in spite of a lack of ability to achieve great scores, and many of them will fail in spite of the fact that they’ve always tested well. This is where I can make the most difference for my students. Somewhere within that cavern of those who will succeed no matter what and those who may fail in spite of everything, I can be a variable that causes a change. It is my job to bridge that cavern; to provide lifelines of hope and help, and the value of giving their best efforts in spite of, and sometimes because of, the difficulties they face.

The data is a piece of that puzzle for me. It provides me with hard evidence of who is testing well and who is not. More often than not, it merely confirms what I all ready know. And yet, confirmation is a valuable thing. Affirmation is valuable as well. Attached is an email I received from one of my students just this morning when I arrived at school. This student is articulate and successful. She will achieve success no matter what and in spite of anything I may do in class. However, in her ability to articulate, and because of the level of confidence she has in herself, she affirms what I am doing in my classroom each day. None of it is based on data. It’s based on trust, relationship, and a willingness to be transparent and honest.

I believe that my students will do well on the TAKS test. The data that’s been provided to me this year has been a wonderful tool in my ability to achieve that goal. However, I’ve learned much more about how to help my students, individually, by knowing them as individuals. I’ve created a level of trust and confidence in which they are free to question, explore, and even make mistakes in my classroom. In doing so, I’ve learned more from them this year than I could possibly have taught them. And there’s no test, no bubbles, not even an essay that could completely describe what’s occurred.

love and grace,

View Current Blog

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Electronic Communication

My friend, Mike, posted the following in the comments to my last post:

One thing I do find interesting in blogging or in any form of electronic format is the way many people tend to use it instead of face to face communication. I enjoy emailing, instant messaging, text messaging much like other people. However, there is a point where electronic correspondence can only go so far.

I believe there is no substitute for being in the same room across from someone engaged in conversation. I am not saying electronic communication is bad. I am just saying it is a poor substitute for the real thing. There is so much more to communication other than words and emoticons: body language, voice inflection, eye contact, physical appearance, intuition, etc.

I do understand the advantages of electronic communication such as availability, timing, able to span great distances, reach a greater audience, etc. I do wonder what electronic communication says about us. Does it say that we don't have the time to meet face to face? Does it say our time with people is less important and relegated to whenever we can get to them? Does it say we are fearful of what being honest in front of someone will be like? Maybe is just says we are utilizing a technology to reach out to people we wouldn't otherwise be able to?

Electronic communication has been a mixed bag for me. Some people are just like they are on paper. Others, seem to hide well in between the fine lines of black and white fonts. I am interested in knowing what yours and others experiences have been.

It's either ironic or "telling" on Mike's part that he is a friend I've become pretty close with only electronically. I do have some thoughts and answers to Mike's questions, and it seemed worthy of an entire post over being buried in a strand of comments.

I think I'll answer most of these questions honestly and forthrightly based on the friendship I have with Mike. Just to sort of experiment with these questions using a real situation, because I think the answers will be telling and relate to other people and other relationships.

1. No, it doesn't say we don't have time to meet face-to-face, Mike. It says that neither of us have made it enough of a priority. I think it's partially because we do have such a great way of communicating electronically (we chat) and moving the relationship into any other realm could potentially spoil that wonderful camaraderie we have. I don't think it will. But still, it's a possibility. (mike lives within meeting distance from me, as in dinner, lunch, or coffee....and we've learned that we have a few mutual friends...which means we have both confirmed that neither of us are knife-wielding stalkers)

2. It's not that our time together is less "important", it's that it's less "urgent". Some of the most important discussions I've had lately, affirming my own choices and challenging me to rethink some things, have been with you, Mike. And yet, you and I both have "urgent" things at times which keep us from sitting down at the computer at the same time and electronically sort of bumping into one another for an important talk. You're also really fun and funny to talk with and so, it's like a nifty surprise or treat when we do get to talk. I enjoy that aspect of it as well.

3. Some people might fear being honest in front of others and use electronic communication as a barrier against that. That's one of those things we have to tackle as individuals. In some ways, for me, I think it works the opposite. I may be a bit MORE open and honest electronically because I don't have to see the person wince when they hear what I have to say. I'm not sure. I'm known by everyone around me to be a very "open book". It's just my way.

4. I think your last point sums it up for me quite well. Some of us do use technology to reach out to others in a way we wouldn't otherwise be able to do. In the end, I believe technology is like ANY other good gift made possible by God's infinite wisdom. It can be perverted and used as much as a tool for tearing down as it can be as a tool for building up. It can become an idol in our lives and replace other good gifts that God intends for us to utilize to further his kingdom. The older I get, the more that it seems to me that just about EVERYTHING boils down to submission and moderation. Or, in the end, just SUBMISSION.

5. Overall, my experiences with meeting folks in person that I've met electronically have been good ones. Honestly, I think that's because I don't hold back electronically. I'm just ME, all the time. People either respond to that with their own honesty or go away and never come back. So, the folks I have met (not a long list) have been true to their electronic persona and I remain pleased to call them my friends.

So, Mike, when are we going to finally MEET?????

love and grace,

View Current Blog

Monday, February 05, 2007


I'm 99% certain that someone in my immediate family has discovered my blog.

It's a relief, actually. A good thing. At lease I hope and pray it is.

The thing about the blog is this; I've not made it a point to tell anyone in particular about it. I've just known all along that folks would find it when the time was right for them to find it. The only person I ever "pointedly" told about it was Tdub and that was long ago while we were still married. Every other person has discovered it on their own, and there have been a small number who've been told as the subject of blogs in general came up or in a few conversations about my personal strategies for emotional health. Basically, it's not something I've been broadcasting, but it's not something I'm hiding either. I mean, it's on the world wide web for pete's sake. Anyone can see it.

I hope my family member will confront me with it, and certainly I hope so if they find it to be a problem for them personally. I can't imagine what they must be thinking/feeling about finding it after knowing the parts they know of the story from the perspective they've seen it from. That's just more than I can get my mind around right now.

This is all really strange, isn't it? A new sort of cultural phenomenon of our day. "I remember when my family found my blog." I guess that may one day be right up there with "I remember when I pulled my first tooth." Who knows.

All I can say, at this point, is that I hope my family is not surprised too awfully much by anything they read here. They've known me longer than anyone. They've always known how I am. This blog should really only confirm just how MUCH I am how I am. I hope that's the case.

love and grace,

View Current Blog