Monday Memories: Discovering Success

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This is a true story about one of my former students.  I was teaching at a high school in the Bitterroot Valley in western Montana.

A disgruntled John entered my classroom on the first day of school.  The senior was enrolled in an Accounting class with a room full of other seniors as well as a sprinkling of juniors.

As I was checking in later with each student, John bluntly told me, “I didn’t sign up for this class.”

I told John, “I am sorry to hear about this, but this class is a great one to take.  I am looking forward to having you as a student.”

John quickly replied back, “The counselor dumped me in here because I need the credit to graduate.”

John’s stubbornness left him with a poor attitude.  His first quarter grade was well below passing as he completed very little of the work.  He continued to balk as each new chapter showed up on the class syllabus.

I visited with John’s mother, and she was quite concerned.  She had her hands full with John’s noncompliant attitude as well.

An Accounting course works quite a bit like a math class.  As each week progresses, students continue to add more building blocks of skill and knowledge related to the previous chapter.  John was falling further and further behind.

During the second grading period, John began to show a tiny bit more interest in his performance.  After all, he needed to earn a passing grade by the end of the first semester in order to receive credit.

I was beginning to see John’s potential which had been buried under the “chip on his shoulder” about school in general.  Through it all, I could see that John was a sharp young man.  Therefore, we just needed to find more ways to unlock his potential.

As the semester ended, John squeaked by with a passing grade . . . just barely!

Quote from British writer, C. S. Lewis:  “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down the jungles, but to irrigate the deserts.”

I remained patient with John as the second semester began.  He seemed more eager to discover himself when he returned to school after Christmas break.  I continued to encourage him each day, and made an effort to touch base with him frequently.  As the next few weeks continued, we both began to build an improved relationship based upon trust and respect.

As the third grading period progressed, John began to see the light.  He was excited about class in ways I had never seen before.  There was a genuine enthusiasm in his work as well as his much improved attitude.  His failing marks were being replaced with A’s and B’s.

By the end of the third quarter, John was a solid “B” student in Accounting.  He pulled me aside and told me one day, “I am really enjoying your class.  In fact, I am thinking of taking business courses at college next year.”

He continued to excel and progress through the rest of the school year.  I visited with John’s mother before graduation, and she was very proud of her son’s progress.  He had matured beyond even her expectations.

In my short teaching career (I was in my fifth year), I had never witnessed such a turnaround as experienced by John.  It was amazing and very gratifying to see a student literally catch fire and take off.  At the end of the school year, John received my “Most Improved” award.  John encouraged me with his own discovery of success.

This story captures the essence of why I found countless rewards from teaching over my 40-year career.  I lost track of John long ago, but I feel assured his life turned out quite well.

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Originally published May, 2020.

Nel Noddings Quotes

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Everything we do, then, as teachers, has moral overtones.

It still amazes me that we insist on teaching algebra to all students when only about 20 percent will ever us it and fail to teach anything about parenting when the vast majority of our students will become parents.

Nel Noddings (1929-2022) was an American educator and philosopher.  Her teaching career included 17 years as an elementary and high school teacher along with serving in administrative positions.  Before retiring in 1998, her career moved into teaching and administrative positions at Stanford, Columbia, and Colgate universities.

Behind the Scenes–Act 5

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Welcome to “Behind the Scenes.”  Today, we have returned to visit with Richard, the creative voice behind the writing journey of Big Sky Buckeye. 

Welcome back Richard.  It is a pleasure visit with you again. 

You have mentioned previously that your first years of teaching took place at Plevna High School, which is located in a small farming and ranching community in southeastern Montana.

Yes, I moved to Plevna for the 1978-1979 school year.  Today, I would like to shine the spotlight on two of my high school students.

Both of these gentlemen graduated in 1980.  While their lives shared some commonalities, they each had far different backgrounds.

Paul Neumann and Loyd Ketchum played on the boys basketball team.  As starting guards, they helped to lead the Plevna Cougars to a district tournament championship.  Their team’s efforts earned the school’s first title in nearly 20 years.  While Paul’s gifted touch allowed him to be the playmaker, Loyd was recognized for his hard-nose defensive play. 

Paul was a town kid.  His father ran a service station along the highway, and his mother operated a beauty salon.  Paul’s musical talents were extraordinary as he played keyboard and trumpet. 

Loyd grew up on a ranch outside of town.  His parents raised beef cattle and quarter horses.  His mother was an accomplished rodeo barrel racer. 

Paul had always dreamed of becoming a member of a rock band.  While many in the town were not too sure about his career choice, Paul would persevere and see his dream bear fruit.

In 1986, Paul (using his professional name of Paul Daniels) was a founding member of the heavy metal band, Rox Diamond.  Paul played keyboard and served as one of the band’s vocalists.  Paul’s band would remain active well into the 2000s.

Loyd was destined to find success on the rodeo circuit.  He became a world champion bullfighter in professional rodeo.  Sometimes called rodeo clowns because of their colorful attire, these men were gifted athletes who looked out for cowboys when they were bucked off of a brahma bull.

Loyd’s skills were evident for several years on both the PRCA and PBR circuits.  His efforts were best described with this phrase, “Bullfighting with class and finesse.”

Sitting here thinking of these two men and their hopes and dreams, they each made a name for themselves as well as making the community of Plevna proud.

We have appreciated spending time with Richard from Big Sky Buckeye.  Look for more “Behind the Scenes” in future postings.

Here is a recent recording from Rox Diamond (dated 2018).  If you are a fan of heavy metal music, this might interest you to listen in.

Here’s a short video clip of bullfighters Loyd Ketchum and Justin Hawks from 1997.  Look out Loyd, here comes Georgie Porgie!

Charles Swindoll Quote

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God doesn’t tell time as we do.  He does remarkable things, regardless of our time of day.  He will leave our particular Red Sea absolutely closed, without an opening, without a sign, until He has finished teaching us the lessons we need to learn.

From 1 Chronicles 16:27:  “Honor and majesty are before Him; strength and joy are in His place.”

John Newton Quote

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God sometimes does His work with gentle drizzle, not storms.

From Deuteronomy 32:2-3:  “May my teaching drop like the rain, my speech condense like the dew, like gentle rain on grass, like showers on new growth.  For I will proclaim the name of the Lord, ascribe greatness to our God!”

John Newton (1725-1807) was an English pastor who also was a writer of several hymns, including the beloved “Amazing Grace.”  His early life is filled with contrasts, when compared to his later life.  He served as a ship’s captain during the slave trade, but later renounced his work after his conversion to Christianity.  He became an outspoken opponent of the slave trade later in his life.

Spiritual Maturity

From 1 Peter 2:2-3:  “Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

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Infancy of man’s faith

Absent righteous skills

Fed with Word’s nourishment

Holy Spirit fills

 

Grappling divine lessons

Bread of Life above

Christ breathes as Living Word

Grace imparts with love

 

Learning faith’s elements

Son of Man preaches

One parable each time

Our Lord’s Word teaches

 

Practicing what is learned

Holy design’s growth

Faith in Word progresses

Maturity’s oath

 

Accepting Word’s goodness

Darkness now ignored

Righteous living obeys

Mercy comes on board

 

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From Hebrews 5:13-14:  “For everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.”

Behind the Scenes–Act 4

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Welcome to “Behind the Scenes.”  Today, we have returned to visit with Richard, the creative voice behind the writing journey of Big Sky Buckeye. 

Welcome back Richard.  It is a pleasure visit with you again. 

You have mentioned previously that much of your previous teaching experience takes place in Montana.  It would be wonderful to hear more about your journey from those years.

With 40 years in the classroom, a total of 29 take place in Montana.  Here’s a narrative about the first of four stops under the Big Sky.

My teaching career starts in the southeastern corner of the Treasure State.  Nestled in the quiet hillsides and prairie, Plevna will be my home for three years (1978-1981). 

The community’s economic lifeline is tied to farming and ranching.  Founded in 1909, this small town in Fallon County provides a home for about 200 citizens, and it is situated about 80 miles from Miles City.  Bulgarian railroad workers on the Milwaukee Road line will name the town after one in their home country. 

Being one of the rookies on the staff, here are some interesting details from teaching in Plevna:

  • Teaching assignment covers high school business education classes as well as Civics for the seniors.
  • High school enrollment during my first year sits at 51. 
  • Amazingly, my accounting class overflows with 24 juniors and seniors.
  • The school’s mascot is the “Cougars.”

Despite its small size, Plevna is home to four churches:  Congregational, Baptist, Catholic, and Lutheran. 

In future posts, I will write more about my other Montana teaching stops.

We have appreciated spending time with Richard from Big Sky Buckeye.  Look for more “Behind the Scenes” in future postings.

Oswald Chambers Quote

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There is no escape when our Lord speaks.  He always comes with an arrestment of the understanding.

From Hebrews 4:12:  “Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) was a Scottish evangelist and Christian teacher.  Following his death from an illness while in Egypt during World War I, his wife took on the task of transcribing the detailed notes she had written from his lectures and sermons.  Gertrude Hobbs Chambers’ efforts resulted in the publication in 1924 of MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST.  I frequently read from this devotional, and it has greatly deepened my faith and understanding of God’s Word.

Nel Noddings Quotes

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The student is infinitely more important than the subject matter.

A sense of responsibility in teaching pushes us constantly to think about and promote the best interests of our students.

Nel Noddings (1929-2022) was an American educator and philosopher.  Her teaching career included 17 years as an elementary and high school teacher along with serving in administrative positions.  Before retiring in 1998, her career moved into teaching and administrative positions at Stanford, Columbia, and Colgate universities.

Cherished Friend (Haiku Series #157)

His Mission

Chosen by Jesus

Harvest love’s fruit from His vine—

Sharing with others

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His Teaching

Embrace God’s commands

Filled with Holy Spirit’s love—

Walking with Jesus

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His Example

Love one another

Watching out for each brother—

Christ’s chosen tenet

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