INFERIOR WORKSHOP, SESSION OR TRAINING? LEAVE.

That was the best advice I ever learned, the most empowering message I ever received as a teacher,  and it came from one of my teaching colleagues, Bryan Marvis.
In the midst of a day-long misery of classes in a workshop designed to teach us yet another new method of writing performance goals and student objectives (which came along every ten years, torturous state mandates designed to waste time better spent in the actual act of teaching), Bryan burst from a classroom into the hallway where I was chatting with another colleague.
“What are you doing?” I asked, because he was a dedicated and excellent teacher and I was surprised to see him not involved in every second of what the district had planned for us that day.
“I told my superintendent that my time is valuable and if any session I attend is not valuable or well-presented, I’ll be walking out to do something more useful with my time.”
Wow!  Up until that time, while I’d felt the same way, I’d never actually got up and left.  Wouldn’t I be considered impolite?  Wouldn’t I get in trouble should my principal hear about my actions?
Bryan taught me that the action goes both ways.  A teacher owes it to his or her class to be prepared, informative, and structured. Every step of a new learning needs to be presented and measured before the next step is taken. And while every teacher had to take a methods class so we’d know how to teach to a variety of learning styles, the “experts” brought in to instruct us adults rarely used any method other than the “read the overhead transparency while I say it aloud” method. 

Since that day, I have left workshops, sessions and classes if they did not deliver what their advertising said they would. I’ve left if the teacher did not employ several learning-style methods. If the instructor was not structured, telling me where we were going and where we’d end up. If the educator clearly did not know his subject matter or blew off questions asked by students.
I hold the firm belief that if a person is going to teach a class of any subject matter, he or she needs to know how to employ all methods of learning styles and multiple intelligences.  At the very least, he or she needs to tell the students what they will accomplish during the class, what the final outcome will be, and the steps it will take to get there.
At first, I felt I needed to make up a reason for leaving a session, such as simulating an uncontrollable cough or intense need for the restroom.  Often I said, “Excuse me,” as I went.  Later, I felt such untruth was not fair. The person in charge needed to know he or she was lacking in some way, otherwise how would subsequent change occur?  Now, I just go.
And that’s what my husband and I did last Saturday after enduring 2 and ½ hours of a workshop we hoped would improve as it went along. Who was it who said hope is nectar in a sieve?
“Winging it” is not an acceptable teaching method.  Neither is rambling. Neither is rampant self-promotion or story after story about oneself. If the announcement of your class promised learning the specifics you need to know in your chosen career, let’s say, how to set up a blog, how to use Facebook and Linked In to market yourself as a writer and how to tweet, then those are the exact things your attendees are there to learn. Each person should know how to do that at the end of the workshop.
We had arrived at the hour the workshop was to begin only to find it in session and the section we’d signed up for set an hour ahead.  We left to explore a section of town about which we knew nothing except that I’d lived there until the age of three and where my house had been was now an industrial warehouse.  We drove about and got turned around in our discoveries.  We made it back to the appointed spot five minutes late but it didn’t seem to matter.  The part we’d come for had already started at some point earlier. People got up to make tea or have coffee or use the restroom when we came in and a few minutes later we all settled in for the rest of the workshop where we would be taught what we’d come for.
Only teaching never occurred.  We were shown (the only teaching device of the entire workshop) on a computer screen a curve that was supposed to show us that if we weren’t famous, our blogs would never be read by very many people anyway.  That was mighty inspiring.  Then the entire class was not shown how to develop a blog.  But if we really wanted to write one, we were given the name of two blog hosts and it took other class members to mention several more.
After an hour I used the restroom again.  I couldn’t sit there surrounded by emptiness of fact any longer.  I came back and it was as if I had not left.  Nothing was still happening.  Then I checked my e-mail accounts and Facebook, not so surreptitiously.  Nothing was still happening.  The woman at the end of the table sitting between my husband and I was furiously typing through all of this, probably creating two or three chapters on her next novel.  Once she instructed the instructor on some point the instructor misconstrued.
When attendees asked specific questions as outlined in the advertising matter, the instructor either blew them off saying an e-mail with that information would be sent, or telling them they really didn’t need to know that aspect of social media to be successful.
We moved on to the topic of Facebook, and attendees were not shown how to set up a Facebook account or use it for marketing. My husband left to use the restroom.  Because a student asked a specific question about privacy, another student showed her the settings cog so some did learn about that.
Someone asked about Linked In and we were all told it really wouldn’t help us at all since that was for business.  Even though, for some of the people in attendance, writing IS their business.
Another asked about Twitter and was told that tweeting wasn’t important in spreading the word about our books. In other words, according to the instructor, everything every person came to learn how to do in order to market their books, as advertised, was not necessary and was not taught.
I looked at my husband.  He looked at me. We both nodded, gathered our empty notepads, rose from our chairs, and departed. We gave it the old Bryan Marvis play. We agreed the best part of the whole afternoon was the town tour we’d given ourselves and the lovely building in which the workshop was housed.
Bless those other attendees who, like us, paid their $70 to learn not much of anything.  I want to tell them not to give up and to keep their ear out for someone who really CAN teach them what they want and need to know. But if they choose another session where nothing is being taught by someone with negligible teaching skills, I hope they get up, gather up their belongings, and leave.
As for Bryan, he was a great teacher. 

SPREAD TO THE EDGE OF THE BREAD

I learned from Mrs. Dietrich in my 9th grade Home Ec class that one should spread the butter or mayonnaise or mustard or peanut butter—whatever is on your sandwich—clear over to the edge of the bread.  Of course.  That makes sense.  Who wants to eat bites of just two pieces of bread, unadorned?  I might not want to eat the crusts of my bread but I want the good stuff going all the way up to the edge.  Why hadn’t I thought of that on my own?  Spreading the filling to the edge of the bread was one of the best things public education taught me.
I feel sorry for people who haven’t learned the proper technique.  Why haven’t they figured it out yet?  Wouldn’t the results have told them? Some of those people work in the restaurant business. Don’t you just hate that teaspoon-sized plop of spread right in the middle of your sandwich, bordered by dry bread? I make the server bring me extra spread.  I don’t buy that sandwich a second time.  I’m not a fan of shoddy output, especially if it takes my time and energy to make it right.
What I learned is truly a life lesson, a metaphor for making your life the best it can be.  If you do things half-assed, you are going to end up without the richness and fullness of doing something the right way.  Why bother to do whatever it is in the first place if you aren’t going to go all the way with your endeavor?  If you are doing something for someone else, you are going to receive a lot more approbation for your best effort than for a sloppy, halfway attempt.  You save yourself a lot of work, too, and maybe money, if you do the job right the first time.  You feel better about yourself because the inner you knows the difference between halfway and the right way. You can taste it.
Everyone notices the difference when you spread the filling to the edge of the bread.

CLOTHING RANT

HERE’S MY FIRST RANTALICIOUS TOPIC:

CLOTHING STYLES

Clothing styles today make me growl like a caveman in despair. Reasons aplenty abound for my angst. 
The fabrics are all thin now, even in jackets and sweaters. That means instead of one garment, one must layer, and layer and layer in order to stay warm. Great for the profit margin of clothing manufacturers, but not so great for my budget bottom line or closet space.  Those fabrics are all stretchy, too, so a person has to pull and pull to get something off.  Getting naked takes a long time.  One does have those occasions when speed is of the romantic essence.
I enjoy modesty.  I do not enjoy necklines revealing what very few of us should be seeing.  I’d like to pick and choose who gets to see my cleavage, thank you very much.  And yet, I find it difficult to find dresses and blouses without necklines plunging deep into body crevasses.  There are times, and places and I want to be the one deciding.
Wool and some synthetic fabrics and I do not get along anymore.  I don’t want to be pricked or slimed. What’s worse, that slimy fabric reveals every ounce of me and I don’t like it. Again, there are times and places and I want to be the one deciding. I like soothing fabric, the kind that hugs or drapes and billows.
The sleeves on blouses, tops, tunics (whatever you call them), dresses and even some jackets are short, short, short, about the size of those colonial-style, polished silver drawer pulls you can fit all four fingers under.  They are little afterthoughts, flaps of material that don’t deserve to be called “sleeves.”  If a person happens to have fat, fat arms like I do, they look ridiculous.  If a person has medium-sized or even normal arms, they still look ridiculous.  They look fine on the arms of 10 year-olds, but that’s where I draw the line.
What sadist thought of putting two buttons above the zipper on a pair of pants?  When I have to go, I have to GO and I don’t have time to unbutton two buttons and THEN unzip my pants.  I understand the buttons on the waistband, which now is really a hip-band in most pants, can keep the crack-baring slippage to a minimum.  And really, I like the hip-band kind of pants, the “mid-rise” I believe is the term, because that’s how my body is shaped and normal pants set the waistband close to my bra band in order that the crotch not be at my knees, but that two-button thing has got to go.  In the meantime, I button only one, and hope for the best.  I confess, this method is for going out in public pants, only.  At home, I have reverted to the elastic waistband stretch pants. I can do yoga at a moment’s notice, for one thing.  But the most important reason for this fashion decision is that with one tug down and over, you are ready to go.
Every color of fabric is not available every year.  And anyone can tell what year you bought a particular piece of apparel by its color.  Remember the pink (gack!) and purple years? The brown and turquoise years?  The peach and turquoise years? The orangy-reddy-peach with brown years? This past year was the darker hue of turquoise tending toward teal but lighter (turqteal?)with several colors year.  I’ve enjoyed this year.  

I like red.  Red hasn’t been the color of choice since when, the late 60’s-early 70’s? That makes it difficult to find something new in a color I like.  For that reason, I wear a lot of black.  Black goes with everything even though people think you’ve been in mourning the last 20 years.  It goes with my coloring and makes the wearer look thinner, so I’ve been told. Black is my go-to color.  Just not on my bathroom tile grout.

I love fashion and I love style.  I know how to mix and match and use single pieces for years so they still look fashionable. I wore a collarless blazer for 20 years that my mother had worn in high school and then passed on to me after she’d worn it 20 years. I passed it on to my niece who wore it forever.  It was red and warm. Clothing used to be like that.  Please, could we have that again?

THE LITTLE THINGS

Today I was telling my water aerobics friend about another of my students who had just sold the movie option rights to her book.  My friend said, “You must be very proud of her.”
I said, “I am.  I’m proud of so many of my students, the choices they’ve made and the lives they lead.”  I feel like a big sister, a good friend, an auntie, a mother or a grandmother to so many of them.  If you teach, you can’t help loving.
My friend sighed, and said, “You did BIG things with your life.  All I did was little things.”
I’d never looked at it that way because I’d always thought I’d done little things, gauged by the BIG things other people had accomplished.
Then I thought back to when I had to turn my gut feeling and an ugly truth into action.  That is the most difficult thing for me to do in my life because I want my actions to be the right thing to do according to the situation. It’s always been hard for me to make a decision and act on it. To act, you have to believe in yourself. You can talk to friends until they are sick of seeing you coming, but nothing changes unless you take the action. 
I needed to divorce my husband and I needed custody of my son because too much damage had been done already.
My father-in-law’s attorney, the only one I knew, said he couldn’t help me but he knew an attorney who could, and he took me to the other’s office.  The attorney listened to my story, so difficult for me to tell, and he believed me.  What’s more, he believed IN me.  That “little” thing was the one thing I needed.
As life unfolded before I left that town, friends and other professionals came to me and told me how glad they were I had taken the action I had.  My friends said they hadn’t felt they could say what they knew because what I did had to be my choice, although one of my friends did spur an investigation I learned later.  The professionals kept quiet because my father-in-law was an important, powerful man in that little town, but they all knew of the depravity in which my step-children, child, and I lived.  Once I acted, these townspeople felt free then to comment how glad they were I had escaped.  I felt free and my son and I fled to another life.
When we are in a world of hurt, sometimes all we need is one “little” thing to escape, just one person to affirm and validate us.  I tried to be that person for my students.  I try to be that person for the people in my life today. 
I told my friend that she may see the things she does as little things, like daily checking on a 90-year old neighbor, or taking care of a friend’s dog, or mediating in a dispute.  But to the people she helps, that little action is a BIG thing.
Little things add up to something huge. Usually they cost nothing but time and love.  They cause a tide of goodness and kindness. It’s the little things that facilitate the big things. If you do the little things right, you change the world into a better place to be.

RANTALICIOUS!

RANT
(My nomination for newest literary genre)
Our spiritual teachers have advised us that we cannot achieve inner peace if we complain.  I understand that we should instead feel gratitude and seek out ways to feel grateful.  We do feel better and our world does better with our change in perception.
However, I believe that in order for gratitude to find its place within, take seed and grow, we must empty out whatever is taking its place, and the best method for doing that is a literary genre unto its own, the rant.
Dylan Thomas urged his father to “Rage, rage against the dying of the light!”  What more proof than that do you need?
Once you get things off your chest, then you have space to breathe.
My friend and I, who both had careers in education, employed this technique for ranting:  We packed an overnight bag, headed for the nearest big city for some shopping and some theatre, and then we jumped in either her car or mine.  We called whichever car it was the “Ventmobile.”  Each one of us got at least five minutes, maybe ten if the story was complicated, to rant at our heart’s content.  We listened intently to the ranter, either quiet or cheering like call and response, “Amen! You said it, Sister!” 
When we finished, we were detoxified.  We’d accomplished an energy shift and we felt incredibly better than when we’d boarded the Ventmobile.  We had space to be happy and giggle and breathe and wonder and be inspired. We filled that empty space with fun and happy memories.
One of my writer friends is an expert at the rant.  I love listening to her whether I share her peeve or not because her energy crackles and sparks in the telling of her story.  Even if she’s writing the rant, I can feel how involved she is right then in her life.  She’s not sitting comatose in front of her TV.  She’s engaged and alive.  And usually funny. Speaking her truth and getting over herself.
Holding anger in destroys the liver.  If we don’t rant, we fall ill.  Rants are like taking a spiritual poop.  They help us get centered, make a change, feel grateful.  Often I find connections with others as well, because they share the same pea in the shoe, thorn in the side, bur in the butt gripe that I do.  Conversation ensues.  A good rant leads you at its end to the question, “So now what are you going to do about it?” The answer will help you form a plan of action.
Messages from recent meditations have told me in various ways that now is the time for me to work on the throat chakra, the speaking the truth chakra, that turquoise Adam’s apple.  If I’m receiving the message, I feel honor-bound to heed its intent.
The Universe is ready for me to rant.  I’m going to have me some fun. Stay tuned for rant number one, soon to follow.

ENDINGS

Endings, the ones you know are coming, are never what you had supposed they would be.  Sometimes, another day passes and what you were, you aren’t.  Sometimes there is fanfare and a big to-do, but when the door closes, life on the other side keeps going without you. It’s up to you to figure out what to do with this side. And sometimes what you thought would be ending, doesn’t.
What I’ve enjoyed the most about my husband’s retirement from the Justice Court bench is that there will be no more middle of the night phone calls asking for a search warrant. That’s an ending I can sleep right through, night after night.
Today I accompanied my husband on the last day of his monthly stint as Cannon Beach Municipal Judge.  However, what was supposed to be his last court day, wasn’t. Instead, he was asked to come again next month because his replacement has not yet been chosen.  We didn’t know that, though, before court, so I sat through court and watched him preside for what we both thought was his last time. 
He asked a young man to take off his hat in respect for the court.  The kid had gotten a ticket for taking his parents’ car without their permission, and driving.  He wasn’t apologetic for that at all.  Will I sound like an old geezer if I say that no one teaches manners anymore?  Even geezier if I say no one teaches the difference between right and wrong?
I remember (yep, here it comes) back in 1968 when I began teaching in Burns, Oregon.  The judge, who was also the judge for the neighboring county, came once a month and the first thing I learned in that town was that the judge was loved and feared.  Everyone wanted to behave just to not have to appear before him.  The courtroom had to be absolutely silent during all the proceedings (not even whispering) and men had to remove their hats.  If either rule was disobeyed, he shouted at them and sent them from the courtroom.  A standard for proper behavior was set and expected.  If parents didn’t teach that, or teachers, or Sunday school teachers, someone did.  People still made poor choices regarding right and wrong as they have since Adam and Eve, otherwise why would there be need for a court of law?  But everyone with a lick of sense in Harney County took off his hat and shut his mouth in that courtroom. And they wore decent clothing as well.  No tank tops with rather indelicate language and logos splashed across the front.  My judge has had to ask young men to turn their offensive shirts inside out and leave their manure-laden barn boots in the hallway.  But, I digress.
Another young man appearing before my husband today had not done any of the work he was supposed to do in order for his MIP to be dropped, not a lick of it in seven months.  He asked for another month in which to complete his assignments.  He said he’d been moving to another city, and settling in, looking for a job. The judge was not pleased with the young man’s laissez-faire attitude but gave him another month, along with a reminder of the six-month jail sentence he would receive should he not comply. The judge did not comment on the young man’s earring holes the size of 50-cent pieces.  Self-torture is not against the law in Cannon Beach, I guess.
I remember (yep, once again) when one of my students returning from traffic court told me she believed no judge should never let off first-time speeding or MIP offenders because then all they learn is that they can do something at least twice and get away with it. Out of the mouths of…teens. And SHE had just gotten away with speeding for the second time.  I think she was wise beyond her years.  A terrible driver, yes, but wise. This is what I learned from my parents: NO! means NO!  The truth is, difficult as it is to stick to what you say as a parent, teacher or official, those receiving the NO! appreciate, sooner or later, that big STOP sign at the end of their noses. 
Yes, I digressed again.  After all, I didn’t get in trouble for it the first time.
The docket contained more miscreants and scalawags who either expected to be forgiven for driving 68 mph in a 55 mph zone “because it’s impossible to see my dashboard when it’s dark” or who just admitted their guilt and paid their fine. The court room finally emptied of all save the judge, the city attorney, the clerk and me.  Just when the judge prepared to adjourn the court, the city attorney worried that the woman in the red coat way in the back had not been heard.  The judge said, “That’s my wife.”
That has happened every time I’ve gone to watch my husband perform his duties.  Apparently to every attorney and official of the court, I look like a rogue, a scofflaw, a knavette.  An antique delinquent. 
The last day that wasn’t a last day yet ended with a laugh.

New Year Treats

Every New Year’s Day since my husband and I have known each other, 34 years, we’ve enjoyed a celebratory walk.  And on every walk we take, at the turn-around point, we kiss. Here we are in Oceanside, Oregon, on the beach. It’s a small thing, our ritual and who knows why we started doing it, but we like it.  Our society sorely needs positive, loving rituals.  My friend, writer Martha Goudey, says to celebrate the small things.  It’s the small things that lead to bigger things in the long run. At least 34 years so far.

Sometimes it’s important to change our perspective.  Look down instead of up.  Find something of beauty, something to love where you’ve never looked before.  We take our cameras everywhere we go as a matter of course because we never know what we’ll find.  We take the normal “isn’t that cool!” photos, and then, we find the extra-normal, the super-normal, the “Wow!” photos.  Here’s what we saw when we looked down:

Bicycle

Forest

Beauty Salon
Change your perception and amazing things will occur!  And you’ll still see the everyday beautiful like this:

Our first day of 2013 was glorious.  I hope that every day of this year will be, for all of us.  If we remember to celebrate the small things, change our perception, and be full of gratitude, they will be glorious days, indeed.