Monthly Archives: September 2010

“Happiness” by Carl Sandburg

I asked the professors who teach the meaning of life to tell
me what is happiness.
And I went to famous executives who boss the work of
thousands of men.
They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though
I was trying to fool with them
And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along
the Desplaines River
And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with
their women and children and a keg of beer and an accordion.

Music Monday

My favorite song, hands-down.

“Golden” My Morning Jacket

watchin’ a stretch of road
miles of light explode
driftin’ off a thing
i’d never done before

watchin’ a crowd roll in
out go the lights, it begins
a feelin’ in my bones
i never felt before

people always told me
that bars are dark & lonely
and talk is often cheap & filled with air
sure, sometimes it thrilled me
but nothin’ could ever chill me
like the way they make the time
just disappear

feelin’ you here again
hot on my skin again
feelin’ good
a thing i’d never known before

what does it mean to feel
millions of dreams come real
a feelin’ in my bones
i’d never felt before

and you always told me
no matter how long it holds me
if it falls apart or makes us millionaires
you’ll be right here forever
we’ll go through this thing together
and on heaven’s golden shore
we’ll lay our heads

Sweet solitude

I used to hate ever being alone. “Used to” sounds like something from the distant past, but to be honest I’m talking about a mere month ago. I absolutely hated spending any amount of time by myself, and whenever I had to I would get really down. I tried desperately to never be alone. I couldn’t see the wonderful possibilities spending time alone could have.

This weekend I have some time to myself, and perhaps for the first time in my life, it’s absolutely wonderful and I’m really enjoying myself. Last night I watched Glee Season 1, Disc 1 and got a lot of work done on an afghan I’m crocheting for my mom. Today I plan to do schoolwork, watch a movie or two, and read more of Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. Last night and this morning I’ve had a chance to reflect on my life, journal, read Scripture and devotionals (recommendation, if you’ve never checked out Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, it’s available online at Utmost.org). I’ve learned things about myself and my relationship with God that just can’t be grasped in the busyness of daily life.

This week I’ve been incredibly blessed with time spent with new friends I’m going closer to. They are wonderful women and the time I’ve spent with them this week has made me so happy. I have a feeling of community and belonging that I haven’t felt here in my college town in many months. It’s been such a blessing to me. I’m happy to balance a great week of connecting with other people to a weekend re-connecting with myself.

If you’re alone this weekend, I’d like to challenge you to embrace the time rather than running from it or wasting it wishing you weren’t alone. If you need ideas, the video I embedded at the beginning of this post is simple, beautiful, and inspirational.

“Accomplished teachers believe that all children can learn at high levels and hold high expectations for all.”

Yesterday on Oprah she talked about the problems in America’s public education system. As guests she had the director of the new film “Waiting for ‘Superman’,” Bill Gates, the Chancellor of Washington D.C.’s public schools, and singer John Legend. The film is about how frequently students are failed by public schools, and tries to identify the problems and solutions.

The talked about how bad teachers and principals are the problem. D.C. schools’ Chancellor’s solution is to fire ineffective teachers and principals, and her method has greatly improved the system. While many teachers jump to the defense and argue that we aren’t the problem, I think there’s something valuable in this discussion. While ineffective teachers aren’t the entire problem (there are many elements including parents, government, societal and economic disparities), ineffective teachers are a big part of the problem.

Teachers are on the frontlines and our actions impact students on a day-to-day, on the ground way that politicians’ and administrators’ decisions don’t. What a huge responsibility! While this is really intimidating, it’s also an amazing opportunity to make a huge difference in the lives of so many people. As a teacher, your impact (whether it is positive or negative) has powerful repercussions on not only your students but their families and communities.

While there are many elements involved in being an effective teacher, a major one is believing that all children can learn at high levels and holding high expectations for all. I think that a failure to hold all students to a high standard is a way in which many teachers fail students. Expecting less of particular students or even certain groups of students does not prepare them for college, success, or the working world. Expecting less is giving up on students and something no teacher should to if they want to make a positive difference. A staggering number of children are failed because their teachers expect less of them. Students cannot achieve excellence if the bar is set low for them. This plague of low expectations is beginning to show its head in the form of plummeting SAT scores (in Georgia at least), a less equipped workforce, and rapidly declining graduation rates. A hard but necessary step to combat this is for individual teachers in individual classrooms to hold all of their students to high standards in academics, behavior, and responsibility.

Going easy on students may seem like the “nice” thing to do, but ultimately it does students a gross disservice. Until every teacher in every classroom steps up to set the bar high for each and every one of their students, believes students can achieve great things, and makes the effort to equip students for great success, we will not see the positive change in American public education that we so desperately need.

Review of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera was first published in 1984. It follows the intertwining relationships of Tomas, Tereza, Sabina, Franz, and a dog named Karenin against the backdrop of the Soviet Union’s takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Exploring the ways in which the Communist regime exploited intellectuals at the time and the repercussions for those connected to Czechs even in other parts of Europe, the novel is a beautiful history lesson. Kundera masterfully intermingles philosophy, politics, commentary on the arts, and an incredibly complicated and imperfect love story.

I first read this novel a couple years ago, and while I was entranced by it, I did not get a full grasp on it. Coming back to it now, I have a greater appreciation and ability to understand it. It’s extremely complicated, not in terms of plot or characters, but in the way that Kundera jumps from story to philosophical commentary. I believe it’s a book I will come back to throughout my life, and each time experience something different.

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Soviet politics, love stories, philosophy, or just wants to read an incredibly well-crafted novel. Far from being “junk food,” this novel is of extremely high quality that will satisfy most any reader. The story is risque at times, so if you’re easily offended, I would take caution.

I’ve just started reading A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, so look for a review for that in the upcoming months.

Happy reading!