Friday, January 27, 2012

End of the road.

Today was a day of cold winds and rain that seemed to fit my mood since this was the final day that I would be behind the wheel of Bus #79.After wonderful years being involved with student transportation I am hanging up the keys and relinquishing the steering wheel and as far as the emotions are concerned, it is easier said than done. As this chapter came to a close so many memories were going through my mind as each student departed from the bus. Not that I wouldn't see them again for surely our paths would cross inside the school, but I felt like I was losing something as I knew I would probably not see them in this environment again.

I have traveled many miles during my tenure as a school bus driver and am blessed to have been given the opportunity to share and learn through the experience. I have seen an amazing world across the dashboard and through the windshield of a Hinsdale Central School bus. Some memories have not been fond. We have witnessed accidents, people driving through the red lights, unhappy motorists who have been inconvenienced by the disruption of their commute, and aggressive drivers who have put lives in jeopardy. We have also witnessed cherished moments such as beautiful sunrises, amazing wildlife, and even the dangerous wintry roads have a placid form of beauty in them. No matter the view, the day, or the conditions though, there was always Laura and her smile. Today Laura provided both a remembrance of what will be missed and a reminder of how to live.

I first began to pick up Laura as she entered kindergarten three years ago. Unlike many young students about to begin their new journey with fear and trepidation, Laura would board and disembark the bus quite differently. When boarding she would reach the top of the stepwell and look right at me and smile. Upon leaving the bus she would stop in the driveway and turn to smile and wave. It did not matter the time of year or weather conditions, nor did it matter if her seat was taken or if we were in a spare bus, Laura would always begin and end the day the same way, with a smile.

As I sat behind the wheel and watched her wave and smile good-bye I couldn’t help but think of how different the world would be if everyone were to practice such a simple grace in their daily lives. I was challenged by the fact that we often think we are good, but are we nice? Be nice to others. Share a smile with someone today, not because we ought to, but because you want to.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Through Students Ears

During our district open house last evening some former students who had graduated in June came by for a visit and to see how things were going. I was flattered by the fact that they took time to seek me out and say hello. Little did I know that after three short months apart they would return and teach me a valuable lesson.

One of these students had brought in a project he had been working for the past two months and he wanted me to see it. Using Legos he had begun to construct a scale model replica of the Titanic and had brought in the front portion of this project to share his passion, and show me his progress. As he excitedly explained what he was doing and how he had overcome some challenges in construction I couldn’t help but stand in awe as he explained this undertaking. Without diagrams, blueprints, instructions or anything of the like, he had put together an amazing masterpiece from nothing more than a picture and thousands of small building blocks.

I questioned him about certain aspects of his task and then began to point out how and why this project amazed me. Keep in mind that before me was student who had difficulty with standardized testing, was frustrated by traditional instruction methods, and exemplified annoyance as grades he received were not a reflection of his effort. With these thoughts in mind I stated to him how much I wish there had been a Regents Exam that would have reflected how intelligent and capable he was as a learner. I explained that he possessed such an amazing thought process that few understood and that traditional testing formats could never measure. His parents replied, “We’ve never heard someone talk about him like that before”. And that’s when it struck me. When we talk what do students hear?

I fear I’m not alone in admitting that too often I think about what to say rather than what a student needs to hear. Think for a moment about some of the more common statements that are probably said too often during a school day. Are our words building up or tearing down? Do we criticize or critique, compliment or condemn? In other words, what are students hearing? Standing in front of me was a graduate and his parents who had never heard someone celebrate the diversity of intelligence that he possessed. It took a post-graduation trip to his school for him to hear what he should have been hearing for a long time.

We need to be spending less time thinking about what we want to say, and more time thinking about what students need to hear.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Relationship Reflection

The following commentary is a result of my thinking and reflection about the post “We Need to Talk About This” by Beth Still. As I reflected upon the topic she put forth and began to contemplate both my online relationships, and the relationships I have with those I work with, I came to a couple realizations. These realizations are not directly related to her topic, but are a result of my thoughts regarding the differences between digital and real world relationships.

The first realization is that Social Media Cultivates a Bond amongst those who collaborate and connect with one another. Much like the brotherhood of firefighters, and the camaraderie of those who have participated in military service, people connected through Social Media share an unspoken special kinship one to another. While they may be conducting themselves in different roles they have become connected for a purpose. The outcomes they desire to achieve allow them to share visions, focus and passion with one another. They look out for one another, share with one another, and when one person shares a success everyone feels the joy of it.

The second realization is that Social Media Causes a Benefit. Those who use Social Media and those with personal relationships, such as a colleague, have probably recognized a distinct difference in how they benefit one from another. The colleague who works alongside is more easily driven to be disingenuous. Not because they don’t care, but because of what they care about. Status in the workplace, possible promotions, and reputations with others all can be a driving force that encourages a colleague to look out for their own interests, not the interests of others. People who voluntarily connect through the use of online relationships do so because they want to, not because they have to. The effort that is put forth to connect in a digital world is put forth willingly. Therefore, the communication tends to be more sincere and genuine because of the desired outcomes. They participate in dialogue and discussion to grow from each other and learn with each other, not caring about who gets the credit, but knowing that everyone involved will benefit in some way.

There are many other differing aspects of an online relationship and real life relationship, but these two realizations were the first to come to mind. Regardless of what people may see as advantages and disadvantages of either form of relationship the fact remains that technology continues to change relationships in many ways, and will continue to do so as time goes on.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Project 49

The Hinsdale Central School Sr. class started the 2010-2011 school year questioning school spirit, participation, and what they felt was a negative reputation forming around many classes. They purposed that they would work to change as many of these things as they could, and wanted to leave behind something tangible that would encourage students who followed them to take Pride in who they were, and where they came from. The class brainstormed ideas and Project 49 was born.

Students decided they wanted to paint a mural of the school in Room #49. This is the room that is dedicated to Study Halls throughout the day and is frequently visited by all members of the student body. The desire was to keep it a secret and reveal the mural during an assembly that would focus on having pride about yourself and your school. At the completion of the painting the Sr. class inscribed their names in bricks that make up the school, laying the foundation for the classes that would come behind.

Day 1 -

Day 2 -

Day 3-

Day 4 -

As Project 49 gained momentum it turned into a project that extended beyond just the current Sr. class painting a mural. The assembly enabled the current seniors to take turns reflecting about their school career as they shared "Proud Moments" about academic, athletic and community involvement. These moments were opportunities or them to share about something that made them proud to be part of the Hinsdale family. After these Proud Moments Sr. class member Troy Hillman challenged the students to be proud of where they come from and put forth their best in whatever they do in life. He told then that in order to make a change they first need to be the change.

A band was brought in to perform at the assembly. It consisted of three members of the 2010 graduating class and a current senior. They performed "Chain of Pride", a song written by the Civics/Government class that tells the story of the challenges faced by an incoming student and how he was encouraged to always do his best and help those who come behind.

As I begin to walk these halls for the first time in my life, I feel scared and out of place it just didn't seem right.

Then a Senior took my arm and looked me in the eyes, He told me not to be afraid and gave me some advice.

Reach out to those around you and forget what others think, If you try to stand alone all you is sink

Let me share my father's words to me when I was in your shoes, "Others will always see your best when you take Pride in what you do"

I told him I was grateful for those words he spoke to me, When I said I felt I owed him, he just answered quielty

You don't owe me anything I've been there too, Someone once helped me out the way I'm helping you. You relly wanna pay me back? Here's what you can do, dont let the Chain of Pride end with you.

Everything soon became easy I guess I had nothing to fear, No matter where I stop to look Somone was always near,

I wathced so many leave this place they left their mark behind, As this happened year to year these thoughts came to mind,

You don't owe me anything I've been there too, Someone once helped me out the way I'm helping you. You relly wanna pay me back? Here's what you can do, dont let the Chain of Pride end with you.

As I walk across this stage dresseed in my cap and gown, Been thinking bout the past few years ready to leave this town,

Saying goodbye to all my friends Won'dring what to pass along, Bobcat Pride comes to my mind and the lyrics in this song.

As the band performed the song the following slide show of the painting project was played on the big screen revealing Project 49 to all those in attendance.

The assembly was also the time that the additional aspects of this project were shared. Room #49 not only has a mural, but would also be receiving additional updates on a yearly basis. A Chain of Pride will be painted with a new link being added every June. This will be a time when the outgoing Sr.'s and the incoming Sr.'s (current Jr.'s) will together add a link to chain and the new Sr. class will inscribe their names pledging to not the let the chain end with them.

What started with some simple questions and desire, turned into an event that created excitement and energy throughout the entire school. Project 49 will hopefully leave a legacy that will be remembered for years by those who come behind...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Slowing Down for a Change

Abraham Lincoln was quoted as saying "While good things come to those who wait, it's only what's been left behind by those who hustle." While I admire and respect all that the 16th president of the United States stood for and accomplished, I feel that we often inappropriately apply such sayings to specific instances in our everyday lives.

Our society has become so focused on instant solutions and immediate response that we fail to see how Patience truly is a virtue, and how necessary it is to slow down at times. We constantly are trying to make things happen now. For example, I can buy instant microwave popcorn, instant oatmeal, instant rice, instant mashed potatoes, and the list goes on and on. We instant message, and have instant updates sent to our phones. Is there any reason we would expect change to also be manifested instantly? But the reality is change does not occur instantaneously. In fact, change is often so slow we never see it happening. The results are evident as seasons change, styles change, and popularity changes. But change has often taken place and we recognize it after the fact.

When dealing with change we often have a major obstacle in our way - impatience. Our inability to wait for things to develop and occur causes us to make hasty decisions and neglect to see the consequences that may arise from those decisions.Whether it be decisions that take place on the national level, for example, RTTP (Race To The Top), or whether we are just trying to change things within our class, district, or community. Why are we so focused on speed and racing to get someplace? I don't know about you, but every time I read about the tortoise and the hare the racing rabbit seems to lose. We attempt to teach the formula of "Slow and steady wins the race", but fail to live it out. The fallout of our speed and quickness also has damaging affects to our demeanor and attitude. We don't see the immediate results we believe we should, and become discouraged, disheartened,and want to give up. If we focus on the reality that not all things in life are instantaneous, change being one of those things, we will be much better off. So take some time to slow down. Stop and smell the roses. Remember that slow and steady does win the race. Keep working for the improvements and change that are necessary and that you want to see. But remember, you'll probably never see the change happen only the results after it does.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Strategies for Juggling Involvement and Life

by Leah MacVie

Today’s students have crammed schedules. They wake up early, shove food in their face, jump in the car, run from class to class, go to band practice followed by soccer practice, get their homework done while eating, and then off to bed. If you think that is stress inducing, imagine their parents, who work full time and juggle schedules for 3 kids.

As a parent, you have to choose your priorities. Here are a few strategies for balancing life and being involved in your child’s schools.

Support your Child

Coming up with a consistent schedule during the week will definitely help students to nail down a routine. Show an interest in not only what your child is attaining in school, but also what they are learning and interested in. When adults keep asking about the grades, students begin to believe that’s all that matters. There is more to school than grades. There are experiences, friendships, open minds, innovative ideas, and current events.

Meet the Teachers

For younger students, contact your child’s teacher a few weeks after the start of the school year to say you want to stop by and introduce yourself. For the older students, you may have this opportunity at an open house.

Stay up to Date

Some teachers will send out newsletters. While you don’t always have the time to comment face to face on these newsletters, you can e-mail questions and comments at any time of day. Also, check the school Web site, and contact the webmaster if you notice it is out of date. If you can, attend school board and PTA meetings, even if for a short amount of time.

Volunteering Time

If you are lucky enough to have a flexible employer that supports families, then it’s definitely a great idea to ask your child’s teacher when an extra pair of hands will be needed and to schedule it in advance. If you don’t have daytime hours to spare, then ask your child’s teacher how you can volunteer in other ways, like baking or assembling handouts.

Juggling involvement and life isn’t easy, but being consistent with these simple strategies will help you to maximize the time you have.

Leah MacVie blogs about educational choices at She loves contemplative comments from bloggers like Rob Griffith and appreciates helping faculty that think online learning is an interesting choice.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Shades" of Influence

Have you ever wondered how much you influence others, particularly students? And I'm not just talking about the students you directly teach. I was caught off guard yesterday in that regard and it had to do with a pair of "Shades". Let me take a moment to explain.

I have the unique privilege and opportunity to not only teach in my district, but also to be a full-time bus driver as well. I have posted about that before and discussed the positive benefits that it provides (The Value of Pupil Transportation). Yesterday however was a day that touched me emotionally, and here's how the story unfolds.

The number one priority as a bus driver is student safety. As the sun begins to get lower and lower on the horizon during the Autumn months I always put on my sunglasses for the afternoon bus run making it easier to view the road and traffic conditions. For the past week there has been a Pre-k student that I transport home in the afternoon who has also been wearing sunglasses. I noticed him wearing them, but did not think anything unusual about it. While exiting the bus his sunglasses shifted and were about to fall off. I made a comment about not wanting to have them fall and break to which he smiled, re-adjusted them, and continued up his driveway to his waiting mother. She took his hand looked at me and said "You know why he has those glasses don't you?" I replied that I did not. Her response was "Because you do!" As she said this the young boy stood by her side looking at me and beaming from ear to ear. Three words that packed so much power I had to stop for a moment to process their significance, "Because you do!"

Never would I have guessed the reason the young boy was wearing the glasses. I spent the time during my commute home to reflect on those three words. I began to realize and recognize just how much influence we have on the lives of students. We shape their lives in so ways without ever thinking about it or realizing it.

I spent the evening reflecting upon the chances we have to both encourage and discourage the students we are around each day. I woke up motivated and inspired to take every opportunity, no matter how small, to make sure that each student I come in contact with will see the positive aspects of my life.

Little eyes are always watching, what do they see in you?