The Teacher Within…

For me it’s about learning and sharing what I’ve learned.

I missed my calling to be a teacher so instead became a trainer. Working with adults and watching them ‘get it’ when a concept clicks is a wonderful experience. I’ve found people learn best when they can ask questions in a safe environment, knowing their question will be acknowledged and addressed.

I also know that people learn best when they can ‘do’ instead of watch. When you learn to tie a knot, paint a picture, mix colors, enter data in Excel, crop a photo, bake a cake, dance the waltz, saw a board, write a book, catch a fish, hike a trial, comment on a blog – it’s in the doing.

So, now for sharing:

I read a book recently titled, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye. In the book, Harold decided to visit a dying friend. He started off to mail her a letter but as he approached each postbox he held back and walked to the next one and then to the next… And so began a walk that lasted several months. As he walked he found out things about himself; he remembered what was important, reviewed times that he let others down, wondered about his marriage, and took us along with him as he sorted out his past. While he was processing, his wife back home was doing the same. She let go of things, admitted truths that she had ignored, dug a garden, tended her flowers and finally, allowed Harold his time away.

The story touched me because the couple that sat at the table on page one slowly thawed and came back to life by the end of the book. We (the readers) were along on the pilgrimage as well. We were able to reevaluate the characters as their story unfolded. We were able to allow, forgive and understand.

Harold Frye’s life was dull and sad and his pilgrimage gave him new perspective and appreciation for the things that were important to him. It touched me and stuck with me after the last page was turned.

That’s all I have to share for now!

Let me know if something touches your soul today (a book, poem, flower, blog post, baby’s giggle, bike ride?)


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South of Broad by Pat Conroy (Book Review)

For the past several years I’ve been a recipient of free books from Random House.

South of BroadThe idea is that I will share the books with my book  club members and spread the word.

I appreciate the idea, I enjoy receiving gifts in the mail and sometimes … I actually enjoy the book.

In early June, I hit the jackpot when Random House sent me South of Broad by Pat Conroy.

You may remember he wrote Prince of Tides in the 1980’s. I read that book and was deeply disturbed by it. When a movie was made I had no desire to see it on the screen. That was the first and last time I read one of his books — until now.

South of Broad tells the story of a group of misfits who became friends. The uniting factor was a boy, nicknamed Toad, who glided over stereotypes, glamor, poverty and class and saw the gem of the person within. Toad had a way of making friends by acknowledging his nerdy appearance, lack of friends, criminal background, death of a sibling and estranged family relationships.

The friendships created that summer were tested again and again through the years. Some friends married, some stayed in South Carolina and others strayed.  Most of these people had their own baggage and most times it spilled over to create new drama. Throughout the novel, there was the looming presence of an evil father and the eventual understanding of a standoffish mother.

All the pieces were tied up, cleared up and explained by the time the novel ended yet I found myself reviewing it over again and again in my head.  It’s the kind of book I’d like my book club members to read so that I can get their impressions, input and criticisms.

Until that time, however, feel free to let me know what you thought of it, ok?

— Thanks Random House!

How to Lose Your Self of Steam & Other Teaching Lessons I Never Learned From Professional Development (Book Review)

Just the title alone, How to Lose Your Self of Steam & Other Teaching Lessons I Never Learned From Professional Development by Carol Richtsmeier was enough to engage me. The lighthearted title that began on the front cover continued throughout the book as the author shared bits and pieces of her teaching experience.

The book is a look at what students are capable of doing despite school interference. The book is loaded with ‘richie-isms’ that come in handy when needed. A richie-ism is a quip or utterance made by the author (Richtsmeier) and kept alive by continued use. One that made me chuckle was “Big Fat Stupid Head”.  When in the mist of anger, deadlines, frustration and perhaps during moments of clarity this richie-ism can everything up in a nice little package.

When a richie-ism is used, it’s important to see behind the person and understand where she is coming from at the moment. To shout, “If you don’t get this paper done, I’m going to cut off your heads and put them in the freezer, and you won’t like it, not one bit,” gets you to wondering how the stars were aligned for Richie at that instant. And yet, getting the words out, regardless of how silly they were, Richie created an atmosphere of equality in the room. The frazzled statement leveled the playing field and it became clear they were all nuts. Sometimes a student needs to know her teacher is koo-koo!

The layout of the book weaves clever illustrations, cheat sheet snippets, chapter terms, a bit of art here and there into a book that flows like a lesson plan. Regardless of who is teaching or learning the lesson, the message unfolds in an easy writing style.

Carol Richtsmeier won the 2005 National Courage in Student Journalism Award from the Newseum and in 2002 she was awarded the Texas State Journalism Teacher of the Year.

This book will not teach you how to be a better teacher, person or educator nor will you get any sort of professional development ideas. But you will get a glimpse of students who continue to win awards and publish top notch papers. I just wish Richie had shared some of her journalism lessons/secrets with me. As long as she doesn’t pull out her red pen when she reads this, I think I’ll be okay.

How to Lose Your Self of Steam & Other Teaching Lessons I Never Learned From Professional Development on

* Originally posted in Blogcritic on December 13, 2009