A Second Chance

New beginnings are so exciting. The summer is ending, and rather than signifying a sad event, it signals that school will begin again. Students are eager to return to school, teaches are working hard to get their classrooms ready, and parents are shopping for school supplies. New freshman are entering college and excited about a new start. Summer does not signal the end, no it is a new and fresh start, a chance to redefine ourselves, in a sense, a second chance. I have many friends and family members starting new jobs and I am excited for them to see what new things they achieve.
I love the idea that in life we are given second chances, not just once, but over-and-over again. We all deserve a second chance, we all make mistakes, and we all learn from our mistakes. I celebrate my mistakes, because with each one, I have learned something very valuable. I have learned to love my children, as they are only young for such a short time. I discovered the true meaning of friendships, as fare-weathered friends are soon gone.

In life, I have survived the greatest heartaches the death of my father, the breakup of a marriage, the betrayal of a friend, and the heartache of a child with a long-term disability and yet, I survived, and even thrived. During my darkest moments, I felt heartache and despair, but I recovered and now I know that I can live through bad times and I can learn from them and help others during their bad moments. The other side is joy!

I see the end of summer as the beginning of new hope that life will get a bit easier, that dreams will come true. As I take joy in seeing kids return to school, and friends start new jobs, and family move to new homes I have hope that this year I too will get a full-time teaching job and if not I will preserver. Just as the seasons change and life is renewed, I am renewed. The greatest lesson I have learned with the ending of summer is that of hope that summer will return and life begins again – new.

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The research paper: The end of the semester

The end of the semester is close and the students are getting excited about their summer vacation and for some their upcoming graduation. For me it is that time of the semester when I am reading and grading their research papers. I am always impressed with how hard my students work and the progress they make during the semester. At first, they are hesitant at the idea of a fifteen-page paper, but as we work through the writing process, they are amazed at their end products, a well-written research paper, with a solid thesis, introduction, conclusion, and all their arguments proved.

As I handed back the papers on Tuesday, I told one of my student s that his paper was great and he said to me that no one had ever told him that before. He asked if I was joking, and I said no, all the papers are great in this class, each of you write really well. Another student said she had never made above a C in English. It really saddens me to hear my students ever felt discouraged. How can a student write well if they have been discouraged and think that they are poor writers before they even start their papers?

I like to think of writing as a process and that if I look at what a student does really well and encourage them in the areas that they need to work on without discouraging them that they will learn and thrive in my class. I want all my students to succeed by positive feedback not by red pen mentality.

This particular class is an English Composition II class, so most of the students understand the writing process, but I teach other writing classes too. I take this same approach to encourage my students. For my GED students it means learning to write a well-crafted sentence, then two, and finally a whole paragraph. Before long, they are writing a solid essay, which is critical in passing the GED test.

As an adjunct, a part-time teacher, I am do not have the luxury of spending time in my office to work with students, so I strive to be available during my lunch, before, and after class. I am always pleased that many of my students will come and ask for a little extra help. I so love working with these students. I am always sad this time of year, the semester is ending, and I will have to say goodbye. I know that my students have learned and will go on to write excellent papers for their other classes. I hope my positive outlook on their abilities makes a difference to them; I know their positive response to me makes me smile.

Why I Read

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait b...

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait by her sister Cassandra, 1810 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I started reading when I was three. My grandmother in England had been a classical pianist in a symphony and taught at Cambridge University. My grandmother was an elegant woman, very refined, a connoisseur of tea, believed a child should have proper etiquette, and strive for the best education possible.

I was a military brat that moved yearly and sometimes twice yearly. I was probably not the refined little lady that my grandmother had envisioned for a granddaughter but she never let on. She spent hours teaching me how to prepare and drink the proper cup of tea and how to read. Both lessons I have never forgotten and will always be thankful to my Grandmother for taking the time and teaching me.

As soon as I could read a book without help, I was off and running and I do mean that literally. I was eagerly running to the library to find a new book to read. Reading became my best friend. When you move every year there are no friends to play or talk with, let alone visit. I was always the new kid in every school – all 22 of them.

I challenged myself to read more and more difficult books. In kindergarten, we lived in Bicknell Indiana while my Dad served in Korea. I would go to the City Hall every day and venture down to the basement, which housed the library. I read every Beatrix Potter book I could find. I loved her books; my love of Beatrix Potter grew into my live of classical literature. I adored Emily Bronte and Jane Austen. The classics teach lessons about life, decisions, humanity, history, and even about the future. From reading the classics, I understand how people lived and how we should live to be better people.

My time in Bicknell was well spent, for the first time in my life I had friends and these friends I have kept for a lifetime. As my Dad served in Vietnam or was stationed away from us, we would return home to Bicknell and these friends always embraced me. To this day I am thankful for my North Knox friends who may never relies what their kindness meant to me and still means to me to this day. When you are a military brat, you are from everywhere and nowhere. You do not really belong or fit in anywhere. It is a lonesome feeling even to this day.

As a became older I fell in love with other genres thrillers, mysteries, sci-fi, and general literature. I would pick up a book and within a day or two, I would be finished. I always felt like I was saying goodbye to a friend each time I finished a book. In a way, I was saying goodbye to all the characters that lived in my head. I later became engrossed in biographies. I love to read the letters of famous people like Einstein, Newton, and Vincent van Gogh. Reading the letters is like getting to know the most intimate side of each of them.

There are many authors I follow and books that I re-read each year. One of them is Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Each time I re-read a book I see something new, something I missed the last time I read the book. Books provide endless lessons to me on living life with grace. I can’t imagine not reading. I want to share my love of reading with other people that is why I became a literacy tutor and later a reading teacher. I have since earned a master’s in reading and literature. I want to teach about books, have grand conversations with students, and instill my love of reading with them. I am still trying to figure out how to share this love with students who show little interest in a book or a story when I figure it out I will tell you, until then I will keep trying.