Friday, June 29, 2012

Saving Sarasota

There is one thing I look forward to more then anything else all year. It's the thing that gets me out of bed at 4:30 am on a freezing cold Tuesday in February. It's better even than Christmas, which I love.

It's my summer beach trip.

Growing up, my family took a two-week long vacation to Daytona. So, in my mind, no summer is complete without a substantial amount of time spent in the sand and surf. I am and always will be a Daytona Beach girl, but any beach will do. Just give me the sun, an umbrella, a decent book, and a bottled water and leave me in the sand until the sun goes down.

This year, we weren't going to the beach. Even with our teachers' salaries and massive coaching supplements (ha), money is tight. So we'd decided to put vacation money to other uses this year. A plan that lasted about two months before Coach decided to take his beach bum wife to the water. We discussed a weekend trip to Alabama's beautiful Gulf Coast. Then we talked about going to Daytona for a few days. Then, one of Coach's friends offered him his week at a time share in Sarasota. It was a great offer, but it was the week of biology workshop for me. So instead, we rented the next week at the same time share.

We were excited about going somewhere new and looking forward to a full week at the beach. We packed up and rolled out of Woodland at midnight on Friday night, planning to arrive in Sarasota by early afternoon. Coach's friend has two weeks there, so we could change in his room and start enjoying the beach long before check-in time. It was a great game plan. However, Debby had a different plan for us.

Little did we know that while we'd been busy packing and driving, a little tropical storm named Debby had decided to make the Gulf of Mexico her home. And, apparently she really liked it there. Moving at a top speed of 3 miles per hour, she was in no hurry to leave. As we arrived in Sarasota, so did the rain and winds.

Now, everyone anticipates a little rain at the beach, but the forecast was calling for a complete washout for the week. It rained and rained, Saturday and all day Sunday. I went from beach bum to just bummed. Despite the torrential rains and forty mph winds, Debby didn't really do much. So as the parking lot filled with water, the people at Suntide Beach Club got tired of being stuck in their rooms. They did what any one who refused to give up their week at the beach would do. They swam in the rain. Even me. By Tuesday, the sun peaked thought the clouds for an hour or so. And when the rains came back, we sought refuge, not inside but in the hot tub.

The it's-going-to-rain-all-stinking-week forecast turned out to be a worst-case scenario. The rest of the week was beautiful. The beach had been completely washed away, but we weren't too upset to spend time at the pool. And, while the sun has been fabulous, the highlight of the trip may have been the tropical storm hot tub party. You know what they say, when life gives you lemons... In Sarasota, you put them in a big jar and pass it around. And when life give you tropical storm Debby, you swim anyway!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"The English Teacher"

What a week! What an exhausting, challenging, long week! What was I thinking?!

This story needs some explaining. As a freshman in junior college, I found my first love. My first teaching love, that is. Biology. I had a great instructor who facilitated my interest in the subject. I'd always been fascinated by one particular area of biology dealing with genetics and the passing on of recessive and dominant traits. I guess that comes from being the fraternal one in a set of triplets. Anyway, Mr. Howell often encouraged me to become a biology teacher.

Two years later, I went to Auburn with that goal in mind. But, to become a biology teacher meant taking classes in chemistry. Epic fail. So...I changed majors and dug myself out of a GPA hole and proudly graduated magna cum laude in Human Development and Family Studies.

Fast forward a few years. I decided to pursue a career in education. I enjoy many subjects so I had to chose a discipline. I'd been out of math classes for six years. No math. Every science class has a lab to go with it. No science. I've always loved literature and grammar. English wins.

I've been teaching English at my current school for two years. I am fortunate to be able to teach Advanced Placement language and composition there. Teaching AP is challenging. I felt like I knew a lot about my content area before I began teaching AP. I learned quickly that there was much to learn. But I love it.

Last November, I found out that the AP Biology teacher was not planning to continue teaching the course. There wasn't exactly a line forming to take it over. It is tons of extra work. So, I researched a little. In our state, once you've taught two years at a particular level, you can take the Praxis test. If you pass, you become certified in that teaching area. I found this out on November 1st. I had to pass the test by January 1st in order to be certified for the next school year. There was one more being given before the end of the year, on November 12.

I paid the late fee, studied my tail off, felt like an idiot when I walked out of the testing room, and knew I'd wasted my money. Six weeks later I got the results. Somehow I'd passed.

Fast forward to last week. I'd been given the AP bio class in addition to my AP Lang classes for next year and it was time to attend the annual summer week-long training. I knew I'd be the dumbest kid in the room. I knew how intense the training are from attending the AP Lang institute each year. So, I was apprehensive. But, here's why I love AP. Not only do you get top of the line students, but the teachers are the best of the best. Those AP bio teachers at the workshop went out of their way to help and encourage me all week. They shared tips and information. They offered support. It was great. I left the institute excited about the challenge and knowing that the rest of my summer will be spent preparing for my biology class. Maybe next year, they'll stop calling me "the English teacher" and recognize me as one of them. One of the all stars, who go beyond what they have to do to help prepare their students for their futures.

I made it through the week. I survived. Too bad I can't say the same for one of the crickets from my lab. I learned tons, but I know I've got a lot to learn. This should be fun.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Lake's Legacy

In just over a week, the post I wrote about Coach Billy Lake has received 720 views. This is more than 12 times the views I usually have for postings. That number is a testament to the kind of person Lake was and the lives he touched. It speaks volumes about him.

You really never know the impact you can have on others. Lake devoted his life to working with young men, sharing his love for football among other things. I wonder if he ever thought about the influence he had on their lives. I'm sure he knew that what he did was meaningful, but like so many of us, I don't know if he truly understood the magnitude of it.

We all come into contact with people on a daily basis. Whether we know it or not, whether it's intentional or coincidence, we all impact the lives of those around us. Some more than others, but none are exempt. And it's worth thinking about: what kind of influence are you? It's easy to get caught up and bogged down with life. If you're like me, there aren't enough hours in the day for the things you need to do, and people seem to line up to ask more of you. When you're stretched to your limit, it's easy to overlook the opportunities around you. The chances to lighten someone's load or brighten their day. The chance to be a friend or to make one. The chance to make someone feel appreciated or loved or worthwhile.

Several years ago, something happened in my life taught me the value of offering encouragement. Of being a friend. Of saying what's on your heart. Sometimes we dont do or say those things because we don't want to upset someone or be perceived as nosey or bother anyone. But, if you feel like offering help or a kind word, do it. You have no idea how badly that person might need to hear it.

Likewise, don't be a negative influence. There was a time when I struggled with anger and resentment and worse towards another person. I knew I shouldn't feel that way, so I tried not to let it consume me. One day, a well-meaning coworker sat down with me and began commenting on how much she would hate that person if it were her and what she would want to say to them. She thought she was being helpful. She was actually making it harder for me to handle the situation properly.

My point? We effect each other. In good ways and in bad ways. I want my influence to be a positive one. Lake's death is a tragedy. It's still hard to accept. But no matter how sad and hurt we are by something, we can learn from it. Lake taught so many young men in his life, and he's taught me some important things in his death. Life holds many lessons for us all. Honor Coach Lake by being a positive influence on those around you. Use each day as an opportunity to change someone's life for the better.

Once a Bobcat...

Spring usually represents renewal. Everything that has lain dormant during the winter returns with new vigor. Flowers bloom. The sky is brighter. Temperatures warm. But for high school athletes, spring is not the beginning;it is a close.

The last seasons of the year end as the baseball and softball players hang up their cleats. Spring football training makes its brief appearance to whet our appetites for the upcoming fall. And then, there is a time for reflection and saying goodbye.

At Woodland, the Athletic Banquet is a big deal. Here, the coaches recognize the accomplishments and celebrate the seasons for every varsity athlete in every varsity sport in one event. It's lengthy, but it's so appropriate. I love how they do it here. These young men and women have devoted so much of their time to their respective sports. It's fitting that the community should honor them with this night. It's bittersweet, though. Because with it comes the end. The end of the year, and for some, the end of sports for good.

Coaches get these athletes when they are young. Because ours is a small school, most of the coaches begin working with these athletes as 7th graders. They get to watch them grow as athletes and as people. They devote their time and effort and so much of their lives to teach and prepare these kids for success on the field and in life. It's hard to see them go, no matter how proud you are of them and for them.

The attachments, bonds, and connections they form are meaningful. And even though they won't work together week in and week out, the players here know that these coaches will always be there for them. They are a family. This will always be home.

There's a saying around here, "Bobcat Pride never dies." Ive seen that those are more than words to the people around here. Once you've been a part of this program, you will always be a Bobcat. Congratulations to the Class of 2012. It's been a joy watching you compete and grow up right in front of us. Always be proud of where you came from. And next year, I know you'll miss it. We'll save you a seat in the bleachers.