Insanity vs. Sanity

By: Shannon Boatwright

“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.”
― Edgar Allan Poe

Most people have heard of and read at least some of the works of Edgar Allan Poe. I have many favorites when it comes to his stories, poems, and quotes. Currently, I am producing and directing a production with my 8th-grade honors drama students called, “Shuddersome: Tales of Poe”. This show features some of Poe’s best works, some that I had never heard of until I came across this play from TheatreFolk.com. It’s a brilliant play that pieces together Poe’s works in a very intriguing, unique and entertaining way. Of course, I’ve added my own special touch to it by incorporating music, song, and dance, adding even more depth and umph to the eerie mystery of Poe’s tales. As we’ve been working on the production, I’ve had the opportunity to dive deeper into the life of Poe and learn more about his tragic world.

I’d always been fascinated by his quote, “I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.” My thoughts go in many different directions when I think on this quote. I think of the times I wish I could just sleep and stay in my dreams, or never wake from my fantasies. I think of how the busyness and stress of my life make me feel insane at times, yet it’s the moments of boring normalcy when creative busyness does not overtake my life, that I feel crazy in my saneness. Is it because in all the moments when I’m so busy, I don’t have the time nor energy to think too much about things? Probably. It’s a fascinating topic for sure.

It is said that when Poe wrote this statement about being insane and claiming his intervals of sanity as horrible, that he was describing his dealing with his wife’s illness. Having to battle through the ups and downs of his wife’s horrible sickness really did him in. To cope he drank alcohol excessively, I think to provide that little bit of escape into insanity. I believe it’s the moments of terrible reality, the stress of caring for his wife as she suffered so much with tuberculosis, that gave him his horrible moments of sanity. Most of the people Poe cared about died. He really did live quite a tragic life. I can only imagine going through all the loss he experienced, and part of me cannot blame him for having moments of madness, releasing the angst and horror of life through words.

I could probably write a blog post for every single one of his famous quotes. There are so many mysterious and poignant words from Poe that instigate all sorts of interesting discussions. I’m sure there are many different interpretations of them all too, which in my mind, is a sign of an excellent writer promoting and instigating deep thought.

What are your favorite works of Poe and your interpretations of his words?

Can We Create a Better Future for Learning?

By: Shannon Boatwright

Yet again, my deep thinking, passionate child has inspired me. She cares deeply about the earth, animals, health, and people. She recently has become a fan of YouTuber, Prince Ea and I’m ok with that because this guy gets people thinking, puts important issues in our faces and forces us to think, to discuss, and to hopefully take action.

A couple of weeks ago she shared with me Prince Ea’s video, “Why School Sucks.” Now I don’t care for the title, though the realistic side of me has to agree on many levels. I’m an individual who has seen all sides of the occupation world. I’ve worked with big companies, I’ve worked with small, family-owned companies, I’ve worked in the entertainment business, I’ve been a freelance worker, I’ve been an entrepreneur, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, I’ve taught privately, and now I teach in the public school system. I’ve seen and experienced a whole lot from different sides of the game, therefore I feel like I have a well-rounded view of this issue at hand, which is:

We NEED to create a better future for learning!

Our system is askew. It needs MAJOR reform. When my girl showed me Prince Ea’s fabulous video mentioned above, I had just taken my middle school classes through a lesson about the tools in the actor’s toolbox. After the lesson, I pointed out to all my students how I made sure to present the information in such a way that reached every type of learner – visual, auditory, kinesthetic. They read the information, they saw the information in unique ways, they heard the information, and they physically experienced the info. My students were given every opportunity to develop a deep understanding of the knowledge I was imparting on them. And my students responded very positively to this. They appreciated it.

After I saw Prince Ea’s video, it certainly made me feel good about my teaching approach. I made sure to share the video with all of my classes. I loved his main point that we are all different learners and the sooner we discover our individual learning style, the sooner we can be successful. He also encourages his audience to never let someone tell us that we are slow or incapable of doing anything. I felt like this was truly a crucial piece of advice that my students, and everyone for that matter, need to hear.

My students were captivated by the video. I honestly think it helped them put the pieces together and gain an appreciation for my efforts, as well as build a confidence in themselves and understanding their own personal educational journey. It was a wonderful experience to impart this knowledge and realization on my students.

I also made sure to show my students Prince Ea’s video, “Ten Celebrities Who Failed.”

This video just reinforced the information in the first video I shared with them. It reminded them that everyone has obstacles to overcome, but success can be attained. With persistence, incredible effort and confidence in your ability, success can be yours.

In relation to this topic, I came across the Facebook channel, “Atttn: Stories Worth Your Attention.” They share a variety of videos that make incredible points and also get people thinking. On this channel, I recently saw a video in which Mike Rowe discusses the importance of learning a trade. In the U.S. so much emphasis is put on getting a college degree, and we’re often led to believe that going to college is the only path to success. The truth is, many companies cannot find qualified people to fill important trade positions. I especially like Mike Rowe’s point that “the jobs that exist right now, do not require a four-year liberal arts degree. They instead require the willingness to actually learn a skill that is in demand.” Think on that. I’m sure everyone could provide an opinion, personal experience, and input on that topic.

To top off my inspirational journey with this whopper of an issue, my fabulous girl then shared Prince Ea’s video, “The People vs. The School System.”

In this captivating video he asks, “How do YOU think we can create a better future of learning?” The question alone blows my mind and immediately sends me into a tailspin of all the ways I want to answer the question and demand change for the learners of the world.

There are a lot of videos out there of teachers’ and principals’ reactions to this video. They all seem to agree with what Prince EA says, but some do point out that he doesn’t necessarily provide a solution. Well, he does bring up other countries who have made the change to create education success. So there is a solution – MAJOR CHANGE. Look to other countries who are creating such success with their new and improved education system and model them. There’s your answer. Our problem in America is that there are people willing to discuss it, to agree on these issues, yet they don’t have the guts to stand up and attempt to make a real change take place. The higher-ups are stalling any chance for progress because they’re on the fast track to something greater – which really just means, they’re on their own personal mission for higher status and higher pay. Therefore, we lower folks in this education totem pole are trapped in a sense. We’re at the mercy of those in the higher positions above us and until these higher level position people are willing to take a real chance in making a difference then the change will never, ever happen…we will stay within the confines of this ridiculous education system that is in desperate need of reform.

Yep, it’s certainly a vicious cycle. As individuals, what we can do is create awareness and simply change how we do things.

As a student: Discovering how we learn and making sure our teachers understand how we learn best. Being open, honest and aware!

As a teacher: We must make the effort to reach each student. And along with speaking up about this topic with our fellow teachers and our students, we must bring the issue to the higher-ups, creating a respectful atmosphere that makes them have to listen and want to be a part of making a change. Truth is when enough voices demand change and show the proof for why it’s so crucially needed, then the higher-ups have to do something. Right? We must respectfully put the people in power in positions to have to make a change and take action. They have to feel the pressure. We have to rally and speak up if we want to create a better future for learning. But that movement always starts at the grassroots, and that is where our power lies!

So if you are passionate about this topic, whether you’re experiencing it firsthand in some way, already have felt the blow of the flaws of our system, see the effects of a lacking system on the job front or are living it with your own children, share your thoughts, create conversation, engage in the mission to improve learning for all.

When Did You Grow Up?

 By: Ashley Whisonant

The day I have been dreading has finally come. My oldest “baby” started kindergarten this morning. I held back my tears and we walked down his hallway and into the room that will mold him into the student he will become. My confident little guy went from attendance check in to lunch choice with ease. He gave me a hug goodbye and sadly did not look back. Here are all the words I wish I could have said…

You will always be my baby. You are the one that made me a mom. I didn’t know how much I could love someone else until I met you. I am a ball of emotions. I am both terrified and overjoyed for you. All the experiences you will have, good or bad, will make you into our future young man. Remember to help others, even when it isn’t the popular choice. Find your voice and use it for good. Kids can and will be mean. Do your best to surround yourself with sweet souls. Remember to be yourself. Love you my sweet boy.

Molding Words

By: Shannon Boatwright

One of my incredible, honors drama students was recently accepted into the SC Governor’s School for creative writing. This is not an easy program to get accepted into.  This particular young lady is wise beyond her years and always impresses me with her smarts and her skills. She happens to be a fabulous actress. A natural. I discovered recently that she is a writer and a really good one. I have to admit that I’m sad I did not really discover this talent of hers until the end of her 8th grade year. I too, love to write. I enjoy the challenge of putting words together in such a way that it grabs people’s attention, even hopefully inspires them or makes them think. This brilliant young girl and I share a love for writing, whether writing for ourselves or for others. I love her style, I love her wit. I wish I could share more of her writing here, especially the entry that got her accepted into Governor’s School. But for now, I’d like to share just a little taste with you readers – a bit of a tease if you will. Her name is Melissa Cripe. In the years to come, as she continues to create success for herself, I have a feeling her name will be known. My hope is that she will never stop building on those natural talents of hers and that she will continue to shine and share her artistry!

I am young, I do admit. I don’t have fifty years of experience under my belt, making me see the world in a point of view that makes everything have twelve different meanings, each one worse than the last. I’m not going to spill some philosophy that no one wants to hear. I can’t promise you that you will want to hear this, but I am going to try to make it worth something. Because there are very few truths in the world, and here’s one. Words are just words, no matter how fancy and sophisticated they are. Words can be molded into anything you want, but they don’t have to mean anything. Most of the time they don’t mean anything. That’s what writers are here for. They make words into something that may hold a little bit of weight in society. They make words into something that may mean something to someone. Words are a writer’s paint and paintbrush, music and instrument. A writer isn’t given fancy tools to work with. Nothing to spend a lot of money on and nothing that will improve their writing with its price tag and fancy material. All writers have is words, and dang is that hard. But I am here to bend my words into something that might help simplify this place we call the world. I am only 14, but that means my view of the world is untainted. I say things as I see them, not as I have heard others say they have seen them. So, if my words don’t agree with yours, write something of your own and see where that takes you.

                                                                                                Written By Melissa Cripe

How Do You Read?

By: Shannon Boatwright

Alright, so here it goes…I’m going to admit that I’ve actually learned something, as an adult, from a class that I was forced to take. Yep.

I’m a teacher and director of the fine arts. And I like to think I’m darn good at what I do.  I’m a true lover of the arts and currently I get to teach middle school kids how to express themselves. I teach them how to control their bodies and voices to express themselves successfully and portray characters. I teach them the benefits of concentrating and cooperating, letting them experience it. I inspire them to use their imagination. I attempt to create opportunities for students to explore their talents and most importantly, to increase their self-confidence. Unlike most drama teachers, I don’t just teach theatrical terms and unload a bunch of theatre “stuff” on a classroom full of kids in which 95% of the students I teach will likely NOT seek a profession in theatre. I take the opportunity to teach these precious kids the true elements of drama, the tools in the actor’s toolbox – body, voice, imagination, concentration, cooperation – and how to successfully utilize them.  All tools that will help them in EVERY area of their lives, no matter what profession they go into.

Needless to say, I’m passionate about what I do and although teaching in the public school system is incredibly challenging, has aged me considerably and definitely is not financially rewarding, I strive to make a positive difference in these students’ lives. The true rewards come in the success of my students. And I can confirm that those successes, small to some, huge to others, are positively priceless.

All that being said, (and of course I could say more, but on to my point of this blog post…) one of the many requirements by the state was that all teachers take a class called “Read to Succeed”. The instant reaction is, well, naturally and unapologetically, sarcastic, “Fantastic, another thing we teachers are required to do. Another time-wasting, no money-making, not-making-me-a-better-teacher, required THING”. Sorry, but that’s the blunt truth that we teachers are used to. Sure it’s not every time, but daggomit it happens all too often. So yes, pardon me for jumping to obvious conclusions, but all too often us teachers aren’t allowed the time to just do what we do best. All too often we are weighed down with silly requirements and nonsense that tends to be a most unfortunate, serious waste of time.

So here’s the admission – though this required class I had to take certainly did not need to be stretched out over so many hours and could’ve been condensed and simplified, I did learn something valuable from it. Thankfully. “Read to Succeed” is actually an appropriate name for this state-required course. Every teacher uses reading in their classrooms on some level and the truth of the matter is, we take for granted this idea that all kids can properly read when they get to our classes. This sadly is not the case. I’ve known that students read differently, with a different level of skill as they read out loud. My focus has usually been on that skill of reading out loud, applying character and emotion. But what this class has taught me is that we need to help students to think while they read. Hmmmm…. Yes, there’s the key! Forget sounding out words and all that reading “stuff” we’re used to hearing. Students need to learn how to actually understand what they’re reading. Make sense of what they’re reading. Visualize and grasp the content, the story, while they’re reading. They need to think while they read.

So how do you read? What was your reading experience like growing up? Do you remember being taught how to read? Did you experience struggles that you had to overcome to be a successful reader? As an adult do you still have moments in which you read a paragraph and have no clue what it was about? Then you end up reading it 2 or 3 or more times before you gain the focus to take in the meaning? Yea, me too. It happens. Now imagine a student struggling with that same thing, a teacher thinking they’re understanding what they’re reading, and yet a student possibly not having a clue what they’re reading. We have to teach the art of thinking while reading!

I hope you were able to think while you read my blog. 😉

AirSafe 2016

By: Shannon Elizabeth Boatwright

Every 3 years the FAA requires every commercial airport to conduct a full scale emergency exercise involving an aircraft accident with “victims.” This event, called AirSafe, provides priceless training for first responders and officials, and serves as a test to make sure all involved know exactly what is expected of them in order to help others and save lives.

AirSafe

My 8th Grade Honors Drama students at Chapin Middle School were invited to participate in this incredible event. Talk about a fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these kids! When my old friend, Fire Chief Glenn Williams, reached out to me about the event and invited my students and I, once I understood more of what the event was about, all I could think was…Wow! What an amazing experience this could be for my students and at this time of year as we remember 9/11. Glenn put me in touch with Captain Daniel J. Ruggiero, who was in charge of the entire event at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport. As I learned more about the event and the roles my students would get to play, I knew I had to do whatever I could to make this happen and allow my students to partake in this unique experience.

AirSafe

With full support from the school district and my administration, on September 14th, 2016, 38 of my honors students participated in the full scale mock disaster drill. Their role was to portray plane crash victims. When they arrived they were given an actor symptomatology tag which displayed their symptoms, each being given specific injuries to act out – fake blood and all! Which naturally the kids thought was especially cool, as it added an element of reality for them and everyone involved. Once the disaster drill began, first responders came to the scene, rescued all the passengers and begin triage to determine their priority.

AirSafe

For my Honors Drama students to have this opportunity to create and portray very unique roles that provided valuable training for fire rescue and EMS personnel, well, there’s no denying it was a priceless experience for these young actors. Not only was it a super cool acting gig for these students, but it was also an eye-opening experience that allowed them to recognize, understand and appreciate the crucial role of our first responders and all that they do to keep us safe.

AirSafe

As a teacher and director of the arts, I am ever thankful for this opportunity that my students were able to experience. I am also thankful that myself and my chaperones had the opportunity to deepen our appreciation for our awesome first responders. A huge thank you to my friends, Fire Chief Williams and Captain Ruggiero, for the invite!! And here’s to all the first responders – your dedication to keeping us safe are appreciated beyond words!

Back to School

By: Lara Clark

I spent a lot of time this summer at my desk, at work, in front of a computer. Our summer trip was in early June and my feet will not hit the sand any time soon. I enjoyed ALL of your trapper keepervacation pictures streaming through my Facebook feed, really I did. But I had to find my joy in other things as we ease back in to the school year.

I have found a few things that are putting pep in my step and maybe they will yours too.

1. The show Unreal. I may be late to this party, but there is a chance if your television watching time falls after the kids go down and before your eyelids go down then you may be late to this party too. UnReal is a fictional show about the making of a reality show. It feels like a behind the scenes look at the making of The Bachelor. And since I believe reality is stranger than fiction, I gotta think this show might be giving us an inside look into what makes those hot tub, smoochie girls cry buckets of tears when they do not get a rose. There is one season of this on Hulu and the second season is currently on Lifetime. If you have a Roku there is a free Lifetime app so you can catch up on any episodes you miss or fall asleep during.

2. Okay, so this one might be a stretch. These are things that are making my back to school days a bit brighter. This one is a little more literal. Last summer we renovated our kitchen and chose a porcelain white sink. Now, like everything white in my life, it does not have the same sparkle and shine it once had. A wise friend suggested I buy some Soft Scrub….in all my maidless days I have never used this thing called Soft Scrub. Well, let me know tell you- our sink is as white as the teeth of the model in a whitening strip commercial. I would say pearly white. Though this may not be a photograph of my feet propped up and a glass of wine on a porch overlooking the ocean, I might still put it on Instagram. #nofilter #lilywhite #cleansinkhappyheart

3. Saving money is not the easiest thing for me to do. Mostly because it seems like you have to have extra money to save and I am not in the business of extra money but a few months ago I signed up for Digit. Basically, you give Digit your banking information. (It is legit I did my research.) They study your account and develop an algorithm (don’t ask me?) and determine how much of your money they can shift into a savings account without you even really noticing. Sometimes it is 54 cents and sometimes it is 38 dollars all the while you don’t really miss it and the best part is when you want to withdraw your money for a little vacation you text them withdraw and ta-da it is in your account. My plan is to keep using Digit so I can afford more vacations next year and spend more time posting pics than drooling over yours.

So that’s it for me, looks like most of my back-to-school favorites are just my favorites, because let’s be honest, back-to-school hasn’t looked the same since there was a new outfit, a shiny Trapper Keeper and someone else paid the bills!