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!

Carpe Diem!!

By: Shannon Boatwright

Seize the day and make your lives extraordinary!

The great Robin Williams spoke these incredible words in a brilliant film called “Dead Poets Society.” What a gem that piece of art was and still is. See the short movie clip below of our brilliant and gone-way-too-soon Mr. Williams giving this priceless piece of advice to a group of young men.

I actually use this saying in my middle school drama classes. It serves as a great way for me to hopefully inspire these kids and it helps me gain their attention. The students can be engaged in group work or pre-class chatter and I will yell “Carpe Diem!!!” and they will all respond, with passion, “Seize the Day!!!” It’s quite the empowering, cool experience. As soon as they finish saying the word “day”, the room is completely silent – which creates this really cool vibe in the air, especially after we’ve just yelled something so powerful, in unison.

I show my students the clip from the movie and use it as a way to inspire them to make the most of their time with me and throughout their day. Let’s face it, like Robin says, we will all one day be dead, it’s an inevitable part of life. So why not make the best of life while we’re living it? I encourage them to make a real effort, give everything their best shot. Life is too short to waste it away and be unhappy. Let’s make it count while we have the opportunity.

Now many of us, young students included, often see motivational videos about pursuing your dreams, getting out there and making great things happen – seizing the day! And a lot of these videos feature superstars, Olympic athletes…individuals who are exceptional and seem super-human. In my classes we discuss how these kinds of videos can indeed be very motivating and inspirational, yet it’s not always necessarily what the real world looks like for most of us. We can’t really stop everything we’re doing and go rule and rock the world. It’s just not quite that easy. We have responsibilities, requirements of life. In the real world, it’s not always feasible for anyone, much less a kid, to drop what they’re doing and suddenly reach for the stars, climb the tallest mountains, make a hit record overnight, create cures, or become president. It’s a process, succeeding at life. Seizing it takes hard work and effort. And I can guarantee a lot of us don’t look like visions of superhuman perfection while we’re making that effort. So…I make it a point to explain that when we use “Carpe Diem” in my class, we are using it as a means of gathering focus and reminding ourselves to make our best effort in that moment. Together we seize our day, making the best of the small moments that will lead us to do great things, big and small.

Here’s to making our lives extraordinary!

Carpe Diem!

Realize This is the Real World

By: Shannon Boatwright

So there’s this video circulating on Facebook. It’s been out in the web world for over 6 years now. But it’s resurfaced, rightly so, since we’re in total back-to-school mode. I’d seen it before but I recently watched it again, getting a good chuckle. As a good, hardworking teacher, you certainly get the point of the video. Any school employee that deals with craziness from parents will get this video.

Sure, there are unworthy people out there in the education system who should not be granted the privilege of teaching or even be in the presence of students. Sadly, passionless, burnt out, sad sacks exist in the education world. Sometimes you just can’t avoid those types. But the truth is, they are far and few between. There are millions of truly passionate teachers and dedicated folks who do care so very much and try their hardest to do everything they can do to provide the best education for our children.

 

Watching this video again reminded me of the great privilege I have to inspire, educate and hopefully create outstanding, respectable, hardworking individuals that will contribute to society. All that said, as you watch the video and chuckle too, whether you’re a parent, grandparent, guardian or supporter of children and education in any form, please remember that all the weight does not fall on the shoulders of the teachers, administration or support staff. An enormous part of creating, building, and molding a successful student must come from a student’s support system at home AND must be met with an individual student’s own effort and dedication to doing their best.

Like the school voicemail message states, this is the REAL world and “your child must be accountable and responsible for his or her behavior, classwork, and homework.” The answer to why a particular student is failing at anything, may not be due to a teacher’s fault. Always stop to consider this and make sure that your student, your child, is making an honest effort.

My personal mantra for the new school year, as a passionate, Arts-loving Drama teacher, is one of Brendon Burchard’s many fabulous quotes,

“Grant me the strength to focus this week, to be mindful and present,to serve with excellence, to be a force of love.”

Here’s to a successful new school year that will hopefully produce a sea of inspired, educated, standing-ovation-worthy students that will move on to do great things in their lives that will make a positive difference in this crazed world of ours!  🙂