I Did It!

By Tina Michelle Cameron

I did it! I did it! After 2 ½ years of taking classes as prerequisites and being accepted into the RN to BSN Mobility Distance Learning Program at The University of Alabama last May—I am now able to say I am an alumna! Class of 2019!

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My graduation day was May 3rd, 2019 at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I had worked so hard to get to that point I wanted to experience all I could as a Senior. I had Senior pictures on campus made, I decorated my graduation cap which got numerous comments on how pretty it was. It was a wonderful weekend. I have dreamed of earning this degree for so long. I have been a nurse for 28 years and once my boys were grown, it was time for me to finish what had been on my bucket list since I was 18. So, 32 years later, my dream of having a four-year degree came true.

I attended the class ring ceremony with my mom on April 4th. I absolutely love my ring and what it represents. I wear it every day. The next weekend, I drove back to Tuscaloosa and had Senior pictures made and attended the annual Spring football game—it is called A-day. That morning, I also attended a breakfast where Coach Nick Saban was a speaker. It was amazing.

Resized_20190503_165519  I am blessed that my 2 adult sons and my parents were able to attend the graduation ceremony in Tuscaloosa. I went to the Presidents Mansion reception, which was nice, followed by a separate reception for the Distance Learning students. The graduation ceremony was after that and I must admit that I was nervous walking in alone to check-in and line up with the several thousand much younger graduates. I was thrilled to get to spend 90 minutes in the football teams indoor practice field. I stood on the 50-yard line and took a selfie.

Walking in to the coliseum I became excited and tearful all at once. I finally was able to locate my family in the stands. I prayed that I did not trip and fall walking across the stage and that my pictures they took earlier would come out well. When I picked up my card for lineup it said I was graduating Magna cum laude—I had no clue. I was given a sash to wear. I did not text my family to tell them, I wanted them to be surprised. I knew I good grades, but Distance Learning students are not recognized for the Dean’s List, etc. So, I had assumed they would not recognize all my hard work at graduation, but I was wrong! This was one of the best days of my life and having my children and parents there made it better. I even wore my son’s graduation cap he wore 4 years ago when he graduated from Bama. He even gave me a note before the ceremony that he wrote me, and his note was still in his cap that I wrote him the day he graduated.

I have enclosed pictures of my day. We had a great weekend and I am so proud to have this degree. My new id badge will read Tina Cameron, BSN, RN, OCN. I cannot wait to have it changed once I go back to work from vacation. I also have been accepted into the MSN program at The University of Alabama for Fall 2019, so I cannot wait to start grad school and in 2 years have my master’s degree.

Resized_TCB_0200_811289033076249            I would like to thank all my family and my friends who have supported me the past 3 ½ years. You will never know how special each of you are to me and how much I appreciate each of you.

 

 

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.

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

Finally Finished

By: Chaunte McClure

For at least the past four years, I’ve looked forward to graduating from Erskine Theological Seminary. Now that graduation has come and gone, it seems surreal. But how can that be when my mind, soul and body have longed for rest from the circle of studying, writing, and reading? For the past six years, I’ve been immersed in Bible, theology, history, and practical ministry and consumed by exams and research, exegetical and response papers. As of Saturday, all of that came to an end. Sort of.

The closer I got to finishing seminary, the more challenging the course became. Senioritis on top of weariness, kicked into high gear in the fall and revved up a notch this spring. With only one class to complete, an annoying sinus infection in April led to my getting behind with one of my weekly assignments. I moved forward, completing the remaining homework and finally decided that I just wasn’t going to reach back to make up the missed book report. One of my classmates, who considers me OCD, was shocked that Chaunte McClure was going to settle for (I’m ashamed to say it!) a zero. I was mentally drained. I was just ready for the class to end and for 10 a.m. May 20th to arrive. One day before graduation, I found myself sitting in the hotel room trying to write that three-page paper. Days before, such a conviction came over me for not completing that one assignment. Unfortunately, at the same time, I was battling another self-diagnosed sinus infection and all I wanted to do was lie in bed after struggling through the workdays. By Friday, I was feeling better and had plenty of time on my hands so I finally began crafting a few words for an introduction. That’s about as far as I got. Commencement was the next day. Even after the graduation ceremony I longed for was over, I could not shake the guilt. On Monday, May 22 when I arrived home from work, I wrote the rest of that book report and submitted it to my professor with a note of apology and confession. It won’t even count towards my grade, but a burden is lifted from my heart.

So long homework. Goodbye evening, Saturday and online classes. Hello to my family and friends whom I’ve not spent much time with in the past six years. Let’s do something together often.

My time at Erskine Theological Seminary has been a great one. It has prepared me for ministry doing whatever and wherever God leads. Until then, I want to rest, spend time with others, fulfill desires I’d put on hold, and read and study at my leisure.

Many have asked, more times than I count, if I am returning to school to earn a doctorate. No. I can’t even wrapped my mind around the idea.

The Midlands Arts Conservatory

Providing a Free, Public Education that Combines Arts and Academics

By: Shannon Boatwright

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Just one year ago, in January of 2016, I wrote this blog entry sharing news of a mission to bring an arts conservatory to Columbia, SC. With great zeal, I shared my support for this mission and why the arts are such a huge part of creating a quality, top notch education for the young minds of today.

“Amazing things happen and great knowledge is attained when the arts help to bring core school subjects to life. The joy of the arts is that they can be integrated into every subject. In a perfect educational world, every school would have a fine arts program and arts integration would be a part of every school’s curriculum. Students and teachers would only benefit; there are no negative aspects whatsoever, only the deepening of understanding. To those who recognize the benefits of, engage in and truly support the arts, bravo to you! And thank you.”
– Shannon Elizabeth Boatwright

I am thrilled to help announce that people have rallied behind the mission of the Midlands Arts Conservatory (MAC) and an outpouring of support is helping to make it a reality! Please help me continue to support the mission and share the progress of MAC. There are informational meetings being held this coming weekend that parents and families can attend to get all their questions answered. If you know of any student in the area with a passion for the arts, absolutely do not hesitate to share this info with them! For more details, please read the information below and share it in every way that you can. Let’s help make the arts shine so that young minds can be enriched, deeper understanding can be attained and creativity can thrive!

Arts Charter School to Open in Columbia:
Midlands Arts Conservatory

A committee of arts professionals, educators, parents and community members is moving forward with plans to open an arts charter school in Columbia. The Midlands Arts Conservatory (MAC) will have a focus on the visual arts, theater, dance and music.

mac-logo-squareThe school will hold two informational meetings for parents and the community: on Saturday, January 7th at the North Main branch of the Richland Public Library at 4:00pm, and on Sunday, January 8th in the second floor theatre at the main branch of the Richland Public Library at 3:00.

MAC will provide a free, public education that effectively combines arts and academics. The school plans to open in the Fall of 2017 with 6th and 7th grades, and will add a grade level each year, reaching 12th grade in 2022. The Midlands Arts Conservatory will be free for any South Carolina resident student in the appropriate grade level who has an interest in the arts and is willing to meet the high academic expectations of the school.

The school will be staffed with highly qualified arts and academic instructors in an environment that provides training, exposure and practical application in the arts and the integration of arts into the academics of the school. The student-teacher ratio in classes will be no higher than 20 to 1 and lower in specialized arts areas. MAC will have small group and individualized instruction in the arts with a wide spectrum of academic support available.

The MAC Planning Committee members understand the importance of a high-quality arts education for young people. They want to ensure that every child in the Midlands has the opportunity to experience the power of creative self-expression.

For more information, contact J Britt at (803)-630-1622 or (803)-630-1MAC; visit http://midlandsartsconservatory.org; or follow them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MidlandsArtsCon.

The Value of Creativity

By: Shannon Boatwright

Creativity. It’s the latest theme in education. I’ve studied it and have been given assignments on it in the latest graduate class I’m taking. Just this past week, for professional development in my school district, they had two speakers come speak to all of us teachers in the district. Their main topic? Creativity.

Watch the two short videos below. Seriously, take the time to watch them. You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

Sir Ken Robinson. I can say that this man’s brilliant, heart- and eye-opening words have impacted me on a level that words cannot describe. I am now an official and forever fan of this brilliant man, as his words have helped me to make sense of what I’ve been battling with since teaching in this warped education system. My heart and mind have felt a passion for exactly what he is talking about, I just could never quite put it into words in the eloquent and beautiful way that he has. On one level it fills my heart to have this confirmation that there are people out there that “get it.” Yet on the other hand, my heart aches because I feel the urge to spread this information and somehow figure out how to create a mission to help make this revolution a reality everywhere!

I feverishly took notes as I watched both videos, many times rewinding and listening again, letting Sir Robinson’s words sink in. I’m blown away by the way he has so simply and wisely shared this priceless information. I’ve been so inspired by some of these YouTube TED videos that I can honestly say that I think these videos have changed my life. A bit dramatic, I know. But this issue of recognizing our creative capacities and revolutionizing education away from an industrial model to an agriculture model is a part of my passion, a part of my talents and what I stand for. The thought of all the millions and millions of people in this world enduring what they do for a living, instead of enjoying it, breaks my heart.

The expectations, the wish, the absolute need at hand here is not something schools can do just by “differentiating,” “integrating,” “scaffolding”…. workshops, trainings, blah blah blah, are not the answer here. We need a total revolution. Like Sir Robinson says, we need to transform, not reform. We absolutely have to step away from this linear process and go organic! This is not a change that can effectively be made by throwing a few different teaching tools at teachers. In order for education to actually be effective and our bodies to stop being only a way to transport our heads, and escape this academic inflation that has gotten so out of hand, we have to radically rethink this!

So how can schools meet the expectations, the organic needs in order to infuse creativity back into the equation and keep education from being the industrialized, fast food model that it is? Well, this is where I am at a loss – due to the ridiculous nature of the system now, I feel like we hit a brick wall because the thought process is so ingrained with the higher ups. Very few seem willing to step outside of the current stifling lines. They’ll recognize how great the “concept” is and know in their hearts it’s the answer to making the world of education and the world as a whole a better place, but there are few willing to actually make the positive change happen. This is where I truly don’t know how to make this revolution a reality.

My mind races…. it would take a leader to gather the masses to force this change, to make it a requirement to change. But would any President take this chance? Would the masses come to their senses and support him or her? Would big money get in the way? What needs to happen to make a real revolution in education? I honestly don’t know. It’s going to take enough people taking a stand and insisting on change. At almost every turn at my own school, within my own district, we Arts teachers are given road block after road block. Everyone’s hands are tied, and everyone is overwhelmed and drowning in this fast food model of education. I agree with Sir Robinson completely, it is impoverishing our spirits and energy. I would love to know if Sir Robinson has or knows of a specific plan. I would love to pick his brain and find a solution together, a plan of attack.

For now, awareness is the key and the masses need to see, hear, and realize this killing of creativity that is so present in our education world today.

Here is a little short video I put together that highlights the topic.

 

Please feel free to leave comments here on the blog and share any brilliant ideas on this matter! What does creativity mean to YOU?

M.A.C. Join the Movement that is…The Midlands Arts Conservatory

By: Shannon Boatwright 

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When I hear the words ARTS CONSERVATORY, my interest is peaked, my attention grabbed, and my artistic heart and mind are intrigued. So you can imagine my response when my fellow artist and teacher friend, Amy Hyman Reynolds, mentioned the mission for an Arts Conservatory here in the Midlands – a public charter school with a fine arts focus for 5th graders on up through high school.

What!? What?! Every part of me halted with instant enthusiasm and excitement at the mere thought. As a lover, supporter and teacher of the Fine Arts, my heart swells at the mention of the mission to bring an Arts-focused school to my community. I know I may sound a bit dramatic to some, but if you have even an inkling of the outstanding benefits that the Fine Arts provide to young minds, I believe you would quickly understand my passion.

Other areas in South Carolina, like Greenville and Charleston, have come to realize the benefits of launching Arts-focused schools. These charter schools are creating successful, well-rounded adults that contribute to our communities in so many outstanding ways.

Columbia, South Carolina needs this! We have such a wealth of talent in our local communities.

 

“The arts can help students become tenacious, team oriented, problem solvers who are confident and able to think creatively.” – Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education

 

The young, brilliant minds of our community ache for the opportunity to integrate the Arts into the core subjects and hone their talents. Having an Arts-focused charter school in the Midlands would provide an incredible learning opportunity for students. It really is hard for me to find the words to truly express the magnitude of benefits. The movement that is M.A.C. – The Midlands Arts Conservatory – is a dream come true for an area that is bursting at the seams with talent.

I implore you, I sincerely ask you, I dare you to take the time to learn more about the proposed mission to bring M.A.C. to our lovely community. Allow yourself to soak up all the information about this movement so that you can become a part of it! Please get involved, help spread the word, submit a letter of interest, come to the meetings, acknowledge the great benefits of the Arts, and show your support! The deadline is near to prove that M.A.C. is a most worthy cause that will do nothing but benefit others.

Visit their website to learn more: http://www.midlandsartsconservatory.com/

 

“Amazing things happen and great knowledge is attained when the arts help to bring core school subjects to life. The joy of the arts is that they can be integrated into every subject. In a perfect educational world, every school would have a fine arts program and arts integration would be a part of every school’s curriculum. Students and teachers would only benefit; there are no negative aspects whatsoever, only the deepening of understanding. To those who recognize the benefits of, engage in and truly support the arts, bravo to you! And thank you.” – Shannon Elizabeth Boatwright

 

As most of my readers know, I am no stranger to supporting the Arts. Some of my past blog entries are prime examples:

Enrich your mind and enlighten yourself. Take the time to read my blog posts. Spend time Googling the studies that explain the many ways students benefit from fines arts education and arts integration. And by all means, devour the Midlands Arts Conservatory website.

The next information sessions are on January 24th and January 30th. (You can find more details on their website.) Learn about their mission and think on what it could do to fill a void in our community. The community leaders and professionals that are spearheading this movement are an impressive group of some of the finest teachers and supporters of the Arts. I am proud to join the movement and show my support. I hope that you will too!

 

This blog post reflects the views of its author, Shannon Boatwright, and is not an endorsement for the school by Lexington Medical Center.