Tag Archives: students

2010 National Honor Society Speech

Person at Podium I discovered a draft of my speech for Centura’s National Honor Society Induction Ceremony in 2010. I, also, had this photo from that night. As I read over the speech I could imagine me writing this same speech today, of course I would be older. I would have more failures and more successes to share…  Anyway, I thought the message was worth sharing. Enjoy a small trip back in time to when I was 38…

Centura National Honor Society Speech

Good evening… I am honored to speak at such an important event in your lives.  I stand before you at the halfway point in my life, I am 38 years old.  In those 38 years, I have failed many times.  I lost my last high school football game in 3 overtimes, and then would quit playing football after my freshman year in college.  I let my first true love leave me and never got her back.  I technically do not have a mom or a dad to help me through life.  In high school, I dated a girl my best friend liked.  We did not speak to each other for 6 months.  I have yelled at my children only because I was having a bad day. I have had personal dreams die. To be honest, after 38 years my heart sometimes feels taped together.

Now, I know what you are thinking, “Uhmm Mr. Boelhower this is suppose to be a happy occasion…”  Hold on, give me a moment.

I stand before you at the halfway point of my life, I am 38 years old. In those 38 years, I have succeeded many times.  I was selected to play in the Wyoming Shrine Bowl, one of the few players to be selected from a losing team.  I would compete in track and field at Hastings College and continue as an assistant coach.  I am married to a wonderful woman and have five beautiful children. And yes, it was true love at first sight, at least for me.  My best friend was my best man at my wedding, and I was his best man.  Just last night at the dinner table, we laughed as we made-up the shortest “Once upon a time” stories.  I have succeeded at dreams I never knew I had. To be honest, after 38 years my heart sometimes feels so much love it could exploded.

Now, why do I share this with you, because you will someday stand at the halfway mark and find that life has been nothing like you thought, and that is the beauty of it, both the pain and the joy.  But to get to that point, to be able to embrace the complexity of life you need a strong foundation, which brings us to this moment.  Why we are here.  Tonight is a moment that symbolizes the foundations you build your life on, Scholarship, Service, Leadership, and Character.

Each of these foundations is important to life.  Let us take a minute to redefine these foundations with real world definitions.

Scholarship:  It is not just about the grades.  Scholarship is discovering and sharing the truth.  The truth of what works in this world and what works in your own life. It is learning from your mistakes and your victories.

Service: Is not just volunteering.  Service is Love in action.  Love of family and friends, of your fellow humans, of a better tomorrow.  Service is the opening of your heart to see others succeed.  The cool part is when you do this; you start to see your true self.

Leadership: is not just being the head person in charge.  Leadership is the courage to serve and to learn.  We are all leaders at some point in our lives, as a mom or dad.  A coach, a friend.  Many people “talk” about what should be done, few do it.  It takes courage to get things done; it takes courage to do what is right.  It takes courage to open your heart, to love those around you.

Character: is not just principles of morality and ethics.  It is your everyday life, lived.  It is the choices you make, mixed with the things you say, combined with the attitude you express.  It is you, everyday.

These foundations are strong; these foundations allow you, us, to handle the darkest hours.  They give us something to land on when we are knocked down.  And they provide the support to pick yourself up, to not shy away from the pain, but build and learn from those moments.

These foundations are good.  They allow us to bask in the sunshine, to truly experience love, joy, and life.  They lift us up.  They connect us to others, friends, family, and community.  These foundations give depth to our lives and fuel us to pursue the dreams we choose.

Life is complex, and that is the beauty of it.  Be confident in your foundations.  Stand tall, even when you feel down.  Love when your heart is broken.  Live everyday by what you know is true.  And live a life of greatness, everyday…

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What I Learned from My Students

It has been an interesting year for a number of reasons. But this post is about what I’ve learned from my students over the past year. Some background information, last year was my first year teaching a regular lecture college course for Central Community College (CCC). This semester I am teaching an online course for CCC. In the past I have taught the early entry courses for seniors taking dual credit courses through CCC. Even though I taught a college course, my everyday teacher life was centered in the high school routine. There is a difference between high school students and college students at CCC. This is what I’ve learned.

Education Matters

Even though I lost students over the year to a wide range of issues (I’ll talk about that in a few lines), students understood that gaining an education was important for them to reach their professional goals. I had one student who used her lunch break to attend my class. She would arrive a few minutes late, in her nursing outfit from work, and was raising a family. Another student had worked construction for almost two decades and loved it. But an accident kept him from returning to that job. He was studying business in hopes that he could return to the company in a new position.

My students understood that getting an education was going to help them reach their goals. But it is not easy.

Life Can Be a Hurdle

In high school, life is school. Football games, dances, school, they are all part of the everyday experience. For many of my students at CCC class was just a section of their life. I had students in class that ranged from 18 to 63 years old. I have a student right now who is traveling the world and taking my course online to get some general education credits handled before he comes back to the States. I had a young man at the age of 21 who had already gone through rehab twice.

I am proud to be a part, however small, of their lives. But life did cause some hurdles that challenged my approach to teaching. One aspect was the workload I expected from them. It made me think about what was really important for them in my course. This was hard for me because I love sharing extra material, to try to foster learning beyond the curriculum. I had to consider what I asked of them regarding assignments and homework. Not that I took it easier on them, but it forced me to align my course work according to importance and expected time spent on it. A simple example is that I used class time to handle small assignments and tried to give feedback on those right away because many of the assignments connect to their essays (which are the major assignments for the course). This allowed my students to work on the essay at home with more confidence in their ability to accomplish the writing.

Education versus Learning

This area is still challenging me, and maybe it always will. But not in the way you might think. I know many of my students only take my course because it is a general education course that all programs require. I actually lean on that idea to emphasize the importance of taking the course. I repeat, over and over, and over, that the number one goal is to help them become better writers for this course, for upcoming courses, and even for life. I present them with a WHY. Many of my students just want the credit, I know this. But their learning is their education which is their life, their goals. My battle is in creating a course, an assignment, or developing content that aligns to that WHY. And yes, I believe it matters.

The student who used her lunch hour to attend my class has two children and she revealed why it matters. During one session on writing with tone/voice, I was discussing how this characteristic of writing was the reason we like certain books, songs, and other media. I continued to expand on how important word choice  was in creating that tone or finding their own voice. Unbeknownst to me at the time I connected the WHY to her life when I lead a discussion on how hard it can be to write a personal letter to someone expressing our feelings (word choice/tone). I shared a personal example of writing a card for my son, and even how hard it was for me to get that card right. I happened to then share that that type of writing was just as important as an essay for my class, which I believe. At the end of that semester, which ended in December, that student sent me an email to tell me that she was excited to write a Christmas letter to her children and husband sharing how much she loved them. She wanted to make these letters a new tradition for her family.

What my students taught me was that education matters, for their goals, for their life.

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We Can’t Always See

truck

I had a small moment of road rage yesterday. I was following this cement truck when it came to a stop at an intersection. No turn signal, right or left. The traffic was flowing on our left. As we sat there for a few seconds I figured the truck was turning left. I will admit to being hypersensitive to things like turn signals because my son has his learning permit and I notice everything lately regarding traffic issues.

The traffic cleared on the left. I waited for the truck to turn, but instead a purple mini-van that was in front of the truck turned left.  I didn’t even see the mini-van until that moment. The cement truck then continued forward with me following along. I smirked at myself. I was quick to judge without seeing the whole picture. I then started to think about my college class.

For this first time in 14 years, I teach a lecture class on campus.  I have a mix of high school students, freshman, and non-traditional students. The non-traditional group is a mix of students.  I have students who are parents. Students that are trying college again. Students that have incredible stories. They amaze me with their dedication.

As I often do, I connected my small moment of road rage that was based on my bad judgment and the way we sometimes view others. We can’t always see the road the way they do.

The driver of the cement truck saw the purple mini-van. I did not. I was wrong to react the way I did (even if it was mostly in my head). We don’t see the road people have traveled to get to a certain point. But we will make a judgment (even if it is just in our head) that is misguided.

There is no easy solution to handling snap judgments, except maybe to realize we are all traveling a path.  And that the view of the journey is unique to our perspective. To be honest enough to recognize that we can be wrong. We can’t always see the factors influencing another driver but we are all sharing the road together.

 

 

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A Little Faith

This idea has been fostering in my head and heart for a while. And I am not sure if I have a clear path to develop it for you, but I will try. Like so many times before, different situations have presented themselves over the last couple of months and I will try to connect those dots to expand on the idea of FAITH.

 

I am not going to talk about a religious based faith, but the faith we have in people. Some readers might use the word TRUST but I will go to a deeper level.

 

In our relationships trust is the noun, faith is the verb.

 

On that note, let me share the life events briefly, and then I will connect them all together:

A workshop on equality in the classroom

Dr. Phil

Being a dad

Job Transition

An interesting mix, I know. There have been other smaller moments, but these four have presented serious examples for me considering the idea of Faith.

Workshop

A big moment in the workshop was the section for evaluation of our assumptions. We were presented with an arrangement of situations / questions like, “I assume a good student has a good reason to miss class, while a bad student does not.” Another example, “I treat all Christians the same.” The base goal of the workshop was to challenge our assumptions so that we create a classroom that allows all our students to feel welcomed in. This generated some hard discussions on how we handled situations. And not just for the classroom. People let us down. Students let us down. But do they let us down because we already expect them to? I’ll come back to this…

Dr. Phil and Fatherhood

Just so you know, yes, I watch Dr. Phil. Part of the reason is because he comes up with some direct statements / questions that hit straight to the issue. I will not go in depth about the episode but concentrate on a single question Dr. Phil asked. The episode was about parents who did not like the man their daughter married. Dr. Phil asked the parents, “So, you don’t have faith in how you raised your daughter?”

I have discussed this idea before in an earlier post (Trust Your Foundation), but the emphasis on the idea of faith in Dr. Phil’s question resonated this time. In my own parenting life I am at that junction that I have to have faith in my kids. Both of my boys are now teenagers. They are spending more time with friends, becoming involved in activities, and simply becoming men. Do I have faith in my parenting?

Job Transition

This last example has two components. Yes, at the time of posting this I will not have a job in education for the next school year, but that is a different issue. During one of my interviews I was asked what I expect behavior wise from my students, this was before the workshop (but I love how life will highlight a theme for us). I simply answered that I expect them to be people. I expanded on the idea that we are all works in progress but that I do my best to respect them as individuals and trust they will do their best. I acknowledge that sometimes students let us down, but you keep working toward being the best you can possibly be. Simple put, I try to have faith in my students. I’ll come back to this…

The second component of this example is the feelings I’ve been experiencing through this time of my life. It is normal to wonder what you did wrong or what you said that could change an interview in your favor. You start to think about past jobs and interviews just to compare and contrast the situations. Which brings me to the point of sharing this, I know how empowering it is when someone has faith in you. The late Mr. Monter had faith in me and he expressed that from the interview on. I contacted Mr. Monter on the last day that the English position at Centura was open. He could have said that the position was filled or that they had already finished inteviews, but he didn’t. He asked if I could have my application to him that day. I said yes and got an interview the next week. I thought the interview went well but was not holding my breath because I understood the situation. As I drove home I told myself that Mr. Monter had already decided on a candidate. I was right, but Mr. Monter called me on my way home to offer me the job. He was going to offer the position to someone else he told me. But he said something told him that I was the right person. Through the years working with Mr. Monter he expressed that same level of faith in me and my colleagues. That made us want to be the best teachers we could.

The Connection

In our relationships trust is the noun, but faith is the verb. When someone expresses their faith in us we rise to the occasion. Yes, I have let people down. Yes, people, students, have let me down. And it hurts when that happens, so we stop doing it. But when we stop having faith in people we start to assume, we start to build relationships on easy to fill boxes. We are all works in progress, but that progress is dependent on someone having a little faith in us. Thank you to everyone who has had faith in me.

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Dreams Deferred…

Last week one of my English classes studied “Harlem” by Langston Hughes. Many people know this poem as “A Dream Deferred.” One of the reasons I love literature and especially poetry is the joy to connect our life to the theme of the work.

The historical message of the poem is rooted in the dream of civil rights and still reflects the struggle we have as a society to fulfill that dream. But I think why the poem has such universal appeal is that Langston Hughes touched on such a deep pain we all face in our lives; dreams deferred.

Here is a moment of honesty. At the moment I am struggling with this concept. I have always had a grand dream of becoming a writer. Ever since fifth grade I have filled notebooks with stories and poems. I won a young authors award in high school. I financed the publishing of a book of my own poems in college, but life just kept pushing the dream to the back burner. Now at the age of 43 it seems that time is running out to achieve that dream. And it hurts. It feels like I will never be able to achieve that goal and it is fading away.

Langston Hughes uses decaying metaphors in the middle of the poem, “ Or fester like a sore—/ And then run?,” to create a visual for the consequence to our lives if we keep pushing our dreams to another day. The dream will have become rotten.

Then mix in the discussion I had with the students about reaching for their dreams, and I think I understand the last line as it pertains to an individual.

A dream deferred destroys you.

I am not suggesting that everyone can accomplish their goals, success is never guaranteed. But we can handle failure as long as we have the opportunity to try. Being a football coach has also been a dream of mine, and I was granted the opportunity. And I failed. It hurts. It hurts bad, but I can deal with it because I was given a chance.

But what is life like when there is no chance? When it seems like nobody cares about your dream or willing to help you with it? Langston uses the line, “Maybe it just sags / like a heavy load.” A great simile here to describe the weight of that dream sitting in your heart but no opportunity to achieve it. Then everyday it gets just a little heavier. A day turns into a month, that turns into years, that turns into a life. A life that never reached its true potential.

Let’s get back to my students, your students. School. Are they striving to accomplish their dreams? Or are we asking them to push their dreams aside for better test scores, for grades, or worse for some other time in their life? Do we even know their goals?

I’m not naive enough to say that fostering our students’ dreams will solve all the world’s problems. But, what would our classroom, our schools, our world look like if we were given the opportunity and support to try?

Langston Hughes describes it this way in his poem, “I Dream a World.”

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I am not Great…

At age 43 I am experiencing Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Stage 7 – Generativity vs. Stagnation. In this stage adults wrestle with the idea of contributing to the world through family and careers.

But my struggle is not the idea of contributing to the world, but how well I am making a difference. It has fostered a question that I have considered for a while: is it better to be good at a lot of different things or great at one or two things?

I am not a great father.    IMG_3899

I am not a great husband.

I am not a great teacher.

I am not a great writer.

I am not great at anything.

I am good at a lot of things. I have done some cool things in my lifetime: from hosting creative workshops to coaching a 400-meter runner at Hastings College that ran with the great Michael Johnson at the Drake Relays. But that is the center of the issue, I have become good at a lot of different things but have not mastered any of them.

My struggle is that being good has not allowed me to make in impact in this world. I see so many of my friends and colleagues doing great things. Everyday they are making an impact that builds positive results in their world, and the difference I see is their focus is on one or two things. They are known as the expert, or the go-to person for their field. They are #rockstars. I would love to make such a difference in this world, but I am not a go-to person. I don’t have a focus on one thing that people know me for. I am good at a lot of things, but great at nothing.

Now, let’s back away from my struggle to connect to the idea of school and education.

The traditional school system is designed for our students to be good at a lot of different subjects. Understand, I strongly agree that we need a foundation in our education. But when a student graduates from high school are they great at something? Have they had the chance to start down the path of greatness?

Here is a stat for you: Almost 80 percent of students change their major at least once, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In reality, about half of the students will change their major two or three times. So, they are not on the path of greatness until, maybe, their sophomore year in college. Throw in the idea of 10,000 hours to achieve mastery, and it is clear that school is not setting our students on a path of greatness.

So how can we design an environment to foster an opportunity for students to not only find their passion, but the chance to become great at it? First, get rid of the bells. The hardest part of being back in the classroom is the bells. Especially with 46 minute classes. There is no way for students or teachers to become engulfed in anything. To lose themselves in learning. To develop the intrinsic drive to become great.

Another area is standards. I know standards are a part of the educational landscape and will continue to be for a long time. Again, there needs to be guidelines that help schools build meaningful curriculum. But standards should be guidelines, not stone written rules that govern every single lesson we plan.

I know of teachers that will only do things that connect back to a standard. I remember going through the S.T.A.R.S. training and the moment when the person leading the training explained that dinosaur lessons in elementary school would have to be eliminated from the curriculum because dinosaurs were not a part of the standards. Kids love dinosaurs. Even my four year-old daughter will choose a book on dinosaurs for bedtime. How are we to help kids find what they love when we won’t even let them learn about things they like?

Why is greatness important? Our society is at a point that being good at something will not guarantee anything. To be honest, even being great at something is not a guarantee for success, but it improves the chances. I’m not talking about money, but about living a life that is filled with a sense of accomplishment. A life, as Erik Erikson theorized, a life where you feel that you have made a contribution to your family and the world.

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Snapguide

Overview:

Snapguide is designed for users to create visual based how-to guides.  That’s it.  Sounds simple. It is and that is what makes it great.  The guides are built around teaching how to do something through pictures and videos.  Adding text is a part of the process, but you are limited to 200 characters a page.  Once your guide is finished you publish it to Snapguide’s site, then you can share it through other social media sites. Guides can also be viewed on their website, but can only be created through the app.

Why I like it:

It is easy and fun to make a guide with your mobile device.  One night I decided to make a Snapguide about one of my family’s favorite dinners, Pizza Sandwiches (click to see the Snapguide). So, I grabbed my iPad to take the pictures as I cooked, then designed the guide later that night.

Another bonus to the app is the Snapguide community.  You can investigate other guides, or follow someone who makes guides covering subjects your are interested in.  Be prepared to interact through the comment option with people who like your guides.

Use in the classroom:

I have a Process essay unit for my writing class.  I showed the students Snapquide as an option to create a “visual how-to” assignment (the students had a number of options).  Three students used Snapguide.  Below are their guides.

How to French Twist Hair

How to Bake Chocolate Chip Cookies

How to Make Ramen Noodles in the Microwave

Each guide was viewed at least 500 times.  Each had at least 50 loves.  And each got at least one comment.  This is the power of creating work that connects beyond the classroom.

The other side of Snapguide is finding guides to enhance what you are doing in class.  There are guides that could be used in art class, industrial arts, or music. Just browsing through the categories will spark ideas for you.

Snapguide’s focus is to allow users to make and find great step-by-step guides.  It is a great example of how we can share our knowledge with people who also enjoy our interest.  Using Snapguide is a great way to enhance any lesson that is centered on how to do something. Share your guides with me via Twitter (jdog90).

Series Note: I decided to use Tagwhat in the upcoming website series that I will be doing in December.

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