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Friday, June 30, 2017

A Little More Homework



While Leo Buscaglia was alive, he told a humorous story about his childhood at the dinner table. Each night, he and his three brothers were expected to share something they had learned that day.

He recalls going to the encyclopedia just before going to the table, opening the book randomly and finding the population of Nepal. Joyous, his father told Leo to get the encyclopedia and the family had a discussion about Nepal, the people, the altitude, and, well, all things Nepal.

I don’t do the story justice, but the video of him telling the story still brings me a smile. What he and his older siblings thought was a waste of time was a memory Buscaglia carried with him late into adulthood. The idea was that there is nothing too small to be learned. And anything can be learned and turned into joy if one allows it to happen.

This past week, my school district brought in John Antonetti, author of “17,000 Classroom Visits Can’t Be Wrong” among other books, and who calls himself, “a learner.” Over 500 of us worked on ways to reach kids, teach kids, and help kids to think. There were no magic formulas. He didn’t wave a wand like Harry Potter and do magic.

Well . . .

Actually, there was magic.

There were teachers and school administrators and district administrators, some older and quite experienced, others newer to the classroom and less experienced. No matter, he gave us a spark. Perhaps more than a spark. In some of us, perhaps many of us, he helped kindle a raging wild fire.  

He helped us see, once again, why we entered the profession in the first place. He helped us see that kids really need us, or rather, we need the kids. Honestly!

The final day, John told us the story of Kevin. A poor kid whose mother was dying of cancer. The day following the day he and Kevin connected in a magical moment, he never came back to the school where John taught. His mother had died over the holiday weekend and he and his brother were split up between relatives and John never saw him again.

Until about twenty years later.

Kevin recognized John. At first John had no idea who he was. I have to admit that happens to me. I mean, I’ve been in education for forty years and that’s a lot of kids, so I can understand John not recognizing a kid. I get that.

But Kevin recognized John. Kevin was a kid who had a disability, but was later given the designation of gifted. That hit both my wife, Kim, and me. Our son was similarly classified. Wil had a learning disability- reading and math, but was also gifted- art. It was art, particularly photography, where Wil thrived.

Kevin told John that he had become a mechanic- a lead mechanic for a major company we all know. And Kevin thanked John for helping him get there. You see, there were days when John would bring random things, dump them on a desk, and tell kids to make something from them. Kevin explained that it was exactly what mechanics do. And Kevin was thankful that John helped him discover that Kevin could do that.

Again, I don’t do the story justice. I can tell you it was moving. Kim had to leave because the story had certain parallels to our son, Wil and his story. As John told Kevin’s story, she had thought about Wil. I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. I’m sure Kim and I weren’t the only ones in that auditorium with tears and lumps.

Two things happened . . .

The first was that John asked each of us in that auditorium to picture a student, any student, and write that student a letter how we will try to make a difference in his or her life this next school year. We spent about six or seven minutes writing a letter which was then placed in an envelope to be delivered to us later in August.

I picked Jonathon, a sophomore kid who I had come to know. A kid with a smile. A quiet kid from a large family. A good kid skating in the land of B grades and C grades. Nothing remarkable, really. Just a good kid. But I see potential in him. My challenge is to help him realize it.

The second was that John sang us a song. Didn’t know he could sing. Nice voice, easy to listen to. The song, and I have to say I will probably get the title wrong, is “A Little Homework To Do.”

A Little Homework To Do. Each of us. All of us.

You see, the minute we stop learning, we stop living. As teachers and as educators, the minute we believe we have nothing left to learn, we fail kids. We end up failing ourselves.

So yes, John, I do believe that I have A Little More Homework To Do. I know I do. Even after forty years, I have a lot to learn. And John, I believe as you do, that we come full circle: The Teacher Is The Learner, and The Student Is The Teacher. I have a lot More Homework To Do because I have a lot more to learn. Perhaps each of us have a lot More Homework To Do because each of us has a lot more to learn. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

I finished my fifth work of thriller/suspense fiction, Caught in a Web and I’ll keep you posted as to when it will be published. I am actually working on my sixth, Spiral Into Darkness and I’m having fun with it.

Please feel free to connect with me at:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Lewis.Author                           

Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Lewis/e/B01FWB9AOI/                    

If you like Thriller/Suspense fiction, check out my novels:

Available on Amazon for .99 the Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they don’t know one another, the lives of FBI Agent Kelliher and two boys become interwoven with the same thread that Pete Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their lives are in jeopardy as each search for a way out. http://bit.ly/Taking-Lives-JLewis

Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy:
Two thirteen year old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And the possibility exists that one of his team members might be involved. http://bit.ly/Stolen-Lives-JLewis

Shattered Lives, Book Two of the Lives Trilogy:
Six men escaped and are out for revenge. The boys, recently freed from captivity, are in danger and so are their families, but they don’t know it. The FBI has no clues, no leads, and nothing to go on and because of that, cannot protect them. http://bit.ly/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis

Splintered Lives, Book Three of the Lives Trilogy:
It began in Arizona with death and it ends in Arizona in death. A 14 year old boy has a price on his head, but he and his family don’t know it. Their family vacation turns into a trip to hell. Out gunned and outnumbered, can this boy protect his father and brothers? Without knowing who these men are? Or how many there are? Or when they might come for him? http://bit.ly/Splintered-Lives-J-Lewis

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dirt



I think much of life is about perspective. To one, something silly and mundane. To another, that same thing could be catastrophic or hurtful. A job change can make a career and offer an individual an opportunity to advance. Another might see a job change as a career ender.

I’ve had several meaningful relationships in my life before I married my best friend, Kim. There are others who worry and suffer because this one got away or that one said no. Yet, if they were to open their eyes, they would see that perhaps, the best is yet to come.

I received the following story from one of my teachers (thank you, Julie!) and it really is about perspective. Maybe about taking advantage of an opportunity. Perhaps the moral of the story is also up to you and your own perspective.

It goes like this . . .

One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do.

Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey.

He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement he quieted down.

A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up.

As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up.

Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off to his pasture!

Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a steppingstone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up.

All about perspective. All about your view of life. All about your own attitude. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

I finished my fifth work of thriller/suspense fiction, Caught in a Web and I’ll keep you posted as to when it will be published.

Please feel free to connect with me at:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Lewis.Author                          

Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Lewis/e/B01FWB9AOI/                   

If you like Thriller/Suspense fiction, check out my novels:

Available on Amazon for .99 the Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they don’t know one another, the lives of FBI Agent Kelliher and two boys become interwoven with the same thread that Pete Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their lives are in jeopardy as each search for a way out. http://bit.ly/Taking-Lives-JLewis

Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy:
Two thirteen year old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And the possibility exists that one of his team members might be involved. http://bit.ly/Stolen-Lives-JLewis

Shattered Lives, Book Two of the Lives Trilogy:
Six men escaped and are out for revenge. The boys, recently freed from captivity, are in danger and so are their families, but they don’t know it. The FBI has no clues, no leads, and nothing to go on and because of that, cannot protect them. http://bit.ly/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis

Splintered Lives, Book Three of the Lives Trilogy:
It began in Arizona with death and it ends in Arizona in death. A 14 year old boy has a price on his head, but he and his family don’t know it. Their family vacation turns into a trip to hell. Out gunned and outnumbered, can this boy protect his father and brothers? Without knowing who these men are? Or how many there are? Or when they might come for him? http://bit.ly/Splintered-Lives-J-Lewis

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Little Things



When I coached basketball, I felt I needed to have two essential players on the team. The first was my point guard. He had to “be me” on the court. (Not play like me, thankfully. That would be a disaster!) He had to be the coach, the general. He had to direct traffic. Without that player, all of the other pieces would not fall into place and the outcome of the game would not be in our favor.

I was blessed with some really good ones. In Wyoming, Gene was my general. A little guy, but bright and athletic. He was also the younger brother to the star of the team and that was an interesting dynamic. It turned out fine because with him and with the other fine athletes on that team, we played for the State Championship twice and won it once.

In Waukesha, Wisconsin, Steve and then David were the point guards. Both were leaders and both led the team, not so much in scoring, but in creating opportunities for others to score.

The other player I coveted and had to have on my team was the sixth man. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? A non-starter being essential?

My sixth man had to be smart and he had to do one of two things- sometimes at the same time. He either had to light a fire (shooting and rebounding) or put out a fire (defense). And much of what to do and when to do it was up to him and his instincts.

Again, I was blessed with some really good ones. In Wyoming, there were Ron and Tim. At first, they were reluctant. Both had wanted to start. Neither of them wanted to sit on the bench and wait for my signal to go in despite my assurances that they would play and end up playing a lot. Ron ended up being All-Conference at that position.

In Waukesha, I had Scott and then Mike. Both guys did what was asked of them and never complained. They did their part, whether it was shooting the lights out or shutting down the other team’s shooter.

We’re so used to watching stars perform, aren’t we? Guys who go by one name: LeBron; Dez; Dak; Brady; Rodgers. Even in the world of entertainment: Reba; Dolly; Kenny; Bruce. So famous, we mention that one name and most of us know who we’re talking about.

Not taking anything away from any of these gifted athletes or performers, but there are certainly other individuals who make it easier for them to play or perform. There are so many other crucial pieces of the whole we seem to forget.

I have Brett Favre’s Hall of Fame speech taped on our DVR. Yes, he thanked his fellow players, his family, and his coaches. But he also thanked the equipment guy and the locker room guy. I wouldn’t know their names unless I heard the speech and as I write this, can’t recall their names. But Favre thought so highly of them that he called them out publicly.

Where would Brady, Rodgers, or Dak be without the linemen in front of them? The guys who block? And where would they be without the guy who is called off the bench to replace one of those injured linemen?

One of my favorite pictures among many is of President Obama giving a knuckle-bump to the White House janitor. We don’t know his name, but I’m pretty sure President Obama did. (I also like the picture of President Obama bending down so a little boy could touch his hair). There was a gentle, humbleness in the man I so admire and so very much miss. He recognized the lowly, the low of station. He recognized the little guy who did the Little Things.

I know I wouldn’t be as effective without my building engineer or my office manager. I know the school wouldn’t function as well without the receptionist, the attendance clerk or the guidance receptionist. There are plenty of people out there like them.

So here’s to the little guy who does the Little Things. The man or woman, the boy or girl, who work in silence and without a spotlight. The man or woman, the boy or girl, who goes about life making it easier for each of us; who make it possible for us to do our jobs and live our lives a bit easier. Without them, the folks who are known by only one name- wouldn’t be. We’d wonder, ‘Who are you talking about?’ God Bless each of you, and thank you for all you do for us. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I finished my fifth work of thriller/suspense fiction, Caught in a Web and I’ll keep you posted as to when it will be published.

Please feel free to connect with me at:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Lewis.Author                         

Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Lewis/e/B01FWB9AOI/                  

If you like Thriller/Suspense fiction, check out my novels:

Available on Amazon for .99 the Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they don’t know one another, the lives of FBI Agent Kelliher and two boys become interwoven with the same thread that Pete Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their lives are in jeopardy as each search for a way out. http://bit.ly/Taking-Lives-JLewis

Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy:
Two thirteen year old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And the possibility exists that one of his team members might be involved. http://bit.ly/Stolen-Lives-JLewis

Shattered Lives, Book Two of the Lives Trilogy:
Six men escaped and are out for revenge. The boys, recently freed from captivity, are in danger and so are their families, but they don’t know it. The FBI has no clues, no leads, and nothing to go on and because of that, cannot protect them. http://bit.ly/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis

Splintered Lives, Book Three of the Lives Trilogy:
It began in Arizona with death and it ends in Arizona in death. A 14 year old boy has a price on his head, but he and his family don’t know it. Their family vacation turns into a trip to hell. Out gunned and outnumbered, can this boy protect his father and brothers? Without knowing who these men are? Or how many there are? Or when they might come for him? http://bit.ly/Splintered-Lives-J-Lewis