Three Orientations

Today was the last of them. I have now met all of my new students and have been reunited with my old ones. The minute I laid eyes on the kids, I knew; this is where I am supposed to be. Have you ever just felt “at home” with yourself? My soul is filled when I am at Tesseract around the students. They fill me with joy and, yes, frustration, but deep down, my heart knows I am where I am supposed to be.


There are times in everyone’s lives when they ask if they are doing what God ordains them to be doing. We want to live purposeful, intentional lives. However, the daily grind can extinguish that spark and can create a blase approach to life. Being away from the kids for two months gave me that renewed energy and the reminder that I know that I know that I know… I love what I do.


Whatever is one’s calling should not be PERFECT ever. Occasionally, I question my direction and my place. Well, probably more often than occasionally. However, it takes time of quiet solitude and separation to appreciate the good times. May I always remember this.


Have a prosperous, successful, soulful, temperately-paced YEAR.


Before You Speak: THINK

Inspired by today’s message at church.

Before one opens his mouth to speak about another person, he should be mindful of what comes out. It’s interesting that in Proverbs (6:16-19), God puts that he hates six things and murder is equated to gossip. How can the tongue be as ferocious as our own hands? Because what we say can kill a spirit. Often, what we say is not even spoken TO the person, but is spoken ABOUT the person with unintentional malice.

Proverbs 6: 16-19: There are six things that the Lord hates; seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. (GOSSIP!)


This week, let’s try to THINK before we speak about another person.

Are our words:


If not, perhaps we should just pray for the person or speak to him/her in private if there exists any conflict.

It’s time to be a nicer people who uplift, encourage and edify each other.


Time to look back at What I believe



I believe that character is more important than intelligence.


I believe the process of learning and growing is a development of integrity and beauty of character.


I believe in order to achieve success one must make mistakes along the journey.


I believe each individual has a star within which needs to be fostered.


I believe in high expectations for self and others, coupled with an appreciation for the diversity of strengths that individuals bring to a group.


I believe learning is a life long process and that one should be constantly renewing, refining and refreshing.


I believe in listening more than talking.



I believe greatness is achieved by gratitude, discipline, and choice;

not circumstance.


I believe life should be lived intentionally to find one’s gift, and helping others find their gift.


I believe in the empowerment of children to be independent, critical thinkers.


I believe life is 98% attitude and 2% circumstance.





Encourage everyone I face daily

Endeavor to facilitate a lifelong love of learning

Enrich others’ lives through my inspiration and experiences


A Call for VERBS!

A Call for VERBS! Breaking down the Common Core Standards

Next time you write an email or construct a sentence for some writing purpose, look at your sentence. A sentence can offer a moment of peace, explode with energy, or lifelessly fade by the wayside. What is the difference? THE VERB.

VERBS are the ENGINE of your sentence.

Verbs basically fall into two classes: “passive” and “active.” Passive verbs are just that. Shy, unassuming, they allow the subject of the sentence to take charge. (Example: The ball is being thrown by me. (verb= is)) vs.: I threw the ball. (The verb (threw) takes control and moves the sentence producing a powerful statement). Do you know you can virtually eliminate adverbs by using powerful active verbs? (See? I just used an adverb to illustrate. I could have said, “ You could minimize the use of adverbs….”)

It is a skill writers perfect to maximize power and lessen word count; it’s a skill to teach my students. When I say, “OK, let’s rock this paper with POWER verbs,” they may know the meaning of a verb, but not truly understand the function of it in a sentence.

Challenge # 1.

Year after year, I promote students to have more “VOICE” in their writing; or perhaps it is dynamic “WORD CHOICE”; Sometimes, I zone in on their “FLUENCY” and beg for a variation of sentence structures and lengths. I can beat my head against the wall all year, but without proper knowledge of sentence construction and the function of words, nothing will ever improve their writing. As I have taught now for about a decade, and focusing on writing as a form of learning and expression, I’m faced with seeing the students’ difficulties with organization, coherence, and revision. News flash: It is not getting any better! WHY?? What has changed in the past 25 years?

Challenge # 2.

As an Arizona English Language Arts teacher, I was always struck by the lack of attention to grammar in the English Language and Literacy standards. As a public school teacher for eight of these ten years, grammar was only focused on as a form of conventions deeply hidden within the Writing Standards. It wasn’t even in any of the Strands of Reading. The Reading Strands dealt with Informational Text, Literary Text, and Functional Text. For the Writing Strands, they dealt with the Stages, Traits and Genres. Within the Traits, as mentioned above, is the Trait of Conventions. This is where one would find some proofreading standards. But that was the extent of the stress on grammar knowledge. Moreover, grammar was not a tested skill. (Teachers threw it out based on time constraints as well) Sadly, if students cannot think through a sentence and how it is structured, their writing will never improve. Grammar is the function of language and works together with reading and writing. We see grammar in action whenever we read; we apply and practice it in our writing.

With years of being able to rattle off standards, strands and sub-strands from the Arizona State Standards, I have been delving into, digesting, and soaking in the Common Core Standards. Forty-five states (including Arizona) and three territories have adopted the Common Core Standards and are now using them in the classroom. The Common Core for ELA includes Reading of Literary and Informational Texts, Writing, Speaking and Listening, Media and Technology, and (thankfully) Language. This is not to say school districts are using them to the fullest potential, crossing curricular practices, but it is beginning to take effect.

While Reading is the process of gaining and integrating new knowledge, WRITING is the process of producing new thoughts from their knowledge and experience. Moreover, writing is clarity of thought. Writing is given a portion of the spotlight in the Common Core standards, but this time, I see a new LIGHT: Attention to VERBS!

Conventions of Standard English

1. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

a. Explain the function of verbals (gerunds, participles, infinitives) in general and their function in particular sentences.

b. Form and use verbs in the active and passive voice.

c. Form and use verbs in the indicative, imperative, interrogative, conditional, and subjunctive mood.

d. Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb voice and mood.

(Source: Common Core Standards; English Language Arts and Literacy)

Let me give some background on why this is not only vital but so refreshing:

It was discovered that the teaching of grammar alone is like teaching what a dollar bill is but not giving the function or use of it in daily life. It’s meaningless. Lynn Sams discussed this in her article on Grammar and noted that structure and meaning need to be discussed together. It is no wonder why direct instruction in grammar had no impact upon writing. “Quite simply, the grammar instruction in these studies was not related to writing. It merely taught prescription (usage and rules) and description (noun, verb, prepositional phrase), the naming of parts.” (57) So, instead of working to incorporate grammar into instruction, teaching of the basics of grammar was thrown out.

This can be likened to football. I know very little about the game. I can sit and enjoy it, know when a player scores, but in terms of understanding the plays and how they work, I’m clueless. Now, if I were to play the game, I would be lost, making many mistakes, but seeing my way through with a lens of little knowledge. This is basically why our students’ writing has not improved in twenty-five years. They can know bits and pieces, but can they write a sentence, understanding the fundamentals and the functions of the players (parts of speech)? After time, their plays are elementary and never advance; until

they understand the function and the rules, their writing stagnates.

When I want to strengthen the WRITING of my students, I can’t give them a protocol of including stronger verbs if they know not the function nor various usages of this glorious grammar bite.

To illustrate the power of verbs, here is a list of the verbs used in the Common Core Standards:

Acquire Adapt Analyze Apply Approximate Articulate Assess

Audit Calculate Categorize Chart
Clarify Classify Collaborate Collect Combine Compare Compete Compose Compile Compute Conceptualize Conclude Connect Contrast Cultivate Correlate

Concur Conduct Construct Create Critique Debate Decide Decipher Decode Deduce Deduct Defend Define Delineate Demonstrate Depict Derive Describe Design Detect Determine Develop Devise Diagram

Dictate Discuss Discover Dissect Dispute Display Document Download Dramatize Edit Elaborate Employ Envision Establish Examine Execute Exemplify Exhibit Explain Explore Express Extract Evaluate Focus Gather Generate Graph Group Hypothesize

Identify Illustrate Imagine Implement Infer Inform Inquire Inspect Integrate Interact Interpret Invent Investigate Judge Justify Locate Map Manipulate Model Modify Monitor Observe Organize Outline Paraphrase Participate Perform Perceive Plan Portray Practice Predict Prepare Present Pretend

Process Produce Publish Qualify Question Rank Reason Recall Recite Recognize Relate Reproduce Research Respond Restate Retrieve Review Revise Rewrite Select Stimulate Solve Study Summarize Support Survey Translate Transform V erify Visualize Write

Our writing skills speak volumes about our intellect. So, next time you write that email, see if you used a powerful active verb. Start writing with more attention to this, and your writing will sparkle. It all started with the simple understanding of a part of speech called a VERB.

Thank you Grammar.


Sams, Lynn. How to Teach Grammar, Analytical Thinking, and Writing: A Method That Works. English Journal, January 2003

The Golfer’s Guide to Marital Bliss

1. Get out of the Sand trap

About a month ago, I was hacking away, as usual, playing golf with a dear friend. The sunset was threatening our hopeless game, and I hit my 17th hole shot into a deep sand trap. Slowly, I stepped into the sand, and next thing you know, I’m laying flat on my back. So, my not so smooth game just became worse as my foundation slid and allowed me to collapse.


Everything goes along smoothly for a while, then one day, out of the blue, you hit a sand trap. It can be something uncomplicated like my fall, or it can be huge, even threaten a relationship.

*wince* “But I ask him every day to pick up his socks…. He just won’t….  He can’t seem to…. I’ve asked him _______ly! (insert verb ex: nice, beg, sweet, angry).” Has any of it worked? Probably not.

First, I must ask if this is a hill on which you want to die? Is this an issue that you can change or is it something that you can let go?  Guess what? You cannot change your spouse.

So, you can choose to stay in the sand trap and continue to whack away at that ball, while sand blows in your face…OR…. You can choose to accept the situation and work with it. Maybe try a different strategy like using your sand wedge and gently pitch the ball instead of whacking it with full force.

2. Carrying A Load

Sometimes you need to let it go. Maybe you need to take the cart for a while and put the bag down. Your bag of clubs can get pretty heavy mostly when you stash old Kit Kat wrappers, broken tees and loose change in the pockets. Are you holding on to the stuff in the side pockets dealing with past hurts, issues or anger?

Apparently, A new study shows that carrying your golf clubs and walking 18 holes of golf may have a negative affect on your golf swing and performance as you play 18 holes which was presented at the 55th American College of Sports Medicine. Proof positive that all that baggage may be detrimental to your health. Not only that but another source was noted to say that carrying your clubs reduces your height by 0.2mm!  If you are carrying a load of anger and resentment, you need to place park your bag, get in the cart with your mate, and talk it out. Otherwise you’ll be a short, exhausted human being.

3. Lost Ball? The Five-Minute Rule


So, you have hit your ball somewhere in the parking lot. No, maybe it is in the field next door among the bristles or perhaps it is among the pile of leaves along the clubhouse. Hmmmm. You have five minutes to find it. GO…! Now, you may not find it in that five minutes, and if you don’t it’s a one stroke penalty to the score.


Are the conversations with your mate one-sided? Maybe she or he does ALL the talking and you sit there repeating, “Yes Dear..” Maybe you should try asking questions! Moreover, when your spouse gives you an answer, delve deeper. Give this a try for a minimum of five minutes to start. Ask your spouse how he/she feels and then listen. Listen without giving advice or reacting emotionally. Try to understand life from his/her perspective. Then demonstrate your understanding by summarizing what you’re hearing. If you spend at least five minutes a day asking questions and expressing genuine interest in his/her ideas or thoughts, you might find your missing ball.

4. “FORE!”

Look out ahead! Now there are times in the marriage when you need to just take one day at a time and enjoy the ride; however, you should plan for things to do together. Take initiative to spend time with your spouse. Don’t wait for your spouse to make a date with you or to set time to talk with you. Suggest it yourself. Do you go out on dates? Do you sit down at the beginning of the week or month and take some time to plan? Families that play together, stay together.


If you don’t do this and take initiative, “Fore” may be what you really hear; you are in “danger” zone of not connecting lately. Don’t let this go by. Take ACTION!

Connection has to happen daily, let alone weekly and monthly. However, you can avoid the big problems if you take care of communicating and dating as much as possible.

5. Evaluate your swing

Guess what? You have faults! Sorry to break it to you, but you aren’t perfect. People with strong character are aware of their faults and work to better themselves. Now, if I know you, and if you are like any red-blooded human being, you could probably work on something in your life. To have a good swing, for example, you need to have

  • Patience
  • Commitment
  • Practice
  • A bit of Luck

To have a good marriage, you need to have… guess what? The same four things (if not more).  Maybe it’s time to evaluate your swing. Take some time and look in the mirror to find some weakness YOU possess. If you work on that, maybe your marriage will improve. Remember, character is built from humility.


6. Take a Mulligan when needed

When I was a child, my favorite phrase as the “Double Dutch Champion of Pueblo Road” was “Do over!” What a relief to know I could try again and better my time. When a player messes up or “muffs” his or her first try at a tee box, he/she can take a mulligan. Who would have imagined that grown-ups have this opportunity. The idea of mulligan in marriage reminds me of GRACE. Have grace with your mate. Sometimes we need a real do over when we make a mistake. I recently read, In, The Grace Wakening, Chuck Swindoll calls grace “the oil that lessens the friction in marriage.”  But, it must be mutual. One cannot be the ball and the other the club. They both are active and part of the work.


7. The Spirit of the Game

Unlike many sports, golf relies on the integrity of the individual to show kindness for other players. All players should behave in a disciplined manner, demonstrating courtesy at all times. This is the spirit of the game.  As in golf, in marriage (and any relationship!) kindness goes along ways to create warmth and positive feelings in a relationship. Every day there are opportunities for undemanding, kind gestures that show you care. The smallest thing like a compliment or a hug can make any marriage better.

Once again, the game of golf provides valuable lessons for life. Will these seven tips invite bliss into your home? Follow these rules, just like with your game, and your marriage will turn into a hole-in-one.