Slice of Life: Day 14

Slice of Life: Day 14

These students are ardently writing about Animal Farm, a political satire written as a cautionary tale against the evils of totalitarianism.  For a writing teacher, this is a beautiful sight:  sixteen energetic students writing and typing with confidence, using transitions, making connections between the text and the outside world, and working heartily right up to the bell.  They have opinions and they aren’t afraid to share them.

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They came to class with their books all marked up and tabbed.  They brought in stacks of paper and laptops.  They had outlines and graphic organizers ready to attack the topic.  When we started the essay, they jumped right to it with a few questions, but plenty of confidence. You could hear pencils and pens scratching and keyboards clicking.  It was a joyous sound.

To prepare for this day, we read the novel, held a Socratic-style debate about the nature of leaders, tracked the characters and their role in the allegory, and closely read for propaganda and irony.  They marked their books as they found catchy slogans, repetitive messages and spin.

Once we finished the book, I gave the students their topic for the in-class writing assignment.  They had a week to organize their thoughts into a graphic organizer, gather evidence and ponder more on the topic.  Because they had been marking their books all along, they were armed with all kinds of evidence to support their opinions.  They were ready and I could tell.

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When they finished, they turned in some weighty essays, nice and thick, double spaced.  No one seemed to be at a loss for written words, another bonus!

What a wonderful writing teacher kind of day!

Now I have 16 hefty essays to grade!  I’ll need to inspect these to see if they are as good as they look… to see if the proof is in the pudding.  Better get right to bed.  I’ll need some rest to tackle these.





























































































Slice of Life: Day 8

Slice of Life: Day 8

Band happens on Friday.

Practice happens on Thursday night.

Books, instruments and stand go into the truck Thursday night.

Mom crawls into her bed Thursday night with her laptop to write a slice of life.

Dad has been asleep every night when mom has gotten into bed.

Mom has sliced every night instead of going to bed.

The alarm is set for 6 Friday morning.

This scenario will repeat.

In 24 hours.



Slice of Life: Day 7

Slice of Life: Day 7

Hybrid Schooling and Poetry: A great Combination!

When people discover that I teach high school classes one day a week, I get the question, “Where do you teach that allows you to do that?”

“I teach at a hybrid school in Atlanta, Georgia,” I’ll tell them.

Usually, at this point, they nod their heads, as if they were quite familiar with such a place.  But, most of the time they have no idea what a hybrid school is.  So, I am going to explain it here and show you a little of what we do in my classes.

A hybrid school is a school that combines the best of both the homeschooling and traditional school models.  Hybrid schools meet less frequently then traditional schools, once or twice a week being the most common.  Hybrid schools bring home schooled students together for face-to-face classroom time.  On school days, teachers give lessons, hold class discussions, give tests, hold conferences and all the basic activities that a regular school does.  On off days, students work on assignments, go on field trips or participate in extra curricular activities. The great benefit of the hybrid arrangement is that students and families have a lot of flexibility to travel, pursue advanced level sports or music instruction and study subjects of particular interest.  At my school, for example, students can study core subjects like history and math or they can take high interest electives like film, debate, sculpting or creative writing.  They can take one or multiple classes a week.  I have one student that is a competitive diver and another that is a flutist.  I love teaching in the hybrid environment because it gives me the opportunity to design a curriculum around my students’ specific abilities and needs.



Poetry is the topic of the month in my Wednesday Creative Writing class.  This is a workshop class that has three main elements:  a mini lesson, workshop writing time and sharing.  Today, we looked at the recurring image in poetry, specifically in “The Portrait” by Stanley Kunitz and “Oh, Oh” by William Hathaway.  Before reading these startling  poems, I had the students close their eyes and imagine an event or situation that has “stuck” for some reason in their memories.  The memory could be positive or negative.  Once they recalled the event or situation, I asked them to identify the image that came to mind in a few words.  Some questions I asked, ” How does this image make you feel?” and “What was the ultimate outcome of that event or situation?”  These questions got them pondering and writing.

Once we read and discussed the poems, they were eager to get to work on their own recurring images.  Some wrote in notebooks; others worked on laptops.  But all said they just appreciated having time to write.


Dam Break in Georgia

Dam Break in Georgia

“Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away…”   Song of Solomon 8:7


dam break in georgia

On November 6, 1977, 176 million gallons of water plowed its way from a broken earthen dam to a narrow gorge. Between the dam and the gorge lay Toccoa Falls, a 186 foot drop into a small canyon. It is said that the water may have raged over the falls at 150 miles per hour! Once inside the gorge, the funneled wall of water reached 30 feet high, moving between 30 – 60 miles per hour.  Between the volume and the velocity of the swiftly moving water, the flood decimated a college campus, killing 39 people, half of which were young children.

This amazing story of the Toccoa Falls Dam break in November of 1977  is chronicled in the small book Dam Break in Georgia by K. Neill Foster.  This short read is amazing not because it tells the story of the horrific events of that forsaken tragedy, but because it tells the story of how a community of Christian believers responded to that calamitous event.

I picked up this book in a thrift store in Dahlonega, Georgia, not far from where the tragedy took place. Recognizing the cover, I thumbed the book and immediately came across the letter  from Rosalynn Carter, who visited the disaster site within hours of its happening.  What I read in this short letter made me take pause:

“The miracle of Toccoa Falls confirms what I believe.  God loves us and will help us always.  He gives us unlimited strength when we trust in Him.”

letter from Mrs. Carter


Today, would our First Lady make such heart-felt comments about faith in God?  I immediately bought the book and started reading.

The pages, while filled with the narratives of so many of the flood victims, told another story:  Faith in Jesus Christ gave each person an other-worldly peace in the face of death and tragedy.  One married student lost his wife and small child.  His response?  “My greatest responsibility as a husband was to see my family come to faith in Christ.  My family knew Jesus.  They are with the Lord (104). ”  Another mother who lost her infant child whom she was grasping tightly in her arms as the raging waters swept them both away said this, “God gave us Jaimee long enough to teach us how to love one another (122).” Finally, and the most difficult to imagine, was the man who lost his wife and four of his five children in the flood!  He responded like so many of the other victims, by singing and giving thanks unto the Lord!

As I read page after page, the message was loud and clear:  Absolute trust and faith in God is the most important thing a person will ever do!!

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As Orthodox Christians, we are taught that Christ trampled down death by death when He willingly died on the cross.  We believe that death has lost its sting, because Christ enabled us to join with Him in His heavenly kingdom.  Do I live every day like these Christians of Toccoa Falls College?  No!  But, I need to and their faith teaches me even today, almost 4o years later.

Of course, we had to visit the site of this great flood and see it for ourselves.  Today, you will see life and love and activity all around this campus and the falls.



a photo shoot at the falls


families visiting the falls


If you can get your hands on this short read, I would encourage you to do it.  It will change the way you think about faith.

Breathing on the Tugaloo!

Breathing on the Tugaloo!


Breathe!  Deep breath… in.  Deep cleanse…out.  When school has wrapped up for the year and baseball season is over and the last end-of-the-season party has finished and the final honors night has been attended, breathing is something you can do again. It’s not like you couldn’t breathe before, its just that you had to do shallow breathing! Shallow breathing may oxygenate your body and keep you going, but its the deep breathing that enables you to rest and enjoy life again.

My husband fishes so that he can do his deep breathing. There is something about being out on a little boat in a big river that helps him recover from the daily grind. My boys have been hooked by this pastime too.

fishing on the Tugaloo

fishing on the Tugaloo

This group doesn’t have to catch a fish to get that ship-shape, deep-breath feeling.  Just being out there on the river is good enough.

Jazzy loves it too!

Jazzy loves it too!

This dog loves a good into-the-wind jaunt on the boat.  Tongue hanging out, slightly panting, all excited about what may happen out there on the water… she reminds me that I need to be taking some deep breaths right now.  This is the season for deep breaths!!

A crappy from the crappy bush!

A crappy from the crappy bush!

With all the inhalation, I’m setting my sinker on the idea that I can actually post to this blog once a week.  One could say that I’ve been giving this blog too much breathing space.  Thanks for not giving up on me during my lull these past months.  With the fresh air and a little fish and grits for breakfast,  I’ll be blogging like mad this summer.

See you soon,