Author Archives: Jeff Howard

Dad Was a Great Teacher – Happy Birthday, Old Man


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I have shared these reflections before both here and on my other blog Teach Boldly but they always seem relevant to me …

Happy Birthday, Dad!

At this point in my life, I have come to understand that we tend to idealize those people who have come and gone in our lives. By this I mean those we’ve lost to death or to movements and flows of life or to other circumstances both within and beyond our control. When those we love move out of our lives, we have a tendency to idealize them – who they were, what they stood for and what they said.

I guard against this temptation when I think of my father, though I am sure that a bit of idealization sneaks in. How could it not? I loved him.

Dad, if you asked, would have said terrible things about school. He may have even said terrible things about teachers. Strike “may have.” Dad did say terrible things about some teachers and those things may even have been true.

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Dad attended the same Jesuit high school I did and he told great stories about it, including the undated, signed notes my grandmother would give him of the “Please excuse Mickey from class…” variety and the tale of a teacher picking up a talkative student’s desk and throwing that student, desk and all, through the door of the classroom without skipping a beat of his lesson.

Dad could tell stories.

Dad could also give advice, when asked, so, like a good son I never really asked him his advice about teaching. Terrible, isn’t it? Dad wasn’t a professional teacher, didn’t seem to have adored his educational life and I didn’t turn to him for advice when I chose the vocation.

Looking back on who he was and how he lived and, perhaps, idealizing him a bit, I think I can discern what he may have told me had I asked him.

Dad never took himself too seriously. Seriously. Though he was involved in a serious profession and found himself, in his work as a deacon, dealing with people in challenging times of life, he never let the moments get the best of him. He also never let himself think he was any better than anyone else. I remember him telling the story of when, during a baptism he was performing, he continually referred to the child – let’s call the baby “Chris” – as a boy when, in fact, she was a girl. “It’s a girl, dummy!” the baby’s grandmother finally corrected him during the ceremony. Dad loved to tell that story.

Teachers and administrators need a healthy dose of self-deprecation. If they take themselves too seriously, the work can become burdensome. They are public figures whose mistakes are going to be critiqued and scrutinized. If educators live and die with every challenging moment, the work can take a deeper emotional toll. Educators are well served by stepping back and smiling at themselves. Often.

Dad was very decisiveThere may have been a lot of internal debate going on with my father and, surely, he and my mom talked about big decisions in their lives but, professionally and personally, Dad struck me as very decisive. Once he had made a decision, he didn’t spend too much time looking back.

Educators are called upon to make decisions minute-by-minute. While not all of these decisions are filled with import, many need to be made with confidence. This doesn’t necessarily imply that decisions must all be made quickly, but, once decisions are made, dwelling on and second guessing them as a matter of course can be very draining.

Dad had a great sense of humor. He could make fun of almost anything and could be highly irreverent.

Teachers and administrators who cannot laugh and who do not have a sense of humor can certainly do the job. They can do it at a high level, even. But I have found that those who don’t have a sense of humor simply don’t enjoy the work as much as those who do. If you’re not going to enjoy being in a school, the other rewards of the vocation may not be enough for you.

Dad connected with people. When Dad died, I spoke in the eulogy about his “guys.” Dad had many, many “guys,” people whose lives and his had intertwined over the course of his work with the Church and simply because of the man he was. There was a great number of people who called Dad “friend” and a lot more whose lives had been touched by him and, surely, who had touched his life in turn.

Much like not having a well-developed sense of humor, it is possible for educators – teachers and administrators – to do the work without connecting with kids and with parents and with their colleagues. It is possible. I am just not sure how well the work is done by people who don’t enjoy connecting with others. Actually, I am pretty sure that those people don’t do the work nearly as well. Teachers and administrators must connect. It’s part of the job description.

Dad had a terrific sense of justice. I suppose having a strong sense of justice was part of Dad’s job description as a deacon. He was very in tune with this, could sense an imbalance of power or a bad situation readily and reacted strongly to them. He was motivated by those who had been abused by any system, inspired by David vs. Goliath stories, championed those who had less. The homeless came to Dad. He worked hard for those with less. He never stopped fighting in this area. He also, from the pulpit, didn’t shy away from talking about issues of justice, even when such homilies made people uncomfortable.

Educators are called to not only be fair and just, they are called to highlight injustice around them. They are called to act in a just manner and to point out to developing young minds the injustice that exists in the world. Further, they are compelled to help students understand that they can be part of changing unjust systems. If we’re not about this as we teach, we’re simply doing a disservice to students.

Dad was a great storyteller and loved to listen to others’ stories. I miss a lot about being able to talk with and listen to my Dad. I try to emulate much of what he was in my own life. Yes, as I have written above, I know that I idealize my father in many ways, but not in this one. Dad was a terrific storyteller and could command “the room” so to speak. He told wonderfully engaging and funny stories. He also loved to listen to others telling stories and would often ask for the same story to be told over-and-over again. He would want to hear about the same moment, the same incident, the same funny instance. And, when he listened, his reactions and smile and attention validated the storyteller and made that person feel very special.

Shouldn’t educators tell great stories? Beyond delivering content and inspiring skills in our students, shouldn’t we also be able to tell them great stories about our subject matter and convey or love of it? Shouldn’t we also listen to those around us at least as much as we speak to them?

My father, who professed a dislike of school and who I never heard anyone call “teacher” was one of the greatest teachers I ever had. He should have written a book about education. If he had, it would been titled Lessons about Teaching from a Guy Who Didn’t Like School.

I would have bought that book.

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Link’n’Blog – 1.17.20 | 2020 Oscar Nominees

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I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as fun or thought provoking as I have.

While there are some notable snubs as far as I am concerned (diversity of nominees, please!), I am always excited by the Academy Award nominations and plan to see all the movies with a Best Picture nod… which leaves, oh my, 6 to go!

HERE is the CNN list.

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Link’n’Blog – 1.10.20 | Gilmour Guitar Generosity

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I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as fun or thought provoking as I have.

Though this event actually happened back in June, I just read about it this week! What an amazing donation! You can read Rolling Stone’s article about Pink Floyd front man David Gilmour’s massive donation to fight climate change HERE.

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The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week: January 1 – 7, 2020

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I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.

Then I read them.

Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.

Comics I Read Last Week:

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The Best Comic I Read Last Week Was X-Men #4

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artist: Leinil Francis Yu

I have been digging if not completely understanding Jonathan Hickman’s take on the X-Men. And that’s okay. There are many things I don’t understand that I like… Frankly, I like when an author is smarter than I am (not that that is a particularly mean feat). When the story is more complex or unpredictable than I can write yet holds together with a clear internal logic, I am all in.

Hickman has changed almost everything about the X-Men. It feels to me almost like a Moore/Gibbons treatment of the Charlton characters than a reboot of a classic Marvel team. Though I happened to enjoy much of the X-Men mythos before this reboot, I have been all in on this X-Men relaunch.

And this has been my favorite issue of the bunch. What a tour de force of force. In changing the character’s relationships and societal status, Hickman is giving readers an utterly off-the-wall and unpredictable corner of the Marvel Universe.

Give me more… though I am very anxious to see what happens when this flavor of X-Men interacts with the more traditional characters populating Marvel Comics. That should be very interesting, indeed.

One surprising reaction I am having is to the normally distinctive work of Leinil Francis Yu. It seems he is pulling back from an earlier style – or developing as an artist from it – and that is obviously his call. His work, though – for me – has lost something of the uniqueness it had. It is not that it’s not solid, it’s just that is is simply solid.

That being said, a solid and monthly Yu is better than most artists in the business and X-Men is better than most books.

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Link’n’Blog – 1.3.20 | Good Winter Advice…

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I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as fun or thought provoking as I have.

Worried about the upcoming winter months as we begin the new year… the Cinnamon Girl let me know we don’t have to do so. THIS ARTICLE from Fast Company details a lovely mindset we should all consider…

 

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The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week: December 25 – 31, 2019

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I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.

Then I read them.

Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.

Comics I Read Last Week:

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The Best Comic I Read Last Week Was Incoming #1

Writer: Various

Artist: Various

This preview for upcoming Marvel events was also the only comic I read last week, so…

It was fine. There were a few story threads to which I am looking forward, a few to which I am not and a few that made no sense to me at all.

It was fine.

I read many, many better comics last week… and I am sure I’ll have many, many more better comics this week. This is what happens when Christmas falls on a Wednesday it seems.

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Filed under Comic Book Pick of the Week, Comic Book Review, Comic Books, Uncategorized, Weekly Comic Book Review

The 2019 Denver Broncos Week Seventeen|Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos


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LAST WEEK’S RESULT

Prediction: Detroit 17 @ Denver 24 

Actual: Detroit 17 @ Denver 27 

BACKGROUND

There were plenty of times this season I didn’t think I would make it through all 16 games for this blog. After demoralizing losses and a season and franchise that seemed stuck in neutral (or worse) I thought about dropping these predictions.

But I am glad I did not.

I still bleed orange and blue.

Now, here come the Oakland Raiders in their last game as the Oakland Raiders with a crazy-slim chance to make the playoffs and the Denver Broncos and Drew Lock stand in the way?

Bring. It. On.

KEY MATCH UP

With Denver’s offensive line on life support this week, the match up has to be the O-Line of the Broncos versus the D-Line of the Raiders. Denver is motivated to get Phillip Lindsay his second consecutive 1000 yard season and to keep Drew Lock proficient. To do both of those things, the O-Line will have to win in the trenches. If they do, Denver wins this one. The running game is the key to play action, the key to going downfield, the key for the Broncos to win.

X-FACTOR

Drew Lock until next season.

Drew Lock until next season

Drew Lock until next season

PREDICTION

I am hopeful for a classic game, a down-to-the-wire AFC West clash worthy of the Denver/Oakland rivalry. I am equally hopeful for a Broncos win.

It’s a win I think they get. 

Denver has found their guy in Drew Lock. They have a surprisingly effective young core. Though there is little carry-over season-to-season in the NFL, a win tomorrow would give Lock 4 wins out of his first 5 starts and wouldn’t that be nice to see?

Check that. It will be nice to see!

Oakland Raiders – 20

Denver Broncos – 31

 

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