Friday, February 16, 2018

The Thoughts of an Educator When There are School Shootings...

My school home.

Wednesday—Valentine’s Day—while my students were all celebrating love and friendships during lunch, a school in Parkland, Florida was under attack. In 6 minutes, 17 students and teachers lost their lives. A fire alarm being pulled was part of the trap to get everyone out of the classrooms and into the line of gunfire.
Thursday—yesterday—we had an unannounced fire drill. This was poorly timed, to say the least, on the part of one of our administrators, but even more- how are we to trust that the fire alarms are now really for drills, emergencies or a trap?
As a high school librarian, I’ve always realized the vulnerability of being in a library during a potential attack by intruders. Libraries are inherently welcoming, inviting places- usually with windows and lots of open space. The two libraries I’ve presided over have been just that. My current library has five huge windows looking out into the hallway. The only way to lock the door is to go out into that hallway to lock it. Four of the five interior rooms have large windows that make them easy targets for anyone wanting to shatter glass to get inside. The fact that I’ve had to strategize with the two teachers in the library as to how we would hide any number of students who could potentially be in both their classes and the library makes this all too real for educators.
Educators have to worry about so much when it comes to our students. Will I teach them what they need to know to pass “The Tests?” Will my students be able to succeed in college or career? Will they be productive members of society once they leave the school doors? And now a new one- Will my students survive the school day?
Thoughts and prayers are nice condolences, but they do nothing for someone who has lost their family due to gun violence. The guns in these mass shootings were purchased legally. When owning a gun is more important than a child or educators life, we really need to re-evaluate our priorities. We need to legislate to make sure the part of that 2nd Amendment that says “well regulated” is actually well regulated.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Panther City Review 2018 is Open for Submissions!


I am so proud to announce that Panther City Review 2018 is now open for submissions! The theme for this issue is "Wisdom." The submission fee is $5 per entry (Poetry may submit up to 5 poems for $5). Please make sure to include the type of entry in the title of your document file (ie- nf=Non-Fiction, ss=Short Story, etc.). Please make sure your file is an editable file (ie- .docx or .rtf).

We are also seeking art for the cover. If you are an artist and interested in submitting for the cover art, please make sure to include a document describing the art you are submitting and how it relates to the theme of "Wisdom." Please make sure that your submission is a vertical image (the journal is printed 5.125" X 8"), and submitted as a .jpg file no smaller than 300 dpi.

Types of Entries: 
  Cover Art (Up to 2 entries and two descriptions per submission, vertical .png or .jpg, at least 
   300 dpi) 
Creative Non-Fiction (up to 4,000 words)
     Novel Excerpt (up to 4,000 words)  
     Poetry (up to 5 entries may be submitted for one fee of $5)
     Short Play/Screenplay (up to 15 pages)
     Short Story (up to 4,000 words)
  
All submissions chosen for Panther City Review 2018 will receive a complimentary copy of the 2018 issue as well as wholesale discounts on any additional 2018 copies. Any submissions not accepted will receive critique notes as a thank you for your interest. If you have questions, please contact Rachel Pilcher at sleepingpantherpress@fortworthwritersbootcamp.com.

The deadline is April 29, 2018, 11:59PM. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A Lesson About How to Handle "Mansplaining" from Jane Austen

The scolding of Emma by Mr. Knightly. Emma. Miramax 1996
One day last week I had to help a student find a book in their Lexile- the new way my school district measures student reading levels. Unfortunately, our library books are not listed by Lexile, so it’s always difficult to find a book for students who are high up in the Lexiles, but books they would find interesting are not. The fun books are not usually very challenging. This is where I have to get creative with my recommendations- specifically, I have to make classic literature sound very interesting to a teenager. Not always an easy task. I have to make use my degree in English as a guide. Thankfully, I read many, many classics, so I can draw from what I liked back then to make those suggestions.

With this particular young lady, I knew that she liked realistic and chick lit fiction, so I went straight for Jane Austen. Due to her non-Lexile reading preferences, I hoped that Emma would be a good choice for her. I described how Emma thought she was a successful matchmaker, but the reality was very different. The student decided that was the perfect book for her. 

After the student left, I pondered the lessons taught through Emma, but thought nothing more of it until later that day, when I read a few comments on a Facebook post of mine. Two men who attended high school with me made comments that most would deem mildly as “mansplaining.” Initially I thought about asking if they really thought I was so stupid as to not know what they felt they needed to explain to me. Then I remembered the scene in Emma where Emma says something derogatory to Miss Bates, which Mr. Knightley promptly scolds her for doing. Miss Bates was not Emma’s social equal, so it was not kind for her to criticize Miss Bates, knowing that others would view the treatment as an acceptable. Mr. Knightley reminds her that she is better than that and that she should always show kindness to those below her social status.

So, how is this similar to my situation? Well, to my knowledge, neither of the men in question ever went to college, nor are they as financially stable as I am (from what I can tell based on their online presence). Technically, I am in higher standing educationally and financially than they are. How I treat them in my comments would give others a lead for how they would treat these men. Since it was on Facebook and not in the real world, it wouldn’t be as bad for the men, but I have decided that it really isn’t kind of me to be defensive over a stupid comment. Not only that, but is it really worth the effort to get worked up over an explanation that I did already know, but does not change anything in the long run? No, not really. This is what gets me sometimes about the accusations of “mansplaining.” Sometimes it is condescending and detrimental to relationships, but most of the time, as on Facebook and the like, it is just some guy getting their thoughts down and possibly not understanding that the information is already known. Charging men with “mansplaining” for minor comments only makes the woman seem insecure and men defensive and angry. There are many other things in life to get angry about, and usually how someone explains something shouldn't be one of them. If you're going to make a man defensive and angry with you, make sure it is something worth fighting for, ladies!

If you haven't seen the movie version above, check out the scene where Emma gets her scolding from Mr. Knightley... wait...is this mansplaining?


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Fearless?

Close up of milk glass candlesticks from last post.
“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”
- Edith Wharton

I learn so much about myself by looking at candlelight. I know the image is the second I have shared of candles on my fireplace mantle, but the inspirational thoughts those flickers of light give me always lead me down the path of self-realization.

In the workshop I teach on learning to write without fear (which I will be releasing an online version through Udemy by the end of the month!), I work with writers on figuring out what the fears are that keep them from writing. Saturday afternoon I came to the realization that I’ve never put much thought into how much the rest of my life is lead by being fearful of one thing or another. It’s those personal fears that are the ones that hold me back-  moving out of my childhood neighborhood, asking the guy out (or even just flirting), expanding my business, writing my own books, strained familial relationships, and even my relationship with God and religion- that I desperately need to address. Along with my goals for 2018, I plan to face these fears head on. As I teach my writing students, I will never actually get away from the fears, but I need to learn how to make them work for me. I hope to develop the wisdom that will lead me to take my own advice.

Some of these fears I have will only be settled by writing them out. Some of them will require me to step outside of my comfort zone. It may also be that one or two may not ever be resolved. All I can do is decide that I will try. I am ready.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Apparently There Was a New Year Last Week?

My New Year Clearing Practice- Bringing Out the Milk Glass
I had so many plans for my winter break. Two whole weeks of uninterrupted planning and writing. It was going to be glorious. So, of course I did not actually have any uninterrupted time! There is no one to blame for this. I think my body just decided that it was time for me to rest, so it forced me to by getting sick. As I begin this second week of the New Year, I can say with certainty that I have more clarity now than I did during all of my winter break!

My newfound focus has come about due to one very important factor:  last Friday I had a small series of steroid shots to the nerves in my neck, hopeful that it will help them relax enough to let my neck heal. While I still have a tiny bit of pain from my March car accident, this has helped alleviate that pain quite a bit. The bonus side effect is that the tinnitus I was also suffering from due to the accident is almost non-existent. If you’ve ever had tinnitus, you know how debilitating that can be! I’ve had the most difficult time concentrating on anything since the accident, mostly because of that constant ringing in my ears!

This leads me to my New Year’s resolutions- I actually don’t have any!  I do always see a new year as a great time to start over, have a new beginning, but what I really need is a reset- of intentions, of practice, of strategy. It’s really a mental cleanse to prepare me to meet the goals I have set for myself, not just for the year, but for life.

If you haven’t set your new intention for the year, or feel like you’re already off any resolutions you put into place over a week ago, no need to worry about it. Give yourself permission to start over at any time. Every morning you wake up is the opportunity to begin fresh anew!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Baby, Is It Cold Outside?

Orange, ripe for the picking in early December.
This time of year I obsess about the weather. It’s not so much that I want it to snow, which I do because, as a Texan, we long for those white holidays, where the entire state practically shuts down at the hint of snow, which inevitably turns into an ice mess. It’s for a wholly different reason: should I turn on the heater in the greenhouse? Four years ago, according to various Facebook friends sharing their memories for December 6, 2013, we had snow.

This year it’s been abnormally warm. I’m not gonna say “climate change,” but I’m seriously thinking climate change. We’ve hit record highs for November and December. Due to this odd weather, I’ve put off hauling my citrus trees, avocado tree, and other delicate plants I usually overwinter into the greenhouse. It’s not like we haven’t had chilly morning temperatures, but our mid-day to afternoon temps have been so high, having plants in the greenhouse would cook them. On a nice, balmy 57 degree day, the greenhouse temperature, even with a window cracked, can get up to 100 degrees if I don’t prop open the door and fully open the top and side windows.

So, due to our little late fall heatwaves, I have kept all those beautiful plants right out on the patio. I keep stalking the Weather Channel, though, just to see if I might possibly have to do an emergency clearing. So far, the scariest day coming up is this Thursday night/Friday morning, where for 14 hours straight the temperatures (at the airport, I’m sure) will be below 40. The high on Friday? 57 degrees.

I see this as a challenge- how long can I go before the plants need permanent winter shelter? Will it happen Thursday…I’m still debating that- if it happens, it’s going to happen tonight. The extended forecast has highs in the 60s and 70s through December 20th so far. I’m predicting we won't see a White Christmas in 2017.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Traveling Abroad Makes You Appreciate Home

Sacré-Cœur Basilica
I know I’ve written about it before, but I seriously practice introversion. I recently returned from a lovely vacation to Paris (part of the reason why I’ve been so absent from blogging!). It was beautiful and everything I thought it would be. The only problem I had was that I had to be around too many people to do it. I even planned the perfect, least touristy time to go- November. The crowds were in the usual places- museums, churches, airports- especially the airports.

While I completely fell in love with the city, I was never so happy as be back home. I am, at heart, a homebody. I truly enjoy being at my home…by myself. As we enter the holiday season (because I skipped my American Thanksgiving!), I am feeling more drawn to making my home the most cozy, inviting place to be, if only just for my family. I may go out to a holiday shindig once a week, but really, I just want to be home. It is time to nest in for the winter, read a good book, spend more time writing, plotting and planning online writing courses, and enjoy a random fire in my fireplace… even if winter in Texas means highs in the 70s!