Friday, September 4, 2015

A Day in the Life of a 10th Grader

So on the agenda for my handsome, smart Sophomore son today, starting last night...
7 pm - arrived home from school and after school band practice
Get started on homework...then dinner...then more homework (AP Chemistry lab due tomorrow; prep for Chemistry Quiz tomorrow; prep for Spanish 2 test tomorrow; prep for English vocabulary test tomorrow; one page essay over current events article for English article of the week; watch video & take notes for World History). I'm tired just thinking about all that.
About 11 pm took shower, continued homework, bed about midnight.
Up at about 6:15 to be at school for band by 7:15 this morning. Get dressed. Quick devo.  Quick breakfast. Out the door. 3 tests at school today, jazz band tryouts, other "normal" class responsibilities, band hall at 5:30 tonight for home football game, home about 11 - maybe. And he'll be writing that one page article of the week for 9th period Pre-AP English today after he inhales his lunch because he was too worn out to finish it last night at midnight when he went to bed.
I know many parents of HS students reading this post can concur with a similar schedule for their student.  My son is strong & smart, but he's not Superman. Band is an extracurricular choice. I get that. Everything else mentioned is school required. Is there a way to tell my son's Pre-AP and AP teachers that giving him a greater workload in each class each day doesn't make him smarter?  Four hours of homework a week just in English doesn't make him better or smarter in English. It just makes him busier. Creates more stress. Keeps him up later. Wears him down faster. Those classes should be harder, and they are. That's a given. I've got no problem with that. Just doesn't mean the amount of homework should be exorbitant just because the work is hard or harder. I love and respect teachers and educators and all they do to help educate, train, and equip our students to be prepared for  life to come. Most are overworked & underpaid and under appreciated. Thanks for your sacrifices and for going the extra mile for my children. But there are some who still need a reality check:  Four hours of homework or more a week in one subject - unrealistic. 15-20 hours a week at school for one extra curricular activity - unrealistic. I could go on and on and on. But I won't; except to say - My son shouldn't be at school longer every day than he is at home each day. He shouldn't be at school longer in a day every day than I am at work. But most days, he is.  Find your peripheral vision please.  Dont just see with tunnel vision.  Yours is not the only class or activity my son is in. His life doesn't revolve around your class or event or activity. Help me out here and see the bigger picture.
And the truth is, I'm concerned for my son.  He does have a life aside from Chemistry and Algebra and English and History and band.  I want him to enjoy it. I don't want him to crater from the weight of the load. Let's work together as teachers & parents. More work doesn't equal more productive students. Busier so as to keep out of trouble doesn't equal better or trouble-free lives.  That's potentially a double-edged sword. Parents can (and should) have their kids involved in less things -  no doubt. But that's not what I'm talking about. Last time I checked - reading, writing, and 'rithmatic are not optional. Band - optional. Football, cheer - optional. Choir, drill team, volleyball - optional. Science - required. Math, LA, History - required. Homework, labs, AR, tests, etc. etc. - required. We've all got to do our part. Parents. Teachers. Coaches. Counselors. Administrators.
My son is on your watch. Volume of work doesn't equal victory or success in life for him. I'll manage and help guide his involvement in extracurricular activities and help balance that with his required work at school. But teachers - can you help keep the volume of required work reasonable?  Yours is not the only class my son is in. Can you work with us?  Can you be more flexible?  Challenge him in class. Stretch him to be the best he can be. I want that, and he needs that. Thank you for doing that.  But don't break him please.  Don't think you've got to give him more work for him to earn the right to be in your class. He doesn't. He's already earned the right to be there.  And he's the only Sophomore I got. And he's pretty smart and pretty special and pretty strong. But he's not Superman.  He's a 15-year old Sophomore.  And he's mine. And his mom and I are pretty fond of him. And when I don't think you're being fair or reasonable where he's concerned, you'll be hearing from me and/or seeing me. And when you do, don't take it personal. I'm called to be his advocate and fight for him - and I will. And I'll be fair and professional. And I'll listen. And when he's wrong or needs correcting or redirected, I'll do it. But when you're unreasonable or unrealistic or wrong, I hope you'll be willing to adjust also. I will when it's the case for me. Let's work together. There's too much at stake not to. Thanks. - John (Parent In Progress)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

We Said Yes - The Power of One Decision

The day was April 20, 2004.  The Woods' nest was empty.  The cubbard was bare.  There was only my wife and me.  Hurting.  Helpless.  Hoping.  Praying.  Half a year short of 10 years of marriage.  The twins were in heaven.  Discouragement reigned.  But hope was not lost.  God was working.  We were foster adopt trained and equipped; and ready to have our home filled with children.  The phone rang.  On the other end was a message; but not the message we were expecting.  A child was available; but not a foster to adopt child.  An emergency placement, temporary in nature, was needed.  We had a choice.  We didn't really want children in our home who would potentially be leaving in a day or a week or month or a year.  We wanted children to come to our home to live, to stay, to be ours, forever.  But the message regarding this child, Selena Ann Salazar, wasn't that.  She needed a place to stay for an indefinite and undetermined amount of time.  We had a choice.  No guarantee, just a choice.  A choice to say, "Yes, we'll take her" or "No, not at this time - you'll have to find another place."  Four months earlier, God had brought me to a place of healing from a wound that had left four year old scars.
Four years prior in March 2000, we had a little girl enter our home to live.  Kelly was her name.  Three months shy of four years old, her mother had just died of cancer.  Her aunt knew she needed a home; and she knew of our desire to have children.  So we took her in to our home.  No paperwork.  No training.  Just a home filled with love looking for a child to give it to.  And we gave it to Kelly...for three months.  Then she was gone.  In God's providence and wisdom, He took her from our home and allowed her to go back to a less than favorable situation.  But that's another story for another post.
This story is about the power of one decision.  Four months earlier from the day of that monumental phone call, God had brought me to a place of healing.  A place of surrender.  A place where I had to let go of the hurt and pain.  Pain wrought out of loss.  Loss of Kelly.  Loss of Jonathan and Jenny, our beloved twins who left this earth in August 2002.  Loss of any other chance to have biological children.  I never wanted children again in my home that I had to risk losing at any level for circumstances out of my control.  But that December 2003 day, God rocked my world.  He said (my summary), "John, you don't have the right to say no when I give you the opportunity to provide love and care and hope and help meet the needs of a child or children, whether that's for one day, one week, one month, or a year or longer.  Those children, the least of these, are My children; and they face greater risk than you've ever had to face.  You can't let pain from the past keep you from providing life-changing love, My love, to a child that I choose to bring into your home."  After that December encounter with God, wrought out of time spent that morning reading Psalm 37, I literally held up my hands in surrender and said,  "God, whatever You want and whatever You ask from me, I'll obey.  I'll do it.  Considering the risk You took for me so that I could be Your child, I will take the risk of showing any child Your love that You allow to come into my home for whatever period of time.  My call is to be faithful to answer Your call; and if You call me to take a risk for a child, temporarily or with permanence, I will do it."  I took my wife to lunch and told her I was ready to pursue foster/adpot training.  We did; and we received the phone call on that April 20, 2004.  And we said YES.  Eleven years ago today, we said YES. We had no guarantee of any timetable that Selena Ann Salazar would be with us.  All we knew was that a place of refuge was needed for this little three month old, ten pound girl; and we had a home to provide for her.  And so we said, YES.  Our lives would never be the same.   
The next day, April 21, 2004, we headed one hour west of Breckenridge to Abilene to pick up little Selena.  And we picked her up as an emergency placement; but God already knew that she was a permanent placement, forever chosen before the beginning of time by her Creator, to be a part of the Woods' family.  And on that same day, April 21, 2004, when we picked up little Selena, we also found out that we had been chosen to be the parents of Brandon and Bradley, who were already adoptable.  So Selena came to live with us on April 21, 2004, and six weeks later Brandon and Bradley would come to live with us.   
And so on that Spring day eleven years ago today, my wife and I had a decision to make.  It would be a life-changing decision.  A decision that would change our family dynamic.  And more importantly, a decision that would change the family tree for Selena Ann Salazar (now Brenna Michelle Woods).  One decision.  A decision carrying with it innumerable blessings - a decision that would reap salvation on so many levels.  Salvation for Brenna from a lifestyle and life cycle and history of prostitution, drugs, and separation from God.  And salvation for Brenna through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Salvation made possible because of a decision made eleven years and a day ago to say YES.  Yes to God.  Yes to Life.  Yes to Brenna.  And yes to freedom from the cycle of death, devestation and darkness.
Thank you, my heavenly Father, for your wisdom and guidance to help us make the right decision.  Thank you for the life you've given Brenna and the joy that she is and that she brings to our family.  And thank you for the healing you brought to my life and heart from the pain of devestating loss so that I'd be open to Your leading on April 20, 2004 to say Yes to Your plan for my family.  Give others courage, I pray, to be willing to trust You and take a risk to do what is right and best; even when it doesn't make sense.  Thank you for being faithful.  Thank you for your salvation.  Thank you for being My forever Father.  I love you.  - John