Monday, January 31, 2005

More than Self-Discovery

"To write is to learn more about oneself." But I would add that writing, itself, is about much more than self-discovery (as valuable and true as that is). For me, writing does help to clarify what I'm thinking and why I'm feeling. Beyond that, however, it provides a means of connecting, of reaching out to others within my community and around the world. It seems that writing, with its capacity for bringing us together (even across boundaries of time), carries within it the seeds of God's Kingdom, a living, breathing creature that transcends physical place and present tense.

Read the complete conversation.

Friday, January 28, 2005

My Pet Addiction

I work as a schoolbus driver to support my writing habit, an almost-addiction that's been growing within me for more than a decade.

Some history: I switched schools a lot as a kid, so I've worked on four different school newspapers and two yearbooks. I even wrote for the 1988 Surfside camp newspaper (some spoof about Bruce or something like that). I submitted to tons of poetry contests, starting in junior high, and won what seemed like huge cash prizes at the time ($50 goes a long way when you don't have to pay rent).

But I wasn't writing to express myself. I planned on being a lawyer or business owner or president or something like that. I viewed writing as a means of practicing, of becoming a Communicator. I'd noticed that people, who could speak and write clearly, were more likely to be listened to with respect, hired for high-powered jobs, and given tons of money.

Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with the process, and my goals changed.

Read the rest of the story.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Good Test

Experts predict that a new standardized test could change the way science is taught across the state. And they say that even if educators teach to the test, Idaho’s students will benefit.

That’s because this multiple-choice exam will focus on the thinking behind science instead of limiting test items to fact-based, content questions.

The approach is intended to push Idaho’s science education in a new direction.

Read the full article on Page 2 (PDF).

Friday, January 14, 2005

Educator Profiles

Here are four of my stories, published by the Idaho State Department of Education. Go to the department's winter 2004 newsletter for the full articles. It will open as a PDF.

Principal earns national award

Not every educator gets to hire his former students. Randy Jensen, principal at William Thomas Middle School in American Falls, said that’s one of the rewards for sticking it out in a single place.

“Right up front, I knew I was here for a long time,” Jensen said. “I wanted to live in a small town. I really have a commitment to the success of this school.”
Jensen, a 20-year veteran at William Thomas, has been principal for 16 years, following four years at the school as a teacher. Now he hires teachers.

“On my staff right now, I have four that were students,” Jensen said. “They can’t get past calling me Mr. Jensen.”

His commitment is paying off in other ways as well. Jensen recently was named National Middle School Principal of the Year. He’s Idaho’s first administrator to win the award.

Read the full article on Page 1.

Coeur d'Alene's Conley named Teacher of the Year

Bringing a dog to school started as a student management experiment in Paula Conley’s classroom. But Bentley, the dog, was such a significant help that Conley made the canine her classroom aide for eight years.

“He did a lot to establish a warm, comfortable feeling in my room,” Conley said. “He had a way of knowing which kids needed a little extra something.”

Read the full article on Page 3.

Madison first-grade teacher wins Milken prize

Peggy Rogers was troubled by the number of students coming into her fourth grade classroom, who couldn’t read. So she asked her principal for a chance to take on a first grade class for one year, hoping she would learn to teach beginning readers. But after one year in first grade, Rogers stayed for another year and then another and then another.

Now, 13 years later, Rogers is still teaching first grade students how to read at Rexburg’s Burton Elementary, and she may never go back.

Read the full article on Page 3.

Meridian third-grade teacher wins Milken prize

Dawn Nistal doesn’t play favorites. She makes sure all her students get what they need. So when the third grade teacher at Meridian’s Seven Oakes Elementary learned that one of her students couldn’t speak, she knew what she needed to do. Learn sign language. And to help the boy feel included, all her students are learning as well.

“The kids are excited to help this little boy and learn how they can speak through sign language,” Nistal said. “The kids are learning sign language quicker than I am.”

Read the full article on Page 3.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


The game's been around for at least three years, but I played for the first time this morning. Here are the rules:

1) Put two words into the Google search box.
2) The words must be real words as defined at (Hint: If one of the words isn't underlined in blue, then it doesn't count.)
3) The words may not be in quotation marks. They must stand alone.
4) If Google only finds one page that contains both words (out of billions on the Web), then that is a Googlewhack.
5) Unless the page is a word-list, in which case it is not a Googlewhack.

I tried brainless binturong.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

First Time in 18 Years

A word of warning: trying to eat an entire stick of butter may cause discomfort, followed by vomiting. That's what happened to me. I'm not sure how I got trapped in the butter-consumption contest, but I think Luke appealed to my pride and competitive spirit. It didn't hurt that I am a known lover of all things butter. (Real butter, please. If God had intended for us to eat margarine, we wouldn't have to come up with clever slogans and brand names to sell the stuff.)

But this isn't just a gross story. It was a moment of significance in my life. I never vomit. Correction: I rarely throw up.

The last time I tossed my cookies was just over 18 years ago. It was a Friday afternoon in early October 1986. I had a slice of Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza for lunch along with my first (and last) soy burger. I'd had trouble with hot flashes and dry heaves all through the last three periods of the school day, including a couple false alarms. It finally resolved itself as I stepped off the bus and into my front yard.

Of course, the house was locked. I cleaned out my mouth with blades of grass and water from the dog's bowl while I waited for my mom to get home. But I lived.

For years, I've used this story as a kind of conversation-starter.

"Really? Well, the last time I threw up was on a sunny Friday afternoon in October of 1986 . . ."

Now, I have a topper, a story I'll pull out if someone regales us with his own ralphing record. And I hope this one will be good for at least another 18 years. Because even if you get a good story out of the experience, vomiting just isn't worth it.