Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hands to Take Hold of the Scene

Hey, everyone.

An email chain going around the parents of my past year's class (what a great group of people) is discussing being a part of a meal train for the Weindorfs. Mrs. White and past 5-1 mom Mrs. Baldwin are my connections here. I haven't yet heard back from Mrs. White, but I thought I'd go ahead and put it up here because I can't see her minding me putting it on the blog.

Until I do have her permission, though, please email me at if you want to be included in the people offering to help the Weindorfs during the upcoming weeks. I will pass the information along to Mrs. White.

Thanks so much, everyone. It's been great to see such an outpouring of support toward the Weindorf family from the 5-1 family. As I said earlier, I told the kids on the first day of school last year that we would operate our classroom as a family. It makes me happy to see that this didn't end on the last day just because the school year did. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Visitation for Mrs. Weindorf is Thursday from 3-7pm at Colonial Hills Baptist Church. The funeral itself is at 10:30 on Friday at the same place.

I'm not sure if everyone got a message or not, but I know that I was asked to be at Clay on Wednesday night from 5:00-7:00 with a few counselors for anyone from the past year's 5-1 class who wants to go. The time was tentative when I spoke with Mrs. Davis earlier, so make sure you double check with the message when you receive it.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sad Day in the 5-1 Family

I'm sure I am not alone in wishing the best in thoughts and prayers to the Weindorf family this evening after their loss. Our best wishes and sentiments of comfort go out to Marta and the rest of her family during these very difficult times.

Words fail in times like this.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It's Not the Critic Who Counts

The other night, I was on my way home from a great karate workout and went by the baseball fields like I always do on my way home. There, in the outfield, was a team, all on one knee, as the coach talked to them. They were all in locked position, listening intently to what he had to say. This is just one thing that I find to be absolutely beautiful about sports.

There's a high school kid who lives behind me. On his big back porch, there is a basketball hoop, and every night this summer, he is out there practicing his hook shot.

"Do you still play basketball? I hope so, because it is a beautiful game. It's played with the legs and the tips of the fingers, asking you to be a horse and also a bird." --Garrison Keillor

I'm fascinated by people who excel at sports. I wish so badly that I had that mind-body connection that allowed me to react quickly and make split-second decisions. I've tried to hone this by doing karate, which commands a strong link. I've gotten better, but I'm still not as good as I wish I was. But I keep doing it because I think it's a worthy challenge.

Over the years, I've toyed with quitting karate. But the fact is that I wouldn't do a whole lot physically on a regular basis if I didn't. Plus, this quote by Teddy Roosevelt won't let me:

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

There is a strong part of me--luckily--that won't let myself become one of the "cold and timid souls". I know a lot of them, and while they're all fine upstanding people, I think I was just sick of being one of them. And karate was the one kind of sport where you can start out as an adult and build your way from whatever age you are, so here I am.

John Wooden, the great UCLA coach, said a quote once that I try to live by: "Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights." Have you ever been to a college basketball game? It's so much better than an NBA game, which is cool in its own right. But the squeak of the basketball shoes on the hardwood floor, the arc of the ball going through the hoop, the smell of popcorn, the music, the cheerleader pyramids, the competition, the alumni all wearing the school's just a wonderful community event about people who don't necessarily know each other, but are also a part of a large family. They know it, which is enough to create a feeling of family amongst the whole crowd. At least the ones wearing the same colors.

Sports make people set goals and try harder. They make people work as a team. They make you work toward something that is humanly, physically possible.

Plus, think about the last time you were down on one knee listening intently to your leader, and actually listened with an open mind to what they were saying because you believed it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Power and Responsibility

I'm going to use the words of C.S. Lewis to help me out here. I want to make a case for comic books and super-heroes as a legitimate and worthy storytelling device, and not as something "childish". Lewis's quotes, to me, make the best illustration for literature as a whole, and then to the same degree, to literature for kids. "Graphic illustration", or whatever jargon you want to apply, crosses the span of all things. It started out as a child's medium, but it has really grown to an all-ages (and by all ages, I mean ALL ages) medium, with subject matter for any level of maturity.

To be honest, there are a lot of problems that I've spouted off about before about comic books and comic book "fanboys", but if I didn't find more good than bad about it--far more good than bad--I wouldn't be a reader of graphic novels and funnybooks. And I'm not interested in focusing on the bad here at all. I've done it before, I'm sure, and that's not what this post is for.

I've heard arguments that "super-heroes aren't real". And this is true. It's hard to argue that there is really no one who flies around and bounces bullets off his bare chest. It doesn't happen, no one is arguing that it does. But I look to Lewis talking about St. George the Dragonslayer, and how heroic St. George was. He said that the fact that George did slay the dragon, that boys would be able to slay their own dragons, that the story may embolden them because of George's courage.

And I think that this is why Spider-Man is inspirational to a lot of kids. Peter Parker was nerdy. A nerdy kid with glasses, who was into science and math got pushed around by the big jock in the school, but once he pulled his mask on, he was actually the bouncy, acrobatic Spider-Man, who was always quick with his mouth as well as his web-slinging.

I think Barack Obama is probably the first ever comic-reading president, citing Superman comics and Conan the Barbarian in his speeches.

I was actually talking about this during the school year with my students. He was telling me about a book series he's reading, The Lightning Thief series. All I know about this series is that it's about the Greek gods, and he was quizzing me on how much I knew about Greek mythology, which led to the discussion (this was a pretty bright class) about whether or not you'd really want to have as much power as a god. Most said they wouldn't really want the responsiblity of Zeus, but admitted that maybe having the powers of Hermes would be cool. During a reading conference with one student in particular one day, I said, "It's like Spider-Man's uncle told him before he died, 'With great power...'", and he finished the sentence for me: "...comes great responsibility."

This is the kind of thing that kids learn by reading about super-heroes. While Superman is invincible, he's a great role model for everyone--from farm kids to anyone who believes in the American Way. Batman shows the potential of what you could really become as a human being. Wonder Woman is a strong woman, and a great role model for little girls. I know that personally, as a teacher, I'd rather have a girl admire Wonder Woman or Black Canary than admire a Kardashian.

"Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves."

--C.S. Lewis, On Three Ways of Writing for Children

They're great. As an artist, I'm often pulled in by the artwork, but more often than not, I'm pulled in by a great story, and I think this is a great way to tell a story. I'm a reader of books of all kinds. It's too bad that the "jock-straps" (a term coined by a skater student of mine years back) look down on the comic book "nerds". It stems from ignorance or a lack of understanding. But just know that the comic book is a wonderful, under-utilized medium which grows day by day. There is much more to it than I touched on here, such as manga, and I could go on and on about it, but honestly, that's dissertation material.

Just know that the comic book is a very worthy medium to tell a story.

And don't worry, jocks. Tomorrow, I'm planning on defending you to the comic fanboys.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Proud Americans

Happy Independence Day, everyone! 

This last school year alone, we had students from places from all corners of the U.S.A.: Arizona to Delaware, from Minnesota to Alabama. We are happy to come from the land of the free and the home of the brave. 

Hope everyone makes some cool memories today. Have a good one!

And parents: If your kids get bored today, just print them off a copy of the Declaration of Independence and ask them to not only read it aloud, but explain what it means, as we painstakingly did in class this year. I'm sure they remember the whole thing.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

So Long, Sammy

Goodbye to a true Indiana legend! Sammy Terry died on Sunday evening.

You kids are too young to remember Sammy Terry (a.k.a. Bob Carter, no relation), but if your parents grew up in Indiana, they definitely know who this guy is. I remember, even as a child, thinking his jokes were a little too cornball, but in the years since then, I came to appreciate him for what he was doing.

Sammy Terry acted as host to whatever 1950's or 1960's horror movie was on display on any particular Saturday night. He would do little short bits at the beginning, and then before and after commercials.

Bob Carter was a music store owner in Indianapolis during the week, and when I say music store, I mean the kind that had sheet music and instruments. 

For a few generations of Hoosiers, though, his laugh is something we will always remember.

Thank you, Sammy! And rest in peace.

Monday, July 1, 2013

O Canada, You Never Let Us Down

Hope all you fans of hockey, round bacon, maple syrup, and saying "leafs" instead of "leaves" have a fantastic Canada Day! Let's hear it for the country with the distinct stereotype of being incredibly nice and considerate.

In particular to the 2012-2012 5-1 classroom's favorite Canadian, Luke. I think this last school year has made all of us a little more Canadian, eh?

And for Hannah's sake, I'm sure Justin Bieber is having a fantastic Canada Day as well. Let's face it, Canada Day is the day we all celebrate the wonderful, wooded country of Canadia. 

By the way, the cartoon above is by cartoonist Kate Beaton, one of my favorites.