Bookstore Tour

Snuggled in the great little town square of Zebulon, Georgia, I visited another great indie bookstore this week called A Novel Experience.  When I entered, I was amazed at how spacious it was.  Some of the great features besides the books were the coffee area where you could make your own coffee, an area for book clubs to meet, and a designated and decorated children’s area.  Another great feature was their dedication to help local artists by displaying and selling their artwork.  The sales clerk was very friendly and created great conversation about the owners and their dedication to this bookstore.  She told me of the various book clubs and other groups that met there and how active this bookstore is in the community.  It appeared to me that this bookstore was staying around because of its owners’ desire to build solid relationships with the community.  So, if you are ever in Zebulon, Georgia, take a quick minute to stop buy and browse.  I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.

a novel exp1



A little bit of Americana…

I have always been intrigued by the musty odor of old books and old crooks and crannies in the speakeasy1vintage bookstores.  Strolling down their aisles makes me think about a time when life was simple and troubles were few.

Although many of them have been replaced with the big box stores, I still don’t get the feeling of nostalgia like I do when I enter a quaint little corner bookstore in the town square. Sadly, it makes me feel like America has lost just a little of its “Americana.”

In my hometown of Hampton, Georgia, we have one such store — Speakeasy Book Store.  When you enter, it is filled with the smell of fresh roasted coffee coming from its nostalgic espresso bar in the middle of the store. Surrounding the espresso bar are wall-to-wall books of all types.  Down below the store, they are renovating an old speakeasy from the 1920s that they would like to turn into a wine bar. The store owners are very knowledgeable, have many years experience in rare and antique books, and will give appraisals.  And, even for you Walking Dead fans, Speakeasy Book Store hosts zombie tours to show you around one of the towns where the Walking Dead films.  

As another era passes in our great history of America, it makes me feel hope that these small stores can keep their doors open. I will continue my book store tour throughout Georgia, and will continue to update you through the summer. If you know of any great used book stores, please let me know. Let’s not let this American tradition go by the wayside. Don’t let technology destroy a place we can gather, have good conversation and coffee, and read a good book.


The I-generation


They grew up in some of the worst “bad” times in American history. They witnessed 911 and terrorism, violence all over the media, economic debt that their grandchildren can’t even repay, insurmountable debt from college, no chance for retirement, a recession, income gaps and class division, and a shrinking middle class . They have been growing up in a world of changing values with headlines such as LGBT rights, abortion, Black Lives Matter…

Who is Generation Z?  They were born around 1995 through 2010 and, for the most part, they are the children of Generation X.  They have been commonly known as the IGeneration because they were the first generation to grow up with technology in their hands.  GenZ’s were also the first generation to see the first black president and were a major part of the largest technological, scientific, and medical booms of the 21st Century.

So how do these children shore up in the classroom?  According to many researchers, GenZ students are resilient, conservative, and cautious. They are responsible determined, loyal, compassionate, thoughtful, open-minded, money-oriented and more entrepreneurial than the millenials, or GenY.  As a classroom teacher today, I don’t agree completely with the researchers. I agree they are resilient, conservative, and cautious. I can also agree that they are are determined, loyal, open-minded, and compassionate. These are great traits that we should all have. You could say they have “good bones.” Yet, I struggle to see responsible, thoughtful, and entrepreneurial. Maybe they have these traits but they need to be fostered.


Unfortunately, I worry about this generation.  In the classroom…

  • I see students who cannot take risks, lack the confidence to think for themselves, who are so dependent and so scared that they do not get a a driver’s license or  job, or who depend on me/others to think for them and hold their hands.
  • I see students who are so insecure and have so little self-worth that they must continually take selfies, worry constantly about how many followers they have on social media, need instant gratification or they fall apart with anxiety, who focus on appearances by begging their parents to buy labels–American Eagle, Abercrombie, and $200 Jordans, and insist on smart phones with no regard to cost to ensure their status in the school.  
  • I see students who lack creativity and imagination.
  • I see children who don’t read and write much, and therefore, lack vocabulary to aid in reading comprehension and social conversations.
  • I see students who lack basic grammar skills to write coherently, and I wonder if they can ever make it past their first semester in college.
  • I see students who are so absorbed in social media, You Tube, Instagram, video games, music and movies that they consider education a distraction to their social life.
  • I see students who are so demotivated that they don’t seem to care about their future.
  • I see students who have no regard for respect or authority.


Even though I see all of these negatives, I also see the positives in our students.  Again, these students have the foundation of resiliency, conservatism, cautiousness, determination, loyalty, open-mindedness, and compassion. The question is: How can we use these traits to build risk taking, confidence, independence, creativity and imagination, reading and writing skills, motivation, accountability, and respect? I wish I knew.  This is my struggle in the classroom.  This, I believe, is why teachers are “burning out” at record levels.  As we continue to educate for the 21st Century, teaching children skills and traits they need for jobs that do not even exist yet, we need to keep in mind what these children have grown up with in today’s American culture.  We also need to remember the traits and skills that we think will be needed in the 21st Century. So it looks like the skills and traits we need to work on are:

  • Responsibility
  • Thoughtfulness
  • Entrepreneurial/Leadership
  • Risk-taking
  • Confidence
  • Independence
  • Creativity/Imagination
  • Reading/Writing Skills
  • Motivation
  • Accountability
  • Respect
  • Social skills
  • Global awareness

I added the last two because they were not mentioned in my research.  What are your thoughts about Generation Z? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.


Going retro..

Several years ago, it seems that “the education gods” told teachers that we didn’t need to teach grammar anymore.  We could teach it individually in the papers that the students wrote.  Unfortunately, the students have proven that they aren’t learning that way.  There are several problems with this method:  1.  Teachers can’t get the papers back in a timely manner with so many students in the class and so many papers to grade.  2.  Unless it is a grade, most students won’t correct a paper.  Heck, they won’t usually correct the paper even if it is a grade.  3.  Even if they correct the paper, the student won’t study the mistakes and commit them to memory. So this week I decided to go retro…go old school.


This week, I had one of my classes study the parts of the sentence.  My class is a 10th grade English class (World Literature).  We divided the basic simple sentence between the subject and predicate, and then we circled the simple subject (noun) and the simple verb.  My students struggled but were slowly starting to get the hang of it.  Ladies and Gentlemen, these 15 year olds struggled.  At the end of the week, they told me that they appreciated us stepping back in time to understand the sentence.

Next week, we will start on compound sentences, and the following week, we will focus on the complex sentence.  I will teach them commas, semicolons, dependent clauses, coordinate conjunctions, subordinate conjunctions, and conjunctive adverbs.  By the end of the next two weeks, they will know the basic parts of a sentence, how to punctuate it, and certainly how to write one.

We will also be writing a persuasive essay over the next several weeks.  I will keep you updated on my class’s writing progress with basic grammar instruction.  Tell me what you think. Should we go retro?



Woe Nellie…Slow Down

As an educator, I have been on a wild run-away horse ride for at least 15 years.  Every year someone comes out with the latest and greatest method of teaching.  It is the miracle elixir that will make children want to learn.  Guess what people?  It hasn’t worked yet, and will never work. Kids will be kids.  They want to have fun.  They don’t want to sit in a desk for six to eight hours and study math, science, history, and literature.  Would you?  I would rather be outside running, skipping, jumping, singing, playing, digging in the dirt…It doesn’t matter how we try to disguise education, it is still education.  Kids get this.

Because our students were not doing as well as “they” wanted, the national government took over.  Obviously, they knew more because they have done such a great job with America!   No Child Left Behind left almost all children behind and Common Core/Race to the Top hasn’t been any better.  The one area that I agree with is that every school in every state  should be teaching the same curriculum.  The problems I have come after that.

How we teach and the speed we teach/learn must change.  First, and foremost, we need to slow down.  The current curriculum is so crammed full of unnecessary “stuff” that the children are not learning the basics.  Sometimes, less is more.  Let’s make sure our children can read, write, and do basic math on their level before we move on.

Next, let’s update our curriculum to today’s and tomorrow’s needs.  All schools, including colleges, need to be asking what the businesses of today and tomorrow need.  I, personally, am getting tired of trying to help my children reach college’s antiquated needs, instead of the 21st Century needs and beyond.  In my first 15 years in the business world, not one company asked me about Shakespeare, or even needed me to know that information.  They didn’t ask me how to solve one algebraic equation either.  Look, I know that these subjects teach us problem solving and life skills/empathy…, but I did not know how to write a proper letter, address an envelope, use basic math to solve equations.  To be perfectly honest, those subjects didn’t really teach me problem solving or life skills either.

Maybe we should add philosophy, debate, math for real life, business writing, civics, a class on problem solving…What do you think?  What classes should we have to prepare our children for future business and life?



Burned out, but not giving up

Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for him…Psalm 37:7

After the Christmas holidays, I have noted that there are too many articles on teacher burnout.  I understand this crisis because, I too, experience it now and again.  We all do no matter what we do for a living.  Sometimes we just get sick and tired.

After taking a two week break from writing my blog due to being sick, and re-sick, I have had a hard time bouncing back and feel the burn myself.  I can’t really tell you why we burn out.  Perhaps it is because we wake up early, put all our thoughts and energy into our workplace, and then go home and give all our thoughts and energy to our family, go to bed (usually too late at night), and do it all again day after day.  I’m thinking that America should adopt the Spanish siesta in the afternoon.  Why do we feel that we must work so hard, like our lives depended on it, till we reach exhaustion?  Oh, yeah, our lives, and those of our family, do depend on it.  What is wrong with this system?

Anyway, I decided to try and find some peace at my workplace.  I decided that I would put pictures and accessories on my desk that would give me peace and make me feel stress free.  So off I went to the local Walmart to buy a fake plant (because I have an inside classroom without any sunlight) that would provide me with some nature, a devotional calendar to meet my spiritual needs, some positive “sayings” that will meet my emotional/mental needs, and now I am in search of small card-size pictures of beautiful places from around the world to remind me of God’s beautiful world and, again, bring nature inside.  I am hoping that these items will help me from burning out.  Oh, I also brought some “stress-free” spray as well.

Now, I am curious what you do to help burn out.  Do you decorate your work place? Do you seek your peace/stress-free life elsewhere?  Please respond and let me know.  Maybe, together, we can create a list to share with others.  Let’s save the world from the burn!



The purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows…Sydney Harris

I love that quote.  Students, as teenagers, only notice a mirror. They only see themselves. Their main questions in school are: “What does this have to do with me? How will this benefit me now?”  So many students complain about the curriculum at school.  What does algebra teach us in our daily lives?  What does literature teach us?  Why do we need to study science and social studies? These subjects teach us about the world around us.  Like the quote says, they turn a mirror into a window.  They give us a peak of others in the world.  Looking through the window, we become curious and want to know more. Looking through the window inspires us to look beyond ourselves.  Wow!

In the book, Samir and Yonatan, that my 10th graders are reading, we are learning about two boys (one Jew and one Muslim) who are building a friendship.  Instead of hating one another, they are learning to love.  My students have compared this story to America’s divisions in race, religion, nationality, and finances.  It is amazing how it is opening the window to conversations about the lives of their family, friends, and loved ones.  I’m really looking forward to their project where they will try to “heal the hate.” I’ll keep you updated.

So next time you hear a student or an adult complain about education, remember this quote and teach it to them:

The purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows…Sydney Harris

window 1