When I saw this cartoon, my passion for improving reading comprehension skills kicked in. When we read, we recognize an arrangement of symbols as words; when we comprehend, we create meaning from those recognized words. There’s a big difference between these two skills. Have you ever heard someone say, “It doesn’t matter how many times I read it; I just don’t get it”? That’s clear evidence of a lack of reading comprehension skills.

There are many studies of children’s academic skills through twelfth grade. The most well-known of these is the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress), the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas. The NAEP began in 1969 and is published every four years. It assesses students’ academic skills in 4th, 8th and 12th grade. Among developed countries in the world, the United States spends, by far, the most money on education overall and the second-most per student: $810 billion overall and about $12,800 per student in public education. In spite of that, the U.S. 2019 NAEP scores in reading, math, and science are disappointing.

Given those results, is it any wonder adults have reading comprehension difficulties? There are very few studies of the academic competencies of adults. The biggest reason for this is that children can be tracked and followed fairly easily through the school system for a number of years. Adults, on the other hand, relocate and change jobs, making them harder to find for follow-up studies.

The first national comprehensive study of adult literacy was the 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS). The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) was the first time a follow-up adult literacy study was done. The results were not good for either study. In fact, the results of the follow-up NAAL showed a decline in adult literacy when compared to the earlier NALS. Both surveys indicated that the “golden age” of literacy in the United States is made up of the group of adults who learned to read between 1955 and 1965. And yet, only thirty percent of that group scored at a proficient literacy level.

The chart below describes the assessed literacy levels from each study. The NAAL combined Levels 3 and 4 of the NALS to describe intermediate level readers. I was honored to be selected as a member of the group of educators invited to Washington, D.C. to work with the U.S. Department of Education prior to administering the NAAL. Our group set cut-points for the described literacy skills on the NAAL. It was an exciting experience to work on this project. You might find it interesting to see how literate you are. Read the descriptors below and decide.

Now the bad news–and the reason the above cartoon is too true. These are 1992 NALS results. The 2003 NAAL results were worse.

As if half the adult population being barely literate isn’t bad enough, I found the following results to be even more surprising. Again, these are 1992 NALS results.

What does this mean for you? It means that if you could make sense of this blog post (and the national study odds are 52 to 48 that you couldn’t), don’t assume that the people you’re interacting with are equally skilled in literacy. Far too many of them are not.

Author’s note: It is possible to improve reading comprehension. Two of the biggest misconceptions regarding good readers are that good readers read quickly and that they instantly comprehend what they read. In fact, good readers read for meaning, not for speed, and they re-read texts to improve their understanding of the content. If you need to improve your reading comprehension, here are seven simple strategies you can use to work on your comprehension skills.

  1. Improve your vocabulary.
  2. Come up with questions about the text you are reading.
  3. Use context clues.
  4. Look for the main idea.
  5. Write a summary of what you read.
  6. Break up the reading into smaller sections.
  7. Pace yourself.

Although selective information regarding educational budgets at the state and federal levels may indicate increased funding, those figures do not include adjustments for inflation.

Lots of people are asking me about the trainings I was asked to do in India.  It’s been frustrating for me because, since the scheduled February departure date was cancelled, I’ve had no idea what comes next.

Today, I went to Dr. P.’s office to drop off invoices for reimbursement for John (my co-trainer) and me for expenses we’ve incurred (visas, inoculations, etc.).  Dr. P. and I had a chance to speak for a few minutes, which I appreciated.  He became ill on a visit to India in October 2016 and has never fully recovered from that episode.  He told me he recently returned from Chicago, where he was receiving some medical treatments, and that he is not yet completely well.

I asked Dr. P. if he is still interested in having John and me provide trainings for his teachers and he said yes, he is, but he cannot set a date at this time.  Since John and I both have some summer commitments, we previously agreed that we will not be available to go to India before September.  Dr. P. is amenable to this and said he will call me when he is ready to proceed.

I want to follow through with the trainings, and I hope I will hear from Dr. P. in a few months.  If this doesn’t happen, I’m sure I will find another way to help others through education.  And I can still visit India.  After all, I already have a visa and the necessary medical protection.

I brought cookies to school today to celebrate my birthday with the kids I help on my weekly volunteer day.  They are all teenagers, so of course they’re always hungry.  Even so, they were very appreciative and repeatedly complimented me.  The most frequent remarks were, “Thank you,” “Did you make these?” and “Did you work as a baker?”

It was fun to bake a variety of cookies like I used to do before our kids left home.  While the kids were growing up, I baked about three batches of cookies every two weeks; now I make a half batch and it still lasts too long for Ted and me.  I split these 14 dozen cookies three ways:  some for school, some for Kari’s family, and some for Ted and me.  At least for a few days, while Ted and I eat our share of the cookies, we can enjoy the variety of flavors like in the old days.

Left to right:  carmel-filled bars with mini chocolate chips; brownies with raisins and nuts, topped with melted marshmallows and fudge frosting; TV squares (no reason for that name) with mini chocolate chips in a meringue topping.

The only thing I brought home was an empty (reusable) box.  I think the cookies were a hit.

On February 8, 2016, Dr. P. asked me if I would be willing to provide some trainings for the teachers at his school in India.  With Dr. P.’s permission, I invited my friend and adult education mentor, John, to be my co-trainer.  After much planning and a number of meetings, we set a departure date for December 27.  For several reasons directly related to Dr. P., it became obvious that not everything would be in place by that date, so we set February 9 as a more viable departure date.

Ted and I are in Washington state right now, getting acquainted with our new grandson, Sefton.  Because we will return to St. Louis just three days before the departure date for India, I already have most of my things packed for that trip.  John, my co-trainer, and I have had our inoculations and have received our Indian visas.  We have also spent a great deal of time preparing our training materials.  We are ready to go.

Imagine my surprise this morning when Dr. P.’s office manager called to tell me that the training will have to be postponed because Dr. P. will not have the necessary funding in place in time to purchase the airline tickets for the trip.  There is a possibility the training will be rescheduled for April or May.  I guess I’ll unpack when Ted and I get home on Sunday.

I’m feeling disappointed. . . . Is there an emoji for that?

It’s starting to seem very real that John and I will be going to India eight weeks and two days from now (February 9-18).  I got my typhoid and hepatitis A shots this morning and the prescription for my malaria prevention medication will be called out later today.

Last night, we had our second meeting of the docs–Dr. Polineni, Dr. John, and Dr. Me–to iron out some details for training Dr. P.’s teachers in India.  It was a very positive and fruitful meeting and we are all feeling good about the upcoming trainings.

At our first group meeting several months ago, Dr. P. told John and me that the schools in India (with only a handful of exceptions) have been teaching by memorization since the 1980s.  The basic method of instruction is for the teachers to write the lesson material on the board and for the students to copy that material, memorize it, and spit it back word-for-word on the test.  The graduates of this instructional method, Dr. P. said, are about 90 percent what he called “technicians”–people who can follow the steps that result in a product.  Classroom discussion, questioning, and elaboration are not part of the curriculum, and creative and innovative thinking are not taught or fostered.

What Dr. P. wants John and me to do is guide the instructors in his school to develop an interactive teaching style that will foster creative thinking.  One of my graduate textbooks by K. Patricia Cross includes the observation that “Teaching without learning is just talking.”  If the teachers in Dr. P.’s school are just talking, John and I have some serious training to do.  We choose to accept this mission.

The major results of last night’s meeting are:  We will be leaving for India February 9; I have scheduled my necessary inoculations for next week Tuesday; Dr. P. is going to reserve our airline tickets; and Dr. P. is checking on what we need for multiple-entry visas, since we will be doing follow-up trainings several months apart.  John and I, meanwhile, continue to prepare our training materials.

This is all starting to feel very real and I’m getting very excited.  Nine weeks to India and counting.  What an adventure!

Pay no attention to the man behind the screen; it’s Google that is the source of all information.  As I was blogging about Ella Genzmer and adding a link to the post, I noticed that one of my menu choices was “Search Google for ‘Ella Genzmer'” so I did.  I couldn’t believe what came up!!!  This was in the State of Wisconsin Assembly Journal, documenting the proceedings of the State Assembly.genzmer-pix-e

Hingham and Gibbsville Grade Schools became a consolidated school district with Oostburg when I was in eighth grade.  To help the eighth graders from all three schools get to know each other before starting high school in the fall, we had an eighth grade bus trip together.  We visited the Capitol in Madison and were introduced to the legislature.  (Apparently, a lot of other school kids from the state did the same thing that day.)  After the Capitol, we went to the Cave of the Mounds and then toured Little Norway.  It was a great day trip and I still have a small keepsake cedar box I bought that day at the Cave of the Mounds.

I never dreamed in 1961 that my eighth-grade school trip would re-surface in a Google search 55 years later.  Is this wonderful or scary?  Either way, it was kind of fun to find this old record.

At Kyle and Lauren’s wedding, my brother Tom quoted Ella Genzmer in his toast to the bride and groom.  He interrupted the toast to ask how many people in the room were acquainted with Ella Genzmer.  My brother Steve and I raised our hands.  With Tom, that made a total of three of us who knew her.

I grew up in Hingham, WI, a town of about 200 people, and Mrs. Genzmer was a long-time teacher in the Hingham Grade School.  The school building was two stories tall and had two classrooms, two teachers and usually somewhere around 50-60 students.  (It also had an awesome fire escape from the second floor, but that’s a different story.)  At some point, the upper floor was remodeled to form a third room, and a third teacher was added.  I don’t remember which grade I was in when that happened, but there are 63 students and three teachers in my seventh grade school picture.  (Yes, we are all in one picture.)

Important people: Mrs. Genzmer (back row, left); Denny (back row, second boy from left); me (back row, 5th from right); Steve (3rd row, 3rd from right); Tom (front row, 3rd from left).

Important people:  Mrs. Genzmer (back row, left); Denny (back row, 2nd boy from left); me (back row, 5th from right); Steve (3rd row, 3rd from right); Tom (front row, 3rd from left).

Mrs. Genzmer was my teacher for five of the eight years I was in grade school.  There was an interruption in my time with her when Mr. Prinsen, the principal, left and Mrs. Genzmer became the principal.  The principal always taught grades 5-8 (on the second floor), and I was still in a lower grade (on the first floor) when Mrs. Genzmer moved upstairs.  When I reached fifth grade, I had Mrs. Genzmer again until I graduated in one of the largest Hingham Grade School classes ever–seven of us!

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Mrs. Genzmer was a grammarian.  I learned everything I know about diagramming sentences from her, and I took honors English in high school and college because of her.  In talking about her at Kyle and Lauren’s wedding, my brothers and I agreed that we received an excellent education in our little country school.

So what did Tom quote from Mrs. Genzmer?  In praising love and marriage, Tom reminded us that Mrs. Genzmer taught us “When using a dictionary, the first definition of a word is the most common use of the word.”  Tom also quoted Nietzsche in his toast.  I’ll bet Mrs. Genzmer would be surprised to be joined by Nietzsche!

My advisor, mentor, friend, and India training partner is awesome.  I introduced John Henschke in an earlier post and included some of his zillion+ accomplishments.  As soon as I knew John was going to be my training partner, I knew I would be working with the best and could set aside my worries about messing up my first overseas teacher trainings.

Today, I learned that John has yet another achievement to add to his resumé.  On November 14, he will be in Orlando, FL for his induction into the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame.  What an honor!

Every so often, I hear that John is retiring.  When I ask him about it, he paraphrases Mark Twain and says, “The rumors of my retirement are greatly exaggerated.”  When I spoke with John last week, he told me he is retiring December 31.  I had to ask if this is the real retirement, or one more in his string of exaggerated rumored retirements.  This is the real one.

So what will John do in his retirement?  Since he won’t be teaching university classes after this semester, he sees retirement as an opportunity to have a more open calendar to schedule trainings and other activities.  He’ll be training adult educators in New Mexico the first week of December, in Tennessee the second week of January, and in India in February with me.

The best part of all is that not only do I count John as my friend and partner, but that he also counts me as a friend and partner.

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My friend and partner, the awesome and world-renowned adult educator, John Henschke.

In January, I did some tutoring in a classroom that was formerly used for industrial arts.  I commented on the variety of things that were stored in that room, including a washer and a dryer.  When I returned to the school in September for the 2016-17 school year, I wrote about the changes made in the room so that it can be used as a meeting room.  I mentioned that the room is now more attractive, and that the washer and dryer are still there.

Former "storage" decor

Former storage-style decor

New and improved classroom-style decor

New and improved classroom-style decor

Today I was working with two students in the re-decorated meeting room when a teacher came in to launder a football practice uniform.  I asked her if this was a typical thing to do and she said “yes.”  I remembered that she had given one student some Cheerios and another some saltines this morning, so I asked if she provides food as well as laundry services for the students.  She said “yes.”  I asked if there were a lot of kids in need of both and she said “too many.”

I’ve worked with many people who are poor and in need of services, and they’ve told me about their struggles.  For example, they sometimes use an extension cord to get electricity from their neighbors when their own is shut off for lack of payment.  When I wrote grants to fund the Adult Education and Literacy program that I supervised, I always had to include data on the number of students who received free hot lunch in the school districts we served.

Neither working with low-income students nor including low-income statistics in my grants came as close to reality as seeing this teacher providing direct and immediate help for some low-income students.  Today, in her classroom, two students were fed and another went home with a clean football uniform.  If they don’t already do it, maybe more schools should include an on-site washer and dryer.  Little things really do make a difference.

The washer and dryer that help meet students' needs

The washer and dryer that help meet students’ needs.

Dr. John A. Henschke--my mentor, friend, and partner

Dr. John A. Henschke–my mentor, friend, and partner

Before going to India in December, I’m trying to become familiar with Dr. Polineni (the surgeon who invited me to train his teachers in India), with Dr. John Henschke (my training partner whom I’ve known for at least 20 years), and with India (where I’ve never been).  One of the things I’m doing is googling the subjects; another is checking them out on YouTube.  I’ve learned a lot about the two men, less about India.

I’ve known John for a long time and was honored to have him as my dissertation chair and even more honored to have him hood me at my doctoral graduation.  My professional knowledge of him is general, but sufficient to yield no surprise when I heard him introduced on a YouTube video as a “world-renowned adult educator” and as a “renowned educational expert.”  This is what I knew:

–He studied under and was a personal friend of Malcolm Knowles, the “father of adult education.”

–He has trained adult educators in 20 countries.

–He was a delegate at the UNESCO Institute of Education at the 1997 World Conference in Hamburg, Germany.

–He was an observer-delegate at the 5th World Conference in Adult Education.

–He serves as a juror (reviewer) of professional articles in the Adult Learning publication.

Given all that, I was still amazed at the breadth and depth of his work.  His vita shows the following:

–1.5 single-spaced pages of awards received, including national and international awards.

–Over 12 pages of “selected” articles he’s published.

–5 pages of dissertation committees he’s chaired (including mine) and 3 more pages of dissertation committees on which he’s been a member, but not the chairperson.

–3 pages of academic research he’s done in adult education.

–2 pages of courses he’s developed at six universities.

–22 pages of papers he’s presented at conferences.

–He has four websites focused on adult education information.

And this is the man who didn’t hesitate for even a second before saying “yes” when I asked him to be my partner for the India trainings.  I’m working with the best and will be a much better trainer for the experience.  I don’t see myself following in his giant footsteps, but maybe this experience will lead me on a “Little John” course of future work in adult education.

Yesterday was my last day of volunteering at the Success School.  The kids have final exams next week and–surprise!–I’m not allowed to assist them while they take exams.  Last week the principal asked if I’m interested in coming back next fall and I told her I would be happy to do so if the teachers and students felt that I was helpful this year.  She laughed and assured me they want to see me again.  Most volunteers, she said, want to work with the little kids, so they don’t get much help at the high school level, even though there are plenty of high school students who could use some extra one-on-one tutoring.

Before I left, I stopped in the classrooms of the teachers I’d worked with to say good-bye and to wish them a good summer break.  Then I stopped in the office to sign out and the secretary gave me a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a thank you card signed by all the teachers.  She told me that everyone wanted to sign it, even if I hadn’t worked directly with their classes because “It’s a small school (ten classrooms) and people talk” (i.e., had heard about me).  What a sweet thing to do and say.  I have felt so appreciated all year, and the flowers and notes on the card still have me smiling and looking forward to next fall.

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A beautiful appreciation bouquet

Shakespeare doodle

Today’s Google doodle pays homage to the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.  The circles represent eight of the 38 plays he wrote.  Can you name them?

 

Answers, left to right:  Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, King Lear, Macbeth, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Awhile back, I was reflecting on my volunteer tutoring with Ted and his need for extra time for learning.

Ted seems to catch on to things fairly quickly and can do math in his head, so I asked him why he failed so many courses.  He said he thinks the teachers just went too fast for him.  Isn’t that a shame?  How hard would it be to give the guy a little extra time or a little extra help before he fails the class?

Today, I was working with Ted again when I found the teacher who will do this.

As Ted and I were working, his social studies teacher came up to us.  She offered to talk with Ted’s teachers in his other classes (those he’s taking and hasn’t yet failed).  If he is willing to stay after school, Mrs. L. will help him finish his work in those classes before the end of the school year so that he won’t get an incomplete or a failing grade in them.  When Ted replied that he doesn’t have a ride home if he doesn’t take the bus,  Mrs. L. immediately offered to drive him home after they finished their work together.  Ted agreed and Mrs. L. will talk with the other teachers.

Since I work mainly with Ted now, I offered to adjust my volunteer hours as needed to help him finish.  I will also take him home if he needs a ride.  After all, he lives near Kari, so I could stop in for a quick “hello.”

Preparations are moving forward for the teacher training I’ll be doing in India.  John and I had a strategy planning meeting last night to discuss how we will meld the elements of adult learning, critical thinking, and teaching strategies into our presentation.  We are going to outline four trainings to be presented over the next two years.  When we have that ready, we will meet again with Dr. P. to discuss our plans with him.

One of the teachers at the Success School where I volunteer is from India–not too far south of where we’ll be going.  When I told her I will be going to India, she was eager to share information about the people, the area, the climate, etc.  Among the things she told me today:  (1) people will want to touch me because I am so light-skinned and blonde that I will be unusual to them; (2) I should ask for food to be prepared in a less spicy way or I will sweat for hours after eating it; and (3) if we go in August, it will be so hot we will need to shower several times during the night to stay comfortable enough to sleep.  I think she’s going to be an essential element of my well-being while I’m in India!

 

Where we’ll be:

Location:  (village) Martur, (district) Prakasam, (state) Andhra Pradesh.  It’s on the southeast coast of India.

School:  Sri Sarada Niketan Public School

Teammates:  Dr. Subbarao Polineni, Dr. John A. Henschke

 

Today, I saw Dr. P. for a checkup on my wrist.  (It’s doing well.)  After the medical business, I planned to ask Dr P. if he was serious about the teacher trainings, or if he’d spent the last three weeks wondering what made him suggest such a crazy idea.  Before I could say a word, he asked if I’d given any thought to doing the trainings.  It turns out that he was very serious about the idea and that he is very passionate about training the teachers in his school to teach in a method other than memorization, as they do now.  

Those who know me won’t be surprised that I had prepared a folder for him with a written proposal outlining a training schedule, the skills to be addressed in that training, and the follow-up trainings needed.  We talked for a few minutes and agreed that we need a meeting of the docs:  Dr. P., Dr. John, and Dr. Me.  As soon as I got home, I called John.  We set a date, time, and place to meet (March 14, 7:00 pm, John’s office) and it’s beginning to sink in that I am definitely going to India to provide teacher trainings later this year.  

The children in Dr. P.’s school are poor and orphaned, and are unlikely to have an opportunity to develop any skills they have.  Dr. P.’s goal is to give these underprivileged and undereducated children a chance to develop their abilities.  This is an amazing opportunity for me to help achieve that goal.  I am excited, but also humbled and definitely grateful for what I am sure was the Lord’s intervention in bringing this gift to my life.

After missing three weeks of tutoring at the Success School because I was sick, I went back today.  It felt so good!  Everyone said how much they missed me and how Ted asked for me every week and was disappointed that I wasn’t there.  They even sent me a get-well card and everyone signed it.  (The mystery is where it went, because I didn’t get it in the mail.)

Ted and I spent three hours working on his social studies and geometry.  We are a good match and we work well together.  (See January 27.)  Ted seems to catch on to things fairly quickly and can do math in his head, so I asked him why he failed so many courses.  He said he thinks the teachers just went too fast for him.  Isn’t that a shame?  How hard would it be to give the guy a little extra time or a little extra help before he fails the class?

While I was out sick, “my” room, the Blue Lagoon (so called because the outer woodwork is painted blue), was refurnished.  They put in a (very well-used) sofa and a comfy chair.  Unfortunately, they took out the table.  Luckily, there are folding tables in the old shop classroom Ted and I used one week (also January 27), so I got one of those and the learning continued.

My "Blue Lagoon"

My “Blue Lagoon” (actual size)

Today I met with John, my mentor, to discuss the teacher trainings in India.  As I expected, John had some good questions, suggestions, and advice.

One of John’s questions was whether I’d ever done any team trainings.  I said I had and that I actually prefer doing team trainings because I believe two personalities contribute to learning and help avoid boredom.  In fact, I told John, I’ve already asked Dr. P. if it would be possible to bring another trainer with me, and he said “yes.”  I told John that I have two people in mind–one of my teachers, who is now retired, and John, if he’d be willing to come with me.

Without missing a beat, John said he’d be happy to go to India with me.  Well, that’s just frosting on my cake!!  Thick frosting!!  With someone of John’s stature and experience at my side, a successful outcome is assured and my nervousness is gone.  John’s area of expertise is adult education; mine is teaching reading comprehension skills–what some people call “teaching kids to think.”  John will be very effective in getting the teachers onboard, while my strength will be teaching the specific skills to be addressed.  What a team we will be!

I asked John if he’d be willing to take the lead role, since this is a new experience for me.  His response was that there is no need for this, since he saw excellent leadership from me when I was president of the state education association (of which he is also a lifetime member), and then he said, “We will lead together.”  What an awesome man he is!  I’m so fortunate to know him and to count him as one of my friends.

I have a follow-up appointment for my wrist with Dr. P. on March 3. Between now and then, I’ll be preparing an outline of what John and I will include in the training and afterward for support.  If Dr. P. likes what he sees (this is the “I think” part, because even though it was Dr. P.’s idea, it still seems unreal to me), I’ll schedule a time for the three of us–John, Dr. P. and me–to meet and discuss the details.

One of my retirement goals was to offer my time and knowledge to help undereducated people in a meaningful way.  I’ve been doing that with my volunteer hours at the Success School.  Now, in addition to that, I have a chance to support education in an exciting way I never dreamed of, and with the best possible partner.  If God spoke to me from a burning bush, I don’t think He could make it more clear that He is guiding (shoving?) me in the way I should go at this time.  I wonder where it will lead, because surely this is not the end.

I’m working on gathering information so I can give Dr. P. an answer about doing teacher trainings for him in India.  I checked out Dr. P.’s foundation website (http://brightlifefoundation.org) and listened to a one-hour interview with him on You Tube about his foundation and the school.  I also asked another medical doctor about him and received an unconditional character reference, as well as the information that Dr. P. is well-known for his work with his school.  Two days from now, I’m meeting with Dr. John H., my friend and mentor, who has done many educational trainings in 20 countries.  I’m hoping for some expert, solid guidance from him.

As I’m doing these things, the idea of going to India in an educational capacity is becoming more real and I’m getting a little nervous about it.  I’m not nervous about doing the training (I’ve done a lot of those); I’m nervous about doing it in an unfamiliar culture, where I know nothing about the educational system or about the teachers and their teaching styles.  I’m assuming that, if I agree to do this, Dr. P. will spend the necessary time with me to provide that information.

And then I saw the quotation below, and again had the feeling that maybe I’m being guided to this.

 

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Today I had a follow-up with Dr. P., the hand surgeon, to have the stitches removed from my wrist.  While he pulled and snipped, he chatted with me about the school he built and supports in India through his foundation.

He knows I worked in the educational field and that I’m retired, so he started telling me some of his concerns about the school.  I responded with some simple suggestions, and he moved on to more detail and teacher trainings.  I finally asked what he was really trying to tell me.  (At this point, I catch my breath, my heart rate accelerates, and my eyes widen.)  He wants me to put together a training for his teachers and then go to India to train them, at the expense of his foundation!

I’ve explored some avenues to make a meaningful contribution to education, especially for those who struggle to be educated, but the roads haven’t taken me where I want to go.  Could this be the Lord working in one of his famously mysterious ways?  The more Dr. P. and I talked, the more excited I became.  Sanity did not totally disappear, however, and I asked for time to consider this.  He said there is no hurry.

When I got home, I emailed the person I most respect in education:  Dr. John Henschke–my mentor, advisor, and friend.  I asked him to meet with me to discuss this idea.  John has taught adult education in 20 countries.  I know he will be able to guide me in asking the right questions and in doing the necessary research to verify whether or not I’ve discovered a shining star in my retirement sky.

When Oprah turned 50, she said she knew that her best work was yet to be done.  I always hoped that would be true for me as well.  This may or may not be the direction for me to take, but just think:  What if it is?

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Since the Christmas break, I’ve been spending most of my weekly tutoring time helping Ted with algebra and geometry.  Ted is 17 and has failed a number of classes, so he’s working on them in the Success School, as well as working at a job.

Ted told me he intends to study hard to achieve his high school diploma.  The classroom teacher told me Ted likes working with me and he feels like he’s finally “getting it.”  Today, he scored 100 percent on a chapter test, making this a very good day for Ted.

. . . And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why teachers teach.

Today, another teacher was using the closet-size room in which I usually tutor students, so I was put in the former “shop” classroom.  It’s a large room with a bare concrete floor, a high ceiling that includes ceiling-mounted electrical outlets for power tools, and a few amenities such as a desk, a table, and large plants under some of the windows.

It addition to other activities, the room is apparently used as a storage space, as evidenced by two dozen computer towers, extra folded tables, and a rolling rack filled with folding chairs.  Some of the more unusual items in the room included an antique large-screen classroom TV; an also-antique set of bound World Book encyclopedias; and scattered pieces of exercise equipment (a Nordictrack-type thing, a treadmill, a recumbent bike, and a yoga mat).

Even more unusual were the two gas grills and the washer/dryer–complete with detergent and the original energy use sticker.  You never know when you’ll want to fire up the grill and/or do your laundry between classes!

Treadmill and gas grills

Treadmill and gas grills

 

Washer and dryer

Washer and dryer–with energy sticker!