Closer Than We Think

Church signage during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am not sure if schools, churches, and other entities know how incredibly powerful the words they choose to put on their signs and marquees are, but they have a powerful platform. Aside from the hilarious grammar errors they sometimes provide, their messages are potentially life-changing. 

Moncks Corner

It seems like a lifetime ago now, and in a way, it was, but thirty years ago, I was in Moncks Corner visiting relatives, and a church sign read: 

“We Don’t See The World as it is; We See It as We Are.” 

The opposite side of the sign read, 

“The heart would hold no rainbow if the eyes held no tears.” 

I know what the opposite side of the sign said because I insisted that my fellow traveler turn the car around so that I could write the message down. I wanted to ponder it and knew I’d forget it if I didn’t write it down. (Remember, thirty years ago, cell phone cameras were non-existent; we even had to have pictures developed.)

The point, though, is that words matter. Through the years, I have used the first quote in every classroom I have had the privilege of teaching. 

It is hard to determine the originator of the quote. Although Steven Covey is given credit for it, from what I’ve been able to determine, the quote originated with Anias Nin, which is interesting because she was a French/Cuban/America essayist who wrote erotica. How her words ended up on that church sign is food for fodder, but the church’s intent was well-received. The fact that comments were selected from someone other than a Biblical scholar to promote their message is even more enlightening. Regardless, those words changed my view of the world and sent me into a mode of self-reflection that has lasted for thirty years.

Why Can’t They Understand?

My classroom requires critical thinking, and discussions abound. Sources are necessary with controversial topics, and respect is a must. Sometimes I believe the kids think I’m not prepared with a lesson and just want to “talk” to pass the time. While many discussions happen organically, I almost always have a quote, artwork, news article, or novel that prompts discussion, but boy can those topics change on a dime.

The commonality of most discussions is when students disagree on any topic (currently, that list includes vaccines, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, police officers, and anything else they don’t feel safe discussing anywhere else ), the conversation ends with a reminder from me, “We don’t see the world as it is, Class; we see it as we are.”

What They Don’t Know

Although many of my students have no clue who they are or who they want to become, they do not yet realize that if they are blessed with a long life what they believe will change drastically as the world turns. 

When we hold discussions, much of what I am hearing comes from their home environment. The rest comes from their friend groups. Sooner than students know, though, what they believe will come from the very core of their being, and they will understand what it means to see the world as they are, not necessarily as it is. 

I often ask adults if we are sure that we are helping our children become people who can sustain America. Are we helping them become adults who see the world through various experiences, or do we shelter them so that they become stuck in a past that time has left? Please don’t misunderstand; I know that the past influences the present, but the past makes the present better only for those willing to reflect upon it and make changes accordingly. 

How I See The World

A dear friend of mine reminded me just today of how I see the world. She said, “You always consider the humanity of all viewpoints – even wrong ones – and try to love everyone and listen to everyone even if you don’t agree with them.” That’s quite an accolade. (Thank you, my friend.) 

Her view of me will be hard for me to live up to, but she is right in this: I know that people do not come to believe something without having been through experiences that cause them to feel the way they do. Perhaps more importantly, they don’t hold onto “wrong” beliefs without having reinforcements to do so. 

This statement is true regardless of the topic. However, if we could ever learn empathy for the other person and communicate with genuine compassion and curiosity, we would be able to fix a lot that is wrong in America. 

I’ve been stuck in a mode of pondering since I started reading my students’ inquiry projects last week. One student chose Totalitarianism for the semester project. My student had read books like 1984 and The Girl with Seven Names which prompted her to choose this topic. Further, she revealed a suspected connection between America’s current race relations, cancel culture, protests, cell phone usage, cameras, and responses to protests with a turning point in America during our inquiry phase of the project. 

My student fears that turning point may end in Totalitarianism. This fear was not motivated by a political party or a religious belief. It was inspired by similarities found during the research portion of the project.

I did not assign that topic. I did not assign any topic. I gave students parameters, mainly concerning research requirements and documentation format, but they were free to choose anything they’d like to spend the semester learning more about. We spent time learning to “vet” sources and learning how to provide room for counterarguments, but the research topic was theirs to choose.

It was this student’s paper that reminded me of the church sign.

I don’t believe my student wants America to be a Totalitarian government. Quite the contrary. Instead, I see this student as an American who loves America – the good, the bad, and the indifferent — and wants it to remain free.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I came of age during the end of the Cold War. As such, I see conspiracy theories everywhere and have a healthy distrust for authority. But I cannot imagine who I would be today if I came of age during this pandemic, this social unrest, and the “me mentality.” That is what concerns me most about my students. If something doesn’t impact them personally, they see no reason to get involved. 

The problem is that at some point, if we all believe that way, there will be no one left to get involved, which reminds me of Martin Niemöller, the German Protestant preacher who also spoke words that changed my life when he wrote the poem, “First They Came for the Socialists.” 

He had a fascinating life and was the epitome of a “complicated character.” You can read more about why this matters in this Washington Post article, but he is a perfect example of how life changes us – and how we see the world as WE are rather than how it is.

So, where do we go from here? It depends on where we want to end up. We cannot sustain this current environment of discounting anyone who doesn’t look like us, love like us, or believe like us – whether those beliefs are religious or political.

Surely there is something we agree on and can start building towards. If not, the forces that have always wanted to destroy America may be closer than we think. 

Testing Season is Nearly Over

What is Testing Season?

Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi on Pexels.com

As we enter the last few weeks of school, two things are on pretty much everyone’s mind: testing and summer.

If you are an adult in the school system, you are either preparing students for some sort of exam and likely that exam is of the standardized test variety, or you are letting students know they will do well. So you are either a test proctor, monitor, or covering for someone who is a proctor or a monitor, or you are a student support person.

If you are a parent, you’re likely dealing with an anxious child who somehow believes their entire year comes down to how they score on one test.

If you are a student, you’re between an “I really don’t care,” and an “Oh my God, what if I don’t meet my goal?” mentality.

And to what end?

The Potential Impact

I have a friend whose son is in elementary school, and his school has completed all standardized tests and it awards day is complete. (For 2020-2021, that is an accomplishment it itself!)

This young man earned SEVEN awards – quite an accomplishment by anyone’s standards. School officials called his name and gave him certificates and celebrated him.

But do you know what he will remember? The popsicle party he did not get to attend.

And my friend’s son is not an entitled kid. He’s not upset about what he didn’t “get.” He’s concerned because to his classmates the popsicle party represents who is smart and who is not.

Many students do not know how difficult meeting or achieving a test goal is after a certain point. Even if parents understand that MAP is an adaptive test that gets harder with each correct answer and easier with each incorrect answer, sometimes they don’t recognize the difficulty in achieving a testing goal.

Adaptive testing is brilliant when it is used correctly, but I have not seen it used correctly in many years.

See, kids take this test from 5K – at least through the 8th grade, and they take it so frequently, and under so much pressure, that within a few years the test loses any value it had for the student.

What is worse is that they test so frequently in elementary grades that by the time the kids get to high school, many students see tests as unnecessary punishments, pure and simple. 

Tests feel like punishments because students were conditioned to view them this way in elementary school. 

For example, think of those end-of-the-year MAP score celebrations. I’ve hated them since my children were small, and see even less value in them now, because the kid who did his absolute best on the test and perhaps earned a high score was excluded from the celebration because his goal was not met. That exclusion translates to punishment for most children.

First, the party is really for the school. They want to see kids improve their scores so that they can rest assured that teachers, guidance counselors, and administrators did their jobs effectively, and since the test is ungraded, by itself, it offers no reward for the student. So, schools try to entice the kids to do their best by offering some external reward. And for many students, this method works, or they would not keep doing it.

Second, and more problematic though, is that one adaptive test, given on one day, stands to provide a lot of inaccurate self-judgment on the kid’s part.  They may have scored “off the charts” in many areas, but were one question off from the last time they took the test, and therefore, failed to meet their goals.

One Student’s Story

My friend’s son won seven awards, but what he remembers from that day is that he didn’t get a popsicle, like many of the other students because he didn’t exceed a standardized test score. I am sure he wondered at that point if anything he did that year mattered in light of that test/party.

And what is worse is that I am certain the school knows that there are cases where a student is at the top of the class and has mastered everything for the year, so the adaptive test presented more challenging questions that this student will not even be introduced to until next year, or possibly the next, so there is no way the student should be expected to meet a higher goal.

It is good information to have, no doubt. If he already knows the material, having a test to show that information is highly beneficial. 

However, withholding attendance at an end-of-the-year party, or not allowing him to have a popsicle with all of the other “smart kids,” potentially does more harm than good.

Fortunately, my friend’s son has exceptional parents who know how to turn an unfair situation into a character-building experience, and I can’t praise them enough for that. He also has adults who say, “Skip the popsicle, we’re celebrating you at Pelicans!” So my friend’s son will be no worse for the wear. 

But what about the kids who do not have that type of support? 

It is little wonder that we deal with such apathy by the time the kids get to high school.

The test is not without merit, but there has to be a better way than operating on an exclusion model to motivate students to do their best. 

I’m not saying that everyone needs a “participation trophy.” That’s a subject for another blog, and part of why we find ourselves in a sea of apathy today, but I am saying that elementary students should not be under such pressure. 

So What Did The School Get?

I’m only fifteen years into my career as an educator, but I know that the school lost more than it gained on that day. Sure, data was collected, but what good was the data? Some kids take the test seriously every time because that is just who they are. Others just click their way through the test whether they know the material or not. These actions mean that at best, the data is skewed. 

Schools (and politicians) want to know if the school did its job in preparing students for the next grade, and that is a question they deserve an answer to, but is standardized testing a plausible way to garner that information?

Can they receive accurate information if a group of students takes the test without trying? Can they receive accurate information if students just do not test well? Can they receive that information if the students have their minds on some problem that happened on the bus or at home, and they can’t concentrate on the test?

Until students become intrinsically motivated, and until schools and communities can begin to work harmoniously towards the same goal, kids like my friend’s son will continue to suffer at the hands of a system that desperately wants to help him.

My Idea?

Let kids be kids. 

Reinstate nap time and sensory play in pre-school – kindergarten. 

Work on reading, basic math, social skills, and character-building, but do not give those kids a single test. 

Instead, ask the teacher if the student has accomplished what was necessary, and then accept that answer and help those who need more help and promote those who are ready. I bet there will be greater success for all students if teachers could build a community of learners and then teach them rather than worrying about preparing them for a test that will not matter at the end of the day.

Celebrate what they know and motivate them (without excluding them) to want to learn what they don’t know. 

Test them, if you must, at the end of 2nd or 3rd grade and use that as a benchmark that is revisited once a year. Or operate on a pre/post test model. Test them as the enter and then as they leave the grade, but stop all of these mid-point checks.

If you trust your teachers and give them the tools necessary and the freedom desired to teach, those kids will soar because most teachers are totally invested in their students, not because student success or failure reflects on the teacher, but rather because teachers love their students and they value an educated society. 

Work on mindset and intrinsic motivation from the beginning, and give students (and staff)  the mental health support they need at all levels of school.

Then, follow Finland’s model. Test them once before they leave school and marvel in the outcome.

Can You Keep a Travel Trailer Cool in the South Carolina Heat?

Note: I have upgraded my Amazon account to an affiliate link account, so if you purchase something using any of the following links I may make a small commission.

Austin’s Happy Place

When I was a little girl, I was convinced that there was no place hotter than my daddy’s half-acre garden. As he accumulated more land and begin cleaning it, I knew I’d been wrong. There was no place hotter than land you’re trying to clear. As an adult, I realized that the hottest place in the world has got to be a hay field, but a travel trailer baking in the South Carolina sun has to be a close second to any hayfield, garden, or land clearing.

Cooling a travel trailer is no easy feat, but it can be done using tricks of the trade like camper placement, insulation, and skirting.

Can You Keep a Travel Trailer Cool?

Those who know me avoid me when it is hot. I’m a miserable, sweaty, angry mess when South Carolina turns on the heat and humidity. Those who want to spend time with me during the summer opt for visiting near large bodies of water, swimming pools, or in air conditioning that could make a snowman shiver.

Yet, I go camping – all summer long. (And my husband still enjoys the trips.)

I’ll be the first to admit, cooling a travel trailer is no easy feat. First, you’re dealing with little, if any insulation, the materials manufacturers use beckon the sun, and the air conditioning units are never sufficient. But all is not lost. Here are some things we’ve tried or plan to try this summer.

  1. Be Selective About Where You Park. Wherever your largest windows are, make sure they are facing north, this way, when the sun sets, you are in the shade. Also, request a spot with plenty of shade.
  2. Have Your Windows Tinted – all of them. Travel Trailers come with lots of windows that do not open. They are great for viewing majestic scenery but do nothing for helping you cool your rig. Anyone who tints car windows can tint travel trailer windows. We used Unique Visions in Rock Hill, but any company that tints windows could do the work. This trick alone has provided a measurable difference for us.
  3. Tint the windows Yourself – This is not an option our marriage would have survived, but it seems easy enough to do. You might check out the following Amazon products:
    1. Protint Windows 5% Shade. This product allows you to select between a 5% and 50% visual light transmission, but there are many other products you might choose.
    2. Heat Control Window Film – This option is nice because it offers daytime privacy and there is no glue involved. Static cling is the magic that makes this product work. 
  4. Use a Door Window Shade Amazon has two shades we like. The first is an RV Door Window Cover Reflective shade and the other is the Latch.IT RV Door Window Shade. Both are easily installed in under two minutes and they work equally well.
  5. Cover Your Vents. This was the single greatest investment we made after tinting our windows. The temperature difference in the trailer was noticeable within 5 minutes. It may not seem like it, but the heat coming in through the skylights and bathroom vents is incredible. We bought ours at Camping World, but Amazon sells them cheaper. Try these models: Camco RV Vent Insulator or the VanEssential Magnetic Insulated Roof Vent Cover.
  6. Insulate Your Travel Trailer. Austin was surprised at how easy this task actually was. For underneath the rig, we chose the SilveRboard R-5 from Lowes for the area underneath the bed. Next weekend we will use Amazon’s EZ Cool RV Vehicle Insulation for the area behind the couch. In our trailer this space is a dead area, but boy does it trap the heat.
  7. Use a WindSkirt. We have not tried this idea yet, but will when we retire and can camp for longer periods of time. I’m considering trying this RV WindSkirt available on Amazon.
  8. Invest in Sun Shades. This option is our next big purchase and though we have not decided on which model we’ll use, here is a picture of an Amazon product I’m referring to. It’s the Shade Pro Vista Shade for the awning. I have seen many campers use these shades to create an outdoor room and plan to do the same for our trip to OceanLakes Campground this summer.
  9. Get A Dehumidifier. Space is always at a premium in the travel trailer, and this option is not for every camper, but considering my extreme aversion to heat and humidity, this LONOVE Dehumidifier seems like a worthy contender for space. I’ll let you know if Austin goes for it. 

Why Camp When It’s So Hot?

Some people only camp during Spring and Fall, while others camp year-round. In South Carolina, we are fortunate enough to have mild winters, so we seldom have to winterize the camper and can often take off camping whenever we feel like it, but camping in the heat is HARD.

We do it though, because we love the camping life. Most often our electronics are seldom used and we get to see amazing sights, experience incredible things, and get to know each other better with every trip. Granted, Austin likes me much better in every season except summer, but that’s why I’m writing this blog. Where there is a will, there is always a way.

Lessons Kids Learn From Spectators

Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com

First Impressions

When I make new acquaintances and they learn that I am a high school teacher, there is always a mixture of awe and a little pity in their responses. Most often I hear, “Bless you, Dear. I don’t know how you deal with all that attitude and disrespect.” 

Years ago I would take up for my students. Today, well, after reflecting upon an incident that happened a few weeks ago, I have more reason to ask myself, “Why are you teaching teenagers?” 

Perhaps it is that I still believe teachers can make a difference. Maybe I believe that coaches can get through where adults and other teachers can’t. Maybe I have seen it work when parents and teachers, staff and coaches work together and a kid many have given up on turns around in a magnificent way, and I’m addicted to that scenario.

Most likely I stick with it because I feel that to quit would be to give up on what could be the greatest, most accepting, and most progressive generation of all time. Lord knows we’ve given them a lot of mistakes to learn from. Whatever the reason, still, I teach.

They Had Help Getting Here

The thing that always confuses me about this disapproval of teenagers is that the kids didn’t get to these levels of attitude and disrespect overnight or by themselves. Somebody has had at least fifteen years of pouring into them (or perhaps not) before they ever reach high school.

Still, somehow, at least much of the time, turning teenagers into respectful, productive members of society falls squarely on the shoulders of teachers. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard adults say, “Well when you look at what they learn in school…” or “That’s what happens when you take prayer out of schools.” Really? Can people really believe first that kids who are taught to pray at home don’t pray in school, or that they learn and adopt their disrespectful behavior in the 180 days a year schools have them?

Sportsmanship and Spectators

I think of those who pour their lives into our kids, and my husband is an excellent example. He has coached YMCA soccer since my oldest daughter was four, and she is twenty-five now. Even when our children aged out of the program, he saw how beneficial Y soccer was, and recruited our youngest daughter to help him coach and referee games. That’s when she “saw the light.”

YMCA soccer is not about winning, or even teaching soccer skills, though both are valuable components of the program. The main benefit to YMCA soccer is that the program focuses on sportsmanship.

For example, today my husband’s team played against a team that has a special needs player who has yet to score a goal.  My husband talked to the child’s coach and to his own team and everyone was excited to make sure this young player scored a goal today. 

No one cared about the score in that game because everyone had already won the moment that ball went into the goal. That act of sportsmanship – of allowing children to see what it feels like to take care of others – was life-changing for some.

How Spectators Teach Life Lessons

Later today though, everyone on the field – parents, coaches, referees, and players –  lost when spectators started arguing with a referee. Through the years there have been spectators, and even coaches, who have taken the program to levels it was never designed for. Still, today was eye-opening for me. 

It Starts with Parking 

The YMCA relies on generous companies to donate fields for children to play soccer on. But drivers must honor the company’s parking rules. The businesses do not stop on Saturdays for soccer, so their employees and delivery personnel must have somewhere to park. This is why there are “No Parking” signs and cones in certain places.

The lessons for our kids begin the moment spectators chose to disregard no parking signs and move cones. Though seemingly harmless, this action actually exposes a blatant disregard for players, other spectators, referees, and for the companies who graciously donate the space.

Then the lessons move to how the spectators treat other teams and adults , most notably referees during the game. 

Now, I’m not saying refs always call it right. Believe me, I have called Austin on a call a time or two myself, but never in anger, and never with disrespect. In fact, grumbling about a call is all in good fun and part of all sports games. Verbally attacking the refs week after week, though, is quite another thing. 

And this type of behavior isn’t an isolated event. Our youngest daughter stopped refereeing, in part, for this unreasonable behavior.  After two seasons of being yelled at by spectators, she opted to spend her free time doing something else.

The Lesson

But what is all of this teaching our kids? You can be sure they are watching.

When drivers get out of their cars to and move the no parking zone cones and children watch adults do this, it teaches a lesson: Rules are to be followed as long as they are not inconvenient. 

When spectators attack coaches and referees, the kids learn that respect is optional…and that is respect for self and others. These spectators can’t respect themselves or their kids and behave in such a manner, and that attitude morphs as the kids get older.

Two things are true when raising kids.

  1. They will find and most often follow the path you thought you covered up.
  2. If it won’t be cute at 12, you’d better not let it happen at 2…so don’t show them how to do it.

The Idea that Respect Is Earned

Respect doesn’t die overnight, and it is not earned overnight, but to live in a productive, safer society where guns are used for recreation rather than settling differences, some things must be agreed upon.

For example, adults do not deserve admiration and respect by virtue of age, but to disrespect someone you do not even know says more about you than it does about the person you are disrespecting. And when kids show disrespect to referees, coaches, teachers, etc., it often says a lot about what they saw while growing up.

I don’t blame the kids. During such a time of life when hormones are changing, responsibilities are more apparent, and realizations about life are being made, who can blame kids for  responding in anger? Most often they are repeating behavior that has been modeled for them, they just do not have the finesse adults have when they do it.

The Solution

Enjoy the moment on the soccer field and realize that no one on that field is out to get your kid. Most are volunteers who see value in community service; they are not there to make sure the other team wins.

But neither are they professional coaches or referees and they will most certainly make bad calls, but that is where you can become the problem, or create a lesson. Imagine a high school where all students there had parents who used bad calls made on the little league field as a way to teach them that sometimes life is unfair; sometimes bad calls get made.

I remember when one of my daughters lost a middle school student body president election to the quarterback of their football team. It was so unfair. It was a bad call on the part of the student body and the adults in charge, but all they could do then was change requirements the next year making attendance and participation in the office for which you are running mandatory.

That year, though, the quarterback never attended even one meeting, but do you know who did? My oldest daughter also did the work that year and that action didn’t pay off for her in any way, at least not immediately. But four years later when she needed letters of recommendation, those teachers remembered my daughter’s character and wrote letters that earned her serious scholarship money. 

When my daughter grappled with the unfairness of it all, I could have raised sand at the school. I could have grumbled at the dinner table every night, and no one would have blamed me. I could have let her quit and move onto something else, and at the time, she would have thanked me. Instead, we took a bad call and used it to build character. I wish other adults would do the same.

Life isn’t easy, but we can make it easier for our kids if we’d just be the adults we want them to grow up to be.

Politicians and Their Word Choices

Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

Two Dollar Words

I love the English language. It is so easy to add words, change the meanings of words, and use the same word to mean vastly different things. It is also hysterical to watch someone find what my daddy called a $2.00 word to express what a $.02 word would say better. 

Lately, how our politicians use words has run the gamut between hilarity and a cause for concern. While their word choices are often suitable for comic relief, it is the lack of forethought many of our political leaders have for their constituents today that surprises me. I’m not sure why I keep holding out hope for just one to do the right thing, but I digress.

Is ‘ridiculosity’ a Word?

Sometimes our leaders’ lack of concern for their constituents does more than surprise me. In fact, it often angers me, and sometimes, well, it scares me. The most recent example is reported in  Zak Koeske’s article in The State, “McMaster calls it ‘ridiculous’ that SC students are forced to wear masks at school.” As is popular today, Governor McMaster tweeted his own word, “ridiculosity,” which, by the way, is a word, while pandering for votes. 

Governor McMaster said, I paraphrase, that it is ridiculous to require students to wear masks at school. However, I’d be willing to bet that if the tides were for wearing masks, his stance most assuredly would have been it is ridiculous for schools not to require masks.  

Many Agree with the Governor

Quite honestly, many of you will agree with the governor’s statement. I respect your disagreement and would fight for your right to disagree–as long as we could have an honest conversation addressing why we differ and then work together towards agreeing on how to handle decisions that pertain to public health. We may never fully agree, but we would both walk away with a better understanding of the other side and quite possibly find an excellent compromise.

This issue should not be an “us” versus “them” matter. It should be a “Let’s do what is in the best interest of public health and when in doubt, err on the side of caution” matter.

I am a fully vaccinated teacher. My husband is fully vaccinated, and most of my friend group is fully vaccinated. It is so comforting to be able to hug my mom. I love knowing I can now spend time with my daughter, who is an ICU nurse who has fought to save lives this entire pandemic. I feel safe regularly spending time with my youngest daughter and only granddaughter. 

But that is where the problem arises. My granddaughter is only three. She cannot get vaccinated, and Covid-19 does not care.

Freedom and Personal Choice

I am all about freedom and personal choice. I believe in state’s rights. I believe no one knows a child better than the child’s mom. But I also know that while most parents agree on what is best, the few who do not agree often have the loudest voice.

This statement seems especially true during a pandemic that happens once every 100 years. 

So let’s be clear, none of us know how to navigate this pandemic; however, erring on the side of caution seems prudent for everyone. Even when it makes us uncomfortable, relying on science is best for all concerned, even those, like me, who find masks uncomfortable.

Why Have Schools Been the “safest” Place to Be?

The governor says schools have been the safest place to be, but could that be because students, at least in the beginning, were kept apart either through hybrid school days or online learning, and those who were in the school were required to wear masks? Weren’t teachers cleaning after every class? Weren’t entire buildings being deep-cleaned once a week?

Weren’t most of the outbreaks we saw due to athletic events or extracurricular activities where masks could not or would not be worn?

This sudden outcry to stop requiring masks seems ludicrous at best, deadly at worst. People are actually purchasing billboards to spread their message that masks should now be voluntary in schools. The prevailing argument seems to be because teachers who want the vaccine have been vaccinated. But what about our kids? No vaccine is approved for children under twelve, and many families who have vaccinated sixteen-year-olds also have unvaccinated ten-year-olds.

I’m not sure why I expect our governor to be a voice of reason. He has kept us in the highest US rate of Covid-19 cases for many months of this pandemic. But right now, he’s speaking for (or against?) our children who have no voice in his decision. Sure, teachers who wanted to have finally received the vaccine, but our students have not. A strong leader, one who cared about people over position, would explain the plight of our children and end with, “And so we wear masks a little longer.”

This governor’s statement that this decision should be left to the parents shows that he has no clue what he is talking about. If left up to the parents and parents require masks, students who do not want to wear masks will simply say their parents don’t want them to wear masks. I can’t tell you how often a parent reports that the dress code violation they pick their children up for was not what the child was wearing when they left their home.

Leaving this choice up to anyone besides science and the people who are IN THE BUILDING EVERY DAY is asking for more divisions, continued outbreaks, and a longer pandemic.

The belief wreaks of weak leadership.

It wreaks of disregard for others.

It is evidence of a governor who needs to surround himself with people who do not think as he does because it takes many sides to make the best decision.

What the Pandemic Has Taught

One of my colleagues posted a Tweet last week that describes this situation best. Someone asked this question: “What is one thing the pandemic has taught you that you will never forget.” 

Kat Arnet, a person I do not know but whose answer totally admire, responded, “There are two types of people: those who believe in doing what’s best for everyone even if it means personal sacrifice, and those who see their own inconvenience as unacceptable no matter what.” 

Sadly, SC’s leadership seems to be the latter type, but do we really want to live in a world and teach our children to become people who behave as though the only way to make a decision is to choose what is convenient, profitable, or popular?

I don’t like wearing masks. From a teaching standpoint, they make it take longer to figure out which of my students “get it” and who needs more help. It takes longer to see if someone is having a bad day, and the dang things are hot. 

But all of those negatives can be overcome. For one thing, transparent face masks are available, and that appears to be a suitable compromise. For those who find masks uncomfortable and hot, mask stands work well. (I use them.) A strong leader will talk to all concerned and determine how to compromise on the issue without compromising safety. 

At the End of the Day

We have about six weeks left in a school year that has been hard by even the most generous standards, but we have students back in the classroom, which the majority of the state needed. (Who knew that so much of the US economy rested on teacher’s shoulders?)

August will be a time to revisit this topic, but for now, the virus is still very active. Covid cases in schools are rising, even if they aren’t being reported. Remember, many people can treat the symptoms of the virus at home, so they do not report it, but what about the people they come into contact with who face debilitating symptoms?

I can be inconvenienced for those people. I can wear my mask for my students, my school, and my state even if the governor believes requiring masks in school is “ridiculosity.” What is ridiculous is understanding human behavior and then making a statement like that which has a great potential of impacting public health – my granddaughter’s health.

Keep the masks on, even if you don’t believe they work. Science has proven that they work in keeping all kinds of viruses away, not just Covid-19, so why would we require that students attend school, require them to adhere to dress codes, bell schedules, classroom rules, and all the rest, but call it “ridiculous” to require them to wear masks during a pandemic?

Closer Than We Think

I am not sure if schools, churches, and other entities know how incredibly powerful the words they choose to put on their signs and marquees are, but they have a powerful platform. Aside from the humorous puns and hilarious grammar errors they sometimes provide, their messages are potentially life-changing. 

My First Meaningful Encounter with a Church Sign

It seems like a lifetime ago now, and in a way, it was, but thirty years ago, I was in Moncks Corner visiting relatives, and saw a church sign that read: 

“We Don’t See The World as it is; We See It as We Are.” 

The opposite side of the sign read, 

“The heart would hold no rainbow if the eyes held no tears.” 

I know what the opposite side of the sign said because I insisted that my fellow traveler turn the car around so that I could write the sign’s message down. I wanted to ponder it and knew I’d forget it if I didn’t write it down. (Remember, thirty years ago, cell phone cameras were non-existent; we had to have pictures developed, so paper and pencil was always handy.)

The point, though, is that words matter. Through the years, I have used the first quote on that church sign in nearly every classroom I have had the privilege of teaching. 

It is hard to determine the originator of the quote. Although Steven Covey is often given credit for it, from what I’ve been able to determine, the quote originated with Anias Nin, which is interesting because she was a French/Cuban/America essayist who wrote erotica. How her words ended up on that church sign is food for fodder, but the church’s intent was well-received. The fact that comments were selected from someone other than a Biblical scholar to promote their message is even more enlightening. Regardless, those words changed my view of the world and sent me into a mode of self-reflection that has lasted for thirty years.

Before They Understand

My classroom requires critical thinking, and discussions abound. Sources are necessary with controversial topics, and respect is a must. Sometimes I believe the kids think I’m not prepared with a lesson and just want to “talk” to pass the time. While many discussions happen organically, I almost always have a quote, artwork, news article, or novel that prompts discussion, but boy can those topics change on a dime.

The commonality of most discussions is when students disagree on any topic (currently, that list includes vaccines, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, police officers, and anything else they don’t feel safe discussing anywhere else ), but the conversation ends with a reminder from me, “We don’t see the world as it is, Class; we see it as we are.”

What They Don’t Know

Frankly many of my students have no clue who they are or who they want to become, and we have all been in that state. Further, they do not yet realize that if they are blessed with a long life, what they believe will change drastically as the world turns. 

Therefore, when we hold discussions, I realize that much of what I am hearing comes from their home environment. The rest comes from their friend groups. Sooner than students know, though, what they believe will come from the very core of their being, and then they will understand what it means to see the world as they are, not necessarily as it is. 

Because of my close relationships with youth in America, I often ask adults if we are sure that we are helping our children become people who can sustain America. Are we helping them become adults who see the world and various situations through compassion and empathy, or do we shelter them so that they see the world only as we do?

How I See The World

A dear friend of mine reminded me just today of how I see the world. She said, “You always consider the humanity of all viewpoints – even wrong ones – and try to love everyone and listen to everyone even if you don’t agree with them.” That’s quite an accolade. (Thank you, my friend. May I grow into that person!) 

This view will be hard for me to live up to, but she is right in this: I know that people do not come to believe something without having been through experiences that cause them to feel the way they do. Perhaps more importantly, they don’t hold onto “wrong” beliefs without having reinforcements to do so. 

This statement is true regardless of the topic. However, if we could ever learn empathy for the other person and communicate with genuine compassion and curiosity, we would be able to fix a lot that is wrong in America. 

Where Is this Coming from, Nonnie?

I’ve been stuck in a mode of pondering since I started reading my students’ inquiry projects last week. One student chose Totalitarianism for the semester project. This student had read books like 1984 and The Girl with Seven Names that prompted this topic. Further, during the inquiry conference, my student revealed a suspected connection between America’s current race relations, cancel culture, protests, cell phone usage, cameras, and responses to protests with a turning point in America. Determining the possibility of a connection was the inquiry. 

To my student, that turning point may end in Totalitarianism. This fear was not motivated by a political party or a religious belief. It was inspired by similarities found during the research portion of the project.

I did not assign that topic. I did not assign ANY topic. I gave students parameters, mainly concerning research requirements and documentation format, but they were free to choose anything they’d like to spend the semester learning more about. We spent time learning to “vet” sources and learning how to provide room for counterarguments, but the research topic was theirs to choose.

It was this student’s paper that reminded me of the church sign.

I don’t believe my student wants America to be a Totalitarian government. Quite the contrary. Instead, I see this student as an American who loves America – the good, the bad, and the indifferent — and wants it to remain free.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I came of age during the end of the Cold War. As such, I see conspiracy theories everywhere and have a healthy distrust for authority. But I cannot imagine who I would be if I came of age during this pandemic, this social unrest, and the prevalent “me mentality.” That is what concerns me most about most my students. If something doesn’t impact them personally, they see no reason to get involved. 

The problem is that at some point, if we all believe that way, there will be no one left to get involved, which reminds me of Martin Niemöller, the German Protestant preacher who also spoke words that changed my life when I first read his poem, “First They Came for the Socialists.” 

Niemöller, had a fascinating life and was the epitome of a “complicated character.” You can read more about why this matters in this Washington Post article, from 2016, but he is a perfect example of how life changes us – and how we see the world as WE are rather than how it is.

So, where do we go from here? It depends on where we want to end up. We cannot sustain this current environment of discounting anyone who doesn’t look like us, love like us, or believe like us – whether those beliefs are religious or political. Divided, we fall.

Surely there is something we agree on and can start building towards. If not, the forces that have always wanted to destroy America may be closer than we think. 

On Camping, Politics, and Learning

A Memory

Austin and I have not been camping a lot since the pandemic began. We are gearing up for an active camping season, but I reviewed some of the camping blogs I started through the years and never finished, searching for ideas for this week’s post, and came upon one from when we camped in a stock trailer. 

Now camping in a stock trailer (minus the horses) is an experience all by itself and perhaps why I’m not really picky about accommodations. Still, since I never published this memory, I thought readers might enjoy it now. It was written back in 2014, and the similarities to 2021 are uncanny. Enjoy.

Background for This Story

Camping in a state park is a fun experience that all Americans should try at least once. People from all walks of life frequent state parks making these parks a microcosm of society. I observe and learn a lot during any weekend spent camping.

This weekend, for instance, I learned that flies have a way of bonding people. I’ve been to Lee State Park before to camp and ride horses and never had an issue with flies. However, this time, we must have hit breeding season this weekend because when I say flies were an issue, I mean flies in biblical proportions descended upon us, making outside activities, well, miserable.

To be clear, I live in a rural part of South Carolina. My next-door neighbors are cows, and I have horses in my backyard. I’m used to flies. I’m used to getting rid of flies too. I’m not, however, accustomed to swarms of flies being everywhere I turn. I have never seen so many flies in my life as I did at Lee State Park this weekend. Those flies, however, created many relationships.

My “camper” is a 4-horse bumper pull that has been converted to a sleep-in, two-horse bumper pull. We have a bed and an air conditioner in the “sleeping quarters.” The bed is a metal frame with an air mattress on it. We cook and entertain ourselves outside and are usually quite happy with this setup. 

The people camping across from me had a $500,000 bus/RV for their accommodations. They were in their 60s/70s and camping with grandchildren. My husband and I are in our 40s/50s, and we were camping with our youngest daughter. There was not a lot in common between us, and it wasn’t just the age or accommodations. Our fellow campers were Clemson fans and worked at a Clemson Extension Office while we are diehard Gamecock fans. If you are from South Carolina, this fact alone explains the differences. But those flies, boy, did they brought us together.

Our fellow camper walked over to see if we were having the same fly issue that he was having, and when he learned that we were, the bond was instantaneous. He outfitted his rig with house fly spray, a fogger, and some flypaper. (It seemed he’d done this before.) I’m a seasoned camper and have NEVER experienced flies of this magnitude, so we had many provisions for any number of possible mishaps. Still, a biblical plague of flies had never made my list of things to prepare for.

A Friendship is Forged

After our camping neighbor got his site prepared for battle, he brought us some of his fly remedies, and a friendship was forged. I’m not naive. I know that he was fully aware that if he could help us keep flies away from our property, he benefited as well, but these flies were EVERYWHERE, so his reason for coming to our aide did not matter.

We learned a lot from this 71-year-old man. It’s amazing what you can learn when you engage in conversation with people. While I didn’t share all of his political views, I sure appreciated how he came to have them. We talked as his grandchildren bonded with Valerie, and that is how we were able to stay for the weekend. Valerie was invited to stay in their camper, so my “city girl” was no longer begging to go home.

Where We Are Today

I don’t know where this man is today, or even if he is still alive. His granddaughter and Valerie remained friends for a few years and are still “Facebook” friends, but I’m not sure if they ever really talk to each other anymore. But the lessons this man taught me that weekend are worth revisiting today – during this pandemic.

The Haves and the Have Nots

There is no question that the United States is in a crisis. The middle class seems to be eradicated; in terms of politics, we are polarized; authority is met with distrust. The right side won’t listen to the left, people are judged as worthy (or not) by their political affiliations, and maintaining friendships has become complex – and it’s not because of the Covid. The pandemic was just the catalyst. America has been headed in this direction for many years.

The only question is, do we love America enough to turn this thing around, or are we hellbent on becoming the thing we hate? I fear the latter.

Another Microcosm

My fear for what can happen to America if we don’t find a way to unite was heightened this week when I returned to the face-to-face classroom. The landscape is vastly different. People I once held in high esteem are different, as am I. We are cordial to one another but guarded. 

Just like the communities we represent, schools everywhere have the maskers and the anti-maskers, the “covid is real,” verses, “everyone dies of something” group, and we have the vaccinated and those who are either convinced the vaccine is a conspiracy of some kind, or waiting to see if the rest of us are adversely affected before protecting themselves.

Like the campground, high school is a microcosm of society, and the thing is, on some level, we could all be right. That is what makes this so scary.

Students seem defeated. If my classes are any barometer, most believe that America has seen the best days it will ever see. For them, the Roaring Twenties that followed the Spanish Flu cannot be repeated. Economic destruction is imminent.

There is a level of disrespect in the hallways that I have never before encountered, and support is divided because no one seems to know the right thing to do. 

I can’t blame the kids; the adults in the building follow vastly different policies. To be sure, we have one district policy, but as with everything else in life, that policy is interpreted more loosely by some than others. 

So Teacher A allows students to remain maskless in the classroom, but Teacher B requires masks. The policy states that this difference in classroom mask policy is ok. Face covers can be removed when social distancing is possible, and the teacher decides if social distancing is possible.

Masks are required in the hallways, but students without masks or with masks worn incorrectly walk by teacher A without comment, but the same student encounters Teacher B and gets reminded to wear the mask correctly. The problem is that the students are angry. Their right of passage – high school parties, football games, concerts, competitions, etc., — has been canceled or vastly changed. 

Therefore, many respond to anyone who corrects them with disrespect by either pulling up the mask until passing said teacher or saying something disrespectful and refusing to wear the mask. Their compliance or noncompliance is, after all, the only thing they can control. 

Again, I don’t blame the student. The adults, the district, parents, and even the state disagree on what needs to be done to defeat this virus, and there are still a handful of people who believe the whole thing is just political.

The Hope

All is not lost. There are sparks of hope in my classroom when we discuss the future, and while those sparks are often quickly dashed by classmates whose conviction that America is doomed is stronger than the hope of others, their teacher has always found the good in things when the good was not around. 

So we keep talking. We keep digging. We keep asking questions. Sometimes they respond in incredibly insightful ways. Other times they sit and stare, but they know they have a voice.

My class requires critical thinking, compelling argument, and diligent research strategies. Sources are vetted, and this requirement and lessons on how to vet sources are probably their most valuable lesson.

Most things are open for discussion, and all participants are required to treat each other with respect no matter how vehemently they may disagree. If I teach them nothing else, I want them to learn to discuss complex topics with the aim of coming to an agreeable outcome where neither party wins all, but everyone compromises and walks away with a better understanding of the other side. Only then will they learn to develop the tools it takes to find solutions that benefit all.

Even though I have no answers for them, and even fewer answers for myself on how to handle the disrespect and disregard for others that seems to be a common thread in all of America today, I’m reminded of the 71-one-year-old man that we met at Lee State Park. I laugh at how we fought a common enemy – those flies. At that point, our political beliefs didn’t matter. The sports team we pulled for was a non-issue, and the fact that we were from different parts of the state was of little consequence. We had flies to get rid of.

I hate to admit that seven years later, I have no idea how we dealt with those flies, but I still remember my seventy-one-year-old camping friend. 

I hope that is what happens with America. Years from now, we’ll look back and forget the pain, remember the lesson, and rise stronger, more empathetic, and more united than before.

Sources

“Lee State Park, SC 1” by Mzuriana is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

When My Husband and I Disagree

https://images.app.goo.gl/Tq58ECPVjTLVP1A6A

There are occasions when even the most compatible couples find themselves enthralled in a massive disagreement. It does not matter if those couples have been together for two months or 70 years; if the relationship is healthy, there will be disagreements. 

I say this because while we all want to live in complete harmony, we do not operate with one brain, and as close as couples are, no one fully understands another person’s thoughts. If there are no disagreements, it is likely that one person is just saying whatever it takes to keep the peace.

So, it’s a good thing that Austin has never been threaten by a strong woman with her own opinions, and it is equally good that I cherish examining the “other side” of situations. Otherwise, we’d have never made it to almost twenty-three years because in many ways, Austin and I see the world through VASTLY different lenses.

However, Austin allows me to be myself, and I respect his need to have his thoughts as well – even when he’s wrong – and he affords me the same respect.

I say that with a smile because the fact is that I almost always get his point, just as he often gets mine. Sadly, though, this isn’t a post about keeping open lines of communication in a marriage.

This post is my attempt at coming to grips with the fact that my hometown is in the midst of grieving over a massacre that changed the face of families and the town for generations to come. I did not know Dr. Robert Lesslie and his family, the Shook family, or the Lewis family, nor did I know Philip Adams, the alleged gunman or his family. 

But I am a daughter, a mother, an aunt, a friend, and a neighbor. I am shocked that events like this happen anywhere, especially in Rock Hill, SC, and like many here, I’m forced to enter the realm of asking Why? I’m forced to grapple with God’s plan. I’m forced to try to reckon with the fragility of life.

From what I can understand based on statements in news reports, comments made by friends, and from social media posts, everyone involved in this tragedy was good – and that is where Austin and I disagree. It is also where many of my readers will disagree with me. No one can kill five people and leave one holding on to life and be called “good.” That is the very definition of “evil.” And I agree. The act was pure evil. 

A husband and a wife woke up on April 8, 2021, dealing with the loss of not only their parents but of their children as well. My mind cannot go to the depths of grief they are trapped in. The entire Lesslie family is forever changed, and there is no answer to the heart-piercing question: why?

Parents of James Lewis, a single father who was working to support his three children, lost their son and are now forced to simultaneously deal with the unimaginable grief of losing a child and their enormous responsibility of helping their grandchildren understand a world in which this could happen. Yet we know as well as they do that this loss is something that can never be explained. 

Robert Shook’s wife and three children are likely holding a vigil at the hospital, praying that at least one be allowed to survive–that one person might provide the slightest hint of an answer. That one family may be left whole, even if forever changed.

Two other parents woke up to another life as well. Their son, Phillip Adams, is the only suspect named in the massacre, and he killed himself, taking any answer anyone might provide with him. The baby Mrs. Adams brought home from the hospital and nurtured into a man who a friend of the family told the Charlotte Observer had plans in motion to give back to Rock Hill by starting a business to provide healthy food to families who can’t afford it, instead left a small town forever changed, families forever broken, and children perpetually confused.

So, I understand when my husband says that Philip Adams was evil, and I readily admit that I do not know how I would respond if this were my family. Would I grant forgiveness and compassion, or would I seek vengeance? 

Austin, well, he’s a good man, but he would seek vengeance because there is no justice to be found here. And that is where we disagree. Austin will never understand how I can be so angry at a situation, so confused by an action, and so grieved for my hometown and still say that I also hurt for the gunman and his family.

But isn’t that what the Lesslie family has asked us to do? To “….honor all of those involved in this story with prayers and compassion specifically for the Shook family, the Lewis family, and the Adams family”? 

The world this family speaks to is the world I want to live in. I know I couldn’t be as strong as to seek prayers and compassion for someone who took so much from me, but I am thankful to live in a world where others can be that strong.

On April 7, Evil manifested itself. On April 8, Good answered in a statement from the family and an outpouring of love and support for everyone involved. So, while I understand Austin’s outrage, I pray one day, he’ll understand my compassion. 

We need someone to blame for this, and there is no one left to blame. We need answers for this tragedy, and no one is left to provide them. We need to know that this was something that will never happen again, and no one can give us that reassurance. We are hurting, and if we will admit it, we are scared. If this tragedy can happen to them, it can happen to us. There seems little that we can do other than pray and hope.

But there is more we can do. We can listen to Dr. Lesslie’s words from an interview he did in 2009 concerning his book series, Angels in the ER. In that interview, he had said, “We’re all God’s children. If you lose that belief in the ER, you can become cynical, disenchanted, and mean-spirited. For me, that’s where faith comes in.” We can fight against becoming cynical, disenchanted, and mean-spirited and instead become the good that we want to see in the world.

I do not understand any of this. But I hope that we can live in a world that is as Dr. Lesslie knew it could be, a world where we love each other, take care of one another, and find the good in others.

What is a Ghostwriter?

Ghostwriting

A Student’s Question

My students and I were talking during our online class session about ways to make money with writing. This question is often asked, primarily by students who want to show me that freshman composition is yet another class they have to take that they will never use again. I give them the standard answer: You never stop needing to write, and money is often at stake with everything you write. Think about the following:

  • Scholarship letters
  • Demands for payment
  • Requests for refunds
  • Resumes
  • Cover Letters
  • Advertising
  • Short Stories
  • Blogs
  • Ghostwriting

The last one intrigues students nearly every time they throw this “How can I make money doing this” question at me. This class’s answer, though, had me wondering what I’ve gotten myself into with my recent ghostwriting gig.

One of my more challenging students said, “Mrs. Dawkins, um, is that plagiarism?”

The English teacher in me soared. He GOT IT!!! All of these weeks that we’ve spent researching and writing papers while adhering to MLA formatting rules were not in vain. He knows what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. But his innocent question caught me off guard, so I had to determine if I’m aiding and abetting plagiarists with this new, fun, and profitable side gig I have going on.

So What Is A Ghostwriter?

In short, it is when freelance writers pour their heart and soul into a piece of writing and allow another person to receive all of the credit for it.

Freelance Writing defines a ghostwriter as “writers for hire who are paid but receive none of the credit for the work produced.”

As many as three parties may be involved in the working relationship: the freelance writer, or the “ghost,” the author, who hires the ghost and receives all credit for the work, and sometimes a company plays the middle man between the ghost and author. 

It is more profitable to work directly with authors. Still, many freelancers start out working for companies Like Kevin Anderson & Associates for books and ContentFly or We Write Blog Posts for blogs. It’s not the most glamorous writing job, but it does pay, and it helps writers learn the trade.

Is Ghostwriting Plagiarism?

This question led me to write this post, and I had to do some research to get the answer myself. While I am enjoying this ghostwriting side gig, I would not continue it if I learned it was plagiarism. How could I and still teach college writing? Thankfully, the answer is no. Ghostwriting is not plagiarism, and here’s why:

  • Although the ghostwriter does the work without receiving credit, the ghostwriter knowingly writes the text to appear as some else’s writing. 
  • The “author,” for whom the ghostwriter works, is concealing the actual author’s name, as a plagiarist does, but this author does not harm the ghostwriter; in fact, the author pays the ghostwriter an upfront agreed-upon price for the work.
  • Ghostwriting does not violate any laws
  • The ghostwriter does not dictate how the work is used.

Is Ghostwriting Ethical?

This question is where the line gets blurred for me. On the one hand, someone else is making money off of my work. The authors have a monetized blog with a huge following. I provide the links for potential purchases, and I provide the words the author needs. And I do this for a following of readers who believe their blog writer is a wordsmith when nothing is farther from the truth.

However, that author has valuable information to share with the world, from “Beginner Guides to Owning Pet Fish,” to “Which Catamaran is the Safest to Sail in the Caribbean.” I know very little about either of those topics, but the authors I ghostwrite for do. They just can’t put their knowledge into written form without my help. 

I write for these authors knowing that I make a mere fraction of what they do from their monetized page, but I’m also helping readers receive accurate messages. I am also gaining experience and references for future writing assignments.

How Much do Ghostwriters Earn?

Earning power depends on what you’re writing and where you are writing it. According to Author Bridge Media, US ghostwriters who write books can receive from $20,000 to $80,000 for a 250-page book. There are tiers to ghostwriting, so someone like a former president will pay ghostwriters much more to write their memoirs than someone would pay me to write a blog about growing cucumbers, but writers can make money ghostwriting.

In general, ghostwriters charge in various ways, but most charge by the word or by the project. Most ghostwriting companies hire ghostwriters for pennies per word, but freelance ghostwriters can earn between $.50 and $3.00 per word.

Overall Assessment

My student did what my students always do, which is why I continue to teach. He forced me to consider multiple sides of the argument, learn more about what I’m teaching, and consider that I might be wrong. This critical thinking exercise is precisely what I teach them to do. 

As is most often the case in my classes, the student taught the teacher, and I learned something about myself in the process. One day I want to write my own book. I’ve been working on the same story (inconsistently) for ten years, but until now have lacked the confidence in myself that it takes to finish it.

Ghostwriting has provided evidence that my writing connects with people and that evidence both humbles and inspires me. It’s also taught me that though my message is important, I don’t know what I don’t know; however, others can fill in those gaps. Sometimes, they just need to hire the person with the right words to do it. 

So no, dear student, ghostwriting is neither plagiarism nor is it unethical. Many things come down to intent, and my intention with ghostwriting is to help blog writers, storytellers, veterinarians, doctors, small business owners, etc., tell their stories and share their knowledge. They pay me for my creation and then reap the benefits of combining their expertise with my talent. 

They have the expertise, and I have the right words, so we all benefit – especially the reader.

Sources

Author Bridge Media
Ghostwriter Image by reKittson
The Ethics of Authorship

We Tried Hello Fresh: Here’s The Verdict

This picture is an accurate depiction of the product.

New Experiences Are Great

I am not a chef, but tonight my husband said that I could be. In fact, he thought that I had ordered out and transferred the food to our plates. (As if I’d go to that trouble!) I smiled and reminded him that we have been ordering meals from Hello Fresh for the last three weeks. 

Our journey with Hello Fresh began simply because I don’t remember how to cook for just two people anymore, and with our recently acquired empty nest, we had a lot of food leftover each day. The company’s marketing was successful because they sent me a coupon on the right day, and I decided to give them a try.

Background

To say that good-tasting food is vital in our home is an understatement. In fact, I often argue that Gary Chapman missed one of the most essential Love Languages in his book, The Five Love Languages because Austin’s love language is definitely food. As such, trying anything new with his menu is advised with caution. He is a “meat and potatoes” kind of guy and would prefer homemade biscuits at every meal if his wife would still take time to make them.

Not only was Austin concerned when I first mentioned the idea because the food looked too “fancy,” but also he was not too keen on the idea of paying for food to be delivered to our door that we still had to cook. His concern was well-founded. I do all of the cooking, but he helps me clean up the kitchen every night and knows how much more work it is to clean up when I’ve cooked. But since he doesn’t have to cook, and since I assured him that the recipes looked like they used minimal pots and pans, he said we should give the company a try. We are both glad that we did.

The Food

Tonight we had the Balsamic Tomato and Herb Chicken over Buttery Garlic Spaghetti. It was more than enough for us and incredibly satisfying. The meals are delivered in individual bags placed inside an insulated box, and when I open the bag, I am always concerned that there won’t be enough. Still, I am also used to cooking for four, so I am always relieved to find the portion sizes are perfect. We haven’t had a meal sent to us in the last three weeks that we did not absolutely love

The Plan

The service is simple to use. They have a variety of plans, and you select the number of meals you want each week. The plans include:

  • Calorie Smart
  • Meat and Veggies
  • Veggies
  • Family Friendly
  • Pork-Free
  • Pescatarian

So far, my meals have been about $18/meal + shipping. That is a fraction of what we used to pay when we went out to eat, and the Hello Fresh food tastes better; I think because I control the sodium content, I am more satisfied. Another good thing is that the portions were just enough, so neither of us left the table feeling stuffed as we often do when eating out.

The program is relatively simple. 

  1. Go online to pick your plan.
  2. Select the number of meals you want and the number of people you will feed.
  3. Select from the week’s menu. It changes every week, and if you don’t select, Hello Fresh will select for you based on the most popular recipes that week. I think of it as the daily special in restaurants. If by chance, you don’t like anything on the menu, you can also skip that week.
  4. Determine if you want to order “sides” with your order. I highly recommend their Kale salad and Garlic bread.
  5. Wait on your delivery. It comes via UPS in a box clearly marked, and it has reflective insulation in the box and two dry-ice packs to keep the food cool. We have not received anything that was not cold and fresh when it arrived.

Austin and I selected the Calorie Smart plan but have also enjoyed the Family Friendly one. Both were equally tasty and easy to cook. In fact, every meal I have cooked so far with this service has taken a maximum of 30 minutes from start to serving and was easy enough that a beginning cook could build confidence in the kitchen cooking these meals.

Moving Forward

Hello Fresh is my first experience with a food subscription service, so I do not have anything to compare the company or the food to, but I can say that I have enjoyed what we have received, and even if I cancel the service, I still have all of the colorful menu recipe cards, so I can try to recreate the dishes on my own.

My only concerns with the program are:

  • The packaging – there is a LOT of it. We try to be environmentally conscious and appreciate that Hello Fresh uses primarily recyclable packaging, but there is a lot of it to deal with.
  • If we are not home when UPS delivers, the box will stay on the porch. I doubt that porch pirates would be an issue where I live, but animals might, so that may be the reason I cancel the service when I am no longer teaching from home.
  • The price. I struggle to put the price in as a concern, but when I deduct $50 – 60 from my paycheck for three meals, it seems like a lot. However, that amount is for absolutely everything I need to cook the dish with the exception of everyday kitchen staples like salt, pepper, sugar, and oil, so I guess it may feel like I am paying slightly more, but the convenience has been worth it.

I am not sure how long we will continue on this program, but it is one that I believe is worth the money due to its convenience and the taste of the meals. It has been fun to cook new meals, and it has been educational to see how little food I need when I’m cooking for two rather than four. Maybe I will determine that it is worth it and continue the subscription, but I know that whether we continue the service or cancel it, Hello Fresh has earned my trust.