My mom was diagnosed with cancer in September. She was dead by the end of November. Not too many days after that, my biological father was found dead, too. In just a little over three months, my entire world changed. The world where me, mom, my pop (who put the DAD in stepdad), and my daughter were having family meal nights and plotting trips just stopped.
At that point, I thought the school year couldn't get worse, but to play it safe I made sure the few remaining members of my family that I am close to knew I was NOT allowing any more death this school year.
Yet, the bad infomercial line, "but, wait there's more," popped in my head when in early March I read the word pandemic in a news article while my students were quietly working on their photography. I even said it out loud to my smallest Photo II class. I wonder if they even remember that day?
"The coronavirus is now a pandemic, guys. You get what that means, don't you?"
Most didn't. So we had a brief chat about what a pandemic was and then went back to business as usual.
Then, I noticed the mass graves and the astounding death tolls in places like Italy and Iran, but just like with the passing of my parents in the fall, I just kept going. The show always goes on, right? That's what my mom, Susan, always preached!
I had no idea that the Thursday night when Megan Duncan and Allison Meyer hosted Show #6 of BJJTV after school and we hugged goodbye, it would be so final. I really thought we'd be off a bit, but maybe we'd be back in late April.
It's true, unlike a lot of people, I suspected we would shut down. I felt that COVID-19 would reach our safe haven of Franklin County. Why? Not necessarily because of science or news or facts, but because it's the WORST school year I have ever had.
Call me Eeyore with the little rainy black cloud over my head because THAT is how I felt most of this school year.
Yet, continuing my mother's teachings, the show went on!
Environmental Club even met that first Sunday of Spring Break just days before we were told we couldn't meet in large groups any more. We did a great beautification job on our campus. Thank God I took photos because none of the students have been back to school to see it.
I remember standing in a circle with those kids after the work was done. As we chatted, I felt that little Eeyore dark cloud of rain over my head when I started to think, "What if this is the last time I see them this school year?"
So, at this point, perhaps you are thinking, "WAIT A SECOND!? She said it was the BEST worst school year in the title?!"
Be patient, I am getting to that point very soon. As a matter of fact, I will get to that point NOW.
How was this the BEST worst school year ever?
All of those WORST things that happened weren't necessarily school-related, but they sure impacted me as a teacher. Yet, I was blessed with the BEST students who have empathy and kindness. I know they helped me get through it all.
The list of kind deeds is so long that I know I cannot mention every single one of them, but here are just a few examples of why my students this year are the BEST.
When my 6th hour Art Appreciation class heard my mom's cancer was bad enough she was being sent to BJC for a lot of testing, one student bought a card, and they all signed it for me. It was so kind. The student who really pushed for this was Abby Riegel. Months later, I realized she actually knew of my mom and had met her because she worked at one of the banks my mom trusted with her finances. It is such a small world!
Vivien, my favorite German, was often worried for me and hated to see what we were going through. She feared the large medical bills that America is notorious for, but when we didn't have those serious conversations, her bubbly personality was something I loved coming to school for during my darkest days. I asked her once if she thought her host family would notice if I switched her out for my daughter for a day or two. She said they would, so that never happened.
The day that Vivien got the message she had to leave America due to the pandemic, thus ending her time with us so soon, we cried together. I hustled and pulled some strings to get her a quick gift.
Her telling me, "Ohhh Ms. Turner, I love you and I never tell a teacher that I love them!" touched me so much. I am so thankful Vivien was one of the BEST parts of my WORST school year ever.
Near the end of my mom's life, I know the days I went to work that I was not my best. One of my photography students, Jadyn Whittall, stayed after school on a Friday with her friend, Mackenzie Lawyer (who is also my photography student).
Jadyn spoke to me as she held a glass jar filled with colorful strips of paper. She'd lost her grandma to cancer. A friend had given her Grandma the jar that held inspirational quotes and messages to read daily. That jar was a source of comfort to all of them. She said that she and her family decided it was time to pass the jar on to me. I cried. We hugged.
I was informed to keep that jar as long as I need it and when it is time for me to pass it on, I will know who to give it to.
Jadyn gave me that jar on a Friday. My mom died a few days later on Sunday. As I sat in my classroom making sub plans just a few hours after she passed away, I grabbed that jar. I took it home and it is still a source of comfort. I am not ready to pass it on just yet.
BJJTV Staff Members
Then, there are my BJJTV kids.
The ones who gave me hugs.
The ones who wrote me notes.
The ones who didn't know what to say, but just kept working and doing their best, so I had one less thing to worry about.
The ones who knew I was in no shape to travel or do high-level competitions with them.
The ones who just randomly would give me a hug.
I actually got emails from teachers saying, "You know you can skip a week of the Friday Show. People will understand." I ignored them. My mom wouldn't have that. She'd want the show to go on! Maybe that's why now, even with a pandemic, the Friday Show continues. Susan wouldn't have it any other way. BUT, the biggest factor is that I have the BEST BJJTV staff members during the WORST school year ever.
I know it's not easy to see the BEST in the WORST, but I cannot believe how kind my students have been. These examples aren't even the end of it. Let me toss in one more!
My former photography student from years past, Cole Nahlik, is a gem! The day I realized that photos of Jason Momoa as a teenager look eerily like Cole was groundbreaking!
Cole's kindness floored me twice during this school year. At Homecoming I was joking around with him about how his date (Mackenzie Lawyer jumps into the blog again!) was way too beautiful for him. He got serious and told me he knew how bad things were for me. "We are ALL here for you," he said, and I even got a hug! I almost ugly cried right there.
Then, when Student Council was selling carnations around Valentine's Day, he popped in my room with one just for me. We visited a bit and before he left, he said to remember, "We are ALL here for you."
I will end with this short note:
Dear Cole, Jadyn, Vivien, Abby, Mackenzie by proxy (ha!), BJJTV staffers, Environmental Club students, and the ALL of you Cole mentioned, I cannot thank you ALL enough for being the BEST during my WORST school year ever.
Love, ~ MT
As I write this, to my left I have an excellent view out my deck door. I see few leaves scattered on top of a fresh layer of snow. It is a lovely scene only enhanced by the scent of candles I just lit. This sounds pleasantly cozy because it actually is. While I have been guilty of complaining about winter, I am actually trying to turn my thought process around so I can embrace this season instead of wishing it away.
Recently, I have been learning about hygge. If you’ve never heard of hygge before, it’s the Danish practice of coziness during the winter months. According to Denmark’s official tourism website, it’s “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people.” The Danes actually embrace winter and look forward to it, which is something I am working on.
I think one of the biggest reasons winter leaves a sour taste in my mouth is the lack of Vitamin D I get. I often arrive to the windowless room where I work just after the sun rises and am lucky to leave before the sun has set.
I have decided this winter will be different because I am going to try these remedies:
#1. Take Vitamin D supplements daily.
#2. Eat more foods that are high in Vitamin D. Fish, mushrooms, and even some cereals are rich in Vitamin D. And, fish oil supplements are known to help, too!
#3. Get more sun! I struggle with this during my work week. However, if it’s sunny during my lunch break, I will sit in another area somewhere near a window, or even go on a quick walk outside. Granted, I cannot necessarily absorb Vitamin D through glass, but I will feel a lot better if I am sitting near sunshine than in a room with no view.
Beyond increasing my Vitamin D this winter, I have decided to embrace the hygge attitude! I have a list of “tasks” that I think fits this way of life. Perhaps they can help you, too.
#1. Enjoy my kitchen!
I will use this time as an opportunity to expand my skills in the kitchen with new recipes for soups, casseroles, and hot drinks. I avoid this type of activity in the summer for fear of “heating up the house.” Winter is the perfect time for this!
#2. Read More. Rest More. Watch More.
During the other seasons, I find myself busy running here and there. What a gift it is that during winter we are forced to slow down. Being snowed and iced in is the perfect chance to finish that book I have not had a spare moment to read. Feeling tired? Why not let myself take that nap or go to bed early? I also have several movies and TV shows I never seem to have the time to watch because of the hectic pace other seasons tend to have. Winter is the perfect time to savor these activities that some people may view as “unproductive.”
Hiking trails and walking trails rarely close for Winter. The landscape looks so different with vistas even more grand since the leafs no longer block the view. Winter is a great time to get out and move! Thankfully, I have many options near my home base in Union.
It is my sincere hope that this blog post inspires you (and me!) to beat the Winter Blues and embrace this season. Missouri may not be Denmark, but we certainly can embrace the hygge spirit!
Fashionista I am not, but I am thankful it's FINALLY sweater weather here in Missouri.
Yes, I quoted Saturday Night Live's classic moment with Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler as two Bronx talk show hosts celebrating the arrival of temps that allow for ample sweater use! Confused? Click this LINK.
Ok, back to the topic of fashion. Let's explore my style, or lack there of.
It's not that I don't like clothing, it's just that I like comfort more than being "in" style or fashionable. Nothing beats an oversized, over worn, soft sweatshirt on a chilly evening. Not only does it feel great, but it's something that I can wear while I think back on fun times I've experienced while wrapped in its warmth.
Beyond the sweatshirt, let's talk yoga - yoga pants that is! While bending and twisting myself in to various poses isn't my game, those pants sure are. I know anytime I pull on a pair that I am not fooling anyone. I am not jetting off to yoga class, I am more likely to be sitting on my couch or in a cozy camp chair by a fall fire pit under the stars.
While my not-so-stylish ways may annoy some people, they are pretty friendly on my bank account. I tend to fall in love with a specific shirt or pair of pants and wear them down to the point my pop eventually uses them as his "shop rags" to apply wood stain or other manly woodworking activities that require a soft cloth. This is pretty good for my finances because the cost per wear is pretty amazing! (If you have never heard of cost per wear, click this LINK and educate yourself!)
Additionally, my clothing habits are better for the environment. By dressing comfy in clothing I like and wearing those clothes until they are pretty worn out, I am not feeding the throwaway fashion culture that is filling our landfills and harming our environment. Yes, even fashion can be harmful to our planet!
In fact, the WHS Environmental Club is going to be holding a "Clothing Swap" sometime during this fall semester in hopes to bring about awareness and put some "new to you" clothing into your closets instead of in dumpsters that eventually are dumped into our environment.
So, let's be honest here, maybe my lack of style and love of all things that are comfortable is a good thing after all, eh? Certainly something to ponder!
Until you decide to read my BJJTV blog again,
This conversation makes me a little nuts.
Person #1: "How are you?"
Person #2: "Busy! You?"
Person #1: "Same here!"
What is that? That's not a conversation. No depth was reached and no real connection was made.
We are living in a society that is so busy that we don't take time for deep conversations, or even proper amounts of sleep. Heck, half the time people aren't even focused on the tasks at hand that require full attention, such as driving a motor vehicle!
When did we feel the need to have stores open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? When did we suddenly feel the need to have CONSTANT access to entertainment, news, and games? Maybe there isn't an EXACT DATE when this all happened, but I've watched this new lifestyle phase into popularity over the last 20 years and I've seen the damage it has done to people of all ages.
The truth is that both rest and stillness lead people towards many amazing things. It helps us heal emotionally and physically. Quiet and still moments where we can savor life deepen relationships and strengthens our connection to a higher power. It brings about less anxiety and more peace.
I don't know how we can rewind and go back to the time that sitting on the front porch listening to the wind in the trees (without an electronic device in hand) was a perfectly acceptable activity. However, I do believe it's time to take a step back and reconsider the glorification of "busy" before we all burn out from the lack of rest.
Everyone is an expert. They will tweet about how to raise children. They will comment on your pet turtle's Instagram page about how to properly feed it. They will even post on Facebook about what's wrong with education these days.
For the record, I want to say that just because someone on social media has a nice professional-looking profile photo and they use proper grammar in posts, that does NOT make them an expert.
Case in point, this summer I read a tweet by someone who dabbles in education that teachers should NOT have kids memorize things they can just look up the answers to on Google. Really? I cannot believe this person said that.
So, if I see someone driving down the highway Googling how to turn on their car's headights or how to use their brakes, I guess I can thank her.
The next time I hire a photographer for my family photos, if they have to pause to Google how to use their camera settings, I'll really be patient and understanding because they must subscribe to that woman's school of thought.
Better yet, the next time I get my back adjusted by Dr. Kim Jaquin, I'll feel great if she has to Google what the spine should look like. That will really bolster my faith in her skills!
Yes, I am being sarcastic here (what's new?), but memorization matters. Is Google a great tool? Of course! How else would I know how to make some kickin' enchiladas or why turtles need a proper basking platform/light combo!? Yet, I will dare to say that Google is not going to replace the need to memorize important facts that will pertain to your career or even how to operate a vehicle.
Blanket generalized statements like that on social media about education (and many other topics) really get under my skin, especially when I do a little background research on those who post them and see they have no real-world experience in that subject they are claiming to be an expert in.
Do your homework kids, don't just accept posts as fact.
And, last but not least, you will need to memorize some stuff in your life. It'll keep you employed and looking less like an idiot on the job site. Just sayin'. Ya can't always "Google" it.
I hate Virginia Creeper. To me, it's a nuisance. It literally will overtake a flower bed, consume a tree, and cover anything in its path. There's a batch of it that keeps coming back in my back yard. I have pulled it, dug it up (or so I thought), sprayed it, and I am pretty I sure did some sort of ceremonial dance begging for it to go away last week. It just keeps coming back.
The persistance of things we do not want in our lives can be quite frustrating. Sure, I could give up and let it overtake my back lawn, but I know the nature of Virginia Creeper and keep fighting the good fight to keep it at bay.
Virginia Creeper reminds me of the acts I saw take place in my own country just a few short weeks ago. Sometimes, I get comfortable and think that hatred in our nation is at bay. Haven't we pulled hatred up by its roots, so no new growth can occur?
Yes, there are times I am lulled into this false sense of security. I actually start to believe that we Americans have learned from the past and will not repeat those same sins. I have hope that our nation is not a broken record playing the same anger-filled chorus over and over. Then, I am lulled out of that state of mind by images of white supremacists marching with both Confederate and Nazi flags.
The noxious weed of White Supremecy and hate is back in my metaphorical backyard. Do I give up? Not at all! I keep trying to pull it out by its roots and end new growth. Just like that darn Virginia Creeper, it will take over and consume anything in its path. Yet, myself and a whole lot of "someones" out there need to take a stand and say, "Not on our watch. Not in our America. Not in our backyard."
It's time to rip out hatred in America and not let it sprout up again and again. This isn't about political parties or who you voted for. This is about doing the right thing and standing against those who would strip their fellow man of their basic rights.
As my friend Forrest Gump said, "That's all I got to say about that."
A recent poll by Gallup reports that 62 percent of Americans believe Journalists are biased in the arena of politics. The majority of those polled feel journalists favor Democrats in their reporting.
This isn’t a shocker. Poll after poll has similar results: Americans believe Journalists are biased and weave a web of fabricated tales.
Where did we go wrong?
Recently, I engaged in conversations with several individuals who remember Watergate. All expressed that the majority of the Americans they knew didn't feel the events surrounding Watergate were "fake news" and the "liberal media" was out to destroy President Nixon.
Fast-forward to 2017 and the question I posed earlier: where did we go wrong?
I walked away from these discussions with a common answer. With an abundance of news sources running 24/7, to fill time, commentators are included in the lineup. The lines between commentary and news have become blurred.
Former politicians, lawyers, and other professionals are sitting in the chair formerly reserved for unbiased Journalists.
They are providing political commentary in the same manner former pro football players analyze and provide insight during nationally televised games. It's safe to say that news outlets like CNN, MSNBC, FOX, etc. are pulling an ESPN by bringing in the color commentators. Unfortunately, the general public sees them as biased Journalists instead of the commentators they are.
How do we, as educators, raise up a new generation of Americans who can tell the difference between commentary and news? I think the answer is as simple as taking the time to explain the difference between the two, then watch and read examples of both. Afterward, have a class discussion or a quick written assignment that gives students the opportunity to share what they have learned in the process.
Just like the instructions on a shampoo bottle tell us we may have to repeat the process, the same applies to this. Teachers covering a variety of subjects from History to Journalism can implement this topic into their curriculum to help students know the difference between an unbiased Journalist and commentary.
There are several resources that can help guide educators through this process:
The Difference Between Reporting and Commentary:
Opinion Journalism vs Objective News Reporting:
Quora: What is the difference between a Journalist and a Commentator:
Some Journalists Blur the Lines Between News and Opinion:
Looking back on this school year, I honestly think one of the BEST things BJJTV has done is something that hasn't won a bunch of awards or grant money. It is something that may not get us a ton of attention in the competitive world of scholastic journalism, but it has gotten us attention within our school. This something is our weekly Friday Show feature "Not Just Another Face in the Crowd."
In November, myself and three students attended the JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism convention in Indianapolis. We attended a session titled "Humans of Your School: The Video" taught by Michael Hernandez and his student Omar Ahmed. They are from Mira Costa High School in California. We already do a Humans of WHS with photographs and quotes on our website, but this focused on producing quick one-hitter video features about various students.
Myself and the BJJTV students in attendance were hooked. We knew this HAD to happen for our school. Why? Well, the Friday Show needed a facelift. Our student body is full of students who have stories to tell. And, quite frankly, many of our students do not know each other.
It took some planning and experimenting, but by January we were ready to dump the "Pet of the Week" and weekly contests on the Friday Show and launch "Not Just Another Face in the Crowd." That first week alone, I recieved six emails and two personal visits from teachers and students complimenting the new segment.
This spring semester, we had one week we didn't have the segment, and students came to me complaining that they had missed it. Several told me it is their favorite part of the Friday Show. That in itself was better than any award or grant we have won this year. I love that we are creating something for our students and teachers that they appreciate and actually miss when it doesn't happen.
Click HERE if you would like to see all the people we have featured on "Not Just Another Face in the Crowd" since we started it in January 2017.
Until next time,
Starting year 25 as a Journalism educator. Photographer. Mom. Nature-Junkie. Super Fan of Missouri State Parks and Conservation Lands. As a wise BJJTV alumni says, "Treat People Like People."