Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Season of Hope

Not a huge update tonight.  Time has been limited and busy this past week.  Since there is no district mandated final for Junior English, we're all working to put one together.  Needless to say my nights have been busy.  The good thing is, we're nearly caught up, and that's a good feeling.

Saturday was Title 1 tutoring again (Saturday School) which meant we check the kids in to do work, make certain their working, and then use what time this might give us to work as well.  I'm caught up!  I've not been able to say that in a long time.  Tonight, I am caught up.  Took this panoramic shot during our 4th hour:


So that's actually, starting on the left our cafeteria from North to South.  Pretty sweet?  Can you find my boss giving me the evil eye?

One of the nicer things about Saturday School is I've used some of my time therein to work on my latest short story.  For the first time I've not done any editing yet; I'm just trying to get all of my ideas down and on paper, and then I'll go back and proof and improve.  This will either totally change how I write, or be an enormous waste of time.  We'll see!

Do I look like I'm typing with great intensity?

Or do I just look fat?  :)

Last week of school is this week.  Not counting finals which is 3 days next week.  Still.  Hopefully the kids won't be too antsy.  Hopefully the problems will be few.  Hopefully I'll be on top of things, smiling, singing Christmas tunes, and remembering the true meaning of the season.

Hopefully.  :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What are You Thankful for?

Thanksgiving in Yuma.  Not a lot to write about, and unfortunately no pictures.  I really like posting pictures.  Pictures rule.

School was out for us on Tuesday, and so we had all day Wednesday, Thursday and Friday off.  Thursday was the Turkey Bowl, and although my knee is still very unhappy, I had a great time.  Must have been 30-40 guys that showed up, so much that we split into two games and just had a blast.  I only caught one pass, but since I was mostly hobbling on the field, it was the only pass thrown to me.  That's 1:1 baby!

Thanksgiving dinner was at the parents of my Elder's Quorum president.  Follow that?  Dinner was great, conversation and company was great, and even the lemon meringue pie was great.  It was even pleasant to sit around the table with grown adults and share and discuss our political beliefs, without anyone "getting offended".  I put that in quotes because I'm sick of being PC.  Boo hoo.  Get over it.

I have to say one of the highlights of the holiday was the movie: The Muppets.  When I found Eron had already taken his family and Mom took my family, I decided to see it myself.  Loved it!  So many simple, intelligent jokes, laugh-out-loud moments, and nostalgic times that I just couldn't stop smiling.  There were so many moments that I just wanted to jump up and sing along, even to those songs I'd just heard for the first time.  It was awesome.  I've got to give a shout out to Jason Segel.  I saw him on Jimmy Kimmel the other night, and he was so much the machine behind this movie.  He insisted it wasn't fair that it had been 12 years without a muppet movie, because that meant an entire generation without even knowing who they were.  So he got everything started, he was one of the writers, and he starred in this epic comeback.  Jason, you're the man!

Gave a talk in church today.  I'd been thinking about it a lot this week, and yesterday I sat down to give myself an outline of what I wanted to say.  This morning I review again and I felt I was in a good place.  Then I get to church this morning to find that one of our speakers couldn't show, and I was encouraged to fill extra time.  Of course I was also told that getting out of church early is not a sin!  Surprisingly, the first talk was from a beautiful young woman who just returned from her mission in Oakland, CA, followed by a musical clarinet number.  Both set such a power and humble tone to the whole meeting,  that I was a bit intimidated, to say the least.  Still, I said an extra prayer and when all was done, I really felt I kept what I should have kept, and skipped what wasn't needed.  I spoke of us being in a time of war, and referred to a number of verses that perfectly describe the wickedness of our day, in the Nephite times.  Then I referred to father Lehi for suggestions on what to do.  I was surprised to find in the first 5 verses of 1st Nephi that Lehi did the following:

1. He was aware of what was happening in the world around him, politically, religiously, and spiritually
2. He listened to the warnings of the prophets
3. He prayed
4. He acted on the answers he received

Isn't that precisely what we all should be doing right now, politically, religiously, and spiritually?  I then went to insight Brother Ladle gave me 20 years ago.  There are 3 groups of people in Lehi's vision, in terms of the Iron Rod.

1. Those that never find it.
2. Those that cling to it, find the fruit, then are ashamed and fall away
3. Those who hold fast, press forward, and heeded not the mocking of the great and spacious building.

Which one are you?  Which one am I?

I'm thankful for time to get a better grip.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

All the Right Reasons

I've not updated my blog in nearly a month!  Sorry.  I'll say part of the reason is not a lot to talk about.  I'll also say there's not a lot of public stuff to talk about.  I've had an epiphany of two over the past few weeks, moments that will need to be kept personal until the right moment.  Can you all stand the suspense?

One might think the best thing about November is Thanksgiving and days off from work and time with family.  But to be honest, my favorite event is the Thespian Conference in Phoenix.  I've been attending this event with the kids for the past 5 years and I absolutely love it.  We rent two vans, pack as many kids as we can, and make the 3 hour trek to the Phoenix Convention center.  For the next 36 hours it's nothing but performances, workshops, productions, competitions, and scholarship opportunities.  It's terrific.  There's no way to describe what it's like to be surrounded be 1000+ kids and 100+ adults and the only reason we're there is to share, learn, and embrace our love of the theatre.  I love this stuff!

This year there was 15 of us, including myself and Ms. Olsen.  I drove the van and let her drive the suburban, 'cause it didn't affect my masculinity one bit.  :) I packed the van with doughnuts and chips and redvines and we were on the road by 7:00.  We stopped in Gila Bend for a break, and were at the Conference by 10:30.  Scholarship competition is first, and while the kids rushed off to their first workshops, I did my yearly job of marching to the pizza place we've eaten lunch at for the past 5 years and securing a location and having lunch ready by the time the kids arrive.  It allows me time to wander around, see familiar places, and jus enjoy downtown Phoenix.  After 5 years of doing this, it's become a bit romantic.  We took this picture at lunch.

I'm Sexy and I Know It
I got to sit in a terrific workshop for improvisation, the one form of theater I love the most and am always looking for more ways to improve myself, and teach it to the kids.  That evening the kids had a 1 act to perform that the judges could NOT find ANY problems with, and especially praised them for their originality and creativity.  Of course before the could go on, they had to do something with their name tags.  :)

Dinner that night was nearly a disaster because we put it off until after our performance.  Nearly everything was closed, including Burger King.  What kind of town closes down before 8?  We guessed it was something to do with it being downtown.  Anyway, everything eventually worked out and in the end we were only a little late for the dance, and the kids had a blast.
Simone, Marion, and Ms. Olsen

Me, Ariana, and Caitlyn
The next morning, Caitlyn and Ariana wanted to do breakfast at IHOP with us, so we invited everyone and only 4 came with us.  But it was still great just to have an awesome breakfast and a slow start to the day.  We took these that morning.

The official opening welcome took place the next morning, and I looked around to find more programs for my kids.  Those things are so easy to misplace.  But in the process I had other kids ask, and then one of my kids suggested I should just get more for everyone.  Challenge Accepted.  For the next 20 minutes I walked up and down the enormous auditorium and passed out nearly 100 more programs to kids I may never see again, but will always remember me as awesome!

They ended the welcome by playing the Time Warp.  1000+ kids dancing that thing.  It was insane.  I took some video, but it was 63mb and I think that might be too big.  Still, it was an amazing thing to watch.

A few more workshops, lunch, a then we got to watch a production of "Ruthless."  Very funny, but not hilarious.  Unexpected, but predictable.  Disturbing at times, but an ending that remind us to not take any of it serious.  A cast of only 8 students, and they were all girls.  Not a bad show.

One final visit to my secluded balcony with only the kids I trusted to keep it a secret, and we were done.  It went too fast.  Here's our group shot just before we left.  I'm not sure why only half of the picture is fuzzy.
Nissa's up top.  Then it's Daniela, Sarah, Caitlyn, Ms. Olsen, Ariana (Steve) Simone, Me
Leo, Brissa, Megan, Joe, Helena, Bella, and Marion
The trip home was great, with conversation about the weekend, including a much needed review of the play we'd just watched.  It was terrific to hear the kids getting it!  They see more than just entertainment. They can discern quality and complexity.  Totally love it.

We stopped in Gila Bend for dinner, got back to Yuma around 9:00, and after cleaning up, waiting for parents, returning the cars, and getting home, I was talking to Aly on her birthday at nearly 10:30 my time.  A terrific weekend; one that reinforces that I'm in this profession for all the right reasons.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Inconceivable!

School this week was one of those busy times.  It's halfway through the semester, and not only are we giving pressure to kids to get their grades up, but we're getting it from the top as well, for more of our kids to be passing.  Sometimes it feels like a catch-22, but I'm in the system, so I'm doing my best to make it work.

Just a brief update today.  The one moment this week that stands out was Friday morning.  Since we had an assembly that was going to keep me from even seeing my 2nd period, I chose a "lighter" assignment for the kids to accomplish.  I had each students choose a character from "The Crucible" and they had to create an imaginary Facebook page for them.  Simple, fun, creative, and a good place to be on homecoming Friday

The best part though, was when my 1st period asked if I could show them a Facebook page so they could model it.  I felt such was acceptable and so using the projector, I posted my Facebook profile for the class to see.  And of course I expected jeers and praise, especially for the awesome picture of T and I together.  In cast you've not seen it, it's the one on the left.

What I was NOT expecting was for Taelyn to be on Facebook that morning and in the middle of my trying to instruct my class, I get a message that begins: Hey Monkeybutt!"

Needless to say it was a fun day with a few awkward revelations.  Among them were the following: I'm teaching juniors.  Kayla is their age.  Taea is only FOUR years younger!  I cannot imagine how Eron must feel being her FATHER, when I want to scream when I hear these boys asking questions about My Squeaker!

Our vocabulary word Friday was Inconceivable.  More then fitting.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rent?

It was my goal when I first started this blog to always have a picture to post with my weekly update.  The thing is, this week the biggest events were all church related, and there just aren't a lot of church pictures to include.  So here's my latest update, without pics.

Just a few weeks ago I was called as the second counselor in out Elder's Quorum.  I'm working with some great guys and I can testify with boldness of how my life has been blessed and improved due to this service.  Tuesday of this week we had a meeting scheduled, one that we had been told was a leadership training, and we expected it would be a brief meeting with a member of the Stake Presidency.  Rather, the meeting was in the chapel with a large group of people I was unfamiliar with.  Long explanation short, 5th ward had been asked to help in a project for Stake Conference, and since those numbers were short and my Elder's Quorum President is the son of our Stake Presidency's 1st counselor, we were asked to assist, although we're in the 2nd ward.

So Tuesday night was 2.5 hours of walking through a scripted role-play of what "should" happen in a highly effective Ward Council.  I was given the role of Sunday School President, which as you can imagine meant I had very few lines, and we moved from our council, to presidency meetings, to meeting with members and then back for another ward council meeting a week later.  The emphasis here was all on the aspect of, "Return and Report."

Our Stake President was confident in what we had here, and encouraged that with the Spirit to help us, this would be effective.  I did my best to participate, offered only a few suggestions (if THAT's not progress in growing up, nothing is!) and when we came back to rehearse Thursday night, I brought essays to grade while I waited.

Yesterday was the afternoon of the big event.  I arrived at 2:30 for things to start at 3, and believe it or not, it went really well.  Our Stake President himself took a more active role than I had foreseen, starting with encouraging members that if they stayed awake, didn't play with their phones, and really sought for the Spirit, this would be effective.  He also became narrator of sorts, helping us transition from one scene to the next, adding insight and a surprising amount of positive quips; the man's words honestly kept the event fun and entertaining.  It was impressive.

In fact, this was my first time working with the Stake President, as he'd only been called 4-5 months ago.  As he spoke at the Adult Session of Stake Conference last night, I was really impressed with his talk.  He has amazing counselors, and the Spirit was so present.  There were a lot of tears last night as the Spirit confirmed his message, as songs were sung, and even his counselor's gave amazing talks  If every Stake Conference were as engaging as last night was, the entire membership would look as forward to them as they go General Conference.  It was astounding.  I'm honestly looking forward to what the General Session will bring this morning.  I'm even going to get there early.

One last side note.  It was interesting that when our role-playing was done yesterday afternoon, as the Stake President moved back to the front of the room talking through his lapel-mic, he asked me to stand.  I was surprised, but complied.  He then further surprised me.  Now, this comment was either due to the impressiveness of the written character I'd just portrayed, or the impressiveness of my portrayal, but he commented, "Bishops, do you see this man?  He's for rent if any of you need him!"

Is there a future in acting just at Stake Conference?  :)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Positive Influence

When I first moved to Yuma, 5 years ago, originally I was teaching 2 beginning drama classes and 3 Sophomore English classes.  Within a matter of weeks I was asked to take an additional period, a Junior English class.  Shortly thereafter they sorted things out and took 1 of my sophomore classes, so my first year I had 3 classes to prepare for, or 3 preps.

That was the first year I taught Junior English, or American Literature, and I found I really enjoyed it.  We read Huck Finn, studied Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Poe, and Steinbeck’s, Of Mice and Men.  But, of course, the true highlight of that year was being able to delve into one of my all time favorite plays, The Crucible.

This year I’m just Junior English, just one prep, and I love it.  I’m not sure why, but American literature really speaks to me.  Sure I miss not having Shakespeare in the line up this year, but I hold Arthur Miller up just as high as William.  This past week we got through Act I and I chose to delve into the movie.  I expected that if the kids could see the characters and here the dialogue as it was meant to be delivered, it would pull them into the play in a way that our less than enthusiastic reading in class has not yet done.  So Friday we watched Act I, or the first 35 minutes of the movie.  Have you seen this film?  It’s exceptional.  Daniel Day-Lewis is phenomenal as John, and Winona Ryder as Abigail, though not as gorgeous as I believe Arthur intended, is terrific.  I’m optimistic that this play will be one of the highlights of this school year for my students.
  
Sitting in my classroom the other day, I realized that no one in my family has been in my current class.  This is the same English class I taught in during my 1st and 2nd year, and last year as well.  So let me give you a quick tour.

As you walk in my class and look left, this is the view you'll see.  That's my desk a the top left.  Picture #2 is from the opposite corner, the view you'd get if you walked in from the middle office.

Were I sitting at my desk and looking forward, here's my view.  Please note the recycle box in the back.  Everyone should be recycling!

And the last shot here on the right is my view as I turn to my left to my class, the view I most often have just before class gets started.

Believe it or not, my principal once criticized my room because there wasn’t enough “Bruce” in it.  So, as you can see,  I added a bit more of myself.  What do you think?  Is it enough?

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that the impact of my father is evident in the room as well. When of the many influences I'm proud of.  :)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Not the First.

Saturday morning, as I sat here catching up on what my TiVo recorded for me last week, grounds keepers for my apartment complex were working outside my window.  Hedges were clipped, lawn was mowed, sidewalks were swept, leaves were raked.  My nose was running, my eyes were itching, and I was sneezing like a possessed Ewok.  An hour later, after they were done, everything was fine and back to normal.  While I've not been tested for allergies, I think I can now safely I may have some, and I suspect what I might be allergic to: Lawn care products.  I'm leaning toward Weed Wackers.  Never trusted them.

I love General Conference weekend.  I find it usually comes about at the exact time I need a recharge.  It's funny how I was feeling in a great place earlier in the week, and then like crap for the past few days.  Anyone surprised that I figured out why I was feeling this way as I watched conference?  I love getting answers from God and the leaders of His church.

I spoke to Brien a few days ago, and he sounds happy.  I spoke to mom yesterday morning, and she promised to call me back this afternoon.  A number of key characters returned to Days this past week, so I recorded them for her, burned them to a DVD, and mailed them out yesterday.  I'm hoping she hasn't seen them yet.  Spoke with Eron for a few minutes, just before he and his family were heading out to pick some apples.  Apples rock.  But such made me recall this summer as Kris and I, with the kids and Mark and Monica's family, went to pick Strawberries.   What a great summer.  I miss those comfortable, lazy days, with cool temperatures and clouds in the sky, with my favorite girls.  And T.

One of the highlights of that day was when we went back to the general store and they had a sandbox.  But this was no ordinary sandbox.  Rather than being filled with sand, it was filled with peas!  I'm not sure what they did to the peas to make them hard and not soft and nasty, but it was way cool.  We buried Taea, so all we could see was her face.  Can you find her?

Of course we tried to do the same thing to T after his sister, and as you can see from the look on his face, this was NOT his favorite moment of the day.  If you get a chance, ask him and his sister's about Brownie and Blackie.  I think they were the highlight of that day.

Before we left, the kids mostly buried me, and then I got to pose for a picture with all the gorgeous ladies that were there with me.  It's okay, you can be jealous.  You're not the first.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Revealing the Truth

On September 15th we had our semi-annual improv show entitled, "Whose Crown is it Anyway?" (We're the Kofa Kings, got it?)  Our drama teacher has been gracious enough to put this production in my hands, and so after a few weeks of rehearsing and prep, we were ready to go.  Unfortunately my camera lost power after 20 minutes, so below was not the main highlight of the evening, but still one to enjoy.

video

We were all a bit more nervous this night because we knew our Principal was going to be in the audience.  I encouraged the kids to stayed focused, remember all that we'd rehearsed, and most of all, keep it appropriate!  The entire show was just over an hour, and aside a minute or two of slowness, we entertained like professionals.  For the last game I chose a winner, and G and I did a game of Whose Line.  I wish we'd captured the scene, because by the time we were done, without any foreknowledge or previous rehearsal together, at one point on stage we both became squirrels!  It was hilarious.

I got a note from our principal the next morning, a nice half-page, praising us for what we'd accomplished, admitting she was still laughing.

Last weekend a number of us visited AWC for their "Matadors of Comedy."  It was fun, but being a college, it was rude and crude.  I don't think one has to be dirty to be funny.  Another high school in town had an improv night this past week, and my students who attend really enjoyed it, but agreed we may have a leg up.  I don't write this to boast, but rather to interject that I'm accepting the praise and compliments that have come my way.  Improvisation is one of my strengths, and so is teaching it.

Our improv night was the climax of Theatre in our Schools Week.  The kids played games at lunch including pin the teeth on the zombie, a little Karaoke, and taught the school how to dance and do the Time Warp.  They also dressed up like characters all week, and just promoted the awesomeness that is Theatre.  For the last day our club officers made capes for all of us, including the sponsors.  As such, for the entire school day, my true identity was finally revealed; no longer Mr. Kelly, I became Darth Kellyious.
And yes, I'm aware I look more like Rick Moranis than Darth Vader.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Welcome!

It's been nearly 2 months since I've seen anyone in my family, but that's what life is like, living this far south, 15 miles from Mexico.  So let me catch you up on a few highlights.

Two weeks ago it was monsoon season down here.  Now, we don't get a few weeks of wet weather like Phoenix does, mostly because we're 200 miles further west.  What we get instead is a few weeks of unwarranted humidity.  It's so gross to be standing in a classroom at 7:30 in the morning and feeling your clothing sticking to you, when it's sunny outside without a cloud in the sky.  Believe me, you don't want it.  Of course we do get some rain: violent, scary, warning across your TV screen interrupting your watching of The O'Reilly Factor to stay inside rain.  This only happened once this year, but it was spectacular.  Hard, heavy, immediate puddle-creating rain, the kind that is creating flash floods in some washed-out delta in the middle of the desert, just down the street.

As the rain fell, I stood at my door to watch and appreciate.  Some of you might mock this.  Before you do, please realize I live in a place that has been deemed the sunniest place in the U.S.  We have sunshine 98% of the year.  In fact, rain for us is so scarce that January of '10, we got such an uncalled for, angry storm, that they closed school early.  Yes, in Yuma, we close school early because of RAIN!  (Turns out they wanted to get the kids, who live out in the counties, home before the roads washed out.)  The kids down here get excited, just as I do.  If it's even sprinkling outside, there is usually a dull chant in every classroom to head outside and enjoy.  Sometimes living without, makes one appreciate simple things even more.

So on September 5 I was standing in my doorway, enjoying this weather, when the voice of Micheala, my niece, rang in my head.  I knew that if I didn't step out in this weather, I'd regret it.  So next thing I knew I was standing in this torrent (and that's no exaggeration), near instantly drenched.  Lucky for me it was laundry day, and I'd been wearing my swim trunks already!  :)

I had a neighbor standing outside, under the carport, waiting to sell his car.  We talked and joked for a bit, then I asked him to snap a picture for me.  The first one, posted above, was acceptable, but he suggested I do another.  The one on the right I call my "Shawshank" pose.  :)

The storm lasted about an hour, which is HUGE for this town.  In fact, yesterday as I was driving to the movie theatre, I noticed storm clouds in the east.  I was reminded that the news last night warned we might see rain today, Sept. 25, and at that exact instant it started raining.  I used my wipers twice, and the storm was over.

Welcome to Yuma.

Awesome.

I've got a few people in my life that would like a limited update, and lately I've thought a blog might be a bolder and much more fun solution.  My little bro did this for awhile, and my best friend Troy and his wife Leslie have been doing this religiously for years.  I think I'd like to be that awesome.  Let's see how this goes.