Guest Teaching Middle School Physical Education

Posted August 24, 2016 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, Humor, Parenting, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             August 24, 2016

                     

My first day and a half of “guest teaching”…a.k.a. substitute teacher…got kicking this week in two different schools teaching physical education. What a hoot!

Are middle school students hilarious or what? Yes…yes…I know, some of them are obnoxious and will do anything for attention. Some of them would rather be sitting outside the Assistant Principal’s office waiting in one of the Death Row chairs than being in math class! Some of them…many of them…feel uncomfortable in their bodies at that point, from the ones who aren’t tall enough yet to ride the roller coasters to the ones who got double doses of height and size at early ages. But still, I receive so much writing material from being with middle school students!

“Coach Wolfe, are you teaching our P.E. class today?” asked the seventh grade boy with the high-pitched voice and a mouth full of braces.

“You got it!”

He smiled wide showing the extent of the work of his orthodontist. I wasn’t sure if he was excited that I was subbing, or excited that he had a guest teacher who was a P.E. class rookie!

Physical Education class first thing in the morning reveals who slept until the very last minutes before coming to school and who are the morning butterflies, already flapping their wings with energy. Monday’s lesson plans started with a period of kickball. We marched out to the field and established the ground rules: no spitting, no tripping one another, no acting like a jerk, no apathy…okay, strike that one! Some middle schoolers dress themselves in “uninterested” when they get up in the morning.

I divided the students into two teams trying to gauge talent levels and make the two squads as equal as possible. Note to self: At eight o’clock in the morning middle school students are not that interested in the teams being fair. They are much more interested in being social than being kickball phenomenons! They are much more interested in talking to one another than they are in answering questions posed by the teacher. Even outstanding plays that showed athleticism were met with indifference. Mistakes, however, were razzed and ridiculed.

It was picture day, that one day when each student gets their photo taken. Therefore, as the kickball game continued some students put the brakes on their interest and effort. They were the ones who were overly concerned about appearance. Looking good for their picture pose was more important than movement towards a kicked flyball. No one will remember the score of the first period kickball game, but that picture!…they will have tp live with that picture for the rest of their lives!

The questions started! “How much more time before we go in?” “Do I have to keep playing?” “Do I have to still kick, because I really don’t want to?”

When answers to questions did not fit into the desired responses that the student wanted to hear the excuses started rising to the surface. “I don’t feel very good. Can I sit out for a little while?” “My ankle hurts!” Amazingly the afflicted were quickly healed as class was coming to an end!

And just so I wasn’t getting the idea that these middle school students were different than the norm, the next day I was at a different school teaching another class of eighth graders in eight o’clock kickball and guess what? The only difference between the two experiences was that it wasn’t picture day at the second school!

Like I said, middle schoolers are hilarious!

Being With Obsessed Cub Fans

Posted August 21, 2016 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, Community, Humor, love, marriage, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               August 21, 2016

                                   

Yesterday my wife and I traveled up the highway from Colorado Springs to Coors Field in Denver to watch a baseball game. Not just any baseball game, mind you! This was a game between the Chicago Cubs and the Colorado Rockies.

I said the Cubs! The team that has left more broken hearts in its littered trail of the past than anyone else!

I remember those fantastic starts to the season back in the 60’s and 70’s only to be fried away by the August sun. “August swoon” was a term that I think the Cubs invented. That, as well as, “Wait ’til next year!”

I grew up in Cincinnati Reds’ territory in the monster years of “The Big Red Machine”. I can remember watching games from the extreme upper deck as Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Ken Griffey, and Davey Concepcion dominated the astroturf. Spending my last college years and seminary years in Chicago brought me into the strange realm of Cub Nation. Each year I resided in Chicagoland the academic year would be ending with Cub hopes rising, but by the time a new school year began in late August the hope had long since flown south and been replaced by misery and disappointment. Like a new puppy helping a child move on from the death of a pet, the beginning of the Bears’ football season would be the grief solution for the latest lost Cubs’ season.

This year is different, however! 34 games over five hundred with 40 games to play…a 13 game lead over the hated Cardinals. My Reds looking up from 25 games out!  And last night in the Rockies’ home stadium with a crowd just shy of 50,000 there had to be 30,000 Cubs fans there! They were boisterous, many intoxicated by their team with the assistance of several beers. Cub jerseys were worn proudly. “Cub-anatics” conversed about where they were from, reminisced in last year’s journey to the National League championship series with the Mets. Optimism that this is the year was firmly entrenched in the crowd.

My wife Carol is one of those “Cub-anatics”! When a Cubs game is not on Cable TV I frequently find her sitting in our Honda Civic in the garage listening to the game on satellite radio. She loved being in the midst of Cub Nation yesterday, wearing her team shirt, rooting passionately for “the boys!”

I was caught up in the peer pressure and rooted for them as well. Happy wife, happy life!

And the Rockies management saw the Cubs coming! They aren’t stupid! Ticket prices became outrageous. Carol has sight limitations, so I needed seats that were close enough to help her understand what was going on, but not so close that we would need to take out a mortgage on the tickets. Our seats were lower deck in the left field corner. Quite honestly, she couldn’t see the ball when it was hit but she was captivated by the atmosphere.

A group of eleven people around us had traveled in from different parts of the country for the weekend series. They flew in from Chicago, Florida, Springfield, Illinois, California, and Arizona to see their Cubbies! Scattered around me I saw Cub jerseys with names of the past and the present on the back: Banks, Sandberg, Rizzo, Santo, Bryant, Dawson. People brought the past with them to cheer on the future. Carol posted a picture of us at the game on Facebook. I was taken back by all the comments from people saying “Go Cubs!” It was like having an army of “Cub-anatics” living the moment through us. Our nephew’s wife…the poster child of “Cub-anaticism”, sent us a message “You are bringing good luck! Keep it up!”  We had a responsibility!

It was an event! “The boys” raced out to a 7-0 lead and cruised. I expected people to start filtering out in the eighth inning, but at the end of the three hour game almost every one was still there. Cub fans bathe in the glow of a win. White flags with blue “W’s” on them came out in the crowd. Carol didn’t want to leave. I enjoyed seeing her enjoyment!

It was a great evening, one that we will remember for a long, long time!

Carrying The Weight of the World

Posted August 20, 2016 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, Christianity, Faith, Freedom, Grace, Jesus, Pastor, Story, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            August 20, 2016

                                  

There was a situation recently that took a bad turn for a friend of mine. Even though he was not responsible for the outcome his immediate reaction was to take the blame and question his value as a person. Even though the root of the problem was planted in the bad decisions and words of others he still felt guilty.

I felt bad for him. The next time I see him I’ll make it a point to tell him what an incredible person he is. Perhaps if I, and others, tell him that enough times the scales that seem to tip so easily to the side that gets “down on himself” will be balanced. The thing is…this person is a caring, compassionate individual who will do anything to help someone else.

I have had long stretches in my life where I tried to carry the weight of the world. If there was a conflict in the church I pastored there were many times that I assumed the responsibility or, bore the guilt even though I was not the culprit or instigator. Mind you, sometimes I was the culprit, but my ability to differentiate between being the cause and not being the cause was limited.

It is difficult for many of us to not bear the blame. We often throw around that saying that we live in a wounded world, but what we detour around is the fact that each one of us is wounded. One of the side effects of being wounded is to carry the blame. Another of the side effects surfaces in some wounded folk who willingly make someone else the source of the problem. Not assuming any responsibility is the scar of their woundedness.

Guilt-carriers and guilt-givers…we’re all cut from the same mold.

One of the things I love about writing is that I can think through a snappy response that will put the attacking person in their place. If only real life was like that! But it isn’t! Too often the verbal accusations are thrown in my direction and I catch it like a sure-handed tight end, but then fall to my knees in misery and self-flagellation of my spirit.

I’ve preached numerous sermons and talked to even more people about the fact that Jesus took our sins upon himself when he went to the cross. I’ve recited those words from Isaiah 53:5-6 countless times:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions,

    he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

    and by his wounds we are healed. 

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

    each of us has turned to our own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

    the iniquity of us all.

But sometimes even the messenger surrenders to the voices and retreats back into that place of doubt, and picks up the weight of the world once again. It is part of who we were, and it is part of the lie that we keep believing over and over again.

We treat the redemption of Jesus like a home mortgage; one that won’t get paid off for thirty years or more…so we keep thinking we have to make the monthly payments.

One of the most powerful scenes I’ve experienced in any movie came in the film entitled The Mission. Robert DeNiro was cast as one of the main characters, a man who bore the guilt of killing his brother in a dispute. A Catholic priest who has set up a mission to one of the primitive tribes in one of the mountain areas of South America has him join him at the mission. To get there they must climb up part of the mountain beside a waterfall. DeNiro has a net tied to him that is carrying the weight of various possessions in it. He won’t let anyone else help him. He must carry the weight. The scene is painful to watch as he slowly climbs the mountain. There are more elements to the story that I won’t go into, but at the top of the mountain one of the men of the tribe takes a knife and cuts the rope away from DeNiro and tosses it over the side of the waterfall. The implications are clear. The weight-carrier has been freed. It’s the beginning of healing for a tormented soul.

I think of that scene often as I’m about to bend over and pick up the weight of a situation. When someone throws the blame in my direction I’m getting somewhat better in remembering that I’m not the sure-handed football tight end but rather one position over, offensive tackle- an ineligible receiver! I don’t need to catch everything that is thrown in my direction!

Coaching Middle School Football

Posted August 18, 2016 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, Humor, Parenting, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 August 18, 2016

                                  

It happened about twelve years ago in the midst of a Pike’s Perk coffee shop. I was drinking my first cup of the day when Russ Peters, the middle school assistant principal in charge of athletics, entered. I greeted him from my table with a “Good morning, Russ!” He looked at me and said, “Hey Coach! Do you coach football?”

I didn’t! I had coached basketball at the school for a couple of years, worked well with the players, and so the administration kept asking me to return. But football…no!

The school had encountered the problem of hiring football coaches each year for the past several. “Russ, didn’t you have this problem last year?” He hung his head and nodded.

And that was my interview for the position. I agreed to coach football for the middle school, but I told him, “You just need to understand that I’m a basketball coach who just happens to be standing on a football field!”

Now twelve years later I’m still coaching football at the same school. Another season has started just like the others before it- players of all sizes…players who aren’t sure which is the front of their practice pants and which is the back…players who think their helmet is too tight…players who have played for several years…players who have never played a lick…players who have played Madden on their game system at home, and think that tackling a steamrolling running back will be just like that…players who have never worn a jock strap…and players who leave parts of their equipment as a trail behind them like Hansel and Gretel’s bread crumbs.

And in the midst of these seventh grade boys who are still more clueless than clued in we have to teach them football terminology, a play calling system, passing routes, defensive formations, figure out who can catch versus who can’t catch a cold, assemble special teams, teach them how to tackle, try to keep a new kid the size of Tiny Tim how to not get killed or maimed, and equip each of them in a way that makes them look like a football player, not someone who has arranged his football wardrobe off leftover garage sale clothing.

My fellow coach, Coach Achor, and I see ourselves as teachers, encouragers, discipline instructors, role models, protectors, counselors, and coaches. Part of middle school football coaching is about the game, and the rest is about being like a shepherd who the sheep follow and trust.

Yesterday we taught them a couple of offensive plays out of a basic formation. “Spread Right Rocket 28”, and “Spread Left Laser 49”. Two basic plays! It took fifteen minutes to get all of them…okay, most of them…to understand. The quarterback would hand off to the wrong running back, the running back would fail to go in motion, the wrong running back would go in motion, the running back would run the wrong way, the quarterback wouldn’t hand the ball off to anybody…fifteen minutes to get two plays right!

I have to remind myself that students learning how to read didn’t start off reading The Iliad. There had to be a lot of “Dick, Jane, and Sally” reading times before beginners could go on.

Today will be the first day in full pads for most of them. Some will look impressive, and others will cause us to chuckle.

We will seek to have them take a few more steps up the “understanding ladder” today, and as coaches we will seek to learn more of their names. Right now I’ve got a Number 76 who is 4’6” and weighs sixty-five pounds. Learning his name won’t make him any bigger, but it will let him know that i know who he is.

And the ultimate privilege for Coach Achor and myself is that the players know who we are and they call us that name that we are privileged to have: Coach!

Writing A Book

Posted August 14, 2016 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, Humor, Pastor, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              August 13, 2016

                                           

I’m trying to write a book!

If James Patterson can spin out about a book a month I should be able to write one in a year…or two…okay, maybe three!

I, however, am not a mystery writer. I did read a lot of Agatha Christie novels in my earlier years. They were always intriguing. I often felt compelled to have a spot of tea as I read them. Murder On the Orient Express, Three Blind Mice, Death On the Nile…I enjoyed them all. But in terms of writing a mystery novel…not me!

I did write Lassie stories when I was in the third grade…longhand, and almost legible! I can’t remember what the plots of those Lassie stories were, but I’m sure I had him leaping over fences and saving chickens from foxes.

When I was in my forties I wrote two books of mini-dramas that got published by my denomination’s publishing branch. They did not make the New York Time’s Best-Sellers List. In fact, they didn’t make any list, but it was pretty cool to see my name on the covers!

Now I’m trying to write a feel good story that combines high school basketball, innocent teenage romance, an unlikely friendship, and the admirable qualities of integrity, honesty, and fairness. It’s a good story, but some days I feel like the words are coming to me about like a “Sally, Dick, and Jane” first grade primer!
See Sally run. Dick, see Sally run. Spot, run like Sally. Run, run, run!

Other times it seems like the words flow through my mind like a fine culinary recipe progressing without a hitch.

Some days I get constantly interrupted, other days I wish I would be interrupted.

And all this for the very, very, very real probability that no one will be remotely interested in publishing the end result. Unlike James Patterson, I do not have someone who has advanced me a million. But I sit in front of my laptop and peck on with two fingers on my left hand and one on my right…and the word count keeps climbing as the story slowly unfolds, characters get further developed, the past gets illuminated and the possibilities of the present get played out. I read a Harlan Coben mystery at night and write about a red-headed pastor’s kid named Randy Bowman during the day.

Writing is my release, as well as what grips me. It’s something I can’t seem to not do…all those years of writing sermons for Sunday mornings at church, but then having so many other things to write about that never seemed to fit into a Sunday message.

Today I sit at my perch in Starbucks with the question, “Well, Randy, where will our story take us today?”

The Two Davis’s

Posted August 12, 2016 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, Christianity, Community, Death, Faith, Humor, Jesus, Parenting, Pastor, Prayer, Story

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            August 12, 2016

                                      

I made two visits this week. Both of them were to men whose last name is Davis. One of them celebrated his 41st birthday on Wednesday. The other is 95! Neither of them has a lick of hair on top of their head- one because his dad paved the way for that hairstyle, which has been followed by all three sons, and the other because…he’s 95, and the top of his head looks like a telescope view of the moon’s surface!

One of the Davis’s is the Sultan of Sarcasm, the other is content to get settled in to telling the listener a story.

The younger Davis has taught middle school social studies for fifteen years…perhaps being the reason why sarcasm rises to the surface for him so often. The older Davis was a postman, familiar with the lives of those that he delivered important letters from loved ones to.

I was the pastor to both of them and their families. Since I retired from being a pastor a few months ago now I am a friend to both of them.

I refer to the older Davis as my “Colorado Dad.” He possesses many of the same great qualities as my father has. The younger Davis could be my son, but I prefer to see him as one of  my peers. We have shared many a lunch together in his school classroom, talking about this and that.

Both of them are dear to my heart.

Both of them have cancer.

The older Davis is in his final days. I sat by his bed yesterday, probably for the last time. He drifted in and out of sleep. I held his hand, he told me how much he loved me. My heart ached to see his frail figure. The two of us had golfed together a number of times over the years. I would drive long and to the right, and he would drive short but right down the middle of the fairway. He would be putting it in for a bogie, and I’d hope for a bogie putt. At the end of our nine holes he would be about a 46 and I would be a 48. BUT he was 90 and I was 57! We enjoyed each other’s company so much. Every time he greeted me we would embrace and he would whisper to me “Love ya!”

About five years ago I officiated the funeral service of his only son, who had died in a motorcycle accident. I grieved with my Colorado dad as the sorrow overwhelmed him. A parent should never have to bury one of their children. It was a confusing time for him, and I mostly listened to his questions about why things happen. It was also at that time that he started asking me more questions about heaven, what it would be like and whether he would be reunited with his son there?

I held his hand for one last prayer by his bedside, and then he dropped into a medicated slumber again.

The younger Davis was discovered to have a tumor in his brain six years ago. He had just done a state high school championship game in basketball and a month later had a seizure. When a second seizure happened shortly after that he was checked out at the hospital. The test revealed the tumor. Three months later surgery was performed to get as much of it as possible. Ninety-five percent was removed and the follow-up treatments took care of the rest.

But cancer is like the neighbor’s dog who keeps coming into your yard and pooping. You clean up one mess and the lawn looks pristine again for a while, and then you look out the window to see the canine leaving his mark again. Cancer is kind of like that. It is a time in a person’s life that is filled with crap! The crap of dealing with insurance companies…the crap of scheduling appointments…and the crap of never-ending anxiety and uncertainty about the future.

My friend’s cancer came back. We continue to pray for healing, but hope too often is getting shoved into the back seat. On Wednesday his family had a birthday celebration for him at the rehabilitation facility he is a patient at. Hopefully he will be able to return home next week with some skills that will enable him to better function in his home. The future is uncertain, and he knows it.

My visits with him are often punctuated with quiet moments as each of us deals with where we are in the journey. I brought him a totally inappropriate birthday card that I knew would bring a deep chuckle to him. One of the comforts of our friendship is that we can be a little off-color with one another and not be embarrassed. In fact, we expect a little political incorrectness in our conversations.

Our journey has gone into the deep valleys of new tumor growth, but also ascended some high mountains of clear MRI results.

Bottom line! I have been extremely blessed to be a part of the journeys of the two Davis’s! The depth of a friendship is discovered by the bruisings of life.

Guest Teacher Orientation

Posted August 10, 2016 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, Freedom, Humor, Parenting, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            August 10, 2016

                                

I took my seat on the left side of the long conference table. Ten of us looked expectantly towards the front of the conference room. The presenter was getting his materials organized and about to start.

I was about to get oriented! I was about to find out how to be a guest teacher. Let me emphasize GUEST TEACHER! Not substitute teacher! Somewhere over the last forty years somebody decided that the term “substitute teacher” was like attaching a sticky note to the back of a person’s shirt with the words “Kick Me!” written on it in large bold letters.

Time to confess! I remember the number of times I took advantage of whoever it was that was substitute teaching in my classroom. I remember asking Ms. Roth, who also happened to be a member of the my church, if I could go to the restroom. I feigned illness from eating lunch in the cafeteria that day…a logical conclusion! She gave me permission as I grimaced in front of her, and then I went down to the gym and shot basketball for the rest of the class period. Now… she would probably not remember that, but I do!

Perhaps my transgressions were part of the soil that produced a new name growing out of it, the name “Guest Teacher!”

The orientation began. The presenter stressed a couple of points to help us survive…or that is, be successful! One was “Use your common sense!”  He gave us several examples of what BAD guest teachers have done! At the end of it all of us had the same thought: What were they thinking? Perhaps being around middle school students rubs off on the substitute…er, guest teacher, and they start doing stupid things that result in them getting called in to talk to the school administrators.

I started to make a mental list of all the things I couldn’t bring with me to school: handcuffs, a pocket knife attached to my car keys, peanut products, Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, words with too many syllables, taser gun, transistor radio, pillow, iPad, sense of humor, bull whip, duct tape, and all political commentary. If I left all those things at home my chances of being a successful guest teacher would be greatly increased. The storyline of guest teaching has been littered with examples of people who “did stupid”, were asked not to come back again, and now are making more money working on a fast-food drive-thru lane.

But then came the second point of the orientation to realize. That students will try to take advantage of guest teachers! Wait a minute! That’s how it was back in 1972 at Ironton High School, in Ironton, Ohio! That means…that means…that nothing has really changed! Well, one thing has…the title. because I am a “Guest Teacher!” Hear me roar!

We were brought back to the reality of the situation; that students are by nature the same as they were back in the day…that they will try to get away with whatever they can!

This is where leaving my sense of humor at home becomes important, for I will look at them like a drill sergeant facing his green recruits and with no expression say “I don’t think so!” It’s also where it is important that I have left my taser gun at home, because I would be tempted to use it a few times.

So now I am ready for battle…I mean, to teach! I’m ready to impart my pearls of wisdom to a new generation of young learners. I’m ready to experience the new chef creations of school cafeterias, students ready and eager to learn, the latest adolescent language terms. and spending the whole day in the gym!

I am oriented! I am a Guest Teacher!


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