Saturday, May 26, 2012

Get your own highlighters

             In the realm of vocabulary, I decided a few years ago to color code the parts of speech, so that when students do “Completing the Sentence,” they can look through six nouns or ten adjectives or four verbs instead of choosing between all twenty words. Do you get what I’m saying? I go down through the list of sentences and say, “Numbers 1,2, 5, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 17, 19, and 20 are all orange,” meaning they’re adjectives. 

            Most units are overloaded with adjectives.

            So, yeah, adjectives are orange, obviously, orange being so bold and flamboyant. (Sorry that looks red.) Verbs are green, active like growing things. Nouns are blue because they just sit there. What are the actual lyrics to the vocabulary the song I keep hearing in my head? Blue, blue, my nouns are blue…The occasional adverb is pink.

            My boss thinks I coddle the kids. They should be able to determine which part of speech is needed from the context of the sentence. He’s right, but the books look so pretty when they’re color coded. (I know “pretty” is a lame and unspecific adjective, but if it’s good enough for Christian fiction Empress Karen Kingsbury, it’s more than good enough for me.) Actually, “pretty” isn’t good enough; the books look festive, like a never-ending vocabulary fiesta.

            I just wish the kids would get their own highlighters. They’re listed as a required supply  every year, but someone is always borrowing mine. Coddling, I know.

            I also use highlighters in Bible class. When we study the Gospels, we color code the Gospel of Mark. Every student receives a copy of Mark in the New King James Version adapted from I take out all those section headings that alert readers to what they’re going to read and what to think about it. I cruelly make the students read the passage and tell me what it’s about. 

            Feeding the Five Thousand. Duh. Read Mark 6:30 -44 and you’re going to realize that Jesus fed five thousand men with five loaves of bread and two fish. Not even sophomores need Thomas Nelson to tell them that.

            So when we read Mark, we highlight miracles orange, parables blue, teachings green, and events yellow. Old Testament quotes or allusions become pink. Geographical locations are underlined

            This works great unless someone is thinking about vocabulary while highlighting Mark. Could get messy.

            Yes, I know there are rainbow study Bibles already out there. You can buy them from But what fun is that? Somebody else has already decided what each verse is about. William C. Lincoln, my former Bible professor, would not like that, not one little bit. 

            I also use highlighters at home, and that’s really where this blog started. I was in the psalms this morning, a place I hide when life doesn’t seem to work. David ben Jesse seemed also to have a frequently malfunctioning life, so I always appreciate what he wrote. 

            Today I read Psalm 86 and it occurred to me that for every problem I have, God has a complementary quality or solution. You know, like complementary angles, one of those few things that remain with me from Geometry. I made two columns in my journal—me and God—and started listing things.

            Then I thought, “Highlighters!” 

            So here I am, electronically highlighting Psalm 86 (NIV, 1984) from There’s nothing particularly deep about my method and this is a rough draft. It just helps me see who God is, what qualities he offers, what he does to heal my frequently messed up mind and spirit.

            I invite you to try it. Just get your own highlighters. 

Psalm 86

A prayer of David.

yellow = me                blue = God

Hear, O Lord, and answer me,
    for I am poor and needy.
Guard my life, for I am devoted to you.
    You are my God; save your servant
    who trusts in you.
Have mercy on me, O Lord,
    for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant,
    for to you, O Lord,
    I lift up my soul.
You are forgiving and good, O Lord,
    abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, O Lord;
    listen to my cry for mercy.
In the day of my trouble I will call to you,
    for you will answer me.
Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord;
    no deeds can compare with yours.
All the nations you have made
    will come and worship before you, O Lord;
    they will bring glory to your name.
10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
    you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart,
    that I may fear your name.
12 I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart;
    I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your love toward me;
    you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.
14 The arrogant are attacking me, O God;
    a band of ruthless men seeks my life—
    men without regard for you.
15 But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
    slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and have mercy on me;
    grant your strength to your servant
    and save the son of your maidservant.
17 Give me a sign of your goodness,
    that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,
    for you, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

            Did I mention I also highlight the weekly lunch menu before I tack it to the bulletin board?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Power of Appreciation

            My early morning melancholy vanished Friday when I discovered a $25 Panera card on my desk, the latest in a week-long string of presents, which included gum (ironic, since it’s outlawed at school), Krunchers chips, and dark chocolate Raisinets. This was Teacher Appreciation Week. Comparing notes with my coworkers, I learned they’d received cards for Olive Garden, Abrana Marie’s, and the Main Street Grille in Muncy.
            Every day the Parent Teacher Fellowship tailored our individual gifts to our particular tastes, which they’d slyly learned months earlier, going the second mile beyond “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (I can mix metaphors with the best of them.) Each day they included notes of thanks and encouragement along with a scripture verse.
            Adding “aww” to Friday’s surprise were a handful of chocolates and a personal note from a brother and sister in my classes.
            Wednesday, PTF hijacked our afternoon staff meeting and turned it into an ice cream party:  Four fabulous flavors, four varieties of m and m’s, chocolate syrup, a couple of varieties of chips, and jelly beans. (I still can’t fathom the role of the jelly beans, but a few others enjoyed them.)
            To top it off, they cooked and served us lunch Friday, fancy shmancy as my friend Israel Cohen would say. We enjoyed lasagna, chicken divan, tossed salads, garlic bread, and some amazing desserts in a large quiet room far from our students. Not only that, they extended lunch period to an hour, and other PTF members supervised the kids’ lunch, then took them outside and made them play games.
            Everyone participated, except a few high school girls clever enough to forget to bring shorts to change into. (I would have done the same thing forty years ago.)
            One of our school moms read us an encouraging Oswald Chambers devotional before distributing one more treasure. Each teacher received a fabric-trimmed mason jar filled with notes from our students written on pink paper hearts. Some kids signed their names, while others chose anonymity…or so they thought. After grading their homework, quizzes, tests, and exams for months—years for some—I recognize their handwriting.
  • §  You’re the best.
  • §  I enjoyed all the movies, random conversations, goofy assignments and most of all a good opportunity to draw stuff!
  • §  Rock on!
  • §  Mrs. Bro, thank you for being my homeroom teacher for four years.
  • §  Mrs. Bro, thank you for always making me laugh.
  • §  Thanks for putting up with me for so long.
  • §  Mrs. Bro, thanks for always talking to me about stuff and making me laugh and just making school more enjoyable.
  • §  You are such an amazing teacher.
  • §  funny stories ha ha
  • §  Thank you for everything. I’ll miss you when we’re gone!
  • §  Thank you for making me laugh!
  • §  I can’t wait for next year’s Bible class. Thanks so much.
  • §  wet socks ha
            I detect a pattern:  Most of my students come to school just for laughs. That’s okay; my first career choice was standup comic. Teaching provides a captive audience.
            A few years ago when we all took a pay cut to keep the school open, a friend advised me, “You could make more money delivering pizza.” 
            What? And miss all this?
            Besides, God didn’t call me to deliver pizza, although I don’t mind eating quite a bit of it. No, he called me to be involved with this crazy, wonderful group of students, parents, and coworkers called Watsontown Christian Academy.