Teacher Walkout in Arizona

Part 1

As teachers prepare to walk out tomorrow, if you find yourself thinking that they are selfish, money hungry jerks, please remember that most teachers did (pretty much) know what they were getting themselves into. The pay was most likely not a surprise to them. Nor was it a deterrent. They went to college for it, spending years preparing for it, many building up school loans to do so. They wrote papers, took tests, stayed up late to finish homework, and many even had the “privilege” of student teaching. Imagine that- basically paying so that you can intern full time. For an entire semester. And yet, after what is often years of work and preparation—blood, sweat, and tears—they are still walking out. Why? Maybe there is more going on than teachers “complaining”. Maybe there is more going on than teachers being “selfish”. Please—find out what it is. Find out what is at the heart of this walk out.

Part 2

As teachers prepare to walk out tomorrow, if you find yourself thinking that they “don’t care about kids”, think about how grateful you are for them every other day of the school year. How many teachers have impacted your own life? Remember how many students they have (Arizona ranked 50th in teacher/student ratios). Remember how much they put up with on a daily basis, and how much they must care about kids in order to do a job that few are willing to do, and for such little pay.

Part 3

As teachers prepare to walk out tomorrow, if you find yourself thinking that they should have taken Ducey’s deal, please remember that they easily could have. They voted on it, and a vast majority (almost 80%) voted against it. When was the last time you could get 80% of people to agree on anything? (Think staff meetings or even your family trying to decide where to eat on Friday.) Please remember that these are educated people who our government and society at large has entrusted with the care of our children on a daily basis leading up to this. If they rejected the deal, there’s probably a reason. Find out why.

Part 4

As teachers prepare to walk out tomorrow, if you find yourself thinking that they are leaving students “stranded”, please consider the fact that even if NONE of them walked out there would still be over 2000 teacher vacancies in Arizona. 2000! Arizona cut more funding to K-12 public schools than any other state from 2008 to 2015, according to an analysis of spending nationwide. Maybe it isn’t teachers that are leaving students stranded. Maybe teachers aren’t breaking the system. Maybe the system is breaking teachers.

Part 5

As teachers prepare to walk out tomorrow, if you find yourself thinking that they should be content with their paychecks and should just suck it up because they knew what they were signing up for when they went into teaching, please remember that you’re right. They most likely did know that they wouldn’t ever make a lot of money. And they CHOSE teaching as a profession anyway. What does that say about them? Probably not that they are money hungry opportunists. But Arizona ranks 50th in teacher pay. 50th. Think about that. Montana pays teachers more that we do. Nevada. Oklahoma. Texas. Louisiana. South Dakota. All pay their teachers more than us. Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the nation and Idaho, Rhode Island, and Michigan all pay teachers more than we do. Maybe teachers aren’t the problem. Maybe it’s time we consider what we already know to be true: that we’re going to get what we pay for.

Part 6

AZ ranks 50th in test scores. Think long and hard about that. Five. Oh. 50th. Dead last. Anybody like being dead last when playing games? Sports? Did anybody move into the neighborhood they live in because the school was the worst one they could find? Who wants to buy a car that’s rated lower than all the others? Anybody? Then let’s not continue living like everything is okay in education here in the state of Arizona. It isn’t. Something is broken. Please consider that as teachers walk out tomorrow. You might not understand why they are doing it. You might not agree with them doing it. Or how. Or when. But at least try to understand that the system that they are an INTEGRAL part of is in desperate need of change. And they are doing something about it! We should be standing up with them.

Part 7

As teachers prepare to walk out tomorrow, if you find yourself thinking that they are lazy, please do a little research into how many hours teachers work. There are some discrepancies in the data that can be found online, so I would encourage you to do something you may have never done. Ask a teacher. Find out for yourself. Teachers work hard. But it’s not just their teaching duties. In the 2015-2016 school year, 17.9% of public school teachers had a job outside of the school system, according to data from the NCES. Another 44.5% took on extracurricular activities within the school system that netted additional pay. Teachers work hard for our students. Please remember that as they walk out. There is more going on than teachers just being lazy. Don’t believe the hype that this well-educated, hardworking, and compassionate group of people are all of a sudden lazy and selfish. Consider how you felt about teachers before there was any talk of a walk out. Would you have considered them hard working? Self-sacrificing? Members of a noble profession? Me too. What changed?

Part 8

As teachers prepare to walk out tomorrow, if you find yourself wondering, “Why a walkout?” know that you are not alone. Many are wondering the same thing—on both sides of this issue. But let’s be honest, the problems with Arizona education are not new. When I graduated from college and started teaching in the classroom almost 15 years ago, teachers were having these same conversations. Low wages. Schools being underfunded. Politicians making promises. Low test scores. I literally remember being shocked to hear that Arizona ranked 49th or 50th in test scores EVERY YEAR. And that was 15 years ago. Let’s be honest. No one is in any hurry to give teachers raises. No politicians are tripping over themselves to direct budget funding to education, including the current administration. THEY HAVE HAD EVERY OPPORTUNITY. Truly think about it. One of the ONLY reasons this walkout is even getting any press is because it will inconvenience people. Teachers are only being heard because of the threat of schools closing down. So if you are wondering why a walk out, please truly consider whether any of these funding issues would even be talked about WITHOUT a walkout.

Final Thoughts on the Teacher Walkout

As teachers prepare to walk out tomorrow, please remember that they are human. They have goals and dreams, just like you. They put their pants on the same way. Many have spouses and kids of their own. They struggle to make ends meet. Do you know any teachers? Have you asked them what they think about the walk out? Have you asked how they like their jobs? Or what they think of the state of education as it now stands? I’ll bet if you do you’ll find out that most teachers aren’t lazy, money grubbing child haters. I’ll bet you’ll find that they probably support change but are unsure about a walkout BECAUSE THEY LOVE KIDS and families and would NEVER in a million years do what they do, day in and day out, if they didn’t. Please don’t forget that tomorrow. Let this walkout bring about appreciation for teachers. Not resentment against them.

#istandwithteachers

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Praying for the Stones – July/August 2017

We know many friends and family are praying for our family, and for this we are extremely thankful. It has been a difficult season for us, but also sprinkled with grace and joy. Below is a brief list of prayer requests.

Please know that we sincerely appreciate all who pray for us–we don’t know how we would make it without it. Continue reading

Activities for Autism/Special Needs Families

For those in the Phoenix area, here is a brief list of some fun activities that are autism and/or special needs friendly.

Annual Events

Special Day for Special Kids (March 18th, 2017)
The event is designed to honor and provide a fun day for special needs children and their families. It is totally free for the kids and their families, the admission, the rides, the fair and the food are offered by Scottsdale Sunrise Rotary Club. The event provides free train and carousel rides, games with prizes, hot dogs, chips, ice cream, and beverages for all. Click here for more info.

Surfing with Nixon (August 25th, 2017)
Surfing with Nixon is a nonprofit organization that gives kids with autism a chance to surf as a form of water therapy. Surfing gives kids sensory input and teaches them to control their bodies in and out of the water, while at the same time bringing families together who are dealing with the same or similar experiences. Click here for more info.

Children’s Museum of Phoenix – Special Night of Play (August 26th, 2017)
Special Night of Play is an evening for families with children affected by special needs, allowing them access to the museum during a less-crowded and more peaceful atmosphere compared to our regular business hours. This event is free for families affected by special needs; pre-registation required. Maximum six tickets per family. Click here for more info.

Wings Autism (October 7th, 2017)
Wings for Autism is designed to alleviate some of the stress that families who have a child with autism (or other intellectual or developmental disabilities) experience when traveling by air. The program provides families with the opportunity to practice entering the airport, obtaining boarding passes, going through security, and boarding a plane. Click here for more info.

Walks/Runs

Conferences

Ongoing Activities

We Rock the Spectrum
We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym was founded to provide a place for children of all ability levels to play and grow together. As the only kid’s gym that offers an all-inclusive philosophy we have found all children can benefit from our uniquely designed sensory equipment that is specifically designed to aid children with sensory processing disorders. The gym includes ten specialized pieces of sensory equipment, indoor play structures, open play, parties, and a monthly “Parent’s Night Out”. Click here for more info.

Hubbard Family Swim School
For children with special needs at all levels of swimming skill. Class focus for the Special Needs classes is based on the swimmers and can include: submersions, backfloats, rollover breathing, and independence in the water. Though the instructors are not therapists or individuals who are specially trained to work with children with special needs, H.F.S.S. offers the opportunity to enjoy the excitement of the water and the freedom it allows to children who have difficulty with motion or expression in varying forms. Click here for more info.

Keen Arizona
All of KEEN’s programs are based on a single principle: pair a trained volunteer with an athlete and let them discover together how much they can do. They might swim (using adaptive equipment, kick boards or flotation devices), they might play in the gym with a basketball or kick a soccer ball. Many love to bounce on balls or be pulled along the floor on a flat scooter. The session ends with everyone coming together in a circle and sharing with the group what they did that day “that made them very proud.” Athletes burn energy, meet and interact with new volunteers, see old friends, and then rejoin their parents, who have had some precious respite time. Occurs on the first and third Sunday of every month. Click here for more info.

AMC Theater (Sensory Friendly Films)
AMC is proud to partner with the Autism Society to offer unique movie showings where they turn the lights up, and turn the sound down, so you can get up, dance, walk, shout or sing! The Sensory Friendly Film program is available on the second and fourth Saturday (family-friendly) and Tuesday evenings (mature audiences) of every month. Please check your local theater listings for specific showtimes. Click here for more info.

Studio Movie Grill (Special Needs Screenings)
A pillar of SMG’s Outreach for the past eleven years is the monthly Special Needs Screenings, designed for families raising children with special needs, and scheduled following the release of a new family movie. These family-friendly movies are free for children with special needs and their siblings, with adult tickets available for before-noon price. Special Needs Screenings are shown with the lights up and the volume lowered and children are free to move around, talk, or even dance in the aisles during the movie. Click here for more info.

Snip-Its Salon
Snip-its stylists, in conjunction with Autism Speaks®, receive special training to meet the needs of children with autism. They were one of the first to provide this unique training for stylists so going to Snip-its is a positive experience for children with autism. The Snip-Its website provides a guide for training in hair cutting, and provides  several videos to help acclimate you and your child to the experience. You can also schedule a pre-visit with your child to familiarize them with the salon and the stylists. Available at participating salons. Click here for more info.

Sports Leagues

Special Needs Camps

Redeemed

Creation unfolds before my eyes, moving here and there.
Death, decay, and ravished earth–its inhabitants despair.

In mud, for blood,
the game plays on.
My mind inclined,
that hope was gone:

“This war cannot be won.”
Tainted, all. Worthy, none.

Miserable. Wretched. Dark, it seemed.
“Fear not, my son, you’ve been redeemed.”

.

Redeemed you say? It cannot be! Look underneath my skin;
death, decay, and ravished love, how far afield I have been.

My heart, my art,
my work, you see,
is bent, I spent
it all on me!

The land so full of death,
was poisoned by my breath.

“It matters not, how much you’ve schemed,
for you, my son, have been redeemed.”

.

My intentions often hid, but my actions speak aloud.
I care less of what God thinks, than approval of the crowd.

My creeds and deeds
have proven ill,
my oaths in droves
lay unfulfilled.

My labors and my plans,
disintegrate like sand.

“It’s not by these you are esteemed.
For my Name’s sake, you are redeemed.”

.

There was a day, a darkened day, whose scorn had been foretold.
A trial, denials, a blackened sky, a traitor’s pouch of gold.

The sting, the King,
sighed on a cross.
The pain and strain,
of lonely loss.

For joy that was ahead,
He suffered in our stead.

The war was lost. Or so it seemed:
“It is finished. They’ll be redeemed.”

.

Three hopeless days. Three anguished nights. No voice of comfort heard.
And then the reign of death was smashed, and He rose undeterred.

The one, True Son
had paid my debt.
My cries will rise
unburdened yet.

For Jesus drank the cup,
but God had raised Him up.

In light this brilliant gospel, gleamed,
our hope: “In Him, we are redeemed.”

.

I believe! But God, there’s more. Though Your hand of grace is plain.
This pain, this endless struggle. It’s too much. I can’t sustain.

My tears and fears
will not abate.
My cares are snares
that cultivate

resentment uncontrolled,
and anger, truth be told.

“No matter how you’ve cried and screamed,
still you, yes you, will be redeemed.”

.

This work I cannot shoulder, Lord, the burden is not light.
I cannot do what you want me to! I can’t win this fight.

I’ve one, my son,
and daughters, three,
and wife, our life,
too much for me!

Tonight your bread supplies,
But what of when we rise?

“Trust. Through my death, and life, I’ve deemed:
You’ll not be lost, you’re my redeemed.”

.

I long to see the Dawning Day. To see You face to face.
I long to see the conflict cease. To end this weary race.

No tears or fears
beset me there.
No cares or snares,
to crush me where

I’ll finally be free.
‘Cause Jesus died for me.

And all will be as I have dreamed,
And all because, I’ve been redeemed.

.

Breaking Bell

I don’t know how many of you have seen the new(er) Tinkerbell movies that Disney has been putting out, but having three daughters, I have. A thousand times. I also have too much time on my hands to think about them. So, in the new movies, there is this mild, fairly even tempered version of Tinkerbell. Sure, she gets red faced occasionally, but by and large she is more curious than anything, bumbling her way through things. Sometimes she is super sweet, and even shows a remarkable amount of self control, as far as I can tell.

Does anyone remember what she was really like in the original Peter Pan? Trying to kill Wendy and all? She definitely tried to get the lost boys to shoot her out of the sky–trying to get rid of the competition. How did Disney go from that evil little vixen to the current dumbed down version?

I laughed as I had a moment of genius, though. I wonder if maybe they plan on having a “descent into madness and badness” type of Breaking Bad thing planned for her. Maybe a story line that traces her from her innocent, fun loving days in the new movies into the jealous and vengeful, children murdering fiend that she is in Peter Pan. That would be awesome.

They could call it “Breaking Bell”.

Forgiving God

Forgive:

  1. to give up resentment of, or claim to, something given in return, compensation, or retaliation
  2. to cease to feel resentment against

Is it ever appropriate to talk about forgiving God? I guess it would depend what we mean by “forgive”. If we are implying wrongdoing on God’s part, then I would say no. But what about the aspect of forgiveness that means, “to cease to feel resentment against”? Continue reading

Step 1 – Powerless over Alcohol

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

– Step 1, The Big Book

We admitted…

The first time I uttered, “I’m an alcoholic”, it was one of the hardest things I had ever struggled to say.

It’s not an easy admission to make. It implies that something has complete control over me. That something has mastery over me. That this thing–alcoholism–is part of my identity. Admitting it to myself was hard, but admitting it to others was even harder. At least at first. I didn’t want to come to grips with the fact that I couldn’t control my drinking. I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to admit it–to myself or to anyone else. For years, I didn’t admit it. Or wouldn’t. Or both. Probably both. Continue reading

Helping Special Needs Families

At some point, most families, couples, and individuals will run into a family with a member who has special needs. Their stories, filled with challenges, often give rise to a desire to help. But where to start? As a father of a special needs son, I realize that the idea of helping special needs families can be intimidating. Every family is unique, special needs or not, but the thought of helping a family whose needs are very different than our own, or perhaps completely unfamiliar, can be intimidating.

I want to share some ideas that may hopefully stir up some imagination and creativity regarding ways to come alongside and help special needs families. Continue reading

Praying for the Stones – June 2017

Friends have asked how they can be praying for us specifically, so here is a brief list of prayer requests. We are considering posting a monthly or occasional update. This is the first, so it is a work in progress.

Please know that we sincerely appreciate all who pray for us–we don’t know how we would make it without it. Continue reading

Angry at God

This post has been a long time in coming. Years. It’ll probably stretch into a series.

The thing is, I’m mad at God.

My anger towards God has not been easy for me to admit, especially in a public forum like this. The truth is, I’m nervous about how it might come across. I don’t want to surprise or disappoint my friends and family. I don’t want to give anyone the wrong impression about the God that I love. I don’t want to lead anyone astray.

But I am mad. And not just a little mad. Not like a kid pouting in the corner over not being able to have a piece of candy. It’s more like a person who feels like they have been betrayed by a spouse. Or like a person who believes that they have been wounded by their best friend. Or like a person who just found out that their understanding of what life is about is not accurate and now everything has been turned on its head. It’s a deep-seated kind of anger. The kind that simmers for a long time and starts to boil over. It’s real anger, and that scares me a little bit. Continue reading