Friday, February 05, 2016

Wilt And Work


Every day in class, I give a bonus question for our quizzes or memory verses. Yesterday, the question was Who was the first NBA player to score 50 points in a game? I listed eight Hall of Fame players and many took Wilt Chamberlain, while the right option was George Mikan. Several years ago, I read a biography of one of the most prolific basketball scorers ever. The following looks at what most consider his defining moment.....although there was much more to Wilt Chamberlain than just his height. This is from 12-30-05.

I wish I had more time to read. During the school year, there are few moments to sit down with a good book. There are also too few new John Grisham novels but that is a different issue. Christmas is my best reading holiday. Two weeks in St. Louis give me a chance to indulge myself, especially after my brothers and their families return to Kansas. Santa, by way of students and family members, supplied me with Borders gift cards so I stocked up on books. My reading tends to be of the non-stop variety so I finish books in two or three days. My first conquest was WILT 1962. Penned by Gary Pomerantz, this work chronicles the game many believe altered the direction of pro basketball. Late in the 1962 National Basketball Association campaign, Wilt Chamberlain set a record most feel will never be duplicated. On a freezing March evening in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the 7'1'', 260 pound Chamberlain scored an unheard of 100 points as his Philadelphia Warriors downed the New York Knicks by a 169-147 tally. The contest was not filmed and only parts of the radio broadcast survived. One photographer with limited film gave scant images of arguably the most famous game in NBA annals. Pomerantz exhaustively reproduces the game through interviews with fans, players, and team officials. Chamberlain's reaching the century mark reflected a shift to a more up-tempo and a more racially diverse sport. When he walked away from the game in 1973, Chamberlain possessed one hundred separate NBA records and is considered by some to be the greatest athlete to ever play basketball. In spite of tremendous accomplishments over his career, many fans simply define him by that one game. Like many celebrities, Chamberlain was very different from his public persona and Pomerantz seeks to uncover a more accurate version of this true athletic titan. The best insight gleaned from Wilt 1962 had nothing to do with the sport which immortalized him. It centered around the lifestyle he chose to embrace in the years following his retirement. In quotations from his autobiography, he categorized his days filled with leisure as 'nothingness.' In almost a Solomon-like reflection on his life, Wilt concluded, 
"Why did I ever think that I could fool myself into believing that doing nothing could have any redeeming value?" 
Wilt had it all; fame, talent, money, women, and a place in history. He worked all his life to achieve greatness but when the work was over, he had nothing left. Chamberlain died of a heart attack in 1999 at age 63, wealthy but alone and lonely.

I get antsy when not in school. Like most teachers/coaches, I love weekends and the occasional short (Labor Day) holidays but after a couple of days, I need to be doing something. I feel guilty if I'm not involved in a project/mission and if I sleep past 7:00 a.m. I can't envision retiring; I would be lost. Most wish they had the wealth of Wilt Chamberlain so they could take life easy but when he had it in his grasp, it was worthless. There is an energy in mankind that needs to be expended. When God put Adam in Eden, he gave him a job: Adam was responsible for taking care of the Garden. Many believe Eden symbolizes a paradise where one can lay around around the clock. The Bible does not back up that theory. There are times to rest but rest implies we have done something to rest from. Work makes us feel there is a reason for our existence. When my paternal grandparents would visit from Michigan, Grandma Hawley wanted to clean the kitchen after supper. As much as I despised washing and drying, I knew it was the kid's task so we declined her offer. To my surprise, Mom pulled us aside and insisted Grandma take over the chores, explaining that working made her feel needed. That was good enough for me! Now I see it in my mother. Alzheimer's has left her incapable of making the tiniest decision but she spends almost every waking moment trying to be helpful in the kitchen or cleaning up in the living room. You never know the final resting place of any object Mom tries to put away but her innate compulsion to be useful will not die until she does. Men define ourselves by work. When that is gone, what is left when we look in the mirror? Wilt had a recognizable face but by his own admission, it brought him little comfort. Next week, I return to sixteen hour days with too little sleep. There will still be too many tests and memory verses to grade and too many quizzes to log into the computer but I'll be happy. To me, my job matters. I couldn't keep it up if it didn't. But there has to be something to fill the void when the career is concluded. The best void-filler is Jesus. No life is empty of meaning when the Lord is at the center. Our nine-to-five existence may have clocked out but eternity is on the horizon. It's not the cash in the IRA or the everyday tee time at the country club that determines our joy. Meaningless is meaningless in any language, ethnic group, or socioeconomic strata. Let God use you. Let him use you regardless of your talent or gender or AARP membership. Our professions will last forty years- or in Wilt's case, fourteen- but our work can endure when there is no time on the earth's game clock. And it may be late in our fourth quarter!


Applicable quote of the day:
"Everybody pulls for David. Nobody roots for Goliath." 

Wilt Chamberlain

God bless,
Steve (6'1" 185)
Luke 18:1

www.hawleybooks.com
E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Wins And Losses


March Madness is around the corner! But, not all college games are on television and in the betting pools but that does not mean they are not significant. The story below, from January 8, 2007, highlights one of those occasions.

It's over! The longest losing streak in college basketball came to an end Saturday night as the Caltech Beavers thumped the Bard College (New York) Raptors by a substantial 81-52 margin. Caltech, famed for stellar academics, had lost 207 consecutive NCAA Division III basketball games, dating back more than a decade to the 1994-95 campaign. Like other Division III institutions, Caltech (technically California Institute of Technology) does not grant athletic scholarships and often plays young men who never even made a high school basketball squad. Their men's basketball website is what you might expect from Caltech. Let me quote from last year's season preview:
"Caltech has always had a fine intercollegiate player, perhaps two, on the roster but never a plethora of riches in talent with formal interscholastic basketball background; after all, this is Caltech."
I like that. They know who they are at Caltech and aren't ashamed of it. It might have something to do with the fact that Caltech has produced 31 Nobel Prize winners. I doubt we'll be seeing the Beavers featured on the college game of the week but I would guess these kids play for the right reasons; they like basketball and see it enriching their college experience.

I don't know how you define futility but Caltech basketball would embody it to many people. How do you keep going, as a player or coach, when you have lost every game for eleven years? I would imagine you have to continually find little victories until the actual ones, the kind where your score is listed on the left of the final tally, come your way. Life mirrors the victory-defeat totals of Caltech at times. We can't see where progress is being made when maybe the progress comes from just getting back up when we get knocked on our backside for the thousandth time. One of my favorite Bible verses comes from Second Chronicles, chapter fifteen. Here we find the prophet Azariah who is sent to Asa, king of Judah, to lift his spirits in a time of despair. Speaking through the Holy Spirit, Azariah gives Asa a message of hope:

"But as for you, be strong and do not give up for your work will be rewarded."
The narrative tells us that King Asa was encouraged by the words of Azariah and led a spiritual revival in the land. The setbacks of the past were history and Asa was emboldened to spearhead a return to the God of Israel by his wandering children. At times, many of us feel as if our lives mirror the won-loss ratio of the Caltech basketball program, that we never do anything that the world views as successful. Maybe all it takes is even the most modest of triumphs to show us we can reverse the direction of our existence, whether it be in economic, health, social, or spiritual arenas. There were few in the stands Saturday night but those Caltech players knew...and reveled in a feeling none of them had tasted on the college level. Now armed with the one game consecutive win mark, the Beavers have set their sights on their other ongoing streak. Caltech has not won a game in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in the last 245 attempts, a losing skid that covers 22 years! But watch out. One streak has been laid to rest; I have a feeling that the other will be buried shortly as well. Break up the Beavers!


Applicable quote of the day:
"You've got to get to the stage in life where going for it is more important than winning or losing."
Arthur Ashe



God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1
http://www.hawleybooks.com/
E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Admit One


I've been busy recently writing letters of recommendation for our seniors at WCS. Admission to the college of your dreams is a huge part of academia anymore. The following, from May 24, 2006, underscores that point.

One of the best shows on television is CBS Sunday Morning. The problem is that it comes on when I am preparing for worship services and continues after I am gone. What I like about the show is that it breaks down short features into behind the scenes glimpses of current events. I did catch the first story this morning and it was thought provoking. The topic was college admissions and the nightmare it has become to students and parents. More youngsters are applying for post-high school education and competition is fierce. In the past ten years, applications are up 500,000. Colleges are becoming selective in regards to the teens who will comprise their incoming freshman class. Increasingly, high school kids are turning to 'coaches' to steer them through the admissions process. The trend is downward as even eighth graders are availing themselves of this coaching service. Maybe I should say, their parents are resorting to this growth industry in a desperate attempt to get their offspring into their dream institution. Many of these coaches are former college admissions personnel who know the system better than anyone. The most notable is Michele Hernandez, a former Dartmouth admissions officer. Hernandez, who has authored books on the admissions minefield, charges up to $40,000 to help students be accepted at their first choice university. Speaking to experts in the area, it was concluded that applicants to the most elite universities- Harvard, Dartmouth, Princeton- have very little chance of being accepted. A percentage of slots are reserved for children of alumni and large donors. After factoring in those groups, it is estimated that a high school student who applies to an Ivy League school might have an only 1 in 40 chance of acceptance. Keep in mind that the students who apply to these institutions are by far higher achieving than the average high school youngster. I knew it was competitive but I was stunned at both the extremes mothers and fathers go to give their children the chance to succeed AND the achingly high odds most kids face in trying to make it into the upper crust schools. No wonder young people report feeling overwhelmed by the stress in their lives.

Watching this morning made me glad I never had to work my way through the current system in beginning my collegiate journey. I teach in a private school and part of me understands where the colleges are coming from. You want terrific students in your school as well as kids who really want to be there. On the other hand, I am so thankful the Lord has admissions' standards that do not mirror that of educational institutions. It doesn't matter if you are tall or short, rich or poor, white or black, Asian or Hispanic, brilliant or non-gifted, handsome or homely. You don't have to pay someone who can navigate the system. It doesn't matter who your folks are. The only criterion is your willingness to follow the Savior. Jesus put it this way in:
"Come to me all you who are burdened and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
Notice he didn't say I'll get back to you or I'll think about it or have your people call my people. His admissions' policy never hinged on extracurriculars or family background. I guess heaven is easier to get into than Harvard! And once you are in, you can't flunk out!


Applicable quote of the day:

"I believe that we parents must encourage our children to become educated, so they can get into a good college that we cannot afford."
Dave Barry



God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

http://www.hawleybooks.com/
E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

The Book

Abigail walked into my classroom before school one day last week, something she often does. One of my favorite students, Abigail is not in my Gospels class until seventh period but my door is open from 6:30 AM on and all are welcome! On this particular morning, Abigail had a present for me. More accurately, it was for my class. This may seem silly but our 8th through 12th graders at Westbury Christian School aren't required to own a Bible. Instead, all of my students use biblegateway.com to read for their daily quiz. It has the advantage of letting our international students read in Chinese, Korean, or Vietnamese along with the English version. Abigail's gift was a Bible she found she possessed. It looked brand new- no name or markings- and she asked if I could use it. Of course! Sometimes our WI-FI is spotty and sometimes a classmate has  a laptop in need of recharging so the old fashioned version of THE GOOD BOOK comes in handy. It was just like Abigail to think of others- it's just in  her nature.

That brings me to Stephen. He joined our 8th grade class at semester, all the way from China. His English is improving but he is amazingly musical, having won a national drumming competition in Beijing last year! (He is also proficient on the piano and guitar with a singing voice to match!) Not only that, his family treated Stephen's teachers at a wonderful Chinese restaurant last week where the food came fast and furious and delicious. Our faculty left stuffed with enough to go boxes for at least one more meal! Stephen is adjusting to a new life in a strange country with a foreign language and peers he doesn't know. But he's getting there and our 8th graders are looking out for him. Yesterday, as we prepared for our second period class and our quiz over  Luke 15 (the Prodigal Son if you weren't quite sure), Stephen asked me where he could buy a Bible and he meant the kind with pages. Well, I just happened to have a brand new one sitting right there! And no cost, either. From Abigail to me to Stephen, the transaction was made. No paperwork and no money changed hands. Easiest deal ever.

I'm not sure why Stephen wanted a paper Bible but he did. I know they are not always easy to come by in his homeland. On my first trip to China, I gave an army officer my copy and it was accepted as a treasure. I think it's interesting that Abigail, I'm positive, has no idea who Stephen is and yet her thoughtful gesture ended up in his hands. My part was easy. In Matthew 10:8, Jesus tells His apostles, "Freely you have received; freely give." I just passed along what Abigail passed along and it was received with joy. The rest of the script is waiting to be written. Maybe it will be another chapter in The Greatest Story Ever Told.

Applicable quote of the day:

Monday, February 01, 2016

Pictures And Thousands Of Words



Cielo came to see me one afternoon this past week. Actually, she came to see me twice after school on the same day. Cielo (her name is pronounced C-L-O) is one of my favorite students ever. She is commencing to paint the third ceiling tile in my classroom with a story from the life of Jesus. The idea came from my hometown newspaper in Nebraska. The art department in my old high school teamed with local businesses by having the kids paint scenes on tiles and displaying them in local stores. One of my previous, and also favorite students, Katherine Elizabeth Harper, painted two, based on The Last Supper and The Transfiguration. In her visit, Cielo showed me sketches of her two proposals- I think she will go with Jesus turning water into wine. A few minutes later, Cielo returned with a yard stick- measurement time! I climbed up on a step ladder to make sure her sketches will be true to scale. (Did you know the standard dimension of a US ceiling tile is 2' x 4'?) She has quite a bit of work ahead of her. The tile has to be coated with a sealer to form a solid surface over the porous tile and the painting is actually on the sealant. I have no doubt it will be a masterpiece- Cielo just has a gift. 

There are students in all of my classes who daily pen a prayer request on their quizzes or memory verses. It might center around a family member who is sick or an upcoming test/ballgame/project. I also have a number of kids who simply write a little note- several weeks ago I wrote about Annaliza who always adds Favorite Filipino Teacher! to all of her assignments. (That's me in case you're wondering!) In Cielo's 8th period, eighth grade Bible class, about half the youngsters leave a prayer request or message. Sometimes the note is for me and sometimes for my wonderful teacher's aide, My Ngo. (My favorite is the title Vy, a girl from Vietnam, has given me: Coach Lingo, after the LDS classic film we watch, Johnny Lingo.) Cielo leaves a daily note, too, but hers is different. Each afternoon, she draws a picture for me and My. I have no idea how she does it so quickly but invariably, there it is when I collect the papers and My alphabetizes them. Like all artists, Cielo has a style that is easily recognizable as her own. I should be saving them; no doubt they will fetch millions one day!

We all express ourselves in manners unique to ourselves. I can't draw a stick man but I can appreciate those with talent. Cielo, who is also a terrific student and charming teenager, chooses to communicate with My and me in a way unlike any other child in all my years of teaching. And I'm grateful. From the beginning of the scriptures, we see how people have used the talents and abilities God has given them to make a difference in a sometimes dreary world. The Lord painted sunsets and rainbows and meadows and blue skies and oceans for us to enjoy. And He gave some of His children the gift of being able to make His Creation enjoyable on a ceiling tile or maybe even a Bible quiz. A true artist can make almost anything a workable canvas, even a piece of 8 1/2'' by 11'' sheet of paper originating from Staples with fifteen Bible questions as the backdrop. Like I said, it's a gift. 

Applicable quote of the day:
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”
Edgar Degas


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

www.hawleybooks.com
E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Indispensables


I'm in the middle of writing a recommendation for admission to law school for Hanna, pictured on the right in the top picture and on the left in the bottom. Shown with Hanna in both shots is Chelsey. If you wonder why they are pictured, read this entry from April 9, 2010!

For me, teaching without teacher aides would be like playing any sport with a hand tied behind my back; I would be at an extreme disadvantage. This year, the Lord has blessed me with two terrific young ladies who have helped me make it through the rigors of academia. In an attempt to express my gratitude, I try to do little things for them. This morning, I took my aides to STARBUCKS during second period, the hour they spend with me. Pictured above from our road trip are Chelsey Villarreal, in the jacket, and Hanna McAdams. (On Friday, our students are allowed to wear jeans with school spirit T-shirts if you are wondering why the pair are not in uniform.) Chelsey and Hanna do the little things in a classroom and run the errands which allow me to focus on the teaching aspect of my job. They are very good at what they do. Chelsey has been my aide for three years and this is the second year for Hanna. They have become extensions of me and truthfully, can do their jobs without me on many days. They are self-motivating and trustworthy; they have access to my billfold and my computer and I have never thought twice about it. Here is the difficult aspect for me; both young ladies are seniors and I will have to fill their positions next fall but nobody can take their place.


Chelsey has been at Westbury Christian School since sixth grade and her folks are my co-workers. She was a member of my middle school basketball team and though she never scored a point, she led the girls in spirit! (Undoubtedly, this was a precursor to Chelsey being a four year varsity cheerleader and captain of the squad as a senior!) In eighth grade Bible class, Chelsey was so demonstrative that I made her put her hands flat on her desk when she answered a question- that was a struggle for her! Chelsey will continue her education at Faulkner University (Montgomery, Alabama) in August. Chelsey performs two other important functions in my existence. Every Sunday, she fills out my attendance card at worship and she programs in the minutes every ninety days on my pre-paid cell phone. I am praying my world does not crash when Chelsey goes to college!

This is Hanna's second year at WCS and also the second year in my Bible class. She is an excellent student and like me, bought a Honda in the past month! Hanna has a very mature outlook on life and I have been increasingly impressed with her growth since her enrollment. Hanna was born in Vietnam and adopted at a very young age by the McAdams family in Houston. She is very industrious and gifted in a variety of areas. She also is a straightener which is desperately needed in Room 258! In four months, Hanna will be a freshman at St. Edward's University in Austin and has already started supplying me with t-shirts to go along with the ties she gave me for Christmas. T-shirts and ties; the fashion essentials for the well dressed man!

I believe the Lord has blessed me with the opportunity, the ability, and the responsibility to teach the Word of God to young people, using our school as a vehicle. I also believe He allowed me the use of Chelsey and Hanna to facilitate that task. In the giving honor where honor is due department, this is my feeble attempt. Thank you, Chelsey. Thank you, Hanna.

Applicable quote of the day:
Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations. All this is put in your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it on to your children.
Albert Einstein


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

www.hawleybooks.com
E-mail 
me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Stand By Me

Here is an entry about Kylee, one of my favorite students ever. This is from February 19, 2007.


We review in my Bible classes before we take memory verses. We go around the room and each student has the option of reciting or abstaining. I even encourage the reading of the verse if the student is not quite confident of his or her perfection. After we all have had our shot, we say it as a whole or in small groups; all those wearing Nikes, everyone with a birthday from January-June, etc. If the verse is actually two verses long, we go around twice, one time per verse. The more we hear, the more we learn. It's no accident these kids can sing hundreds of songs verbatim from the radio. After the practice runs, I distribute recycled paper and we write out the assigned scripture for a grade. Twenty percent of six week grades come from these verses so I stress their importance.

Last week, our assignment was 1st John 4:10-11. In my eighth period class, we were on the next to last row of desks in our pattern of reviewing for verse ten. I called "Amber" and Amber recited it flawlessly. Next was Kylee. "Kylee." Her reply was "No, sir." I waited several seconds and again said "Kylee." Once more, she declined. "Kylee." Again, she refrained. "Kylee." Her response remained negative. I was relentless. On the ninth time, she cracked and recited the verse. When she finished, I asked her why and her answer was that I basically told her to say it. I emphasized that I had not, I simply kept repeating her name. As we went through the second time on verse eleven, Kylee, without hesitation, quoted the scripture. I didn't have to ask why. She didn't want to go through that again. Let me tell you something about Kylee. She is one of the best kids I know. Her family is terrific and they have taught her from the cradle right from wrong and how to stand up for herself. Why did she give in? She knows I never force them to say the verse but she had to be feeling that everyone was staring at her. It became easier just to say it than to fight.

Kylee's struggle is kind of a microcosm of our battle with the world. It wheedles and cajoles, isolates and squeezes us until we take the course of least resistance. I might have kept going the whole class period to make a point. Every girl in my classes told me they would have taken the same path Kylee did because they would have begun to feel guilty. The boys told me they could have held out and I think they are correct. It was nothing, an optional memory verse among friends and classmates and still there was, in Kylee's mind, an invisible pressure to conform. I'm confident that were the issue truly important, she would have stood her ground. It isn't easy for youngsters and probably not so easy for those not so young. Paul both warns us and emboldens us in the thirteenth verse of Ephesians 6: "Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." The evil is coming but there is a defense. God's armor can overcome peer pressure but as Paul puts it, we have to be wearing it. It isn't much good if we leave it hung up in the closet at home. It can even fit over a school uniform!


Applicable quote of the day:
"The man that stands by himself, the universe stands by him also."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

God bless,

Steve
Luke 18:1

http://www.hawleybooks.com/
E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com