Prior to my graduation from college, I was completely oblivious to the condition of industrial agriculture. Thinking about the source of my food extended as far as which store I preferred to shop at and farmer’s markets were luxuries for those who had the means to be picky. Further, processed food was categorized in degrees; some processed food was less harmful than others (only true if you neglect corn’s invasion of everything).
My penchant for researching new ideas brought me to a series of fascinating documentaries that served to pull the veil back from the marketing facade of our food production models. I found myself at the table of micro-farmers, urban farmers, and advocates of sustainable agriculture.
I would like to invite you to the same table and pass along introductory documentaries that started my own venture. You may not walk away considering how you can contribute to sustainable agricultural production, but if you alter your ideas of food and consumption, then a goal has been achieved by those of us who produce (or aspire to produce). Continue reading
*Disclaimer: The account you are about to read should in no way reflect upon my former fellow teachers. The fact that they remain where they are despite knowing the truth of what I will describe should not be taken to mean that they tolerate or approve of the issues. Compassion should be extended to them as they endure factors that require them to remain, when they wish they could join me in departing. Finally, I attempted to reconcile with the parties at fault, but to no avail. I only record here a general account of the issues and will not name names or specifics.*
I have struggled a great deal as to what, if anything, should be said about the chief reason I departed my teaching career. A great battle has been waged in my mind because I fear that in revealing the nature of the most pressing facet, I will in turn cause injury to innocent parties. My most ardent wish is that the issues I faced be seen for what they are and that those who are co-laborers under such realities will be given compassion, understanding, and grace. The challenges of the system do not always lie with teachers, but most often with those who rule over the system. Continue reading
I had an obstinate craving for fresh air, unimpeded movement, outdoor life. I wanted the earth, and I wanted to live in the close embrace of the earth. Some ancestor of mine must have been a hermit on a mountain, a gipsy, or a peasant: I know not which, but something of the temperament of all three had been bequeathed to me. The smell of fresh-turned earth was a smell that revived in me a portion of my nature that had seemed dead; a flower set me dreaming of solitary woods; and I found myself watching clouds and weather signs as though my bread depended on their lenience.” – The Quest of the Simple Life by William J. Dawson
My parents can heartily testify that outdoor work was not my cup of tea growing up. Yard work was detestable to me and the last on the list of ways to spend a Saturday. As I think back on my youth, I am not entirely sure what it was about the work that I found so worthless and undesirable. Perhaps it was nothing more than a child balking at the assignments of parents.
The first memorable positive exposure to “blue-collar” work was while I was in middle school. I had the opportunity to work a summer with a family friend who was a HVAC technician and plumber. I spent the summer learning to install ventilation, furnaces, copper line, and troubleshoot systems. Many days were spent in houses with no AC, since that is the very thing we were installing, and sometimes without power to supply a fan. Continue reading
In the fall of 2007, my freshman year of college, I took on a project for a Christmas production that promised a lucrative paycheck and entry into a field I was very interested in pursuing: technical theatre production. My task was to program and synchronize a 30 ft tall “tree” equipped with 500,000+ lights in which stood a choir, to the music of the program. (You can view an example of what it would have looked like here.) The process was complex and required much more than what I had been told.
During that process, while trying to complete school, I developed a stress induced ulcer. In the span of one month, I lost over 50 lbs as there were many days I was bed-ridden with acute nausea. For days at a time, I could not sleep or eat. One particular Saturday, I worked from 0800 to 0500 the next morning, caught one hour of sleep in an empty classroom and arose at 0600 to begin prepare the day’s services. Continue reading
The change occurred in the span of one week.
Though I had been mulling over the information for some time, once the trigger was pulled, one week was all it took. While visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Illinois, I brought up some changes I had been considering. In the safety and comfort of their home, we spent the week discussing different ideas, posing and answering various questions, and considering the long-term plan at stake.
For about a year I had been considering a change of career. Though I loved being a teacher, it just wasn’t paying toward my goals and aspirations. Further, the last year of teaching had proven quite difficult; challenges to my integrity, mounting stress under exceeding demands, and unresolved conflicts with the powers that be. (I was also quite worn on the windowless office I inhabited…”Don’t Fence Me In” comes to mind.)
After a week of deliberation, conversations, and phone calls, I was thrust into a new world. By weeks end, I had three prospective jobs with different companies and was enrolled in CDL school. After four years of teaching, I was about to embark on a career as an Over-the-Road Trucker (OTR). (I will pause as you recover from choking on your drink or cleaning up now spattered food.)
Quite simply put, it is one more step in my pursuit of a simple life.
You can blame Joel Salatin. After graduating college and struggling to find work, I stumbled upon a lecture he gave at Google. From there, it was a landslide of books, documentaries, and discussions with other farmers that an acute desire for a simpler, agrarian based life began to well up. Ever since that initial encounter, I have been on a quest to simplify and work towards a future homestead/farm.
I must seem like a lunatic to many. Indeed, I have received several reactions to verify that notion. A college educated, gifted and successful teacher upending his comfortable, white-collar life in the pursuit of the earthy and agrarian. Why?
It will take several posts to explain all of the facets that culminated in the sudden change of careers, but I hope that through my writings, you will understand my convictions and the reasons this change was necessary. Further, I hope that my life and writings will serve as an impetus for soul-searching, stock taking, and perhaps even a similar change in your own life.
From time to time, I will post from my collection of writings I have amassed while on the road, as well as quotes from readings I am undertaking. When the next change comes, I will chronicle my journey into homesteading.
Though the type of desk may have changed, I am still writing.
From the desk currently in Williams, Iowa,
Mr. Bluebaugh, aka TruckingProf
An update on the TinyHouse has been long overdue. This year has proven to be far more hectic than I anticipated and keeping my head above water has taken most of my time.
At last I have a free moment to write a quick update on how things have progressed with our house.
We seemed to have gotten off to a blazing start in August and September. A donor stepped forward, an architect gave his signature of approval, Continue reading
If you had previously followed this blog, I thank you. Though it was temporarily hidden because I did not anticipate needing it again, I am back and with a pretty exciting journey to chronicle. The last several years, I have been working with Learning Disability students through the Discovery Program. This year, I have been given the privilege to work with gifted students in what we call the STEWARDS program; a student environment for arduous studies.
This pull-out program for 3-6 grade students, works through differentiated enrichment units. The purpose of these units is to foster the gifts the students have and to train them to be good stewards of those gifts. This year the topics are as follows: Conservation, Architecture, Constellations, Circulatory System, Bizarre Animals, Aerodynamics, Culinary Arts, Inventors/Inventions, and Travel/Touring.
This blog will primarily chronicle the journey that will make up the architecture unit. Why you ask? Because we are not going to be talking about bridges or the history of architectural design. No toothpicks and marshmallows here!
For about three years I have extensively research a growing movement within our country – the Tiny House. Though I am certain I will not live in a house that is a mere 117 sq ft., I might just own one for traveling the country. My vision for this unit consists of briefly covering the history and impact of the movement as well as contrasting the benefits and drawbacks of such houses. Along with that, I thought this unit would prove the ultimate platform for HANDS ON learning.
How would I accomplish this? Why not build one as a class and auction it as a fundraiser?
I laid out this crazy idea, not thinking it would legitimately take hold, and am now at the stage where plans have been purchased, the trailer is being ordered, and timelines are in place. Here is the outline of how it happened…in one weeks time.
Monday – Topic Ideas were given to my boss.
Tuesday – Upon inquiring what project I would consider for the Tiny House unit, I cast the vision for building a house.
Wednesday – Next came the question of cost – a mere $25,000. I thought the project would stop here, but momentum kept building.
Thursday – By this time, the Administration was behind the idea. Now we had to be about finding a donor.
Friday – I participated in a 45 minute meeting with a Lees Summit Plans Examiner, Project Manager, and Planner where preliminary approval was granted!!! (The City is stoked and wants to watch what happens.)
I am completely blown away. We went from concept to preliminary approval in 4 days.
After approval was granted, the search for a donor commenced. Though it was a short time, it seemed to drag on. My hope waned and I began to draw up lesson plan B. The donor deadline came and went without funds. Yet, three days after the deadline, through a providential conversation, a donor stepped forward and is gladly putting forth the whole amount for the project.
I was sitting at home after back-to-school night, pondering what would be taking place in “lesson plan B” when my boss called me and informed me of this incredible provision. I was stunned to say the least. I don’t think I said anything during the conversation except an emotionless OK. I hung up the phone and let the news sink in. I had given up hope, but now I was back in the midst of the project! I raced back to the school at 10pm and began to collect all the material I had shelved and to produce parent letters, schedule spreadsheets, and project timelines.
Since then, many details have fallen into place, and I’m ecstatic to announce the following:
During the 2014-2015 school year, Summit Christian Academy’s Stewards class will be building a Tiny House and auctioning it off as a school fundraiser!
For the last week and a half, I have been pouring over material lists and blue prints. Little by little, I am seeing this grand dream come into reality. Yet, I am still completely blown away that this is actually taking place. (I also have the occasional “What have I gotten myself into” moment). Never did I think it would move beyond a crazy idea! The Lord has already worked in incredible and unexpected ways. What a year this will be!
Stay tuned for progress!!
From the Desk,
Professionalism weighs heavy upon me in the midst of anything I do. This attitude was instilled in me by my father who has been a top-notch salesman for over 20 years; often standing within the top 5 sales persons in his company from year to year. Further, professionalism has been in my recent deliberations concerning my career due to a recent survey I embarked upon regarding the doctrine of vocation (perhaps summed up best by Martin Luther when he said: God does not need your works, your neighbor does). Since I have been placed in the field of educational therapy, I am to glorify God in every aspect; one of those aspects involves professionalism and integrity.
It is important for Christians to practice with integrity and professionalism in the midst of a world, especially in special education, that looks down on Christians. However, if Christians are to practice with integrity there must be goals and plans in place for it to occur; professionalism does not occur overnight. Further, I believe that in order to maintain a professional practice, you must always be learning from colleagues and adapting your practice to ensure best practice methods. Professional practice requires ardent work, self-sacrifice, and faithful application of conviction and practice. Accordingly, when reflecting upon my own practice, there are two areas I wish to work on in the coming year in an effort to improve my professional practice.
First, I must be empathetic. I am not naturally empathetic when it comes to educational expectations. I frequently battle the temptation to chalk up a student’s shortcomings to conscious and willful laziness or a failure to apply one’s self adequately (though this does happen from time to time). When reading the chapter entitled “Empathic Intelligence” from The Clinical Practice of Educational Therapy, I was convicted of the role empathy is to play in our educational practice. Though there was much I learned this year regarding empathy and the practice thereof, there is still much I could do: daily practice patience when frustration is evident, continue to provide a safe, encouraging, and personable environment for therapy, and go out of my way to provide positive feedback and encouragement in progress throughout the year.
Second, I resolve to zealously learn my students. My students are made in the image of God and inhabit more than figures on a page; it is imperative that this never leave the forefront of my mind in my practice. As I learned this past year, interaction with my students extends beyond the therapy walls. Moving forward, it is my earnest goal to learn the academic desires, wishes, passions, ambitions, temperaments, study practices, and family dynamics of my students in order to fully accommodates their needs in a manner that involves them and is not merely about them.
What about you? Do you have thoughts regarding professionalism in your vocation? Share them in the comments below and let us begin a dialogue!
From the Desk,
Well my first year of teaching and working in Special Education has come to an end and I want to summarize my experience in the ring. Currently, I am writing a mere 100 yards from the ocean in Salvo, NC as my vacation comes to an end; I cannot image a better way to conclude a great first year. As I have been away and relaxing, I have been mulling over my experience in an effort to elucidate the lessons I am to learn and apply to make next year even better.
The last month of the school year was hectic and full of uncertainty for where I would be in 3 months time. The end of the year is always marked by a mad dash to summarize reports, grade final projects, finish course material, and complete the necessary in-service days before the end of the school year. This makes for a rapid end that flies by in such a manner that one could easily overlook all the lessons one is to take from the year. When one is glad that the race has ended and a time of repose has begun, the last thing on the summer list is to learn from the success and failures of the previous year.
Here are the top six things I can gather from my experiences and put forth for you and I to learn from.
- The power of saying NO and the power of saying YES. There were many things I should have said NO to this year. However, in my desire to be the best coworker I could be, there were a lot of things I said YES to and the result was a schedule gorged with work and starving for leisure. I should have listened earlier in the year to my former 5th & 6th grade teacher (now coworker) when she explained why I needed to be careful what I took on to prevent burnout. Though I did not burn out, there were times I was very close. (As the year progressed, I did learn to be comfortable saying NO) That being said, there is also great value in saying YES. There were times when I would fill in during a spare hour to fill the gap for a teacher with an emergency or a sub who was running late. Being flexible and being able to fill in the gap aids in creating a mutual environment of support and care; I will always help my coworkers to the best of my capabilities and opportunities.
- When dealing with students who are more literal than normal (i.e. does not understand metaphors, colloquialisms, etc.), choose your words very carefully. If you do not, you will be misinterpreted, parents will be upset, meetings will follow, and you get the picture.
- Avoid the temptation of taking work home with you. I did this way too much at the beginning of the year. While I am single and do not have pets and taking work home is not as much of an issue now, it is certainly not a habit I want to establish before I am married and have a family of my own. I learned that I would be most productive with certain tasks at the beginning of the day as opposed to putting them off to the end of the day. Accordingly, it was easier for me to arrive early to work (6-6:30 range) rather than to stay after school; after a day of intense individual Discovery Therapy, one does not have much energy left.
- Relationship enforces discipline. I found that it was futile to issue discipline if I did not have a relationship or rapport with the student. Without the common ground, discipline is viewed as capricious and as though the teacher has it out for the student, instead of being an instance where the teacher can help form students and aid them in understanding correct conduct. This manifest itself most evidently in my duty as cafeteria monitor for the high school. Since only 1% of the high school actually had me as a teacher, the only context the other 99% of the students knew me was in the cafeteria as the guy who made them clean up. Accordingly, meaningful discipline was near impossible. I am still trying to determine how that scenario can be remedied.
- Keeping track of communication is key in education. A log of when parents are emailed and why is a life saver sometimes. It also allows you to determine if you are communicating too much or not enough.
- Something that worked well this year was to include my boss on every important email; I learned this trick from my father. Though not every email would require any action on her part, it allowed her to keep a pulse on what was going on in the department and how parents/students were being handled. Further, if a situation were to come up, she already knew about the previous track of communication and was not blindsided. This is one practice that will stay in my quiver.
From the desk,