“Thanks for the Beautiful New Roads in my Neighborhood!” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Newly Resurfaced Road in my Neighborhood, Snellville, Georgia, February 2013

Newly Resurfaced Road in my Neighborhood, Snellville, Georgia, February 2013

Yes, here it is, folks!  It’s the road that you’ve been waiting for!  And my, it is quite a beautiful road, I must say.  Seriously, several streets in my neighborhood have been newly paved, and they are beautiful!  I guess this is what you would call ‘resurfacing,’ to someone who doesn’t know alot about the appropriate terms to use when describing road paving.  It is all really nice.

Newly Resurfaced Street in my Neighborhood, Snellville, Georgia, February 2013

Newly Resurfaced Street in my Neighborhood, Snellville, Georgia, February 2013

About three weeks ago, the workers, trucks, machines, and equipment were in full gear in my neighborhood, paving two streets and a large portion of one lengthy road.  The workers moved along quickly and appeared to take pride and were professional in their project.  On one particular day, I stopped in my vehicle and spoke to two workers, complimenting their handiwork, and one replied, “The pleasure is ours, Ma’am.”  Not only did the E.R. Snell Contractor Inc. employees of Snellville, Georgia do fine, professional work, but they were also courteous and pleasant, as well.

Newly Resurfaced Road in my Neighborhood, Snellville, Georgia, February 2013

Newly Resurfaced Road in my Neighborhood, Snellville, Georgia, February 2013

So, my thanks goes to E.R. Snell Contactor Inc. and their professional and courteous employees for resurfacing several of the streets in my neighborhood.  They are really beautiful, and the work appears to be of high quality so that the roads will last a good long while. 

I have been wanting to make this post ever since the roads were re-paved, though I must apologize since my son was ill for several days, and I have been ill, and we have also had some other issues going on.  So, please don’t think all of this wonderful work has gone unnoticed – it certainly hasn’t!  It’s not every day that the roads in one’s immediate area are resurfaced; and I, for one, certainly appreciate it.

“Fidelity and Morality” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Fidelity and morality.  They are two different words, yet they are intertwined, especially in association with relationships, partnerships, and marriages.  Fidelity refers to “faithfulness,” while morality can be understood as meaning the difference between right and wrong, or a reference to one’s personal values.  In a marriage, fidelity means being true to one’s spouse or partner, while morality can be described as acting in accordance to one’s values of right and wrong within that marriage. 

In my 41 years, including those 9 years within which I was committed to a serious relationship that resulted in marriage (and, unfortunately, later divorce), I will admit that there were a few occasions during which I was tempted to stray from my vows, to go back on my holy and blessed commitment to my spouse.  I am proud to say that while I never strayed or broke my fidelity, physically or sexually, I am guilty of becoming too emotionally involved on a couple of occasions. 

When spouses stop communicating effectively, cease to love each other, and no longer care about each other in many different ways – by words, body language, actions, degradations said in the presence of others – it is all too easy to look elsewhere for one’s needs and desires to be fulfilled.  When spouses and/or partners in any relationship do not understand, appreciate, love, or respect each other, their bond is deteriorating. 

Sometimes, one spouse tries very intently to maintain and strengthen the relationship bond, while the other is oblivious and uncaring about the problem.  At other times, both spouses may work at it and improve their relationship.  And, in other instances, both spouses may give up hope and throw in the towel because too much hurt and pain has already caused too great of a rift or distance between them that is irreparable.

Recently, a man whom I have known on a completely platonic level, asked me out to coffee.  He is someone whom I have known in my religious community for the past 2.5 years, and we both share the same religious faith.  He and I have always been friendly to each other, and have seemed to appreciate and respect one another, period.  He is intelligent, attractive, … and married with two young children.  Therefore, certainly “going out for coffee” in his mind is not merely and innocently going out for coffee.

Certainly, for a woman in my position of being divorced and single with a child of my own, I admit that I am want for a meaningful, personal, intimate relationship.  I would like to share meaningful events and experiences in my life with a spouse who thinks and feels similarly to the ways in which I do.  It would be nice to share spiritual, emotional, personal, physical, sexual, and even financial situations with a close and caring spouse.  It would also be wonderful to have a man in my life who would be a caring role model for my son.

So, while it is a temptation to become involved with this attractive, intelligent, spiritual man who is also my peer, I declined his invitation for coffee.  In my refusal, I also stated to him that I do appreciate his friendship.  However, he must understand that the platonic friendship is as far as it goes.  I am not one to sneak around and be dishonest.  I am not about to lie and go against my morals, values, and principles.  I try my best to be out in the open with everything, unless it is something that is seriously going to hurt or damage myself or my family in some way.

It took 2.5 years of this man’s friendly relationship with me for him to ask me out for coffee.  Even when I declined, he still held out hope that I might someday change my mind, as that is what he shared with me.  I pray for him that God will help him see that he has a good, committed wife and two wonderful, beautiful children.  While he may wish to fulfill his own unmet fantasies and desires, he does not realize what an affair would do to his own family or mine. 

I already know all too well that many men will say whatever they like just to convince a woman to go to bed with her.  Those men promise all kinds of things, and then, never deliver.  They want all the fun and pleasures, but not the true commitment.  I am not interested in that, and am not about to get involved in something that will hurt so many people, not to mention go against my morals and values.

When a person is married or in a committed relationship, fidelity is precious.  The fidelity that has been bestowed upon the couple has been done so in a holy and/or legal manner.  When we are not happy or things aren’t going well, it is all too easy to give up and throw in the towel.  I have even told my ex-husband that my own parents experienced worse trials and tribulations that we ever did, and they will celebrate 50 years of marriage this year! 

So, men and women out there, perhaps you don’t love your spouse in the same manner as you used to, but remain open-minded and do not become blinded by your unfulfilled or unmet fantasies and desires of flesh that are fleeting and temporary.  Look at and stick to your commitment – strengthen it, make it better…for yourselves and your children.

“Orchard Park Central School District (New York): Truly an Exceptional School System” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

There are schools out there that are truly outstanding and exceptional.  It is unfortunate that, all too often, those schools, school districts, and/or school systems that are truly outstanding and exceptional do not receive greater attention and recognition.  The Orchard Park Central School District in Western New York State is one such truly excellent, admirable, inspiring, outstanding, and exceptional school system.  It is located in an affluent suburb of Buffalo, New York.  And, it is a school system that is composed of six schools, including one high school, one middle school, and four elementary schools.  I will take the liberty of sharing some of the many incredibly excellent qualities of this school system.

More than one decade ago, I had the pleasure and privilege of being employed as a substitute teacher for two years within Orchard Park Central Schools, while I was completing my teacher certification requirements in secondary social studies education.  I was called upon to substitute teach nearly every day during the academic year, being offered and having taken opportunities to be a daily and short-term substitute teacher.  Most of the experience that I had in substitute teaching at Orchard Park was in high school special education as well as in middle school core subjects, though I also substituted in all subject areas throughout elementary, middle, and high schools there.  My experience substitute teaching during the two years that I was at Orchard Park were like no other that I have ever had in their excellence, whether as a substitute teacher, salaried teacher, or voluntary teacher.

What I experienced while subbing in the Orchard Park Central School District were many wonderful things.  People throughout the school system were caring, compassionate, kind, hard-working, flexible, understanding, professional individuals with high standards and expectations, integrity, values, and insightfulness.  They were well-educated, open-minded, creative, and thought outside-of-the-box.  They were not rigid, inflexible, or set in their ways.  They were people who – though their instruction, policies, and practices were already outstanding – were always finding new ways of performing better, achieving more, being the best they could be. 

People at Orchard Park, when I was there, were those who communicated and interacted well with each other.  They always wanted the best for the students.  The focus was not on themselves, not on hiding their own rare errors or human imperfections, but on being positive role models and guides for students.  They were professionals who supported each other in positive ways and raised themselves and each other up.  They were positive with each other, but also provided constructive – not condeming – criticism of and toward each other when it was necessary, in order to strengthen and improve the quality of their education and standards, not causing it to regress. 

These were people who were confident enough in themselves to know that the greater community was supportive of them, and they trusted that students’ parents understood that they always acted in the manner to best benefit the children.  Trust was mutual between school professionals and students’ parents because those school employees always exemplified the best in instruction, education, discipline, safety, care, compassion, concern, standards, policies, honesty, and professionalism.  In these ways, the mutual bond of trust and confidence between school and home was also reflected in the confidence, trust, and performance of the students – in all levels and in all areas. 

If something could be improved, administrators and teachers fairly-reviewed the situation, and enhanced instruction, education, standards, and/or policies, making things better for everyone.  Academic standards are those that are most important at Orchard Park, and certain high school teachers would sacrifice several Saturdays throughout the academic year to come to school on their own time to review with and drill students to better-prepare them for important standardized tests.  Core middle school teaching teams often met with parents in conferences to inform parents of their child’s performance and progress, as well as things that were going well, things that could be improved, and anything else that was noticeable about the child, particularly those positive and more personal qualities and characteristics. 

Teachers and administrators at Orchard Park went out of their way to make the school experience not only a professional experience, but also a personal one for everyone, most particularly the students.  In this way, students, parents, and families genuinely felt valued, important, honored, respected, and understood.  It was good to be kind, caring, compassionate, encouraging, supportive, and nurturing toward students.  That is what was sought, wanted, desired in the professionals at Orchard Park. 

Lines of communication between the school, families, and community were always open.  Compliments and criticisms were accepted, heard, and appreciated.  When an administrator or teacher heard something they did not want to hear from another about themselves, they did not lash out with concealed vengeance in any way to somehow get back at the student and/or the student’s family.  School administrators and teachers at Orchard Park were both professional enough and honorable enough to take in what was said, reflect upon it, and improve.  They did not ignore, deny, or overlook the situation, nor did they blame others – including the child – instead of perceiving their own actions and/or gaining feedback from other colleagues.  They always tried to perform in the best manner for the students.

So much openmindedness, flexibility, and creativity is present in and throughout the Orchard Park Central School District.  High School seniors were afforded opportunities to participate in “Open Campus,” a time during which they could leave campus for certain parts of the day to perform other actions or responsibilities.  A great number of clubs and extracurricular activities, including art, music, theater, sports, language, and other activities were also available to students to expand their horizons and fulfill their creative endeavors. 

More recently, the school district implemented the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program within the school system.  When I was at Orchard Park, though I did not perceive any serious issues related to peer-to-peer bullying, and though I believed the policies toward student respectfulness were excellent, there were those rare occasions when students were bullied, more particularly certain high school students who appeared different and/or did not fit in with the mainstream in some way.  The openmindedness, flexibility, and creativity in the folks at Orchard Park Central School District are what has allowed the implementation of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, already reflecting reported improvements in reducing bullying and improving peer respectfulness toward each other. 

The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, as well as sharing with the community about any sex offenders living in the district, as well as other programs, are those that place the Orchard Park Central School District on the cutting edge of progressive, exceptional school systems.  The professionalism, integrity, intelligence, compassion, and appropriate personalization of the district’s faculty and staff – as well as the support they receive from the greater community and school board – are also what place the school system in the forefront of educational systems – whether public, private or parochial. 

When one works in the Orchard Park Central School District, he or she feels and is supported, much like one would experience within their own family.  Because such professionalism, support, trust, intelligence, and confidence are prevalent within the school system among adults, these qualities and values are also purveyed to the children and students.  Also, because so many adults within the school students’ families are educated and maintain high standards and expectations, this is also what is often reflected within the students, as well.  Not only are the students generally intelligent and creative, but they are typically respectful and honorable.

It was most certainly my pleasure and privilege to have been employed as a substitute teacher within the Orchard Park Central School District more than one decade ago.  Though I applied to the school system for a salaried teaching position once I acquired my educator certification, I believe that I did not have enough of a stake, influence, or network within the community to be considered.  Orchard Park would have been my dream school system within which to teach as a full-time educator.  Though such an opportunity was not afforded to me, I will always carry the memories of the wonderful experiences that I had within this outstanding, exceptional school system.  Thank you, Orchard Park, for being the best you can be, and for always striving to do even better…for the students!

References:

Orchard Park Central School District.  January 18, 2013.  http://www.opschools.org/spotlight.cfm?&school=0 .

Orchard Park Central School District.  “Olweus” (Bullying Prevention Program.)  January 18, 2013.  http://www.opschools.org/spotlight.cfm?sp=6&start=1&end=25&school=0 .

“What Benefit is There for Third Graders Serving One Hour Detentions?” (By Michele Babcock-Nice)

In how many schools throughout our country do primary and/or elementary school students serve detentions?  For that matter, how many second and/or third graders throughout our country are required to serve 30-60 minute detentions for rather minor issues?  How many of you adults ever served a detention at all in the primary or elementary grades? 

I am a person who believes in nurturing and supporting children, positively – as positively as possible.  I recall that when I was in school, I served one detention.  The detention that I served was when I was in high school for talking excessively in chorus class.  That detention was one that I served after school in study hall for 45 minutes. 

Today, primary and elementary school students are serving detentions of 30-60 minutes.  I fail to see the benefit of such severe disciplinary consequences on such young children.  Issuing detentions for situations such as when a student is talking without permission while walking in line with the class in the hallway, to me, is overly severe.  Such disciplinary consequences do not allow children to be children. 

In the best-behaved children, receiving such a detention shatters their self-esteem, especially when the teacher does not issue such consequences fairly to other students who exhibit the same behavior.  Such lengthy detentions issued to young children reflect an unforgiving attitude and atmosphere of the adults.  Such consequences cause feelings of injury and resentment in students, especially the best-behaved students. 

Issuing 30-60 minute detentions to third graders for students who poke a hole through a piece of cardboard, or who write in another student’s personal storybook after being given permission by that student to do so is unfair, harsh, and unforgiving.  Especially for those students who attend Christian faith-based schools in which forgiveness is to be one of the core values of the school – and when such forgiveness is not practiced, but rather, severe consequences of lengthy 60 minute detentions are issued – undermines the faith foundation of the school.  What is preached is not, in fact, practiced by those issuing the disciplinary consequences. 

In too many schools, children are expected to be perfect at all times, at all costs, no matter what.  Of course, I expect that when there are serious situations that arise, such as kids hurting or harming another in some way, there are to be serious consequences.  However, I still do not see the benefit of issuing serious consequences to students for minor issues.  Doing so does more harm than good, and it potentially creates a bad reputation for the school. 

Regarding the issuing of these consequences, there are often no exceptions, unless, of course, the student happens to be the child of a teacher or other employee at the school.  Then, there can be much that is overlooked.  Even if the children involved in a situation are not offspring of school employees, bias and/or favoritism may still be present in the decision-making regarding disciplinary consequences.  And, for some poorly-behaved students, the most severe disciplinary consequences could be issued, and there would still be no change or improvement in behavior, so to what end does that lead?  Again, that just creates resentment and mistrust in the student toward authority figures. 

Some students will even act out more after receiving disciplinary consequences.  Their negative behavior is negatively reinforced by the severe consequences, and so the cycle continues.  Some students get so nervous about the severe disciplinary consequences that they act out and do not even realize it, and then, they receive the severe disciplinary consequences – exactly what they were afraid of and trying to avoid.  Some adults believe that severe consequences – even for the most minor of issues – will stop the child’s behavior, though being understanding, compassionate, and speaking with care to the child about the situation is the best route to take. 

I am familiar with one school principal who visited a class of kindergartners, yelled at them, caused several of them to cry, and then, left the room, leaving the three adults in the classroom to comfort and console them.  How is that beneficial to the students?  How does the leader of the school yelling at them give them a sense of comfort and confidence.  Tragically, it ingrained their fears of the principal, that he is a big, mean, scary man to avoid and not trust.  He may compliment them publicly, but privately, he yells at them and makes them cry?  Is this a man who should be a leader of a Christian faith-based school, one who unnecessarily intimidates and scares the youngest students in the school?  It appears that he is exactly the person whom school system administrators want to lead the school.

Issuing lengthy detentions of 30-60 minutes or more to primary and/or elementary school students is too long and too severe.  Such disciplinary consequences – especially in response to minor issues – hurts children’s self esteem, injures their confidence, and creates mistrust and resentment, especially when the child has generally outstanding behavior and/or when the consequences are unfair, with the other child(ren) involved receiving no consequences. 

If school administrators are trying to increase enrollment and maintain student retention rates, issuing severe disciplinary consequences is not the route to take.  I have observed a good many families leave particular schools simply because of the severe disciplinary consequences their children (especially the boys) receive for minor issues, to the denial of teachers and/or administrators.  Why is it that so many female teachers lack the patience, empathy, and understanding necessary in understanding and teaching young children, particularly boys?  For them, the students must immediately abide by their rules, or repeatedly face consequences, sometimes throughout the entire school year, and often, simply because the teacher is angry with and/or does not like the child.  I have observed this to occur toward many children in relation to several teachers. 

Typically when parents inform school administrators about such situations, their children are only punished more because the teachers are supported by the administrators.  If the administrator denies that there is a problem regarding the teacher, then the parents are supposed to believe it, as well as that the problem lies with their child.  This is definitely a regressive and unproductive attitude to take, however, I have observed it occur over and over again.  People tell me that I have multitudes of patience, compassion, and understanding – I would be overjoyed to teach those educators and administrators how to respect and understand young children.

It is unfortunate that more people who are in the business of educating and/or caring for our children are not more understanding, sensitive, and compassionate toward them.  Being excessively harsh is incorrect and unethical; being compassionate, caring, and kind is what Jesus has taught us to do.  Those affiliated with Christian faith-based schools should be practicing that the most of anyone rather than doing the opposite of it.

I do not believe in harsh punishments, nor severe disciplinary consequences.  I do not issue them, nor do I agree with them.  When disciplinary consequences issued by a school are more harsh than I would ever dream of giving my own child, one must step back and reflect on whether or not the school truly upholds the faith and values that it promotes. 

Such faith and values begin at the top in any organization, and if those values are not in accordance with what the school stands for, then leadership restructuring, reorganization, and/or positive, progressive professional development is needed in order to promote, maintain, and enhance the best interests of the students.  I am one who truly believes that our schools must be progressive, not regressive.  People can say alot of good things, but actions truly speak louder than words.  When those actions do not correlate with the faith and values on which the school was founded, one must wonder in what direction the school is heading.

So the question remains, “Where are those schools in which true faith-based compassion, sensitivity, and understanding – as well as an excellent, affordable education – is practiced toward children by everyone, rather than severe and unforgiving punishments for minor issues that are detrimental to them?”  These are children for goodness sakes, not criminals.  I am interested to know where the said progressive and nurturing schools are; and only those schools with said qualities need apply.

“The Polar Express and Other Train Rides with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Our First Ride on the Polar Express with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

Our First Ride on the Polar Express with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

For the past seven years, my family has enjoyed many rides on the trains of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (“GSMR”).  During those years, my family has ridden the trains for different events on approximately seven occasions.  Each occasion has been wonderful and memorable, and our enjoyment of each event, as well as the consistently friendly service, kindness, and professionalism of the GSMR staff keeps us coming back for more! 

My Son Happily Meeting Santa Claus on The Polar Express, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

My Son Happily Meeting Santa Claus on The Polar Express, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

Our previous rides with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad have included several to the Halloween Pumpkin Patch to visit Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Lucy, as well as a couple of rides on the Thomas the Tank Engine Train, about which I will describe further on in this article.  This time, during the current month of December, my family experienced The Polar Express for the first time!  And, what a wonderful and exciting ride it was, indeed.  It was especially memorable; and we have the GSMR Vice President/General Manager to personally thank for our great experience on this ride.

Santa Claus Speaking with Children on The Polar Express, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

Santa Claus Speaking with Children on The Polar Express, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

On our Polar Express ride, we were served chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate by the friendly chefs; the children met and spoke with Santa Claus, who was accompanied by his #1 Elf, Brandon; and everyone sang Christmas carols on the way back to Bryson City from our stop to board Santa Claus at the North Pole.  An audio storytelling of The Polar Express book was read to children.  And, children also had the opportunity to march back and forth in the aisles with the chefs as they all pretended to be a train.  My son immediately jumped at the chance to participate in the imaginary train, and all those children who took part had a wonderful time.

My Son with his Silver Jingle Bell and Roundtrip Ticket on The Polar Express, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

My Son with his Silver Jingle Bell and Roundtrip Ticket on The Polar Express, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

Each child on the train personally received a special “silver” jingle bell from Santa Claus; and they also had their unique Polar Express Roundtrip tickets humorously hole-punched many times by the Conductor.  My son held onto that special roundtrip ticket for his entire ride, not even setting it down for a moment.  Once he received the silver jingle bell from Santa Claus, he also maintained that on his person for quite some time.  The Polar Express was a wonderful experience for my family, and made quite a happy, memorable impression upon my son, who, no doubt, will ride it again in the future.

My Son at the Halloween Pumpkin Patch with Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Lucy in Whittier, North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, October 2012

My Son at the Halloween Pumpkin Patch with Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Lucy in Whittier, North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, October 2012

On four occasions throughout the years, my family has ridden on the GSMR Halloween Pumpkin Patch Train Ride.  Each experience has been happy, wonderful, and memorable, particularly due to the fun Halloween atmosphere that the rail company creates for it’s riders.  On the ride to the Pumpkin Patch, an audio storytelling of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is played for the children.  Once the train arrives at the Pumpkin Patch, Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Lucy are waiting to great the children. 

My Son at the Halloween Pumpkin Patch in Whittier, North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, October 2010

My Son at the Halloween Pumpkin Patch in Whittier, North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, October 2010

Then, the kids have the opportunity to participate in many activities, such as going on a hay ride, roasting marshmallows, jumping on inflatables, using a bobber to get an apple, playing fun Halloween games, eating Halloween cookies, playing checkers, going Trick-or-Treating in a makeshift neighborhood, and other memorable experiences.  Again, every ride and event is sure to remain in one’s memory as a wonderful and lasting experience.

About to Enjoy a ride on the Thomas the Tank Engine Train, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, July 2010

About to Enjoy a ride on the Thomas the Tank Engine Train, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, July 2010

Two of the GSMR train rides that my family has enjoyed have also included those on the Thomas the Tank Engine Train.  The first of these rides for my son was when he was three years old – and this was also our very first of many outstanding rides and events enjoyed with the GSMR throughout the past seven years.

My Son with Sir Topham Hat, Day Out With Thomas, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, July 2010

My Son with Sir Topham Hat, Day Out With Thomas, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, July 2010

Of course, I had to buy a train whistle for my son, as well as a “Day Out With Thomas” pennant, and a couple of other souvenirs.  We were also able to get pictures with Sir Topham Hat, Thomas’ railway manager.  That was a real treat, especially because it was an extremely hot day, and Sir Topham Hat was roasting, even while getting photographed in a shady spot.

We are so thankful to have happened upon the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad many years ago, and that we have been able to experience and enjoy the many train rides and events offered by the railroad, with those included in this article being only a few.  All of the trains are well-maintained and are staffed by caring, professional people, making it a joy to ride every time.  Bryson City is also a pleasant and beautiful locale with breath-taking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smokies.  The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad can be found online at www.gsmr.com.  Check out and experience their outstanding train rides today!