Teaching remotely? Here are some tips.

Every single school that is offering any sort of virtual option should take time NOW to learn how to motivate and manage people remotely.

I am a remote team leader since before COVID, and here are some top-of-the-dome thoughts:

Don’t measure or seek to regulate “time in front of screen.”

It may feel like you’re keeping kids honest. In reality, you’re motivating them to game the system. Instead, measure something directly related to the outcome you are desiring. Making a kid sit on a zoom call doesn’t make them any smarter or prepared for a test or prepared for life.

Asynchronous communication is critical.

If a meeting can be an email (or a video), it absolutely should be. This goes for parents and students. You can have ways of determining that they consumed the content of the “meeting” without staring at their glazed-over eyes on a screen.

Don’t reinvent the wheel.

There are already great educational resources out there on YouTube and elsewhere. Use those for “lecture time” and spend your energy applying the concepts to your specific students by interacting with them to see what they are missing.

Cut yourself some slack.

This is different than what you trained for, and remote teaching/learning is tough. You can’t just apply the same techniques for keeping kids engaged that you could in the classroom. But you can be creative and flexible.

Think through “cameras on” policies.

“Cameras on” meetings run the risk of every student being distracted by their own face on the screen. And they may be embarrassed to turn on microphone or camera because their home is loud or messy.

Teaching remotely? Here are 5 quick tips from a remote team leader that will save your semester. Click To Tweet

I’m more than happy to speak to or answer questions on a Zoom call of educators at my kid’s schools (Greenwood County District 52) or others.

Contact me here:

Memories new and old on Todd Quarter Road

28 years ago, (give or take 6 months) I rode a borrowed bike from my Grandmother’s house down a nearly-dirt road about 5 miles to a tiny little convenience store beside a tiny little bridge over Lake Greenwood.

I don’t remember much about the store… other than how great a Cheerwine tasted at about 2:45PM at 90 degrees and 98% humidity, but I remember much about the bridge there on Todd Quarter Road.

My memory is tainted both by time and the glamorization of being in South Carolina–a place so magical that you could pee in the yard (which is a fairly big deal to an 11-year old boy), but it was not a fully one-lane bridge, while also not necessarily wide enough to fit two cars across at high speed.

It was the kind of bridge years later as I learned to drive I’d watch my knuckles whiten as I reminded myself to breathe when a truck passed me.

Todd Quarter bridge is where I learned to fish.

My cousin Michael (who was from around here) would take me and my older brother, the city boys from North Carolina, to sit underneath the bridge and fish for crappie, brim, and the occasional bass.

In those magical days before cell phones, we’d leave the house mid-morning with the instructions to be home before it got dark.

We never cut it close to it getting dark. The thought of riding a bike down that road at dusk was enough to break through even a pre-teen’s illusions of invincibility.

Hours later with a stringer full of fish flapping from the handlebars of whoever had the best ability to ride while being fish-slapped for 5 miles, we’d pull back in and start cleaning the fish for dinner.

This morning I woke up to the sound of my 9-year-old who was too excited to sleep past 5 AM. He’d been promised fishing with dad and a cousin.

Now that we live right on the other side of the lake from that house I’d spend a week in each summer, I thought it fitting to go and check out how the fish were biting on Todd Quarter Road.

The bridge is much nicer these days. The placard on one edge reads 1999, my sophomore year of college. Don’t tell that 11-year-old, but now you can actually fish from the bridge, with a dedicated spot to stand out of the way of traffic.

That convenience store isn’t there any more (can’t tell what they’ve turned that building into… looks like a guest house or something).

The fish weren’t biting, but oh what a full circle this little morning trip to the lake was!

I told myself it was to avoid a sunburn that I opted to do my fishing from under the bridge. But once I sat down on that red clay (redder than I remembered, even… but maybe that’s this new-fangled 20-year-old bridge construction) I got a little emotional.

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and realized…

…I’m home.

We Are Moving To South Carolina!

There’s a long backstory to our move. Ever since Jacqueline was diagnosed with Adult Onset Type 1 Diabetes (now more than 2 years ago), we’ve had a plan to get closer to her family in South Carolina. Lots of things needed to fall into place, but it turns out a global pandemic that shuts down everything is the final kick-in-the-britches that’s pushing us out the door.

If you had asked me in December for the timeline, it would have sounded like “as soon as the foster toddler’s adoption is final, we’ll start the process.”

If you had asked me in Late January for the timeline, it changed to “because of some extenuating circumstances in the family, we’re moving before the adoption is final, which just means more paperwork, but we need to get down there after the kids are out of school in June.”

If you had asked me in February for the timeline, it changed to “because of some school-related things in SC, we are going to bump up the move to April over Spring Break”

If you had asked me three days ago, that would have still been the plan.

But then moving companies started closing because of the virus. And state governments started mandating that businesses close.

So, if you asked me for the plan as of last night, we’re now moving on Monday.

To call it a whirlwind is an understatement. I’m not sure which part of my overwhelm is coming from COVID-19 and which part is coming from managing/thinking about the constantly-changing logistics of the move.

The weirdness of moving when you can’t grab coffee to say goodbye to friends is terrible. I just keep reminding myself that we’ll come back once the virus stuff blows over to say a proper goodbye.

We’re very excited to get down there, but definitely didn’t want it to go down this way!

I’ve Got POCKETS: Lessons learned from a 2.5-year-old.

As I type this, my toddler is resting against his favorite new naptime accessory, a stuffed horse that is serving as a pillow. Before he nodded off to sleep, he exclaimed “I’ve got pockets!” and shoved his little hands into them, and promptly began snoring softly.

an emoji heart obscures the face of a young boy laying on a stuffed horse with both hands stuffed in his pockets.
Foster Baby asleep with his horse and his pockets.

A few years ago, I had the proper perspective on these moments, and slowly but surely it’s returning to me.

I’ve not liked being quiet lately, because I’ve erroneously thought that it is my job to provide for my family, and when I am quiet and alone, I’m terrified by my own inner monologue:

What are you doing resting? Don’t you know that there are more things you could be doing right now? Why haven’t you learned a new marketable skill today? What if someone else does, and passes you up? You need to be hustling!

Me, on repeat

Here’s the truth: chasing vocational peace is like running to the candy aisle at the store to feel full.

Candy is not supposed to do that. My job is also not supposed to do that.

Heck, my family is not supposed to bring me peace. Placing that weight on my job or my kids or my wife will crush them.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.

2 Corinthians 5: 1-3

The heavenly dwelling I long for is mine already, in Christ. The peace that I hope that “one more thing” I learn or do vocationally will bring me is already mine, in Christ.

I once had a pastor tell me that the whole of the Christian life is a process of realizing “I remember forgetting that before.” This is one of the things I had forgotten: Life and ultimate peace is found by discovering that Jesus is in control. He doesn’t expect me to rescue myself.

If you’ll excuse me, I am going to go stuff my hands in my newly-discovered pockets, and rest.

2010-2019: Waiting, but poorly.

This year was essentially one long pause button for my family. We had intended for the adoption to be finalized, for a promotion at my job to be finalized, and for some traction toward moving to happen, but none of that happened.

I’d love to say that we did a good job of waiting, of trusting in a power larger than us to know what to do, and resting and waiting, but we did not do well.

I did not do well.

When I look at the big picture (that’s what the year starting with a new 10s digit will do for you, right?) the 2010s have essentially been a very long pause button. In 2010 we left a job that we thought we’d retire from. Full-time ministry was our calling, and we greatly enjoyed the years of trusting God to provide for our growing family.

With a BRAND new baby and a 2-year-old, it honestly felt when I left staff with Cru that God had dropped us off at the curb, and driven away. I leaned heavily on my own understanding, and started working retail, barista, and sales. I had to dig myself out of this funk.

The church job that happened 2 years later was another case of us thinking that maybe the long pause was over. But the reality that even working at a place we loved was taking a toll on the family and there was no real long-term full-time plan there. God had circled the block and waved at us, but left again.

When I was let go of the telesales gig in 2013, I dug in deep into my own understanding and decided to throw everything I had at this “WordPress” thing. I was going to be an entrepreneur, a business owner, and figure out my way out of the financial weeds.

Two years into that adventure, I’d finally gotten enough skills to land a full-time job. I had made close friends in the industry who encouraged me both spiritually and vocationally.

Then God took a big part of that way, too. My best friend Jesse passed away from complications with Cystic Fibrosis and I was left again with the feeling that God had dropped me off at the curb, and I was alone.

Since 2017 and our foray into foster care, it’s been really hard. My wife was diagnosed with Late Onset Type 1 Diabetes, and there have been other medical issues in the family that are well above my paygrade.

I can’t honestly say I have any close friends, and as we’d made the decision to move to SC, it didn’t make any sense to cultivate those friendships only to have to lose them again.

In late 2018 we thought for sure that the case was finally going to wrap up and that we’d be moving into adoption in 2019. When that didn’t happen, I again leaned on my own understanding and for the first time found that I just didn’t have any understanding to lean on.

I really hope that this “end of myself” thing will lead me back to leaning on Christ, to trusting that he really does have my best interests at heart, and that he has a plan for this 10-year desert.

If I take my cynical glasses off, I can see God’s hands all over the past 10 years.

Not once in those lean years did we have to take out a loan or put things on credit in order to make it. (medical loans not included, but they are all paid off now). More than that, we became officially debt free during those lean years.

Not once in those years have we had to skip a meal (even when maybe I should have).

Even in the ONE job I took in those 10 years that I didn’t enjoy and excel at, I still worked alongside people I truly enjoyed and respected.

Now, on the back side of those lean years, I’m working a job I love, with a team I love, doing something that I’ve truly grown to be good at. I’ve got more money than I’ve ever had, and am looking toward purchasing a house when it comes time to make the move.

Not insignificantly, God added the most precious child to our family and soon that will be official via adoption, Lord willing.

I’ve had to re-learn that even in areas I think I’m capable, it pays to not lean on my own understanding.

No matter how capable you feel in an area, it's ALWAYS better to not lean on your own understanding. A lesson learned from a decade of waiting. Click To Tweet

My prayer for the 20s is that I and my family will do a better job repenting, a better job trusting, and a better job acknowledging God, who will make our paths straight. Who’s with me?