The Houston Astros and You!

(The following is a modified (slightly shortened and less school specific) version of the message I sent to my teaching staff as we begin to prepare for the opening of the 2017-18 school year in a few weeks.  The message applies to all individuals in all walks of life and all professions.)

When I was a child growing up in the late 1970’s, the Houston Astros had very cool uniforms. 

I was a Yankees fan (that is deep-seated in my blood), but there were times when I wished the Yankees could at least be a little more colorful.  I, of course, love the Yankees’ midnight blue pinstripes and the interlocking NY, but for a kid, that Astros rainbow uniform was a lot more eye-catching!

The Astros also were also a pretty unique team.  They played in the only domed stadium (The Astrodome), they played on fake grass (Astroturf), they had exciting players like Nolan Ryan, J.R. Richard, and Cesar Cedeno (pictured above).  The Astros were even featured in one of the Bad News Bears movies!

None of that influenced me enough to be an Astros fan, but it is undeniable that there was a certain appeal to rooting for the Houston Astros. 

Continue reading “The Houston Astros and You!”

Running Currahee

Ever since my son Ryan had the same thought I did for an activity during our visit to see him in Georgia (“Three miles up, three miles down…”), I had been thinking of running Currahee Mountain.

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Currahee Mountain is the (extremely) large hill that was used as a (very difficult) physical fitness activity at Camp Toccoa during the early stages of paratrooper training during World War II.  The stories of the training, and the success of the troops, has been immortalized in the book and HBO miniseries Band of Brothers which tells the story of Easy Company from the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne.

Continue reading “Running Currahee”

Our Words Matter, Always.

The words we use matter, always.  

When we offer kindness, love, and support, we build people up.

When we are critical, or unkind, or mean, the words we deliver bring people down.  

On the pages of my blog, in educational journals, and in other forums, I have often shared stories of how kind words make a positive difference.  It happens all of the time.

When I run races, especially marathons, the words of encouragement shouted from the spectators makes an absolute difference in my mental state and my performance.  When people call out, “You look great” or “You can do it!” I believe them – sincerely and absolutely.  Positive words from people I don’t know and will never meet have helped me in each of my twenty marathons.

Just yesterday I was playing softball in the league I compete in.  I was fortunate, I had a good day.  It seemed that every ball hit to me at shortstop, I handled cleanly.  Each time, my teammates shouted, “Great play” or “Paul, you’re doing super today.”  The confidence from my teammates helped to make me have more confidence in myself, and, as a result, I played better.  

Words matter.  Absolutely.  Always.

A while back, I wrote a column titled Newton, Autographs, and the Teacher.  (That essay is contained in my new book Impossible is an Illusion.) In that passage, I wrote the following:

“I sometimes sit in awe of the tremendous power a teacher possesses – the tremendous impact that a teacher has on a child’s self-image now – and in the future. A teacher can use his autograph, the imprint he leaves on a child, to change a life. The positive words teachers leave inspire children to work harder, to give more, and to always strive to be their better selves.”

And, while I sincerely believe all of that to be true, I think, sometimes, we forget the impact we have on others and the simple fact that our own words matter.  It’s easy to point out how other people have brought us up or down, but it’s more difficult to examine when we have a similar impact on others.  (After all, I didn’t say to my teammates, “Keep telling me how good I am, it’ll make me even better.”  All I did was smile and give high fives and fist bumps – and hope that I would continue to catch everything hit my way.  Similarly, in a marathon, I don’t stop when people cheer for me.  I never go back to the spectator to say, “Your kind words are helping me through the race.”)

But, sometimes, out of the blue, a word is said, a card arrives in the mail, or an e-mail comes through that reminds us of our impact on others.  Again, I think this is especially true for teachers and other educators because our words impact on the people who are the future.  By providing support, kindness, affirmation, and even love, educators can help to shape a positive world and a positive future.  

I was reminded of this fact just the other day when I received the following message in my e-mail:

Good afternoon Dr. Semendinger,
I am not sure if you remember me, but I was a student of yours in the Seminar Class at William Paterson in the Spring Semester of 2014. 
After a rough experience with my cooperating teacher during my student teaching, I took some time off to do some reflecting on where I wanted to head career wise.  While I was cleaning off my desk, I found a paper I wrote for your class and you wrote “always be the positive difference in the classroom.”  At that moment I realized I shouldn’t let a bad experience ruin my dream of becoming a teacher. 
This past school year I took a paraprofessional aide job at my former middle school to help me become acclimated again in an educational environment.  It was by far the best decision I have ever made!  I was an in-class support aide, filled a maternity leave position, got recommended for a tutoring job, and even chaperoned numerous field trips.  Most importantly I found my passion again that I was missing!
Thank you for your time and everything you have done for me.
With sincerity,
(A Former Student)

I taught this student over three years ago.  It wasn’t yesterday…

But my words mattered.

Absolutely.

And it was only eight words.  Eight.  That’s all I wrote.  I didn’t write a paragraph.  I didn’t write even ten words.  I wrote eight.  And yet, those words made a difference to this former student.  A huge difference.  In a way, I helped to change a life.  In a bigger way, as this former student becomes a teacher who hopefully spreads kindness and a positive message, those eight words will influence many more people.

This is the power that good can bring.  It is the impact of kindness.  It is what truly matters.

Henry Adams once said, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

As educators, our biggest job is helping our students learn to believe in themselves.  Our job is to build up others.  We need to encourage.  We need to support.  We need to set the highest standards.  We need to be kind.  We need to love…  

These are the simple elements that truly make a difference.  

And so…

As we plan lessons, and programs…

As we design assessment tools and grading formulas…

As we create curriculum and input data into on-line programs…

We must never forget that our most important job as educators is to reach the hearts of our students.  We must bring passion to our classrooms.  We must look to the good.  

And we must never forget that our words matter – and as such, we must use them, today and every day, to build others up in a meaningful way.

One Day Yankee – Floyd Newkirk

(This passage comes from my upcoming book, “The Least Among Them,” a unique and original history of the New York Yankees.  The manuscript is in the editing stage.  Literary agents and/or publishers interested in learning more about this project are encouraged to reach me at drpaulsem AT hotmail dot com.)

Mordecai Brown was an ace pitcher on the Chicago Cubs teams that dominated baseball in the earliest days of the Twentieth Century.  Brown won twenty or more games in six consecutive seasons between 1906 and 1911.  One of baseball’s great pitchers, Mordecai Brown won 239 games.  He was elected to the Hall-of-Fame in 1949.  But none of that is why he is remembered today…

As a youngster, Mordecai lost one finger and damaged another during an accident with a feed chopper on a farm.  It was because of these “deformities,” that he became known as “Three Finger” Brown.  Many believed that the unique grip he had on a baseball contributed to his success. But Mordecai Brown was not baseball’s only three-fingered pitcher.

In 1934, the New York Yankees had a prospect named Floyd Newkirk.  Like the great “Three Finger” Brown, Newkirk had only three fingers on his pitching hand.  Like Brown, Floyd lost his two fingers in a childhood accident of his own.  Also like Brown, the injury did not dissuade Floyd Newkirk from playing, and ultimately achieving success, through pitching a baseball.

Continue reading “One Day Yankee – Floyd Newkirk”

Book Review: Patrick Henry by Jon Kukla

When one thinks of colonial America, the American Revolutionary period, and the birth of this nation, many great names come to mind.  Among these, of course, are Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and, George Washington. Stories of America’s founding fathers and brothers abound.  All of these men, and so many others were instrumental in the birth of our country.  Sometimes, the legends of these men outshine the other patriots and influential members of society who also played an important role throughout these important periods.  One such often overlooked giant of the time period was Patrick Henry.

Continue reading “Book Review: Patrick Henry by Jon Kukla”

Birthdays

January 21 will be here soon.  It’s a big day for some people.  Many famous people were born on January 21. 

These include:

Charles V, King of France, born on January 21, in 1338

Ethan Allen, a famous American general, in 1738

John C. Fremont, “The Pathfinder,” in 1813

Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, the Confederate General, in 1824

Christian Dior, fashion designer, in 1905 Continue reading “Birthdays”

Scattering The Ashes

READERS’ FAVORITE WAS AWARDED SCATTERING THE ASHES THE BRONZE AWARD!

Scattering Bronze Medal

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THE NEW MEXICO-ARIZONA BOOK AWARDS AWARDED ITS HIGHEST PRIZE IN LITERARY FICTION TO SCATTERING THE ASHES!!!

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MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW PRAISES SCATTERING THE ASHES:

“A thoroughly ‘reader engaging’ and deftly crafted novel from first page to last, Scattering the Ashes showcases author Paul Russell Semendinger’s genuine flair for originality as well as an especially distinctive and effective narrative storytelling style.”

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READERS’ FAVORITE GIVES SCATTERING THE ASHES FIVE STARS:

“The narrative was perfectly paced and incredibly rich with details. Sam’s voice proved to be exactly what the reader needed to immerse themselves in the narrative and feel each part of the story resonate inside their heart. Scattering the Ashes was just as self-reflective as it was entertaining. I enjoyed the descriptions of the places where Sam went, I enjoyed the way the story flowed and I loved the way Sam over thought everything (that was common and human of him!).

Scattering the Ashes by Paul Russell Semendinger

was phenomenal.

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Scattering the Ashes, will be released by Artemesia Publishing.  This book will be released in hardcover in October 2019.  It is bound to be a huge hit!  (Please see below for the publisher’s postcard graphic for the novel.)

This is a story that will engage and inspire readers to overcome challenges and to learn to appreciate the people and simpler things in their lives.  Written in an enjoyable prose, this story has a strong character-driven plot with surprising humor.  

Scattering the Ashes tells the story of Sam Holmes, a school teacher, not yet thirty years old, who is living an uneventful, yet not unpleasant, life.  Although he doesn’t admit it to himself, Sam is lonely.  While Sam is a dedicated and hard-working teacher, he is energized by the fact that the school year has ended and an endless summer sits before him.  Sam plans to use much of this free time to train for his first marathon in New York City.

Sam’s life is radically changed when his father passes away.  He soon finds himself in the office of Donald M. Stevens as the contents of his father’s Last Will and Testament are read to him.  Sam learns that this Will is not like any other.  Before he can earn his inheritance, Sam must visit various places that had been significant in his father’s life.  As a result, Sam is thrust into a journey he neither wanted nor asked for.

Scattering The Ashes is the story of a young man and his father told through travels to locations that were meaningful to them.   This story is also told through the real life confrontations Sam faces as he returns to work and is forced to deal with a contentious situation.   As he tries to make sense of this difficult period, Sam has to confront his father’s past history and decisions as an educator himself.

Fortunately, it is during his travels that Sam meets a special young woman, Rachel Parker, who helps bring direction, clarity, and focus to him.  A runner herself, and experienced marathoner, Rachel provides inspiration, guidance, and support to Sam.  As such, it is through his experiences with Rachel that Sam Holmes makes the critical decisions that will impact the rest of his life. 

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Reviewers for this work have been extremely positive.  The story has been called “delightful” and “uplifting.”

One reviewer stated, “I enjoyed Paul’s story very much. It led me to deep thoughts on death and on all sorts of life stuff. The writing has good flow and good characterization.

Author Paul Semendinger has been told of this work, “You have something special on your hands.”

Reader 1

A Postcard

Principal Sam

PRINCIPAL SAM AND THE CALENDAR CONFUSION and

PRINCIPAL SAM GETS FIT

ARE NOW AVAILABLE

ON AMAZON and at other Book Sellers!

Please see the book trailers here:

Principal Sam and the Calendar Confusion

Principal Sam Gets Fit

Principal Sam is the main character in a new series of picture books for children in the early elementary grades.

Principal Sam works at Sunnyside School.  An excellent school leader, Principal Sam works hard to make his school one that is a positive and enjoyable place of learning for children.  As such, he is loved and respected by all.  There’s only one problem, Principal Sam is forgetful and he often confuses simple things.  When this happens, the children and the teachers in the school often come to Principal’s Sam’s assistance.

Children will delight in reading about Principal Sam’s exploits and in figuring out his mistakes before he does.  The Principal Sam books are happy, positive, and very engaging.

The first Principal Sam book, Principal Sam and the Calendar Confusion, was published by Ravenswood Publishing on February 14, 2017.  This story is earning many positive reviews including the highly coveted Five-Star rating by Readers’ Favorites.

Continue reading “Principal Sam”

Missing?

Some readers of this blog have wondered where I have gone.  It seems I’ve gone missing…but, in actuality, I’m right here.

When one is a writer, he writes.  And I have been writing a lot, just not on this blog.  It’s a temporary absence because of some great writing news.

Continue reading “Missing?”