Process is Messy

In my high school classroom, I have a poster:  Writing is messy. 

My students’ interpretations fall somewhere between, “Well, yea, my handwriting IS messy!” to “No, that’s not true. I have nice handwriting, so my writing isn’t messy.”  What’s missing from their interpretations?

The real meaning of ‘messy’ as it relates to learning.

And so begins our year-long discussion about the ‘messiness’ of learning:  writing, process, thinking, figuring stuff out, process, product, process, discussing, process… You get the idea.  It’s m.e.s.s.y. And there’s an awful lotta ‘process’ goin’ on!

By the end of the school year, they’ve got it.  (Well, some of them, anyway.)

Since ‘process’ is my middle name (or should have been… mom, are you listening?), I chuckled when I saw this illustration in Austin Kleon’s newest book, Show Your Work! 10  Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered.

Process is Messy

Yes, it is!  Messy, indeed.

Note to self:  Enlarge the image and put it in classroom.

Is your process messy?  Does messy make you happy or uncomfortable?

Without messy, I’d be a mess! 🙂

The JJ Project

“Do you know J____  (JJ)  S ______?” coach asked.

“No, should I?” I replied.

“Probably. He’s on his way to being booted from the team* permanently.”

“So, what’s the issue?”

“Major attitude problem.”

“Does he have (college-level) potential?”

“Has been a walk-on since his freshman year.”


“Send him to my classroom Wednesday.”

And so it began:  The JJ Project, a process to help a young man find his way back to a place he belongs and to a future he desperately needs.

He had no idea what he was in for, who this teacher-lady was, or why he was even there, but words of encouragement from teammates helped him understand:

“Trust her, dude. She’s good people. You can trust her. She won’t lie to you. She won’t sugar-coat things either.” (Awesome young men! Offered to help me stage an Intervention Meeting.)

Thank you, JJ, for trusting me to be a part of your journey…..


*Footnote: ‘The team’ is a state-championship-winning high school football team whose coach instills and demands humility, unwavering commitment, and dedication to God and team, in that order as best as I can tell.  Many of the team’s players are students in my class. JJ is not. We were a collision of fate and good fortune on a recent February day.

If Only I Knew

Death. A dreadful event.

“Why did it happen?” they asked yesterday.

If only I knew.

Navigating daily twists and turns with teens broadens my perspective, tickles my funny bone, sharpens details often overlooked in a chaotic adult world, but in the never-ending ‘tragedies’ teens create, death – a real tragedy – brings pause. And confusion.

“Why did it happen?” they ask.

And in that brief pause, the air heavy with sorrow, I have no answers for these young people who’ve come to expect reasonable reasons and enlightened explanations.

If only I knew ….  is all I can muster.

Death. A dreadful event.

R.I.P.  Axel and Cameron.