Friday, June 30, 2017

A Little More Homework

While Leo Buscaglia was alive, he told a humorous story about his childhood at the dinner table. Each night, he and his three brothers were expected to share something they had learned that day.

He recalls going to the encyclopedia just before going to the table, opening the book randomly and finding the population of Nepal. Joyous, his father told Leo to get the encyclopedia and the family had a discussion about Nepal, the people, the altitude, and, well, all things Nepal.

I don’t do the story justice, but the video of him telling the story still brings me a smile. What he and his older siblings thought was a waste of time was a memory Buscaglia carried with him late into adulthood. The idea was that there is nothing too small to be learned. And anything can be learned and turned into joy if one allows it to happen.

This past week, my school district brought in John Antonetti, author of “17,000 Classroom Visits Can’t Be Wrong” among other books, and who calls himself, “a learner.” Over 500 of us worked on ways to reach kids, teach kids, and help kids to think. There were no magic formulas. He didn’t wave a wand like Harry Potter and do magic.

Well . . .

Actually, there was magic.

There were teachers and school administrators and district administrators, some older and quite experienced, others newer to the classroom and less experienced. No matter, he gave us a spark. Perhaps more than a spark. In some of us, perhaps many of us, he helped kindle a raging wild fire.  

He helped us see, once again, why we entered the profession in the first place. He helped us see that kids really need us, or rather, we need the kids. Honestly!

The final day, John told us the story of Kevin. A poor kid whose mother was dying of cancer. The day following the day he and Kevin connected in a magical moment, he never came back to the school where John taught. His mother had died over the holiday weekend and he and his brother were split up between relatives and John never saw him again.

Until about twenty years later.

Kevin recognized John. At first John had no idea who he was. I have to admit that happens to me. I mean, I’ve been in education for forty years and that’s a lot of kids, so I can understand John not recognizing a kid. I get that.

But Kevin recognized John. Kevin was a kid who had a disability, but was later given the designation of gifted. That hit both my wife, Kim, and me. Our son was similarly classified. Wil had a learning disability- reading and math, but was also gifted- art. It was art, particularly photography, where Wil thrived.

Kevin told John that he had become a mechanic- a lead mechanic for a major company we all know. And Kevin thanked John for helping him get there. You see, there were days when John would bring random things, dump them on a desk, and tell kids to make something from them. Kevin explained that it was exactly what mechanics do. And Kevin was thankful that John helped him discover that Kevin could do that.

Again, I don’t do the story justice. I can tell you it was moving. Kim had to leave because the story had certain parallels to our son, Wil and his story. As John told Kevin’s story, she had thought about Wil. I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. I’m sure Kim and I weren’t the only ones in that auditorium with tears and lumps.

Two things happened . . .

The first was that John asked each of us in that auditorium to picture a student, any student, and write that student a letter how we will try to make a difference in his or her life this next school year. We spent about six or seven minutes writing a letter which was then placed in an envelope to be delivered to us later in August.

I picked Jonathon, a sophomore kid who I had come to know. A kid with a smile. A quiet kid from a large family. A good kid skating in the land of B grades and C grades. Nothing remarkable, really. Just a good kid. But I see potential in him. My challenge is to help him realize it.

The second was that John sang us a song. Didn’t know he could sing. Nice voice, easy to listen to. The song, and I have to say I will probably get the title wrong, is “A Little Homework To Do.”

A Little Homework To Do. Each of us. All of us.

You see, the minute we stop learning, we stop living. As teachers and as educators, the minute we believe we have nothing left to learn, we fail kids. We end up failing ourselves.

So yes, John, I do believe that I have A Little More Homework To Do. I know I do. Even after forty years, I have a lot to learn. And John, I believe as you do, that we come full circle: The Teacher Is The Learner, and The Student Is The Teacher. I have a lot More Homework To Do because I have a lot more to learn. Perhaps each of us have a lot More Homework To Do because each of us has a lot more to learn. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

I finished my fifth work of thriller/suspense fiction, Caught in a Web and I’ll keep you posted as to when it will be published. I am actually working on my sixth, Spiral Into Darkness and I’m having fun with it.

Please feel free to connect with me at:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

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If you like Thriller/Suspense fiction, check out my novels:

Available on Amazon for .99 the Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they don’t know one another, the lives of FBI Agent Kelliher and two boys become interwoven with the same thread that Pete Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their lives are in jeopardy as each search for a way out.

Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy:
Two thirteen year old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And the possibility exists that one of his team members might be involved.

Shattered Lives, Book Two of the Lives Trilogy:
Six men escaped and are out for revenge. The boys, recently freed from captivity, are in danger and so are their families, but they don’t know it. The FBI has no clues, no leads, and nothing to go on and because of that, cannot protect them.

Splintered Lives, Book Three of the Lives Trilogy:
It began in Arizona with death and it ends in Arizona in death. A 14 year old boy has a price on his head, but he and his family don’t know it. Their family vacation turns into a trip to hell. Out gunned and outnumbered, can this boy protect his father and brothers? Without knowing who these men are? Or how many there are? Or when they might come for him?


  1. Very interesting article. I remember people in my youth who would go out of their to way to show me something or give me a compliment and I remember it 50 years later and makes me feel good about myself yet.

  2. Thanks, Joe. Sometimes it's the little things that matter. Some seem insignificant, but to the one who receives them, it may mean a lot.


Thank you for your comment. I welcome your thought. Joe