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Celebration! and a Tribute to Oprah Winfrey

May 26, 2011

Today I was up with the birds. I got my rather large back-side out of bed and out the door for the first walk of 2011.  I know.  Lame.  But I did it.  It has been haunting me every morning since I finished out my first year back to work.  That’s right! I survived!  How blessed I have been to be offered the opportunity to help make the world a more literate place, and to help students who strive for a better life step closer to that accomplishment.

I have learned so much this year, that I can’t really describe my transformation.  All of it is jumbled inside my head.  But what I see clearly are the questions.  Here are the top three as of right now:

  1. How do I make sure that I am teaching the content of the course at the level the course was designed, and teach within the zone of proximal development, meeting each student where they are and providing the scaffolding to the next incremental step in order to provide the best possible instruction?  (I already know the answer, it is next to impossible, but I want to figure it out so it isn’t impossible!)
  2. How to I provide incentive for students to read widely?  Volume is what matters in terms of becoming a better reader.  How on earth can I make this happen?  I already assign A LOT of homework.
  3. How do I deal with my conflicting feelings of teaching personal accountability and being as supportive as I can?  Whenever I draw a line that can’t be crossed, I feel like it is an arbitrary forced rule.  I feel like it is almost a game.  This makes me so uncomfortable, but I also need to be fair to everyone.  Where should this line be?

There are more, many more, but these are them most pressing in this moment.  Feel free to give advice.  I may just see what I need to see in your thoughts.

Last night we watched who won on American Idol.   (My whole family liked both of the finalists so we were happy that Scotty won and sad that Lauren didn’t.  We were hoping for a tie.  I want to go on record to let everyone know that I called that fact that they were together before the kissing last night.)  After we shooed the kids to bed (late) I watched Oprah’s final show.  I don’t really remember when I started watching The Oprah Winfrey Show.  It must have been in the ’90s.  All I know is that her show has always been woven into the fabric of my life.  When I had babies she was one of my best friends.  Once my babies grew up, I had to stop watching, because many of her topics were not appropriate for young children.  I always Tivo-ed her though.  Then, if something interesting came on, I could go back and watch.  I suppose this complacency happens when you believe that something will always be there when you need it.  Somehow, someone took her off my season pass, and I hadn’t watched her show in over a year.  Until last week.  I didn’t even know this was her last season until then.  Needless to say the last week or so of shows are saved on my Tivo.  A gift of the most powerful moments on her show.

Many people may think that watching Oprah is just following the masses.  Maybe that is true, but I like to think of it as joining a community.  Her show was a connection that I made with most of my friends.  It started conversations.  Good, deep conversations.  She made me think.  She also made me read.  I have the book Simple Abundance, which changed the way I thought about gratitude.  She brought me to books through her bookclub that I never would have read.  Some that were depressing, some that were scary, some that I just didn’t like at all, and some that I treasured.  All of them stretched me.

She stretched my thinking so many times, I am not sure I can articulate how much influence she had on my life.  I remember when  Gavin de Becker was her guest.  He wrote the book The Gift of Fear.  I clearly remember how fascinating it was to hear him talk about trusting intuition.  I found myself in his description of women who talk themselves out of disliking someone because they seem nice.  I knew I always questioned my own  judgement on these matters.  I bought his book and it changed me.  It gave me permission to keep my own intuition at the forefront.  It helped me accept my feelings, and validated me.  I bought his book for each of my baby-sitters when they graduated from high-school.  I wanted them to feel their feelings and listen to their guts.  Along the same vein, I remember the guest that kept lecturing women not to let an attacker take them to a second location.  I remember when he talked about car-jacking.  He said something like, “You still have the power, you are driving.  You can make the choice to drive the car into a telephone pole.  That will attract attention and get you out of a fatal situation.”  I have never forgotten that, and I have never had to use that strategy (Thank God).  You better believe I will be teaching my kids those lessons.  I also remember her show that covered abduction.  As she was interviewing parents at a park about how safe they felt, and if they thought their kids would go with a stranger, she had a guy luring their children away with a picture of a puppy.  The kids went to find the puppy as their parents were confidently saying that they had talked to their children about strangers…they wouldn’t go.  Completely eye-opening!  It changed the way I talked to my kids about strangers.

The most powerful thing about Oprah, however, was not her safety lessons.  It was her spirituality and compassion.  She taught by example of how each of us can make a difference.  She took her show and made it into a place that has truly changed the world.  She brought modern-day miracles before our eyes and challenged us to make more of them.  Her generosity and kindness radiated through the TV screen.  Last night when I sat with her alone in my family room I let her last lecture wash over me.  She spoke of the whisper of God that had guided her through out her 25 years on the air.  She talked about how The Oprah Winfrey Show began, for her, as a job that she wanted to do well.  And, how along the way, it became a calling.  She explained how that calling felt for her, and how each of us has the same calling:  to be the best of ourselves.  Somehow things easily get in the way of that calling.  I know for me, this is true.  She has inspired me, yet again, to be myself.  She has validated me, yet again, that being myself is enough.  I am enough.  I can make a difference in the lives of my family, my friends, my co-workers, my acquaintances, my students, my girl scout troop, even strangers.  And, so can you.  YOU are enough.  You can make miracles too.  All any of us need to do is to follow our passion, and be our best selves.

Thank you Oprah.  Thank you for making me better.  Thank you for your inspiration.  Thank you for being the vessel which carried amazing stories and lessons that have touched my heart through real people.  Thank you for dedicating 25 years of your life to the betterment of the world.  I will miss you.

  1. May 27, 2011 10:52 am

    Goodness, what a great eulogy! :) I wonder what the Big O is going to do now? I feel very removed from all the Last Oprah Show drama over here.

    • June 5, 2011 8:14 am

      She has her own network that she is running now. It is called the Oprah Winfrey Network or OWN. I don’t have cable though, so I have to rely on re-runs.

  2. May 29, 2011 9:01 am

    What a sweet post! I know some people really don’t like Oprah, but I tend to believe she has a great heart…and seriously. Look at the good she has done! I probably don’t even know all that I have learned but you make me want to write a post on what her book club opened up for me. For a person of her power to champion reading and get people out there reading together – well, nothing makes this bookworm happier! One of the most important shows I watched, even though my ick factor was extreme, was the child molesters she interviewed pretty recently. I learned SO MUCH and shared the information with my mama friends (and my husband as well). And I totally remember the Gavin de Becker stuff – so important! Thanks for the reminder.

    • June 5, 2011 8:15 am

      I missed the child molesters interview. Anything I need to know?

  3. May 29, 2011 9:02 am

    oh, and CONGRATULATIONS! on your first year back in the classroom! I am so proud of you and know you have worked your patootie off!

  4. June 1, 2011 3:25 pm

    I’ve never watched Oprah, but with this tribute really wish I had! I know my sisters watch her and one sister has been buying her book club books and passing them along to me from time to time for years. I was inspired reading how much she meant to you and all the ways she has inspired you!

    • June 5, 2011 8:17 am

      You should just watch her final show. She gives a great last lecture, and it is the whole of what her shows were about. She is a fantastic woman!

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