My Son

Posted By on August 3, 2015

My daddy had a way of turning those two words, ‘my son’,  into a compound word with profound depth. He would say, ‘I love you, my-son’. But the my-son was said differently. A little bit of a whisper to it, maybe. He choked over it a little. It had a depth of feeling that I always struck me. I never really understood why. It was my title. I was ‘his son’. I never really pondered it, until now.

My Son turned eight years old today. That phrase has taken on a whole new meaning. It is full of love and pride, hope for the future, a blessing from God, a friend that I truly enjoy hanging out with, a fulfilled yearning that I never knew I had.  I can only pray that my-son has the contentment of love and support that my parents gave me. God bless you and keep you.

I closed his night with, “Happy Birthday. I Love you My Son

His Hands.

Posted By on December 18, 2011

His hands were clean. They were folded across his chest, but I’d seen him sleep that way before. No, what was so strange was  that they were clean. He would wash his hands before every meal and of course when he was dressed up for church. Despite those efforts, they never really looked clean. They were stained with a dozen colors of shoes that he’d dyed. They had layers of glue that, I thought,  would never come off.  Normally, they had a fresh coat of dirt from plowing, weeding, or planting strawberries, potatoes, or tomatoes.

I loved the way his hands felt. Rough, yet gentle. He could swing a hammer like an artist, driving the tiny nails in one swing with his hammer that had a thumb spot permanently worn into the side.  He repaired soles and made sure the world knew who restored your soul. My grand-daddy’s hands were those of a working man. A real man’s hands that had known work for years.  What I learned from his hands were that it was more important what you did with your hands than what you wore on them. I’ve seen him repair shoes for free because the mother couldn’t afford to pay. I’ve seen him clinch a fist because someone was being treated with less than respect. I’ve seen those hands carry on complete conversations with people who couldn’t hear him otherwise, and had no one else to talk to. The last thing I remember him doing was that beautiful “I Love You” sign that I have so proudly taught my children. But my last memory of his hands, is them cleaned up for the first time in my life. Spotless and free of the stains of this world. He was a good man and the world is worse for the lack of his hands.

His hands were so strong. But as I look down at my hands during prayer at church, for some reason I flashback to my hand laid across his for the last time, and I remember how odd it is that his hands look small. My hands were actually bigger than his.  When did that happen? I remember them being so big.

When I was a child, he was super human. I saw him catch a snake in mid strike once. I saw him swing a small sledge as a hammer, driving carpenter nails with one swing. He could lift me over his head into my early teen years. He was stronger than he looked and he looked strong. Unlike Grandaddy, Dad never seems to get dirty. He could work twice as hard as you, leaving you filthy, while he wore a suit coat and stayed clean. However, he could also move a paintbrush or chisel with care. He could hold a baby and stop their crying. He gave bear hugs that made you feel like the whole world was right there and his hands could hold you up no matter what came your way.

It was years before I new he could even get sick. I remember the day he was working with a Ben-Gay tube for me and it squirted into his eyes. He calmly asked me to walk him to the sink to wash out his eyes.  It was as if nothing could get to him.  I saw his hands support friends in their time of need, despite his need. I saw them folded, often in prayer for himself and others. The last thing I remember him doing was the great big bear hug that said, “I love you”, so well. But I will always remember them looking small, folded across his chest as though he were sleeping. He was a good man and the world is worse for the lack of his hands.

His hands are tiny and fit into the palm of mine. I pray daily that they will find productive things to do. That they will be a blessing to this world. They should be strong, but gentle; quick, but careful. I pray that my hands will leave a mark on his heart the way that the Liner men before me haft left their print on my life.  I have been crafted by the hands before me. A man’s hands say a lot about who he is. What a man does with his hands shows quite a bit more of who he is, than what he says.

H is hands are scarred from the nails that hung him on the tree. They helped form the world and chased the profiteers from the temple. They folded in the garden and asked for another way. But most of all they willingly laid down for the scarring that saved you and I.  What I remember most of his hands is touching me heart and reminding me that this life is not the end, comforting me time and again. Never forget what His hands say about Him.

Laptop Institute

Posted By on July 14, 2010

laptop_badgeI am looking forward to attending the Lausanne Laptop Institute this coming week.  I plan to blog on the more interesting things I run into and hopefully will leave the conference with a lot of information to share with my fellow teachers and my students.  Click to the left to get more information.

How do students remember

Posted By on May 27, 2010

As the school year ends I find myself thinking pedagogically.  (That is I start thinking about the art of teaching.) Several thoughts run through my head. For one, I start thinking about what I did right and wrong.  I actually make a list of such things and try to improve.

However, the specific thought behind this post is, “What makes students remember what teachers teach?” A commonly stated frustration from teachers is, “I taught it to them, why did they fail the test?”  Well, I have had several times when I have found myself on the receiving end of this.   A teacher, administrator, wife, or friend has told me something that I have forgotten.  They told it to me, why didn’t I remember it?  I have some thoughts on the topic that I want to record before I forget to do so.

Ways to help students remember:

  1. Vertical Connections:
    I find it very helpful to pre-teach subjects that I don’t intend to test on in a specific chapter.  For example I teach vectors in physics.  The first chapter I cover on vectors addresses adding vectors, but not multiplying them.  However, I still introduce the topic. I ask, “What can you do with scalars?” (normal numbers) The answer of course is, add, subtract, multiply, and divide.  So after teaching them to add and subtract I bring up the concept of multiplying and the fact that there is actually a difference between the dot and the x that they’ve  seen in math class.  I don’t test it. I don’t give homework on it, but we do discuss it.  I do this because several chapters later when we actually cover it, it feels familiar.  They’ve heard the words before.  This same concept is used with survey courses in college.  Cover the entire story of the USA in one semester and then come back and fill in the details.
  2. Parallel Connections:
    Maybe this is mislabeled, but I still like it.  Essentially, this is reaching the same conclusion from several different angles.  My best example is proving an equation, or forcing them to reach the same answer using specific, different formulas.  This gets the students to see the same concept from different angles.  I suppose another way to do this would be to have students do several projects. For example, I can imagine a class where the US revolution is covered from the viewpoint of the colonists and from British viewpoints.  This, I believe would make better connections for students, which makes lessons last.
  3. Life Connections
    This, I believe is invaluable.  The more a student can connect to their daily life the more they will internalize the material.  With physics this comes down to talking to students about sports, cars, doors, amusement park rides, and anything else I can come up with that they’ve experienced and will experience.  If I can get them to step on a roller coaster and have flashbacks of my class, then I’ve permanently taught them something about physics.  On a side note the more experiences a student has the more likely that student will be able to internalize a lesson.  This is one of the reason boys, historically, do better than girls in physics. Boys, generally, have paid more attention to sports, cars, tools, planes, etc.  This gives them better connections.   (This type of connection is a complete topic for another time.  It relates the renaissance version of education, Socratic teaching, well rounded students etc)
  4. Memorable Moments
    A great, if silly example, is one from my personal experience. I was once truly frustrated with my students forgetting to use conversion factors.  So, I tried an experiment.  when I passed out their tests, I, uncharacteristically, yelled, pounded on the board, and stormed out of the room declaring that I was wasting my time and planned to quit teaching.  I waited a few minutes and walked back in the room smiling to let them know that I had not lost my mind.  There was a dramatic improvement on the next test.  Who could forget after such a immature display.


    However, a better list of examples would include good labs, field trips, student presentations, guest speakers, movies,  video clips, technology, etc.  This handle is something that students can find again in their index of knowledge later in life. Have you ever heard students talking about, “All I remember from his/her class is the time….”  Obviously, we don’t want a student to only have a single memorable moment in our classes.

So as you go about teaching, or learning, find ways to make connections and memorable moments.  We like to dream that the brain is a steel trap that catches and holds everything it perceives.  While that may be true, on some subconscious  level, for real learning to take place we have to tag that knowledge so that students have a handle to grab onto it with in the future when they need it.

Memorable Conversation

Posted By on January 27, 2010

While I was driving to the grocery store to get ice cream, because sometimes you just need ice cream, Maggie was talking in  the back seat.  This is not an unusual  occurrence. You see Maggie is a female, so she already has a larger daily word quota than me.  But, in addition to that, she’s five so everything is worth discussing.  I try to listen. I really do. But I’m tired and she’s getting her second wind.I hear her say something about dreams and prayers and for some reason that catches my attention.  I ask her to repeat and it plays out something like this.

Maggie: “Daddy, sometimes I pray to God that he will give me dreams of that day you made me a necklace.  Do you remember that day Daddy?”

Me: “No baby, I don’t think I’ve ever made you a necklace.”

Maggie: “uh, uh.  Remember, when I was three,  you made me a necklace and a crown out of the little white flowers. Then the hurricane blew them away.  I remember you said the flowers were lucky and that I looked just like a real princess with a crown *and* a necklace.  I remember I ran around the yard, but then the hurricane came and all the flowers were gone.  And, we got to light candles and tell stories, and watch the wind blow.  That was one of my favorite days.  I like to dream of that day.  Sometimes when I think I might dream bad dreams, I pray to God to let me dream of that day.  Don’t you remember that day, Daddy.”

Me: “I do now baby, and I doubt I’ll ever forget it now. I’m so glad that you remember it that way.”

Background story.

The background here is we had loaded up the family and driven to North Louisiana to avoid Hurricane Gustav. She was indeed three years old at that time and I do remember making the clover necklace with the clovers from Maw Maw Dot’s backyard.  We lit candles because the power went out.  I spent most of the time stressed about whether our house would be there when we got back and whether the hurricane hit us in hiding.  Whether the power would come back on, whether the trees would hit the house….

She remembers the flower necklace. Beautiful!

The “LIGHT” of the world.

Posted By on May 10, 2009

Anyone who knows me, knows that I see God in His creation.  Well today God’s creation spoke to me in church.

John 8:12: 12Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

I am not really sure what song we were singing. I am not really sure what the preacher preached on. (Well I remember it was about real heroes).  But I clearly remember the lights in church.  No, I didn’t count the lights in the chandelier, I haven’t done that since high school. This really hit me.  I actually started to tear up a little bit.

No, this time it was different.  We have the gobies, (or whatever brand we have) lights in church and today they had them really spinning.  There was a part of the praise music where they were shining what appeared to me multi-pointed stars on the walls made of pink faded to purple.   Suddenly the verse above (and other light references in the bible hit me.)

Light is amazing: It is one of the few, perhaps the only, constant we have found in the universe.

Light is a paradox: It travels in both waves and particles.We can’t nail it down to just one.

Light  is the speed limit:  The speed of light is the fastest speed possible.  Actually, we believe that it would take an infinite amount of energy for a massive particle to reach the speed of light.  So we can’t get there.  (warp drive is interesting for sci-fi, but we don’t have any reason to believe it’s possible.)

All of this is amazing and interesting that the Christ chose to compare himself to this constant. But the big one that hit me today is that what we call light is a VERY small fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum.  The wavelengths of light are from 10-6nm all the way to 1011nm.That’s an absolutely huge range of wavelengths and yet we can only see from 400nm to 700nm of that range.  We “see” just a tiny portion of light. All the rest of that is invisible. It’s around us every day, Infrared, ultraviolet, x-rays, radio-waves, cell phones etc.  We can’t see it. We can’t hear it. We can’t perceive it at all.  It was like I suddenly started to see a tiny slice of heaven. Like it made sense.  Jesus is outside of our perceptions.  He’s outside of our hearing, seeing and comprehension.  But just because you can’t see, feel, touch or perceive that CB transmission running through your head right now, doesn’t mean it’s not there, or that the radio nearby won’t be able to pick it up. It just means our weak little bodies can’t perceive it all. You only get to see a tiny slice.

Maybe that’s heaven.  Maybe in heaven, we get our “heavenly eyes” and we can “see” it all.  Can you imagine what a rainbow looks like when the colors are multiplied by trillions.  Can you imagine what God looks like. The answer is, “No, you can’t.” No, you can’t imagine the color of Jesus’ eyes anymore than you can imagine the color of gamma rays. You have no idea what’s in store.  “Streets of gold.”  That’s just a feeble attempt and getting our little minds to get it.  We are made in His image, but we are only allowed to see a tiny slice of that image.  Just wait.

How amazing is my God!
If the beauty of my wife, daughter and son are any measure then I can only imagine…. and yet I can’t begin to fathom. -SL

Are you Tired of Powerpoint?

Posted By on April 23, 2009

I think I may have found my powerpoint replacement.  It’s called and it’s a zooming presenter.

Some great features:

  1. It’s new (Students like new)
  2. You can set it up so that the entire presentation is visible at one time.
  3. The zooming (and panning) allows you to glimpse other parts as it pans.
  4. You can “hide” little surprises (by making them small)
  5. The interface works great with my activboard system.  It’s non-linear so I can just tap, drag or pgup to remind students of parts we’ve already covered.
  6. It’s very easy to share. All I do, is email the link to the file.

I plan to use it quite a bit next year.  I’ll let yah know how it works.

BTW: Try out the fully functioning presentation on electricity I gave below.  The buttons at the bottom right will (from left to right) “zoom out”, “full screen”, “go back” and “go forward”.  If you click and hold on the right two buttons you get more options.

[iframe 378 285]

When the best come to town.

Posted By on April 4, 2009

Somewhere along the way, I got the idea of “If the best come to town, try to go see them.”  So far that has served me pretty well.  Today for example, I went to the kitefest.Entry – Free
3 hotdogs $6
Bottle Water $1
Kite for Mags $10Fun day watching kites do thing I didn’t think were possible, priceless. I mean really, choreographed kite routines to AC:DC.  Come one, I never knew kites could do circles around each other. Not to mention, Mags loved her kite and the jumpees.Even if you don’t initially feel all that interested, if the best come to town, try to go see them.  You just might be amazed.Click here for more pics

What makes a succesful Field Trip. (are they worth it)

Posted By on March 25, 2009

So what makes a successful field trip?

I went to the zoo today (Audubon Zoo in New Orleans).  We actually went to the zoo and the aquarium.

It was  a great trip. I even got to go behind the scenes of the sea lions.  But the question I have is, “How do you know that a field trip was worth it?”  There are several arguments against field trips. (Time out of class, especially disruption of other subjects classes, money spent on fuel, effort to plan the trip, etc)  I sometimes hesitate to plan them. So, other than, “You come home with all the kids you brought with you.”, What makes a good field trip.

Some thoughts on the measure of a good field trip.

  1. The kids see something they would not normally see.
  2. The kids see a new side of something they would normally see.
  3. The kids see an old or familiar thing through YOUR eyes and therefore get a new and better understanding of it.
  4. The students see an authority on the subject that significantly alters their learning.

Now, about today’s zoo trip.
#1. Check
- Most of these kids have been to the Audubon Zoo and will go back.
- However, we did get to go behind the scenes with the sea lions and talk to the trainers. so check.

#2 This is split  (which seems unavoidable)
- Some students took the assignment to heart and actually did more than just look at monkeys.
The assignment made the day at the zoo different.
- Some students just wondered around in a daze and looked at monkeys

#3 This is split.  (and It’s part of the problem with field trips)
- some students wandered around at a distance from the teacher?
- However, some students hovered around the teacher and her passion and knowledge was infectious to them. It was fun to witness.

#4 not really
- yes they got to speak to the trainers, but really this was not that significant.  Besides, they could watch a video or the expert could come to them.

So, I am stuck without an answer.  Was it worth it?

Do any of you out there (students or teachers) have experience with field trips that really altered your education on a topic?

Home Sweet Home

Posted By on August 13, 2008

So today was the first chapel back at Parkview.

I felt ridiculous because I was so emotional.  I was reminded of
- the eagle on the mountain side in Alaska
- the sweet smell of apple blossoms in my hammock in Interlochen
- the purina mount in Hong Kong
- the final junior retreat I sponsored.
- the hundreds of faces that had meant so much to me as a teacher.

It was like something that was wrong had been made right again.  I thanked God for letting me come back home. Don’t get me wrong I didn’t hate Central. In fact I met many great students there. I made friends there.  I enjoyed it.  But, it never felt like home.  It was like a sabbatical visit to another city.  It was a great visit, but  it was time.

I hope I live up to God’s plan.  I hope I have the strength and energy to do what he has called me to do.  I hope I can balance this “calling” with fatherhood.  Lord help me.

It took a few miracles for this to happen. And I still need a few more.  We took a cut coming here and I’m still not quite sure how the bills will get paid.  I am really busy and have a lot to do and I am not quite sure how I will get it all done.   If you read this you probably know me well. (I’m not exactly that well read;-)  so I ask you to send up a prayer or two.

Shawn Liner