Monthly Archives: January 2012

When Dogs Get the Death Sentence

I have a son (8) who loves animals. Heaven only knows he didn’t get it from me.

It says something about a neighborhood dog, then, that has intimidated him for quite a while now, because his love of animals generally overrides any fear. The dog belongs to the house two lots down from my in-laws and several times my youngest has turned around halfway to Grandma’s house, come back, and said the dog was being too mean. One day he said to me, “Mom, I know God is real because I asked him to protect me from that dog, and the dog stopped attacking me and went home.” I have also heard him thank God in his prayers for protecting him from this dog. We all know the dog is obnoxious, but it’s not the only one running free on this street. None of us like it, but the county won’t do anything.

One day this past week or so, when school was cancelled, our youngest son was out sledding and decided to go down the street towards my in-laws. I’m always a little uneasy when he goes off that direction because the dog, but I usually chalk it up to me being an overprotective parent and I bite my tongue. This day there were lots of kids out there in the vacant lot between the dog’s house and my in-laws. There were even several adults with them; I didn’t worry too much.

Around 5 o’clock as the sun got lower on the horizon, I started getting uneasy, though. I finally called my mother-in-law and had her holler at him to head home, which he did. Some time later that evening, we got a call from the dog’s owner saying the police had just come and taken his dog, because they said it had attacked a child and broken its neck. He wanted to know if we knew who the kid was.

I didn’t, but I was immediately sick at heart for that poor kid and his family! And relieved (and then guilt-ridden for feeling relieved) that it wasn’t my son–and grateful that it hadn’t attacked him any of the other times he’s been frightened of it. Turns out the toddler had wandered off from the adults and other kids sometime shortly before or after my son left. (This is all heresay–from the wife of one father present, by the way; my facts may be up for debate.) At some point, an 8-year-old girl saw some blood in the snow and followed the trail to where the toddler was partially buried in a snowbank, with the dog standing nearby. That brave, scared little girl picked up the toddler, tried to stop the bleeding on the back of his head, and screamed for help. (He was severely injured—but his neck was not broken, last I heard.)

My son–who is the same age–I’m trying to imagine… would he have kept his head like she did? He has such a tender heart. I’m so glad he wasn’t there to see it all.  When I told him what had happened, he got all wide- and misty-eyed and asked, “Can you walk me to Grandma’s next time I go?”

But here’s the real kicker: when I told him the dog had been taken away and would be put to sleep, he really got upset: “Well, can’t they just put the dog in jail? Do they really have to kill it?” He was sure we could find a way to protect everyone from the dog, but still spare its life.




I had nearly despaired of getting any of my thesis written in the next few months; resigned myself to the prospect of cramming six months of work into the few weeks between my internship and graduation in May.

And then snow began to fall. And kept falling.

Enter: Snow Day.

I know–it’s just one day, but it might save me. Glory hallelujah, thank you, Mother Nature.

Right after I sneak in a post here, it’s back to the books in a fierce way.

Slightly more than two weeks in, and it keeps getting better. The students are easing back from their initial, wide-eyed curiosity (or narrow-eyed suspicion, depending on individual temperament) and starting to trust me. Yesterday a group of young men approached me after school:

“Mrs. Lybbert?” (Holding up the school district’s newest required reading for sixth grade.)


“Did you know there’s cussing in this book?”

“Isn’t that interesting? If you were to use that language in the hall, Mr. Lupo or somebody would be on your back instantly, wouldn’t they?”

They agree wholeheartedly. Discipline at Frontier Middle School is somewhat more stringent then I’ve seen in other schools in the district. I can see the question in their eyes they haven’t dared to ask, yet, even though the first “cussing” chapter was assigned last week. I have asked them to keep a question/thought log as they read, hoping they’d explore themes like this. So far, it’s all ink and paper. They are holding their real thoughts under wraps. These boys are on the verge, but they hesitate.

I decide to help them out. I say, “We don’t talk like that in the classroom, and here we’ve said you have to read this book.”

“I know!” They explode in an overlapping eagerness to discuss this contradiction. I smile. Snow is falling fast, and they need to catch the bus. “These are such good questions–exactly the sort of questions I want you to write about and share. Will you ask this tomorrow in class?”


What sort of questions do they think I’m asking them for? Questions that have simple answers, probably. Not questions I cannot answer–we have taught them, for six or seven years now, that doing well in school is all about having the right answer. I want them to understand that success is more about asking the right questions–even the ones they suspect there may be no answer to.

In that sense, I was a little disappointed that school was cancelled. I’m looking forward to what they come up with Monday.


First week of co-teaching. I have to tell you that it feels… right.

I have been blessed with a co-teacher who has her class running like clockwork. These kids are astoundingly cooperative. Her teaching style reminds me of my mother’s–if any of you have seen my mother teach Sunday school, you know that is a good thing. In any case, we get along very well. I have never met someone and felt so immediately at ease. We work well together.

On day one, I observed and took notes. I was impressed with her classroom management, and yet after five periods of  watching the exact same thing, I found myself nodding off.

I think she noticed. On day two, she asked if I’d like to take over the second half hour of each class.

Today I taught the first half hour of each class, and she took the students to the library the second half hour. The day literally flew by, and I’m looking forward to Monday. It’s like my whole life has been brought into focus. My day before and after school runs like clockwork, too. It’s bizarre.

Have I ever had a job that felt this right?

Looking Into the Water

A few months ago, I saw a paperweight on a teacher’s desk that said something like, “What would you attempt to do, if you were guaranteed success?”

At first, and for a few weeks after that, it kept coming back to me. What a great thing to remember: that fear of failure is one of the strongest things that hold us back. And yet… As I go about trying to align my schedule this new year with my goals, I am reminded that we also need to remember who we really are.

We must attempt those things that we are individually and uniquely made to accomplish. So many times, we are seeking after goals and dreams that consist of some other person’s vision of perfection–sometimes even the vision of advertisers and corporations who are constructing unreal destinies for us.

I love Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s take on the old fairytale of the Ugly Duckling in this video. May you ever see past imperfections–in yourself and others–and recognize your true worth:




How fitting is it that I begin the new year–in which I will receive my teaching credentials from the state–by teaching a class of 50 or so teens?

(Why did it take me almost two decades to realize what I wanted to do when I grew up? I was asked to teach teens just slightly younger than myself when I was 17, and I’ve done some version of it ever since.)

Also, that I began the new year by going to bed and getting up early; I’m going to need all the clarity of mind I can fuel this semester. Which sets me to reresolving in all sorts of categories like sleep and exercise and nutrition–in spite of past false starts.

Fitting, then also, this message from President Monson:

“Courage is required to make an initial thrust toward one’s coveted goal, but even greater courage is called for when one stumbles and must make a second effort to achieve. Have the courage not only to face the challenges that inevitably come but also to make a second effort, should such be required.”

Second, or seventy second, here we go again…