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Mr. Nixon's Words of Wisdom
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Mr. Nixon's Words of Wisdom

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MAKING SENSE OF MIDDLE SCHOOL--Mr. Nixon taught 7th and 8th graders for thirteen years in the Churchville-Chili School District, a suburb of Rochester, NY. During that time, he wrote and delivered twice-weekly messages to the school community aimed at helping students make sense of the middle school experience. Topics included dealing with change, being a good friend, handling conflict and building self worth. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr. Nixon has stepped forward to bring helpful new counsel to our middle school students and to make available a large library of previous "Words of Wisdom."
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Foreign Language

Foreign Language

2020-08-2001:33

I have had many students ask me the same question over the years: “Why do we have to take a foreign language?” Said a different way, they ask, “Why doesn’t everyone just learn English?” My answer is always the same: “Je ne comprends pas,” or, “no comprendo,” or “Ich verstehe nicht.” In other words, I don’t understand you, and if you don’t understand me, we’re going nowhere.This is foreign language week at Churchville-Chili Junior High School. This is the week where we recognize how important it is to understand one another. Language begins that process, but it doesn’t ensure it. Think about the times you’ve misunderstood a friend, a parent or a teacher, and they’re all speaking English. Speaking and understanding a language just gives you a chance to be on the same wavelength as another person.Besides making understanding easier, learning another person’s language is a statement of great respect. You are saying that the other person is so important that you are willing to work really hard to try and understand him or her.Not only that, learning another language, learning about another culture and discovering another part of the world is fun. So, “Bon voyage,” or “Buen viaje!” Enjoy your journey.
Feed The Wolf

Feed The Wolf

2020-08-2002:10

The inauguration of President Obama has been dominating news coverage and rightfully so. It represents an historic milestone for our country. I was watching coverage of the morning after prayer service. The first woman to ever give the sermon at that event, the Reverend Sharon Jackson, spoke about a Cherokee story, which I thought I would share with you. It goes like this.A young man is confiding in his Grandfather that he sometimes treats his friends harshly and sometimes kindly. He did not understand why.His Grandfather said, “When I was your age…I felt like there were two Wolves fighting inside of me…one was mean and ornery, rebellious and committed to all things negative. The other was kind and gentle, respected nature and all living things, and always did what was best.” The grandfather continued, “These Wolves are still with me now; in fact, they live in each one of us.”The young man asked, “Which wolf will win in the end?”The Grandfather said, “The one you feed”.Sometimes it is really confusing when we are torn between doing the right thing and giving in to our negative side. Understand that those two sides of us will always exist, but the one we let out the most, the one we feed, will become the most dominant part of our personality.It’s interesting that Reverend Jackson chose to tell the new President this story. President Obama, just like you, will face daily challenges to his values. He will be called on, just like you, to treat people well or poorly. He will go forward every day, just like you, to decide whether to feed his kind and gentle wolf or to let out the negative ornery wolf. I hope he, just like you, will feed the right wolf.
Self Esteem

Self Esteem

2020-08-2001:48

One of the most popular words in education and in psychology is self-esteem. Sometimes I hesitate to use it because it is used so often. But, the truth is that self esteem is the most important goal we can have for ourselves, our friends and our family members. Lots of good things happen if we are feeling good about ourselves. The opposite is also true. We can send waves of destruction based on our own negative self perception.We will make many choices today about how we will act. Each will raise or lower our self esteem. Take the time to notice how you are feeling after you act. If you feel better about yourself after you do it, the action increased your self esteem. If you feel like you want to crawl into a hole, you have lowered your self-worth.Rochester’s Frederick Douglass said,“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.”In other words, your value is determined ultimately by you. A friend of mine told me the other day that the thing she regrets the most about her youth is that she gave away her own value to the opinions of other people. She said she let them determine, in her own mind, her worth as a person. Now, she says, she doesn’t allow anyone to decide how she feels about herself.The bottom line is: do estimable acts and you will have good self esteem.
Spring Poems

Spring Poems

2020-08-2001:43

The last week or two, with their heavy rains and warmer breezes have truly reminded us that winter is gone and spring is gaining on us every day. I thought it would be nice to see what people have said over the years about the magic of Spring. Thomas Tusser wrote the now immortal words in 1557:Sweet April showersDo spring May flowers.In 1852, Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote:In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.T. S. Elliot wrote in 1922:April is the cruelest month, breedingLilacs out of the dead land, mixingMemory and desire, stirringDull roots with spring rain.e. e. cummings wrote in 1923:in Just—spring when the world is mud—luscious the littlelame balloonmanwhistles far and weeand,Robert Frost, the wonderful American poet wrote in 1936:The sun was warm but the wind was chill.You know how it is with an April dayWhen the sun is out and the wind is still,You're one month on in the middle of May.But if you so much as dare to speak,A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,A wind comes off a frozen peak,And you're two months back in the middle of March. Enjoy the process of early spring and know that soon enough we’ll be baking in the summer sun.
I Am Woman

I Am Woman

2020-08-2001:44

March is Women’s History Month in the United States. The celebration was begun with the National Women’s History Project in 1980. This year 14 outstanding American women are being honored for their contribution to this country and the world. I think back to 1972, when a woman named Helen Reddy recorded a song that became an anthem for the women’s movement. It was called simply, “I am Woman.” At the time, I remember thinking, “Wow, that song really captures the spirit of the new American woman.” Now, 35 years later, I say, “Yeah?”The fact is, women have made enormous strides since that song came out. They haven’t completely achieved equal pay for equal work, but they are on their way. Women represent more than half the future doctors and lawyers entering graduate school. They represent way more than half of the freshman entering college. A woman was just named the President of Harvard University. Here in Rochester, a woman is the CEO of Xerox. Did I mention that the leading candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination is a woman? The fact is, in the education field, one of the hot issues now is how to keep our boys from being left behind in school.When National Women’s History Month was established back in 1980, it made sense to set aside one month for the women, but if things keep going the way they’re going, it wouldn’t surprise me at all, in 10 or 20 years, to have July declared National Men’s History Month. The rest of the year will belong to the women.
Caring

Caring

2020-08-2001:33

I remember when I was the age of my students, my father’s parents came to live with us for a period of time. I remember asking my grandfather how he was doing. He used to say to me, “I’ve got my health and when you’ve got your health you’ve got just about everything.”It’s funny. Now I know what he meant. As you get older the number of things that can go wrong increases and the importance of being healthy gets larger every day.When you’re a student, your parents take care of you. When you’re sick, your folks get you to the doctor so you can get on your way and back to health. Many adults here at school are taking care of their parents. The ailments vary from an inability to get around to a loss of the sense of who they are. In some cases, disease takes its toll on those growing older as well.I mentioned last week how important it is to be good and kind to other people. Those are habits you can learn when you’re 12, but they are skills that you will carry forward throughout your life. You may be asked at some point to help with another person, a friend or a relative, and, if you’ve gotten used to it at a young age, you’ll be able to be there for them. Caring young people become caring adults. Start today by helping others.
Many of us are afraid of change. We assume that even if things aren’t exactly perfect now, they can always get worse. Remy Charlip wrote a children’s book called, “Fortunately.” Here’s how it starts:“Fortunately, Ned was invited to a surprise party. Unfortunately, the party was a thousand miles away. Fortunately, a friend loaned Ned an airplane. Unfortunately, the motor exploded. Fortunately, there was a parachute in the airplane. Unfortunately, there was a hole in the parachute.”The story goes on and on. The point of the story, besides being funny, is that it is hard to tell sometimes what’s a good change and what’s a bad change. All we can really do is confront the changes we are faced with and make the best of them.Cuban-French author Anais Nin writes, “We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." She adds about herself, “There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”Remember, the only constant in the world is change. Try not to be afraid of it.
Hope Poem

Hope Poem

2020-08-2001:48

For those of you feeling hopeless today, I’m going to read a short poem. I don’t know who wrote it, but I like the message.It was just a tiny speck of lightalmost swallowed by the nightit had almost given up the fightthe darkness was all it could seeIn the distance suddenly it seemedwas a sight the light could not have dreamedanother speck sparked and glowed and gleamedthe light thought "it's just like me."So the tiny speck beamed strong and proudthrough the dark that hovered like a shroudsoon enough, it drew a crowdof small lights sea to sea.The lights were overjoyed and soonthey joined together bright as noonas incandescent as the moonfrom darkness they were freeThe moral of this story seemsto be the stuff of childish dreamsfrom tiny specks to brilliant beamsimpossible you sayBut here today it seems to meeach soul whose yearning to be freeglows silent in their hearts can seethere is only one wayAnd if you want to change the fateof a people twisted blind by hateand fear and doubt, its not too latebut there is no time to mopeIts easy all you have to dois take your speck of light, its trueand join with thousands just like youto light the dark with Hope
Value

Value

2020-08-2002:04

As middle school students you are beginning the most important battle of your life, a battle that will literally last for the rest of your life. You should not expect to fight the battle perfectly, but you need to spot when you’re off the trail and get back on. I am talking about the battle for control of your value.First, let me tell each of you that you are of tremendous value. You have your own set of skills. You can love others and you are lovable. The trick for you, and for all of us, is to keep in touch with that value, to behave in a way that raises your own value and to avoid actions that diminish your value in your own eyes. What are some right ways and wrong ways to approach the battle? Here are some right ways—embrace a life style that makes you feel like a good person. If you love music, develop your musical abilities. If you love words, read and write and express your ideas in a way that makes you happy. If you love to exercise, take every opportunity to use your body constructively. If you feel a sense of spiritual purpose, do everything you can to develop a relationship with your higher power.Do not give away your value to anyone or anything. Do not let the opinions of others dictate how you feel about yourself. I know this runs counter to what you’ve been told--that adults have all the answers, but your value lies inside of you and you are in charge of how you feel about yourself. Finally, don’t give your value away to drugs and alcohol. As soon as you start letting foreign substances make decisions on how you behave, you end up the big loser.I hope you’ll fight the good fight for your own value. I know for sure that you’re worth it.
Taking Chances

Taking Chances

2020-08-2001:45

From time to time I think about what we’re doing here at Churchville-Chili Junior High School, no not just seeing our buddies, but learning how to live. Pablo Picasso said it well, “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Learning is so much about taking chances, risking looking dumb in front of your friends, family or strangers. Cynthia Heimel, in her "Lower Manhattan Survival Tactics," writes, “When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth.” “Progress always involves risks. You can't steal second base and keep your foot on first.” said Frederick B. Wilcox. Wayne Gretzky noted, “You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take.” An unknown author wrote, “Many great ideas have been lost because the people who had them could not stand being laughed at.”Julia Sorel, Rosalyn Drexler’s character in See How She Runs, says, “If you're never scared or embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take any chances.” It will be scary sometimes, taking chances, but once you get used to it, you’ll understand you were made to try new things.John A Shedd got it right when he said, “A ship in harbor is safe - but that is not what ships are for.”
Forgiveness (D&C)

Forgiveness (D&C)

2020-08-2001:47

I read a very interesting and moving article in Saturday’s Democrat and Chronicle. It was on the front page and told the story of a man and a woman, he 51, she 48, who had not had any contact in nearly 34 years. Their last meeting was a near tragic one, in the rain on Chestnut Ridge Road in Chili. The young man, Peter Cafarelli was 17, and had borrowed the family car to go to the Greece Hockey rink. Anita LaRoque, 14 at the time, was struck by Cafarelli’s vehicle, causing permanent physical damage.What is striking to me about the story is the aftermath. Anita LaRoque, now a Hilton resident, took the time to find and contact Cafrarelli and to ask him to meet her and her family. In the D & C article, its author, Mark Hare states, “Now, nearly 34 years after that night, his (Cafarelli’s) burden has been lifted—or at least eased. Forgiveness is a tonic for the soul.”Fortunately, not all of us will have such a big burden to carry, be we all will violate other people and we will need their forgiveness. We can’t make anyone forgive us for doing thoughtless or cruel acts. Remember, though, what a gift we can give by forgiving others. If you take a step like Anita LaRoque, and forgive the person who has wronged you, you’ll find out what a great gift you’ve given yourself.
The Whisper Test

The Whisper Test

2020-05-1401:38

I feel very fortunate to speak with you twice a week and to share some of the values that I consider to be important to living a happy life. Yesterday, I heard a story that moved me deeply. It was written by Mary Ann Bird from her memoir, “The Whisper Test.” It was about her experience as a little girl. She was born with a cleft palate that affected her upper lip and the roof of her mouth. Her family was loving and supportive, but trouble started when she entered school and started being teased by the other students.Each year, in those days, students had their hearing tested in what seems to us now as a primitive manner. The student would stand next to the door while the teacher whispered a sentence to determine if the student could hear clearly. Mary Ann’s hearing was not good. In fact, she had almost no hearing in one ear. She dreaded the test, but her second grade teacher changed her life with the seven words she asked her to identify. Normally, teachers would say something like, “The sky is blue,” or “It’s dark at night.” But, Mrs. Taylor, a loving and caring woman, didn’t say those words. Instead, she said, “I wish you were my little girl.”You have an opportunity to do a loving act or say loving words to the people in your life. It costs so little to make these choices, but it can change so much.
Memorial Day Words

Memorial Day Words

2020-05-0401:40

Yesterday was Memorial Day in the United States. It’s the day when we remember, honor and thank the service men and women who have given their lives to preserve our way of life. Like many, I went to a Memorial Day Parade and watched as a sample of Americana walked by in front of me and the rest of the onlookers. There were bands from fire companies, high schools, towns and special musical organizations. There was town equipment which symbolized the public service provided year round. There were elected officials, boy scouts, girl scouts and brownies.Watching the parade got me thinking about what my Memorial Day Parade would look like. In other words, what is it about the American way of life that I would show in a parade that makes it worth fighting and even dying for?What would your Memorial Day parade look like? Would your family be in it? How about your friends? Perhaps your teammates would accompany you down the street. Those of you who celebrate your life with dance or song could entertain the crowd as you move through the course. The question I would ask you is, “What are you free to do that allows you to be you because you live in Churchville-Chili, Monroe County, N.Y., in the United States of America?” Figure that out and you’ll know what your personal Memorial Day Parade would look like.
Trying

Trying

2020-05-0401:13

The first quarter of the school year is history. No efforts of yours can change the results. If you did well, you can take a moment to reflect on a job well done. If you’re like some of my students, you’ll come around to see me today and say, “What can I do for extra credit?” Sorry, that book is closed.Here’s the good news—you have a second chance, second quarter. That’s a nice thing about life. You almost always have a second chance. Living your life as a student or as an adult is about trying things out, learning what works and what doesn’t and trying again. The secret is to learn from your mistakes and your successes. If you fall short of your goal, don’t beat yourself up so badly that you’re afraid to make another mistake. Trying is the important part. If you show up for life every day and just put in some effort, you’ll succeed sometimes. If you don’t make it, you can try again. That’s what I intend to do.
Election Words

Election Words

2020-05-0402:26

I want to take a couple of minutes this morning to talk about what I’ve learned by running for Monroe County Legislature these past 9 months. For those of you who don’t know, I ran in the 10th district of Pittsford and East Rochester, the area where I live. I didn’t win. I lost by 9% points to my opponent, a 9 year veteran and majority leader.It was an amazing experience. I met thousands of people as I went door to door in my district. I listened to people’s complaints, dreams and hopes. I spoke French to a few people. I even met a dog named “Nixon,” a poodle whom I met personally when his owner learned who I was. It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of work. It had a lot of highs as I felt our momentum growing the final days of the campaign. It had one big low Tuesday night when my daughter gave me the bad news as she read off the numbers from the internet.I have had a day to reflect on the experience. I’m glad I did it. I might do it again. In my life, I have the opportunity to turn only one thing around overnight—myself. Society as a whole, my family, my friends, all of those take time. They turn around when they’re ready to turn around. In my race, as in so many other things in life, it is not the result that matters, it is the process. It is the journey, not the destination. I have learned more from my disappointments in life than I have from my successes. That doesn’t mean I would mind more successes.Finally, the thing that I have learned that has meant the most to me is that I am loved by way more people than I deserve. For me, it is difficult sometimes to let that love in and to realize that it is sincere, but when I do feel it, it is possible for me to turn around and love others the same way. It seems to me the great religions of the world have been built on that truth. Thank you for your love and your support, and consider running for something when you’re able.
New Year 2006

New Year 2006

2020-05-0402:00

Happy New Year and welcome back to Churchville-Chili Junior High School! The big question is how many times will you write the date as 2005 before you get used to it being a new year? I hate to say it, but when I dated this message, I wrote 2005. Oh well.The beginning of the New Year is a traditional time to make New Year’s Resolutions. The hardest thing about Resolutions is that most of them, if not carefully selected, go by the boards in a week or two. Therefore, I am here to tell you that you need to make New Year’s resolutions that you can keep, and the only way to do that is to decide to do something that you really want to do, but have been putting it off for just the right moment.Short-term, one-time jobs like cleaning your room are good resolution material. They are doable and they make you feel like you’ve accomplished something when you’re done. Plus, it’s nicer to live in a neat room than in a dump.Resolutions that lead to long-term benefits, but are fun to do in the short run, are also excellent New Year’s resolutions. For example, you can decide to read a book a week for the month of January. You will expand your mind and you may decide at the end of the month that a book a week in February sounds like a great idea, too.I believe that by making resolutions, we are reminding ourselves of how good we can really be if we just try. Today, take some time to come up with a New Year’s resolution that you can actually do and that makes you feel good about yourself. 2006 is a long year, and you’ll have many chances to grow, but you might as well start now. Good luck in having a happier 2006.
Black History Month

Black History Month

2020-05-0401:48

Today is the first day of February which means it’s the first day of Black History Month. It began in 1976 to commemorate the achievements of African-Americans down through history, but it also provides a door which can open between the races, to begin the dialogue on what unites all of us and what provides our unique heritages.When it comes to race relations, it has been said that, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” In other words, we don’t even know where to start when we want to reach out to people of a different race. Black History Month gives us some concrete knowledge of the Black experience in America. When we hear the stories of Harriet Tubman, of Muhammad Ali, of Dr. Martin Luther King and of President Barack Obama, it is easy for each of us, regardless of race, to appreciate and identify with these individuals.Learning historical facts is an important first step in improving race relations at Churchville-Chili. However, it is just the beginning. We must realize that, we not only “don’t know what we don’t know,” what we do know may not be right, so it is vital to have an open mind when approaching challenging situations dealing with race. Getting to know and like other people, however different on the surface, is not impossible. In fact, it can be fun. Keep an open mind and learn what you can during and after Black History Month.
Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

2020-05-0402:08

Thursday is Thanksgiving, which I must say is one of my favorite holidays. There isn’t the pressure to buy the perfect present that there is for some other holidays. Really, all I have to do is show up for dinner and behave myself with my wife’s relatives. That’s not the reason I like Thanksgiving. I like it because it forces me to take a step back and review the many blessings I have to be thankful for.Let me share a few of the things I am thankful for. On the top of the list is my wife to whom I have been married for 39 years. Those years have been filled with great joy and difficult challenges. To use a favorite word of mine, we have persevered and I am eternally grateful for that.As a result of my marriage, I am blessed to have five grandchildren, age 10, 8, 6, 4 and 15 months. Four of them were at the house yesterday dressed in Brett Favre jerseys watching the Minnesota Viking football game.I feel very lucky to be teaching at Churchville-Chili Middle School. I landed here 12 years ago after a long-time career in radio and I have thoroughly enjoyed my students, my colleagues and even my bosses. I also feel very fortunate to be able to deliver these messages twice a week. It has allowed me to get to know many students who are not in my classroom. It has allowed me to pass along the values I was given by my parents whom I will thank this Thursday even though they are no longer with me.We all have much to be thankful for. Chances are good the ones you’ll think of on Thursday will have to do with other people—your friends, your family, maybe even your teachers. Whoever they are, take time to be thankful for them on this important holiday.
Veterans Day

Veterans Day

2020-05-0402:01

Last Friday I talked about the historic scene that took place in Grant Park, Chicago the previous Tuesday night. If you had been alive, and in attendance at the Palace of Versailles on November 11th, 1918, you would have been a part of another historic moment. Leaders from around the world gathered outside of Paris to sign the armistice that ended the deadliest war in the history of the world. Literally millions of soldiers died on both side of the conflict. It was hoped that the absolute slaughter of humankind would prevent the waging of another war. It was not to be. In just about 20 years another world-wide conflict broke out with millions more sacrificed.We do take something from that day in 1918. The armistice, signed at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, is the point at which we stop to remember our fallen soldiers, sailors and marines. We don’t have school tomorrow, and I hope you’ll stop to thank those who have died in all the wars that America has fought. Since 1900, we have lost men, and in some cases women, in World War I, World War II, The Korean War, The Vietnam War, The First Gulf War, The War in Afghanistan and the Iraqi War. The last two continue as I speak.I hope that none of you will be put in a position to wage war and potentially sacrifice your life for the rest of us. I’d like to think that the world is going in the right direction, but until we reach that destination, we’ll continue to remember and thank those who have laid down their lives to protect our way of life.
King's Words

King's Words

2020-05-0402:23

There’s no school on Monday, and the first reaction is to wake up at the normal time, cheer, roll over and go back to sleep. That sounds good t me, too, but before you do that realize what Monday is all about. It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day and it honors one of the truly remarkable leaders in American history.Martin Luther King Sr. was a minister and his son Martin grew up firmly planted in the Southern Baptist tradition. But, it would be wrong to say that Martin Luther King Jr. had no doubts about his faith and his world view. He was challenged early and often and never more so than when his life and the lives of his family came under fire. Martin Luther King Jr. chose to stand up to oppression knowing that his courage might cost him his life. Ultimately, it did, but not before he made an incredible impact on the people of the United States, black and white. Martin Luther King Jr. told us that he had seen the promised land, that he might not make it there with us, but he knew the promise was there.The promise is still there and we still haven’t reached the promised land. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the contentof their character" We haven’t gotten there yet, but Dr. King’s dream lives on."From every mountainside, let freedom ring, and when this happens . . . when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last. Thank God Almighty. We are free at last.”
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