How Cancer Made Me Better

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How Cancer Made Me Better

Ten years ago, in 2007, my life took a turn for the worse -- or maybe the better depending on how you look at it.  I was 29 years old. Happily married for 7 years and my daughters were 2 & 4. I was teaching Social Studies at my school and had a follow up doctor’s appointment during my lunch break.  It was here at this appointment that I got the news from my doctor.  I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and cancer was now a part of my life. Wow, what a shock!  I went back to my classroom, finished the day teaching, and tried to understand what just happened. Soon later I was scheduled for my first chemo treatment on the day after Christmas.  It was a “gift” I never asked for and a gift I will never forget.

 Receiving my first chemotherapy treatment the day after Christmas.

Receiving my first chemotherapy treatment the day after Christmas.

Though this tragic news was devastating at the time, as I look back on it now, this was also a turning point in my life.  A point in which I began the long road of asking better questions and seeking solutions to better my health and my life.  In the end, cancer was ultimately a wakeup call to begin an improved future. Now, 10 years later, I am so grateful to be cancer free and have a new perspective on life.

Those years of cancer and post-cancer were certainly tough.  They were some of worst years of my life. My days were worrisome and my health was horrible.  Post-cancer was almost worse for me as the radiation and chemotherapy had not only destroyed the cancer cells, but also the rest of my body.  Physically I was a wreck, and when you can’t go to work, or feel miserable when you do, life gets extremely hard. Although these years were awful, I wouldn’t trade them if I could.  It’s in these darkest of times that foundations are made on solid ground and seeds of truth are planted that bear much fruit.  

 My month at Mayo Clinic receiving radiation treatment.

My month at Mayo Clinic receiving radiation treatment.

Looking back, cancer was the start of a new beginning and a new me. The seeds that were planted during this trial produced fruits of love, joy, peace, gratefulness, perseverance, less negativity, more generosity and so much more. I truly believe that I am a better person with a better perspective on life because of my days with cancer.

Though much of the Mister Harms blog is about teaching and the classroom, in the months and years to come, I also hope to share about what I have learned regarding health and more importantly life.  From experience, having strength, health, and life are also necessary in order be successful in the classroom.  It’s much harder to help others and be a positive influence when physically sick or even mentally drained.  

 Recovering from my cancer treatments.

Recovering from my cancer treatments.

During these past 10 years, many people and life experiences have spoken truth into my own life. Whether you are a school teacher like myself, or working in a totally different profession, hopefully aspects of my story can be beneficial for you or someone you know.   I truly want others to enjoy life as much as possible and to be the best version of themselves they can be. If I can help someone else recover from their current situation, give another hope for tomorrow, or even prevent others from experiencing what I went through - all the better.

So if you want to follow along, I’ll be sharing some of these helpful resources and experiences that have had a huge impact on my life.  Click here to receive updates on future posts that will focus on being rooted in truth, growing in freedom, and prospering in all of life.

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Legislative Branch Simulation

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Legislative Branch Simulation

Do you ever spend time trying to make Civics more enjoyable and engaging for middle schoolers or high schoolers?  I know I do. Civics can easily be seen as a dry subject, but it doesn't have to be. One of my favorite activities in my 8th grade Civics class is the Legislative Branch Simulation: How A Bill Becomes A Law.  I was introduced to this concept and activity years ago by a respected co-teacher.  Throughout the years I have tweaked and added to this idea to make it suitable for my 8th grade classes.

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What I love about this simulation is that it makes learning about the Legislative Branch very real, engaging, and even exciting.  Students get to participate in writing bills for their school, community, or state while learning the various stages within the lawmaking process. In addition, all voices are heard and each student has a chance to contribute.

Every student gets to become a member of Congress, write their own bills, participate in committee discussions, debate on the house/senate floor, and eventually watch the President sign the bills that survive through the entire process. Not only will the students love this simulation, but they get a chance to change their school, and in the process, learn all the aspects of how a bill becomes a law.  

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This Legislative Branch Simulation has become one of the highlights of my civics class. Students love the opportunity to influence their school, community, or state through the bills they write. Each year, a small number of my students’ bills have actually changed school policy because our wonderful school administrators have actively joined in on the participation, making sure the doable bills actually happen! Over the years our 8th grade bills have improved our school in a variety of ways: installation of water fountains with bottle fillers, new locker room changes, school course offerings, and more.

 

Learning about the Legislative Branch and lawmaking process is good, but actively being engaged in the process is great! I know you will enjoy this hands-on simulation as you incorporate it within your Civics and Government classes. It has proven to be a fantastic way to experience the Legislative Branch coming to life! You’re going to love it, and your students will too!  You can get the Legislative Branch Simulation here or by clicking the image below. Let me know how it goes! What other engaging activities and lessons have you incorporated into your civics classes? Comment below and while you're at it, subscribe to the Mister Harms email list for future posts and updates.

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WHY STUDY HISTORY? A Back To School Activity

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WHY STUDY HISTORY? A Back To School Activity

Do you remember your junior high or high school history class?  What memories come to mind? Maybe excitement, stories of adventure, or maybe just day-dreaming as you were zoning off into your own little world! When I was in class, I remember asking myself and thinking "Why am I learning about history?"  "Why do we have to study this stuff anyway?"  "When am I ever going to use this in life?" "Isn’t history about a bunch of old, dead people and things that have already happened?"  Asking why is a vital part of learning and a great question to ask!  The question of why should not be dismissed but instead explored.  It is the inquisitive mind that asks why, and students who ask why are the students that want to learn. Start the first day of school, or the first lesson of a unit, with “WHY” because students always want to know why? 

Get WHY STUDY HISTORY? A Classroom Discussion

Right from the get-go, I like to start with why. I have found that the “WHY” must be answered before the “WHAT.”  When students know why, then learning can begin.  If there is no why, then it seems like a waste of time to students. So with that question of why in mind, I have developed and tweaked this back-to-school resource for my classroom.  I begin my first day of any history class going through this PowerPoint styled classroom discussion to convince my students that history is truly important to them. This format has proven to be beneficial, and if you don't already have a resource like this, I encourage you to give this a try. I know this activity will help your students because it has certainly helped mine get excited about learning history! Best of all, I have all of my notes included so you don't have to do any research!  Yay!  You can download and enjoy this “NO-PREP” WHY STUDY HISTORY? lesson right here!  Let me know how it goes and leave your feedback below.  What other helpful things have you done at the beginning of the school year to hook your students and get them engaged?

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Welcome!

Hey thanks for stopping by! I'm Mister Harms and I teach Junior High and High School Social Studies in a small-town school.  During the summer months when I'm not teaching, I enjoy helping lead a youth camp that focuses on life transformation.  I truly enjoy teaching and learning because of the influence that knowledge and experiences can have on lives.   

I started teaching at the turn of the millennium - or 2000! I am a fourth generation teacher. My Great-Grandfather taught in a one-room school house making $35/month. My Grandmother started in a one-room school house then outgrew that to become a lifelong teacher (I even had Grandma as my 3rd grade teacher). Both of my parents were career teachers, some of my siblings are educators and I even married a Kindergarten teacher.  So, I guess you could say it runs in the family!  Now I get to teach another generation of students and I have enjoyed each step of the way!

So what's my teaching style? Student engagement. High-quality content. Hands-on activities. Diversified learning. Group collaboration. These are the goals and buzz-words of hope, but ultimately I desire to make learning fun for my students and helping them grow while adding value to their lives.  I hope to use this blog as a way to keep myself engaged and gaining from others in my desire to be rooted in truth, growing in freedom, and prospering in all of life! I look forward to learning from other great teachers, as well as non-teachers, who have a desire to do the same.  Let's see where this takes us!  Here's to the classroom and beyond! 

- Mister Harms

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