Wonderful Things about Teaching

“Tune in Wednesday,” she said. “I’ll post about my favourite things about teaching. And tune in Thursday, too.” 

Ahem. This is a little embarrassing. 

I had a busy week last week. I had my list of Wonderful Things about Teaching already prepared, so I thought it wouldn’t be hard to find a moment to post it. But I forgot. And Thursday- well, let’s just say that I expected my heart to be so full and overflowing that I would welcome the chance to write. My heart was indeed full and overflowing on Thursday. But I underestimated how exhausted that would leave me, and just plain old didn’t post. Forgive me. I owe the world two blog posts. Even though it is summer holidays, I am still going to post my list of Wonderful Things about Teaching. (Because to leave off with a list of hard things about teaching just isn’t the way I want to do things.) Anyways… here is the list of wonderful things about teaching. It is not even close to being exhaustive, but my brain is still kind of close to being exhausted, so this is what you get. 

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  • Sometimes students pop their heads in the door in the morning and say, “Mornin’!”
  • Sometimes everyone wants to talk to you.
  • Sometimes students understand all of a sudden. They just get it. And you helped. And they’re excited and you’re excited and all is right with the world.
  • Sometimes they tell you that they wouldn’t even mind if you’d be their teacher again for a third time.
  • Sometimes they tell you all about the book that they are reading.
  • Sometimes you see them make the right choice even when they’re tempted to make the wrong one.
  • Sometimes they see a need, and they meet it. They put their arm around their discouraged friend’s shoulders. They bring in the ball that they didn’t take out. They keep the baseball game going and get along just fine while I run inside for an icepack with a student who got hurt.
  • Sometimes they notice their own growth and are proud of it and want to grow more. And that’s exactly the way it should be. That’s not unhealthy pride. That’s life and satisfaction and hard work.

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  • It is wonderful to work on a team with your students. Students will do a lot for a teacher who they know is on their team. It is exhausting to feel like it is you against them all the time. Be kind. Do nice things for them. Tell them what you like about them. Tell them that you love them even if they groan and wriggle uncomfortably in their seats and cover their faces with their hands.
  • Co-teachers are a huge part of the teaching experience. I suppose you don’t have to be a teacher to have good co-workers, but man. In my experience, teacher co-workers are the best. They laugh with you and cry with you and show grace to you and understand your teaching struggles and have amazing ideas.
  • Children are the best to celebrate with. They just are. Christmas, birthdays, any special occasion. They understand celebration.

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Other teachers (past, present, future): What are your favourite things about teaching? You may share them here, and we’ll all feel warm, fuzzy feelings. Or you can just think about them in your heart and feel some warm fuzzies by yourself. Either is fine! 

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Hard Things about Being a Teacher

I just want to acknowledge right off the bat that these are hard things about being a Jasmine-teacher, and other teachers may have an entirely different list of hard things. I also want to say that when I read over my list of hard things, I realized that although these things are hard, many of them are also beautiful. They are both. 

  • You don’t know everything. It can be embarrassing and humbling, because although you know you don’t know everything, you are sometimes confident that you know something but you are wrong.
  • You are right up front in front of everyone, and trust me, they SEE everything. Coffee stains, hairpins, how many times you use the word um,  and who knows what all else. I don’t even want to know.
  • You sometimes get tired of managing. Of always being the responsible one in charge.
  • Everyone needs you at once. They walk into the classroom with their hands in the air and that’s kind of the way it stays all day. A person could panic, thinking about all the people who need help.
  • Sometimes you have a bad day, and when it ends you just have to sit down and prepare for the next day anyways. Even if you just want to run away and cry and cry. Even if you are convinced that there is no point in even doing another day.
  • Your mind is so full. (It may feel like you forget a lot of things, but just think about all the things that you remember.)
  • Sometimes your tongue just doesn’t work properly. Particularly after the weekend or after a holiday. It physically feels different, and to top it off, sometimes your brain just doesn’t send the right words to it.
  • Sometimes you hurt your students’ feelings or come across as harsh and uncaring.
  • It’s personal. When you see your students make wrong choices, it hurts. In some ways, it feels like your students are an extension and reflection of you. However, that mindset can lead to emotional torture or pride. I need to remember that I am a factor, a tool, a smile, an advisor. But God is the heart-changer. How very freeing. For everyone.
  • Everyone works at different speeds. We don’t even all tie our shoes at the same speed, people. How is this way of doing things supposed to work?
  • Sometimes you explain something very clearly, but half the people still miss it.
  • You see the pressures that they put on each other, and the natural pressures of life, and you ache for them.
  • Sometimes you aren’t sure if it would be more beneficial to discipline or show grace.
  • The hardest, most hurting thing of all, is when they don’t treat each other well.

Leaving Teaching

I have a job that I love at a school that I love.

I love my desk. I love to sit there and plan. How wonderful to just sit and think and let dreams and ideas come. (And how wonderful to have a group of children who are required to participate in those dreams and ideas. Hehehe…)

I love the pacing, whirling walking and talking that I do at the front of my classroom. Some days it feels like a dance, bringing more and more energy as it goes along, and l feel like the longer and faster it goes, the longer and faster it COULD go.  (Perhaps teachers are an example of perpetual motion. Except that there are other days when standing up straight is all I can handle.)

I love having students and seeing not only who they are, but also who they are becoming.

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I have a job that I love, but I won’t be coming back to it next fall.

And I can hardly even stand to think about that. (I know, I know. It was my choice not to come back, so I don’t get to complain about it now. I will try to not be complain-y and just be… explain-y.)

Why am I not teaching again next year?

Well. It’s simple. Ricky and I are moving to Toronto! Ricky is a student at Humber College (in Toronto), and will be beginning his third and final year of his graphic design course in September. We are hoping to find an apartment somewhere close to his school.

This was not an easy decision. Picture weeks and weeks of flopping back and forth between staying and going, sticking with what we know and love or going on an adventure. Picture tears. Picture many, many journal entries and many, many lists comparing and contrasting the options.

It was the worst. I so badly wanted the adventure, but I so deeply love our life here. I am learning that my roots go deep. Finally, we just had to make a choice. We chose to go, and I am excited about it.

But I struggle with the thought of giving up the thing that I have been working on and learning about and developing for the past five years. Teaching has shaped me and taught me and hurt me and brought me to life and my school is woven all the way through my heart. I struggle with the thought of leaving before I have become the best teacher I can be. There is still so much to learn and develop, but it ALWAYS would be that way. You could always be a better teacher. Perhaps I am addicted to teaching.

I struggle with the thought of not having students- a group of children that starts to feel almost like a family. We learn each other’s stories and habits (good and bad) and dreams. We laugh and we cry and we learn and we struggle and we ask questions and we pray together. Like a family. What a beautiful thing to be allowed to have a part of, although not always easy. I feel very blessed.

So what are my/our reasons for leaving?

  1. It’s time for me to experience something new. I have spent 17 out of my 24 years at this school, and I have loved every single year of it (except for maybe grade 8… fourteen is tough). But… it’s time to love and learn in other places too.
  2. I want to live an adventurous life, and to be brave. I feel afraid of living the same life in the same place for my whole life. This is a great opportunity, and a good life stage for us to do something like this. (I feel torn over this point… because yes, I crave adventure, but I also love the familiar, small, everyday life. And I believe that a lot of life is learning and choosing to live well in those ordinary moments. Communities need people who stay.)
  3. I am afraid that sometimes I idolize teaching. Enough said. Distance might be healthy.
  4. The things that I love about teaching can be found in other areas of life too. The planning, the relationships, the routine, the creativity, the chance to show love, the chance to share stories, the chance to inspire others to see God- these things can happen anywhere, and it will be good for me to see what my gifts, weaknesses, and dreams look like in a different place. I know I will learn things. And maybe- just maybe- someday, I will be a teacher again and the things I learned and experienced will help me to be a better teacher.
  5. Maybe… maybe… there will be people in Toronto who will be glad for a Ricky and a Jasmine?
  6. We are excited about trying out city life and discovering new beautiful places.
  7. I like to think that not teaching will leave me with some extra mental energy that I will (in a very self-disciplined and focused way, of course) channel into creative projects, whether that is writing, painting, sewing, cooking, or playing piano.
  8. Perhaps you are waiting for a point that nicely says, “We are going because it felt like God is calling us to Toronto.” I think that sometimes, God does make it clear which way we should go. But other times, it seems like there’s more than one open door. It felt like either choice was one where we could serve God, and we didn’t feel a definite call to one or the other. So we just chose (after much prayer and thought). (And no, we aren’t associated with a mission or anything. We’re just going there to… live.)

 

I have one and a half more days of school (plus a picnic) left before summer holidays.

Tune in tomorrow to read about my least favourite things about teaching.

Tune in Wednesday to read about my favourite things about teaching.

And tune in on Thursday to read about… something. (I haven’t quite decided what yet. But it will probably be teaching-related, since this is my last week as a teacher. And honestly, I get it… nobody really wants to think about school after Thursday. Hello, summer holidays!)

Afterward

The Joseph play came to life last week at Countryside Christian School. It really did. And now, the performances are over, the stage has been taken down, the beards have been smeared away for the last time, the floor has been mopped, and the discussions have died down… but I’m still thinking about it and feeling like tears are going to come sometime because of how beautiful this experience was.

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I loved seeing students shine in different ways than they normally do.

Some of them shone alone in the spotlight, with vulnerability and fierceness that sent chills upon chills all over me. Sharing pieces of their character, and pieces of themselves. Beautiful. Thank you.

Some of them shone on the stage with their smiles and nudges and gestures and nods and constant engagement- all small things that together, created a powerful effect. Beautiful. (And so delightful!) Thank you.

Some of them shone in the shadows, wearing black and no shoes- trying to be as invisible as possible, more and more invisible each performance. Beautiful. Thank you.

Some students had their fingerprints all over the play- the backdrops, the stage, the props, the costumes, Joseph’s dreams, the mics, the bulletin, the lights, managing the tickets. Oh my, folks. It could not have been done any better. You aced it. Beautiful. Thank you.

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The students weren’t the only ones who shone. Let’s just say that I work with some amazing teachers who never showed up on stage. These teachers were patient, creative, hard-working, and brave leaders. Perhaps one of the most powerful things about these teachers is that they set an example of being willing to work hard, to try new things, and to learn. Beautiful.

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Calvin Martin also belongs in this picture.

I loved working with Meghan on this project for a second time. I loved the discussions and planning and imagining and growing and the sitting and typing and typing.

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Please excuse our cheesiness. (And shiny-ness.)

I loved seeing Ricky visualize the story, thoughtfully plan how it would all play out on the stage, and add details that brought it to life. I loved seeing him interact with the students.

Last summer I wrote a post about what it is like to write a play. (You should probably read it in order for the following snippet from it to make sense: An Enlightening Exploration of Play-Writing) I ended it with these words:

“Someone walks past and stops to look at your ball of snow.

They reach out and touch it.

They start to roll their own ball of snow.

You think,

This is why I did it.”

I pray that this whole play experience set something in motion for each person involved. I pray that we all would remember the things that we learned, and that what we learned is a strong foundation for more learning and serving and reaching out. I pray that we would pay attention to the aspects of this that made our souls feel alive.

I pray that we would remember that a big thing is made of a thousand small things.

And most of all, I pray that we would remember that each of us can be a living story of redemption.

Amen.

Resurrection

 

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Too long you have lain dark, my dear.

Don’t you think it’s time to

Wake up?

To come to the light?

I know.

Light is beautiful,

But also exposing.

It’s hard to hide in the light.

But

You don’t need to hide.

Because

It’s alright to grow.

It’s alright to make mistakes.

And sometimes you need to be okay with loving with your whole heart the thing that you know you won’t have forever.

Even though it hurts and hurts, my dear.

I’m not so small as you seem to think I am. I can be found in more places than just one.

It is okay to grieve and to hope at the same time.

Do you understand?

It is okay.

Come.

Leave those strips and cloths behind. I did. My Father and I have something much more fitting for you to wear. I promise.

Please come.

I will push away the stone Myself.

With my own authority

And my own two nail-scarred hands.

I will push it away for you.

Too long you have lain dark, my dear.

CHALLENGE: The Balancing Act

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She flounce-trudges into the light of my airy, after-school classroom.

She comes in and she seats herself and she says heavily, “I have so much homework.”

We discuss the ins and the outs of this, and arrive at the looming cavern known as time management.

“I know what my problem is,” she says and throws her hands in the air in despair. “I simply don’t know how to manage my time well!”

She is just young, but already so very human. I have to chuckle. “Well, my dear, you are not alone in that. I have a hard time with that too.” What I don’t say is that at the rate I am currently going, learning to manage my time well is shaping up to a life-long struggle. I had hope to have mastered it by now.

As tempting as it is to wallow in our despair, I decide to move things forward by asking her the question that I have been pondering myself.

“Are there any changes you can make in how you spend your time?”

“Yes!” she says fiercely. “I spend too much time wandering around. Outside. Thinking. Talking to myself.”

I love that she does those things, but frustration and irritation are evident in her voice, so I don’t dare smile. “I know that I should be doing other things instead, but I just don’t do the things that I should be doing!” Exactly! Me too!

We talk specifics, such as, do your work right away before even considering pushing it off until later, and don’t just think of it as something yucky, let yourself enjoy it, and then she must go.

I am left with my stacks of books and herds of sticky notes stampeding across my desk. And my thoughts, of course.

What are my thoughts on time management? (Random, for one thing. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

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  1. The older I get, the more I am convinced that spending your time wisely and in a disciplined way makes it easier to be exercise self-discipline in other areas (particularly spiritually).
  2. If something needs to be done, just do it right away. Don’t allow yourself to waste time simply because you are avoiding doing something. The job won’t get any easier after avoiding it. For example, sometimes after school, when it’s time to come home and make supper, it is so tempting to flop down on the couch and scroll through Instagram for awhile before starting to make supper. But I cannot describe how much harder it is to get up and make supper after scrolling through Instagram than it is to just start making it right away. There is a huge difference. It’s best to just dive into the task at hand.
  3. Even if you have a huge list of things that need to be done, just do one thing at a time. I feel much calmer when I choose to handle things one at a time.
  4. I don’t want to be so busy that I have to be doing something profitable all the time. That sounds very lazy of me, but it’s true. I want to have time for just sitting and thinking and walking and talking and journaling and reading. These things are profitable in their own way.
  5. I think that it’s important for us to take time for the things that make us come alive. Make a list of the things that make you feel the happiest and the most alive. I believe that God has given all of us things like that, and that we are meant to enjoy them. Don’t squelch them by treating them as though they aren’t as important as those projects that have deadlines attached to them. Make a list of what those life-giving things are for you, and figure out how to make them a part of your life.
  6. Often, I find myself craving the weekend or the next holiday. Sometimes I need to ask myself if I am truly working hard and tired or if I am just feeling entitled to a break. Am I experiencing actual exhaustion or just laziness? I’m afraid that line for me is blurrier than it should be. Am I “gluttonous” of free time?
  7. When I do have free time, how do I manage it? Do I dedicate it to those life-giving, soul-rejuvenating activities that bring me closer to God, or do I waste it online or taking naps that I don’t actually need? (Not that I am against napping. 😊 I just know that I am probably too quick to allow myself to rest physically, when really, it’s my soul that needs the rest. And soul-rest, for me, often comes through activities that still require some physical/mental effort.)
  8. Am I just mindlessly doing the things that life brings my way, or am I prayerfully considering how God wants me to spend my time? Sometimes I worry that we just feel obligated to say yes to everything that we are asked to do, and then we are busy with those things, and we don’t have time to allow God-given dreams and desires to grow and develop and become real.
  9. The final thought I have on the matter is this: Watch for Him as you go through your days and choose how to spend your moments. Watch for Him and make room for Him and worship Him all through the day and night. One morning at school, as I was preparing for the day, I caught a glimpse of the sky through my window. Just a glimpse. But it was enough for me to know that something beautiful was going on and I did not want to miss it. I put my coat on and zipped outside to witness a brilliant, fierce sunrise. I was so glad that I went out to see it, even if I did sacrifice a few minutes of work time. Those beautiful moments of just me and Jesus were completely worth it.

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That’s the end of my random list.

I wasn’t sure how to end this blog post, so I asked Ricky how I should end it. He said that I should just say, “Hey, ya’ll! Manage yo’ time well!”

So there’s that.

And also- what are your thoughts on the topic of time management? Have you learned anything over the years? How do you balance responsibilities and rest?

Also, I like what Wendell Berry has to say about how we should spend our time. Life is so much more than just being efficient and productive and practical.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

-Wendell Berry (select lines from “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”)

A Week of Love

Family Sunday dinner complete with Mom’s cooking and red candles.

Chocolate hearts for the two of us from a dad.

Candy and notes left on my desk from sweet children.

Chicken alfredo with three lovely ladies, complete with laughter and stories and chocolate Timbits and strawberries and perfectly-brewed tea.

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A good day after a bad day- a gift from the good, good Father.

Comfortable (and slightly crumbly) meatloaf eaten at 8:30 in the evening on the couch, and sizzling fajitas at Kelsey’s the next night.

Kelseys

I married a wonderful, comfortable, gracious Ricky.

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Photo credit: Renee Shantz

I have learned a few things about marriage in the past two years.

  1. Seek Jesus.
  2. Be best friends.
  3. Don’t be selfish.
  4. Love your ordinary life.
  5. Go on adventures sometimes.

I am looking forward to learning these things better and better (along with some new things too, hopefully) in the coming years.

At the end of this week of celebrating Valentine’s and feeling love from so many sources, I have to ask myself this:

Did I show love?

Yes and no.

(Of course. That’s the way life is when you are a human being.)

Perhaps the more important question is this:

How will I show love in the coming week?

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:9-10