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.

The Heart of the Matter

I am currently in my fourth year of teaching school.

I did not expect to teach for this many years.

I did not expect “teacher” to become part of how I self-identify.

I did not expect to feel disappointment at the thought of probably not doing this for the rest of my life.

I did not expect to learn this much or love this much.

I spent my first two years teaching grade one. I loved it. I split my third year between a grade seven class and tutoring (and getting married.) I… survived. I learned so much. About myself. About teaching. About humans in general. About the difference between surviving versus thriving. This brings us to year four- this year. I am teaching grade four this year, along with doing a tiny bit of special ed.

Have I mentioned that I’ve learned a few things about teaching along the way?

I’d like to share a few of them with you.

Things I Have Learned about Teaching

  • Variety is the spice of life. Don’t do the exact same thing every day. Sing new songs. Sit in a circle sometimes for reading class. Split into groups for certain activities. Pretend that you don’t know anything about a concept that you are reviewing and let the students teach you. The bottom line is this: keep students on their toes. Make them wonder what you are going to do next. You get to be as creative as you can be. There should be nothing boring about this job. If you are bored, the students probably are too.

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  • Keep red pens everywhere. There has a been a red pen sitting by my kitchen sink for several weeks now, and I’ve used it several times. They’re in my purse. In my backpack. All over my desk. Don’t waste time searching for a red pen.
  • Make rubrics before you give assignments. Show them to your students when you are explaining the assignment. Students need to know what you expect from them.
  • Don’t be afraid to enter into your students’ mess. Teaching is a very relational job. Students have bad days. They sometimes have bad attitudes. Heartbreaking and confusing things happen in their lives. They get frustrated. They are sometimes afraid to try new things. They bring insecurities to school- just like you do. Enter into their mess. Celebrate and cry with them. Love them. Guide them to Jesus. Let them know that Jesus is by their side, and you are too.

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  • Tell your stories to your students. Use personal stories in your lessons. Let them know you– who you are, what you’ve experienced, what you are passionate about.
  • If something bothers you (like a lacking procedure, an unmotivated student, an area that you feel you aren’t teaching well, etc.) FIX IT. Do not just put up with it. Do not think that it will go away. FIX IT. Ask for advice. Make a plan. Take care of it.
  • Give students opportunities to serve others. They aren’t too young. They need to be aware that they CAN help others. Help them develop a heart and an awareness for the needs of others.

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  • Try to plan at least one time each week where you are committed to spending extra time at school to take care of odds and ends like hanging up art, preparing new art projects, making rubrics, making tests, tidying your classroom, trying to resuscitate your plants, etc. It can be in the morning or afternoon/evening.

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  • Evaluate yourself. I keep a word document of notes that I make as I go through the school year. I started doing this last year when I taught grade seven and I felt as though there were one million areas that I could do better in. I started a document called “A Month in the Life of a Seventh Grade Teacher”. I was going to write in it every day for a month. It turned out to be such a helpful way to process that I just kept doing it. This year I started a document called “A Month in the Life of a Fourth Grade Teacher”. It’s a good place to evaluate weak points and strong points.
  • Remember that success does not belong to you. You are planting seeds, and the rest is in God’s hands. Do your best, work your hardest, and trust God with the rest.

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  • Be kind, but in a constructive way. Being kind means being patient, and also helping students grow and develop into the best people they can be.
  • Last, but certainly not least- pack a good lunch. Good, here, is a word which means “tasty and substantial”. A good lunch is something to look forward to. Pretzels are not a good lunch. Sour cream and onion pringles are an okay lunch. Veggies and dip is a good lunch. Sandwiches or leftovers are the best lunches.

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There you have it! Now you are all prepared to be a teacher! Yay! I’m so glad!

Just kidding. You don’t have to be a teacher. But if you feel like there might be a teacher heart somewhere inside of you, don’t be afraid of it. Teaching isn’t easy, but it is so worth it.

(You can even be a teacher if you are married. Gasp. I might blog about that sometime too.)

 

 

P.S. You don’t have to be a teacher to teach. We are all teachers and learners together.

I Feel Sparkly Inside. (And like I have cold.)

A few random thoughts from the past week.

  1. There are sparkles everywhere in my life. It’s my own fault. Sparkly decorations, sparkly cards, sparkly art projects. My classroom has sparkles all over it. It actually started to bother me after a little while that my hands always had sparkles on them. However, I seem to have become accustomed to it because the other day, I was eating a piece of cheese at lunch. I happened to look at it and noticed that there were some sparkles on it. I inwardly shrugged and then continued eating the piece of cheese. I just ate those sparkles right up. Isn’t that gross? (There was only like two or three sparkles, okay?)
  2. Yesterday, during the afternoon program, I remembered this thing about first graders that I forgot. They love to count. I noticed this last year too. That if you sit them down on a bench for an extended period of time and groups of people come and perform on the stage, their natural inclination is to count those people. And then, unfortunately, to discuss what number they arrived at. I like that they count though.
  3. I really like how young children like to get gifts, but they also like to give gifts. It’s pretty exciting both ways for them. They are pretty much the only ones that I feel comfortable opening presents in front of. I felt very blessed last night.
  4. Christmas holidays are such a good thing. A wise friend advised me that I should do my cleaning before Ricky comes home. So, with a little bit of additional nudging from my mom, I took on the task of cleaning my room. (I am actually still in the process. I keep stopping to eat candy and blog and stuff.) Now, you have to understand that in the past week, my room just became a holding place for all of the stuff. There was a lot of stuff in this past week. So much. I even decided that it would be a good time to wash my sheets. When I was taking them off my bed, I realized how necessary it was for me to clean my room. This is what I found in my bed. IN MY BED.
    1. Three pairs of pjs.
    2. Three books, plus a Bible.
    3. One water bottle.
    4. Two black sweaters that I have been missing.
    5. One long-sleeved black shirt.
    6. One plastic bag, receipt included.
    7. One list of youth group members planning to participate in the 2014 Guatemala missions trip.

So that is why it’s good that I’m cleaning my room. I was not aware that all those things were in my bed.

  1. I am plain old going to miss my students. I told them that. One of them popped up his hand and said that maybe I might meet them in the grocery store sometime. If you can’t find me… I’m probably at the grocery store, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of my students.
  2. Ricky comes home on Christmas Eve. There’s really nothing more that needs to be said.

He is Here

“In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk their own ways. Yet He did not leave himself without witness, for He did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” – Acts 14:17
He lets us do what we want. That’s the way that He is.
It’s not that He doesn’t care about us, or that He can’t control us.
It’s simply that He has chosen to let us choose, and so that’s the way that it is.
Unfortunately, a lot of very wrong choices are made, resulting in a world swaddled in so much pain and dissatisfaction and searching.
He holds all of that in His hands.
Tenderly.
Sadly.
Hopefully.
Faithfully.
He is never absent.
He never removes himself from our world.
He leaves pieces of his goodness sprinkled like rose petals or snowflakes or raindrops or rays of sunshine or stars in the sky. He leaves them for us. To remind us.
All those good things are from him.
Even the things that don’t seem to be particularly “Godly”.
It says that He “satisfies our hearts with food and gladness”.
Please see Him there.
See Him in those beautiful moments where your heart feels satisfied and warm.
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When there is a tiny pumpkin pie brought to you. When your burning candle smells so good. When your tea is hot and milky and sweet. When you get a kind text message. When church is so peaceful and refreshing. When you’re happy that you’re wearing heels even though they make you really tall. When the day dies beautifully. When the air is perfectly cool. When there’s bacon. When your dress is stretchy and stripey. Like when a student thoughtlessly reaches up and takes your hand. When a student waves timidly and hopefully at a fireman. When a student is smiling so big that you both giggle when you say good morning to him, because there’s just so much happy. (Those students… they get me every time. I’m sorry if you get tired of hearing about them. They’re just such a part of me right now.)
He is here so often, in so many ways.
Those things- they are God.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget.