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! 

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!)

The Perfect and the Imperfect

This is the time of year that I love.

I always say that being a teacher is the very best job you can have at Christmas time. (Muffled snort.) I do genuinely love celebrating the Christmas season with my students, but honestly- it is quite exhausting.

There are so many special moments…

And so many imperfect moments.

This is the time of spilled hot chocolate and having wet socks all day because you stepped in a puddle of melted snow in the hallway.

This is the time of learning new songs that go higher and notes that hold out longer than your voice wants to.

This is the time of forgetting to do your spelling homework because you plain old have a lot on your mind- like memorizing your Christmas program lines, for example.

This is the time of getting hit in the face with a snowball that was somewhat icy, and nobody can tell if it was meant to be icy or not. Except for the thrower, but he’s sure not giving anything away.

This is the time for going Christmas carolling and riding on a school bus. The time for tying yourself to the back of your desk seat with your sweater to remind yourself to sit up straight. The time for not being able to run as fast as normal, because of your puffy snow pants and clompy boots.

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This is the time of garlands and Christmas lights, nouns and simple subjects, reducing fractions, and growing bean plants with Miss Kerra in science class. The time of Christmas piano recitals and buying Christmas presents for your mom and dad.

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This is the time for making your own nativity scene out whatever materials you want to. The time for throwing the regular schedule up in the air and saying, “See you next year!” to it.

And at home….

This is the time for knowing that beef and broccoli stir fry is on the menu for supper, and thawing beef in preparation for that, but then somehow (in the span of 20 minutes) forgetting about the stir fry and putting potatoes in the oven to bake so that you can make loaded baked potato soup. I didn’t remember until I was well into the process of making the soup that I was supposed to be making stir fry. This is the time of scorching said soup so badly that it was inedible, throwing it away, and making a new pot of soup.

This is the time of baking at eleven o’clock at night. This is the time of finding your oven mitt in the garbage but having no memory (and certainly no intention) of putting it there.

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This is the time of dirty dishes and full countertops. (And the time for writing about these things rather than cleaning them up.)

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This is the time of starting a second compost container, because the first one is full. It’s not that you don’t have time to empty it, it’s just that you’re simply, well, not doing it. 

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This is the time of slippery spots on the kitchen floor, but don’t worry- there’s a sticky spot right beside it that will help you get a grip before you wipe out.

This is the time for scrunchy corner kitchen hugs.

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This is the time of secrets and surprises and walking home in blue, heavy, comfortable snow.

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This is the time of going Christmas shopping with very grown-up little sisters.

This is the time of a sweet student bringing you a Lindor chocolate on a morning when your lunch (and spirits) were, shall we say, lacking.

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This is the time of loving what you get to do every day, and the children that you get to be with, so much that you don’t really know what to do about it.

This is the time for choosing joy and relationship, even if you are tired.

This is the time of accepting imperfection- both in others and yourself.

This is the time of lighting candles and sitting on the living room floor and praying.

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And that praying time? That is the very hardest and the very best of all the times. The exhaustion of all the things that you don’t know wears away a little bit, and hope and trust take its place. The pain of the imperfect becomes bearable because you know that there is a Redeemer and you are His.

The perfect and the imperfect… it was even this way at the very first Christmas.

The Savior of the world born into this dull, shadowy world?

How very imperfect and how very beautiful.

 

 

TEACHING: From the Mouths of Fourth Grade Students

 

IMG_1804Although fourth graders are still childlike, there are some very grown-up thoughts and questions that come from them. I have thoroughly enjoyed the discussions that have taken place in the past school year! I could gush on about my class for awhile, but I shall just say this:

I am proud of each of them and the progress they have made this year.

Here are several questions/thoughts that have been discussed.

“What will be added to our classroom’s timeline of the world in the next one hundred years?” (Here’s the answer that one of them gave: Donald Trump.)

“How can we be sure that every single part of the Bible is true if people wrote it down?”

“How can I forgive her when I am so mad at her and she hurt me so much? She doesn’t deserve forgiveness.”

“Will we recognize people that we know in heaven?”

“Why is the word collection singular?”

“How do you diagram a prepositional phrase?” (That’s not something that they are taught in fourth grade curriculum. They just wanted to know!)

“Now that I understand diagramming, I just want to diagram all the time!” (Good gracious, I never dreamt that I would have children who love to diagram. It has been FUN.)

“How do you know if your prayer is selfish or not?”

“Why do bad things have to happen? Why have so many happened to me? I’m afraid that more bad things will happen.” (Fourth graders already know that life is far from perfect.)

“Is it okay for a Christian to lie to protect someone else?”

“Sometimes, even when I could go on the internet, I choose to play outside.”

“I don’t really want to be mad anymore.”

“Are you going to say nice things about us at our celebration the way Mr. Martin did about his students at the grade eight graduation?” (Proving that 1) they were paying attention while we were at the grade eight graduation and 2) they thought that it would be nice to have their good qualities pointed out to an entire group of people. So very human of them.)

“Can you be a Christian if you can’t remember when exactly you became a Christian?” (You try to answer that one.)

“Will the people at my old church go to heaven?”

“Can God actually move a mountain?”

“Why does s make a noun plural, but a verb singular?”

A memory trick for the students, by the students, for how to spell Hawaii: Split it into three parts. Ha- Someone mean is laughing at someone. Wa- The person cries because they were laughed at. ii- The two dots on top of the i’s? Those are eyes. And the lines underneath them are tears, because the person is crying. (My students are the champions of memory tricks.)

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Have I mentioned that I am going to miss these children when summer holidays come?

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Please don’t judge me by my inability to hang things up straightly. 

 

 

 

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.

The Times

Sidenote: I know that I didn’t blog yesterday. I didn’t forget. I just did other things instead. Okay? (Feeling slightly defensive about this… I really did make the choice to wait until I had figured out what I wanted to say and had the words to say it.)

Basically, you should know that these days, there are two things on my mind and heart.

Those two things are marriage and teaching.

They may be coming up rather frequently in my blogging. Sorry about that.

I often feel pulled between the two. There is a time to prepare to teach and a time to prepare to marry. Just like there is a time to talk about snow days and a time to talk about New France and habitants. And a time to be silly and a time to be serious.

Both require lots of prep work. Both can weigh very heavily on a soul. Not necessarily in an unpleasant way- just a very constantly present and gaining weight as we feed on your time and energy way.

I don’t even know how to talk about anything besides these two things, and the problem is that I don’t feel like I have a lot to say about these things because I feel unqualified for both of them.

So tonight my question is this:

HOW DO PEOPLE EVEN DO LIFE????

Phew. Now that I’ve gotten that out there, I’ll try to carry on.

(And I promise that not all of my October posts will be about my feelings. I promise.)

Engagement is a strange time in that it is a time where nothing is normal. You carry on with a lot of the same activities that you did in your “old life” but they just aren’t the same because everything is tinted with “preparing for the new life” or the knowledge that “this soon WON’T be normal”.

It’s a nice time though.

A time where you feel unbelievably and undeservedly blessed and privileged. Privileged to have such a beautiful future and privileged to have had such a lovely past that leaving it behind feels sad.

I guess that I am just realizing that there really is a time for everything but that it is not quite so neatly divided as the third chapter of Ecclesiastes makes it sound. It seems as though there are even times where the sad and the glad, the wonderful and the hard, overlap and get all swirled together and you feel the pain and the beauty simultaneously- much like looking at a group of vibrant, autumn-coloured trees contrasted with a steel October sky.

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Ecclesiastes 3

For everything there is a season, and time for every matter under heaven:

A time to be born, and time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

He has made everything beautiful in its time.