Daughter, Wife, Mother... this is what I do

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Here we are. May 27, 2010. I'm finishing up my first year as a teacher.

Today there was reason for me to stop and contemplate this year. I'll get into that reason later... but first, the celebrations! Some very wise professors taught me early on in my teaching career that I must begin any effective teaching with successes, either with myself or my students. They constantly reminded me to celebrate what was done well... then use that as a springboard to improve what was lacking. Here are some things I'm celebrating today:

-I successfully made it through my first negative parent interaction. (With the help of a very supportive Principal and a Team Leader that prayed for me as I was sobbing after the initial conversation. Praise God for both of them.)

-I navigated all the paper work and the red tape and the TST's, RTI's, DIBEL's, TAKS, AMI, ARI, SSI, ABC's and 123's. I may not have always done it correctly the first time, but somehow I got everything in that I needed to get in... I think?

-I communicated love to students through joy and discipline. I think that my students would say that they feel loved... I hope?

-I taught students to use Solution Squares to solve problems that arise with friends. Regardless of whether they use them correctly at this point, they know them and hopefully as they mature they will grow in their understanding of what it means to be a "Peacemaker."

-Students were successful in my classroom. I can confidently say that every single one of my students have learned how to be scientists in the world around them.

My growth areas as a teacher are endless... Time management, classroom structure, parent-teacher communication, instructional clarity, differentiation, small group instruction.... you name it, I probably need to grow in that area. But here's where I'm struggling today...

Classroom Community
-Probably THE single most important thing to me as a teacher is to create a learning community that is respectful, safe and caring in every aspect. I began the year with high hopes and plans for what I would do to create such an environment.

(Sidenote: If you know me then you know that I'm a big dreamer. I choose to look first at the big picture. I paint broad brush strokes over my life and aim high. However, I fail to see the steps that it takes to make this dream a reality. I don't necessarily choose NOT to see the details... I just can't. Itdoesn't come as naturally to me.)

I hate to admit this, but very few of the high hopes and plans I had for creating my dream learning community actually came to fruition. I struggled to figure out where to fit in all the big and wonderful things I wanted to do inside of TEKS and departmentalization. There was a moment late in September that I just cried, because I was not the teacher I wanted to be. At this painful reality, I stopped and reassessed. I began to fit in projects and read alouds and literature units that helped serve my dream classroom community. Nothing close to what I was cooking up as a not-yet teacher last summer, but it gave me glimmers of hope that my dream was possible. So I continued to fight for that community all year. I'm sure I didn't do EVERYTHING that I could have... but that's why I get to do it again next year :)

All this to say, today I was faced with the ugly truth my classroom is still not a cohesive respectful community. Here's the sitch: There's a very sweet, smart, kind, strange girl in my class. Strange is all my kids see. There's germs and cooties and things that will surely scar this sweet girl's precious heart. Yes, she's loud and maybe a little obnoxious. Yes, she's clumsy and awkward. Yes, she thinks everyone's out to get her, but haven't they been since Kindergarten now? Who can blame her? But, with 4 days to go, I'm still struggling to help her feel accepted and safe in my classroom. I'm struggling to let her know that she's worth being loved by her peers. I'm struggling to let her know that she is a valuable part of our community. So, all my talking, book reading, book discussing, respect contract signing, compliment circle having, modeling has not worked. It hurts my heart and makes me feel kind of helpless to teach them anything of value if they cannot learn this. I'm worn out from talking with her about losing her temper over things that I'm SURE have been building up and building up. I'm out of ideas and out of time.

All I can do is pray for my students. Because really, anything of value that I have is wrapped up in Jesus anyway.

So there's my struggle, there's where I want to grow. Maybe something miraculous will happen over the summer to me and to my soon-to-be 4th graders.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Jane Eyre

With a bum ankle, I've not done much more than read this weekend. It's been a wonderful thing. I finished one of my first Literary Classics: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. While it took about 60 pages to get into and get used to the British writing, I quickly fell in love with Jane. I want to be her friend. I want to sit with her and hear her take on my world. I can't relate to her because I'm not always bursting at the seams with my thoughts and I'm MUCH more of a people pleaser, but that's precisely why I love her so much.

It's a slow build, but I couldn't put it down once I got into it. I highly recommend it for a sweet summer read.

Rather than write an entire book review, here are a few paragraphs that I enjoyed, either in circumstance, message, or writing.

*Note: I'm not giving anything away here.

"'Don't talk to me about her, John: I told you not to go near her; she is not worthy of notice; I do not choose that either you or your sisters should associate with her.'

Here, leaning over the banister, I cried out suddenly, and without at all deliberating on my words, --

'They are not fit to associate with me.' " Pg. 15

"The only marked event of the afternoon was, that... the girl... was dismissed in disgrace, by Miss Scatcherd...and sent to stand in the middle of the large school-room. The punishment seemed to me in a high degree ignominious, especially for so great a girl...I expected she would show signs of great distress and shame; but to my surprise she neither wept nor blushed: composed, though grave, she stood, the central mark of all eyes. 'How can she bear it so quietly--so firmly?' I asked of myself. 'Were I in her place, it seems to me I should wish the earth to open and swallow me up. She looks as if she were thinking of something beyond her punishment--beyond her situation: of something not round nor before her. I have heard of day-dreams--is she in a day-dream now? Her eyes are fixed on the floor, but I am sure they do not see it--her sight seems turned in, gone down into her heart: she is looking at what she can remember, I believe; not at what is really present. I wonder what sort of a girl she is--whether good or naughty.' Pg. 30

"' Then you are mistaken, and you know nothing about me, and nothing about the sort of love of which I am capable. Every atom of your flesh is as dear to me as my own: in pain and sickness it would still be dear. Your mind is my treasure, and if it were broken, it would be my treasure still: if you raved, my arms should confine you, and not a strait wasitcoat--your grasp, even in fury, would have a charm for me: if you flew at me as wildly as that woman did this morning, I should receive you in an embrace, at least as fond as it would be restrictive. I should not shrink from you with disgust as I did from her: in your quiet moments you should have no watcher and no nurse but me; and I could hang over you with untiring tenderness, though you gave me no smile in return; and never weary of gazing into your eyes, though they had no longer a ray of recognition for me...'"Pg. 181

"'Does she like me?' he asked.
'Certainly; better than she likes any one else. She talks of you continually: there is no subject she enjoys so much, or touches upon so often.'
'It is very pleasant to hear this,' he said-- 'very: go on for another quarter of an hour.' And he actually took out his watch and laid it upon the table to measure the time." Pg. 224

"'...you think me, I daresay, an irreligious dog: but my heart swells with gratitude to the beneficent of God of this earth just now. He sees not as man sees, but far clearer: judges not as man judges, but far more wisely. I did wrong: I would have sullied my innocent flower--breathed guilt on its purity: the Omnipotent snatched it from me. I, in my stiff-necked rebellion, almost cursed the dispensation: instead of bending to the decree, I defied it. Divine justice pursued its course; disasters came thick on me: I was forced to pass through the valley of the shadow of death. His chastisements are mighty; and one smote me which has humbled me for ever. You know I was proud of my strength: but what is it now, when I must give it over to foreign guidance, as a child does its weakness? Of late... only of late--I began to see and acknowledge the hand of God in my doom. I began to experience remorse, repentance; the wish for reconcilement to my Maker. I began sometimes to pray: very brief prayers they were, but very sincere.'" Pg. 269-270

Such a good book. Read, enjoy and let me know what you think. :)

My Mama

Happy Mother's Day! Here's just a few reasons I celebrate today:

1. My mama is super beautiful.

2. My mama is a sounding board for me. She listens to my aches, pains, joys, silly stories, and complaints. Laughs when I'm trying to be funny, puts me in my place when necessary, and is the only one who can heal my ailments with an "Oh, baby. I wish I was there to help you!"

3. My mama shares her life with me. She shares her hurts, struggles, joys and silly stories with me. She allows me to think through situations with her, pray for her, and laugh at her (when necessary) :)

4. My mama has always given and provided for my every need. I've never been in distress either financially or physically without my sweet mama dropping everything that's going on and her coming to my aid.

5. My mama has taught me what it means to care. Always. She's sacrificed herself not only for her children but for grandparents, great grandparents and whoever else was in need of a hug, a home, medical care. I will model my care of those in need after what she has done and modeled in my life time. There's a movie called "The Savages." It's an intense movie about kids who are caring for their sick father. Anyway... it's sad and full of neglect and obligation and as I watched it about a year ago... I thought to myself, "I will never be those kids, because my Mom has shown me what it means to care and sacrifice yourself so that someone else is loved and made much of."

6. My mama is probably the hardest working woman I know. She farms, she raises and breeds dogs, she's a dedicated wife, a medical transcriptionist, the best mom ever, housekeeper, and friend. I'm not sure where all the energy comes from and I'm sure she doesn't either some days. But she's pretty incredible.

7. My mama is hilarious. (Even if only to me.) And I'm pretty sure I'm hilarious only to her most of the time. We laugh together because I get her silly jokes and she gets mine (probably because I got them from her) and I wouldn't have it any other way. :)

8. My mama is loved by God and I see her growing in her love and affection for Him every time we talk. I'm so thankful to see this and pray that it continues to grow as she grows in her knowledge of who Jesus says she is-accepted and loved because she is His sweet creation, not by any merit of her own.

So here's to all the reasons I celebrate you today, Mama! You are so worth every joyful thought God gives me of you. I'm so thankful for you. Sad I couldn't be with you today, but I know that you know that I'm celebrating you from this couch with my ankle propped up on a pillow. You are dearly loved and greatly appreciated for all that you do and will continue to do for me.

Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Year's Worth of Updates...

Really? Am I SUCH a horrible blogger that this is my first update in an ENTIRE YEAR? Sadly... it's true. I'm a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, blogger. Kudos to those of you who have figured out how to keep up with your lives, kids, jobs, sanity AND blog. It's all I can do to put on my makeup and eat my breakfast BEFORE I get in the car to go to work most mornings. (I'm not exaggerating.)

I am officially re-entering the blog-osphere. (Is that the correct terminology?) I began my re-entrance by reading the THREE posts that I wrote last year around this time. I was blogging about classroom theories like rewards and book clubs. Theories. I dabbled, I pondered, but at the end of the day they were just theories that perched themselves on the bubble of my ideology. Here I am... almost exactly one year later. In my very own classroom! (Yes, some very fine people deemed me fit... sometimes I question their decision. Kidding... sort of...) Here's what I can update on those bubbly little theories of mine:

-Classroom rewards: I've realized that I cannot place intrinsic motivation, be it love of learning, love of fellow classmates, desire to do well, etc. etc. into ANY 3rd grader. I can't. I will toil FOREVER trying to make them WANT to do something beautiful, wonderful, positive in the world without ever seeing fruit. However... I can point them in the right direction. I can nudge them with strategically placed motivational tools (i.e. Warm Fuzzies :) ) coupled with very intentional words and conversations. So, I do. I've instituted "Warm Fuzzies" in my classroom as a way to "shape" them. We put a "warm fuzzy" in the jar whenever I feel "Warm and Fuzzy" about the way I see a student helping someone else, the way our whole class works together to accomplish a goal, or (shamelessly) when they all get to the carpet at the end of our routine countdown. (Yes! Behavior Modification, I know it's shallow and has little impact on their little hearts, but man, oh man, it sure does help this little teacher stay sane. And honestly, some days that's a victory in itself.)

-Book Clubs: Sadly, I'm not explicitly teaching Language Arts. At Parmer Lane Elementary 3rd-5th grades are departmentalized and I am teaching Science and Social Studies. I love it, but I do anxiously look forward to the day that I get to have my very own Lit. Circles, Guided Reading Groups and Word Work Stations. (Oh my!) Because literacy is such a natural part of life, it's pretty easily built in to everything that I do. I get to do really great Read-Alouds (like The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry) and model what it looks, sounds, and feels like to be a good reader. We get to have brilliant discussions using our KLEW (Know, Learned, Evidence, and Wonderings) charts. (Classroom built literature!) We read and write and struggle to understand words. It's a beautiful world to be a part of, but I have yet to plunge into the world of Book Clubs.

Other, less teacher-y updates:

-Tyler is now on staff at our church, The Austin Stone Community Church. So, I guess that makes me a (gasp!) Pastor's Wife. I struggled at first. I wasn't sure what my identity was. Am I Tyler's Wife? Am I Teacher? Am I the sweet, quiet, little pastor's wife with big white hair? WHO AM I ? Some very wise women pointed me to Jesus and said, "Every wife, woman is different. You identity is first in the Blood and Resurrection of our King. Look to Him to tell you who you are." Very abstract, not straightforward or tangible, not easy. But oh, so sweet to my fragile little soul. I have nothing to live up to. He's my standard.

Long story short:

Ephesians 2:1-10

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now in the sons of disobedience --among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh like the rest of mankind. BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ -- by grace you have been saved-- and raised us up with him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in CHrist Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Amen and amen.

-We are moving DOWNTOWN. That's right, folks. Watch out hipsters, there are two newbies coming to your neighborhood! We've found the BEST apartment complex. Mostly affordable, and definitely beautiful. Right in the heart of the place that we love most on the earth (at the present...) Austin, Tx. It will be an entirely new world of WALKING places and being right next door to our sweet sweet new (but so dear, it doesn't feel like they are new to us) friends Scott and Lydia Hekman. We're excited to jump into their lives in a new way and learn from them as they've been such great models of living their lives ALL for the coming of the Kingdom of God. We're definitely giving up some great things by leaving the north side. Things like living 2 minutes away from the Ornelases. Things like a guest bedroom for friends to lay their heads and lots of wonderful, sweet SPACE. Things like big kitchens with lots of counter-space. Space, we can deal without. Katie and James Ornelas, not so much. BUT Katie and I have BIG BIG summer plans, so I'm certain our lives won't change too much. Right, Katie?!

-Speaking of Katie. We ran a half marathon together. That's right, people! 13.1 miles. (I can now say I've run a FULL marathon because it was my 2nd one. No? That's not how it works? Dangit...) It was a feat of determination. Long, sweaty, (mostly freezing cold, though. we trained in the winter) encouraging runs. I love my sweet friend Katie who is a great equalizer in my very LARGE dreamer-type world. Running with her deepened our friendship and showed me how much I need friends like her to point me to Jesus (my goal) when I want to quit again and again. (Literally and figuratively.)

-I flew to Chicago. Because one of my very best friends is now engaged to be Mrs. Rachel Crawford. :) Rachel Polen has a beautiful ring on her left finger and her sweet fiance got Laura Gordon and I up there to be a part of it. It was a sweet sweet weekend. I love those 2.

Okay. A year's worth of updates has not even begun to unfold. So I"ll just have to relay my life lessons throughout this past year slowly. Because currently... I'm procrastinating writing lesson plans and preparing for Monday. (Eesh... Monday...)