I want that

Although I’m convinced otherwise, Walker just assured me I’m not the only teacher who has ever wanted to cry during the 2nd week of school. Somehow sharing that statement makes me feel both weak and authentic at the same time. But whether I believe him or not, there was no room for anything but smiles after he showed me this video tonight. Seriously, has to be in my top 5 favorites. Of all time.

Here’s to believing that each day really does bring the start of something new. A sunrise that allows us to embrace the hours ahead instead of dwelling on those recently passed. To hold on closely to those we love, to reach out to others even if in baby steps, and to find pure delight in trying something unfamiliar.

And I guess each new day brings the possibility that I’ll actually start Blogtember…

See?! THE. BEST.

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“I’m like Noah!”

picnicHappy 1st day of school!

I. Am. Exhausted.

It’s been an emotional road getting to today. From wondering if I would ever find employment to being hired and feeling overwhelmed with the intricacies of the public school system, I’ve felt unsteady for almost 2 years. But today felt good. Really good. For the first time in a long time, I have something to call mine. A classroom that belongs to me and me alone. I guess I do have to share it with 140 teenagers. And for that I am thankful. I have a space where I get to share my knowledge, my mind, my heart and my passions with high schoolers. I look back to the educational fortunes I’ve had. The traveling I’ve done. The people I’ve met and sat under. What I’ve had the blessed opportunity to learn can never really only belong to me. It must be shared, or I’ve missed the whole point. So for the next 175 days of school, I will do my best, through eagerness or weariness, to remember all those who have shared with me, so that I may share with mine.

I’m excited. Let’s do this.

I’ve felt so loved these past few weeks. From friends and family sending me school supplies and gift cards to the phone calls of support and the multiple texts wishing me a great first day, I’ve been so encouraged. And blown away by the thoughtfulness of the people in my life. So thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

These are some pictures from our ‘last big adventure’ on Saturday. I was told to get dressed and gather supplies for a picnic. Little did I know the picnic was only the beginning of one of our best dates ever. I found myself at a drive-through wildlife reserve where the animals come and eat from your hand. Yeah Yuh! cherokee tracebisonhornscome onzebrazebra zebrazebra teethdeercamel and llamas camel in the carcamel scaredeer in the headlightsemuemu catchGood catch, emu! Good date, Walker!

And  yes, you were exactly like Noah.

Did you set a timer?

I realized I never directly mentioned on this little blog o’ mine that for 3 months this year I found myself in a situation so foreign to anything I ever expected that I think I was scared to raise my hand and say it out loud. But the final bell rang, and I passed.

I stepped in for my friend Becca to cover her 3-month maternity leave. Teach—I’ve done it before. Work with high schoolers—done that, too. But 4 classes of Culinary Arts and 1 of Interior Design sounded like a test I was set up to fail.

A Culinary Arts teacher?! The girl who survived college on mac & cheese, Little Caesars and the graciousness of her roommates to let her grub down on their extras. Who finds cooking for another person to be one of the most stressful adjustments of marriage. And who dreads the day when she’s asked to bring a covered dish to a church potluck.

But I’m also the girl who had 3 very cute aprons longing to be used and abused, so, off I went on a new adventure that landed me in a classroom with 4 kitchens and 70 kids (total, not at a time!).

I quickly discovered the news that would kindly give me confidence for the weeks to follow—because I know how to measure flour, preheat an oven and follow a recipe, I knew more than they did. So maybe I could teach them something? We made our way through quick breads and cake decorating, soups and salads, casseroles and pizzas. I think I was able to answer all questions successfully, except why you’re not supposed to wash a sieve; I’m still working on that.

And of course I learned a few things, too. Salt is cheap, butter is not. Grocery shopping with the school’s money is way more fun than with your own. Boys walking the halls in cowboy boots sound astonishingly similar to a lady in high heels. No matter how much a youth at church loves you, they are still a little too cool to talk to you at school sometimes. There’s a clothing boutique called Giddy Up Glamour, it’s possible to dislike every single vegetable, and no matter how strong my urge to drop it like it’s hot when the pep rally music begins, it is possible to resist…multiple times.

High schoolers are their own kind. At any point in the day I can look around the room and find multiple students taking pictures of themselves (always accompanied with a peace sign and kiss face). Their conversations include some of the most vulgar topics to have ever fallen on my ears. Complaints are as deafening as sirens, cruelty is alive and thriving, and the attitude that can come from such a tiny body is downright shocking.

And then there are days like this when all you want to do is lay in bed and let your black tears mingle on the pillow. No time for complaints, attitude or cruelty—no time for them. But they show up that day, too, with no time for any of that either. Their conversations are different, full of concern and curiosity. Because even though most days they seem like an alien species, they are still part of humanity. And on days like these when they surprise you, reassure you and teach you, you find your tears have turned into hope.

I admittedly was a little shaky at first, but I ended up loving the assignment! And according to the thank you cards Becca had them write me, they thought I was alright, too. I’m glad I passed, because I’ve officially been hired to teach Spanish at the same high school. So three cheers for teaching a subject I know a little something about, full-time employment, and a salary!

Grateful.employed2

Adieu, Adieu. To you and you and you.

Today marked my last day in the PPCD class. I’m sad. I will miss those little cuties every. single. day. Luckily, I walked away with a laminated collage of all the kids sitting in Santa’s lap. #framer! I think this experience allowed me to walk away with two obvious points of growth.

 1: How to change a diaper with minimal gagging.

2: Forgiveness.

A little boy will run halfway across the playground to tell you that his friend hit him, and he won’t stop pouting until you call the offender over for an apology. If he won’t apologize, the sulking continues for all of recess. If he apologizes, they are immediate besties once again and run off to play tackle. Another apology is probably soon to follow.

A little girl can get scolded to tears for repeatedly not doing her work, but five minutes later after one pat of approval, she is hugging you as tight as she can giving you what she calls a ‘squeeze hug.’

Forgiveness amongst children is instantaneous. It’s authentic. It’s final. We all deserve a good pout sometimes, but once it’s over, it’s over. Let’s be like the children. Forgive, move on and be besties once again. Never look back. And most definitely never hit back.

forgiveness

photo via

…the king…

Yesterday in music class stood a giant cardboard cutout of Elvis. Taped to him was a ‘Happy Birthday to me!’ sign in celebration of his big day. When the children ran into the room they all stopped. Pointed. And started yelling “Michael Jackson! Michael Jackson!”

That’s all.20130109-162942.jpg

I Blame Jesus

I recently accepted a long-term sub position. I’m on week 3 of working full time as an aid to a PPCD class (preschool programs for children with disabilities… or Special Ed Pre-K). They are itsy bitsy teeny-weeny little cuties! I absolutely adore them.

I won’t lie, as precious as the kiddos are, it’s a challenging job. It’s a high stress environment, as we have 37 tinies (age3-8). I burn more calories from lifting, bending and chasing than I would when exercising. I’m constantly dodging coughs in my face, and I’ve been unsuccessful, as I’ve been sick for two weeks straight. Wiping snot is my new normal. Avoiding lice is my new daily challenge. And changing diapers is my new routine. I get hit, caressed, kicked, spit on and screamed at. I come home from the day physically and emotionally drained, not to mention sticky from who knows what. Seriously, what is that?!

Sometimes, when I’m changing a 6-year old’s diaper, my educated pride seems to overcome my Christian call. I think to myself, “I spent 7.5 years in higher education. I didn’t sleep for 3.5 years while getting 2 masters degrees. And now I’m wearing my hair in a bun to avoid creepy critters and wiping urine off of the floor. And I don’t even make $8 an hour?”

Over the last year, in this season of unemployment, I’ve been struggling with what looks like an identity crisis. For so long, my identity was wrapped up in how many papers I could write and the number of pages I read. My sense of worth was based on production. Transitioning into a period of ‘rest’ and no visible signs of productivity brought envy, anger, feelings of worthlessness and of course, tears, almost on the daily. I even feel like I withdrew from friends out of embarrassment.

And now I’m wiping poop while making barely minimum wage. But, as I pull up the last Pamper, I remember who is to blame.

I do not blame Obama. I don’t blame Lufkin. I blame Jesus.

I blame Jesus for calling us to serve Him in every aspect of life. I blame Jesus for asking us to give because we have been given much. I blame Jesus for calling me to follow Him.

So, in this week of Thanksgiving, I not only blame Jesus, but I thank Jesus for asking me to serve the least of these. I thank Him for allowing me to be a presence of love in the lives of special needs children of whom the majority has uninvolved parents. It is a privilege to have them in my life, because they teach me every single day. I am thankful for a job, although not high-paying, that helps out around here.

I didn’t get an education to make the big bucks or hang diplomas on my wall; I got an education so that I could better serve, and this is where I’m being asked to serve right now. I am thankful for a period of ‘unproductive rest’ and this new job that have helped me remember that. I am thankful for those that do this job on a regular basis, because they are heroes. I give thanks for this season that is still molding me into what it truly means to have an identity rooted only in Christ, because I desperately needed it. Slowly, my identity is becoming less about my profession (or lack thereof) and more about obediently following the One who gives life.

I just wish it wasn’t illegal to snap and post a few pictures of these kids I fall more in love with every day. Well, Opal is whining to be let out. Sometimes I have to wipe the poop off her tush, too. Thanks, Jesus?

P.S. I’m exceptionally thankful for this guy, who has put up with me through this very unflattering period!

First Day of School

Today was my first day of substitute teaching! At times I get down on myself. I went from teaching at the college level for 2.5 years to substitute teaching, but then I remember how thankful I am for a job. A flexible one at that. And how important subs are. And a reason to get out of bed in the morning and get dressed! And be around people. It’s a season, and I’m embracing it.

I had forgotten what it’s like to say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning and what the inside of a science textbook looks like. Even more, how awesome the feeling to actually be able to answer some of the questions about electrons! It’s protons! Protons are positively charged! How overwhelming the exhaust of that many school busses can be. The joy you feel when you don’t have to dress out in P.E. But mostly, how much I really, really love the smell of school cafeterias.

I spent the day at the middle school as an aid to the ISS class followed by two periods of PE. But most importantly, I started the day with a traditional ‘first day of school pic.’ Only this time I have badge!