Friday, January 31, 2014

If I Don't Love

1 Corinthians 13

The Message (MSG)

"If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love."

I love this verse.  I love the simplicity of relationship with Jesus.  It's really all about love.  Knowing and loving God more, and knowing and loving people more.  I've been reflecting on what this passage means for me as a teacher.  You see, there are many tasks in my job that take my time and attention.  I often spend hours preparing lessons, grading, and etc.  I have to take so many factors into consideration.  Does research prove that this is good teaching?  Will my students be engaged during this lesson?  Will my kiddos hate this?  Is my class managed well--will this keep my students on task?  Am I reaching multiple students at a range of levels and learning styles?  Will my students meet the standards mandated by the state?     

Sometimes just simply loving my students can fall at the wayside.  But even if I have the most amazing instruction and I don't show my students love, have I really accomplished anything in light of eternity?  So here is the Chelsea Standard Version of this text (or perhaps the Teacher's Standard Version):

"If I explain my lessons with perfect clarity but my students don't know that I care, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.  If I give a lesson that incorporates best practice, reaches visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners but my students don't feel loved, it means nothing.  If my students are on the edge of their seats and wildly entertained during my class but I don't love them, I've gotten nowhere.  So no matter what I teach, how I teach it, or how well my students perform on standardized tests, my classroom is bankrupt without love."

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Leavenworth in Winter and Spring

We love to go on little get-aways, and last Spring Break we made our way to Leavenworth Washington.  It was amazing.  I like to stay in hotels the way that some people enjoy camping.  The great thing about going in the off-season is that it isn't crowded and you can score some great deals.  Plus it's warm outside which just makes me a happier person.  We played mini golf, ate lots of yummy food, went to a tea house, and shopped 'til we dropped.  This winter I decided to take Philip there for his birthday because he is obsessed with Christmas and around that time of year the whole town becomes Christmas themed.  We went on a sleigh ride, toured the Nutcracker Museum, shopped at Kris Kringle's and enjoyed some German cuisine.  Be warned, though, during the Christmas season it is packed!  There were lines for everything--even to go inside the shops.  Plus it was so cold that it took me most of the ride home to thaw after our adventure.  Overall, we love the town and it's great that you can have a completely different experience depending on what time of year you go.  Check it out sometime!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Why I Love/Hate My Job

First of all, let me say I am so thankful to have a job--a real job.  One with a big(ish) paycheck, and benefits, and where I have to dress like a professional, and I'm actually putting that degree (that put me into debt) into good use.  That said, beginning my teaching career has been by far the hardest job I have ever done.  Up until now, I haven't been able to articulate my experience.  I read an article that resonated with what this year has been like so far.  The first challenge of teaching:

"One of the biggest misconceptions about teaching is that it is a single job. Teaching is actually two jobs. The first job is the one that teachers are familiar with; people who have not taught can pretend it doesn't exist. The tasks involved in this first job include lesson planning, grading, calling parents, writing emails, filling out paperwork, going to meetings, attending training, tutoring, and occasionally sponsoring a club or coaching a sport. The time allotted to teachers for this work is usually one hour per workday. But these tasks alone could easily fill a traditional 40-hour work week."

I had no idea how much time these mundane tasks would suck from my life.  The worst part of it is, that I DON'T CARE about this crap.  I care about planning lessons that use best practice, reach many different types of learners, and are (wherever possible) fun and engaging for my students.  I care about fostering personal growth.  I care about giving thoughtful feedback.  I couldn't care less about putting a number value to the work my 87 students complete--when you've read one crappy Sophomore essay you've read 'em all (amIright?). Filling out mounds paperwork--I'm pretty sure I've made enemies with people I've never even met for being last minute or late with this stuff.  Or preparing for teacher evaluations wherein I'm being held to standards that may be for or against my personal teaching philosophy.  The next obstacle is what I'd like to call the dog-and-pony-show:

"The second job is the teaching part of teaching, which would more aptly be called the performance. Every day, a teacher takes the stage to conduct a symphony of human development. A teacher must simultaneously explain the content correctly, make the material interesting, ensure that students are staying on task and understanding the material, and be ready to deal with the curve balls that will be thrown at her every 15 seconds—without flinching—for five hours. If, for some reason, she is not able to inspire, educate, and relate to 30 students at once, she has to be ready to get them back on track, because no matter what students say or do to detract from the lesson, they want structure, they want to learn, and they want to be prepared for life."

What do you do when thirty-five teenagers are staring at you for ninety minutes straight?  How do you keep them from falling asleep especially when competing with the things that usually keep their attention:  iphones, tablets, video games, television, and other things that are more exciting than Shakespeare and where to put your commas.  Then there are the little interruptions.  I am not good at making fast decisions.  I've had to learn to be make choices with little more than a second's notice.  How am I going to handle that cuss word I just heard across the room?  Will I let this slide?  I don't know the answer to that question the student just asked me, but I'm going to have to wing it because I know he is testing me to see if I know what I am talking about.  Finally, and possibly one of the toughest for someone with my personality:

"In teaching, a person can be extremely competent, work relentlessly, and still fail miserably. Especially in the first year or two on the job, success can seem impossible. For people who have been so successful up to that point in their lives—failure is a difficult thing to face, especially when that failure involves young people not being able to realize their full potential in life."

Amen.  I tend to be a fast learner.  I give the things I do the greatest effort that I have.  My whole heart goes into my work.  I spend hours trying to make sure that each day will run smoothly, that my students will enjoy the learning, that I will reach even my struggling students.  And yet I experience so much failure.  Lessons totally botch.  My "fun," activity is met with groans and grumbling from my students.  Hardworking students fail tests, essays, assignments.  Worst of all:  sometimes students show signs that they don't like me.  I don't know why I fear this so much.  I have struggled with people-pleasing my whole life, and always imagined that I would have my students eating out of the palm of my hand.  I try to be really intentional about building positive relationships with my students and letting them know that I care about them.  Here's the thing, though, a lot of students have a chip on their shoulders about teachers.  Plus, the whole forcing them to write essays and taking away their cell phones thing sometimes hinders that relationship.

So, am I going to throw in the towel?  Perhaps turn in my novels and go become a copy editor?  I say this with a big sigh because I know that it isn't going to be easy, but no.  I will be there on Monday with a mostly genuine smile on my face.  Here's why:

"Don’t forget about the ones that don’t get to choose what school they go to. Who don’t get to choose who their teachers are. Who don’t get to choose how the students around them act. Who don’t get to choose what kind of environment they were born into. Don’t forget about them. They’ll be there Monday morning."

Deep down, I love my students.  No matter how much grief they give me.  No matter how hard they fight to avoid doing the hard work of learning.  Despite the fact that they are too immature and self-centered to love me back.  I care about their well-being, and I know that they need me.  Even though I'll experience lots of exhaustion and failure along the way, I am going to push through the pain until I am an outstanding teacher because I know that is what those little goobers need.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Cut the Crap, 2014.

Okay, so I posted one of those obligatory New Year's Eve Facebook statuses listing my glorious achievements for 2013, and then blogged that same list with pictures to boot.  I meant what I said.  Those great things really happened.  I am thankful for what God's done this year.  It's just that sometimes I think the internet becomes a space for our highlight reels.  I know I have been guilty of comparing my life to the over-romanticized lives of my friends.

I have a strong desire to be real and genuine.  So, if I were to cut the crap and make a list of what really went down in 2013, it would look a little more like this:

In 2013...

I spent hours in front of my computer working on Grad school homework.
I made friends with my MIT Cohort via shared sleep deprivation and alcohol.
Philip was bullied by his mentor teacher and then failed student teaching.
We were accepted applied for Teach For America.  We made it to the final interview and got cut.
Our cars broke down collectively like six times, before the mini van finally bit the dust (may she rest in peace).
We argued a lot.
I tried to get better at saying, "I'm sorry."
I tried to love stuff less, and love God more.
We dreamed of living in the city, got to spend the summer there, and loved it, but then had to move away.
I had my first teaching experience, and it turned out I had no idea what I was doing!
Philip contemplated abandoning education to become a business man or a bank teller.
We started reading the book, "Boundaries in Marriage," turns out we really needed that.
I got closer to my sister thanks to Jesus and conflict resolution.
Philip grew a beard.
My mom's connections helped me to secure a job.
I moved in with my parents.
I barely survived my first semester as a full-time teacher.

I'm so glad it's 2014!  Here's to learning through messiness, and new possibilities!

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