A rose by any other name

I was joking with two teachers about names today. We were making both of their names sound a little ghetto. A little street. Tough. You know, because that’s so necessary where we teach… ūüėČ

Anyways, at one point, they turned to me. They toyed with my first name. It didn’t work. No matter what you emphasized or how you said it, I didn’t sound like a thug. Nope. Sad.

Then they turned to my last name.

My last name still seems new to me. And in my new workplace, they only know my new name. I’m getting used to it. I can tell because I’ve only slipped up once when speaking about myself in the third person (something I do often in the classroom). Don’t judge– it’s effective for think-alouds.

So they said it. Then they said it again. And you know what? My last name really didn’t sound ghetto at all. Nope. Not in the least.

Then suddenly, one of them turned to me and said that my last name was cool. I smiled. I thought about it. You know what? My name– first or last– will never sound ghetto or tough or anything even close to that realm. But as for the cool part, I would definitely have to agree ūüôā

A better choice

I have very few rules in my classroom. They are as follows:

  • Work hard
  • Do right
  • Be safe
  • Be kind

That’s it. And I have these little cards that I put on a student’s desk that tells them that they have a warning and need to sign the discipline log. Thus far, that has been the extent of a behavior issue– a warning card– and that’s only happened once. It’s been a pretty well behaved few weeks.

That was, until one of my favorite students lied to me.

We are self-preservationists at heart. It’s an instinct. And adolescents are just figuring that out– that lying can save you sometimes, and sometimes you don’t get caught. I wish someone would have informed me of that year one, but I eventually figured it out.

I hate having hard conversations, even with children. But I told her that she is loved and I forgive her. I told her that it took courage to admit to the lie. She did not appear worried about the consequences on my end, but rather, the consequences at home. I remember that. And as a people pleaser, disappointing my mother was one of the worst punishments of all. I think my young student and I have something in common.

The cards that I place on a student’s desk read, “Please stop what you are doing and make a better choice!” There were so many people in my life that said that to me. In thinking about how to love my students today, I realized that God has these cards, too. Sometimes they are people, sometimes a circumstance. But He gently places them before us and encourages us in another direction.

Bragging

This is going to be a short and simple post, but I want to brag on my wife.

She is an amazing teacher. In the few short weeks she has been in her job she has received fantastic feedback, and she is too humble to brag about it. It’s a good thing I have no problem singing her praises.

Her students love her, she regularly gets emails from parents telling her so. Her colleagues respect her and have been extremely complimentary. Her headmaster has held her up as an exemplary teacher.

But none of them see what I do. Lindsey is fully dedicated to her students. She relentlessly works every day to re-develop the curriculum, create compelling lesson plans  and earnestly seeks to equip her students with the skills they need. She runs on too little sleep, but never second guesses the decision to spend so much time preparing. Her sacrificial dedication to her students moves me, and I admire her so much.

She won’t tell you how awesome she is, but I will. Her students are very, very fortunate.

A joy-filled moment

Today was picture day at school, so they had to cancel Chapel. I had my homeroom in my classroom during the time that would have been Chapel. Since we were missing the opportunity to express our worship through song, I decided to have our own version of Chapel. I turned on some great music, gave them art supplies, and projected their theme verse for the year on the board. I told them to meditate on the words and then express their meaning through creating art. While they worked, I was overcome with emotion, and sat down at my computer to chronicle the moment. This is what I wrote:

Psalm 19:14 is projected on the board. God’s Word is big and bold before my class. “Your grace is enough…” plays in the background. My students are creating art based on the verse. Some quietly mouth the lyrics to the song as they draw and color. And in this moment, I have forgotten my exhaustion, last night’s nightmare, the rough morning, the mistakes I made, the undone tasks. In this moment, I am so completely happy that none of that matters. None of it.

I love my God and I love these students– and those two things no longer must be exclusive. I sing out the lyrics over them, praying that each one of them will come to know their truth. I talk to them about their own art and how God’s Word speaks to them. This job– this exhausting, low-paying, time-consuming job– this job is a blessing. An unbelievable, overwhleming blessing.

 

Little glimpses

I was scrolling through the photos on my iPhone today and I kept finding these really random ones. I had to think for a while to figure out why I had these bizarre shots. Then I realized that most of them were pictures of things in my life that I took to text to Brian.

Regular readers are very aware (and most likely bored of hearing) that life has been crazy for the two of us lately. In order to stay connected with my husband, I’ve been texting him photos of parts of my day. Here are some examples:

This is the back of my journal that I made with my students in class. We all decorated journals and we write in them all the time– one of my favorite new things! And Brian made the late night run for more clear packing tape to cover them with. I thought he needed to see it ūüôā

I worked on this story map for a few hours. I used one last year, but it was ugly and copied poorly. This one is beautiful and copies well– and I created it all in Word! I was proud of my little teacher self, so I had to show Brian.

I sent this one yesterday at the retreat. There was a photo directory in our binders, and my handsome husband was in there with me!

Brian helped with with some technology issues today over FaceTime, but we were unsuccessful. I had to write up a tech help request and got a little silly with it. Thought Brian would appreciate seeing this before I pushed “Submit.”

They’re goofy. They’re not all that interesting. But these are glimpses into my life. And I want my husband in my life– in all the parts. So, these little pictures keep him up to date until I can come home and ramble on and on, and then answer his million questions.

 

In my wheelhouse

Tonight I got to help Lindsey out in the best way possible, I got to help her tech out her classroom.

One of the best parts of her job is the freedom that she has in her classroom in a private school that she didn’t necessarily have in public schools. We’re playing with some new ways of doing things and I think we have a cool solution for her. Lindsey wanted to use more tech in her classroom, have an easy way to show her students multimedia or internet content, and produce reusable content for her lectures (or whatever you call it in elementary school).

With that in mind, we hooked up an AppleTV unit to her projector and I showed her how to use AirPlay from her iPad and iPhone to share her screen. This will allow her to create presentations at home and show them in the classroom wirelessly. Initially she will be able to do presentations, show pictures, and show video, but we are working on a way for her to annotate text on screen, draw and work with documents. It’s all possible, it’s just a matter of making it easy. ūüôā

Honestly, I love doing this kind of thing for her. Slowly but surely I am dragging Lindsey into more tech knowledge than I think she has any desire for, but I hope I’m also helping her out. She seemed pretty excited for this setup, and that certainly makes me happy.

Day one

Well, I survived. And not only that, I had a smile on my face at the end of the day.

Highlights of the first day of school: praying with my kids, new and interesting personalities, actual time with students, and recess. The only downside is the exhaustion that comes after a day with children. I had forgotten this sensation.

I told lots of stories today. I let the kids ask me anything. I told them about Turkey and South Africa, skydiving and trying out for Teen Jeopardy. I told them about Brian and Lola and my church. I told them about my love of Toy Story, gummi bears, and coffee. I don’t feel like a very interesting person on most days, but they made me feel pretty special today. Funny– I was trying to do that for them.

I spent the evening on the living room floor creating binder organization systems for my kiddos and thinking back over the day. There are already faces that come to mind and make me smile– and it’s only day one. There are already funny sayings and inside jokes– and it’s only day one. It took nearly an hour to tell Brian all about my day– and it’s only day one.

What will day 50, day 100, or day 180 look like? Can you fathom the enormity of an adventure at the beginning, or only in reflection?

Meet me night

Tonight was ‘Meet the Teacher Night’. Parents and students came to– you guessed it– meet me!

This school is so different. Students are excited to be returning to school. Many of them have been together since Pre-K. They are talkative and energetic, some shied away from me and others ran ahead of their parents to meet me. But the kids weren’t what made tonight different.

When my headmaster came around at the end of the evening, he asked how everything had gone. I told him that I had never met parents like these. I had never met parents that brought bags of supplies, but then offered to bring me more. They offered to help with bulletin boards, celebrations, copying, grading– anything I needed. Then, one of them told me that she and her daughter had been praying for me.

These parents loved me. They loved me and they didn’t even know me.

They weren’t asking me about my experience in education or my curriculum, or trying to make sure I knew how special their child was– they were asking me how I was liking my school, and if I needed help, and how my family was fitting into the family at the school.

I told my headmaster that I was overwhelmed by the love I felt. He smiled. “That’s good to here,” he said as he walked down the hallway.¬†It’s good to feel, I thought.

 

Long time, no see

It’s 10:45pm and Brian and I just got home. The week has been crazy. You all know about it on my side (if not, read the posts from Monday and Tuesday), but just when my work life went nuts, so did Brian’s. So, about the time I need my classroom helper, he has a ton of other (albeit, totally legitimate) things to do.

Tonight, I went to my brother’s birthday dinner (good job getting older, Daniel!) alone, because Brian had a work meeting. I went from there out to Dripping Springs to meet him at the storage unit so we could move my classroom belongings¬†to Cedar Park¬†(thank you for the truck, Galligan family!).

When we got out of our vehicles at the storage place, we just smiled at each other. It read, “Long time, no see.”

We went from a summer of both being in the house all the time and having as much together time as we could stand to a sudden flurry of late nights, no meals together, rushing around, and trying to catch each other on the phone. And when I say that the switch was sudden, I mean that the world changed last Thursday.

But, all of my classroom stuff is IN my classroom now (thank the Lord!). Organizing and decorating can begin tomorrow (parents and students come Monday– yikes!). Brian moved box after box without complaint. He was wonderful. And on the long drive from storage unit to new school, we talked on the phone, trying to catch up on the craziness in the other’s life.

I would joke this summer, within earshot of Brian, that my friends needed to let me know when they were free because Brian and I had a little too much time together in the house.¬†It’s funny how quickly things change.

I told him I’d really like a date night when we have time to breathe again… in October ūüėČ

 

A path and a purpose

I didn’t want to go to the interview. Actually, I was looking forward to the other interview with the other private school I interviewed with last Thursday.

When they called, they told me the position was elementary. Elementary?! I’m middle school-material! But they keep their 6th graders in elementary, so if I wanted to teach 6th graders there, I would have to be elementary. Ugh. The position was also still being determined, but at that point was multiple subjects– and I’m English.¬†But the cheerful voice on the other end told me to come on in for the interview and we could talk about it more there.

When I showed up the next morning, I met some of the funniest women. I was enjoying conversation, standing around gabbing, when they told me that the position is now just English. 5th and 6th grade English. They asked me if this was okay with me.

It was about this time that I realized God was doing something incredible.

I’ve never had an interview like this– the women were hilarious! Parts of it felt like a comedy act, except that they were also so sincere. For every question they asked, I had an actual real-life story and answer. They would squeal, or say they just got chills, or reach over and touch the other one when I would answer. I knew they were excited, but I couldn’t believe it was over me! My experiences over the past couple years lined up in such an exact way that I had the perfect answers to their questions. At this point I was no longer thinking that God was doing something. I was beginning to see that He has had me on a path for quite some time.

I was falling in love with these women, and apparently the feelings were mutual. Then, I had to give a mini-lesson. They brought in third graders.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I panicked. I don’t do elementary. They’re little. And they need things. And they’re scary. But the little, needy, scary things walked in and well… they didn’t look so bad. Cute, actually.

The lesson went well. They loved the cartoon and pictures I had on the iPad, and they seemed really engaged. My interviewers, however, were engaged in something else. They were sitting back behind the students going page by page through my application and exhibiting the same exuberance from the question and answer time even though all my information was in writing. This was insane.

The kids left and the interview continued. It turned out I would actually be teaching both of these ladies’ children, so they were personally invested in my responses. And my responses were still¬†everything¬†they wanted to hear.

As I followed one of them around the campus for a tour, the other interviewer went to speak to the headmaster. My tour was cut short when I was called into his office. The women sat on either side of me as the headmaster asked me about my experience, my faith, and if I wanted to work there. Wait– what?

Yup. He offered me the job on the spot. I told him I would have to speak to my husband and get back to him, even though inside I wanted to hug the man. I did get a group hug from my interviewers before I left. We made plans for me to be there the following morning. I mean, if I decided to take the position…

Before the headmaster offered me the job, he told me that he thought I was sent there by God. This is an incredible thing for a person to say. Thoughts raced through my head: They want me. Me? Me. And they think God sent me. Like I’m an answer to prayer. But I’m nothing. This is crazy. This is crazy.

But that’s how God works. He waited until the last possible second this summer to change my teaching position. He knows I’m good under pressure– He designed me that way. And He revealed how he had been preparing me through every experience I had at my last school and on the mission field and in my walk with Him. We don’t always get to see that part– we just have to trust that He is sovereign and sees a bigger picture. But this time, I got to see it. I got to see His hands move.

My life is not an accident. God didn’t say poof! one day and then step back to see what would happen. He is intentional. He is sovereign. And He is loving.

I looked at Brian in the doctor’s office where we met up afterward and shook my head. “Why do we doubt?” I asked him. “Why do we doubt?”

***

Post Script: Never say “never” to God.

The first time I said never to God, I told Him I was leaving my hometown and never coming back. He gave my my first teaching job there.

In college, when people would assume that my English major was a path to teaching, I would grimace and gasp, “Never!”

And as a teacher, when asked if I would consider¬†teaching¬†elementary, I again grimaced and swore, “Never!”

Yesterday, I began my new job as an elementary teacher.

Some may say He has a sense of humor. And while that may be true, I think it’s also true that our Creator knows us a little better than we know ourselves.