This is somewhat embarrassing, isn’t it?

We are packing up all our stuff, not to leave, but to move. Crazy that right at the end of the school year we are moving the school to a new building and will finish the year there! We are also moving from our apartment to apartments in the new school, so I am starting my goodbyes early. Goodbye old School. Goodbye old Apartment.

As I was packing up my things I was thinking of some of the things that have happened in this apartment…we did a lot of school work here, but I also have some fun memories with roommates and I thought I would share just one with you all.

There are three keys, that we are aware of, that go to our apartment. The landlady has one, and the other two are carried by two of the three of us. So there is always someone who does not have a key, and we borrow from each other, of course. This is not convenient, nor does it aid to an aura of responsibility. You would think three, normally responsible girls could make this key situation work…but alas all three of us tend to think someone else has the keys and our keys get locked in the house.

A couple months back, the three of us walked out the door and I said “Do we have the key?” as I shut the door. We did not. But on a Friday morning, figuring out how to get into our locked apartment comes after getting to school on time to be prepared to teach on our priority list, so we went to school and put the key situation on hold. Because I was primarily responsible for getting us locked out of the apartment, it really was primarily my responsibility to get us back in. Unfortunately, this particular weekend Dini and Klementina had gone away for their anniversary so we could not use their expertise; specifically their skills of speaking the Albanian language, knowing the name or our landlady, and how to contact her. Also, we could not seem to reach them by phone.

This put us into quite the predicament. These were our unappealing options: sleep at the school all weekend until they got back, try and break into our own house that happens to be on the fifth floor, or somehow find our landlady.

After very little debate the third option seemed most appealing so we devised a plan of action. it went like this:

1) Get a Albanian staff member at the school to write us a note in Albanian detailing our situation

2) Knock on our neighbors’ doors and hold up the sign and pray that THEY know their landlady’s name and contact information

3) Get someone to help us call her so she could come help us get in.

The Results:

Step One

My guess at what it says is, “Excuse me, we locked ourselves out of our house. Do you know our landlady? Do you have her phone number?”

OR (according to google translate), “Sorry, did you know as home owners called where we live? Can you give us the total of number of telephone if you?”

Yes, sad that I need to use google translate at this point, especially because it can only get you so far…

Step Two

This was quite embarrassing and also an epic fail! All of our neighbors were not home (or did not answer the door) except one, who gave us a confused look and shut the door.

…so we had to figure out a PLAN B

Plan B

This consisted of going around the corner and asking businesses if they were aware of our Landlady’s name and number. And while this may seem far fetched, we live in such a small town kind of atmosphere that we actually ended up in a store owned by the sister of our landlady. So Plan B was quite successful!

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oh, the hard lessons…

For the last four years I studied to be a teacher, I dreamed of being a teacher who inspired my students to become their best selves; students who get excited about learning, students who show compassion to others, students who see themselves as the smart and talented individuals they are.

So here I am, 8 months into my teaching career and there is so much I love about it. I love these students. I really do feel blessed to teach them.

But let me be honest with you …

Teaching is hard.

I wouldn’t trade the relationships I’m developing with these students for a cushy office job. Never, ever. But sometimes {like right now} I feel the responsibility, frustration, and exhaustion of being a teacher(or maybe just an adult?). Sometimes it is just plain overwhelming.

I am currently giving my midterm exam… conveniently Kaitlyn and I were able to switch off times we give exams to the 11th grade and so, though my testing time is now a whole morning event, the testing groups are only 6 students, which I can isolate to the extremitys of the room and (hopefully) finally prevent cheating (which is why I can write a blog entry while I proctor, instead of “hawk” over them!). And as I sit here, a student sniffles and cries through my test, and my heart is breaking a little.

All quarter I have encouraged these 11th graders to keep a “Math Toolbox”. This is a literal version of “The little black bag” that my high school geometry teacher, Bob Raber, told us to file away theorems, postulates, definitions, etc. into. While we were able to use a notecard on most test (praise the LORD!) he would tell us to “put it in our little black bag”, i.e. our brain. These students are very used to memorizing information, they are good at it. But as a teacher I want more than that. I want more than memorizing something/cramming for a test and then promptly forgetting it. I want them to learn to problem solve, to think creatively, to understand why and how we know postulates and theorems and how to use them! I want them to be thinkers. So I’ve told them again and again that I would rather they use their brain power to know how they can use tools that they look up, than to memorize facts and exact definitions and not know what they mean or how to use them. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “Never memorize something that you can look up.” and I figure if a math/science “genius” like Einstein didn’t memorize tables of information, I can probably take it as sound advice for myself and my students. I will concede however that of course, after you use/do something over and over again it gets stored in your long term memory….a little trick our brains do that we teachers take full advantage of. Why do you think we use repetition so much?

But back to the story, they have been keeping a “Math Toolbox” which they were given the privilege of using on their midterm. The catch? Only that they had to use their own “toolbox”, that they needed to be prepared and responsible enough to do it and keep it up to date. But apparently I should have added one more condition, you have to remember to bring it to the test. Which is why I am sitting here listening to sniffles during my midterm. And it’s kinda breaking my heart.

I’m all about natural consequences. If you bring a water balloon to school and break it in class all over yourself, you have to go the rest of the day with wet pants (true story).  But sometimes it’s really hard to watch a poor mistake, or hold students to certain standards. Especially if they fail to see that you are doing it because you care about them. That you want them to be responsible, and to learn, and succeed. That you want them to be safe, and kind to others. That you want them to be better than you were or are.

I don’t know how many times I am asked what a word means during a test…and how many times that “unknown” word is in fact one of their vocabulary words and I have to say, “I can’t tell you…it’s a vocab word”. Or to watch them waste minutes and minutes of test time doing a problem wrong, only to realize had they read the directions, they could have done the problem in half the time (and I hope they do realize because grading is excruciating when there are mistakes because someone chose not to follow the directions).

If I look at the reasons I wanted to be a teacher though, I notice that it really had nothing to do with content and everything to do with molding individuals to be responsible, think for themselves, and believe in themselves and others, so I guess I’m not that far off. I just wish it wasn’t so hard sometimes.

But it means something, I wouldn’t trade it.

I just want to end with some reflections on how I am being changed by the interactions I have with my students. As much as I am teaching them, they are teaching me.. to be more patient, feel less like I have to always be put-together, to try for my actions to be the embodiment of grace-filled, and the need to invite a faithful God into my day to make it anywhere close to successful.  I’m thankful to them for the ways they refine me, teaching me about grace and forgiveness and the promise of a new day after a particularly difficult class.

We are all learning the hard lessons.

A new semester…new lessons

We started a new semester this week. I am now a high school Geometry teacher….who would have imagined?

These are my wonderful 11th grade Geometry students(minus two students who were absent).  

 

I will have the privilege of teaching this group of 11th grade students all year; from English Foundations, to Careers & Communication, and now I have them for Geometry. They are a fun group!  They are also a talkative group! I have loved teaching them and building the relationship we now have.

I do, however, often wonder what I am doing when I walk out of my classroom. I know that I am doing many things right, but let’s be honest, there are many times I leave my classroom wondering how to be a better teacher.  I desire my students to be successful in my classroom, to leave feeling better about themselves, to have experienced something that leads them to view themselves as creative, smart, capable, compassionate, and beautiful. I want to leave my classroom feeling like that day mattered. So I rack my brain to figure out how to make this ideal a reality. I ask advice from other teachers about how to do this better. I intercede for these students by voicing their struggles, in hopes that I can make what happens in my class more effective.

But here is a confession, although I pray for God to enter my classroom, I rarely go to him for advice as a teacher, to ask him to make me more like himself, The Teacher! Jesus is the ultimate teacher, and I seriously doubt he is racking his brain for ways to be more effective. Perhaps instead of trying to be more effective on my own, I just need to join him in what he is doing. I can ask him what it is I can do.

I wonder how long Jesus has been trying to teach this me this one?

Today

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life”. One of my middle school teachers (a Mr. Bob Troyer) used to say this all the time, and I never really thought it very profound or anything but I guess he repeatedly said it enough that it stuck and for whatever reason it pops into my head all the time. When I am trying to quickly think of a quote to put on my board as wisdom for my students, whenever anyone starts a sentence with “Today…..”, even when I am trying to think of inspiration for my blog.

When it pops into my head the quote doesn’t even usually apply in a practical way….or does it? You really would think that if I thought this quote so many times I have at least considered its meaning…but I never have, at least before now….

Everyday I have the chance to remake myself, or better yet, to give myself over to let God remake me. There is the possibility for anything, any change. Today could make a difference; in my life, how I will live, who I will be.

So today matters. Today I want to view myself as an instrument of God.

The Glory that Will Be Shown to Us

I am sure that what we are suffering now cannot compare with the glory that will be shown to us. Romans 8:18

I’m counting on it! It’s been a tough couple of weeks. We have been incredibly busy with school, working though policy and school foundation building, and working through relational hangups. In a way, this is to be expected. Everything about what we are doing here is new. Everything is a first…for everyone involved. A wise woman recently told me that a rough patch in the formation of something new is inevitable and expected, it allows for the death of what needs to be removed and the shaping of what needs to be added. She also promised that once this happens the organization should not go through a patch this formational/rough again(well, this is my paraphrase of what was said…I hope it is accurate!)

When I was younger, I would get these awful pains in my legs. Actually, my whole family got them at some point. Anyway, my legs would get really sore, especially when I had gone barefoot in damp, cool grass. It almost always happened at night too. My family called them “ouchy legs” (a real technical term, I know…). As I’ve gotten older these pains happen less often. Probably they were growing pains and I experienced them more than others because I am tall and so I have grown more quickly(or just more) than some. The reason I use this illustration though is because perhaps we are going through growing pains. It has been painful during this night, we are learning as we go, it has been “ouchy”. But this means our school baby is growing! I can’t wait to see the glory that will be shown to us…