On Lesson Plans and Best Intentions

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So, way back in August I had intended to use this blog a bit more to record my experiences in student teaching. I meant to write about my very first day. I meant to write about my wonderful class of third graders. I meant to do a lot of spiffy blogging things. And I never did. Not only was I tired, but I simply had no words for that first day. Or that first week. Or anything since then. Who’d have guessed that teaching could be so overwhelming? Data teams, FLEX groups, PLC meetings – I don’t even know what those things are! Literacy by Design, FOSS Kits, Everyday Mathematics, Common Core Standards, Literacy First, Reading Counts – how am I supposed to organize it all? To make it all worse, I have to take the pre-planned lessons in the school curriculum and write my own lesson plans using my university’s lesson plan form just so I can get my own grade. I am a firm believer in “working smarter, not harder,” and putting sticky notes in the teacher books seems a lot smarter to me than daily rewriting five or six entire lesson plans that I won’t even have time to use.

Which is what I should be doing right now – rewriting lesson plans. And I will do it. I will do it because I have to, but I still feel like I have no words suitable to accurately describe my teaching experience so far. Although, I must be doing a good job because one little girl hollered out in class that she wished I was the real teacher. Unfortunately, the regular classroom teacher was still in the room. Talk about a sticky situation.

I’ve read that student teaching will be the easiest thing I ever do as a teacher. Considering how few responsibilities I actually have so far, I believe that must be true, but I think it must also be the most uncomfortable and disconcerting position in which I’ll ever be placed.

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On Moving and Surviving

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I have come to believe that college is not about earning a degree or making life-long friends. College is not about having a good time or making huge mistakes. No.

College is about survival.

For three years, I have done all of that stuff, but mostly I have survived. In particular, I have survived Move-In Day. (Yes, it’s actually a proper noun.)

Move-In Day, for me, usually means that I put a few things in my car the night before, and then wake up as early as I can on the Day to frantically shove everything else into my car. After that, I put all the big stuff in my mom’s minivan. Finally, she (or my Dad – whoever draws the short straw) and I will drive off toting all of my stuff and a selection of my siblings into the wild blue yonder (roughly 2.5 hours away). Once we make it to school, I spend the rest of my day organizing everything in my tiny dorm room. However, this year, all of that has changed. Adapted, I suppose. Survival is all about adapting, right?

This summer, I wanted to stay in CollegeTown where I had a job rather than go home to The Big City where I didn’t have a job, so I got to have three Move-In Days. In a nutshell: I moved everything home for two weeks, then I moved everything back to school for three months, then I moved to a friend’s house for two weeks, and today I moved back to school. Whew! I now have a small understanding of what military families experience. But I made it! School starts tomorrow, and I get to stay in one place for a while! (I must still be in shock, though, because I still haven’t bothered to unpack my stuff.)

But, as my grandma says, there is always something. Today, it is curtains. My bedroom has two windows, but only one set of curtains. I was all agog for a solution! I couldn’t have windows with no curtains! Fortunately, the window does have a curtain rod, so one of my roommates suggested that I hang towels on the window, but I don’t have an abundance of towels, so I hung up throw blankets instead. It really makes for a strange sight, I assure you. But I have survived the crisis.

So, for all of you college newbies, I will list a few of my most treasured survival tips.

  • Bring extra blankets. They serve many purposes as I learned today.
  • Pack your clothes in (clean) trash bags. Honestly, you’ll look like a hobo when you move in, but you don’t have to worry about how to store an assorted set of empty luggage throughout the school year.
  • Sleep well the night before you move in. You don’t want to run out of energy to organize your new room. (Otherwise, I suppose you can just make your bed first.)
  • If possible, consult with your roommate before you move in. Communication makes sharing a new space easier.
  • Don’t act too cool to really say goodbye to your family. I know you’re ready to get on with your new adventure, but remember that your family will likely not see you for quite a while. Show them that you really love them. (I promise you’ll feel better, too.)

Honestly, I’m a true expert here.

Do you have any Move-In Day Survival Tips of your own?

On Pots and Multiple Dimensions

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Alright, I am a college student. I attend a very small private university (think 3A high school, then expel the football team and pep band – yeah, just like that). Since I began attending, my interpersonal relations have improved by leaps and bounds (my friends would agree that this is true, but I still have a long way to go) simply because I have been forced to interact with the same people everywhere I go on campus. I have to learn about these people and form opinions about these people. I have to listen to other people talk about these people. I engage in conversations about other people. Honestly, gossip runs rampant. In fact, the entire place is very much like a high school, except now the students are allowed to pretend they are grown-ups.

So, you ask, why am I going on and on about my university? Well, it is to help you, dear readers, understand the insightful brainstorm I had just last night. Read on and tell me that you agree with me.

I just finished reading The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty (yes, this is young adult fiction, but please keep reading before you write me off). I adore Moriarty’s books because she does not simply create characters and plots. She raises her characters as if they are her own children, and she delves deep into their personalities to see how they will affect the plot. Furthermore, I can always find my own fears, feelings, and habits in Moriarty’s characters. She makes you think about what you are reading. And last night, I was thinking about The Ghosts of Ashbury High. [Spoiler Alert: I will give you no spoilers. Read the book for yourself. You must.]

Jaclyn Moriarty tells the story of Ashbury High School’s current senior class from the perspective of all the main characters and many of the minor characters. Major events in the plot are often told three or four times by different participants. (Although, I assure you that it is in no way repetitious – like I said, J. M. makes you think. She doesn’t do it for you.) As I was reading, I realized that the story had so much more depth and richness because of this. I could see all sides of the story, as it were. And now, you are asking me how this connects to all the random people at my tiny university, well, listen up because here is where my brainstorm kicked in.

I decided that Jaclyn Moriarty had written a 3-D book. I was learning all the dimensions of the story from multiple sources – students, teachers and administrators, even historical occurrences. Then, I thought, people are three dimensional just like this book. I don’t mean in the physical sense (because that is obvious), but in the relational sense. Our perception or understanding of a person should be three dimensional.

You see, there are three perspectives that can tell the story of one person.

  1. A person understands himself. His understanding of himself determines how he presents himself to other people.
  2. That presentation determines how other people understand him and how they present him to society.
  3. Society is made up of individuals who will form an understanding of him based on (1) how he presents himself and (2) how others present him.

Therefore, when I meet a new person, he has an opinion of himself, other people have an opinion of him, and I must now form an opinion of him, and all of this develops a 3-D understanding of that new person. This can be really easy in a gossip-y place like my university, but gossip can also make it really hard. How many times have you formed an opinion of someone based solely on what other people say? Have you disregarded what other people say about someone? Have you taken the time to learn what a person knows of himself?

A person is not made only of what he believes himself to be. The whole world has the ability to mold and warp him (his personality and reputation) in any way. I guess this is why the Bible talks so much about God being a potter, and why it tells us we are His clay. We are changed and molded all our lives because that is God’s plan. (Isaiah 29:16, Isaiah 64:8, Jeremiah 18:1-10, Romans 9:21) The world may change our reputation, but God changes our hearts. And that is more important. If you like (and I do), we could say that God provides the fourth dimension to the world’s understanding of a person.

So, I’ll leave you with this: Do you allow people the honor of understanding them from all dimensions? Or do you heed only the gossip? Furthermore, do you believe that no matter what the world says about you, God has the final say? I struggle with this on a daily basis, but I can still rely on the fact that He loves me, and He is molding me into an even better pot every day.

On a Whim and Flight of Fancy

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There is something to be said for wooden pencils; therefore, I shall say it. I love them. I love writing with them. I love sharpening them. I love the way they look. A yellow Ticonderoga can almost make me weep. A pencil is so unassuming, yet so powerful. It is not permanent like an ink pen, but that very property allows it to be incredibly versatile. It is by no means as agile and professional as a word processor, but it will always be more personal and comforting than the harshly printed Times New Roman. (Unless your handwriting is entirely illegible. In this case, for the sake of all concerned, please put those Number 2s safely away where you can do them no harm.)

I suppose I am bordering on the whimsical here (if I have not entirely crossed the threshold already), but I feel rather ashamed of my treatment of wooden pencils over the years. Once I placed my eager fingers around a mechanical pencil I decided I would never again use a wooden pencil. I was finished with pencil sharpeners of all kinds! No more broken tips! Never again would I hear the terrible squeak of the metal band around a worn-out eraser! From there on out I would never use any pencil other than a 0.7mm. I felt no emotion other than sheer bliss when I found that Paper-Mate had a mechanical pencil with an extendable eraser. I knew certainly that this was not some minor love affair. That Paper-Mate pencil has long been my brave companion for written deeds of all sorts, doodling, arithmetic, and Sudoku alike. Meanwhile, wooden pencils had simply become a nuisance to be reckoned with yearly over standardized tests. But somehow, I have had a change of heart. I don’t know how it happened. Maybe it is the price of growing older, I truly don’t know, but I now find a sort of antique romance about wooden pencils that grips my heart. Mechanical pencils are practical and long-lasting, but they are also serious and austere. On the other hand, wooden pencils change, wearing away bit by bit, but they are steadfast like soldiers marching toward the front lines. They scratch quietly at the paper while one must click incessantly at a mechanical pencil. Sharpening, far from being a chore, has become a beautiful ritual, timing the final turn of the pencil to attain the most perfect point. There really is nothing so wonderful as writing with a perfectly sharp pencil.

I will not put away my Paper-Mate for good, but I am no longer blinded by my practicality. I have become a partner with good old Number 2, not a domineering master, and we work together better than I ever thought we would. I am looking forward to this new adventure we will share.

On Politics and Equality

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Do You Want My Vote?stealingfaith.com

Above, there is a link that you should click on. Go ahead, do it. The author of this blog, Juggler, has hit on a few points that are very dear to my own heart. Generally, I steer clear of anything political because I know that I simply do not have enough information to say anything of note. However, this blog comes down to the basics of what is important not only when we are voting for given politicians, but also when we encounter people on a daily basis.

Juggler primarily directs her words toward politicians who are catering toward women. Previously, I have mentioned how I feel about people making assumptions and expectations based on observed characteristics, and Juggler makes an even stronger point.

Politicians are telling women that we ought to fight for equality, and they are telling men to stand aside and let us have that equality. Yet, in God’s eyes, we are already created equal. Genesis 1:26-27 says “26 Then God said, ‘Let us make human beings[b] in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.’ 27 So God created human beings[c] in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” God, who was neither male nor female, created both in His image to be just like Him. In God, there is no glass ceiling, only salvation. God does not distinguish our abilities based on male and female characteristics because He sees each of us, individually, for exactly who we are and who we can be in Him.

I am not going to offer any political advice because I still do not feel that I am qualified to give it, but please consider, once again, how you treat people. Treat people equally, but not based on race, gender, age, or religion. Treat people fairly and equally because that is how God calls His children to treat all people.

On Obedience and Humility

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Joshua 5:13 – 15 (NLT)

The Lord’s Commander Confronts Joshua

13 When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?”

14 “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.”

At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?”

15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told.

 

I was reading Joshua 5 last night, and when I came to this passage I nearly felt as if I had been hit over the head. Joshua and the Israelites have just crossed the Jordan River (Moses-at-the-Red-Sea fashion) on their way to Jericho when – out of nowhere! – a man is standing in front of Joshua with a sword. At first sight, I would have reacted as Joshua had, probably drawing my own sword. Yet, would I have fallen to the ground when the man told me who he was? No. I can say assuredly that I would have questioned this man. I would have asked for proof, preferably in the form of a signed affidavit from God Himself. I certainly would not have told this strange man that I was a servant under his command. And who does he think he is, anyway, calling himself the Lord’s commander?

I like to think that I am a very practical and logical person, and I insist on having facts and proofs set before me before I believe anything. I’m not going to lie – sometimes this makes believing in God a daily struggle. I usually have no problem obeying my parents, trusted professors, or even the government because they have established their authority over me in many ways and on many occasions. When it comes to other people, though, I have a difficult time adjusting to their authority and trusting their judgment. Clearly, in the position of Joshua, I’d have found myself in a great deal of trouble. Even as I was reading this passage, I only wanted to know why this person had presented himself to Joshua, and my question was never answered. As I was thinking about it, though, I could see that all God wanted was Joshua’s unerring respect and obedience. God was about to send Joshua on an insane mission to take over Jericho, and He needed to know that Joshua would do exactly as he was told.

How many times have I questioned God’s authority in my life? When I get to my own Jericho, will I ask God why He insists on making me dizzy and tired walking around the walls? Will I humble myself to His greatness? Right now, I don’t know, but I do know that if I keep working to Him first in my life EVERY SINGLE DAY that it will be easier to keep Him first when I meet my Jericho.

How do you submit to God’s power and authority? Do you, too, struggle with the need for proof and reasons?

On Education and Student Teaching

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It’s official! (Actually, it was official almost two weeks, but we all know that I should never be responsible for The Breaking News Report.) I have finished my education practicums!

I wrote about my first practicum, but I never described anything after that, so I’ll give you a bit of background. I, along with four other girls in my class, had to take six methods and practicum courses. This meant that for two weeks I would go to class and learn how to teach a subject, then for the next two weeks I would be assigned to an elementary/middle school classroom where I was expected to teach that subject. Needless to say, it was a whole year of switching back and forth.

What I Learned and What I Taught:

  • Primary Math Methods – 2nd grade Math Practicum
  • Intermediate Math Methods – 6th grade Math Practicum
  • Social Studies Methods – 6th grade Social Studies Practicum
  • Science Methods – 6th grade Science Practicum
  • Primary Literacy Methods – 3rd grade Literacy (Guided Reading) Practicum
  • Intermediate Literacy Methods – 5th grade Literacy (Writing) Practicum

You might be able to guess that I am a little tired of 6th grade. However, I did learn throughout all of this that I think I would prefer teaching older students. I have always worked with very young children, but I know now that I am more adept at teaching older students. I find it much easier to use a student’s background knowledge to build new knowledge than to lay the foundation for future learning.

Anyway, the most exciting thing is that I am finished! In a few weeks (or more, who knows) I should have my student teaching assignment, and in August I will have my own classroom (sort of). I am most relieved that I will only need to meet about 25 students next year, rather than the 200 or so I met this year. I will be able to create my own classroom and jump right into the school year with these students. I’ll have the guidance and assistance of the classroom teacher, but I will be expected to take full reign of the daily instruction and discipline. Just think – I can create my own routines! I am truly thankful for the experiences I had during the practicums, but I am not going to miss the ever-changing schedule. Please pray for me as I venture further into the great frontier of education!

On Judgments and Expectations

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“Are you old enough to be driving?”

“Yes sir, I’m 21.”

Do I really look so young? I am five years past the minimum legal driving age. Was it a judgment on my driving technique? I had just expertly maneuvered my mother’s minivan into a parking space. Was he teasing? I don’t think so. Even though he laughed, it’s generally accepted that you only tease people you know. I did not know this man. So, I know that I’ve already talked about “age assumptions,” but even if it is not something that is terribly important, it sure does get under my skin.

As humans, I know that we judge based on appearances. It is a shortcoming that seems to be hardwired into our personalities. Certainly, I have been guilty of it myself. However, God calls us to look beyond appearances.

  • 1 Timothy 4:12, which has been quoted to us at graduations: “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” My part in this, of course, is to be the example. Yet, it would certainly help if others would take care of the first sentence.
  • 1 Corinthians 4:1 -13 – Paul wrote this passage to the Corinthians to condemn their self-righteousness, but he also told them to stop judging others. Paul declares that God will be the only judge of character because He can see a person’s motives in addition to actions and appearances.

Obviously, this man had every right to be concerned when he thought that I was too young to be driving. I would have been putting him, his family, and myself at risk if I were driving when I was not allowed. However, his rude behavior was entirely unnecessary.

Dear readers, please consider how you treat other people. Do not admonish the people you meet for their age, whether you believe they are too young or too old. Every stage of life is a gift from God with ample opportunities to learn and grow into exactly who He wants you to be. We should never judge someone or try to change someone to fit our own expectations.

On My Birthday

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Today has been a pretty big day for me, in a couple of ways, but one particularly: I am now 21 years old. (Please do not tell me that you thought I was so much older/younger/you can’t believe it. I already know, I promise. However, thank you for the sentiment.) Honestly, it brings up some frightening thoughts.

I was driving this afternoon, and for a few minutes I was thoroughly happy. Everything seemed like it was right. I finally felt like I was growing up and doing what I needed to do. But, as I started thinking more about this, I realized that I really have no idea what I am doing. What, exactly, is right? What does it mean to be growing up? What do I need to do? I am in college! I am legally allowed to intoxicate myself should I so choose! Don’t I have everything figured out?

No. I don’t. I am finishing the third year toward my education degree, but I still have no idea what I will actually do with it. I have dreams of writing books, but I have no idea when I will have time to write. I want to see the world and all that God has created, but I have no idea how to start moving.

I began to realize all of this as I was listening to the radio and the song “Outta My Mind” by Anthem Lights was playing. The lyrics that particularly stuck out to me said “Get me outta my mind and into Your heart/It’s not about me, it’s not about me” and “If anybody asks me what have I been up to/This is what I’m gonna say/I’ve been spending my time, outta my mind/And I’m really lovin’ livin’ this way.” Once again, I was hearing someone tell me that everything really was okay! I don’t need to have any idea what I will do with my life! Truly, this isn’t the first time have heard this, but today it finally began to make an impression.

God does have a will for my life, but it not to turn me into a teacher, author, or world explorer. God wants me to seek Him with all my heart. I may be 21 years old, but I am still naïve and immature. I don’t have answers to my questions, and God won’t give them to me until I have completely turned myself over to Him. This truly is a simple thought, but I forget it so often. I begin to see life as a game board. I am a pawn that must always move forward to the next destination. But God tells me that I am a lump of clay, always changing (Jeremiah 18:1-6). I cannot change myself or fulfill my life on my own – only God can do that.

On Snakes and Easter Sunday

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At this very moment, I am sitting in my grandparent’s living room, looking out the small bay window. There is a small evergreen tree outside this window. I was sitting in an armchair when I turned to look out the window at the tree, and what should I see but a pair of eyes looking right back at me! Snake eyes, to be exact. I have never been truly frightened by snakes, but I certainly don’t care to meet them. Anyway, this snake was simply curled up on a couple of the branches, looking in the window at me. About ten minutes ago, he had started crawling away up the tree, and now I can only see about the last foot of him unless I stand up. He seems to be having a difficult time finding a way out of the flimsy branches and bushes. I did a Google search for snakes in Missouri, and I believe that this snake is a Black Rat Snake. He has shiny black scales and a white underbelly and is about 3.5 or 4 feet long. The handbook I found also mentioned that these snakes are very good at climbing trees. This snake certainly seems to be enjoying my grandfather’s tree!

In my short lifetime, I have happened to meet a few snakes (and I mean that literally). I met a garden snake under a tree, and that time I was terrified. Another time, my sister and cousin found a whole nest of little baby racers (I can’t remember what species, but I think they were black with red stripes and yellow spots). At camp one year, I had to assure a group of second graders that the green garden snake they saw was, in fact, not venomous and would not attack them. Another summer, my dad found a small gray garden snake under a cement block – unfortunately, we accidentally dropped the cement block on it. However, this snake is a lot bigger than I have ever seen in the wild before, and I am not going to try to go out and see it. Yet, on this Easter afternoon, it has made me think.

In the Garden of Eden, when Eve met the serpent, she met him in the tree. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, actually. Certainly, Eve didn’t think that snake was very scary, but I also don’t think it was any small garden snake or even a Black Rat Snake. That snake would have looked like it held all the power he was telling Eve she could have after she ate the fruit. I know that in life, we often meet our snakes just like the one Satan impersonated. These “snakes” are evil, yet they aren’t frightening. Their power and strength are enticing, and we feel as if we cannot turn away, just as Eve did not turn away. Yet, that is why God sent His son Jesus Christ for us. Jesus came to repair the mistakes of Adam and Eve and to forgive the sins that separate all people from God. It was on Easter Sunday that Jesus completed his great task and allows me to have a personal relationship with God, my Heavenly Father. I don’t think that I will ever forget this Easter when I was able to meet the snake in the garden (outside the living room, I suppose) and face him without fear.