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Friday, February 27, 2009

JKB vs. Rattan

Really cool event tonight. JKB (my elementary school) played a basketball game against Rattan (the other elementary school in town) as a fundraising event. I stood in the stands screaming like a crazy woman as JKB dominated the court. I cheered like mad for all my friends on the court and also connected with friends in the stand. Then later we ate supper with some of our Anna friends. I remembered again tonight that these men and women that I was cheering for and hanging out with were strangers 6 months ago.

It is beautiful that God has so swiftly created so many new friends in our new community. I am very blessed and very thankful.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Henry's Freedom Box

In the library at school, the librarian read my class a book, “Henry’s Freedom Box”. It was a true story about a slave who was so desperate to be free that he built a wooden crate and mailed himself to Pennsylvania. Along the way he was thrown onto a freight car and tossed about, but he finally made it to freedom. Even though it was a children’s book, it was still disturbing to imagine the discomfort of traveling in a small crate, at times upside down for days, in order to be free. As an adult, I realized some of the other issues… no food or water, the human waste issue….basically this guy decided he would either be dead or free, one or the other.

I was thinking about this a lot today. There are several spiritual parallels that I came up with here. Scripture abounds with references to our freedom in Christ such as Col. 1:4 “Christ has purchased our freedom”; Heb 9:15 “….freed from the penalty of the sins…” Rom 7:24, “Who will free me from this life.” And the list could just keep on going. I was thinking about this guy’s determination. I think sometimes I take my freedom in Christ for granted. I dabble in sin and don’t fully realize the greatness of having been redeemed. Henry wasn’t going back into slavery. No way, no how! So why do we tend to drift back into our old ways that held us captive instead of walking in the light of freedom?

My other train of thought beyond Christ’s saving redemption was the very specific freeing from addiction. I think Henry’s journey is a pretty good parallel for those among us who have been freed from an addiction. It was a hard, tough, smelly, uncomfortable journey. But the freedom at the end of the journey was worth every single discomfort.

“Henry’s Freedom Box” was a good reminder to me about the beautiful freedom that I have because of Christ. It was also a reminder to me that sometimes there are tough times on the journey, but freedom is always worthwhile.

Just one more note – Henry had help from other people. Other people have played such a huge role in my life and my discovery of who I am and who God has created me to be. I don’t want to be too busy to walk alongside other people. That’s a pretty big struggle for me…finding time during the school year for friendships and close relationships.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Today - cause I can't come up with a creative title

Ever have one of those days that’s over before it ever starts? Today’s been one of those. I hit my classroom almost literally running - trying hard to prep for the day before the students arrived. My weekend was too busy to work any at school so I was already behind. Before I could turn around it was lunch time and I had only covered half the material that I wanted to with the kids. Then suddenly the entire day was done, and I never even got around to teaching science.

It’s that season at school. The insanity of the spring semester in first grade is unbelievable. We are pushing hard every minute of every day to prepare for second grade. Every second I am regrouping and refocusing and trying to figure out how I can maximize the moment for learning. It requires high energy and lots of caffeine and leaves me absolutely exhausted by the end of the day.

This week is especially crazy. I have a meeting every day this week and special trainings and after school tutoring and parent conferences. Today I found out that I am going to be needed to administer the TAKS test next week. This is a first for me since I am a first grade teacher. I largely ignore the TAKS test and go about my merry way. However, we are short teachers in order to meet all the required accommodations, and so I am one of the chosen few who gets to help out. I don’t mind, I’m just a bit nervous about figuring out all the protocols involved and not screwing up. (And finding the time to get ready for a sub is a nightmare) The legalities and rules and regulations surrounding this event are amazing. Pretty sure the training will involve midnight meetings dancing around a bonfire chanting secret mantras and signing oaths in blood. After I complete the training, I will be qualified to see the President’s most top-secret documents. That’s the level of security involved in this mess. Like I can’t even go pee unless I take the tests with me. All of this so we can check to see if our students are mastering the basic skills needed for life. High-stakes testing. Kids are nervous, teachers stressed. It’s nuts. As in you can lose your teaching credentials and be charged with a felony if you screw up kind of nuts. But I don’t make the laws.

Where am I headed with all this? No where. I am just very overwhelmed with all that needs to be done. It is hard to not be stressed when your job needs more than the 12 to 14 hours you are already putting in. I don’t have any more hours in my day unless I totally eliminate sleeping. Don’t think that’s a possibility.

But there’s good stuff too….today a reading group had to move up another level. My kids learned to write complete sentences with punctuation over the weekend. They are blooming, and it’s beautiful. Kids that couldn’t read at the beginning of the year are reading their first easy chapter books. We’ve just about mastered adding two digit numbers and are making progress on learning how to count money. The kids are gaining maturity and learning self-control. They are getting better at tying their own shoes and using Kleenexes instead of eating their boogers. I can trust them alone for the 2 minutes it takes me to sprint down the hall and use the restroom if I can’t wait until lunch. This is the payoff for the huge stress of the spring semester. My students will be great readers and when they are old and reading the McDonalds menu….It’s my fault. I do that for them. So very rewarding. Exhausting, but rewarding.