What Do You Do?

7:45 a.m.  Fifteen minutes later than I like to be.  Eight things on my to-do list when I get there.  Two kids in the way back seat slowly driving me the rest of the way to crazy.  And I hear one quick story on the radio that snaps things back into perspective.  It went something like this:

A man looking for a new job was in the habit of asking people he met, “What do you do?”  One day he met a woman who told him, “I give people hope.”  When he inquired further, turns out she was a supermarket clerk, but she viewed her real job as hope-giver.  She tried to find the grouchy or sad person each day and give them a little extra attention.  Hope, even. 

Oh.

So I, of course, had to imagine then how I might have responded to the same inquiry…

I teach.
I write lesson plans.  I stay up too late searching for the next big idea.
I carry a bag of papers home each night.  On weekends I grade them.
I assess.  I record my assessments, and then I try to figure out what to do about it.
I often fail.
I write emails.  I write more emails.
I plan field trips.  I fill out three different pieces of paper with the exact same information.
I form stacks of paper that I never end up filing.
I make videos.
I dance.  I write songs.  I sing.  Often.
I run to the bathroom, holding my breath, hoping that I will be fast enough.
I teach self-centered little people how to be a little more other-centered.
I find missing pencils.
I bandage boo-boos.
I mediate.
I call parents when kids miss the bus.
I comfort kids.  I comfort their parents even more on some days.
I fix computers.
I use both sides of paper so we won’t be wasteful.
I hoard staplers and tape and pencil sharpeners and glue sticks.

And then there are the moments that I’m never proud of…

I yell.
I make kids feel bad for something outside of their control.
I shame.
I forget to do things I promised I would do.
I choose not to forget and move on.
I get short with my teammates.
I complain.

So what about the lady at the supermarket?  Something tells me that if she stepped into my shoes, she wouldn’t describe her job in any of these ways.  Her answer would be way better.  So after putting on my perspectacles and thinking about this today, here’s what I hope I do…

I inspire.  I cheer when I see them go home and keep digging for more.
I challenge.  I don’t let them give up on themselves or each other.
I connect.   Math to them, them to each other, them to the world.
I apologize.  I forgive.  I try to be an adult that’s not afraid of those words.
I love math, and I love learning, and I’m learning to love the kids even more than the math.

I love.

What do YOU do?

 

 

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One. More. Day.

One more day of waking up to, “Mommy, can I get in bed with you?” instead of the alarm clock. One more day of making lunch when it’s time to eat it instead of 6 or even 16 hours earlier. One more day of going to bed without feeling guilty about all of the things that are undone.

This summer has been amazing.

Does every teacher turned stay-at-home-mom have that first day of summer fear? I look forward to summer all year long, and then it catches me off guard every time. What….I have to entertain these people all day? These people who don’t listen to me and argue with each other over nothing? But soon, as in the next day, we catch a rhythm and we like each other again and it is fun. This summer was no exception.

I keep coming back to the word full. About halfway through the summer I talked to one of my school teammates about something that I have since forgotten. Once we had taken care of our school stuff, she asked me about our summer. As I rambled off our trips taken and our trips planned, she replied, “Wow! What a full summer!”

So I’ve been thinking about how there are two kinds of full. There’s that full that leaves you miserable. Where you’re done and it was delicious, but you know you should have stopped at two servings instead of three or four. That kind of full leaves you tired and needing to sleep it off to recover. And then there’s the full where you’ve had just enough. That’s the kind of summer we’ve had. The kind that leaves me knowing it was delicious and perfect, but also feeling refueled for what’s next.

But I’m a bit afraid….afraid of two things. First, I’m afraid I’ll forget about just how good this summer tasted. I’ll get busy and bogged down and forget that I had two months off to enjoy my family. I’m also afraid that I’ve spent those two months slowing down, clearing margins, and learning to like my little people again, only to forget how to do those things promptly on August 22nd. So I decided to make a list. A list I can read on August 22nd (and again and again) to remind myself that I was, in fact, full and refueled to once again to do this job I am called and recalled to do each year. So here goes…

*I spent my first week of the summer teaching classes to teachers about Edmodo and interactive web tools. One foot in the classroom and one foot at home was a good way to ease my way into summer. It was probably good I didn’t go straight into all mommy, all the time.

*For Father’s Day we made fun videos with our new camera for both Grandpa and Papa.

*Chica spent a week at LCS soccer camp which meant that Bubba and I had a few hours each morning together. We filled our time with errands, visiting a friend, checking out the library, etc. Bubba’s favorite part of that week was certainly the snow cone he got to share with Chica each day when we picked her up!

*I got to go to teacher camp at JMU to learn about STEM. Jay was working summer school, so the kids also had their own vacay with the grandparents. Highlights of that week for me included finding a running partner and new friend, eating whatever the heck I wanted, visiting a winery, and a late night conversation on the lawn with friends just like we were still in college. Oh…and I learned a few things about STEM too. (Ask me about my Thneed invention sometime!)

*We spent Jay’s one true week off at CrossRoads volunteering as a family. I am not exaggerating when I say that I was more well-rested by the end of that week than I have been since the birth of Chica. No internet coupled with no responsibilities past set the table, clean the table, take pictures, and keep my two kids under control was bliss. I also admit I had tremendous fun watching CariJoy experience so many of the same frustrations that I remember feeling.  She was doing a fantastic job.

* The next two weeks were Chica’s swimming lessons at Miller Park. I think she likes swimming, but she enjoyed the socializing much more. Me too! I spent each morning hanging out with another swim mom and her sweet kids. Bubba learned quickly that her bag was full of snacks. They were best buds for the two weeks.

*Chica, Bubba, and I all experienced our first real train ride in West Virginia. Our long weekend with Daddy, Papa, and Nana to ride two different trains was just perfect. I have yet to write about it in detail (maybe one day…), but our day on the steam engine was definitely my favorite. From Bubba napping in my lap to Chica falling in the river totally unfazed, it was a perfect day.

*Nana and I followed that weekend trip up with a girls+Bubba trip to Virginia Beach. We learned from this trip: 1) There’s no point in taking a book to the beach when you have two kids with you. 2) Book the hotel early next year so we can get an actual beachfront room without breaking the bank. 3) We’re going for 3 nights next time. One of my favorite parts of the trip was visiting a long-time friend and her fun family in their home. I hope we can return the favor one day!

*Then the kids and I headed off to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for a week. Each morning we had a plan to be out of the house by 9 am and doing something fun…park, botanical gardens, library, etc. At nap time we worked on cleaning out rooms and closets and gathering stuff for a yard sale. We had planned to have it that Saturday, but rain made us postpone it until this past weekend. That totally turned out fine with me because I spent my birthday eating Chick-fil-A, playing at the Y, resting, and relaxing instead of haggling over quarters.

*As if that wasn’t full enough, I feel like there are a million other things that happened that don’t show up as I review my (only partially filled in) Google calendar. The kids and I surprised Daddy on his birthday with balloons and coffee at work. I taught Sunday School to kindergartners. (EEK!) I cut all my hair off and donated it. I started training with my sweet neighbor for the Ten Miler. Chica passed the swim test (finally…yesterday), got to paint pottery as a reward, and conquered her fear of the Y’s water slide. Jay started his Master’s program. We started a LifeGroup and have eight new dear friends we eat with and do life with each Thursday. We hiked. We played. We jumped on the trampoline. We read books. We grew vegetables. We went to the movies. We got to know our neighbors. We took naps. We stayed up late. We enjoyed each other.

And you know what I didn’t do? I didn’t go to school. Ok…there was that one time. No lie…I went in once because I needed whiteout at home and was too cheap to go buy some because I knew I had at least 17 bottles in my desk drawer. Besides that visit, and teacher camp, and two days of NASA stuff this past week, I didn’t do school. And I am so thankful. Admittedly I’m a bit anxious for what that means for this coming week, but I’ll take it. It will all get done. It always does.

So I’m going to spend my one more day tomorrow (err….today, now) loving on my babies and napping and preparing for the months ahead. But I think my preparation will look a little different this year than in years past. I’m not cracking open the lesson plan book or pacing guides just yet. (Shoot…I haven’t even bought the lesson plan book yet!) I’m going to spend the day thinking and praying about how I will carry the summer into the school year. How will I continue to carve out margins? How will I continue to build up Jay as he tackles a tough year of balancing school and work? How will I continue to enjoy my little people as the pressures of work build?

May this coming school year be just as full. Full of blessings and growth and joy. Full in the good way!

From Two Thousand to Four

I did it.  It’s past 12:00 and my eyes are straining to focus, but I did it.  I cleaned out my inbox of over 2,000 old e-mails.  There are four left:  the teacher workday schedule for the next few days, two e-mails I need to return but am not ready to compose, and a “don’t forget to look into this cool opportunity” reminder.  Phew.

I’m excited to say that this purging of stuff hasn’t been limited to my inbox.  I’ve spent the last three days at school working on clearing out space in my classroom.  My filing cabinet, closet, bookshelves, and cabinet all now have that fresh, organized look that I seem capable of only maintaining for a few weeks at best.  I still have my desk, sink cabinet, and a few (huge) boxes of papers to go, but the hard work has already been done.  I…no….we got this.  Being ruled by peace over here.

I have many things to say tonight about organization and creativity and friends and writing and my little family and, and, and.  But it’s late, and everything’s a bit fuzzy, so I’m just not sure I can articulate anything more than this….

I was struck as I read the subject and first line of each e-mail tonight how memories almost forgotten flooded back to me:

A hurricane.  A school shooting.  The death of a dear friend.  Congratulations for a contest won.  Struggles with students that ended with thankful e-mails from parents.  Room moms from heaven.  A huge project with an old friend. The green light to try a new and crazy strategy.  I need a sub…my kid is sick again.  I am one of the only five people that hasn’t turned something in…again.    And meeting after meeting after meeting.

So what did I learn from those memories?  I’ve sat here waiting for the last five sleepy minutes or so just trying to figure that out.  I think maybe I’ve got it.

When I was a kid, or maybe a teenager, and I would get overly stressed out about some assignment, my mom would always ask me something like, “In five years, will this matter?  If the answer is no, then don’t worry about it.  Get it done, but don’t obsess over it.”

As I recalled many of those memories, I felt again the panic that was such a part of the moment.  Unnecessary panic, I see now, because even just six months later, that thing, whatever it was, already doesn’t matter.

I’ve said it already, but I’m just going to keep speaking it and writing it and praying it.  This year will be different.  This year I plan to trade the panic for a focus on the things above.  A view of the stuff that will matter in six months.  In five years. 

Did my students see a peaceful, Christ-like attitude?
Did my students hear me apologize when it wasn’t so Christ-like?
Did they know that I believe they are capable and important and unique?
Did they come away loving learning and with more questions than they had when they arrived?

These last three days I’ve thrown out over 2,000 e-mails, 5 trashcans full of junk, 4 crates of paper to recycle, and a whole counter full of teacher stuff in my, “Free, Take Me,” pile.  You know teachers just pass around each other’s junk, right?  It takes a long time for stuff to actually make it to the dumpster!

But I have some more to throw away, I realize.  And no, I don’t mean recycle or the Take Me table…because you don’t need it either!

So tonight I continue to purge:
Worry.  Panic.  Frenzy.  Impatience.  Disorder.  Insecurity.  Anger.  Hurry.

More room for peace that way.

 

 

 

 

Trading Frenzy for Focus

Skype an astronaut.  Assign weekly STEM homework assignments.  Create video lessons and three levels of practice for each math topic.  Figure out how to welcome and include new teachers.  And, and, and….

I spent Monday and Tuesday of this week at a workshop led by several NASA educators.  We completed design challenges, connected virtually with experts at Langley, learned new ways to model the vastness of the Solar System, accessed and analyzed real NASA data, and just barely scratched the surface of the resources they have created for teachers.  It was pretty awesome.  And just as it should be, I left pumped and ready for a new school year….possibilities and plans rolling a mile a minute as I drove home Tuesday afternoon.

But then I remembered:  This year will be different.  No, not because I’m going to be flipping every math lesson or because I’m finally excited about teaching science.  This year will be different because I will be ruled by peace.

And somehow (truthfully, I know exactly how) I realized that this frantic churning of ideas and worrying how will I get it all done is not at all peaceful.  Peace-less, actually.

So my goal-oriented, objective-focused self realized that lesson plans aren’t the only things that need to be written before this year starts.  I need my own set of goals through which to help me filter those frantic ideas.

I’m in the process of writing them….still at the brainstorming and maybe rough draft stage.  Here’s what I have so far….

1.  I know this needs to be a peace goal.  A Jesus goal.

And of course I couldn’t help but look to Colossians 3 first:  Set your minds on things above…not specific enough for me to apply easily to my daily routine.  Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…this might work.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…also a good choice.

Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  

I think this might be it.  I really like the fact that it leads me to consider both my words and my actions.  And reminds me to be thankful (a practice, I’m learning, that may keep me Awake to the important things.)  But I struggled at first to think concretely about the do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus part.  What exactly does that mean?

While mulling this over on my run tonight, I may have gotten an answer.  Or at least part of one.

What if I were to take any word or action and follow it up with, “I am doing this in the name of the Lord Jesus?”  There are plenty of words and actions where this would make perfect sense:  Taking the time to get to know a student or new teacher in Jesus’ name.  Extending unexpected grace to a student who expects a reprimand in Jesus’ name.  Reaching out to a struggling family in Jesus’ name.  Of course in my public school teacher role, this won’t be a spoken in Jesus’ name, but rather a conscious effort to work with a things above mindset, following Jesus’ example in word and deed.

Then there are those seemingly insignificant tasks to which I can add, “In Jesus’ name.”  What about grading papers in Jesus’ name?  Or giving instructions to an assignment in Jesus’ name?  Or covering lunch duty in Jesus’ name?  I think the key to these mundane moments lies in Colossians 3:23:  Whatever you do work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not human masters.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  Wouldn’t it make a big difference to view all of those moments as service to Jesus and not just a school system, a principal, a classroom of students, or a group of parents?  I think yes.

But then there are those other moments as a teacher (or parent, or nurse, or salesclerk, or waitress, or whatever) that are just incongruous if we add in Jesus’ name.  I can’t very well berate a nine year old in front of his classmates for forgetting his homework in Jesus’ name.  Or complain, in Jesus’ name, about a snippy e-mail I got from a parent.  Or repeat the latest teacher gossip in Jesus’ name.  So that’s what I came to today while running….if the words I’m about to say or the action I’m about to take is incompatible with in Jesus’ name, then I need to check myself and make a new plan.  And if it’s too late, because it will be too late plenty of times, then I need to ask for forgiveness from the ones I’ve wronged (yes…often my students!) and take steps to do it differently the next time.

2.  I’m thinking this should be a goal about inspiring my students.  It sounds pretty cliché as I write it, but I want my kids to love learning and leave my classroom with the confidence that they are mathematicians, scientists, and most importantly, learners.  Sooo….maybe something like…

My students will learn to love learning math and science.  Or maybe Develop confident and inquisitive mathematicians, scientists, and learners.

Yeah…still working on that one.

3.  I’m thinking something along the lines of Facilitate the learning of SOLs in a deep and meaningful way.  I admit my focus in the past has been too much on just Passing. The. Test.  I cringe to think of the number of times I’ve said things like, “This won’t be on the SOL test, but…”  Ugh.  While I do believe all students can learn well past the minimum requirements in the standards, I am blessed to work with a group of kids that will get there much faster than the average classroom.  This year I want to focus on going deeper than just the required info…and I realize that I can rely on my inquisitive learners to get us there.

My hope is that once I have nailed down a few solid goals, then I will be able to use them to start weeding through the tremendous number of ideas that are swirling.  Keep the things that meet all three requirements.  Pass on the rest.  I’m looking forward to trading frenzy for focus.

Teachers, do you have a set of big goals that you have written for yourself or your classroom?  Friends in other jobs and roles…how about you?  I’d be really interested (and grateful!) to hear them…even if you are in the brainstorming stage like me.  Please share!