Albert the Mowse, Hurry, & Anger

The offers:
Sweet Frog with Daddy.
Rides at the mall with brother.
Rivermont Pizza with the whole fam.

The choice:
Late night writing and reading with Mom.

I love that kid.

Chica had a good week at school.  After the fourth positive note home in her agenda, I told her we would celebrate with a treat of her choice if she brought home a fifth.  Her snaggle-tooth grin coming off the bus Friday afternoon told me she had made it.  On the way home we brainstormed ideas.

“Maybe…..maybe…..” she hesitated, never quite hearing the offer that was, to her, worth five long days of self-control and focus.  I thought for sure I had her at Rivermont Pizza.  Or at least I hoped I had her at Rivermont Pizza.  (I’m thinking I’m picking that as my reward next weekend if I can keep my own self together for five good days in a row.)

So tonight on the way home from Nana’s neighborhood picnic I reminded her that she hadn’t yet chosen a reward.  “Time’s up…you need to pick.”

“Ok.  I want to stay up as late as I want.  Can I write another story?”

Be still my little teacher heart.

After waiting for what seemed like an eternity for Bubba to fall asleep, we finally got busy.  She didn’t have a story idea ready to go like the last one, so I helped her find a little inspiration here.  It took possibly 37 spins, but she finally decided to go with a mouse named Albert that liked to dig holes.  She also decided this second novel of hers would be typed on Mommy’s computer.  We would then print it and illustrate each page.  Whoa.  Big time.  Let’s do it.  Except…

FYI:  A first grader typing anything is slow.  Painfully slow.

“E.  I need an e.  Where’s the e?  Eeeeeeee?  Oh. Here it is!  E.  Got it.  Ok, now…”

Times 90 for the first page.  Yes, I did check.  Bless her.

I almost said it.  90 times, even.  You know, those two words that rhyme with “blurry cup” and flow off my lips like they are her middle and last name.  But there was absolutely nowhere to hurry to.  She didn’t have to go to bed yet.  I didn’t have to do school work.  Jay had given me from 7am to 5pm of uninterrupted time to work, and finished or not, that’s enough.  I wasn’t going to do house work either.  I’m saving that for tomorrow.

Instead I just let it go slowly.  We tried about five different spellings of said before landing on the right one.  We learned about how backspace goes one way and delete goes the other.  We right-clicked the squiggly red line to find better ways to spell mowse and backyorad.  Once Chica moved from typing to dictating, we discussed quotation marks and synonyms for said.  Daddy even came up to hear our story and made us talk about verb tenses.  After she had had enough of her mowse story for the night, we moved to reading a little Junie B.  While we read our two chapters, instead of our nightly normal of one, we discussed the finer details of good sportsmanship and why Junie B.’s antics made Chica want to hide her eyes.

Slowly we wrote.  Slowly we read.  Slowly we talked.  Until exactly 10:47 when she rubbed her tired eyes and agreed it was time.  What a great choice of a reward, Chica.  Better than pizza, even.  Thank you.

I just keep coming back to something I heard recently in a sermon about pressure:

There is always anger in hurry.

And the more I think about it, the more I realize this is so true.

Hurry up, Chica!  Read:  I’m mad that we aren’t out of the house yet.  I still have seven more things I need to do, so find your shoes on your own already!

Hurry up, Bubba!  Read:  I’m angry that you’re taking so freaking long to get out of the car.  I should have gotten up five minutes earlier, but I’m going to blame our tardiness on you.

Hurry up, kid in my class that is always the last one to finish!  Read:  I’m angry that I planned more for this day than we can actually accomplish.  I’m really angry that I’m expected to teach you more in this year that anyone can actually accomplish.

So tomorrow I plan to not hurry the finish of the story of Albert the mouse.  I have no need to be angry.

And this week?  As contradictory as it seems, I’m going to try to fight the inevitable pressure by slowing down.  No need to be angry.

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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!

Practicing Peace

Teacher friends, close your ears.   Ok….everybody else ready?  Good.

I go back to work in less than a month.  Wow.  

Ok, you can open them again!

This morning it dawned on me that it wasn’t going to be summer forever.  I realized all of a sudden that I had to start tackling some of the tasks on my growing to-do list before it was too late.  And as soon as I made that realization, I started to feel that panicky feeling in my chest that I haven’t missed one bit in these last few weeks.

Get a new Social Security card for Chica.  Schedule doctor and dentist appointments.  Order agendas for school.  Figure out childcare for the first week back to work.  Shop for school supplies.  Start planning for the first month.  And on.  And on.  And on.

As I finished breakfast and wondered to myself if I could afford one more day of putting off my list, Jay must have asked me three times if I was okay.

Yes.  I’m fine.  This is just panic mode in mute.

This all got me thinking about the new peace that I’ve been feeling and practicing and living this summer.  I really want to believe that this peace is a result of setting my heart and mind on things above, and not just a welcomed side effect of being off of work for a month.  I want to believe that Jesus is changing me into a peaceful person, a person that deliberately chooses calm and grace over panic and hurry.  Maybe most of all, I want to believe that something will be different when I go back to work.

I heard a speaker talk this week about sin.  In his section about the ways we can remedy sin and its power to harden our hearts, he pointed out some more peace verses in Philippians 4.  He suggested that in response to anxiousness we are to pray, be thankful, and think about those things that are Godly.  And here was the interesting part that he added:

The best time to practice this is when you are in the middle of it.  The second best time to practice this is when you are not in the middle of it.

So what does that mean for me?  It means that this coming month is like a dress rehearsal before opening night.  Like a scrimmage before the season opener.  Like behind the wheel before hitting the road alone.  But the real test of my his peace will come a month from now.  When I’m sending my big girl off to kindergarten at a new school, and Bubba cries when I drop him off at daycare, and I still have 47 things to do to be ready for my class of 26.  Oh, and don’t forget the laundry and the dishes and who knows….maybe moving to a new house??  Yep….it’s then I’ll know if this peace is really rooted in a changed heart or just a sparse calendar.

I once co-directed a school play.  Talk about anxiousness…but that’s a story for another day.  Anyway, after a long rehearsal, I would sit down with all my little actors and actresses and give them notes from that day’s practice.  This person missed their line, let’s change this light cue, somebody needs to go find that missing prop, etc.   And occasionally (yep…I was probably a little too harsh most of the time) I gave a few positive remarks too.  We could finally hear this girl’s lines, or thanks for hitting that music cue right on time.  The point always being that they would keep the good stuff and change the bad stuff when the real thing came along.

So this whole practicing peace idea got me thinking about a few quick notes from today’s “rehearsal”:

  • Good:  Getting started on “the list” early this morning instead of just continuing to worry about it.
  • Bad:  Screaming at Chica after she asked me for help while we were trying to get out of the house on time for swimming lessons.
  • Good:  Keeping way calm during another stretch of maybe-I-should-pull-over rain.
  • Bad:  Continuing to worry (even now, as I write this) about things that I just can’t change.

Keep the good.  Jesus, change the bad.

P.S.  Ask me in a month about peace, ok?

Image:  40+251 Done-ish © Bark  | Flickr Creative Commons

 

 

 

Gifts #35 and 36: Peace and Salsa

We were already late.
I had to drive because my bathing suit had gotten the seat too wet for Jay.
Then it started to rain.  Hard.  Like the maybe-I-should-pull-over kind of rain.
There was a cop following me.
“MommyMommyMommyMommy,” came from the back seat in typical Bubba fashion.
The this-is-a-test beep was on the radio, only it wasn’t a test this time.
Flashing lights from an accident up ahead.
Still raining.
Knuckles getting whiter and whiter.
I remember something I forgot to bring for dinner.
Still late.

And then it hits me.

Let the peace of God rule in your hearts….and be thankful.

I’ve been working these verses of Colossians 3 over and over…in the car when Chica doesn’t protest too much, when Jay will hold the tattered paper and follow along, when I’m sitting in the rocker beside Bubba’s bed waiting for the right moment to exit.

And it’s slowly starting to feel like the message of Christ (at least this tiny little piece of it) is seeping down from my lips to my head to my heart.  Dwelling richly in me.

Ordinarily, during a car ride like this, I would have been thinking any and all of these things:

I can’t do this.
I hate driving in the rain.
Shutupshutupshutup, this is already hard enough.
He should have just driven.  His knuckles are probably as white as mine.
How dumb do you have to be to forget the salsa when serving Mexican?
Late. Again.

Ok, so if I’m honest, I guess I really did think all of those things.  But after just a pass or two, I consciously made the effort to breathe in the peace and breathe out the thankfulness.

The rain slowed down.
The little people remained calm.
We were late, but it just didn’t matter.  Our new friends are full of grace.
And she had salsa.

Two jars, actually.

Image:  Rain © Knick Banas  | Flickr Creative Commons