Halfway is Okay

Every once in a while I have all of my stuff together.  The other 51 weeks in the year, I feel like I’m barely making it.

I figured out a long time ago that one obvious solution to this coming-apart-at-the-seams feeling is to just pick one or two areas of my life to do really well at any given time and just let the rest sort of coast.  Sometimes this means I’m kicking butt at schoolwork while my house is a disaster.  Other times I’m taking great care of my body with lots of running and cooking while the ungraded papers start to pile up.  And when the undone feeling in that neglected area gets too great, I spend a day or two catching up and readjust my focus for the next week or so.  I’ve come to be fine with this rhythm.  At peace with it, actually.

I can’t say that the work is finished or that somehow I can fully describe to you what has happened, but this has been a school year of Jesus readjusting my priorities in an even bigger way.  And as lame as this might sound, I have to admit that it started with the long delayed obedience of quitting the Facebooks.  It took me a while to connect those two dots…my prayer for readjusted priorities and Jesus’ call to give up this huge time suck on my life.  But…uh…hello!?!  Makes sense, doesn’t it?  Give up this thing that brings no glory to anyone but myself and gain time to bring glory to Jesus.

It’s still a work in progress, but I just feel myself finally pouring less of myself into the bring-glory-to-me things and more into the bring-glory-to-Him things.

So somehow this is all connected to what I thought I was going to write about when I sat down here…my dining room floor.

It’s disgusting really.

Tonight after dinner I noticed just how bad it was.  But I decided not to clean it.

I decided to load the dishwasher and put the leftovers away but leave the floor.  My family was outside in the front yard ready to go for a walk. The bits of paper and the crumbs and the who knows what else can wait.  As I shut the front door I chimed to Jay for the third or fourth time this weekend, “Halfway is okay*!”  And we walked, and it was fun.  We waved at new neighbors and watched helicopter seeds twirl and practiced looking both ways at stop signs.  There was Bubba poking Jay in the butt and Jay pooting in Bubba’s poor face and lots and lots of laughs.  The dining room floor is still waiting, and no one cares.

So just in case you need permission tonight, friends, halfway really is okay.

Clean half of the dishes.
Grade half of the papers.
Eat half of your meals healthy this week.
Or go for a half mile walk instead of none.
Put away half of the laundry.

And use the rest of the time to snuggle a few more minutes or shoot a few more hoops on the driveway or read another book at bedtime.  You’ll be glad you did.

Less glory for me; more glory for Him.

*P.S. While I wholeheartedly believe that, “Halfway is okay,” applies to any and all housework situations, there are plenty of occasions where this mantra does not apply.  Say, for example, keeping matches away from little people, baking chicken, or covering private parts.  Use responsibly.

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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?

 

 

Ten Things I Didn’t Learn As An Education Major

  1. How to gently break it to your husband that you won’t be home for any Thursday night in October.
  2. How to carefully craft an e-mail to a parent over a very awkward situation.
  3. How to tactfully avoid giving out your cell phone number.
  4. How to locate the source of a bad smell in your classroom…and also deal with that tactfully!
  5. How to find a balance between appropriate caution and unnecessary fear while discussing a lockdown drill.
  6. How to forgive your students and start fresh.  Every. Single. Day.
  7. How to catch a bully when you never see it happening.
  8. How to teach a line of students to stop in the hall on their own in order to let an adult pass.
  9. How to balance the needs of 53 little people with the responsibility of the two that actually belong to you.
  10. How to comfort a student that suddenly lost her father over the weekend…all while teaching the other 52 to do the same.

Christ, have mercy.

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!

One Thing….Or Ten

So I’ve sat here for entirely too long trying to make this post about one thing.  Here’s what it’s about so I can just get on with it:

We have two more weeks of school, the last two weeks have been crazy, and it’s time to just jot down the stuff worth remembering.  

That’s enough of a “one thing”, right?  Ok, good.

  • Yesterday I called Jay at work to tell him that he must dress his son before leaving for school or else I might break Bubba’s arm.  I wasn’t even kidding.  The ten minute wrestling/screaming match on the bedroom floor in order to put on a clean outfit just wasn’t the best way I could think to start my day.  Or his.  Today Daddy dressed Bubba, Chica put on his shoes, and we got to school early.  Thankful.
  • We finished By the Shores of Silver Lake last night.  I thought for sure they weren’t going to ever get the homestead for the winter storms and the unwanted overnight guests, but they finally made it, just in time for the more storms, it appears.  There’s just something not quite right about starting a book called The Long Winter when it’s finally getting hot outside.
  • Cicadas are my most recent fascination.  I watched one for maybe 20 minutes the other night as it emerged from its exoskeleton.  Earlier this week we pointed out the shells to Chica, and she (no surprise) proceeded to make up a Cicada Hunt song.  “We’re going on a cicada hunt.  Might be dead ones, might be live ones, might be real ones, might be shell ones.  We’re doing on a cicada h-u-u-u-nt!”
  • I admit my other recent fascination is The Voice.   Ridiculous, I know.  But because I can only watch about 10 minutes max before falling asleep each night, I’ll probably still be watching it in August.  Don’t tell me who wins, mkay?
  • One night Chica comes in her room and says in a worried tone, “Mom!  There’s something on the potty, and it won’t go away.  It won’t go away when I flush it!”  “Yes, Chica, that’s what happens when your mommy goes on a housework strike for one too many weeks in a row.  That’s why most mommies clean the potty every week.  I’ll get to it soon, I promise.”
  • On Saturday Bubba fed a giraffe from his hand and Jay fist bumped a turkey.  The Metro Richmond Zoo is a neat place.
  • Last week I did something pretty cool, and then I waited by the e-mail for the praise to roll in.  And it didn’t.  I know I have something to learn in this, but I think I forgot it when I finally got an e-mail about the something cool today.
  • Now that tests are over, there’s such a sense of freedom in my little brain as I teach.  Today we followed the rabbit trails for ever so long through decimal division and decimal multiplication and if numbers get bigger or smaller (or both) when you multiply.  Then how multiplication and division are related and two ways to think about division. And finally we made our way back around to pictures and stories to go with the decimal division problem we had in the first place.  And there were lots of Oooooooohhhhh’s and I-get-it’s.  Math is so cool.  My kids are pretty darn cool too.
  • Speaking of rabbit trails, while reading The Watsons Go to Birmingham and the part about a raccoon drowning a dog, I had to tell my raccoon story.  I just will never forget the image of Jay jumping out of his truck and chasing a raccoon down with a pocket knife in order to rescue his desperate wife.  That’s definitely one of my favorite CrossRoads memories ever.

Ok.  That’s enough for now.  Off to fall asleep to my 10 minutes of The Voice and continue my strike a little longer.  Summer, come soon.