Posted in Class, Education

Why English?

Personally I think English class is the most interesting and widely relevant subject taught in schools, but it can tend to get the rep of being boring and not useful. Today I tried to convince my students that English class is still useful for them even if they already speak English “correctly”. I do this discussion every year, but this year I had the added benefit of having a textbook that explicitly explains why English skills, such as analyzing literature and critical thinking, are important in a Biblical context.

Rundown of the lesson: We started with a five minute writing prompt answering the question “why study English?”. Then students read the preface to their literature book, which explained how Paul used his knowledge of literature to talk with the people who had a monument to an unknown God. Students were instructed to write what they thought was the main idea of the preface on a tiny sticky note. Next we watched a clip from John Greene’s spiel about why we read literature. He basically states that reading helps us develop empathy. Finally students reflected on how the skills from English class could help them in their future jobs.

Overall I think it got most students thinking. Hopefully it will convince them to pay just a bit of attention. An added bonus is that I got to talk with them about their aspirations.

Posted in Class, Education

Year Three

On Monday, I’ll begin my third year of teaching, and it’ll be a bittersweet day because I’ll spend the day with my first year of students, who are now seniors. This year has the potential to be really good. We have new curriculum for English, I’m teaching a fun elective, and I feel like I finally have a grasp of what I’m doing. Most of all I’m thankful I’m teaching at a place where I can share the true purpose for learning: growing closer to God and learning how to be his disciple.

Over the summer, I’ve done plenty of relaxing, but I’ve also spent some time reflecting. I want this year to be a year where I truly integrate my beliefs into what I’m teaching. In the past I’ve done devotions with the kids and occasionally connected our literature to Biblical principles. This year I want to be more cognizant about guiding my students and myself to think about all aspects of life through the lens of the Bible.

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I started with the word “love” on my back wall during my somewhat difficult first year of teaching. Last year, I expanded and added all of the fruits but spread them out between the front and the back. This year they’re all on the back wall because I want to remember to filter how I treat my students through those fruits. I want to be kind, gentle, good, loving, loving, joyful, and patient. I want to show self-control and be faithful to God.

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Academically this year, I want to inspire my students to enjoy reading and to grow in their reading skills. I’ve finished the literacy part of my master’s degree, so I want to apply some of those skills to the way that I teach reading and vocabulary skills.

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Personally, I want to keep my space neat, clean, and organized. The messy desk pest has often invaded my desk in the past, so it’s a goal to keep it organized and wiped down this year. I’m still looking for ways to better streamline my processes and stay organized.

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Finally, I want to spend less time on school stuff. Maybe that sounds redundant to put in a post about my excitement over school starting, but in the past school has consumed me to the point of stress. I place high expectations on myself, and I can neglect my friendships. That’s not healthy. I want to be the best teacher I can be, but I also want to maintain and grow the relationships in my life. This year will be about Philippians 4:4-8: Rejoicing and releasing my anxieties.

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Here’s to a good year!

Posted in Education

Summer Plans

One of the benefits of being a teacher is summers off, and it’s not just because it’s a great time to Netflix/book binge and clean my house. The (somewhat) free summer means I actually have time to breathe and reflect upon my teaching, attitude, and goals. That’s what I plan to do this summer with some binging, cleaning, and travelling thrown in for good measure.

Colossians 3:23 says “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, and not for human masters”. While I agree that times of rest are important, especially for teachers who pour in so many hours and emotional energy for ten months of the year, God makes it very clear that we are to work with our whole heart. He doesn’t instruct me to work for ten months and then forget about my task for two months. Instead, I think he expects me to spend these two months resting and reflecting in order to ensure that I can teach and lead my students better when August comes around.

Practically for me this summer that means reading some teacher books that I never seem to find time to read during the school year, continuing my grad school classes, and spending more time in fellowship with God. That last point is especially important because the school year gets so busy at times that I can easily lose focus on my God-time. I believe the summers are great time to ground myself again in good spiritual habits, sharpen my sword, and shine my armor. My students need someone who is ready to fight spiritual battles with prayer, encourage them when they’re fighting, and speak truth. The only way I can do that effectively is to be sure I am spending daily time with God. If my eyes are fixed on God and I’m working at my task of teaching for Him, the quality of my teaching has to improve because he will lead me to the most effective teacher I can be.

In the next few months, look for posts about how I am relaxing, reflecting, and re-grounding. Yay for summer!

Posted in Class, Education

Kicking it today

I’m not a sports-minded person, but when I was in high school math, almost every Friday was football Friday where our math teacher drew a football field on the board and we played math football. I still don’t enjoy or completely understand football, but I learned a few rules and more math. For that reason, playing a variation of math football, disguised as ACT soccer, seemed logical. (Note of honesty: I still had to do quite a bit of googling to ensure I got terms and aspects of the game correct.)

So how’d it work? The class split in half and each person got a number. Each team got fifteen minutes to “warm up”, or answer as many questions from the packet as they could ensuring every person knew the answer. After a coin toss, a player was called and a question chosen at random. The player answered the question. Each team worked to get the ball to the opposing team’s goal. Once they reached the defender position, the player had the choice to pass the ball to the goalie box or kick a goal shot. If he answered the question correctly, the team got a goal. If incorrect, the ball went back to the middle and the other team got the next question.

The game was successful, albeit loud enough that the class next door heard. The kids got just as excited when they shot a goal as when they kick a goal in the real game. In the future I might tweak the rules about kicking a goal somehow to make it easier to get a goal. The kids did point out that in real soccer they can make a goal from farther up the field. In 30 minutes of play, no one scored. Thankfully I had enough cookies for everyone.

Posted in Education, Life

Kicking the Crazy

School has started, and the crazy has kicked in. Last week felt easy, but this week, between prep-work, actual teaching, sponsor duties, club duties, bookkeeping, and grad school classes, I feel like school is officially back in session. Oh wait, it’s only Monday.

Now more than ever I want to remember to do two things: breathe and trust God. If I can continue to do those two things, maybe I can keep my sanity among all of the items on my to-do list. Speaking of to-do lists, those two items are actually at the top.

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In an effort to actually breathe and trust God, I have tried to implement a few new/re-visited routines that will hopefully keep me focused and sane.

  1. Evening walks. Back in college, my roommate and I took walks together almost every night because it helped both of us de-stress from the day. While taking walks together isn’t feasible anymore and I can’t go right before bed like we used to (crazy skunks and other critters), I am trying to get some sort of walk in during the cooler evenings. As a bonus, I have gotten to see God’s masterpieces a few times this week.

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2. Morning Bible time. This summer my Bible reading slacked to an embarrassing place. With the start of school came a chance for a new routine. I usually read in the morning, but I have shifted a few of my other usual morning tasks around in order to make Bible reading a priority instead of a “if I have time” task.

3. Time with friends. I am trying to be intentional about contacting and seeing friends in a non-school kind of way. That’s a difficult one because I can very easily get caught up in work every evening. Also it’s difficult because of the much needed item number four.

4. Me time. Sometimes I need to say no to others in order to spend some time for just me. This may mean missing out on fun events or not going to every sports event at school, but as an introvert I am realizing more each year that I need time alone to relax and do whatever strikes my fancy.

Hopefully I’ll be able to stick to these plans as well as adjust to other new ideas in order to keep my sanity and joy this school year.

Posted in Education

School Approaches

School begins in just a few short days, my room is ready, and my head has reached its normal level of spinning. I have pretty much finished decorating my classroom if the posters will stay on the walls. I’m grateful to be in a place where I can post scripture on my walls that will help me feel encouraged as well as hopefully encourage the students. I’m also thankful for having such a large classroom.

Posted in Education

I AM a teacher…hear me roar.

I AM a teacher…hear me roar. (I am reposting this from the other blog I write with my friends. It’s quite old, but it made me smile to remember just a few months ago.)

“You look like a teacher.”

It may have been my professional work attire or the fact that he remembered me from children’s church, but I chose to believe it was because there was something about my aura that screamed “TEACHER”. That made my heart warm a bit and settled the butterflies in my stomach.

It was the first night of teaching AWANAS. Middle school AWANAS. I think the butterflies were there for good reason. Middle schoolers can eat a person alive if she’s not careful.

AWANAS stands for something that I can’t remember, but basically it’s a Bible study program for elementary and middle school students that runs on Wednesday nights at my church. They eat, play a game, and do a Bible study together.

This first night I had a lesson planned but I didn’t intend to actually need it. I wanted to lay some ground rules and get to know my students. I had them write out three things about themselves on index cards. Rule #1 was created. No flying objects. I then read the cards aloud and asked them to guess who each card was describing. No difficulty in this activity. I should have thrown in my own card to mix it up. I was pleased when the first thing one student listed is that he is a Christian. Pretty cool.

After that, we laid some ground rules. I let them suggest the rules. They are old enough to know how they want to be treated in a classroom. They got all of the major ones that I would have listed, even if they were written a bit differently than I would have said. One rule says “don’t yell at the top of your lungs.” I quickly added to not yell at the bottom of your lungs either. They laughed at my pitiful attempt at a joke. Success!

I almost forgot to pray at the end, but other than that, the meeting went well. They didn’t even complain too much when I gave them homework for next week. I’m excited about this opportunity to teach. I think it flows in my blood because I just feel so much more at ease when I’m in the front of a classroom watching students think.