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.

Posted in Education

You’re Late…Minus Five Points?

Tonight grading is on my mind since mid-term grades go out tomorrow. Several of the students are failing simply because they have not turned in assignments. My cooperating teacher’s policy on late work is that they will receive partial credit depending on how soon they turn it in. I like that she still allows them to turn in the work because the work is useful to their learning, but I don’t think their grade should suffer for it. For this reason I make sure to mark their original grade on the assignment before taking off for lateness. On the other hand I want students to become responsible young adults so there has to be some sort of penalty for late work.

Another dilemma about late work is the fact that some students will simply copy a friend’s paper that has been graded and handed back. When helping a failing student organize his binder, my cooperating teacher found another student’s graded work. Of course that sort of cheating could happen before the student turns in an assignment on time. I want all students to learn and if I believe that every assignment is of value then every student should attempt the assignment.

I’ve decided that homework , while it should receive a small grade so that students feel motivated to do it, should be more focused on comments to improve learning. To that end, I am fairly lenient when grading homework. I’ll give credit for close answers and then write notes to help the students improve their learning. Homework is supposed to be a form of practice, so I don’t feel that the students’ grades should suffer. I’m still in a bit of a moral dilemma about how to handle the inevitable late work.

Maybe some soon to be teachers or experienced teachers out there could share their ideas on grading and late work.

Posted in Education, Literature

Heroes

So I have finished four days with my students and five days of student teaching placement. It’s been a marathon. We started the year running. I say that because I feel like we’ve covered so much material. I’ve even gotten to teach some already. I am going to be able to learn a lot from this teacher. It’s going to be a busy but fun semester. If only there wasn’t florescent lighting in the classroom. It hurts my eyes.

Today we were starting Beowulf and discussing heroes. The journal questions were “what is a hero?” and “who is your hero?” Good questions. Most of the students answered “brave” or “selfless” for the first question, and parents were popular answers for the second question. Not everyone had a hero.

The varied answers made me think about the ideas of heroes in our society today. In epic poem time, heroes were immortalized in poems such as Beowulf. These were usually ordinary men with extraordinary strength and courage. Their strength was admirable and achievable if one worked hard. Today though, our heroes are either ordinary people who care for us, such as family, famous people, such as Abraham Lincoln, or fictional characters, such as Superman. The discussion made me think about how we view heroes today compared to how heroes were viewed in Anglo-Saxon culture. It seems to me that we heroize people too quickly. We have lost the grandness of a hero by making heroes of ordinary people who haven’t showed bravery. Can someone really be a hero anymore? Maybe though, my thinking is biased by the heroic acts produced in Hollywood. The heroism depicted on the big screens is enhanced by special effects and careful writing so that it becomes almost impossible to replicate. The acts done by ordinary people, such as mothers and fathers, seem ordinary compared to the mothers and fathers in movies.

So I’m conflicted still on this topic of heroes. What do you think? What is a hero? Who is your hero? Can we even still have heroes today?

I’ll leave you with those questions. I need to get some shut eye so I’m prepared to interact with the students tomorrow.