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 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 Blogging for Books, Book Review

Gearing up for School

School is right around the corner. While at some points, I feel as if summer just began, in other ways I am ready to have a purpose for each day. There are so many ideas floating through my head (and hopefully all going into my notebook so they will be remembered) about how to make this school year better than last year. In order to keep myself fresh and restore my motivation, I’ve been reading some teacher books (I know…nerdy). One of these books was Positive Discipline: Tools for Teachers by Jane Nelson and Kelly Gfroerer.

When I first came across this book, I was interested because discipline and classroom management is one of my self-identified growth areas. Sure I can write detentions and write-ups, but that was only effective with some students. As I read this book, I also identified instances where I know I could have responded to a situation with more grace. Mainly this book was a refresher of many concepts I remember being told in teacher training, but those concepts got lost in the stress of being a new teacher. Some of those concepts include giving students the power to make good decisions by asking rather than demanding, having a plan for when students make bad decisions, and allowing myself to cool off before taking action.

One very helpful tool was the Mistaken Goal chart. It identifies four reasons why a student might be misbehaving: undue attention, misguided power, revenge, and assumed inadequacy. The chart identifies how teachers might feel and normally react and then some empowering behaviors to try instead. I think this tool might be on that I post next to my desk as a tool of reflection and growth.

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The book itself is broken into very short chapters with a short tool, some real-life stories, and research to back it up. This makes the book easy to read in short segments which is probably better for reflection and action. Personally, as a high school teacher, I wish more of the examples had been from a high school classroom because I couldn’t picture using many of the tools in a 50 minute period with teenagers. I also wish the writers had provided more clarification about the tools because I often didn’t understand the tool until I read the stories.

Coming in a paperback format and having coloring-book style pages, I think the book does contain useful information and is well-organized. I would definitely recommend it to elementary teachers. I hope that the authors will make an updated version for secondary teachers because teenagers are treated and taught differently than elementary students.

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

 

Posted in Life, Remembering

I didn’t fully comprehend God’s plan.

A year and a half ago, I was starting a position in the office where I worked as a college student. Part of me was excited for the work I would be doing, but there was also a small part of me that wondered why I was starting a year-long non-teaching commitment in July instead of seeking teaching jobs.

I didn’t fully comprehend God’s plan.

Fast forward a little less than one year when I started seeking teaching jobs since I knew the end of my time at CELTS was coming. I applied to several public schools because I thought that’s where God wanted me. I had noble plans of being this strong light in the public school system.

Maybe I could have been that light, but once again I didn’t fully comprehend God’s plan.

I was devastated when I learned that the one English position open at that time in Madison County was filled internally. After leaving the career fair (which took enormous courage for me to even enter), I sat in my car and cried. Even though it was only early spring, I felt as if all of my options were drying up.

I didn’t fully comprehend God’s plan.

I kept putting my application out to public schools, and in the meantime I started looking around at other types of schools. My student teaching mentor had just come from OBI, and he had told me all about the school and it’s mission. I had briefly looked at it immediately following graduation, but nothing had come at that moment. On a whim, I sent my application to the school even though no jobs were posted at the time.

I didn’t fully comprehend God’s plan.

I continued worrying and working on applications, so I was pleasantly surprised when the president of OBI called to say they had an English position that might open up. He offered to host me for a couple of days, so they could get to know me and I could see the school.

Long story short, I didn’t fully comprehend God’s plan. In my plan, I would have found a teaching job directly out of college, and it probably would have been in a public school. I had completely written VISTA positions out of my plan a summer before I accepted one in CELTS, but God had a plan in place to get me to the place where I am right now. Even though it has had it’s rough moments, I rest in the confidence that God orchestrated my presence here.

I didn’t fully comprehend God’s plan, but that didn’t make his plan any less real or perfect.

Posted in Life

Oneida

I’ve been at Oneida for over a month now, so it would seem logical that I would have made a blog post by now. Alas, it hasn’t happened. Overall, I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to be here and to serve Jesus.

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service (1 Timothy 1:12)

I realize that my first year of teaching anywhere would be difficult, but being here is just a little bit better because I am surrounded by like-minded people and I’m able to freely share my faith. I also really enjoy the break after 3rd period for chapel, which definitely wouldn’t happen at a public school.

This is not to say that my time here has not been met with its own share of difficulties. I’ve had to adjust to a different pace of life, learn to live with less internet and cell coverage, find my niche in an established community, balance the demands of first-year teaching, try to say no to some opportunities, build a support system, learn two curriculum, develop tougher skin, and make time to simply rest. If you know me even a little bit, that last one is very difficult for me because I tend to run myself dry.

Through it all, God has provided. I have found ways to communicate with the outside world, learned to appreciate the good conversations and the loneliness, learned to keep the books for volleyball games, given up on creating everything from scratch, listened to student complaints without second-guessing my decision, and found a good walking path. I’m still learning every day and finding that the best advice about the classroom and adjusting to this life comes at the least expected moments.

It’s been a journey thus far, and I expect the journey will continue throughout this year and for however long God keeps me here in Oneida. If you’re looking for something to pray about, ask God to continually give me patience, tenacity, love, and his eyes as I teach these students about English and God.