Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Longest School Year Ever...

With last night's graduation ceremony what seems to be the longest school year ever came to a close. It was a bit emotional watching these students I have come to love cross the stage and begin a new adventure in their life. But it made me also realize that with the closing of this school year I also begin a new adventure. Maybe not as mysterious and unknown as the adventure those 31 students will experience as they embark on the road to University and the rest of their life, but an adventure none the less.

This school year has seemed to go on forever. I honestly feel like it started 2 years ago. As I look back on the beginning of the year it is hard to believe that some of what happened only happened 9 months ago. 1st it was a long year for me as a teacher. I was working hard to refine my 6th grade curriculum and the creativity it took out of me was incredible. By the end of the year I was done, I honestly could not think of ways to bring life to the curriculum because I had given every bit of my creative juice to the beginning. I began to really lack the attention to details that I felt the class deserved. I was also teaching a brand new subject with my 12th Grade class. While this was incredibly fun, it was also extremely challenging. It was almost like standing at the bottom of a steep mountain climb and trying to climb without any ropes. It was extremely exhilarating with each hunt for a new foot and hand hold, but it was also terrifying at moments and I felt their were times I was just gripping the rock face for dear life as I tried to maintain some sort of control of a curriculum I really had very little familiarity. There were moments of greatness in both class for sure, but the amount of time I spent planning and reading and creating and pouring in emotionally to those classes really took a toll on me. The school year has really left me feeling like an incredibly wrung out dish rag.

Second, the school year for my 3rd grader seemed really long. Most likely because I did not give the time I should have to paying attention to what she was doing. I have to say, I have one of the most incredible 8 year olds ever. This kid can look at what she has to accomplish, plan out when and what she needs to do, and get it done with very little help from me. While I know I am incredibly luck she is so self-sufficient I feel like a bit of a failure as a co-teacher. I gave very little input into anything she did unless it was crunch time. I mean I never really even helped her study for a test. She still managed to make As on almost every thing she did over all but if I had taken the time (or had the time) to give to her and help her review then I think she could have been even more successful than she was. She has already created a summer plan by the way on how she is going to keep herself on track for next school year and make sure she reviews the material. No help from me, she has created herself a schedule and everything. While that is great for me as a mom, I also know I need to be a bit more active in her learning and make sure I am there when she needs it.

Third, the school year for my little guys was long. This was probably the best part of the year, but it did seem to not go as planned and turn into a bit of a different picture than I originally drew. Part of this change came from our one car situation. We would drop the kids off at school a bit earlier than I planned, and we would pick them up a bit later than I planned because we were sharing one car and that just makes things take more time often. But it also ties back to my need to spend so much time on school. I feel like too I watch my now 3 and 4 year old change academically in huge ways and change personally. They both have lost that "babyness" and have become little kids. They have made huge strides in development and it has made 9 months seem so much longer than 9 months.

All around these last 9 months have brought so many changes to my life, I could go on and on with a list of things that changed and made this year just feel sooo long. It also had me wishing for the school year to just be over, so I can honestly say there was a bit of relief at the end of graduation that "yes! this school year is over and I can move forward into another chapter with a clean slate."  As bittersweet as it is to see some amazing students move on it is somewhat nice to start with a blank page. It's time to start writing the next chapter.

So as I begin this new journey, I've made a few decisions on how I am going to try to make sure this isn't the longest school year ever again (because honestly I don't think I could handle one that seems any longer than this one did!).
1. I have scaled back on my teaching days. I may be picking up some work on one of these days but it won't be teaching classes, and this should really help bring some free time to my life that allows me a bit more flexibility and availability to give either to my husband, kids, or house...
2. I am getting started now! I have accomplished so much this week as I wrapped up the close of this school year. I began planning next year, and have already made huge strides in planning for next school year. In doing this I have set some goals for the 2 months of my summer vacation. I will spend set times each week when it does not take away time from spending with my kiddos planning and preparing for next year so I don't end up spending every waking moment planning the next day's lessons. I really want to have it done when I return to school in August.
3. Through items 1 and 2 I believe this should help me with having more time to spend helping my oldest with her school work, or just being available when she needs it, and making every moment count with my younger 2. As I said in previous posts I am done waiting... time to seize every moment!

I have a few things I may be adding to my life next school year, but I feel like after the lengthy adventure this year I am bit wiser and bit more cautious and purposeful in my time management. I am working on not over committing to things that I don't "have" to do, and I am definitely going to enter the next school year with a much better plan of how I will spend each day, so I don't look back and say, that was the longest school year ever... Again!

C.S. Lewis seemed to really get this, "If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next." I am ready to think about the next and not let the now keep me so dried out that I have nothing left to give to the next. As I continue to wring myself out giving every last drop into the present moment or present urgent task, I leave nothing to give to the next amazing moment that comes my way. Psalm 90:12 says, "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." It is a wise move to enter my next days with a better plan than I did this year. As much as I like a bit of unpredictability and like to change up what I am doing often, it is wise to think about my next. Ephesians 5:15 - 16 says, "Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." Again, I am reminded that I should be living as the wise... the wise MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY! 

So, starting today, I enter into this next summer and this next school year a little wiser and a little more prepared to live with a plan to avoid missing amazing opportunities God brings my way. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

A final word to my students...

So this week was my last week with my 1st group of Seniors. I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed teaching these 12th grade students. I love government so teaching them about government and how it works, there are so many things I wish I could have done differently, things I wish I could have taught that I didn't, books we could have read but didn't... and so many other changes. Luckily, I will get to try again next year in the hopes of making what I teach better. I want them to fall in love with government and its inner workings just like I have. Yet, I don't want to just read about it, or memorize facts, I want them to really experience it. So, this year I was sort of just flying by the seat of my pants trying to get something done and something taught. Now that I have my feet wet, I hope it gets better!

I also taught them about Economics. That terrified me every moment. I took Economics.... I understood enough of it and worked my butt off to get an A. However, scraping an A out of my Economics classes in University is completely different than teaching Economics.... AND there is math in Economics! I don't do math. When Makenzie (my 8 year old) brings home her 4th grade Math homework I break out in a cold sweat. Trying to teach something I barely understood was really shaking my confidence. So, I spent every night before class studying as much as I could, staying up late, reading my textbook, online articles, whatever I could to help me understand what I would be teaching the next day. I know I didn't fool my students. I know they knew I had no clue what I was talking about sometimes. I love that I work in a place though that allows for teacher input. In talking about what I was teaching I was able to find a solution. There were so many concepts I was teaching that were really not necessary for the students to learn about. Especially considering I only had about 8 or 9 weeks to teach it all! I've been able to make changes for next year now to teach Economics concepts that I am really comfortable with AND will be SOOOOO relevant to my students. This really excites me! I so wish I could have offered that to my students this year. I love each one of these kids now young adults and I think we could have had a blast in class if I had been more comfortable with the material I was teaching.

Lastly, I taught about different Worldviews. I have to say this was my favorite material... even though I LOVE government. We learned about Secularism, Post-Modernism, Marxism, Islam, Christianity, and New Spirituality. Again, I wish I had been more familiar with this material. I had so many ideas on how I wanted to teach it, but I just didn't have the time! I barely had the time to read the material and understand everything, and now that I have I finally have the time to find different ways of teaching it and helping the students understand and experience it. I so wish I could have made this experience better for them. Within Worldview I got to really challenge them to think about what they believe however, and I really enjoyed that, and I think for the most part they appreciated that the most about my class.

So, as the year came to a close I wrote a few words to share with them that I hoped they could take and use to inspire, encourage, and challenge them as they go out and begin their new adventure.

This is just a bit of what I shared with them:
"You have a come this far in life, you have had teachers, parents, coaches, and mentors pour into you. Trust your decisions and trust your dreams.... To achieve greatness and do something you never imagined possible you will have to break some rules. I have learned that sometimes in order to make things happen you have to just go with it and ask for forgiveness later.... Failure helps you avoid future failures. If someone never fails then they are more likely to trip up later, but if you fail you learn something and it makes you better. Sometimes, the lessons you learn from failing will be the ones that stick with you and will help you realize something you never even dreamed could be possible.... Don't listen to the people who say you can't. Take the opportunity to prove them wrong. Be confident in what you do, and take pride in your work. When someone tells me I can't do something I see it as a challenge to show him or her that it really was possible.... In some instances my determination to prove them wrong has then led me to find something new I didn't even know I loved!... Take each opportunity in which someone says you can't do something to inspire you to do something great!... Live life like this is your 2nd chance. (A lot of people and now these students know this is how I live my life and why). Are you spending your time on the right thing? Ask yourself this A LOT because time is all you have and you may discover one day you have less time left than you think. A lot of people want a short cut, but the best short cut is the long way. Which basically means just WORK HARD and work your butt off. And remember, no job is beneath you. If you get a job flipping hamburgers, you be really great at flipping hamburgers (or making pizzas as some of my students might consider one day). If you get a job cleaning toilets, you be really great at cleaning toilets.... You should always be looking for ways to give back to others. Find opportunities to invest in younger generations. Look for ways to help those less fortunate than you and truly show them you care. Explore the world, but not as a tourist. Explore the world and look for way's you could change people's lives, and you might just find your life is changed for the better. The way you perceive and react to the world is a choice. Make wise choices. Don't let the world make choices for you, because only you get to determine how you will respond to things you see and people you meet.... If you took one tenth of the energy you spend complaining and apply it to the problem you would be surprised by the result. No matter how bad things are you can always make them worse, so try to view even awful situations for the good that can come form them, and don't forget that even then it could be worse.... Some of the friendships you make at University will last a lifetime. Make wise choices in friends. YOU set the tone of the relationship and don't let someone lead you astray from what you know is right or wrong because you are looking for a group to fit in with or a place to belong.... Don't judge people by the way they look. You may discover some amazing people are hiding behind a lot of different exteriors. One of your best friends you make at University may appear completely different than you, but you might discover you have a whole lot in common. Ecclesiastes 4:9 - 12 says, "Two people are better than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back to back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple braided cord is not easily broken." Find you a person to stand back to back with and hang on to them.... Don't be afraid to leave your plans for a new dream... no matter how many times a new dream comes along... Be prepared for great opportunities... luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Make a plan, be okay with changing it, but have a plan so when the opportunity comes you are ready.... Don't forget God has a plan for you, and knows everything about you so even though you are venturing off to start a new chapter in your book, make sure that chapter includes time alone with God, and time with other believers who can build you up.... Your definition of success is going to change... A LOT!... What you envision as successful now will not be the same next year, and for sure not the same in 4 years of even in 10 years. Be okay with that definition of success changing. As you are shaped and as you learn some of the biggest lesson in life you will ever learn over the next 4 years think about what you view as success. Think about what is really important to you and hold on to that. When everything in this world one day fades away, how will you define success? You are about to embark on an incredible journey, and make some the best memories of your life, and have probably what you will say is the most fun you will ever have. Remember this is just the beginning though, and I know God had amazing things in store for all of you. Every single one of you has the potential to be an incredible influence on this world in so many different way, so go out and be great, go out and create a new definition of success that has yet to even be imagined."

I wish I could have added "I'm sorry you were the guinea pigs. The class that I had to practice with and learn from. I wish I could have made everything as great as I envisioned it. I am so glad that you were in my class this year. I truly loved every moment I got to spend getting to know you. I enjoyed watching you learn about yourselves and interact with one another. I think you all are so blessed to have such a great group of friends to continue on with, and don't take the foundation you have gained here for granted. At the end of the day I hope you learned a little about government, a little about different worldviews, maybe even a little about economics, but I hope more than anything you learned you have someone who cares greatly for you and about your future in me. And I hope you learned about yourself and your relationship with God. I hope that relationship was strengthened and I want you to know if you ever need anything I am happy to help! I can't wait to see how each one of you change the world.

That's what I wish I could have added. I wish I could have done so many other things, and now I am even more challenged to make next year so much better than this year was.

The end of the school year is a mix of emotions, but this year saying goodbye to these seniors, who have genuinely touched my heart, is quite a challenge. I plan to take better advantage of my time next year for sure!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Waiting... Waiting...Waiting...

Waiting can be really hard.

Lately in life I feel like all I've been doing is a lot of waiting. Waiting to determine if we would buy a new house. Waiting for my trip to Sri Lanka. Waiting for the school year to end. Waiting for the next big thing. It always seems like I am waiting for something.

Now that we have decided to stay at our current home, I am no longer waiting for that decision to be made but I am now waiting for us to finish some projects at the current house so I can organize and get some things settled. This week I am waiting for some students to finish an exam. Always waiting, waiting, waiting....

What I've discovered about waiting though is I can either let myself get depressed and in a funk about no progress being made, or I can maximize the time I have while waiting. I love a good countdown and I let that get me excited most of the time, but I can also get caught up in the number that never feels like it will pass. I find myself in a struggle to enjoy the moment because it always feels like I am waiting for something better. The here and now often starts to feel like the same old same old thing, and whatever I am waiting for will bring change and maybe even excitement.

Yet I think the biggest challenge is finding the excitement in the everyday and cherishing the moments I have right now. Making the best use of my time today so when some big moment does come I can fully enjoy it.

Saturday we had an amazing day as a family. And we didn't do anything incredible we just enjoyed the day. Yes, it was my youngest kid's 3rd birthday, but any day could have been like that day. We had breakfast together and just laughed, we went and the kids played at an indoor trampoline park which could have easily just been the neighborhood park, we ran a few errands all together which sometimes is annoying but was actually really fun, stopped to enjoy the waterwall we were near, and we ate dinner together and talked and enjoyed each others company and no one was on their phone, running around the restaurant, doing cartwheels in the booth, or crying (major accomplishment!). I realized on Saturday that so many times, we wait for some event to give us moments like that, when really we should make each day that way. There is no need to wait to enjoy the day. It's the whole Carpe Diem thing. Seize the day ... well really seize the moment! I mean really that's what it comes down to.

The goal this week for me has been to find at least one time a day to stop waiting and just enjoy what I have right in front of me, and to stop putting off things and pushing kids and family and whatever aside to wait for a better moment because this or that is more pressing or I just feel like it needs to wait till later.

No more waiting time to seize the moment!

Although I will keep waiting to see this place again... so in love with this little island....