Graduation

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Graduation.

What I wouldn’t give to relive those moments.

I deal with teenagers, specifically high school teenagers.  I love when they ask me about my own high school and college years.  They are so curious and I LOVE it. 

I remember the excitement that graduation was approaching.  My classes were abuzz with a tingled excitement that can only come when something amazing was approaching.  My friends and I were going in a thousand different directions, but that part didn’t seem sad.  We were just ready and excited.  During the summer, my nerves kicked in, but not as we were about to walk across that stage.

It was like 5,000 degrees under that robe, sitting on the astroturf with 500 of my “best” friends.  When it finally came to my row, we stood up.  As we approached the stage, the only thing on my mind was “don’t you dare trip.”  Then they finally called my name.  Eighteen years of my life, 15 of those years spent in school, had come to this moment.  That moment that finally paid off when they handed me my diploma.  It was as if the heavens opened up and sang a song.

Faster forward four years.

College graduation.  It was a lot hotter and way more people.  But it felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders when I walked away that night.  It was the most expensive four years of my life, but also the place where I grew the most and had the best time. 

Think back to your graduation day.  Let that happiness start your weekend off right.  

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Memorial Day

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I know it’s a little late, but I didn’t want this day of remembrance to pass without acknowledging it.

 

I teach Social Studies so my love of history has been well documented through elementary, middle school, high school, college, and pretty much every aspect of my life in between. So for a day like Memorial Day, I am deeply humbled by all that I know about wars and the sacrifices men and women have made throughout history.

 

I come from a long line of military men and women. On my mother’s side, every war that America has ever fought has had a member of my family in it. The Revolutionary War to even the war with Iraq, my family has stood proud. On my dad’s side, pretty much from the time they got to America (although much later than my mom’s side), they have had military men.

 

I don’t get to hear many stories about the days of war and military service, but I do feel a sense of pride and love for my country even more, knowing that I am related to these men.

 

My personal favorite thing is knowing that my great-grandfather fought in World War II. He was in Patton’s army, marching through Italy. When he was done in Italy, he was sent back to England for the largest land, air, and sea invasion ever.

 

June 6, 1944. Across the English Channel, 175,000 men, rode through nervous shakes, seasickness, fear, and valor, to invade Normandy, France. My great-grandpa was one of them. He arrived with his fellow soldiers onto the worst of the 5 beaches, Omaha. The crazy thing is, he survived. There are no words to describe how amazing this is for me. I have watched real footage of the invasion, read countless books and stories about what it looked like, seen pictures, and studied these moments more than I ever realized I would, and he lived through it all. I never got to meet my great-grandpa. He died in his sleep a few years after the war, no doubt from some internal injury sustained during the war.

 

Yesterday, I tried to teach this to my students. Teach them about World War II and D-Day itself. Society has done an injustice to our children, my friends.

 

They were not impressed, humbled, compassionate, nothing.

 

As we were watching the beginning of Saving Private Ryan for the part that shows D-Day, I’m choking back sobs and tears knowing how they sacrificed so much for our freedom and for peace. My students are talking about how they don’t understand why they would do this, why they would fight, how cool guns look when shot underwater, etc.

 

My heart just hurt for their lack of respect. Even though it’s just a movie, it’s a depiction of what was lost at Normandy. What the cost of war actually is. What the cost of freedom and democracy is.

 

How can we change what society has already taught them? How can we implore them anymore to see how precious our freedoms are?

 

We need to stand and protect them from what society says and show them how much has been lost for their freedom, rights, and lives.

 

It cannot be left to the social studies teachers to teach them this. I wish I could say that we are so awesome at our jobs, that all students have a sense of pride and love for their country after a lesson. However, that is a dream that will never be based in reality.

 

It has to come dually from teachers and parents alike. Help us show them, teach them, guide them. Help them know that the military is more than just a path after high school. It is an honor. A gift to America or any country they live in.

 

After all, we do live in the land of the free because of the brave.

“Some Beach…”

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“Some beach, somewhere…”

What I wouldn’t give to be sitting in a hammock on the beach, on a random island in the Caribbean.  I live in Florida, so yes, basically I live on an island all the time.  On the weekends, you will find my teacher self rocking it on the beach, the sand in between my toes.

However, during the week, seeing even the sun is near impossible. 

White walls in a classroom that I’ve decorated to the best of my ability.  My classroom resembles a frigid tundra by time the afternoon rolls around.  I expect it to be snowing outside rather than sunny and beautiful.  My students don’t like the blinds open, becoming more like bats who want total darkness so I can’t see them closing their eyes as they enter a deep slumber.  The blinds block the marvelous sunshine and remind me a winter’s day in Washington, D.C., with snow clouds covering the sky.

I’m feeling quite poetic today. 

As well as completely and utterly exhausted.

The students have worn me down right now.  I am turning blue in the face trying to encourage them to meet their potential.  Why do these children, the future of the world, not realize their worth and how much they can accomplish?

What has society done to these precious, children of God, that they feel that this is the peak of their lives?  That this city is the biggest the world will ever be for them.  They can never be a doctor or a lawyer or anything of substance.  They tell me constantly that college isn’t an option.  Why is that? 

It is disheartening.  They are so precious, worth so much more than what they are settling for.  My heart breaks everyday for them.  I want to bring them in a hug and just protect them from the world that has destroyed their beautiful spirits.  Mend their hearts from what people have told them about themselves.  Fix all the bad that teachers and other adults have done to them. 

But, I can’t. 

Only Christ can fix all the negative, horrible things that sinful people have done to them.  I wish that I could turn back time and change it all. 

So instead, I pray.  I love with all the love I can, and then some more.  I teach them about not just social studies, but life.  I open my door for them to talk, to vent, to worry with me.  I pray that through love they have never had and a person who believes in them, they can change their futures despite their past.

And maybe, just maybe, they’ll be on some beach, somewhere, living a life they love and full of hope and promises. 

Summer Fever

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Close your eyes.  Go back to your childhood.  Remember those precious feelings that you associated with summers.  It was so hard to sit in class, seeing the sun shining outside.  It felt so good to leave the classroom while wearing shorts and the sun just exploded onto you. 

Then finally, it was the last day of school.  Any second, the bell would ring, marking the beginning of freedom.  That bell would finally ring and everyone would erupt in cheers.  You would think that the biggest boy band of the moment was standing right there.

For the first two weeks of summer, everything was perfect.  The sun was always shining.  You could stay comfortably in your bed until 9 or 10.  You stayed up late, gossiping with your friends or playing video games.  It was the best of times.

Now as a teacher, I see the opposite side of this.  The summer still looks amazing.  As a teacher, you have those same desires.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to sleep in a couple days a week? 

But now, I see that the “summer fever” that infects all students is the worst thing in the world.  The students are anxious for summer nights.  They can’t sit still, and instead act like fleas at a feast.  Every day is like a bomb explodes when it’s dismissal time.  They don’t want to do any work.

I have so much respect for teachers as a whole, but especially during these trying times.  They know they won’t have school for two months, and it is a glorious feeling.

Teachers, we can do this. 

The Price of Education

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If you don’t read the news (which is usually me), maybe you haven’t heard about the 200+ girls that were kidnapped. They were kidnapped by an extremist group in Nigeria who believes western education is evil. They also believe girls shouldn’t receive an education.

These girls were aroused from their beds to be taken into the jungle by men with extreme ideas and dangerous weapons. Some escaped but they are a small portion of a large group of women in danger.

Today, the leader released a video saying that he will be selling these girls as slaves, at least those who have not been bought as wives already for the grand price of $12. The ones that were Christian have been forced to convert to Islam.

My heart broke as I read this story. Imagining beautiful girls who are eager to pursue their education in a society where education has become a luxury. Nigeria has few people in general receiving education, so for a woman, it’s an uphill battle already.s to protect and guard the children.

Yet, here, in America, oftentimes, we are treating our education as a nuisance. An inconvenience. A necessary evil.

Students choose to be lazy and not appreciate the gift of learning. They feel like the education should be handed to them on a pretty silver platter with a big, red bow where they don’t need to do anything to earn it.

Education is a basic human right that is often denied to people across the globe.

Yet, in America, our students are privileged enough that they receive it for free.

All of our hearts should be broken for these girls.

As a woman, I fear for them on the basic principles of womanhood. I fear that they will be lost as sex slaves and abused until they are never found again. That the things that make a woman precious will be beaten out of them. That they will never see what they are really worth.

As a human, I am appalled at how their human rights have been stripped from them. That anyone feels like they have a right to treat another one of God’s creations like that astounds and disheartens me. I want to unleash a Pandora’s box upon these barbaric humans.

As a teacher, I am humbled as well as infuriated. Humbled by the fact that these young ladies defied odds and were pursuing their educations. How blessed I was that I didn’t have to fight for mine. I am infuriated at the people who did this, the world for creating any obstacle for education, and at my own classroom. I have not given my students the realization yet that there are those less fortunate than them. Those that would do anything to be able to read. My students need to hear these things. See. Understand how truly lucky they are.

As I will be praying fervently for these girls, I’m also seeing how I can expand my students minds and worlds. God has given us unique opportunities in America. My prayer would be that we don’t waste it.

I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me

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My students are never out of my sight unless they are in another teacher’s sight. It’s just how is.

But it dawned on me today that I should be praising God for this. As annoying as it is (and it is annoying), it is an opportunity for me to show my faith.

As Christians we are always being called upon to stand out from the crowd. We are to reflect Christ’s love all the time.

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Colossians 4:5

These students are the purest form of how the world looks at believers. We are being watched.

Creepy, right? Think about it. We are to be set apart. Look at Colossians 3.

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of The Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the father. Colossians 3:17

All that we do as children of Christ is supposed to be for His glory.

Well, the question always remains, how do I do this in my life? The truth is, I’m not sure because, well, I’m not God.

However, I think God has given us power through Him to live a life reflecting Him. God is constantly molding us and we make His life easier when we submit to His work in us.

So here I am, a teacher, with 42 eyes constantly watching me. I can moan and whine all I want about them invading my space and how they give me a headache, but this is what God has called us to be, personified in the simplest form.

These students are hawks, watching me like prey. They are ready to pounce on anything: if I roll my eyes when they say something, groan in frustration, mutter a cuss word under my breath. What are they going to see when they look at me?

Do they see a person who cares?

Do they see an adult who refuses to keep them from quitting?

Do they see a follower of Christ?

Do they see a person living a life different from the world and society?

These are questions that I need to ask myself every day. I need to be living as a new creation so I can reflect Christ’s love into my students.

Let us encourage, pray, and teach one another in this grand journey called life.

Dear Parents

Dear Parents,

There are different kind of parents.  I have encountered (and was raised by) parents who are fully involved in their children’s lives.  There are no ifs and buts about whether or not their child was going to school and there was no chance in the world that they would be quitters. 

There are the overly involved parents who suffocate their children.  All their kids want to do is rebel from the parental institution they have been drowning in for years.

There are the parents who work incredibly hard to give their children better lives than they had.  They can’t be there all the time, but they make darn sure their kid knows that they are working for them and they expect them to have a better future.

Sometimes you are a combination of any of the above.

Then there are the parents that I’m seeing more and more of each passing day. 

The parent who has no clue if their kid went to school.  Really? 

The parent who doesn’t answer the phone when the school calls.

The parent who has only reinforced promiscuous behavior by their own behavior.

The ones who have forgotten they were parents.

The ones who have let other things get in the way of raising their kids: drugs, alcohol, relationships, etc.

These parents come into meetings and say they “don’t know what to do” or “don’t know what they (the child) do all day”.  

The reason your child is this way?  They are screaming for you to notice them.  Gasping for love and attention.  Even if it’s negative attention, it is attention nonetheless.  They want YOU.  They don’t want us to comfort them and show them love (although we do).   

I beg, implore of you, for the sake of your beautiful, marvelous children.  Look at them.  Truly look at them.  Hug them.  Kiss them on the forehead.  Show them you love them more than anything else in your life.  They’re incredible human beings. 

They are talented and deserve for you to praise them for their work.

They are funny and deserve to be laughed with.

They are kind and deserve to show their kindness to you.

They are beautiful and deserve to be told that they are.

They deserve to be told they are worth something.

Take some time and look their way.  They are worth it.

Sincerely,

The Teacher

Excuse Me While I Drown

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Each day I walk into my classroom and see the paperwork.  The paperwork and documentation that dictates my life.  I have no planning period, so I have to implement it into my class time.  It’s suffocating as you watch it pile up.  Take even a day off, and you’re essentially screwed. 

“Paperwork is so fun,” said no teacher ever.

The list of reports and forms that must be filled out to distinct specifications by a certain time is endless.  It is such a great use of my time (NOT).  I have all the time in the world to do that plus grading and inputting grades.  Again, NOT. 

My time should be spent teaching my students.  Teaching them to be better human beings.  I work with students that have been taken out of public school to try and help empower them and change their behavior.  My time should be spent doing things to help them change. 

Instead of filling out every single document known to man for each and every student, I could be talking to them.  Hearing their stories and their dreams is one of the best parts of my job.  They make me realize how beautiful and innocent a child can be.  These moments also help me realize the harshness of the world.  It brings me to my knees in prayer as I pray for their lives and futures. 

I don’t want my classroom to be about grades or test scores or EOC’s (end of course exams).  I want it to be about embracing your mind and intelligence.  Realizing their potential and instead of crushing it like other teachers and adults have done to them.

God has given me this position and it is hard.  Soul crushing, mind numbingly hard.  But if I can reach even one student a year, that’s one student less who will know they have potential and they are cared and loved by someone.