Monday, November 05, 2012

A Little Goes a Long Way

Teaching is a tough job.  I don't doubt that other jobs are tough, but I'm going to talk about teaching.  That's what I do.

I spent about 8 hours in my classroom this weekend.  Saturday was 6 hours of grading papers, updating grades, and getting things ready for the week.  Our trimester (grading period) ends this week so I wanted to head into the week prepared.  Sunday was 2 hours of getting ready for a sub this morning - hence the reason I am blogging at 8:30 on a Monday morning.

Saturday, once I finished updating grades, I emailed a few parents.

One parent likes to keep close tabs on their student, wanting advice on how she can help her student.  But this student doesn't perform to potential.  I do everything I can: frequent visits at the student's desk, asking often if the student understands or has questions, and feedback on every assignment that this student turns in.  This student's grade hasn't improved much since midterm.  I totally feel like it is my fault, there is more that I should be doing.  I have to step back and remind myself that I make myself available for ALL students, but this student has to take some initiative.

Two of the other emails I sent were to parents whose students had not done very well on their most recent math test.  I know both students were concerned about their grades.  I emailed just to let the parents and students know that they were still doing okay in math and offered some helpful tips for test taking and test corrections (that was the assignment for the weekend).  Below is an excerpt from one parent's reply:

"I am sure you don't get thanked enough for all you do for our kids. I just want you to know that it is obvious how much you care for your students and I think you are a fantastic teacher!  Thank you!!!"

That email made my day.  I get blamed a lot for students bad grades.  I get blamed for them not getting homework home, forgetting things at school, not communicating enough, etc...  But that email simply erased all of those blaming, sometimes hateful, comments.

There is another parent who emails me almost weekly just to touch based and encourage me.  Example:

"Yep!!! She really enjoyed your after school time.  Thanks for doing such a great job!"

It is a blessing that cannot be expressed in words.  I just know that those emails and comments go a long way.

Please, if you know a teacher, drop them some word of encouragement.  No teacher is perfect.  However, they do a lot!  A little word of thanks or encouragement can go a VERY long way!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I am in LOVE!

Yes, it is true.  I have fallen in love again...with 28 amazing 5th graders!

A new school year always floods with me so many emotions: excitement, joy, anxiety, stress, insecurities, confidence...  I am always reminded that I LOVE to teach.

Tuesday was the big day.  As my students walked in, I could tell that many of them were feeling just like I was.  This year I have 28 students, more than I have ever had in my classroom.  I was feeling very overwhelmed with all 56 eager eyes staring at me as I introduced myself after announcements.  8 of those eyes belong to students who are brand new to the school (their eyes were a bit more nervous-looking than most).  As the day progressed, my heart began to fill.

I don't take my job lightly.  Those who know me best know that teaching/children are a passion.  Just recently during a message at church, my friend Erin wrote on a piece of paper, "You have one of the most important/influential jobs in the world!"  It is my mission field.  I decided on Tuesday that rather than being overwhelmed with 28 students, I should realize the opportunity that God has placed before me.

So, I am in love and I don't care who knows it!  I love my kids and I cannot wait to see where this school year takes us as the family of Room 410.   I'm sure I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Unplanned Blessings

Today was a work day for grad school!  I started at 8:30 and just finished up.  BUT, I took a nice 4 hour break today to play...

I went for a bike ride with my friend Liz and her children, played at the park, played hide and seek with a 3 and 1 year old, and colored!  I also had dinner with the Stewart family.

It was time that I could honestly feel my heart's happiness.  I love the friends that God has blessed me with.  It has been so hard to have to say no so much this past year, but today I said yes! 

Thank you, Jesus, for these unplanned blessings.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sometimes you hear something...

...and you NEED to share.

I have heard speakers from many different organizations.  I have supported ministries near and far.  I have sponsored children.  I have several friends serving in the mission field near and far.  I say that I have a heart for the work that God is doing.  And I hold my head up, almost proud of myself for being so "aware" of the world and supportive of God's work.

Tonight I had a MAJOR reality check.  I had heard about this organization, but tonight I learned about Destiny Rescue (click to learn more).  David Grant, a friend of mine, recently began working for Destiny Rescue.  He was speaking tonight at "That Thing" at Epworth Forest.  He shared a story...a story about a family who sells their daughter to a man who promises help and money and a job for her.  And it was a lie!  What the man did was bought the daughter and put her to work in a brothel.  I cried, sobbed the entire time that David was speaking and we were seeing video clips about the sex trafficking that is taking place.  I heard an astounding statistic - "EVERY 26 SECONDS another child is trafficked, most sold into sexual slavery."  I did the math, that is about 138 children PER HOUR!  It makes my stomach churn.

My heart is heavy.  As I watched those videos and listened to David speak I couldn't help but think, "those girls remind me of my students, or so-and-so's child."  It hit me in a personal spot...children.  I love children so much.  I cannot imagine what these children, innocent children, are going through.  And it happens to another every 26 seconds.

I can honestly say that this cause is important.  I have friends who have been to these countries and volunteered with organizations that are fighting sex trafficking.  And I will admit, until tonight, that I had NO IDEA how little me could help.

I am praying.  Praying for God's direction in how I can help.  I would encourage you to check out this organization.  There are MANY WAYS that you can help.  I would ask that you start by praying.  Pray for God to move.  Pray for people to take a stand against sex trafficking.  Pray for a heart that breaks for these girls and boys.  Pray for a way to help.

In the time that it took me to write this, 40 children were trafficked.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The End is Near

I have 4 weeks, a month break, and one semester to go in grad school!  I am so excited and anxious to be done.  It is hard to be a student at the age of 32.  It is hard to say no to fun things.  It is hard to stare at a computer screen 3-6 hours each day.  It is hard to read articles and textbooks that I don't always understand.  It is hard to know exactly how each professor wants you to post, write, and reply.  It is hard to keep everything straight in my brain.  It is hard NOT to procrastinate.

But, I am honestly loving this season of learning.  For those of you who may not know I have big plans professionally....I want to be a college professor and teach future teachers.  In order to do that I must go back and refine my learning and teaching.  I keep this in mind when I don't want to work, when I would rather read a good novel or play with my friends, or lay in the sun ALL DAY.  I have already tried many new things in my classroom and hope to do even more this next school year.  My students loved helping me with college work!  They were always excited when the FlipCamera came out, when I would interview them, or when I would show them my online "classroom".

Did I mention that it has been hard?  It really has.

I am grateful though.  I am grateful that I have the ability to learn.  I am grateful for students and parents that have shared some personal things with me for grad work.  I am grateful for a summer that allows me to get 4 classes done.  I am grateful for friends and family that have been a phenomenal support group: encouraging me to press on, listening when I need to gripe, reminding me to step away from work for fun, and showing a genuine interest in what I am learning.

One of my goals this year is to finish grad school with a 4.0.  I am still on track :)  I am not going to be upset if I don't, as long as I know that I put my best work out there.  And I know that this is an attainable goal.

But (the point of this entire post) I really got to thinking about this goal today during church.  A segment of the sermon was performance living vs. promise living.  It made me think, "Why am I aiming so high for grad school?  Is it for me?  for God?  Do I expect something in return?"  I don't really have an answer, but it is definitely making me think.  I like to push myself, I like a challenge.  This is me pushing myself.  I don't want to settle and know that I didn't do my best at anything. 

This is not the only area that I need to evaluate my motivation.  I challenge you to ask yourself the same question, "Are you performance living or promise living?"  God's promises are good!  I need to let this resonate in my soul.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Why I Teach

I had a moment this morning.  I was dropping off my car insurance payment to State Farm.  I was pleasantly greeted, as always, and the following conversation took place:

 Me: Hi Heather!
Heather: Hi Dina. Are you enjoying your summer break?
Me:  100%!
Heather: That's the best part of teaching, right?
Me: hahaha

Then I left.  And I had a pit in my stomach.  Why?  It's  not the best part of teaching!  I didn't share that though...

Many people think that summer break is the "best part of teaching" but that is SO NOT TRUE for me.  Summer break is nice...I get to reflect on my previous school year, begin preparing for the next year, and enjoy the summer.  But it is not the best part of teaching.  I usually spend the first few weeks worrying about my students that I know don't look forward to a break from school.  For too many kids, summer is not enjoyable because they have tough lives, they aren't cared for, and they don't get to see their friends.  School is the fun place.  It is safe, secure, there is someone who is ALWAYS glad to see them, it is consistent.  After I learn to let go of my students the anticipation of the next group hits me.  What will they be like?  Who will impact me the most?  What great memories will we have in Room 410?  Will I do a better job this year? 

Nope, I don't teach for the summer break.  

I teach because that is what God has called me to do.  He has placed a burning passion for kids in my heart.  I teach because learning is important.  I teach because I can make a difference.  I teach because I love it!

So if you ever assume that summer is the best part of teaching, ask a teacher.  I bet they will tell you differently.  I know this one will.

Monday, April 02, 2012

I miss things

It is Spring Break (THANK YOU, JESUS!) and I am chugging away on my work for grad school. It is hard, not necessarily the content but the continual "I can't, I have grad work to do," reason for not being able to do things.

It is sad for me. I am such a social and relational person. I believe God made me this way and it really stinks that it is hindered by grad school which I need in order to carry out some long-term professional goals that involve relational teaching and sharing my love for teaching. (Nice run-on sentence by the teacher.)


I have been distracted today. The weather is SOOOOOO nice and I want to call my friend, Shannon, to go play with her and her kids. Or, I want to go for a walk with someone. Or I would like to get a beverage and sit outside to talk. But I can't. I am reading Development Through the Lifespan chapters 12-14. B-O-R-I-N-G!!!!!

You know what else I want to for FUN: blogs, books, facebook, magazines, anything that does not require me to process someone's higher level thinking on paper and regurgitate it for a dumb test.

So, yeah, I miss things. I know this is a season right now. I know that I really am learning things that will help me to be a better teacher. But I miss things....

(only 9 months to go)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

How is it March already?!?!?!

Does anyone else feel this way? I cannot believe that we are well into the 3rd month of the year. I remember being little, waiting for a year to pass so I could celebrate my birthday again (my year went from June-June bc that's when my bday is :) ). Now, I want to stick my feet in the ground sometimes to keep time from going on.

Needless to say, I didn't blog at all in February. Honestly it went by too fast and I am not sure how I made it through the month. It was a rough one....

I have really been working on my relationship with Christ, trying to get deeper into understanding who I am in Christ. It has been SO HARD!!!! When we strive for more intimacy with Christ it honks off the enemy. Satan has been laying things on pretty thick: insecurity, feelings of failure, shut down... I would love to say that I have stood up to him and held firm in my faith, but that would be a lie. I have struggled! I have had meltdowns. I have been ready to just give up! But, my God has held me closer than ever and I am learning so much.

"For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account" Hebrews 4:12-13

This seems to be what I am clinging to. I cannot neglect God when satan attacks (some wise words from my BFF, Karissa). That is the worst thing I can do. It is not comfortable for me to know that God knows EVERYTHING about me. There are some parts of me that I would like to hide forever and have tried to hide for a long time. God has decided to pull those things to the surface, get me to work through them, and move me on into more intimacy with him.

It is not easy, but I am encouraged. I am incredibly vulnerable right now and more emotional than every before. I think that is good. When my emotions are connected, I am growing. That is how God made me. Having bare emotions means that I am very receptive to God's work and that is AWESOME! There have been several people who have spoken some deep truths into my heart. Until these past few weeks, I would not have been able to receive those truths. For this I am grateful.

I leave you with the following verse. I encourage you (and myself), that we are not expected to go through trials alone. We don't have to...

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:15-16

Much love to you!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

How am I doing so far?

I cannot, CANNOT, believe that it is the end of January!!!! I don't know about you, but I like to keep in check with my goals as the year goes. SO, below are my goals. Progress for January is in red.

become a better student of the Word
- have been reading and journaling 2-4 times each week
be healthier - got the myfitnesspal app on my phone and am using it!!! even ate veggies today!
blog at least once every two weeks - had a 3 week lapse in there, but trying
work on the landscaping - it's winter....
paint all the white walls in my house
get a 4.0 in grad school - on track after 2 semesters!
read Harry Potter series (2nd time) - am through book 3
be debt free (minus my mortgage) - January budget has me in the clear by $130 (putting toward debt)
buy new furniture - waiting on tax return, but I did paint some picture frames to put up :)

I have been having some intense Jesus time and it feels so good. I have some big things coming ahead of me personally, but I know that God will walk me through step-by-step. If you feel led to pray, I would be humbled. God is definitely at work in my heart and it feels good, exhausting but good!

How are you all doing on your goals?

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Let the CRAZINESS Begin!

After 4 VERY nice weeks of a more relaxed schedule, it is time to start the craziness again! School started up this past Wed. It was nice to go back to a 3-day week. Spring semester of Grad school starts tomorrow. 3rd grade basketball club (3:15-4 for 7 days) begins tomorrow!!! I also start the Jillian Michaels 30-day shred tomorrow....

I do enjoy a full schedule. Last semester I didn't do so well balancing teaching, school, God, and life. I am planning on doing better. It is so much to balance and I tend to get INCREDIBLY overwhelmed at times. It is also super tough for me to say no to friends and family who want to hang out or spend time together.

I am currently reading Lady in Waiting. It is a wonderful book/study on bettering myself, through God's eyes, from the inside out. One thing that has been reiterated to me is the importance of having Christ first in all I do. Being a single person, living by myself, I can get very wrapped up in me. When this happens my stress level is through the roof and I get very world-focused. These past 4 weeks have been good: I have slowed down a TON!!! I was reminded of the importance of and friends. I need that to keep me fueled.

So, off I head into the craziness of being Dina. I am filled up and ready for this next 16 weeks. I would be humbled by your prayers. I have goals that I want to stick to:
1. God time daily
2. Keep up with teaching (planning, grading)
3. Grad school (putting my BEST effort forth)
4. exercise
5. family and friend time
6. daily household things :)

And please, if you ask me to do something and my answer is "no" or "I can't", don't be offended.

Much love and God bless!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Holy Crap, it's 2012!

Is it me or does it seem weird that we are already in 2012? I cannot believe another year is upon us!

I am sure everyone is making resolutions for the new year. I get tired of them honestly. I've made some resolutions, start out gung-ho, then never follow through. But I am going to try again this year with hope that I will follow through.

This year's goals:
become a better student of the Word
be healthier
blog at least once every two weeks
work on the landscaping around my house
paint all the white walls in my house
get a 4.0 in grad school
finish reading the Harry Potter series (time number 2 through it)
be debt free (minus my mortgage)
buy new furniture

I always look forward to a new year. You can see my 2011 recap here.

Happy 2012 to you all!