Hero of the Day!

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on May 22, 2012

“Faster than a speeding bullet!
More powerful than a locomotive!
Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!
Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!”.

The above line is from D.C. Comics and is referring to….Hmmm, let me think.

It’s SUPER-MAN!

Well, I’ve never met a super hero, but a year or so ago…I started telling people they were my “hero of the day”.  What do you have to do to gain this “high honor”?  Well, you don’t have to be faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, or able to jump tall buildings in a single bound.  All you do to gain this title is…”make my day”.  (Hmmm, isn’t that the tag line of a Clint Eastwood character?)

Anyway, I thought I should give some writing time to honor my everyday heroes…people who have been a blessing to me.

First, I must honor today’s three heroes…

The first hero was a kindergarten teacher who willingly shared some rubber cement when my container was empty.

Then, Penny, from the school office, brought me a container of rubber cement to use as well.  You see, it takes a lot to make my picture pages and to prepare my writing samples for the end-of year books.

Finally, my ultimate hero of the day today…was Patches.  She is the mother of one of my sweet girls and she spent the WHOLE day working in my classroom.  She assembled bags for an edible science activity later this week dealing with rocks and minerals.  Then, she made four photo pages for each of my 25 students.  (Yep, you calculated correctly…she made 100 picture pages.)  Then, she began sorting out my student work samples, so I can assemble my end-of-year books at the end of the week.  That’s not all…she’s coming back again tomorrow.  What a wonderful blessing!

Then…we’ll go back to Saturday.  I came in to work in my classroom.  Since I was out of my room on Monday, I needed to organize my classroom lesson plans for a substitute to follow, do some cleaning, and end-of-year organization in my classroom.  I printed the color-coded lesson plans and went over to get them from the printer.  Surprise, surprise!  The door was locked.  What did I do?  I called my principal and explained the situation.  He could’ve just agreed to get the plans for me yesterday and put them in my room.  However, he knows me and my “methodical” personality…so he drove over to the school on a Saturday morning to unlock the door, so I could get my plans and organize my room in “Jodi-fashion”.  Yep, Mr. Watson was my hero of the day on Saturday.

Which brings us back to yesterday… It’s always a bit stressful to be out of the room.  I like knowing what’s going on in my classroom.  However, I had the blessing of having “Mrs. B.” as my sub.  I knew she wouldn’t let the kids get out-of-control, my lesson plans would be followed, and my classroom would be a safe place in my absence.  Yes, she was my “hero of the day” on Monday.

I can go back farther…to when either Marvin or Kevin, our “tech guys”, were my “hero of the day”.  Whether it was fixing a printer that refused to cooperate…changing toner in the color printer so I could print something I needed quickly…or dealing with a contrary computer which was choosing to be uncooperative.

Then, there are my parents who frequently are my “daily hero” as they invite me for dinner after a long day at school, pick up things I leave at home and bring them to me at school, pick up a birthday meal for our grade level teachers when someone picks a place that doesn’t deliver.  Of course, there’s also feeding my “attack cat” when I’m out of town…or taking my garbage out back when I’m leaving and returning home in the dark.  Yes, there are many days my parents are my daily award recipient.

However, there have been plenty of times children have fulfilled the position.  Whether it’s bringing me artwork or a sweet treat, they often do little things to “make my day”.  Sometimes…they get the honor simply by behaving respectfully and allowing us to have a productive and positive day.

Yet, the honor isn’t only pointed at school-related blessings…

There’s my friend who always offers to bring me some chicken corn soup from Empress when I’m home sick with strep throat.

There’s my sister Sherry who gives me a key to her house and tells me to come out anytime there’s a tornado warning, so I won’t be in a house without a safe basement.

Honestly…I could go on…and on….and on. 

But, I can’t end today’s writing without naming the Hero of all heroes. 
The One who loves me so much that He gave His life for me. 
The One who cherishes me so much that He didn’t stay buried in a tomb. 
The One who is preparing a place for me in heaven and will welcome me home when my time here has ended. 

Yes, I love all the heroes I mentioned above, but my greatest devotion and sincerest praise goes to the Lord of lords, the King of kings, the Hero of all heroes. 

Jesus Christ. 

In case you don’t know….He loves you that much too.  Just sayin….

Pretty Purple Present

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on May 17, 2012

   Today, I was thinking about writing on the topic of words, since my feet received a compliment today. (Would I make that up?)

   Then, I thought about writing something on the voices in my head…as in the character voices I use for puppets, read alouds, and occasionally during instruction. 

   But alas, at 11:40, as my students were heading to recess with Mrs. Lichlyter, it became obvious what I should write about.

My Pretty Purple Present

   As I sat at my computer scoring Accelerated Math assignments, two of my boys entered the classroom.  They brought with them a huge piece of purple paper.  Then, with great enthusiasm, they opened the present to show me the paper quilt which they  had created in art class.  The three of us quickly proceeded to the hallway where it was hung with care (and a lot of staples!) for the others in our building to enjoy.

   Obviously, this isn’t the first time I’ve received artwork from a student.  Throughout the 16 years I’ve taught third grade, I’ve received countless offerings of artwork.  If you combine that with my Little Sister’s contribution and my church kids’ presents, I could honestly open a Miss Pflaumer Art Museum.  However, if I can be frank, I think this piece of art work surpasses them all.  Why?  I’m glad you asked.

   First, it’s on a big sheet of purple paper.  I asked the boys, “Did Mrs. Lichlyter pick the paper?”  To which they adamantly exclaimed, “No, we told her it had to be purple.”  They know me well. We’ve spent almost 180 days together over the past year…good days, bad days, and all the days in between.

   Then, I looked at the individual pictures.  Lots of squares have a bit or a lot of purple added.  There are purple flowers, which can never make me sneeze.  There’s a cat which will never bite me or scratch me…or creak a door in the middle of the night to awaken me.  There is a classroom where a teacher is telling someone where to turn in his homework, which even after 171 days, I still did…several times today.  There’s a baseball game.  There’s a fat-free monster muffin. 

   As I look at each square, I think of the student who made it.  Yes, it looks like some students took more time and care to create their contribution, but the fact that it’s from all of them makes me smile.  This quilt…there’s just something about it.  If it was a real quilt, I’d take it home and hang it on my quilt rack or lay it on top of my guest bed, but I’m thinking it would simply turn into a huge cat toy if it went home with me.

   I know the reason it means so much to me is because of the students who made it.  Do I have all perfectly behaved children in my room?  Nope.  That won’t happen this side of heaven.  Yet, I will honestly miss these kiddos.  With only 9 days left with this crop of kids, I get a bit misty-eyed thinking about it.  I think back to last year and realize I felt the same way with last year’s crop.  My prayer is that I feel that way about every “crop” until I hang up my “farming tools” and pass my “teaching tractor” to someone younger. 

   For now, I will appreciate each plant in my garden.  Whether it’s the “grapevine” who doesn’t grow in an orderly fashion….the “corn” which didn’t grow as much as I thought it would…or the “watermelon” which far surpassed my expectations.  I love this crop of kiddos, and I will look at my purple present…my paper quilt of affection…and thank God for the 29 students who’ve been a part of room 302. (Note, I never had 29 at one time, but a total of 29 during the course of the year.)  I will do the same with the other 23 students who have joined me in room 302 for language instruction at some point during this academic ride as well.

   My final thought…are a couple verses  He etched on my heart back when He called me to work with children…

Perspective Power!

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on May 15, 2012

   I couldn’t decide whether to call today’s writing “Perspective Power” or “Attitude Power”, so since I’m a fan of alliteration…I went with the /p/.  Ha.  Yes, this is how I make “big” decisions.

   I figured this would be the best topic of the day since my day could’ve gone “either way” based on my perspective.  You see, for those of you who are not my “F B Friends”, I awoke with a throbbing headache.  To be honest, even though I took 2 migraine pills before lunch, the headache still lingers.  I’m guessing it’s connected to this lovely spring weather and the allergies that overwhelm me during this season. 

   Then, as I drove to work, I literally could only see several yards to a half-block in front of me.  As I drove here (to work, where I’m writing this), I didn’t even see the school building until I turned into the parking lot.  Honestly, after I pulled into McDonald’s (missed the first entrance due to fog, so I entered through the BP side), I was a bit apprehensive pulling back out onto 56.  I mean, what if a morning driver failed to have his lights on?  I would’ve been…a bit delayed in getting to school.

   Based on those two things, I could’ve started my day venting and griping, but I chose to think, “There’s nowhere to go but up.”  Perspective power…attitude is everything.

   How do you look at things?  I’ve often been asked if I’m a  glass “half-full” or “half-empty” type of person.  I believe I’m generally a “half-full” type of girl, but I’m certain there are days when I fail to see the light and rather focus on the clouds.  What about you?

   If you get pulled over and receive a speeding ticket, would you say…
“I can’t believe I didn’t see that cop; now I have a fine.” 
Or
“I’m glad he stopped me before my speeding caused an accident.”

If your doctor finds something troublesome on test results, do you think…
“Why in the world did I get that test done in the first place?” 
Or
“I’m glad he found that, so he can start treating it before it gets worse.”

When your students disrupt your teaching, forget their homework, and make bad behavior choices, do you wonder…
“Why didn’t I call in sick today?” 
Or 
“I wonder what caused them to have such a bad day?  Maybe I can help make it better.”

   To be honest, even though I consider myself a positive and perky person, I wouldn’t always choose the latter choice.  It all depends on my day.  It depends on my attitude, which perspective I would have.

   However, when people ask me how I am, I generally say “peachy”.  Always?  No.  Today, when a student asked me how I was doing, I told her my head was throbbing. But most days…I choose to be “peachy”.  I figure there are a lot of people who have a lot worse things going on in their lives.  I know people who have lost their jobs, who don’t have enough money to pay their bills, who have serious medical issues…so why should I complain because of a headache and a foggy drive?  It’s all in one’s perspective.

   The other thing, besides a personal choice, that helps me maintain a positive perspective is prayer.  When I get frustrated with a decision that an administrator or the school board has made, I pray for that person.  I pray that their decisions be made in wisdom and that I would have a peace about those decisions.  When I get a “not-so-nice” note from a parent, I pray for their family and for my witness to them.  I ask God to shine through me in my communication, so I don’t get pulled into negativity.  When bad things happen in my journey, I try and thank God for them anyway and acknowledge that even the things that seem bad in “my thinking” will be used for my good and His glory.  Yes, prayer helps me stay positive.

What else helps?  Music and/or meditation.  When frustrations come my way, I meditate on verses engraved on my  heart. 

  • “Be still and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:10a
  • “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28    

Or, I begin singing a song either in my heart or aloud…

  • “Be Still & Know that He is God” –Steven Curtis Chapman
  • “Be Still” –Kari Jobe
  • “How Great is Our God” –Chris Tomlin

   Obviously, those aren’t the only verses that I’ll ruminate on or the only songs I sing…but you get the point. 
I can choose how I react to things.  I can pray about difficulties.  I can meditate on His Word.  I can sing His praises. 
Those things…help me choose to be joyful.

Each day, we have a choice to make.  Each hour, we have a choice to make. Each moment, we have a choice to make.

What will you choose?

Listening? Who? Me?

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on May 11, 2012

   I know this may surprise you, but sometimes…my students don’t listen.  I have a few perfect examples to share with you that come from today…only today. 

   First, this morning, we were continuing our study of maps and geography concepts.  One of our activities involved creating a rough draft of a map key for lots of different things that may be in an area.  One of those terms was “lagoon”.  Now, the “reading a map key” activity we had just finished hadn’t used “lagoon”, so it made sense to turn that into a teachable moment.  Using a large poster of landforms and bodies of water, I went up and pointed out the lagoon.  We talked about how it was a small pond of water surrounded by sand dunes or some grassy area and generally connected to a larger body of water.  We even suggested a couple possible pictures for their map key.  Then, the students went back to work. 

   Then, all of a sudden, one of my boys said, “Miss P, what’s a lagoon?  It’s not on that other thing.”  My first thought was…”What?”  My second thought was  “consider it all joy”.  So, I went with that thought and with laughter walked him up to the poster to show him the lagoon and told him what it was.  To which another boy said, “She just told us that.  Weren’t you listening?” (Um, I’d vote no.)

   Back to work they went, and we came to the word “oasis”.  This too led to a teachable moment.  We talked about it being an area in the desert where there is water and plant growth.  To which a student said, “But it’s not real, right?”  This led to a discussion about the difference between a mirage and an oasis.  The discussion was great.  The “Ah-Ha” moment was excellent.  The illustration of it being a “little bit of heaven” when you’re in the hot dry desert was remarkable.  So, they refocused on their map key. 

   As I roamed the room monitoring their work, one boy said, “I’m done, Miss P!” He was quite proud of himself.  As I looked, I noticed one symbol was missing.  Can you guess which one?  Yep, OASIS!  I asked, and he responded, “I don’t know what that is.”  The same boy from before said, “She just talked to us about it.”  So, again, I chose joy over frustration and pointed out the oasis and we even suggested some possible symbols.

   OK, E-friends, we’ve only made it to 9:30, and I’ve had two illustrations. 

   So, we begin language arts class, which was shortened due to ISTEP+ and Recess for Life.  As we were earnestly working to finish all that needed to get finished, (spelling test, skill assessment, Mother’s Day writing, weekly vocabulary) I said that we probably would have to move our book talks to Monday and have a “Book Talk Marathon”.  Then, a half-hour later a girl came up (Shwooo, I was beginning to think it was just a ‘boy thing’.) and said, “Do I get to do my Book Talk today?”  To which, I said, “Probably not, you’ll do it Monday.”

   Sometimes, as a teacher, I think it would be handy to record things and have a “replay” button, so I don’t have to repeat myself.  Some days, I tell my students that after I repeat myself once they’ll need to find out elsewhere from someone who was practicing their active listening.  Some incidents, I must confess, cause me to fall into frustration and aggravation rather than joy. 

   Let’s face it, third graders aren’t the only people who need to work on listening skills.  I know there are several times when I’ll be talking to my nephew Connor, and he even makes the “I’m listening” sounds.  Then, as soon as I finish asking him something or giving him a direction, he’ll say, “What did you say?” 

   I’m betting that whether you’re a parent, teacher, or simply a human…you’ve experienced the same thing with children (or adults) not listening to you.  I’m guessing you could think of an example or two right now, if I was there to ask you.

   However, I can’t point fingers, because after all…when I point, three of my fingers are pointing back at me.  I know there are times when I’m “listening” to someone talk and not “hearing” a thing they say.  I know there are times I get so easily distracted that I will alter my position.  For instance, in worship on Sundays, I am not a “back row Baptist”.  My goodness, if I sat in the back row, I wouldn’t hear a thing.  I’d see people getting in their purses, rubbing their spouse’s back, talking to a child, moving their bodies, leaving to go to the restroom…Get it?  I generally sit near the front.  Close enough to focus, but not so close that I have to bend my head back to make eye contact with the pastor.  Then, I take notes in an effort to stay focused.  Does it always work?  Nope.  There are times I have to lean over and quietly ask my neighbor, “What was the third point?”

Listening…hearing…learning…doing.  They all go together don’t they.

   If we don’t listen, we won’t hear what is being said.  If we don’t hear what is being said, then we can’t learn the lesson or gain the knowledge.  If we don’t learn, then how can we apply it and put the lesson into practice? Yes, listening is important.  It’s important in life…in relationships…in our walk with the Lord.

   You know, it seems a lot of times, my prayer life seems more like a monologue than a conversation.  I mean, sometimes it’s difficult when you don’t have a person talking aloud to you.  Let’s face it, if I occassionally struggle listening to someone who’s speaking to me, how much more challenging is it to listen to the One who speaks through His word and to my heart rather than an audible voice.  But, that doesn’t give me an “out” to not try. 

   This leads me back to two blogs I wrote several weeks ago.  They were called “There’s An App for That” and “This, That, or the Other?”  They were from a Spiritual Disciplines conference I attended and shared about praying through Scripture and meditating on His Word.  I’ve found that using those two strategies also helps to turn my monologue into a conversation.  My words are obviously me talking to Him, but when I read the Psalm or meditate on it, He is talking to me. 

Give it a try.  Learn to listen.  The Lord of lords is most definitely worth the effort.

       

Recess Joy

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on May 10, 2012

   At lunch today, as I sat waiting for the other 3rd grade teachers to arrive in my room, I was pondering what in the world I would write today.  Nothing had really grabbed my attention.  No analogy had manifested itself in my mind. “Hmmm….maybe I won’t have anything to say today?” I thought.

  However, I owed my students a recess which we should’ve had yesterday afternoon.  Yesterday, with the Star Reading Test, a math lesson, checking morning work & two days of computation problems, and finishing a Rock N Read book…which meant taking a quiz…we simply ran out of time.  So, I wrote an “I O U” on the chalkboard.  I told my kiddos this morning if things went as planned, we’d have our recess today.

   So, opting out of computer time (we are on testing overload), we checked our morning work & computation and had today’s math lesson.  Then, we silently lined up to head outside.  (Yes, I was surprised by the silent part, too.)  I told the students the quicker they finished the restroom break the longer our time would be since we had to be back in the room by 2; three of my students are scheduled somewhere else from 2-2:30.  So, we were off.

   We arrived at our large playground…and it was only my class.  Actually, it was my class minus four students who were absent and one who went home sick.  So, there were only 20 of us.  They ran to the various playground items.  Some were on the swings.  Some were just running.  Others were merely “hanging out”.  Then, I saw two of my boys shooting baskets; one used a soccer ball and the other a basketball.  I stood and chatted with them.  They both gave me their ball to try and shoot. (Note the word “try”.)  They chuckled when I missed, and I assured them Connor (my nephew) reacts the same way. 

   After I shot the first ball, the two boys had grown to six.  It seems four boys who were elsewhere decided watching my shooting skills was pretty funny.  Within minutes, all six boys were wanting me to “watch this”.  They were giving me turns shooting.  Then, shocker of all shockers, they were amazed when a shot went through the hoop.  “Wow, Miss P!  Nice shot,” one exclaimed. 

   Among these six boys gathered was a student who, at times, is left out by others and a boy who is unable to run or jump like the others.  Yet, the six boys and I enjoyed our time together. We were unified in our purpose…that purpose enjoying the beautiful weather during our short recess.  They’d yell for the left-out boy to throw them the ball.  They’d include the other in conversations.    When another hit a pretty amazing shot, we all celebrated.  We were a “family”, accepting each other, encouraging each other, celebrating with each other. 

   I thoroughly enjoyed those 15 minutes of recess, which is quite funny since I’m allergic to most things outside.  Actually, as we were talking and attempting to shoot baskets, I told the boys, “I must really love you because I’m going to have a sore throat and itchy eyes later.”  I don’t think they understood that, but oh well.

   As I stood there, I thought about how quickly those other four boys left what they were doing to come and spend time with us.  I pondered how the first two boys started laughing and smiling and enjoying the conversation.  As we were getting ready to leave, I suggested, “Maybe we can do this again before school’s out?”   To which several said, “Can we?

 So…have you figured out my connection yet?

  • Are we that eager to spend time with our Teacher? 
  • Do we rush over to see what He’s doing and how we can be involved?  
  • Does the time fly by, and the joy emanate from those minutes we share with Him?

 What about the family of God? 

  • Do we welcome everyone, or do we leave some people on the outskirts because they don’t quite fit?
  • Do we encourage our brothers and sisters in their efforts in ministry? 
  • Will we walk alongside them if there’s a ministry need we can fill?
  • Do we enjoy spending time with them? 
  • Is the joy we share enough to cause others to come and see what’s going on with us? 
  • Does it motivate them to join us in the joy?

Yes, these are points to ponder.  I suggest…you go outside, even if you’re allergic, to enjoy this beautiful day God’s created and ask Him to reveal the answers to these questions. 
Join in the joy…you’re never too old for recess!

Mind Readers…

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on May 9, 2012

   I told my students today that they were going to be the inspiration for today’s writing.  You see, now that the year has almost drawn to a close (Woohoo!  Only 15 student days remain!), my students have become “mind readers”.  Not a day goes by without me “looking” at a student and that student “knowing” exactly what I’m thinking.

Let me give you an example.

   One of my students has to be coaxed to sit on his pockets on the floor in front of the rocker when I’m reading aloud.  His language teacher and I call it the “on the mark” stance that he chooses to sit in, looking as if he’s going to run to the door as soon as he’s dismissed.  Today, as I was beginning to read  “School’s Out”, written by Johanna Hurwitz, I noticed this student standing with his backpack on and ready to go.  So, I looked at him.  At that point, he put his backpack on his desk and assumed his ‘on the mark’ stance, so I “looked” at him.  Then, he sat on his pockets and smiled a little knowing grin.  To this I said, “Yep, I have a class full of mind-readers.”

   During language class, my students read silently for the first ten minutes or work on their literacy letters.  They are actually also allowed to work on their book clubs or take AR quizzes on completed books.  However, vocabulary work is set aside at a different time of our class, and my students know this.  So, I looked up and saw a girl working on this week’s vocabulary focus.  I cleared my throat, which caused a few to look at me, including her.  At that point, I simply “looked” at her.  She smiled, and then she took her book out.  During the transition, I remarked, “I do believe I have mind-readers in my class today.”

   Truth is…they couldn’t “read my mind” in August…or October.  Actually, their mind-reading skills probably didn’t kick in until November or December.  Do I teach them how to read my mind?  Of course not!  It’s not an Indiana Acadmic Standard. Ha!  They simply pick up the ability as they get to know me and my expectations.

   As you get to know someone, you know what that person wants you to do.  Let’s face it, when I walk into my house and hear Jasper meowing, I know he wants me to open the door to let him have free roam on the whole house.  When he rubs against my legs, tripping me as I walk, I know he wants me to add some food to the bowl.  If he’s jumping up on the bathroom sink and licking the faucet, I know he needs me to check his water bowl.  Obviously, he doesn’t audibly tell me those things, or I’d die straight away!  I know him.  I spend time with him.  He’s my cat, so I take care of him.

   So…as we spend time with people, we get to know them.  As we get to know them, we learn what they desire of us.

   Yep, our relationship with God is the same way.  The more time we spend with Him, by studying His Word, the more we know what He wants us to do.  The more time we devote to Him in worship, praise, and prayer, the more we understand what He desires of us.  Now, in no way am I saying we can read the mind of God, but I do believe we can know the heart of God more as we grow in our relationship with Him. 

   Obviously, He doesn’t stand in front of me until I notice His attention in order to modify my behavior.  Nope, when I became His child, He gave me the gift of the Holy Spirit that actively prods my conscience and guides me on the path of righteousness. 

   So, as I conclude this and head to pick up my “Little Sister” for dinner, homework, Mother’s Day shopping, and DiscipleTown…I leave you this challenge.

Do you know Him better today than you did a decade ago?
How about a year ago?
A month ago?
Are you closer to Him today than you were yesterday?

   Regardless of the answer, I suggest you spend time with Him.  Read His book.  Talk to Him.  Learn the mind and heart of our Sovereign God.

Learning from Lacie…

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on May 5, 2012

   Well, since I haven’t written anything for a couple days, I thought I’d write down a few of the thoughts swimming through my mind today. As you can see from the title, they were inspired by Lacie who is my “Little Sister” through the Big Brothers & Big Sisters organization.

A little of the back-story…
   Lacie is my second “Little Sister”. My first “Little,” Courtney, moved away. I waited for about 9 months before being matched with Lacie in June 2010.  So, we call June 21st our “Match Anniversary”, and she’s already started talking about what we should do to celebrate our 2nd anniversary this year. 

Let’s see…

   Lacie and I have dinner, do homework, and go to DiscipleTown every Wednesday. When her homework isn’t a big time-consumer, she’ll either run school errands with me, or we’ll go to my house to put together puzzles or play games until it’s time to go to church.
   Also, I try to take her to church with me on Sunday mornings, and then she goes to lunch with me and “the girls”. (The ladies in my Sunday School class).
   Finally, occasionally on Saturdays, we’ll plan something “special”. Today was one of those special Saturdays. Mary, who teaches 3rd grade with me, has a cute little granddaughter named Aleigh. The two girls really enjoy spending time together, so we attempt to schedule an outing periodically for the four of us.

Here’s the play-by-play on our day…

   I texted Lacie’s family last night to remind them I’d be picking her up between 9:30 and 9:45 this morning. I also noted that I hoped to take some pics of the two girls for the BBBS Match scrapbook that Lacie and I attempt to maintain. [Good thing my mom is a super-scrapbooker…Lacie and I are “stick on a picture and add some stickers” scrapbookers.]

   After eating breakfast with my parents at Mike’s Grill, I went to pick her up. As I waited at the door, she came down wearing the Easter dress I bought her…ready for her pictures. Then, her grandma reminded her to brush her hair, and I reminded her to brush her teeth. She fastened on her sandals and off we went.

   However, we weren’t supposed to meet Aleigh and Mary at the library until 10, so she and I made a quick trip to one of my favorite stores…Dollar Tree! I needed to buy some things for school, and we picked up a package of gummies for her to take home to share with her brother, sister, and uncle. As we stood in line, Mary and Aleigh walked into Dollar Tree. Lacie was so excited! She thought it was just hilarious that they came to Dollar Tree too. Next stop was the library.

   Since we reached the library before Mary & Aleigh, we went to pick out my books. I told her I usually read the ones with the yellow cross stickers on them, so she went aisle by aisle pointing out all the yellow stickers. She even suggested I get a book about Jesus, and I reminded her the best book to read about Jesus is the Bible. After we picked out my three books, we headed downstairs to the children’s section.

   The two girls went to the computers. The station Lacie sat at didn’t have headphones at the time, but that didn’t stop her. Aleigh would show her where to go to hear “the best song” and Lacie would go…even though she couldn’t hear a thing. It made Aleigh happy that they were doing the “same thing”. Shortly thereafter, Sarah, a friend from church who works in the children’s library, came in and provided us with headphones. Lacie shared that they only worked in one ear, and we assured her that one ear was better than none. A little before eleven, the girls finished on the computers and began playing in the play area. At this point, Mary and I started being photographers. I would position the girls, they’d smile, and click….their pictures were taken.

   After a ten-minute photo shoot, we headed to Mary’s. Since Lacie came in a dress, we opted to have her change into one of the outfits I had at my house for her, so she could play at Playland after we ate at McDonald’s. She pointed out that she shouldn’t crawl around in there with a dress on. Having a lovely purple spring outfit on, we were off to McDonald’s.

   Let me break for a second to give a little shout out to our local McDonald’s.  They give a 50% discount to BBBS matches. This is great because it allows us to order bigger meals than we want, so she can take leftovers home to her siblings…who are always thrilled with whatever she takes home with her.

   The four of us sat down, and she asked who was going to pray. She then volunteered and offered the blessing. Upon completion of her snack wrap, a few fries, and half a cookie…the girls were off to Playland. Mary and I sat visiting and taking occasional pictures while the girls climbed, crawled, giggled, and slid. A few times during the excitement, Lacie came over for a drink and a rest. Aleigh would charge ahead, but Lacie needed to catch her breath and cool off. [I bet those tubes get really warm as temperatures rise?]

   Due to the storms last night, Mary and Aleigh opted out of putt-putt, so Lacie and I decided we’d save it until we could have “more friends” with us. So, our next stop….was a roadblock. Our church Relay for Life team was collecting money to fight against cancer, so we headed out to Hanover. Lacie wanted to give our money to Miss Roye Ann, her Sunday School teacher. After giving her directions on how to give the donation, we stopped by Roye Ann and gave her our $5. Then, Lacie saw Miss Robin at one of the other stations of the roadblock and wanted to tell her “hi” too. We drove around and went through Robin’s side and gave her another dollar, but we also saw my dad at a third section of the intersection. Yep…you guessed it…we turned right, turned around, and gave Dad another dollar. As we drove away, she was so pleased that everyone was so glad to see her. Plus, she thought it was great that our $7 could fight against cancer.

   Our final stop was the ice cream shop on Main Street. I ordered a scoop of Triple Caramel, and she opted for chocolate. We were greeted by Alex, who is a Miss P. former 3rd grader. Lacie remarked how my third graders are everywhere. So we sat and visited as we ate our ice cream. When mine was finished, I asked Alex for a bowl and spoon, so she could take the rest of hers with us.

   As we got in the car to head up the hill to her apartment, Lacie said,
“Thanks, Jodi, for such a great day. This was a big day.”

Are you tired from reading that? It was a fun morning/afternoon, but I was tired too.

Here’s the lessons we can learn from Lacie. 

 Everyone needs reminders.
Most likely ours isn’t about brushing our hair or our teeth, but we can all be reminded to do what needs to be done. So, here’s your reminder…start your day in prayer and ask Him to guide your steps and your words.

Remember your family.
We probably don’t need to take them leftover McD’s food or gummy candy from Dollar Tree, but we can do small gestures just the same. Sometimes it’s simply sending them an e-mail, thanking them for inviting you over for dinner, eating a meal with them each week to spend time with them, taking a day off if they need you to help them with something, or singing at their renewal of wedding vows’ ceremony. Do something to show them you love them, and they matter.

Be excited to see your friends. 
Even if you see them every day at work…don’t take it for granted. Let them know you appreciate their friendship.

Be happy with what you have. 
Even without the headphones, she loved her time on the computer. When her headphones didn’t work completely, it didn’t matter. As my friend Debra says, “It’s all good.”

Don’t forget you’re a lady… if you are one.
She knew that she shouldn’t crawl around Playland in her dress, so it made sense to change clothes. Be proud of the woman (or man) God made you to be…and be that man or woman.

Don’t be ashamed of your faith.
Since we started our match, I would pray when we would eat together.  This past year, she started praying when it was just the two of us.  Recently, she now volunteers to pray whether we’re with my family, “the girls”, and today…with Mary & Aleigh.  Grow in your faith…God’s got great plans for you.

Rest when you need to.
As a nap-lover, I really like this lesson.  I wanted to take a nap today.  However, it seems my new computer security isn’t a fan of Google Chrome…and Blogger isn’t a fan of Internet Explorer.  So this little writing has taken hours to get to the internet.  Oh well, my bedtime is soon, so rest will come.

Go out of your way for people who matter to you. 
Seeing Miss Roye Ann wasn’t enough…she wanted to say “hi” to her, Miss Robin, and Dad. It’s easy in this busy world we live in to get wrapped up and not spend time with people who you care about. Do it anyway. As Lacie learned, they’ll be so pleased to see you.

The final lessons…

 Enjoy an ice cream cone every once in a while and make every simple day feel like a “big big day” in your heart. It’s a gift from God…so make it count.  And take a hint from Lacie and suggest to those you meet that they ought to read a book about Jesus, I highly recommend the Bible.

Trust?

Originally posted on May 4, 2012, on Miss P’s Ponderings

Who do you trust?

 The reason I ask is…well, I have thought about trust off and on this week, so I thought I’d jot down my thoughts. 

Trust is one of those topics I talk about frequently in my classroom throughout the year. Sometimes, during our class meetings, I’ll read a book that focuses on a trust issue and then we, as a class, discuss it. Often, during one of the first trust discussions, I share an incident that took place many years ago in my classroom…the students involved are now college graduates. Let’s see…

 We were outside at recess when two students came up to me to report that a third student, with whom they had been shooting baskets, had said a “bad word”. The third student came up, looked me in the eye, and announced that he had not said such a thing. What’s a teacher to do?

 This is what I did…
“Well, all three of you are known as honest and trustworthy students. None of you, to my knowledge, have ever lied to me. So, the three of you can ‘go to the line’ until all three of you agree on what the truth is.”

 At that point, the three went to the line, which told me instantly that the boy had said it. I don’t know many third graders who would give up recess time just to get someone else in trouble with a made-up story. We reentered into the school and went downstairs to take our timed math test. Still, none of the three students changed their stories.

 So, the next step was taken…without giving names I shared something like this… 
“Trust is very important. When we are honest, it’s always best. Even if we have to be honest about a bad choice, it’s better to be honest. Honesty maintains trust. When someone breaks that trust, it’s hard to build it back again.”

 Then, I dismissed my students to the restroom, but…one boy dawdled behind. He came up to “tell me the truth” so that I would continue to “trust” him.

 This week, another incident happened in my classroom. A student made a bad choice. A second student witnessed and reported the action. After the others had left the room, I asked the accused student about the report.

 “Someone reported that you…, did you?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Why would you do that? I know you know it’s wrong.”
“I don’t know why I did it, but I know it would be considered stealing.”

 Without me saying a thing, he started to the behavior board where he proceeded to turn his card. I thanked him for his honesty and encouraged him not to repeat the bad choice. Honesty practiced; trust maintained.

 My final illustration of trust focuses on the staff at my school. Last night, I made a batch of Chex mix to take to my small group tonight. In fact, they’re meeting right now, but due to a sore throat and lack of energy I opted to come home to take meds, drink fluid, and rest. So, I had a couple small containers of Chex mix that I wouldn’t be able to give away at my small group. So, I took them into our teachers’ lounge. I didn’t write my name on the containers nor did I write the type of Chex mix.

 Wouldn’t you know it…when I went in to get my mail at 2:50, both containers were empty. They simply trusted that whomever made it…didn’t have cockroaches crawling on the cabinets.

 So…who do you trust and who trusts you?

 Are you the type of person that people trust? When you slip and tell a half-truth (which is really a full lie), are you quick to admit your failing so that trust can be restored?

 When you make a bad choice (which would be sin) do you not only confess and repent to God but also seek forgiveness from the one your bad choice affected?

 Do you practice trust, like those teachers did, when they ate Chex Mix without knowing who made it? [Umm, only do this in places you know can be trusted.]

 Most importantly, do you trust the One who created you, who sent His Son to die on a cross to take the punishment for all your bad choices? If not, I’d love to share with you how you can learn to trust Him by accepting the gift of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.

 “Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit.” –Psalm 12:17

 In case you’re wondering, both of those boys learned another lesson…besides the importance of trust. They both experienced a lesson in mercy, too. But that lesson will have to wait for another blog post. Trust me…

Finding the JOY…

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on May 1, 2012

   I think you’d be hardpressed to find a teacher who finds joy in ISTEP+ or whatever standardized state testing s/he administers.  Do we understand the purpose?  Yes, but it doesn’t make the experience enjoyable. 

   I must admit, however, I was one of those odd students.  I loved “testing week”.  I remember sitting at my elementary desk to take the Iowa Basics Test (I think that was the name…but I never lived in Iowa?)  I remember having that test booklet in front of me, listening to directions, and carefully completing those math problems, reading those stories, and choosing answers to the comprehension and language questions.  I felt “important” completing the test…yes, I’m an odd duck.

   Things changed when I was no longer completing the test but being judged by the test.  Honestly, it doesn’t matter how confident I may feel in the skills and abilities God has given me as a teacher, through my training, experiences, and personality.  That confidence doesn’t alleviate the anxiety that enters a school or a classroom as the standardized tests hit.

   How do we face those anxieties? 
   How do we avoid being overwhelmed by the fear of failure? 
   How do we not let it have power over us?

 My answer is…find the joy. Joy?  In ISTEP+? 

   Yes, I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but if you try…you can do it.  So, I thought I’d give it a shot.  First, I have less grading to do during testing weeks.  Since my students spend several of our school hours completing the tests, they have less time to produce student work which requires assessing.  Second, generally, my classroom is quieter.  With them focusing on their assessments, they are less enticed to have off-task conversations in class.

   Of course, I think my students’ biggest joy is less homework.  My language class doesn’t have a spelling packet this week and during class we’re skipping vocabulary due to shortened class time.  You’d think they received a treasure when I announced on Monday…”We’re taking ISTEP+ this week, so…you have NO SPELLING HOMEWORK or VOCABULARY PACKET!”  [Yes, I announced it with the voice of a game show announcer to add excitement to the news.]

   You see, focusing on the good helps us to endure the bad.

   Aren’t we the same way with our life’s journey?  Gosh, I remember years ago, as a beginning teacher, gathering in Mrs. Stoner’s second grade classroom to begin the day in prayer with other teachers.  As I would stand in her classroom, I looked up to her wall.  I suppose in second grade they post words that need to be readily recognized, and her students had “jobs”.  So, she had the word JOB posted on her wall.

   Do you know where my head went each morning when I saw that?  Yep, you probably guessed it. I didn’t see “job.” I read it as “Job”.  I remember that year was one of my most difficult thus far in my journey.  It was difficult, at times, to keep a joyful spirit.  But, each day when I gathered in prayer with those Sisters in Christ, I would think, “This is nothing compared to what Job went through…so I’ll be fine.”  You see, remembering all Job endured and yet he still praised God encouraged me to do likewise.  

  • Are some years harder than others?  Yes.  But…things can always be worse.  Just ask Job.
  • Are some things stressful?  Yes.  But…Daniel survived the lions’ den, so surely I can survive ISTEP+.
  • Are there times when the finances are tight?  Sure.  But, the Israelites had their needs met by manna from heaven, so I can trust that He will take care of my needs.

You see…there’s always joy.  You can choose to be joyful or you can choose to wish your life away.  You can choose to look on the bright side of life, or you can feel like a dark cloud is hovering over each step you walk.  You choose your attitude…your perspective…your thoughts each day.

   Choose to see Him working and trust that He will work all things together for your good and His glory…even if you can’t see it at the time.  I mean, I really don’t think Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were comprehending the purpose when they were tossed in the fiery furnace…but through the fiery flames they saw their Lord leading them through. OK, so the ISTEP+ isn’t fiery flames, but it can still burn.

 …Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.  –Psalm 30:5

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.     –Proverbs 17:22

 Choose wisely, my friends. Choose Joy! 

Priceless Presents from Pupils

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on April 30, 2012

   Yes, I’m a fan of alliteration, so I had fun with the /p/ sound when coming up with today’s title.  It was prompted by two lovely yellow daisies which were delivered to me first thing this morning.  It was such a sweet way to start my Monday and fingers crossed…my landscapers (Mom & Connor) will be able to replant them outside before their life ends.

   You know, as a teacher, I receive lots of gifts of affection throughout the year…through the years.  I’ve had some zany gifts, tasty gifts, crafty gifts, and many…many purple gifts.  Today’s daisies prompted me to think of those gifts.

   Over a decade ago, there was a girl named Laura in my class.  She was such a sweet girl who worked so hard.  Christmas came rolling around.  As I do every year, I told the kids not to get me anything but if they wanted to get something for the classroom that would be great.  However, the day of our Christmas party arrived, and many gifts were eagerly brought to me to open.  I opened candles and mugs.  I opened chocolates and ornaments.  Lots of sweet, sweet gifts.  However, the gift I remember most dearly came from Laura.  You see, her family didn’t have money to go to Wal-Mart and pick up something, so she made me a gift.  She drew pictures, rolled them up like posters, inserted them into an empty wrapping paper tube, decorated the outside of the tube, and then wrapped it.  I made over that colored paper roll just like I made over the candle.  Both gifts were given from the loving heart of one of my little blessings, but I knew Laura…gave all she could.  She gave me her best.

   Many moons ago, I had a sweet blonde girl named Britney in my class.  Her mother was contemplating opening a sweet store.  So, guess what?  Every time she made a new sweet treat, I would receive not a sample but a plate full of tasty treats.  I actually remember the chocolate covered pretzel rods.  They were my favorite.  It wouldn’t have mattered if I had tried to lose weight that year, as those tasty treats, which Britney brought in with a shining smile on her face, would’ve won.  They were delish, and oh they smelled so sweet!

   A few years ago, I had another girl in my class by the name of Kaitlynn.  She was a hoot!  I received countless drawings of horses and every purple candy known to exist.  I received purple Laffy Taffy, purple suckers, and purple Jolly Ranchers.  You see, she loved horses and I love purple, so she shared both with me…frequently.  She gave me what mattered.

   This year, I have a boy in my class who frequently asks me if it’s OK for a student to love his teacher.  I assure him that there are all types of love, so it’s perfectly acceptable.  This year, besides drawings and a flower or two, he brought me a big purple ring.  I wore it proudly that first day and made a point of showing it to the other teachers.  Now, it’s hanging by my “recess bag” to decorate the door, as it made my finger sweat. His gifts undoubtedly say “I love you!” each time they arrive.

   Also, this year, I have a sweet girl in my class who often thinks of me when they eat something sweet at home.  She’s brought me a cinnamon roll, brownies, cookies, and Hershey kisses.  Her mom shared that her daughter always asks if she can bring me something.  Whenever the sweet treats arrive, I thank her joyfully and note that I’ll eat it when the kids go to special class for my morning treat.  In response, she grins from ear to ear.  It seems her thoughts are always directed at bringing me something to show her affection.

   Then, there was today’s daisy.  The girl who brought it to me isn’t in my homeroom, and she isn’t in my language class.  She is in my neighboring class, and our two classes read together daily.  Our two classes also do Fun Friday together and occasionally play Jeopardy games together.  So, I’m the Aunt-Teacher to her class.  Her mom, who also teaches in our building, asked me if I received the gift this morning and shared how her daughter was adamant about getting Miss Pflaumer a flower as well.  Then, she shared how the flower she bought me was purple, but today…the purple flower was looking puny, so her daughter decided she couldn’t give me a gift that wasn’t healthy.  She wanted to give me the best, and she wasn’t willing to settle for something that didn’t measure up.

   Yes, if you want to feel special, become a teacher….at least an elementary teacher.  You may experience lots of stress and a huge workload at times, but your students will make you feel loved by their words and actions.

   So, all those gifts…made me think.  They made me think about the gifts we offer our Teacher, our Father, our God.

Do we use our talents like Kaitlynn and offer gifts from our abilities?   Do we make certain our gifts will matter to the One we give them too…that they’ll mean something?

Do we offer Him presents that have a sweet aroma like Britney?

Are our thoughts constantly prompting to give Him a gift from the heart like my little girl in this year’s class?

Do we bring Him presents from a heart overflowing with love, so He knows how much He means to us…like my student this year?

Do we look at our gifts and realize we can offer something better and exchange it, so He’ll know we gave the best we had to offer like my daisy-giver?

Or…do we do like Laura…and the widow who gave her mite (Mark 12:42-44)…and give all we have to give?

Whatever you give Him…do so with all of your heart…and do so joyfully. 

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.–2 Corinthians 9:7

   Thanks for reading, but my daisies and I are heading home.  Blessings to you all<><