Too Many Titles…

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on April 27, 2012

 Sorry, e-friends, I had too many titles running through my head this morning to just pick one, so I opted for the above. Ha.

   OK, first the big news…the Lost Camera has been found!!  The purple camera ordered has been cancelled.  This was big, big news for me this morning.  When Mary, my neighboring teacher and friend, came into my room this morning it was the first thing out of my mouth….

“Guess what!  I found it!!”

I was so thrilled…partly because it saved me the 100+ dollars I would have to spend on the new camera and partly due to the sweet pictures of my “little sister” at Easter, third graders singing at their spring concert, and my multiplying maniacs receiving their trophies.  Lots of reasons to be thankful, so I literally rejoiced.  While I waited in the school board room for our in-service to begin, I proclaimed the news to my principal…“The lost has been found!”

Shouldn’t we have the same eagerness when sharing what God has been doing in our life.  Heaven rejoices when the lost come to Christ, and we should rejoice and proclaim all the wonders of our God.

   Then, at the end of our in-service meeting, Mr. Watson announced that our iPads were available to be picked up.  OK, seriously…I felt like a kid waking up on Christmas day to a filled stocking.  I was so excited…only to discover, I am not as techy as I thought.  Alas, deep breath, Mary, the same one I mentioned previously, has had one for a while so she gave me a quick tutorial on setting up my account etc.  We even joked about having FaceTime away from school, but we’re thinking it doesn’t matter how much her husband thinks of me, he may veto that one. Ha.  Of course, my nephew Connor is probably just as excited as I am, since this means I’ll be changing my high speed Internet access to wireless in order to do my prepping for iPad enhanced instruction next year.  Let’s just say…it’s been a good morning.

Are we that eager to jump in and use the tools He’s given us?  We have access to His word in so many places yet how often do we get excited to dive in and see what new truth we can learn.  How often do we offer to help others when they’re learning to live by faith. 

   Let’s see, then…with the task of creating pretests to be used for the RISE-required assessment, we were looking at creating a new assessment.  Wait just a second!  Didn’t I do that five years ago?  Yep.  Could it be…would it be…please let it be still on  my computer.  Guess what!!  It’s there…so we have a starting point.  Huge tasks don’t seem so daunting when you have a starting foundation.  This led to a brief but productive grade level meeting.

One thing I started doing years ago is taking notes during sermons.  I think this is partly due to the way He wired me.  I like to stay focused and taking notes keep me focused.  So, at the age of 41, I have several notebooks filled with notes from sermons.  Hmmm, how long has it been since I sat down and reread those notes.  I have no doubt I’d see new truths and be reminded of applications that would benefit my daily journey.  Maybe I should pull those out and add them to my summer reading list?

   However, I must confess….when I went to bed last night I realized I needed to share about being overwhelmed with life and its responsibilities.  You see, I know I’m not alone, most teachers experience being overwhelmed from the end of spring break until the end of the school year.  For me, as the weeks pass during those two months, it seems my plate becomes more and more full. 

  This week has been one of those weeks…where everyday it seems like there’s “one more thing” added.  To be honest, none of them are bad things…but even good things can become overwhelming. 

   For example, our church has a ladies’ luncheon every spring.  I am a hostess at one of the tables, and I try to make my table look fun and my guests feel special.  Then, I write and act in a skit which goes along or introduces the theme of the luncheon.  Throw in typing a program, typing church meeting minutes, creating a brochure for Celebrate Southwestern‘s Accelerated Math table, putting together luncheon door prize donations, writing notes, grading papers, finding a lost camera, attending small group, spending time with my “Little Sister”, creating a new puppet personality, needing to be at one place from 11-2 and another place from 1-3 on Saturday, and having enough energy for all of the above…I was a little overwhelmed.  Scratch that…yesterday as I decorated my table, put together my gift bags for my table guests, and waited to practice the skit…I was a lot overwhelmed.

   Last night, as I laid down for the night and pondered all that had transpired over the past few weeks and awaited me this weekend…I just thought…
“I need a break!  I can’t do this.  I need to learn to say no and just run away for a bit.” 
And you know what….one of those verses that God has not only hidden in my  heart but I believe etched it in stone there came to my mind and calmed my heart. 

Be still, Jodi, and know that I am God…

   Ahh!  What a refreshment that simple verse was to my overwhelmed soul!  He was there through all of the overbooked scheduling…all the simple tasks that I needed to accomplish…and He simply reminded me to stop…and remember that He IS God.  He doesn’t change.  He’s as present in the midst of the chaos of April and May as He is in the excitement of August and September.  Yes, He calmed my soul in the midst of my personal storm.

   This morning, as I awakened, I was reminded of another truth etched on my heart.

Joy comes in the morning. 

   Today was a new day.  I could choose to be overwhelmed by all I needed to accomplish.  I could be frustrated with all that I’ve been doing lately and gripe that I need to learn to say ‘no’.  I could choose how I would greet this day. I chose to let go of those frustrations and accept the day as it presents itself.

   Then, as you read above, all of those “woohoo” moments took place.  As I pondered anew these past weeks, I realized that whether my life is calm or chaotic…that I must find time to be still and know that He is God and to appreciate the truth that joy comes in the morning.

Thanks for reading, e-friends, I think I need to leave the serenity of my empty classroom with K-love playing online…and go pick up the best nephew in the world…and maybe the two of us and our iPads can get a beverage at McDs and enjoy their free Wifi.  I mean….if you get a new “toy” you need to play with it.  Right?

Lost Camera!

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on April 26, 2012

   I’ve come to the conclusion that my memory, which at one time was very accurate, isn’t what it used to be.  The newest dilemma to fall prey to my bad memory is my Olympus camera.  Sadly, it is missing.  Now, to many, this may not be a big deal, but to me…it’s HUGE!

   You see, I keep my blue camera in a purple case in my purse at all times.  Well, it’s usually in my purse at all times, until that dreaded day…when it wasn’t.

   On Monday, April 9th, our third graders had a spring music program at 6:00pm.  Not wanting to mess with my purse, I simply grabbed my purple case and headed into the gymnasium.  All was well.  I took my pictures, and life was good.

   Then, I returned to my car eager to arrive home, so…I merely tossed my blue camera in my purple case into my rolling cart which was already loaded in the car.  No biggie, right?  I can put in my purse later.

   A day or two later, after my language students wrote in their writer’s notebooks, I decided to take a couple pictures of them sharing.  I like having photographs of my students to include in their Third Grade Writing Anthology at the end of the year.  Not a problem…I reached down into my cart and picked up my purple case.  I snapped a few pictures…and….and….

I don’t remember!

  Time passes.  April 23rd arrives, and my homeroom is thrilled to see the seedlings which have popped up in many of our “Seed Manipulation” cups.  So, I think to myself, I should snap a few pics of them observing and recording their observations. 

   Aghast! 

It is not there. Not in my cart, not in my purse,
Not on my desk, could this be worse?
Not on the table, not in my car,
Oh, Camera, tell me where you are!

  So, I think to myself, if it’s not in those places, then I must’ve taken it home.  Yep, that’s where it is…I’m sure.

  Double bummer!

It’s not there! Not on the table, not by my chair,
Not in the office, not anywhere?
Under the couch, is Jasper my stealer?
I give up…let’s find a camera dealer.

  Yes, after looking throughout my classroom, my car, and my house,  I’ve given up.  I’ve returned to Amazon, where I bought my blue Olympus camera and found…a purple Olympus camera just like it.  So, it’s ordered.  I use my camera way too much–whether at church, at school, or spending time with my “Little Sister”–to not have a camera.

   Yes, I realize that as soon as I receive my new camera that my “old camera” may suddenly pop up.  To be honest, I’m hoping that happens as I had some cute pictures of my BBBS “Little Sister” from Easter, which I hadn’t downloaded or printed yet.  Who knows?  Maybe when I’m packing up my classroom at the end of May it’ll suddenly be located?  Or perhaps, when I sort through the stack of “stuff” on my office desk I’ll find it at home?  For now…I’ve given up.

   Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t give up on us? 

   When we’re lost, He seeks us out.  One of my favorite parables in the Bible is The Lost Coin.  Actually, I enjoy the lesson of all of the lost parables whether it’s a coin, sheep, or son.  Yet, these days….with me misplacing things so often, I suppose I relate to the woman searching the house for her coin. 

   I’ve heard many preachers preach about one or all of those parables.  It always brings joy to my heart to hear how heaven rejoices when a lost soul accepts the Savior.  Likewise, it brings me joy when I realize when His wayward children wander away from Him…He lovingly welcomes us back. 

   Yes, I’m glad God loves me enough to never stop seeking me, forgiving me, loving me. 

   Hmmm…maybe I should look again for that camera?  But…I have papers to grade, so maybe later.

Edmodo Enters Room 302

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on April 25, 2012

   In my language arts class, we have started using a website to help with communication, learning, instruction, and assessment.  [If you’re a teacher, visit www.edmodo.com to see what it’s all about.] When my language arts students rotate to the iPad table, the first thing they do is use the Edmodo app.

   Right now, I’ve posted two questions regarding their book club.  Let’s see…I’ve asked them to pick a character from their assigned book club and tell me about him/her including either their personality or what’s going on with them in the story’s plot.  Then, today I added a challenge for them to name a character and write five adjectives to describe him/her.  And, just for fun, I posted a poll asking them to pick their favorite fairy tale out of five I’ve listed.

   What’s the purpose of this?  Well, first, it’s a more engaging and interactive way for them to reflect and communicate about their book.  You see, when they post their thoughts, the rest of our class can see their writing.  Tomorrow, I’m going to pull up “our class page,” and we’re going to examine and discuss the offerings of the various students.  Eventually, fingers crossed, I will be able to fairly assess their understanding as well as their language conventions.

   Now, besides this being “more fun”, as my students have pointed out to me, it’s also good practice for the inevitable move to ISTEP+ online.  The thought of my third graders taking a high-stakes test online, where they can just click through answers, scares me a bit.  Yet, knowing that they’ll eventually have to complete the writing portion of the assessment online as well literally scares me to death.  Well OK, not literally…but it scares me…a lot.

   So, I figure if they get to the point where they can communicate their thoughts appropriately to me using Emodo, then maybe…just maybe, they can meet the challenge.

   Now, you know…I wouldn’t be writing this unless I had an application or challenge in there for my spiritual journey, so here you go.

   If my students were perfect in following directions, then the only writing I would see on our class page would be about their book club characters and their preference of fairy tales.  Alas, that is not the case.  Wow!  My students must not be perfect at following directions, so what else did they write?  Let’s see…

   One student chose to praise another student’s participation and completion of their book club. 
Several students affirmed the character of another student by declaring him nice and awesome, to which someone proclaimed that everyone likes him.  A student who is new to my language class said he enjoyed being in my class.  Several students told me I was a good reader…a really good reader.
And others simply told me they liked me.

   Now, I know it wasn’t their assignment, but how can I possibly correct behavior that affirms others?  I can’t.  So I simply remind them to complete the assignment.  If they want to add affirmations (as we discussed that negative comments were cyber-bullying), I don’t mind…as long as they take care of their responsibilities as well.

   The same goes with me and my time with God. 

   Yes, He wants me to study, to pray, to meditate, to worship, to confess, to serve, to disciple, to witness…  There’s lots of things I can do within my relationship with Him. 

   If I go to Him in prayer and in the midst of my prayer start sharing about my likes and dislikes, does He care that I lost focus?  Nope, I don’t get a composition grade…just an eager Listener who loves me. 

   If I’m confessing and start asking Him to help me to do better, He just sees my heart…not the disorganized manner in which I’m sharing my soul with Him. 

   If I’m praising Him and start sharing how blessed I am because of people in my life, does He become angry because I’ve went off task?  Nope, after all, He’s the Creator of those people who blessed me, so I’m also thanking Him for bringing them into my life. 

   My students are so eager to get to the iPads and share their thoughts on Edmodo.  Is it because it’s a new thing?  Perhaps, but it’s nice to see their excitement just the same.  The same goes with my eagerness to share my journey with others.  Am I eager to share how He has blessed me and used me and taught me?  I’m sure my eagerness brings Him joy as well.

  And the best part…I don’t get a grade.  He doesn’t tell me my participle dangled or I ended with a preposition.  He doesn’t ask me if I used the appropriate punctuation.  He simply sees my heart and accepts it with all its “typos”. 

   You see…just like my students have to be in my “class” to be able to post comments…I must be in His family to have Him see past my “typos” and accept me through the blood of Christ.  Yep, that’s a sweet, sweet thought to end on.

Lesson from My ‘Lunch Bunch’

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on April 24, 2012

   Most teachers have an ample amount of incentives to use in a classroom.  One incentive that I use is called the Lunch Bunch.  To receive this high honor, a student goes six weeks with only losing one sticker. 

   How does a student earn a sticker?  They don’t.  But…they can lose their sticker.  At the beginning of each day, a student starts with a clean slate.  At the beginning of the day, they know they will get a sticker in that day’s spot on their chart.  However, they also know that if they forget their homework or make choices that result in turning two cards (we have color codes, and the first turn is merely a warning), then that sticker will be forfeited. 

   During the first semester, we would have 5-8 students earn the status of Lunch Bunch.  Then, those students and I simply eat lunch in my classroom.  Nothing big…just a 20-25 minute lunch in room 302.

   Well, last Friday we filled a chart, so today we had lunch together. (I always make sure it’s a day I’ll eat the school lunch, so it feels more like we’re having a family dinner.)  Drum roll please…tadatadatada…today, we had a whopping 11!  Now this may not seem like a big deal, but it’s 1 1/2 less than half my class. We were quite proud our total was that high. 

   So, I sat at one end of the table, and there were five students on either side with the final student at the opposite end.  It was like the Waltons with Grandpa or John Boy.

   At the beginning, every time we have this activity, someone will remark how quiet it is and how we can hear the cafeteria (that has about 200 students eating lunch).  Then, slowly but surely, the conversations begin.  After remarking how it felt like we were in a restaurant, the real talking began.  For the next 20 minutes, I had 11 students who couldn’t wait to tell me…something.

   I heard stories about dead dogs, dumb dogs, hospital visits, plane rides, approaching college graduations, and more dog stories.  Sometimes, they’d have quiet conversations, but for the most part…they were eager to talk to me.  To see my face react to the stories they shared.  We finally had to outlaw dead animals stories…I mean it was lunch after all. 

   I glance at the clock and realize it’s time to head to the cafeteria to return our trays and pick up the 12 students (we had two absent today).  And, just like every other time, I hear these types of remarks.

“Already?  I’m not finished.”
“Can I go ahead and finish my story?” [Sure, she told it to me as we walked down the hallway]
“Well, listen to this, Miss P…”

   You see…they had so much to talk about…to share with me about their journey through life that time had zipped by and they weren’t ready for it be finished.

Of course, it made me think….

   As I sat watching hands being raised during lunch…eager to be the next one to tell a story, I thought…”I bet God would love for us to be this eager to talk to Him.”

   Yep, in the midst of my lunch with 11 third graders, I realized I needed to have that same excitement about talking to Him.  He already knows my tears and my joys, but He still wants me to tell Him about it.  From our trivial lunch stories, “I like burnt corn.  Do you?”  To the more personal stories, “I was holding my baby sister in my arms when she died.”  Yes, I should have that same passion to have His attention….to spend talking to Him. 

   Of course, I must admit.  There were also times at lunch when they listened to me.  Whether it was sharing stories about Jasper (my cat) or Connor (my nephew), they were just as eager to know me better.  God is too.  The more time I spend with Him…the more I know Him…the closer I grow to Him.  I can guarantee I know those 11 students more now than I did before sharing lunch and listening to their dog stories.

  Then, I thought…and the best part…He’s always there.  I don’t have to raise my hand and wait my turn.  I don’t have to wait six weeks until there’s time.  I don’t have to worry that I’ll mess up one too many times and lose my chance.  I can do it right now.  But will I?  Will you?

   Learn from my lunch bunch, and sit down to sup with Him.  Share your thoughts, your dreams, your sorrows….share your very soul.

There’s an App for That!

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on April 23, 2012

  Seems that I-Pads are hitting schools full force, and as an elementary teacher who strives to be techie and engaging…I’m thrilled.  Of course, as of today, I’m I-Padless personally…but I have about an hour each day when my language arts’ students are able to utilize them to reinforce skills as well as challenge their learning.

   I’m wishing I would be able to download and check out apps over the summer…to be up and ready for useful integration in the fall.  Don’t know if our I-Pads will have that capability, so I’ll have to meet with my principal to check it out.  But, I know for most things I would like to use the I-pad for in my classroom, “there’s an app for that!”.  I get excited just thinking about all the opportunities ahead for my instruction and my students.

   Speaking of apps, during the K-Love pledge drive, I heard them share about an app which allowed you to order your Starbucks drinks.  Now, since I don’t drink coffee, I have no use for this app, but I found it hilarious that there was an “app for that”.

   It seems, from what I read online and hear through conversation or radio/television that there’s an app for almost anything you’d like to experience or use the I-Pad for…how cool is that!

   Well, you know what comes next…the connection…to something that has more endurance than an I-Pad, more longevity than technology, and more availability than apps…AND far more valuable.

   This weekend, as I shared in an earlier blog, I attended a Spiritual Disciplines conference at my church.  Friday night, we focused on using the Psalms to guide our prayer life.   Dr. Whitney shared how “there’s a Psalm for every sigh of the soul“.  He pointed out that many of us don’t have the prayer life we’d like to have because “we say the same old things about the same old things“. 

   By using the Psalms to guide your prayers, you may be praying about most of the same old things, but you’ll be praying in a new way and also about additional things.  It really is a great method of improving your prayer life, so I encourage you to learn more about it and try it in your own journey.

   Then, on Saturday morning, after reviewing praying with Psalms (and other passages), he moved on to meditation.  Reminding us that we are to meditate on His Word day and night.  Now, obviously while I’m teaching my third graders, I can’t pull on my Bible and read/reread today’s verse or verses.  However, if I meditate in the morning, then I can recall and ponder that truth throughout the day. 

   For example, today’s verse from K-Love came to my inbox this morning, so I sat at my computer a bit and prayed through it and then meditated on it.  So, as I’m teaching my class, I can think on the fact that His laws our right and will guide my life.  I can reflect on whether the things I do and say are abiding by His right laws.  Therefore, I can meditate on the verse because I’ve hidden it in my heart, not because I have the Book in my hand. 

   Plus, just like there’s an app for almost anything you want to do on an I-Pad, there is a Psalm for anything you’re feeling.
Having a great day? Pray through one of David’s Psalms of joy.
Experiencing heartache? Yep, there’s a Psalm for that experience too.
So, take a gander…there’s a Psalm for that.
Of course, these days…you don’t need a book in your hand. 
Grab your techie tool and read the Bible…there’s an app for that!

This, That, or the Other?

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on April 20, 2012

I must confess.  This morning, when I was heading to school, I pondered what to write today.  I asked God to inspire me with a topic or illustration to use for today’s writing analogy.  And…the pondering…the prayer…were answered with silence.  So, I thought, perhaps….I’m supposed to take “Fridays off” since school is always so packed with weekly assessments, planning for next week, wrapping up this week, and whatever fills my post-school hours.

I thought…”Well, since you started a blog for your language class and told your parents about your school related blogs…that’s plenty for today.”

Yes, teachers are some of the world’s best rationalizers. (Is that a word? I know it’s not, but I’m using it anyway.)

One thing that I realized after leaving school at 5:22 to meet a friend for dinner at 5:30 (when the drive takes 15 minutes) is how often I have plans made for school and then…something else comes up…and then another thing comes up.  So, I have to choose.  Do I have a class meeting?  Give the pretest in math to the two students who may need alternate math instruction/activities next week?  Take my students to watch some fourth grade students do monologues from the perspective of historical figures?  Well, I chose the latter…knowing that “this” and “that” would be rescheduled so we could attend “the other”.

It’s nice when we can make those choices and still do “this” and “that” at another time.  But…what about those times when by doing “this” we miss out on “that”?  It seems to happen frequently in my life, and I’m guessing it does in yours as well.

This really hit home at 6:45 p.m. while I sat at the Spiritual Disciplines Conference taking place at my church this weekend.  You see, my plan was to go to the conference sessions this evening, a science workshop tomorrow, and finish prepping for next week on Sunday.  That’ll work, right?  Sure.

However, as I sat listening to Dr. Whitney speak about prayer, I was overwhelmed with the conviction that my schedule was wrong for the weekend.  I couldn’t truly focus on his teaching concerning prayer until I agreed with the conviction that I needed to be in attendance at all the sessions of the conference. I altered my plans, decided to send out my cancellation for tomorrow during the break, and peace took over.

For the next couple of hours, I was challenged and inspired in my personal prayer life.  During our second session, Dr. Whitney gave us time to put his teaching into practice (praying through a Psalm).  What would be impressed upon my heart to pray about as I read through Psalm 8?  “how majestic is your name in all the earth!”.  I prayed that He would use my simple attempt to blog to magnify His name through the world…or in this case…the world-wide-web. 

Oh?  So that’s why I had silence this morning…because He had something planned for me to write this evening.  When my prayer during session 2 concluded, I knew I had just received the answer to my morning prayer…I just had to wait twelve or so hours.

Now, for those of you who know me…the fact that I’m alert enough at 10:00 p.m. to write this should tell you how much this evening’s teaching challenged me.  Granted, I’ll be heading to bed soon after I hit “publish”, but I knew I needed to be obedient to write what was impressed upon my heart this evening. 

You see, I have no doubt that I would have a great time attending the science workshop at Hanover College tomorrow.  I am certain I would receive ideas for effective & engaging science activities, laugh with Dr. Rubino, enjoy lunch with Mendi, and appreciate the stipend when it arrived later.  But “that” had to be replaced for me to do “this”, and I have no doubt that God has something grand in store to teach me tomorrow. 

In closing, I thought I’d share a prayer…inspired by the teaching of this evening’s message.

The Spirit helps us in our weakness.
Father, thank You so much for being my strength when I am weak.  When I kept yawning this evening, You helped me to focus.  You taught me so much this evening in spite of my weakness. 
For we do not know what to pray for as we ought,
I praise You for the teaching of Dr. Whitney.  I look forward to using Your Word as I pray that it would be genuine and glorifying to you.
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 
How awesome it is to know that Your Spirit intercedes for me when I can’t put my prayers into words. 
And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 
The conviction of Your Spirit this evening was appreciated, as I know You have great things in store for me tomorrow morning.  Please guide all of my steps according to Your will.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
When things go according to my plans or when things go terribly wrong, it is comforting to know that You work all of those things together for my good and for Your purpose.
Help me to glorify You in all I say, do, and write.
Amen
Romans 8:26-28

Direction #4 – Encourage One Another

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on April 19, 2012

In the journey though this academic year, my language arts class has enjoyed three rounds of “Book Club”.  OK, I’ve enjoyed the clubs…and most of my students enjoyed the clubs, but I’m sure there is a handful who would’ve rather just read the textbook instead. For the most part, these have been successful learning experiences for both my students and me. 

Today’s post focuses on the journey of two of the boys in my language class.  You see, during that first round of “Book Club”, they chose not to stay on top of their reading assignments and discussion questions.  Perhaps, it was their first experience with this type of literacy learning and they didn’t realize how not doing an assignment could snowball?  In the midst of that first trip through the discussion groups, I received e-mails from the parents of each of these two students.  It seems that both boys were “suddenly” not wanting to come to school.

After learning this news, I reflected on what could have happened in class that would cause this sudden change.  You see, these two boys have loads of friends, positive attitudes, and do well in school.  So, the epiphany came that they knew I would be disappointed that they weren’t prepared and they would be even further behind if they didn’t catch up on the assigned reading.  I shared my realization with both sets of parents and encouraged them to help their sons during the evening to complete their assigned reading/questions prior to the next scheduled discussion meeting.

By this point, their scheduled discussion group was soon approaching.  One of the boys was close, but he wasn’t quite there.  Since he had his morning responsibilities finished, I asked a girl in his discussion group to work with him to get him prepared for our book club meeting.  Great news!  Did you guess?  Yep, both boys were ready for their next discussion.  The two girls in their book club noted how much nicer it was having four students discuss the book rather than simply the two girls.  I praised their efforts in “catching up” and being prepared for the day’s discussion.

Honestly, you would’ve thought the three of us had just showered them with winning lottery tickets.  Wow!  What a difference those simple remarks of encouragement had on those two students.  By the end of that first book club journey, I had received follow-up communication from parents that all was back to normal on the morning front.

Then, in January…book clubs loomed ahead.  I remembered the discouragement those two boys experienced due to not staying up on their assignments, so my class discussed it prior to beginning the journey.  I’m proud to share that both boys decided to complete reading assignments and their discussion booklet prior to meetings.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I still had a couple students who didn’t realize the importance of completing their responsibilities by the assigned discussion dates, but the encouragement those two boys received back during our first book club still continues to motivate and encourage them.

In fact, now we are in the midst of our final book club.  One of those two boys was absent for a few days during the first week.  When he returned, he only had a couple days to read his first group of chapters and complete the discussion guide.  He asked me, “Miss P, is it OK if I don’t use my I-Pad time, so I can work on my book club to be ready for Friday?”

Wow!  What a difference those few words of encouragement made for the rest of the year!  Then, that same boy came to his second discussion group last week, and this was his remark.
 “Miss P, I don’t want this to be our last book club.  I don’t want our language class to end.” 

Now, I’m not so naive to think that part of this isn’t simply his personality.  I mean, the other day when I was reading aloud to my language class and I was wearing sandals, he told me I had pretty toes. [Yep, toenails were painted for Easter, and the polish endures.]  But still, it was a sweet sentiment to share. 

Did you see what happened?  During the first semester, I encouraged him…and during the last nine-weeks, he encouraged me….and I’m not referring to my toenails.

Way back in college (yep, that’ way back since I graduated in 92), I created a little motto for myself that said…
“Encourage those you appreciate, and appreciate those who encourage you.”
Perhaps, you’d like to borrow my motto as your own?  I’ll gladly share it.

Well, my students have arrived, and it’s time to go make a difference…to encourage someone…who will encourage someone…who will encourage someone….

Following Directions?

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on April 18, 2012

Those people who know me…know I like to follow directions.  If there’s a recipe, I like to have it open while I prepare it.  Even if I’ve made the dish a few times, having the recipe open and visible encourages me…I’m “following directions”.  It may be my “methodical” personality, as it’s been called…but…I like directions.

Sadly, it doesn’t seem like some of my third graders appreciate directions as well as I do.  Or, perhaps, they just don’t realize that it requires one to read them in order to know what to do.  Yes, you are reading a bit of sarcasm in that sentence.  Some days, I don’t know if it’s funny or frustrating?  

During my language arts class, a student comes up and says, “Miss P, I don’t know what to do on this page.”  
“Well,” I reply, “what do the directions say?”
“Oops, I forgot to read them,” he honestly answers.

I’d like to say this is a one time thing, but…I’m guessing if you check with teachers across the county, state, nation…perhaps the entire world…you’ll find that some students would rather “be told” what to do rather than “read” and learn for themselves.

Hmmm, are we the same way?  

Would I rather someone tell me how to put my new desk together or read and learn how to do it myself?  OK, maybe I’m an exception…but when I put my big corner desk together and…well, it didn’t collapse, I was quite proud of myself.  {Of course, I must admit I ignored one direction, “Two people required to lift desk into standing position.”  What was I supposed to do?  My cat refused to help! Ha.} 

Likewise, that same student, who consistently comes up to me not knowing what to do because he didn’t read directions, was so proud of himself when he announced that he completed a task. “Without your help because I read the directions!”  Of course, I praised his responsibility and encouraged him to do it again…and again…and again.  Will he remember every time to “read the directions before asking for help”?  Of course not, but it’s a goal to aim for, isn’t it?

I find I’m the same way.  Yes, I like reading and following directions, but there are times…I must admit, it simply doesn’t get done.  So, let me share one of the times I didn’t “read” before asking questions.  

Many moons ago, our church was having a DiscipleNow weekend.  On Thursday night, following the concert, many of the adults helping with the weekend traveled to downtown Madison, IN, to eat at Hinkle’s.  Now, even though I’ve grown up in Madison, living here since fourth grade, I had never eaten at Hinkle’s prior to this evening.  
So, as I sat looking at the menu, I asked the waitress, “Do you have Coke or Pepsi?”  
Doug started laughing and responded, “Jodi…look at their border?”
Yep, you guessed it…I looked up to the top of the wall and saw a lovely Coca-Cola border around their walls.  I laughed it off and blamed it on my hair color.

You see, we all fail to read directions or see the obvious at times.  So, I start pondering the more important directions.  Those directions that tell us how we should live…how we should treat others…how we should think…how we should talk.  The cool part is…all those directions, for me, are written within the pages of a Book in which I have many different copies in many different versions.  I can’t blame it on not being able to read it because I have a copy of the directions in almost every room of my house…I carry a copy in my purse.  So let’s face it…they’re with me always, or almost always.  But, do I read it enough to know them well?  

You know those recipes I shared about earlier.  I made one last night…quite yummy.  It’s called Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Bake.  So, so simple…tasty…and makes good leftovers.  I’ve made it a total of three times, but I know the recipe well enough to complete it without reading it step by step.  Still, I made sure to read the final sentence to ensure it didn’t burn.

I should be the same with that all important book of directions. Yes, becoming a Christian as a child and being active in a gospel teaching & preaching church, I know how I’m supposed to talk….interact with others…think.  But, that doesn’t mean I should stop reading through my book to remind myself of the instruction.

So…I thought I’d share some directions that I attempt to meditate on at various times in my yearly, weekly, daily journey….
#1–Love my Lord with all my heart, soul, and mind. 
#2–Love my neighbor.
#3–Cheerfully share what I have.
#4–Encourage others.
#5–Make a joyful noise.
#6–Filter my words.
#7–Guard my thoughts.
#8–Appreciate the value of children.
#9–Everything has a purpose.
#10–Be Still

Well, if I follow all the directions above…then, I guess….there’s a purpose even for those days when we fail to read and follow the directions.  It’s during those times of failing that we learn to ask for help…that we have a moment of time when we learn a valuable lesson.  Yes, if that boy in my language class hadn’t forgotten to read directions over and over again…then…well, what would I have written about today?  

 I’m sure you figured out the book of directions I’ve mentioned.  I’m guessing you know its name, and I’m hoping that you have at least one copy of it to read and learn from as you travel life’s journey.  And, for those of you like me, who like to read the directions for yourself…you can find my “Top Ten” (at least for today) at the following addresses.  Enjoy… reading…learning…and following directions form the One who leads me.

#1 & 2–Luke 10:27
#3–2 Corinthians 9:7
#4–1 Thessalonians 5:11
#5–Psalm 98:4
#6–Ephesians 4:29
#7–Philippians 4:7
#8–Matthew 18:5
#9–Romans 8:28
#10–Psalm 46:10

Lessons from a Seed Manipulation Inquiry

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

As I sit at my computer desk contemplating what to work on  during my 25 minutes of prep time, I look outside.  Right outside my classroom window is a courtyard with a small tree growing in it.  I see the branches gently blowing and think how nice it would be to be outside…walking around the playground.  Then, I look at the students’ desks…and I see the need for us to clean, clean, clean those things out!  Man, I think their desks are as messy as mine, and they have lots less room for the disorganization.    Finally, I look over to the window ledge…and see seven clear cups with seeds planted…not growing.  

Do you know how disappointed students are when they are waiting for seeds to germinate?  Do you know how frustrated an elementary teacher becomes when the “science” isn’t happening like she “thinks” it should?  Let’s just say…each day…of no growth…is greeted with both frustration and disappointment.  However, it’s also greeted with hope.

You see…when there’s no growth…when “nothing” is happening…there’s always hope.  Hope that something will happen soon…  Hope that something is happening “beneath the surface” that we simply can’t see. The frustration and hope that the twenty-six people in room 302 experience due to those stubborn seeds are part of our life journey.  Don’t you think?

A pastor once told me that if we’re not coming out of a personal storm or in the midst of a personal storm…to hold on because a storm is on the way.  Likewise, after the storm…is the calm weather, the clear sky, the cool breeze, and the rainbow promise.  As you go through those storms…or periods of uncertainty…or arid growth spurts, there’s hope.  Hope that the storm will end soon.  Hope that the uncertainty will be made clear.  Hope that growth will begin.

Whether the growth is physical, emotional, academic, or spiritual…it will come.  Sometimes…the soil just needs to be tended more than others.  Sometimes, the seeds are too old and “new” seed should be used.  But that cup of soil…it will bring growth.  Just observe…hope…and tend the garden before you.  And if there’s a storm, hold on…it won’t last long.

Testing…Testing…Testing…

    Original post on April 16, 2012, on Miss P’s Ponderings.

Life seems to be filled with tests.  Passing or failing these tests have rewards and/or consequences.

     As an educator, it seems that the government prompts us to give more and more tests to our students.  To measure our students’ academic progress, we give them various tests throughout the school year.  To assess acquisition of new material, we test their recall and application.  To guide our instruction, we assess what students know prior to the beginning of a new unit of instruction.  Yes, tests fill the lives of elementary students and their teachers.

But what about outside of the education world?  Are there tests in the “real world” that face us?  Of course!  

Have you ever driven down a road and noticed a police car with a scanner aimed at the street?  They’re putting you to the test.  Are you driving at the speed limit?  Are you being a safe driver?  If not, there will be consequences.  I hope you passed these tests and didn’t get a dreaded ticket.

What other tests are there?  Let’s face it….there are more tests each day than this blog can hold.  

If my contract day begins at 7:45a.m., am I going to be there before or after?  If I walk in at 7:46, I failed the test of punctuality.  My students will be forced to wait outside my room until I decide to arrive.  If my class is supposed to arrive at “special class” at 11:06, then…I pass if they arrive at 11:06.  If I arrive too early, did I fail?  Possibly…I took time away from instruction, but if I arrive late I take time away from my instructional planning time.  Tests, tests, tests.  How do we test whether a test is important?

Yet, personally, if I look within myself….to examine the tests that matter most to me, what do I find?

Test 1:  Am I being the person God created me to be?  Do my words and actions bring Him glory?  Do they point others to Him?  If I answer yes…then I pass today’s test.  If my answer is no…then I need to “practice” and assess again.
Test 2:  Am I the family member I need to be?  As a single woman, I examine my relationships with my parents, my sisters, and my nephew.  Am I the daughter, sister, and aunt that I need to be?  Sometimes, I think they would be better at assessing this test than a self-assessment.
Test 3:  Am I the friend I should be?  Do I bring Sonshine or rain into their lives?  Do I encourage or frustrate them?  Again, self-assessment is sometimes difficult on this one.  Perhaps, I should ask my friends to point out areas where I need “remediation”.
Test 4:  Am I the teacher I need to be?  Am I teaching the academic standards I need to cover?  Am I challenging students to go beyond their current level?  Am I engaging my students in their education?  An I differentiating my instruction, so students are taught the material in a manner which works best for them at their ability level?  Perhaps a video camera would help answer most of these questions.
Test 5:  Am I being me?  Have you ever noticed how easy it is to become who “they” want you to be…or expect you to be?  This, too, is a tough test to assess.  Am I being true to who I am?  To whom God made me to be?  Or…am I acting, doing, behaving like “they” want me to, even if it goes against who I am?  

Yes…there are tests all around us.  Sadly, if my third graders fail the I-Read test, the state government says they need to stay in third grade again.  If my students fail ISTEP+, then the fourth grade teachers know what areas they need to focus on when planning their instruction.  If they score badly on one of our various assessments, I reteach and reassess.  

Life is a process…a journey.  I would hate to think that my “performance” one day for a couple hours would determine my path for next year.  Yet, with high-stakes testing…that’s what the government says.  

Yes, life is filled with tests.  If you pass, sometimes you are rewarded.  But…sometimes, passing simply means you’re doing what you need to do.  If you fail, sometimes you are penalized.  But, sometimes, there is mercy & grace, and Someone takes the penalty for you.  And for that…I say thank you.