Saturday, January 31, 2015

Celebration Time

Semester exams are finally over! It is definitely time to celebrate! Students worked hard (well, most of them), teachers worked extra hard to get grades ready, and everyone is hoping for a snow day on Monday!

Basketball game was so much fun last night! There were a few moments when I looked at the score board that I wished our girls had a few more points, but then came the boys turn, and everything changed. I almost wished that the opposing team had a few more baskets as well.

Supportive coworkers are the key to surviving with joy any stressful week at work (or even a longer time)! Laughing, planning, making coffee, even getting serious for a a few moments, and then drinking another cup of coffee and wondering if H. will make if to the end pf exam week before her baby will make an appearance. (She did make. Still waiting to hear baby news.)

Sunny days were also a big bonus for this week! A couple of times this week I was able to turn of the lights in my classroom to work just using natural light from outside! This is a treat in Michigan during winter! Time to open the drapes and enjoy another sunny day!

Fitbit step counter has been keeping me moving! This week I reached my goal for steps every day!!!! I am so excited!!! Moving even in the winter makes me a better teacher and human being! So I am off to the gym to make sure steps are met today as well! More writing and commenting later today!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Turn to Me, He said.

Holly created this wonderful opportunity to connect with others on our spiritual journeys. Spiritual Journey Thursdays are a time to slow down, think deeper, dig deeper, reflect on my journey with God, and learn by connecting with God and other God followers. Join me and others as we travel on this journey each Thursday with Holly and friends. This week we are writing about Leigh Anne's One Little Word: Turn.  

Turn to Me, He said.
I didn't pay attention. I walked my road.
Twisting and turning.
Occasionally stumbling and falling.

Turn to Me, He said.
I can do it. I was raised to be strong.
Maybe I am a little too proud to admit I could use some help.
But only occasionally.

Turn to Me, He said again.
I think my ears were turned to a different channel. 
I was busy. I was sitting on the director's seat.
Occasionally seeking advice from someone.

Turn to Me, He said a little louder this time.
I was busy reading. Or  maybe writing.
I ordered new books.
Occasionally turning my ear to Him.

Turn to Me, He said, and stay awhile.
Really? I have stuff to do and papers to grade.
Plans need to be made.
Occasionally I could make a short visit.

Turn to Me, He said. So patiently.
Okay. I hear you!
But couldn't you wait a bit?
Occasionally I can clear my schedule for you.

Turn to Me, He said again. Lovingly.
This is an invitation. For me!
Should I RSVP?
Occasionally or frequently?

Turn to Me, He said.
And I did! I didn't just RSVP,
but I spent time with Him.
Occasionally at first, but hopefully more frequently in the future.

Thank you, for turning to Me, He said.
After welcoming me with open arms.
Not just occasionally,
but every time.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Progress--when does progress equal success?

Winter break came and went. Since then, the talk at school has been assessments, exams and some more assessments. Think, NWEA, WIDA, M-STEP, ACT, MME, local assessments.....

 This is the conversation that I had with a colleague yesterday after school:

-Do you want to see my students' NWEA scores? Many of them made amazing gains!
-Do you see this kid? He gained almost 20 points!
-That's amazing!
-Yes, but do you realize that theoretically he is still a total failure as he is nowhere near his actual goal. After having made almost 20 point gain this year, what are his chances of making that gain again before the end of May?
-I really did not have much to say. What could I say?  "Let's wish for a miracle?"
-And do you see this kid, he went down from the fall because he was actually trying now instead of just guessing.
-I know.

Then J. and I started to talk about what really is the most difficult part for the students in math.
Word problems, of course! We are, after all, talking about a student population that is 48% ELL!
We brainstormed ideas. Found simple word problems that J. could use for pre and post tests in his classroom to help his lowest students. We printed visuals for students to use when trying to determine which math function is needed. We made plans how we could pull small groups that need extra help. We strategized!

Still, will any of the work that we have done make a difference if the numbers don't tell the right story? (I wish I had a research to show that NWEA is not meant for basic or lower level ELLs!) Our students might know how to do the computation part just fine, but they do not have enough language and vocabulary to understand the complicated word problems. Does this mean that our students are bad in math?

(Now I am really trying to channel Leigh Anne's OLW, turn, and choose a positive approach even though I am feeling very negative about this endless testing that is taking place!)
So, today, I choose to celebrate with J. the gains that his students have made in math! Today, I choose to collaborate and find ways to help those students who are not proficient yet. Today, I choose to support my colleague and encourage him. Today, I choose to turn my eyes to the positive results, and focus on what good is happening in J's classroom!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Prayer and Priorities

Holly created this wonderful opportunity to connect with others on our spiritual journeys. Spiritual Journey Thursdays are a time to slow down, think deeper, dig deeper, reflect on my journey with God, and learn by connecting with God and other God followers. Join me and others as we travel on this journey each Thursday with Holly and friends. This week we are writing about Michelle Haseltine's One Little Word: Fly.  

On Wednesday morning I was driving to work in a mini-snowstorm. Huge snowflakes were falling down in a hurry. I had a hard time keeping my wipers moving and my windshield clear. Reminder to myself: consider getting new windshield wipers. I was thinking I should probably have had my tires checked. They are, after all, pretty old. I tried to keep my focus on the roads as I did not want to fly through an intersection because I could not stop in time, nor did I want to make friends with the white snowbank on my right side.

I needed to calm myself. A simple prayer: "Lord protect me. Put your angels around my car, and take me safely to work this morning." There is power in prayer. Peace giving power. I prayed again. I asked protection for everyone. 

I arrived at school ready for a busy day. The day turned out to be much busier than I expected.  All day long I kept moving from one project to another, and from one group of students to another. I squeezed in a parent meeting, some planning with co-workers and a few hours of work after school.  There was one short conversation with a co-worker that reminded me again about the things that are important in life. His passion is running; long distance running. Mine is to discover new things and new places. Reading and writing. Finding new ways to teach my students. Get closer to God. 

How can I keep my passions alive without clouding them with work and busyness that seems to never end? Prioritize!!! We learned that word with my high school students this week. It is a good word for me as well. Today I needed to prioritize and get my daily quota of steps (even without going to the gym). I needed to write. I needed to connect with my Spiritual Journey friends. I needed to invest in my social capital. Perhaps discovering how to prioritize every day would be a good first job for my OLW this year!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Take Time to Listen

Holly created this wonderful opportunity to connect with others on our spiritual journeys. Spiritual Journey Thursdays are a time to slow down, think deeper, dig deeper, reflect on my journey with God, and learn by connecting with God and other God followers. Join me and others as we travel on this journey each Thursday with Holly and friends. This week we are writing about Carol Varselona's One Little Word: Listen.   

Listening is hard. 

Especially if I want to pay attention to what I am listening to. I can sort of listen to you very easily while still doing something else. I can correct papers while listening to music or the news on television. I can listen to you on the phone while I am reading my e-mail on the computer.

Listening to God? What would God think if I were to read my e-mails at the same time as I am trying to listen to what He has to say to me? Could/Should I knit while I am listening to Him? 

What are the rules about listening to God? 

Does God speak only in absolute quietness? Or does He embrace noise and chaos? Do I have to sit or stand to listen to God? Can I lay down? What time of the day is it best to listen to Him? Do I have to go through rituals before I am worthy to even approach Him with the intention of  listening?

Maybe there are rules; I am not sure. But what I am sure of is that God loves it when we approach Him with willingness to listen. He loves to spend time with us. He is my friend! He will listen to me. He has said so. 

"I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!"   -Isaiah 65:24-

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."  Jer. 29:11-13

God has promised to listen to me! How awesome is that! The God of the universe has promised to listen to me! I can be confident when I approach Him. He will keep His promise. He will listen. Now I only have to work on my part. Perhaps this week I will take an extra few minutes and try just to listen. God just might surprise me and tell me secret! Wouldn't you want to hear this secret?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My OLW 2015

For the last few weeks I have been pondering my 2015 One Little Word.  Then the last couple of weeks I have been reading blog posts about words that others have chosen for this year. My word was silent. It did not even whisper. I had no sense or feeling what my word for 2015 was going to be. Perhaps there was something wrong with my ears. No. I checked. Hearing was fine, only the input was missing.

What was happening?

I wanted a new word!! A great word! A word that would really make a difference for this year. A word that I could be proud of. You know what I mean? I was imagining how this new word was going to impact me and those around me this year. Something to really write about. Not just in January, but all throughout the year. Maybe a word with a great story about how it came to be. You know these stories. You have read them too.

I started wondering if the problem was that I was not willing to listen what I was hearing?

Unmute the sound.

Increase the volume.

Make sure the sound is clear, and then, listen again.

I did.

And I heard very clearly!

You might wonder why would I fight against such a great word...Well, you see, this was my word for last year! 

This is what I set out to do last year. I was so ready. I was willing to discover the unknown; make a difference. Somewhere along the last 12 months, however, I lost focus. Mundane things overtook and discovery became secondary. 

I think it is time for a rerun!

So, I am going to discover something new this year! Actually, not just something new, but many things.The world is full of possibilities. 

There are books to read, places to visit, and people to meet. There are new things to try and old things to re-discover. There are challenges to face that need new discoveries in order to overcome them. There is learning that needs to take place so that I can discover new knowledge more deeply. There is more writing that is slowly wanting to be discovered. 

I am excited! My OLW might be a rerun, but the discoveries that will be made this year will be brand new!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Focus Disappeared

Thank you Holly for creating this opportunity to dig deeper into the most important things in life.
Stop by at Holly's blog to read more stories about Spiritual Journey.

This week many blogging friends have been writing about their One Little Word for 2015. I think I know mine, but it needs a little confirmation before it will dare to come out in public. I have been, however, very intrigued by many of the words that fellow writers have chosen. Holly's word, focus, has really been on my mind for the last few days. 

The year 2014 started great. I had my One Little Word that I was really excited about. The first few months that word really guided my journey. But then something happened; I lost my focus. It did not happen suddenly, rather so slowly that I did not even realize it. How could that be? 

Photo by oochappan

I felt a little like the photo above; the road was very pretty and I was enjoying the view, but did not really pay attention to where I was going. The road became foggy. There was no clear view on either side. I could see some new life along the road, yet there were long distances where the road was very dry-almost barren. I wanted to climb the hill, then again, the fog made it seem unwise as I could not see what is on the other side.

I was very touched by Holly's post and how she is focusing her spiritual journey this year. Even though "focus" is not my OLW, I also want to make my spiritual life and journey the focus this year. Perhaps the road that I will travel will still be similar to the photo where fog lingers around, and new life appears only sporadically. 
Nevertheless, I will not walk alone! God's word will guide my path. I can look to the right or to the left, and I don't need to be afraid! God is with me. If I need to climb a hill without seeing the top or the other side, He will climb with me. He will catch me if my steps wobble and I fall down. I can take a rest and rest in His presence and in the knowledge that God is with me every step this year! 

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."    Deut. 31:6

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Goodbye is Almost Here

I have had 19 wonderful days with my daughter who has been home from England! We have talked, laughed, laughed some more and given hundreds of hugs to each other. Today she is leaving.

We have cooked together, visited family and friends together. I have had the privilege to hear her speak at church, and just enjoy watching her interact with those that she loves and cares about.

I have fulfilled lunch and dinner requests, and enjoyed every moment of them. I have sat in the living room to wait for to come home after visits with friends just to hear her say, "Mom, you didn't need to wait up." I know I didn't need to, but I wanted to.

I can hear the noises of packing. I think it is time for me to go check out the progress. Enjoy a few more hugs and laughs before it is time to leave for the airport.