Sunday, October 12, 2014

Preventing the Fall "fall"

This is me this school year.... at least it's how I feel.  Every year I start the school year with high expectations; for me, for my students, for my administrators and my school district.  And every year I let those expectations cause me stress, anxiety, fear, frustration, disappointment, and sleepless nights.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm a firm believer in high expectations.  But when the expectations are so high that they are unattainable, that's when my Fall "fall" starts, and I am my own worst enemy.  

This school year started, as all school years do, with a beautiful feeling of a clean slate.  A chance to "try it again".  Another opportunity to be that "perfect" teacher I've always wanted to be, and yet always seem to come up short.  So look out world.... here I come.  THIS is the year!!  And then the first Institute Day in August comes, and, CRASH!  That clean slate just smashed on the floor.  A new Principal, new Assistant Principal, 2 new Special Ed. Coordinators, a new Assistant Supt. for Special Ed., new school/dept. systems, Essential Elements for CCSS, a new IEP program and a new Teacher Evaluation System that is going to make even the most gifted teacher look like an amateur...... all of these things have worked against my Type A, control freak, anxiety riddled self.  And down I go.  

I want to be the best I can be for my students, parents, co-workers and administrators.  I want to come to school each and every day excited about new adventures and new lessons to learn.  But it all overwhelms me.  How can I be the best for my students, when I am consumed with fear of inadequacy and my perceived inability to meet the high expectations of myself and those around me? 

 But I know I have to find a way.  There is nothing I can do about the future....  I have no control over that.  I cannot control new personnel, government mandates, state guidelines or district policies.  These things will come and go with the wind.  What I can control is me.  I can control how I react to these things and I can control how I choose to let it affect my classroom.  So, I am choosing to let it go  .I am choosing to pick myself up off the ground.  I am choosing to come to school every day ready to see my students.  To be encouraged and energized by them.  To ENJOY being in their presence and rejoicing in their growth.  I might not be a "perfect" teacher, but I am the RIGHT teacher for the students I have the pleasure of teaching this year.  I will let go of fear, anxiety, disappointment and frustration and let the future take care of itself.

My Hope is in You!

Hope is the topic of this week's Spiritual Journey Thursday (or Sunday in my case!).  Hope is such a powerful word and I believe it goes hand in hand with last week's topic: trust.  I don't believe you can have one without the other.  Because I fully trust in God, I have hope.

Hope in what, you might ask.  Well, that is a loaded question, and one that has many answers.  I have hope that:
  •  I will once again see loved ones who have gone before me
  •  my life has meaning and serves a purpose in God's world
  • God's truth will find it's way into the heart of those who need our Savior
  •  the fear and anxiety that resides within me will someday loose it's power 
  •  my students with special needs will some day live in a world where they are accepted for the unique, beautiful children they are
  •  that God will use me to spread His Word through my actions, words and deeds
  • Jesus will come again!

This is certainly not an exhaustive list.  I could probably go on for awhile.  But you get the picture.  I can live in this world that is in chaos, that is full of hate, fear, violence, greed and intolerance.  I can live in this world with joy, love, empathy, and perseverance because my HOPE is in Jesus Christ.  My HOPE is in the home He is preparing for me when my time of serving Him is complete.  That hope allows me to see the light in this world, along with the darkness.  Without HOPE, it would be bleak, indeed.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Let go of fear..... trust God!

I have not been very good of late at keeping up with my blog page at all, let alone Spiritual Journey Thursday.  But as usual, @muellerholly has chosen another fabulous topic, and this one hit me right in the heart!  Trusting God......

I can say with all confidence that I trust God implicitly.  I have no doubts about how He intercedes in my life.  But..... I also appreciate the gentle reminders from friends, co-workers, and my favorite.... the Holy Spirit to turn that trust over to God on a daily basis.  Sometimes we can get so caught up in the busyness and stress that consumes us, that it's easy to forget that "God's got this".  

As a teacher, I am responsible for my classroom and the precious children I am entrusted with.  When parents put their children on the bus every day, they trust ME to take care of them, to keep them safe, and to help them learn.  No pressure there, huh?   As someone who suffers from depression and mild anxiety, that can seem overwhelming some days.  But, I need to remember that just as  parents trust me with their children, I need to trust Him with those children, and my day, as well.

I will strive every day to live in the day God has given me.  I will try not to worry about a future I have no control over and turn my fear and anxiety over to The One who can wash away my fears.  Thank you, God.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Absolute Truth

So in the spirit of consistency, I am once again LATE for the Thursday Spiritual Journey post!  But here I am ready to share my thoughts on Truth.  Thanks to @muellerholly for continuing this inspirational blogging journey!

Okay, so, truth.  That is a heavy duty word!  I believe we all feel we know the truth about something..... but for today I am talking about spiritual truth.  And that makes this word even more profound.  Wars have been fought, the mass murder of millions of innocent people have occurred and nations have been threatened or wiped out over spiritual truth.  These things are still happening today!  And I ask myself, how can anyone believe in a truth that can cause such hurt and destruction?  It is not a truth I can comprehend or believe.

But I do know the truth of God.  I rest in the truth of His love, mercy, grace and forgiveness.  I find the truth in His holy scriptures, the Word speaking to me through time.  I find truth in the Holy Trinity, knowing without doubt that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit works in me and through me.  
I know the truth of God because I understand and have experienced these words from Matthew.....

Matthew 7:24-27English Standard Version (ESV)

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be likea foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

I have built my house (life) on the Rock (God).  Many things have tried to knock me off, but the Truth has kept me firmly planted.  My greatest joy would be for those who have been battered, bruised and buried in the sand to find the truth in God.  That they would believe in His unfailing love, accept His forgiveness and feel the power of His mercy and grace.  Because that is the truth!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Reflection is Good for the Soul

Through @teachthought I have accepted the challenge of reflecting on my teaching for 30 days and blogging about my thoughts.  Today I will actually be reflecting on days 2 & 3.

Day 2:  Write about one piece of technology that you would like to try this year and why.  

Hmmm....... this is a difficult question.  I consider myself fairly "techie".  I am very fortunate to have a great variety of technology in my classroom.  I have a laptop, 2 student computers equipped with assistive technology, iPads, iPods, SMARTboard, and Document Camera.  So, as you can see, I am not lacking for any technology equipment.  However, I do have some technology skills that I would like to develop this year.  I am actively seeking out further training on developing lessons in SMART tools.  I can utilize SMART Exchange with the best of them, and I can design simple games or single page lessons.  But I would love to design more complex pages that could meet the specific needs of my students with special needs.  I would also like to become more versed in using Google tools.  I know the basics, but I feel there is so much yet to learn.   To any of my "techie" friends out there who might be reading this, if you have any suggestions on training, or any tools I might explore, please let me know!!!  I love to learn!

Day 3:  Discuss one "observation" area that you would like to improve on for your teacher evaluation.

Wow, another good one!  Our district has just implemented a new, fairly complex, evaluation system this year... and to be honest, I am still familiarizing myself with it.  But, I do know that I really want to look at how I assess my special kiddos and how those results look in developing their IEP goals and implementing curriculum.   Assessment has always been a difficult component of working with children with cognitive impairments, however, in the age of NCLB, IDEA, CCSS and the obsession with teacher accountability, there is no escaping assessment, even with my students.  So as I go through the school year I will be doing my research, seeking out the best methods for assessing my students and applying those scores results to my daily instruction.  I'm quite sure THAT is part of our evaluation! :)

Monday, September 1, 2014

30 Days of Reflection

I'm feeling a little rusty!  In the last few weeks of August I became so busy with the Back-to-School anxieties that I did not take the time to keep up here.  Well, once again I've been spurred on by a Twitter challenge.  When my motivation starts to dwindle, I can always count on my PLN to throw down the gauntlet to get me inspired again!  So, this newest challenge, brought to me by @teachthought is to spend 30 days reflecting and blogging on my teaching.  Each day includes a question for me to ponder and respond to, right here on my blog page.  So, today is Day One... and off we go!

Today's reflective thought:  Write your goals for the school year.  Be as specific or as abstract as you'd like to be!

As a Special Education Teacher, I know how important goals are.  I spend most of my days thinking about, writing, working on, and documenting goals for my students.  But unfortunately when it comes to myself and my teaching, I fail to seriously consider and set goals for myself or my classroom in general.  And when I do take the time to think about it, I have so many that I get overwhelmed and give up.  So I'm very grateful that this challenge is stretching me professionally and personally to carefully consider my goals for the year write them down.  I am setting an achievable  3  4 goals.....

1.  To help my parents, through consistency, communication and honesty, ease their anxieties and worries about their child attending school and giving control to another person for their child's well being.
2.  To be organized and keep control of the paper flow that comes across my desk each day.
3.  To challenge my students academically, behaviorally and socially 
4.  To take care of myself so that I can take care of my students

This is by no means an exhaustive list of what I'd like to accomplish this year, but if I can do these things well, it will create an environment by which I can accomplish all other wishes and desires for my special kiddos!


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Surviving and Thriving Amist Change

Change is scary.  Change is hard.  Change can make us feel like we're loosing control.  And for someone like me who is a self-admitted control freak  likes to have a little control, this can feel overwhelming and stressful.  So this school year is already starting out making me feel a bit "anxious".  My team has 3 teachers....2 of those teachers will be new this year and I am mentoring both of them.  I have a new Assistant Principal, 2 new Special Education Coordinators, and new Music teacher and Social Worker, neither who have ever worked with children with cognitive impairments.  My anxiety has risen just writing this!  However, life without change grows stagnate.  It prohibits growth and learning.  Without change we no longer strive for excellence.  We become complacent and happy with the status quo. 

So.... regardless of my fears and anxiety, I refuse to stay put.  I refuse to become content with "the way things are".  I yearn to move forward, to learn and grow from new experiences, new people, new thoughts and ideas.  And I look forward to the opportunity to share my experiences, thoughts and ideas with others.  
Through my fears and anxieties, I will embrace the coming changes.  I will learn to thrive among the newness of my surroundings and the people around me.  I will celebrate with my new team members as we work together to create an amazing learning environment for our special students.  I will empower them to create creative, fun, challenging classrooms for children.  I will actively engage with my new Assistant Principal/BCM as we learn a new IEP program together and work out the nuances of how we will conduct our IEP meetings.  I will support my new SPED coordinator and be open to new ideas and processes. I will collaborate with the Music Teacher and Social Worker as they learn more about my students and I will be encouraging and supportive of their process.   I will be positive, confident in myself and new colleagues and embrace the change that is coming.  

I will survive.... and I will thrive!

Rebuilding a Community, One House at a Time

Well, I'm late again!  @muellerholly Spiritual Journey Thursday has once again come and gone.  But better late than never I guess.  This week the focus was on Awe and Wonder.  My first thought is: how can you not look at this incredible world we live in, even with all of it's flaws and problems, and not be filled with the Awe and Wonder of an amazing God and Creator?!  I have that feeling on a daily basis, usually inspired by the smile of a small child, a beautiful flower, a view of Lake Michigan, a kind word from a friend, or just the intricacies of our human body.  However, last week I was able to participate in a short term mission trip to Brightmoor, a community in Detroit, Michigan and though Awe and Wonder may not be the words you would think of when you first enter this community, it is the feeling I left with!

Upon entering the Brightmoor community my eyes saw poverty: burned out buildings, over-grown lawns (jungles, really), broken windows and broken dreams.  Awe and Wonder where a long way from Brightmoor!  

But it didn't take long before my heart began to see something more..... hope, conviction, determination, pride, faith and a deep, abiding love in Jesus Christ and the absolute belief that God is alive in the community and will help the people of Brightmoor rebuild.  We said many times on this trip that we came to give hope to the community when in reality they already had hope.  They just needed the hands and feet of others who shared their hope!!   Once we started working along side the people of Brightmoor, their hopes and dreams came alive in us as well.  We were determined to leave in 3 days hopefully having contributed in some small way to making life a little better for the families living there.  

As we walked and drove around the neighborhoods, we could already see the progress.  Many of the houses have been boarded up and painted with beautiful murals to prevent drug dealers from using the abandoned property.  A new school has been built.  Sidewalks and walkways have been cleared and cleaned up to allow safe passage for children walking to school.  Community gardens have been developed.  Parks have been made safer.  Those committed to living in the community have begun taking pride in their property and maintaining their homes and yards.  Families are digging their own personal gardens.  The local churches are helping families purchase and rebuild abandoned homes, some who are owning their very first home.  We had the honor of working on one such home.  
 (This is post rehab)

So, where does Awe and Wonder come in, you ask?  It is in the miracle of what Jesus Christ is doing in the Brightmoor neighborhood.  It is in the hope of a community that most would say should be hopeless.  It is in the children of the community that spent their summer break working along side mission groups to help paint, clean, hammer, plant, mow, weed, organize and celebrate their neighborhood.  It is in the families that have taken pride in their homes and community.  It is in the energy, dedication and determination of the Brightmoor Aldersgate UMC staff to make a difference.  The Awe and Wonder are in a community full of hope, ready to do Whatever It Takes to rebuild their community!  And it is in a God that is so good that His love pours out of the hearts of all who's lives have been touched by the people of Brightmoor.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Renewed Spirit: Spiritual Journey Thursday

I love Spiritual Journey Thursday!  I love writing about my spiritual journey and I love reading blogs about others spiritual journeys.  Especially educators who know the demands of our day-to-day life.  Today I'm especially motivated because I'm in a good place.  Last week I spent my days with 105 amazing children and 60+ volunteers for Vacation Bible School.  I have been spending more time with dear friends from church.  I've also spent some time this summer reconnecting with God, who I know has been missing me for awhile.  Oh, I've gone through the motions... attended church, planned for VBS, attended and even co-taught a Bible study, served on committees... all the things a good Christian woman should do.  But, it was hard... it was work.... it was not something I looked forward to.  I saw all those things as ONE MORE thing I had to get done.  Just another commitment on my calendar.  And I was desperately missing God... even at church.  And I know He was missing me.

This summer has been a wonderful time of rediscovery.  I'm rediscovering my relationship with God and who I am as one of His beloved children.  For the first time in a long time, I am feeling beautiful.  Not an outwardly physical beautiful, but a spiritual, joyful, energizing beautiful.  God has been working through His Word and fulfilling needs in me, some of which I didn't even realize I had.  There have been countless people and events in my life this summer that have awakened my spirit and given new life to my soul.  It is like a weight has been lifted and I can breath again.

 I've also been reminded by my favorite Christian band Casting Crowns, through the song "Thrive", that God wants so much more for my life than just busyness, exhaustion and self-doubt.  He has given me life that I might live it fully and abundantly.  I am meant to live a life that glorifies Him and spreads His love.  I can't do that if I am disconnected and trying to fulfill my own needs.  I am grateful to Mark Hall through his lyrics and my friends through their love, support and encouragement that I have been reminded of that.  

My heart and spirit are full.  I am renewed with an energy and self-awareness that can only come from the Holy Spirit.  I am thankful beyond words that God has found his lost sheep and brought me back to the other 99.  It is not the first time, nor do I expect it will be the last time that He will have to search for me, and find me wandering without direction.  But I am filled with the wonder and joy of  His grace and mercy, knowing that know matter how often or how far I wander, He will welcome me back to the flock!