A fish out of water

I've sort of survived three weeks of a new teaching gig.

Going into this, I knew teaching in an urban school would come with its challenges---however, I could not anticipate the breadth of the challenges I'd face. My students are diverse, culturally, academically, economically, and in maturity. I'm gathering that many do not easily trust adults. Appropriate interaction with authority figures is sometimes difficult for many of them. Rules? Many will tell you where you can stick those rules. While these qualities apply to most adolescents anywhere in the country--they are more noticeable in urban areas simply because of higher populations. I knew before that urban areas are hugely under resourced. But knowledge and first-hand experience are two different beasts.

I'm still learning the nuances of my new district and its students we serve, and I feel a bit like a fish out of water. I left school today feeling pretty defeated. I've prided myself on being a good problem solver who is quick on her feet, but some of the problems I've already faced in the classroom have left me dumbfounded. On some levels, my classroom management has to change. My expectations need to be revised to better meet the needs of the students I serve. I have to think more creatively about how to approach reading and writing with a lack of resources. Unfortunately, I can't immediately come up with a solution to these dilemmas.

This year will be messy.


Some verses to sink your teeth into

"When I think of all this [Christ's death on the cross that wiped away our sins and allowed us to come directly to God rather than through Old Testament type sacrifices], I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong. And may you have power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God" (Ephesians 3:14-19).

This is Paul's prayer for the Ephesians...tonight it's my prayer for little man.


Dwelling on blessings

It's easy in the daily grind to dwell on how difficult life sometime is. This week in particular has been trying for our new family. Little man is still trying to find his place and role in our family, so he is busy pushing every boundary. A lot is changing in his life, too. He's experienced more than many adults have, and because he's only four, he doesn't quite have the language to express himself. He expresses himself the best he knows how: through tantrums, fits, and negative behaviors. Oh...and we started school last week. It's been an exhausting week.

I'm still balancing this mother act (poorly, I might add), and this week I feel like my Bible time has been limited. Pre-kid, my quiet time was in the morning before school. It set a great tone for the day. I've tried to read the Bible in the mornings while we all eat breakfast, but inevitably I'm interrupted with puddles of syrup dripping from the table, at least six almost spilled glasses of milk, and random facts from little dude as he muses about the world over frozen waffles (I seriously never thought I'd feed my kid a frozen waffle...now I have a box of 60 in my freezer---thanks Costco). Morning Bible time= 0, little man= 17. I've tried reading at night after we put little man to bed and after I squeeze in an hour of work. This is usually an utter failure as I wind up asleep after two verses (no offense God). Tonight I switched it up. Right after we put little man down, I grabbed my Bible--before my work. I was heading to my favorite chair when little man wandered out in his Angry Bird pj's and whimpered, "I'm scared...will you come rub my back?" ASDOIUHAGER('8350q57717357! I thought. I love this child dearly, but I feel like the minute I might be able to sneak a bit of me time in, I'm needed again. After the week we've had, I was really ready for some quiet time in the Word. Nevertheless, I brought my Bible into his rom and laid out the conditions: I'd sit in his room with him, but I was going to read from the Bible...and not the one with pictures...and he couldn't talk and needed to close his eyes. I flipped to Ephesians for no reason other than I felt like it and began reading.

A few verses in I read, "All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding" (Ephesians 1:3-8). The whole first chapter of Ephesians is gang-busters. I just love it. But these five verses really sunk deep into my heart tonight. This week I've let my frustrations claw their way into my heart and fill it almost entirely so that I was blinded from the blessings God has given me...the most important: My inclusion into God's family; His grace through His son. It was like a dope-slap from God.

This year will be crazy as we figure out how to be a family on top of teaching full time, and I'm sure the crazy will sneak up on me drive me bananas. But I know it's easier to be a good mother and a decent teacher when I'm overflowing with joy than seething with irritation, so my goal this year is to guard my heart from frustration replace it with gratitude. No easy task for sure, but a worthwhile venture, I'd say.


I never thought I would...

I never thought I would...
  • Wear capris (in 6th grade I remember walking through a JC Penney with my cousin when capris first came out again...I thought they were the dumbest excuse for pants)
  • Enjoy the sound of a well-picked banjo (in my younger years, punk music could often be heard blaring from the crappy speakers of my 1983 Acura)
  • Run a marathon (I was a sprinter in high school)
  • Stay in Nebraska (I had big aspirations of becoming an actress in Chicago or New York)
  • Hold a full time job (after reading Kerouac and Steinbeck, I dreamed of being a wanderer pausing here and there to work odd jobs)
  • Become a foster parent (five years ago we attended 2 hours of an 8 hour foster-parenting workshop, and I left at the lunch break sobbing and swearing I could NEVER be a foster parent)
  • Become a teacher (the Peace Corps was more up my alley back in my high school days)
  • Settle down (see bullet 4)
  • Crave bacon (I was a vegetarian for two years...and now I LOVE bacon)
  • Miss living in a small town (I love Omaha, but a lot of times I feel cramped and just need to stretch out my legs, breathe in fresh air, and hear only the sound of gravel beneath my feet)
This is just an abbreviated list of things I thought I'd never do. Some of these are insignificant but others on the list are such huge pieces of my identity. I cannot picture my life without running. It's just about the only activity that allows me to feel...clean. I know that sounds crazy, but running to me is so pure. There's not much to taint it (other than eating macaroni and cheese before a 3 mile run in 91 degree weather with humidity that instantly sticks to your face), and it's an incredible detox from a crappy day. Though I'm weirdly in love with Portland and the Pacific Northwest, Nebraska has such a diverse landscape from end to end. Its wide open spaces have a way of forcing me into myself. I always imagined I'd marry young, but I never thought I'd have a desire to lay down roots. I think marriage has a settling effect on a person, and the longer I'm married, the more I long for a sense of community to share with my husband. 

Today I can add another one to the list: I never thought I would accept a full time English job for the 2013-2014 school year.  


I resigned from my teaching position in Gretna last year (a district with an incredible leadership team) ready to be done with teaching English maybe forever. There were a lot of factors that played into my sudden nervous breakdown and early mid-life crisis, but the main issue was that I really wanted to have more time. So I resigned and swore that I'd substitute teach for a year until I figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. As the school year approached, I wasn't sad about my decision like I thought I would be. I felt relieved. Our lives have been absolutely nuts since we've become full time foster parents. Our little boy is wonderful, but he's also exhausting and challenging.

Then on Friday morning, someone from HR at Omaha Public Schools called to schedule an interview with me, but she wouldn't tell me for which position. I figured it couldn't hurt to interview; I actually kind of like interviewing (is that weird?!). So on Monday I interviewed twice--once at HR and once at Burke High School where Nate teaches. At the end of the interview, the principal offered me the position. Rather than being excited, I wanted to cry when I left. The last thing it seemed I needed was a full time English position. But Nate and I talked through our options until we fell asleep that night. This morning I made four pro's and con's lists and then threw them all away. I sent a few emails, made a few calls, read a few Psalms, prayed a bunch, played the "what-if" game until my head hurt and then called to accept the position. While I'm nervous about the balancing act, I'm excited to be in the same school as Nate, to have only one prep, to teach some cool books, to work with diverse students, etc. etc. I start tomorrow--about a week later than the other new teachers, and kids start in one week. Nothing like hitting the ground running. 

What's funny is that the things that we think we need the least, often become significant components of our lives...like bacon. Perhaps this sudden change in plans will be like that for me. Time will tell.