Saturday, March 31, 2012

Expectations vs. Mandates

I have noticed lately that I have a habit of taking a choice or an expectation and turning it into a mandate.

My school day is supposed to start at 7:15am. That is when my principal expects me in the building, getting to work. I like to get there at 7 instead, because my first responsibility is at 7:30 and I can get more done in 30 minutes than 15. While this was a choice at the beginning of the year, over time it has become a mandate in my own mind. If I'm not at school at 7, I feel "late."

I have chosen to make putting new books in the library a priority. I can't move books into the library fast enough for my students. My principal has not told me I have to do this. She has not given me a quota of new books to process. It has been my choice, but in my head it has become a requirement. If I am not working on some aspect of new book processing (it is 8 step process for each book) each week, it feels like I have failed in some way.

I haven't quite figured out yet how to adjust my expectations to something reasonable - it is a problem I have in other areas of my life. I start a creative gift and kill myself to get it done in time. I take on a major cleaning overhaul in an effort to feel like I have control over something in my life, but I get bored 2/3 of the way through because I took on something too huge. I guess there are worse faults to have, but it frustrates me nonetheless. I hope, as I get older and wiser, I will get a better grasp on my expectations of myself.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

SAVOR: The Little Things

Staying up late to read a book from start to finish.
The first taste of chocolate after a long break.
Hugging my son while we sing worship songs at church.
Watching my son play in the worship team at school.
Holding my husband's hand as we drive somewhere.
A leisurely reading of a magazine.
The anticipation of a new book.
Holding that new book in my hands for the first time.
Re-reading a treasured favorite.
A hug from a student.
A student raving about the book he/she just finished.
A hearty laugh with friends.
A new journal and a good pen.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Do You Understand the Words that Are Coming Out of My Mouth?

These are some of the things I hear myself saying at school:

Real food first (I am both a librarian and a lunch lady)
Please sit on your backside
Good Morning!
Ladies and Gentlemen!
It is time for silent reading. If you are in line to check out, you should also be silent.
Nonfiction means numbers (for shelving in a library)
Fiction is fake (as opposed to nonfiction, which is fact)
Like people, not all books have an appendix
Chew, swallow, then talk
No, there is no quiz for Genius Files #2 yet
No, I don't have that book prepared for the library yet
No, that book is already checked out
K for Kinney (in answer to, "Do you have any Wimpy Kid books in")
That's a great story. I really liked that one.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

New Respect for Teachers

I grew up the daughter of a public school teacher, and I loved it. My dad was a popular teacher in his high school and I loved being at school with him. What he did always looked so fun.

I don't remember him talking much about the tasks of teaching - the lesson planning, the grading, etc. I do remember when his school was switching to block scheduling and he was talking to teachers who already worked with that schedule to help him make the transition smoothly. I remember that he taught most summers in order to contribute extra money to the household budget and to help send me to college.

You hear a lot of complaints and controversy about teaching these days. Students are struggling and the country is looking for someone to blame. As teachers play such a significant role in the educational lives of students, they are the obvious target, even though there are many other factors - parents, home life, hunger, skill deficits, learning disabilities, etc. The schedule sounds cushy - summers off, holiday breaks. We forget the hours spent outside of the school day researching new ideas; grading papers; meeting with administrators, parents and colleagues; brainstorming how to help struggling students; planning differentiated lessons for a class of 25 students at varying levels of skill; etc. 

This is my first year teaching an almost full time schedule, and I have to tell you, I am exhausted. Even with the long weekends here and there and the holiday breaks, I am worn out. Since this is my first year, my lesson planning is largely from scratch. My compulsion for buying and providing new reading material for our school (to the joy of my students) means a lot of my Christmas break and many weekends are spent preparing books for library-level usage. I see my colleagues working day after day to make a difference in the lives of their students.  They stay late and come in early. They research and share ideas with one another. They throw themselves wholeheartedly into special programs designed to augment the curriculum and help their students. I am anticipating the summer break, not to rest and play for a couple months, but in order to do all the things I can't get done during the course of the regular school day.

I have a new respect for teachers who pour themselves into their calling and into the lives of their students day after day and year after year. If you have school-aged children, consider today how you can encourage their teachers - classroom and non-classroom - this spring. I'm sure they could use it.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

SAVOR: Cribbage

I don't remember a time when I didn't know how to play cribbage. 

I remember teacher work days when I would go to school with my dad while he kicked off or wrapped up a school year and I would play cribbage with him and the other teachers in the Teacher's Lounge. Dad even taught me to play cribbage solitaire so I could play any time.

When I was home last year, taking care of Dad while hospice was finding him a bed, we played two games one afternoon when he was pretty "with it." He needed a little help with the counting, but it was a semi-normal sort of moment and I have clung to it over and over in the last year.

Cribbage will always be a Dad thing. He taught me to play and one of the last positive memories I have of him is of the games we played that Wednesday afternoon together. Definitely something to SAVOR.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Learning through Lent

This year our family decided to celebrate Lent together by giving up sweets. My son, did not get a vote in the matter. It made since to do this together so no one would be tempting the others.

The thing I did not count on was how often food - sweets in particular - are used as rewards and celebrations at school. Saying "no thank you" to those rewards and birthday parties is a lot to ask of a third grader. We have had to make multiple accommodations to work school life and Lent together.

If I had to do it all over again, I think we would do things differently, but we made a commitment and we are muscling through the best we can.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Jesus Wept

Our pastor spoke on John 11 recently - the story of the death and resurrection of Lazarus. If you regularly read my blog, you might remember that he preached on Lazarus last spring and I posted about it. This time, I was caught by a verse I have heard over and over and over but had never given much thought.

Most students know that the shortest verse of the Bible is John 11:35 - Jesus wept. Before this Sunday, though, I had never looked at it in context. Jesus knew Lazarus was sick, but chose to wait a couple days before coming. He has endured the questions from Martha and then again from Mary about his delay - "If you had been here...." He knows there is a larger plan in motion. Still, he weeps.

Why? He knew the end of the grief was moments away. He knew there would be great rejoicing and celebration soon.
Was he empathizing with Mary and Martha, and the crowd of mourners, caught up in the emotion of the moment?
Was it from exhaustion and the emotional toll of waiting and enduring the questions and grief of others?
Was it from the knowledge that the greater plan - the waiting - while necessary had brought pain to a family he loved?

In the grief of the last year, I have struggled sometimes to figure out how to relate to God - to One who had the power to change the course of last year but chose to have things play out the way they did. There were plenty of moments when I had to choose to trust that God cared and was at work, even if I wasn't sure how to feel about Him. In this two word verse, I have a different picture in my mind of how things might have been playing out in Heaven as we walked through the last year. Perhaps Jesus wept with us, knowing that this was what was going to happen, but grieving with us over the pain we were going to and had been experiencing. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

SAVOR - Creativity

A couple weeks ago I was able to carve out some crafting time. It is something I would love to do more often, but I feel like there are never enough hours in the week to get everything finished.

This was for the category, "Rituals" for an online class I am taking. It includes space for first-day-of-school pictures for the next three years.

This page is about the tools I use in my new profession.

This last one is a group of 12 lists:
12 characters I love
11 life essentials
Top 10 books today
9 favorite movie moments
8 favorite words
7 things I love about my everyday life
6 places to visit
5 things I do every day
4 stores I love
3 favorite pictures
2 choices I have never regretted
1 thing to know about me

I am SAVORING any creative time I am able to carve out of my schedule. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Too Late for Lent

"Lay something down to take something up." 

This was described as the "invitation of Lent" in a recent church bulletin. Beautifully phrased. And it made me realize that I do a fair job of laying something down most years for Lent, but I rarely take something up.

The sermon was about Mary and Martha in Luke, chapter 10. If you don't know the story, Jesus is visiting the family of Mary and Martha. Martha is working her tail off, trying to have everything just right and her sister, Mary, is just sitting around listening to Jesus. Finally Martha gets fed up and asks Jesus if he is going to do something about her slacker-sister. Jesus tells Martha that Mary has made the right choice, to sit at his feet and listen and learn.

I am totally a Martha - "distracted by many tasks." There are always things I am working on and even more things that need to be done.

The sermon made me wish it was early February instead of early March. If Lent hadn't started, I think I would have approached the season differently based on the images in this sermon. I would have looked at ways to make the Mary choice, to spend time with Jesus instead of being busy and distracted with many other things.

Thankfully, it is never too late. Jesus is always available, waiting to spend time with us.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Myers-Briggs and Book Reviews

For years I have enjoyed studying the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Individuals who complete the MBTI are given a four-letter personality type, one of sixteen possible combinations. The individual letters and their combinations communicate things about a person's personality and approach to life.

My type is ENFJ - Extraverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Judging. One description for this type is:  Popular and sensitive, with outstanding people skills. Externally focused, with real concern for how others think and feel. Usually dislike being alone. They see everything from the human angle, and dislike impersonal analysis. Very effective at managing people issues, and leading group discussions. Interested in serving others, and probably place the needs of others over their own needs. . [From the website Personality Page. You can read a full description of ENFJs here.]

Recently I have started to wonder if I would be a better book reviewer if I was an S - a Sensing type - rather than an N. Those with an S preference use their five senses to take in information while Ns rely on instincts and intuition. N's are all about the big picture. One activity to illustrate the difference is to put the Ns in one group and the S folks in another. Then ask the group to write down words related to "leaf." And you do this verbally. The S group will typically describe leaves - crunchy, green, stem, veins, autumn, etc. The N group's answers can be all over the map - Leif Erickson, Leif Garret, leaf in a table, etc.

I read book reviews from other bloggers and there's all this great detail. I look at mine and they are pretty short. I use a lot of the same words to describe books I like. I try to summarize the big picture and let readers discover the details on their own. 

This was illustrated recently when I finished a new book. Through the last couple chapters, my heart was racing. The author had thrown me a curve I never saw coming and it was absolutely brilliant. All the pieces were woven together perfectly.j

I finished the book right before going to bed and I couldn't get to sleep afterwards. My mind kept replaying how perfectly things came together in the story. I thought about how I wanted to talk to students about the book. I thought about how I wanted to review the book on my blog. I was thinking things like, "Amazing," "Brilliant," and "Clever!" I was thinking about characters I liked and the great "voice" of the main character. So much of what I loved was reflected in impressions and feelings that I couldn't translate into words. 

I hope I can do the story justice when it's time to post a review because this was one of the best books I've read in the last year - and I read a LOT of books! I imagine this one could be my favorite book of 2012.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

SAVOR: Time and Distance

Twenty-two years ago this week, I went home for Spring Break in order to see my mother who was very sick. At the beginning of the week, the doctors told us she had maybe 6 months. I held onto that number like a lifeline, assuming I could finish the semester before having to deal with "any of this stuff." She was gone before the week was over. 

Every year in March, I think about that week so many years ago. So much happened. So many things I thought were true on Monday evaporated by Saturday.

This year, our grief over Dad is so much more fresh. March has lost some of its usual sting, and I'm thankful for that. I am thankful for the grace brought about by time and distance. I am counting on that grace to come to us once again for the losses we suffered in 2011.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Trust in the Lord

A week ago, our pastor spoke on trust, specifically trusting God.

Before the message, one of the highly-esteemed women in the congregation led the congregational prayer. Her focus was the fact that God is worthy of our trust. She even went so far as to pray, "Surprise us." That level of trust - that feeling of readiness for whatever comes - eludes me.

As I mulled over her prayer and the sermon, I realized that I am a little too raw from the last year to have the courage to pray something like "Surprise me" or to express the level of trust the pastor talked about. I recognize, acknowledge and am thankful for God's faithfulness. But I am still wary. I am not wholeheartedly ready to dive into whatever God sends my way next. I'm getting there. I'm closer than I was six months ago. These days, though, trust is a choice more than a feeling.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Monster Mac and Cheese

Over Christmas break, we were wandering through a new mall and stopped at Williams-Sonoma. There was a HUGE bottle of mac and cheese starter for $14. I have successfully made my own M&C before, but making the roux is always the hardest part, and I'm never 100% satisfied with it. While the price seemed ridiculous, I kept coming back to that jar over and over and over. Finally my husband said to just get it and try it out. A few weeks ago, I gave it a try.

It was yummy. And it held together a little better than my homemade roux. But I don't know that it was worth the extra $14. I think I'll go back to my homemade version, but might try this again for a treat some time.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

SAVOR: Family Time

A couple weeks ago I was looking at this online and I thought the format would make a great "About Me" scrapbook page. So I chose my categories and worked on my answers for an afternoon. I really enjoyed the whole process.

That night at dinner, I posed one of the questions to my husband and it snowballed into a delightful evening, sitting around the dinner table, talking to one another about the things we liked - favorite characters (movie, book, TV), favorite movie moments, etc.

There was a moment in the middle of it when I realized this was it - this was the sort of thing I was talking about when I picked SAVOR to be my word for the year. This was the sort of moment that would be easy to speed through and forget. But I don't want to forget it. It was a perfect moment in time.