Spaghetti Struggles

“How do I understand him better? Why does he say what he says? Why does he do what he does? Isn’t it common sense? Doesn’t he just know what I need? Why do I have to tell him again? I feel like he doesn’t care.”

Partnerships are complicated. There are no exceptions. Relationships between any two human beings need work, and those that matter the most require a whole lot of hard work. (I dare say that 100% of the time: every day, and all day.) Our family has relied on the two books featured. If you haven’t read them, I highly suggest taking the plunge. They are a quick easy read jam-packed with great practical information.

So what happens when one can’t give 100% and your relationship leans to one side? For whatever reason, the relationship is lopsided. Now what?

These are my favorite verses to fall back on. When I am feeling defeated, alone, and fear is getting the best of me, this is the place where I land:

26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:26,28

This week my husband was faced with a “plate of spaghetti” and I had an opportunity to see how he was able to tackle it in his dementia state of mind. Women think like spaghetti. They have a thousand things whizzing around and multiple plates to juggle at once. It is how we are hardwired. Men, generally do not multitask as well, and like to handle tasks one waffle square at a time. This is definitely true with the men in my life.

In the past- before dementia, my husband would handle a “plate of spaghetti”- multiple dilemma’s all interwoven, by peeling apart one or two parts of the dish at a time. In fact, I remember him coaching our teenage children through each crisis by giving them a list of 2-3 things to do, with a timeline. He would help them by placing the parts and pieces of the spaghetti dish into waffle squares to be tackled one at a time. He was good at it, and the kids would gravitate toward our calm problem solver.

I, on the other hand, am a practical problem solver and a BIG PICTURE girl. The kids didn’t need my help to see the forest just yet. They just needed to see one tree at a time, and he was their go-to person. In fact, I have often made things worse if I interfere too early.

We have been a team. We compliment each other very much. He has traditionally seen the trees and could get them out of the forest. Then he would tag out and I could help them to process and plan next steps.

So, back to the spaghetti. My brain goes a mile a minute. In fact, on this Saturday, I was awakened at an early hour with a headache, a sore jaw, and thoughts flying through my brain at warped speed.

My husband’s brain does not. This week he sat and stared at his figurative plate of spaghetti, and could not pull out just one part at a time and work through our multilayered challenges. He didn’t even know where to start. The only solution that he could think of wasn’t a possibility. He just sat and cried. He knew I needed him, but he couldn’t help.

So what happens when the relationship is lopsided, despite all the best intentions, and your better half can’t speak your love language?  In Matthew, Jesus says that church members should forgive each other “seventy times seven times” (18:22), a number that symbolizes boundlessness. I take this as a directive for healthy humans. But what if one isn’t? What if he just can’t reciprocate the way I need him to? Now what?

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

Matthew 22:37

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:8

I think the answer is to love and to take what he can give because something is better than nothing. So, to all of you who don’t have an equal partnership, and a plate of spaghetti is just too much to maneuver through, my advice is to take what you can get and accept what he can give. Put on your game face, be the best YOU you can be, and take the blessings, because life is hard and unpredictable. Don’t waste one precious moment thinking about what you don’t have or how your needs aren’t being 100% met. Instead, focus on what you do have. Count your blessings, name them one by one. I do believe that we will be rewarded in the end.

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

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What Keeps Me Awake At Night

I woke up early this morning. I didn’t need to, but after 8 days of school, my body has morphed into school time. School time means that no mater how hard I try, my body refuses to be fooled into going back to sleep.

This morning my mind was filled with goal setting: Marshall Goals, Student Learning Objectives (SLO’s) and what I should make for priorities this year. I don’t know why my brain decided that 6:30 am on a Saturday, was a great time to make such crucial decisions.

In case you have a burning desire to know, our district uses the Kim Marshall Plan which includes an evaluation system based on teacher performance. It is divided into six categories, or domains. The domains include (1) Planning and Preparation for Learning (2) Classroom Management (3) Delivery of Instruction/Monitoring (4) Assessment, and Follow-Up (5) Family and Community Outreach and (6) Professional Responsibilities. Each domain contains 10 standards, in which supervisors rate teachers as Highly Effective, Effective, Partially Effective, or Ineffective for a total of about 60 standards. In theory, each domain, gives teachers and supervisors an opportunity to look at performance and set goals to focus on. Marshall’s rubrics are meant to clearly define criteria to distinguish the Highly Effective teacher from the Ineffective one, and all points in-between. Administrators aim to do 10, 10-minute pop-ins, with a coinciding 10 minute post observation to document progress on a teacher’s chosen goal. Last year, I had 5 classroom observations totaling 50 minutes.

On top of the Marshall goal, teachers are also expected to choose 2 Student Learning Objectives (SLO’s) that are used to target growth and measure student effectiveness. Teachers are expected to make two SMART SLO goals (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time Bound) that can measured using data points that are proven reliable.

All lesson plans need to align to Common Core Standards and reporting is done on-line by individual standards. So, not only are teachers being evaluated on an insane amount of standards, but so are children. Most importantly, teacher evaluations are directly linked to the academic success of ALL students.

For both teacher’s and student’s alike, a 4 point scoring system is used. A 4, or Highly Effective status is reserved for truly outstanding performance that meets very demanding criteria very few ratings are in this area. A 3, or Effective status describes solid, expected, professional performance. A 2, or Improvement Necessary indicates that performance has real deficiencies. A 1, or Does Not Meet, is unacceptable and can lead to dismissal unless improved on immediately.

The Marshall Model in particular is not designed to be an “I got ya'” model. However, teachers are perfectionists. They want what constitutes and A and therefore, accept suggestions and generally respond to gentle correction. However, in the world of Marshall Goals, and SLO’s, with 100% of our students expected to meet high demands, many teachers are left feeling deflated.

Fear should not be consuming me at 6:30 am after the second week of school. I know what my strengths are and what my weaknesses are. I know that I am a Highly Effective teacher and nobody can convince me that less than 2 hours of cumulative observations gives my employers a clear picture of what is happening in my classroom and enough information to fairly score me on 60 standards. Although the rubric is designed to create self-reflection, supervisors make the final scoring decisions. This means that my self reflections can be trumped by their perception of what is happening in my classroom. I do have the right to challenge final decisions by showing data. However, they don’t have to provide data that supports their perception of my performance. That is hard for highly sensitive, Type A perfectionists like me.

It used to be that I would leave school for summer vacation feeling like my supervisors noticed and appreciated the dedication and student achievement that was attained. I don’t feel that way any more. Honestly, if I had known 30 years ago what I know now about the evaluation systems for both teachers and students, I think I would have chosen another profession, and that makes me sad, because I truly love what I do and I know in my heart of hearts that I am good at it.

People say that in educations, the pendulum swings from one extreme to another. I wonder when the pendulum is going to swing again, because things need to change. Teachers should not have sleepless nights worrying about end of year evaluation results after the first 2 weeks of school. I’m not sure how, but we need to stand up and demand change. It is time. edweek-pendulum

All Is Well, Mostly

Every summer I make it a priority to get healthy mind, spirit, and body. My husband and children can attest to it. At the end of each school year, I am exhausted to the core, and it takes the better part of the summer to work up enough courage to go another round. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. It’s just hard on so many levels, and by mid-June there is legitimately nothing left to give.

The first thing I do is sleep. I sleep long and hard. I nap, go to bed early, lay out in the sun soaking up some vitamin D in the sleep zone. It takes me the better part of three weeks to feel human again. It is during this time that I concentrate on exercise, eating right, and doing my daily devotions. By the end of July, I generally start gaining courage. I begin looking at the “Back To School” sections of the department stores, thinking about how I am going to tweak my lesson plans, and what subtle changes I am going to make in my classroom so that I can still find things when I need them.

Some people change their rooms around yearly and I always marvel at that. I’d seriously never be able to find a thing! My room goes back up each year the way I had it the year before with few variations. In fact, I have a pretty good idea that the class I had 8 years ago could walk in my room and find everything that was needed. Actually this makes me smile and brings me comfort. I love my classroom. It is my home away from home.

Change. I hate change. But like all things in life, things move- sometimes backward, sometimes forward. This year will be no different. I am facing a new math program that I am not looking forward to implementing, but I am trying to keep an open mind. I’m going to work a little harder at diversifying, which I think is funny- because it’s just a fancy way of saying “tracking”, which was the practice when I was in school. Teaching has a way of coming around full circle. They just give it a new name.

Change is an ugly word. I know that some people think that it is progressive and healthy, but I hate it. If it were up to me, I’d never change a thing. But my fighting it, isn’t going to stop it. Relationships change, professions change, finances change, and health changes. Maybe change is so difficult because it is unpredictable, and risky: things could get better or they could get worse. For me- I like the conservative route.

Maybe that is why I cling to my faith so much. My belief system is the one thing that remains constant and the promises are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Sometimes I wonder, “What if I’m all wrong?” But the answer to myself is always, “In the end, I’ll have lost nothing but I have so much to gain.” If my faith has made me a more caring individual with high value systems and even higher standards for myself, then I have lost nothing.

This summer I have been fluctuating between two different studies: one about my attitude and one about important women in the bible who made a difference. I’ve come to a few conclusions. One, how successful the inevitable change is, depends on my attitude. I could go into it kicking and screaming, or I could embrace it as an opportunity to learn and grow- even if what I learn is what doesn’t work. Two, don’t be too critical of other people’s mistakes. Most likely you have or will make a similar one yourself and you don’t want others being too hard on you. Three, sometimes you need to hear that you do something right- even if it is your own self talk. I know where my shortcomings are. I don’t need anyone to point them out to me. What I do need is validation and encouragement. Four, I need to practice meekness. Meekness isn’t weakness. It is the use of controlled, well thought out responses full of wisdom.

So, as I amble on through the “stuff” of life, I am formulating a plan so that I can endure the race of the next year with stamina and class. I am going to gravitate toward those people who truly lift me up and encourage me to be the best me I can be. I am going to give change an honest chance and learn from it regardless of the outcome. I am going to encourage others, with the hope that they will reciprocate, and be okay if they do not. Finally, I am going to be slower to respond so that what comes out of my mouth is controlled and well thought out.

Ultimately, there are always going to be people out there who are going to criticise and notice all of the shortfalls. It is the way of the world. It is my job to keep looking up, keep thinking positively, and surround myself with positive influences. I will keep putting one foot in front of the other by the grace of God, trusting that He will hold me and my family firmly in the palm of HIs great hand.

In this life full of challenges and changes, I’ll take mostly all right.

The Biggest Jerk

I used to take life for granted. I said that I didn’t, but I did. Not any longer.

I have been married to my one and only for 31 years, and over time, we have suffered some agonizing times- ones that quite frankly, many could not hang on through. So, what has been the secret?

Faithfulness. I have been absolutely determined to carry through with a promise before God and our closest friends.

On May 23, 1987 we were joined together as one, promising that we would let any ONE or any THING separate us. We were determined to make a lifelong commitment. To be honest, there have many times when I have tried a lot harder than he has. There have been times when I have felt neglected and taken advantage of. Sometimes he hasn’t been very nice, and there have been times when I have felt like a single parent. There was even a time when I considered asking him to find somewhere else to stay. However, I was stubborn and determined not to give up on what God ordained. I knew that my husband was facing some difficult physical and psychological challenges, and that it was my duty to be his number one support system: to lift him up when he didn’t feel strong enough to lift himself up. I made it my mission to pray him through each day and to encourage him even when I was angry, frustrated, and disappointed.

I figured that if he wasn’t going to take care of himself on his own, I was going to help. One of the first things I did was to take over his medications. In his state of mind, he often didn’t know what day it was, and either forgot to take his meds or accidentally took them two or three times in a day. I started by encouraging him to eat more balanced meals, and drink less soda and coffee. I encouraged exercise by walking with him. Since he wasn’t reading his bible or attending church regularly, I upped the ante for myself and made it my mission to stay prayed up for the both of us. During our quiet walks, with nothing else to interrupt us, I shared what I was learning and what was on my heart. When he didn’t talk, I talked enough for the both of us.

Shockingly, what happened was that MY attitude started changing. What was once meant for HIS benefit, began to benefit ME. I wrote him encouraging notes and left them in his lunch bag. I met him for lunch during my time off, determined to shut my mouth and be a better listener. Gradually, I started to see a change in him, because I was so determined to pour myself and my time into him. I loved on him even when I got nothing in return. I made his favorite meals, watched his favorite movies, and listened to his favorite music. I involved him in decision-making for the children and family finances.

We sought counseling that sometimes made our situation worse. It brought up painful topics that had been suppressed for a long time. If he slipped back into bad practices, it was often with others from his support group. The situation did not repair itself quickly, and I would push through the discouragement, and up my game or continue making my husband’s health and our union my top priority. I was determined not to allow Satan any more opportunities to break down our marriage and our family.

I prayed over and anointed the windows and door jams in my house. We burned and prayed over materials from the Masons. I monitored music, movies, phone, and internet that came into our home closely. I regularly prayed over my sleeping husband and my babies.

Most importantly, I took care of ME, because I was determined to stay as healthy as I possibly could, so that I could take extra care of HIM. I walked, watched what I ate, read the Word, looked for encouragement and wisdom from friends and family, and I lived in secret Hell while I remained focused and faithful to my husband.

Just when things began to get better, our family took more hits. Satan continued to take his best shots. We dealt with deaths, rebellious teenagers, financial hardships, the loss of two jobs, and the challenge of a terminal illness that will eventually take my one and only.

Through it all, I continued to take my marriage vows seriously. I never left him. In my heart of hearts, I could not give up on him because I feared that he would then give up on himself and I couldn’t bear that. I knew that I was his lifeline and I was determined to reconstruct our family on a foundation of faith.

I believe with everything I have, that God will reward me for my faithfulness during a time when I had every reason to walk away. As I look at where we are now, I would not be the person that I am today had I done the easy thing. Instead, I remained faithful to my promises, and am so glad to say that I love my husband today more than ever.  The strange thing is that the tough times made my commitment even stronger.

Dementia may take my husband, but it has also provided me with the opportunity to show my faithfulness and not simply “talk the talk”. The disease that was meant for destruction, has taken my faith to a whole new level and I am a living testimony to all who watch.

My advice: don’t give up when the going get’s tough. Take it as an opportunity to practice “walking the walk” and show God, your family, and friends that you mean what you say. Practice what you preach when life seems impossible and there doesn’t seem to be a way out. It’s easy to be joy-filled when all is going well, but how about when the heat is turned up and you are dealing with great loss and destruction?

So what do you do in the meantime? Participate in intense practice sessions, because no one is exempt from the great manure pile of life. If you are lucky enough to be going through a time of smooth sailing, thank your lucky stars, because you will have your turn for turmoil. Get and stay healthy mind, spirit, and soul. Generate a list of reasons why you love your one and only, so that when the time comes, you can refer to it. Build a list of things that you enjoy doing and eating, because you will need to find your joy without becoming unhealthy when your loved one is. Surround yourself with a group of good friends who you are like, or who you want to be like. Determine yourself to be joy-filled and healthy, because you are the only one you have control over.

More than anything: don’t give up. It’s what Satan wants. Don’t let him find even a crack. He is a liar and a jerk and there is nothing that brings him more pleasure than to destroy marriages and families.

 

 

 

Poppins and a Servant’s Heart

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Ever feel like something exciting and terrifying is in the wind?

This year I have been challenging myself to live a “palms up”, take my hands off the wheel, and see where each day takes me kind of life. Those that know me intimately, know that this is a real challenge. I genuinely love to plan, organize, and sort. I’ve joked that in Heaven I’d like to have a label-maker at my disposal so that I can spend eternity helping my Maker to organize. If I were honest, it brings me more joy than it should.

For vacations, I research and schedule “must-do’s” and “must-sees”. I carry an agenda for my agenda. Honestly, two of my favorite times of the year are “nearly January” when I can start to plug-in important personal dates on the new calendar and “nearly the first day of school” when I get to plug-in important professional dates and events into my school planner. I brew a large pot of coffee, surround myself with snacks, and listen to my favorite musicals while I color code and break in my crisp new calendars. While you may be wondering what kind of medication I need to be prescribed, I sit here with a huge smile on my face. It’s true. All true.

However, as I anticipate the new planner in my mailbox for the fall, I have found myself wondering whether it was time for a CHANGE, which has been terrifying and exciting at the same time. It has dawned on me that I have about thirteen more years before I can dream of retirement. My children are all grown into independent young adults. My husband is stable and enjoying the sweet joys of summer weather and planting projects. Now just might be the time.

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It’s easy to become complacent and believe that life is what it is and that it’s too late to make a change. At 52, change is scary business. In my current profession, I can practically fly on autopilot. Most everything is familiar. I know the expectations and I feel like part of the furniture. But what if there is a blessing that is just waiting to happen if only I took a leap of faith? I have found myself wondering whether the Lord needs to see that I mean what I say?

Twenty years ago, I made a huge decision with my children as my main focus. This Spring I have been thinking that maybe it’s time to make a decision with ME being the priority.

Mary Poppins was originally released the year before I was born, and my mother, an avid Julie Andrews fan was just a year younger than the main character. Mom would serve us medicine singing, “just a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down!” and would occasionally tell us to head to our rooms, “spit spot” after watching the musical together on the VCR. I can safely say that we have grown up together.

bb5e255f0f9819a61245e3d859cfb120As a teacher, I have often compared myself to Mary Poppins. I teach with a whole lot of no-nonsense, but there is always an element of fun. I don’t always show all my emotions, but my students know that they are loved, and that together, we will accomplish great things. Over the last 28 years, I have taught over 800 children. That’s a whole lot of lives impacted by my influence and a whole lot of responsibility. I figure that if I teach another 13 years to retirement, I will have taught well over 1000 young people. I’m so glad that while I focus on what needs to be accomplished, I work some good times in.

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So, as I have contemplated the pro’ and con’s of a great change, truly living a “palms-up” life, I have wondered what is best for me, my family, and my future students. What if I close my eyes and jump? What if I walk away from all that I know, can plan on, and what is easy, and take a leap of faith that something might be even better? I would desperately miss those left behind: friendships, long-lasting relationships, familiar families, but as Mary reminds me, it shouldn’t muddle my thinking.

Overall, I know that “all things work together for good to them that love God, and are called according to his purpose” and in the end, I showed God faithfulness and He showed me that I am right where I need to be. Today I thank God for answered prayers and passing the test, because for the record, I would have jumped.

 

 

 

 

 

Time For A Change?

I am a 1984 graduate of our local High School. While there, I was involved in “all things musical” and I played field hockey. I was also a member of the Student Counsel all four years. As a loyal member of the school, I was the head of the spirit committee. I designed special days to encourage my classmates and to show class pride. These were the highlights of my (K-12) education. It wasn’t the long exhausting debates in Jr English, or the intricate math problems that we solved in calculus. The best times were interactive, creative, and exciting.

From High School, I followed the footsteps of my parents, and attended our state university. The first day was spent signing up for Marching Band. It was this team, this unit, that brought me the most joy: a community within a community, and they became my family away from home. Members attended our wedding, and sat in excitement in the waiting room of the hospital as our son was born. To this day, we keep in touch.

No matter where I have worked, it was the community, support staff, and fellow teammates that brought me the most joy and the most success. For twenty years. I have been filled to overflowing in the small town that I have worked in. They have been my extended family and I have been so grateful for all they have taught me about commitment, spirit, and pride.

I am a highly organized and efficient employee that is constantly looking to improve my teaching. My primary focus is to meet the needs of every child in whatever way possible. Working together with support staff, my goal is to create an atmosphere of learning, in an environment that is quiet and inviting. This year was particularly challenging, with four tricky children in my classroom. I didn’t hesitate to set up unique and individual plans in order to create success.

Movement breaks have been key to my classroom routine. Gonoodle, yoga, and activities to stimulate both sides of the brain have been extremely helpful to my students’ growth.

As a result, I traditionally have significant improvement from my students from Fall to Spring. This year my focus was to create differentiated spelling lists that follow strategic skills. I used progressive Diagnostic Spelling Assessment (DSA) scores, weekly tests, spelling tasks on the iPad, and evidence from independent work to determine whether children needed a grade level, advanced, or a below level list. They also had an individual set of words taken from the Fry List. My goal was to have 100% of my class increase total stage scores by at least 10 points by May, 2018 as measured by the DSA. I am pleased to report that 90% of my students either met or exceeded their goal by as much as 24 points. The key was to involve them.

My Student Learning Objective focused on math this year. I noticed a weakness in the area of math in the fall, so I used the NWEA data to determine individual goals for my students. I utilized an on-line program called MobyMax to help differentiate for students and made it a goal to spend 20-minutes a day on the program, which would reteach and enrich. I involved children with goal setting, and as a result, they were more motivated with seeing the end result of their Spring assessment. 60% met or exceeded their goal, 10% missed it by 1 point, and 10% missed it by 2. The remaining 20% were identified students receiving extra services through Title 1.

I’m proud to say that I get results, but it isn’t without a whole lot of help from a whole lot of people using a whole lot of strategies.

However, I’m not perfect. One of my weaknesses is that I come across very business-like. I don’t waste a single second of my day. As a child who grew up on a large dairy farm, we were programmed to be working on a project at all times and using our every moment wisely. Sometimes I buzz around at such a speed, that I forget to interact with the people who are around me. I have to remind myself to make eye contact and to speak to others. It isn’t that I am snobby, or that I don’t want to be part of the conversations, I am just focused on what needs to be done. Another, is that I absolutely HATE confrontation. I am sensitive and hold myself to a very high standard. As a result, I often find myself compromising what I want or need in order to keep peace. This is a work in progress, as I learn to take the time to listen, reflect, and respond with possible solutions without getting an ulcer.

Twenty years ago, I interviewed and was offered a third grade position in the community that I grew up in. At that time, I was also offered a fourth grade position in the neighboring district. My husband and I had a “pow wow” with the children and asked them what they thought. At that time, our oldest was in the Fifth Grade. His input was, “When you come to school, we just want you to be Mom.” That was all we needed to hear. In the end, we had three children go through the school district, with the full support of Mom- not Teacher/Mom. Just Mom.

I have lived in and been a part of the area for forty-two years. It’s a place that my husband and I returned to after college, and where we have chosen to raise our three children. At this time, we are helping to raise a third generation and are here to stay.

I am not unhappy at my present place of employment. I just wonder if now is the time to be more accessible to my family, but more importantly, for a new challenge and a fresh start. My desire is to stay energetic and to keep the fire burning in my belly. Teaching is my passion. There is nothing like the feeling of a well executed lesson, with fantastic end results that we can all cheer about. I absolutely adore the community that I work in, the people I work with, and the administration that I work for. I simply wonder if it is time for a change and a new challenge.

My greatest accomplishments have been seeing the success of my students as they progress through the grades. Nothing brings me more joy than when past students visit. My heart sings when I see the accomplishments of older students, and to know that I played a role in their journey. I know that my role is foundational, and many children won’t remember me or my contributions. Instead, they will remember that they enjoyed coming to school, and that they felt safe, and loved. They will remember that they felt like they were treated fair and that no matter what, every day was a new day.

The most difficult situations in the workplace are extreme behavioral challenges in the mainstream classroom. This year I had four in my classroom. Typical behaviors included ripping assignments, throwing items that ricocheted off bookshelves and walls, climbing on bookshelves & desks, overturning chairs that were balanced on a student desk and trying to sit on the top. Classroom furniture was moved around and they refused to do academic tasks, by yelling, swearing, and kicking. They ran around the classroom, refusing to join classmates, interrupting during instruction, running in one door and out the other, slamming, hanging on, and kicking doors. In fact, the glass in my door, handle, and lock were broken. In the hallway, they kicked the heater, yelled in the entryway, flicked the lights, and ran up and down the halls. They tore and ripped items off the walls, and threw classmates’ personal items down the hallway.

Some strategies that I used with these four were preferential seating, a class behavior program,  and ”treats” when caught doing what is expected. I provided extra snacks, break times, and a nonverbal cuing system that indicated that they needed a break. I tried stress balls, and sensory calming tools. I paired them with peers and verbally rehearsed responses and graphic organizers before doing their work. I stated directions a variety of different ways and provided visual supports. I encouraged risk taking and pre-taught lessons giving children a chance to do assessments in a small group. I provided extra attention and verbal encouragement, placing them near a friend when they felt anxious or unsure of the academic expectations. I reduced work expectations. I allocated spots to take space, and worked tirelessly through Class Dojo to report to parents when children were accessing a safe place, staying in the classroom, and completing class work.

In the end, the best thing for these four were to separate them. They fed off each other and once one started to spiral, it was too easy for the others to join. It makes me wonder about what other districts are doing? My largest fear is that the remaining children do not get what they need.

I cannot imagine myself doing anything but teach. As challenging as the occupation is, I don’t see myself moving into any other field. At 52 years of age, I have at least 10 more years before I can even entertain the thought of retiring. Even then, I come from a long line of women who lived to be a ripe old age. I’ve still got a lot of life in me and a whole lot to offer.

As we continue to venture forward with the Common Core and standards-based reporting, my desire is to continue to provide opportunities for inquiry and allow for choice in how students demonstrate mastery of their learning. As the educational pendulum continues to swing, my goal is to remember that children need varied strategies and methods to attain the same common goal while maintaining rigor, recognizing that a whole lot needs to be accomplished in a very short amount of time.

So, the question is: Is it time for a change? If I’m truly to live a “palms up” life, I need to be willing to go where I need to go, and do what I need to do, trusting that it will be the best thing for me and my family. Maybe my Maker needs to see whether I would move and I would change if He asked me to? Maybe I needed to hear some really kind words from my supervisors and coworkers because it’s been a very challenging year, but I’ll never know until I put my pole in the water. I guess we will wait and see.

“It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right
I (hope you) have had the time of (your) my life (Green Day)”

 

 

Love Anyway

Whether the question is about marriage, child rearing, difficulties at work, or a health challenge, our charge is the same: LOVE ANYWAY.

My father always said that “whatever didn’t kill us, would make us stronger.” Honestly, there have been times when I thought I’d die before my Maker would prop me up, blow extra air in my lungs, place a steel rod in my spine, and walk me through the affliction.

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This week marks our 31st wedding anniversary, and when I look back over the years, we had some really high hurdles, and steep mountains to climb.

What’s the secret to our success?

Be spiritually united. My husband didn’t start attending church with me regularly until the children became involved in AWANA. That was 1998 and eleven years after we had said, “I do.” It was at that time that we became committed to a common spiritual foundation and rule book to refer to while raising our children, but more importantly, how to preserve our marriage when the going got tough.

Over the 31 years, there have been dark times that we could have walked away from one another, and quite frankly, we didn’t like each other very much. We’ve had lean times when we prayed for bread, lost jobs, and sat by the bedside of family members that we loved very much. We had rebellious teenagers, and have desperately missed children and grandchildren who have moved far from home.

Through it all we stayed together. We did the right thing even when it wasn’t the easiest thing. We worked with professionals and created a support system. We never stopped trying. Some days we made progress. Some days we took three steps back.

God used the dark times to strengthen us for what was to come. We needed to have those support systems in place for when the heat was turned up even more. We are now beginning the seventh year since the worst year of our marriage, and the year before the dreaded diagnosis.

A promise is a promise. We made vows that were taken seriously no matter what and because we remained faithful, we have been blessed. Today’s devotion contained a reminder to LOVE ANYWAY. “As God’s chosen people… (we are called to) clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…and over all the virtues put on love…” Colossians 3:12 & 14.

This year I have learned that it is more important to keep a strong testimony than to be right, and my goal has been to accept what happens because “God works all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

In a strange way, the past five years have been a blessing for our family. Although we face losing the Patriarch of our family, we have savored life beyond what we would have done without the diagnosis. My goal is to live each day, one at a time, with my palms up. I have given up the urge for order, organization, and a schedule. Instead, I have given EVERYTHING to my Maker: my husband, children, home, and job because I know that when things aren’t right with the Lord, nothing is right.

So to my children, grandchildren, family, and friends, the secret behind 31 years of marriage is to LOVE ANYWAY. Be a joy seeker. Count your blessings. And when things go sour, as they sometimes will, thank God because he works all things for good to the faithful.

“There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears. There will be a day when the burdens of this place will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face. Until that day, we’ll hold on” (Jeremy Camp) forgiving each other the way God forgives us. Every.Single.Time.