Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Joy of Waiting

I left work early today to head to the airport to pick up my daughter. I had not seen her in 15 months. My heart has been full of joy for many days as I have anxiously waited for this day to arrive. I have been preparing for her arrival. There was organizing and cleaning to do in addition to all the my work related things that needed to be done. Needless to say, I have been busy.
Then last week I got sick. I had to slow down. No energy. I had thought about taking a day off to get everything done that I wanted to do, but I did not imagine that my day off would be spent resting and not accomplishing anything else besides learning to slow down.
This afternoon as I walked around the airport while keeping my eye on the international arrivals' doors, I watched the people around me. So many people anxiously waiting for a loved one to arrive. There was the father with a young sun in his arms. It looked like they were waiting for the little boy's mother to arrive. It didn't take long before they spotted the mother walking through the doors. The little boy's smile and joy was contagious! He grabbed his mother's cheeks squealed! There were smiles on every one's faces.
I wondered if I could do that to my daughter when I could finally hug her? I pretty much did! I really had a hard time letting her go. I might squeezed her a little too hard. She was finally here! I could finally hold her and see her face-to-face! 
This Advent season has had a special meaning for me as I have been waiting for my daughter to come home. The third candle--the candle of joy--has given me hope, and now, so much joy. If my daughter's arrival can do that, how much more can the arrival of our Savior bring us hope and joy this season? I will celebrate with joy! 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advent--Is Silence Part of It?

Thank you Holly for the constant encouragement
you bring to our journeys!

"Walking with Jesus is feeding the hope, not despair."
"Hope is the antidote of despair."
"Expectant hush, not a last minute rush."

These are some of the phrases that I heard last Sunday at church. 
When we are talking about the hope that the whole advent season represents, I want to to have the "expectant hush" instead of being in such a rush that I cannot even sit still. I want to have moments when I can be silent, waiting for God and waiting on God. I want to go to these moments with the expectation that God will be there as well!

Candle of Hope

You bring light to my eyes
and to my soul
Your light will shine
and free me from the darkness
You bring light to my heart
and fill it with joy
Your light will penetrate
and wash away the mistakes
You bring light to the world
and silence despair
Your light will come
and show me the way home

May His light shine on you during this season of advent. 
May the hope that He represents take you to the place of expectant hush while you sit a moment away from the last minute rush.

Wishing you a blessed advent season!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thankful for Progress

In the last couple of weeks I have heard some great comments from my ESL students. Here are a few of them:

Y. your writing is really becoming much better.
"Ms. Y. has great ideas; she just needs help with spelling."

If I have 36 eggs, will I have 3 or 4 dozen eggs?
"I don't know."
Do you know what dozen means?
Have you ever bought eggs with....
"Ms. I know! 12!"
How did you figure it out?
"When we go shopping, my mom always makes me count the eggs."

Parent involvement without them even realizing that they are helping their children with math!

(From an apology letter:)
Ms. I apolize. I will stop fouling around in class.

Here are a few items from my students' blog comments of gratitude:

chicken pizza
people that care
being a human
I have great classmates
chocolate cake
people who trust me
the new experience of America
my nail polish

L. do you need help today?
"No. I know what to do."

This is exactly what I want to hear!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gratitude and Spiritual Journey Thursdays

Thank you Holly for the constant encouragement
you bring to our journeys!

The weeks and months this fall have been busy. Sometimes too busy to focus on writing. But every week the tweets that start arriving on Thursdays--sometimes even earlier in the week--are both a reminder and encouragement. 

Despite this fall turning to be busier than I expected, here some wonderful things to be grateful for:

1. Only 25 more days until my daughter comes home!

2. The teachers that I had had a difficult time working with, have turned out to be the ones that are easy to work with this year! What more proof do I need that miracles do happen?

3. So many changes have been happening this fall in many areas of my life. Our church has gone through a major change. After much uncertainty, the final decision has now been made. I am so grateful for our church board who have faithfully searched God through all these difficulties without any blame game. There is still much healing that needs to happen, but I believe that we are on the road to something great that God has in store for us.

The Year of the Lord’s Favor: Psalm 61 

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

4.  This fall there have been many times when my strength just has not been enough. I have had no other way except to cry out to God. He has always answered!! And through these times, I have grown closer to God. Can I say that I am grateful that He has made me go through these difficult times in order to focus more on God? I am not sure I can say exactly that, but I am grateful to walk closer to God!

5. I am grateful for new friends! Through the changes in our church, one worry has been losing friends that I have known for many years. Amazingly, God has brought me closer to new people! Are we close friends yet? No, but having new people in our lives is always refreshing!

6. I am so grateful for our parent English class at school. We meet once a week after school. I have had a chance to meet new parents and get to know other parents better. One parent tried to tell me that she is too old to learn English and go to college, (she is in her early 30s) but after talking about different possibilities, the seeds for a further education are now planted in her heart!

7. I am so grateful for you who are reading my long post today! You are my companion on this spiritual journey. Thank you for taking the time to walk with me!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

From PD to Action

Last Tuesday we had a professional development day at school. I was given the task of talking about SIOP and WIDA.

I had seen a picture on twitter that showed English language proficiency levels on a poster. I decided to modify that idea and use the WIDA proficiency levels that my teachers are familiar with on my poster.

But first, I posted the WIDA levels around the room, and asked teachers to stand in front of the level they feel the most comfortable teaching. Seeing the teachers around the room was very telling. When the majority of secondary ELA teachers are standing in front of the proficient sign (=reaching), I can understand their frustration with lower level students. Or when only two teachers were standing in front of the Entering sign (the lowest level), it showed that even teachers who have years of experience teaching ELLs in their classrooms, finding ways to help the newcomers is not easy.

Then we moved into looking at tasks in the classroom; based on science, math, social studies and ELA common core standards. We looked at where those tasks would fall in the continuum. What tasks English Language Learners would be able to do at what levels of proficiency.

The table discussion where very interesting. Here are a few snippets of conversation:

  • if this task had a word bank,  lower level students could also do it
  • does this mean it needs multiple paragraphs-like 5-or would just three also work?
  • could the students use a dictionary while doing this assignment?
  • do they just have to do the math or do they have to explain how or why they did it in certain way?
  • what grade level are we talking about? Writing a paragraph in third grade is very different than writing it on ninth grade. What level should we give this task?
  • If I added visual could lower level students be able to do this task?
  • "describe the characters"--how do we know what vocabulary they need to use? Are the names of the characters enough or do they need to use more academic language like protagonist and antagonist?
Teachers were talking. Conversations were happening. Everyone was thinking. Isn't this what good teachers do? They are trying to find ways for everyone to participate in the lesson.

I also had a chance to give a lesson in Finnish! I did it to demonstrate to the teachers what a student might feel like who has no idea what the teacher is saying. It was interesting. And also a bit challenging for me as I don't usually talk in Finnish much less teach in Finnish. (Good thing nobody understood my mistakes .)

Learning was still happening the following day. I went to pick up a group of elementary students, and their teacher showed how he had materials ready for me--including the visuals. I had had at least one teacher who had heard my message on how to teach ELLs. Job well done?

(In case you are not familiar with either, SIOP stands for Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, and WIDA stands for World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment.) 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Strength Comes from the Lord and His Community

It has been a busy couple of weeks! Professional development to plan and prepare for, work issues popping up here and there, students not realizing (or not caring) that high school credit is not given if you fail a class, church issues are looming, student journals reveal deeper concerns that have to be dealt with, two day workshop to attend, and many other minor things that have kept me busy.

One day I really was having a hard time. I felt depressed. I was considering a day off from work, but them remembered that a volunteer was coming on that day; not choice, of to work I went.  That morning I decided to send a text to Gina who had promised to pray for me or my students . She had told me a few weeks ago to just send her a text if prayer was needed. So the request was sent. This is what I got in return:

God's favor may he be exalted over your trial.
God's love, peace and presence is with you.
God's angels are dispatched to you and working in the
hearts and minds of all who deal with you.
Let all who see you see through the eye's of God!
The enemy is bound, the favor and peace of God is loosed.
Praises to the one who covers you and seats you
in heavenly places above the power of the enemy! Amen.

That morning on my way to school, I blasted my car radio again. My favorite warfare song came on: "Break Every Chain" by Tasha Cobbs. I was breaking every chain in the name of Jesus as I was driving to school. I felt the power of Jesus. And then came the prayer from Gina. I felt that I can do what I need to do--what I believe God has called to me to do. I felt that God's community had responded. I could not have had the strength to face that day with a smile on my face without God's people, without knowing that the Lord is my strength! He will sustain me!

As I was writing this blog entry, I wanted to leave a clip of the song "Break Every Chain." Something happened while I was listening to a different version of the song. In the clip below, around 11:06 the preacher starts talking about the "chain breaker." If you are having a hard time today, take a moment and listen to his words. They just might be the words that you need to hear today. I heard my chains falling that day! There is SUCH power in the name of Jesus!

My hope and prayer is that you will experience His power in your life today!

Thank you Holly for creating this community that gives strength to each other, and pushes us to walk closer with Jesus. Read some more blogs by going to Holly's website here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

100 Things I am Grateful For

A few days ago I received an interesting tweet from Terje (@terjeakke): a little challenge for you! I quickly read Terje's list. I was in! I even tweeted Terje that her challenge was accepted. Then I started doubting myself....

Then a few days later, my list is born:
  1. daughter
  2. home
  3. job that I love
  4. growing up in a secure and stable home
  5. viber app to text internationally
  6. skype to see my daughter's face when talking to her
  7. church family
  8. my mother-in-law and father-in-law
  9. raspberries
  10. sisters-in-law
  11. blueberries
  12. library booksales
  13. Kathy who makes my Thursday Corner Bookshop hours so much fun
  14. Saturday morning coffee time with friends
  15. brothers-in-law
  16. Pumpkin Spice coffee from Trader Joe's
  17. cousins who cross the ocean to come for a visit
  18. Facebook to keep in touch with friends across the oceans
  19. blogging community
  20. Thursday's spiritual journey group
  21. fellow ESL teachers
  22. nieces and nephews
  23. Youtube music
  24. Pentatonix Little Drummer Boy
  25. central heat
  26. Kindle
  27. great nieces and nephews
  28. precooked dumplings
  29. health
  30. my exercise pal Val
  31. colleagues who are willing to share
  32. trust
  33. on demand (that I just discovered!)
  34. sunrise
  35. short commute to work
  36. letter from Susan this week
  37. "Break Every Chain" by Tasha Cobbs
  38. poetry jams
  39. Finnish chocolate
  40. Mustikkapiirakka
  41. blue and white
  42. twitter PD
  43. Christmas candlelight service at the Vineyeard
  44. wake-up call/text from my daughter: "Love you Mom!"
  45. comments on my blog
  46. Little Women--book or movie
  47. one word
  48. health insurance
  49. warm socks
  50. fitbit
  51. kalakukko
  52. great cup of coffee 
  53. relaxing mornings at home
  54. snuggling with a good book
  55. students' progress
  56. slice of cake from a coworker in the middle of the afternoon
  57. journaling
  58. morning pages
  59. korvapuusti (Finnish cinnamon rolls)
  60. spine poetry
  61. blogging students
  62. "Ms. I missed you!" from my students
  63. technology
  64. iPad--finally
  65. answered prayers
  66. languages
  67. perfect earrings
  68. comfy shoes
  69. visiting manual dishwasher 
  70. green 
  71. vanilla lotion
  72. comedy that works
  73. remote control
  74. smiling babies
  75. air conditioning
  76. fish soup
  77. Thanksgiving Day
  78. swimming in a lake
  79. sauna by the lake
  80. birch trees
  81. fall maple trees
  82. double sided tape
  83. curtains
  84. Keurig 
  85. single moms dinners
  86. memories
  87. photographs
  88. student teachers
  89. translate app
  90. God's faithfulness
  91. movies that touch me
  92. knitting
  93. long weekends
  94. road trips
  95. cellphone
  96. mechanical pencils (0.3 of course)
  97. color printer
  98. soft blanket
  99. helping hands
  100. meeting blogging friends in real life

If you are reading my list, consider the challenge passed on to you! Don't forget to let me know if you write a list as I would love to read yours!

And, Dorothy, this is the official challenge for you as well! Love, √§iti

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Annual Conference Trip

Last year I read so many wonderful tweets and posts about NCTE that I really wanted to attend this year. This is, however, not going to happen. But no worries, there are conferences closer to me that are more accessible at this tine. There are also tweets to read and blogs to follow during and after NCTE to learn from a distance as much I possibly can.

This past weekend was our Michigan TESOL annual conference.

I was presenting with three other ESL teachers from around my area. We had an interactive presentation where each of us highlighted one to two areas that we felt we have been successful, or new initiatives that we are trying this year. I learned so much from my fellow presenters! These are teachers who have written curriculum, made home visits, tutored after school, and all this on their own time. These are professionals who want to make a difference in the lives of the students that they serve, and also with the classroom teachers that they encounter every day while working with the ESL/ELLs in their schools and districts.

I learned about new technology that teachers are using. Jing is one of these new tools that I would like to try in the next few weeks. (Check it out here.) Have you tried Jing? I learned about using U.N. debate model with students. I am trying to figure out when I could incorporate this type of model into my curriculum. I think my students would really enjoy debating in this manner. Maybe I could even find a clip or two to show how it is done in real life...

And then there was the great part: driving to the conference and back with Liz! Two and half hour drive each way. We covered so many topics I lost count! Some were extremely personal, and others completely professional. Liz and my school are about 5 miles apart, but our student population could not be any more different! Different language groups, different problems. But through all the differences, one thing remains the same: Our desire and our commitment to teaching English to our ESL students.

I should have stopped along the way to take some photos as the creation around me was so beautiful. Imagine driving in clear weather down a smooth highway that is surrounded by trees in all the beautiful fall colors. This colorful nature restored my soul! Yes, I would have liked to extend my weekend through Monday--I actually almost called to stay home--but then I remembered that I had a volunteer coming to help me this morning! Time to apply what I learned!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Peace Beyond Understanding

Thank you Holly for walking along
on our spiritual journey. Check out Holly's blog for more great posts.

At the beginning of the week, Holly sends a tweet that includes the topic for this week's Spiritual Journey. This week's topic: peace.

I was working with some 8th grade students today at school. We were reading about Malala and her winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Peace was a new English word for one of my students. As we talked about the meaning of peace, and finally looked up the translation, one of my students eyes suddenly got a different look. He finally got the meaning of peace. He understood. 

"The opposite of war. Right, Ms?"

That got me thinking. There must be so many people who think peace is just the opposite of war. Nothing more. Just a physical peace. What about inner peace? What about the peace that surrounds you even when your life is anything but peaceful? What about the peace that Jesus promised to leave for us?

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27

There must be a special kind of peace that is not dependent on the outside forces, but comes as a gift from above. Peace that is freely given. Not earned. There are mornings when I am tired, feeling short tempered, not sure how they day will unfold. Prayer. Simple request to ask God to surround me with His peace. He has never failed to answer my prayer! Even when I have been reluctant to even say the prayer aloud. He has never hold my lack of faith as deterrent to giving me His peace.

His peace is more than just not being in the middle of a war. His peace gives me the ability to respond with love and patience even when I don't feel like it. His peace inside me gives me the ability to keep on working with a child who has been disrespectful and annoying for the last few months. His peace is not dependent on how I feel. His peace is a free gift given with love.

This is my prayer for each of you today:

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4: 6-7

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hope Left......and Then Returned

Thank you Holly for walking along
on our spiritual journey.

A few weeks ago hope left my church. Some revelations about our leadership became public knowledge, and controversial issues have caused people to take sides. It was looking really dark for a while. Nothing has really been resolved, but we are having many more conversations. People are beginning to feel that they are heard. Many are also suffering as they are thinking about what the future will bring.

A friend had tears in her eyes on Sunday when I asked her how she is doing. She was sad. She was feeling hopeless. She could not see how our problems could be solved without saying goodbye to many dear friends.

I, too, have felt this hopelessness. Often asking God why he would choose to allow the issues to surface at this time. How many more friends will I lose? What do I need to do?

I don't have answers. I am still pondering. Still asking God to guide me and our church. But after I read something that my friend had posted, I started looking things in a little different light.In her post, Barb reminded all of us that love--love for one another--is what will show the world that we are followers of Jesus. Not buildings or a style of worship, but our love for one another. "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35

I still don't have answers, but I have hope. I don't know how we will solve our issues at church. I don't know if I will lose more friends. But I do know that I need to have love for my fellow brothers and sisters. We might believe in different ways, but Jesus command is still to love one another.

Therefore, I have hope! I will look to Jesus to guide me. I will look to Jesus to show me the way. I will look to Jesus as my source for continued hope. He is powerful to change opinions, solve problems, and bring reconciliation even to a hopeless situation. I have hope. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Full Moon and Four days

When I woke up last night and looked out the window, I realized that it was full moon (at least as far as I could see). It was beautiful! It was clear and crisp. The moon was the only thing I saw on the sky.

Work has been the only thing that I have seen the last five weeks. It has felt like new students are coming daily. Data charts need constant updating, students need to be tested, lesson plans need to be changed, and then there are those meetings that need to organized. Writing agendas, updating teachers, meeting with new students, finding translators, talking and advising students on how school works in America.

We started our classroom blog! I might fall asleep before writing my Slice of Life posts each week, but at least I have been writing with my students. We are working on how to write comments right now. In a few weeks we will transition to one student at a time writing the post for the rest of us to comment. We are  making progress! It might be slow, but it is progress!

After a four day weekend, I feel like I can breath again. Yes, I still have work to do before students come on Wednesday (PD day is happening on Tuesday), but I feel like my head is now above the water! I am back to schedule going to gym. I am caught up on sleep. I am rested. I am ready to spread some JOY! I am ready to write and comment! It is amazing what a difference four days can make!

Monday, September 15, 2014

It Is Slice of Life Time!!

Where did the last few weeks go? I feel like I have been too busy to write.
It is time to re-evaluate and set priorities. I need to take back my writing time!

At school I have so many new students that it is taking a really long time to set routines. And once we do, new students come, and we start again. But there are also great things happening at our school:

  • I have TWO students teachers this semester.
  • One of my student teachers is a native Spanish speaker!!!
    • Last Friday we had a wonderful conversation with my Guatemalan student. His mother had talked to us a couple of days prior, and expressed her concern that her son does not want to go to university. After talking with the son, we found out that he did not think that he could go to university. I'm so glad we were able to explain to him that of course he could go! We gave a few more details and ideas of what he needs to do to make it happen (i.e. make sure that he does his math homework).
  • Next week a few of us from school are going to be presenting at a state level conference on how we continue to help our at risk students. This is a wonderful opportunity to share with other educators what we are doing that is making a difference! (Remember, we are about 45% ELL!!)
  • A couple of my senior girls really stepped up during the first week of school!
    • Our kindergarten para was out sick which meant that they had no Arabic speaker in Kindergarten. My students used they time to volunteer and help out the teachers! I was so proud of them!
  • Everybody got together before students came and made all the displays in the hallways look wonderful! There was so much teamwork happening! It is so much more colorful to walk through the hallways now!
It really has been a great start for a new school year!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Truth--Is There just One Truth? Or Can We Negotiate?

Thank you Holly for creating a space for us
to ponder the deeper meanings of life.
I have been thinking about truth for the whole week. What does truth mean for me at school, and what does it mean for me in the more deeper sense--in my spiritual journey?

At school I often struggle with truth as my English Language Learners often ask me, "Ms. my English is really good now, right?"  Do I tell them the truth about them having made progress, but still being far from being good, or do I let them live in this utopian-positive-world that only gives students encouragement without telling them the truth? Or what about the teacher who wonders what to do with the students who are not making progress, but spends independent reading and writing time correcting papers instead of working with the students. Should I tell this teacher the truth so that she/he will move away from his/her desk?

Yesterday I had to give one of my high school students a warning. I explained that his behavior was not respectful and it had to change. He was fine during the class. At the end of of class, he came to say he had a question: "Ms. do you like me?" This time telling the truth was easier as I do like him (at least most of the time:)) So when I replied, "Of course!" He in turn said, "Really?" 

What about at church? Is truth always absolute at church? Jesus died for our sins. Yes, there is no changing that truth. Jesus is coming back. Yes, there is no changing that truth either. God is the God of love and mercy. That is the truth. But what about everything else. God guides me through life. Is that an absolute truth? I believe so. God speaks to us even today. I believe so. God heals people. I believe it is true.

But then come the difficult questions: what is the truth about abortion or homosexuality? Is there a right way to worship God and a wrong way? Is one way closer to the truth than the other? Does the abortion dilemma have only one absolute truth? What about homosexuality? Does it have only one truth in our church community?

For me, there are many clear truths, but there are also as many questions that I still ponder. What questions about truth are making you wonder today?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

First Day of School

The time has come for another year of school to begin. I am excited! For the last couple of weeks there has been  many changes, lots of work, and lots of positive excitement happening around our school! To be honest, yes, there has been some complaining, but overall, excitement has definitely overpowered the negative marks!

I am excited! I met some of my new students at Orientation. Some I can communicate with, and others will challenge me this year. I think I need to learn a few words in Uzbek! Right now I have no idea what that language sounds like, but I think I will need to find out.

I am having two student teachers who are doing their ESL practicum with me. I am really excited as one of then is a fluent Spanish speaker! We have had more Spanish speaking families join our school community than ever before.

I am excited! This will be a year filled with JOY!

Yes, I am sure there will be many struggles and difficulties, but I am sure that JOY will win this year! I even made a sign for me that I want to place in my classroom to remind me of the importance of JOY. (I tried embedding it here, but blogger refused to work with me--or me with it.)

If today is your first day with students, I want to wish you a joy filled first day. If you have already been in school for few weeks, I want to wish you renewed joy this week!

I am off to school! I look forward to commenting this evening and reading posts about the first days of school.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

How Do I Respond?

Thank you Holly for making us think
more deeply about our journey.
Come and read more post or link your own post
at Holly's blog on Thursdays!

“How I treat a brother or sister from day to day, how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street, how I respond to interruptions from people I dislike, how I deal with normal people in their normal confusion on a normal day may be a better indication of my reverence for life than the antiabortion sticker on the bumper of my car.” 
― Brennan ManningThe Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out

When I was reading through the quotes by Brennan Manning, this above quote really hit home. I have been back to school for four days (no students yet just tons of meetings and PD). There are changes in staff, procedures, curriculum, room assignments etc. How do I respond to these changes?

There are some students that have transferred to other schools, students who are returning after being gone for a few years, and brand new students coming who do not speak any English. How do I respond to them?

We have to talk about data and scores at school. Who are your bottom 30 (%)? That seems to be the most common phrase that I have heard in connection with student data. How do I respond to the teachers that are overwhelmed by the demands to change and show better scores? 

What is my response to these and many other difficult circumstances, situations and people, will often tell others the story of my faith as well. Am I able to show God's love and respond with love even when I get tired and frustrated?  Am I able to offer words of encouragement and sprinkles of joy when they are most needed?

I am thinking that this school year, I need to make sure that I know how to respond. I need to be ready. I need to get ready by walking closer to Jesus as there is no way that I can respond the right way without wisdom from Him. So, this school year, I want to value life by being an encourager and joy spreader!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

First Day Back for Staff

New school year is really happening. I might not be quite ready, but it will still happen. Regardless of not being quite ready, it was fun to see everyone on Monday.

Here are some of the comments that were heard around the tables and rooms:

"Oh, this looks great. Who helped you?"

"She's not coming back? What happened?"

"Last year we had eight babies, how many will we have this year?"

"How can we build better relationships this year?"

"New math curriculum....that will be interesting."

"Her mother passed away a month ago."

"Give the pregnant lady some more cookies!"

"He's coming back? I thought he said he was transferring...."

"Do we really have to monitor gum chewing?"

"Let's continue to make progress with our bottom 30%!"

"So happy to see you!"

"What can we do to help?"

Then this morning on the way to school I listened to Rita F. Pierson's TED talk on relationships. I was inspired! I hope you will be too!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Joy Comes in the Morning

My title for this post comes from an old song, It really seems so fitting to the JOY that I am writing about today. The photo is one that I took during the super moon one morning when I was still awake. Light in the darkness will bring such JOY!

My father-in-law has been at a rehabilitation center for the last month after major surgery. He is 84. His recover has been slow, but he is getting ready to go home in a few days. While he has been at the rehab center, he has had some difficult evenings. Feeling disoriented and not really living in the present. But as the morning comes, he is again determined to complete his therapy and get stronger in order to be able to go home.

During these few weeks, I have had the chance to spend some time with him. It really has been my privilege and JOY to spend time with him. We have played Skipbo cards, listened to Christian music on his television, talked about good memories, and pondered about famous people passing away and their reasons. We have laughed! Some because of fun things that have happened to somebody we know (maybe one of the great grandkids), stories about the past or my student stories. JOY has never been far from our thoughts!

My father-in-law loves Gaither music. I think he has all the videos or DVDs that they have ever made. I would prefer a little different kind of Christian music, but on Sunday dad (that is how I have always called my father-in-law) and I sat in his room and listened the Gaithers sing music recorded in an old chapel. This brought JOY to dad. And if listening to these songs brought JOY to him, then it was JOY that I would happily embrace.

Many times JOY is not about what I want, but seeing others happy, will bring so much more JOY into my life! Sharing in the JOY of others, brings JOY into my life. So today, rejoice in the fact that nothing can separate us from God's love. Not even the confusion that evenings or age might bring to us. We can always find JOY in the morning.

Thank you Holly for helping us to share truths about our spiritual journey with others. As we share the JOY with others, we are also filled with more JOY.
Check out Holly's post and read more posts about JOY, or even better, link your post at Holly's site.

Holly's Blog

Thursday, August 7, 2014

God's Awesome Nature


It is Thursday and Holly is calling us to share the stories of our spiritual journeys. Please check out Holly's blog to read about more awesome journeys with God. Today Holly asked us to share about AWE and WONDER. 

When I was writing my post on Tuesday, I posted a few pictures from my vacation, but I think there is more WONDER and AWE that can shine through those photos.

Every morning at the lake three of us would get our coffee, jacket, blanket, books and journals and walk the few feet to the beach where we could sit and watch the sun rise. There wasn't much talking happening as each of us was involved in our own morning meditations. But ALL of us were in AWE of God's nature as we watched the first sliver of sun become visible on the horizon. Slowly, the sun started to take shape. It became round. Still very pale. And then suddenly, there was a reflection on the lake. Like a river of light coming straight towards me. It was AWESOME!

There was such peace at the lake. The time in the mornings surrounded by this peaceful WONDER of nature really set the tone for the days. Peace remained with us throughout the days. We were in His presence. God met us during these times. There was no hurry. We had time to soak up His presence while being amazed by His creation. By the time we were ready to head inside to eat breakfast, the sun had come up. I was ready for the day.

I miss the lake. I am still writing my morning pages early, but I miss listening to the waves hitting the shore and being surrounded by nature and its beauty. Perhaps it is time to find new beauty and wonder a little closer to home. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

This and That Mixed with Fun

Could there be a better way to start your holiday and sitting by the bonfire and enjoying fun with friends. And the mosquitoes? All MIA!

Sitting by the shore, writing my morning pages while watching the sunrise; what could be more beautiful? Sweaters and socks were needed, but the sounds and the view along with warm coffee made these mornings unforgettable.

Peace. Peaceful. Contentment.  Beauty. Amazement. 
Confirmation of Creator's perfect design.

Checking out the views from up high. The only thing missing was a boat ride down below. Still, peaceful.

Hiking the trails was a perfect activity. 
Some even braved the steep downhill.

Home cooked meal on the barbie, great people around the table, and
a breathtaking view over the lake: perfect ending to a perfect day.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

On a Journey with God

As I was reading Holly's tweet and blog post this morning, I realized that my post will go very well along with what Holly is sharing today on the topic of Spiritual Journey Thursday. Join us to share about your spiritual journey.

This past Sunday evening was special. My niece's husband was ordained as Army Chaplain. This is something that he has been dreaming and working towards for many years. Now it is formal.

What do I see in Peter's future?

Peter is a man of God. He is always searching for God. He takes his job as a chaplain very seriously. He understands that the soldiers that he will have contact with come from many different backgrounds. Some of them will know God, and others will have no idea what a relationship with God means. He will encounter people who have a long journey with God and others that in the midst of their PTSD don't even know if there is a God.

Peter will bring hope. Life can at times be pretty dark. Only light can bring hope that will drive away the darkness. This is what I see Peter doing. His words, his actions, his testimony. He will be the messenger of hope.

Peter will bring love. When Pastor Jonathan was giving his charge to Peter during the ceremony, he reminded Peter of all the important things. But the most important, he said, is love. Peter will not just be the person who walks along with his fellow soldiers, but he will also be the one who brings them a message of true love; of eternal love; of Father's love. He will share the love that can conquer all. 

This is the beginning of Peter's journey in this part of his life. He will be shocked, devastated, triumphant, and everything in between. There will be trying times, and there will be times of great joy. All of these are part of the journey we take when we decide to follow God. Despite the trials, separations from family, and other difficulties, Peter can rest assured that he is not alone on this journey! God has promised to walk right beside him. God has promised to give him strength. God has promised to provide. God has promised to love and comfort. God has promised to never leave him or forsake him. God has promised to forgive. God has promised to be there until the very end.

Peter, you are in good hands; you are in God's hands.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Discovering My Inner Creativity

My friend Sarah has a drop-in art at her home on Monday afternoons. For a long time I have been envious of the people who have afternoons free and can go and work on their art projects. I always had school. When summer came, I have been planning to go to Sarah's every Monday, but something always seemed to happen at that time.

Yesterday, finally, the time was right! I had put this date in my calendar as I was taking two friends to meet Sarah as well. I was the non artist in the group. I took my canvas that I had bought months ago. I had some brushes as well. Otherwise, I was clueless.

I don't know what I really worried about as everyone was so helpful! They talked about colors, shading, color wheels etc. I listened and tried to incorporate their suggestions (some with more success than others). The only thing I put my foot down was the color orange!

My goal and my word for the year is DISCOVER. I have been trying to discover many new things this year. Yesterday I succeeded in discovering that, yes, I can paint! Not for anyone else, but for me! I had so much fun painting, trying different colors, difference brushes (even a toothbrush), and most of all, chatting at the table with the other ladies! We came from four different countries. With four different opinions, but we loved being together!

I am wondering what other artistic and creative thing I could try next??? I think a trip to Jo Ann's might be in order.

How do you continue to incorporate your word of the year into your life?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Discovering New Ideas


Attending nErDcampMI, participating in reading Reading in the Wild CyberPD and being part of a group that is reading Linda Reif's Read, Write, Teach, is helping to turn my summer into the summer of new discoveries! When you add collaboration with colleagues close by, my discoveries are spilling over my brain.

nErDcampMI gave me new joy and enthusiasm to keep on discovering new ideas, new books, new strategies, and new colleagues in the cyber world. By attending wonderful sessions, I discovered that it is okay to discard methods that are not working. Donalyn Miller even gave us permission to discard read alouds--or any book for that matter--that is not working. How true! After all, I am not wearing the pair of pants that no longer fit (use your own judgment to determine if they are now too loose or too tight, or they somehow just became too short). I mean, there comes a point when I will even use my old "holy" tights to mop up the dust from my wood floors before I throw them away. If I decide to throw away or return other items, why not books?

Participating in the CyberPD for Reading in the Wild, is giving me the chance to read other educators' opinions and discoveries. I am part of the conversation even if I am sitting at home. I am part of something that is hopefully bringing a change to my classroom this coming year. It also did not hurt that at nErDcampMI I heard Donalyn speak live!!! I now completely understand what so many educators and nerdy book club members have talked about for a long time.

Reading my group's comments and discoveries found in Linda Reif's book Read, Write, Teach is also producing more new discoveries. At first I was a bit skeptical on how this book would benefit me, ELL teacher who focuses on secondary students, but the margins in the book are no longer as empty as they were when the book first arrived on my doorstep. Ideas are swimming in my head even if I don't get to the pool. Reading has led me to search further ideas on Pinterest, blogs, twitter and yes, even on my own bookshelves.

Discoveries are good! I am starting to feel  more energized. New ideas no longer feel like a crowd is gathering in my brain; now the new ideas are welcome guests that I am happy to serve and entertain.

What new things have you discovered this summer?