Monday, September 15, 2008

oh and steve.

This is our newest roommate, Steve. He's kind of lazy and never helps with the bills. Unless "chewing up" is helping....

reflections by request.

Happy Anniversary! I've been in Las Vegas and teaching for just over a year. I've never really cared about the January 1st new year--as long as I can remember, I've only cared about the academic new year. It's at these points that I resolve to do things differently and reflect on the past year's changes and accomplishments. This year I have a lot to share. Especially since I've filled up my latest journal and received requests to blog.

I've been incredibly and inexplicably blessed this year. It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord provides. In thinking about the past year my mind immediately jumps to the ways that I have been provided for. I have a job that allows me to live extremely comfortably as is evident by my latest trip to Whole Foods, my sweet ride, cute and spacious apartment, this wireless internet I'm typing on, my upcoming trip to Minnesota! and a whole list of other things. I just feel so fortunate that I can have these things that I usually refer to as needs, but really they're the icing on the cake.

Even beyond the material comforts in life, I've realized that I have a huge support system. I recently was reminded of this during an episode of House. There was a patient who was on death's door and without any friends or family to comfort her or be near her; she said her favorite people were five (she was a kindergarten teacher) and therefore couldn't come to visit. Thankfully, I don't have to feel that alone--if I were to go to the hospital, I would have more people than I would know what to do with. A friend recently reminded me about how God blesses us with people as she realized that although she doesn't have a boyfriend, if she needed a man to help or comfort her, she has a long list to choose from. As do I.

It's strange that when I think of my blessings, I quickly recall material things, but the most invaluable--the people who remind me who I am and comfort my pain, those who allow me to see God more closely and fully--seem to take a few moments to make it on the list. Like Paul, I pray that you are well and deeply rooted in the truth today, that this blog finds you in good spirits.

One of the people that I am blessed to have in my life, for I am sure that God put her at my school for me, is the librarian (her name is Ann, I kid not). She's 73 and looks about 55. She always tells it like it is and shares her immense wit and wisdom with me. The other day she pulled me aside and inquired about my year so far and my health. Surprisingly, she noticed the fatigue on my face (I sometimes forget that I'm an open book of emotion) and admittedly the weariness of my soul and called me out on in. Taken aback I gave some "adjusting to the school year" excuse which she immediately redefined as the weight and oppression of the others on me. Truly, I've noticed a change in my attitude from last year to this year--in and out of school. I plan more, I like to be in control, I feel a sense of failure when plans don't come to fruition and I don't care for disorganization. I used to think that I was between a J and P in Meyers-Briggs coding, but now I know I'm a full-on J. Move over engineers, teachers will rock your logical-organizational butts. I'm professionally rewarded for this, but existentially put off. I never wanted anything to have control over my identity without my permission and I unknowningly let it. At that point in the conversation, I once again felt compelled to gather my things and head for the hills to shake off the complications and oppressiveness of living this life.

This is all to say I am frustrated by these changes which have their benefits and faults. Or rather, I'm bothered that I won't remain a stagnant being. In my lifelong quest for list making and learning, I would like to check of "understanding self" from life's "To Do" list and I'm now realizing that I don't think I will be able to and what is more frustrating, I won't be able to do the same with the other significant people in my life. I want to know everything and I'm thinking that might not be as easy as I anticipated. So this year I am continuing my journey of self and trying to figure out what and where my next step will be. Inside of the hills, which I don't think have any coffee, I have created a list of other places to move to and for those of you making lists and keeping track at home, my options include:
  • Back to school for a degree in Children's Literature and Library Science (Boston or UofI)
  • Teaching in a different school district (like Chicago, Twin Cities, Boston)
  • Going to Africa for a year to tutor missionary kiddos
  • whatever God has planned that I don't know about
I don't think, nor have I ever thought, that I will be in the classroom teaching all my life. I'm keenly interested in transitioning into my next career. This concept feels strange, mostly because I've been teaching for all of 1.2 years. I know that I need to give these things time, but when I think about this particular career change, I am more excited that I ever was about teaching in a classroom. And of course I would like to be closer to family, friends and Thomas. I miss them so very much!

I am slowly learning that while I try to plan for life and be prepared for all of life's incedentals, I can't anticipate everything and that just steals the opportunities for God to demonstrate his omnipotence and love for me and my loved ones. I am apt to make a list of the ways that God has shown himself to me this year, but that would just be anal and quantitative of our benevolent Creator. So I'll just leave this post as enough of a record.

But really, I'm interested in hearing about the ways that you've been blessed this year. Drop me a line!


P.S. Tune in next time (tomorrow?) for my thoughts on how Las Vegas and Israel are similar!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

learning on the road.

Learning Dallas

I’ve begun my cross-country trek (well, cross-central time zone) during my break from school. It’s so strange this year round school—I’m never completely separate from my students. This is one of the chief complaints from teachers at year round schools. Nevertheless, I think it increases the bonds that I have with my students. For better or worse we are connected for the entirety of a year. I feel like I’ve been able to get to know them a more than if I were at a nine-month school, especially now as we enter the exciting world of 11 year-old hormones.

I just finished writing postcards to them all. By the way, 22 consecutive postcards provide a fierce hand cramp.

It is my goal to learn something about myself and about God at each of my destinations during my journeys. I loved my time with the Fay family—Sam is more precious than words. I do think I would like to model my own children after him.

Living with missionaries (more specifically Bible translators/linguists), for a few days was insightful. I was stuck by the sense of community that exists at Cara and Kory’s apartment complex. The physical closeness of the apartments created college dorm closeness especially in contrast to Las Vegas anonymity. It begs the question—is it the buildings or the people? I have found that it has taken a lot longer to create a closeness and sense of community in Las Vegas than I anticipated. I really appreciated Dallas (thanks Kory and Cara! and Sam!) for reminding me of what it means to open to others and enjoy living in a community.

Learning Valpo

It’s not often in life that you are able to go back in time. Without a flux capacitor I think it’s impossible. However, my time in Valpo allowed me to go back to a time, a time of scholarly and spiritual pursuits. I really can’t summarize the sense of belonging and peace that I felt while in Valpo. Who knew that I’d ever want to be back in northwest Indiana?

Best week ever!

Learning Minnesota

I have yet to figure out if it is due to my age or my length of time away or some hybrid thereof, but each visit home becomes increasingly challenging. Not in the relationship with my family (although it continually evolves, mostly for the better), but rather in my perception of what home means and how I fit in. I've concluded, at long length, that I have multiple homes. I use a variety of descriptors for them as well. There's the place where my clothes live (Las Vegas), the place where my parents live (Bloomington), the place where I know how to get anywhere (Minnesota), and the place where I truly feel free (nature). I am home in so many places that I've started to wonder if I will ever settle anywhere.

This leaves my heart feeling torn--living in the dichotomy never having one place that I belong to while feeling pulled to a place I have never been. But as Christians, I guess that's what we've been called to. There's a passage in 1 Peter that reminds me that we are sojourners in this life, we belong in the presence of God, but there is too much to do still.

I have many stories from the classroom to tell, but they will have to wait until later.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I think that blogging is a difficult thing for me. It often defeats me. How can I summarize this new life--"learning Las Vegas". I guess I need to check my expectations. I cannot make you understand what it is to live my life day in and out, but I can inform you of the major happenings in the balmy southwest.

My classroom has changed significantly since losing a student over my track break. I never thought that I would be a person who joyfully signs withdrawal papers, but apparently I make exceptions. EN leaving was still melancholy. I don't know what will happen with him, I hope that one day he will be able to forgive his mother, understand what his father is and build a life on his intelligence and charisma. At this point that is all that I can give him. Sometimes, I feel like that's all I can do for my students, merely hope for the best. Teaching can be rewarding--whenever I see my students finally understand a concept--but I have found a great portion of it to be unsatisfying. There is nothing tangible at the end of a days work. I can hold a collection of worksheets, but in the end what do those really represent? Oh! to be a surgeon or carpenter or engineer.

If pressed I would say that progress is being made. Since EN left AS has decided to mellow out, mildly, but all the same he is trying. I just wish that I could do more for these kids. Unapologetically, I realize I am writing in circles. If nothing else I am discovering my present limits in my ability which, of course, drives me nuts to have to tell myself that I can't accomplish something. I'll show me?

I think this season of my life is all about learning my person limitations and not getting frustrated by what I can't do, but finding what I can do. What is it that God has for me, truly? Let me know if you've found a shortcut to that answer.


Oh, yeah. Happy Valentine's Day.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


"You should keep a journal of your first year" said one of my co-workers. Done and done. The strange thing is though, of all the years of teaching, from what I've heard, your first year is the most stressful, time-consuming, overwhelming experience of the profession. So with what little experience and insight I have I shall blog.

I have yet to share with you the craziness of the past month. I completed my first set of report cards which, regardless of what is supposed to happen they took me a weekend to complete. I really wish that I could tell parents that your kid is fine--an effective strategy for 75% of my students. For the rest I just want to tell them that we have a lot of work ahead of us, and ask "what's been going on for the past 10 years".

The end of the first trimester provided me with a lot of reflective time. I've decided to modify some things, analyze test scores and push my students more. I'm also still getting acclamated to being in this professional position. I'm fine acting like a professional, but going to work everyday is wearing on me.

I do have to say, however, I couldn't ask for a better collection of people to work with. I think being at a dual language school draws a diverse collection of staff members with such interesting experiences. Or maybe that's just Las Vegas. Vegas is a lot like college in that way--it's not out of the ordinary to ask where someone is from--usually they're not originally from Vegas. Not even my students, most of them are from California or Mexico.

A.S. was in rare form the other day. While teaching math, he decided to erase what I was writing. I told him to sit down and he started writing on the board. I really want Tom Cruise to come into my classroom. I think I can convince him that ADD is a real issue. Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty granola (vegetarian, reusable shopping bags, etc) but if my kid has ADD he would be on meds faster than Tom Cruise can jump on a chair. In a classroom of 24 people having a kid with severe ADD is no different than having a kid with schizophrenia. Oh, wait, we shouldn't medicate that either....

In honor of Jo: "But they're not here now, so we don't think about them"

Sunday, November 11, 2007

my list.

I decided to make a list of things that I learned this week. I got the idea while I was writing during our Writer's Workshop--a time when everyone in the classroom (me included!) writes for a period of time--I had a tough week and really needed to unload, it was surprisingly therapeutic.

  • It is inevitable that I will receive a minimum of one paper cut per day (this was not mentioned to me before I started teaching)
  • I currently have 7 paper cuts.
  • No matter how exciting the lesson, it will always be lame to 5th graders.
  • Principals miss teaching.
  • I love my students, even the ones that drive me crazy.
  • My enthusiasm for certain things may not always be shared by others.
  • Biting off more than you can chew may lead to choking.
  • My students do not like to answer questions.
  • My students will do almost anything for Hot Cheetos.
  • Hot Cheetos are disgusting.
  • The DMV people in NV do not have a sense of humor.
  • I am no longer a part of the "Stay up past 12AM" crowd.
  • I am now a part of the "Sleeping in is getting up at 7AM" crowd.
  • While money spent towards textbooks and field trips is important, spending a couple grand on a top-of-the-line copier will save the sanity of your staff. That is priceless.
  • Getting the digits of a 10 yr old is creepy. (He volunteered them...I was merely the recipient)
  • When the worst kid in class tells you he moved, you feel sad.
  • When the worst kid in class tells you he moved, you feel relieved.
  • When the worst kid in class tells you he moved, you question his truthfulness (c'mon, you're standing on our school property kid--you haven't withdrawn yet...)
  • In Las Vegas, a cold front=clouds.
  • Las Vegas + clouds = best sunsets EVER. (The kind you draw in 4th grade)
  • In Las Vegas, when children see overcast sky they go crazy thinking it will rain. I didn't have the heart to tell them those are the wrong types of clouds.
  • It's snowing in Minnesota. (I almost forgot what November weather is like....)
  • I don't know if I'll get to use my sweaters this year.
  • I'm a good teacher.
That last one I'm still coming to terms with. This post is called LearningLasVegas and I don't know that I've officially explained all that it means to me. Clearly it's a play on words--I'm learning about Las Vegas, I'm teaching in Las Vegas--but I think it's more about learning who I am away from that which is comfortable. From the community atmosphere of the Midwest, from Fall and humidity and seeing my family on a regular basis. It's become learning about what God wants from me, trusting that relationship and trusting that while I don't get to talk to my students about Him, that they will get to see a glimpse through me. This week I have been relearning my calling to education. Through that pain, there has been grace and hope that God has given me abilities suited for this position and this is where I'm supposed to be. For now.


P.S. These are the approximate colors that we are painting our apartment. The living room is a tan color, the kitchen a light green, the dining room a darker green, my bedroom a dusty blue. Sigh. I think we miss the Midwest. Or Valpo or both.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

where I'm from

Where I'm From

I am from 'Oh yah' and 'fer sure'
From knee deep in snow on Halloween
and everything on a stick

I am from stick-to-your-ribs dinners
and black coffee after
From the whole family every Saturday
knocking elbows at the table

I am from life a little slower
a little nicer
I am from deep love and great freedom
my gift

(inspired by George Ella Lynn)