Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ya gotta be flexible . . .

A couple of weeks ago I was thinking about students I have taught over the years, experiences with children and colleagues.  For around ten years I taught reading as my main contribution in the field of education.  At first it was small reading groups from first, second, and third grades plus the business of directing the instructional aides on site. I chose my own curriculum.  Next it was the addition of a fourth grade block of English Language Arts instruction using the Houghton Mifflin reading series for 12  remedial students who had reading challenges, in addition to my regular reading groups.  That year I learned a program called Phonics for Reading which I implemented to help these students receive instruction where there were gaps.  

Next, fifth and sixth graders  were added into my schedule for me to teach English Language Learning strategies using another program called Santillana.  A couple of years later I found myself teaching a scripted program called Corrective Reading (Reach) with groups of 4th and 5th, and 6th -8th.  This was my biggest challenge yet.  With 45 children in the program, we rotated them every two weeks.  It was during this time that I uncovered some strategic bullying going on amongst some students.  This was dealt with immediately by the administration and caused some consternation and anger on my students part with some of it directed at me.  But I weathered the storm.  My first experience teaching kindergarten  was also last year when I taught two programs new to me, Writing Without Tears-penmanship and K-PALS, a phonological program.  

This year is a turnaround for me with straight fourth grade and several new programs to implement:  Treasurers reading series, Kevin Clark's Sheltered English Instruction, Olweus Anti-bullying program, Peaceful Playgrounds, and EDI learning strategies, Accelerated Reader to boost reading... and the beat goes on.  I am getting more and more computer literate and have learned how to enter students grades in an electronic grade book system and am now asking and reporting absences on line.  This is my first year teaching students who are at grade level in eight years.  Most of my career has been in the realm of remedial instruction.  

Right now we're in the middle of writing California Mission Reports and learning about minerals and rocks.  My students have high interest in these subjects.  They are an energetic group.  I'm catching on to how fourth grade works and am seeing some successes.  My students are second language learners except for two students  I do miss teaching my favorite subject, reading.

Well, if I am a little tired or stressed, now you know why.  But, it still is a worthy occupation.  

Saturday, January 14, 2012

To be or not to be-Being whom we are meant to be

A common thread has been running through my reading these past few months.  Interestingly enough, it is in tandem with the path that I am taking that is yet to be explored and is just opening up.  Not every book I've been reading has been of my selection so it is rather curious that they are converging on the road less traveled.  Last night I returned my attention to reading the book, Find Your Strongest Life, by Marcus Buckingham, a read my Book Dinner group is working through, and found that once again another author is speaking to the issue of calling although in a completely different way and without using the word for it is primarily a secular work.  The author suggests that when we are doing what we were created to do, working in our strongest areas, we will be energized instead of depleted.  

By looking at ourselves objectively and identifying those things on the "+" column which are those things which bring us peace and joy, but identifying on the "-" side, those things which drain us and keep us feeling like we're working so hard all the time, we can slowly determine what it is that we really should be doing.  Even though we may be functioning especially well in other areas in areas of employment, they may fall short.  Personally, I can understand this because I am living the personal struggle of being good at my craft in teaching yet desiring another direction that would free up my time to contemplate and write and enjoy life a bit more than I am now.  I suppose the difficulty rests in having the need to support oneself.  

I mentioned in a facebook post awhile back that Os Guiness wrote a book that talks about "Calling".  He said we all have a calling and we all have a purpose for which we were created.  We will not be contented nor fulfilled until we are right where we should be in God's beautiful purpose for our life.  That is also the premise in The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren which has reached many people with the simple truth of the meaning of life, more specifically, the meaning and purpose of every individual life.  The minister of my church flock often says it this way, we should be in the center of God's big will for us.  

It is hard to always know these things or to even take personal inventory of our life for we do much to please others and to fulfill commitments and obligations.  Buckingham encourages people to keep a notepad handy and throughout the week write down each activity which makes you feel strong/happy when you are doing it and conversely, write down each thing that you do that seems tedious or draining (even if you're great at doing it).  In this way you can start opening up to expanding on the things that are your personal bent  and maybe even your destiny.  As a person of faith, I believe that in it all there is a will of God that is shaping and helping us become whom we are meant to be.  

Friday, January 6, 2012

dreaming on

Many of us have dreams that we hope will be fulfilled on some beautiful day.  My dreams are never about money.  In fact, money doesn't drive me or beckon me.  It is the other things in life, like looking at a beautiful sunset, taking a walk at dusk, talking with a good friend, or seeing someone smile who often seems sad; these are what pull at me.  My dreams are in the dream category not in the goal category.  I like goals but I think I'm too creative at heart to be bound to a plan or an outcome.  But there are dreams in my life, good dreams, happy dreams, hopeful dreams, wishful dreams, and sweet dreams.  

"Sweet dreams." These were my closing words to my children after I prayed with them.  I always liked the sound of those two words joined together sounding like a warm embrace.  If dreams could come true, I would live on an open area sort of like a down-scaled manor.  There would be a little chapel located somewhere on the land where people could come and pray.  Pathways would lead between trees and over ponds with verses carved on posts and an occasional statue to grace a reflective pool.  There would be Friday night sing times in a room full of people or around a fire while we would gaze at the night sky and listen to guitar music.  It would be a place of healing and love where anyone is welcome.  The menu would be healthy food, not fancy, just warm and wholesome.  If you've ever been to Lord's Land, it would be sort of like that.  

Sweet dreams enrich our lives and sometimes they just may come true.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Life in Reverse

Life is better understood in reverse.  I read that somewhere recently and I couldn't agree more.  It seems rather odd that we must live life before we gain understanding even when we have attempted to be wise and prudent.  My life has not been very much like I expected it to be four decades ago.  But as I look back I see it more clearly.  

One of the pleasant results of going through times of difficulty is that I know at this stage of the game that the hard events will grow me as a person if I chose to let them. They grew me during those times I chose to suck it in rather than follow the path of self-pity or giving into a spirit of the whine.  

Looking in the review mirror, I can see that taking the high road has always been the better option. This has been true even when it may have looked like something different to others weighing in on the subject.  We all make mistakes and we all do foolish things at times.  I don't like it when I'm a fool.  It can be wasted effort when I head a wrong direction with something.  However, every day one makes new choices and purposes how to use the next twelve hours--for the good, better, or best.  

In spiritual living, the person ends the day by looking back at how they used the day.  My Pastor says to look for where God is in what we do and in what problems we face, in each and every situation.  Was God in this? I think that's advice to pay attention to.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Year

"But this is not the day."  As it is well-spoken in Return of the King, the age of men is not finished.  This morning my Bible opened to Zechariah 14.  As I read about the return of the King, I was picturing it in my mind's eye, how it looks.  
"On that day there will be no light, no cold or frost.  It will be a unique day, without daytime or nighttime--a day known to the Lord.  When evening comes, there will be light.  
On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter.  The Lord will be king over the whole earth.   
On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name."

My eyes often fill with tears as I read scripture, which happened this morning when I read those words.  In 2012 we live in a shadow for the earth is not as it should be.  It writhes under a curse.  I grow impatient, tired, wishful, and stressed when I'd rather be hopeful, cheerful, happy, content. I know I am not alone, I have many sisters and brothers who struggle with the endless cycle of life.  Yet, we must let go of our weariness to look up toward the King of the earth.  From Him we receive a life-giving source of strength and beauty.  The things of this shadow-land are growing less important to me as I realize their lack of worth, their empty reward.  Things of earth are not the source of my happiness for they do not have the capacity to satisfy my deepest wants and innermost desires.  What I love most is not of this earthly realm.  In Him I find full satisfaction.

This is another important year in the life of our country.  It is an important year in the life of all those whom I know.  It is important for each of us, for we will make many decisions and choices that will decide our future moments and years.  I tend to focus on one area as my New Year's resolution.  I realized today what it must be for me in 2012.  And it is a good thing for me to do this.  I am wise enough to know that I will not achieve my goal and strong enough to know that I cannot do it without God's help.  Yet, in the pursuing of it, I will learn and grow and be more than I was in 2011.  This is the day to draw courage and live bravely, to be more than we were yesterday, to put our hope in King of kings, and Lord of lords.