Advice to Teachers: ¬†My Top 10

I’m fixin’ to start my seventh year as a professional educator and I’m at that point in the summer where we’re only a couple weeks from starting school again so my brain has officially began wandering towards the upcoming year. I try not to think about school until the time comes for it to be necessary, but I can’t help it, especially after last night when I had a conversation with a colleague.  

As a result of this conversation, I’ve created a Top Ten list of advice for teachers who are brand new or relatively new to the profession.  Or just want some wisdom!  These are not ranked in any specific order, just what I’ve learned from experience. 

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice. There are many wise coworkers out there who have some great ideas and strategies. Seek the counsel of a veteran educator!
  2. Read professional books!  It’s important to keep up its best practices and what research says. Don’t you want the best for your students?  Having students copy down 40 words and definitions on Monday and giving a quiz on Friday is a no-no. Use the resources available to you but don’t feel like you have to read the book cover to cover… Skim through it and find what’s most helpful to you and what you’re looking for. 
  3. Surround yourself with positive people.  Don’t be around people who are always talking negatively about other teachers, the district, administration, students, etc.  They are a poison and before long you too will be sucked into it. 
  4. Relax and don’t forget about you. It’s easy as a teacher to spend countless hours on the weekends and evenings cooped up in your classroom. If you want your students to get the best, it’s important that you’re at YOUR best:  mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  
  5. Take advantage of your plan time!  I get it, sometimes you just need tostep back and want a break and do nothing but hang out and talk with your fellow coworkers when plan time rolls around. But is it worth it when you’re stressing out later about not being prepared or unsure what to do?  I was a victim of that my first couple years of teaching and I’ve learned to use my plan time wisely. The first 10-15 minutes is for me to chill. Then after that I have a specific regimen that I stole from a former coworker:  Check and respond to emails. Get things ready for the next day.  Grade. Do my lesson plans for the next week. 
  6. Be consistent with discipline. Stop making threats and actually commit. Follow-through is so vital. If you just let things continue to slide, that’s going to continue to make teaching the content and every valuable minute of it harder and harder. Your expectations should be clear. In my classroom I have a poster on the wall that shows the levels of consequences. (Name on Board = Warning, 1 Check = Detention, 2 Checks = Parent Contact). If you set the tone in the classroom, the students will follow!  (Beware:  Some students will take longer to catch on than others!)
  7. Get to know your students.  Be personable.  Obviously there’s a professional boundary here. Go to their games. Talk to them in the hallway. Ask them about their other classes, ask them how they’re doing!  If a student sees YOU care, they’ll care.  And that will trickle into their performance in your room.  They’ll want to please you and do their best. 
  8. Be a likable teacher.  I don’t care what’s been said in the past, if a student likes you, they’ll work for you. You don’t have to be the “cool” teacher. I’ve seen that happen and ya, you might be “cool” but…are they learning?  Is your classroom controlled?  You have to find a good balance between being fun and being serious.  
  9. Make friends with the secretarial staff.  The people in the front office are the glue that holds the school together, so make sure you’re on their good side and honor and respect them. They do a lot of behind the scenes stuff that we don’t see. 
  10. Don’t compare yourself to other teachers. Everyone grows at their own pace and learns differently, even as teachers. Set goals for the upcoming year.  For example,my goal two years ago was to do my lesson plans every single day. My goal this past year was to be better at putting grades in.  This year, it’s a big goal:  to not have to work on my lesson plans at all on the weekends!  (Which means I’ll really have to take advantage of my plan time!). Don’t compare yourself to others, compare yourself to how you were the previous year (or during student teaching if you’re new.). At the end of the year you should be able to look back and say, “Man, I was a better teacher this year than I was last year!”

Above all, have a great year. You’re going to mess up, that’s okay.  Just try to fix it before it’s too late. Have fun!  If you have fun teaching, your students will have fun learning.  And don’t forget why you got into teaching in the first place.  ūüôā 

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His Rightful Place

Before the summer began, I determined something in my heart. That I would get closer to Jesus again like I used to be. If you know me very well, you probably assumed that my walk with the Lord has been super strong. Well, I was going through a season.  It wasn’t a bad walk with the Lord, but it’s not what it has been before.  And I knew that. 

I wrote down a “Summer Mission Statement” in my journal:  I purpose in my heart, that this summer I will spend a significant amount of time in God’s presence, daily, through prayer, God’s Word, and reflection; in order that I may grow as a child of the Lord.

The past week or so God has really been speaking to my heart and calling me back to where I used to be with Him. Back to when Jesus was the center of my life. Back to when I would go to Him before going to others. Back to when I would say “Yes, Lord” when he asked of something. Back to a place of peace and calm. 

I’ve taken up walking this summer. I’m almost 29 but I’m thinking like I’m 60. I want to partake in some sort of exercise I know I’ll be able to do in 30 years and not be miserable while doing it. 

So I was on a walk last night, and I decided to forgo my cell phone and just talk to God. And listen. And I’m glad I did because it was just a time of confirmation of what’s been going on in my heart and head this past week. 

One podcast said something like this, “We go about our daily lives, inviting Jesus to join us, but it’s not about us allowing Him to be in our lives, we should be joyous and humbled by the fact that He has invited us into HIS life.”

I woke up this morning super refreshed after days of restless nights. And I’ve decided I’m kicking everything off the throne of my heart that has been in the way of Jesus Christ reigning in my life. I’m so excited to get back to where I was with Him and for Him to take up His rightful place in my life again. I feel rejuvenated and renewed!  

A good friend of mine said, “If you want what you had, you have to do what you did.” Simple yet profound!  

Getting back to where I once was… I’m excited for this new season!  

Remembering God’s Completeness¬†

I just got back from my fifth year helping as a Youth Counselor at Silver State Baptist Youth Camp in Sedalia, Colorado, with our FBC youth group and the Lord has set my heart on fire. I love going to camp because I feel like it’s a cleanse for my soul for the upcoming school year. (I pray that I would continue to fuel this fire the Lord has kindled within me and that I wouldn’t let it die out.)

I’ve been reading from Matthew the past few days and I was reminded of something this morning: My God is a complete God.  

In the first part of Matthew I’ve read, Jesus continues to heal and restore people, but not just partially. He does it in completeness, or as the Bible says, He has made them “whole“. This just made me remember His goodness and how He has healed and restored areas of my life, thankfully not in part, but in WHOLE!  

Here are some accounts of the people in Matthew who were healed and restored in whole:

  • The leper
  • The centurion’s servant
  • Peters mother-in-law
  • The man with the palsy
  • The woman with the blood issue
  • The ruler’s daughter
  • Two blind men
  • The man with the withered hand
  • Those possessed with a devil

All of these individuals had a commonality: they either sought Jesus themselves, or they were brought by others. (Side note: We Christians need to be bringing others to Jesus!)

Not only has Matthew been a good reminder to the fact that Jesus can fully heal and restore me, but I have to keep in mind, if I want that to happen, I must do my part and seek Him EARNESTLY and FERVENTLY, much like the woman with the blood issue who knew if she could only just touch the hem of His garment, her faith would restore her. 

Maybe you’re at a point in your life where you’re seeking restoration:

  • Financial Restoration
  • Relational Restoration
  • Emotional Restoration
  • Or even Spiritual Restoration
  • (And many others)

My advice to you, based on the Word of God, would be to seek Jesus FULLY and COMPLETELY so that He can restore you in the WHOLE

I thank God I serve a COMPLETE God. But we must do OUR part and seek Him diligently and completely for a complete and WHOLE restoration

7 Ways to Pray for Your Future Students (and yourself) This Summer

School is out and summer has officially begun!  But it’s never too early to begin praying for the upcoming school year, which includes your future students and yourself!  Here are some things to start praying for:  

  1. A Renewed Mind:  It’s been a long year for students and teachers. Ask God to renew and refresh the minds of your future students (and yours) and allow focus to be regained. 
  2. An Obedient Spirit:  We all want our students to be compliant. Pray that God would work in the kiddos. (And that you would be obedient to the speaking of the Lord, too). 
  3. A Right Attitude:  Positivtiy is hard enough to find in today’s society; the only place some students might see an example of a good attitude might be from you!  Seek the Lord and His example; pray that you and your students would have a positive attitude that would last for more than just the first couple months of school. 
  4. Subsided Nervousness:  With students entering a new grade and having new teachers, nervousness will surely come into play. As a teacher, I get nervous too!  Ask God to take away any fears that might settle in and replace them with peace and confidence.  (2 Tim 1:7)
  5. Time-management:  Sports, clubs, family, friends, etc. can get in the way of the ultimate learning process if not handled properly. Ask the Lord to prepare you and your students for the demands of the upcoming school year. Give God your time, and He’ll honor that!  
  6. Placement: It’s no accident when particular students are placed in your class. Pray that God would send whoever needs to be in your classroom… To your classroom!   This can be an opportunity for them to grow and for you to grow, too!  
  7. Endurance:  Pray that you and your students would have physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional endurance this new year. Nine months can be very taxing on all parties involved. 

And don’t forget to enjoy the summer. Relax. Spend a significant amount of time with the Lord and pray, pray, PRAY! 

Merciful Reminder

It’s the end of the school year and this one is a doozy. We have about five weeks left and the students definitely get that!  

This is what happens every year during this time:  The 7th graders start acting like 8th graders because they’ll be the big dawgs next year (only to be bottom of the totem pole again as a freshman) and the 8th graders; well, they’re just ready to get out!  So there tends to be more behavior problems. The students think the teachers are being mean but really we’re just having to enforce more because they’re acting out more. It’s a perpetual cycle in April/May. 

Let me shed some light:  I usually have a pretty good handle on discipline in my classroom. But in the past week I gave three PCSs (parent communication sheets), two detentions, and even had a parent meeting.  I was telling one of my paras, “No mercy this time of year!”

Then yesterday as I was praying and spending some time with the Lord before school, He completely reprimanded my thinking with His actions.

I literally said something like this to God:

“Lord, I lift up my students to You. It’s that time of year and I just pray that you would help them to finish strong and to behave properly. It’s getting hard!  I only have so much mercy to give!”

And then God stopped me. And convicted me. 

When I said those last lines, I only have so much mercy to give; I was reminded of God’s mercy toward me. What if one day he was like, “Welp, sorry. I’ve given you chance after chance. I only have so much mercy to give.”  God’s mercy has rained down in my life so many times and on a daily basis.

The Bible says His mercies are new every day.  (Lam. 3:22-23). Which I’m thankful and grateful that I don’t always get what I deserve.  

So when I got to school that morning I went over to the white board, and erased the 6 or 7 names who were under the “Warning” label and was reminded of how God extends His mercy to me every single morning, and erases MY name, despite my behavior. 

‚ÄúIt is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.‚ÄĚ (Lamentations‚Ĩ ‚Ä≠3:22-23‚Ĩ ‚Ä≠KJV‚Ĩ‚Ĩ)

Post-Valentine’s Day

 
I’ll get to the picture…. I promise…. But first:

Forgive me for not keeping up in my writing. Honestly, there isn’t an excuse, I just… Haven’t!  

But what I really wanted to talk about was prayer. Prayer works!  Especially if you don’t have anything in your life that is hindering your prayers.

Last semester, I had these two students. A boy and a girl. Both suffering from excessive laziness syndrome and a severe case of defiancy. (Haha my own medical diagnoses). I’m the type of teacher who can usually snap kids into shape, at least for my class. But these two… I tried everything. Everything

Detentions. Parent phone calls. Parent meetings. Solitary confinement (just kidding; an individual seat). Being nice. Being hardcore. Encouraging. Motivating. I tried EVERYTHING. And NOTHING was working. (And did I mention that I had these two students in the same class period?!)  It was rough for me mentally and emotionally at the end of the day. Never have I ever struggled so much with a student (in this case, two) for so long. Normally they whip right into shape!  

I didn’t understand how everything I was doing wasn’t working. And then I realized I didn’t try the one thing I know works:  Prayer

I started praying for these two individuals and for me, too. I started asking God to let me see them the way He sees them. 

Finally we had Christmas break, and we came back, and I’m happy to report that  those two haven’t been the same since!  And neither have I. 

They are my go-to students in that class!  They always participate. They have a decent grade. And I “click” with both of them now. Sometimes I get glimpses of their old-selves but overall… They are completely different students than first semester. And such a joy to have in class now. I’d say, “It’s crazy to think how they’ve done a complete 180.”  But really, it’s not crazy. God answers prayer. Should I have expected anything less?  Shame. On. Me. And shame on me for trying to fix it all in the beginning when I should have just taken it to the Lord in the first place. 

Prayer works. 

So that brings me to the picture from above. It’s the Valentine’s Day candy the female student bought me. Not only was I shocked she brought this to me, but I was shocked that she picked it out on purpose. She said, and I quote, “I brought you a penguin.”

She knows that my favorite animal is a penguin. 

Prayer works. #CompleteTurnaround 

2015: ¬†My Year in Review

My cup runneth over. 

The older I get, the more I recognize change in my life.  Maybe it’s because I’d like to think I’m maturing more, so I’ve developed an awareness for it.  Change is difficult whether it’s interpreted as good or “bad”. 

Ultimately I think all change ends up being for the good. 

Regardless, change is difficult. 
I feel as if I say this every year but this was a year of change. It was a hard year looking back. But because I’m saved and a child of God, I view trials and obstacles differently and I know the One who guides me through them. So change is easier for me to handle. Difficult, but easier. 

Some of the ways my life changed this year:

1. The passing of my step-dad back in May. It was hard. He’d been battling a three year war with cancer. And just like my real dad, was taken from the earth a bit too soon. 

2. Stepping down from soccer. I resigned from coaching high school girls soccer after the season was over.  It wasn’t because of anything bad. I just felt that chapter in my life was done. 

3. My friendships. This summer I was kind of angry with God. I felt like He was removing people from my life left and right.  Some of my closest and dearest friends. In hindsight,  I know God just wanted to make room for me to grow in some certain areas and to depend on Him more than them

4. My mindset on teaching. I went to a PLC Summer Institue in St. Louis, Missouri and it just changed my whole perspective on students.  I now want ALL students at South Middle School to be successful. Not just “my” students. And I want them to achieve in all of their subjects, not just in mine.  

5. Graduate school. I started working on my Master’s degree in Educational Administration to be a building principal. However, after this semester I’ve decided to put it on pause. I’m not sure if it’s really for me to be honest.  

6. Numbness. For a few months I felt completely numb to the preaching of the Word.  Which bothered me because my walk with the Lord is diligent. I’m in the Word every day. Praying every day. There wasn’t any “big” sin in my life. I’m not sure why I felt numb to the preaching.  I think it’s because of the circumstances in my life from #1 and #3.  I still feel numb sometimes and I think it’s because God doesn’t just want me going through the motions. 

7. My gratitude. I’ve been a lot more grateful for things in my life and I’ve come to recognize that the Lord gives and takes away. So I need to be humble and maintain a spirit of thankfulness.  I’ve definitely become more thankful. 

Change is difficult. Things aren’t always what they seem. 

Nonetheless… My cup runneth over and I am truly blessed. 

Setting the Bar… And Living by It

The school year is off and running. It’s busier than ever, especially now that I’m taking online grad courses.  Sometimes I wish I didn’t tell people I was pursuing a degree in admin because now everyone assumes that I want to be a principal, but in reality I don’t; at least not now. I might in the future. But I still know my place and heart is currently in the classroom with the students. I’m just working on my masters because I’m trying to be obedient to God’s whisper at Youth Camp this past summer. 

Anyways, now that that’s out of the way, it’s time to talk about living up to expectations. What I’m about to say was derived from a conviction I just had about… Fifteen minutes ago in my prayer time. 

I was praying to God and I found myself asking Him to help me to set the bar high in my life and to live by it. And then the Holy Spirit quickly convicted me:  I don’t need to set the bar high. Jesus already set the bar. I just need to live by it. His actions and speech and the way He lived his life around others was and is the prime example of how I should be living my life.  

I’m thankful this morning for convictions like this one. I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. I just need to start driving with the one right in front of me.  

So my question to you is this:  Jesus has set the bar and expectations. How are you measuring up?  How are you measuring up when it comes to…

  • Giving?
  • The words that come out of your mouth?
  • The thoughts you possess?
  • The actions you do?
  • The places you go?
  • The love you have for others?
  • The authorities above you?
  • Your time wth the Father?

Jesus has set the bar… Let’s rise!  

Priorities

Wow, it’s been forever since I’ve last blogged. ¬†And by forever I mean like a month or so. ¬†You know how it is, life just tends to take over sometimes in the busyness of today’s world. ¬†Which is the perfect Segway into this entry: ¬†Priorities.

This past week was the first full week of school, teaching the somewhat-still-innocent seventh graders. ¬†To start the school year, we’re beginning in a unit titled “Friendship and Loyalty”. ¬†The first piece of text I had them read was a nonfiction piece titled “11 Signs of a Genuine Friendship”. ¬†Prior to reading the piece (which took way too long than expected), I pre-taught some vocabulary words; words I felt were important for them to understand. ¬†One of the words, was¬†priority. ¬†(I think one of the “signs” was that genuine friends make you a priority; something like that.) ¬†We defined priority as what you think is most important. ¬†It’s safe to say that we all have different priorities.

Over the past year one thing I’ve been praying about is for God to help me get my priorities straight. ¬†I know they’ve been out-of-order. ¬†I’ll be the first to admit that. ¬†I had made a list of my priorities, in order of importance a year ago, and this was it:

  1. God
  2. My job
  3. Friends
  4. Me
  5. Family

Honestly, that was my list. ¬†In order of importance. ¬†I was embarrassed by it. ¬†So like I said, I’ve been praying that God would help me get my priorities straight.

I revised my list, and this is what I came up with:

  1. God
  2. Me
  3. Family
  4. My job
  5. Friends

Now let me talk about all of these so it doesn’t look like I’m selfish haha.

God: ¬†I know that God needs to be my number one. ¬†If God isn’t number one in my life than my other priorities don’t even matter. ¬†If my relationship isn’t right with God, my relationship won’t be right with others. ¬†I wouldn’t even be able to keep my priorities straight without him. ¬†I completely recognize that.

Me: ¬†Now this might seem selfish, but let me explain! ¬†When I say “me” I mean my own well being. ¬†One thing I’ve realized is sometimes I do need to put myself first. ¬†Like working out. ¬†Feeling good about myself. ¬†Some relaxation time. ¬†Doing some things for myself. ¬†To keep my sanity! ¬†Sometimes we all just need some “me” time. ¬†If I can’t take care of my physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health, than that will trickle into the other areas of my life; ¬†especially teaching I’ve noticed. ¬†yes I love my students and players. ¬†But sometimes I do need to put myself first. ¬†Otherwise I’ll be cranky and blah and it will affect how I teach and coach!

Family: ¬†Yes it was previously lower on the list and if you ask them they’ll probably say it’s still lower on the list. ¬†BUT it’s something I’m working on. ¬†It’s hard. ¬†I’m trying. ¬†It’s probably the most challenging one on the list for me if I’m being honest and open. ¬†My family and I, we’re just not that close. ¬†Never really have been. ¬†We’re all so different. ¬†We’re all grown up and scattered about now. ¬†That’s life. ¬†I don’t know if we’ll ever be “close” but I am trying to make more of an effort to communicate with them more. ¬†It’s not that we don’t like each other or anything haha, we’re just all doing life at our own pace in our own way. ¬†It’s not where it should be; but like I said… I’ve been praying about it and trying to make it more important.

My Job: ¬†I hate even calling it “my job” because it’s not a job to me. There is no doubt in my mind that teaching is where my heart is. ¬†It used to be higher on the list but it started consuming my life. ¬†Some might say it still does, but I think they’re confused with my passion for it. ¬†I’m not at my best in my classroom unless I’m at my best in the higher areas of my life. ¬†A realization I’ve had over the past year. One thing I’ve learned through many tears and being overwhelmed and conviction is at the end of the day, I’m more than a teacher, I’m a child of the One True King.

Friends: ¬†Ah. ¬†Friends. ¬†Friends. ¬†Friends. ¬†This is probably the biggest change on the list. ¬†This past summer alone has seen a huge shift in this area of my life. ¬†God has taken and rearranged some friendships in my life. ¬†It’s been really hard. ¬†My least favorite thing this past summer. ¬†But through it all, God has grown me. ¬†I love my friends dearly, I really hope they know that. ¬†Whether we talk every day or not. ¬†I would do anything for them. ¬†But I also know that other things need to come first. ¬†Not to be selfish. ¬†Not to be mean. ¬†Not even just for me, but for them too. ¬†If they truly needed me, or someone to talk to, or a hug; I would be there. ¬†No doubt. ¬†But it got to a point where they were starting to creep up on my list of priorities, and it was effecting me terribly. ¬†But I think I’ve figured it out; still working on it though!

So there’s been a lot of shifting in my priorities over the past year; the past couple months especially. ¬†I’m still praying and trusting God to fully take control over these different areas of my life; and I just need to be sensitive to what He wants in my life. ¬†Ultimately, that’s what’s important.

So to anyone who is reading this right now, I suggest sitting down and being honest with yourself. ¬†Make a list of how your priorities look right now. ¬†An honest list. ¬†And then make a list of how they¬†should ¬†look. ¬†It’ll rock your world!

Social Pressures Christians Face

As I’ve been preparing for the upcoming school year, one of the units I will be teaching is titled “Social Pressures.”  In this unit we will be reading and researching different pressures that teenagers face today. For example,  the pressure parents put on their children to excel in sports, the pressure to look a certain way, the pressure to fit in, etc.  Planning this unit has caused me to think about the pressures I face from being a Christian. 

One pressure I face as a Christian being a teacher is the pressure to hide my faith. I don’t get to talk about God as much as I’d like to. God is so good though. He gives many opportunities to talk to students about the Lord.  A lot of times it’s because a student will bring it up. Or there’ll be a Biblical allusion in a piece of text we’re reading.  I keep a King James Version of the Bible on my desk. Along with a Spanish translation. (You never know!). Sometimes when I get a walk-through I wonder if they will ever tell me to put it away. And I think about what my reaction would be. Would I defend the Bible sitting on my desk?

Another pressure I face being a Christian is the pressure to “get with the times.”  It has to do with music.  The music I play in my classroom is by Christian artists.  However I make sure they don’t say God or Jesus I’m the, because I don’t want to get in trouble. But I do make sure they have a good positive message.  A lot of the students don’t know the songs. I’ve had students ask, “Can we listen to so-and-so?”  And I say no. Because the kids don’t understand the underlying meaning to a lot of lyrics nowadays:  drugs, alcohol, fornication. I’m a firm believer that music has a huge impact on the mind. I remember one instance while I was coaching soccer a few years ago. We were practicing and I had music going, and one of my own assistants laughed at me and said, “What kind of music is this?”  I refuse to be the reason why a teenager goes out and parties due to the persuasion of a song they hear in my classroom. 

A pressure I face as a Christian coach is parental pressure.  During basketball we pray before and after games, win or lose. We also pray at the end of practices.  We take a moment to honor and glorify God. I always ask for a volunteer to pray, and if no one does then I do. I get how nerve wrecking it can be to pray in front of others. In my mind we do this because I believe it opens the door to those personal conversations on bus rides or before school starts of being able to share the Gospel with a student in need. But I’m often nervous that a kid will go home and their parent will ask them about practice, and the child will mention that we prayed. And the parent get mad. Or my boss or another teacher will walk in during the middle of prayer and report me. (Yes, I have been talked to about this before.). I always make it a point before we pray though that they don’t have to, they can excuse themselves and no one will think any less of them. 

I guess the ultimate pressure I face as a follower of Christ is the pressure to conform to society.  You could say that everything kind of falls under this umbrella. Non-believers, the unsaved, or even the lukewarm, put pressure on us to take our belief of what God says and water it down. I cannot. I cannot be a cafeteria-Christian and pick and choose what I will believe from the Bible to fit my own personal lifestyle or the age we live in. God does not change. And neither does His Word. 

Everybody faces pressures from society. I get that.  Christians are hated, too. Only it’s not a shock to us because Jesus told us we would be. When a Christian uses the Bible to back up a belief, they’re considered to be a close-minded, Bible-thumping, conservative.  All of which I have been called.  For what I believe. But I won’t let the pressure of human words cause me to forsake the True Word.