Thursday, November 24, 2011

*My Someone, Your Someone*

This week, the last thing I do before I go to bed and the first thing I do when I wake up is kiss a baby cheek. It's one of the best feelings I've experienced in my entire life and it makes this Thanksgiving extra special! This is our very first Thanksgiving with a baby in the house and it's so much fun!! It's especially nice to have all the fun, but no responsibility. I'm soaking up this aunt thing for sure....I would be lying if some of the gory details of pregnancy didn't make me very able to wait on the Lord's timing!! That's one way to receive patience, let me tell ya. Most people go into having a baby with blinded bliss, but I am well aware. Twins know everything...nothing spared. I am praying for my future self a lot lately, haha. Fact.

I've been staying at my parents house since last Friday so I wouldn't miss out on anything with Sam which has been wonderful. My old room has definitely reminded me of a lot I have to be thankful for. The Jr. High photos of friends are filled with the same people that my pictures are now. Luckily, now we look a little different are are not as emotional so we don't fight over whose shampoo is the best. I am so thankful that I've kept my best friends over a long period of time. It's made me so thankful for true friendship that lasts for years. Friends that come into my life not just for a good time, but to live life with me. Friends that are with me through the ups and the downs, and I can trust not to stab me in the back. Friends that are always on my team no matter what. I have been so blessed to see the same faces pop into my room year after year. I don't need a lot of friends, but I do need a few deep ones and I am so thankful I have that.

The room also makes me think about how thankful I am to be born in the family that I am. Why me? Why did I get such great parents that never let me lack for anything? I have always been well taken care of and well loved. I have no idea why I was chosen to be in such a wonderful place in life, but I am so thankful. I can't thank the Lord enough for giving me to these people. They are such wonderful parents and have raised me well.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the people in my life in general. I read a book about how making a difference doesn't mean changing the whole world, but changing things for someone. It's too hard for one person to give clean water to everyone or feed every hungry mouth. I was struggling for a while because I felt like my life didn't look like it was making a huge different. I'm not in a distant land changing tribes or anything. I want to live a life that matters, and I wasn't sure living in the luxuries of this town was doing that. But the Lord has shown me that a lot of times being a difference maker just means changing a life for somebody, being there for those the Lord has put around me. I think that can be in ministry as in sponsoring a child, but also just in the people I look around and see in my life. I could have been placed anywhere, but the Lord chosen to put me here. He has chosen to put you in my life if you're reading this. I think He has a lot of purpose in that.

No matter if it's for a long period of time like my family or a short period of time like my's all significant. We are all put together for a purpose. I try to soak up every minute with my kids at school because I know there's a very short window that I have to pour into their lives. The neat thing I've realized is that they pour into my life as well. They teach me and help me to see things about God and life that I've never noticed before. Of all the billions of people in the world, me and my kids were put together this year and I know that's something very important. It was not by mistake. There is so much purpose God has in that for each of us. There are people in my life I see everyday that were put there very purposefully. There is somebody for me everyday. There is someone I'm meant to notice and do something about. And on the other hand, I am the person maybe the Lord has put in your life. I know I have people who help me in ways words can't express on a daily basis. I am so thankful for that. You are changing my life and making a difference.

So, who is my somebody? Who is my someone? Those are questions I need to continually ask myself because I think it changes from year to year and month to month. It could possibly be day to day as well. Maybe carry around a $20 bill to be able to give to someone in need at the drop of a hat. Who knows what the someone for that day may look like? The somebody for our day may just drop in and out of our life for an instance, but it may make a huge difference. You never know!

The neat thing is, usually my someone is the same somebody who helps me. I think the thing I am most thankful for this Thanksgiving is the fact that I am right where the Lord wants me. I am surrounded by the people that I'm supposed to be and I can always guarantee that God will bring another "somebody" into my life. Every season brings new opportunities to become something important in another person's story. Who is your somebody right now? Who are you going out of your way for? Who has God graciously allowed you to bless right now?

I love that my main "someone" these days are my students at school. What a nice somebody to have because they are so much fun and adoring them comes so easily to me. I get to do something I love while hopefully making some kind of difference and being changed through them as well. Maybe that's where your somebody is...what do you love to do? Who is standing next to you when you do it? Maybe it's them.

We can't change the world, but maybe...just maybe with the help of the Lord we can change something for someone. Even if only for a day.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

*My Management Rules to Live by*

I think the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning shows what's important to you. Lately, I've thought about my first graders. What are they doing? Are they having fun? I wonder how I can make *this* work better or *that* work better in the classroom? I'm making a collage out of pictures from our year so far, so that puts it on my mind, too.

This Thanksgiving I am especially thankful for the best first year placement I've ever heard of. I don't know how I was able to end up here, but I am so so sooo grateful. I got the best bunch of kids ever imaginable in the best possible surroundings. It's not always easy, but I think that's because I want to be perfect and I realize I can't be all the time. I think that's why people always look at their first years's just a major learning process. I have so much support and my college prepared me so much, so I can do my job well, but it's just hard not knowing EVERYTHING there is to know. When you love the kids so much, you want to do absolutely everything perfect for them, but there's always more to learn. I think there always will be...maybe that's just life?

There is something I do have a major strength in already, though. Classroom Management comes fairly easy to me and getting behavior in the right direction without having to use too many consequences is something that comes naturally. I was talking about how I do some things the other day at the dinner table and someone asked me to write them down. Through experience I have come to realize that there are a couple of rules to live by that would help anyone who is raising a child or teaching in a classroom. When these rules are broken, even the sweetest of children may have behavioral issues. As the adult, its' our job to help the students make the right decisions by the way we act and react and the environment we give them. We need to set them up for success. We need to give them the opportunity to make the right choices. I truly believe that if a child fails in this area, it is more my fault than theirs in many cases.

Hold on-wait...what?! A child's behavior depends on the adult? It's our responsibility to help them make the right decisions? You mean, it's not the full responsibility of the child? Yes...that's exactly what I'm saying. In my years of experience with children through babysitting, working at a birthday party studio, and teaching summer school for four years, I noticed something VERY important. The SAME child would act very differently around certain adults. For instance, they may be with me and well behaved, but around someone else they would suddenly look like a completely different child. If I said "come here" they would come, but if the other adult would say "come here" the child would throw a fit. It was SHOCKING and really made me think. This is the same exact child we are dealing with here and I'd never seen them behave like that before. Unfortunately, this is not a one time case and it actually happened a lot through the years. Why is this? I think it has to do a whole lot with my theory and I may be onto something. It is beyond a doubt our responsibility to help a child when it comes to behavior.

So if it's our job to give the child an opportunity to do right, what can we do? I am not claiming to be an expert and you can listen to me or not because I am only 23, but I can share a few tips that have worked for me in most situations. I might be in a nice, pretty prep school now but I was in the public school for years at college and even dealt with behavioral disorders. These tips still helped in those more dire situations as well. Sure, it didn't work every time, but for the most part it was successful.

Here are the rules I live by that have helped me:

1.) Give the children a REASON to obey you. Fall in love with them and let them know it. Show them that whatever you do is for their best interest. Respect them as individuals and listen to what they have to say. They can tell if you are just an adult that thinks you know better. Show them that their ideas matter and you care about how they feel and what they do. Do things to let them know that their opinion truly matters. Classroom management is SO MUCH EASIER if a student knows they are loved and feels that mutual respect. Children NEED TO BE RESPECTED just as much as adults! These are real people we are dealing with, and we cannot forget that. They have every right that we do and a lot of times they can tell us things we don't know. They have so much to say that we need to hear, so listen!

2.) Say positive things to the child at least 2x more than you do negative! Don't be a debbie downer all day so much more fun and positive than you are firm. Show the students that you love for them to be happy and you aren't there to just kill the joy. Show them that rules are there so they can have a better day. I've seen too many scrooge adults and it just makes kids want to rebel. I mean, it kinda makes me want to rebel! Why would I want to listen to someone like that?

3.) BE CONSISTENT!! If you say you are going to give a certain consequence for something, you must do that. Don't say you are going to do something and then don't do it. Never say anything out loud that you are not fully ready to do.

Also be consistent in the daily routines. For instance, I always have the same way to pass out papers because the students are used to it and know how that routine goes. We also line up the same way and have the same bathroom procedures, and the students know to stop by the red wall or stop by my door. Everything is always the same so that nobody is ever confused or wandering around.

Be consistent when it comes to what you expect from the children. For instance, say we are doing our daily routine of walking on the third square down the hallway...if someone decides that's a good time to do the bunny hop into their neighbor, I have to stop that immediately every time. I can't sometimes allow for a little hopping and then the next day come down hard. I know that sounds like common sense, but it's something so important that when forgotten makes life a lot harder. You have to have your expectations and stick to them EVERYTIME. Kids are smart, they know if you are the type of person to cave or inconsistently stop behavior. Don't be that person!!

4.) NEVER for any reason reward negative behavior such as a fit or rude attitude. Once, I did try to go the sweet route with a child years ago which made me pay for months. We have to nip that in the bud and not even allow it. What I like to do is give natural consequences such as missing out on something fun until they choose to make the right decision. Consistency comes into play here as well because you cannot, absolutely CANNOT inconsistently give in. You can't give in one day, and then get angry and come down hard the next. That will confuse a child and cause them to throw more fits because sometimes they do get what they want. As hard as it is for us, we have to stop it EVERYTIME!! It's so hard because you don't like to see a little person upset, but push through by thinking about how it's for their own good. The bible says if we love them, we will give them boundaries. To give boundaries you must have a backbone and give it energy. It seems like an easier choice to give them something to make them stop throwing a fit during an embarrassing episode in public, but in the long run it can be very harmful. Kids want to do right, they reallly do. It doesn't feel good to them to throw a fit. Don't give them reason to without realizing it.

I remember one day a few years ago a child started throwing a fit because they didn't want to come inside from playing. All I did was bend down and simply say: "Susie Lou, has Miss Abby EVER given into a fit?" She shook her head no and I said in a soft voice: "Well, baby...don't you think you're wasting your time?" She thought for a minute and grabbed my hand to walk inside. If I don't give in...EVER give in, it pays off.

5.) When I say "no" to something, I try to find a few fun or positive things to say "yes" to. If a person is always having a gruff face and saying no to everything, the child will just feel attacked. Show the children that you want them to be able to do things and would rather say yes by giving them options. Like if a child is spinning on their head during carpet time you have to tell them to stop, but I like to give them the option of showing me a dance at recess instead. There are appropriate times for these things, and I am not just saying no because I like ruining everyone's day. I'm saying no because you can't learn on your head.

6.)REMEMBER when you give a consequence. Don't tell a child they are going to have to miss something fun or sit out for a little bit and then forget. Again, children are VERY smart and they know if you have a leak in your system. I like to have a notebook to remind myself what I've said I'm going to do, because otherwise it would slip my mind.

7.) Practice having "THE FACE"'s not a mean or disrespectful face, but it is a serious one that plainly states: "You better reconsider what you're doing over there, sir." (Sometimes "THE FACE" is all you need. One little glance and your problems are solved.)

8.) Be firm if you must. Being super sweet all the time gives a child the idea that you are a push over, and they WILL push. We all are born with a sin nature, so if they can get away with some silliness, they are going to do it. It's HARD being firm sometimes, it really is...but it's for the best. Being firm does NOT mean being rude or cruel. It means making sure in your tone that they know you are very serious. There is no room for disrespect when being firm. Being disrespectful to a child is a major sin that the Lord takes very seriously.

9.) After consequences are given, hug the child and let them know how much you love them. If they are not as much of a 'mooshy love' child, tell them a joke and make them laugh. Ask them about their sports team or what they plan to do at recess. You need to get to know the child before truly knowing how to handle this part. Some students need a tight squeeze and a lap sitting and others just need you to give them a high five. Some need you to let them know that they can stop feeling guilty because the Lord has already forgiven them. Some need you to make a silly face from across the room. Some need you to tell them that you will never stop loving them no matter what. It just depends on who it be mindful of that and really try to figure it out. This is one of the most important parts of management, but it takes time to find out what works best for each child. Establishing that love and respect after something negative has happened is crucial. Make the bond with that child better because of it.

9.) Expect children to be kind to one another. If a student is allowed to be mean to other people they tend to be out of control in lots of areas. It feels good to be nice to people, and promoting an environment that encourages students to be kind to others helps behavior so much. Make children be nice and friendly. Make them look others in the eye and ask how they are doing. They do not know how to do this naturally, so it is our job to teach them! My mom made me be friendly even when I didn't want to, and it really helped my life. Being kind and friendly to others helps us love ourselves, which in turn helps us have better behavior in general.

10.) Have conversations about behavior! When things are about to get exciting or fun, be sure to have a conversation about it beforehand. Often times, young children become very impulsive when a room starts to get exciting and they automatically want to jump off the walls at the the slightest turn towards fun. They don't necessarily want to misbehave, they just get a little bit excited. Okay, a lot bit excited, haha. It is VERY important that you talk about self control and warn the children that fun is coming. It really helps them manage themselves better because they have time to think about it.

Have conversations about behavior throughout the day before you do something. For instance, before we take any test we have a conversation about how we behave during the test. We also do this for other situations in the day as well. If we have not done that certain thing before, we go through scenarios and how we could behave in those situations. It gets the students thinking, instead of just going on autopilot which is what most children revert to. Auto pilot is not matter if you are an adult or a child! AVOID auto pilot at all costs!

11.) PRAY!!! Call upon the help of the Holy Spirit in the management process. Luckily, I'm at a Christian school so we can pray that the Holy Spirit will help us make the right decisions that day and He really does. Even if you can't pray that, pray, pray, PRAY in your head!!! God is a VERY big help and can do miracles in this area daily. He is the source of any of the success in my classroom and I would be lost without him! I can't tell you how many times I prayed in college that the students in my class would be on their best behavior when my professor came and it was a miracle every time! He can give us all wisdom and loves to give it to the children, too. Pray that the Lord will help you know what to do and also for the children to know. Hear me when I say this...GOD GIVES WISDOM TO CHILDREN...He helps them just as much as He would help an adult! He takes them very seriously and respects them so much. He is not waiting for them to grow up to do a work in them. He is ready to do it NOW. The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these, so why are we not acting like it?

12.) This rule is so important that it needs to be on here twice. LOVE the children with all your heart. Truly have their best interest in mind when you go about disciplining them. Don't just do something to make it easier on you or to stop an annoyance you don't want. Having the right heart in the matter makes all the difference. Do not treat a child in a way that you would not want to be treated!!! They are so so sooo special to God and it is a great privilege that we are even allowed to share space with them. We do not own them, we are honored to be allowed to help facilitate their growth with the help of the Lord. Praise Jesus for that blessing! :)

*Anyway, this may not be news to anybody, but I was told by someone who had not heard of some of these to write them down. It's kind of neat that I get to practice being a mom everyday along with being a teacher. I love it and it's great to see how much God cares about these things. I need to take responsibility everyday for how my children act and pray the Lord gives me wisdom in these areas. It is our fault if the classroom runs a muck, and we need to realize that. We need to stop beating our heads against the wall trying to change children, and change ourselves. And most of all, we need to PRAY. Never forget to call upon the Lord EVERY morning! Raising the future of America is no small feat, and we need all the help we can get. :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

*My Biggest Epic Fail Yet*

It was the first time I ever felt like a felon. People screaming bloody murder and trying their best to get as far away from me as possible. Bodies contorted in such awkward positions in hopes that panicking would save them. It felt….scary. It would be scary to be a felon.

I hadn't slept well in a couple of weeks and I think it got to the point last Friday where I completely hit a wall. It's weird how the body can continue to exert itself without much sleep, but then it reaches that place…the place of utter exhaustion and peculiar behavior. It is never good to be in public when you are at that place and unfortunately I was at Market Place Grill.

My family left for our weekend vacation right after school. That Thursday night before I fell asleep so hard and suddenly early in the night which was the first sign that I'd hit the wall. Going into Friday was absolutely miserable! It's the kind of tired that you feel super sick and every step feels like you're dragging around pounds of concrete. It was NOT pretty. So going strait on a car trip after school was probably not the best idea.

Anyway, we got to where we were headed around 8pm and decided to go eat with my sister and her family at Market Place. The walls were looking kind of fuzzy and I was eating advil like candy. I didn't even feel like eating if you would believe it….that's how tired I was. I remember looking at the wooden waiting bench thinking: "Man, I want to lay down on that…just close my eyes for a minute."I would have probably paid someone 3,000 dollars for a bed that night.

I tell you all this because I need you to know that my biggest epic fail was not when I was well rested and fed. It was at a time of utter exhaustion and ruination (in old english terms). Molly asked me afterwards why on earth I made some the decisions that I did and that's just it…I have no idea. So please excuse my overly exhaustive set-up. Now here's the story:

After we were done at Market Place, I drug myself out the door with my brother and dad behind me. An old man opened the door for me and I remember saying "thank you" very faintly, but all I cared about was finding my car to lay down in the backseat ASAP. So I started to roam the parking lot in search of my car and was confused because I knew my brother and dad had come out. Next thing I know, I saw a car start across the parking lot and I realized I was in the wrong place. I started to run as fast as I could towards the car in hopes of getting their quickly. I remember wondering how my legs were moving that fast, but I knew if I ran I would be able to lay down sooner.

I was running a little faster than I knew and ended up running INTO the car and then kinda resting myself on it. Then I grabbed the door and swung it open and proceeded to jump in. Screams of utter horror and panic filled my ears and darkness clouded my eyes. The car's light did not come on, so all I could see were dark, shadowy bodies trying to get away from me as fast as they could. Nobody talked to me, they just screamed in my face and I screamed bloody murder right back. We were all just screaming in the dark.

Since I was so tired, my first thought was: "Why is my family screaming at me?"…then I realized that I was not with my family. I had just jumped into a stranger's car. There was only one person that I do remember seeing and it was the old man who had opened the door for me earlier. The moon shown on his face and he was the only one not screaming. He just kinda slowly turned his head and stared at me. After the rest of the car stopped freaking out he said very dryly: "Well, come on in."

I started laughing nervously and slowly backed away from the car. "I'm sorry…I'm REALLY tired, like REALLLLLLLY tired." I then proceeded to take the walk of shame. I still didn't know where my car was, so those people watched me wander the parking lot as they left. I finally saw my family come back and I ran to tell them what happened. I was fully awake again, because people screaming in your face will do that to you. After telling my dad the story he was like: "Well, I was wondering why you were leaving with a pack of strangers." Apparently they never were behind me after all.