Nov 4, 2012

Embracing

I'm just going to level with you.  I am still trying to embrace this whole "put my kid in a low income school and teach there" experiment.  We have been called there.  We feel passionately that this is where we are supposed to be for this year.  We are also struggling with the transition, the completely different school culture that any of us have ever known (including myself who thought I had taught in just about any type of school there was), and just the overall struggle to keep up a tight family culture that we have so carefully created in the last ten years.

I started teaching in 2000.  School was very different.  I have been in and out of schools for about 8 of the years since 2000. The change has been astounding. There was a lot more fun, less stress, more supplies given.  Now....school is dry, driving, assessment crazed, cash strapped, and there is little time for any fun.  The school I teach in seems very harsh and strict in comparison to anywhere else I have been. It seems to be their response to poverty and the culture. It's difficult to adjust to, but adjust we are.
I think that sometimes when we know we are supposed to be in a place, we think that all will be rosy, the difficulties minimized.  Sure, sure, I knew what I was getting into ahead of time, but somehow you know that if God is asking you to be there, somehow those things will be kept at bay.  Then you throw yourself into it, and realize that nope, those things are right there breathing down your neck and staring you right in the face.  It's then when you stop and realize, that God made no such promise that you will not have to get your hands dirty, but rather that that is the very reason He wants you there.

Not that this whole school experiment has been bad.  If this sounds like this is a major whine fest, it's really not.  I'm just writing a very real blog post.  Reality is both beautiful and dirty with those moments mixed so closely together, it's hard to sort them out at times.

Mr. Cluck my rubber chicken that was given to me by the other 2nd grade teachers, is a big hit with kids and students.  He's fun and silly.  My son likes to turn on my projector in the morning and arrange him to he's broadcasted in all his silly glory on my board for my students when they walk in the morning.  Infusing fun into my day is part of the beautiful moments that make it.
I decided to do a blog post of instagram photos in a kind of haphazard dump, which in no particular order, has pictures of moments that I have taken in the last couple of weeks.  I rarely tote my big camera around right now.  I'm rushing, surviving, and trying to keep perspective.  Taking quick photos on my phone and posting is one way for me to keep perspective.  Like I said, reality has beautiful and dirty moments so wrapped up together, sometimes a photo helps me focus.  It's strange, but for me, taking a picture and  centering it on only whatever I want to take a picture of helps me focus on the positive and subtract the rest.  I see in color, in pictures in my mind.  It puts exclamation marks on small positives in my life.  Almost, by taking a picture, I am saying, "See!  Life is full of promise and good."

My latest experiment for healthy dinners has been to take a weekend and make and freeze crockpot meals. It took me an hour of shopping, $100, and 2 hours of prep.  However, this should last us about 3 weeks in dinners since we only eat them on the nights when Tone is home from flying.  So far, this is working quite well.

One perk of working in a country school is that kids are bringing me pomegranates from their fruit trees.  This is so much better than apples!  I just have to figure out the best way to use them.  It's somewhat a foreign fruit to me. The girl who gave them to me is the cutest thing.  She has the sweetest smile and disposition, and she shyly handed them to me proudly Halloween morning as her gift to me.
I worked our annual school carnival.  At first I was grumpy about it because this is the first school I have ever been at where parents are cut completely out of the picture.  The school asks for zero, and that's pretty much zero, parent involvement on anything.  And we wonder why it's hard to get them involved in homework or behavior.  I think it's because they have no vested interest.  I am not sure why.  I have been told it's because it's because our parents just won't.  I am pretty sure I don't buy into this philosophy.  Regardless, teachers are doing most of the extra stuff.  On the other hand, the carnival was lots of fun and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Another honest moment here.
I am just overall struggling with finding a balanced center.  The minute I feel stressed or out of control, I feel the impulse to snap and get sharp and impatient.  I believe that finding a balanced center starts with a right heart.  A heart focused on the things that reflect God's character and not my current situation.  That while my outward situation feels like too much for me and that I'm being pushed up against something,  I am still full of inward calm.   This has been difficult.  This year has come with much soul searching.  It has uncovered parts of character that are ugly.  I have been often falling to sleep at night confessing a heart full of stress and frustration.  I am thankful this year has brought these ugly parts to the forefront so I can really look at what is inside of me and lay it before God.  This journey is a day by day soul search for me.

Last weekend, we went with the Boy Scouts to see a Civil War reenactment. We sat right behind the super loud cannons.  I took all three kids who were skeptical at first whether watching a battle would be fun.  They mostly enjoyed exploring all the booths where craftsmanship could be seen and experimented with.
I guess at times we can still be a homeschooling family at heart.  I crave these creative learning moments which are so absent in school.  There overall verdict from the kids was that the day was tons of fun.
My kids had their school pictures taken last week.   Hunter was smiling proudly smack dab in the middle of his class picture.  He is the only blond in a sea of dark brown hair.  To me, it's quite a beautiful picture.  I think that picture speaks a thousand words about differences, community, choice, and love.  Here is his single picture.  I see braces in his future (and me in poverty because of it).
My kids were dressed for school pictures in the typical preppy "white kid" style.  I didn't realize there was a different style until picture day when I realized that the hispanic community had a different view on what special pictures should look like.  Many boys came out in suits; and the girls in sparkly, frilly, poofy satin dresses and fancy high heels.  The girls in my class were delighted to have a day free of uniforms to get to look fancy and my own daughter was highly jealous.  I too thought that their idea of a picture session was a lot more fun.

This morning I plugged a speaker into my NOOK and let the girls watch their movie on Netflix because Hunter had commandeered the TV with his movie.  They were at an impasse until this solution was cleverly thought up by yours truly.  The girls then took it up on the top bunk where Ainsley sleeps and made a pillow arrangement where they kicked back and watched together.  
Fact: 
My favorite heartwarming moment of the day is when I pick up Tessa from daycare.  She immediately asks for "Shishy" and runs to Ainsley for a hug the minute she gets in the house.  She really loves her Sissy! I'm pretty sure Tessa can't say Ainsley so Sissy is her substitute. "Hunter" is a also too hard for her, but she tries.  Tessa's speech is coming along slowly though it's clear that she has a delay.
Having two sisters that I love dearly makes me so glad Ainsley and Tessa have each other.
Ainsley is going to a new ballet studio this year.  We are in LOVE with it.  Miss Judy has been teaching for over 40 years and so full of spunk and fun and magic, that most young people wouldn't even be able to compete with.  Her studio is DECKED out!  On Halloween she throws a costume party for the class for anyone who wants to come.  Her classes are fun, low key and cheap.  My kind of place.  I hope she doesn't retire until both my girls have been able to have her for a long while.
One beautiful blessing about my school is the long drive.  The sun is coming up when I go each morning and we go along beautiful country roads, curving along the treed river, through the foothills, and then through orange orchards.  It's completely gorgeous each and every morning, usually bathed in a glorious and golden light.  Last week a light fog was over the fields and river which also was completed gorgeous.  I have wanted to stop and bring my good camera every morning, but I can't see having time to stop and take pictures. I doubt a camera would do it justice anyways. My kids and I are still keeping at our Bible lessons on the way.  They beg for the song and story.  I have to stay one jump ahead of them in my own Bible reading so I can tell a good story on the way.  We started at Genesis and have made it all the way to Judges at this point.  It's a wonderful way to start our day, because I know moments of it will be crazy and busy ahead.  I gave Hunter my cell phone one day and told him to take a picture.  This was his one and only.
My sister, Krista, and I took the kids to the pumpkin patch after church a couple weeks ago.  Krista and Thomas are expecting their first baby in April and I am so excited that now another cousin will be added to the mix by this time next year.  Since Katie had twin girls, Hunter is desperately wishing for a boy cousin since he only has one.  Tone's sister has a boy and identical twin girls also.  We are surrounded.
The weather has been gorgeous.  It took forever to cool down, but there have been many lovely evenings for bike riding.  I love how Tessa tucked her baby doll in the back of the trike.
I love my class this year.  I have many challenges, but here is the beautiful thing: our school has a grant to limit class sizes to 20 in the whole school.  I have lost a few students and am down to only 15.  FIFTEEN!  I can't think of ANYWHERE else in this cash strapped state where this could even be possible.  The norm is overloading with 30 and more.  I have fifteen very different, beautiful, sweet faces that seem happy to see me each and every morning.  We are working hard, I am advocating hard for them, and working to teach them the very best I know how.  I would say even my "top" student is not where I would want one of my own children to be academically.  We have a lot to do this year.  They bring me notes, pictures, and other little childhood love offerings.  I finally put up a spot on my board where they could display them for the day but this was not big enough.  This picture is of the first five minutes of class.   Usually this gets to be overflowing.
Oh look!  There's Mr. Cluck!

I switched Ainsley's after school care.  She goes to the house of the lady who runs our cafeteria.  I know that the support staff at our school don't make very much, and Martha is a very hard worker and a quality person.  Martha colors with Ainsley, bakes cookies, lets her nap when needed, and is just really cute with her.  Ainsley is so much happier with Martha, and I am happy to be giving her that little bit of extra money every month.  Martha has definitely stepped in to be a big help in my life and worrying about Ainsley after school is no longer an issue.  Sometimes you step into a community and find that they are far more able to help you than you are them.  Community is a equal partnership adventure I have found.

Here is the picture I snapped today of my front yard tree in fall.  Friday was the last day of the first trimester.  One trimester down.  I am learning to not tick down the days, but embrace them for the gift they are giving us this year.
I am embracing the gift of learning a truer sense of community, 
of growing character through hard work, 
of a deeper love for others around me, 
of finding a balanced center on things that matter when life is hectic and crazy, 
of finding time for rest,
of focusing on positives and accepting what I cannot change.

Here we go onto school trimester two.

PS. I realize my last few posts have been mostly about our abrupt school transition.  It probably will be for quite a while.  Life has been turned just a bit upside down for us right now, and I am documenting our ride.

4 comments:

  1. Wow. I'll keep praying for you. I'm slightly jealous of your fifteen kids! We have 22 and some days I just feel like I'm losing my mind. Thanks for the catch up! I hope the second trimester is smoother for you!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I just want to remind you that this is a SEASON!! It is not the way life will be from here on out. It helps me to think of that when I feel overwhelmed by the stage of life I am in. There is nothing I can think of that is more stressful than the first year teaching in a new school! And you are doing it with 3 kids! I will keep you in my prayers... XOXO

    ReplyDelete
  3. Praying for you and your family in dealing with new challenges. Jenny when you get time could you share examples of your Bible lessons. I want to start teaching my toddler but am not sure how to make lessons fun to learn and keep her attention. She's two.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for an honest blog post! I'm sure you know how much I appreciate that. I'm sorry to hear that this season is tough for your family but I admire your attitude and reliance on God. I especially love what you said about taking photos and focusing on the positive! I think I do that too. Much love to you all! -- Aunt Lisa

    ReplyDelete