Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

When I look at my daughters I see beauty. I see two girls with confidence and wisdom.

I see one growing into a strong woman with an amazing faith in God and people.

I see one growing into a teenager with a childlike innocence and a tremendous compassion for those around her.

When I look at them I see love. And grace...boundless, endless grace. 

Psalm 139:14 "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Oliver Platt

"Beauty is how you feel inside. And it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical." Sophia Loren

"To all the girls that think you are fat because you are not a size zero..you're the beautiful one.  It's society who's ugly." Marilyn Monroe

How do I get there?  When I look in that mirror I see 
I can read these things and say these things but I cannot believe these things.


[I am not fishing for compliments or for anyone to feel sorry for me.  Just being real and sharing my heart right now, at 1:49am.]

I had a situation at school, earlier this year, with some boys making fun of something physical about me. I am not sure what they said about me but I know it wasn't very nice.  Now I feel like I'm on display and an open target when I am in front of them.

For goodness sakes...I am the adult. The teacher. The one in charge.  Why am I allowing them to dictate how I feel? [And that, my friends, is the $64,000 question.] Because maybe they are right. I don't know sometimes.

Being an overweight, short, not fashionably dressed woman is difficult in today's world.  EVERY SINGLE THING I see on social media, in magazines, and apparently in the 8th grade, says that women are not beautiful if they aren't ultra skinny, long-haired, and wearing MK everything. 

I am exercising.  
I am walking.
I lost 3.5 pounds last week.  
I will get there.

So along the way, as you pray, throw my name in there...I sure could us it. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Wake Up Parents!

There is a social media app out there called Yik Yak.
Parents need to wake up and check out what kids are saying about themselves and other kids. [I did erase some of what was said here.  You have been warned.  It is graphic.]

 The designers had this to say about their app to the Huffington Post:
"We were naïve," Buffington told me. "We designed the app primarily for college students. Using the app the way we intended it to be used requires a certain amount of maturity and responsibility, we were idealistic about who possessed that." When Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll, two recent graduates of Furman University, created Yik Yak last fall, their vision was to make a "virtual bulletin board," or a messaging system that would serve as a blank slate for random thoughts or postings. Its anonymity is a major feature, says Buffington, "because that guy in the back row of your science class might be the funniest guy you never hear."

Here are some reviews from the world wide web:
Tribune - Alabama
KXAN - Texas

Why am I looking at Yik Yak? [The better question here is WHY would ANYONE look at Yik Yak?] 

Yes. I'm one of those moms. 

I am all up in the "bidness" of my kids when it comes to social media.  You call it what you want.  

I call it being the parent.

I don't read their text messages but I can if they give me a reason.  Better yet, I can have their phones cut off. And throw them away. 

My job is to teach them how to be responsible adults.  Part of that job, in today's world, is to teach them about their presence on social media. If I don't teach them then things like Yik Yak will teach them. [And honestly, the thought of that makes my stomach turn.]  

I've had issues with things I've read on Twitter but at least, with Twitter, it isn't terribly hard to either figure out who is saying things or at least get Twitter accounts shut down. 

Some kids don't get it - at all.  Colleges, employers, and recruiters pay people money to befriend kids on social media so they can follow what is being said and posted. There are too many athletes that lose scholarships over social media. Even the NFL and the NBA are starting to take notice and fining athletes for lewd and inappropriate things posted on social media. Colleges will reject you if you cannot be socially responsible - and they should.  

Plus, I hate to go all old-school on you but back when I was growing up if we had issues with someone we just told them. [And yes, that might have lead to a fight or a broken saxophone or a little hair pulling.]  We didn't hide. 

Now kids are hiding. [Or at least some of them are trying to hide.]  Some of them don't care.  Wear their curse words, promiscuity, and bullying as a badge of honor. 

Parents, I must ask: Where are you?? 

Where are you while your kids are tweeting pornographic pictures to anonymous "expose" accounts??

Where are you while your kids are cussing each other and talking about awful sexual encounters on Yik Yak??

Where are you when your kids are being consumed by social media and their names are being attached to terrible things being spewed for all the world to see??

Do not give me that nonsense that everyone has a right to their own opinions. There is a HUGE difference in having an opinion and just being a huge bully. 99% of these thugs that are saying things are just that - bullies. 

Do not tell me that some parents just don't "get" social media.  If your kid has access to the internet then you need to make it your business to understand EVERY SINGLE thing they are doing. 

And please, for the sake of my sanity, do not tell me that you don't feel like you can talk to your kids about these things without making them mad.

Let them get mad! 

I am not a perfect parent. Don't even profess to be close to it.  I make many mistakes, sometimes on a daily basis.  I've had to learn [the hard way] that there is a learning curve to this parenting thing.  

My kids are all different.  One is very level-headed [like their daddy] and the other three will go zero to I-may-punch-you [just like me..or so they say...I don't see it at all....]. My kids are not perfect.  We have had many, many come to Jesus meetings in this house [and in the car and at Wal Mart and at church and too many other places to name]

However, I will tell you that my kids are NOT on social media using language and saying things that would make a grown man blush.  They are not saying lewd things and bullying kids.  

No. Its not because they are perfect or we are perfect.  It is simply because we encourage them to pray about issues affecting them. We encourage them to talk about problems with us.  They understand, no matter the consequences, that we need to know when there is a problem they cannot handle. Issues do not get swept under the rug.  We are brutally honest...if we don't like something [and sometimes someone] we will let them know.    

We are real.

There are rules and consequences. We have high expectations for academics and behavior.  More than that, we they know there is a responsibility to try to live a holy life that reflects God. [They've been called Bible thumpers, Holier-than-Thou, Mr. and Mrs. Goody Two Shoes, and various other names.]  

All of us, here at Casa de la Shortie, are a work in progress. But Romans 1:16 is alive and well.  

We are not ashamed. 

Know what is going on in the lives of your kids on social media.  

Stand up parents.  

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Threat Level: High

I went off to college with dreams of studying biology then working at Duke Energy or going on to school to be a radiologist.  

Organic chemistry brought that to a screeching halt. [I mean like hitting-a-brick-wall-you-are-stupid kind of halt] 

I changed my major to elementary education with a concentration in science.  I did my student teaching in 2nd grade with some of the most amazing teachers I've ever known [and still know].  It was such an awesome experience.  I couldn't wait to get my own classroom.  

1st grade was my first real test.  

I didn't do so well.  I got those babies [and they were really still kindergarteners] and I Did. Not. Have. A. Stinkin'. Clue. 

I was so stressed out.  I did what I thought was supposed to be done...what I'd learned in college but I'm not sure if those poor kiddos learned a thing.  

I was a terrible first grade teacher.  Terrible.  I knew from the beginning that I was not cut out to teach little ones..that takes a special teacher.  I'm not that special teacher.

In the late winter of that year we moved and I took an interim job in a 5th grade class in Mooresville.  

My faith in my career choice was restored.  I found out quickly that I loved 5th graders.  They were independent, [I had first graders that couldn't quite make it to the restroom....and it was IN THE ROOM] funny, and capable of being challenged.  I just couldn't find that with those first graders. [Honestly, I cried almost every Sunday when I taught first grade because I didn't want to go back but we had a baby and bills to pay.]

Eventually we would move [a few more times] and I ended up teaching 4th and 5th grade for almost 11 years.  

There were fun times.  Once, I received a grant and we used the money to send cameras to a school in every state.  We asked the schools to take pictures of their schools and mail us the cameras back.  This was so much fun [I still have all the states and pictures] because we were able to learn about geography as if we were there.  We wrote to all the governors and asked for their favorite recipe that used ingredients from their state. Arnold Schwarzenegger even sent us his favorite recipe [it was something that if you ate it then the food in your stomach said, "I'll be back"].  I had wonderful teammates and made forever friends along the way.  I learned so much from the people I worked with during this time.  I was blessed to teach some AMAZING kids those years, many of which I still keep up with as they become adults.  [Eek...which makes me feel as old as I really am.]  

I earned my National Boards and my Master's degree during this time. [I also had TWO more children before we realized that drinking the tap water was not good.]  The good times far outweighed any disappointments and failures.  

During this time Craig was able to get a job teaching and coaching at KM.  This would mean, for the first time in a long time, we'd all be on the same schedule and in the same school system.  

Around this time I decided to leave my comfort zone and try my hand at middle school science.  

It was definitely a change.  

Middle schoolers are unique creatures.  They are stuck between being silly and growing up. They are über concerned with what others think about them.  They are funny [sometimes in a weird sort of way] and some crazy stuff comes out of their mouths.  They truly live by "what comes up comes out". No filters. 

For me, it was an adjustment and it took me a few years to get used to this middle school world.  

I've learned a few things along the way:
1. You pick your battles.  Some things just are not worth the worry.

2. Be flexible. Technology fails. Kids don't get it. Issues happen.

3. Don't take anything personally. [Well, I won't exactly say I've learned this one but I am trying.]  Often they aren't mad or angry with the adult as much as they are mad at themselves [and sometimes mad that they got caught]

4. Involve parents.  Something happens between the time we give them information, directions, consequences, etc. and the time they get home.  

5. Get to know your students on a personal level. [That doesn't mean befriend them on social media or anything like that....I'm not a werido.]  Ask them about the game. Ask them about their outfit [because sometimes you truly want to know if they got dressed in the dark]. Even though they are standoffish and sometimes "too cool for school" [couldn't resist] they truly want others to be interested in them.

6. [This one has been difficult for me.]  Not all of them are going to like you. And some of them will be vocal about not liking you or your class. 

7. Be consistent.  If you threaten a punishment then you better come through with it.  On that same token, if you value your life, if you promise a reward you better come through with it.  They may forget their homework, their manners, and their names but they WILL NOT forget you promised cupcakes.

8. Trust me when I say that they want structure and direction and focus.  If I have 5 extra minutes at the end of the class the worst thing I can do [yet, I still do it] is say, "Read a book or work on homework."  I might as well be saying, "Pillage and plunder and cause mayhem!" because that is what middle schoolers hear.  

I am trying something new this year, in all of my classes, called Genius Hour. I let my kids pick a topic of interest that they want to learn more about and they are going to present this just before we get out for Christmas break.  

We work every other Friday in class and then the students are working at home. Some of their topics include:
  • Learning to surf
  • Parkour 
  • Photography
  • Videos that will encourage young girls to be confident
  • Writing and publishing books
  • Mixing music
  • Learning to play the piano
  • Japanese culture and anime
  • Magic
  • Designing legos
  • Creating a website to sell tshirts
And the list goes on and on and on....
And the shocker of it all: I'm not in charge. 

Each student in my class has been issued a challenge to pursue a passion.  I am just there to help.

Probably a bigger shocker: They are not being assessed. 

Teaching is so much more than just a test at the end of the year.  True story coming at you [and one I may have told before so sorry if you already know it]. I was told, several years back, that I was the worst reading teacher in the county and the ranking by test scores "proved it."  Talk about a sucker punch to the gut. What makes it worse is that every single teacher's name was on that list for all the world to see.

That was a defining moment for me in teaching and in my life.  I made some promises to myself as I waddled [yep...8 months pregnant with Gabe] up the hall back to my room that Halloween day:
1. I would persevere.  
2. I was just a year away from getting my Masters degree in reading.  What I never told that particular administrator that day was that I earned my MEd in reading because I wanted to be a better reading teacher...but not for a test score. I would be a better reading teacher.
3. Attitude reflects leadership.  I would defy every negative vibe being reflected. 
4. My name might be at the bottom of that list but that one small sliver of what I did in my classroom was not a true reflection of things that I had done in my career.
5. Prove [name withheld] wrong.

Testing has its place.  Assessment is important....so is being supportive and encouraging.

Attitude reflects leadership.

I like inspiration.  I like to share inspiration with my classes.  Every Genius Hour Friday we start off with a video.  This week I chose this one:

Our kids can be limitless, no matter their circumstances or backgrounds. 
It is my job to make sure I am a stepping stone and not a stumbling block.

I have been discouraged for a few years with teaching and really, education in general.  It's never been so much about the pay with me. [I guess you just come to terms with that whole "kicking a dead horse" thing.] 

My issues have been more with negativity [my own included], lack of purpose, and just generally feeling like a punching bag sometimes. [I'm not looking for sympathy....just sharing my thoughts before they consume me.] I take a lot of things very personally. To a fault sometimes. That is just who I am. 

I know I'm not the only teacher in the world that feels like throwing in the towel sometimes but that Find A New Career-O-Meter seemed to be hitting new highs in the last few years.  

But, as always, God's timing is perfect.  I have been reminded, over and over and over again, of Colossians 3:23: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if working for the Lord and not for men. Today, not by coincidence, I saw several former students while grocery shopping.  We did little more than wave at each other and speak but it was an "A-Ha!" moment for me.  

I am not teaching to be at the top of the "high flyer" list of tested areas.  
I am not teaching for the applause of men.
I am not teaching because it is all I can do.

My students. 
My school. 
My coworkers. 
Teachers everywhere.

We are limitless.

Ephesians 3:20 says, "God can do immeasurably more than we could ever hope or imagine."

He sure can.