Sunday, November 7, 2010

As Sweet As Honey

:::JADED:::

The past few weeks I have felt as if I was riding on a slow moving escalator in the middle of a busy airport. I see people rushing around to get here or there; people stressed out, confused, alone, excited, and almost always a bit jaded. As I move about each day I can’t help but realize that this life is really just a moment in the whole scheme of eternity. My current struggles seem quite trivial when I take a step back and realize just how massive our world really is and even more so when I get a glimpse of just how huge my God is. There is so much going on underneath the surface. There is so much going on in the realm of the unseen but it is so much easier to focus on the seen. In the past few weeks I have been really challenged to just stop and take a step back and realize all the blessings and opportunities that the Lord has given me since moving to the Delta.

My friend Lisa said it well when we were talking on Skype one morning. She is teaching in Indonesia and we were talking about time and just how elusive and relative it often feels. She said, “Life seems so short but each day seems so long.” Lisa went on to talk about how the scriptures says God will be with us all the days of our life, but literally is says he will walk with us through each and every day. Isn’t that a beautiful picture of just how intimate and personal our God is? He does care. He cares enough about our life, which apart from him and the work of his son Jesus Christ is so insignificant, to walk with us through each and every step, each and every day.

:::LAST WEEKEND:::

Last weekend I was planning on heading down to New Orleans to visit my lovely friend Kelsey, however after making the road trip down to Texas the weekend before I chose to stay home and get some solid planning done. Friday was hard and I tucked myself into my bed at 7pm not to wake until 7am the next day. I had to take my car to the shop because it was making strange noises every time I turned left. I am starting to think that car repair shops are the same everywhere you go. You meet a lot of the same types of people that work there, good hard-working folk that don’t mind small talk and the businesses always have a few pots of coffee, a place to sit with a few T.V.’s and free popcorn in the corner. It was a brisk morning and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to meet a few locals. Sometimes I forget what it means to be a person. I get so caught up in being a teacher that I forget what it looks like to simply live in a town and a community.

On Halloween and my roommate Kim and I decided to make the hour trip to South Haven for some Olive Garden and a trip to the bookstore. Then Sunday my other roommate Angie took me to Arkansas to visit a family she go to know pretty well last year. We got to eat some good home cookin’ and hang out on the farm all day. I grew pretty fond of their new kitten and almost tucked it away in my book bag before we left. I have wanted a pet since the first day I moved into my house, but am still trying to decide if I am really responsible enough to take on such a liability.

:::YOU SHOULD BE PROUD:::

This week I started focusing on teaching my kids higher level vocab words each day. It has been such a blast to see them get excited about learning new words and even start using them in their writing already. On Tuesday I was observed by my principal and she was so supportive about the changes that I have made in my classroom. She said that she was impressed with how far I have come and how far my kids have come. I am still skeptical and I see how much more I have to grow in order to be an effective teacher, however her support is invaluable. This year would be so hard if I did not have her support or the support of my lead teacher. I am so thankful for them. She finished the conversation by saying, “You should be proud of your hard work and how far your students have come.”

:::DANCING:::

The days are still pretty hard and even though I can see how my body is wasting away every day, I continue to pray that my spirit would be renewed each day (2 Cor. 4:16). I am starting to get to know my roommates more and more and another second year teacher named Megan. I pray the Lord would continue to mold my friendship here in Mississippi. I am not sure what he has planned but I pray that I would be faithful in loving and serving the people around me. I have been laughing more lately and have started dancing randomly again, I think this is a good sign that I am starting to feel comfortable in my own skin again.

:::FIRST TEACHER GIFT:::

In elementary school I remember always wanting to give my teacher presents. I always wanted to find the perfect gift, which usually consisted of something with a vibrant red apple painted on it or some teacher memorabilia. A few times I have wondered when the day would come that I would receive my first teacher gift. That day came on Thursday. One of my students told me that she had something for me in her book bag. I told her that before we left for the day she could give it to me. I had called her mother the day before asking for a note to be sent to school so her daughter could stay and work with me one-on-one during afterschool tutoring, so naturally I assumed this is what she had in her bag to give to me. At the end of the day she came up to me told me that her mom had put this in her bag to give to me. I looked down expecting a note only to see sitting in her hands a bag of dried jerky. I took the gift a bit confused and gently asked her if she also had a note in her bag for me. She responded with a confident, “Nope. But my mom told me to give that to you.” I said thank you and sent her on her journey to catch her bus. Not what I expected to receive as my first teacher-gift, but hey, I can’t really complain, I love jerky.











:::THE RICHARDSON'S:::

Friday night I took some of my friends out to my host-parents house, The Richardsons. We had family night bible study and then ate some good southern cooking. It is al

ways so refreshing to be around all of them. The stars were so phenomenal and the night was energizing. It was good to have my TFA friends meet them because I talk about them all the time. It is nice when two different parts of my life get to intertwine.

:::BLESSED:::

I am starting to realize more and more God’s faithfulness in where I am right now. When I was overwhelmed last week Kelsey texted me something that really stuck with me. She said, “God doesn’t waste his resources. You are where you are supposed to be.” So many times I feel as if my presence here in the Delta is not making a bit of difference. I feel pretty replaceable. Often I struggle with speaking truth to those who do not know or believe in Jesus Christ. I have never really been all that shy or quiet about my faith. But lately I have seen myself starting to hold my tongue when I should be taking leaps of faith and speaking the truth unapologetically. The past week though, God has shown me that even when I am not faithful he is faithful. Across the street I have great neighbors that are so encouraging, I have been blessed with a beautiful home with compassionate roommates, a room with a fireplace and a warm bed, a host-family that cares about me as if I was their own, and friends from CU and TFA that never quit showing how much they love me. Not to mention the support of my family from back home. I have it pretty easy. Even on the hardest days I know that what I am going through is really not that bad. I am stressed, crushed, and overwhelmed, but not destroyed for I know that my God is with me and he is alive in me (2 Corinthians 4:8-12).

:::THE LAST SUPPER CLUB:::

Saturday night all of my friends from The Last Supper Club made the drive to come see me. I went to the store early Saturday morning to get stuff to stick in a few crock pots. The menu: bbq pulled pork, little smokies, chips and queso, bbq baked beans, and s’mores. We ate, laughed, read books aloud to each other, played some guitar, sat by the fire, and shared life. Oh, how I am so thankful that the Lord has blessed me with such a crazy, diverse group of friends. We are so different yet we can enjoy each other and respect each other so much. I feel like in any other circumstance most of us would not be friends, but we make such a beautifully awkward family whenever we come together. I can only imagine what God may have in store for us in the next year-and-a-half.

:::LITTLE MIRACLES:::

Planning is still hard. It is hard to live a balanced life and yet be a teacher. There is always more to be done. However, I really do enjoy it. I love seeing it when the kids have a light bulb moment. I have seen so many miracles in my room the past few weeks. Aieryun, my terror at the beginning of the year is now my star student. He asks to carry my lunch pail for me every day and he has ended on SUPER BLUE (the highest color on our behavior chart) for five days in a row. Tamarah who is almost a year behind the rest of the class scored a 95% on her spelling test on Friday. She even answered a question in front of the class in a complete sentence. It’s the little miracles that get me through each day. I pray that the Lord would take control of every part of my day, my teaching, and my classroom.

:::ONE LAST THOUGHT:::

I wrote this in my journal a few months ago and just re-read it again today.

“Redeem me from the oppression of man. That I may keep your precepts. Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes. My eyes have shed streams of water, because they do not keep your law.” Psalm 119:134-136

I pray that the Lord would shine his face on me and on those around me. May we be broken over our sin but find freedom in his grace. I have tasted life and it is sweeter than honey. I pray that he would continue to satisfy my heart for he truly does taste so much better than anything this world has to offer. I pray that he would sustain you and may his grace and peace be with you as you read this. May he show all of us how to be his hands and his feet.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Drink Deep: Wonderful weekend

This is a post by MaryLou about my trip to Waco, TX. She did a pretty good job summing up our weekend so I figured I would just refer ya'll to her blog! It was so refreshing and encouraging to see her again. We have known each other since middle school and have been pretty good friends since the end of high school and eventually became roommates in college for our Junior and Senior years. During this trip I also got to see my other sister from Concordia, Hannah. She is such an encouragement to me and I was elated to see her as well! It was a much needed break from teaching. I took Friday off, hit the road on Thursday night with the lovley Abby, a TFA friend and spent the weekend in good ole' Texas.

Drink Deep: Wonderful weekend: "I'm not sure if I can really say how awesome this weekend was! Sally came into Waco late Thursday night and I met up with her as soon as my ..."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Restless, Till I Rest In You

:::Sick Day:::

Skipping school as a teacher is almost more enjoyable and satisfying than skipping school as a student. I can say this now with first hand experience from both positions. As a student you must play catch up and track down missed notes, assignments, and tests. As a teacher you still have make up work to do and due to lost time there is a greater urgency the rest of the week to make sure everything gets covered, however, after taking my first sick day on Tuesday, I feel the cost/benefit of a much needed sick day is well worth it. All day Monday I could feel a cold coming on. My head was heavy and my throat was sore. Then Tuesday morning hit and I could barely get out of bed. I was exhausted, so I called my principal and told her I was sick. She graciously told me that I sounded horrible and I needed to go back to sleep. After I hung up the phone I tucked myself back in under my oversized white comforter and did not wake until 12:30pm.

It was such a blessing to stay home, get some rest and really just allow myself to take a break. I still did school work, but it was work that was not too draining like printing resources and making some few posters. I even got to talk to one of my sisters from Concordia that had just gotten back from Uganda. It was so awesome to talk to her in the middle of the day! God is good and his timing was so perfect. It was a blessing to hear about her trip and really catch up.

:::Field Trip:::

Friday marked the date of my first real filed trip as a teacher. The kindergarten and first grade classes all went to a place called Cedar Hill Farm. It is a pumpkin patch about an hour away from our school and is the same patch that my friend Kelsey and I went to a few weeks ago. The kids were so well behaved and loved the farm so much. I started the day with 17 and ended the day with 17 (two of my 19 kids were not able to come)– I feel like that was an accomplishment in and of itself. Not to mention I had no injuries, no one got lost, and while we were on the bus ride to the farm my class all started singing different songs I had taught them during the beginning of the school year. They started with the days of the week, followed by the months of the year, and then proceeded to make up new songs about addition and subtraction. I asked them why they started singing and they said they wanted to grow their brains even while they were riding the bus! They even answered different subtraction and addition problems while in line to ride the train.












A few weeks ago a few girls started pressuring me to allow them to learn and grow their brains at lunch. These kids are really developing a love for learning wherever they are at and if that is all they take from me these first nine weeks that I will be so thankful. One girl always looks at me and says, “Ms. Wolff, we can learn at lunch?”. After I nod in agreement she always responds, “Don’t forget your white board, we really need to work our brains. I love learning Ms. Wolff.”

:::Sweet Sister Time:::

My lovely big sister made the 10-hour trip down for the weekend to visit and just to chill. This is the first weekend my sister and I have ever spent together just the two of us. we went on a morning bike ride, visited the farmers market, ate at my new favorite fast-food joint Back-Yard Burger, tried out the latest local restaurant called Lady on the Levy, stopped by Morgan Freeman’s bar, ate some cheesecake while watching a few episodes of Cake Boss and then hit the hay. Then early Sunday morning we made some toast and tried some of the jam and jellies we bought from the farmers market, went and played catch at a local park, decorated my room, and then ate some Philly cheese-stakes at a town favorite known as Big Mamma’s convince store.











We can now officially call ourselves sisters. We spent a good chunk of a weekend together and didn’t argue once. I think this means we are both growing up. It was nice to be able to hang out with her and have someone to simply spend time with that didn’t want to talk about school or work the whole time. It is really necessary for teachers to have non-teacher friends. Trust me on this one.

:::Restless Till I Rest In You:::

This song has been stuck in my head a lot this week. Each day I am realizing more and more I don’t really know how to rest but I do know that the only way I will find this all-so-illusive rest that I seek is in the Lord. Some mornings I feel so nervous and restless about teaching until I stop and remind myself that I will always feel unsettled, unprepared, and inadequate if I rely on myself or on my own abilities. The only time I feel at rest is when I am resting in the arms of my Maker. But the real question is how do I rest in the shadow of the Almighty? I know I may never fully know the answer to this question but I am on a daily pursuit to understand it more and more what it looks like to rest in Him and Him alone.

I am also trying to find the balance between asking others for help and seeking feedback and input from other teachers and also turning to God for answers. I mean it is His classroom after all and he knows these kids I am teaching better than anyone else because He created them. However, I know so often I go to Him last. I seek His wisdom last and forget to petition before the Lord. I allow my anxieties and fears to control instead of submitting my requests to God. I know so often I ask other people what I should do and seek the solution from man instead of from the Lord. That being said, please pray that I would continue to seek the wisdom of the Lord and that I would really seek His face. He is our maker and Lord, but he is also my loving Heavenly Father. May I run to sit on His lap and rest in His embrace.


Psalm 91:1

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

One Day At A Time

A lot has happened since the last time I posted and I am sorry I am not very punctual or consistent with my writing. This post will be an attempt to simply scratch the surface of the last three weeks.

:::Observations:::

As a teacher in a failing school there are always people coming in and out of my classroom. The district has hired a lot of consultants to come in and help us get our school “back on track”. People from all different places and organizations will stop by my room just to watch me teach and it is becoming a norm having strangers in my room observing me and providing feedback on different aspects of my teaching.












Every week I try to go in with at least one thing I want to do better. Finding one thing at a time that I can improve on each week and problem solving for that one thing only has helped me stay sane. I think I would go crazy if I allowed myself to see all the things I am not all that affective at right now. There is always something more I could be doing or something I should be doing better.

That being said, God has provided some much needed encouragement and support the last few months. A few weeks ago I was observed by an educational resource specialist from Ole’ Miss and she was so supportive. After her observation she left a note saying that she loved my classroom and found it to be a refreshing learning environment followed by a request for me to email her some of my routines and attention getters. She even went and talked to my lead teacher and principal and told them how much she loved my classroom and wrote, “Ms. Wolff, I would love to have my child in your classroom” which is the highest form of flattery any teacher could receive, in my opinion.

Here are a videos of my kids. Check it out.

Morning Routine

It is my prayer that I would not live or thrive on these compliments or on the opinions of man, but I would continue to seek approval from the Lord first and foremost. It is nice to hear others affirm that all your hard work is not in vain, but I pray that I would remember why and Who I teach for. Yes, I am in Teach For America, but in reality the only reason I can teach is because my Maker has given me the opportunity, the life, the brains, the abilities, and a heart full compassion and grace to do so. It is because of Him and through Him alone that I can teach.

:::One Day At A Time:::

Each day the sun rises over the cotton fields of Mississippi and I get to see its vibrant orange glow slink above the horizon every morning on my way to school. It is a consistent reminder that every day is a new day and God’s grace, mercy, love, and strength is supplied to me undeservingly. People ask me how I am doing and all I can find to say is, “I am living one day at a time.” This has become my new battle cry. Yesterday may have been a nightmare, but today is a new day and I am going to do with THIS day all that I can.

::: To Sum It All Up:::

In the past few weeks I …

1. made a mess of my room trying to plan for the next day. Almost every night my bedroom becomes my office and overflows with teaching supplies and resources.

2. played my guitar while jumping on a trampoline at my host parents house.


3. visited friends in Greenville and Indianola for a few more meetings of what now has been tagged as "The Last Supper Club". These wonderful friends are also first year teachers in TFA. I met most of them during institute and have gotten to be pretty close friends with them.

4. have grown tired of hearing kids call me Ms. Wolff during lunch. Sometimes, I just want to eat my rice made with coconut milk and peanuts in a corner, just so I can forget that I am a teacher.

5. have become quite excited about the flexibility of being a teacher. I am the only one in control of what happens in my classroom. Yes, my school or principal may place certain demands or restrictions on me, but in all reality I am the only one to blame or to praise if things go wrong or go right. I am starting to like this responsibility.

6. swam across an oxbow of the Mississippi River. It took about an hour but my friend and I made it all the way across the oxbow and lived to tell about it.

7. received several packages from home! I love snail mail. People from home are so encouraging. Letters, emails, and phone calls always seem to show up when I need them most.

8. have gone on several evening bike rides with friends

9. saw a movie crew set up camp across the street. A movie to come out in April is being filmed in the Delta and the cast and crew set up their “Star Trailers” in a parking lot and at a local grocery store down the street from my house. If you would like to hear more about the movie check this article. "The Help" To Start Filming In Mississippi.

10. finally bought flour at the store. I think this means I am officially a grown-up. I baked cookies, pumpkin muffins, and an egg enchilada. I feel that is a step up from my former cereal and pizza weekly dinners.

11. went on my first business trip and stayed in a hotel all by myself. I even woke up early to iron my clothes before the conference. Then I proceeded to take the mini-soaps and a few tea bags from the continental breakfast. Classy right?

:::Full Of Joy:::

So, that just about catches you up to this past week. I have discovered that I love sticking my left foot out the window while I am driving. The Mississippi heat is a bit more bearable when one foot is setting comfortably above one of side-view mirrors of the beloved Oldsmobile.

One of my dear sisters from Concordia came to visit me over the weekend. Kelsey is also in TFA and made the trip up from New Orleans to hang out with me all day Saturday and Sunday. Saturday we stopped in Tunica to get some renowned Blue & White Donuts, a Dr. Pepper, and some fried green tomatoes before we made our way to South Haven. It is so rejuvenating to be around someone that really knows me. We stopped at the mall and went shopping, bought some pretty sweet specs, and then headed toward Memphis to find a place to sleep.

We finally found a place to set up camp under the stars at a campground on the east side of Memphis and since we didn’t have a tent, we laid out our blankets and pillows, said a prayer, and went to sleep hoping that we would both be there in the morning. When we woke up we had some left over donuts and headed to the oh-so-famous Beale Street and ended our time together by listening to an audio-sermon and walking around a local pumpkin patch. Something strange happens when Kelsey and I get together. We are almost too alike and often I think we become a gruesome-twosome when our humor and sarcasm are mixed together; funny things always seem to happen when she is around.










:::Seasoned With Salt:::

This is what I have been thinking and praying for the past week or so.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." - Colossians 4:2-6

I am praying for divine appointments with my co-workers and other TFA'ers. The past few weeks I have had opportunities to get to know the people around me and have had some really great conversations. God continues to allow me to open my heart to them but so often I do now really know what to say. I just keep praying Colossians 4:2-6 and cry out for wisdom.

TFA and teaching in general provides some really fertile soil for the gospel to be planted. People who are naturally intelligent, leaders, with a heart to serve often start teaching and find that they fall flat on their face. Working with kids is one of the most humbling things I have ever done. I see my sins and fragility more than ever before. Sometimes, I really just have no clue how to teach these little children to read and I definitely see my inability to show unconditional love, grace, and mercy to these kids. Often I pray that God would just burn the information they need into their little brains while they sleep.

An excerpt from an email I wrote to a friend this morning: Something I am continually learning is I AM SO SELFISH... and I FEAR MAN MORE THAN GOD... but I want to be renewed and cleansed from both of these sins. I so long to be blameless and a tool for the cross of Christ. I love him... yet I live as if I don't know him sometimes... but all I really desire is for the people around me -myself included actually- to live in the freedom of Christ. I just am so tired of seeing the enemy trap people.... lie to people and convince people of false hope in the world, themselves, or specific sins. JESUS is the only thing that can satisfy... and He is more than enough. But how do I tell others about this wonderful thing that has happened? How do I tell people about this lover of my soul... oh how I pray for divine intervention with every conversation, interaction, and movement because I can't do it on my own.

I woke up this morning not wanting to uncurl from the fetal position. I did not want to get out of bed for I knew that once I got up I would feel compelled to do work. I was overcome with a sense of loneliness. I am starting to realize that loneliness makes people do strange things to try to fill the void or mute the strange pain in the stomach and ache in the heart. I know I am not alone, but even two Krispy Kreme donuts and two muffins couldn’t comfort me. I spent the next two hours reading my Bible on my back porch trying to listen to the Lord, longing for Him to affirm who I am in Christ.

Whenever I am reminded of this love God has for me I can’t help but worship. Isn’t it crazy that Jesus has burned His way into my heart! I still don’t understand what or how it happened, I just see the evidences of His spirit dwelling inside of me. I know I am His because my heart testifies to the love I have received from Him but I am not satisfied with my portion of God. I want more of Him and I want to know what it means to decrease so He can increase in me. I am so thankful for salvation and this love undeserving that He continues to wash me in. It is in this freedom that I live, move, and walk in everyday. It is for freedom He set us free.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

:::Take A Breath Or Two:::


:::One Day At A Time:::
Most days I feel as if I am running up a down escalator. My mind always seems to be thinking about school, my classroom, my students, and analyzing how much I really don't know. Teaching in the Delta is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I have never felt so inadequate and unaccomplished, so alone and unprepared. Some days my kids board the bus after the final bell rings and I fear the only thing they internalized that day was the free lunch. I feel so overwhelmed I do not even know where to start. There are good days and there are bad days, and at the end of each week I am confronted with how behind they are and how much more they still have to learn in order to be ready for second grade. I can only pray that I will be able to prepare them for next year.

I have to continue to let go of what I think is best for my classroom and seek the Lord. In all reality my classroom is not mine at all. It is His. I was given this opportunity through His grace and so many times I try to do things my own way. Every time I fall flat on my face. The mornings I have started out on my knees have been unarguably the best. Each day I realize more and more that I cannot do this by myself.

Another corps member said the other day that his biggest fear is that his kids will impact him during these two years more than he will impact them. What he meant by that is he fears when he leaves the Delta, instead of impacting and changing his kids for the better they will have made such an impact that he was changed for the worse. I really understand what he is saying. Teaching requires so much patience and humility. Some days the ugliest parts of me come out. I get frustrated, angry, annoyed, cynical, etc. It is my prayer that through the tough days I would not become a more hellish creature, but I would become more heavenly. I pray that each experience would refine me. May I continue to die to myself so that Christ may live in me. May I decrease as He increases in me.

:::America's Pastime:::
My roommate Sarah and I went to a Memphis Redbirds game one weekend. It was like being back home. Baseball is the same wherever you are. The rules are the same, the food is the same, the smell is the same, even the fans are the same, whether you are in Nebraska, Mississippi, or Tennessee. It was comforting to be around something familiar. I haven't felt something familiar for a long time. I only get the familiar taste of home once in a while, whether it be snail mail from family and friends, my Dad's popcorn still left over from a month ago, a few phone calls and video chats with friends and family, or the taste of Grandma Betty's muffins early in the morning. So much of my day-to-day life is foreign to me. I feel like I am a visitor. The baseball game was relaxing. Redbirds won 9-0, and I enjoyed my first chili dog at a minor league baseball game.

:::Read In The Rain:::
One Sunday it was pouring outside. My roommate and I sat on the back porch and read our books for a few hours, I played the guitar, and just relaxed. It was a beautiful time. Then we went to a Bible study at the black Baptist church in town. It was such a wonderful night! Some girls came over for Bible Study and we talked about this youTube video... check it out :)


:::Pay Day:::
So, it is official. I am a working woman. I received my first paycheck from the district last Friday. For the past three months I have felt as if I have been volunteering for TFA, now I actually feel like teaching is my job, not something I happen to do five days a week.

:::Shattered Glass:::
Last Wednesday turned out to be an interesting night full of tears that lead to a retched headache that lasted through Thursday morning. I had just returned from the store with a load full of groceries. I cleaned out the freezer to make room and went outside to dump the trash. On my way back into my house I tripped on the steps and fell through the glass door. I stood up in shock. The glass was safety glass so it shattered into pebble sized pieces. The noise was so loud. It was such a surreal moment. I only had a few cuts and scratches on my hands and arms. I praise the Lord that the damage was pretty insignificant, but this was my breaking point. I had not cried since I started teaching at Lyon so I had quite the reservoir of tears built up. That night when I finally decided to open the floodgates they took an hour before I had no more water. I sobbed and sobbed and could not stop. It was refreshing to finally break down. So often I pretend that things are okay. I harden my heart and hide my feelings. But Wednesday was a beautiful wake up call for me. I was broken and it was beautiful. It was the headache (a.k.a. the cry hangover) the next day I could have done without.

:::Stuffed French Toast and Friends:::
Last weekend was full of surprises and little pockets of rest. We had Labor Day off and I took full advantage of the long weekend. My roommates went on a trip to Tennessee and I decided to hang back and do my own thing. On Friday night I went for a bike ride around town and watched the sunset over the cotton fields of Mississippi. Then I stopped by a few of my neighbors house to introduce myself then headed back home to eat some cereal for dinner.

Saturday morning I woke up, went for a run, got ready, jumped in my car and drove about an hour to my friend's house. It was refreshing to see some of my good friends from Institute. It is weird how close I got to some of the girls during my time at Delta State University. We were only there for six weeks, but we experienced a lot of challenges and growth together.

We made stuffed french toast, bacon, and coffee then chatted the afternoon away. Around four o'clock we headed to our friends house about thirty minutes away. She lives in the woods right next to the river. A group of us ate dinner together, played telephone pictionary and then hopped in the back of a pick-up-truck to go star gazing on the levy. We danced under the stars and didn't talk about school, work, or teaching. It was glorious.













:::Cleaning And A Familiar Face:::
For six hours on Monday I worked in my classroom. My principal let me into the school so I could get rid of old materials, clean, and organize my space. It was much needed. After about three hours though I was almost ready to quit. It seemed like progress would never be made. I felt like I was drowning in stuff. Then I got a call from a friend. John and I were in a lot of the same classes my senior year at Concordia since we were both Communcaions/JPR majors. He recently started a new job and his territory is in Oxford, Mississippi, which is about an hour away from me. Crazy, eh!?! I told him he should come visit (half joking, but ever-so-hopeful) and the next day he showed up! John helped clean my classroom for three hours and I don't think I would have finished without him. He showed up just in time. It was refreshing to be able to talk about Nebraska and see a familiar face from home. Work is always a lot easier to do when you have company.

:::Those Your's Ms. Wolff:::
I am going to skip forward to Friday. It had been a long, hard, day at school. It has become very clear to me that the majority of my kids think it is okay to hit, kick, push, shove and everything in between to get what they want. It was the last 45 minutes of the day and I was not sure what to do. I asked the counselor to come down and talk with my kids about how to express our emotions and what it means to care for each other and use our words instead of violence. He broke them down emotionally. He spoke firmly and was very honest with them. He was stern yet you could tell he cared. By the end of the day almost every single one of my kids was crying. They had to come apologize to me personally and they had to apologize to each one of their classmates they had hurt. As each student said "I am sorry" the other student was expected to say "I forgive you". "Sorry" alone and "It's okay" were not accepted. Each child had to say "I AM sorry" and then "I forgive you" because it is important for them to know that it is not okay and they are expected to change their behavior. If they apologize that means they are sorry to the point that they will not do it again. It was a rough day, but very needed. As each student left to board their bus most of them shuffled down the hallway wiping some tears and sniffling as they went. One teacher looks at me and says, "Why all these kids crying? Those your's Ms. Wolff?". I just nodded, took a deep breath, and went back into the classroom.

:::Food For Thought:::
This weekend I have been thinking a lot about salvation and what it means to be His and His alone. This is what I have been thinking. It is so easy for me to fear man and not fear God. I long for the approval of my co-workers, principal, roommates, other TFA corps members, family and friends. I have been convicted by just how selfish I really am. So much of my day I think about myself, my to-do-list, and my wants. Often times I feel very alone here in Mississippi. I feel as if no one really knows me and I don't really know them. It is hard because I want to know people and love those around me. This is what I wrote in my journal the other day.

"Lord, please don't let me water down the beauty of the gospel. Yet don't allow my moth to flap without my feet moving. God. I feel convicted about my sin. I do not take captive every thought to make it obedient to you. I want to. Please help me. Help me to walk in a spirit of prayer. A spirit of worship. I am tired of walking by the flesh... All I want is you. All I need is you. All I have is you! Remind me that all I am is who you are in me and all I have been given is a gift from above. I am not my own and "my story" is not even mine to keep or make. Jesus. Please humble me and show me how much you really do love me. Captivate all of me. I long to know Christ. Please show me how to fear you alone and not man. I came here not to be served but to serve."

The pastor last Sunday said, "All things about salvation and sanctification are supernatural!" We are not in control of it at all. The Spirit that dwelled inside of Jesus now dwells inside of those who are His children. How often do I forget about Him even though He lives and dwells inside of me? How often do I talk about God as if He is not in the room? I am not called to be perfect, but to be living in the increase because my sin makes me sick. Why does it make me sick? Because I know a holy God that loves me and wants the best for me. And what is best for me? Jesus Christ. I desire to throw off anything that so easily entangles me so I may run the race steadfastly! I pray that the Lord will convict me and convict you of your sin so that we may repent and believe in the beautiful name of Jesus Christ. May we enter into the most beautiful love story ever told. I don't want to be offended when Jesus returns. I pray that he would show me how to receive all that he has to give for I long to be disciplined by him and in love with Jesus Christ alone. May I seek His face before I seek His hand. He has given me life! Nothing compares to Him. Many times I just need to be still and take a breath or two.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why Do You Want To Teach?

I wrote this when I was teaching summer school during institute this summer. I found a stack of papers this weekend in one of my binders and was reminded why I am here.

Why Do You Want To Teach?
  • Because... I believe that Jesus is for the few
  • I believe every child deserves an opportunity to become who they were created to be
  • I believe all social injustices hurt the heart of the Lord
  • I love kids and I get the most satisfaction when I am helping others be who they can be and reach the goals they think they can't

Saturday, August 28, 2010

In My Mind

Here are a few things I have read or listened to lately that have really captivated a lot of my thoughts. :) Just in case you wanted to know what has been going on in my brain lately.





Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Refine Me

:::Growing Up:::

Growing up is hard. Everyday I come home from work and all I want to do is to fall into my comfortable double bed. However, my responsible side tells me I have work to do and the faces of my beloved first graders pop into my head. My stomach then reminds me that that if I am to make it through the rest of the evening I have to eat something. My sack lunches are rarely anything sustainable. I have yet to master the art of cooking, working, living, and being an adult in society. I miss my mom’s good home cooking… I even miss Janzow, the much-loved cafeteria at CU.

:::I’ll Go Where You Send Me:::

I wanted to quit TFA. It was the middle of my fourth day as a first grade teacher and I was being called to the office. My principle told me that the county was making some changes and I was being moved to a different elementary school. They needed me to fill a position at a different school because Friars Point was overstaffed and Lyon Elementary, a different elementary school in the district, was losing two teachers. You see, Lyon’s fourth grade teacher was getting moved to the county high school, one of their third grade teachers was getting moved to the county middle school, and I would be taking over fourth grade at Lyon. I was shocked and overwhelmed. It was a Tuesday and I was to start at the new school on Thursday. After the initial shock I decided to make the best of it. I packed up my things at Friars Point, talked to the other teacher who would be taking over my position, said my goodbyes Wednesday morning and then headed out to Lyon Elementary for Wednesday evening.

When I showed up at Lyon I was informed that I was now moved from fourth grade and placed back in first grade. Lyon had made a decision two hours before to shift one of the first grade teachers and put her in third grade and then pulled the third grade teacher and put her into fourth grade. My mind was so set on fourth grade. My heart was excited and I had already started compiling resources, only to find out that I was now back in the first grade. There were so many changes in less than 48 hours. Here I was at a new school surrounded by new teachers, new students, new procedures, and a new classroom.

:::Lyon Elementary:::

My first two days teaching were full of surprises. I didn’t even know where to find pencils or the cafeteria. It was hard trying to move around the classroom those first few days because the prior first grade teacher still had all her stuff in the room, seeing that she was given a mere two hours notice that she was switching to third grade. Friday evening I had a breakdown. My classroom was a mess. I didn’t have a desk, a stapler, a pencil sharpener, or even a clue of where to find anything in my classroom. However, God is faithful.

Sunday afternoon I coaxed three friends to come to my classroom to help me clean and organize for a few hours. We overhauled the classroom and made some significant progress. By significant progress, well I mean that by Monday my students and I could walk around, I knew where to find most of my teacher’s edition curriculum books, and I could find construction paper if I wanted to use it for a lesson. That was a little over a week ago and there is still so much to be done.

Kids get to school around 7 a.m. to eat breakfast. Then they head down to their classroom between 7:15-7:35 a.m. Class starts at 7:40 a.m. and ends at 3:00 p.m. The time in between that is usually a whirlwind of learning, bathroom breaks, lunch, and recess. I am self-contained. Which means that I teach all the subjects. Language Arts, Reading, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Health. I am with my kids all day, except for my fifty minute planning period in which they head to Unified Arts. It is a balancing act trying to be prepared to teach all subjects. One blessing is that I am not the only first grade teacher. There is a veteran first grade teacher that has been at Lyon for about five years and she has helped me get settled into the swing of things. She plans three subjects and I plan the other three subjects and then we share resources, lesson plans, ideas and emotional support.

:::Tired:::

Monday and Tuesday were some of the hardest days of my life. I have one student that is bright but sometimes very defiant. I sent him to the office two times on Monday and two times on Tuesday for habitual classroom disruption. It is hard to have a student who upsets the class because then the other students do not learn. He was taking things off my desk, standing on the desks, mocking me in front of the class, hitting other students, throwing things, and laying limp on the floor. I did not have an assistant so I was not sure what to do and was unsure how to monitor the classroom and get him to the office.

I sent him to the office but he refused to go. He hid in the bathroom and the principle had to come pick him up. About an hour later he would come return to class and act the same way. His mother came up twice on Tuesday to try to help monitor his behavior. He was an angel when she was in the room. However when she left he went back to blatant defiance.

I went home Tuesday and was ready to quit teaching. They say that your first year teaching will be your hardest. That better be true and things better get easier, because I am twenty-two years old and I feel like I am forty. I went to bed at 8:30p.m. Tuesday night.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were miracles. I had prayed all night Tuesday. I woke up at 2a.m. and 4a.m. because I was so nervous for Wednesday that I couldn’t sleep. However, the rest of the week my defiant student came in, worked hard and followed directions, for the most part. It was like he was a totally different student. God is too good. There had to be some divine intervention.

:::Ms. Fox… Again?:::

This is now the third school that I have taught at in the Delta. At all three schools there has been at least one student that has called me Ms. Fox. I was flabbergasted when I heard it the second time from a new set of students at Friars Point. Then the second day I came to class at Lyon I had two new students calling me Ms. Fox. Strange. That is the only word I can use to describe this new epidemic. Strange.

:::Life In Mississippi:::

Besides school, life in Mississippi has been quite enjoyable. I live next to a church that is full of caring people that love to help in anyway they can. We have had a few ladies stop by with freshly baked pies just because they were thinking about us. Last weekend I tried my first fried green tomato. It was not too bad. However, if I had to choose I would order fried green pickles any day.












The weekend before I got switched from Friars Point to Lyon, Kevin came down to visit. It was so refreshing to see him. He came in late Friday night after making the 14 hour drive from Nebraska. We woke up early and went for a run in the warm Mississippi rain, made blueberry pancakes, and then headed out to eat dinner with my host family, the Richardsons.

I took some Nebraska corn on the cob, which my parents had provided during their visit, out there for them to try. Sunday morning we went to church and then came back to the house so I could finish up some work. We watched the sunset over a Mississippi field and then said our goodbyes Monday morning. I am horrible at goodbyes.

Last week I rode my bike to the store to get a gallon of milk. Sometimes I get so tired of driving everywhere. The only problem is that there are no sidewalks here in Mississippi and you rarely see people running or riding their bikes around town. I stuck out like a sore thumb and one of my students told me the next day that she had seen me riding my bike. I was sort of embarrassed.

Friday my dad made fun of me when I called to talk to my parents at 9:30 p.m. He asked me what I was doing with my Friday night and I said I was talking to them and then I was getting ready for bed. Lame. I know. I am getting old.

Saturday I attended my first Professional Saturday through TFA. We are required to attend one Saturday a month in order to continue our education and to attain licensure through the state of Mississippi. I got to see some of my old friends from Institute and was so encouraged. I have missed them so much. I didn’t realize how close I had gotten to them during my short stay at DSU. I guess we went through so many changes together that we really got to know each other during the rough times. Hopefully I will get to see them again soon.

Sunday I went to church, did some work, and then a group of us girls got together at my room for pizza and a Bible study. It was so awesome to sit around and get to be intentional with these girls. Sometimes I feel that all I think about is teaching so it was nice to really sit around and talk about the unseen instead of the seen. The eternal instead of the temporal. And the love of Christ which will win in the end instead of our current fears and failures.

I pray that God will lead this group of girls to be what He wants it to be and may I continue to fix my eyes on what is unseen instead of what is seen. I have been so encouraged during all this changing. God has sent some amazing supports and continues to shows his faithfulness. After my first day at Lyon I had a 30 minute conversation with my principle about what Lyon really needs: revival. It needs Jesus. The education system can only do so much for a child, but Jesus can provide life. Since then I can see how God is at work and I pray that I will only open my eyes and lay down my agenda so I will have free hands to do the work of the Father.

I can tell that these two years are going to be hard. It is already obvious that God is putting me through the fire so that He may refine me into this likeness. I keep thinking about these two songs. Refine Me by Jennifer Knapp and Break Me Down by Tenth Avenue North. It was Tuesday night that I read this devotion in Our Daily Bread. It talked about how when life throws us down and we hit rock bottom it is then that we see that we have landed on The Rock: Christ Himself. I have found that in these times of tears and struggles I am called to rely on Christ more than I have ever relied on Him before.

"It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes." -Psalm 119:71

I have been praying for a mentor and hope that God will provide a woman that fears Him to mentor me during my time in the Delta.

Please continue to pray for my classroom, my students, my roommates, and my friendships here in the Delta. Pray that I would be willing to speak when God asks me to speak and may He continue to humble me. Pray for divine appointments and that I would not fear man but would fear God alone.

I am sure I have left some things out. I will try to post more often. I have just been so mentally drained since the switch I have not done a very good job keeping everyone in the loop! I am sorry!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

GROW YOUR BRAIN


:::ONE DAY DOWN:::
My first day of teaching at Friars Point is officially complete! I already feel more at peace now that I have met most of my students and some of their parents. It is going to be a long, hard, but rewarding first year. The most important lesson I have learned about teaching thus far is that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail... the second most important lesson is that improvisation and the ability to think-on-your-feet are not optional characteristics for a successful teacher but are necessary skills that need to be learned and implemented. I am starting to see that when I am confident and just being myself in front of my students, they want to listen and impress me. It is such a beautiful thing to be able to mold the minds of young children - but it is also an enormous responsibility.

Today I went over procedures, rules, expectations, and my beloved behavior chart. We talked about how if you work hard you can get smart. I told them them the brain is like a muscle and if we work hard and we use our brain then it can grow. A few of my students have already been called dumb and have given up on their ability to learn. They all were really interested in the idea that they have the power to make their brain grow. It was a long day and I am exhausted, but I am so excited to get started and see what the year has in store.

:::MORE ABOUT THE LAST FEW WEEKS:::
I am writing this post in my dark bedroom, illuminated only by the occasional flashes of lighting, filled with the sounds of rain on the tin roof outside and dashes of thunder. The last few weeks in Mississippi have been so peaceful. It started when I met my host family, the Richardsons, and their daughter, friends, and relatives. During my time at their house I got a good taste of what it is like to live in the Delta. I consider them my family here in Mississippi.

Every morning I would get up, grab some cereal, and head outside to the front porch where I would make my way to one of their oversized rocking chairs. Here I would start my day off reading, thinking, and praying, while the sun was just coming up over the horizon. After a while, when the Mississippi heat would start blazing, I would head back inside to spend the rest of the day working on a little bit of this or that. It would only be a few hours until their daughter, now one of my closer friends would show up with her four beautiful daughters. She would head into the kitchen and start whipping up some soul food for dinner. She never fixed something I didn't like (well, except mustard greens). Then we would end the night playing pictonary or some other game. I became a regular at their house during my week there and loved every minute of it. They helped me understand the Toby Mac song "When Love Is In The House". Their house was packed with visitors all week. They never seemed to have a spare room and floors were often covered by mattresses and sleeping guests. Ms. Richardson was always waiting with a hand open, ready to help someone. She has a calm yet strong personality that always made me feel like I was and still am a part of the family.

The last night I stayed at their house turned out to be such a blessing from God. There were so many holy moments that made me feel like I was not actually in the room. I was on the phone when Mr. Richardson told me to come downstairs because we were having a gathering. I really didn't know what that meant but I hung up the phone and made my way downstairs. There were about sixteen people all sitting in the living room with a few Bibles scattered here or there. He opened up the conversation, shared a verse and prayed, then he let the Spirit work. Mr. Richardson has a way of being blunt but in a tactful way. It was extremely refreshing and made me wonder why more people are not like that, or even why I am not like that. We spent the next hour talking about faith. People shared, cried, loved, challenged, questioned, and were real. It was absolutely encouraging. Afterwards, we ate and headed outside to dance in the warm Mississippi rain.

:::SUPPORT:::
When my parents came down to help me move in to my new house they brought a trailer full of boxes. About two weeks ago I sent out a simple letter/email that explained my need for supplies for my classroom. Initially I thought I would get one or two boxes of things that I could use for the year and I had the mentality that something was better than nothing. However, by now I should know that my family, friends, and hometown community has been nothing but exceedingly supportive and I need to raise my expectations. I received boxes and boxes of wonderful supplies for my classroom and my children. Things from pencils to beanbags, folders, books, clipboards and paper. My roommates are a little bit jealous. :) It took my parents and I over four hours to organize and sort through all of the donations. These donations will help to ensure that my classroom will run smoothly throughout the year. Kids are asked to bring supplies to school but in some circumstances they are not able to get the supplies they need. I am so thankful that I have things I can give them throughout the year so they have the same opportunities to grow their brains!

Below is a picture of my students reading in the reading corner. I gave them 15 minutes today to read on their own or in groups. These children love to read but are often given few opportunities to get their hands on printed text outside of school. You can see a few bean bags, books, and other supplies that were donated. My kids were so excited and I know they truly loved the classroom. Thanks to everyone for their support! (I gave a few pillows and supplies to other teachers in TFA and my school that needed some, they told me to pass on a huge "Thank You!" to everyone)


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Short & Sweet


:::FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL:::
My first day of school is this Thursday, August 5th. I have spent the last few days in my classroom getting set up, meeting the staff, cleaning my classroom, and decorating bulletin boards. I will be teaching 1st Grade at Friars Point Elementary. Please pray for me and my relationship with my co-teacher, staff, students, and student's families.

:::FOUND A HOUSE:::
I am living in Clarksdale with three other TFA girls. They are all in their second year of teaching and have proven to be amazing resources. We have set up camp in a church parsonage that was for rent.

Two of my new roommates :)

I moved in on Thursday night, unpacked, cleaned, painted my room, and organized it all in one weekend ... with the help of my wonderful parents! They made the 14 hour drive just to visit me. And I put them to work. It was such a blessing to just spend time with them and be around them. I felt bad that we worked pretty much from 8am-10pm every night from Thursday to Sunday morning, either cleaning my classroom or my new room in my house. They are troopers. I can't say much more because I don't have words to describe how thankful I am for my parents.


:::IN THE NEWS:::
During new teacher training a man from the newspaper took a photo of me and my close friend. I never heard if it was actually printed in the newspaper, until today. I was working in my classroom and two kids, a 6th and 8th grader. They kept stopping my and just standing in the doorway looking at me. We started talking as I continued to cut out construction paper flowers. After about an hour of them coming in and out of my room I decided to put them to work taping and coloring different things for my classroom. As they headed out the door the 6th grader stopped and said, "Yeah, you famous. I saw you in the paper. You and that other teacher down the hall." Their cover was blown. They were only hanging out with me because I had a picture in the newspaper! Which means that I was famous. Ha!


Anyway- it was a beautiful appointment in any case. The 8th grader and I got to have a conversation about salvation and what it means to be saved. It is crazy how easily people talk about being saved down here. I will expand more on this later, I am still processing.

:::THE RICHARDSONS:::
I have more to write about my beautiful host family that I stayed with for over a week... but I don't have time right now... so check back in a few days :) But here is a picture of the sunset from their front yard.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's Only The Beginning

*Sorry this is so long! I tried to shorten it as much as I could but I guess I just have a lot to say. :)

:::IT’S ONLY THE BEGINNING:::

I am officially finished teaching summer school at Quitman Elementary. My last day was full of celebrations, laughter, dancing, snacks, and good-byes. It was hard to see the kids go. The classroom transformed from a place filled with little kids bursting with hopes and dreams to a dark, empty room with curtains pulled and miniature chairs stacked on the tables. It felt like the end, but I know it’s only the beginning.

Currently I am staying at a community member’s house in Sledge, MS. The house is a two-story, bright orange, farmhouse out in the country. I drove up to the house yesterday evening and met the family that I will be staying with until I find housing in Clarskdale.

God has been so faithful through this entire experience. Coming to Delta State over a month ago I was nervous that I was going to be an outcast and was not going to find friends that I could relate with at the heart level. But He showed me a community of brothers and sisters that challenged me, loved me, and laughed with me through the long days and short nights during summer school and institute. Last night was another sign of His providence. I was nervous about staying at a house with people I had never met before and had been praying that God would send me wherever He desired me to go.

The family is so sweet and has welcomed me in with open arms as well as introducing me to the wonderful world of grits and cheese for breakfast. The husband has been a high school teacher for the last 20 years at the same school that I taught summer school for past five weeks and his wife is the publisher of a ministry magazine here in the Delta. As we were sitting out in the driveway, shooting the breeze (people here in the South sit outside whenever the sun isn’t too hot and the mosquitoes aren’t vicious) his daughter drove up and I recognized her from summer school as well. She is a sixth grade teacher and was a faculty advisor over the summer. I saw her every morning when I was at school learning how exactly I was supposed to do this thing called teaching! It was so comforting to see a familiar face.

Later we went over to her house to have a Bible Study and I got to meet her four daughters. It was a beautiful night.It was so awesome to see a glimpse of God’s providence and how He is opening doors in unexpected ways. The husband is so encouraging and after the Bible Study he said, “Well, Ms. Sally I am starting to see you as a resource. Do you play any instruments? Would you like to help out with the youth in our church?” This morning I was reading some of the magazines the wife has published. My imagination started to take over as I thought how God may be able to use what I have been learning the past four years, talents, and skills to help make this magazine something bigger. They recently changed the magazine to be nation wide and are looking to spread the Gospel and encourage believers to do good works out of love. All of the things that have been going through my head and my heart as well as some of the opportunities I can see are a little bit intimidating. I know God’s plans are bigger than mine – but sometimes when He shows me pieces I get a little nervous to be a part of something so huge.

:::PLACEMENT:::

Update: I am officially placed in Coahoma County. I will teach at one of the four elementary schools. I have a contract waiting for me to sign on the 28th in which I will find out what school specifically as well as what grade I will be teaching come August 5th. More updates coming soon.

:::REWIND::::

Since it has been almost two weeks since my last post I will try to update y’all as to what I have been up to. So, please rewind with me.

:::BB KING HOMECOMING PARTY:::

The king of the blues was born and raised in Indianola, MS.

Some friends and I decided we would make the hour drive to go see the King perform in his hometown and experience more of the Delta. The festival was full of live blues music, people sitting on picnic blankets and chicken on a stick. One of my friends and I started line dancing to the music and before we knew it about fifteen others had joined us. It was the epitome of what life in the Delta looks like: folks hanging out under the blanket of the Mississippi heat, enjoying each other’s company and listening to some good blues music. Add some solid line dancing and some sweet tea and you’ve got yourself one good Friday night.

:::I’M GOIN’ TO JACKSON::: Lazy Magnolias, Oreos, and Laughter

Over the July fourth weekend TFA gave us Monday off. That meant we had our first long weekend since coming into the world of craziness. A few friends and I decided to head down to Jackson to get away from TFA world and the beloved dorm room for a few days. The weekend was refreshing. We hung out at a coffee shop -where I had the best double-shot caramel frappachino I have ever tasted- went shopping at a few stores for some teacher clothes, and ended the day going to a hot air balloon show, drinking a few Lazy Magnolias, eating oreos and listening to creative fiction pieces my friend wrote for her senior project. It was a great weekend out with the girls.

:::JULY 4th PARTY:::

We came back on Sunday afternoon for the Fourth of July Party in Cleveland. The celebration was planned in honor of TFA and had volleyball, golf, a live band, BBQ pulled pork sandwiches and, of course, a fireworks show. Cleveland has been so supportive of TFA and continues to go above and beyond to make us feel at home here in the Delta.


:::READING WEEK:::

That following week I switched from teaching math to teaching reading. I started the day with the kids. We did vocab and practiced spelling of different words, then we would do a read-aloud and read a poem together. It was this week that I finally started to feel like a teacher. I think a lot of things finally clicked and I was so encouraged to see the hard work and struggles produce some seen fruit and growth. My Faculty Advisor wrote a sweet note (I will try to post it later, once I unpack all my boxes and get a little more organized) welcoming me into the teaching profession. It was also this week that we had a lot of visitors. Many other teachers were coming in to observe the class and word started to spread about how the first grade “Shining Stars” were so well behaved and were a class to visit.

:::TIME FOR PRAYER:::

On Thursday my lesson was interrupted for a discussion about bullying. I stopped the class and told them to listen carefully for we were going to talk about something very serious. We talked about what type of classroom we wanted, either a safe classroom or an unsafe classroom. We talked about how everyone has a choice to either be mean or be nice and how each and everyone of them has to make a choice on how they going to act. I said, “Now, how do you want to act? Do you want to be nice or be mean? Because you have a choice.” And one of my students Mauri* said, “Well, I think God wants us to act nice to people.” Because of the separation of church and state I was not sure what I could say and couldn’t say. So I responded by saying, “I think you are right Mauri” Then the discussion continued and one girl said, “Yea, and God is happy when we are nice, but when we are mean the Devil is happy. But God is happy when we are nice, so we should be nice.” I nodded and said that I couldn’t disagree with that and then wrapped up the conversation by asking the students to stop and think quietly. They could pray to God if they wanted to and ask him to help them be nice the rest of the day. We said Amen and then continued on with our lesson. It was surreal, yet so lovely. I have a feeling I am going to have more moments like this in the Delta. The school systems are mostly made up of Pastors, Laymen, Sunday School teachers, and the likes. To say separation of church and state in the Delta is fuzzy is an understatement. I don’t know anywhere else I would rather be.

:::MAURIE:::

This little boy is the perfect picture of the achievement gap. He is one real-life reason of why I am teaching here in the Delta. Maurie is bright, witty, and strong willed for a first grader. He comes from a rough home but works hard at school. He struggles with reading and paying attention but is so full of joy and love. He grew so much this summer and I saw “light-bulb moment after light-bulb moment” go off.

:::WARM SOUTHERN RAIN & FRONT PORCH SITTIN’:::

When it rains here it is like stepping into a warm shower. I have never loved rain more than I love Mississippi rain. Running in the rain has become my new favorite hobby. It has been a pleasant surprise that continues to bring a smile to my face. I have also become very interested in front porch sittin’. Driving down the street in the evening you will see people sitting on their porch about three out of five houses. There is a beautiful sense of community here in the Delta that I think I am getting used to.

:::MISSING THE BUS:::

It is every school kids fear: missing the bus. I remember when I was younger waiting longingly for the bus to come. I would have a fear that I would be left. I remember days the driver would honk his horn at me as I was running out the door with shoes untied and bag draped over one shoulder. I don’t remember missing the bus one time in my years of riding it as a kid. Maybe that is why it is so ironic that I, a 22-year-old teacher, missed the bus one morning. I started running as I saw my yellow ride pulling around the corner. A TFA helper called my bus driver, who then turned around and came back to pick up the abandoned schoolteacher.

:::PRAYER & DANCE:::

Throughout institute I was continually encouraged by a group of believers. We got together once a week to pray, share what God was teaching us, and simply remove ourselves from TFA world. Our nightly five-minute dance parties and oreos and milk helped keep me sane and provided much needed release.

:::NO NEED FOR SUPER SIZE:::

Portion sizes in the Delta are something to get accustomed to. When I ask for a 99cent sweet tea and walk out of the store with a cup larger than my head, it is then that one begins to realize Mississippi’s motto. Bigger is better. (I am not sure if this is their motto… but it sure seems like it! Ha) I have discovered one of my new favorite restaurants. Dodge’s Chicken – which provides free snack packs to those a part of TFA. A “snack” pack consists of one chicken strip, two BBQ chicken wings, a fried mashed potato spud, a dinner role, and an apple turnover. I am not going to lie to y’all. I have had a few of these in the past few weeks and I have started to crave fried food… this could be dangerous.

:::CLARKSDALE, MY NEW HOME?:::

My suitemate and I took a day trip to the beautiful town of Clarksdale, our potential home for the next two years. Downtown Clarksdale is full of history and home to Morgan Freeman’s restaurant and bar, Madidi. There was a live blues band playing on the street that filled the air with rhythm and energy.

:::BANANA PUDDING:::

The past few weeks a group of us have been attending a church down the street. This church is full of people who are so welcoming and loving. On our last Sunday they asked us to stay for some food and banana pudding. What more could a girl ask for?

:::BROTHER’S BLOG:::

Below is an excerpt from one of my friend’s blog while he was studying abroad in Korea. He has become one of my closest friends and has been such an encouragement to me. He puts into words a lot of what I have been feeling the past month or so. So, here is a summary of what I have been feeling, through the eyes and mouth of my newfound brother in Christ.

“One of the reasons that I love Jesus Christ so much is that he suffered tremendously -- and not only did he experience agony on the cross at the end of his life, but tribulation, temptation, and pain marked his whole ministry. From the beginning, when Satan tempted him with wealth, health, and prosperity, to the end, when his own people nailed him to the cross, our Savior was rightly prophesied the Suffering Servant. He suffered on our behalf and he vicariously endured the wrath we deserved, but he didn't do it so that we may live victorious and abundant lives; he suffered not to rid the world of suffering, but he experienced pain and torture and said that we, too, as radical followers of the him, would endure similar pain and hardships. Bearing our crosses, we are persecuted, alive in Christ and dead to the world's friendship.

But God has proved to be so faithful that I dare not complain, lest I trod on the grace that He’s lavished upon me in the last four months! He prepared me to go back and assured me that His grace is indeed sufficient for all things, and as I look back not only at the last four months, but this entire year, I see His workings in my life brightly, and they encourage me to press on and endure.”

:::LOVE WHERE I AM AT:::

I am not sure how to teach in a low-income school then go and live in a comfortable house. My time here in the Delta is not simply about me becoming a great teacher or understanding the ins and outs of Teach For America. I can see it is about learning how to love people wherever I am at. Learning what it means to be available to be used by God whenever and however. I want to know what it looks like to love my students, my community, roommates, and fellow corps members. All I have been given is love and grace in abundance and that is all I have to give, which is easier said than done! But I want my mind to be changed so that I am not thinking about what is to come or dream of ways that I can serve Christ in the future. I want to wake up each day and ask the Lord to wash over me and go before me so that I may join him in his work to draw people to himself through love undeserving.

In the words of my sister,

“Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. And if He had not come after me and changed my heart I would not be here.

The Lord and Savior that I am a willing bond servant of is King of the Universe. He calls His lambs to do as he has done. (John 10:4) For them to take up their cross and follow him. Daily. (Luke 9:23) To follow Him in doing the will of God (Matthew 12:50), To serve the poor and help those in need. To live a life of self denial. To decrease so God might increase (John 3:30).

To Him be the Glory.

I just want to follow Him. Some days I get distracted or confused. But I am thankful that the grace I receive is based on the merit of another - Jesus Christ."

:::WISH LIST:::

Mississippi necessities:

1. Hammock

2. Rocking Chair for my front porch… maybe a house with a porch is the first requirement, which intern means a job would come first. Hmm… one thing at a time

:::LOOK OUT TOWER:::

Mississippi not only is home of the most beautiful sunrises, but is also owner of the most vibrant sunsets. While on a run my last week at DSU I found a lookout tower by the practice football field on campus. After climbing the makeshift ladder with one missing step I found myself the best seat in the house. This tower became my new favorite place and I visited it often to watch the Lord cover the sky with lively orange, pink, purple, and yellow paints.

:::TEARS & LOVE:::

I made a student cry on Wednesday. It was a loud, boisterous cry equipped with tears and kicking – did I mention this took place in the cafeteria? It was my first lesson in true, hard discipline. One minute this student was crying and obviously angry at me. The next minute she was giving me a hug and was sad she had to leave to go home.

On Thursday one of my students was listening intently to the book I was reading. He was sitting up straight on the reading rug with his legs folded and his hands in his lap. His eyes were fixed on me. When I was done with the book I looked up and he said, “Ms. Wolff. I love you. And I will love you forever. Even when school is done, I will love you.”

:::PIZZA & FAITH:::

A small group of girls from my summer school team decided to go out for Pizza on Friday night. We ate and talked for about three hours, until the owner started cleaning tables and closing shop. It was so energizing to sit around with three other girls with different views and beliefs and talk openly about our faith. These girls are some of my closest friends here in the Delta. One is Jewish, the other grew up Christian but is openly agnostic, and the other is a new believer. We sat around and talked about school, life, TFA, and faith.

:::TEARS OF CHANGE:::

On Saturday I broke down and cried. Sometimes it is so hard to accept change. I am just starting to feel like myself and am beginning to feel like I am surrounded by a group of friends that love me and want to know me. Saturday morning I realized that I was once again entering into a new unknown. The only difference is this season will last two years. My newly made friends are being placed all over the Delta, some only an hour away, others three hours away. But in any case I am so thankful for the memories we have made. I know we will be able to stay in touch even if we can’t walk across the hall to see each other. I feel like I am leaving college all over again. I am horrible with good-byes. But I know that change is a part of life. I just wish I didn’t have to open my heart to people to get to know them, only to have to leave them…

:::LIVING WITH ONE FOOT RAISED:::

This is short transcript from a sermon titled "Living With One Foot Raised" from The Village Church. This was so encouraging to me I just wanted to share it with y’all.

“I see a lot of Christians that are trying as hard as they can to look like the world while maintaining their morals.

Christians make a difference in the world by being different from this world not by being the same. We need to remember that God has established his church as an alternative society not to compete with or copy this world but to offer a refreshing alternative to it. We want to be an alternate city within our city.

When we forget this we inadvertently communicate to our culture that we have nothing unique to offer nothing deeply spiritual or profoundly transforming. Tragically this leaves many in our world looking elsewhere for the difference they crave. It’s convicting! But when our minds and our hearts are set on Christ and His return, when we treasure Christ above all things that is not the case. We are different. Not because we are trying to be different but because we ARE different because our values have informed everything that we do. HE WHO WE TREASURE HAS CHANGED EVERYTHING ABOUT US.

This relationship with Jesus gives us the joy and satisfaction we crave so we no longer find joy in the things of this world above the joy we find in Christ. We still enjoy being in the world but not ABOVE Christ - but BECAUSE of Christ.

What does this look like? What does it look like to have a heart cultivated and a heavenly mindset that is toward Christ? What does it look like to become a person who meditates and sets our mind and our heart on Christ and His return in such a way that leads us to living life a certain way? I am not sure I can tell you a five step plan... but I know where we can start.

We can all start tonight by admitting to ourselves and to God that we are not there yet and ask the Holy Spirit to help us to begin to move in that direction.”

:::UNTIL NEXT TIME:::

May the Lord grant us eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart to love, feet to go, hands to serve, a mouth to speak, and a mind full of wisdom from above.