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.


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


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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.