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!


  1. I enjoy hearing how much your heart has changed through prayer. These are difficult times, but the rewards will be great, Sally. You are in my prayers as well...one day at a time. Hebrews 12:2

  2. Sally: Your Mom sent me the link to your blog. I just caught up on reading through it. Keep looking up, my dear. The Lord has more in store for you than you can possibly imagine! I know this for a fact, I have been especially burdened to pray for you since March. I can provide no answers, but I sure know who can. He is mighty and loves to love you deeply. Press on for the prize... My prayers will continue, Adena Kreutz

  3. Praying for you Sally. Having to be a "real" adult really is a strange thing, but I guess the transition moments keep us focusing on the One who can get us through. Trust, I feel is a big lesson I'm learning as I figure out budgets and try to find friends and deal with a job that at times can be overwhelming.
    Thanks for sharing your life. As I said before, you are in my prayers!
    Bekah Freed <><

  4. Sally,

    I could tell just reading your blog how you got stronger as the week progressed. You have determination and I know you'll use it! Also, remember that you are teaching those of use that have our comfortable, established lives a lesson about courage and giving to others. You're doing great!
    Uncle Mark