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.


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.