I quit my job. So now I can tell you what I really learned about teaching.

Today was my last day teaching after three years in the classroom (to pursue teaching in a different context). Here. This is what I’ve learned.

  1. Pick favorites. Every kid in their life needs the chance to be special to someone.
  2. It is actually really, really hard to discipline a kid you love, but you’ve got to do it. 
  3. You will have least favorites. You will try really hard to like certain kids, but you won’t be able to, and you’ll fight feeling guilty about it for a long time. It’s okay. You won’t bond with everyone.
  4. Every child should not get a clean slate every morning to start over. At times, yes, but not every day. Infractions carry over. They do in life, so they need to in the classroom.
  5. If you can give a child a reason, then give a reason. Your default answer for everything shouldn’t be “because I said so.”  Kids would be a lot less angry at the world if adults explained to them that the things they think are stupid actually have logical reasons behind them.
  6. Hounding a kid and advice-shoving (not advice-giving) have negative effects. Mix advice with space.
  7. Parents will actually screw you over more than their kids.
  8. Your kids won’t ever love that book or that poem or that speech as much as you do. Don’t let that take away from how much you love it.
  9. Don’t annoy your kids by “force bonding” with them. i.e. No child wants their teacher to eat lunch with them.
  10. Tell your kids when they do something stupid.  When your child sticks a fork in a light socket is the time to tell them what they did was retarded. Better to be a retard now than when you’re 40.
  11. Before you say no, listen
  12. Don’t give the “teacher answer.”  Give the right answer.

 

 

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Irresistible Grace

The other day in school we were reviewing prefixes and suffixes in preparation for the EOGs.  

I put up irresistible on my ActivBoard, wanting my kids to think through it like this: ir = not, ible = able to be, irresistible = not able to say no to something.  (That was a nice little English recap from childhood for you.)  Since then I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s irresistible grace. Typically, I always think of irresistible grace in reference to salvation, but I’ve seen it so often in my life since then.  Some of my dearest moments are after that, when Jesus sought me when I wasn’t seeking; when I was indifferent; when I wasn’t digging my feet in and just forcing myself to pray more or want more or do more.  The moments I’ve had the most clarity that my Savior loves me were when he brought me back when I was straying; when I was having a crisis, and he just showed up without being invited, and I had no choice but to cry and whisper thank you; when I was walking in the mundane and he just grabbed my hand and reminded me he wanted to guide me.  It is true in my life that he has sought me out more than I have sought him out. That both humbles me and fills me with so much gratitude.  And for me, that’s the greatest proof of his love: that he won’t let me go.

 

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly.  He delights in every detail of their lives.  Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

 

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.  

Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.”

 

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Just Say Yes to Drugs

For those of you who know my dad, you know that growing up, my family didn’t celebrate a lot of holidays. When most people were anticipating a day off work or school, excited to spend time with family, my dad was bemoaning the fact that the mail wouldn’t come and the banks would be closed.  

But I like milestones and celebrations, and so today – thanks to drugs and an intelligent psychiatrist – today I celebrate. Today I celebrate saying yes to a drug 4 months ago that has saved my sanity. Today I mark 4 months without a panic attack and 1 month completely off xanax.  Today I celebrate few tears and a quiet mind.

When I look back to the worst times in my mental health, I don’t always see what God was trying to teach me.  To be honest, I don’t really feel like I learned all that much. And what I did learn doesn’t seem like a fair return of what I went through.  I think sometimes as Christians, when we come to the end of something, our first question we ask is “what was the reason?”  and the mistake we make isn’t in asking the question, it’s in answering the question.  We feel like we have to stamp some sort of answer on it to make it seem worth it.  And we come to some sort of muddled conclusion and say, here’s the reason, because God taught me THIS.  Yet in the back of our mind we’re thinking, but he could have taught me that in a different way.  

But we shouldn’t be so quick to give answers.  We shouldn’t be so afraid to leave things open-ended. It’s not a crisis of faith if you don’t have an answer.  Think about what you did learn and be content to leave it out on the table, unfinished.  God doesn’t always desire an answer because answers are limits, and God is limitless.

Be content with saying, I don’t know why, but I know Who.

And rest in the truth that physical health has nothing to do with spiritual health.

When I’m unwell, it’s because of sin; because Adam was my representative in the Garden of Eden, and he failed.  And so because my representative failed me, I inherited disease and decay as soon as I was formed.  Adam wasn’t the “best” representative.  He didn’t make the same decision that every other human in existence would have made; he was just the chosen representative. And I have to accept the fact that I died that day in the Garden. And because I died that day, I have to live with the consequences of a corrupt world. But as equally unfair as it was that I was condemned that day, how equally unfair is it that Christ became my next representative.  And in him, I was made whole that day he hung on the crude pieces of wood, haphazardly nailed together. How beautifully unfair.  Jesus didn’t heal my soul when I found a drug that worked because my soul was never broken. And if he never healed my body, it wouldn’t matter, because my body doesn’t affect my soul.  No matter how sick my body is or how healthy it is, it has no bearing on the condition of my soul.  Thank God that my soul is always well.  

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Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Xanax and other scary words

I sat in the doctor’s office with my pulse 120+ and my hands visibly shaking. And all I could say was “I just feel really nervous a lot of time. I can always see my heart beating when I look down at my chest. It doesn’t slow down.”  That was all I could articulate. I couldn’t tell her about the thoughts. I had never told anyone. (Nate was the first person I’d end up telling, on the night we got engaged, actually.) She gave me an Rx for the SSRI Sertraline, the drug that almost killed me.

I was a 140 pound teenager at the time. Within a month I was down to 115. I went days without eating. The panic attacks were intense. I threw up almost every night. I would fall asleep shaking and wake up with my head pounding and my muscles sore. I sat outside near the mailbox late at night that summer writing poems about death.

I stopped the medicine cold turkey.  I just couldn’t do it. I never went back to that doctor. I’ve actually never been to an MD since then. I became scared of medicine. So I tried some more natural things, nothing illegal, but I don’t want to share.

Fast forward five years and I had a similar episode; my worst in a long time. My husband was out of town for the weekend. It was 5 am Saturday morning when I pulled up in my mom’s driveway. I sat on the couch and cried as I finally tried to explain the thoughts. I kept walking around the house, my body sweating, my mind trying to convince myself that I was fine; that the thoughts weren’t real, but oh how they felt real. Every five or so laps around the house I went to the bathroom to throw up or have diarrhea. And I kept thinking, God I CANNOT do this again. My body can’t handle this. I finally fell asleep from exhaustion. I woke up and called my husband and told him the terrible thoughts in my head, and that I wasn’t sure if they were real. In my hysteria, I just couldn’t figure it out. He drove to my parents house at 3 am to be with me.

I didn’t go into work on Monday; I needed to recover my sanity. I set up an appointment with a psychologist out of town.  We met, and I told her I didn’t know what was wrong with me, that it just couldn’t be anxiety. I started crying. She told me to just start at the beginning. So I started with elementary school and I cried some more.

I cried for the freckled little girl with long blonde hair and a pink heart backpack walking to school every day terrified because of the thoughts. I cried for that little girl who didn’t know there were such things as sicknesses in the mind and so went through all those years alone.

I cried for the adolescent girl who missed out on friends and birthday parties because of the thoughts.

I cried for the teenager who considered it a spiritual problem.

I cried because I hadn’t known how to open my mouth and say what was wrong. I wish tears weren’t clear. I wish when they fell on something they made words.

The psychologist finally told me I probably had a purely mental form of OCD that is not portrayed in outward rituals. She also told me that talk therapy wasn’t going to help. That I really needed to be on a drug and probably for the rest of my life.  And she helped me come to terms with the fact that drugs are okay. Even long-term drugs; some people need them. You’re not a hero for refusing medicine.

I set up an appointment with a psychiatrist. I told her that I had only ever tried one drug, and I was very afraid. She prescribed a different drug in the same class (SSRI) at 25% of the dosage I had taken all those years ago. It didn’t work. I went back and tried another drug. It didn’t work.  I went back again. Ten minutes into our session she was writing another prescription for a different drug but in the same class.

I said “I’m not taking it. It won’t work.  I want something completely different. I’ve tried almost every drug in this category.”  She crumpled up the paper and started writing another prescription that was slightly different. I told her she didn’t understand what was wrong with my brain. I started talking in a direct tone and telling her how I didn’t fit this category she was trying to box me into.  Her eyebrows furrowed as I detailed what was happening to my mind. She started to really listen. She told me what was going on was very unique and very uncommon, but she was pretty sure she knew what would help.  She gave me a drug for reducing intrusive and repetitive thoughts that come with a specific strand of OCD.

It’s been a month. I haven’t had any panic attacks in a month.  The thoughts no longer plague my mind. If they enter my mind, like they do every once in a while, they don’t terrorize me anymore, they just float past like other thoughts.  I started cooking dinner again. I’ve started eating more. I’ve been cutting down on my xanax intake. I’m taking things slowly, and I’m enjoying the current freedom. I keep telling myself that the bad thoughts will come back, and maybe they will. But it’s been a blissful month, and the thoughts can’t reclaim this month.

I just wanted to tell you that I’m not afraid of drugs anymore. I’d rather be addicted to drugs than be addicted to the thoughts. I’m taking a medication that is literally altering my mind, and God is not mad at me for it.

anxiety, depression, panic – those are lifelong problems that don’t go away. if you really have them they’re not seasonal. so get on with it and do something. psychologist and psychiatrist are not bad words. You have a problem with your brain. You’re not a failure; your brain is.

Don’t say “I’ve tried everything and nothing works.”   You haven’t.  Something out there will work. It might take a long time. And it might make you sick and it might make your moods whack, but just like Thomas Edison, you’re only crossing things off the list that don’t work.

If natural medicine worked, the medical profession wouldn’t have started and formulas for drugs wouldn’t have been tested.  I get that medicine’s probably political and pretty corrupt, but let’s be honest, natural herbal remedies are bs. if your anxiety is cured from a hot bath or an essential oil, you only have daily stress; you don’t have mental health problems.

The drug that I’m on is very uncommon. And the psychiatrist probably wouldn’t have ever pulled it out until I was able to embarrassingly and honestly articulate my exact thoughts, my exact fears, my exact symptoms as well as things I was NOT experiencing.

If you’ve tried a couple drugs and they don’t work, then get out of that class of drugs! They obviously aren’t interacting with your brain correctly.

You have to know yourself through and through: Keep a journal. Be very introspective.  You can’t exaggerate when you talk to your doctor; you can’t minimize; the more detailed and honest you are, the greater likelihood they have at matching you with the right class of medicine within the first few attempts. You have to be brave enough to tell the professionals about your demons. You have to.

 

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Syrian Refugee Post #234,679,675,999

This is the 234,679,675,999 article/blog/note published about the Syrian refugees.

But whatevs.

Stop making excuses for why you’ve closed your heart to the cries of refugees. Just call it what it is: You can’t be bothered with other people’s needs.

Stop saying we should take care of our vets before we let in refugees when you’ve never cared about vets before.

Stop saying we have homeless people in America we need to house first when you have no intention of housing them. You’re not fooling anyone.

Stop saying you’re just using common sense. Common sense doesn’t let a handful of people’s actions condemn a whole nation.

Stop saying the highest good in life is protecting your family at all costs. Go read your Bible again. There are things far greater, and your family’s not your flesh and blood.

Stop taking the verse in Psalms about building a wall completely out of context by saying it’s relevant to the refugee crisis right now.

Stop saying we need to get back to Christian values. We never were a Christian nation: we staked our claim in America by thievery and unjustified murder. Let’s please not go back there. We’re finally evolving into something better.

Repeat after me, “I can’t be bothered with other people’s needs.”

“I can’t be bothered with other people’s needs.”

Good.

Now say it by yourself.

No, not in your head.

No, not in a whisper.

Say it out loud because it’s not just a political stance; it’s who you are.

 

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Teacher Apologies: Part 1

I bet you remember it, no matter how long ago it was since high school – those blessed end of quarter assemblies that got you out of (if you were lucky) your least favorite class. And I bet you remember some rendition of the following: “Will the following students please come to the stage to be recognized for All A or AB Honor roll: … please join me in congratulating these fine students for their hard work.  Keep up the good work; next quarter let’s try harder so we can get more students on the stage.”

We’ve all heard it, and we all know it’s a bunch of bull. The kids who walk up on that stage study an average of about 5 minutes before every test. When are we going to stop congratulating kids for being born with the gift of intellect and a good memory?  When are we going to stop shoving the lie down these kids’ throats that those who work the hardest make A’s?  We all know that’s not how it works.

I’m sorry we say that.

I have an itty bitty little child in my class who probably weighs about 70 pounds. He’s the hardest worker in his class. He has the neatest handwriting, the most thoughtful answers and puts more time and effort into his work than any other child. He’s almost always without fail the last to finish because everything needs to be perfect before he turns it in.

It’s been this child’s goal since the third grade to make the AB honor roll, and right now in my class he has a D…on a ten point grading scale.  When report cards come out next week he won’t be the kid who shrugs his shoulders. He’ll be the kid with the glistening cheeks and the tears dripping off his chin because he never measures up.

But I’ll be damned if I tell that kid to “try harder next time.” “Keep studying; you’ll get it.”  He won’t.

To that precious child of mine, you will probably never make the honor roll. So next to the big old 60 that shows up for English class on your report card, I’m just going to write the things you’re the best at.  And you have a lot of bests. And in all caps at the end I’ll put “GRADES DON’T MATTER.”

  

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Why We Stopped Liking Teachers

Why We Stopped Liking Teachers

1 – “Teaching is the hardest job there is.”  It’s not. You know that people in other careers work too, right? And actually, retail in the months of November and December are harder. And hell to the no for Black Friday.  No mouthy kid even compares to that.

2 – “We don’t really get summers off.”  No, actually, we do.  Teachers are 10 month employees, which means…we work ten months.  If you come in during the summer for (always optional) professional development or workshops, you get an extra check.

3 – “Can’t wait for (insert break here). I need to relax!”  We get weekends, plus all holidays, plus a week long fall break, plus a 2 week long Christmas break, a week long spring break, 2 months in the summer and random non-holiday-holidays.  The career people who just get Christmas Day off (if they’re lucky) scoff at your woosiness.

4 – “I have so many papers to grade, and they keep piling up.”  I’m pretty sure there’s a scientific law that says things don’t just disappear, so maybe if you started grading, the pile would shrink.

5 – “A teacher is never caught up.”  Then stop procrastinating and get to work.

6 – “We don’t have enough hours in the day to _________.” If you worked twice as much as you sat in the workroom and talked, you would find the time sufficient.

7 – “I’m tired of being evaluated for my teaching.”  I don’t know of any job where you don’t get a performance review.  And curves abound.  Depending on your demographic, you’re just judged against the average.  No one’s asking you to perform miracles, just to perform up to par.

8 – “Trust me, I’m not in it for the pay.”  Why am I expected after hearing that to laugh and commiserate with you? You’re admitting that you’re in a financial situation where 35k a year is enough to support you and your family, AND you get to do what you love. Isn’t that a great thing?

9 – “I hate common core.”  Common core is what you would teach naturally if it didn’t exist. “Cite evidence from the text…”  “Track how characters develop in a story…” “Learn to identify key details in a text.”  What is so difficult or robotic about that?  I have the freedom to choose ANY text or novel I want to teach. I just have to teach things like that, which a good teacher would naturally teach anyway.  So if you have problems with common core, then, idk, you can finish that sentence on your own.

Does public education have a lot of dumb, stupid things? Of course, but that’s not the intent of this post.

Get off Pinterest. Be efficient. Get things done immediately. Keep a well-organized to-do list. Minimize. Declutter your desk. Declutter your mind. Let things go.

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