A Work of Art

Lately I’ve read a lot of articles and heard stories and beliefs about education. It is an election year, after all. One particular conversation that has stuck with me is the debate over public versus private education. It hit a nerve so deep that three days later I’m still thinking about it. Although I am a public school teacher, I have the distinction of experiencing both sides of the spectrum as I attended private Catholic schools from second grade through college. I loved my high school and the choice to attend Gonzaga University was one of the best decisions I’ve made. The memories I have of retreats and service opportunities, along with school-wide masses on Holy Days of Obligation are still significant moments which I’ll always hold onto.

I know private school is the best education for many students. Yes, it is expensive, and I admire those who choose to and have the means to pay for it. I paid for my own college education, and had the student loans to prove it for years. Although the Catholic schools I attended in grade and high school were nowhere near in cost as the current yearly tuition of some private schools where I live, where it runs upwards 15 thousand or more a year, I know the sacrifices my parents made at the time to make my education a reality. Likewise, I recall working in the high school cafeteria my freshman year to help pay for my schooling and sweeping bleachers after games each year after as part of my work study job. One time a group of girls from a neighboring school referred to my friends and me as “rich bitches.” It was such an odd thing to hear because I barely had five dollars to my name and was the furthest thing from being rich as we hadn’t yet had the money to purchase school clothes that fall.

I guess what’s bothering me about the comments I’ve read and heard recently are the insinuations that private schools are preferential in that their students receive more opportunities for future success. Additionally some believe that teachers in public schools have tenure so they’ve checked out of teaching, which is something that doesn’t happen in private schools.

I’m a public school teacher. I correct papers late at night, analyze data to help my students improve mandated test scores, take continuing education classes to better my teaching, collaborate with peers to improve instruction, spend hours preparing Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD) lessons that will benefit not only my English Language Learners, but entire class. I differentiate lessons so that I’m reaching both my highest and lowest learners, and all 23 in-between.

And every teacher I work with is doing the exact same thing.

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My students and my own children, who I’m also proud to say attend public school, deserve the same opportunities as anyone, whether in public or private school, and I’ll fight for that to happen. Not only because it’s right, but because they’re worthy.

What I’d really like for my students to know, and to understand, is that they are capable and that I believe in them. After all, isn’t each of us motivated by those around us? It’s such a powerful thing to hear the words, I know you can do it. I believe in you.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, if you go to private or public school, if you’re homeschooled. The knowledge that someone knows you can achieve success is huge. It’s empowering. It’s a beautiful thing.

I could tell people that the best way to prepare a child academically is to read to them when they are young. I could list stats proving the quality of early childhood education and the benefits of reading lap hours until I’m blue in the face, but it won’t change the reality that many adults have never sat down and read to a child. One of the most depressing sentences I’ve ever heard as a teacher is, “We don’t have any books,” followed by, “No one reads to me at home.” How are we as teachers expected to overcome that obstacle of making up years of early literacy awareness and development when we only have students for a handful of months? The truth is, we teach to the best of our abilities, because we care.

In public schools, we teach everyone. We never know who’s going to walk through our doors. Nor does it matter because we will work our butts off to teach each student in our class. We will advocate for them, buy shoes and clothing for them, make sure they have food to eat over the weekend when they go home on Friday, and yes, at the end of it all, we will teach them. No application or tuition required.

Most importantly, we will believe that each child, whether they want to be at school or not, is capable of growth.

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If I could let each of my students know one thing, it would be this:

You are a work of art. Your heart, your mind, your spirit are all artistic elements that make you the person that you are. I’m your teacher. I provide the medium to aid in your self-expression, the charcoal to outline your abilities, the shading to fill in the gaps that prepare you to move forward.

My job of teaching you isn’t always easy, although neither is your job of learning. Your lines are often blurred, and there are many times when I wonder if you’ll be ready to move on and continue with your craft.

You see, I’m a temporary fixture in what will be a lifetime of learning as you complete your greatest masterpiece- your education.

Although I hope for the best, I don’t know what road you’ll take, nor do I know if you’ll receive the same opportunities as another, despite your hard work. What I do know is that I’ll hurt for you when your test scores indicate that you didn’t pass despite making over a year’s worth of growth. I’ll check my email at night and will read the Google doc you sent me from the after-school program. I’ll continue to meet with you after every writing assessment so you know what grade I gave you and I’ll help you set an achievable writing goal for your next task. I’ll make a fool out of myself, singing and dancing if that’s what it takes, in order to motivate you to reach the next level. I’ll open the door for you every day with a smile, even on those days when I am so exhausted that I’m barely functioning. I’ll brag about you to my family and will spend a significant amount of my pay throughout the year to keep our classroom library stocked with books that interest you and teaching supplies that help you learn.

When we were on our way to the field trip and you pointed out graffiti on a bridge, I made you promise that you would never do that. I expect you to keep your promise. I also expect you to keep your promise to call 911 if you’re ever in danger, including riding in a car with someone who’s been drinking. I’ll protect you when you’re in my care and will pray for your protection when you’re not.

I’ll always welcome your first language in my classroom, your insight, your thoughtfulness, and your creativity. I’ll also expect you to apologize with meaning and to know the proper way to accept an apology while still conveying why you were hurt. I’ll teach you what it means to be empathetic and won’t let you forget to say please and thank you.

I won’t be surprised if you think I’m mean or I push you too hard. It’s just that I know how capable you are, and I won’t let you waste that ability. I’ll expect you to come to school. I’ll communicate with your parents, whether for good reasons or bad. I’ll hold you accountable. When you misbehave or don’t complete an assignment correctly because you chose not to listen to the directions, I’ll forgive you.

You are a work of art, and I believe in you. Please don’t ever forget that.

 

 

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Guest Post: To the Girls Who Will Love My Sons

Today I’m excited and to have a guest post from a very talented Inspirational Christian writer,  Kristin White, who I’m also blessed to call my sister. Enjoy!

To the Girls who will Love my Sons,

I think about you a lot. I wonder if I already know you, or if I’ve given you a ride somewhere. I wonder if you used to spin until you wanted to throw up, and then watch the clouds pass in the sky. I wonder about your childhood. If someone has hurt you. If you feel loved. If you’ve met God, and know how much He loves you. I wonder if you even believe in Him. 

I wonder about your house. Do you share a room like my boys always did? Did you whisper to your sister into the night? Did you sneak a flashlight in to read “Harry Potter” under the blanket? I wonder if you had help with your homework and dinner at night.

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I wonder if you were alone a lot. I wonder if  you were never alone. Do you have good friends?  Do you have the kind of friends who are lovely and fill you up with love and acceptance? Friends, who you fall over yourself laughing. Who don’t care what you’re wearing. I wonder if your home is filled with love? Are you happy? Are your anxious? Do you laugh a lot?

I wonder if you roll your eyes at your Mother and slam doors because she “Doesn’t understand.” I wonder if you love your Dad and tell him that. I wonder if your parents are together. Or if you wonder where they are. I wonder if you remember them being in love. 

I wonder if you are bullied. I wonder if the words are texted on your phone. I wonder if the bullies are people you cared about. I wonder if you know that they are cowards. I wonder if you’ve watched someone be bullied or have hurt someone else with your words.  My heart hurts thinking you might have. 

I want you to know I pray for you. I pray for your protection…

In Mind…that the images of over sexualized people from “Angels,” to so called “fitness experts” on social media, to a world that is saturating us with too much skin and less depth do not change how you view yourself. That you don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be perfect, and that you remember to live. That you make eye contact and put down the phone.  That you read and learn every thing you can. And that you aren’t a prisoner to depression or anything that steals your joy. That you never ever compare yourself. And that you radiate confidence. 

In Body…that you love yourself. That you see yourself as a creation of God. That you exercise, but that you realize you look most beautiful when you are laughing because happiness is beautiful. That you embrace the parts of you that make you unique- scars and freckles, bumps and curves. And that you will love all of them. That won’t happen by magnifying  your self in a mirror, or taking the perfectly filtered selfies. 

In Spirit…that you will realize receiving love and giving love are two of the most beautiful gifts you can have. That you feel empathy for those in need, and serve them. That you have compassion for the broken, and love them. That you never compromise your integrity for a relationship, or a job, or a spot in this world. That you know that relationships don’t limit who you can talk to and be friends with, but encourage you to bloom. That you realize you are worth more than toxic people who will steal your joy and free spirit, in the name of love. But it won’t be love. I hope you know grace and humility. That you know how to say “I’m sorry” and how to forgive. And I pray that you will know brokenness enough to rely on God. Because He is the only way your spirit will flourish. 

To the Women who will Love my Sons…

From the moment that small little plastic strip showed a plus sign, they have been the center of my world. I would rest my hand across my stomach and speak to them, my little miracles. When each was born we named them intentionally. Names that meant something.

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One that can never hide from God.

One that God will always protect. 

And…

One that will always speak the Truth.

We are raising them to know and fear Him. To be kind to others. To fight for the vulnerable. To be compassionate to everyone. To honor people. To Serve. To thank people. To Love. 

They. Are. Not. Perfect.  But they are good. They love well, they are kind to their little sister, and to each other (most of the time, seriously…not perfect). And in life- they try so hard to do the right thing. And when they mess up…we expect them to make it right. We don’t enable, and I know this responsibility is big…this Raising a good man. This Raising Good Men. 

They know that true love exists. They are products of true love. A love I don’t deserve, but a love that has made a family. I want them to know that. I wonder if you will break their heart.

My beautiful Boys. With them I’ve cried tears of joy watching the years fly by, and wept with worry as I’ve pressed my cold hand against feverish foreheads…in these moments I have prayed with them. They know prayer. They know God. 

They know He is good. And kind. And merciful. And they want to follow Him. Not because they are told to, but because they know Him. 

And we are praying for you. Because maybe you will be a first great Love for them. Or maybe you will be the One. But regardless of where you will enter our lives,  we are praying for you.

 I want you to know that you are loved, and that you matter. We pray that you know your life is a gift.

I pray for you.  And I wonder about you.

For now, I am the woman who loves them most. I’ve loved them their whole lives and will continue for all eternity. And I won’t take a second of them for granted.

Jonah Danny Micah

Love, Their Mom. ❤️ 

 

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Kristin White writes and speaks what she knows. A Wife, Mother, Sister, inappropriate joker and Lover of Real, she is determined the shatter the misconceptions we have about our worthiness in this over-filtered-fast paced- pressure filled world. She sings back-up in an 80’s band, loves working out, has proud laugh lines for days, and is madly in love with God. Visit her Real at Joyful Mysteries.

 

 

Dining Gluten-Free at Social Events

I recently attended a military function with my husband. It was at a very nice venue and I was relieved when I discovered that they had a gluten-free menu option. For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of eating out or attending a social event when you have to be gluten-free (sarcasm intended), consider yourself to be fortunate. I do not exaggerate when I say that it can be a very difficult experience. Not only is there the fear of cross-contamination and a subsequent gluten exposure, there is also the side effect of being starving and having nothing to eat for the duration of the event.

Side note. If you’re anything like me, you become a raging bitch when you’re starving, but that’s beside the point.

This was an event that required some mingling to visit with other military officers, soldiers, and their spouses, so my husband and I left our table and worked the crowd, so to speak. When we returned, my salad plate had been delivered, right beside my gluten-free sign. The salad was romaine lettuce, topped with shredded parmesan and buttery herb croutons.

The moral of the story…

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When attending a social event gluten-free, be very afraid.

Now, I don’t believe all social events to be like this. In fact, last summer I loved every bit of labeled gluten-free goodness at my cousin’s wedding reception. Occasionally you’ll come across knowledgeable chefs and wait staff, but the majority of these events are not special-order functions. It’s kind of like the old saying, “you get what you get, and don’t throw a fit.”

Therefore, I’ll share with you some of my tips for braving the buffet line gluten-free.

  • Try to contact the host of the event to see if gluten-free is an option before the evening of the party. Follow up with the manager of the venue to ensure that the chef knows that you have an allergy.
  • Eat something before you arrive so that you’re not starving in the event that gluten-free options are not available.
  • Pack protein snacks, such as almonds or cashews in your purse.
  • If consuming alcohol, stick with wine. Beer has barley, which contains gluten.
  • When dessert is served, ask if fresh fruit is an option.
  • If a food looks too good to be true- seasonings, gravy, crisp potatoes that were likely battered in flour- it probably is.
  • Trust your instincts. You know what makes you ill. Don’t be pressured into days worth of sickness because someone said you can’t leave without trying just one bite of decadent raspberry cheesecake.

Most importantly, do your research ahead of time and take care of your body because it’s the only one you have.

Do you have any tips of attending social events gluten-free? I’d love to hear them.