Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Call to Teach


I want to share my experience answering the call to teach.
Around 2005 I developed an intense desire to become a missionary. I prayed about it and gave God the desires of my heart. Amazingly enough, in just a short amount of time I would find myself having traveled 4 times to provide missionary services including disaster relief and international missionary fields.  In 2006 and 2007 I volunteered at an orphanage, infirmary, and local churches in several cities in Jamaica including Kingston, Spanish Town, West Moreland, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and White House.
The part of the trip I remember most is the orphanage where I spent a lot of time with a little boy who was around 8 years old. To this day I cannot remember his name, but his face I clearly see. He had a beautiful golden cinnamon color, hair the color of coffee, and eyes that glistened like amber in the sun. His hands and feet were dirty as he didn’t wear shoes, and his clothes loosely hung over his lanky limbs. This orphanage had limited resources so supplies like clean water, soap, and other hygiene products were very scarce. Every visit he would nestle under my arm and together we sat on a bench under a tree to read a book about animals. He had memorized this book, and could tell me about every single animal, their sounds, what they eat, and their capabilities.
One day while reading the book he looked up at me with a smile that was forced in front of a heart that was full of fear and disappointment. Out of his mouth were the words that no adult can handle with a heart for children. Especially when you know the answer will not ease the pain. “Are you going to leave me?”
I could not think of a word to say. My eyes began to fill up with a well of tears and immediately my heart bore witness to the pain this child was feeling in that moment. “Leave you? What do you mean, leave you? I’m always with you.” I knew those words wouldn’t work for him.
 “My father said he would come back to get me, but he never did.” He then lifted his shirt to show me a scar that reached from the top of his chest to his belly. He traced the scar with his tiny finger and gazed across the yard, reflecting.
“You see this? I had heart surgery. My father promised he would come see me in the hospital, but he never did. Now I’m here. I’ve been waiting on him to come.”
Yes, let that sink in. This was his reality. A reality I could not change, fix or save him from. In just a few days I would be loading onto a plane to come back to America where my world was nothing like his. He would remain in that same orphanage waiting for the love of his parents who may never come back. Or, prayerfully they will. But all in all I would never know.
“Let’s just keep reading while we have time together.” He snuggled back under my side and together we kept reading the book on animals.

The Dream

When I returned to the United States I had a dream. Before me was a burning school house and all of the community stood in front watching it burn. Nobody would help stop the fire, but everyone gawked and murmured their opinions. Something in me knew I had to go in. I ran into the house and found twins, grabbed them, and ran out. When I ran out of the fire the crowd drew closer. In my right arm was a twin who had no burns, was healthy and unaffected. Everyone reached for the healthy twin. In my left arm was the twin who had burn damage, was underweight and appeared to have Downs Syndrome. Nobody reached for this baby, rather, I draw him close to my chest and said “this one’s mine.”
When I awoke, I didn’t question what I just saw. I knew God had a work for me to do with children. At the time I wasn’t sure what exactly that was. Later I found out one of the avenues I would be in education. The burning school house represented the system of education, and the state of which it is in. The children who needed rescued would be the children in need of more than classroom lessons, but someone who would truly care and love them in spite of their condition, intellect, and present state. The people standing by represented society, with all their opinions and ideas, but the lack of progressive ideas or desire to do what needs to be done. And finally, the twins. The healthy twin represented the more desirable type of child. One that is easy to love and care for, while the other twin represented the cast away. Someone needs to care for the cast away, unlearned- the forgotten and the unloved because all in all they are both the same.
 God was calling me into the classroom to teach such children to offer hope, to mend what has been broken and to work with children who have exceptional needs. Today I am thankful for this call and I walk in it boldly. Every school year I learn something new and I gain more insight and passion for the children I reach. I am grateful to be an agent of change.  It is hard at times, and every summer I question if I can do it another school year because the responsibility is so great. But each year I step into a classroom I know I’m in the right place, ready to receive my new batch of seedlings.
As I always say, “I don’t teach children, I grow them.”

Monday, March 25, 2013

Reflection 9

Reflection Prompt: Lauren, it's probably the time of year and also the events of the last couple weeks, You seemed stressed and depleted (who wouldn't be).  Thoughts? What are your plans to refuel, replenish, renergize over the break?

(Le sigh) I feel like a water fountain of tears. I've cried harder and longer in the last week than I have in a very long time. Part of me feels guilty because at times I feel like I have no control over my emotions. I also feel like I invest my emotions too deeply in things that I have absolutely no control over.

Thank God for mammas. My mother has definately been my biggest fan, biggest support and confident throughout this entire school year. Just when others look at me crazy, or don't understand why I do what I do for my students, my mother does. She appreciates it. She understands it. She never judges me. She listens to me. She shares words of sound Godly wisdom into my life. I love her so much and I could have NEVER asked for a bigger blessing than her.

Last week losing Devan was probably the hardest thing I've had to face this school year. Or maybe it was just the last straw that broke the camels back-  honestly don't know. But when I looked in that casket, and saw that precious boy wearing that school uniform, my heart began to ache something terrible. Everything within me fell. Life, in that moment, seemed so unfair... and strangley reasonable all at the same time. I had every question hovering over my mind, but yet something in me understood perfectly. God is sovereign.

I am actively seeking refuge over this break from school. I need it. Although hard for me, I'm attempting to step outside of myself and seek the warmth of the company of others. I know, I can be a loner and a homebody. I get stuck in a rut. But right now I know I need a helping hand to move on. I've also switched up my routine a little. For example, normally I do my shopping over the weekends (groceries, etc) but I'm going to make plans for each day of break so that I can get out and get some fresh air. Of course I'll be working out at the gym- that always helps clear my mind. I've also bought The Hobbit, so I plan on finishing that over break too.

Sunny skies ahead.

Rest in peace Devan.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Reflection 8

Reflection Prompt: Think about what types of corrections you most commonly need to make verbally. (from observing  I'd say SLANT, stop talking, track the speaker, I need hands) Which nonverbal signals can you begin and consistently use in order to redirect students when needed without interrupting your instruction.

Over the last week I've really made an effort to focus on using nonverbally to make classroom management corrections. I could use a hand with all 5 fingers spread to count down when I need students to transition to another activity.

Another nonverbal signal that I can use is simple hand guestures like motioning my hands down or pointing to where I want students to redirect their attention to. One that I do not want to ignore is the power of proximity. Standing next to a student who is not in compliance can also aid as a nonverbal.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Reflection 7

Reflection Prompt
I think one of the practices that reflects a first year teacher the most (besides being on the verge of tremendously excited and exhausted all in the same day) is that we want to "do the work" for our students. We want to answer the questions and pave the way. This seems particularly true with reading and writing.  I keep speaking to "pushing out the thinking" in your class. The writer of this blog posting offers thoughts on this, and not for first year teachers - ANY teacher. http://turnonyourbrain.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/defining-deep-reading-and-text-dependent-questions/
What are your takeaways from the article, particularly with regard to frontloading and expecting students to do the work on their own in the ELA classroom?

Christina Hank of Turn On Your Brain talks about a teacher's struggle of handing over the answers to students instead of letting them dig into the concepts, reading or subject matter. I feel the same way. Sometimes I want my students to "feel smart" so I probe them with questions that are kind of no-brainers until I can "trust" them with the content. Isn't that weird? I also have to admit that I link my students success to my own abilities and strengths as a teacher. In other words, when they fail, I MEGA fail. I feel so bad when they don't understand because I feel as though I am giving my students a disservice. As I grow, I'm learning to trust my students and my abilities.

Christina talks about text dependent questions. Text dependant questions force students to go back into the text and search for deeper understanding and evidence even if they have read the text more than once. This type of questioning goes right back to upper level Costas. It uses words like:
  • Analyze
  • Investigate
  • Examine
  • Prove
  • Consider
rather than
  • Define
  • Describe
  • List
  • Complete
  • Identify.
Since brought to my attention, I have made an earnest effort to push for text dependent and higher level questions.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Reflection 6

Reflection Prompt: Connecting your coursework to classroom teaching.  Reflect and write about how you're implementing knowledge and/or skills from your Marian graduate coursework.  What have you specifically been able to implement and what effect has it had on your students' learning?

The course work I do love! Although it's still "work," I glean so much from it that I look forward to all my classes. This semester I am taking a Special Education Assessment course. This course teaches me how to deliver assessments to students in need in order to understand specifically where my students academic measurements lie. This course also helps me to differentiate instruction for the sake of student accomodations.

I am learning how to pull out students to preteach and reteach. Nearly every day I have implemented this strategy to catch up students who normally have a tendency to fall behind. By pulling them out before teaching a new lesson, it gives those students in need a chance to get a "heads up" on the material so that they can already be thinking in that direction.

This course also teaches me how to work closer to my inclusion teachers. I am giving my inclusion teachers extra materials to use in resource classrooms so that the classroom direct instruction is reinforced through group work and projects. Since doing all of these things, I have seen a TREMENDOUS difference in the student product as well as an overall understanding of materials presented in class. Here's some data to chew on: all of my E/LA classes reached our Big Goal of 80% mastery with 3 of my E/LA classes reaching an overal 93% mastery and another 87% master.

That's a win in my book!
We are well on our way of reaching our class Big Goal!
 


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

EDU 505 Final Project

The assignment was to create your dream school. This was the video I created to go along with my presentation. My school was named in memory of my late grandmother, Arcola V. Stanton, who is resting in Heaven. She is my biggest inspiration.

EDU 505 Final Project