Monday, November 07, 2011

A sweet conversation

Today, I finally was able to catch up with a dear sweet woman that has walked with me for over 10 years. We were able to share our hearts from the past year, and I am so thankful for her sweet trusting spirit in the Lord. She spoke such encouraging words. I hope I can learn to speak like her.

She has taught me so much about hoping in the Lord through extremely difficult hardship, and has that kind of faith that you find in people who have truly been refined by fire.

I think the best part of our conversation was rejoicing in what the Lord has taught us through suffering: that joy is not being joyful about the situation, but it is about being joyful in the growth of sweet relationship with the Lord. I would not wish to go through certain trials in my life again, but I am so grateful for what Christ has taught me through those things. He has loosed so many chains in my life, to where I am more free today than I was 2 years ago.

We spoke about redemption and anticipation of our future hope...the sweet peace of redemption in the present, but the unspeakable joy when all things are made new.

It was such a good reminder, on a Monday in North Raleigh after a normal day of school, to look to the eternal.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


This is my fourth year of teaching, and I've learned a few tricks along the way. I have always valued other teachers' willingness to share ideas and post the routine things they do in their classrooms to make the day smoother.

So I have decided to post pictures and ideas from my classroom, some borrowed from others or worked out after months of frustration in terrible routines. I hope they are helpful!

This post is dedicated to some simple organizational techniques that keep me sane. I am not naturally inclined to organization, but have become better by sheer necessity.

First: I label everything now. I downloaded a cute font to make me more likely to use the labels (it's truly the little things), and I bought these magazine files from the Target One Spot. In the important basket, I've placed my grade book, contact information, plan book, and observation notebook. Done. These baskets are lined up on top of a bookshelf that contains all of my files. I don't really use my file cabinet. It's not easily accessible, so I have all of the objectives that I teach labeled on cardboard magazine files. I then placed folders of each set of activities within that file. For example, I have a box for "Measurement," and file folders for elapsed time, length, capacity, and mass within that box. It's right behind my desk for easy access. It's not the cutest looking thing in the world, so I made a polka-dot curtain to cover it all up!
I make anchor charts for EVERYTHING. If we learn it, I write it down.

It's really easy to lose these anchor charts on the walls. It's only the second quarter, and I've already run out of wall space. So a couple of years ago, I covered my cubbies with homemade curtains. Behind the curtains is, well, a mess. But it's out of sight! I laminated circles with numbers on them. I only put the most important anchor charts here.

That way, I can refer to a specific chart when conferencing or doing a mini lesson. One year, I had students who really had a hard time responding to text. I ended up having them choose a number and focus on that skill when they were asked to respond in their journals. It wasn't my favorite thing to do, but it worked for those kids.When we're finished with that skill, I have the hardest time throwing away anchor charts. They just contain so much learning! So this year, I have started taking pictures of the charts and printing them off. I have one notebook labeled "Reading Anchor Charts" and another for "Math Anchor Charts." I keep them in the area of my room that contains extra practice activities.

Lastly, a stolen idea for managing Writer's Workshop. I give each student a number at the beginning of the year. It corresponds to their cubby, mailbox, job chart, etc. I despise remaking things year after year, so this helps cut down on wasted time and resources. During writing, students move through the writing process by moving down a clothespin. I used to use magnets, so the clothespins are attached to a magnetic strip. The magnets drove me insane, so I threw those away this year.
What are your techniques for keeping your classroom organized?

Sunday, October 30, 2011


So many years ago, through a long and somehow unrelated story, our friends began calling blessings biscuits.

(If you've ever had a bo'berry biscuit, I think you'll understand the connection.)

This fall has been a season of biscuits...or maybe growing in gratefulness. The Lord has been teaching me to be more thankful. It is not my natural disposition. So this post is a short update of biscuits.

We have moved! About a month ago, we purchased our first home. We are more or less moved in. Joel and I have a habit of forgetting about the little things. So if you visit and still see a mirror leaning against a wall, or a headboard unattached, get used to it. It may stay like that for a while. Seriously though, we are thoroughly enjoying our home.

My dear brother is staying with us now! He has returned safe and sound (praise the Lord!) from his second deployment.

I have joined a new community group at a new church that I love. I am so thankful for wonderful communities of believers.

My classroom is amazing! Entering into my fourth year, I feel so much more confident as a teacher. I really enjoy my job.

A year and a half ago, I truly felt like I was hanging on by a thread. Looking back, I am thankful for that time. The Lord is so faithful, and He is the God of all comfort. This verse from Joel 2:25 has been so true in my life: “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten." He IS the Great Redeemer.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On sleep

"Sleep is a parable that God is God and we are mere men. God handles the world quite nicely while a hemisphere sleeps.

Sleep is like a broken record that comes around with the same message every day:

Man is not sovereign.

Man is not sovereign.

Man is not sovereign.

Don’t let the lesson be lost on you. God wants to be trusted as the great worker who never tires and never sleeps.

He is not nearly so impressed with our late nights and early mornings as he is with the peaceful trust that casts all anxieties on him and sleeps."

-John Piper

Thankful for rest as summer officially started for me yesterday. I will be leaving for Haiti in about a week and a half. I'll only be gone for a few days. Please pray for our trip to be a blessing to the people we'll meet, for safety, and for change.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Anyone who knows me is aware that I am not the most courageous person in the world. I get anxious about making a sandwich. The Lord has been dealing with me in the area.
Most recently...

We got a new car a couple of weeks ago. It's a super cute Kia Soul. Well rated by Consumer Reports. Affordable.

Oh, and I did I mention it's a stick shift?

I don't know how to drive a stick shift.

But this is my car.

So far, I haven't been able to drive it, and I've been practicing a bit everyday. I'm totally nervous about it. I'm not the quickest learner.

Prayers are welcome. This has been less terrifying each day. And I really want to know how to do this.

On an interesting note, it has made me very aware of how my struggling students feel about learning. They are coming to a difficult environment each day, and they feel like they're failing regularly. I get it now in a very real way. With testing approaching soon, I feel the pressure for them. This is my car. This is their learning. It's not like we have a fall-back here. Joel has been amazingly patient in teaching me to drive, and I'm reminded of how much repetition and patience is required for my students.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Grace Upon Grace

I am struck this week at the freedom of God's grace.

It comes in really surprising ways, this unmerited favor. As a person who admittedly has this terrible idol of human approval, the freedom that grace provides is immeasurable. I did nothing for this. I don't have to do anything for this. It is a free gift.

I am thankful for the blessing of marriage this week. But that thankfulness has come out of an unexpected weekend.

In 24 hours, we realized that Joel's car needed engine work and that my car died.
(The short story of my car dying involves me having driven to and from Chapel Hill without a hitch, but when starting up my car later, hearing a terrifying screeching noise and an extremely loud clunking. It involved me having to take a quick, not crash!, course on driving a stick shift at 9pm.)

I felt like every time we made a plan this weekend, something happened to change it. The cars were just the beginning. It even got to the point tonight where I ordered a salad for dinner (at nine o'clock, because that's how our day went), not knowing that it had bleu cheese. I tried to scrape it off but gagged just from the smell, so loving husband drove me to McDonald's in the middle of the Final Four. And we get up to the pick up window only to find out that they are out of the fruit and walnut salad I had already paid for. At that point, it was comical. But now I have a tummy ache from my dinner, and I am praying praying praying is not weird food poisoning.

We each had our breaking points today. Joel's happened not when the cars died or the vacuum had to be completely taken apart this morning, but when one of our microwave safe plates (we only have, like, 4) broke in three pieces in the microwave, thus rendering his meal inedible. Mine was when I realized a store I needed to go to closed an hour earlier.

But we went for a run and discussed the crapiness of the day. And we tried our hardest to remind ourselves of the providence: the cars died on a weekend. My dad is now able to drive me to work until we get a new car. We had paid off our debt literally this month. But it was still a weird day.

Except for the fist bump when we remembered: we're ok. We've had a season when we weren't ok. And nobody wants to go back there. Compared to that, two broken cars seems like a sitcom joke. This we can handle.

I am thankful for the grace that brought us here this weekend.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Why I love Eve Bunting

She's absolutely my favorite author to teach.
This year, we have read:
Fly Away Home, Smoky Night, Gleam and Glow, Going Home, A Day's Work, and One Green Apple. I was given Cheyenne Again and The Wall from classroom parents.

She writes about real-world issues, like homelessness, war, racial discrimination, different cultures, tolerance, and home. But because she writes picture books for children, these themes are so accessible to them.

This year, I've read these books to them to teach things like making inferences, deep connections and predictions. This quarter, we are learning about author's point of view and purpose. Really, I love teaching days like the ones we had this week. After reading One Green Apple, my kids started to realize that her books contain common themes. We charted our ideas and then one student asked, "I wonder if Eve Bunting wrote books like these because she came from a different country." Sure enough, we looked it up, and she was born in Northern Ireland. After reading her biography, we were able to chart some facts about her life that carry over into the themes she includes in her books. What a perfect way for them to learn author's point of view!

But my favorite lesson this week happened as I divided the class into three groups. I asked them to think about three books: Fly Away Home, Gleam and Glow, and One Green Apple and to talk about what symbol she uses in each book to teach us something. Admittedly, I was a little nervous. I mean, these are 8 year olds we're talking about here. But I realized I was wrong to doubt once I started listening to their conversations. "The bird in Fly Away Home means hope and freedom that the little boy and dad will find a home."
"The fish that stay alive in Gleam and Glow show the family that there is hope, even when their home was destroyed in the war."
"The apple in One Green Apple is like the girl blending in with the other kids in her class."

They made posters to show what they had discussed in groups, but then we came back together to talk about it. And then, I realized I had forgotten about Smoky Night, the story of racial tension against the backdrop of the L.A. riots. I asked them to think about the symbol that Eve Bunting used to teach readers.

At this point, I should pause and tell you about one of my little buds. He really struggles with reading fluency and word work. Grade level and standardized tests seem impossible at times. He has a hard time with class discussions and is extremely quiet.

But I just about saw a real-life light bulb go off above his head when I asked that question. He shot up off the carpet and yelled out, "THE CATS!"

Goodness gracious, I could have cried right there. He got it. And I realize it was just two words, but it's one of the few times he's been openly successful at something that the whole class is doing. Thanks, Ms. Bunting. That made my week.

A sweet blessing

It's Friday. I have suffered through a humiliating step class in an effort to try new things. (I am truly the most uncoordinated person on the planet.) Joel had a rough afternoon at the gym as well (praying that he didn't re-injure his knee!).

We decide it's time for cupcakes.

First, however, we must get gas. Nobody wants to run out of gas on the way to delicious dessert.

At the gas station, Joel pumps the gas and, when the pump abruptly stops at $20, realizes someone has prepaid at the pump and didn't ever get their gas. He goes inside to tell the attendant, and I am so proud, because it would have been incredibly easy to drive away with free gas. He gets it all sorted out and the attendant thanks him for his "truthfulness."

Fantastic! Onward to cupcakes!

I have been looking forward to this new cupcake shop for weeks.

But as we drive up to the too-empty parking lot, we slowly realize that Gigi's is closed. Our hearts sink as we start to walk up to the door to check the hours.

Don't lose hope, though, friends. This story gets better.

The owner of the shop happens to be driving away just as we are approaching the shop. He sees our visible heartbreak (more accurately, my foot stomping) and hails us toward his car. He reaches behind his passenger seat and pulls out a box of cupcakes.

No joke. For free. We do not have cash. Just immense gratitude.

I think I clapped my hands in excitement the whole way home.

Tonight, I am acutely aware of how much I have to be thankful for. And tonight, I will thank the Lord for cupcakes.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I guess I'm a once a month blogger...

I'm currently sitting in our newly redone guest room while the hubs plays a video game and I work on my report cards (ahem...I'll get to them). My brother is deployed and graciously sold us his couches at a discount :) We really didn't have room for three new couches, but I have had my heard set on new couches since we got married, so I couldn't pass these up! To acquiesce, Joel completely disassembled the guest bed and stored it in the attic, moved our old couch into its place, and organized the living room in a way that is most pleasing. This spurred on a two-day cleaning marathon, when we finally gutted our closets, guest room closets, and the guest room itself. It is ridiculous how much junk we had accumulated in the past 2.5 years. Friends who know us well can testify that our guest room was more of a storage room, housing Christmas decorations, old lamps, disorganized papers and school supplies. It feels completely refreshing to have simplified our house, and finally we're able to utilize this space well. The guest room is no longer a storage dump with a bed; it's now a den that is perfect for girls night conversations, relaxing on a Sunday, and reading all by myself.

Report cards are due Friday, and if you've read long enough you know that report card season tends to take over my life. I'm much more organized this quarter than I've ever been, but I'm still so anxious to get them finished. Bleh. I actually went in to school on a SATURDAY in order to work on things, and I spend 4 hours of my day of rest typing up comments for my students. When all is said and done, I'll have written 5 paragraphs for each of my 23 kids. Needless to say, I'm incredibly thankful for having all seasons of 30 Rock on my Netflix Instant Queue and cookies and cream ice cream to ensure that I stay seated long enough to get anything accomplished.

On Friday night, I spent an hour looking back through my pictures, all the way to sophomore year of college. I realized that since then, I've been to Mississippi and England with people I had never met, Spain for a summer, Turkey with Joel, and Belize with my wonderful third grade team. I remember feeling very anxious before many of those trips: fearing the unknown and worried about the relationships I would make when there. But the Lord reminded me that He had planned each one, brought me through them, and grew me as a result. I am so thankful for each of those experiences, but I mention my anxiety in relation to them only because I need to be reminded that I've been and will be taken care of!

Often, I fear that I will be inadequate to complete responsibilities in front of me, especially when it comes to teaching. Ultimately, I am inadequate. But I need to be reminded that anything He has called me to, He has equipped me for.

Lately, I've been feeling really overwhelmed with my to-do list. Anything added to it seems to send me into a panic. I'm learning to say no to extraneous things that aren't top priority, as well as to rely on Joel for more help. So often he asks, "What can I do to help?" and I don't let him help! (Today, I realized that with my crazy day I wouldn't be able to make dinner. I sent him some simple instructions and he put together a delicious chicken and veggie soup that will last us FOUR meals. The best part is that it cost a total of $13!) "Resting in God's grace" is a phrase that has been running through my mind since yesterday. Too often I try (unsuccessfully) to rely on myself, and that is shamefully proud. How wonderful to have a personal and loving Father who knows our faults and assures us that He is enough!