Tag Archives: Teacher

A Simplified Life

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This week I read a blog that someone wrote about living in Africa.  Her main point was that life is simpler but more complicated at the same time.  For example, she wrote about a man riding his bike down the road loaded up with a 6 piece bedroom set.  Simple, yet way more complicated at the same time.  She said in Africa a dishwaher is a person.  Simple, yet more work.  I related to everything she wrote… except the part about the hippos growling in the river.  I felt like she could have been talking about Costa Rica.

This week I had conversations… electronic conversations… with two professional teacher friends back in the United States.  One teacher friend is teaching in a huge school.  He is one of 6 third grade teachers!  They have 1,400 students in Kindergarten to 8th grade.  I tried to wrap my brain around that.  We have 6 teachers FOR THE ENTIRE PRIMARY DEPARTMENT at our school.  We have 126 students between Kindergarten and 12th grade.  My son is one of two Seniors.  We have one lone 9th grader.

Photo credit: boltron- / Foter / CC BY-NC

Photo credit: boltron- / Foter / CC BY-NC

The other teacher I spoke with was telling me that her district is starting an new 1 to 1 iPad instruction program.  Every kid will get an iPad and the teachers will use technology to teach them.  She has 45 kids with iPads and she’s looking for ways to use the technology.  She asked if we could set up pen pals for her students.  Can you imagine giving an iPad to a Kindergartener?  How many minutes will it take for them to drop it the first time?  How many will be ruined with spilled juice or sticky fingers?  What a waste of money.

So I was talking to my kids about this in the car on the way to school.  I explained that many parents in America wish that their kids had smaller classrooms where their kids could get one on one attention from the teacher, not from an iPad educator.  Many parents wonder why schools don’t just use books to teach kids.  In our school we use a combination of two popular, high quality Christian school curriculums, all book based.  Parents are lamenting the loss of a simpler life.

Can you image a world where the largest class in the whole school is 14 kids?  That’s our school.  Can you picture what a classroom looks like with real books in the desks and on the shelves.  Do you wish your kids had one on one attention throughout the day?  It happens here.  I pointed out to my kids that they have the kind of education that many people in the United States WISH they had for their kids.  Sure they have to wear hot, scratchy uniforms every day, but they have small class sizes, personalized attention from their teachers, and real books to use.  It’s all a matter of perspective. The simple life can be the good life.

It takes a Village

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Recently I was sitting in a serious, important meeting and someone messed up a famous quote.  They said, “It takes a village to raise an idiot.”  Even as I type that, I get the giggles because misquotes just tickle my funny bone!  (I guess that’s one reason why my husband and I get along so well.  He’s a wealth of misquoted movie lines and love them all.)  The real quote is, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  And I really think this is true.

For example, I came home from our first day of school and spent some time decompressing on Facebook.  I sat there reading posts from my Momma friends who were sending their kids off to their first day of school.  They posted pictures of their precious off spring in clean uniforms and new backpacks.  They made a variety of comments about their emotions ranging from proud to sobbing to stunned disbelief that their child could be this old.

It all made me ponder how much work happens on both sides of the school room door to prepare a kid for this first day of school.  Parents have spent weeks stocking up on school supplies, labeling crayon boxes and lunch boxes, wrapping up summer plans with a final day at the State Fair, switching out summer closets for fall wardrobes, visiting school open houses and meeting teachers, etc.  All to prepare their child for their first day of school.

On the other side of the door, teachers have been hard at work for weeks already!  They have been working on lesson plans, browsing Teachers-Pay-Teachers and Scholastic.com for ideas, decorating their rooms, labeling desks and lockers with cute owl name cards, twisting their brains around impossible schedules to make sure they fit in all the required curriculum, taking work home with them over the weekends, etc.  All to prepare to receive your child in their classroom.

Parents naturally think of praying for their kids.  But add in an extra prayer for their teachers too.  They have already been hard at work for your kids.  They are investing their lives in your children.  Ask God to make it a worthy investment.  Especially if your child’s teacher in not a Believer, pray for your teachers.  Ask God to show you how to bless your child’s teacher.  Shine God’s light into their lives in exchange for the hours and hours that he or she will be pouring into your child’s life.

And BTW, I’m still not really blogging.  I’m still taking a break… OK, I’m really just saying this for me at this point.  No one really believes me anymore.

Done.

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Today (Thursday) was the last day of school for my kids and my 5th graders too.  Teachers still have to go for another day to close up things and enter grades into the computers.  But we are done!  I just didn’t expect to feel sad.  I expected to feel giddy and happy, but instead I have said good-bye to some students who are going onto another country and some teacher-friends that I have come to love this year.  As I drove home alone in the rain, I actually cried a little.  No joke, I cry about 3 times a year, so this really surprised me.

Last day of school

Last day of school

Aside from knowing that I’m going to miss these smiling faces, I think it was the emotion of completion that got me chocked up.  This was a really hard year for me… but I succeeded.  I did it!  With God’s strength and constant help, I made it through something really tough.  The pressure of being “strong” has held me together for so long that once the need to be strong was no longer there, I collapsed under the weight of it.  I didn’t even realize that I had been carrying that burden.

Me and a flower from sweet Hannah

Me and a flower from sweet Hannah

Now it’s going to sound shallow when I tell you that I am coming home with some really nice and thoughtful teacher-gifts.  (I have some parents with good taste represented in my class!)  I had a special needs girl in my Bible class, and she gave me a flower and several hugs.  I love it!  And I have a collection of precious cards from my kids.  Here’s a few of my favorite lines from those cards:

~ I will miss you as long as I remember 5th grade memories.

~You have been my very favorite teacher this year so far.  (several kids have come mid-year)

~I enjoyed doing all the art projects and Bible class because you made me understand things from the Bible that I did not understand.  P.S.  Do not tell anybody that you are my favorite teacher.  (Just in case some other teachers are reading this… you didn’t see anything here.)

~I am thankful for all the hard work you’ve done this year.  I know it can be hard to not get angry at us. (haha!  I think I only lost my temper twice the whole year.)

~Thanks for keeping an eye on me this year.

And here’s the best one from one of my 9th graders.  Earlier in the year I surprised her by anonymously putting a couple of big bags of chocolate chips in her locker after she teared up in class telling me how she missed baking treats for her family back home.  Then she returned the surprise a few days later when I found a batch of cookies on my desk.  She said this poem wasn’t original, but I still really like this.  I’m going to keep this card, for sure!

“Once in a while you meet someone, and your thoughts are rearranged, ’cause their wise words affected you, and you realize you’ve been changed.  They give the special gift of truth, and teach you it’s okay to wonder; so you search ’till you find what you’re looking for, and your doubts are torn asunder.  God placed them in your life for sure, and He used them as a key, so I’ll take just a minute to thank you, because you were that person for me!”

That’s a keeper.  Pretty words nicely said, I like to have them in my head.

When Teachers Cry

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“Oh my word, my brain is fried!”

This year I have committed to teach 5th grade at my kids’ school.  They needed a 5th grade teacher and I needed the tuition discounts that my 3 kids would receive.  (School is not cheap in Costa Rica!)  So it’s a win-win for everyone… if it doesn’t kill me first.

This last week has been a true baptism by fire for me as I have jumped right into both learning this new school (their systems, procedures, etc.), cleaning and setting up my classroom, reading curriculum and writing lesson plans, AND participating in the new student orientation that was happening this week at the same time.  As an example of how chaotic this week has been for me, I worked two full 8 hour days before anyone told me that I needed to punch-in every day.  Oops.  Not only that, but no one ever told me when I was required to be at school this week, so I just showed up around 9:30 the first day.  The minute I walked in the principal caught me and said, “Where have you been?  You’re two hours late!  Here, take these families on a tour of the school.”  Well, as you image, my blood pressure just went through the roof.

What we have here is a classic culture clash wrapped in a high learning curve which usually accompanies starting a new job where there is NO training whatsoever.  I am learning just as much about my responsibilities as a teacher as I am about how a Costa Rican organization is run.  The minute I walked in the door on the first day of orientation I realized we had a break down in expectations.  The American in me automatically attributed the miscommunication to poor leadership, and the Costa Rican principal at the head of the school bureaucracy attributed the fault to someone further down the chain of command who failed to send out an email to me.  The whole debacle was quickly swept under the rug so no one “lost face” by being embarrassed or having to apologize, while I fumed about it all day long.  This culture clash left me with whiplash!  I came home with a full-body migraine, I just discovered that there IS such a thing.

So the part of this week that I have actually enjoyed is starting to get to know my fellow teachers.  Some of them I’ve seen around the school when I was just a parent, and some of them are new like me.  We are learning the ropes together.  I tend to be very proactive and aggressive about searching out information and asking questions, so my fellow newbies are riding my coat tails as I quickly scout out what we all need to know.  But I like the moments when we can all release a little tension and laugh together or be honest about how nerve-racking this whole experience is.

One teacher is moving from second grade to high school.  She has told me several times how terrified she is.  I have been shocked at how honest she has been with me about feeling inadequate and nervous.  It makes me feel so much better that I’m not the only one thinking, “what did I get myself into?”  Another teacher is a veteran here at the school, but she admitted that this last week she hasn’t been sleeping well at night.  The day I talked to her she told me she had a migraine from the stress of this week.  A third teacher has maintained her deer-in-the-headlights look for the last 4 days.  She told me she keeps walking around in circles in her classroom and not accomplishing anything.  She’s overwhelmed and tired already.

I have heard of teachers spending the night before the first day of school throwing up all night long.  Nerves.  

Why do teachers do this year after year if the tension and stress is so high?  Because they love teaching.  And I keep reminding myself that I DO love this.  I love teaching, and I’m good at this.  I’ve been giving myself little pep-talks all week long.  “You can do this.  This is what you’ve been wanting to do for years.  You are good at teaching.  You know how to do this.”  And ultimately my motivation is to do my best to honor God with my work.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me… and I’m going to need a lot of your strength, Lord.