Monday, February 28, 2011

My Lunch with Kiwi

My students earn good choice sticks and can redeem them for prizes, and one of the things they can buy for 8 sticks is to eat lunch with me. This past Friday at lunch, I was honored with the opportunity to have lunch with Kiwi.

Having already entertained you with funny things he has said or done, I am so excited to share with you the following experience. This child did not stop talking nor entertaining me the entire lunch period. I wish I could have video taped the whole thing, or at least written down everything he was saying. From types of dinosaurs to Jesus to why he knows the things he knows, Kiwi brought me an immense amount of joy at lunch on Friday. Here are a few key quotes and moments with him:

(taking my Lean Cuisine pizza out of the microwave)
"Wow, Miss Leiss! You have a round pizza there!"
"I sure do."
"Man. I can't wait 'til I'M a teacher so that I can have round pizzas whenever I want! Every day even!"
"It's a pretty good deal. What do you want to teach?"
"Pre-school. I want to be a pre-school teacher, and now I'm just so excited about getting to have those round pizzas. ...Do you think I can have a bite of that round pizza?"

(discussing phonics lesson from the day before)
"Yeah, and Miss Leiss, I know that combination or says or like horse. Do you know how I know?"
"How do you know?"
"Because of my brain. (huge smile) It's a good one."

"Wow, Miss Leiss. I can't believe I get to eat on the STAGE today. I'm like a teacher already."

"You know, I bet this lunch would be a whoooole lot better if I had some kiwi to eat with it."
"Do you really like to eat kiwi?"
"YES! It's the best ever. My grandma made me try it and I'm so glad she did."

There are definitely days where I don't feel like allowing my students to eat lunch with me. It's the one time per day I get a break to myself without them besides my planning period, and sometimes it is so desperately needed. But then God gives me opportunities to spend time with these kids not in the context of teaching them digraphs or what a non-living thing is. I get to see their eyes sparkle when they talk about how they went to see monster trucks this weekend, how they got new shoes, or about how proud they are to be a new big brother. I'm really thankful for these lunch dates with my kids, and to be able to be human with them. I think kids really need that, for someone older to be real with them, to ask them questions and dig into their lives a little deeper, for us even as adults to answer questions and be a little more transparent when we are able to. These kids soak it all up-- they learn from us and our mistakes, they watch our every moves, they love TCU because I do, they think green is the greatest color because I love green, and they know I don't have any kids of my own so they tell me that they are my kids for now, and they will make sure I know that they love me.

Life is good.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bursting with Joy

The past two weeks have caused me to burst with joy at the seams. The snow week was a God-send, giving me a restful time with friends, family, and my savior. It was the Christmas break I didn't get to have-- full of peace, rest, and doing nothing because the roads wouldn't let you. I could not have been more thankful for the timing of this past week's snowmaggedon.

It allowed me to self-reflect and learn and grow. It enabled me to miss my students more than I thought possible, not in that I was dying to be at school, but in that I recognized how sad I would be without them in my life. God gave me the strength to see all of this, and I became determined to love them better than I have been. This past week has been overflowing with love, and I owe it all to our mighty king. I found myself surprised at how things were flowing out of my mouth at times. On Tuesday morning before class started I read some of Romans to start my morning, which said "The word is on your lips, and it is spoken in your heart." It was talking about how the word of God is not far from us; it remains in us and on our lips and hearts even when we are not reading it directly. God, I thank you for that truth. You are allowing your sweet word to drip from my mouth without me even thinking twice. You are so indescribably awesome.

This week, I feel like my call to teach has been confirmed. I feel like I've come so far this year in my first year of teaching. I look back at last semester and smile. I look back on my first month and laugh. Funny how you learn through doing, through experiencing things. I am so grateful to have a staff and school and team (and forgiving students!) that have supported me throughout this first go at teaching; they've let me fail, they've allowed me space and room to breathe and try new things, and they help me when I just can't anymore. It's the biggest blessing to be at a school where I love my colleagues and they love me back. Not to mention the support and enthusiasm they all bring.

Highlights of my week:

-One of my students' moms came to me after school and told me that they had been thinking about moving the past year or so. When asking her daughter this past week if she still wanted to move, my student replied, "Um, I really don't think so. I want to be able to stay at my school so I can still see Miss Leiss everyday."

-Our students are currently composing and writing their own books (I am so proud). They follow the "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly" format. Here are some of the precious things they've come up with:

"There was an old lady who swallowed a pumpkin. I don't know why she swallowed a pumpkin, perhaps she'll grow a chin."

"There was an old lady who swallowed a mummy. I don't know why she swallowed a mummy, perhaps it will fatten her tummy."

-We had our awards assembly on Tuesday morning, where I look to find one of my co-teacher's students lying passed out on the floor, sleeping. This student cracks me up everyday, and I know it's not funny that he was sleeping on the cafeteria floor, is. I mean, the cold, hard, dirty, cafeteria floor, and this student was not just sleeping, but snoring. When we finally woke him up, he tiredly rose from the floor and looked down to find a puddle of drool on the cafeteria tile. He preceeded to wipe it up with his shirt. I could not hold it in. I was laughing all the way through 2nd grade awards.

I really love my job. God is so present here.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Just a Confession

This is just a me-confession. It's not full of witty one-liners from my precious students, but raw self-reflection. A little insight into the first grade teacher's current mindset. A little truth to be told and shared. I feel like Jesus told me to do this.

It's as if all the duties, guilt, and shortcomings of the week passed culminate to these very moments. I reflect on how I could have done more, read more, lived more of this gospel-life I am called to live. It's always about what I didn't do, what I didn't say, what I didn't pursue, how I messed up again and again. The weight and destructiveness of my sin becomes an all-too-real topic of writing. I lack understanding of grace on these days the most and wonder how our mighty savior would ever choose me as his own.

But he has, and thus I am called. To live according to this call, to take up my cross and get over myself and look only to him for security, for comfort, and for completion. I don't know why this all continues to be a difficult thing to do, but I suppose it always will be, or I would never need God.

Just one year ago, I was packing to board a plane to take me to Belgium for a spectacular month full of experiencing God in creation, other cultures, and in myself. I was living at Kaci and Kyle Barnes's house as a nanny. I was eagerly awaiting messages and Skype dates from a boy from California. I thought I was going to work at Sky Ranch upon graduation. I was captain of a dance team, churchless, and seeking newness and a life after TCU.

Now, one year later, I am living in Fort Worth, Texas, a city I have come to love more than I thought possible. I am living with 2 girls I never imagined I'd be living with, but who I love so dearly. I'm teaching first grade in one of the best districts in the state. I am single as I've ever been. I am churched and being the church, living in a community of believers daily, finally have a "group" of friends that I've always desired, and struggling to find the balance in my crazy life. My life is one huge question mark and there are no guarantees for anything, even my teaching job. That isn't even secure, sadly enough, because of how bad the economy is getting.

I just keep wondering what He's going to do next. I have no idea what to expect but I'm trying to be ready. I want to love Him more than anything or anyone or myself. I want to serve Him and give Him all of me, everything. Help me to do that, Father. Even when I don't feel like it. Help me to do it anyway. Help me get over myself and enjoy and delight in you.

I feel numb to it, but I know that You are worthy of all my affection.