Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Return of Kiwi

This morning I had gotten little to no sleep, my mind was racing and I was sluggishly sipping a tea from Starbucks and carrying five baskets of teacher "stuff" into school when one of my new students, fresh off the school bus, tackled me in a full hug.

"Good morning, Miss Leiss!" "Good morning, sweetie." "Where are you going? Can I go with you?" "No, you have to stay here with the bus friends." "But why, Miss Leiss? I want to go with you! I always want to go with you." I literally had to pry his hands off of me; it was pretty funny. I started laughing and walked into school.

Then I entered my room and the chaos in my mind began again. I was organizing lessons, putting out morning work, and sharpening pencils when I heard a child at my door.

"HI, Miss Leiss!"

I turned and thought it was one of my own and tell them to go to the small gym until the bells rings. But it was my precious student Kiwi from last year's class.

"HI, Kiwi!" I told him. He paused at my doorway and said, "I think a good morning hug is in order." "You know, I really would love a good morning hug," I said back.

He squeezed me so tight and then replied, "Your classroom looks super super cool! It's really cool, but it's not like the real one."

I started to laugh as he left. Two students attacking me with hugs this morning and interrupting my crazy trains of thought. It's amazing how sweet and beautiful a child can be, and how they can completely turn my day around by just being themselves.

I adore first graders, and I got to explain why the other night. I love that they accidentally call me "mom" all the time. I get to be that person for them everyday! Me! What an honor. I love that they need a million hugs everyday. I love that they use too many band-aids on owies that aren't even needing one. I love that they dance around and sing silly songs with me. I love that I get to build their foundation of learning for them, and be a part of shaping the people they are going to be. I just love them.

As far as what Kiwi said, I knew what he meant. The layout of my classroom has changed quite a bit. There are different things on the walls, still in a mass of jungle leaves and animal prints, but it does look different. Kiwi, however, told me it's not like the "real" one. To him, what our classroom was like last year has been forever imprinted in his mind. He remembers it, and not only that, but he comes by most days in the morning for a "good morning hug."

I had a parent tell me yesterday that I just need to look at how far my kids came last year and how much they love me, and let it encourage me. Bless that parent, and bless all the others that continually push me forward and make me smile. My new group of kids are definitely getting there, and it's just the beginning. We've had a really good week together, and I'm starting to remember why I love doing this. I've gotten to love on my kids like no other. I've praised them endlessly, stopped focusing on what they aren't doing right, and started focusing on what they ARE doing! Things such as, it's a miracle these kids get to school on time- I praise them for that every day now, because truly it is; completing and doing excellent work, because that is quite a feat; giving answers, even if they are incorrect, because their participation is a wonder that not always comes as easy; and the fact that my kids are so into our chapter book, James and the Giant Peach, and are beginning to love reading. I have to learn to celebrate the small victories for now, just as much as the big ones!

I have learned a lot these first 4 weeks of school, perhaps more than my own students have. But I am so excited to continue. :)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Help Comes From the Lord

I look up to the hills,
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord.

Everyday, I feel like I have to walk in classroom P104 with a suit of armor on. I have no idea what the day is going to hold, if one (or many) of my students are going to be acting like a wild jungle animal, or if I am going to be able to make it to lunch before I have to desperately run to the bathroom. It is a lot of work, being a teacher. There are very high expectations for you to do your job-- not only to teach the children in your class, but to care for them, love them, and provide the environment they need to be successful and enjoy school.

This year has felt like a butt-kick so far, if I may be blunt. I have an amazing group of administrators that support me, a wonderful first grade team, and very supportive and helpful parents. But it's true that every new class is like a whole new year. I feel like I'm starting my first year all over again, trying to figure all these little 19 six-year-olds out, learn what makes them tick, what reading level they're on, what they look like when they aren't feeling well, how they react to change or consequence, what lengths they will go to make good choices or not. The past 3 weeks have been tough and challenging, but also very humbling for me. I went into the school year having a lot of pre-made plans, ideas, and thoughts of what the year would be like, how I would do CAFE/Daily 5 differently and more effectively, how I would be able to pull individual students or small groups, etc. The first day I learned quickly that any plan or thought I had about the year needed to quickly be erased, and fast, and that I needed to adjust accordingly to the students in my care.

It's a good reminder that the Lord knows our footsteps and knows our plan and our path. He has already set it out before us, and we try a lot of the time to figure things out on our own or make our own path to success or joy or happiness. Little did I know that this transferred to the teaching world as well. Turning my world upside down, I've been busting myself trying to do my job well and at the same time have a life outside of school. Last year I slaved myself away with cutting and sorting, planning and overplanning. This year, I have resolved to not do so, but to do what I need to do and then leave to go spend time with people and build relationships. It's very hard to leave my classroom and turn the key on some days, but I know that it is the healthy thing to do.

Just finishing Habakkuk as a church, Habakkuk cries out to the Lord questions like, "why are you doing this, God? Why are you forsaking your chosen people?" And the Lord replies that he is raising up the Babylonian enemies to destroy Israel, in order to one day crush the Babylonians and bring Israel back to himself. Habakkuk is like, "um, excuse me, what?" And the LORD is faithful; he remains unchangeable, unshakeable, and his plan continues for our good. A hard thing to wrap our minds around and accept sometimes is why God is doing what he is doing, and why it is for our good. But I just have to trust that every day God is doing his work in me for my good, and ultimately to bring Him the utmost glory.

I feel like I've been running ragged and it is all I can do everyday but surrender this class of 19 to my savior. Sometimes I even fail at that, and recognize I cannot do it on my own strength. I hope, though, to soon be able to notice the little things and funny stories that happen. I feel like we've been trying to find our groove so much that it hasn't been allowed to happen yet. I just pray for some joy to start abounding in here. I want to laugh with my kids. I want to share my life with them and my love, this love of Jesus with them. I just hope that it can start happening sooner than later.