Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Nostalgia of my 2nd Year

It's so funny the things that make you nostalgic. For me, just now, it was putting in a load of laundry and deciding which work pants I needed to wash and iron for the week. Then, I remembered that we are allowed to wear jeans all week on our last week of school. And I stopped, and slowly lowered the pants into the washer, and started to cry.

As women, we get emotional over things that we just don't understand. Last week I couldn't stop crying over how much I love my fiance. Today, I teared up 4 times during worship at church, barely choking out the beautiful lyrics about our Savior's redeeming love. Those two are understandable. But today, I could barely lower my grey pair of J. Crew chinos into the washing machine without losing it.

I can't believe that I only have 5 days left with these incredible 20 children. This year has been so unexplainably challenging for me. I have had so many days where I've wondered if the teaching profession is for me. I've spent countless days after school wondering when their reading levels would go higher, questioning my teaching methods of the day, going crazy about all the paperwork that I still hadn't done. I went from a class who came to me with little respect for others and hardly any discipline, to a class who is serving one another, loving one another, actually loving to learn and all performing in math and reading at exceptional levels. We have come. so. far. It's hard to explain to outsiders exactly how far we have come, but to break it down for you would be impossible.

There were moments when I couldn't take another minute and I wanted to get out as fast as I could. I had visions of me ducking behind a large trashcan and not coming back out to teach. I had a hard time finding funny or cute things my kids would do or say because I was so immersed in correcting their behavior. But those months of endless redirection have paid off, and they are maturing into sweet, caring, respectful children. I am experiencing an immeasurable amount of joy and pride for my kids. They have done it. They are ready for 2nd grade. They treat others the way they want to be treated. They show interest in learning and are beginning to self-motivate themselves to learn and do and create and be. They have learned how to serve others and put others before themselves. Where there was once no light at the end of the tunnel, it is so clearly seen now...

Now, that I have to let them go.

I thought I'd be ready for the year to be over, and I am in many ways (getting married this summer, being a pool rat, being able to learn more and create things over the summer and start fresh). And yes, I am ready for the year to be over, but I'm not ready to pass on these children. Just like last year, the thought of passing them on to someone else scares me, but I know that they are not my children. They are the Lord's, and all I've been in their lives is a small light of his love, which has been entirely through his grace on me and the spirit within me. I have been a small part to play in the grand scheme of their lives, and all I can do is continue to put them into the Father's hands and pray for their little hearts and lives to grow and mature and know Jesus as their savior who loves them more than anyone ever could.

So as I put the work clothes away and reflect on another year of teaching, I know that God has given me exactly what, and who, I needed. My 20 students of P104, I needed you this year. You have allowed me to learn amazing lessons of patience, endurance, strength, courage; dependence on the Lord and the giving up of human power and strength; how to let God be the king of my classroom, instead of myself; how to love others for exactly who and what they are; and so many more. I love you, and I will always believe in you, be here for you, and care for you.

Until next year...when I become Mrs. Rubinson and my students have a difficult time with that last name...I pray for this last week to be filled with sweet moments with my precious little ones. Thank you for reading and allowing me to share my life with you.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

God LOVES us...wildly, passionately, completely

Another day at the daily grind and I'm frustrated. Doing TPRI (first grade standardized test, where the teacher has to individually pull students for 15-20 minutes and test them on reading skills) and feeling like there have been major holes or gaps in my teaching somewhere because I KNOW that my kids can read the word "cut," they are just not doing it...

Not to mention, feelings of inadequacy and constant comparison to other teachers that I know are so great and successful...

I thought this year would be much easier than the first, and I thought that I would be able to hang loose. It has not been so, and spending a whole school year racking my brain coming up with new things to motivate my passive students has been so exhausting. Tiring. Causing me to question, am I really doing this? Is this really what I should be doing, is this really me?

But in the midst of the chaos, confusion, moments of crying to my teammates and feelings of doubt, GOD LOVES ME. Wildly, passionately, completely loves me and loves me with no hesitation, no doubt. He shows me in the most beautiful ways.

There is a freshman college student who I met last year as he was one of our class's high school PALS. We ran into each other at 24 Hour Fitness this past August and began talking, got into some interesting conversation about Jesus and he asked if he could come volunteer at the school for volunteer hours. After that he began working as a leader in the after school program, stopping by to say hello and having intense or growth-inspiring discussions about the Lord. Through these interactions, this college freshman has fully 100% put his faith in Jesus Christ and is now applying to work at a Christian summer camp to tell children about Jesus, as well as ministering to his classmates at TCC and telling them that Jesus is the real deal, and there is no other way.

Or take the 6 year old student I have who I have been encouraging and praising regarding his writing the past few weeks. This afternoon, I was tired. I had had it. I was DONE. And he comes up to me when we are packing up our backpacks and handing out folders, and I'm so busy rushing about trying to get 20 kids out the door, when he hands me a piece of paper.

"Miss Leiss, look how much writing I did."
"That looks great, sweetie," I say as I am still moving about, cleaning things up.
"...will you read it please?"

I am SO, so glad that I decided to stop my madness and take a moment to read it. This is what it said.

"Thank you for all of thees things Jesus. we All love you Jesus. We hope you never diae on the cros. and nowon hates you Jesus."

I melted and I told him, "This is so wonderful. It truly touches my heart and I'm so glad you wrote this. But I have something to tell you. Jesus DID die on the cross already, and it's a good thing, because since he died on the cross, now we can know him and live with him forever in heaven. We aren't good as people, but he was perfect. And him dying on the cross allows us to be perfect with him one day."

See what I mean? ANY GOOD THAT I DO IS COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY BY THE GRACE, THE GOOD, AMAZING GRACE OF GOD! Because my tendency is to let my stress and frustrations overshadow the good around me. And he, he is SO good. And he loves me, wildly, passionately, completely, because he allows me to take part in his reconciliation of the world; even on the worst of days, he shows me the beauty that he is.

You make beautiful things out of the dust You make beautiful things out of us You make me new You are making me new

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Search for God in ALL Things

It's amazing how inspiration can come and go for a writer. And for some reason, my inspiration the past few months has been lost. Lost in the chaos and schedules, lost in the planning and doing. I've forgotten how to just be, how to breathe in and breathe out this thing called life, and how to catch glimpses of our great God in even the simplest of events or moments.

I kept telling myself that nothing was noteworthy of being posted or written about, that there was very little about my every-days that should be blogged for anyone's enjoyment. However, in this process I have simply resisted seeking God in my day-to-day routine, conversations with students, laughter with my incredible and creative colleagues, and hours of being alone in my classroom after school, where the blasting of Shane and Shane Pandora Radio drowns out my thoughts and allows me to rest, somewhat, in the tranquility of another day being done and over with, gearing up for yet another to come.

But I've been so wrong. The past 4 months have been life-changing. My students and I have finally found a groove together, like mismatching puzzle pieces finally fitting together creating this beautiful picture of learning and love. I also became an engaged woman on the day of my last post (!) and have since been planning out the rest of our lives together with the help of my super cute and SUPER understanding fiancee. Things have changed so much, and with spring upon us I feel a sense of newness and rebirth around me. Feeling like I've been stuck behind a steering wheel trucking through mud with no end in sight, the sun has brought new ground to tread on. The road towards becoming a Godly wife, as well as learning fruits of the spirit such as patience, gentleness, and kindness through the everyday lessons God teaches me through my 20 students, has been challenging but sweet as honey.

I can't wait to begin finding, searching, clawing through the dirtiness of this world and seeing God EVERYWHERE in the midst of it all. For this world is full of brokenness, and broken things, and God is on a daily, hourly, every moment-ly mission to restore that brokenness and restore all things to himself. What a beautiful God we serve, and I hope to join in that mission well.

I have ten weeks left of this school year to find beauty and promise in my classroom, my students, my everyday life before summer comes. May the search begin; or, perhaps, may God begin his revealing power to show me his goodness!