Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Why I Teach...

The last day of school in May was a bit emotional for me.  It was the end of my third year teaching, and it was the end of our school's third year of existence.  Thus, my 6th grade babies were graduating and moving on to high school.

I think that no matter the school or the students, a teacher's first class will always be special to him or her, and I am no exception.  I loved those classes.  They challenged me, they taught me, they laughed with me (and at me), and I delighted in them.  I still delight in them.  Nothing makes my day more than when a former student comes down to my room to say hello or to have a chat.  Or when I get a "thinking-of-you" e-mail, out of the blue.  I just love my job so much, and it humbles me whenever a thoughtful student takes time out of his or her day to re-connect with me, even if just for a short time.

At the very end of the school day, one of my favorite students came down for a visit.  We talked for a while, and even this student, who is normally quite vocal, was at a loss for words.  As the final bell dismissed students to go home for the summer, I was handed a note and was instructed not to read it until after its author was far out of my sight.  I obliged.

Normally, I wouldn't post something like this, but I'm going to for two reasons:

1.  I'm so incredibly proud of this young student, not only for how well she articulated her thoughts, but also for how well she has processed her journey.

2.  I know that the tough days I spent with this young student will happen time and time again with other students.  I want this sweet letter to be a constant reminder to me of just how worthwhile it is to never, ever, give up on a child.


Ms. Diehl.

Over the past three years you have been influential in my life, and for that I want to thank you.  You have taught me more in such a short amount of time than others have my whole life.  You've taught me that I have a voice and it deserves to be heard, but the only way anyone is going to listen is by controlling myself.  You taught me to push myself and to thrive through adversity.  You remind me that I've made progress, no matter how bad of a day I'm having.

I want to thank you for going above and beyond what you needed to in order to make your students succeed.  When I think of a great teacher, I think of someone who not only sufficiently teaches you what is required, but also how to be a good human being and who teaches you to fight for the things that you love.

Therefore, you are the best teacher I've ever had.  When I entered your classroom for he first time, I was only a child, so over the years you have watched me grow literally and metaphorically from a child into an adult, and this change would have never occurred if I hadn't had people like you in my life.

Thank You,


This letter left me speechless and in tears on that day, and will probably leave me speechless and in tears every time I read it.  What a blessing it is to be a teacher!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Breathing a Sigh of Relief

A couple months ago, 30 minutes before the start of parent-teacher conferences, my principal asked me to come to her office.

This invitation is no less intimidating as a staff member than it was as a student.

As I walked down the hall, I began racking my brain about what I might have said or done to make a parent call in about me, but I couldn't come up with anything.

She shared with me that due to a combination of budget cuts and changes in enrollment, our 6th grade team has to cut two teachers for next year.  My team leader is retiring, so that was one easy "cut," but the next one wasn't going to be so easy.  All teachers in 6th grade at my school are certified to teach grades K-6.  Except for me.  I'm certified to teach grades 4-9.  And it just so happens that the 7-8 Reading Intervention teacher is also retiring, so, as my principal informed me, if I would be willing to take that job, all other teachers in 6th grade could stay at my school.  If I decided to keep my job in 6th grade, my dear friend and neighbor teacher, Elise, would get surplussed to who-knows-where, teaching who-knows-what.

My heart sank, and I got that awful pit-in-your-stomach feeling that doesn't go away.  For weeks.

In my heart, I knew that I had to take the position upstairs... I couldn't bear the thought of Elise getting shipped off to another school.  I fully intended to tell my principal on the following Monday morning that I would take the job, and my plan was to not ever tell Elise about what had happened.  I didn't want her to feel, in any way, that she owed me anything or that I had done her any favors. 

Due to circumstances that I'm not going to discuss, Elise found out about the decision I had to make and wanted to come talk to me about it.  For more than three hours, we talked and cried and prayed and cried and weighed pros and cons and cried some more.  She couldn't have been more wonderful about the whole situation, and was very adamant that I make the choice that was best for me.

All weekend, I weighed my choices and prayed a bunch, and I kept coming back to the fact that if I stayed put, Elise would have to go.  And that idea just didn't sit well with me.

So, on Monday morning, I e-mailed my principal and told her that I would take the 7/8 job.  Although I wasn't thrilled about it, and I still felt sick at my stomach every time I thought about leaving the team that I love so much, I felt confident that I had made the decision that was best for everyone.

Throughout the next several weeks, my prayer - our prayer - was that something would happen that would allow me to stay.  Maybe another teacher would get another job or maybe our enrollment would miraculously go up.  We just kept hoping for something - anything - to happen.


Last Thursday, Elise asked me how I was doing with everything.  I told her that I had come to terms with everything and that I knew that God had a plan for me - for us - and that I trusted in it.  I was actually starting to get excited about the new curriculum and that chance to really make an impact for kids who really struggle with reading.  I told her that the optimist in me kept hoping that something would change, but the realist in me was ready to start packing up my classroom into boxes to prepare for my move.  I just didn't want to put off that daunting task until the last day of school.

On Friday, just one short day after I was ready to start packing, we got an e-mail from one of my co-workers saying. that she had accepted another teaching job across town. 

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so I think I did both.

I am so sad to lose this co-worker, as she has been such an amazing teammate over the past three years.  But, selfishly, I am so thankful that this means that I get to keep my job, the curriculum that I know so well, and the team that I absolutely adore.

God is so good.

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
-Matthew 7:7

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Happy Hunger Games!

During my first year of teaching, one of my very favorite students introduced me to a book he was reading.  I assured him - as I always assure students who recommend a book to me - that I would add it to my "to-read" list.

That "to-read" list does exist, but at the rate it is growing, I'm not likely to ever finish it.

But as I watched him as he read it, and as I watched as he convinced his friends to read it, I became increasingly interested.  My co-workers and I went on a trip to Texas, so I purchased the book from Wal-Mart for the plane ride.

Maybe you've heard of it?

It just so happened that I wasn't able to sit near my co-workers on the flight (dang it, Southwest and their unassigned seats), but I didn't even care as soon as I started reading that book.

Oh my goodness, it was good!

Our trip went on, and I was able to put the book down, but as soon as we were back on the plane, I was reading again.  And on the drive from Kansas City back to Lincoln, I read again.  And when I got back home, I had to read until I finished.

I love a good page-turner, and I hadn't read one like this in a long time!

After I read it and the two other books in the trilogy (after having to wait several months for the release of Mockingjay), I began converting my friends.  I was rather successful, if I do say so myself, and I loved finally having people over the age of 12 with whom I could discuss the books!

When I found out it was being made into a movie, it was even easier to get people to read the books.  "You have to read the book before you see the movie," is a statement that is hard to argue with.  Each day, my students and I would check the cast list to see if anyone new had been added and to express our excitement or disdain for the actors who had been cast.

The movie was released at midnight on Friday, and I had been planning to attend for months.  In fact, on the first day of school this year, I told my students that my current favorite book was The Hunger Games, and I informed them that I would not be coming to school on March 23rd because I was taking the day off to go see the midnight premiere.

I am a woman of my word.

I went with two friends from church and two friends from NASC.  My church friends thought to dress up as tributes.  I'm jealous I did not plan in advance to do the same.


Kelli's boyfriend gifted her a Hunger Games t-shirt, of which I am also jealous.

We met for dinner, and my friend Grace came prepared with printouts of Hunger Games-inspired drink recipes.  Our poor waitress and bar tender must have been so frustrated with our outlandish requests, but they were able to create everything we asked of them.

Grace also made us District 12 cookies, which were delicious!

It was a little cold and rainy outside, so we stayed inside as long as possible.  We passed the time by reading the Hunger Games issue of People and discussing our concerns and predictions for what the movie would be like.

At 9:30, we decided to head to the theater, as we found out that the line was already wrapping around the block.  It ended up being perfect timing because just as we got in line, the theater was starting to let people inside to form lines there.

It was already past Grace's preferred bed time, bless her heart.

We passed the time by playing cards and eating snacks.  In no time, we were allowed in the theater, and we had no problems finding seats.

Oh, that movie was so good!  Maybe not quite as good as the book - no movie ever is - but, it was pretty closely correlated, and it was very well-done.

The movie is violent.  It's kids fighting to the death, for goodness sake, which is not normally something that would interest me even for a minute.  But I thought that the movie was a good portrayal of the survival storyline, rather than the storyline of death, and the killing scenes that were in the movie were tastefully done.  My words don't do it justice, so you'll just have to read the book and see the movie for yourself.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Viva Las Vegas!

I have always been pretty vocal about the fact that I am the kind of person who could go her whole life without ever going to Vegas and be perfectly fine.  I'm not big on either drinking or gambling, so I didn't really see the point in going.

But when two of my co-workers proposed a quick trip over Spring Break, I found it impossible to say no.  Not because it was Vegas, but because it was a chance to get away.  And by the time Spring Break rolls around, I feel the itch to go somewhere, just for a bit.

And so, we headed for Vegas!

We got checked into our hotel, The Palms, and the first thing we did was take a nap.  I wish I was lying, but that actually happened.  We were exhausted.

We eventually woke up and got ourselves ready to go out.

We gambled for a bit before heading to Cirque de Solei.

Pretty amazing show.

A show that was not very amazing was the show at Treasure Island that we watched after we left the Cirque de Solei theater.  Very cheesy.

After that, we went back to our hotel.  I was in bed by midnight.  Yes, I am a party animal.

The next morning, we slept in a bit, then got up to walk the Strip and to go shopping

First, we watched people getting married on the ship at Treasure Island.  Not exactly the most classy of occasions, but whatever works for the couple, I suppose!

There is so much to see along the Strip!

There are also, well, some interesting people to watch along the Strip...

After walking and shopping and walking some more, we decided to go lay out by our hotel's pool.  Unfortunately, we returned to a hotel that was being transformed in preparation for MTV filming their Spring Break.

So, instead, we took a nap.  A really long nap.  Are you sensing a theme of this trip?

Then, we got up to get ready to go out again.  Our plan was to go back to the Strip to see the water show at the Bellagio and to then go to the old downtown - Fremont Street.  The Strip looks completely different at night!

The water show was awesome!  The bus ride to Fremont Street was not.  Somebody threw up on our bus, so we had to evacuate it, wait on the sidewalk for what seemed like hours, and then get on a later bus.  It ended up being a ridiculously long process, but we did make it!

By this time in our trip, I had gambled away all of $6.00.  Yes, I am quite the high roller.  In this building, I sat down at yet another penny slot machine and watched my twenty dollar bill waste away, one penny at a time.

To spice things up a bit, I hit a button that said "MAX BET," and crazy things happened.  Yin Yangs and pandas all lined up in the best kind of way, and I ended up winning 176 free games!

So, I sat back and watched as the video machine played for me 176 times.  Although boring, I will not complain about leaving $86 whole dollars richer than when I walked in.

And on that note, my Vegas gambling was finished.  I just couldn't wrap my head around throwing money away and having nothing to show for it.  Also, Courtney randomly developed hives while this whole free game thing was happening, so we had to leave to go get that taken care of.

And that was pretty much our trip!  We went to bed, woke up, and got on a plane.  It is worth noting that one of the first people we saw once we left the Omaha airport to head back home to Lincoln was this guy:

Good ol' Nebraska.