My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.


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PARCC It Here


May 16, 2016

Dear Readers,

It’s test time again across this great nation of ours and apparently I’m not allowed to discuss our state mandated, high stakes test. In fact, neither are my students. Seriously?  Seriously. As I was reading my students the scripted test instructions, I had to re-read the sentence warning students to not even talk about the test. I’m familiar with instructions about not talking during the test. But heaven help me! We can’t even talk about the test? Huh?

Apparently, in this corporate takeover, data driven, standardized reform-y thing we call school, teachers are having both hands tied behind their backs.     We won’t see the results of the tests until next school year, and now the students can’t even talk to us, their teachers, about the questions they had to answer. 

This is a really big deal. Teachers across the nation are being threatened by the almighty PARRC for writing about, thus revealing, how inept and inaccurate their test for 4th grade students is. I strongly urge you to read the following ‘copy and paste’ and pass along the information you deem worthy. Thank you. 

Peace, ~v. 

https://gatorbonbc.wordpress.com/2016/05/15/parcc-can-go-scratch-please-re-post-on-your-blog-share-widely/

PARCC Can Go Scratch! Please Re-Post on your Blog. Share Widely.

Posted on May 15, 2016 by GatorBonBC

The PARCC Test: Exposed
The author of this blog posting is a public school teacher who will remain anonymous.
I will not reveal my district or my role due to the intense legal ramifications for exercising my Constitutional First Amendment rights in a public forum. I was compelled to sign a security form that stated I would not be “Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication” as this would be considered a “Security Breach.” In response to this demand, I can only ask — whom are we protecting?
There are layers of not-so-subtle issues that need to be aired as a result of national and state testing policies that are dominating children’s lives in America. As any well prepared educator knows, curriculum planning and teaching requires knowing how you will assess your students and planning backwards from that knowledge. If teachers are unable to examine and discuss the summative assessment for their students, how can they plan their instruction? Yet, that very question assumes that this test is something worth planning for. The fact is that schools that try to plan their curriculum exclusively to prepare students for this test are ignoring the body of educational research that tells us how children learn, and how to create developmentally appropriate activities to engage students in the act of learning. This article will attempt to provide evidence for these claims as a snapshot of what is happening as a result of current policies.
The PARCC test is developmentally inappropriate
In order to discuss the claim that the PARCC test is “developmentally inappropriate,” examine three of the most recent PARCC 4th grade items.
A book leveling system, designed by Fountas and Pinnell, was made “more rigorous” in order to match the Common Core State Standards. These newly updated benchmarks state that 4th Graders should be reading at a Level S by the end of the year in order to be considered reading “on grade level.” [Celia’s note: I do not endorse leveling books or readers, nor do I think it appropriate that all 9 year olds should be reading a Level S book to be thought of as making good progress.]
The PARCC, which is supposedly a test of the Common Core State Standards, appears to have taken liberties with regard to grade level texts. For example, on the Spring 2016 PARCC for 4th Graders, students were expected to read an excerpt from Shark Life: True Stories about Sharks and the Sea by Peter Benchley and Karen Wojtyla. According to Scholastic, this text is at an interest level for Grades 9–12, and at a 7th Grade reading level. The Lexile measure is 1020L, which is most often found in texts that are written for middle school, and according to Scholastic’s own conversion chart would be equivalent to a 6th grade benchmark around W, X, or Y (using the same Fountas and Pinnell scale).
Even by the reform movement’s own standards, according to MetaMetrics’ reference material on Text Complexity Grade Bands and Lexile Bands, the newly CCSS aligned “Stretch” lexile level of 1020 falls in the 6–8 grade range. This begs the question, what is the purpose of standardizing text complexity bands if testing companies do not have to adhere to them? Also, what is the purpose of a standardized test that surpasses agreed-upon lexile levels?
So, right out of the gate, 4th graders are being asked to read and respond to texts that are two grade levels above the recommended benchmark. After they struggle through difficult texts with advanced vocabulary and nuanced sentence structures, they then have to answer multiple choice questions that are, by design, intended to distract students with answers that appear to be correct except for some technicality.
Finally, students must synthesize two or three of these advanced texts and compose an original essay. The ELA portion of the PARCC takes three days, and each day includes a new essay prompt based on multiple texts. These are the prompts from the 2016 Spring PARCC exam for 4th Graders along with my analysis of why these prompts do not reflect the true intention of the Common Core State Standards.
ELA 4th Grade Prompt #1
Refer to the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” and the poem “Mountains.” Then answer question 7.
Think about how the structural elements in the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” differ from the structural elements in the poem “Mountains.”
Write an essay that explains the differences in the structural elements between the passage and the poem. Be sure to include specific examples from both texts to support your response.
The above prompt probably attempts to assess the Common Core standard RL.4.5: “Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.”
However, the Common Core State Standards for writing do not require students to write essays comparing the text structures of different genres. The Grade 4 CCSS for writing about reading demand that students write about characters, settings, and events in literature, or that they write about how authors support their points in informational texts. Nowhere in the standards are students asked to write comparative essays on the structures of writing. The reading standards ask students to “explain” structural elements, but not in writing. There is a huge developmental leap between explaining something and writing an analytical essay about it. [Celia’s note: The entire enterprise of analyzing text structures in elementary school — a 1940’s and 50’s college English approach called “New Criticism” — is ridiculous for 9 year olds anyway.]
The PARCC does not assess what it attempts to assess
ELA 4th Grade Prompt #2
Refer to the passages from “Great White Shark” and Face the Sharks. Then answer question 20.
Using details and images in the passages from “Great White Sharks” and Face to Face with Sharks, write an essay that describes the characteristics of white sharks.
It would be a stretch to say that this question assesses CCSS W.4.9.B: “Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.”
In fact, this prompt assesses a student’s ability to research a topic across sources and write a research-based essay that synthesizes facts from both articles. Even CCSS W.4.7, “Conduct research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic,” does not demand that students compile information from different sources to create an essay. The closest the standards come to demanding this sort of work is in the reading standards; CCSS RI.4.9 says: “Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.” Fine. One could argue that this PARCC prompt assesses CCSS RI.4.9.
However, the fact that the texts presented for students to “use” for the essay are at a middle school reading level automatically disqualifies this essay prompt from being able to assess what it attempts to assess. (It is like trying to assess children’s math computational skills by embedding them in a word problem with words that the child cannot read.)
ELA 4th Grade Prompt #3
In “Sadako’s Secret,” the narrator reveals Sadako’s thoughts and feelings while telling the story. The narrator also includes dialogue and actions between Sadako and her family. Using these details, write a story about what happens next year when Sadako tries out for the junior high track team. Include not only Sadako’s actions and feelings but also her family’s reaction and feelings in your story.
Nowhere, and I mean nowhere in the Common Core State Standards is there a demand for students to read a narrative and then use the details from that text to write a new story based on a prompt. That is a new pseudo-genre called “Prose Constructed Response” by the PARCC creators, and it is 100% not aligned to the CCSS. Not to mention, why are 4th Graders being asked to write about trying out for the junior high track team? This demand defies their experiences and asks them to imagine a scenario that is well beyond their scope.
Clearly, these questions are poorly designed assessments of 4th graders CCSS learning. (We are setting aside the disagreements we have with those standards in the first place, and simply assessing the PARCC on its utility for measuring what it was intended to measure.)
Rather than debate the CCSS we instead want to expose the tragic reality of the countless public schools organizing their entire instruction around trying to raise students’ PARCC scores.
Without naming any names, I can tell you that schools are disregarding research-proven methods of literacy learning. The “wisdom” coming “down the pipeline” is that children need to be exposed to more complex texts because that is what PARCC demands of them. So children are being denied independent and guided reading time with texts of high interest and potential access and instead are handed texts that are much too hard (frustration level) all year long without ever being given the chance to grow as readers in their Zone of Proximal Development (pardon my reference to those pesky educational researchers like Vygotsky.)
So not only are students who are reading “on grade level” going to be frustrated by these so-called “complex texts,” but newcomers to the U.S. and English Language Learners and any student reading below the proficiency line will never learn the foundational skills they need, will never know the enjoyment of reading and writing from intrinsic motivation, and will, sadly, be denied the opportunity to become a critical reader and writer of media. Critical literacies are foundational for active participation in a democracy.
We can look carefully at one sample to examine the health of the entire system — such as testing a drop of water to assess the ocean. So too, we can use these three PARCC prompts to glimpse how the high stakes accountability system has deformed teaching and warped learning in many public schools across the United States.
In this sample, the system is pathetically failing a generation of children who deserve better, and when they are adults, they may not have the skills needed to engage as citizens and problem-solvers. So it is up to us, those of us who remember a better way and can imagine a way out, to make the case for stopping standardized tests like PARCC from corrupting the educational opportunities of so many of our children.


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The Curious Misadventures of El Mariachi and the Elite 8


May 6, 2016
Dear Readers,
I originally posted this two years ago. I am reposting today in honor of my dad on this, the 15th anniversary of his passing. My dad, the greatest man I ever knew. Peace, ~v.

My [redacted] Journey

El Mariachi El Mariach, aka El Ching@n

El Mariachi's Vieja El Mariachi’s Vieja

July 20, 2014

Dear Readers,

It recently dawned on me that I have never told you my stories of the infamous superhero El Mariachi, aka El Ching@n, and his loyal group of followers, turned proteges, turned superheroes themselves.  El Mariachi and his faithful wife, Vieja, spent a decade recruiting eight of the best and the brightest young people to pass onto them their values and a hope for the future.  They spent the next 38 years grooming the Elite 8 to become superheroes in their own right, so that future generations would, themselves want to emulate  and continue the traditions that El Mariachi and his Veija began.

The Elite 8 The Elite 8

Although the youngest and the last to be recruited, Boy is probably the closest to a mirror image of El Mariachi.  It also took Boy the longest to agree to join the…

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Seeking the Truth


May 1, 2016

Dear Readers,

So often during the Middle School Years, kids are seeking acceptance, self worth, and yes, even their own identities. It is helpful for teachers to remember this when confronted with raging parents, marionette administrators, or the un-truth tellers themselves. It is also helpful to remember that truth is subjective and its extraction, a dance. 

“She won’t teach my daughter!”

I was sitting across from my student, Marta** and her mother, who was raging. 

“Marta said you refused to teach her!  She said you even used those words, ‘I refuse to teach you!’  How unprofessional!  I don’t care if you don’t like her or she makes you mad!  My daughter deaserves her education and you can’t refuse to teach her! She was sooo upset last night, and I wanna know…”

I’m stalling for time here, allowing Mom to blow off some steam. I’m trying to pinpoint in my memory just exactly when I refused to teach Marta…ahh, yes. I had told Marta the previous day that I refused to teach her; but, that’s not the whole truth. As soon as I pinpointed the incident, I came back to the present and Mom was still accusing me of things untoward. I love righteous indignation. And both Marta and her mom had such self-satisfied smiles showing.   I almost hated to see them fade. 

“Excuse me,” I said to Mom. Then I turned my full attention to Marta. “Marta,” I asked, “What is the bathroom policy in my classroom?”

Before she could answer, Mom interrupts, “What does that have to do with anything?”

In my haste to get to the whole truth, I ignore the question and turn once again to Marta, “Marta, would you please tell your mother the bathroom policy for my classroom?”

“Yeah, well, we raise our hand and ask if we can go to the bathroom.”

“Okay. And then what?”

“If you say yes, then we sign out and go!” she says with pride at being able to answer such simple questions. 

“And how often do I say ‘Yes, you can go?'”

“Almost all the time,” Marta answers.  She turns to Mom, “Ms. Kunzmann always lets us go to the bathroom!” She’s picking up steam now, “And we hafta sign all the way out. The date, our first and last name, and the time we leave and the time we come back”

“That’s right. And what happens if you forget to sign all the way out?”

“We can’t go to the bathroom anymore?” she answers with some doubt. 

“Yes,” I answer.  “But only for the next week. And is there anything else your mom should know about my bathroom policy?”

“Ummmm, I dunno.”

“Okay,” I prompt her. “What about the part when you’re in the bathroom and I’m still instructing the class?”

“Oh yeah,” Marta remembers. “And you won’t repeat anything when we get back.”

“That’s right,” I exclaim and I address Mom. “You see, some of my students take advantage of my seemingly loose bathroom policy. In fact, some of my students leave class every day to go to the bathroom. Some days there is a steady stream of students from my classroom to the bathroom and back. Because of this, I have repeatedly told my students that I will not repeat whatever they miss while in the bathroom. It is each student’s responsibility to ask a peer for any information they might have missed.”

I could see Marta squirming uncomfortably as I addressed her mom, because now the whole truth will be revealed. 

“The other day when Marta came back from the bathroom, I had finished my instruction and the students were working on their assignment. Marta sees this and asks me what she is supposed to be doing. I told her to ask one of her peers, she knows the rules. At this point, Marta becomes quite upset at me for not telling her the assignment. Right, Marta?” And I look right at her. But she won’t look at me. 

I go on to explain that I had added up the amount of time Marta had been out of my classroom in the past two weeks: 32 minutes. If I have just three students from each of my four classes go to the bathroom every day, and believe me, I have far more, I would be repeating every. single lesson, every, single day. I refuse. 

Finally, I am explaining to Marta’s mom that what I had said to Marta was, “I cannot repeat my lesson over and over again for those individuals who use the restroom during my class. Heck, just Marta alone would have me repeating 32 minutes worth of instruction every two weeks!  So yes, I did tell Marta that I refuse to teach her while she is in the bathroom. I don’t think that is unreasonable.”

Crickets. 

Middle school students are still trying to figure out who they are and what path they should take. Unfortunately, this middle-school-soul-searching often requires dramatics (theirs, not mine). “I refuse to teach you!” is certainly more dramatic than, “I refuse to teach you while you are in the bathroom.”  And, “I refuse to teach you!” is a much better attention-grabber. While, “I refuse to teach you while you are in the bathroom,” is, well, sensible; something middle school students rarely have an occasion to practice. 

And that’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. 

Peace, ~v.

**Names have been changed


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Playing Hardball


April 25, 2014

Dear Readers,

My rookie season coaching girls’ fast pitch is in the books.  Final tally?  Two wins, nine losses.  Coaching middle school girls ages 11 to 14 was a lesson in futility and humility.  However, I did end the season with a win.  Although, not quite a win I can quantify through my stats.  And when the dust finally settled on our maiden season, I reached a foregone conclusion:  while their softball skills were questionable at best, these girls could sure play hardball.

As the season began, I made several futile attempts to “go back to the basics”.  Asking the girls to demonstrate proper technique for catching and throwing is one thing.  Expecting them to do so is another.

“Kunzmann, do we gotta use two hands every time we catch?”

“Yes, you do.”

A collective eye-roll moved through the group of girls, it was almost palpable; I shuddered.  It was going to be a long season.

The girls never questioned me about anything I asked them to do again.  They just didn’t do what I asked them to do.  For them, it was that simple.  For me, I never stopped trying.

“Put your glove all the way on the ground to stop a groundball,” I would instruct one player.

“You don’t hafta do that,” her teammate would tell her.  And she wouldn’t.

“When you catch a fly ball, put your free hand over the ball to keep it from popping out of your glove,” I would instruct another.

“You don’t hafta do that,” her teammate would tell he.  And she wouldn’t.

It got so bad by the middle of the season that I even had to forfeit one of our games.  We were at an away game and my varsity catcher had forgotten her glove.  I told the JV catcher to suit up.  She said no.  In fact, she flat out refused.  And no amount of begging, cajoling,  and/or wheedling could get her to suit up and take the field.  So, I flat out forfeited.

And that’s how the rest of the season went:  poorly.  We were not a team, and we were certainly not a good team.  The other teams in our division were so much better.  The girls on those teams listened to their coaches.  My girls listened to each other.  My girls didn’t see the correlation, until it was too late.

It was the last game of the season and my girls had taken the field.  I was in the dugout with my JV second baseman sitting next to me.  We were watching our pitcher warm up.  On the last pitch, our catcher yells, “Balls in, coming down!”  The catcher is getting ready to throw the ball to second base, simulating what would happen during the inning if someone was attempting to steal second base.

Most ball players know that if a runner is trying to steal second, the shortstop takes the catcher’s throw and second baseman backs her up.  Not on our team.  And the JV player sitting next to me finally notices.

“Kunzmann, how come on the other teams the shortstop takes the throw when the catcher throws it down?”

“Because that’s the way you’re supposed to do it,”

“Well, how come when I’m playing second base, I take the catcher’s throw?”

I turned to look at her and said, “I don’t know, why do you take the throw?”

She looked a little puzzled and confused.  “Well, that’s what they told me to do.”

“And who are they?”

“The girls on our team.”

“And what did I tell you to do?”

“I don’t know,” she admitted ashamedly.

“I taught you the right way to play second base,” I assured her.

“Oh, then I guess I should listen to you.”

Word.

I’m hopeful that next year she will remember this little ‘a-ha moment’ and give me another shot at coaching her.  For now, I’m just happy that one of the girls came to the realization that she should listen to me.  Now, maybe the word will spread.

Peace, ~v.


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My Kids vs. Bebe’s Kids


April 24, 2016

Dear Readers,

At the end of every school year I’ve been teaching, I’ve run into the same problem: my kids vs. bebe’s kids.  I think a little background is in order before I continue my post.

Bebe’s Kids (pronounced bay-bay) was a 1992 movie based on a stand-up routine by the late American comedian, Robin Harris.  Bebe’s kids, the expression, has worked its way into the vernacular of urban America.  Bebe’s kids is a term used to describe young children who are rowdy and/or misbehaving, who seemingly have no home training.  Used in a sentence:  The students hurling spit wads in the hallway are bebe’s kids.

Lest you get the wrong idea, bebe’s kids are not delinquents, they are not the young juveniles committing crimes.  They are also not the well-mannered, polite students that most parents believe their children to be.  No, bebe’s kids are somewhere in-between.  Bebe’s kids are middle-school students.

At the start of every school year, I spend a great deal of time turning 100 or so bebe’s kids, into my kids.  Bebe’s kids put their feet up on classroom chairs and desks, and they hardly ever say “Please,” or “Thank you,”, unless it’s to their advantage.  Bebe’s kids almost always answer, “Yeah?”, or the always annoying, “What?” when addressing adults.  And they pick their nose, they burp, they fart, and they sneeze loudly in public.  Bebe’s kids have a hard time understanding why 12 year-olds do not have the same privileges as their teachers, “That’s not fair!  How come I can’t _________ (fill in the blank).”

Nine months later and some of my kids still have trouble keeping their hands and feet to themselves.  To be honest, I get lax at times and can be seen propping my feet up on my desk…but mostly not in front of my students.  Most of my kids remember to say, “Please,” and “Thank you,” and are not nearly as rude as they were nine months ago.  Most, not all, but most, have stopped picking their noses in class, and I only occasionally hear one of my kids burp and/or fart during class.  Bodily noises ceased being funny for most of my kids on about the second month we were together; they were never funny to me.

As for my kids whining about how life is unfair and they should have the same privileges as I have at school, well, let’s just say they more or less suck it up during class.  Oh, most still think they are equal to me.  They are just better at hiding their entitlement while in my presence.  For the most part, my kids have begun to show signs of maturing.  Of course, it’s what I expect from them.  That’s not to say there are still a few bumps in the classroom.  The following was a true exchange:

“Why are you late?” I ask one of my kids as she hurries through the door, long after the tardy bell has rung.

“Whaaat?”

“Oh, this is going to be good,” I muse to myself.  “Why are you late?” I repeat.

“Oh, because I was walking over here and when I got right around the corner, I was with my friend, So-and-so, and she saw me, do you want me to go get her?  And I was right over there and I was coming to class and you guys saw me right?  And I knew the bell was going to ring, and the bell rang, and I was walking over here, and…I fell.”

True exchange, dear Readers, she fell.  Of course I wasn’t done with her.  “So, um, you fell, right?”

“Yeah, I mean yes, I fell.”

“Are you alright?!” I ask in mock concern.

“Yes.”

“Do you need to see the nurse?”

“Uh, no, I already saw her.”

“Oh, you did?  She let you see her without a pass?  That was certainly generous of her.”

“Yeah, well she wasn’t busy.”

“How  lucky for you.  And surely she had you sign in and sign out, right?”

“Uh, no, she just gave me an ice pack and I left.”

“And where is the ice pack?”

“Oh, I threw it away before I got here.”

“Of course.  So let me recap:  You were on your way to my class with your friend, you fell, you went to the nurse, she didn’t sign you in, she gave you an ice pack, sent you on your way, and never signed you out, you threw the ice pack away before you got to class, and that is why you are late.  Do I have that right?”

“Yeah, I mean, yes.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to change any of the details in your story?  Now would be a good time to tell me why you were really late.”

“Gawd!  That is why I’m late!  You don’t hafta believe me!  Just ask my friend, So-and-so, she’ll tell you.  I should go get her.”

“No, that’s quite alright.”

With a self-satisfied smile, my student sits down, believing for all the world that she just got away with putting one past me…until she sees me pick up the phone in my room.

“Hello Ms. Nurse, this is Ms. Kunzmann.  I’m calling to check on one of my students who fell earlier and said she had stopped by your office to get an ice pack.  Her name is (blank) and she was just there.”

“I’m sorry Ms. Kunzmann, I never treated that student today.”

“Oh, I must be mistaken.  My apologies Ms. Nurse.  Sorry to have bothered you.”

And that was the end of it.  My student had a rueful, smile on her shamed face (at least she had the good grace to be embarrassed), and we got on with the business of 7th grade language arts.  Later during class, my student apologized to me, and I accepted.

I don’t expect my students to be perfect.  Heck, I’m not perfect, and I let my kids see my flaws.  I just want my kids to be accountable for their words and their actions.  It takes more of my time to ensure that they are held accountable in my classroom, than to just let them think they got away with some untoward word and/or deed.  It also takes a heck of a lot of repetition; they usually don’t get the lesson the first time.  But in the end, it’s worth it.

So, nine months into the ten month school year, and I am happy with the progress each and every one of my kids’ has shown.  Their teachers next year won’t have too much breaking in to do.  Now, if I can just do something about the other 500 students not under my charge.  Those bebe’s kids will just have to wait until next year.

Peace, ~v.

 

 

 


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My Joy


sunsetJoy:  the emotion evoked by well-being, success or good fortune; a source or cause of delight.

October 4, 2015

Dear Readers,

As joy settles in and around my soul, I am taken aback at my good fortune.  I have touched the lives of many young people, and this has been a source of great happiness for me.  However, countless young people have moved my soul, and this has been a great source of joy for me.

Why must I constantly search for more? 

Well, dear Readers, that is what is at the heart of the matter.  It’s not that I think I have done quite enough in my teaching of young people and I can rest on my laurels, it’s that I fear I could be doing more.  I have been dedicated to teaching to the point of absorption.  I have painstakingly and methodically set out to be a fine educator.  I’ve taken the time to hone my craft and I’m almost always tinkering at my workbench.  I am in restless pursuit of a greater understanding as to how to better do what I do.  If the key to success is based on extraordinary effort, well then, I am successful.  However, I nearly always fabricate an opposing force to my joy.

Why must I constantly feel out of balance?

I either have or I have not.  I either take or I give.  There seems to be no middle ground with me.  It’s time I look deeper into my life and question where it is leading, who is really in charge, and what’s really going on.  I need to get ahold of the big picture.

What is my sole (soul?) purpose?

I’ve always taken the road less traveled.  I’ve lived my life speaking my mind and seizing the day.  I’ve gambled that being bold would bring me personal power over my life.  Ahh, but somewhere along the way I forgot that true power always comes from God.  It’s through this relationship that I am blessed with fulfillment.  When I begin to believe that I am the source of my accomplishments, problems develop.  When I forget that I am not the source of my power, my good sense is overwhelmed and I become blind to my true intentions.

What are my true intentions?

Although I’ve faltered, I do have the courage of my convictions.  I believe that man is basically good.  I believe that one person can make a difference.  I believe that I can inspire a generation to act upon the goodness in their hearts.  And, I believe I am blessed.

Why am I worried about my future?

I’ve thought long and hard about these questions, dear Readers.  As near as I can tell, it’s time to take a walk with God.  Communing with nature is one way in which I connect to God.  When the words on the page clutter my brain, my wisdom dulls.  When this happens, it’s time for me to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation, Mother Earth.  Watching the sun rise over the mountains, being still and watching the nighttime twinkles in the sky.  Getting up close to a flowering plant so that the bud and I are aware of each other, breathing with each other and for each other.  Man and earth are dependent upon one another.

Why do I lose that connection?

When I can appreciate my connection to God through nature, I can reconnect to the nurturer in me.  I can once again appreciate and care for others.  After all, that’s part of the big picture, to serve others.  To be of service to others is one of my greatest gifts.  I must pray I don’t fall victim to, well, playing the victim.  I oftentimes have developed a “Why me, God?” attitude and plunged into years of selfishness.  I’ve clung to my cloud of oppression and bitterness.  I’ve substituted that for the big picture and it never works.  Selfishness is nowhere in the big picture.

What’s the point?

We were never meant to walk in self-pity.  We were made to rise to the challenges that God has foretold.  Disagreements, hassles, quarreling, arguing, and bickering.  Being at odds with one another does not manifest joy in one’s life.  Being bothered by the differences keeps us from looking for the similarities.  Quibbling over details only derails the peace in which we were all meant to live.

What are my options?

I’m finally beginning to see the balance I’ve been searching for all these years.  I now recognize that I can be an effective educator without dying for the cause.  I can embrace the challenge of teaching without losing myself and my sense of humor.  I can go with the flow without being afraid to go under somewhere downstream.  I can keep everything in balance.

What’s the catch?

Here’s the rub, I must learn to feel my emotions.  That’s what this all comes down to, feeling my emotions instead of constantly masking them.  Truly, this is my answer.  I’ve closed the door to my heart so often that I’ve found it nearly impossible to open it again.  However, through my constant prayers and my faith in God, little by slowly (thanks Skip), I’ve managed to let down my guard and let in my students.

kidsWhat’s changed?

The students are the same, I’ve changed.  I’ve begun to see my students not as empty vessels that need to be filled up.  But rather, as bodies with souls that need to be loved and nurtured.  And it’s been through this love that I have found joy, pure, unadulterated joy!  I’ve found my balance.  I’ve found my inner peace.

I used to think that I wanted to change the world.  But no, I want to teach the children who want to change the world.  There could be no greater joy.  Peace, ~v.

This is the life.


2 Comments

Taking Stock


August 2, 2015

Dear Readers,

It’s time to take stock.  Every year as school begins I take stock in my life.  I suppose this comes from the fact that as far back as I can remember, I have wanted to be a teacher.  However, also as far back as I can remember, I have questioned my motives for wanting to teach.  I have oftentimes wondered if I just want to be in high school for the rest of my life.  So, every year I take stock.

This year finds me in a better place both mentally and spiritually.  I am more open to change and I’m more willing to be honest.  Let’s get started.

“Say how you feel, leave the job you hate, find your passion, love with every ounce of your bones, stand up for things that matter, don’t settle, don’t apologize for who you are.  Be brave.”  Yeah, some of you may have seen this quote on Facebook.  But it is a great place to start.

  • Say how you feel  Yes, I do.  The thing is, though, I really need to be diplomatic.  I tend to hurt people’s feelings way too much.
  • leave the job you hate  Wow!  This is a biggie.  I struggled last year as to whether or not I should sign a contract to continue working at the school in which I had taught for the past two years.  I can honestly say that I hated my job.  And I never thought I would say that about any teaching job.  I struggled, to say the least.  However, over the summer, I fell in love with my job.  It was a combination of things, the perfect storm, if you will.  So I guess I did leave the job I hated, and I found one that I absolutely love.  Funny thing is, it’s the same job!
  • find your passion  Indeed!  Ask me a year ago, and I would have answered that teaching is my passion.  However, today I know that my passion is inspiring today’s youth to create their own future.
  • love with every ounce of your bones  Check.  God, my family, my friends…and finally, myself.
  • stand up for things that matter  Those of you dear Readers who read on a regular basis know that I tend to use my blog as a platform to stand up for things that matter to me.  I would like to believe that I am the voice for those who do cannot speak up for themselves.
  • don’t settle  Never settle for nothing but your best.  In years past, I continually lied to myself about this one.  I tried to convince myself that I was being the best Vickie that I could be.  Turns out, I was wrong and I wasn’t even fooling myself.  Now however, I can look myself in the mirror and tell myself that I am working my way back to being the best.
  • don’t apologize for who you are  On this one point, I have a caveat.  There will come a time in the near future in which I will have to apologize to certain people in my life for the person I used to be.  But for today, I do not have to apologize for who I am.
  • Be brave.  There is nothing so brave as being vulnerable and living a whole-hearted life.  I intend to do just that.

So dear Readers, I’ve taken stock.  Some good, some not so good.  I know I will never be a perfect human being.  However, I will spend the rest of my life striving to be the best Vickie I can be.  Peace, ~v.

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