The Best Tuesday

Today was probably the best day of school so far this year.

EVERY student participated all day. No one said they couldn’t do the work. Even my lowest students believed that they could do the work, and that they could do it well. They all desired to be at school and learn (or at least fooled me, but either way I’ll take it). Maybe it was me. Maybe it was the 4 cups of coffee. Maybe my kids were just rocking it.

Can every day be this way?

Days like these inspire me to run as far away as I can from apathy. To be encouraged that if students just BELIEVE that they can, then most of the time they can. Days like this remind me that individual achievements are important. They prove to me that praise and positivity go farther than any amount of punishment could ever go.

Days like these make me mourn the times I was too tired or too frustrated or too overwhelmed to care enough to be excited about learning. They make me want to get those days back.

Days like these make me look to the future with an expectant heart. They give me hope that more days can be like this. We can encourage one another. We can celebrate achievements together. We can notice even the little successes.

This morning I read 1 John 1. I decided to memorize 1 John 1:15 today, “…God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.”

Thank you for being light, Lord! Thank you for using me in this small way. Help me walk in the light and be light to others.

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Month One

Any teacher knows that the first year is the hardest. It is a huge experiment and lots of trial and error. The best thing, though, is that is comes in little doses. It comes in months. It comes in weeks. It comes in days. It comes in hours. All these little parts of the day and week and month make up something grand.

School started a little over a month ago- and how quickly that month has gone by! It is encouraging to see what we have already accomplished as a class and intimidating/exciting to look at all that we have to learn.

My class is great. They love math and science and having real-world discussions. They love to roughhouse and go to the computer lab. They love to erase the board and organize books and do puzzles. They are great, and I love all of them, from the crier to the screamer to the one who always forgets to raise his hand. I love the one who is never in line, the one who picks fights and the one who laughs till he cries. They are all so smart and have such unique personalities.

Some days are great. Some days, my students are quiet, pay attention, raise their hands and want to participate. They do their work and remember the rules.

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The rainy season is coming!

Computer Lab!

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Other days… are hard. Students are hyper. They want to move. They shout out answers. They run down the hallway. They knock over desks. They get in fist fights. I feel like I barely keep my sanity and I am counting down the seconds till the end of the day when I can sit down for a moment and gather myself. Sometimes I cry because I feel like I just can’t do it.

I wish I had some great wisdom to impart. I wish that I had a beautifully deep blog post. However, the only thing I know is that, like I am reminded of in Psalm 18, God meets us where we are. When the chords of death are entangling me, He is there. He is making the moves. He bows the heavens and comes to me not because of anything I’ve done, but because of who He is. Thank you, Lord, for being there in the difficult moments. Thank you for coming to me and loving me first. Thank you for drawing me out of many waters. Thank you for being my support. Thank you Lord, for lightening my darkness. Please help me meet my students where they are just like you meet me where I am.

Psalm 18: 1-34
I love you, O LORD, my strength.
2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.
4 The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
5 the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
6 In my distress I called upon the LORD;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
7 Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
8 Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
9 He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
10 He rode on a cherub and flew;
he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,
thick clouds dark with water.
12 Out of the brightness before him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.
13 The LORD also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
14 And he sent out his arrows and scattered them;
he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.
15 Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O LORD,
at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.
16 He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
17 He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the LORD was my support.
19 He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
20 The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.
21 For I have kept the ways of the LORD,
and have not wickedly departed from my God.
22 For all his rules[c] were before me,
and his statutes I did not put away from me.
23 I was blameless before him,
and I kept myself from my guilt.
24 So the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.
25 With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
26 with the purified you show yourself pure;
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
27 For you save a humble people,
but the haughty eyes you bring down.
28 For it is you who light my lamp;
the LORD my God lightens my darkness.
29 For by you I can run against a troop,
and by my God I can leap over a wall.
30 This God—his way is perfect;
the word of the LORD proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
31 For who is God, but the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
32 the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless.
33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

I Can’t and I Can

Wow. It is hard to know where to start with this post. So much going on in the past few weeks! Between summer school and soccer games and lots of sweat, it has been a blast. The past two weeks, though they have been filled with work, have also been great because I feel like I am finally adjusting to what it is like living here.

Yesterday we ended our 3 weeks of summer school! It was hard sometimes and great others and really gave me a taste of what it is like to be charged with helping so many children learn. I have met about 1/3 of my students for this year and I can’t wait to meet the rest! I am excited to see what is going to happen with my class of 30 second graders this year.

Yet, on the other hand, I am also terrified. Inadequate doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel as an elementary school teacher in a place where education is the only way out of poverty. When I look at the problem, it seems too big. When  I see where these kids live and know that some of them aren’t even cared for at home, it all just seems like too much. How am I supposed to change their lives? How am I supposed to make sure they are cared for? How can I make sure that they go to college? How can I see to it that they become proficient English speakers? How can I do all this in second grade? That’s the thing that is hardest to swallow. I can’t do all of this in second grade. I just can’t.

But, I can love them. I can give them a safe space where they know that they belong for 7 hours a day. I can build a community in the classroom that encourages helping their neighbor. I can make sure that they learn as much English as possible so that they have a solid foundation. I can instill in them the fact that college is possible.

But I can’t do all of this on my own.

“God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, even the things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are.”                1 Corinthians 1:27-28

God chose me. God chose these children to serve a purpose. God chooses the things that are not to bring to nothing the things that are. He purposefully chooses those that are nothing in the eyes of the world, the poor, the weak, the broken, the lost, and the sinners, to make known his power. How great it is to be a part of what God has planned for my small stint on this earth! How wonderful it is to know that my Father has not made a mistake. He has not messed up in anyway by allowing these children to come from poverty. He has not make an error in judgement by allowing me to teach them. In fact, he has made us part of a plan to show his goodness and power. Thank you, Lord, for using the weaknesses of your people.

I have been so encouraged by all the people at home who have kept in touch with me and I am so thankful for your kind words and prayers! School starts in a week and I can’t wait to share pictures of my classroom, students and adventures. Thank you for being part of my experience.

Summer School: Week One 

Week one of summer school has been defeated! Wait, let’s back it up a little…

I got here two and a half weeks ago. I’m not going to lie, many of my thoughts the first few days were… “It’s hot.” Wait, I still think that… It’s still hot. But it’s worth the heat. 

I was lost the first week or so. So many thoughts ran through my head. “Is this where I’m supposed to be?” “Is this what God has for me?” “Could I seriously live here?” The answer is yes, because God doesn’t make mistakes. God doesn’t put you somewhere unless he has something to teach you there. I would be lying if I said I already knew what that was. 

“But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:25. 

Okay God, I’ll wait. I’ll try to be patient. Please help me with that, Lord. 

Then last Monday, we started training for the new school year. It was a lot of information, but useful information that will hopefully make my first year as a teacher less stressful. 

  
This is the current state of my classroom. The desks are actually a little bit more organized now, but there is definitely a lot of work to do. 

This past Monday, summer school started. Summer school for me is a combination of both first and second grades. I was teaching Language Arts, but to be honest, a large majority of the first week of summer school consisted of procedures. Then more procedures. Then procedures on top of those procedures. Coming from a secondary background, I never realized how many basic things have to be taught. Learning how to explain these procedures was hard at first, but I think I’m starting to get the hang of it.   

Every day of school has come with its challenges, but I have a great co-teacher who teaches first grade here and lots of guidance from those who have been training us. I have learned more this week than I have learned in a long time! 

Next to the school is a village where many of the students at our school come from. Today I walked to get a Pepsi from a pulperia (like a convenient store) there and all the sudden I heard screams, “Miss Wes!” Two of my students who had skipped summer school that day because they were sick ran out and gave me hugs and homework. They were so proud. I’m proud of them. I can’t wait to teach them all year long and see how their brains grow!

 
View from our apartment 

I hope this blog post wasn’t too scattered! I want to try to vlog but pulling out your iPhone here is not a great idea in most places. I will try to film some at school, though. 
Please pray for the students at our school! Pray that they would see the value in their education. Please pray for the teachers, that we would find motivation to push students academically and have hearts to love the children who are difficult. 

Thanks for reading 🙂 

That excited feeling….

I am so excited to go to Honduras. Like about to see your favorite singer in concert, going to college, winning the lotto excited. 

Really. Sometimes my mind wanders and I forget that I get to go do something that has been on my heart since freshman year of college. Then, all of the sudden I remember and I get excited butterflies in my stomach and I imagine what my classroom will look like and what my students will be like and I am reminded of how awesome it is that God has provided such a totally rad opportunity for me. He really does give us the desires of our hearts!! 

On another note, I can finally buy all the adorable stuff that fits in an elementary classroom but not in a secondary one. Multiplication flash cards? Check. Children’s books? Check. A book/cd set with sing-alongs? CHECK. And stickers. Lots and lots of stickers.

  
Two an a half weeks folks! Thanks for reading. 

PS: I’m going to start making vlogs. It’s really an experiment! I’ll post the links on here as well as Facebook. 

I Might be Going Crazy

WHAT?? A NEW BLOG POST?? I know… I can’t believe it either. My year-long hiatus is up! And since I will be moving to a new country soon, I promise to write down my thoughts on a more regular basis… I am aiming for twice a month.

That being said, post-grad life has finally arrived. No more essays, papers, required readings, book buying, room assignments… I have to say, I’m not too sad about all this.

Unfortunately, I am thoroughly convinced that I am losing my sanity. Over the past four years, I figured out who I was as a college student. I developed my personality with the people I spent time with, I learned an awesome language that I was able to use everyday, and I found a great church community that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

But, now that I am home, I can’t seem to remember how to exist in this setting. Between working in Peru, working at an overnight camp, going to college and being a nanny, I haven’t been home this long since I was in high school. I seem to have forgotten how to just… be. Let me tell you, there are only so many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy (thank you netflix) that one can watch before they start to lose all hope that life will ever be thrilling again. I miss being social, I miss my friends, I miss my bible-study, I miss having a schedule and having to get up in the morning because someone else relied on me. I miss my students and leading worship and eating at Seaco with my friends. I miss all the little things that I didn’t realize I found purpose in.

Each day now seems the same… I wake up, read my bible, drink my coffee (though I don’t know why… must be purely for the taste now because it is not like I need caffeine to lounge around the house all day) and then find myself contemplating what to do. Should I waste the day in front of the TV? Should I read? Should I learn some new Spanish vocab? Should I listen to another episode of the Reformed Pubcast (ps: check-out that podcast it’s pretty great)? I do all these things and yet I still feel like my existence if being wasted.

A few weeks ago, on a camping retreat, we went through the book of Ephesians. While the topic of the retreat was focused on the church, I can’t forget Ephesians 5:15 ESV, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Man, are the days evil! They are so long and often times empty, but this does not mean they need to be empty of purpose. I have been thinking… what can I do with these days? What will fill them with purpose? What will destroy the evil?

Luke

I am going through the Gospel of Luke right now and tonight I was reading chapter five where Jesus teaches about the Sabbath, calls his apostles and gives his second sermon, The Beatitudes. In the midst of all this, Luke records that “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God” (Luke 5:12 ESV). Wait, did he just say all night or did I read that wrong? What, he prayed ALL NIGHT? Man, I have never done that. I don’t even know how I would stay up all night just praying. But I do know that I am awake all day… oh snap, are you thinking what I am thinking?

Prayer is what I am going to start doing during the day. I’m not sure what this will look like yet… but I know that if this is what Jesus saw fit, then it is what I should see fit. I remember when I was student teaching that all I wanted was a day to do nothing, to relax, to sleep. But God was teaching me something in that season; thankfulness. Even for the hectic, frustrating moments. But now I am in a new season, a season of prayer. I can’t wait to see what He has in store!

If you have anything that I can pray for you about, please message me and let me know.

This mysterious thing called “God’s will”

When you tell people you are following, “God’s will” for your life, they either look at you like you are half-crazy or think that you are somehow privy to some of God’s top-secret spiritual wisdom.

How much have we over-complicated finding “God’s will?”

I don’t believe we should sit around waiting for some big sign saying, “GOD’S WILL HERE, TURN RIGHT.” Because then shouldn’t the sign also read, “TURN LEFT AND, WELL, I GUESS YOU COMPLETELY MISSED GOD’S WILL, BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME…” Our all-powerful God doesn’t work like this. We aren’t pawns in a board game in which God doesn’t know the outcome, we are His chosen children.

One problem is, we assume that God has this one perfect path for us, and we get so nervous that we might miss it that some of us never try to seek out His will at all. But if we truly believe He is all powerful and all knowing, shouldn’t we trust that we can put our lives in His hands? How do we really, truly, follow God’s will and know it is what He has prepared for us?

First, we have to stop being so worried that He might call us to, I don’t know, something crazy, like caring for the poor, orphaned and widowed. We MIGHT even have to care for the least of these…. Well, we don’t like that. It sounds scary and uncomfortable and our parents might disagree. But we can’t be scared to risk it all for someone who already gave His all for us.

Second, we have to realize that God’s will isn’t some formula we have to crack. It isn’t a puzzle we have to put together. In fact, Jesus already came and told us what to do! We literally have written instructions!

In Jennie Allen’s book, Anything, she talks about the resistance she encountered from people in her church and close Christian friends when she began the Rwandan adoption process,

“Some think we need to be 100 percent sure before we do this… saying, ‘Is God really calling you?’ But I think God does not have to over-clarify for us to obey. God has said his piece… Does he will for me to take my ridiculous abundance and bless others in need? Does he want me to care for the poor? Does he want me to lay down my life? Did he command me to care for orphans? God’s clarity is not my issue.”

God has said his piece. God knows we will make mistakes. God knows we will live sinful lives that can never be covered up by any amount of good deeds. This is where freedom is my friends. Jesus already suffered so that you could stumble on your way to find His will for you, and then stumble through once you do find it.

What I am trying to say is, please, PLEASE, don’t be afraid to follow Jesus. What He has said and commanded us to do, it isn’t some crazy idea. In fact, in the mist of obeying Jesus’ commands, you may find you have already found that crazy thing called “God’s will.”