All Things New

Praise the Lord, all you nations; laud him, all you peoples. For his loving-kindness toward us is great, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Hallelujah!

Psalm 117

From death to life. From grief to hope. Resurrection.

Easter Day reminds us that those who are cast down will be lifted up. That those things having grown old are being made new again. It is a reminder that all things are being perfected and made right by the hand of God.

For all of us today, my prayer is that God will meet us in our need, continue to restore the hurt and fear and grief in our hearts, and bring new life from what has become withered and tired within us.

Praise be to God!

O God, of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look on your whole church with loving-kindness. In peace, carry out your plan of salvation for us. Let the whole world see and know that those cast down things are being raised up, and things that have grown old are being made new, and you are bringing perfection to all things that you have made through the power of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Adapted from The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle

Lament as a Gift

I cry out to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe; you are my crag and my stronghold. O Lord, I cry to you for help; in the morning my prayer comes before you.

Psalm 142:5, 71:3, 88:14

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know the Easter story. Of the nails and the blood and the torn flesh and the cross. Good Friday.

I’ve never liked the phrase, honestly. An upside-down way to describe the pain and grief and despair of this day. Even as a child, I felt twisted up inside when people in church would call the day of Jesus’s crucifixion “Good Friday.” I mean, I understood the reasoning and all. And still do. But it felt – and still feels – dishonest to me.

Several years ago, a relationship in which I had put a gut-wrenching amount of effort and hope came crashing down around me. It was the first time in my adult life that I experienced the sort of grief that cuts right through your skin and muscle to the bone. I remember waking up the next morning, face so puffy from bawling myself to sleep I didn’t even recognize myself in the bedroom mirror. And I remember wondering how a person could survive feeling an emotional pain so deep and overwhelming, an agony of the heart that seeped into every inch of my physical body. Just getting out of bed and walking down the hall to brew coffee felt impossible.

I didn’t know that heartbreak could feel like that. But I know now.

I think Christians don’t spend enough time in this place. The dark of pain.

We wave our palm leaves on palm Sunday and shout (or whisper) “Hosanna!” to celebrate Jesus coming into Jerusalem. We talk about Good Friday and the excruciating experience that must have been for Jesus’s family and followers. And then we jump right into Resurrection Sunday to celebrate life rising from death.

NT Wright recently published an essay on the value of lament in the Christian life. He says, “Lament is what happens when people ask ‘Why?’ and don’t get an answer.” It’s a feeling that God himself feels.

And yet in the face of devastating loss and pain, we Christians are at the ready, armed with silver paint to line the darkness. Instead of sitting in the grief of the world, of our own hearts, and letting God meet us there.

O God, you sent Christ Jesus to be my shepherd and the lamb of sacrifice. Help me to embrace the sorrow of loss, the mystery of salvation, the promise of life rising out of death. Help me to hear the call of Christ and give me courage to follow it. 

Adapted from People’s Companion to the Breviary, Vol. 11

 

From the Other Side

Two weeks into my maternity leave after having Luke, I was laid off from my job. Since I was a property manager living onsite, we were given 72 hours to vacate our home. My then husband was unemployed, and our savings were nil. It was truly one of the scariest times in my life.420776_110079595817575_861439767_n

I had a sixteen-month-old and a newborn baby and nowhere to go. Our parents helped us find an apartment in town. The youth group from a local church moved us in within hours. And even though it took about three months, I found a part-time job that would keep us afloat until I went back to school to eventually become a teacher.

91437800_1595259927299527_4447399636704952320_oI found this mug in the Walmart clearance section that Christmas. I sipped my coffee most mornings during that season in my life with tears streaming down my face and anxiety crippling my mind. It would be just six months later that I would make some big life-changing decisions and start on a new path that led me where I am today.

This mug reminds me that no matter how scary and impossible life feels sometimes, it is temporary. It reminds me that I am strong as hell and can rise above my present situation. It reminds me that there’s nothing like a woman with a made up mind. And that on the other side of what I’m going through is something beautiful and worth holding out for. I needed this reminder today. Maybe you do, too.

Fun Learning: A Working List

Schools across the United States are closed right now, leaving more than 41 million students without their regular daily routines and learning schedules. (link) There’s a lot of confusion and frustration and grief running through hearts and minds here in America, and adding the expectation of schooling at home onto parents’ full plates is not my idea of a good time.

There are so many ways that our children can explore and learn that don’t have to be formal educational experiences. To help you navigate all of the information out there, I’ve compiled a list of resources that I have used with my students and my own children to give them opportunities to learn and grow without breaking out workbooks. (Not that all workbooks are always a bad idea, but let’s be real. They’re usually boring. Especially when done in isolation.)

I found many of these over the years through Common Sense Education, one of my favorite go-tos for digital learning. The list is organized by subject and grade bands are provided, too. I hope you’ll find some of these to be helpful!

As always, I would encourage you to screen these apps, websites, and activities before giving your child access just to make sure it’s developmentally appropriate. :)

Know that I am rooting for you, mama, as you navigate this new normal. We’re all in this thing together.

Reading

Epic! (K-5) // A digital library collection to encourage a love of reading

TIME for Kids (K-6) // News magazine for kids on current events and informational text

Storybird (K-12) // For creating and publishing storybooks

Newsela (2-12) // Current news stories and text library, leveled for students’ reading ability

Grammarly (6-12) // Writing tips for improving composition skills

Math

CodeMonkey (K-12) // Game-based learning experience to help kids learn coding

Khan Academy (K-12) // Excellent resource for teaching, practicing, and re-teaching math skills

Prodigy (1-8) // Responsive math platform that adapts to children’s skill needs with game-like features

** Click here for more STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) recommendations.**

Science

National Geographic Kids (Pre K-8) // Stories and beautiful images about the world and wildlife

Mystery Science (K-5) // Science activities and lessons based on big questions and children’s curiosity

Generation Genius (K-8) // Videos and lessons to get kids interested in science.

Google Earth (K-12) // Awesome for virtual field trips and world exploration

Social Studies

PBS KIDS (Pre K-6) // Loads of engaging content for children

Google Lit Trips (K-12) // Bridge the connection between stories and the places they occur

National Museum of African American History and Culture Learning Labs (K-12) // Helps children understand American history through the African American lens

Cast Your Vote (5-8) // Learn about the voting process and political issues

Race to Ratify (6-12) // Engaging game-based learning centered on the Constitution and persuasion techniques

Smithsonian Kids (2-12) // Interactive activities across many disciplines including US history, inventions, animals, and more

 

 

 

Finding Your People

Today I had the pleasure of participating in the #LeadLAP Twitter chat and was once again reminded of just how powerful personal learning networks are.

Education in America is a funny thing. Teachers are encouraged to promote collaboration and collective learning every day for students, but we are typically isolated in our classrooms and given very few opportunities to engage with each other during the work day.

This creates an environment where educators have very little face time with their peers, making it difficult to build relationships and collaborate in any meaningful way. And because of the heavy responsibility of fostering relationships and inspiring learning for 150+ students every day, our emotional and mental energy is often sapped by the time the dismissal bell rings.

It’s hard to know what the answer is, quite honestly, on a large scale. From underfunding for schools to leadership that can be slow to change, it feels impossible.

But for those like-minded educators out there who want a change, take heart. We don’t have to wait on the budgets and class schedules and construction of our school to shift in order for us to build collaboration and camaraderie.

Here are a few things I’ve done over the years to foster those important relationships within the current structure of our educational system.

  • Set aside 30 minutes of time each week to meet with your team. Be it grade level, content, or just those teachers you naturally gravitate toward, find time to meet with people in your building who inspire and empower you. Use that time to reflect, share teaching strategies, or discuss your strengths and growth areas. Keep the conversations uplifting and solutions-focused as best you can so that you leave that time and place feeling energized and seen.
  • Seek out feedback and insight from school leaders you trust. One of the most professionally rewarding relationships I have has grown out of a deep need I had of tackling a challenging situation with a student. I walked into the office of my assistant principal earlier this year with tears in my eyes and simply said, “I don’t know what to do here.” He gave me time to share, listened to me, and together we developed a plan to help this child. I learned many valuable lessons in this experience, the most significant being that it is okay to admit when you need something. From your principal to the leader of your grade level, find a person you respect who has a bit more experience than you and let them walk with you through the mess. You will both be stronger for it.
  • Make time for your own personal growth and development. We educators tend to be laser focused on helping our students grow while neglecting our own needs. The oxygen mask example still rings true: you cannot help someone if you’re not helping yourself first. Whether it’s on Saturdays mornings while you sip that second cup of coffee or a weekday evening after dinner, find time to invest in yourself. Read a book by one of your favorite education authors. Or listen to an education-related podcast. Maybe just write a few paragraphs of self-reflection on your practice this year. Whatever strikes your fancy, just do it.

At the end of this school year, I’ll be walking into my second decade of teaching. I have grown immensely over these ten years, and I couldn’t have done it without relationships. People pouring their knowledge and expertise into my open, willing-to-learn soul. And I couldn’t have done it without pouring into myself.

So as we continue on in this second semester of the school year, I encourage you to look for ways that you can use the relationships with people around you – and your relationship with yourself – to help you grow. And I can’t wait to hear how this practice molds and shapes you. Find me on Twitter and tell me about it!