Monday, November 29, 2010

Power to the Teachers

I don't live for the approval of others anymore. Sometimes it is nice, but it doesn't define me. The thing I am really learning is that when I am truly reliant on a God of my understanding, I don't need anyone's approval except that of my Creator. Further, I am created in God's image and likeness, making me a perfect expression in human form.

All of that being said, I think it is important for me to really know myself and my motives. I have a good friend who tells me there is no truly selfless act. In his mind, everything has a payoff. He is far more cynical than I, but in some respects I see what he is saying... When I do something, even if it is a kind or unselfish deed, I am rewarded by an intrinsic good feeling. So, am I doing something for someone else because of the good feeling I get, or is it because I am expecting something in return?

In education, teachers are largely undervalued. Oh, don't get me wrong... People can give us plaques and wax poetic saying things like, "If you can read this, thank a teacher..." It's all true. But, we are part of a crumbling system that has been dragged through the media declaring education a miserable failure for our children. We are mandated to death by politicians who have never set foot in a classroom and dare I say-- administrators who haven't been in the classroom for a very long time. And, we are trying to dig our way out from under mounds of paperwork assigned to hold us accountable, even in the face of parents who change their phone numbers and don't give the school an up-to-date contact in the event of an emergency with their child. Frankly, it stinks. And, I understand why so many teachers are leaving the profession. I get feeling completely fed up.

However, I would encourage teachers to take your power back. To the teacher who after teaching a full day rode the bus around the neighborhood to monitor student behavior, I will say, "You did that because student behavior is important to you, and you care not only about academic achievement-(Although, you ROCK at taking kids from the bottom level and moving them up and up into better performers than anyone ever could have expected...)-but, you care about kids growing up to be good people who are able to exhibit safe and socially acceptable behavior."

To the teacher who stayed late to tutor students long after everyone else went home, I would say, "You did that because you wanted your students to really learn the material, not just pass the test."

To the teacher who went out of their way to help another teacher navigate yet another computer program even though she went to a training over the summer, but had already completely forgotten everything about it, "You did that because supporting peers and furthering the teaching profession is important to you."

My teaching friends, you are doing all of the things you do because it is the right thing, and because somewhere down in your heart there is an intrinsic reward. If you are waiting for a thank you, or even an acknowledgment of what you are doing right instead of people constantly looking for where you are falling short, keep waiting and feeling frustrated and upset. You will never be told often enough, loudly enough or forcefully enough just how important you are. This job is hard, and the fact that you have chosen to undertake it anyway speaks volumes about your character.

We are doing the things we do because we love children, and we believe in our United States educational system in which we educate all the children, not just the top performers. Let the politicians and the administrators and outright nay-sayers do whatever it is they do... It's their job. But, our job is to teach... To teach the children... And to teach the children because it is what we know is right deep in our hearts. Thus, when faced with a discouraging moment, remind yourself, you aren't doing it for them.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Lungs! The New Reality...

Lungs! We got the call Thursday night (Friday morning) at 1:15 a.m. And, somehow it kicked me into a different reality. Dan has been waiting in Birmingham for three months, and has been listed for nearly four months now... So, I "knew" she was on the transplant list. A mental plan was on hold in my brain for what to do and how to do it when "the call" came. But, when I actually got the call, even though it turned out to be a false alarm, I realized my best mental planning was insufficient and needs to be revamped.

Funny, I didn't even realize I had a very specific vision about what I would do when the "the call" came. And, I knew the call could come any time day or night. But, in my vision, the circumstances of life were always the same. Everyone was always doing what they normally do, and were ready to fall into their roles toward implementing "Operation Double Lung Transplant". There were also a few things I hadn't thought about at all.

First, whenever I fantasized about "the call", my family would be in their places doing what they were supposed to be doing. So, at 1:15 a.m. on a Thursday night, Dave was supposed to be sleeping beside me, Sarah and Micah were supposed to be upstairs sleeping in their rooms, and Mom and J.R. were supposed to be sleeping next door. Since Dave was at an educational conference in Jackson and Sarah was in the hospital in Mobile, that immediately threw a wrench in the plan. Also, my sister, Micki, isn't where she is supposed to be, but she is where she needs to be and I am very proud of her for that...

Next, I had a general list of who needed calling, but I hadn't really considered "in what order"... So, Randy called me. I hung up and called Mom and J.R., and asked Mom to come over to take care of Micah. Dan had called Dave, so he called me and said he was on his way back from Jackson to get Micah. After I hung up with Dave, I called Reverend Christy. I got her voicemail, but felt better knowing everything would be held in prayer for the highest good. Then I called my friend, Kenna.

While all of the calling was taking place, I was simultaneously throwing things into my half-packed suitcase that has been in a "ready position" on my closet floor for three months. For the first month, my suitcase resided in the trunk of my car, but after a few hospitalizations with the girls I realized the "packed and ready like a pregnant person" method wasn't going to work for me... It only took about 5 minutes to pack, though, and I was ready to walk out the door within 15 minutes.

I called Dan back as I was walking out the door only to hear the tail end of the "one of the lungs was lost" conversation, and realize it was a false alarm call. Had it not been a false alarm, I would have left the house, called the 4th floor nurse's desk at USA and asked them to discharge Sarah immediately so that I could sweep through Mobile and pick her up on the way to Birmingham. Then I was going to call everyone else.

However, once it was a false alarm, I called Dave back to discover he had already checked out of the hotel and had the valet bringing his truck. (Yes, the man is quick... He had to check back in with a very disgruntled night clerk.) Then I called Kenna, but got her answering machine, so I left her a message that the lungs were a "no go".

After updating Facebook and sending Reverend Christy a message there, and updating Caring Bridge, I took half a Simply Sleep and went back to bed. Kenna called by a 4:00 a.m. to find out how and where I was, and I realized she had never gotten the message that it was a "no go", so I felt terrible that she had been up fretting and praying all night. So, next time I'll have to make sure I talk to her if it turns out to be a false alarm.

While all of the scrambling and calling helped me realize some things I needed to do... (i.e. make arrangements for the care of our animals), I was also given the substantive truth that no amount of planning and arranging is going to prepare me sufficiently for what to do in that moment. When I write lesson plans at school, the heading on my plan reads, "Lesson Plans (Not Promises)"... I note that they aren't promises because in my classroom things are opt to change at a moment's notice. I will make whatever changes I deem necessary for the good of my students in an instant. And, I suppose this has to be the same way.

I would love for the whole process to happen exactly as I envision it, wrapped up neatly with a little bow. But, when I set my own mental limitations on a process, circumstance or situation, I am cheating myself and everyone else out of an opportunity for greater Good. God happens in the unplanned. God happens in the unprepared. God happens outside of my small, insignificant designs and ideas. Don't get me wrong. I still have to plan. The dog and cats need food and water... The mail must be checked. But, I just know that whatever happens can be all the more wonderful if I am simply open to the process. Being "ready" and planning are two entirely different concepts. And, the false alarm helped me to realize that God is truly making me ready... Making us all ready for the things that are ours to do.