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With this month’s focus on celebrating teacher’s, we are changing our format.  All posts from Sunday through Friday will be found at Giventhetime.com.

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Are you a teacher here for the $50 Gift Card Give Away?  To register to win the gift card, please leave a comment on today’s post.  Just scroll down and  click on the word comment found in fine print at the bottom of today’s post (right next to the tags).  This will bring up the comment form.  You can leave a comment as a Guest, but don’t worry, your email address will not be visible.  In your comment please tell us the grade you teach and/or your school’s name.  You can register once per day and this Friday at midnight a comment will be randomly chosen to win this week’s gift card.  Full rules and part one of this teacher’s story found at this link:  Given the Time.

What was the best advice you have ever received as a teacher?

“They may forget what you said, But they will never forget how you made them feel.”

When I first interviewed for my position as a teacher, I was told I had to teach a lesson to a live classroom while a panel of 4 teachers/principals observed me. I worked hard on providing the best lesson. I spent hours perfecting it. The night before I had to present my lesson to the classroom, I received a phone call from my mentor from the college I was attending at the time. She was very excited for me and wanted to review my lesson over the phone. I explained in detail what I was going to do, read her my objectives and listed all the curriculum standards I was going to cover with this lesson. She listened, gave suggestion and then said something so incredibly powerful. “Rosheen, remember this one thing. You are teaching students, not curriculum. Don’t focus so much on WHAT you’re teaching as much as on WHO you’re teaching.” That comment hit me hard.  My focus was so much on what I was going to do rather than on how it was going to be received by a group of 8 year olds.

I hold very strongly to that motto now, 15 years later. My focus is always, first and foremost to KNOW MY STUDENTS so that I can better reach them. I spend a lot of time talking with them during class meetings and small groups. I learn about their lives and about who they are. This helps me to relate to them much better. Psychologist Abraham Maslow believed strongly that if a child’s emotional needs are not met, learning cannot successfully take place. I struggled to learn as a child. My emotional needs had not been met at home and I was deprived. I struggled through elementary and high school. It wasn’t until I met Jesus that my needs began to be fulfilled. I excelled in College and remained on the Dean’s List for the entire 5 ½ years, even while carrying a full load and working 40 + hours a week. I think Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs clearly defines what my role of teacher should be. Get to know my kids, work hard on helping to meet their needs, then teach…and they will learn.

What is your favorite aspect of teaching?

I’ve never been much of an evangelist. I’m outgoing, but have not been blessed with the ability to easily share my faith on spot. Relationship building is what I do best. I love to become friends with people and build relationships with them. Through these relationships I am able to live out my faith. The same goes for me in teaching. I work hard at building relationships with students and parents. When the trust is there, I am able to tackle the tough issues and work hard at helping the children. The best part for me is when I know I’ve made a difference.

Say what you want about Facebook, but for me it was affirmation that God has me where he wants me. About a year ago I decided to look for the students that made up my very first class as a teacher. After finding a few, I was able to seek out their friend lists and find the remaining. I have friended nearly every student. That was exciting enough, but the best part was the comments they wrote on my wall. Nearly each child posted a memory from that year. In each post they thanked me for making a difference in their lives. One young man reminded me about his parents who were divorcing that year. He told me that because of me, he was able to get through that year without falling apart.  Others posted about their favorite memory and what they liked best about school that year.….but the best is when they tell me “You were my favorite teacher, ever.”  I thank God daily for using me in the lives of these kids. This is my very favorite part of teaching:  knowing that some way, somehow, I touched the life of a child…in a very positive way.

“Let us not become weary in doing good…”  Galatians 6:9

Leaning on God

Are you a teacher here for the $50 Gift Card Give Away?  To register to win the gift card, please leave a comment on today’s post.  Just scroll down and  click on the word comment found in fine print at the bottom of today’s post (right next to the tags).  This will bring up the comment form.  You can leave a comment as a Guest, but don’t worry, your email address will not be visible.  In your comment please tell us the grade you teach and/or your school’s name.  You can register once per day and this Friday at midnight a comment will be randomly chosen to win this week’s gift card.  Full rules and part one of this teacher’s story found at this link:  Given the Time.

Does your spiritual life play a role in making you a better teacher?

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:27-29

There’s a huge difference between liking your job and having a passion for what you do. I tend to lean towards the latter. My life as a teacher is simply so much more than lesson planning and checking papers. I impact lives. I make a difference. I have the power to make or break a child’s spirit and I’ve learned not to take that too lightly. I teach mainly because I believe I’ve been gifted by God to work with children.

There are many things I would love to do if I wasn’t a teacher, but I don’t believe it’s where God wants me. God’s providence was evident throughout my entire journey towards becoming a teacher. This IS where he wants me. With that said, I have to daily give my life over to him, but I fall short. I lean on my own strength to get through the day many times and I leave exhausted and frustrated.  I work in an affluent district that borders the inner city. The influx of children that have migrated to my school is never ending. Many days I feel as though I have put out more fires than the local fire station, one issue after another as I deal with at-risk children.  Most are at risk for failing school because of the lives they live at home. Many are at risk for continuing the cycle of drug abuse and neglect that they are currently experiencing. Many days I feel as though I’ve been a therapist, or a social worker. The emotional needs that have to be met are endless. There is no way I could do what I do WITHOUT leaning on God for my strength.

This past school year, I had a young man I will refer to as Dan. His mother left him and his father when he was 5. His mother’s boyfriend had abused him both physically and sexually. Dan was a mess and could hardly function in a regular classroom.  I fought DAILY with the system to help get Dan in a classroom more equipped to help him with his issues. Teachers before me had tried with no success. We all saw that Dan needed more intensive and structured teaching. He needed immediate consequences and he needed to be kept away from certain students. He was a threat to himself and to other kids. I built a strong relationship with his father, grandmother and aunt, all of whom were leery of me. They were defensive and felt I was attacking him and picking on him. I spent hours and hours in meetings during my lunch hour and before school with the specialized teachers to help them to see what Dan truly needed. And during my entire crusade, I met with God daily. I hurt for Dan. He was a very sweet boy who was impulsive and needed consistent monitoring and behavior modification.

On May 8th, six weeks before the end of the school year,  God won the battle and Dan was transferred to another school in our district that was equipped with a classroom geared especially for his needs. His family was supportive and the staff in my building couldn’t believe that I was able to cut through the red tape and get him certified. I explained to them all that it was God who moved these mountains, I  knew it wasn’t me. I had given Dan to God from Day One and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I could not do this alone.

 

 

Are you a teacher here for the $50 Gift Card Give Away?  To register to win the gift card, you must leave a comment on today’s post.  Just scroll down and  click on the word comment found in fine print at the bottom of today’s post (right next to the tags).  This will bring up the comment form.  You can leave a comment as a Guest, but don’t worry, your email address will not be visible.  In your comment please tell us the grade you teach and/or your school’s name.  You can register once per day and this Friday at midnight a comment will be randomly chosen to win this week’s gift card.  Full rules and part one of this teacher’s story found at this link:  Given the Time.

You have a family. How do you balance home life and work responsibilities?

2 Corinthians 12:9
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Being a working mom can be a lonely job in the Christian world.  Sadly, I didn’t find much support from my former church after my first child was born. For many reasons, I returned to my teaching profession. One reason was economic. The other was that I really loved my job, but I kept that to myself in the beginning.

Many women questioned my decision to work and asked why I wasn’t taking time off to raise my child. I never quite knew what to say or how to respond. What did they mean? I  (along with my husband) were  going to raise my child! My husband and I prayed about this and he fully supported my decision. We agreed to re-evaluate if things weren’t working out. I knew working and having a baby was not going to be easy, but I was ready for the challenge.

After a two month leave, I dropped my daughter off at my mom’s house and drove to work. I cried the first day as I really missed her. But after I got to work, I fell back into my groove. And most of all, I had something wonderful waiting for me when I got home. What I didn’t realize was what my precious little daughter was doing for my mom. She had lost my dad a few years prior. She was lonely and didn’t drive. Being with my daughter changed my mother. Her demeanor softened and every time she saw my daughter she told her “I love you.” Those were words I never heard from her growing up. In many ways this was healing for me.

My daughter is now 8 and entering the 4th grade, and in the interim I was blessed with another daughter, 6 years old and entering 2nd grade. Both are amazing girls who love Jesus, love school and love life. They are by no means perfect, (that’s for another blog!) but they are such a joy in my life. They are proud of their mom who is a teacher, and never once have I looked back with regret on my life…

It wasn’t always easy. My second daughter did not sleep for the first 3 years of her life. I went to work so many days on as little as 3 hours of sleep. But the Grace of God  truly carried me through. I learned along the way that when I arrived home from work, to give my focus completely on my girls and husband. Dinner was made, baths were given and play time was abundant. But, the minute they hit the bed, I hit the school work. I corrected papers, planned lessons and researched ideas on the internet. My nights began at about 8:30 and ended at about 11. That includes laundry, dishes, etc. I do know that one of things that I let go is myself. I don’t always take care of myself the way I should. But as my girls have gotten older, I have found more time for myself to read, polish my nails, or just go the store …ALONE.  Being a working mom has forced me to be much more organized and structured. The girls pack their own snacks and repack their backpacks before they go to bed. When they arrive home, they know exactly what to do before homework time. I’m usually making dinner while they do homework and I am available to help while in the kitchen.

It’s a balancing act that requires patience, flexibility and a HUGE dependence on God. I can’t do it all, and I learned that along the way. I never want to admit that I can’t do it all, but if I could I wouldn’t need God…so he ever so gently shows me how VERY much I require his strength. Dependence on God is vital in order for me to function as a wife, mom and teacher. There are days when I feel guilty if my child is sick and I’m at work, or if my child is sick and I’m not with my other students. When you have a passion for what you do, and you believe God has put you there, then he will truly make a way for you. I am passionate about working with children and I love being mom.  THIS is where God wants me right now…and I’m happy to oblige!

Planting Seeds

Are you a teacher here for the Gift Card Give Away?  Just leave a comment below by clicking on the word comment, and tell us the grade you teach and/or your school’s name to register.  You can register once per weekday.  Full rules and part one of this teacher’s story found at this link:  Given the Time.

What do you find most challenging in your job?

I truly feel the most challenging part of my job is not being able to reach all students. I take my job very seriously and want so much to make an impact on children, but often times the outside influences are much stronger than mine. I was frustrated that I couldn’t reach Jayla.

Jayla’s mom is a single mom. She’s never met her dad and her older brother and girlfriend take care of her most of the time. Her mom’s job is unclear but Jayla says she cooks meals for a bishop. Jayla was street smart, was often a bully, and dressed completely inappropriate for an  8 years old.  She looked like a 15 year old and was often disrespectful in class.

When mom couldn’t be reached by phone, I tried letters home. I never received a response.  The principal called a few times, no response or call back. Once I was able to leave a message but no one returned my call.  I worked hard with Jayla.  I gave her chances to each lunch with me as an opportunity to get to know her better. I moved her seat so she was closer to me and I gave her leadership roles in the classroom.

She was inconsistent. She would cling to me on some days, and others she would bully girls and call them ugly. She had low self esteem, and seemed almost depressed at times. As the school year ended I reflected on Jayla and wondered why I wasn’t able to make a difference with her. Every attempt to reach her fell flat……or did it?

I look back on the journey of my life and I see the times where God was teaching me things, but I chose to look away. Seeds were planted for me along that course…through people and situations. Those seeds, combined, have blossomed and have helped me become who I am today. I may not have recognized it at the time, but it was there….and I feel God telling me that I have planted seeds with Jayla. I may not have had any huge breakthroughs with her, but I’ve planted seeds. And now God needs me to pray for those seeds to be watered for Jayla…that God would bring along people and situations in her journey to lead her to Him.

“He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.”  Isaiah 49:10b

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Lessons from Frank

Are you a teacher here for the Gift Card Give Away?  Just leave a comment below with the grade you teach and/or your school name to register.  Full rules and part one of this teacher’s story found at this link:  Given the Time.

What do you learn personally from interacting with your kids at school? Any good stories?

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”  1 Peter 4:8

Teaching for me has been much more than just a career. It’s been my mission. I carefully plan lessons and incorporate fun activities and work hard to reach the individual needs of my students, but in the end, it’s they who have taught me.

One specific student stands out to me as my most challenging and yet most changed of my entire career. Frank was from Nigeria and he and his family had moved to the states several years before he arrived in my 3rd and 4th grade multi-age classroom. His face was that of an angel and his smile could light up a room. But, when Frank was upset, a dark side emerged. He threw anything that was in his way. He tore down bulletin boards, threw desks and then would run and hide somewhere in the school. When found, it would take myself along with another teacher to hold him down, doing deep compression rubs on his back and legs to calm him down. He was so strong, but eventually he would give in and sob. Deep, gut wrenching sobs from deep within his soul. We would then cradle him until his tears ran dry.

His parents were very supportive and worked hard to help identify the root of his anger. Each time Frank would feel slighted by a classmate, wrongly accused of an action or redirected for behavior, he would erupt. My heart really went out to Frank. I worked hard all year with the counselors, parents and with Frank himself to help him deal with his anger. And I prayed. I asked God to teach me to love Frank unconditionally. He was, most times, sweet and loving and had a heart of gold.

I remember one time when he had a meltdown, someone accused him of taking his pencil. He became angry, tore down a bulletin board filled with student work and he ran and hid under the reading couch in the hallway. Several students immediately informed me. I walked out to the hallway, got down on the floor and made eye contact with him. I told him that no matter what happened, I loved him. And I got up and walked back into the classroom. About 5 minutes later, he walked back in the room. The children stared as he approached me. His beautiful doe-like eyes were downcast. He took a breath and then courageously looked at me and said “I’m so sorry Mrs. Hunter.” I nearly broke down. I pulled him into an embrace and he sobbed. I had him sit on the floor next to me and we held a class meeting. We discussed how to handle our emotions and we discussed forgiveness. Frank suggested that he reassemble the bulletin board and two girls volunteered to help him. He put everything back with the help of his classmates. Their support meant the world to him.

The next year, Frank was still in my class, but this time as a 4th grader. He emerged a leader. Frank was in control of his emotions and was excelling academically. It was quite noticeable as his 2nd grade teacher approached me and made a comment that she could barely recognize him anymore. She said he seemed happier and more in control. She mentioned that she had another student in her class this year that had similar issues as Frank. I suggested that Frank become a mentor for Devin. Each day Frank checked in with Devin. After lunch Frank met Devin at his classroom door and asked him about recess. At times when his teacher felt he was on the verge of a meltdown, she would send a student over for Frank. Proudly he would jot across the hall and go sit next to Devin and help him with his work, etc. He once told me, “Mrs. Hunter, I love helping Devin. I told him that I struggled with the same things he did and I showed him some of the things I learned to control my anger. Thanks for letting me do this.” Devin’s teacher was amazed at how Frank’s behavior affected Devin. I was so incredibly proud of Frank.

As Frank moved on to 5th grade, he would stop by my classroom everyday (sometimes twice!) and grab a hug. When he was upset, he was allowed to come visit me to calm down or to just talk. At 5th grade graduation, he came up and gave me a long embrace. His parents followed suit and thanked me for “whatever you did for him, he is a changed person.” I simply told them… “All I did was love him.”

On the last day of elementary school Frank stopped by and said he was nervous about moving to middle school. He said he wasn’t sure what he was going to do without my support. I encouraged him, told him I would pray for him and I told him to trust God. I told him that God had a plan for his life. He smiled, hugged me and cried. I did the same.

Frank taught me about love and he taught me about patience. He taught me to look at each child differently and uniquely. He taught me that everyone deserves a second chance. And I know that the God I serve is a God of second chances. No matter how much I mess up, he’s there to say, “ I still love you.”

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