Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Teacher Talk, Vol. 1 - Introducing ME!

I signed up for Teacher Talk thinking this would be a fun way to reach out and connect with my fellow teachers in blogland!  I'm trying to be better about blogging.  I kind of let it go since I started teaching two years ago and thought this might hold me accountable...PLUS I'll get to meet some really great people who share a calling with me.

A Little About Me
I think it's important to first off say that I am a Christ follower and Jesus comes #1 in my life.  He is in all that I do and is constantly guiding me and extending his never ending grace when I fall short.  He is THE reason why I teach.  Let me explain.

I come from a long line of teachers.  My mom and dad are both teachers as well.  I guess you could say it's in my blood.  I always wanted to be a teacher from the time I was 4 years old.  My mom would bring home old teacher textbooks and me and my friends would play school.  I was ALWAYS the teacher, or so they like to recall. ;)  When I graduated high school, I began college as an Elementary Education major.  After my first year, my love of math drove me to change to a Business major.  My parents told me all about the politics of being a teacher and the money is not good at all.  I need to add that I was living way outside of the Lord's Will for my life at this time and I never once prayerfully considered any decision I made.  Nor did I give Him a second thought.  So, on that whim, I changed my major to Business Administration with a minor in Industrial Psychology.  I graduated and the economy collapsed.  I couldn't find a job in my career field anywhere locally.  Now this is another story for another post in how God weaved EVERYTHING together, but I'll keep it focused on teaching for this one.

I found myself working at a law firm in a job where I had never even applied.  I was there for a year and a half and finally a position opened up in a company I had dreamed of working for.  It was my "dream job".  During this time, I started getting back to Christ.  I met my now husband, we found a church home, and God was slowly pruning me and shaping me into the woman He desired me to be.  I started to feel the tug in my heart to teach.  But it was impossible (I thought).  I was a single girl, living on my own, broke as a joke, and going back to college was out of the question.  I was almost done with my MBA too.  Was I just going to let all of that money go down the drain?  Eventually, yes.

So, I took this "dream job" and it was a NIGHTMARE.  I had the worst possible experience and I cried everyday.  I worked horrible hours, for the first time experienced harassment, and was just genuinely miserable.  One day, as I was walking back to my cubicle from the Starbucks on this corporation's campus, I had this overwhelming feeling that I had to teach.  I hadn't thought about teaching in months.  I stored it in the back of my head, knowing it would be impossible with all that this job required of me for me to ever go back to school.

Lo and behold, the law firm where I first worked was in need of an assistant for the senior partner and they were willing to take me back.  I put in my notice and I was out of there faster than a fart in a fan factory.  I never looked back.  I truly believe that God allowed me to work there and He opened that door for me to prove to me that it wasn't what I really wanted.  He had something better in store.

Once I got back to the law firm, I was able to have more free time and I started doing my research.  I found out that in Florida, if you have a Bachelor's degree from an accredited university, then you can apply for a Temporary Certificate to teach.  Well, it's much more complicated than that with lots of testing and classes, but I had the information I needed.  I registered for the first test I needed, passed, then submitted my life to the state of Florida to obtain my temporary certificate.  This was in April of 2011.  I got cleared and received my temporary certificate in late May.  I applied for every job under the sun in my county and all surrounding counties.  I received about 70 rejection emails.  No one would even interview me because I did not have a degree in education.  I had given up hope and I remember driving home one night and having a full out conversation with God.  I was in the car alone and literally talking out loud.  I kept saying over and over, "God, why did you tell me to do this when you're not going to let me?  I give up!  I'm never going to get a job.  Why God, why?  This isn't fair."  I felt His voice deep inside my heart telling me "patience".  Through all my other struggles, I have definitely heard "patience" over and over again!  He is always at work.

I had written it off.  It was now August and school was about to start.  My mom called me one evening right as I was getting off work and told me there was going to be a position open the next day and I needed to apply.  I told her no, I was done and tired of the rejection emails.  And I really thought I was done...until I couldn't shake the feeling and that voice again kept telling me to do it.  So I did it.  I received a call, got an interview, rocked the interview, and was offered the job the Friday before preschool started.  STRESS!  I was thrown to the wolves and it was sink or swim.  I loved every second of it.  I have never not wanted to go to work since becoming a teacher.  I'm still at the same school and have formed incredible bonds with my students, parents, co-workers, and principal.  I love them all so much.  This has been the 2nd biggest blessing in my life other than marrying my husband.  I love, love, love what I do.  It truly is my passion.  I also have obtained my permanent certificate.  I met all of my requirements, testing, and courses and I could not have done it without God's hand leading me every step of the way.  He truly, truly, truly causes all things to work together for good. (Romans 8:28)

Where I Live
I live in the good ole Sunshine State - Florida!  And that means the dreaded FCAT!  But only one more year!!  Then we move on to the PARCC or whatever else the state decides.

What I Teach
I teach 4th grade.  What that means for me being a Florida teacher is I teach Math, Reading, Writing, Social Studies, and Science.  Writing, Math, and Reading are the big tested areas in 4th grade here.  I also coach our school's Sunshine Math Team where we compete with all the other schools in the county.  I still get to use my love of math. :)  And let me just tell you - My degree in Business and Industrial Psych comes in handy every single day.

Why I Teach
I teach because God told me to.  Plain and simple.  I am living out His Will for my life and I have 100% peace in my heart.  I am exactly where He wants me.  I teach because I love every single thing about it; even the stuff that gets on my nerves.  I love it all.  I teach to be the light in the darkness for some of these kids.  I teach to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  I teach to extend the same love and grace that my Father has given me.  I teach to instill confidence and reassurance in the hearts and minds of children.  I teach to encourage kids.  I teach to be their biggest fan.  I teach because I love those kids.  I teach because there's nothing else that I rather do.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Meal Plan Monday!

So I definitely didn't do Meal Plan Monday last week...please forgive me.  It was our 1st day of school (with the kids) and it was all I could do just to put dinner on the table for us.  I was spent!  That first week always gets me.  I have to get used to using my teacher voice again, being on my feet all day, etc.  And let me tell ya...when your feet hurt, it makes everything hurt!  We had some tasty suppers last week, but nothing fancy.  Here's what's on our plates this week!

Monday: Chicken Pesto Bake with Steamed Asparagus and Salad.  Recipe here.  I've never made it before, but it was super easy and quick.  It's in the oven right now as I type and it smells divine.  I used my homemade pesto recipe.  If it's good, I'll post the recipe for y'all!
Tuesday: Leftovers for me.  We have meetings and such after work so I'm fending for myself!
Wednesday: Church
Thursday: Pan Grilled Pork Chops and Sauteed Squash.  Trusty ole favorite.  Works everytime.
Friday: Crockpot Cream Cheese Chicken over Pasta and Salad.  I'm trying to do crockpot recipes on Fridays because the last thing I want to do is work when I get off on Friday! ;)
Saturday: Barbeque Ribs, Mashed Potatoes, and Roasted Okra.  I use this as my ribs recipe guide and I make my own BBQ sauce, similar to what they suggest.
Sunday: Chuck Roast with Roasted Broccoli.  Chuck Roast may be one of our favorite meals.  It is SO good and savory.  But this one's a family secret. ;)  Just kidding...maybe.  My brother gave me this recipe so I'd ask before sharing it.

Hope you have an awesome week and eat good food - life's too short not to!  Be blessed!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Back to School

This was our first week back to school (without the kids).  It was a slow week in a weird way.  My to-do list was a mile long, which made me think that my week should go by fast. But it just drug by.  I guess there's just so much anticipation!  There was SO much to do and if I'm being honest, I feel a little overwhelmed.  I'm not really sure why.  Lesson plans are complete, every copy that needed to be made for the 1st week has been done, all students have a desk and books.  I have all my ducks in a row. It might have something to do with 26 students on a roster and more possibly being added on Monday.  Six were added just hours before orientation, so I was scrambling to get desks, name tags, supplies, etc.  But it all came together in time. 

The beginning of the year is such a strange time for me.  I wonder if I'll be able to love these kids like I loved the kids the year before.  I just got them where I wanted them and now I have to start all over, ha!  Is this normal?  Because it happens to me every year.  And every year I end up loving my students and getting so attached.  I just care about them as people and they're so much more to me than a test score.    I'm remembering this year though to lower my expectations to save myself frustration and tears.  I definitely have my work cut out for me, but I'm so blessed to be able to do what I love.  I have an awesome grade level and great co-workers all around.  It really is a privilege to work with such wonderful people!

A big part of getting everything ready is getting your room prepared for those little bodies that will soon fill it up.  I don't think anyone, but teachers, truly understand what it means to "get my room ready".  You have to think about EVERYTHING.  I mean, this is where we'll spend the majority of our time for the next 9 months.  So much will happen in here - awakenings, reality checks, vast amounts of learning, loving, relationships developed, some fights (but hopefully not many), and incredible memories made.  There's so much energy and care that goes into every single thing I do to prepare my room.  It's pretty much how I wanted it, but I honestly didn't plan on that many desks being in there. ;)  Rule number one of being a teacher: FLEXIBILITY.  I'm praying for wisdom, perseverance, to see these kids through God's eyes, and simply to be a light in their worlds.

They were supposed to paint our rooms over the summer.  Before we left, we had to take everything down and put it in the center of our room.  Well, lo and behold the painting didn't happen.  They'll now do it one day during the school year.  Joy!  So, there was much work to be done and still yet to do.  Here's how my room turned out.

 The "before"...a complete disaster!

 Got my office and files all nice and organized!

 Orientation Day...desks are all set-up...everything's done!  This is the view from the door.

 Another view from my desk.  I'm soooooo thankful for a big classroom.

 View from the outside door.

 Their first stop every morning.  Our calendar area.

 I love all of my storage space!  And you better believe it is all used!  We'll do many, many science projects utilizing this counter space back here.  I can't wait!

 Reading Board all ready to go!  There are some bean bags right below it that will be a favorite of some students, I'm sure!

 Writing Board finished.  It won't be bare for long!

 Math Board!  It looks so empty.  I am so excited for another year of Number of the Day!

 Computer area and Science/Social Studies Boards.

 My awesome built in shelves....TONS of books and my science experiment loot.  I put the chairs over here this year for easy access to the class library...we'll see how it goes.

 View from the back of my room looking at the board.

 My classroom door and office door.  Citizenship chart is all ready to go!  I really love my punctuation people on the door.  They are one of my most favorite creations. ;)

 My area - my teacher table and OODLES of supplies behind me!

Word Wall and Cubbies are so clean and neat...let's see how long that lasts!  Ha!

I had a parent tell me at orientation that he could tell that I loved to teach.  I said, "Oh yeah?  How can you tell?"  He replied, "Your classroom.  You can just tell you put a lot of thought into the layout and items you have for the kids."  Thank you so much, sir, for noticing.  Not everyone does.  What an awesome compliment.  It totally made my day!

I am so ready for this year - for the challenges, struggles, and victories.  It's going to be great as long as I keep my eyes on Him and pray everyday over my room.  I am so exhausted and school hasn't even officially started.  I'm off to enjoy a relaxing weekend...and I may or may not eat brownies for supper tonight.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

Meal Plan Monday

Happy Monday, y'all!  I survived being back at work ;)  Nah, actually I'm excited to be back.  It was so great to see everyone today, work in my room, and start planning for this upcoming year.  I'm really excited to meet my students!  It's going to be another wonderful year.

Let's get down to what's going to be on our plates this week.  I plan all of my meals for the week over the weekend and shop for what I need.  I'm very linear and crave order, so this helps eliminate stress over what to have for dinner.  I like to know ahead of time and have a plan.  Here's what's on this week's menu.

Monday: Green Chili Turkey Burgers and Roasted Sweet Potato Fries with Rosemary
TuesdayPioneer Woman's Chicken Stir Fry
Wednesday: Church Dinner
Thursday: Blackened Tilapia with Roasted Broccoli (this is my new favorite)
Friday: Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Sautéed Zucchini
Saturday: Blackened Mahi with Roasted Broccoli

My goal this week is to try to eat meats that I had previously frozen.  I need to make more room in my freezer!  And also I'm trying to stick to buying produce that's in season...keeping my grocery bills low while making healthy meals for me and the hubs! 

I pray y'all have a great week.  I'm off to write names on doortags and nametags for my new kiddos!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Summer is Coming to an End!

I cannot believe it - tomorrow I'll surrender my freedom and set my alarm for 4:30 am.  Where did the time go?!  Summer has officially come to an end.

I was thinking back on this summer and it was a really weird one.  I feel like I didn't really do anything, but I was somehow always busy.  Except for those 3 weeks where it rained every single day.  I did a lot of sleeping then.  It was honestly refreshing.  I totally needed that.

We had a lot of company come to town, I spent a lot of time with friends or by myself at the beach, I spent a lot of time by myself (with the exception of my two crazy hounds), I spent a lot of time with God, I grew another year older, I worked out and tried (am trying) to get back in shape, I had awesome evenings of walks and meals with my hubs, and unfortunately I dealt with death a lot.  That pretty much sums it up.

Since I last posted, I celebrated a birthday.  We had a big family cookout, which was nice to have everyone together.  I felt very blessed to have this year BEHIND me - it was a tough one, but one I look back on with a huge smile.  I grew so much spiritually and personally.  I really needed the valleys I had to walk through because God showed His grace and perfect plan through it all.  He really causes all things to work together for good.

I feel like a summer recap might be best shown through some random pictures....so here we go!

My and the Hubs on my birthday :)
After one of our 2 mile walks with our crazy dogter #2
Doing one of my favorite things - SWIMMING
Did a little crafting - made a new wreath with help from my awesome SIL, Amber.
Celebrating an addition to the family - Congratulations Jon and Lauren!
Celebrated my Tinky girl turning another year older.  Love her SO much!
Got to see this view as often as I wanted.  Blessed to live where I do!
I also got to cook a lot, which is always great.  I made some new recipes and hopefully I'll be sharing more of those with y'all soon.  I'm so into smoothies for breakfast right now and have made a list of my favorite concoctions that I've come up with.  They're fast, easy, and super healthy.

My Bible reading has been coming along nicely.  I'm almost done with the 90 day challenge, although I likely won't finish in 90 days.  Mine will be more like 100.  But hey, I've read the whole Old Testament through, which I had never done before.  Reading the Bible in chronological order has been amazing.  It's like I get it.  But I have SO MUCH to learn.  It's awesome to see God's plan for His creation.  When it all ties together, it makes incredible sense.  I've seen things in a whole new light.  This has definitely changed me drastically.

While we're on the topic of The Lord, my sweet Aunt Margaret went to be with Him on July 28th.  It was so hard to watch her suffer and we just prayed that God would call her home.  He did and now we mourn here for our loss.  She was an incredibly kind, humble woman.  I hate to see my mom hurt so bad, along with my grandpa, uncle, and cousin.  Our family has had so much loss in the last year.  

The was the last photo taken with my Aunt Margaret before she went downhill.  This was her birthday celebration back in March,

My beautiful mom.  The strongest woman I know.  I look at her with a whole different admiration for all she's gone through.  Losing her best friend wasn't easy, but God gave her a lot of grace and strength. I hope I can be more like her.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. -Matthew 5:4

All in all, it's been a good summer.  I'm blessed to live in a place where I can just hop in my car and drive to the beach.  It's so peaceful and soothing to be next to the water.  I've thoroughly enjoyed my quiet time.  BUT, I'm looking forward to this school year and all it has to bring.  I'm just praying over my class I'm about to receive and asking for wisdom to embark on these sweet, young lives.  I hope I can always be a light to these kids!  It is truly a blessing to be walking in God's Will for my life and doing what I was called to do.

I'm off to finish up supper - ribs, fried cabbage and roasted broccoli- YUM TO MY TUM!  I'll be bringing back Meal Plan Monday (it's been forever!) to hopefully give y'all some ideas and hold myself accountable.  

I hope you have an incredibly blessed week!