Just a Joy

I imagine these six days are close to the longest I’ve gone between writing here. Excepting, of course, the various weeks (or longer) that I’ve spent in other parts of the world, removed from my rather aged computer, the internet, and this white WordPress page.

I’ve actually had both the internet and my time-worn computer close by my side in the past week, but the times for writing are usually used creating lesson plans for the coming days and weeks, trying my best to punctuate curricula with engaging and meaningful activities, and sleeping off the weariness of one day, preparing for another.

I once thought, based, no doubt, on somewhat limited exposure to elementary school teachers, that teaching was rather a stationary task. Of course, there may be times in which it really is, but my experience in fourth grade over the past four weeks has kept me on my toes, quite literally. This is probably compounded by how much I truly enjoy being among the 18 desks in our cozy room. I love walking up and down the aisles; while teaching, while students bend, heads low, over a math sheet, an English paper, a new book. I like the freedom to move. I’m intrigued by the tangible difference in dynamic from one corner of the room to another. I enjoy pausing at the back, balancing on the stool at the side of the room, and yes, weaving my way towards the front once more.

This week, Week Four of my 15 week stint as a fourth grade teacher, marks a shift in the extent of my role in the classroom. Beginning Monday morning, I taught those 18 wonders all but two subjects. The sweet woman who is sharing her class- her precious students- with me, daily presents me with freedom, challenge, and responsibility. It still catches my heart, makes me nearly uneasy, when she smiles, sea-colored eyes twinkling, and tells me, “It’s more your class than mine now.” It’s then, as I stand amongst all those just-turned-10-year-olds, pondering a decision, wondering what might be best, that I’m most tempted to give her the class right back. Not because I’m scared (although I am, a little), not because I’m unprepared, or overwhelmed, or frustrated (although I’ve felt at least a touch of each of those in the past weeks), but simply because who am I, what status or merit do I possess, that I’ve been given the privilege of being with these sweet, complex, funny individuals for these months.

I just don’t deserve them.

But of course, the right response is thankfulness. And humility. And awe. And hard work. And I live in all of those. And joy, oh the joy. Joy when we work on a new math concept, slaving through frustration and confusion and repetition, and yet, when the worksheets are graded they are all correct. Joy when we practice English with Madlibs, and their random answers, their bated breath while I prepare to read the silly story, is so funny to me that I can barely read through my own giggles; and what I do read is drowned out by their uproarious laughter as I read every line.

Joy, joy, joy.

When I greet them at 8:10 in the morning, and when I wave goodbye in the pick-up line, seven hours later. It’s just a joy.

~Natalia

Advertisements

Two Teachers Now

You have two teachers now, she told them on my very first day,

before I knew names,

before they’d even heard mine.

And she’s kept those words like a promise,

sharing responsibility, authority, activities with me,

throughout the school day, and after, too.

But besides the teamwork, the partnership of taking turns,

working together to build all those little souls up,

I think my favorite part

is during a lesson, during a conversation,

during a learning activity,

when I’m over here, maybe perched on the stool,

and she’s across the room, maybe at the corner desk,

and something happens,

someone says something,

and we glance up,

catch the other’s gaze over those eighteen 4th grade heads,

and we smile.

Because there’s are two teachers now,

and we both caught that phrase,

found that funny,

heard that reference,

and we’re both savoring it,

enjoying it,

smiling about it.

~Natalia

A Ray

Math instruction, I’m minutes in.

Talking about lines and rays

And the arrows we put on the ends of the ray,

To show that it really doesn’t stop.

And he’s there in his seat, hand in the air.

One finger: comment.

Fingers crossed: bathroom.

Open palm: question.

He’s got one finger raised. A comment.

And I consider for a moment,

Just for a moment, asking him to wait.

But then, Yes? Comment, David?

And he smiles, his dark hair spiking

Every which way; a mind of its own.

And he says, God is like a ray.

Because He doesn’t have a beginning,

And he’ll never end;

He just goes on.

And I nod, and I smile, too,

And that’s one comment,

I’ll never regret

Taking.

And next time there’s a thought,

A mid-lesson finger raised high in the air,

I might just take it.

Because these little hearts?

They have a lot of truth in them.

~Natalia

If For No Other Reason

There could be books written, although I hope there never are, containing the things to which I do not know the answers.

At this very moment, I would nominate prayer to be included in these vast books.

I’m really not sure how it really works.

I know the speaking, the writing, the wordless, soundless begging. I am familiar with all of those.

I know the Lord and the listening and the greatness of hearing it all and knowing it all and answering it all. I’m not Him, but I know what He’s said and I trust what He’s done, and these are some things I really just know.

But the other things are harder, really.

Like, the balance and the movement of my heart becoming words lifted high, which become, in turn, an answer returning to this ground once more. Not always an agreement, a desire granted, of course, but an answer, nonetheless. I just don’t get that, quite all the way.

Or, how words I pray now, over the one sitting to my left in small group, over the small students whose desks I sometimes slip into while they’re gone, whose very places in the room I have murmured quiet prayers over- how does what I pray now affect their lives, change their hearts? How does it come to fruition, really?

Those are things that I don’t know.

We’re commanded to pray, some say. And I don’t think I’m really one to disagree with that statement. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s in the Word of God, which of course, lends a rather strong amount of credibility to the mandate.

But why, really?

Why are we praying?

For obedience, I suppose. At least to begin with. But there’s more there- there really has to be. There is a relational depth, a sense of knowing God, of interacting- conversing- with God Himself that I often sense in prayer. My journal pages are littered, emblazoned, honored, with the capital letter scrawl I use to mark what I believe He says, what He would have me feel.

Pray for that, of course.

Pray for decisions, the life changes and shifts and open doors approaching closed that mark the path of every person living, moving through the days and the weeks that God stretches before us.

Pray for guidance and grace, compassion and kindness, forgiveness and the heart ability to forgive. Pray for strength- no, more than that, fall on the floor before God, asking for strength, because what we have is not coming from me, nor from you. That I know.

And pray, if for no other reason, because the praying is the talking, and sometimes the listening, and there’s another there, and He talks and He guides. He guides and He answers and there is something to be said, and there is something to be heard. And if there is no prayer for just any other reason, pray because this is the One who is greater than all, and He is listening, He is waiting, He is willing, and that is a peace that I dare not miss.

~Natalia

I’m There

Tonight I cried,

tears hot in my eyes as I typed,

lump in my throat,

because there’s a teacher,

a woman who’s taught and cared for,

loved and supported,

these students for the long months leading from August to January,

and now I’m there,

now I’m getting my footing,

stepping up to teach,

to lead,

to answer and to listen and to care and to guide,

and it’s not all my responsibility yet,

and I’ll have support all along,

but I’m beginning to steps

of taking that role,

and with every inch along the way,

with every lesson,

with every conversation,

with every correction and high five and whisper in the hallway,

I am so very aware

of the gift that this classroom is.

Because standing at her desk,

surrounded by gifts and papers from her students,

I watched the teacher’s clear eyes become glassy,

shining with tears,

as she talked about the students,

these 18 hearts she’s come to so love

and care for,

and there in that moment, I felt the heaviness settle on my shoulders,

and on my heart,

because I’m accepting what she’s offering,

the unspeakable responsibility and incomparable blessing

of being with these young ones every day.

I’m there and I’m learning,

I’m working and I’m growing,

teaching and trying,

and I’m so blessed, too.

~Natalie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Day to Come

I wrote today, in my required daily journal,

that I’ve been pleasantly surprised,

happily unsuspecting,

to find that teaching, observing,

spending my days in that second floor classroom,

hold the same magic,

the same retreat,

the same exclusion,

as attending school as a student has for years.

Growing up,

high school,

and into my college career,

I relished, marveled, at the way school- learning- could so engage my mind,

so bring my thoughts and my heart away from the peaks and edges

of worry, anxiety;

the shakes and knocks, pulls and punches of life outside the walls of a classroom.

That was then, before.

And now, halfway through Week Two of student teaching,

I opened my eyes today,

looked around that classroom,

and found it to be just the same.

There are still things on my mind,

there remains- and alway will remain- thoughts and concerns,

convictions and conversations,

that pull me, twist me, drag me.

And they are real and they will stay.

Mostly because I’m a fallen one living amongst fallen ones,

and so it will always be.

But entering those yellow metal doors,

stepping up water-slippery steps to the second floor,

what I worry and what I agonize

slips from my mind,

and I step down the hall,

all the way to the end,

and then it’s just a room

and eighteen young hearts,

and the day before us.

And they each bring thoughts

and they each bring burdens,

distractions,

cares.

And their lives and my life color what we say

and what we do

and how we think.

But there in that room, as the sun moves along its path

high above us,

we’re working together

and we’re building together,

and we’re learning together,

and the outside world fades, just a little.

And that’s okay,

because maybe- prayerfully, graciously- during those classroom hours,

lives are being shaped,

and hearts are growing,

and Christ is becoming yet more evident,

and at the end of the day,

when the bell rings downstairs,

and the gym-floor pickup line dwindles down,

and they are home, they are off once more,

the hours we’ve had throughout the day

have prepared them,

taught them,

trained them,

and given them energy,

momentum,

grace, hope, and joy;

just a little more than they had,

and just as much as they need

for the day to come.

~Natalia

This Teaching

From her desk in the front row, she watches the teacher move amongst the desks that line the room. Her eyes tracking the woman’s movement, her hands resting on her desk, legs sprawled under her low brown desk, booted feet crossed haphazardly against the desk’s metal legs.

Sitting in the back of the classroom, I have a near-perfect view of the backs of 18 heads. I don’t always sit, but when I do, I watch 10-year-old heads bend over workbook pages, books, blank pages of paper. I watch ponytails swish as hands shoot into the air, I memorize the way little boy bedhead spikes, turns, curls.

Just now, it’s a science lesson, and all those young hands grip white science textbooks, their corners taped, laminated against the inevitable wear and tear of years of paging, reading, learning. Moving down one row, up another, their teacher talks about electricity and static shocks, and how the florescent lights above us glow like they do.

Then, as we listen and watch- the students her, and me the students- she says tempted, brings into the discussion a concept I’ve been teaching, a word I’ve defined and discussed and questioned. A word they know I’ve taught them.

And there as I watch, that little one in the front row perks up. Her blonde hair flying, she turns in her chair, swiveling around to see me. Her motion catches my attention, and I’m smiling when she catches my eye, but her excitement makes my own smile wider. She’s caught the connection, followed the trail between my lesson and this science lesson, and when that word was spoken, she remembered, and she wanted me to know.

She’s turned back almost immediately, back to hands on desk, ready to raise them high with an answer. Back to science learning and static shocks and why her ponytail always sticks to the back of her chair, or why his spikes when he takes his hat off. She’s back, but I sit at the table behind her- behind all of them- and I smile still.

Smile because that child- and those around her, no doubt- is making connections and learning concepts, and applying what she’s learning to all kinds of situations that are far beyond, far outside, what we’ve said in our lessons. But also smiling because it’s only been a week- only five short days- since I arrived in the classroom on that Monday morning early, and the way she brightened, and the way she wanted me to know that she knows, and the way she turned, grinning, knowing I would be there, knowing I would smile and nod, knowing I would catch the connection, too?

Well, it made me feel welcomed, made me feel at home, and it made me want to do this, this teaching and connecting and caring, for a long time more.

~Natalia

Previous Older Entries