Day 19: Just a Conversation

Just this week I volunteered to help out during the lunch hour in our school cafeteria. I was very against this at the beginning of the year seeing as I did it all year last year and it was 0% fun. Loud kids screaming across the gymnasium, sauce spilling everywhere, sticky packets to open from even stickier little hands, and too. much. garbage. Count me OUT.

But then of course, plea after plea I finally caved. I decided I’d work in the cafeteria until the end of the year. Pray for me.

Today was only day two but I’ve already learned one very valuable thing. The kids that make the most noise, the most mess, and are the most demanding, want and need the most love. They crave just a conversation. A conversation with an adult who, for just a minute, can take an interest in them as more than the “problem child.” Some of my most treasured relationships in this building are my relationships with the kiddos who throw the most tantrums and are sent to the office most frequently. Now, granted, I don’t teach these students all day every day so I don’t pretend to know what it’s like hour after hour in a small classroom with these students who demand attention however they can achieve it. But I do have the lunch room. I do have time for minute conversations. I can give them that.

Who comes to mind when you think of “problem child” or “problem friend”? What can you do differently? Can you spare just a conversation?

Day 18: March 18, 1994

March 18, 1994 was a special day. Granted, I wasn’t alive for it yet, but I would be just a month from that day.

Today is my best friend’s birthday. I’m probably going to start crying as I type this post because after college, Jenna got married and moved to Maine with her husband. From her house to mine is exactly sixteen hours and fifty-four minutes. Way too far.

Jenna and I met in our composition class in college freshman year. I remember having to read a selection from a book and act it out with a group. Jenna was so funny. We became fast friends. Sophomore year, we signed up for classes together because we were both education majors and didn’t want to take classes alone. We did projects together, had late study sessions in the library, and ate a lot of junk food on the weekends as we watched Phantom of the Opera (our personal fave). Jenna started dating someone her sophomore year, a guy named Mason. I seriously think he’s an angel. He went to our school for a year and then had to transfer back home to Maine for personal reasons. Thus began Jenna’s long distance relationship. As hard as it was for her, and trust me it was hard, it was also hard on me. It’s not easy watching your best friend hurt so deeply for someone she grew to love and knew she’d one day marry.

Junior and senior year were sort of a blur. Classes got more intense, field experiences began, and our friendship grew stronger even still. Jenna’s long distance relationship with Mason seriously taught me what love really looked like. Even though they didn’t see each other face to face quite often, their relationship was built on truth, honesty, and friendship. I don’t think Jenna’s capable of having relationships built on anything else which is why we clicked and became close so fast. I like to think I was there for her on the hard days (which I was), but she really was my person. We “got” each other. When Mason proposed, I was thrilled for the two of them. I felt like I had a front row seat watching their relationship unfold.

Senior year was full of wedding planning and wedding showers galore up until her wedding day. I joke with Mason that he stole her away from me, but truly he was bringing her home and I knew our friendship could stand the test of time and (too many) miles. I stood up in their wedding, and she in mine years later. She’s the sister I never had, the best friend I’ve always wanted.

Today is her birthday. She’s 25 and getting ready to embark on her next adventure. Mason and Jenna move to North Carolina next month and I’m not complaining. I’ve loved visiting Maine but I’m ready for the beach! Next week I travel once more to Portland where I’ll spend a week with her. I can’t wait to help her pack, read a book to her first grade classroom, and binge watch TV shows while eating too much chocolate.

It’s so special to have someone you know you can always rely and depend on. Jenna is that person for me. I count myself very lucky to have a friend like Jenna – a friend turned sister.

Happy Birthday, sweet Jenna. Who is one friend you are grateful for?

Day 17: Formula

This morning at church, our sermon series has been all about living a life that is “fully devoted.” I loved the part where our pastor said this:

Information + Application = Transformation

A simple yet powerful formula. Now, in my life, I view this from a couple different standpoints. Obviously I want to glorify God in how I live my life (if you know me, that’s probably not a surprise!) but I also think this formula can be applied elsewhere. In fact, during the sermon, I was thinking about school. About my students.

As their teacher, I am the one supplying information. I teach the sounds vowels make, how they fit together with consonants, various “rule breakers” (thanks, English language) and try to show how it applies in passages and books. We practice blending to help our decoding which then helps our fluency and before we know it – ta da! We can read.

However, there’s the application piece. This is the part I can help provide but it is my students job to apply themselves and the information I’ve given. They have to be the ones who step out and take risks to learn and grow. That leads to the next step.

Transformation. In school, this transformation can be as little as my students recognizing digraphs for the first time and suddenly they are fluently tapping out and blending words with digraphs. That’s huge! Transformation, I’m learning, takes time. It’s a process that oftentimes doesn’t even happen in an entire school year. While my students are working on the application piece, I am bettering my information piece and together we both transform.

Day 16: Whirlwind

I had every intention to write today about how great our Saturday was. Truly! The weather was so nice. Still a bit chilly, but sunny and so refreshing. Hayden and I got a lot of errands done today which is always a great feeling. I was able to clean the house a bit and Hayden and I had a little date night this evening.

In all the commotion of a both relaxing yet busy Saturday, here I am late at night struggling to find words that capture our day! So instead, I’ll keep it short.

Today was bright. It was fun. Today was a whirlwind. A good one.

Day 15: Parent Teacher Conferences, day two

We meet again, computer screen. I’ve had two conferences this afternoon that went super well! One student we are hoping to reevaluate and terminate his IEP, so that’s exciting! Another student’s parents I met with for the first time this school year and it was amazing to share progress with her about her son. I love my job.

The rest of today I’ve spent organizing my cabinets, making copies, writing lesson plans, you name it. I feel productive today. I’ve got some calm indie music playing in the background as my fingers click and type away. I’m enjoying this calm before tonight when I go to my parents restaurant to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. My mom makes stew, Irish soda bread, and corned beef and cabbage. My cousin comes to sing Irish folk songs and there’s a bagpipe player who plays while people talk over their beer and appetizers. I’m excited. Us Walsh’s LOVE St. Patrick’s Day. Now that I’m a Bradley (still kind of Irish), I have to show my hubby how it’s done!

Just a couple more hours here, Erin. You can do it. Then you get an ice cold beer and are allowed to wear an endless amount of green. Hello, weekend!

Day 14: Parent Teacher Conferences, night one

Ah, today’s that day us teachers sit in our classrooms waiting for parents to arrive (or not arrive) for a fifteen minute chat about how their child is doing in the classroom. As a special education teacher, I don’t have a full class, which means that I don’t have very many parents that choose to come talk with me about their child’s progress. For that reason, here I sit. Writing on my blog. Chewing some gum. Crossing my fingers somebody brings me a coffee to keep me alive, awake, alert, and enthusiastic.

However, for the parents that I do get to sit with tonight…man oh man. I am so excited to share the growth I’ve seen in my kiddos this year. Being my second full year of teaching, I’ve only had one prior year to compare growth to. I’m amazed. Amazed at what can happen in just one year. Kiddos I met in kindergarten who didn’t even know the letters in their own first name are reading 70+ sight words and utilizing sound-tapping skills to blend sounds together to make words. I met with a parent tonight who has been so concerned about her son’s growth and when I shared how he’s actually the leader in our group because he works hard and perseveres even when it’s hard, she started to cry. Cry! I’m not a parent but I imagine that, God-willing, when I am someday I will react the same way.

I feel proud on an almost daily basis. I say almost because let’s be real. Not everyday in teacher land is a dream boat. Some days are hide-your-tears-tough-it-out-today-is-just-Monday-you-are-an-adult days. But then there are the wow-I-am-so-amazed-you-just-did-that-yourself-look-how-you-are-growing days. Those days are the reason I went in to the field of education. The look on a child’s face when it finally “clicks.” I live for that.

So, yes. I’m tired and cranky because I miss my dog and my bed and today’s a long day. But today (and tomorrow) is also full of so much joy and appreciation from parents for the help I am privileged to give their children.

Stay tuned for day two…

Day 13: Windows Down

For the first time in a long time, I drove with the windows cracked just a peep today! My dog spent the day at my parents house while I was at work because my brother is in town from Texas, where he goes to school, and wanted to see her. I dropped her off this morning and was honestly a little disappointed at the gray color outside. By lunch, I felt the same. When I left work after a tutoring session though, the temperature shocked my system!

Though it was still gray and a little rainy here and there, Camper and I drove with the windows down. She loved every minute. I really need a car wash because, wow, the windows of my small car are covered in puppy licks and nose marks. She loves the car.

Spring, we are ready for you! More days of windows down, please!