Saturday, July 6, 2013

Following The Road Signs

Have you read Make Way For Ducklings recently? It is such a precious book. It is about  these baby ducks and the parents of the ducklings just trying to find the best place to raise them and the encounters with helpful or not helpful people along the way.  By the end of the book, they find themselves safe and sound on an island in a park.

I would like to suggest that life is a mirror of this book. We spend a great deal of time trying to find the best fit, the best place to live, the best way to learn and the best people to love. We too encounter some amazing people along the journey like the duck family did. We also encounter some people who like the cars in the book, would not stop to help and don't give us the time of day.

Onward we go in life like this for a season. Sometimes, the season lasts forever. The calendar flips and years go by and you begin to wonder what the journey is all about. Until one day, you spy an island like the duck family did and you know that here, who you are as a person will be kept safe and sound.  Not an island of isolation, but as in the book, an island where the world is all around  you and you can see it and interact with it, yet be completely safe.

I want to paint for you a picture this little island of respite that I have found after 20 years of teaching numerous positions, thousands of students, several classroom swaps, moving to schools and  encountering administration changes.  I can't a paint this picture for you without several road signs that have brought me to this point over the course of a few years to the present.

The first road sign was knowing deep in my heart for whatever reason that it was the season to go to grad school. Raising two kids on my own on a limited budget of no money but tons of hopes and dreams is not easy and there never seemed to be the right time. One day, in the beginning of March of 2013, I woke up. It was almost like awakening from a coma. It was the right time. I knew it and it could not be denied.  Thankfully I was admitted back into Bethel University which I had attended for undergraduate work.  This was not a small
step. This was stepping out in faith. Frankly, I am very anxiously excited because I don't know where it is going to lead, but it will lead somewhere! I recently shared with a friend one of my favorite verses about how God is working in our lives. It comes from Samuel 3:11 I found this verse when my divorce from my daughter's dad about did me in and I wondered what was God up to. Well, even in the quiet over and over, I was reminded verse after verse in the Bible that he is up to something. We don't know what it is, but it is going to be awesome. This was the first road sign. “Move ahead Kimberly, I am up to something.” I will trust this road sign.

“The LORD said to Samuel, "Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which both ears of 
everyone who hears it will tingle.”

The second road sign was joining Twitter and discovering an amazing PLN network of people who are passionate educators. They come from all walks of life, and a variety of places in the world and subject matter and levels of leadership. I have covered this extensively in several blog posts prior to this as well as I
have referred to my Twitter PLN in several writings for my grad class. I just sent a lovely note to some of the ladies in my PLN. In a way I sent it to all of them, I just can't put in everyone's name, but all could see it. It was a poster that says the following quote by e.e. cummings,

 “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” 

I bet he didn't capitalize it. Isn't that an amazing quote? These friends, mentors and members of my PLN have in the past four months given me the courage to become who I really am. There is so much encouragement, so much mentorship, so much affirmation that I can't contain my thankfulness. I am with like minded, passion driven educators and leaders. I am so glad I didn't miss this road sign.

The third road sign was a combination of reviewing the work from Howard Gardner for my class and applying it to a conference I had taken with Margaret Koch where I became aware of the multiple intelligences. She gave as well as Gardner gave affirmation to my spirit for what I already knew. It is important for students to know that they are smart, and understand how God made them smart so that they can be smart and become world changers.

This holistic learning belief  is important to me because so often there are have been people in my life and there are people in the lives of my students to make them feel as if they are not smart and that their ideas don't matter.  I learned from her how to speak against that belief for the sake of not only myself but my children and my students.  This road sign was just a confirmation on my heart to make sure that I am assisting in building up the next generation not tearing them down. It was a revolutionary road sign.

The final road sign I have come across that assures me that I am on the right path was the book Teach With Your Strengths: How Great Teachers Inspire Their Students by Liesveld and Miller. I had never heard of the book, nor did the names ring a bell. What an amazing book!  There I learned which strengths I flourish in. It was a strong top eight! However, my core five signature themes were the following:

  • Belief
  • Connectedness
  • Learner
  • Passion 
  • Woo

I saw how all these themes have been the foundation of my educational practice since I started teaching stuffed animals to sing.  They are a God given strength and because of that, I have cultivated them over the years I have spent in education not as purposefully in the past as I am now though.

You know, road signs are important to follow! They lead us to a destination that we long to get to.  Even when you may not know what that destination holds.

This reminds me of the destination in store for the caterpillar.  Hanging upside down with guts turning into mush, I bet it is wondering what God is up to, what this whole cocoon and darkness thing is all about, but it is changing it into something glorious. Even in the seed waiting to pop out from the depths of the soil to come into the light and drink from the sun and rain, I bet it is wondering what God is up to. I believe like this when we work with students. God is up to something in their life. He is in mine. He is in yours. I LOVE it!

In Psalm 139:13-16 (The Message) it says:

"Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously 
made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know 
every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was 
sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow 
from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, 
The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day." 

Island in Make Way For Ducklings
Like the butterfly in the cocoon or the seed in the soil, the students we have are in a state of becoming. They are worth more than a data score, though that is important.  I encourage you that if you look just at  the data score, you will miss the glory that God wants you to see, the heart, soul and strengths of the child and how he shaped them! Tap that, and you'll close the achievement gap!

I have appreciated my journey as a teacher so far! I am glad to have found the road signs to make it to my island right now where I can see how so many things fit together, not just for me and my profession but for the sake of the students and the glory of God. 

PS: I am also okay with God moving in life and kicking me off my island to discover what he wants to reveal to me. He has the right to disrupt my world and my life for his glory and again, I'll look for the road signs to follow his direction. All I want to be is the hands and feet of Jesus. I will go where he sends me.