Prelude to the Book Talk by Don Miller

This afternoon I beat the traffic and headed up to Baltimore to hear one of my all-time favorite authors speak about his new book and some other great things to be apart of, like The Mentoring Project.  It was well worth the $7 round-trip (says my GPS) to get there:)  I enjoy reading and devouring Don Miller's work, so excited doesn't truly describe how I felt earlier today.

He writes well and I was confident he would also speak well, so I arrived with my journal…and here's my prelude…

I'm sitting in a Presbyterian church.  It's pretty and uncomfortable.  My back's been aching too much today…after 8 days of being pain-free.  I thought this was gone, but I guess not completely.  Anyway, the pews in this church are hard.  Sure, there's pew-length-long foam cushions, but they don't offer much-plus they move.  I'm not complaining.  I'm just saying.  Leave me here long enough and I will surely find 300 things to critique…which is why I'll just amuse myself with my own writing instead…and I'll start reading Don's book for the 2nd time this month.  It's worth reading once a month, but twice during the first one for sure.

…This older gentleman in a suit keeps walking people down the aisle to one of the doors to the side of the stage.  I think he's taking them to the bathroom, since it's obviously the way to the rest of the building (the entrance was just the entrance).  I'm not feeling super well and want to know where the bathroom is, but I'm afraid that I already know.  So, what if I have to go while Don is speaking?

*I just realized that Colbie Callait is playing in the speakers.  I love that.  Do I need to explain why?  I mean, they could be playing Rebecca St. James, which would be fine, but expected.  I didn't expect Colbie. 🙂

Yea, so I'm nervous that I'll have to go while my favorite hero author guy is speaking.  Could I let him know ahead of time-or slip him a note as I walk past him to exit to the john?

Sorry, Don.  I really want to hear the whole thing, but the greasy pizza from Mamma Cucina's is not completely agreeing with my insides right now.  Believe me, it would be a ton worse if I didn't go right now.  You might just want to trust me on this one.

        Your Biggest Fan,

        The Cute Redhead in the 5th Row

One of the things that makes this church a little uncomfortable for me is that there's only one entrance/exit to each pew.  I can see that they were trying to conserve aisle space, but it's just so awkward.  I'm sitting on the end (due to said problem earlier), in the 5th row, and I know that people would love to take up more of this pew, but they feel weird asking if they can hop over me to sit on the other side of me.  I certainly cannot offer to move in through, not now.  

…And now my biggest fear is confirmed…"Sir, excuse me.  Can you point me in the direction of the restrooms?"  "Do you wanna go now?"  "No."  "Okay, you go through those doors, to the left, down the stairs.  Go down the right hallway, take the next left, do 16 jumping jacks and 40 pushups, and it'll be on the right."…or was that "up the stairs?"  Great, so not only will I have to disrupt my favorite author, just to go potty, but I'll also miss half the talk because I won't be able to find the bathroom!  Maybe I should ask for a map.  Or perhaps I should update my FB status right now to ask all of my Christian friends to pray that I don't have to go to the bathroom for the next 3 1/2 hours.

Finally-2 cool people just sat next to me.  The guy made a joke about the doors on the pews.  Did I mention that?  The pews have doors on them.  Do they not want people to leave?  Do you have to hand in your tithe before they'll let you out?  "No, ma'am.  I'm sorry…that was only 9%.  The pew door is staying closed until you cough up the rest."  Why do I feel like trying to be a comedian tonight?  And why do I sound so cynical?  I'm not really, I'm just super intrigued by this church…But I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that Donald Miller inspires me to write-good, bad, ugly-the guy inspires me to be real with my thoughts-even the ones that don't have a chance of coming through as super-holy.  Hmm.

Ah, we're so close to starting…

So there you have it.  My prelude.  These were my thoughts as I sat in the very pretty church, waiting for the man-writer of my dreams Donald Miller, to come out!

I have to do a plug for Susan Isaacs, too, though.  She had about 15 minutes on stage before Don came out, and she's just as gut-wrenchingly raw and honest as he is.  She's the female version of him.  I absolutely loved listening to her and truly look forward to buying her book, Angry Conversations with God, as well.  I am working on my honesty too-beyond, "Yes, I really do like your hair.  It looks great.":)  Susan will challenge me with this.  I encourage you to check out both of the books I've mentioned…and then read them twice.

How could I almost forget to mention this?  So I'm totally starstruck by this guy, for dumb reasons because I know he's just normal…but the whole time he's talking I'm all excited about the thought of getting my book signed by him, and I'm trying to come up with the best thing to say when I go up and meet him.  So what did I say?  I get to the table, 4 things in my head to choose from and…"Thanks!"  That was it.  My big moment to say whatever I wanted and I said, "Thanks!"  And I didn't even break out my camera.  :(

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Day 2. Made about 10 kids cry.

Okay, it's not as bad as it sounds, but today I decided that I either made a great choice, or a horrible choice…Here's what happened.  (and this is our 2nd day in)

For Social Studies in 5th grade, I'm teaching about early America.  Wanting to read some great historical fiction, I chose this book called Fever 1793.  It's about a time when yellow fever hit Philadelphia and wiped out about 5,000 people in 3 months!  The story opens with a girl suddenly losing her good friend to the fever.  So the literacy teacher that I am, I decide to allow my students to build a connection with this main character, who has lost someone close to her!  (Sounds innocent enough, right?)

In their journals they were to respond in one of two ways:  a)tell about a time that someone you know passed away, and how you felt, or b) tell what you think it would be like to experience something like that…what if you found out that your best friend passed away in the night…how would that effect you?

Okay, I admit it's a little deep for 5th graders…but in my class, we go deep.  What I didn't foresee is the number of kids that I would have sobbing and wailing over the thoughts of losing people that were dear to them…an uncle, a brother, a dad committing suicide, a grandfather…I'm so not kidding, the list went on.  Thankfully (and I say that loosely), some kids were just writing about a pet, or they didn't actually have any experiences to write about, but wow…the ones that did!  Good night, I'm sure that it was good for them in one sense, but I simply didn't have the man-power to counsel all of the kids that were needing it right then!  I've never, ever seen so many kids passionately crying in one room before. 

I stepped out of my room for a moment to tell my friend that I felt like a horrible teacher!  …I mean, 10 kids…I made 10 kids cry today!  Aye!

To Next Year and Beyond

So I have had this thing with my teaching certification…it expires next June. There are 2 different levels of teacher certificates around here:  Provisional and Professional.  You get your Provisional right out of college.  The state of Michigan, in order to collaborate with the colleges to squeeze as much money out of its teachers keep up with No Child Left Behind standards for teachers, require that a teacher needs to either take at least 9 credits to renew her Provisional certificate within 5 years, or take 18 credits (or a Master’s Degree) to get her Professional certificate. 

For the last several years I’ve looked and looked and tried to see how on earth I could possibly budget to take some classes to renew my certificate in June of ’09, but it just wasn’t happening.  I didn’t want anymore debt…I had a peace that it wasn’t God’s plan for my life.  I’ve looked for different ways to try to get grants to pay for it-or at least help-but with no such luck. 

Last year when I started the Literacy Project with some great professionals in my field, I thought for sure that it was going to open up a door with Grand Valley State University to receive some sort of credit to help me out with my certification…but nada.  So here I learned all this wonderful stuff, applied it, saw myself grow as a teacher, and I’ve known all spring that I wouldn’t be able to teach after this school year.  Part of me, honestly, was kind of burnt out and I wasn’t too sad about stepping out of the classroom. 

Something happened at the end of the school year (and I was encouraged by a WONDERFUL woman named Susan…one of my teaching mentors and friends) to not let go of my dream to keep teaching.  Susan really did play a great role in this, because the woman had nothing to gain or lose by me stepping out, nor staying in…but she’s seen me in my classroom, with my kids, teaching my kids…and she really, truly believes in me as a teacher!  I seriously can’t deny the power that happens when someone who knows what they’re talking about, tells you that you have a true gift for something…it does something in your heart.  (Don’t ever forget that when you’re speaking into someone’s life!  Especially if you know what you’re talking about…what you say really means something:) 

Anywho, my heart was rejuvenated, and I began to really seek God again for further direction.  I started jumping down a few different thought paths that after a day or two, definitely didn’t seem like the paths that were meant for me.  And then one day, less than 2 weeks ago, (and literally 1 day after asking a group of friends to pray for my decision-making in this area of my life-thanks friends!) I landed on this website, for the National Board Certification for teachers

I think I’d heard of national teacher certification before, but I’d never known anything about it (although I figured that it would probably be a big deal).  I’ve never known anyone that had it, and after these past couple weeks, have only found 1 person who’s ever even heard of it!  I spent some time on the website, asked some questions to other educators and people at the state department…oh yeah, and I prayed about it:)  In three days I’d had my decision (I knew I had to move quickly because of deadlines) and I applied to go through the process to become nationally certified as a teacher! 

The process doesn’t cost nearly what it would cost for me to take the credits I was needing, and the state of Michigan gives out grants that will cover half of it (not many people actually apply, so there’s a good chance I’ll receive the grant).  It will give me my Professional certificate in Michigan for 10 years!

I’m sure that I’ll have lots of things to say about the process, but for now, you can know that it’s going to take a lot of planning, organization, mad teacher skills ;-P, reflection, time, patience, and God’s creativity to pull off.  The odds are actually against me…only 40% of the teachers who apply for this ever get it, and typically teachers have 3 yearly teaching cycles to complete each part well enough to pass (if you don’t do well on one of the 5 parts, you could always pay to retake that part the next year)…I only have one year of teaching left, so this next year is my only chance!  I have until March 31st to complete my entire portfolio (many teachers have been working on this since January) and I also have to take a 6 hour long assessment on things that aren’t covered in the intensive portfolio pieces.

It seems like I’m a touch on the crazy side right now…but I have to admit that I’m running with some serious adrenaline to walk through this intensive process, and to do it well.  Only having one chance at this is very risky, but I honestly feel that God led me to this place.  I don’t believe in gambling, but I do believe in taking risks.  Risk-taking isn’t necessarily my forte, but I do value it and know that sometimes it’s just what God is calling you to do.

Needless to say, I’m excited about this opportunity to step into something a bit bigger than I’ve ever expected.  But, remember that Literacy Project that I’ve been working through?…yea, everything I need to know for this certification process I learned through the project.  Can’t help it but think that God was setting me up. 😉  All this, not to even mention the fact that I’m moving up with my students to teach 5th grade this next year, which will end up being amazing because I get to jump right into the year (and the cert process) already knowing my kids!

Grow. It’s What We Do.

That’s the title of my class’ new blog!!!

So, being the teacher of communication through literacy that I am, I decided that this would be the year I would start a blog for my class.  Of course I’m really excited to see if I actually keep up with it, but I think that about 2/3 of my class has the Internet at home, so I could really utilize it as a great communication tool between parents and me.  My hope is that I will be able to even post an article about once a week (or so) from a student about what we’re learning in class.  (Wouldn’t that be awesome?) 

You’re welcome to check it out here, but please don’t make any reference to this blog…I’d rather the kids not read this one:)

Contributing in the Name Of

In August of 2004, some "genius" decided that I would be a good candidate to teach 2nd grade in Detroit.  He had no idea what he was getting himself into by hiring me…and neither did I.  This guy held a couple of leadership roles at that first school when I was there, but basically, he was my boss.  Our school shut down and we all parted ways…but this school year, my former boss, Paddock (we go by last names at our school) came on as our Vice Principal.  This has been a very cool thing for so many reasons, none of which I will delve into right now.  But this is where I’m headed at the moment…Paddock’s father passed away the other night after battling with lung cancer.  I can see that it’s been a tough thing for him and his family to journey through.  For whom wouldn’t it be?  We were informed today that if we wanted to, we could make contributions to the American Cancer Society, in his name.  It struck a thought with me…

So Mr. Paddock passed away due to lung cancer, and they’d like contributions to something that could potentially help someone like him in the future.

If I passed into eternity, where would I like contributions to be made?  I haven’t come to my conclusion quite yet, but here are a few ponderings.

I love giving to missions (aka people who serve Jesus by serving others…well, that should be all followers of Jesus…but more specifically, those who are depending on others to support them financially and prayerfully).  That’s a definite possibility.

You can’t deny the fact that I love kids and teaching, so it would also make perfect sense if I wanted donations made to the school I work with, or for there to be a one time scholarship made to a current student of mine at the time (or even former student of mine). 

Also in light of my love for teaching and literacy, wouldn’t it be cool for people to donate books in my name to kids in poverty?  It would have to be tagged with my life testimony or something though…

Cancer has reared its ugly face in my family (most recently with my mom’s sister who was just told that she had cervical cancer and only a few months to live), so I could very well like to also give to the American Cancer Society.

What am I most passionate about that needs money?  I’m not ready to answer that question just yet, although to be honest, the book thing made my heart beat a little bit faster.  I don’t know though.  It’s an interesting thing to think about though, huh?

Searching for What?

I can honestly say that I’m in a searching mode.  This journey that I’m on has me searching on a few
different things…and I think I’m finally okay with that.  Phil and Emily, a couple of great friends of mine, have started a LifeGroup through my church, and we’re going through the book, Searching for God Knows What, by Donald Miller. 

First of all, this guy’s an absolute riot.  Here, check out the first chapter of this book.  I just did, and I’m in love with his style.  This is how I want to write!  (Although I probably won’t be attending any of those writing seminars like he mentioned in the chapter…go ahead and read it…you know you want to!)

Anywho, from what I gather, the general basis of the book is that knowing God is not formulaic, and he’s about to prove it to me-or rather just give me more solid reasons as to why I already think Book2that’s true.  Either way, I genuinely look forward to feasting on this guy’s words…and trying to pick up a few writing nuances along the way. 

Here’s a paragraph that captured me:

I know there are people who have actually gone from misery to happiness, but
they didn’t do it by walking through three steps; they did it because they had a certain set
of parents and heard a certain song and knew somebody who had a certain experience
and saw some movie then read some book then had something happen to them like a car
wreck or a trip to Seattle, and then they called on God and a week later read something in
a magazine or met a girl in Wichita, and when all this had happened they had an
epiphany, and somebody may have helped them fulfill what this epiphany made them
feel, and several years later they rationalized this mystic experience with three steps, then
they told the three steps to us in a book. And I’m not saying they weren’t trying to be
helpful; I bring this up only because life is complex, and the idea you can break it down,
or fix it in a few steps is rather silly. The truth is there are a million steps, and we don’t
even know what the steps are and, worse, at any given moment we may not be willing or
even able to take them and still worse they are different for you and me and they are
always changing. I have come to believe the sooner we find this truth beautiful, the
sooner we will fall in love with God on His terms, who keeps shaking things up, keeps
changing the path, keeps rocking the boat to test our faith in Him, teaching us not to rely
on easy answers, bullet points, magic mantras or genies in lamps, but rather in His
guidance, His existence, His mercy and His love.

On the Edge of their Seats!

So my coach, Susan, mentioned this book called Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke to my class, right before Christmas break.  I’d never heard of the book before, but she told my class that I would spend some time over my break to go buy the book so I could read it to them.  (How thoughtful of her!:)  Well, because I tend to like most of the things Susan suggests to me, I decided to do just that, and I purchased this (somewhat) enormous little novel to read to my kids.  It’s deeply rich red cover is kind of inviting anyway.  Of course, after I bought it I realized that she’d already ordered it for my classroom…we just didn’t realize it!  But oh well, one can never have too many books in a classroom…especially a teacher like me!Inkheart

By the way that she talked about the book, I was kind of antsy to get started on it, but I waited until the day we went back to begin reading it.  Everyday, now, I go to open this book and my kids’ little patoots are on the edge of their little seats!  This book is so fantastic that I can literally stop at suspenseful moments and pretend like I’m going to stop reading, every few pages if I wanted to!  And when I do stop…oh the groaning and pleading that happens!  It certainly tickles my funny bone in special ways, and as a teacher, I love that they love it when I read to them.  Reading to kids causes their own hunger for reading to increase dramatically, because they realize just how much fun it can be!  There’s no reason why they can’t steal away into their own little bookworm world on their own, outside of the classroom too! 

I would recommend Inkheart, but with supervision, and censoring if you so desire.  It has some slightly vulgar language during certain parts, but because I’m reading it to my class, I don’t actually say those words.  Plus, I have a couple boys who are reading it in my class, and they’re the ones that pointed the words out to me.  It was a great teachable moment to say, "You know, sometimes we come across things that we know are inappropriate for us to say or express, and we have to decide what we’re going to do with them.  What do you think?  Would you have the right to speak like that in class, just because I let you read a book that says that?…Right…so we have choices to make!  That’s all." 

Oh, and great news!  Next winter, Inkheart the movie will come out!  But if you are a reader, then please, please read the book before then.  While the movie looks good, I can already tell that the book will absolutely be better than the movie.  One more thing…this is the first of a trilogy of good vs. evil fantasy.  (Can’t wait to finish so I can read the next one!)