29 points!?!?

Perhaps I’m a hard worker, and perhaps I’m quite passionate about what I do, but I would be a fool to take credit for something that God has done.  He is so good, and so kind to us in our weaknesses!  It just so happens that I’m a teacher and I teach all kinds of kids, with all kinds of weaknesses…here’s a snapshot of a great thing God is doing in my classroom…

Email to a parent from earlier today…(name has been changed)

Matt is definitely improving in reading!  His fluency and
comprehension have both bumped up quite a bit on the DRA test.  And on
his MAP test (on the computer).  His normal growth by the Spring would’ve
been 15 points, but he actually grew 29 points in half the time!!!!
That’s fantastic!  He’s still at about a 3rd grade level.but his growth
over the course of just months is great!  I’m so proud of himJ

…and this was a part of mom’s response…


…my conclusion?

God is SO faithful to accomplish in us what we can’t do in ourselves, by ourselves…

Girls B-Ball Tournament

So I’ve never really been all that into sports.  I never really hated watching them, but I’ve just never been
too into them…especially middle school sports (which is like, a whole new realm of sports:).

Over a month ago I was asked to take pictures at one of our middle school girls’ basketball games.  Then my smooth Athletic Director friend, Tony, got me to do concessions at a few of the games.  It was during these times that I was reminded how much I loved teenagers…which lead me right up to the girls’ b-ball tournament today.  Their first game was at 8am and then they didn’t play again until 3pm….it was a long day, and full of losses.  But I was the only teacher that came, beyondIst2_4358818_nothing_but_net their coach and 2 administrators.  I only really knew one of the girls on the team beyond "Hello" so I felt like it was funny that I was beginning to really love these girls.  Then today I got to hang out with them a little bit…and they really liked having me there!  (well some of them did:)  I had the opportunity to take some teachable moments with a couple of them, and they really cliqued with me…which was really surprising to me. 

I could never teach middle school (God bless MS teachers), but I realized today that I can still invest in their lives.  It is tough being 12, after all:)

Name Changes

Without even opening my eyes, all tangled up in my down comforter, I woke up with a couple thoughts.

First, I thought about how, a day from now I was going to be standing in front of my new class, tackling the job of getting to know their names.  And then I immediately thought of how some of them don’t think of themselves in terms of their names. (Yes, all this before I even opened my eyes:)

Some kids think their nickname is:  "Loser", "A**hole", "Shut up", or "Fool".  Others think their nickname is:  "Obnoxious", "Loud", "Stupid" or "Slow".  Still others respond to:  "Fatso", "Tubby", "Stringbean", or "Ugly". 

What response do you think I would get if I were to bring this up in my class?  Do you think my kids would sit confidently in their seats, knowing that I’m not talking to them?  Or would only a few of them do that?  Would some of them start staring at the board behind me, envisioning the moment someone named them with one of those nicknames?  How about the kid that would begin to look down at his desk, thinking I’d be talking to him…and him only?  Or what about the kid who would then, out of fear that I was going to call him out on his nickname, point to the chubbiest kid in the class and yell out, "Fatso!  She’s talking about you!"  Everyone would laugh because it would take the pressure off of them for the moment.

What if, somehow through the course of these next ten months, transformational change could take place in my kids’ lives?…so much to the point that their names were changed?

I think of how God changed Saul to Paul, Abram to Abraham, Saraii to Sarah, Kim to Kimpossible:)…there are so many more examples in the Bible of when names were changed because of either what God had done in/through them, or because of what He was promising to do in/through them.  Listed here are a few examples.

God can even change my name from "One-who-tries-to-solve-everyone’s-problems-all-the-time" to "One-who-releases-others-issues-to-Jesus" :0)  Oh, I pray for that change to occur!  I want to see my kids who are afraid to read aloud in class to be known as excellent readers (aloud).  I want to see my kids who hate writing to be known as the best in the school!  I want to see my kids who barely pass each year in math to show deep understanding of math concepts.

Oh, me and my lofty goals…:)  I suppose my goals are a bit much, compared to some of what I’ve experienced in the past.  But, as Nick from My Big Fat Greek Wedding said to Tulah, "Don’t let your past dictate who you are, but let it be a part of who you will become."  Hopefully I can communicate to my kids that who they are now will be a part of who they’ll become…in a good way, even if it’s negative right now.  A kid that isn’t much of a reader right now that can read at grade level in May should be able to say, "I couldn’t read much in September, but look at how I’ve grown!  Now I’m a Fantastic Reader!"

In conclusion (this is how a 4th grader ends his essays;), I believe that I heard God’s voice on this one this morning.  No, it wasn’t audible, but it made my heart beat faster, the more I thought about seeing kids’ names changed.  God’s changed names with the snap of a finger, but I’ve got TEN MONTHS…GO! 🙂

The Brilliance of a 5-year-old

Friday night I babysat for two of my favorite kids. 

I’d seen them on Wednesday and realized how much I’d missed their giggliness and affection.  These two kids are hilarious and so much fun to hang out with.  So I asked them if I could come over their house for a little bit…as expected, they were excited:)  The little girl, who’s 5 1/2 years old, said to me, "You know, Ms. Kim…you know how sometimes I cry when Mommy and Daddy leave and you babysit us?  Well, I don’t do that anymore.  Um, I learned that when I cry I am not using control over my emotions, but now I know how to calm down and control my emotions better."  Yes, the 5-year-old…

This little girl spends lot of time with her parents.  She’s read to, and is spoken to, as an intelligent human being.  Her parents ask her questions and never yell at her.  They talk with her to help her sort out what’s going on.  I love it!  She still cried a little when her parents left on Friday night, but I was able to calm her down by simply talking with her and asking her to just talk to me:)

My short friend is a living example of what we’re learning about in our literacy project.  She has been influenced by rich vocabulary since she was in the womb and it has been one of the greatest thing her parents have offered to her!  It’s amazing how much parents can do for their children by talking to them and asking them questions, from the time they’re babies!

There’s a study that I’ve heard about from a few different conferences/workshops that was completed at a zoo.  During the study, parents were observed in their interactions with their kids.  What was found was that parents from poverty were observed speaking very little to their children, and when they did converse with each other, the conversations were very basic and didn’t include higher level thinking skills.  Typically, (perhaps stereotypically in many cases) we assume that these same people, struggling in poverty, also don’t read very often to their kids….and don’t ask higher level thinking questions.  Is it true all the time?  Absolutely not.  But does it seem to be more the norm?  Unfortunately, yes.  And there you have one of the key disadvantages of generational poverty.  (Katie, this isn’t my post on at-risk kids, but this will definitely play a key role in that:)  So, what’s the flip side to this?  The study found that, typically, parents that were not living in poverty spoke more to their kids at the zoo, and asked those higher level thinking questions like, "What’s the pattern on the zebra?", "Do you think the lions like they’re having fun with each other?  Why?"  "How are the monkeys and the polar bears alikeDifferent?"  Patterns, inferencing, comparing…these are all things that parents need to be doing with their kids from the time they can understand you!  The families in poverty tend to struggle to see this…but I would venture to guess that they are mostly unaware, and some might even be unable.  If they weren’t brought up with a rich vocabulary, themselves, how can they (all of a sudden, in their late teens or early twenties) offer that to their own kids?…and thus starts the cycle all over again. 

This is why what I’m learning about right now as a teacher will revolutionize (I hope:) what happens to the kids in my classroom.  The 9-year-old kids that I have, living in generational poverty, who don’t even begin to have the words of my little 5-year-old friend from earlier, will have a chance by being in my classroom.  I’m going to make sure of it.  The amount of time I’ll put into planning is definitely going to get on my nerves, but my hope (and prayer) is that I will see growth in my kids like never before.  It makes me want to ask for all the lowest kids in 4th grade:)  Hmmm…we’ll see.

Here’s my point.  We tend to look at all kids, like my short friend, as if they’re these little geniuses!  We think they’re the smartest kids in the world and that they must have really high IQ’s.  Are all of these things possible?  Sure!  But are they probable?  Um…maybe not.  See, if all parents spent time reading and talking with their kids in the same way as my friends, all kids would sound like geniuses.  Doesn’t that make some sense?  They would all have some foundation in knowing how to express themselves and it would be simply fantastic.  Then, by the time they got to school, teachers could simply build on that foundation…instead of teaching it for the first time.  Oh, it would be beautiful!


Manos de Jesus

Manos de Jesus-Hands of Jesus.  That’s the organization that we’re working with Dsc03495 here.

One of the key aspects to the organization is the feeding program.  They feed over 1500 kids a couple times a week, but before the kids eat they get experience kids’ church…it’s a whole lot of fun!  I’m definitely missing my students, so this was a great relief to hang out with kids-really cute kids:) 

We sang several songs, all in Spanish of course.  And we did many, many, many motions.  The kids were cracking up at me because I kept trying to get the motions down.  The words, notsomuch, but the motions connected them with me.  It’s amazing how much kids love you more when you’re willing to make a fool out of yourself.  This is a trait that God is still perfecting in me.  Jesus put himself in a position to look like a fool for the sake of people.  I’m usually okay with putting myself out there; I’m usually okay with laughing at myself.  Take my word for it-you don’t need to test me on this:)

To be the hands of Jesus is to be Jesus incarnate.  It seems like that keeps coming up through many people…how fitting.

Cinco Quetzales

**Due to technical difficulties, this post is actually from Sunday:)

I just paid cinco quetzales for a picture with this little girl.  (7.5 Q’s are $1, so…) She Dsc03452 followed my friends, Joe and Elizabeth Foote (the Feet:) and me around the market for about 15 minutes.  I started talking to her, and I’m pretty sure she looked into my eyes:)  She said she was nine years old, which is the age of my 4th graders.  That impacted me too much.  I didn’t want anything she was selling, so I asked her if I could give her 5 for a picture with me.  She liked that.

The Feet and I are wiped out from trying to barter for the past couple of hours.  I’m really thankful that God has helped me to remember as much Spanish as I do!  I’m actually quite surprised at how well I’ve been doing.  There was this one boy, Jeremy, who latched onto us for awhile.  He knew a little English and translated a few things for us.  He was a cute kid, thirteen years old, and in the sixth grade.  While we were walking, I asked him if he knew who Jesus Christ was.  He said that he did and we talked for a minute about the Lord…but I couldn’t remember enough Spanish words to really talk much.  I’ll definitely pray for Jeremy tonight. 

Hasta lluego!

What’s in Your Heart?

I took this picture at Ross’ school.Dsc03008

Stephanie is a room mom in his class and goes in to read with him and his reading buddy, Sean, twice a week.  (How great is that?)  Tuesday I got to go with her.

When we got there the kids were just finishing up recess, so I checked out the bulletin boards in the hallway. 

This is Ross’ heart.  My assumption is that the assignment had the students write as many things as they could think of that they love

**To be honest, I was a touch disappointed that I didn’t make it onto the heart.  😦  But the way that Ross jumped onto my lap in front of his class when we sat down to read completely showed me that I was in his real heart.  🙂

But anyway, click on the heart to make it a little bigger and easier to read.  He has all the major important things on there like…

  • Sophie (the girl he likes)
  • God
  • grandparents
  • Christians
  • cartoons
  • pizza
  • Guess Who
  • Coke A Cola 
  • football
  • Sean (his reading partner)
  • soccer
  • my family
  • network (I wonder what he’s thinking of on this one)
  • my books
  • rice
  • my church friends
  • my birthday
  • Superbowl
  • my six pack (he really does love his six pack:)

As an exercise, grab a big piece of construction paper and cut out a big heart.  Fill it with as many things as you can think of that you love.  See what you come up with!  Hey, if you love your six pack, throw it on there!