Tuesday, July 24, 2012

For Those who Love the Children

happiest LAST WEEK of TFA SUMMER INSTITUTE, yall!  We're on the home stretch...!  It's hard to believe the end is finally drawing near.  Three days from now, I will be sayin' see ya later Philly and headin' HOME to Washington, DC!  While the past few weeks have been stinkin' INSANE, the time has actually gone by rather quickly.  My schedule has been full to the brim with so many new faces, early mornings, turkey sandwiches, weak coffee, life lessons, lesson plans, a few tears here and there, blisters, sweat (it's just the truth!), and so much more.  I've met some of the most precious little munchkins I've ever known.  But that's only the beginning of it!  I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by people who truly care so much about educating the future leaders of our country -- people who care about making an impact and making change from the ground upward.  All that being said, it has been a whirlwind.  We've had so much information thrown at us, I pray to the good Lord above I will be able to retain all of it -- or at least 75% of it... :)

My first day of teaching I taught for a little under three hours, and literally afterwards I couldn't move.  I had never felt more physically and emotionally exhausted in my life.  THREE HOURS, people.  I literally said afterward, "That was harder than running a marathon.  That is the HARDEST thing I've ever done."  And I'm pretty sure it was in some regards.

The kids agreed.. :)

Motivating, loving, directing, and oh right TEACHING ten little three and four year old munchkins is SO stinkin' hard.  They don't know how to sit still.  They barely know how to wash their hands.  They don't know how to share.  They pick their boogers.  They cry.  They poke each other and hold their books upside down.  They eat crap off the floor.  They stick their fingers in each other's ears.  They allllllllll want to be the line leader.  They have boundless amounts of energy.

But I love them.

I love the little nuggets!

I wanna bring 'em all home with me!

Although let me tell ya, it wasn't particularly so from the beginning.  There have been plenty of moments I've pondered the idea of whether or not I could just make a difference in the lives of American youth by just chattin' with them at the supermarket or buyin' lemonade from neighborhood lemonade stands...  And there have been moments when I've thought perhaps I don't want to be around kids at all... just kidding.  But the thought has run through my mind at least once... or maybe twice... :)

But somehow over the course of the past four weeks, the Lord has drastically changed my heart (He's pretty good at that when things line up with His will...), and I love them!  I love their snotty noses and their 5,000 questions and fact that we have spills every morning at breakfast and every afternoon at lunch.  I love their little smiles and watching them learn to help one another and share with their fellow man (pre-k-ite).  I love hearing their little giggles, and I've even grown to love them when they're not paying attention, when one of them is crying on the floor, and another is playing with my toes during read aloud.  (It sounds like I don't have very good classroom management ... Let's just say it's not my strongest quality ... But gosh dangit they are SO WELL LOVED!)

Our classroom of little men and women has made incredible strides this summer.  So many of them have learned shapes and colors and rhyming words and sorting and one-to-one correspondence (for the most part) and how to sit crisscross applesauce with peanut butter hands!  But above all, I hope and pray that when they leave our classroom on Friday, they walk out knowing we believe in them -- we believe good and bad moments coupled together, they are worth it.

I've grown to believe that you can make a difference wherever you are.  Everywhere -- literally everywhere -- we go, people need to know they are loved and valued and worth it.  Their hearts are WORTH your time and energy and occasional tears and lots of laughter.

Yes, our students are worth it because we want to close the achievement gap.  We obviously don't want our students names to be added to the lists of heartbreaking statistics about children growing up in low socioeconomic areas.

And that is SUCH a valid and wonderful reason -- obviously!

ALL of our students are capable of achieving excellence and succeeding and being WHATEVER they want to be.

They can.

Amaya is going to be a doctor.
Saniyah will be a vet.
Quamir will sure as heck be a truck driver if that's where his heart still wants him to go by the time he's 22 or 23!
Samya and Malaysia might have a more difficult time with the whole princess thing, but who are we to stifle a child's dream eh?!


Even though teaching is SO HARD at moments, it is SO WORTH it because we SO DESIRE for them to have every possible opportunity for success.  Our students are worth it.

And above every reason, they worth it because they deserve to know that no matter where someone is at in life or where someone has been, we refuse to give up on them because they are more valued and loved than they could ever imagine.

And I can look at them and BELIEVE for them, because Jesus ALWAYS believes for me.  And because the CREATOR of the UNIVERSE who has every right to give up on me ALWAYS looks on me with love, I will look upon them with love likewise -- by the grace of the good Lord above!  Even though I am the least of these, Jesus says...

 "I will NEVER give up on you.  I am WITH YOU ALWAYS even until the very end of the age.  I am with you.  I am FOR you.  Even when you're weak, even when you're broken, even when you're tired and confused and afraid...  Even when you speak of me with your lips but deny me with your actions, I STILL LOVE YOU.  I'm still with you.  Not a day goes by that I don't think about you.  You are mine.  You are MINE!  I look at you and see BEAUTY.  I look at you and see MY PERFECT CREATION.  Not only was I willing to risk everything for you, but I did it.  I gave up my life.  Just for you.  But it doesn't end there.  I will pursue you every day for as long as you live -- just for you to know, you were made for victory."

We were MADE for victory, but our victory is won in the Lord alone.  My sufficiency in who I am, in my relationships, in my family, in my classroom, in everything I do comes from Jesus.  I am a fragile clay jar, but praise JESUS for that.  Praise JESUS that all whatever is in me that is beautiful and excellent and admirable and worthy of praise and lovely and precious isn't me.  It's the Holy Spirit living inside of me.  And I MEAN that with every fiber of my being.  Because I believe that, I can be HOPEFUL in all situations, in all circumstances because I believe that God works ALL THINGS together for the good of those who love Him.

This hope is LIFE-changing.  It's transforming.

Because we have this hope, let us be SO BOLD in believing for others when they can't believe for themselves.  And as we believe, may we speak.  May our words be LIFE and LIGHT and HOPE.  And Lord Jesus, by your grace may our actions match our words.

So that in this way, little Tora and little Ivoree and little Khamaj will not only HEAR that they are worth it, that they are capable, but that they will SEE by the very joy and faith in our faces that we BELIEVE it with all of our hearts.

I will not lose heart because Jesus will never give up on me.

And Lord, likewise help me to NEVER give up on my students.
May we always stand firm and steadfast,
believing you ALWAYS deliver,
you ALWAYS save,
and you are ALWAYS faithful.

Thus I walk away from this summer standing (alive) by the grace of God, filled with joy and peace and excitement for the future, knowing that every day in the future will present moments of joy and moments of difficulty.  But I am able to walk forward in faith, believing that as much as I love and believe in my students, Jesus loves them and wants them to believe they are worthy of greatness EVEN MORE.  They are sons and daughters of the King.  PRAISE JESUS.

"Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and one of mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but to the interests of others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Jesus: Who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather he made himself nothing by taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death -- even death on a cross.  Therefore God exalted him tot he highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." -Philippians 2:1-11

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