Sunday, March 31, 2013

What It Means to be Amazed

Thursday was our last school day before (hallelujah!) Spring Break.  My teammates and I planned a field trip for our first graders to a bakery owned by a sweet friend of mine and a local park.  I should preface this story with the fact that the bakery and park are local to me, not my kids.  I live in a small town about 30 minutes from the small city where I work, both in the same county.

I had an IEP meeting (Individual Education Plan for any "non-education" folks who are reading this- it's for students to get the EC (Exceptional Children) Services that they need) Thursday morning, and pretty much as soon as it was over, we loaded up our 74 first graders onto two yellow school buses and started our mini-trek across the county.

We had to take the "back way" because of what roads we are allowed to take yellow school buses on, so we drove through several small towns that I grew up knowing.  My town shares a high school with a few of these towns we passed through, so I have friends from high school who grew up all along our route.  It's a drive I have taken so many times; it's a drive I have taken for granted.

But my kids didn't.  They were completely blown away by "how much space" was between the houses, how "big" the houses were (for perspective's sake, they're the smaller end of average for our area), how "nice" the grass was, how much grass there was, and how many trees we have.  We drove past a farm, and they got SO excited over seeing "real life" cows and horses, many of them for the first time.  The railroad is still very active in my area, and the kids got so excited each time we saw or heard a train.  We drove into downtown to go to the bakery, and you would have thought we had taken the kids to Manhatten they were so excited.  One of mine commented that, "Ms. Moran, it looks like Atlanta!" and several others asked if we were in NYC.  (If you've been to my hometown, you will appreciate how hilarious that is.  If you haven't, imagine "Small Town USA").  We walked into the bakery and they were completely awestruck- most of our kids had never been to a bakery.  After the bakery, we walked downtown to my church, where we had parked the buses.  The kids marveled over the "rich" brick sidewalks, how "big" and "awesome" my hometown is.  We went to a local park to eat lunch.  The park is beside a river, and, upon seeing the river, no less than a dozen of our kids exclaimed, "Look, Ms. Moran!  It's the ocean!"

Their reactions both made me smile and cry.

It was a precious experience to get to see and hear my kids' reactions to things they were seeing and experiencing for the first time.  To be one of the people who was able to help give them those experiences is so humbling and such a blessing.

It also made me feel a little ashamed of myself.

How many times have I driven that very road without noticing the cows or horses, or, better yet, complaining about being behind a tractor?  How many times have I walked down the sidewalk downtown in the sunshine with an orangeade from Charlie's, completely neglecting to realize how lucky I am to live somewhere that I can walk down 1- a sidewalk and 2- do so feeling completely safe?  (Also, if you've never had an orangeade, it's liquid sunshine.)  How many times have I complained about there being "nothing to do"?

My kids reminded me what it means to be amazed on Thursday, what it is to be completely overcome with wonder.  They did so just in time for Easter.

This Easter Sunday, as you celebrate with your loved ones, I hope you are completely overcome with wonder at what Jesus has done for us.  I hope you look around and are amazed at His world.  I hope your plate at Easter dinner is as full of love and joy as it is delicious food.  I hope you never take for granted His promises.

The next time you drive through your hometown, look at it as if you're seeing it for the first time.  I promise, it will take you by surprise and leave you feeling grateful.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Marshmallows are Cylinders- Tales of a First Grade Something

Yesterday, I was teaching my kiddos about fractions.  Yes, fractions.  If you're like my sister, who thinks teaching first grade is all about coloring and snacks, you're welcome to visit my classroom anytime :)

Anyway, after the big part of our lesson, the kids were making connections about sharing their favorite treats with their friends.  One of my cherubs said he wanted to share a marshmallow..."but don't worry, Ms. Moran, it's one of the big ones that you roast."  So I draw the circle on the board and we discuss how the pieces have to be equal and all that jazz.  Meanwhile, one of my students who has autism is frantically waving his hand in the air.  I call on him, and he says, "Actually, a marshmallow is a cylinder, not a circle."

And my classroom erupts into applause.

I'm not kidding.

I've had more than one person comment on how my kids cheer for each other.  They clap and cheer and hug and high five and say "good job!"...and they mean it.

I got a new student in the past week or two, and when my principal brought the new student to my classroom door, no less than three of my little gentlemen greeted him by introducing themselves and offering their right hand for a handshake.
No, I did not tell them to do that...for the record, I was at a workshop that day in another town, and I had no idea a new student was coming, so I had no way of coaching them into doing that.

Did they come to me doing these things?  Absolutely not.   Are these things that I've taught them because they meet common core standards or because they are on the pacing guide? Not at all. But I hope they are things that stay with them forever.


Because acknowledging the accomplishments of others is a huge building block in terms of respect.  Because being happy for other people is a huge step in being happy with yourself.  Because the good we do in life comes back to us, and we would do well to teach our children that.  Because introducing yourself and offering your right hand for a handshake is the first step in getting a job; it's the first step in a college scholarship interview.  Because being friendly and honest will take you far in life.

Are my kids perfect?  No kids are.  No adults are, either.
Do my kids have a concept of what it means to be an encouragement to other people?
More than they realize.

And even on the days when they say the worst things imaginable (literally- things I wouldn't even think of) to one another and to me, at some point, they will congratulate the struggling student on sorting his words correctly in our phonics lesson, and I'm reminded of how far they've come, how far I've come.

As for a marshmallow being a cylinder, don't little guy was absolutely correct.
And I let him know.
*Secret*- it's okay to let kids know they're right when they are.
I explained that we could stand the marshmallow on the table to divide it, so we were looking at it from above, so we could see it as a circle.  "Oh, skyview...", he said.

Yes, dear.  Skyview.


Saturday, March 2, 2013


Like most people I know, I love Saturday.  I love my job, but I always look forward to a day off.


Last Saturday, my boyfriend, Garrett, and I had a date night- sushi and a Bobcats game- perfect.  While we were in the car, I subjected him to one of those semi-ridiculous question lists for your significant other you can find on pinterest.  (He's a good man and played along :) ).  I call the list semi-ridiculous because, in the midst of the truly ridiculous ("if you were a crayon, what color would you be?"), I found a gem,
"How would you rank the following priorities in your life:  God, work, school, family, significant other, friends, hobbies, and church?  *here's the kicker* Does your ranking reflect the amount of time you spend on each priority?"

Do I have priorities?  Absolutely.
Do my priorities reflect the amount of time I spend on each one?  Um, no.

How many times has my family time been spent with me sitting in the same room with my family, but mostly tuned out, under a stack of school work, or falling asleep because I'm so exhausted?  How many times have I chosen either Sunday School or Worship and skipped the other in the name of getting work done?  How many times would I have wanted to spend with my amazing friends but something "important" came up?  How many date nights have Garrett and I spent cutting out materials (then laminating and cutting them out again) for my county's new math curriculum? (#teacherboyfriendproblems)  When was the last time I sat down and read a book for enjoyment?  When was the last time I went on a trip and left every bit of work at home?  When was the last time I didn't work after I got home, or on a weekend?  When was the last time I danced?  Or journaled?  Or sang (not in the car)?  When was the last time I went for a run?  How many times have I rushed through my devotion in the name of checking more and more off of my to do list?

It makes me equal parts sad and angry to think of all the moments I've missed when I answer those questions.  Moments with my family, moments with my friends, moments with Garrett, and, most importantly, moments with God.

Hear me clearly:  I love my job.  I do.  I believe in it whole-heartedly- my children are important, their futures are important.  However, I've made the mistake of getting so caught up in pacing guides and getting everything "right", in progress monitoring schedules and benchmarks, in data analysis and interventions and deadlines.  I've made the mistake of letting the urgent trump the important.  I do it time and time again.  I've done it for much of my life.

I had a project due in high school so I skipped a family outing.  I had a crazy amount of homework so I skipped choir.  I had a meeting so I skipped women's group.  I was exhausted from student teaching and had papers to grade and lessons to plan, so I didn't go to dinner with friends or to RUF (a campus ministry).  I was spending time with friends but wasn't completely "there" because my mind was racing with all of the stuff I had to do.  It's happened over and over.  It still happens.

Again, hear me clearly:  I believe God expects us to be responsible, to handle with care the things He has given us.  Everything we do matters to Him- little stuff, big stuff, in between stuff, it's all His.  This includes not only our relationships with Him and others, but our bodies, our jobs, our responsibilities, and the "have to's" of life that many of us would rather not do.

My prayer is that I will no longer let the urgent trump the important.
My prayer is that you won't either.

Today, I'm spending my Saturday with Garrett and two friends of ours that we don't get to see nearly often enough.  I'm going to enjoy every single minute of it.  I'm leaving every single bit of work at home.  And you know what?  It will be here when I get back.

I'm refusing to let the urgent trump the important today.
And it's going to be a great Saturday :)