These are my Reflections…

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Yeah, I’m totally channeling Usher as I wrote that title.

It’s been a year since I’ve moved back home. Obviously, it is time to reflect on that decision. So, here are a few of the thoughts that have been swirling around in my brain:

This year I have…
–served my purpose as a teacher by helping my little C change from a scared, introverted child to a friendly, go-getter
–made a new best friend (who really needs to meet my lifelong best friend…imagine the possibilities…)
—realized I work with some pretty great people
–realized I still miss my SRE buddies and still think of them often
–signed up for a trip of a lifetime to teach English in China
–lost 30 lbs. (woohoo! here’s to at least 30 more)
–started walking an hour daily to get in shape and clear my head/talk to God
–graduated with my Master’s in Elementary Education (yay me! Now, on to Ph. D)
–paid for my Master’s with my OWN money instead of taking out a loan
–created a nice little nest egg since grad school has been paid in full
–gotten back into church and studying God’s Word more (not as much as I should, but I’m getting there…)

I’m sure I’ll add more to these reflections as I continue my daily walks and musings. All in all, it’s been a pretty good year. 🙂

There’s ALWAYS One…

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So, I’m going to let you in on a little teacher secret. While we say we don’t have favorites, there is ALWAYS one child who stands out in the crowd. On this rainy Sunday, I pulled out my four yearbooks from Sangaree to take a walk down memory lane. While many students from each class brought a smile to my face, there was ALWAYS one in the crowd that made me put my hand over my heart and smile. Those were my SPECIAL babies that I would do anything for. Those were the ones that if anybody messed with them (student or adult) the momma bear claws would come out.

In my first year teaching, there was J. He was one of my ESOL babies who had a fantastic sense of humor. He became the little class clown, but he knew that I would let him get away with a lot of things because he was just so funny.

In my second year, there was F. Runette recommended that F should be in my class. When I met F, I knew he was a little different than most kids, but that’s what made him special. He instantly had my heart. Everyday, F would give me a new fact about Benjamin Franklin. I also remember how F would get angry at himself and hit himself in the head. With a lot of work, he made a lot of progress and learned to clamp his hands by his sides to calm himself. F definitely left a mark on my heart.

My third year was the year of the little bad boy, B. Now, B was TEENY TINY. He had the CUTEST blond curls, blue eyes, and dimples. B knew he was cute, and he also knew he could get away with murder. B and I had MANY “come to Jesus meetings” where he cried and I just gave him “the look,” but at the end of the day, B had my heart.

Last year, I was given another fantastic baby from Runette. She knew my little Policeman would have me wrapped around his little finger in a heartbeat. My little Policeman made me laugh, tried his hardest on his work(most days), and wrote me the occasional ticket for “impersonating a police officer.” I still hear the police sirens at recess from time to time and look around to see if he’s there.

This year, I have met one of the most gentle spirits. I knew IMMEDIATELY at meet the teacher that this would be MY child for the year. I remember when I first met C he was hesitant to come up to talk to me. As he looked around the room taking in all the posters, books, and decorations, I said, “Hey, C! Are you going to come talk to me or what?” His mom just shook her head and said, “No, C doesn’t like to talk. He probably won’t ever talk to you.” And, it was in that moment that I said, “Challenge, accepted.”

It took a few days for C to warm up to me. He would follow my directions, work hard, and say “Yes, ma’am” when I asked him a question. But, it looked like C had a little chip on his shoulder. He reminded me of Eeyore. But, I knew he was MY child, and I would work on him slowly.

Fast forward to about October, and I had a little shadow. C would come and talk to me. If I didn’t give him the attention he wanted, he would say, “Ms. Black, Ms. Black, Ms. Black!” He started to make friends, and he looked lighter.

By Christmas, I had a new best bud. He would engage me in full conversations with topics that he brought up. He would come hang out with me at recess to just chitchat. That boy had me wrapped around his little finger, and he knew it.

C and I have a special bond. He has come so far from the shy little boy I met at Meet the Teacher back in August. I’m so proud of how much content he has learned this year and how well he expresses himself. He’s mastered a huge goal that we thought would never happen, and he has made a ton of friends. Now, C is always smiling.

This year is the year of C. While I’ve ALWAYS had one baby that needed me more than others, this one has changed me. This child has shown unconditional love for me. He is SO protective over me. In fact, he has taken on the role of my bodyguard. If you mess with Ms. Black, C will come at you swinging (literally). When asked last week how much he loved Ms. Black, he looked at me and said, “2,000.” That’s a lot of love right there, and I love him 2,000, too. 🙂

I’ve been keeping a close eye on the second grade class lately. I’m not sure who my new special baby will be next year. I’m sure there will be one because there’s ALWAYS one. But, that new baby has BIG shoes to fill. I know nobody will replace C (just like C didn’t replace J, F, B, or my little Policeman), but I’m sure there’s a new kid who will stick out next year.

At my old school, my babies left to go to the “school next door.” C will be my first baby who gets to stay with me after he moves to the next grade. I’m already saddened to know he won’t be in my room anymore, but he’ll be right across the hall. I asked him what he would do without me next year and he said, “Ms. Black, I’mma watch you. You good, Ms. Black. I’mma watch you next year.” So, I guess my personal bodyguard will still be employed next year. 🙂

Feeling Free

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Today, I had a meeting with one of my professors to put some finishing touches on my teacher work sample. This document ended up being 85 pages long. This weekend I have to get it bound to turn in for my presentation. That’s right, I’ll be a published author. 😉 Oh, and that presentation? It decides whether or not I graduate. It should be next Wednesday.

So, after my meeting ended, I got in my car and reflected on this past semester. This semester consisted of a 40 hour work week, planning for upcoming lessons, subbing for our tutoring program after school, and taking three classes. Most of the semester, I felt like a grouch. I always felt tired and was super stressed. The amount of caffeine and chocolate I consumed was shameful. For the past two to three weeks, I’ve wanted to slam my head against the wall and throw my computer across the room multiple times.

So, how did I feel when I got in the car? FANTASTIC! I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I feel like I could BREATHE. So, what did I do to celebrate? Three of my favorite things! I got an iced latte from Starbucks, went shoe shopping and bought two new pairs, and got a pedicure. It was nice to enjoy the afternoon with no worries.

Oh, and speaking of graduating–Apparently I’m doing that in two weeks. In my mind, I thought I’d be walking in December since I have two summer classes. After receiving a series of emails about graduating in May, I thought, “Hmm, maybe I should check into that.” So, after a few emails to the Powers that Be, I found out that I AM walking in May. Talk about a nice surprise! I think that made me feel even lighter too knowing that the end of grad school is soon to come.

What’s around the corner? Oh, just a little trip to China. Might need to start planning for that soon…

A Quick Moment of Procrastination

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So, grad school will suck the life out of you. Sure, in the beginning it’s easy. “Sign up for this 18-month fast track program!” said the website. How could that not be fantastic? And, in the beginning, it was. I flew through 6 online classes with no problem. But then, I had to start the live classes. The classes in general haven’t been bad, and the work wasn’t too intimidating. But, I am just T-I-R-E-D. In my utter brilliance, or lack of fully checking into the program (or in my heart of hearts, the lack of the program properly planning students’ pacing…), I am taking three classes while teaching full time. Oh, and some afternoons I tutor. BRILLIANT, I tell you. This semester hasn’t been that hard, but the work is just so tedious. Did I mention that I somehow lucked into taking one of the first classes you’re supposed to take when you start the program while simultaneously taking one of the last classes where I complete my teacher work sample? Yep, that just happened. Crazy, I know.

Now, let’s talk about this teacher work sample. It’s basically like a mini-thesis mixed in with a case study. I have to incorporated 15 articles for a literature review while also including research from philosophers to support my philosophy of education. I can write well (obviously since I love to rant and rave on my blog), and research isn’t that difficult. It’s just boring and tedious. I can do the case study part because teaching is my forte. Yet, I just don’t want to do it.

TRULY, I could write my philosophy of education on an index card and submit that. It would read as follows, “I believe that all children can learn with an effective teacher. An effective teacher plans his or her lessons, believes that every student can be successful, and creates a learning environment where the child feels safe. Ideally, every child will flourish and become the best student possible. Realistically, life and home situations get in the way, and it is the teacher’s job to figure out how to teach the child DESPITE their home situation.” Think that will give me an A? I’ll even type it up in APA format.

So, off I go to do some more grad work. It will all pay off by July when I am FINISHED. Woohoo! Really, after I get finished with this semester, June will be pretty easy. Somehow, even though I’m taking the last course where I finish my last project of grad school, I have two more classes to go. Did I mention one of the last ones is called “Creating Engaging Learning Environments?” The OCD in me is going nuts at how out of whack my schedule is. But, sometimes you just have to laugh and go with the flow….

On one last note, someone said something to me that set a fire under me this past week. So, to take that “advice,” I have decided to focus more on myself and recognize that sometimes “Ashley Comes First.” So, while I will spend part of today doing boring grad work and finishing up my lesson plans for next week, I will also enjoy some FABULOUS time this weekend with two of the best nephews and one of the greatest sister-in-laws a person could ever be blessed with in life. Plus, I’ll get to hang out with my BFF at church tomorrow. Among all the chaos, it is important to stop and enjoy the people and things most important to you.

I’m Going to China!

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So, a week or so ago, I posted a status about how I’m ready for the next adventure God has in store for me. I’ll admit it, that was a little tease to get everybody interested. It just wasn’t the right time to completely reveal my plan because a few steps how to be taken first. So, now, I can share my exciting news….I’m going to China!

Somewhere along the way, I became an adventurous traveler. I’m not sure when and where the travel bug bit me, but it bit me hard and left an itching inside me to travel the world! Now, those of you who know me well know that I’m a planner, and I never like to be spontaneous. Yet, somehow with traveling, I just jump in feet first and take the plunge.

So, how did I end up going to China? I don’t really think it was my choice. I think it was something God told me to do. Let me explain the situation…

While skipping church one morning (don’t judge me! This was the night after my BFF’s wedding, and I didn’t get home until after midnight), I checked my work email. Inside was an email with the subject, “China Summer 2013.” Immediately I thought, “Psh! I’m not going to China!” Yet, I didn’t delete it. Instead, I clicked on the email and read it. As I was reading the email I thought, “Um, I am not going to China. I already did the Japan thing, and I vowed to never go to Asia again.” So, I thought that was that. Yet, for the next two hours (the entire span of church service, mind you), I kept thinking about China. Eventually, I felt like God was saying, “Go.” And I said, “YEAH RIGHT…no!” Then he said, “Ashley, I’m serious. You need to go.” And I said, “But the food in Japan was SOOOO GROSS and I can’t use chopsticks! I don’t want to go to China!” And interestingly enough, God did not care about my excuses, and he said, “Ashley, go.” And I said, “Okay…but can I at least talk to my best friend first? (who was on her honeymoon, btw. I have IMPECCABLE timing.)” While I’m sure God did not need for me to speak to my bestie (who happened to be online right at that moment), He listened to my foolishness, and I discussed this with Jennifer. Her IMMEDIATE reaction was, “Um, that’s the chance of a lifetime. Why are you even considering NOT going?” And then I thought about it…and I realized that I needed to go.

So, naturally, I prayed. Which, is kind of silly since God was telling me to go, but I felt like that was necessary. I turned in the application and decided if I was accepted that it was meant to be. Then, I attended the informational meeting (and learned about “donkey burgers”), and turned in the required hard copy of my application. I asked, “So, when will I know if I’m accepted?” The lady simply said, “You’re in since you’ve turned in the paperwork. Welcome to China!” And God said, “I told you so.”

So, I’m still not quite sure what my summer holds. I know that I’m going to China. I’ll either be near Beijing or Shanghai teaching English. I may teach elementary, middle school, high school, or even adult age students. I may live in a nice hotel or stay in a dorm. I really won’t know until later. I’m pretty sure none of that stuff matters since God said, “Go.”

First and foremost, this is a great teaching opportunity and life experience. I’m not quite sure where I’ll be or what age group I’ll have, but I know I’ll end up in the right place with the right people. I hope to have a positive impact on their lives, but I’m pretty sure they’ll change mine. Secondly, it’s another fantastic country to be stamped on my passport. I know it’s a communist country, and my dad and some friends are a little worried about my safety. I promise to be smart, but I think God has this under control. Yet, I really appreciate my family and friends’ concerns. Thirdly, I know this is not a missions trip. I know that I can’t be vocal about my faith because Christians aren’t really welcome in China. HOWEVER, I do feel like God gives everybody their own talents for a reason. My spiritual talent is hospitality. Even though I’ll be in a foreign country, I know that my classroom will be very inviting to my Chinese students. While I don’t think I have the spiritual talent of teaching the gospel, I do have the worldly talent of teaching. It’s kind of my thing, and I know that God created me to be a teacher. So, while I don’t think I’ll be bringing any Chinese people to Christ (because that’s not the point of this trip, and I have to be smart about my faith), I do think I have a purpose for being sent there. I promise not to wear my Biblical t-shirts and WWJD bracelet while carrying my Bible everywhere. BUT, I do hope my love for other people and positive attitude rubs off on others over there.

So, that’s my next adventure. I’ll be gone for the entire month of July. Did I mention the day I leave the country is the day I finish my last grad class? It’s funny how God knew I’d use grad school as an excuse to not go, and how perfect the timing seemed to be. So, what can you do? Be excited for me! Also, if you’re a prayer warrior, pray for a safe, fun, and productive trip. I could be nervous, but I’m throwing caution to the wind and relying on faith. Like I said, God said “Go.” In typical Ashley fashion, I was a little hard-headed, but He won me over MUCH faster than normal. Maybe I’m learning a little bit after all. 🙂

I’ve already shared the news with my family, some close friends, a few colleagues, and my principal. So, I guess that cat’s out of the bag for now. And, in case you were worried about me being in China alone, I do have a friend going with me. After I mentioned that I got accepted to her, she said, “Really?! I was going to ask you if you wanted to go because I want to go too!” So, she filled out the paperwork and has been accepted too! I’ll let her divulge her identity when the time’s right. When she told me that she wanted to go too and asked if I was interested in going, I think God kind of nudged me and said, “See, I told you so.” The few people who do know her identity should keep it quiet just in case she doesn’t want to share it with the Facebook world.

PS: I already ordered 100 sets of chopsticks off of Amazon so I can learn to eat before landing in China. Let the adventure begin!

Hello. My name is Ashley, and I’m a teacher.

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When I think of words that define me, “teacher” immediately springs to mind. Yes, teaching is my profession, but I feel like it is such a big part of who I am. In fact, when I introduce myself to people or make small talk with cashiers, waiters, or other people, I quickly bring up the fact that I’m a teacher. It’s not like I think people need to know who I am or will think I’m an amazing person by letting them know I’m a teacher. It’s just one of the first “all about me” things that slips out of my mouth. Even when the school is chaotic, students aren’t behaving, and I have a pile of papers and deadlines before me, I know I’m doing what I love. I have met a lot of teachers who over time have decided that they hate teaching or that teaching isn’t as much fun as it used to be. Yet, that’s not the case with me. Even after a parent screams in my face, tells me that I don’t know what I’m doing, or when a student has been a handful all day, I know that I’m serving my purpose in life.

 

So how did I decide to become a teacher? Was it something I dreamed of my entire life? Um, definitely not. In fact, my goal in life was to be a lawyer. Ask my family–it was all I ever talked about. Being a lawyer seemed like the perfect path for me. I always excelled in school, and I was a pro at arguing. Plus, making tons of money sounded fantastic. So, from fourth grade until eleventh grade, that was my path. I put my mind to getting the best grades because I knew I’d eventually have to decide on what college and law school to set my mind on.

 

And like all of Ashley’s great plans, God had a different idea. I always worked with the children in my church. Whether it was helping out during VBS, teaching a children’s church lesson, or working in the nursery, I was always hanging around the children. Finally, in the nursery one morning as  I was reading a book to one of the boys, God tapped me on the shoulder and was like, “Hello. When will you realize you’re meant to be a teacher? This is what you’re meant to do.” At first, I was shocked. I had always dreamed of being a lawyer, and I wanted the money! Teachers don’t make anywhere close to what lawyers make. But, after carefully thinking and praying about it, I realize that I was meant to be a teacher. Every part of my life (including the hours spent playing school at home) led to this revelation. So, I threw my plans to the wind, decided to become a teacher, and chose to follow that path in life. Five years later, I’m so happy with my career path. Some days I think about what I’ll do when I don’t want to teach any more, but there’s never a better option. Maybe one day I’ll go the professor route and teach future teachers, but as for now, I still love shaping the minds of our future generation…or at least attempting to teach them addition, subtraction, and multiplication with some reading, science, and social studies mixed in.

 

Originally, I started this post in August. For some reason, I saved it to my draft folder and filed it away for “another day.” After the recent shooting in Sandy Hook, I think the day has come to post this. First and foremost, the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School was absolutely terrible. It was an event that nobody anticipated happening. I would assume that Sandy Hook had a plan set in place for lock downs and had practiced these drills with the students. The teachers were prepared for what to do “in the event” of an intruder. Yet, how many teachers really expected to be involved in that real life scenario? The idea of an intruder in my school terrifies me. I hear these heroic stories of how teachers kept their students safe and how some tragically gave up their lives to save their students, and I wonder how I would be in that situation. I would love to say proudly and confidently, “Yes, I would give up my life to save my students. I would jump in front of a bullet for them in a heartbeat.” But, in reality, I don’t know. I just feel like the overwhelming fear would paralyze me. I think I would rely on prayer and just hope the Lord and my training as a teacher would give me the strength I need. I also pray that I will never be in that situation. In this day and age, you never know, but I would like to have hope that this is a situation I’ll never encounter in my teaching career.

 

Yet, this tragedy did happen to 20 babies and 6 teachers/leaders in the school. Sandy Hook’s community will never be the same. There will be a ripple effect in that community due to the overwhelming sadness. I keep thinking about those parents who have Christmas presents under the tree for their babies who will never be able to open them. I think of those little ones who heard the shots and know that their teachers/friends won’t be back at school. I think about the victims’ siblings who will never tease or hug their brothers or sisters again. It’s depressing and frustrating that this happened. But, what is even more frustrating are the reactions I’ve seen to this. So, allow me to step on my soap box for one minute please…

 

1. Teachers should not be allowed to carry guns into school. That is stupid and far more dangerous than good. I have never learned to shoot a gun, and I don’t want that responsibility. I also don’t like that some of my colleagues who have no or very little experiencing shooting guns could suddenly decide to buy a concealed weapon and bring it to school. Talk about moronic!

2. Teachers really need to get off their high horses. This tragedy should NOT be the platform for teachers to demand more respect from their students’ parents. Yes, we all would like more respect. But, don’t preach that you would do ANYTHING for your students and parents should start hugging you and thanking you. That’s not why we went into teaching. By teachers demanding more respect for how “awesome” they are make me want to throw up. We need to stop thinking about ourselves and the issues we have with disrespectful parents and simply honor/respect those babies and teachers who lost their lives.

 

So, I’ll finish up by saying this. All I know is that my name is Ashley, and I’m a teacher. It’s the path God has chosen for me. I’ve learned to love it and embrace it. It’s our job to teach our students, make them better people, love them, and keep them safe. Most of the time,  we succeed. Yet, sometimes the bad guy “wins” and tragedy occurs. Let us pray that this doesn’t happen again and respect those precious babies and teachers who lost their lives.

 

 

Giving Thanks

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For the past 22 days, I have seen many people posting a daily status about what they are thankful for each particular day until Thanksgiving. Frankly, a status a day is too much for me to keep up with, but it does get you thinking about all the great things in life you should be thankful for. So, to jump on the giving thanks bandwagon, I thought I’d just devote my blog into a list of all the things I am thankful for. I’m sure I’ll forget something, but here is just the tip of the iceberg:

1. I’m thankful that I moved home. I love being around my family and friends year round.

2. I’m thankful that my first job was at Sangaree. I learned how to be a fantastic teacher in the past four years due to some truly remarkable people that I worked with. I know I’ll always think fondly back on my first school.

3. I’m thankful for my new job. I prayed without ceasing (or so it seemed…I know it was at least my nightly prayer for at least a year) about where I’d end up. I really feel at home at my new school with my new friends. I also love the kids I teach. I know I’m exactly where I’m suppose to be.

4. I’m thankful that I went to the College of Charleston. Not only did I meet some of the most fantastic friends there, I got one of the best educations possible. This has become more and more evident as I continue my grad program at a different school. There is much love in my heart for my alma mater and for my CofC girls.

5. I’m thankful to almost be finished with my grad program. I’m even more thankful that I”ll be able to turn in my plus 18 at the end of the December. Hello more money!

6. I’m thankful to not be living paycheck to paycheck anymore. While I loved leaving in Charleston, it’s impossible to save money in that city.

7. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to save enough money to pay for grad school instead of taking out a loan. I have enough money saved up for my next three classes, and by the end of February I should have enough saved up for my last two classes.

8. I’m thankful for my family. It’s changed a lot, and we’ve been through a lot in the past few years. Now I know who’s important in my life and who wants the best for me.

9. I’m thankful for my best friend Jennifer. She’s always been there for me. She listens to my rants, goals, and insane plans. I’m thankful that I get to see her each week and celebrate her upcoming wedding. I’m thankful she’s found a great guy who makes her really happy.

10. I’m thankful to be back at my home church. While I went to two great churches when I lived in Charleston, I never found a church family as great as the one I grew up with.

11. I’m thankful for my college roomie Alicia. Really, she’s just another great best friend but I’ll always refer to her as “my roommate.” She always brings me back down to Earth when I come up with crazy plans.Although, she has been involved in quite a few of these crazy plans… (But don’t tell her I said these things. We have our sarcastic friendship to uphold.)

12. I’m thankful for the B-I-B-L-E (yes that’s the book for me…VBS kids know that song). I googled “Bible verses about giving thanks.” There’s a ton that came up, but I wanted to see the context before plastering some random verse. One that caught my eye in particular was Ephesians 5:20 “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” After seeing that verse, I read all of Ephesians 5. Reading that was a good reminder of how we’re supposed to live and how we have salvation through Jesus. So, to sum it up, I’m thankful that we live in a nation where we have the freedom to worship freely and even more thankful that Jesus paid for our sins.

I’m sure as soon as I press “publish” I’ll think of a million more things that I’m thankful for. I guess I’ll just have to continue to be thankful throughout the year instead of just for the month of November. 😉 After all, we should always give thanks for God for everything.