Blame it on the chicken mummy.

They warn you about this when you come to be a missionary teacher.

They say, “You will be overwhelmed- don’t worry. It’s normal.”

They prepare you for a whole process of adjustment.

But they don’t prepare you for mummifying chickens. And the chicken mummies were the last straw today.

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With a few hours distance and the help of an awesome parent, I can now say that it was a great experience for my kids. Tomorrow, we’ll continue the learning as we compare and contrast our life experience with the non-fiction texts we are reading about the mummification process. 12 hours ago, though, it was all I could do to hold back tears during morning meeting.

Let me back up.

At Faith Academy, third grade mummifies chickens. Period. It’s tradition- kids talk and write about it for years to come. So in my mind, this was more than just a fun activity for our Egypt unit. It was my unsworn but serious duty to provide my students with this experience.

What was not my duty, however, was to schedule it three days before parent-teacher conferences, at quarter end when I am supposed to be stressing over things like progress reports. (Side note: my personal chicken drama makes grades look like a walk in the park. I’m being only slightly dramatic when I say that.) Nor was it my duty to add papyrus making and cartouche design to the same day. But…I did all that.

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(They probably did say something about not going crazy because of poor choices in training…perhaps I was out during that session.)

It didn’t help that the day started with 1) the realization that I left several packages in the grocery basket last night and 2) running out of cash at the cash-only store while picking up the item I forgot while at the grocery store last night and 3) running across the road to my sweetly waiting roommates to borrow a few hundred pesos. By the time I got to school, I was wound a little tightly (to put it nicely).

So bless their hearts, two colleagues stopped by, let me cry on their shoulders (I wish I was speaking figuratively), and prayed for me. Once I got through the residual sniffles (I’m a terrible crier) and my kiddos had been basically amazing, we had a great morning. Carol took my lunch duty so I could finish running around like a chicken on its way to mummification, and Amanda showed up to set up the papyrus making.

While it’s entirely possible that we are not completely following Faith Academy tradition in the way we are caring for the three deceased fowl in our care, they will make it to mummification, a sarcophagus, and proper burial in a few months. For now, they are happily ziplocked on the counter in my classroom, and the deodorizing power of salt/cinnamon/baking soda is amazing.

And I am home, considering the lessons of this day:
-This too, shall pass. Even chicken mummifying will come to an end.

-It wasn’t about the chickens, really. I’m pretty good at putting pressure on myself and making things bigger in my mind than they really are. This is a pretty good example of that.

-I’m surrounded by awesome people. From “good morning” and “I’ll pray” texts to a hug and a prayer to “How’s it going?” and hands-on-chicken so I could take pictures, I felt the love all day, especially when I didn’t feel so lovely.

So instead of blaming the chicken mummy, I think I’m ready to be thankful for the lessons I didn’t choose and a God who knows better than I do what this third grade teacher needs to learn.

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On Freestyle and Learning and Teaching and Life

I had a swimming lesson yesterday.

It’s not that I couldn’t swim before; I preferred the backstroke because it didn’t require specially timed breathing to avoid drowning.  I could get myself across the pool and tread water decently.

But swimmers make it look easy to move through the water, head down, gliding with smooth strokes, and I know none of that ease.

Kelsie is a swimmer, though, and a teacher, too.  When I asked if she would help me with my lack of swimming skills, she excitedly agreed.  So Friday, we hit the pool.  (See photos of the facility here.)

Freestyle it was, and freestyle involves breathing- coordinated breathing.  Coordinated breathing means you don’t suck in the whole pool while one arm is stroking and the other arm is waiting its turn.  I apparently don’t do coordinated breathing so well.  (I knew there was a reason I didn’t make it past level 3 in swimming lessons back in the day!)

I lost track of the false starts and coughing fits and thinking I might die in the middle of the pool and bangs strung across my face after a bit.  Kelsie, apparently, has the patience of Job.  She modeled, and watched me, and coached, and encouraged, and finally said, “I wonder what would happen if you just pushed through it.”  (“It” would be the moment of panic when there was more water than air in my mouth, leading me to thoughts of death right then and there.)

And lo and behold, I can swim.

Now don’t get me wrong- it’s not pretty (yet) and it’s not smooth (yet).  But there was a  magical moment when I thought, “This is how people have fun swimming!”

A few moments later, I realized that I had just experienced a few moments in the life of a  student (or two) in my class.  I don’t know yet exactly who those students will be, but most classes have a student or two (or more) for whom things don’t come quickly or easily.  While others glide, they thrash.  The expectations of school and their natural strengths just aren’t quite aligned, and everything.is.hard.everyday.  How easy it is to forget that learning is often really hard work, even with encouragement and support.

So on Monday, I will go back to third grade and teach better.  I’ll share the story of learning to swim as I walk through the novice/apprentice/practitioner/expert learning line, and my kids will like it.  But more importantly, I will have renewed empathy for those who wonder when they might drown in third grade, and I’ll help them to keep going, even if it does take a few false starts.

‘Twas the Night Before School Started

and all through the house
the teachers were typing…
and planning… and sleeping.

The first day clothes were set out with care
knowing five o’clock soon would be there.

The classrooms were ready (or at least close enough!)
for the students and teachers to fill them love.

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Yet again, I am so grateful for a job I love. Even still, the butterflies have started. It’s always hard to fall asleep on the night before school starts, even as a teacher!

Sweatiest Day Yet!

Ok, some of you stopped reading because of the gross title.

But it’s really true!

Today was a great day- a day of remembering, again, how amazingly privileged I am to be here. It was a day of gratitude for God’s kindness in placing me in this community for this time. It was a day of fresh humility as I look with wonder and awe at His sovereignty.

All Staff Retreat continued today and included several times of corporate worship through song (accompanied by banjo once, piano/guitar another time), several speakers (more on that in a bit), an afternoon of “bonding” at a huge local market, and line dancing after dinner with everyone from the elementary children of staff to the Head of School. Between the market and the line dancing, we all got pretty warm and sweaty!

A few of the speakers today included Tine (pictured below) and Tom Hardeman (Head of School). Tine and his wife, Jan, have four kids (including Tom) and have been serving at Faith Academy for the last 56(!) years. Tine challenged us to be grateful and to teach our kids to be grateful. Tom asked us to resist the “I’m-just-a-volunteer” mentality and the subtle temptations to be less than our best as we serve the King and His people. I really appreciated his charge to step up and engage in the lives of kids who don’t usually get attention and could really use a caring adult to step into their world.

Throughout the day, I found myself amazed at the gift of this time and this place and the chance to be a part of it. To those of you who are helping to make it possible, I pray that you are deeply rewarded both now and later for your investment in this little piece of God’s kingdom.

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(Oh yeah- I also found Cat on top of the kitchen cabinets this morning. She’ll go anywhere.)

Day 1 @ Faith Academy

Yes, I have been working in my classroom for the last several days. No, I haven’t posted pics of the finished product because it’s not finished yet. I found out today that I may have several more kids than I thought in my class, which means yet another design is in order. I’m so glad for a few weeks to work it out before school!

I thought I’d give you a few pics of the grounds and facilities, though. Part of New Staff Orientation was a tour today, and it was the perfect chance to take a few photos.

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The entrance to the Aquatics Facility

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The big pool- I haven’t been in yet, but I will be soon! A generous benefactor provided the funding for the pools, and they are beautiful!

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The elementary playground slide- to be conquered another day.

Happy Teacher Heart

How do you make a teacher happy before school starts? For this teacher, the formula is simple:
classroom + information for planning purposes + time to work = happy teacher heart. There’s nothing like being able to plan.

I got into my classroom today!! Yay!! It was a happy teacher day- I got to arrange my classroom, got my specials schedule so I could plan (and create my Planbook), and got the curriculum binder for third grade to see the Faith way of doing things. It’s so nice to find pieces with which I am familiar- Words Their Way, Making Words, Daily Five and Cafe Menu, to name a few.

Now, I have as many fresh questions as answers, but everyone has been super helpful, and I have a few days to keep working on it before New Staff Orientation on Friday.

In other news, I had dinner with a couple from the Philippine Challenge team tonight and got to hear their advice for settling in. I thought it was good for everyday life, no matter where you are:

You have 10 emotional dimes for each day. Spend them well.

The idea is that things will come up (especially, but not only cross-culturally) that could drain your emotional tank. If you roll with the punches and stay flexible, you can avoid spending all of your emotional dimes on an hour-and-a-half trip to the bank (my experience in getting a debit card yesterday). Or, you can spend them on unmet expectations and have nothing left for truly important things. It was an analogy that I will remember!

Ok, it’s 9:28, and I have stayed up late enough for being 3 days and nights into this side of the world.

Love from Manila!
Angela

Greetings from Manila!

Hello from Manila!

I arrived last (Saturday) night after 14 hours in the air, three meals in the air, one and a half movies (I fell asleep part way through the second), and 3 Reader’s Digests (thanks, Mom!) Everything went smoothly, I picked up my luggage, and Rich and Marla met me at the shiny Manila airport. (It was built since I was last here.)

Rich is the OC/Philippine Challenge team leader, and he has helped me to get everything in order to come. He and his wife, Marla, offered to let me stay with them for a bit to get adjusted, and I crashed last night after face-timing the fam to let them know I’d arrived safely.

This morning, we went to church and out to Dominos (yes, pizza!) afterward. We’ll leave soon to take one of their sons to Faith Academy (FA) to leave for camp, and I’ll get a tour.

It’s a little crazy to be here after so many years of praying, hoping, and preparing. I am very grateful for a few days to get on this schedule, adjust to the heat and humidity (so far, so good!), and get some help in finding the grocery store, etc. The teacher in me can’t wait to get started on planning, putting my room together, etc. but I’m really trying to enjoy these moments now.

Love to all!
Angela

Gratitude @ Work

I am blessed at work in many ways…23 little people to love, to start.  But since I can’t post pics of them, here are a few more reasons to be thankful at work.


1. The globe, moved down to be more easily explored as we learn about the continents.  Geography has never been more fun!

2. Naming each area of the classroom and the accompanying comments: “It’s so cold over here in Antarctica!  I’m gonna go to Africa to warm up!”

3. Speaking of Africa…country names everywhere- on the couch, tables- even when they are missing a letter.  (No, there haven’t been protests or war in Egypt or Libya yet, though those world events have come up.)


4. Books from the library for a book frenzy- 30 seconds with a new book and a partner to explore before passing it on.

5. Phototropic plants, carefully seeded by little fingers and headed to the school garden before long.

6. A reminder of my own education as I teach

7. Breathe: directed by my speech therapist and a good reminder for my soul.  (Placement near the escape key is not intentional. :))

Not-so-textbook

2textbook

adj

: of, suggesting, or suitable to a textbook; especially : classic

antonym: me

For a long time, my subconscious goal in life was to be textbook.  Doing what was expected helped me to feel in control and secure.  Sometime during college I learned that finding comfort in being conventional is not always the best way to live.

Fast forward to last summer, when my ear-nose-throat doctor met me and quickly declared that my vocal cord issues were less than textbook.  It wasn’t a compliment.  When he looked at my vocal cords and saw that one is bowed, he suggested a plan.  First, don’t get colds. (I made it 4 months on that step!)  Second, try steroids, antibiotics, and acid reflux blockers.  (Tried and failed.)  Third, go to speech therapy.  (I was a good patient, she said…until I lost my voice…again.)  Fourth, plump up the vocal cords with collagen. (Currently scheduled for spring break.)

In the meantime, I teach in a whisper, will do conferences with families tomorrow in a whisper, and learn to listen better.  Yes, I know that whispering is bad for me.  No, I don’t have the option of taking off everyday when I can’t talk- 15 days of school since December.

My comfort is now in knowing Jesus knows the whole story.  I may not be textbook, but He is the author of my life.  That book works for me, even if it’s not normal!