Monday, July 17, 2017

I tried - being mentorable {open letter to my future mentor}

Dear Future Mentor,

Thank you.  I have needed you for some time.  I needed you without even knowing it was you, or the idea of a mentor.  I needed  you more than I realized.

See, I feel as if I am in a weird spot in the church.  I don't feel like I belong.  I did not grow up in the church that we are going to, so my roots are more shallow than others. I did not attend the Christian college, as my husband and friends did, feeling as I orbit their social circle. I have a "worldly" job... I mean ministry... ahh, whatever teaching is these days, which does not allow a lot of time to do do "mom" things or minister to others.  It's weird for I have a loving mom and great friends, but I am missing...

missing you.

I need guidance spiritually.
I need wisdom that challenges me.
I need patience, strength, calm, investment.
I need cared for.

I need you.

As I currently write you, my family is going through a season of transition. A time of reflection and re-centering our lives back to God's plan.  A time of waiting to see what is in store.  Prior to this season I had directly asked several (4) women to be my mentors, and asked handful of other women to just hang out - but it always falls through.  Some of these women graciously turned me down with positive answers.  Some didn't really have the time, respectively.

But I truly, prayerfully plead for someone to reach my hand and say "it is I that will get coffee with you! Listen. Talk. Pray. Check-in. Invest."   Okay, you don't have to talk like that.  I promise.

Mentoring is an odd topic to talk about in the church.  Sometimes it happens organically, very natural.  Other times it is forced.  I pray that whomever gets paired with me, it is a relationship that happens naturally, God driven.

See, I am a mess.  To my peers, it might appear that I am put together.  Got all the answers.  Life is grand.  But, I am human.  Just as my blog title states, I am trying.  Honestly, I don't know what I am doing from day to day.  Grasping at straws.

I know once this season of transition changes, there might be more time and opportunity for investment.

A  few weeks ago I was talking to an older lady about my parents helping take care of my children as we were at a conference she said "at least you have your parents, we always lived so far from family."    I just wanted to respond with, "but you had the church.  You had people come to you and watch your kiddos to give you a break.  Bring you a meal.  Pray with you.  Call you to see how you were. Being a mother is hard.  Working in a church is hard."   But I just acknowledged the truth that I am thankful that we are currently close living to my family.

A year ago I had a friend talk about how she doesn't have many deep relationships or mentors and how she wishes her mom lived closer.  Yet, in the same conversation I could count on two hands the older women in her life.  ASKING to babysit her new baby.  ASKING to clean her house or offer help.  ASKING  her over for coffee and conversation.  Yet it appeared that she is oblivious to all the good she had.
Future mentor, or can I call you friend.  I am a bit bitter.  I don't want to be.  I ask God to help soften my heart.  To give me courage to ask the right women to be apart of my life. But as a horse chases a carrot on the stick, I am always just a tad short.

So future mentor, future church.  Thank you.

Thank you for loving me, the messy me.  The real me.  The speaks before she thinks me.
Thank you for loving my family.  Challenging us to be humble kingdom workers.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy life to acknowledge that I exist.

That's all that is takes.
Letting people know that they are important.

I do my best to be intentional with my friends.  But having someone who has gone before me, to hold my hand through prayer, tears, excitement and opportunities is who I am looking for. (holding my hand can be figuratively - don't want to make anyone, myself included, uncomfortable).

If you are an older woman, regardless of age, who are you investing in?  The generation younger than  you?  The new mom?  A student? A babysitter?

Dear future mentor.
I needed you.
I wait for you.
I appreciate you.
I appreciate God's timing of you.

With love,

Freebie Find: 100 Questions and mentor conversation topics - to make this mentoring thing easier on all of us.  =] 

I tried - reading Messy Grace [July's Book Review]

A while back I, like more years than I can remember, I started and almost finished reading Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach but for some reason I stopped reading it, in fact I let other people borrow it!

At the end of June I had the honor hearing Caleb speak and I decided that I must finish his book for July; it wasn't a difficult task.

"Can someone be gay and go to heaven?  I think if we're going to ask that question, then we have to ask if someone can be an alcoholic and go to heaven?  Can someone be addicted to drugs and go to heaven? Can someone be a gossip and go to heaven? Can someone be a worrier and go to heaven? Can someone be jealous of others and go to heaven? Can someone be an arrogant know-it-all Christian and go to heaven?"

Spoiler alert - that was the fourth to the last page in his book.  But it gets my point across.

Messy Grace is Caleb's story and journey of growing up with gay parents, learning to hate Christians, then later becoming a Christian and serving pastor.

I love this book.  The first time I started to read it, and the second time.  It's full of thought provoking ideas, truth woven statements, and pieces of little "ah-ha!" nuggets.  The title says it all.  Grace is messy.  The church is messy.  Being a Christian is messy.  So how come we do such a horrible job at loving our gay neighbor, our gay child, our gay parent or co-worker?  Are they not human too?

Although he was more focused on loving the gay community, I couldn't help but also apply everything he wrote to other communities that Christians sometimes struggle with loving.   The quote above could also include, in my opinion, can someone be a liberal and go to heaven? Can someone be republican and go to heaven? Can someone have tattoos and go to heaven? Can someone born in a Muslim family go to heaven? Can someone who is black go to heaven? Can someone who is a cop go to heaven? Can someone who is a soldier go to heaven? Can someone who works for an abortion clinic go to heaven?

Can someone who disagrees with me go to heaven?

The very same page he writes, "Most Christians I know wouldn't have an issue with saying that any one of those people could go to heaven (talking about gossip, etc), but for some reason, when it comes to homosexuality, some think that is too tall of an order for God.  I think it's because their view of God is too small.  He's calling everyone into this kingdom all the time, as hard as that may be for us to believe."

This summer I also participated, well... attempted to participate in, a Beth Moore study called "Entrusted."   On page 106 of her workbook she writes, "Have you ever wondered how we Christians get away with some of the things we do? We rename the sin something noble.  We call gossip informing, judgement discernment, misogyny authority, anger righteous indignation, lust appreciation, arrogance confidence, profanity passion, and hate debate, and voila, misconduct gets reframed as Christian duty."

By renaming our sin, we simultaneously are trying to let others know that their sin is worse than ours.  But, sin is sin. And love is love.  

(My favorite is Romans 9:12-21)

I urge everyone to read this book, and truly seek their own hearts, get to know someone from the gay community, truly know them, don't fear them... they are people too!  My biggest fear or worry (and I know I shouldn't have any, for God is bigger than even my own small fears) is that the people who truly NEED to read this book, won't give it a second glance.  That more often than not, the ones reading Messy Grace are already trying to love their gay Christian and non-Christian friends.  But this is just me making an assumption, which is not healthy either.

So, I challenge you, regardless of where you stand on your beliefs of homosexuality in the church, to read this book.  Not just read it, but come to it with an open mind and ask God for it to touch your heart.  That your heart can reflect God's heart, one full of love and grace (even if it is messy).
To my LBTQ co-worker, friends, family, I am sorry if you have been hurt by the church.  The church is not a place of perfection, but a place of brokenness.  Our identities should be mirrors reflecting Christ, not our own thoughts and ambitions.  If you (homosexual or heterosexual) have been hurt by the church and need to talk, I will listen.  You are loved.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

I tried - teaching math {our society, and it's math inability}

It feels great to be blogging again!  Thanks for reading my friends!  [edit - and it's a longer read - with a call to action and solutions... enjoy.]

A few nights ago my family and friends all visited the drive-in movies... you know, where you sit in, or around, your car and watch a movie, or two, outside.  Yes, outside!  During one of the movies - I believe Captain Underpants (don't judge, it was really adorable) a student shared how they failed a class. It was math.

My husband looked at me, and before I could say anything, he stole the words out of my mouth, "it's always math!"

See, I have this theory, that our society is creating a culture that accepts math as the impossible subject.  That math is only for those with magnificent brain power.  A society that instructs its pupils that math is pointless.

Honestly, next time a movie or tv show starts talking about school see which subject is being addressed. I am pretty confident that if the student/actor mentions failing or struggling in a class, it's math.  I am also fairly positive that if a kid is "blowing off" homework as if it's not a big deal, that the homework was for his or her math class.


It breaks my heart every time! Our culture is creating a double standard.  As a a MATH teacher, it's frustrating.  I am asked to help my students understand content that is not respected or expected to be learned by society.  Our culture wants me to teach mathematical concepts in the classroom, to students, who will later go out into society where they are told that what I taught them is pointless and it is acceptable to not understand the concept either.  And this is what I make the big bucks for (insert eye roll for dramatic effect).

Seriously, who uses math anyway?  Last year I was teaching some very basic algebra concepts to my advanced/accelerated class.  One very vocal young man interrupted, as he often did, and just asked "when will we ever use this?"  Any time a student asks that question I respond with "what do you want to do when you are older?" so I can then answer by giving an example that is related to their career or job.  This advanced, very bright student, told myself and the class he wanted to be an engineer - but yet, he thought basic algebra was pointless and a waste of his time.  Believe me, other students stared at him with a puzzled look more than I did.

Oh mercy.

Our society does a poor job of respecting math.  I work with a math teacher that says "you can't read a math book if you can't read" .... although very true, not going to argue there, this same thought process is why math is often over looked and under studied. I am not a strong reader or writer.  I am sure my husband and English teachers are frowning as they read this little article of mine gasping at every common error. However, I am getting my point across. Not miscalculating medicine for a patient or anything important.  But the moment that we, a society, place one content slightly higher above another is the exact moment that shadows and depths will be created.

Students are struggling in math for the time, energy and resources are not spent on it.  Back when I was in college I wrote a paper over math anxiety.  How female students are more inclined to develop the belief that she is not "good" at math.  This belief is often a reflection of her relationship with her mother and/or female elementary teacher that also view math as a "man's game."  You can read my paper here, if interested.    Another fascinating blog about girls being 'bad at math' can be found here.  Props to this author.

Again, our society is creating a culture that not only places math of a lower importance, but also oppressing young girls to believe that they are not capable at learning math.

**Little side note, if you are a woman, or a parent of a girl, please watch Hidden Figures.  These WOmen were NASA's calculators...before calculators were a thing.**

Before I started writing this blog, I went to google to see what I could find about math in movies and society.  Instead, I found a New York Times article "Why Do Americans Stink at Math" by Elizabeth Green.  It's a rather lengthy article, a few years old, but had some wonderful ideas and even strategies I want to see take place in my classroom next year.  If you have time, I suggest you read this article.

As I was reading, I couldn't help but have comments, some snarky, some preachy, some prayerful, some praises.

Math has always been a hot topicin the education world.  Clearly our film industry believes that it's the most difficult of subjects.  Elizabeth Green writes, "In fact, efforts to introduce a better way of teaching math stretches back to the 1800s.  The story is the same every time: a big, excited push, followed by mass confusion and then a return to conventional practices."

She later states, "The trouble always starts when teachers are told to put innovative ideas into practice without much guidance on how to do it." (can I get an amen here!?)

I have parents who say that math has changed so they can't help their student.  But it hasn't. Numbers are still numbers.  The challenge is still a challenge.  And Americans have stunk at math, and for some time.  In Green's article she shared a story from around the 1980's when A&W started to market a 1/3 pound hamburger to off set McDonald's quarterpounder. The marketing team states that customers thought it was a better product, but also thought they were being charged too much and therefore not buying it.  When in fact, the price of the 1/3 A&W hamburger was cheaper than the quarterpounder.  Customers did not understand factions.

I believe there are solutions.  We will need a change of mind and attitude in order to see a change in our culture through empowerment of our people.  

Some of these solutions I am going to present are my personal opinion.  I have not taught as long as some.  I have not taught in other content or other grade levels outside of 7th grade math. I have not done any significant research, this is all from personal observation. So, if this doesn't settle well with you, it might mean I need more information.  Okay, proceed.

Solution 1:
Empower elementary teachers. Make elementary teachers proficient in math.  If a first grade PE teacher had to go to school to learn physical education, and all of it's methods and strategies I believe that every grade should have a math teacher.  Someone who is strong in their content and is capable of helping other teachers who do not feel as if math is their strength.

As I continued to read about why Elizabeth thought Americans stink at math, I read: "'Remember,' Lampert says, 'American teacher are only a subset of Americans.' As graduates of American schools, they are no more likely to display numeracy than the rest of us. "I'm just not a math person," Lampert says her education students would say with an apologetic shrug."  At this point in the article, I just want to cup my face and weep.  I remember being in educational courses hearing that elementary teachers wanted to teach elementary classes because the math was too difficult, intimidating, or impossible.  Really, the same math that you had to take in school, now as a professional, is too much for you to handle?  When I graduated there were around 75 elementary teachers graduating.  There were 4 middle school math teachers.

Solution 2:
Empower all teachers. Give teachers adequate time to not only learn but to implement and teach appropriate math.  Elizabeth states, "With the Common Core, teacher are once more being asked to unlearn an old approach and learn an entirely new one, essentially on their own.  Training is still weak and infrequent, and principals - who are no more skilled at math than their teachers - remain unprepared to offer support."  This isn't about common core, an entirely different article about how common core are standards.... however, what she is saying is that we are asked to go to a conference for a few days and then the moment we step back into our classrooms start teaching an entirely different way.  Same content, different methods.  Common core, rigor and relevance, quad-D are all fancy jargon that is being replaced by the very popular STEM and STEAM projects. YET math has not changed.  (her statement about principals, oh so true, my principal reminds me that he taught history for a reason).

Elizabeth continues to write,"There, as in Japan, teacher teach for 600 or fewer hours each school year, leaving them ample time to prepare, revise and learn.  By contrast, American teacher spend nearly 1,100 hours with little feedback."  Just going to let that set in.  And for those who are struggling, American teachers are spending more time teaching, but with worse results.  Reread that paragraph, please.

If you want me to be a better teacher give me the time to learn these methods and implement them.

Solution 3:
Empower students' time. Students, unless they have a true deficit and possibly IEP, should get the same amount of time for math content as it does for art and every other subject.  One content should not receive more time than the other.  When a school, or classroom, establishes different time frames for different curriculum, eventually students subconsciously believe that one content or curriculum is more important than the other.  

Solution 4:
Empower words, methods, rituals, strategies, terminology and procedures.  I believe in differentiation. As a teacher, when I see a student struggling I do my best to find a method that "clicks" or sticks with that student.  However, I teach math.  But when we start using fun little butterflies to help a student learn how to add fractions, the student gets lost in the antennas. "The answer-getting strategies may serve them well for a class period of practice problems, but after a week, they forget. And students often can't figure out how to apply the strategy for a particular problem to new problems." I couldn't have said it better Miss Green.

I would like for a main stream, common idea of how to do math, common terminology.  Teach the foundation and save the fun little methods to help with differentiation.  Teach students how to think to solve instead of solving on how to think. If a student has something to focus on, other than which of the 12 methods to use, they might be be able to learn math.

My biggest frustration is even in mathematical symbols.  Students spend half of their education learning that X or x means to multiple.  Then, all of a sudden, when we introduce algebra we ask them to relearn several years of education.  'X' is no longer a symbol for multiplication, but is now a variable.   Oh, and by the way, parentheses can mean multiplication too, you know that fancy distribution.

Seriously, why can't we teach multiplication with the *  or the dot?  Why am I having to reprogram my students' mind ON TOP of teaching them new algebraic concepts?

Solution 5:
Empower parents. My favorite thing about parent teacher conferences is when I am given the opportunity to remind parents that they are able to do math and therefore are able to help their child with math. As a society we don't have to no longer tolerate the reason of "I'm bad at math, so my kid is bath at math" type statements.   Even if the wonderful Hollywood would start empowering parents and their families that math is something other cultures are capable of doing, so be default, Americans can too.

Solution 6:
Empower the curriculum.  This is a stretch, and would take an overall in the education.  Greens article discusses how children in Brazil that help their families by selling peanuts and coconuts could routinely solve complex problems in their head to total a bill or make change.  However, when the same students were presented the same type of problem on paper with pen, they stumbled.

Math IS real world.

This is a tricky solution.  I love my job.  I really do enjoy teaching pre-algebra to middle school students.  However, the day that I had a student exclaim that their homework was similar to their parents' college work, was the day I started to realize that maybe we are doing this all wrong?

Studies have proven that brains develop at different rates.  And that algebraic reasoning is a skill that requires certain brain development.  So, if your brain is not ready for the concept I am about to teach, you are going to think you are not capable, regardless of how much you try.

If we would just wait for students' brains to develop, we might be able to teach concepts that they are truly ready for, saving lots of time (and tears...for everyone). Slow down the standards in math so more students are more proficient.

Math can be real life.  Lets bring math back into classes with cooking, constructing, even budgeting or buying car insurance and loans as many students will face after high school.  Math seems to be unrealistic to many students, but it's all how we empower the curriculum. I mean why do students need to have all of this math, when they learn the same martial in college?  Yes, some students will not go to college, so shouldn't we equip them with math that they will be using daily?  I would rather see a class in high school talking about how to count change back then see more students spending time in classes that they don't value or even compute.

Just as Elizabeth stated in her article, people do math regularly for their jobs, in fact those same adults who failed classes can often be more efficient in their jobs for they have learned the math that is suited to their career.  

(I just put this there for a smile)

Leave me a comment if you made it this far.  Seriously, I feel like it should be like a kickstarter, where you get a prize or something for reading all of this.  I started out wanting to write about math and movies, and this is where I got.

Our society, education, parents, teachers, students, and even movies all need to stop picking on math.  It's really not that bad.

"Odds-defying individual teacher can be found in every state, but the overall picture is of a profession struggling to make the best of an impossible hand." - Green

Links to movies you should watch....

Sunday, July 2, 2017

I tried - resting {finding peace in chaos - July's goals}

I realized that I never made a post over June goals.  Therefore, I can not make a post about how June went. (went really well!) When I started to type this post, I thought it was going to be a simple post over July's goals and what's happening in my corner of the world.

But then I realized that all of my goals reflect back to what I heard at church this morning.

"Shattered plans are often the result of our poor choices or God's sovereign will." - Dr. Mark Scott.  

Over all he was preaching about Jeremiah 17 and 18 and how that sometimes our plans are interrupted to get our attention (disobedience) or because God wants to remake us, for He is the potter and we are His clay.

It really was the perfect sermon for me to hear. God's perfect timing too. I have been reflecting on the word "PAUSE" and what that means for me and our current family situation and environment.

It seemed like several of my July goals are related to reflecting more on life.  Stepping back.  Stepping down.  Stepping outside, holding hands of little' more.  Stepping in tune with others.

July I am going to re-read/finish "Messy Grace" by Caleb Kaltenbach.   Recently I heard him speak and was drawn again to his story and wisdom of how to better love our gay neighbors.  I figure this would be a quicker read the second time around and if time allows would like to read "Hoot" by Carl Hiaasen - a middle school novel my dad told me to read in a day.  We shall see!

I am going to continue to do my version of "weight watchers" - watching macros, meaning I am eating very clean foods - low sugar, carb, processed.     I am currently finishing up a four week Diet Bet game with some local friends.  I have to loose one more pound this week to make sure that I get my money back (possibly make some too).  I plan on investing the money I make into a different game.

June I was focusing on reading and studying 2nd Timothy because of my study, "Entrusted" by Beth Moore.  Now that that is wrapping up I will be going back to my weekly scripture focus.
Back to memorizing, or at least focusing and meditating on for the July week's:
Exodus 14:14
2 Corinthians 9:6
Habakkuk 2:20
1 Samuel 12:16

Continue to eat healthy.  I am also 12 days into a physical challenge (squats, pushups, plank and crunches) and would like to finish that out.

My two biggest challenges and habits that I want to create this month are;
1) Wake up before the boys at least 4 days a week - even if it's just 15 minutes before.  The trick to this is the fact that it IS summer and our boys don't have a strict waking time from summer schedules.  It is typically after 7:30.
2) I want to spend LESS time on my phone.  That's it.  See what's around me more.

Pause. Breathe. Repeat.

I tried - reading 7 women [June's book review]

At the start of June I joined a Bible study over 2nd Timothy.  As we were meeting the women, in those sometimes awkward situations, I had to answer and discuss the question of, "which famous person would you like to spend time with?"

One of the women I was interviewing mentioned that her woman of choice was a result of reading the book "7 Women" - so I made a mental note .....okay, I did write it down too....

A few weeks later at the library with my boys I remembered the book and thought, why not.  I need to start reading something for June!

I strongly urge all people to pick up this book.  It really makes you reflect on the life at which we have been given.   This is not Eric Metaxas first biography.  He has also written over Bonhoeffer and a title called 7 Men.  Given time, I am interested in reading 7 Men as well. 

The seven women that Eric chose to write over and were also the following seven chapters:  Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Saint Maria of Pairs, Corrie ten Boom, Rosa Parks and Mother Theresa.   Of these seven women, I was familiar of 3 of them.

Honestly, of these women (and I'm sure there are so many others..... watch the film "Hidden Figures" please!) but of these women I could not pick a favorite.  

I have always been drawn to the Holocaust and WWII - so the stories of the rebel Saint Maria of Pairs and Corrie ten Boom intrigued me greatly (not your Anne Frank story). Their selflessness.  Their style.  Their fearlessness.

Susanna Wesley and Hannah More had interesting stories relating to church and which movements started to develop - and their desire to educate all people.

I am passionate about justice and human rights, so learning more of Rosa Parks and her life was fascinating.  And honestly, the fact that we aren't so far from her story still breaks my heart.

Mother Theresa was a name I knew, so seeing her heart being poured out on pages was beautiful.  Her hurt for all people was by far inspiring.

Warnings - if you do read this - be ware that the first chapter, Joan of Arc, was difficult for me to get through.  I am not familiar with French (anything) and war words.  But the rest of the book wasn't as 'dry'.    Also, it really.... really.... REALLY bothered me that it was not 100% chronological. Even in his writings he would mention siblings, but write their birthdays out of order, or by significance, I'm not really for sure.  The lack of linear-ness was frustrating at times, but not frequent enough for me to stop reading it.    Main example,  Rosa Parks was born after Mother Theresa, but Rosa came before Mother Theresa in his book - but all the other women where in order of birth.

Please don't let my pickiness stop you from picking up this great book.