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teach. pray. - Fractured Bridges: Part 1

Dear South Carolina Representatives,
We’d like to start by expressing our gratitude. Thank you for taking the time to read our thoughts and to consider our concerns as South Carolina educators, professionals, and residents. We would also like to start by admitting our shortcomings. We are classroom teachers not politicians, therefore, our understanding of the inner workings of legislation is limited. That being said, we can assume your understanding of the inner workings of an elementary and middle school classroom are also limited. The bridge connecting education legislation to the actual classroom is a fractured one and fractured bridges are less than effective. We write in hope that our concerns and daily experiences as educators will be the first step in repairing the fractured bridge.
What do you remember about a typical school day as a student? What is your vision, as a parent, of a typical school day for your child? Is your vision as a parent similar to that of your memories as a…

teach. pray. - We All Want a Wrinkle Free Heart

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day in an elementary school is FAR more hype than the day before Christmas break. As I entered Valentine’s Day, I knew I couldn’t compete, so I planned a special lesson about love and kindness.
Our reading lesson started with a read aloud (recommended by our awesome school librarian) of Be Kind by Pat Zietlow and Jen Hill. It’s a beautiful story about the impact actions and words can have-both positive and negative. The students really enjoyed this read aloud. They were able to make connections and felt emotionally invested in the story.
After the read aloud, I had students complete an activity my co-worker shared with me. Each student got a pretty pink or purple heart. They got crayons and markers and wrote their name all fancy in the center of the heart. Then, we did a positive comment scoot where students scooted from heart to heart writing a positive comment about each person. When they got back to their own heart, I gave them one silent mi…

teach. pray. - Humans First. Students Second.

It is no secret that I despise state standardized testing. I'm all for accountability, but I also believe there has to be a better way. Then, again, maybe I should just change my attitude. I don't know. Either way, let me tell you a story.

I teach two 90 minute blocks of fifth grade ELA (English Language Arts - in case you're wondering). Both of my classes are full of amazing kids. In my second block, there's a boy named Charles (that's an alias to protect the identity of the student). Charles started the year with less than great work ethic and effort. However, over the course of the past couple of months, I've noticed a drastic change. He's eager to learn, works harder than most of my students, and takes pride in his work. 

Charles performs well below grade level. In August when I assessed him, he was reading on a mid-first grade reading level. A week ago, I reassessed him. He is currently reading at a mid-third grade level. You do the math there. Incredibl…

pray. - Go Rake Some Leaves

Last Wednesday, I woke up and met a friend out at Paris Mountain State Park for a nice little hike slash downhill trail run. It was a beautiful morning and the view of the sun rising to the heavens over the waterfalls and mountain was breathtaking. For me, moments like that are more spiritual than a church sermon on a Sunday morning. I want to create more of those moments for myself in 2019.

Fast forward to a couple of hours after that glorious hike. Since I was already smelly and had the energy, I thought I'd try being a decent neighbor for once and rake some leaves in the front yard. I took off to the garage and grabbed the electric leaf blower and an old fashion rake. Once I plugged in the leaf blower, off I went on this journey. The driveway and walkway were cleared within minutes. So, I started blowing the front lawn, but it was such a gorgeous day I decided to get the rake and put in some manual labor.

Just as I was getting started, a black Ford Explorer pulled up and a lady r…

pray. teach. - Broken Grit

Life. What does one say about it? How does one describe it? Life. It's funny. It's heartbreaking. It's merry. It's maddening. It's challenging. When I think of life, I think of a ball of yarn. One afternoon, I left a ball of yarn on the arm of the sofa; it was in a neat bundle sitting peacefully in its place. When I returned home that afternoon, it had been tossed about, strewn all over the living room, knotted & tangled. I couldn't find the end from the beginning. I couldn't maneuver the maze of loops to unknot it. That describes my life...a majority of the time.

Here lately, uh since I don't know August, life has been one hell of a ride. I mean tangles that can't be untangled. Knots so tight that life will just have to move on with them there. Work. Graduate school. The world. Inner turmoil. Disappointment. Stress makes me a crazy person. My mind doesn't function properly under stress. My emotions don't regulate properly under stress. I…

Teach. Pray. - It's the Climb

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Two weeks ago at 8:24 p.m., I was lying in bed with Matt watching Netflix at an Airbnb in Englewood, Colorado. We had spent a day walking around downtown Denver. Other than recovering from a stomach bug and adjusting to the elevation change, we had no worries. A true vacation where we set everything aside and enjoyed ourselves. Tonight I ask myself, why not set things aside more often? Why not enjoy ourselves on the daily? After all, when you set things aside...they'll still be there when you get back.

To say this school year has been stressful is an understatement. But, that's what happens when you're an educator. Each year is different because I'm not only in the education business. I'm in the human business, and humans are complicated. So, the Friday before fall break had me at my wit's end. I was D-O-N-E! Counting down the minutes and seconds done. I had worked late all week to get tests graded, to get weekly plans done, to get sub plans done, and to get mat…

pray. - High Waist Shorts and Female Parts

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Without failure every year, September to November push my fight-or-flight response to its absolute max. And, this year is no different. This could turn into a public school system venting session, but I'll spare you. Instead, let's talk about wardrobes.

A few weeks ago, my thirty-four-year-old self attended a two-day music festival in Atlanta with my twenty-one-year-old sister. I've been longing for a good music festival and this line-up excited me. Kendrick Lamar was one of the headlining acts, and well, I'm a Kendrick Lamar fan. Not to mention, he made history this year! He was the first artist out of the classical and jazz genres to win the Pulitzer Prize for his album DAMN. So, yea, I wasn't going to miss it, and I didn't. I spent hours standing in a dusty field smashed against sweaty, drunk, disgusting bodies to see his performance. It was worth it. I had the honor of seeing a historical Pulitzer Prize winner unite a mass of diverse creatures. Legendary.

But…