Practical Gift Ideas for Education Majors

Most people seem to put Christmas on repeat during the month of December. My family has approximately four Christmas’ with different sides of the family to attend this year. Bring on the holiday cheer. When I told my boyfriend how many Christmas’s I’d be attending this year his reply was, “Whoa. That’s intense.” To me it’s just normal. We exchange gifts during each of those Christmas events, and it’s a great way to spend valuable time with family.

That being said…multiplying Christmas four or more times can be problematic with gift giving and receiving. My family has learned a few tricks about gift giving, but the receiving part can be tricky. How do you tell your grandmother that you are not going to wear that pink sweater with the glittery pom-poms?

You don’t.

Instead, before you find yourself beside a crackling fire wearing such a spectacle why not offer well-meaning relatives more…practical ideas?

Christmas does not hinge on the gifts, but my thought is that if relatives are going to buy gifts, then perhaps giving them gift ideas that you will actually use, would be a better scenario for everyone. No more glittery pom-poms.

Here are a few practical ideas for gifts for Education Majors:

A Sturdy Bookbag: You will need this, as you’re getting through your program. Education Majors seem to always be going places, whether it’s to class or field experience. Carrying books with you to study or prep for classes you’re teaching becomes essential. Jansport, SwissGear, and Timbuk2 are brands that will last several years.

A Planner: You need a planner to organize yourself and your time. If I could tell a freshman Ed. Major to buy anything it would be this. You can organize major class deadlines (papers, projects, and exams), times you have field experience, and everything else that’s important in your life.

Desk Supplies: Pens and pencils, and a pencil sharpener are essential for Education Majors, especially when you student teach.

Sticky Notes: These are a great way to give feedback to kids when you student teach, especially if you’re grading tons of English essays.

Sweaters and Cardigans: You’ll be needing some business clothes, as you’re studying to go into a professional field. We’re in New York State, which can be quite a chilly place, and schools have a reputation for being cold and drafty. Layering with sweaters and cardigans can make your teaching days much more pleasant.

A T-30ii Calculator: This is a fairly inexpensive, but impressive calculator, and you’ll discover that you’ll need a nice calculator to compute grades during your student teaching.
Here are some ideas! Hope they help you and your family celebrate Christmas…without the glittery pom-pom sweaters.

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68.9 Miles to Bethlehem

Every year we pour over the ancient words in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. If you’ve been in church for any number of years, you know the Christmas story. You’ve seen the kids in the Nativity play scamper down the church aisle likely a motley herd of sheep. You’ve probably chuckled quietly as the lead shepherd forgot his lines. Sometimes though, we forget that this ancient story is a part of real flesh and blood history. It is not a myth.

We forget that Mary was a young woman being scorned by her society, because she was perceived to be pregnant out of wedlock.

We forget Joseph who had the grace to let Mary go quietly and not press for his rights in a broken covenant, until God sent a dream and told Joseph to marry this girl.

We forget that a Roman decree sent both Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem from Nazareth.

That wasn’t a cute trip.

I looked it up online and the distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem is exactly 68.9 miles. Imagine journeying that distance and being ready to bring a child into the world any day. That wouldn’t be a cute trip if you had a bus, and they had no such transportation. Each time I read the Christmas Story I’m not struck by cuteness, I’m struck by the grace filled reactions of Mary and Joseph, despite the hardship of their situation. I’m struck by the beautiful history and tradition of our faith, but our faith is still living and active.

The word of God is still living and active.

We remember the history, the real people who lived this story, and yet when we finish reading we must head out into the frenzy of our own lives that are separated a couple thousand years from that first Christmas–

and yet the word of God is living and active.

How can a story thousands of years old speak to us who are rushing around finishing finals, wrapping Christmas presents, and journeying home for various family functions?

I believe that Scripture speaks loudly into every point in history. I believe that the Christmas Story speaks to us today.

That journey, the journey of Mary and Joseph, has been speaking to me this December. It was filled with 68.9 miles of uncertainty and possibly tragedy. Would they make it to Bethlehem? Why did the worry and uncertainty not overcome their journey? What if…What if…What if…

I suspect that the reason Mary and Joseph were not overcome, was that Mary carried the Author of Peace within her for every one of those 68.9 miles. This had never occurred to me before this December. Mary and Joseph’s beautiful reactions to the hardships of that journey must have come from a knowledge of that Peace.

We’re all headed in various directions, braving the public transit system, waiting in crowded airports…finally arriving home. We all have a task of a journey.  

Friends, may you be reminded that no matter where you are headed this Christmas, whether that place is filled with peace or strife, may you understand that knowing Christ means that you carry the Peace of the Holy Spirit for that journey. May you be overcome by that Peace this Christmas Season.

Merry, Merry Christmas.

The Joy of Jesus

Merry Christmas!

I hope you guys have been hearing that a lot. I’m currently drinking a peppermint hot chocolate and listening to Christmas carols at a very Christmas-y Starbucks. I would be wearing an ugly Christmas sweater and a Santa hat, but I have to go to work later. The point is – it’s Christmas.

Christmas joy can seem overrated if we focus on what’s in front of us. The show the Great Christmas Light Fight helped put me in the Christmas mood (even though I originally didn’t care much for it). The Babyface version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a Christmas staple for my family and makes me happier than ever. This season also brings unreasonable cheer – but why? What is it about Christmas that causes such a hullabaloo? Yea, it could definitely be the presents. It could be the unreasonably happy Christmas music (Frosty the Snowman just started playing). Or it could just be the fact that we are expected to be happy around this time. But what is the source?

As we all know, Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus. (Even though, apparently, Jesus wasn’t even born in December). A vast majority of our Christmas carols revolve around Jesus, especially the older ones, and Nativity scenes with plastic baby Jesuses begin to pop up on front lawns across the country. My point is that it doesn’t matter whether or not people choose to celebrate His birth because the true cause is very well known.

Jesus speaks about joy in John 15:11. He says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” His joy is the joy that is everlasting, very recognizable, and contagious. His joy was only made available to us after He came to earth, and what do we celebrate on Christmas? The day Jesus came to earth, exactly. I believe this is the reason Christmas is what it is. This holiday involves so much joy and cheer not because of the material aspects surrounding it, but because of the supernatural joy that it is rooted in. The joy of Jesus empowers the Christmas holiday. Remember that when you say Merry Christmas and when you get excited about a Christmas carol (Feliz Navidad is now playing). When you get excited about the decorations on your Christmas trees and making hot chocolate, just remember that you’re basking in Jesus’ joy.

13 Things You Learn From Teaching Othello

My second placement for student teaching has been a two month crash course on teaching Othello to high school students. It has been a wild, wild, crazy experience, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. To all you Adolescent English Majors: continue in your programs. Do not be intimidated! It is completely possible to learn how to teach high school Shakespeare, and be an engaging educator! Fear thee not. This being said, when you’re handed a wild, crazy experience you are guaranteed to learn a couple things…

Here’s what you learn from teaching Othello:

  1. You learn that 40% of your class has no idea what’s going on in the play, 55% have skipped ahead to the fight scenes, and the other 5% are working on their Shakespeare dissertations.                                                       
  2. You never take it personally, when a student declares that, “Ms. Neumann! I hate this Shakespeare stuff!”      
  3. You learn to read, read, and reread the text before you teach it. You read it in the original text. You reread it in a modern version. You don’t use Sparknotes and Cliffnotes as an excuse for laziness. You actually use them the way they were intended– a lifeline! (and a way to study the text).                                                              
  4. You learn to ALWAYS preview the movie before showing clips in class. (Use your imagination on that one. Also, check the ratings on any DVD.)                                                                                                                                   
  5. You learn that enthusiasm is as contagious as the bubonic plague, and if you can get a bunch of fifteen year old’s excited about something like Desdemona’s handkerchief? You can learn to teach anything.                       
  6. You learn that kids hate/love acting out the scenes. You learn to make them do it anyway, and eventually everyone is clapping in applause.                                                                                                                                         
  7. You learn that there’s something about plastic swords that brings out the actor in all of us.                                  
  8. You learn Shakespearean insults. “A pox on you for late homework!”                                                                         
  9. You learn to laugh at yourself when you spell Desdemona’s name wrong on the board–in front of the entire class.                                                                                                                                                                                            
  10. You learn to capitalize on the bizarre, gross, gory, and strange details of the play. Iago said what!                      
  11. You learn that ultimately teaching Shakespeare is a study in human nature, both from the characters in the text and from the reactions of your students…at being assigned homework over it.                                                 
  12. You learn that having the best supervising teacher ever makes the experience. You know who you are!  
  13. You learn that only an English teacher shouldst heed the pangs of love and agony which doth spring from the instructing of pupils on bookish fancies of a man heretofore accorded witness as Shakespeare. You learn that you are an English teacher.

Nyack Unfiltered: Joseph Vasquez

Nyack College has a plethora of personalities. Nyackers come from all different backgrounds and bring their stories with them. Each one has a passion, a gift, and a desire to see God’s plan for their life be fulfilled. Nyack Unfiltered is a series of interviews I am conducting featuring students on the Manhattan campus who not only I, but others, believe will do (and currently are doing) great things for God.

The first interview in our series is Joseph Vasquez. Even though Joseph doesn’t know me too well, he granted me the honor of interviewing him. He’s an interesting guy who will bring much honor to God’s name with the things he’s planning to do.
What’s your major?

Joseph: Psychology.

Why?

Joseph: I’m a Psych major because I believe it’s a good foundation for what I want to do. I want to be a psychotherapist. I want to be able to help people find the root of why they’re going through what they’re going through, and [help them know] that they are normal. Usually when you go to see a psychotherapist or psychologist you kind of feel freaked out and I want to create an atmosphere – like a safe haven – which I know builds up over time, but I just want to create that environment. And I want to help people understand that when they go into that office, they’re not the only ones going through what they’re going through. Even though it may seem like it, they’re not. I also believe that I am called for ministry, and I want to be able to understand the people that I’m being called to minister to – [their] mind, [their] emotions, and just integrate that with what I’ve learned on my journey with God and what the Bible teaches me. So for instance, the Bible says that the heart of a man is like a deep well and the person who understands it draws it out. So you see Psychology there, and I just like that integration.

Are you minoring in anything?

Joseph: I’m not.

If you could go back and if you had more time, would you want to?

Joseph: If I had more time, I would have done an interdisc. [editor’s note: interdisciplinary major] I would’ve done Psychology and Pastoral [Ministries]. I think even though I’m graduating – you know those kind of regrets – it’s not evident, but it’s there. So if I could go back in time I would have done Pastoral, just for the fact that I think that those classes are kind of easier than what I take. Usually when I take a Bible or Pastoral class, I get a decent grade…

Then that’s probably because that’s what you’re good at…

Yeah, and it comes easy for me so I would integrate Pastoral and Psychology because [in these classes] they teach you methods that you can use when you preach, they teach you how to read the Bible from a different perspective….and the Spiritual gifts. So these are things that make me wish I could have sat down in these classes.

So, what you want to do with psychotherapy is kind of unique. It kind of sounds like a brand. Do you want it to be your brand or do you just want it to be a job and then you do something else for your career?

Joseph: I think psychotherapy is just my second passion. I think it’s something to bring to the table, but my first passion is preaching the Gospel. So until then, psychotherapy is something that I want to do. I believe that I can’t just grab a mic and start preaching. I believe in God’s timing.

Right now, are you doing anything related to what you want to do in the future? Or are you just focusing on graduating?

Joseph: I actually started a YouTube channel over the Summer. I paused it… [Just then, a student comes through the doors of the library, gives Joseph a high-five, and wishes him good luck on his test. Joseph thanks him and smiling, continues…] but I want to eventually have a TV show, so I’m starting with a YouTube channel.

What is something you learned this month? [editor’s note: It was November.]

Joseph: I think November has taught me the power of decision and the power of your voice. I think sometimes being isolated from different voices helps you find your own voice. It’s like if there’s a fight in front of you and you’re alone, you’re more prone to break up the fight. But if you’re surrounded by people, there’s a hesitation because everyone’s looking at one another like, “Who’s gonna break up the fight?” I’m not saying to walk alone, but… even Jesus when He went into the wilderness, He was alone and He was confronted by the enemy. So, I feel like there are times or seasons when we’re alone and God isolates us from certain voices so we can find our own [voice]. So I learned the power of my voice and having my own conviction. Especially when it comes to the elections. There are a lot of voices – a lot of opinions – but in the end you’re the one voting. So you have to have a conviction and make a decision. You’re the one making a decision and that might exclude other options and you might not like the consequences of your decision, but…. that’s what I’ve learned this month.

What advice do you have for anyone – not just Nyack students and not just incoming Seniors – what advice would you have for a random person on the street who just came up to you and said “hey”? Or not even advice. What would you say – besides “hey” back?

Joseph: I would say that even though it’s comfortable to sometimes stay on the floor when you feel like life has knocked you down, when you have probably knocked yourself down, when people knocked you down – you were created to fly and just don’t give up. Even when giving up is the only thing that’s echoing in your mind. It’s something that will resonate with each and every one of us. We all get to that point where we feel like giving up – it’s literally just comfortable to give up. It’s comfortable to just stay on the floor. It’s comfortable to just settle. But even though it’s harder to not give up and just keep fighting, even though you’ve been knocked down 50,000 times, when you stand up and start flying again you realize that this is what you’ve been called to do – fly. Just keep running the race. At the end of the day, it will all make sense – at the end of the tunnel. But right now, I feel like nobody should give up. You should keep pushing, you should keep fighting. I felt like giving up a lot of times, at least in the past two years. But I literally keep pushing…there’s something inside of me that says I was born to fly. I was born to keep pushing. And even though I don’t feel like it, even though it’s hard, even though I have to repeat it, even though I have to apologize… if I mess up or I fall, I stand back up and keep fighting. Hopefully that gives hope and encouragement to other people. But not only for those people, but I think the most important thing you can do is encourage yourself. Even David said, “My soul, why are you afflicted – worship God, you know?” That’s powerful that you can encourage yourself. When nobody encourages you, you can depend on God and encourage yourself. I think that’s advice I would give to the general public.

 
Joseph’s ending words reminded me of my favorite childhood verse (and low key my favorite verse today): Isaiah 40:31 “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

Thank you for letting me talk with you, Joseph!

Interview With a Senior at Nyack: Meet Grace Anger

On the list of people worth knowing, Grace Anger is pretty high on the list. I’ve known Grace prior to day one of college. We saw each other on a college group on Facebook and were convinced that we would never, never be friends. We’ve been roommates and the best of friends for 2.5 years. Life is hilarious. Meet the lovely Miss Anger:

Can you tell me a little about your major?

I’m majoring in Childhood Education with a concentration in Teaching English as a Second Language. Right now, I’m also transitioning into the Master’s Program at Nyack in Special Education.

Is there anything special about your program?

The program gives you the option to seamlessly integrate your undergraduate and graduate studies, and you’re done in a total of five years with both degrees.

Why did you choose Nyack College?

I felt God leading me here. That decision has been reinforced over and over again, and my experience at Nyack has greatly exceeded my expectations for what college would be like.

Were there any challenges you experienced as a Freshman?

Yes, submitting my first paper was a bit of a challenge. I was required to hand this thing in and be vulnerable with my work. That was really hard at first.

Also, during my first semester, I got an 81% on an assignment, because I didn’t follow the directions. The directions were to cite information in APA Format, and I went off on rabbit trails about homeless people. I remember standing in my professor’s office asking her what went wrong with that assignment. Through that conversation, she ended up becoming my mentor through my entire time in college. Without that vulnerable experience with that grade, I would have missed out on an opportunity for that professor to pour into my life.

You’re a senior now, what advice would you give students about making the most of their time in college?

First of all, the point of college is not just getting a grade, a degree, and a job. College broadens your horizons: reveals your dreams and passions, allows you to meet life-long friends and mentors, and offers you books to read that will shape your character and your ideas. College is an opportunity to pilot many of the habits you will carry into adulthood.

What are some of your favorite memories of your time at Nyack?

Running with my roommate through the sprinkler system on Mosely Field. Embrace the quirky people around you.

Also, attending a crazy diverse small group on campus was one of my favorite memories. At the end of the night I would look around at all these different people. There were so many ways in which we had nothing in common, and yet we were all united by the Holy Spirit.

What’s been your favorite class at Nyack so far?

College Writing II with Dr. Gates. That class kind-of shaped me and how I would learn in my classes after that. Dr. Gates defined learning as being transformed as a person. I’ll never forgot that.

Have you been involved in any extracurricular activities while at Nyack?

Yes, for about three years I’ve been involved in the college’s chorale. During some semesters, my involvement has been limited, but as my schedule allows it has been such a privilege to make music with other people in a community setting. I’ve loved working with Dr. Jameson. He has high standards and a lot of patience. What I love the most though, is that he truly wants the lyrics we’re singing, whether they’re Christmas Carols or ancient German melodies to move our hearts.

Just Hang On the Semester is Almost Over

I would Iike to begin this blog by giving my fellow blogger Kassie a shout out for her post on defying disappointment with beauty. I connected with it and I loved it. I was in a similar spot this past week – errr…month. Disappointment knocked on my bedroom door more times than I would like to list. There were highs and there were lows, and I learned to dance through it all. (This is usually when “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack would start playing and I would make my grand exit, but I’m not done.)

I feel like I should reintroduce myself to the blog because I’ve been gone for a while now. I guess I took a bit of a hiatus, but that’s not entirely accurate because I was still trying to write. In the month I was gone I wrote the equivalent of one post. It took me about 3 weeks to write one post. It wasn’t writer’s block, and it wasn’t lack of motivation. I’m going to be honest – I don’t know what it was. A slew of things hit me at once and I was unable to do anything productive for a while. I guess it’s called life.
Honestly, things still aren’t exactly how I would like them to be, but when are things ever how we want them to be? When are things ever perfect? Never. So why are we mad when things go wrong? Because they’re not what we want? That’s awfully selfish of us. The best thing we can do in these situations is to smile, find our joy, and eat some chocolate. These situations don’t catch God off guard. He’s not sitting up in Heaven looking down and worrying because He didn’t expect this to happen. He knew. And He’s got this. So trust Him.

I, like every other college student, have some big decisions to make. I also have finals, work issues, and family issues. We’re all dealing with these things, and that’s what I keep telling myself. I know I’m not the first and certainly won’t be the last to have 300 things going on at once. Almost every other Nyack student has 300 things going on. My psychology professor said it best, “Nyack students are some of the busiest people I’ve ever met.”

So while writing this blog has been a form of catharsis, I also want you to know that problems don’t run your life. Stress doesn’t run your life. Pressure doesn’t run your life. You run your life. And you run it with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit as your guide. You’ve got this! (And the semester is almost over so just hang on, buddy. You’re almost there.)

5 Ways to Fight Holiday Depression

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The end of the year is here, and with it comes the holidays. Honestly, I don’t care what you have to say about it, I’m ready for Christmas music, I’m ready for ice skating, I’m ready for Thanksgiving food. But you can’t judge me for being so ready for the holidays because Forever 21 sent me an email about their ugly Christmas sweaters at 10pm on October 31. They didn’t even wait until midnight so it would officially be November. I also saw 3 different kinds of Christmas commercials on television in the span of 2 hours, and Whoopi Goldberg was on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to talk about her line of ugly Christmas sweaters. (It seems like ugly Christmas sweaters are going to be a theme this year). So I’m not alone.

However, with the influx of holiday cheer blanketing our television sets and flowing through the streets in the form of Christmas lights and Salvation Army bell ringers, there also comes the less cheery side of the holidays. Pressure and depression go hand in hand this time of year and affects more people than we would like to believe. The Nyack NYC campus has experienced these feelings on a deep level during recent weeks, and it has the potential to grow stronger this Holiday season if we allow it to. So, here are 5 ways to not allow the Holiday cheer to get you down.

  1. Don’t Have High Expectations

I know everyone is always saying to set your expectations high and shoot for the sky because even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. In fact, that last one is one of my favorite quotes. However, it’s been proven that people who set high expectations are more likely to be disappointed. If your expectations are lower, there is less room for disappointment because you weren’t expecting much in the first place. Granted, this approach does sound a little depressing in its own right, but if the Holidays are a source of stress for you then the last thing you need to be doing is building it up to be something it is never going to be. Plan for a low-key Holiday season. Have a Friendsgiving and go out to eat with friends on Thanksgiving Day, or plan to volunteer somewhere on Christmas Day instead of staying home and unwrapping presents. Planning a chill day takes away unwanted and unnecessary stress.

  1. Volunteer

This goes hand in hand with my suggestions from #1. Volunteering at soup kitchens on Thanksgiving is one of the most rewarding experiences. You wholly forget about yourself for hours and focus solely on the people in front of you. Handing out food or pouring juice are small tasks, but they are anything but mundane when your heart is in the right place. Ever since I moved to New York 2 years ago, it has been my new tradition to volunteer at some kind of shelter, soup kitchen, or food drive during the holidays. I highly recommend it!

  1. Have a Good Support System

Now is the time of year that family members who somehow seem to remember us since our diaper days come from near and far to celebrate the Holidays with us. Family is great, they truly are; however, they can be a handful as well. It’s common to dread the influx of out-of-towners that are heading your way when you know they have a history of asking too many questions and pointing out too many of your flaws. Granted, they probably do so because they care so much (too much?) but there is often a line that doesn’t need to be crossed. So before things get crazy, take the time to contact the people in your life who don’t drive you crazy: your best friends, other family members, maybe even a professor who always hears you out – and stay in contact with these people through January. They will keep you calm and remind you that you’re not going through this season alone. A good, strong support system is crucial.

  1. Remember Loved Ones

It is also the time of year where memories of loved ones who have passed start to flood our memories. Maybe it’s the cheeriness of the season, maybe it’s the lost loved one’s love for the season – whatever it may be, it causes a cloud to cover our holiday spirit and that cloud tends to stay with us all the way through January – which is going to be unacceptable this year. God did not give us a spirit of grief.

  1. Remember Why We Celebrate

I’m not going to sit here and type out: Jesus is the reason for the season (even though I just did) because it’s corny and you’ve heard it before. But it’s true, alright. He is also our rock. He never abandons us, and He is as reliable as ever.  Putting any kind of trust in Him is a smart move because He cannot disappoint. If we celebrate Him instead of the hype of the season itself, there is never disappointment. I love the hype as much as the next person, but I also realize that it is short-lived and ultimately, not worth a thing.

This holiday does not have to be like the last. We are overcomers, and we have the power of pure Joy on our side. Let’s tap into that Joy we have on the inside and fight against holiday depression this year.

Life Lessons I Learned From My Professors

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Friends,

There are only weeks left in the semester. For some of you, the stress is overwhelming every minute of these last weeks. You’re panicking. You might even be starting to doubt yourself and ask, “why did I decide to go to college?”

Remember your dream.

Remember your vision.

Above all keep moving.  Above all keep praying, my friends. You will make it through. You know how I know this?

I know this, because right now I’m a senior staring down the last three weeks of an undergraduate career in the face. I’ve been where you’re at, many, many, many times. You’re going to make it. Keep moving and keep praying.

I want to mention, though, that college is not all stress. Right now, perhaps that’s all you can see, but I’d like to remind you of one of the beautiful, amazing gifts of college. That gift, especially at a college like Nyack where classes are tightly-knit, is the ability to learn from your professors about more than just textbook information. I’ve had the privilege of sitting in class, and learning so many lessons about life from my professors. The professors at Nyack have made my entire experience. Here’s a few life lessons I’ve learned from them:

Dr. Buel: There is power in the word “yet”. Don’t say, “I can’t do this”. Instead, you need to say, “I can’t do this–yet”. That class changed my life.

Dr. Gates: Work faithfully and holistically. Every part of your life matters and is integrated together. (Also, a little known fact is that Dr. Gates slips fantastic relationship advice into his lectures).  

Dr. Beach: Christianity is full of wonder and mystery, and a fair-amount of good humor. Take Oxford Christian Writers with him. Do it!

Dr. Pinkham: Everything in life doesn’t need to fit into a nice labeled box. You’re going to face things in life that can’t be either/or, but will be both/and. Embrace that. If you take Short Story class with him, it will change your life.

Dr. Davis Abdullah: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Use your voice. What you’re saying matters, and do not be afraid to say it well. Do your research.

Dr. Nichols: When you’re a teacher care about your students. You can have all your material memorized, but don’t forget about the heart of teaching. Care about your students.

Professor Locke: Servant leadership works both in theory and in practice, and if we lead through servant leadership we are reflecting Christ.

Dr. Dueck: Wrestle with your faith, for that is the only way to have true faith. Read a lot of Kierkegaard.

Dr. Looney: Believing in people is just as powerful as what you do for them. Pray always.

Professor Linda Poston: Faithful hospitality will change the world, or at least the heart of a homesick college student. Cover your life in Scripture.

How to Defy Disappointment With Beauty

I’m writing this blog post right now, and this week I really don’t know where I’m going with this post. Usually when I write, I have some sort of idea. Usually I have a title at least etched out, and I work from there. This week I have nothing. These passed few weeks have been wild, terrible, blessed, wretched.

I believe in honesty. I believe in realness.

The last few weeks I have experienced wild, wild, bizarre, crazy hopes. The last few weeks I have experienced disappointments crush those hopes and others in a steady rhythm. Two weeks ago I had one of the hardest weeks of my college experience. Everything important fell apart at the same time. I was dealing with conflict that felt far, far out of my league, and being handed problems and disappointments I never thought I’d have to deal with while still in college. I felt all over the placed, scattered like sunflower seeds being tossed to a rootless wind.

I like to tell myself that I’m pretty good at keeping it together…

That week I became a little unmoored, and suddenly I lacked direction. Last week, I bought sunflowers and arranged them in a vase. I did this as a defiance against the chaos, against the disappointment, against the rage and the fighting surrounding me, against feeling unmoored, against feeling rootless. Beauty is defiance.

It’s a cry against a utilitarian world which seeks to use and consume everything in its path.

Beauty defies disappointment. Beauty teaches you to look beyond yourself–beyond the cracks and tears in your own world. I think part of the reason that happens, is because there’s really no point in beauty, right? At least no practical point. Placing flowers in a vase doesn’t offer a solution to your problems, actually displaying some sunflowers will change nothing about your circumstances, but such an act can and will defy the idea that your circumstances will engulf you, overcome you into silence. Beauty reaches into your life and mentions offhandedly, that life will one day be different. I think also, for me at least, placing flowers in a vase is a declaration that I will not be ruled by my circumstances. Nothing changed with those sunflowers, nothing at all, but perhaps the core of who I am is not tied to my circumstances. Perhaps we can lift our eyes to the simple wonder of golden petals framed by a fierce red sun streaming through a window, and see joy. Dearest of friends, joy is not found in circumstances.

Then today. Fast forward to today where I received wild, amazing news, news I had resigned to the “this is never going to happen” section of life. I’m still trying to process everything as I type this post. My life is still wrecked from that week, about half of it is still ripped, torn apart, a mangled mess. A great deal of what happened that week is still out of my control. There is nothing I can do, no strategy I can offer to fix everything. Suddenly all my distracted self can do is to have my knees hit the floor each morning in quiet, steady need. I’m not saying that to sound spiritual. I’m admitting this, because in my frailty and need there is nothing else to do. Receiving wild, amazing news changes none of that need. I’m praying out of that need, and now I’m asking for strength to meet this crazy news, and I’m praying that through You that whatever may come that we may defy the world with the beauty of sunflowers.

Student Teaching: Placement Switch

It is exactly the middle of November. As most of you know, I’m in the middle of student teaching. The way student teaching works is that your semester is split into two placements. My certification will be to teach 7th-12th Grade English , and as a result my first placement was at a middle school. Those eighth grade students completely and wholly stole my heart. The last day I was there my cooperating teacher passed around a card for them to sign. Each period thought that they’d expertly hidden this card, as they tried to pass it around.

They forgot that teachers have eyes in the back of their heads.

They were going to hand the card to me at the end of the day, but some student accidentally packed it away with their books and made off with it in their backpack. They sheepishly handed me this light purple envelope–all that remained of their thank-you. I laughed, laughed, and laughed again. You just have to love the eighth grade.

Now, life has swung in an entirely different direction. I’m at my second placement working with tenth graders. Art explodes from every corner of this school. They understand that art is as necessary to life as lunch period. The students are filled with thoughts. Creativity is a valued strength at this school. This school welcomed me about six seconds after I walked through the building.

Now, life is rather different. Teaching high school English means that you have to prep multiple materials for multiple classes. I’d never really thought through that one. I entered my student teaching experience, embarrassingly without even a folder. Now, I carry binders, folders, and have developed a system necessary for survival. Forced improvement can be a beautiful work of art.

Now, I am learning how to grapple with texts I was afraid to teach. The class I’m teaching is going through Othello at the moment. All things Shakespeare happen to be a deep passion of mine, but for some odd reason I had never read Othello in any of my classes or personal reading. My cooperating teacher had kindly emailed in advance to tell me that we’d be covering Othello during my time at the school. Panic ripped through my chest. You don’t just wing teaching Shakespeare, and Shakespeare requires heavy interpretation. English teachers can be a rather opinionated bunch when it comes to textual interpretation. I feared getting it all wrong.

But…I decided to shove down my panic, and move forward. That’s a lesson I’ve been learning in more areas than just student teaching–shove down the fear, move forward. I began studying Othello, grappling with the text, characters, and themes.

Now, we just finished a lesson segment where the students acted out a scene from the play. Helping students untangle the rich language of Shakespeare, laughing as they add “wandering torchbearers” to their performances, and applauding as they leap out of their comfort zones to perform in front of their peers is amazing.

Now, now is the time to learn, now is the time to face silly fears such as teaching Shakespeare, now is the time to build relationships with students, and now is the time to revel in distinct joy.

The Distinct Joy of Exercising in College

There’s the shift of your feet across pavement, it’s the air entering your lungs and exiting in sharp, cold breaths–oxygen flowing into your bloodstream. Your feet toss leaves aside. You toss everything aside: exams, the homework you’ve been struggling through, the family drama going down at home, the endless text messages wearing you down, the fact that your brain hurts from thinking about it all. You toss aside everything as you run through the fallen leaves on this gorgeous campus that God has given you. You run and are finally at peace, as you separate yourself from everything. It’s just you, the Lord, and the pavement. This is why running is a distinct joy for me.

This is why I’m an advocate of exercising in college.

I wasn’t always this way. In high school, I was on a swim team, but in college exercise wasn’t exactly my thing. My parents forced me to hike and exercise with them. I despised hiking. I liked poptarts.

A couple of years ago, two events changed my perspective. (Okay, don’t judge the honesty here.)

  1. I got stuck working inside a stuffy pizza shop all summer. I smelled like cheese and grease from May-August. Suddenly, I craved being outside, and would find every excuse to drag the trash out to the dumpster just to feel the sun on my skin, just to feel human again. Suddenly exercising outdoors sounded like a wonderful idea.
  2. I had a crush on a runner. He was running solo, and of course he needed someone to run with him… (F.Y.I: That relationship did not work out, but I discovered a love for running through that experience.)

Yes, honesty. Anyway, once I started exercising I realized how much of a positive change it was in my life:

  1. It became a way to release stress, and use up energy that before I started running, I had been pouring into worry and anxiety-filled thoughts.
  2. Running made me focus and concentrate more in school. It just did.
  3. I started realizing how healthy running was for my body.
  4. It forced me to manage my time better. Running required me to plan out when I was going to run each week, and that planning made me balance my life in more healthy ways.
  5. Exercise can be an opportunity to pray. Sometimes it can be a bit hard to pray during an intense workout, but all workouts are not intense. Sometimes it’s wonderful to run at a slower pace, just enjoy nature, and enjoy the peace of Christ.

So. What I offer to you is this: find your groove. Figure out the types of exercise you enjoy. Maybe you’re into running, lacrosse, soccer, lifting weights, ping-pong, or dancing? Figure it out, and start exercising regularly. It doesn’t have to be anything insane, but set a goal and stick with it. Set small, attainable goals for yourself. Running three blocks farther than the last time you ran is an example of this. Running a marathon the first day you buy running shoes is not.

Also, don’t get hung up on everyone showing off on Instagram. They’re probably spending more time taking the picture than exercising anyway. Exercise for yourself–not other people. Enjoy yourself, as you start exercising in college. Enjoy the distinct joy.

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