Be Still

As an adult, I understand the importance of being still. Not only to rest but also to listen. When I am still and quiet, important messages do not go unnoticed. A quiet “I love you” or “You’ve been on my mind” provides reassurance and security.

Being still is not automatic. It takes practice. Especially in our fast-paced, instant news world.

What about children? They need quiet moments, too. But if being still is not automatic for me as an adult…well, my expectations for students might need adjusting. Today brought a perfect example.

This afternoon, one young friend entered my classroom running at full speed. The other students were sitting down in rows at the front of the room, preparing for music class. But not this friend. He continued to run circles in the back of the room.

This student’s classroom teacher is kind and patient. She quickly noticed the situation and offered assistance while sharing vital information. The heartbreaking story immediately changed my perspective. Patience was going to be required.

My friend eventually joined the group. But near the end of class, I noticed increased restlessness. “Would you like to sit in my lap?” I asked. “Yes,” he answered with a little smile. Not able to relax, he soon asked to sit next to me instead.

When it was time to line up, guidance was needed. But holding my hand only brought resistance. Not ready to give up, I asked if I could pick him up. “Yes!” he replied and lifted up his little hands.

We played a game while we waited. One I used to play with my own children. I would say, “Are you ready?” Then I would pretend to drop him. Of course, I would “catch” him half-way down. He would laugh and say, “Again, again, again!”

This game was definitely not a still or quiet moment. And this friend definitely needs some quiet moments. Moments where he feels love and security. But those will only happen over time through meaningful connections.

Was our little game one of those connections? Maybe. I hope so. But I’m afraid it will take many more before this little friend can truly be still.

In the meantime, I think I need to be still and quiet. 😉

Full Circle

I’m not sure the exact time, place, or person that sparked Rachel’s passion for individuals with special needs. Perhaps it was noticing kids at school. Or maybe getting to know her friend, Chandler. More importantly, that spark continued to grow.

During junior-high, Rachel served as a peer tutor in special education classes. It was also at this time, she and I worked to develop a “Parent’s Night Out” ministry at our church for families of children with special needs. She also began volunteering in weekly Sunday classes and summer camps for individuals with special needs.

Rachel chose service-learning as one of her high school classes. This program allows students to spend time working in an area they are interested in for their career. She spent time each day working in the special education classrooms.

Even during these early experiences, I was amazed at Rachel’s ability to truly be a friend to all who crossed her path. No matter their ability to communicate, she spoke to them as she would to anyone else. She even reminded me on a few occasions that certain individuals were not little kids and should not be spoken to in that manner. 😉

When it came time for college, there was no doubt about her course of study. She would get a degree in special education. She even talked about how her dream job would be to come back to her own school and teach. Teach in those classes where she spent so many hours as a student mentor.

Her college years flew by. And now she is in her first year of teaching. And where is she working? The high school where she graduated. Those same rooms she spent hours in as a student.

Her very own classroom. ❤

Last week I was finally able to see her in action. She is right where she planned to be. Right where she is supposed to be. Teaching young adults who are often overlooked and ignored. Treating them with respect and dignity. Pouring into their lives daily.

Watching my daughter as the teacher? There are not enough words. It is like a beautiful full circle. No beginning or ending. No limits on where she can go or what she will do.

A Happy Reunion

I love reunions. They allow time to reminisce and strengthen already established relationships. Seeing family and friends after time apart can be refreshing. Sometimes I even walk away with new friends.

This week I had one such reunion.

My daughter, Rachel, is a first-year special education teacher at our district’s high school. Several of my former elementary students are now her students. I love hearing her talk about them each day after school. It is nice to have a way to reconnect, even if it’s not in person.

This week I had an opportunity to visit Rachel at work. I was looking forward to seeing her in action and actually visiting with some of these now teenagers. It has been six years or more since I was their teacher. Even though excited, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

When I arrived, they were all in the gym for P.E. I immediately recognized those familiar faces. One precious girl came running towards me. She hugged me and buried her head in my shoulder.

No words. ❤

Our conversation went something like this.

“Oh, Mrs. Morris. I missed you so much!”
“I missed you, too! You look so grown-up and pretty!”
“I think I’m going to cry.”

This precious girl had no idea of the impact of her reaction. I held back my tears.

I was quickly swept away to greet other old friends and meet some new ones. Several students walked right up, shook my hand, and introduced themselves. One took my hand and gently placed it on her face. Another held both my hands and touched his forehead to mine. And yet another asked me my name using sign language.

Each greeting was individual and personal. Each communicated, “I see you. I’m glad you’re here. I want to know you.” I know the words may not have been spoken, but the messages were clear.

Not only did I reconnect with former students, I instantly gained new friends. Their capacity to love and accept everyone is beyond limits. There are no outsiders.

This short visit left me with a thankful heart. Thankful not only for this happy reunion but also for the chance to witness my daughter as a teacher.

But that’s a story for another day…

Dynamic Duo

I teach music in a large elementary school, over one thousand students. It is almost like two schools in one. Half of the students come to my class for music. The other half to my teaching partner. For grade-level performances, however, we come together as one big group. At least, that is our plan.

Our first performance is rapidly approaching. Fourth-grade students are busy learning songs and speaking parts for two Veterans Day assemblies. At least, they are supposed to be.

Preparing a large group for a performance is a daunting task. This year, in particular, I have been struggling. New students and unfamiliar music proved too much for me to handle.

Pridefully, I did not want to admit my struggles. But I finally had no choice. Of course, my friend was understanding and gracious, agreeing to a last-minute change.

We agreed on a well-known replacement song and decided to team-teach our classes for the next rotation. My stress level immediately dropped.

Even though we teach the same material, we have different styles. His students are familiar with his, mine with mine. What happened when we combined the two? Well, let’s just say we were a dynamic duo!

Students were initially confused. But once we got started, the results were amazing! Kids were engaged, they listened, and sang. The two of us naturally bantered back and forth. It was so much fun!

There is still much work to be done. Time is short. Will the program be perfect? No, but perfection is not our goal. Our goal is for students to give their best. And in doing so, to experience the power of sharing their music.

Hopefully, under the direction of our dynamic duo, students will continue to work hard. I know we will continue to have fun pushing them to be their best. And I will continue to be thankful for an energetic and understanding colleague. 🙂

Together

A sea of faces
Beautiful and diverse
Pass by each day
Smiling, even though
They lack necessities
I take for granted
Bravely coping
With a life
Filled with holes
Left empty by the
Choices of others
Not of their own
Too many holes
For one person to fill
On their own
Others see the same faces
Recognize the same deficits
Ask the same questions
What is the need?
How can we help?
Where do we start?
Encouraging each other
We begin to repair holes
One at a time-together

Small Victories

Today was the last day of school before Fall Break. Honestly, I was pretty much in survival mode. My focus was on getting to the end of the day. And I almost missed a small victory.

One particular third-grade class has been a challenge. I’ve had a difficult time connecting with some of the personalities in this group. And I’ve allowed this difficulty to turn into frustration on several occasions.

The classroom teacher for this group is awesome! She is patient, kind, and supportive. She has witnessed my frustration on several occasions. And yet, also recognized my desire to connect with the students. Today’s success began with her.

Last week she mentioned a student’s interest in rapping. There had been some impromptu rapping going on in their class. This knowledge opened the door, giving me a way to connect with one friend in particular.

I asked this student to share in class. His initial response was one of hesitation. He did not share that day but said he would keep working. At least the mood was lighter. I was able to relax and have fun, creating a silly rap myself.

      My name’s Mrs. Morris, and I like to play
       The piano every single day
       I love you guys, but you drive me crazy
       Especially on the days when you act lazy

Yes, I know a career in rap is not for me. However, my students and I had a much-needed laugh. 🙂

Fast forward to today. Students were talking about rapping when they walked through my door. Two students got up to share their rhymes in front of the class. They acted silly and embarrassed, but they did it! The one student I was hoping to reach? Still no rap.

When class was over, I encouraged him to keep working and bring what he had written to class next time. I also reminded him that it didn’t need to be finished or perfect. I tried to honestly express my interest in what he had created.

And that’s when the victory occurred. No, I did not hear the rap. I did, however, hear about his other interests. Suddenly, he was telling me about things he had done as a kid. He was proud of these things and eager to share.

Our conversation was brief. But our conversation was positive. It was the first time this student talked to me as a person. And possibly the first time I truly listened.

During the few minutes between classes, I quietly celebrated.

I have more work to do. I’m sure there will still be moments of frustration. But in between those moments, I will remind myself to look for similar successes. Small victories that are truly worth celebrating!

Choosing Hope

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

This verse popped up on my notifications last week. I read and re-read it several times. The recent stories of mass shootings and violence in the news forced me to stop and consider its meaning.

I have always tried not to live my life based on what might happen. That mindset leads to fear and worry, which then increases my anxiety. Not an easy task, but a goal.

I learned a long time ago; I cannot keep my husband and children safe. They are not with me 24/7, nor should they be. Experience has shown that even when they are with me, bad things still happen.

I used to worry about them because of high school violence. Gart was a high school principal, my kids were attending high school at various times. High profile mass shootings in high schools were unbelievably common.

Then my list of places to worry about grew longer. The same horrific events happened at the elementary school level. Stories of precious little children killed, their teachers attempting to protect them were heartbreaking.

I am an elementary school teacher. As such, I witnessed the ushering in of intruder on campus drills. I had difficult conversations with young students who should not be worried about someone entering their school to harm them.

And now? The worry invades not only my school but also the church, shopping malls, concerts, clubs. No place is off-limits. Despite this fact, we cannot remain locked up in our homes and avoid contact with others.

What is the answer? I’m not sure. Gun control and mental health top the list of conversations and news sound bites. Lawmakers bicker back and forth but offer no real solutions. Watching the news brings feelings of desperation.

Yet, I must choose hope. Hope must lead to action. Action must lead to loving my neighbor, no matter where they are from or how they look. And that is only the beginning.

“For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

That may seem like a simplified answer for such a terrible problem. But sometimes change begins with one step toward someone else. Suddenly, we are not walking alone. And if we continue walking together, hopefully, others will join.

As this school year starts, my children will be in new places. My two oldest are embarking on teaching careers at different high schools, my future daughter-n-law also teaches at a high school, and my youngest begins college.

Of course, I pray for them and want them to be safe. But even more than that, I want them to live each day to its fullest. Not being afraid of what might happen, but working to be part of the solution.

So, my goal for this year? Not to let worry and fear overtake me. That will require prayer, trusting God, and looking for the good in each day. I will look for it in the faces of my students. They deserve a future filled with hope and love, not fear.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11