Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Utmost for His Highest

I picked up My Utmost for His Highest again for the first time in a long time.  If you're unfamiliar, it's a daily devotional by Oswald Chambers.  You can get the book at any bookstore, or check out the readings online. 

Here's a quote from today's reading that had me thinking all day:

"So often we mar God's designed influence through us by our self-conscious efforts to be consistent and useful.  Jesus says that there is only one way to develop spiritually, and that is by concentration on God... If you want to be of use to God, get rightly related to Jesus Christ and He will make you of use unconsciously every minute you live."

2 days, 2 fights

Students have not fought in my room all year... in a school where there is probably one fight a day, I am glad to say there haven't been any fights in my room... until last week.

fight 1 - I always try to be at the door greeting my students as they walk in.  [so much so that when I'm not standing at the door, several will say "i thought you weren't here today, ms. cook! where were you? why aren't you at the door" as they walk in the room.]  anyway, this particular day, i was coming back from a meeting before 8th period and walked in just as the bell for 8th period range.  these 2 kids (we'll call them tatyana and martece) were standing in the front of the room putting on quite a show.  part laughing/ part yelling, they were play-threatening each other.  sometime between the time i walked through the door and got to the front of the room, they weren't playing around anymore.  "I'm gonna f***in beat the s*** outta you!"  "you aint gonna touch me before I beat the f*** out of you" (didn't know you could beat that out of someone...) literally, for no reason, it escalated.  i tried the standing in the middle thing... i've never felt more invisible.  so, i just walked calmly into the hall, motioned for security and they were escorted out, screaming all the while.  meanwhile, all the other student are laughing.  when i return to the front of the room, they go silent.  my response, "well, did everyone enjoy the show?"  [laughter] "want to sing about it?"

fight 2 - let's call these two girls Kierra and Raven.  Raven is late to class.  the door is locked and Kierra goes to open it for her.  Kierra sees that it's Raven and walks away instead of opening the door.  Pause.  You have to understand that Raven is friends with another girl (we'll call her Shavonne) and Shavonne doesn't like Kierra's boyfriend.  Resume.  Kierra looks over and I give her the "open the door" look.  So she does.  Fast forward 30 minutes later.  The students are packing their things getting ready to leave when suddenly Kierra and Raven are shouting nonsense- literally nonsense- at each other.  Apparently, Kierra bumped Raven, Raven said "You're excused," and then in T-minus-5 seconds we were at "you b****, i'm gonna f***** kill you."  once again, pushed them out the room and called security.

so, pretty tame compared to what i've seen in the halls/ heard about... but, i'm glad i can still say no physical damage done in my room.  only a few more weeks until i've managed a whole year without a "real" fight. 


Right after school a student came in and said, "Ms. Cook... um, like, today I'm getting an award at an RO [JROTC] thing, and it's in the auditorium, and um I'd really like it if you could come and support me... like if you're not busy."

How could I resist?

I have to say, it was incredibly boring!!! However, as I watched the students, these were my main thoughts:

1. On the whole, the group was incredibly disciplined.  Even when they weren't being called upon to do something in particular, the students carried themselves well.  Polite speech, smiles all around, etc... In an environment where anti-discipline seems to be the MO (i.e. always coming late to class, yelling out in the middle of class whenever you feel like it, suddenly starting a showdown about who stole who's guy, etc...) I think this program, amongst other things, is instilling self-discipline.

2. I love all my R.O. kids.  Well, I love all my students (thank you Jesus), but I like all my R.O. kids.  I have 7 or 8 students who are in R.O. and each is wonderful - sweet, kind, respectful, not to mention fun, responsible, and smart!! 

so, boring ceremony, but great program. 

p.s. when a student's name is called for a particular award, and they light up, (but sometimes try not to look too excited).... how sweet!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Commencement is really just the beginning

My brother graduated from University of Illinois today.  To say I'm a proud older sister would be an understatement :)  Can I brag about him for a minute?  Thanks.  He's graduating from U of I's engineering program in 3 years with a 3.96 = top 3% of graduating class (which is like 8,000 people) and has received an award for best student in his engineering class several semesters in a row (which, I might add comes with some nice reward $$... why don't they have these for music students?)

The best part though is that he is humble and Godly.  He does not walk around bragging that his major is something most people can't even pronounce or remember (Engineering - Theoretical and Applied Mechanics with a specialty in Computational Fluid Dynamics... I just learned to say all that today.  It's only taken me 3 years!)  He is easy going and friends with anyone.  He is not arrogant and does not talk to people in a condescending way (come on, we've all talked to smart people who talk to us regular people like we're stupid or lesser).  Most importantly, he loves Jesus and lives it out!  I could not be prouder that this kid is my brother and friend.

I recently heard that "commencement" really isn't the end, but the beginning.  That's why they call the ceremony "commencement."  It makes so much sense, when you think of it.  Finishing undergrad is when you finally learn how to start learning!  It gives you the awareness and thinking skills to learn for life.  Brian will be "commencing" at Stanford to continue in his engineering studies and we couldn't be more excited for him.  And, while we'll miss him in the midwest, Palo Alto, California isn't a bad vacation destination!

Congrats to my brother!!! :)

Fun New Finds

If you know me well, you know I love a good deal :) Since I've been married and Ben and I have stuck to a budget (which, by the way, is amazingly freeing... but that's for another post) I haven't done nearly as much shopping as I used to.  This is probably better, and although shopping in and of itself isn't bad, shopping less has taught me some good lessons.  I.e. proper differentiation between necessity and luxury; saving to shop makes it more fun than splurging most of the time; it will always go on sale and i don't need it now; etc...  There is still a shopping-lover inside me though, and I wanted to share some fun finds with you!

way more chic than I usually go for, but also way more fun than your typical kitchen canister

gotta love some DSW clearance!!

As a teacher, I love finding comfy heels that I can stand in all day long :)

Much better looking on the person than the hanger, but you get the idea!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

When it get's hot...

Recapping some recent events at school (this week - once the temperature hit 80) so that next year when my kids go crazy at this time of year, i am not a surprised new teacher.  [while the tone of this blog is sarcastic and dry, please don't take it to be complaining - i'm not.  it's supposed to give you a giggle.]

Most students that walk in the room and complain that it is hot.  [wait? what!? you mean this room I've been in since 7am is 95 degrees and rising and smells like freshmen boy B.O.??? thank you for informing me, i hadn't noticed...]

Dress code.  Do I have to say anything except that the principal was standing at the girl's entrance with a pile of gym shorts and tee shirts to hand to girls who woke up confused and thought they were going clubbing instead of going to school...? 

Malfunctioned fire alarm during the middle of homeroom.

2 of my students have been escorted out of the building in cuffs, which the whole class can witness since i have a first floor room with giant windows... the only downside of windows i guess. no complaint there though.  [somehow, the arrests bring about laughter... still trying to figure that out]

Today, there was a food fight AND water balloon fight in the lunch room.  My question, how did the kids get water balloons into the building?  If they were already full, the video scanners they put their bags through in the morning (while they go through metal detectors)... think airport security... should have detected them.  More likely, they filled them up during the day.  Because a student can leave class for 15 minutes and what are you gonna do about it?

So, they shut off the water.  Naturally. And then, the students are mad because the water fountains aren't working.  Well, should have thought twice about that water balloon fight [which, by the way, was planned school-wide yesterday with a text] before you realized that water was apparently a privilege at school.

Speaking of water, something leaked or exploded... not sure about the details, but the entire south wing of classrooms on 3 floors was flooded.  and all the teachers took their kids outside to have class... 80, sunny, no trees, no park... city schools.

Picture this scenario.  Every student who walks in the classroom groans that it's hot.  When the bell rings, the kids proceed to yell at me that it's too hot to do work and we can't do anything and and and... I listen, and calmly try to explain that i understand, and i hope they fix the air asap and i too am hot and uncomfortable, but we are in school until June 17 [insert mass groan] and we can't sit on our butts until then.  [i give this "speech" with no sarcasm.  it's good to know when to be sarcastic and when not to be.]  So, we turn off the lights, and stay seated and learn the next section of the song we're working on.  Mid singing, this girl stomps to the front of the room to proclaim [very loudly] that her mom texted her and is picking her and her cousin up for early dismissal.  My response: okay, she should have the attendance office contact my room [thinking to myself, just like everyone else... duh!  and, wait, you're not supposed to have your phone in school and your mother, who knows this rule, is texting you to leave in the middle of your class??? WHHAAT?]  She rolls her eyes, turns around to head back to her seat with the loudest groan/sigh/scream I've heard.  I just raise my eyebrows [so as to imply the "yikes! don't mess with her" look and everyone laughs.  not sure if that was the appropriate teacher response.]  then, there is a knock on the door.  [i have to lock the door during this period b/c of all the sillyness in the hallways and the kids that randomly used to open the door and scream profanity inside the room and run away, or the kids that come into the class and say, "oh i just need to give shamequa her phone" or.... or... or.... you get the picture. the door is locked. so i go open the door, and it's the girl's mom.  no way!! haha she has bypassed the front desk and attendance office and is knocking on my classroom door to disrupt her class to pick up her entitled child who proceeds to storm out of my room. hahaha but when you see the parents, a lot makes sense about the kids.  [can i get an amen?]

8th period has it the worst, because there have been nasty, sweaty, classes of 50+ in my room all day, so it's the hottest and the smelliest by the time last period rolls around.

But, it wouldn't be fair to tell you all that unless I told you... once we get past the complaining and the disruptions and everyone is able to semi-focus, they learned a new part of a song, worked at it for at least 25-30 minutes straight (which is a long time for one task these days, especially considering they are doing NOTHING in most classes) and I would say 60-75% of kids were engaged/ trying their best [the best a 16 year old can give when they are tired and hot and it's the end of the year].  Usually, it's probably more like 90-95%, but this week, i'll take 75% of kids working as hard as they can.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Chicago... My Kind of Town

Lately, I've been thinking about things I will miss and things I won't miss about Chicago.  Like, something will happen (i.e. stuck in traffic) and I'll think wow, I really won't miss the traffic here.

Things I'll miss about Chicago
Obviously, friends and family
Church - both Moody and Harvest
Driving on Lake Shore Drive and Wacker
Walking around downtown (I still think tall buildings are cool)
Ridiculously fancy bowling alleys
Stuffed Pizza, specifically Edwardo's
Endless supply of great ethnic food, especially China Town
Summer.  summer in this city is SO fun.
Biking on the lake path
Chicago Public Library System - every book you could ever want sent to your neighborhood library!
The shopping- South Loop, State Street, Michigan Ave, Lincoln Park, need I say more?
My teacher's salary (which, thanks to the crazy Chicago Teacher's Union is pretty good for a 1st year teacher!!) 
The skyline (especially driving into the city from the south on 90/94) 
Never ending supply of fun things to do, and lots for free! 

Things I won't miss about Chicago
The smell of pot in our apartment buidling
Street parking during the winter
Constant sound of sirens
12% tax
$4.69 gas
The hassle of grocery shopping and parking and trying to get all your groceries up to your 2nd floor apartment when you parked a block away.
The politics - while they're exciting and make a good news story, it's a little crazy.
The teachers union.   Sometimes I'm embarrassed to be part of a union that complains so much, causes so many problems, and acts like they're at war...

This is a great city, and I love it, but I am starting to think about things I might like in Lincoln because the Lord has led us to Lincoln and He knows best... so, Nebraska, here we come!

Couple's Retreat

Ben and I currently attend The Moody Church.  We have been so blessed by this church in many ways, one of which is our Sunday School class, Covenant.  The class is advertised for newly weds, although there are some couples who have been married 10+ years.  There are probably 40 couples there on any given Sunday, but maybe a total of 60+ in the group.  The class teaches all sorts of things, from typical marriage topics to Revelation-- currently, we're in a study of the book of James.  Socially, the group organizes all sorts of things from basketball tournaments to women's retreats to book clubs to BBQs.  Each year they have a retreat in the spring, which we attended last weekend.  As we have never been on a couple's retreat before, we had no idea what to expect (although I was pretty sure there would not be crazy middle-of-the-night games like the junior high retreats of my past!)  We were blown away!  It was fun and refreshing.  The perfect balance of free time and organized activities.  A time to relax with your spouse, and get to know other couples better.  However, what I want to focus on in this post is the speaker... Jerry Root.

Jerry Root is a professor from Wheaton College who has spent most of his adult life studying C.S. Lewis, and is therefore often called upon to speak about the life of Lewis.  Since Lewis doesn't have a lot to say about marriage, his talks were broader than just focusing on the life of Lewis.  He opened the weekend by saying that if C.S. Lewis is a distraction from God - if we are so interested in this man and his books and whatnot - then we might as well quit and just read the Bible.  But if Lewis points us to His God, the God of the Universe, and the Savior of the World, then his books are worth reading, because it is really Lewis' God that is of utmost importance.  [Good to remember in general, since we, well I, seem to have the tendency to focus on a particular pastor or speaker or author or whoever...]

I cannot possibly articulate everything Mr. Root talked about in one blog post, nor can I articulate it as profoundly as he does.  (The man is an amazing story-teller and gifted speaker for sure, although you have to turn on your C.S. Lewis, A.W. Tozer, Plato listening skills, if you know what I mean...  If you don't know what I mean, he opened with "Reality is iconoclastic."  So, now do you know what I mean...?

My take-away from the first session: 1 Cor. 2:16 states "We have the mind of Christ" (talking about believers).  Root pointed out that having the mind of Christ is not an achievement, it is a resource, a resource which we can use by choice.  As a believer, I have the mind of Christ to discern, to understand, to gain wisdom, to learn...

Take-away from the second session: Obedience is taking advantage of God's omniscience.  He knows the beginning from the end; He loves me; then He tells me what to do.  Obedience seems to be a sensible, proper response.  He differentiated between wisdom (Hebrew-hockma) and understanding (beema).  The difference between wisdom from prohibition (hockma) and understanding why.  I.E. When you're little, you don't run in the streets because your parents told you not to (hockma- wisdom from prohibition), but when you get older, you realize the impact of cars, and bad drivers, and ... you get it (beema).
2nd Takeaway- We need to extend forgiveness and the "high courtesy of heaven" to our spouse.  Root explained the "high courtesy of heaven" as saying my life for you NOT your life for me.  I am still processing what that looks like in marriage... long term and day to day.
3rd Takeaway - There is a Satanic opposition to destroy our marriage.  We must work hard to fight.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Random Happenings

1.  5 weeks left of school and I've heard the last one doesn't count. 

2.  Ben and I met a man tonight named Tony.  His story is incredible, but my mind is racing and I can't articulate it yet... more to come another time.

3.  We started watching Friday Night Lights.  Only watched the pilot, but I think I'm gonna like it.

4.  Current read: The Global Achievement Gap.  The premise - why/ how even the best schools in America don't educate our students to keep up with peers world wide and what the implications are.  I'm hoping it offers some ideas besides the general, "revamp everything" which seems to be simultaneously popular and impossible these days.

5.  Speaking of education, I'm trying to find the balance between helping students learn how to learn and not hand-holding in order to teach individual responsibility.  I haven't yet found the balance.  Suggestions?

6.  Ben and I are coming up on one year of marriage.  wow.  so fast.

7.  Job hunting in Nebraska - looking forward to starting private piano lessons again too.  I miss having students one-on-one.   The actual music-teaching component has a different type of meaning too.

8.  We went on a couples retreat with our sunday school class this weekend - very cool.  Great speaker.  More on that another time.

9.  My parents are coming over for dinner this weekend for Mother's Day.  I think this is how you know you're all grown up (when your parents start coming to your place for dinner).  We're gonna eat Mexican! yummm :)

Adios for now,