Oct 31, 2010

During Which the Author Praises God for Student Misbehavior?

If my students make a bad decision in class, they move down a rung on the consequence chart. Three more bad decisions and they find themselves landed in detention. Three detentions for the same bad decision gets them a long detention. Three long detentions gets a suspension.

I received a memo from the office this week stating how many detentions each of my students had received and what bad decisions they were given for.

Looking at the list, I remembered each and every one. I could think back to why the student had moved down to detention and what their reaction to the consequence. And after remembering those errors in judgment or impulses of the flesh, I couldn't help but praise God.

What? Praise God? For student misbehavior?

Not quite. I couldn't help but praise God that He doesn't keep such a list. He doesn't look back at all of the things that I've done wrong and decide, "Wow! He's been doing a pretty crappy job at this whole obedience thing. Maybe I should suspend him from my favor. And if he keeps up at this sin thing, maybe expulsion from My Kingdom is in store."

Praise God that He doesn't keep a record of wrongs. Praise God that my sins are removed as far as the East is from the West. Praise God that I have been set free from the power of sin and death, even though I forget sometimes.

Oct 24, 2010

So, last night may have been the most multi-cultural night of my life.

I had dinner at the home of a Lebanese man with some South Africans and the other Americans. We had Swiss fondue and Mexican chili. We drank French liqueur and South American wine. We smoked Cuban cigars. We danced to Czech music (amongst many other kinds). In Nigeria.

Really? Could that be any more of a cultural melting pot? What a great night!

Oct 22, 2010

In Which the Author Develops Multiple Personalities

So, I'm not sure what it is, but there are multiple versions of me. In the States, I had experienced this before. I had noticed that the Cities version of me was different than the Two Harbors version of me. Was different from the Camp Lebanon version of me. And even in the Cities, it was almost like I had different personalities based on whom I was with. But there, the differences were more subtle. I was funny with one group of friends, I was intentional with another, I was an introvert with another. And none of this was intentional. I wasn't trying to be something I wasn't, it was almost that different people were drawing out different aspects of who I am.

But the Nigerian version of Warren is much different than the American version. Less likely to laugh, I feel as though my face is constantly molded into a furrowed, pensive expression. My fuse is shorter. My sorrow is nearer. My joy is deeper (not in the way you might be thinking. My joy is deeper down. Like drawing water from a well, the deeper it is, the more work it takes to bring it out. It's there, but it isn't as likely to overflow at random moments.).

And I don't know if I like it.

I was somewhat concerned that when I went home this summer, that the change in me would be permanent. But it wasn't. I went right back to Camp Warren or Cities Warren or Two Harbors Warren. It's just here in Nigeria that I become that parallel version of Warren. And that's a bit frustrating. It's humbling to know that I truly am a blade of grass tossed about by the wind. I can't control my own emotions. I can't control my own state of mind (at least in a major way).

Once again, it is to God that I have to run to find my identity (it's hard to believe He's not sick o me yet). Because this body of flesh keeps changing. I am the most inconsistent thing I know. So I have to rest in Him. Otherwise I am no longer me.


So that I am no longer me.

Oct 11, 2010

Of Juggling and Dinosaurs

(Reader alert: This may or may not be a bit of a rant. Feel free to ignore this entire post.)

So, I've heard the phrase, "Fake it 'til you make it," before, but I never really felt like it applied to me until now.

I am having a hard time as a classroom teacher. I don't know why it's so much different from last year, or from student teaching, but it is. I feel like I have about 108 extremely-urgent-and-need-your-attention-at-this-very-second-or-the-world-will-end balls that I'm juggling at the moment (hyperbole added mostly by my supervisors, but also by me). And I don't know what to do about it. I thought my first year of teaching was tough. To emulate a dear friend, I. had. no. idea. I feel like I'm having to fake teaching experience until I actually have it. But there's no room for the slightest mistake. Piece of cake, right?

Here's an example.

I'm not a dirty person, by nature. I'm not the cleanest, but I'm not dirty. The way some of the other teachers comment on my classroom, you would think that I have a herd of muddy, book-throwing dinosaurs making Brachiosaurus-sized messes at every turn. Three times today (three!) I was approached about how my students tend to leave their books on the floor.

Yep. They do.

I'd rather have that than have them running to their lockers at all times of the day. And that was a conscious decision.

But nope, evidently students at ACA cannot learn if their books are on the floor (as for the it-messes-up-the-books argument, some of my co-workers allow their students to SIT on their textbooks!).

I have enough on my plate in class with trying to be a full-time ESL teacher, a constant behavior modifier for three students, an LD specialist, a judge, a consoler, a teacher, and a caring Christian influence. To be honest, I don't care if my students put their books on the floor. I need to pick my battles.

Once again, though, as in the last post, I have to remember that God is my strength. I must rely upon Him alone to get me through the difficulties of teaching. He can safely guide each of the 108 juggling balls back into my hands (the analogy seems a bit weird at this point). Good thing. 'Cause I would be out of this career path pretty quick otherwise.

Oct 7, 2010

Five Postcards from a Pensive Friend

1. The greatest shock is finding that
doesn't lessen

2. Nights with tea,
and a certain
psychic detective.

3. Amazing,
how a visitor
can change the way
you see your

4. Try explaining
to a fifth grader.

5. How?
when we coat our eyes with
to smudge out the truth?

Oct 4, 2010

On Being a Rubber Band

In case you were wondering, no. This is not a post about how I've been turned into a superhero who can stretch like elastic. So you can all put that rumor to rest. Finally.

This is a post about how I feel stretched like a rubber band, physically, emotionally, and . . . teacher-ly?

We'll start with the physical stretching. My arm feels like it's about to fall off (extreme hyperbole) after carrying a bucket of water from our house to the garbage dump (a.k.a. the burning pile). Why was I carrying said bucket of water from the house to the garbage dump, you may ask. Good question. Said bucket that I carried from said house to said dump had two rats in it. From our house. And they were rotting. Lovely. A perfect Monday evening activity.

I'm also feeling stretched in my emotions. Trying to keep up any form of relationship from half-way around the world is challenging. And even though I'm glad I'm here, my thoughts are frequently stretching across the ocean between us to my family and friends who are there. And that's tough.

The third way that I'm feeling stretched (but certainly not the last) is in my teaching. It is difficult to be a teacher. Especially when you are trying to do awesome, fun activities and all your students do is complain. Take, for example, my fifth graders. We have been reading a unit on catastrophes. We've been learning about earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanoes, etc. This unit has stretched across subjects into reading, social studies, and English. As a wrap-up, instead of a test, I decided to create a fun assessment. The students could write a script for a news cast and be a team of reporters reporting on a catastrophe that they make up. We'll use my FlipVideo and some extra time out of class to record it and then show the finished product.

The first thing my students do? You guessed it. They whine. "Awww, Mr. Warren! I don't like my group! They picked the catastrophe that we called dibs on! He pushed me! My head hurts!" Awesome. Nothing like a bunch of whining to take your (in my opinion) great idea and make you want to run kicking and screaming from ever doing anything like it again. But we're persisting, and there are now rules against complaining. My patience has been stretched enough.

The nice thing about being stretched, however, is that it's really tough to going back to the way you were before. You always come out of it having grown in new ways. For example, tomorrow, my left arm is going to be way huger than my right because of the stretching of the muscle.*

Thankfully, too, we have a God who is able to keep us in His hands. I know that all of this stretching is for a reason (well, except maybe my arm), and that He has a great plan in all of it. So even though I'm feeling like a rubber band, I'll let Him keep stretching me.

*This may or may not be true.