Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Life You Have

God has given me the gift of today.  He has blessed me with so many good gifts, but sometimes I'm so distracted by what He hasn't given me that I forget to be thankful for what He has.  I've been thinking about how to learn the secret of contentment.  I want to embrace the life that God has given me today, instead of choosing discontentment.

How do we learn this secret?  Sometimes it's easier said than done, but here are several ways to embrace today:

 Remember Who God Is

In my first grade Sunday School class, we've been learning some of the names of God.  It has been so incredible to meditate on what His names tell us about Him.  The last couple weeks, we've been learning that God is Jehovah Jireh.  He is our God who provides.  We can trust that God is going to give us every single thing we need.  For me, this is hard when I look around and see people who are enjoying a season of life that I wish I could have.  But that season is not what God has given me, so it's not what I need right now.  And during this season that I'm in, He is going to be enough to satisfy my desires and provide for my needs.  I have a sign in my kitchen that says, "And if not, He is still good."  Even if He chooses not to give me what I long for, He is always, always good.

Remember the Gospel

I've been challenged lately to preach the Gospel to my heart every day.  Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, our biggest need has been taken care of.  No matter how hard life is, if we have trusted Christ for salvation, we have fellowship with the Creator of the universe.  We know that someday, we will live with Him forever and He will wipe away every tear.  That is what should bring comfort to our hearts during the hardest days.  And that truth will motivate us to embrace today, trusting that He is going to use it for good.

 Serve Others 

It's hard to sit around and complain about life if you're serving others out of a heart of love.  God has called us to put aside our own desires and needs in order to serve those around us - especially our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Choosing to trust that God is going to provide for our needs will free us to focus on showing love to others.  I've been challenged lately to serve joyfully even when I don't feel like it, and to make sure that my service is done in love.  I've found that my love isn't sufficient. I may serve, but I'm tempted to do it with a complaining heart or a proud attitude.  I've been asking God to change my heart and give me His love for those around me.  Embracing the life I have now means embracing and serving those that God has put in my path, and doing it with a loving heart.

Be Thankful

God has called us to be thankful in every circumstance. No matter what is going on in life, we can choose thankfulness.  This means taking our eyes off of our difficulties and putting them on our Savior.  When we get lost in how beautiful and glorious He is, we won't be able to keep from praising Him.  Our hearts will be filled with thankfulness for Who He is and what He has done.

So let's embrace the gift that today is, resting in Who God is and what He has done, and serving others with a thankful, joyful heart.  Because His mercy is new every morning, this is how we can live.  

Friday, November 4, 2016

Special Ed Teacher Interview

I interviewed my friend Addie E.  She isn't officially a special ed teacher, but she took extra classes to train in special ed, taught ESL students while student teaching, and has subbed in several special ed classrooms.  She's an amazing person and teacher, and it was fun to be able to talk to her.  I have several friends who are teachers, and learning from them has been a huge blessing!  It's friends like these that have motivated me to pursue teaching, and they have also encouraged me as I've learned how to be a teacher.  I'm blessed to have such amazing examples to look up to!

Here are the questions and Addie's answers:

1. How long have you been teaching special needs children?
Addie has taught for several years, mostly regular ed, but her student teaching was a lot of ELS students, and then she's subbed in several special ed classrooms.  

2. What made you choose the teaching profession and, in particular, teaching special needs children?
Addie's parents are both teachers, so that was a big influence in her life.  She has always loved being around children and being able to help them, and she loves seeing them learn new things.  So teaching seemed like a good choice!  She was interested in special ed when she saw some special ed teachers who weren't very good with the kids.  That made her see the need for teachers who were patient and loving with special needs kids.  

3. How have your ideas toward teaching changed with each passing year of experience? Can you recall your ideas about teaching when you were a teacher education student like me? What were they? What are they now?
 As she's taught, Addie has gotten a little disillusioned as she's seen the huge focus on testing rather than learning.  So she's lost a little of her excitement, because teachers are so pressured to spend so much time preparing their students for tests rather than being able to help them get excited about learning.  She hasn't lost her love of teaching, but just has become discouraged because of the restrictions placed on teachers. 

4. How does teaching children with special needs differ from teaching other children? What are some challenges you face in teaching special needs children? What are some rewards in teaching special needs children?
 Addie said that a huge thing in teaching special ed (especially ESL students) is stopping often to make sure they are comprehending things.  She said you can't just assume that they understand what you just said.  She learned quickly while teaching ESL students that she needed to assume that someone didn't understand what she said, so she would stop and ask, "Do you guys know what a castle is?" or whatever word that she thought they might not understand.  She learned to explain things clearly and simply and find ways to see if they were comprehending what was being taught.  

5. What advice can you give me for teaching children with special needs in the regular education classroom?
Addie's advice for teaching special needs kids in the regular classroom includes having differentiated instructions, good paras, and using small groups for some teaching/activities.  

6. What changes, if any, would you make to the educational system with regard to special needs children? Consider such aspects as inclusion, funding, state assessments, etc…
Addie said that she's seen a lot of paras and subs that don't have training in special ed.  And then because the paras aren't trained to do the paperwork, the teacher that is actually trained is spending so much time doing that paperwork and less time with the kids.  So she said that extra training in special ed for paras and also regular ed teachers who will be subbing would be really good.   

7. If you could choose another career field, would you? Please explain your answer in detail.
Addie has mixed feelings about this.  She mentioned that often teachers aren't really respected in our society, and she sometimes would like to be more respected and have a job that is viewed as "more important".  But at the same time, she said that helping kids learn is something that's so rewarding, and that rewarding feeling of knowing that you've made a difference doesn't happen in lots of other jobs. 

8. Are there any comments you wish to add to close this interview?
Addie and I are both Christians and have a passion for reaching kids for Christ and helping them learn and grow.  During the interview, we talked about an article I read that talked about the story in the Bible where the children are brought to Jesus to be blessed.  When people talk about that story, they usually talk about Jesus, the children, and the disciples who wanted to push them away.  But people rarely even think about those who were bringing the children to Jesus.  If those people hadn't taken the time to bring their children to Jesus, they would have never had the opportunity to sit and talk with Him the way they did.  Even if teachers aren't valued or respected, their job of teaching and training (and for Christians, pointing them to Jesus), is so needed.  It was good for Addie and I to remind ourselves of the importance of this job.  It's not about us - it's about glorifying God by helping children learn to know Him!