Investments

Tomorrow marks 3 weeks left in Indonesia.  While I am unbelievably excited to get home and see the people I miss, breathe clean air, climb a tree, and eat Chipotle, it will also be hard to leave.  There is so much that needs done before I leave – the school year must be wrapped up (teachers – and English teachers especially – I know you feel me on this one!), my house needs packed and cleaned, you’re-leaving-the-country paperwork needs to be taken care of.  We have our last homeroom get-together to be had, our last student council event to be planned, our last coaches meeting to be attended.  On the other side of things, a place of dwelling in America needs to be found, paperwork needs to be done for the new job, summer plans need to be made.

And on top of all of this, I am leaving a lot of people that I have grown to love.  And moving to the opposite side of the world.

Now more than ever, the question arises:

What is important?  Where do I invest?  

A few weeks ago, my mom shared with me a story about my younger brother that answers this question beautifully.

As you prepare to be challenged by a 12-year-old, let me give you a quick background on my family:

We love to win.

It’s just something in the Schaeffer blood.  Ice cream and winning, not necessarily in that order, are among the most important things in life.  My father has instilled in us a deep love for both.

And this love for winning can bring lots of good!  In addition to the highly entertaining rivalries and memories that have resulted from this, it often points to achievement.  We don’t want to give up!  My siblings have accomplished all sorts of neat things due to the drive to do well.  Where I see it tripping me up, though, is when it becomes the main goal.  When it becomes more important than people.

A co-worker put it well recently while we were casually sharing important life lessons with our students.  “Just because you prove you’re right doesn’t mean you win.”  Sometimes focusing on achievement means neglecting or stepping on the people around us.

Back to my brother.  Although he appropriately loves ice cream, Andrew’s real passion in life is baseball.  Since he was three, that is the activity in which he has invested the majority of his time and energy.  And he’s good!  He plays on a travel baseball team and does a pretty darn good job of it.

Recently, they were playing in a tournament and Andrew was up to bat. The catcher let a pitch pass him, and the opposing coach began yelling across the field, berating him. Andrew, as the batter, was at the place as all of this took place.  Before taking the next pitch, he turned and told the catcher that it was ok, that those things happen to everyone, that he just needed to keep his chin up and keep on playing.

Andrew wanted to win that game.  He wanted to do his best, and he worked toward that.

But he didn’t let that stop him from loving people.

It’s not an either/or questions.  It’s not accomplishments or love.  It’s not working hard or having friends. It’s not winning or being soft.  Both can absolutely co-exist.  We just can’t let a to-do list or a desire to win stop us from seeing people.  Stop us from loving people.

Because at the end of the day, that’s what matters.

It is good to strive for excellence.  It is good to want to do well.  It is good to work hard toward things. But we must be careful not to focus on these things alone, blocking out the people in our peripheral vision.

As I finish here at SPH, I want to finish strong.  I want to invest in people.  And sometimes, as a teacher, that means taking the extra hours to give good feedback on students’ assignments.  It means staying after school to focus on that new unit I decided it would be a great idea to do at the end of the year.  It means organizing everything for the people that come after me.  That is one way to invest in these kids.

But it also means putting my pile of papers away during lunch and laughing with the students in my classroom.  It means taking the time to sit and talk with a student that is struggling, whether that be academically or otherwise.  It means patiently working through the silly requests that may presently seem like they don’t matter.

Because really, those are the reasons that I love teaching.  Those are the things that I look back on and remember.  Those are investments in people.

And that is worth it.

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Truth and Love

Recently, some friends and I were discussing love, truth, and the relationship between the two.  How do we confront without becoming judgmental?  How do we love without becoming too permissive?  What is loving and what is truthful?  Where do they overlap?  Can you have one without the other?

This idea of truth and love is something that has always been a real challenge for me and my vocal self.  I’m a doer.  I want to get things done.  And if I don’t believe something will make a difference in the end, I generally don’t see any point in doing (or saying) it.

This leads to an often imbalanced application of truth and love.

Today, though, while teaching, I had a tiny little glimpse into how this should look.

I know teachers aren’t supposed to have favorites, but (if we’re honest) there are definitely kids who especially tug at our hearts. For the purposes of this story, I will name this particular student, who easily fits into the above category, Landon.

Landon didn’t care much about school last year, and sometimes got into trouble for being dishonest or consistently not doing his homework.  This year, he’s really stepped up and taken more accountability for his work.  He’s been trying much harder, and has readjusted his priorities.  He’s growing up and figuring out who he is.

It’s been an absolute joy to see that growth, and it is something that I badly want to reward.  That said, Landon still has a lot of growth to do in the English department.  While I have desperately wanted to nudge his grade in the encouraging direction, I have avoided doing so, hoping that it won’t discourage him to the point of giving up.

Today I handed back an assignment with a failing mark.  We talked through the issues, and some ways that he could fix them.  I was clear in what the problems were, and told him exactly why he received that grade.  I didn’t sugar coat it.  He looked sad.

It’s those things that are hard as a teacher.  How do you encourage a student, but at the same time appropriately cover their paper in the necessary marks? How do you call students out on bad habits without discouraging creativity?  How do you speak the truth in love?

As I sat at my desk considering these things, the class filed out, with Landon being the last in the classroom.  Despite our tough conversation, Landon turned around as he walked out of my classroom and added, “Miss? Thanks for believing in me.”

I was stunned that this was his response to our conversation.  Even after I failed his assignment and told him in no uncertain terms what he needed to work on, he still felt believed in.  The focus wasn’t on what I thought he had done wrong, but on what I thought he could do right.

Isn’t it the same in life?  The same in relationships with family, friends, and even the people that are really hard to love?  If we can invest, if people know, know beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we believe in them, that we love them and we’re on their team, then the focus is no longer on the short-comings that we address.  That negative aspect doesn’t govern the tough conversations that we may have.

Because, in reality, all of us fail at something.  All of us feel like we just can’t get that one thing right, no matter how many times we try.  That even if we do improve, that it’s still not good enough to be “passing” whatever test it is that we have set up for ourselves.

And sometimes, we just need someone to be real with us about it.  To tell us that we do, indeed, need to keep working on this, but that they’ve seen growth.  To tell us that, yes, we’re currently struggling in this department, but that they know we have the potential to beat it.  To tell us that we are broken and sinful, but they still love us.

And that they believe in us.

I still don’t fully understand the whole concept of truth and love, and I am by no means any good at applying it, but I am thankful today for this glimpse of what that means!

Also, as a side note: I love teaching.  It’s the best job ever.

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Frisbee Tournament

Every Sunday, I play ultimate frisbee with a group of teachers and students.  It’s become a part of my week that I really look forward to!  I love the range of ages and the way that everyone can play together.  One of the best things about teaching in an international school is the special and unique community that is fostered between all involved.

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Our school recently hosted an ultimate frisbee tournament for schools in the surrounding areas.  Though the sport hasn’t yet taken Indonesia by storm, there were ten teams that competed.  SPH played some excellent frisbee, placing 2nd and 3rd, but more than that it was fun to see the way that they stepped up in sportsmanship and leadership.  Watching them help kids who were hurt, pull in kids who were left out, and pray for both teams at the end of the games made my day!

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In the middle of the tournament, we took a break to grill out, eat together, and enjoy the pool.  As must happen when in the pool and in the competitive spirit, chicken fights broke out!  Most impressive were the inter-school battle (won by SPH) and the triple decker chicken fight.

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KDM visit

This past Thursday we had another random day off of school – I’m honestly not sure why – so my student council kids and I went on a trip to an organization in downtown Jakarta that rescues, rehabilitates, and educates children that have been living on the streets.  The organization has been working in the city for 30+ years, and is really doing incredible things!

On my first teacher’s desk I had a post it that asked: “Am I surviving or thriving?”

The thing that was most incredible about this organization is that they were really encouraging kids to thrive.  It wasn’t just survival, just eating and sleeping and getting through the day.  It was kids living as a family, receiving an education at their level, experimenting with art, going on exploratory trips around the country, going to a soccer tournament in Brazil, designing and building their dorm with a volunteer architect.

It was a huge inspiration to me that, even when life is hard or I feel like I’m behind the eight ball, I need to be exploring my passions and practicing my talents and giggling and loving people and seeking out those little corners in which I can thrive.

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SQOTD #15: School Technology

It’s always funny to me the things that students pick up on.  More than once they have informed me of my habits of which I was previously unaware.

Recently, though, they caught onto something of which I (and probably the majority of teachers) am completely aware.

This year is the 20th anniversary of the school that I am currently working at, and we’ve been working on loading a new time capsule that will be opened in ten years.

My kids were working on notes to themselves during our homeroom time, and we were all chatting as we worked.  In regards to the USB with video interviews that we were including in our shoebox, one girl remarked that, “In 10 years, we probably won’t even be able to use USBs!”

One of my boys, still working, nonchalantly responded, “Don’t worry.  The school will still have the same old computers.  We can just use it here.”

Made my day!

Soccer Carnival 2014

Every Spring*, our school holds the Soccer Carnival, a day in which the entire school – K1-12th grade – ditches classes to join together, play soccer, and participate in all kinds of fun activities.

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The day before the event, a group of students and several teachers get together to decorate their team’s section of the gym.  Our kids are part of 4 teams, all named after Indonesian volcanoes, and compete as part of this team throughout their entire career at SPH.  This year, the themes picked included aliens, construction, oriental, and Goldilocks. (We had a gong.  And a dragon.  Both were awesome.)

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One thing that I thought especially entertaining was the “soccer bowling” that was part of the morning assembly.  Every team had to send a student from each grade to kick the soccer ball at the pins, 2 students to reset pins, and about 20 kids to lay on the ground and serve as bumpers.  My favorite little bumper was a kindergarten boy who made my day!  He took his job very seriously.

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While there is a lot of soccer – over 30 games worth! – there are lots of other things to do as well.  We had a slip-n’-slide, a dunk tank, a bouncy castle maze, lots of food, and all kinds of team spirit.  It was really nice to get out into the sunshine, too!

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*Although Spring is not recognized here since the weather is the same throughout the year, my American brain still works in seasons 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading Together

Recently my friend Rachel and I were discussing our classes – incredible groups of students in the 3rd and 7th grades – and decided it would be fun to pair up and read together.  I had never done this before, since I never attended elementary school and only recently started working in a K-12 school, but have always been drawn to the idea.  Our plan was put into action yesterday, and the kids warmed up to each other within minutes.  Their engagement and concentration was really sweet!

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These girls slowly grew their crowd, attracting everyone around with their laughter.  I stopped by to check it out, and learned that they were taking turns reading.  The rule was that each person had to read in a different funny accent!

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After the books were done, Rachel’s kids were preparing to go to lunch.  Before they left, though, her boys decided that they wanted to take on one of mine in an arm wrestling competition.  When that proved futile, they worked together toward success 🙂

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My first year here, the school’s focus for the year was “Welcome Home”.  That’s one of the things that I really love about working here – it so often functions as one big family.  I love that my 7th graders and these sweet 3rd graders can spend time together, and that it’s a positive influence taking place.  I love that the kids have an atmosphere in which they feel comfortable making mistakes and learning from them.  It is so neat to see them grow and learn and lead!