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As the school year is coming to a rapid end, those of us who work in schools tend to become reflective about the year that has past. We wonder if we taught everything that the students needed to learn. We wonder if the students learned everything that they will need to succeed.

Earlier this past week I was speaking with a young man who is graduating from high school. I have never been assigned to work with him, I have never assisted him in a classroom setting, in no way have I ever been responsible for any part of his education. In spite of the fact that there is no direct connection to him, I have gotten to know him a bit by saying hi and connecting in the hallways.

This young man has not been successful in an academic sense. He was not a ‘good’ student. I would guess that he did not have the best handwriting in elementary school, the best understanding of algebra in middle school, or the best essay writing skills in high school.

From what I have learned, over the years, from talking to him, from watching him, and from hearing about him from others, I believe he will be immensely successful in life … and it has little to do with schooling.

This young man is kind … I have seen how he treats others.

This young man is hard working … I have seen his acts of service in the school.

This young man is responsible … when asked to do a task, he shows up, and does it.

This young man is humble … he does not do things for praise.

He is the young man who will grow up contributing to society.

He is the young man who will grow up caring for his parents.

He is the young man who will grow up supporting and loving his family.

He is the young man who you would want for a neighbor.

He is the young man who knows that he has nothing in this life without working hard, being responsible and being faithful to his commitments.

He is the successful result of parents who loved him and who modeled a life well lived. His success is the result of having the benefit of being able to participate in a program at school that allowed him to earn a portion of his credits by doing the manual labor he so loves (and is probably amazing at). He is the successful result of an inner strength of character that kept him going to school, just because it is a hoop we all need to do to be part of our society.

I wish I had had the opportunity to work with this model young man … I bet he could have taught me something!

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I love receiving gift cards … especially to coffee shops! They just seem such decadent gifts to receive. They allow me to drive-through for a favorite drink, or take one of my daughters out for a treat … and it is free for me. The best thing is, it is the gift that just keeps on giving, because usually there is still a balance on the card to use at another time.

Recently I was reminded of what gift is better than a coffee gift card.

The other day, a student was excited to see me as he walked into the front doors of the school. I stopped to greet him. With a million dollar smile all over his face, he said he had something for me. An end of the year, thank-you card was placed into my hand. It was handwritten by him … “Mrs. Weaton” written in one corner … his Mom did not help with this card (my last name is spelled Wheaton).

I have to say, seeing the misspelling of my name made me more eager to open and read what was inside, but I was in a bit of a hurry to reach another destination, and had already chatted longer than the time I had. We said our good-byes, and I promised to see him later that afternoon.

I could not wait to open the envelope, and read what he had written inside.

When I did finally have the opportunity, his words filled me with pride in how well he communicated, how neat was his handwriting, how specific the events of the past school year he communicated.

His note was full of reminders (to me) of what he and I, and others, had shared this school year. Even though our schedules were such that we shared so little time together this year, we had shared so much with the little time availed to us.

I smiled as I absorbed each word, my heart filling with each deposit.

My deposits to him were born out of a pay cheque … his deposits to me were born out of thankfulness.

My deposits to him came from my strengths … his deposits to me were born out of his weaknesses.

My reason for working with him was his disability … his reason for writing this note was his abilities.

The words of Paul (2 Corinthians 12: 9) came to my mind, after reading this precious note:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

This note, full of memories and thanks, is far better than any gift card … it is truly the gift that keeps on giving … because there is always a balance still left on this card.

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This is the big week for exams at the school I work, as well as for those living in my house.

In our house the stress of writing exams comes out in as many ways as there are individuals under the roof!

There is the chocolate-lover, the study avoider, the tummy-acher, the movie watcher, the mom and dad chatter, the bedroom-cleaner, the carb-eater, etc., etc,. etc.

In my job in a high school, I love when I get to supervise, read or scribe for a individual or group while they are doing their exam. For me, the best part of this task is that I get to pray for the students before they start their exams (I work in a Christian school, so I have the freedom to do this).

For so many (I expect for all) who are writing exams the stress can be overwhelming, and praying for those students is the greatest gift and assistance that I can give to them.

I believe that praying does not give the students a better ability to access the knowledge and facts that they have learned, it does not give them a magical power where the control of their pens is removed from their hands, and the right answers all get written on the lines. What I believe that praying for them does accomplish is that it sets the atmosphere for the peace, that only Christ can give, to allow them to relax and remember what is important, and who is in control.

As this week proceeds, this is my prayer for those of you who are about to sit at the seat of examination:

Lord God,

thank-you for this day.

thank-you for allowing us to have breath, and health.

thank-you for giving us the strength and ability to be here today.

God,

these students need your peace,

they need your comfort,

they need to know that you are here with them.

Lord,

help them to relax,

help them to remember what they have learned,

help them to have the time to complete this exam before them.

God,

I also pray that they would remember,

this is just one exam

two hours,

in their entire lives,

pass or fail, it does not determine their value,

nor will their mark change who they are in Your eyes.

Help them to exhale,

hold them close,

remind them they are not alone.

In Your holy name,

Amen

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When it comes to the end of the school year, I thought I was the worst mom, and I thought that I alone held that title (and there still might be a few teachers of our kids, past or present, who would still ‘amen’ my self-declaration).

Last week I was introduced to another blogger, and through her blog post, and the conversations with others who giggled and sighed through reading it, I have discovered that I am SO not alone!

For parents with school-aged kids this time of year is truly the storm before the summer calm. Personally I am counting the days that my son has left of band classes … forever (he and I are ridiculously irresponsible when it comes to his practicing and my signing the practice records)! Bed times have stretched much later into the nights, resulting in great struggles awakening the gang in the mornings. End of school year events are viewed more as ‘have to go’ than ‘get to go’ events. Homework … well, I think Jen Hatmaker says it best.

Jen is a a gifted writer, a speaker, a wife, a mom of five kids, and a woman with a heart for God. I am looking forward to getting to know her better through her blog, now that I have subscribed to it. I certainly know that when it comes to how I feel at this point in the school year, as a mom, she is a kindred spirit … and she even gave me a chance to laugh!

tft-june“You know the Beginning of School Enthusiasm? When the pencils are fresh and the notebooks are new and the kids’ backpacks don’t look like they lined the den of a pack of filthy hyenas? Moms, remember how you packed innovative and nutritional lunches and laid clothes out the night before and labeled shelves for each child’s work and school correspondence and completed homework in a timely manner?
 
I am exactly still like that at the end of school, except the opposite.
 
We are limping, limping across the finish line, folks. I tapped out somewhere in April and at this point, it is a miracle my kids are still even going to school. I haven’t checked homework folders in three weeks, because, well, I just can’t. Cannot. Can. Not. I can’t look at the homework in the folder. Is there homework in the folder? I don’t even know. Are other moms still looking in the homework folder? I don’t even care.”

And there is more folks! Please keep reading Worst End of School Year Mom Ever, and if you too have school-aged kids you will love the camaraderie that this post provides.

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With less than four weeks until the end of regular classes, followed by two more weeks of exams, and end of year procedures,  school students and staff have summer on the brain.

There is an ebb and flow to school life, as there is in every other area of life, with some years being more successful than others. There are school years that, for staff and students, may be more :

exhilarating … or fatiguing

enhanced by our personal lives … or adversely affected by them

uplifting … or depressing … or worse, apathetic

changing … or static

challenging … or easy

supported … or lonely

With each pro and con comes a beautiful reality … in the field of education each year is a fresh start, a brand new beginning. No matter what kind of year this school year has been (whether staff or student), a brand new next year awaits us all in September.

It reminds me of the Easter-related phrase “it’s Friday, but Sunday’s a coming.” A phrase about the sorrow of Good Friday, the day that the Christ was crucified, died and placed in the tomb. The day of much sorrow and sadness. But within the phrase is the essence of the light at the end of the dark tunnel … Sunday, the day Jesus rose from his death, the day that God hit the re-set button on human history, and hope was restored.

Folks, whether you work in a school, are a student in a school, or a parent walking the school road each day:

it’s May …
you are tired, worn down, calendars are jam-packed, exams loom on the horizon, and then … report cards …

but,

September’s a coming …
you have the hope of starting fresh like a brand new piece of lined loose leaf, in a brand new binder, with a freshly sharpened pencil in hand.

But, we don’t have to wait for September for things to get better.

Now is the time to remind ourselves,

to finish well.

Complete that notebook with the best essay of the year.

Complete those classes with the most enthusiasm of the year.

Complete those report cards with encouraging words.

Maybe even write a note and place it in your kid’s lunch, or volunteer (again) for that last field trip.

Stay Strong … Finish Well!

 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”
Philippians 3:12-14

Press on …

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It’s true!images-3

I shot my students!

(even a few who are not my students)

And they LOVED it!

And they even shot me back!

Of course we were playing Lazer Tag, so the shooting was all on the up and up 😉 .

It was an event birthed in the repeated conversations between a pair of students (could there be a better place to birth an event for students?). Then one day, I heard one of the students mention it to their mom …

and I saw the ‘look’ …

the look that wordlessly said,

“I have put this off too long, but I have so much on my plate …”

When my children have friends over, my life becomes easier, for many with children with special needs, having a friend over can be more planning, more work, more exhaustive.

Months ago I had written a previous post of these “Moms That I Admire“, and in that mom’s facial expression of ‘momma guilt’ I was reminded again of how very heavy the burden of raising a child with special needs can be.

I was also reminded of a line from the child dedication ceremony that my hubby has led many a congregation in:

“Will you, upon hearing the commitments made by these parents, do your utmost as God gives you opportunity, to ensure the fulfillment of these promises and seek to encourage, support and be faithful to these parents and this family?”

The correct response is “we do” or “we will”

Back to these “Moms That I Admire” …

As the momma-guilt look showed all over this lovely but weighted down parent, the commitment from these child dedication ceremonies reminded me that part of our task … as Christ-followers … as friends … as schools, is to come alongside of these families. These families raising a child with special needs, need the support of His people, His churches and schools named for His Son to do the job well.

And I thought, “wouldn’t it be great to support these two families in a practical way.” So, the dreaming began. Then the dreaming was shared with a co-worker, and we began to run with it!

In the end, my co-worker and I, along with twelve students (half deemed ‘special ed.’ and half not or ), and a school alumni, left school at noon on a Friday , leaving their classmates to snooze through their afternoon classes. We donned the vests of the battle, issued mortal threats, complete with evil laughs, chose code names, then we marched off to battle.

An hour and a half later, sweaty and sticky (and stinky) … and laughing with great memories made, we headed for Slurpies, then a slow drive back to school … we didn’t want to get back too early … that would have meant having to return to classes!

You might be asking, “so, Carole, what academic benefit was there from this event?”

To which I would reply, “none.”

But the goal was NOT academic, it was purely social skills.

About half of the students are designated ‘special education’ students, and learning the skills to be socially acceptable in the larger society is a main factor in their learning (of course if anyone walks the halls of any high school, the majority of students might seem to need social skills learning … heck, if anyone were to walk into the staff room … but, I digress 😉 ). The best place to teach and reinforce these skills is in a true social setting, not in a classroom.

These students got to talk, interact, laugh and observe their more ‘typical’ peers in a social setting. There was no ‘us’ and ‘them’ that day, only ‘we’. The ‘typical’ students got to be noticed for the intrinsic way that they already care for their peers … a ‘thank-you’ that most probably did not feel necessary, as they are who they are because that is how they have responded to God’s call to “love their neighbor, classmate, as themselves” (Mark 12:31). These ‘typical’ students were chosen by their ‘not so typical’ peers … no higher praise could be earned!

I cannot wait to see and hear the interactions, and rehashing of memories next week in the halls and classrooms of school.

My favorite part was when my co-worker recounted the words of one of the boys, who said something to the effect of, “I think I will remember this for an exceptionally long time.”

I hope he does, I know I will too.

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Sometimes things happen, words are said, events enfold, and the lack of human intervention into how they enfold makes me thing that the events are fully and completely a God thing.

This happened last week.

I have the privilege of co-leading a homeroom at the high school I work with a teacher who is about as laid back as myself. We both want the group of students to feel that it is a place of freedom, of acceptance, of our genuine concern and interest in them. We do not meet that often for homeroom events, but both the teacher and I are intentional at catching up with the individual students when we see them in the hallways.

Recently we had a homeroom event scheduled and I was feeling insecure. The goal of the event was to consider three fundraisers that are happening in our school over the next number of weeks (through a number of videos and discussion), and to commit, as a homeroom group, to a specific fundraiser and goal. If I know one thing about myself, it is that I am NOT a salesperson! And the thought of failing miserably with these very valid, very worthy fundraisers put a true spirit of heaviness within me.

Thankfully, I do not lead this group alone!

The teacher spoke of having a passion for helping others, and of helping others out of that passion rather than just obligation, pressure or guilt (I was secretly ‘amening’ her message). Then the discussion, from the students, went a little downhill … although it was wonderfully honest and sincere. The overall comment was:

“I can easily donate _____ to one of the causes, but it really does not have any real meaning for me.”

So, then the teacher asked them, “what do you want to do to help someone else?”

The door to transparency was opened, and what followed, well, I believe was nothing less than a God thing.

It became apparent that the students were looking for something or someone to help that they could relate to, that they could more personally know to whom their gift, their money was going.

For whatever reason, I mentioned a local family (a single dad and two sons) who was being given Christmas gifts by the staff of a retailer I was taking a student to for Work Experience …

Instantly questions started firing:

“How old were the kids?’
I thought there were two boys, about thirteen and about ten.

“What did they like?”
I wasn’t sure, but said I could find out later that day.

“Did one of them skateboard?”

… this is where one of the students became passionate. Not a student who I would have expected to become passionate … one who spends more time with administration that with classroom teachers. His tongue was loosed … “I’ve got lots of skater t-shirts, and even new jeans that I don’t wear,” and on, and on he went.

The resulting conversation was that I would get the details for everyone, and see if we could piggyback on the retailer’s staff gifts. The students (and teacher and myself) agreed to bring in $5-10 each, and gifts for these kids would be bought. The students left the room … excited, passionate!

The teacher and I were pumped! And oh, how we hoped and prayed that one of the sons was into skateboarding!

Well, the store agreed to allow us to join in … and maybe even join in the delivery of the gifts.

I was wrong about the family …

It is a single father, but there are three kids:
a seven-year old boy (who loves baseball),
a nine year old girl (who loves things frilly),
and an eleven year old boy … who “loves skate shoes, skateboarder clothes, skateboarding …”

I believe it was all orchestrated by the hand of God …

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