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images-5The Christmas season is filled with many things from food, to gifts, to music, and it is music that had me wondering the other day.

Driving recently I was flashing back over the years of driving with students to various service projects, field trips and work experience businesses. It seemed that every memory, of every student I ever drove in my vehicle was accompanied by music … and singing.

To relieve the concern that those of you who have been reading faithfully for awhile now of the concern you must be feeling, I will assure you that I do not do the singing! I would fear that, in singing with my students, I might get sued for damaging the eardrums of those innocent and unassuming teens. After all, my voice is a choir voice … a really, really, really big choir, voice … if you know what I mean πŸ˜‰ … but, I digress …

So, as I was flashing back, I heard the voices of my students over the years.

I heard the boy with Downs Syndrome who sang silly preschool songs with my son.

I heard the adolescent girls singing along with the group Starfield.

I heard the most beautiful rendition of “Holy God”, that the songwriter could not outdo.

I heard the adoring singing of a teen boy singing “Beautiful One” … not to God, but to another Educational Assistant in whom he saw the love of the God who the song was written about.

I heard the teenage boy who normally preferred choral music to the Taio Cruz “Dynamite” song he asked to play and sing to while driving to work each day.

I heard the teenage boy who preferred his ‘bad boy’ rep. but who always turned the volume up and sang along to Chris Tomlin’s “How Great is our God.”

And this week it was Justin Bieber’s “The Christmas Song.”

What a joy to hear their voices, comfortable to share them with me, as I listened with solemn stillness, appreciating the fact that my vehicle often became a place of unhindered holy ground. Through all of these songs, from such a variety of students, I have heard their voices, but also their souls shouting out through their singing.

It got me to thinking, to wondering about the music of Christmas. So much of the music of Christmas is a call for us to listen, beckoning, to join in …

“Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”

“Angels we have Heard on High”

“Do you Hear what I Hear?”

“Oh Come Let Us Adore Him”

and, maybe best of all,

“… and all the world send back the song which now the angels sing …”

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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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The final chapel for the school year reminded me that it was my final chapel at high school.

In September I will enter the doors of the Middle campus, rather than the high school campus. I will be working in grade 8, helping students prepare to enter high school, rather than helping them prepare to leave high school. I will be looking at students in-the-eye, rather than looking up to them … well, at least in September … by January, I will be looking up at them!

That final chapel seemed so … final. Each face on the screen (it was an awards chapel) reminded me that these students would not be in and out of my every day next school year. Each student in the row I sat … the homeroom of students who I have delighted in … reminded me of the great efforts (and vast amounts of candy) it took to get to know each … in those rare homeroom blocks, in the halls, in the classrooms, to earn their trust. Each memory of this past year refreshed as though I could almost reach out and touch them, as they had touched me.

I was feeling rather melancholy.

Had I made the right decision?

Had I thought this through?

Had I opted to give up too much?

Was I running away?

What would my students do without me?

And it was that last question to myself that was the head shake, the face palm that I needed.

I am SO not indispensable, SO not the only one able to meet the needs in the lives of the students.

I am the hands and feet of learning, of processing, of developing, of advancing and … of God. I am His instrument, His tool, and I work best with students when I acknowledge that I am in His control, and that I am fulfilling His plans … not my own.

I know with certainty that God loves these students, whether ones I work within on my schedule, ones I’ve gotten to know about in my home room, or just ones who I said hi to in the halls. And He loves them more than I do. His good will for them is not dependent on me sticking with them throughout their school years, it is dependent only on Him, and His plan for their life, for their days.

I was also reminded that He has a plan for me too. And that His plan is not dependent on what decisions I make, His plan is only dependent on His will … and I can rest in the assurance that He has the final word on my future.

β€œChange is in the air.
This change reminds us that we are made and beautifully sculpted
by the same power that orchestrates the change of season.
Let this be the season you embrace and align yourself with this change.”
Steve Maraboli

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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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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 πŸ˜‰ .

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 πŸ˜‰ ). 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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Although I am not a television junkie, there is one show that I love to take the time to sit and take it in. That is the ‘reality’ program “Undercover Boss”.

As a skeptic, I recognize that it is a television program, and it is, therefore, at least somewhat scripted. That said, I love the premise of an owner of a company doing the work of the peons in his company. It provides an opportunity to live out the words of Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” (Harper Lee),

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

I like that!

4f9e4a96bd48c9c55051d941f58006e2Often I think of “Undercover Boss” when I take a student out on their Work Experience blocks.

The opportunity of this course is that students who are not particularly strong academically, yet who do not ‘fit’ in an apprenticeship program, can participate in a variety of work experiences to provide exposure to different types of work, workplaces, and to build their resumes.

I love facilitating this task!

In my role as facilitator of this course, I get to work alongside of my student, in their appointed work experience placements. In this, I get to be their not-so-undercover boss.

b1f93450af5b928c39f87951bd6b2b0fLike the bosses on the television program, I get to know so much more about my student by working with them than I ever do working in a classroom or across a desk. In a retail store, a greenhouse, a pet shelter, etc. my student opens up their thoughts, their heart, their life to me, knowing that I have nowhere else to go, and nothing else to do. In these instances I get to be that allusive fly on the wall.

It is here, in these work experiences, that I get to do what I am not paid to do … “climb into his/her skin and walk around in it.”

And, like the bosses on the television program, knowing the heart and experiences of my ’employee’ (student) means that I also have the opportunity to feed into their life in practical ways … at the very least (hum, maybe greatest) of which is knowing what to pray when I bring their needs to God.

Without working alongside of the students, I would not have opportunity to know them, and to feed into their lives.

Without working alongside of them, I would not have opportunity to teach them through modeling the way to do things … whether it is how to fill a pot with dirt or a pie crust with fruit filling … or how to fill a heart with gratitude for the little things in life.

Working side-by-side … that is the best way to teach … and in doing so, like the bosses on T.V., the ‘boss’ gets to learn something from the employee/student 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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