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Posts Tagged ‘Work’

The words of the title of this entry bring anyone, old like me, back to 1984.

Start watching at about 0:54 …

Oh, Mr. Miyagi, the great martial arts teacher, and Daniel, the bullied young teen boy. When Daniel gets royally beaten up, and he is fading into ‘La La Land’, he sees Mr.Miyagi take on the whole gang of guys who beat the stuffing out of him, and win! Now, Mr. Miyagi is a pretty inconspicuous karate master, as his day job is that of a humble maintenance man / gardener. And, he’s old! We’re talking gray hair (well, what hair he has left is gray), and he’s short (but there is not a bit of a Napoleon complex here).

I think that Mr. Miyagi is one of my first role models in working with students who struggle in school. The lesson I learned from him is that learning does not have to be direct. For him (and yes, I do realize ‘it was just a movie’, but I like to gleen whatever good I can from as many sources as I can find in life) teaching karate did not necessarily mean teaching karate through ‘doing’ karate, but through life’s day to day ‘stuff’ (lets face it though, he did get his cars waxed, fence painted, etc.).

For me, to teach a lesson to the students I work with, does not necessarily mean sitting a student at a desk with paper and pencil. As a matter of fact, that would probably be the least successful way to teach them. The (high school) students I get to hang with know they are not going to be a Math or English whiz. But, frequently, what they do believe is that they are dumb, stupid, and sometimes even useless.

It is, I believe, my job to convince them that school is something ‘ya just gotta get through, so lets get it done, and move on’ (they hear that one almost daily from me), and that their failures in school classrooms DO NOT indicate what their future will be. Each of the students I get to work with have a gift, and we need to search until we find it, and figure out how to use it, when they get out of this small microcosm of life, called school.

So, I get to take my students out of school (I swear they hear the Hallelujah chorus in their heads as we are driving away), and place them in work experience jobs. They have worked in grocery stores, warehouses, plant nurseries and stores. Presently we are taking on, not jobs but service projects. And, in the coming weeks they will go to the home of an elderly lady to wash windows, mow lawns, and anything else that could make her life easier. And, at the same time, they will be doing work that has meaning, has real benefit … gives them purpose!

Along with training, and exposure to different fields of work, it is the sense of purpose, the sense of place in this world that I most strive for, for them.

Sometimes what is student learns is far more than what the teacher teaches … and, sometimes that was the hope of the teacher in the first place.

So, back to work guys … “look eye, always look eye … come back tomorrow!”

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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 😉 … 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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There are things we need to survive. Things like shelter, food, love. Without those three things we really cannot survive.

As I was watching and listening to a video of Steve Jobs, in his commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005, I had a friends face in my mind, when he said:

“sometimes life’s going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love … Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work; and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

Don’t settle …

My friend does her job well. She rarely calls in sick, fulfills all of the requirements of her position, and works many hours beyond the expectations of her employers. Her job helps to give her shelter and food … it helps to meet her needs to survive, but, in her position she does not thrive. Oh, in the beginning her job was something she loved, it did satisfy her, she did thrive. But over time her passion for her position decreased, and it became ‘just a job’.

One of the best pieces of advise I ever got was from a man in his seventies who said, “I always told our kids that if they were not happy in their job, it was time to find a new one. A person does no good to himself, or to the company they work for if they don’t love what they are doing.” This man was not one who jumped from job to job, career to career, but he did make a handful of workplace changes over the years, and was in the twilight of life, able to say he loved every job he had.

As a child growing up, my dad worked as an orderly, from mid afternoon until late at night. He did not love his work. It was not until he was in his fifties that he began a job that he loved, that he did not feel he was ‘settling’ in order to do it. He knew he loved it, he wanted to spend more time, more energy to do his job better, and he was very successful.

I love my job, but when that love affair starts to be more about surviving than thriving, I will know it is time to look around and see what might be around the next corner.

I wish, for my friend, that you too could thrive in your work.

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So, I went to church on Sunday (that is pretty normal), and I got heck from someone!

Let me set the scene. This particular Sunday, those involved in the various areas of Christian education (kids club teachers, small group leaders, etc) were being prayed for. Those people were asked to stand, to show the congregation who was being prayed for. Then, the leader asked anyone who is a teacher in a school to stand, as well. After that, more people stood, and then they prayed.

It was then that I got a bruising elbow to my ribcage. My daughter, sitting beside me, then whispers, “you are a teacher, why didn’t you stand up?” To which I answered, “honey, I am not a teacher, and you need to consider a future in football!” “Mom, you teach people every day, you are a teacher, and you should be standing.”

What is a teacher? Dictionaries will tell you a teacher is someone who teaches, or a person who educates students. I guess, by those definitions I am a teacher, but that is not my ‘title’, officially, or in my heart.

My title is Educational Assistant, and it is a role I love. But, I have to be honest, what I am paid to do is not as important as what I feel called to do. For me, whether teaching my daughter to paint furniture, or teaching “Lifeskills” to a student at school, I am called to do it with the heart of a mother. It is from that calling that I do pretty much everything else.

Years ago, when I was pregnant with our eldest daughter, I was also working in a home for disabled adults. There were up to five living in this home, and as an employee I was responsible for everything from personal care, to making meals, to housecleaning, to planning and taking them to social events. My title was Residential Care Aide. I loved my job, and the people I cared for.

Then I had my baby girl.

When I returned to work, six months later, everything was different. All of a sudden, those five residents had become the sons and daughter of someone. It felt as though my eyes were opened to seeing them in a new way, as new creations. Even though most of them had no contact with their families, even though most had given their children over to the care of the province, they were the adult children of someone.

I would go to work after having had a snuggle with my daughter, breathing in her baby scent, and see a man in his fifties, not as the stinky, non verbal, man that I had known before my giving birth, but a man who one day was snuggled by his mother, who too had enjoyed his baby scent.

Or, I would leave home after having cleaned up the over-turned plant that my daughter pushed over from the curiosity of toddler-hood, and see the young woman, not with just mischief in her eyes, but wonder for how things work.

The people who I assisted with life did not change one bit, in the six months I was gone from work, but I had. I had become a mother. I had truly labored her into the world, and as she was being born into this world, I was being born as a new creation, a mother.

Ever since that day, I have been changed. I cannot turn off my title as mother. I cannot take a vacation or decide to quit. I cannot trade it in for a new title. And every other title I might have (Educational Assistant or Teacher) pales in comparison. But, in being a mother, my ability to fulfill those other roles is enlightened, improved and fulfilled with more purpose than I ever could have imagined.

I might never stand when teachers are asked to stand, but ask for mothers to get to their feet, and I’m the first one up!

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Back to school arrived last week, for me.

The first week back, after summer vacation, is always a difficult week at work for me, for a few reasons.

One is that summer is over (it really does not matter what the weather is, or what the calendar says about the end of summer being a month later, summer ends when school begins, period).

Secondly I work in a school … with students, and before Labor Day weekend, there are no students at school. Work without students is … boring!

Another reason is that, in my line of work, every year can mean a completely new assignment, with completely different students, in completely different classes and grades, working with completely different teachers. Everything, and I mean everything that I was confident in just two months ago is gone, and is replaced by something new.

And, finally, people ask how I feel about being back, and well, considering the above mentioned reasons for the first week being difficult, that is an answer that I really do not want to give … because it makes me sound terribly negative, and feel terribly depressed.

Once I get to work, on this first day back, I am (along with my colleges) given our schedules, with the reminder that we should not write down anything, except in pencil (things can still change for the first couple of weeks of school). It is then that full panic mode begins.

For the past few years when I receive that initial schedule for the year, I really start to feel panicky because I feel as though I am so inadequate to do the job that has been handed to me. And then, from that moment until the first day of school, I get increasingly panicked.

I often consider resigning, saying no, running away. Anything that will allow me to put distance between my job assignment and me. At this point, I am convinced those little butterflies in my stomach have changed into buzzards, and they have come home to roost inside of my innards.

As I was driving to school the final day of the week I was drawn in by the lyrics of a song that was playing on the radio …

“A thousand times I’ve failed
Still your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I’m caught in your grace”
Oh man, how did God know that it was fear of my own failure that was making me anxious?
“Your will above all else,
my purpose remains

The art of losing myself
in bringing you praise”
Oh ya! This job, this life, it’s not about me, it is about me decreasing so that He would increase.
“My heart and my soul, I give You control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise, become my embrace
To love You from the inside out”
Oh, how I needed embrace right then. And He met me where I was was at, and the reminder that in giving Him control, justice and praise would fill me from the inside out.
“Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
And the cry of my heart is to bring You praise
From the inside out, O my soul cries out.”
I get it. I remember now. I will praise You, from the inside out, and leave the anxious, fearful thoughts of my job assignment to You, because You are everlasting and faithful to me.

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School is out! The year is done, and I find myself thinking about how it began, and now how it ends.

I love that I work in a high school. The benefits are so perfectly fitting with who I am. I get to take my kids to work, and bring them home. The hours I work are, predominantly, the same hours that they are in school. The maturity level of the students matches mine quite closely. I get the possibilities (just not often enough) of snow days! To top it all off, there are those enviable summer breaks!

My original plan for my summer break last year, had been to spend parts of the summer creating a plan for the work experience course I had taught the previous school year. I had so loved my job that previous school year. I was challenged by the students I taught, and by the new experiences and skills that I had to develop within myself to accomplish the tasks at hand. I was excited to develop it to the next level, and to dream about new directions that it might take.

Unexpectedly, though, last summer ended up being busier than I had expected, as I ended up taking on a summer job. So my planning and dreaming did not materialize.

When last summers ‘break’ was winding down, and I returned to school, I was surprised that my position from the previous year was not to be my position for this school year. My first reaction was to wonder if I had ‘blown it’ the previous year. Then I was disappointed. Then I was … lost. My vision for the future had changed, so much so, that I did not know what to do, what to say.

So, I dug in, and approached the new year, as if it were a new job … with my tail still hanging between my legs.

I discovered this year that I quite enjoyed being back in the classroom. I discovered that I loved assisting students in math, and that I should NEVER, EVER be placed in an English classroom to assist anyone (if you have read even one of my blog posts, you will know that I have no abilities or training in grammar). I discovered that I can quickly take a Bible passage and make it relevant for the students I am assisting. I discovered that, I may not be the best ‘teacher’ but I can encourage a discouraged student to the point where they are willing to keep trying. I learned that I can go from gentle to firm to gentle again, and that I must, in that order, if I am ever to convince the students that I am ‘for’ them.

I have been privileged to be placed into the lives of students who I was able to assist, and who assisted me on this journey of living and learning. They brought to the table suitcases full of ‘the past’ … and so do I. They also brought to the table empty suitcases, and I was constantly aware that ‘baggage’ was something I needed to prevent myself from packing into them.

All year, the constant voice in my head was telling me ‘it’s not about you” …
* when the students were not eager to work, or when they worked so faithfully
* when they did not give their all, or when they gave everything
* when they didn’t want to share, or when they would not stop sharing
* when they came to school faithfully, or when their attendance was sparse
* when they barely spoke, or when they spoke rudely

IT WAS NOT ABOUT ME! What I was paid for was for it to always be about them …

Now today is the last day before summer break. I will leave work today pleased with all that I discovered in so very many ways, knowing that next year is still a blank slate, and it might bring more discovery.

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Spring in our house means one constant, consistent thing … pool repairs!

This is our ninth spring in this house, and every year we attempt to open our in ground pool only to discover that another something needs to be replaced, fixed or upgraded … and I begin to contemplate moving … to a home without a pool.

Oh, I know, after the broken parts have been fixed, after the chemicals have done their miracle and changed the waters color (like a mood ring), when the heat of July and August arrives, I will be diving into that pool with great thanks that we live where we do. For now, I anticipate yet another bill, and wonder just how many hours I have to work to pay it off.

If you have been to our home for a cool dip on a hot day, you might not believe my reference to cesspool. Check out the photo to the right … This dastardly pool not only had a part on the pump that needed to be replaced, but it currently more closely resembles the swamp outside of Shrek’s home than a refreshing, crystal clear place of recreation and rest.

This is the way of owning things … they end up owning us.

I remember, years ago, Bill Cosby had a comic sketch about our ‘stuff’, and how it leads to needing places to store our ‘stuff,’ and how we need to get insurance for our ‘stuff’ in case something happens to our ‘stuff’, and on and on. I now am starting to understand what he was talking about.

Most days I feel as though I am owned by my ‘stuff’ and it is controlling every important decision that I have to make.

If we own a vehicle, we need to maintain it, repair it, protect it. All of that takes time and money.

If we own a home, we also need to maintain it, repair it, protect it. All of that takes time and money too.

So then we need to work more (our time) to make enough money to cover the costs of the ‘privilege’ of having ‘stuff’, and we need to use our ‘free’ time to look after this ‘stuff’ (I personally spent over eleven hours, on a delightfully sunny Saturday, working on our yard and pool ‘stuff’).

In the meantime, as we work to pay for, and work to maintain what we have, we need to remember that our ‘stuff” is not as valuable as the people in our lives. In the spring, we slave for as many hours a week as we work our jobs, to maintain the home and pool that we have so that our children can enjoy these things, and so that we can enjoy our time with our kids … in the summer. All the while, we are presently not with our kids.

I wonder what they would choose? Would they choose big yard and pool over time with mom and dad on a more consistent basis?

It makes me wonder … is it worth it?

Even in the Bible, in Ecclesiastes, it says, “all things are permissible.

It also says, “but not all things are beneficial.”

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After twenty-two years of marriage, let me tell you what I think love is …

Love is honoring … that means that you do what is best for the other person.  It means that you make the other person look and sound good to others. Putting your significant other down puts your relationship down further … don’t do it!

Love is work. When you met you may have ‘fallen’ effortlessly in love with your sweetie … how … precious. Do not expect that staying in love will be so effortlessly. Staying ‘in love’ will take daily effort, and some days might take hourly effort. Remember old Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid movie would say wax on wax off … that is the kind of work it takes to keep the love machine rolling.

Love is sacrificial … if you thought work was gonna be tough, try sacrifice. This means that you give, before, not in response to, receiving. Hum, that means you do what is best for the other person, even if it means you have to stretch, or bend. or even watch the football movie, Rudy, for the millionth time, just because it is his favorite movie, and you would rather watch P. S. I Love You (that does go both ways though, just remember, sacrifice is not sacrifice if we do it SO THAT our significant other will do back for us).

Love is respect … mutual respect. It is looking at your other half as a whole. It is seeing their value through the eyes of one who created them. It is seeing them as valuable because their Creator is made them with purpose, as He did you.

Love is trust. A relationship is not a loving one if there is not trust of the other person. When one lays their life in the hands of another, intimacy is only present if trust is as well.

Love is forgiveness, because if you are in love with a human, you will need to learn to forgiven. There will be times when Mr. or Mrs. (or Ms.) right does something wrong … there will be times when you (and I) are the ones who are doing the wrong … if love is to survive, forgiveness must thrive.

Love is commitment … that means you stay together, for the long haul. There are no escape clauses, there are no backup plans. If it is love, it is committed, or it is not love.

“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.
Your people will be my people and your God my God.
Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.
Ruth 1:16-17

And that is what I think love is.

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As I was leaving for work one day last week, over and over and over in my mind I heard, “I thank my God every time I think of you.” It had been a day when, as a team of special education and learning assistants, we were one unit, working together, and loving each other. It felt good!

Then I awoke this Monday, and was preparing for work when I remembered that it was team devotions and meeting day, and that I was on for the devotions part … fear cursed through my body! Devotions are not an area of comfort for me, and my first instinct was to call in sick! Then I remembered that day last week, and those words were again remembered, “I thank my God every time I think of you.” I had it! My blood pressure began leveling out to a normal range.

I opened my Bible app. and searched for Philippians 1, the passage I would use:

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:3-11

I used the emboldened part when doing devotions with my class later that morning. To be free to remind them that the one who gave them life does not give up on them, but that he has a plan that is not completed until the day of Christ, is to share a great hope.

And then today another teacher used the same passage for her class devotions …

I began thinking that maybe the message that I have been feeling and sharing, for others, might just be something that God wants me to hear too.

It has been a sucky, emotional, hormonal, week. I am tired and feeling worn down and discouraged on so many levels. And then today, I heard the words echoed back to me: “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” What a message to rest my head pondering!

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Working as a support staff, in a high school, everything about what is my job can change from one year to the next.

Last year I worked fifty percent, this year I work one hundred percent. Last year I worked with three students, in grades ten, eleven, and twelve. This year I work with five in grade nine, and one in grade eleven. Last year I worked off campus part of my time, this year I work only on campus. Last year worked with my three students, primarily out of class. This year I am in class almost all the time, and assisting all students who need it. Last year two of the students I worked with graduated, this year there will be no graduates among the students I work with.

It was like starting a new job when school began last week (and I am sleeping solidly because of it)!

Since the start of school, I have to say I have been missing last year, and all that was familiar about it. I miss the quick, cheeky tongues of the the older students, I miss interacting with business people to set up work experience opportunities, I miss the interactions with the parents (moms) of the students, I miss the challenge of out-witting the older students who lived to be late to class, or look at life through a half-full cup … I simply miss the individual students … period.

It would be so easy to say … last year was so much better than this one. As is always the case, what we know is more appealing, more comfortable than what we do not know, and what is unfamiliar to us. It would be so easy to start looking at the school year through a half-full cup …

But, a new broom sweeps clean! And my undiagnosed ADD thrives with change, novelty and challenge.

I have been getting to know the personalities and habits of the new students that I work with. I have been able to see how unjaded high school freshmen are to their senior counterparts. I have been getting to know classroom teachers, whose classes I have not been in before (or for a long time). I have been challenged in having to think out of the box in classroom settings, according to what assists the students needs best.

In all of this there is an excitement to this new year! There is a blank slate effect that I get to be there with the students as they begin their high school career.

The other day, one of the students said, “Mrs. Wheaton, will you work with us until we graduate?” And, on the inside, I smiled, because the thought of that excited me immensely. The thought of providing consistency to students who often thrive in consistency gave me something to hope for … for them, but for me too. But, the nature of this job is that change is inevitable, and there are no guarantees of what next year, let alone three years from now, will look like. But, for now, I know that it’s going to be a great year!

And my focus is to begin with the end in mind, so I will work with them as though I will see them through to graduation. And, together, we can learn so much.

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