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May: Finding Peace & Joy in the Perseverance

May, the “goddess of spring” according to Roman mythology; also derived from the flower name which references the hawthorn which blossoms in May.

For teachers, the month of May has many different meanings. It’s the final month. It’s the month where all has get finished. It’s the month of making sure students learned everything we ever intended to teach them and more, the month of end-of-the-year field trips, the month of awards and class parties, the month of field day and the last parent conferences, and the month all administrative matters have to be completed before walking out into the bright, shiny summer days of rest and relaxation.

For teachers, we can so easily get caught up in the hustle and bustle of finishing the year that we forget this is it, the last month to teach valuable lessons, to take care of bumps, bruises, and scrapes, to wipe tears and calm emotions from hurt feelings, to share in the joys, sorrows, and successes, to see the beaming faces of the children they’ve loved for seven months shine with excitement as they receive their awards, to watch them walk away – some to never see again – into the rest of their lives.

As May approached, I encouraged my own students to finish as strong as they started, but had I spoken the same encouraging words to myself?

I had allowed myself to become overwhelmed with the matters that needed to be finished that I had forgotten all it took to get to this point and how valuable it is to finish as strong as I had started. I was encouraged recently while in staff meetings and in my own personal prayer time to look at the month of May differently than in past years. Instead of seeing it as so little time to get things accomplished and finished, it was a time to slow down, pay attention, and be fully engaged in the last few moments I had with these precious young children. I had to find the joy and peace in the perseverance. It’s not hard to find them; it just requires looking at things with a different perspective.

Butterfly Perspective

I take refuge in what James said, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

It is my prayer that the students enter the next chapter in their lives having gained maturity from their faithfulness and find joy and peace in their perseverance.

~ Vanessa Robbins, Fourth/Fifth Grade Teacher

pure_joy_verse

 

Gardening with God: Growing and Cultivating a life with Christ

Gardening –“ the practice of growing and cultivating plants”.

This academic year ushered in a new opportunity for our BCA students – gardening! As a teacher preparing for this new endeavor, my thoughts were:

  • “What does this look like?”
  • “How will I work this into the schedule?”
  • “How often do we NEED to do this?”
  • “What is the learning objective?”

What I should have considered and known from the beginning was the ultimate experience and outcome of such a privilege for the children. As teachers, we often miss the purpose for the planning.

Fifth grade began our gardening in the fall with watering. We knew the importance, but yet had a moment to really discuss its importance. Later in the fall, we planted mustard seeds. We did our duty. Don’t get me wrong, the students enjoyed every minute of watering and planting. I was the one who had not yet considered or appreciated the value it held.

It wasn’t until I needed an idea for Morning Meeting discussion time that the true reality and benefit of gardening dawned on me. We had approached the time to “maintain” the garden. What a great topic of discussion. Little did I realize the importance it would hold for me and the spiritual opportunity it would be for the students as they grow in their faith.

I asked, “Why do we need to maintain the garden?”

The replies I received from my students were profound upon reflection:

  1. “Because if we don’t take out the weeds, they will take over and smother the plants.”
  2. “Because without water the plants won’t survive.”
  3. “Because plants need fresh soil to continue to grow.”
  4. “Because we have to remove the bugs/snails that might prevent the plants from growing.”
  5. “Because if we don’t, the plants will die.”
Gardening: Cultivating and Growing a Life in Christ

BCA Students learning how to grow and cultivate a life in Christ through the experience of gardening

As I sat there, it finally became clear to me the purpose.

We don’t just garden to provide the experience for children learning HOW, but we also provide the experience, so they can see WHY and relate it to their walk with God.

I hadn’t planned on asking the next question, but as the students responded, the Lord led me to ask,

“How does this relate to our walk with Christ?”

An opportunity had come to provide students with a life lesson that neither I nor they had seen coming. We discussed the many ways gardening is like taking care of our walk with the Lord.

We came to realize how taking out the weeds is like recognizing our sin and asking for forgiveness; how Jesus is our water, and without Him, we won’t survive; how God’s Word is fresh soil to help us grow; how putting on the armor of God is protecting us from the darts of the devil like bugs and snails in a garden; and how simply, if we don’t take care of our daily walk with God, we will die a spiritual death like a garden that is left unattended.

What began as a time slot on a schedule and an opportunity for students to do something outside the classroom, became a life lesson in “growing and cultivating” a life with Christ.

– Vanessa Robbins, Fourth/Fifth Grade Teacher

Choose KIND: Is it more important to be right, or be KIND?

In our society we’ve decided it’s A-Ok to be positively wicked to one another in the name of politics. Christians fight with fellow believers or (worse) with those who look to us to point to Jesus. We belittle and mock and snarl at one another through a screen. Then we go to church on Sundays and sing about Jesus’ love.

It’s appalling.

And, sadly, our kids reflect this desire—our innate, constant, basic desire to be RIGHT. I have it, for sure. I’m right. You’re wrong. Let me prove to you with insults and wit just how wrong you are. Have you ever been swayed by an argument that includes personal attacks? Ever? And, yet, we all use this tactic over and over. I’ve heard students fight over how to properly pronounce Star Wars character names.  I’m willing to fight over health care or immigration or taxes but not think twice about the kind of day a person is having or whether he or she knows Jesus.

Well, last fall I read a book that convicted me of this constant desire to be RIGHT. The book is called “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. The author encountered a very different-looking little girl outside an ice cream shop and instead of treating that girl and her mother as she would other people; she grabbed her kids and ran away. She ran away from what she didn’t understand. The child’s physical appearance was so startling to the author, she couldn’t handle it and she fled. While she left the situation, the situation did not leave her and her memory of that moment outside the ice cream parlor prompted her to write “Wonder.”

Wonder by R.J. Palacio.

Wonder by R.J Palacio – You Can’t Blend In If You Were Born to Stand Out

The story follows a little boy who has a couple chromosomes out of place and the result is a lifetime of surgeries, near death ailments and the looks of “a monster.” He attends school for the first time as a 5th grader. The story is told mostly through his eyes though others jump in once in a while for a different perspective.

One of his teachers shares this precept, “when given the choice between being right or being kind, choose KIND.”

These words stuck with me in a powerful way though ultimately they are only a small part of the book’s message.

I’m reading this special book with our 4th and 5th graders right now. We’re discussing hard topics like friendship, prejudice, fear, birth defects, death and betrayal. It’s not always pretty. We disagree from time to time but books, really good books, do that to people. They make us think and feel as we haven’t before. They make us contemplate our actions and check ourselves:

“Is it more important to be RIGHT or does this situation call for being KIND?”

When we’re done reading it, you’re welcome to borrow BCA’s copy. Or take yourself to the public library and grab one. Our nation seems so divided, so busy being RIGHT but perhaps we can all learn from a children’s book about the importance of being KIND. Imagine the difference that would make!

Pledge to Choose Kind

Pledge to Choose Kind-ness instead of Right-ness

– Lisa Wellman, Librarian

Instructions for Life

Remember the test your teacher gave in which you had a long list of activities to complete in only three minutes? And then when the time was up, the teacher announced that the whole class failed? My fourth grade scholars took it, and every single one learned a valuable lesson about following directions. At the beginning of the test, they were told to read everything before answering anything, and then at the bottom of the test it said to only complete numbers one and two (read everything first and put name on paper). None of them got that far because they were too busy completing the activities they didn’t have to do!

Well, in case you cannot relate to that, everyone has a story of trying to put something together without the instructions, yes? Or perhaps you had the directions and refused to use them? No, I’ve never done that! My thoughts immediately jump to furniture from IKEA… it doesn’t come assembled as seen in the catalog or viewed in the black hole, I mean, store (ha ha). Navigating the instructions can make you want to jump ship, literally.

Thankfully, our God doesn’t make following directions that difficult. He neither leaves us without, nor does He make them confusing. My fourth graders learned this lesson in Bible class with a bunch of Legos. (Wait, what? Legos in Bible class?? Teaching a class of all fourth-grade students might seem daunting to some, but it’s also really rewarding and fun!) I gave the scholars matching sets of Legos and asked them to build a shipping tanker. Both groups had a picture, but only one group had instructions. I asked them to match the pictures as closely as possible.

Photo of “mission”:

picture1

Seems simple enough, right?

The group without instructions came up with this:

Granted, these students are self-professed Lego “Master Builders” and stated they made “modifications.”

Picture2

The group with step-by-step instructions may not have built it exactly to specifications, but they were a LOT closer…

Picture3

The point of the lesson in class that day was that having the instructions and the correct tools makes every task easier, and not having directions makes everything harder. (The no-instructions team still disputed this heavily, which then turned into a lesson of following God’s Way or our own way.)

Even though we have examples to follow, sometimes we might feel like we are still fourth graders when it comes to following God’s Instruction Manual, the Bible. Having the assembly instructions is vital, regardless of one’s ability to visualize and put things together! In 2 Timothy 3:16, God tells us His Word is useful for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” We are weekly revisiting the importance of slowing down, re-reading the instructions, using the correct tools and completing our tasks. We are not perfect, but we are in training to live God’s Way. By looking to God’s Word, the Bible, every day, we can know we are living out the will of God and one day, the reward in heaven will be hearing, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

By Shannon Johnson, 4th Grade

 

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