Monday, September 2, 2013

First Day of School. Bliss or Blues?

Well, it is that time of year again. School is back in session. As a 7th grade Reading teacher who has entered her second year of teaching I have officially become a part of the norm. Yes, I am still excited about teaching, I still look through my rose-colored glasses from time to time, I am usually optimistic; however, I agree with those who wish we had a longer summer, longer weekends, fewer students, etc. You just come to a point where you are tired. You think that getting 7 1/2 to 8 hours of sleep should cure that, but it doesn't because you eat, sleep, and breath your students. Figuratively, of course. For example, I often have dreams that my students (especially the sneaky, slightly annoying ones) are running around my bed at night. But that is another story for another blog, preferably a psychiatric one.

As the back to school process begins there is that feeling of excitement with the occasional nervous feeling of bats flying around in your stomach (butterflies are too nice and sweet to describe this feeling). Usually, before you can begin the school year you have to go through some kind of training. We call it "staff development". So for a week you repress the nervous flutterings of the screeching bats, get out your multiple notebooks, pens, and highlighters and settle in for a long week of: learning school procedures, participating in team bonding activities, arts and crafts, setting up your room, pump-you-up speeches from the principals, piles and piles of hand outs, and butt-numbing seats in every venue, just to name a few. The week leaves you worn out and wondering why this isn't possible:

 When staff development comes to a close and you can barely think (because your mind is so full of information that it is oozing out of your ear) you begin to wonder who your students will be. Will they like you? Will they be nice? Will you end up pulling as much hair out of your head this year as last year? In your exhausted stupor you envision sweet students who do everything you ask, who already know how to read, and who look like this on the first day of school:

Isn't he cute? This is a student who is eager to come to your class and learn!! A MIRACLE! He is a studentswho will use "please" and "thank you" and who will love you because you are his teacher!! 

But then you remember you teach 7th grade and those students are hard to come by. Your students will more than likely look like this on the first day of school:
Nope, you don't have the sweet smelling, polite, hugable elementary students. You have the sullen, moody, chip-on-their-shoulder tweens who when they hear the word "Reading" automatically envision putting a picture of you with a bulls-eye in their room to use later for target practice.

Yep, teaching middle school is another animal. As a middle school teacher I don't expect the hugs, the cards, or the candy. As a middle school teacher I have to demand that my students say "please" and "thank you" because once they get past six years old no one expects it of them. I have to remind them to sit up straight and at least pretend like they are listening to me. Middle school students are challenging to say the least.

So why do I do it? Why do I teach 7th graders? I will get to that in a minute. Back to the first day of school.

Once the first day of school rolls around you don't want to get out of bed.

But you know that this is the career you have chosen and your Principal is counting on you. There is no use resisting. It is going to happen. The bell will ring and the students will come.

And as class time comes closer and closer those bats turn into elephants in your stomach and you feel like panicking and wonder if you can leave the building without anyone noticing because...

In a matter of minutes, or even seconds, you go through the stages of grieving. First you're in denial that summer has ended at all. "This must be a dream," you tell yourself. "This must be a dream." Then you morn the loss of your summer...

And then as the bell rings and you take a deep breath you put on your "TEACHER" hat and open the door with a smile. Because whoever said "don't smile til Christmas" doesn't realize that it is impossible for you not to smile.

And when some of your students enter looking clean, excited, and greet you with a "Goodmorning, Miss G____!" You know that you are in the right place. Choosing to teach middle schoolers was a good choice. They are a challenging age, but you are up for the challenge because that moment when what you teach clicks with is the most exciting feeling you've ever felt. A feeling that makes up for the elephant turned bats. You are where God wants you to be.

And then lunch rolls around, you're exhausted, and thinking that the parents of these children probably looked like this at the bus stop. 

Yep, now you are stuck with their precious kiddos for 9 months while they hang out all day in their pjs.

So, whether you are a teacher, parent, student, or you do something else meaningful with your life...remember how teachers feel stuck in a room with 25 precious children ALL DAY LONG. While you are thinking about that teacher pray for him or her because we can use all the prayers we can get!!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Prairie Song by Mona Hodgson

The first step in a challenging journey is often the one that means the most. 
Though it means saying goodbye to the beloved friends and spiritual mentors of her St. Charles, Missouri quilting circle, Anna Goben is certain that she needs to enlist her family in the Boones Lick Company wagon train. The loss of her beloved brother in the Civil War has paralyzed her mother and grandfather in a malaise of grief and depression and Anna is convinced that only a fresh start in the Promised Land of California can bring her family back to her. Although the unknown perils of the trail west loom, Anna’s commitment to caring for her loved ones leaves no room for fear—or even loving someone new.  
During the five-month journey, trail hand Caleb Reger plans to keep a low profile as he watches over the band of travelers. Guarding secrets about his past and avoiding God’s calling on his life, Caleb wants to steer as far from Anna as she does him, but she proves to be just as he assessed her from the beginning— independent, beautiful trouble
Led by a pillar of hope, the group faces rough terrain that begins to take a toll on their spirits. Will the wilderness of suffering lead them astray, or will the gentle song of love that echoes across the prairie turn their hearts toward God’s grace and the promise of a new home?

~ ~ ~ ~

Prairie Song, a novel by Mona Hodgson, is the continuing story of The Quilted Novellas, which I have reviewed before on my blog.

I began reading Prairie Song during a stressful part of my summer (staff development). Thus, the book was like a tall glass of refreshing water at the end of a hard workday. It was a blessing to read. Not just because I was beginning to become stressed about school starting, but because it is a well-written novel. The length of the book gave Ms. Hodgson time to develop the characters well. Since I had read The Quilted Novellas Two and Three prior to this novel I was familiar with the main characters, Anna Goben and Caroline Milburn. Both women are strong and independent. They rely on God for strength and help. During the novel they learn about hardship while being pursued by two leading men. The love stories in this novel are charming and the way the characters learn more about themselves and how to lean on God for understanding and direction is moving.

I suggest that any reader interested in this book read The Quilted Novellas first to get the back stories of the characters. However, if you want to delve into this novel first you should not find yourself confused. It is just my preference to read books in order. :)

If you enjoy Christian fiction this novel is a must read! I am whole-heartedly looking forward to Ms. Hodgson's second book.

Thank you to the author for a delightful read and to the publisher for a free ebook copy in exchange for an honest review!