04 February 2012

The Kindergarten Comics

Okay. On the surface, I may seem to be a very quiet and gentle-spirited person. I don't generally have much to say when I am the "new kid on the block" or find myself in the midst of a large crowd. However, anyone that really knows me well knows that I can be quite the jokester. And corny jokes? I love them!

Well, every day when I walk into my classroom, I find myself with my serious game-face on. I am totally focused on making sure that EVERY child succeeds AND excels. Although this is important, sometimes I become so focused on the task at hand that I miss out on all of those super cute things that kids do and say. They go in one ear and right back out the other. Gone. Just like that. I am trying my best to lighten up a little and let my wonderful kiddos help me rediscover the simplicity of life through a child's eyes. Here are just a few stories from the past year and a half that made me smile (and in some cases, laugh uncontrollably!):

--During a discussion about the Pilgrims, I posed the question, "Who remembers what the name of the boat is that the pilgrims sailed to America on?" After a short period of silence, one students began waving his hand wildly. "Ooh, ooh! I know, Miss Jarrell! I know!" I finally called on him. His response? "The name of the boat was The Cauliflower!"

--Last year, I was gifted with a student who had severe behavior issues. He spent a portion of most days in the office for various offenses, before finally being sent to the county alternative school. Part of his daily routine became to run through the room as fast as he could during our afternoon pack-up. This afternoon run would continue until I was able to single-handedly corner and restrain him...... ALL THE WAY to the bus (En route to the buses, he would also wrap his legs around as many things as he could find to wrap them around!). One day, as I force him to the bus kicking and still trying to run away, my arms wrapped tightly around his, he begins screaming at the top of his lungs, "YOUUUU WILL NEVERRRRRRRR DEFEAT MEEEEEEE!!!!" My response- "Oh, yes I will. I already haaaave defeated youuuuu." And he continues- "NOOOOOOOO! YOU WILL NEVERRRRRRRR DEFEAT MEEEEEEE! NEVERRRRRRRRR!" What a hilarious scene!

--This year, I have a sweet little girl in my class. She is African-American, she is always wearing a smile, and she ALWAYS has something to say. From August to January, her hair was styled with little tiny braids all over. I get a running commentary from 800 to 300 every day from her on every move I make and every breath I take. My assistant and I have been working very hard on helping her learn to control her talking. One day recently she came in and had a different hair style. She had also been having an exceptionally great day. During pack up time, I said to her- "Sweet girl, I LOVE your hair like that! You look so cute and so grown-up. You need to keep your hair that way." Beaming from ear to ear, she replied, "Well thank you, Miss Jarrell! My mama said if I keep getting smiles in my folder every day, I can keep my hair. But, if I get a sad face, she gon' put it back in da box!" I replied, "Well, please do get a smile in your folder, then, because I really do LOVE that hair on you." After that, my assistant and I just couldn't hold our laughter in any longer. We both had to hide our faces from the sweet child until we regained composure.

God really does have a sense of hunor. I am so glad he gave me these children to remind me of that daily. Out of the mouths of babes... I LOVE these kids!!

10 June 2011

Local International Missions... Is That Even Possible?

Once upon a time, I got a job as a Kindergarten teacher and intended to post here frequently about my adventures and challenges. However, as you can see, I last posted on August 4, 2010, shortly after I accepted the position. This job is so crazy... in a crazy awesome kind of a way. The only problem is that I have spent so much time planning and preparing and being flat out exhausted that I pretty much forgot this whole blogging thing even existed.

For now, I will do my best to give you a short and sweet reflection of my year, with more details/funny stories to come later...

Let's review since it has been awhile: I said I would NEVER teach Kindergarten. Never say never...

Now, here I am having just said goodbye to my 20 Kindergarten kiddos yesterday after a busy year of teaching them both academics and general life skills. My class consisted of many different socioeconomic backgrounds- from extremely rich to dirt poor, different races- White, Black, and Hispanic, and different home lives- overprotective parents, divorced parents, parents who could care less, and the list goes on! What an exhilarating and eye-opening year it has been! I have discovered many things this year.

First, Kindergarten is not what it used to be... epsecially in Lee County. I have discovered that one of the reasons I never wanted to teach K is because I saw it as a little bit of alphabet, a little bit of counting, and a lot of play. I think this is what many people think, but this preconceived notion is sooo wrong! Yes, this is what it used to be to a certain extent, but not anymore!

As I look back on the year, I think about my kids who were the lowest of the low academically at the start. And I think about how several of them really didn't even speak much English. And then I think about how these same kids just finished up our year reading 100+ sight words, writing stories of 4 or more sentences, and adding and subtracting and counting by 2's, 5's, and 10's like it's nobody's business. The only word that comes to my mind for this progress is WOW. This is HUGE. God just allowed me to be a part of a child's life by helping them to love learning, teaching them to always try their best, and paving the way for success in their future years of education. Yes, we did our fair share of playing, and there was plenty of fun to be had, but it wasn't the purposeless kind of fun I envisioned when I thought of Kindergarten before September 2010. SO maybe, just maybe, Kindergarten is where I belong??? I don't know about that just yet, but I would be perfectly fine to stay there if that is what God has in store for me!

Boy, did I ever think I had pretty much my whole life, figured out for myself. Go to college, go to FLI, be a Journeyman for two years, teach 3 years in NC to pay back my scholarship, and then move to a far away land to be an international missionary. .......Wrong.

To be honest, I was a little put out when the IMB wouldn't even let me past Stage 1 of the J-Man application process because my BMI was too high. Really J-Man? Really? You have never even laid eyes on me before...

Well, God had something bigger for me. He wanted me to discover that the foreign mission field is not just across the ocean or the border. It is actually right around us, in inner city America, in rural America, and most of all, in our public school classrooms where all the different cultures of America come together for a large portion of a child's day. The public school classroom IS the foreign mission field, and God has shown me that is where He intended me to be this year... In Lee County, at Deep River, in Kindergarten classroom 209... and at the risk of sounding conceited (although not intending to), no one else could have done the job in room 209 quite like I did. After all, if the job were intended for someone else, I hopefully would not have been there.

More than that, I truly and wholeheartedly believe that God placed me in that classroom for 24 unique children with 24 different sets of unique and special needs. Some were more needy than others, but all were in need of someone to share the love of our Abba with them through action at all times, and in word, when possible.

So, although I may not have crossed any oceans or continental borders this school year, I did complete my first year as an international missionary right here in our own backyard... And I knew I was right where God intended me to be every single step of the way. There's not a better feeling in the world!

Looking forward to sharing more details with you in future posts... maybe I won't abandon the blogging world this time, like I have done for the past 8 months! :)

04 August 2010

Never Say Never...

Well, life has been pretty interesting lately. I guess that's the word to use for it anyhow! After a busy summer full of the craziness of Puerto Rico, chaperoning a trip to Centrifuge, and the many adventures of job hunting and interviewing, I am now ready to settle down and get to work... and maybe some more blogging. (Yes, I said the word WORK! Keep reading to find out the latest!)

Eager to get my dream job as a 3rd or 4th grade teacher in Wake County, I began checking their job postings in late February this year, depsite the fact that they were on a job freeze. Nothing... nothing... nothing... nothing... then May came. Jobs were being posted faster than I could read them, and I think I sent a resume out to just about every one with the exception of any openings for Kindergarten positions. During High School, I used to say that I really wanted to teach in the lower grades, K or 1. As I got a little older, I decided Id rather aim for 1 or 2. At the beginning of college I decided that 2 would be my top choice, but 3 would be okay if I had to. Then, I subbed and subbed and went through the AMAZING College of Ed at ASU and decided that 3 or 4 were my ultimate top choices. Not only that, but I began to formulate this priority list in my head: 4, 3, 2, 5, 1, K. In fact, I believe Ive said the following words at least once a month for the past 4 or so years: I will NEVER teach Kindergarten.

So I sent out resumes... and waited... and waited... and waited... and waited. NOTHING. I didnt even get email responses back. Principals were always in meetings no matter how many times I called and what times of the day of I called. Now Im no genius, but Im sure smart enough to know that NO ONE is in a meeting 24/7.

Finally, when I got back from Puerto Rico, I discovered that there were 3 new job openings at Deep River Elementary in Sanford... closer to my house than the school I did my student teaching at in Raleigh. AND one of my best college friends got a job there in January and LOVED it! (We had every class together since Junior year, and we both did our student teaching in 2nd grade at Fox Road in Raleigh.) So, I pursued the openings... this time in person rather than email. Ms. Lundy, the principal immediately invited me back for an interview a few days later.

To make a long story short, the interview went okay I thought. But it was extremely short, and that really scared me. However, I was encouraged by the fact that she asked me for a lot paperwork which she wouldnt have needed if she wasnt interested. Hmmmm... could it be?

God is a pretty cool cat, just in case ya didnt know. The next week I went to Centrifuge with the ARBC students, and planned on making a short return trip home for another interview in the middle of the week. Well, about 15 minutes before I got to the other school, Ms. Lundy called and wanted to know if I could return for a second interview with the 4th grade team first thing the next morning. So... my return trip lasted a bit longer than expected... but that was okay with me! Interview? AWESOME!

Then a few days later, a bomb fell out of the sky. First, Ms. Lundy called to ask if I would possibly consider another grade level due to some switching around she was having to do within the building. Sure! After all, flexibility is key right?

THEN, I got a call from the Lee Co Board of Education, "Miss Jarrell, the position available at Deep River will be a Kindergarten position. Are you still interested should we offer you the position?" Me: "Could I think about it? When do you need to know by?" Lee Co: "How about tomorrow by lunch?"

TOMORROW BY LUNCH?!?!?!? Is this woman crazy? Does she not know that I have vowed for years now that I WILL NEVER TEACH KINDERGARTEN and now I am being forced to make a quick decision between turning down a school and principal I love because of the grade level, or realizing that a good school and principal could potentially be worth more than having my preferred grade level and trying it out to get my foot in the door.

So I frantically began calling every teacher I knew for some good advice, as well as asking a few that taught Kindergarten if I could come and visit. Although it was good to talk to several different people, the most valuable conversation I had was with my adopted sister, Ashley Reffit. She was extremely helpful and helped me to think through some things no one else had brought up for me to consider. She's a pretty awesome gal! The next morning I made an emergency visit to a K class at my mom's school, and sat there the entire time with my mind racing about how a half day in a K class could possibly be part of my basis for such a huge decision.

Then noon came. I accepted the job. Yes, I am teaching Kindergarten this year.

The moral of the story: Never say never.

As I told my best friend Lyndsey, when these words leave our mouths, we just give God more content to work with when planning His next comedy act. God enjoys a good a laugh every now and then. So do all of us. And I am glad that I could be the one to provide it. :)

So, if youre ever feeling a little blue around 830 in the morning, just think of me enthusiastically singing crazy songs while surrounded by young children. That should fix you right up. And dont forget...


23 April 2010

The Least of These...

So, Im pretty sure we all know this familiar verse from the Bible...

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" ~~Matthew 25:40

The question is, though, who exactly ARE 'the least of these'?

There is one obvious answer to this, but a recent devotion we had really changed the way I think of this verse and the way I see others. I feel compelled to share because I believe it has the potential to do the same for you if youve never heard it the way Im about to explain it...

The obvious answer:
My entire life I have been taught that the least of these includes the lost, the poor, the fatherless, the widow, the orphan, the lonely, etc, etc, etc. I think that is what we have all been taught... and that is absolutely correct. After all the Bible does tell us in James 1.27: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. And there are countless other verses that speak on this issue.

The potentially not-so-obvious answer:
However, there is a greater overall theme in this passage. There is one thing that these people groups we generally consider to be part of "the least of these" all have in common...


In our humanness, we like to pretend we always have it all together. We put on a facade. A mask. But who does have it all together? I know I dont, and to be willing to acknolwedge this is something that many of us FLI'ers have been learning in a huge way this semester. None of us 'have it all together'. We all have our own issues and things to deal with and work through. In reality, there is only one person in all of history who has had it all together. His name is Jesus Christ and He desperately wants us to realize it is OKAY for us to not have it all together... thats why He came to this earth, died, was buried, and resurrected on the third day. Thats why He tells us in Matthew 11.28: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. I certainly am tired of trying to have it all together all the time, and I am so glad I can rest in the arms of my Savior, Jesus Christ.

So, I guess we are all in this together... none of us have it together. I am one of 'the least of these'... and so are you. Every person I pass each day is one of the least of these, and they deserve the same care and compassion from me that I give (hopefully) to the people groups that this "label" is traditionally reserved for in our churches. Let's change that. Ultimately, this issue comes down to one of "loving your neighbor as yourself", and remembering who our NEIGHBOR is (I talked about this in my March 10 post!).

My neighbor is one of the least of these. You are one of the least of these. I am one of the least of these. I truly believe that this is how Christ has called us to live, and if we all begin to live in this frame of mind, we could start a revolution in this world. What are we waiting for? Let's do it.

Crazy side notes:
- It snowed today. Wow.
- My camera offically died a few days ago. I have a new one, but I'm still trying to figure out how to use it.
- Here are a few pictures I stole from friends on Facebook to hold you over until I learn!

Me and my good friend, Caitlin VanWagoner

Clogging it up at the FLI Follies!

The crazy hiking group on Red Mountain at sunrise

Caitlin Hetzel and I... huffing and puffing up the Incline

See everyone back in NC next week...

Grace and Peace!

20 April 2010

Go Make A Mess!

Well I just finished up my last final after a very busy week and a half! From Thursday until today we have had 5 different papers due, as well as two finals. Its fun to look back, though, and realize how well prepared I was for that kind of workload. For the past three semesters of my life, I have had class all day, every day AND had two to three assignments due each week. So finally, Im not the one stressing out about a large workload and fussing because "those teachers just don't understand". I suppose youre not really supposed to find joy in others' pain... but I do. Its so exciting, yet so sad all at the same time that everything is drawing to an end. I have made some crazy awesome friends that I am looking forward to keeping in contact with (and, I can visit pretty much any state now and have somewhere free to stay. ha.). However, I am also looking forward to living real life again, because as fun as this has been, I can assure you that it wasn't even close to real life!

I feel like I have learned so much cool stuff and been equipped with so many great leadership tools, but I am ready to share all of that now. I feel prepared and I am eager to pass on what Ive learned to someone else. I guess I feel a little like a bottle of coke right now. I've been shaken to the core this semester and I am just about to the point of erupting like a volcano with all of these tools and things Ive been given. And yes... I will defintely make a mess when I explode (hopefully!). I want to spew out God's love everywhere I go. I want to rock someone's world by permanently impacting the way they relate to God.

I think sometimes we like to try to put God into this nicely wrapped little package and make Him into this God that does things in a nice and neat little manner when He comes into our lives. God can't be contained in a box. In fact, we serve an infinite God who has broken into a finite world! How cool is that?! Furthermore... I hate to break it to ya, but God likes it when we make messes by spewing out His love everywhere we go. He's not like your mom after you spilled a coke all over the brand new carpet. He rejoices in the fact that we are so full of joy that we cant hold it in any longer.

So this isnt what I was going to write about when I started this, but since I have effectively gone off on a crazy tangent, maybe I should stop while Im ahead. Let's be honest, I have no idea if I wrote above even makes sense. But such is life when God gets hold of you, shakes you to the core, and gets you high off of the joy of learning about His nature and His unique design for me and the world I live in.

So dont hold in the love youve been given by God. Go make a mess!

11 April 2010

God Is In The Room

So, I should be working on my 5 papers that are due this coming week, but instead I am going to tell you about the most amazing day I just had! It all began when I got up at 4:30 am with plans to take a short hike up Red Mountain to see the sunrise. We arrived and began our hike, which was much more strenuous than anticipated. The view was beautiful though! We had a great time up at the top of the trail fellowshipping, reading the Bible, worshipping, and praying together. At some points on the trail, we could see a very famous and EXTREMELY strenuous hike called The Incline. We jokingly said that we should go do it since we were so close and such expert hikers (NOT!). Somewhere along the way, our jokes turned serious, and we decided to go for it.

Now you should know that The Incline is no normal hike, and most sane people who hike it do it while they are fresh... not after theyve already hiked 3 miles. So we grabbed some breakfast in nearby Manitou Springs and headed off. Here are some interesting facts on The Incline:
- It is 1.1 miles long, straight up, with grades anywhere from 40- 68%
- 2000 foot elevation gain from bottom to top, which is more than the Empire State Building
- It's basically like climbing an endless set of stairs (which used to be a tourist railway)
- It is the highest set of stairs in the world
- It is used often for Army and Air Force training exercises
- About 1/8 of the way up we saw a No Trespassing sign and thought, "Hmmmmm..." Well, apparently it is not legal for "law abiding citizens" to climb. So, YES, I just broke the law. I trespassed... along with the hundreds of other people that hike the trail each day. Oops. :)

The Bottom Looking Up... Hello Stairs!!!

The Top Looking Down

So we made it and it was super fun, but not without LOTS of hard work, perserverance, and feeling like I might throw up every 10 minutes. Sweet! After we finally made the 4 mile hike back down, we decided we needed a little rest before we took on our next challenge and headed back home. Fun fun!

Anyways, now for my words of wisdom. I have so many things that I could choose to write about, and it is so hard to choose just one! I suppose that is actually a positive thing though! So last week in our Marriage and Family Studies class we talked about parenting. As someone who isnt even married and doesnt really have any prospects, my first instinct was to just daydream for 3 hours. As we began class though, our matins time really caught my attention. It was about this concept: God is in the room. The devotional can actually be found here if youd like to read it for yourself. In essence, the devo talks about what our homes might begin to look like if we lived by the motto, "God is in the room." How might parents treat their children differently during moments of anger and frustration if they stopped a moment to remind themselves that God really is in the room. He also talks about how we simply pray at mealtimes, say "amen", and then pretend like that magic word is some kind of curtain that we can pull down in front of heaven. Ah hah!!! This doesnt just apply to families though.

Throughout the semester I have had a lot of time to reflect on how I can love my students in a godly manner when there are so many restrictions put on teachers. My first thought has always been that I would do whatever I wanted anyways, and then if I got fired then that would just be how it was. But I have come to realize that there are many other questions that along with that stance... How does my disobedience to authority reflect on the One I am serving? If I were to lose my job for some reason, does that potentially cut me off from ever having an influence in that sphere of society again? Even though this stance may not necessarily be a wrong one, I now am of the opinion that there are better ways to go about making the love of Christ known in public schools in an attractively winsome way.

During this matins time, I felt that God was speaking to me about how to be an attractively winsome teacher and co-worker. First, I must acknowledge that God is in the room- my classroom specifically. If I can brand this thought and image into my mind, how much more patience might I have with that one child who gets on my last nerve? Second, in the time that I have been here, I have made a commitment to myself that I will pray over the seats of my students each morning before school begins. I would encourage other teachers who read this to do the same! What a difference could we make in the life of a child and in schools if we brought them before God each day asking for His direction and guidance with each child who crosses our path? Not only will I pray over the seats of my students each morning, but I will have to make sure that when I say "amen" for the bell rings that I am not pulling that curtain down and shutting God out. You see, we really cant shut God out anyways. He resides in our homes and classrooms. He hates being ignored too, but how many times have we ignored God and pretended as though He wasnt really there with us?

And while we are at it, let's carry this principle over into the Student or Children's Ministry at church? What if part of getting our classroom prepped before the lesson each Sunday or Wednesday was to pray over the chairs in room for the students that will fill them? What in the world might happen in the hearts of our students if we fervently prayed for their hearts and other needs? God has always told us to pray and to seek His face in all that we do. He has always told us to present our requests to Him. He has always told to pray without ceasing? So why dont we take him seriously so many times?

Prayer is a conversation with God. It acknowledges to God that we know that He is in room and that we know He can guide through anything and want to give Him control.

So take a minute to stop, wherever you may be, and acknowledge that GOD IS IN THE ROOM... ( and no... He wont leave the building like Elvis did.) :)

31 March 2010

On Top of the World!

Im not sure words can describe the experiences I have been blessed with over the past few weeks. Even if they could, Im sure the available words would be inadequate. So here are some pictures... Take a minute to take in the greatness of our God and His creation:

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Zion National Park, Utah

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night the pour forth knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. -- Psalm 19:1-3

For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. --Psalm 95:3-5

He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing. He wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight. He covers the face of the full moon, spreading his clouds over it. The pillars of the heavens quake, aghast at his rebuke. By his power he churned up the sea.... By his breath the skies become fair.... And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! How then can we understand the thunder of his power? -- Job 26:7-9, 11-14

Over the past few years, I have been privileged to see many parts of God's creation that most people never get to experience. And it is all extremely beautiful and glorious! However, I dont think I have ever fully understood the power and might of the God we serve like I did when I reached the peak of Angel's Landing in Zion National Park last week with 10 wonderful friends. This is the thought that kept running through my head... "Here we are surrounded by massive rocks, bigger than any Ive ever seen before. Not only are we surrounded by them, we are ON TOP of one of these huge things... 1800 feet from the bottom! These rocks are gigantic! We say that God is our "solid rock", but can we ever really fathom exactly what that means? As unshakeable and unmoveable as these rocks seem, we serve a God who is so much more unshakeable and unmoveable than these rocks will ever be! And when, one day, these rocks may come tumbling down, our God will still remain, and He promises us that He is our solid rock to stand on in the midst of whatever trials or storms may come our way. What an awesome and mighty God we are given the privilege of serving!" Being able to stand on top of that rock and worship and pray with friends was one experience that will not be forgotten.

Now... on to a few rather interesting details of this little trip. (These are the details you dont tell your parents until after its over and you are safe once again!) Our hike up Angel's Landing began as a fun little hike over pretty easy terrain. We stopped about every 2 minutes to take another picture or just to rest and enjoy one another's company. That was the first 2.5 miles. The last half mile to the peak is another story. Let's just say that this hike is called Angel's Landing for a reason. People die on this trail fairly often, the most recent two deaths being in August and November (and no, I didnt know this before I started up it!) There are many caution signs along the path, but Im pretty sure no quantity of caution signs could have prepared for the intensity of the hike I was about to get myself into. The last half mile of this hike consisted of a very steep, and VERY narrow trail. In fact, Im pretty sure this part trail qualified as scrambling and not hiking. Oh yeah... did I mention that the trail was NARROW?!? Most of the way, you had a chain on one side of the path to hold on to in case you started to slip, but in essence you were gonna be dead meat if you took one wrong step. Perhaps this wasnt the smartest thing I have ever done, but I will be the first to tell you that I wouldnt trade my "mountain-top" experience for anything in the world now that I have done it. I will also be the first to tell you that I feel no need to EVER do it again!

One of many caution signs along the path... (If you go to YouTube and search "Angel's Landing" there are tons of videos that take you on a virtual hike to the top with a crazy person who thought it was a good idea to get the scramble to the top on tape!)

Its hard to believe we only have three weeks of class left. I cant wait to see, though, what the next three weeks will bring. More than that, I am excited to see how God is going to use me when I return home. This semester has been an experience like no other! I feel refreshed and re-charged after three extremely intense semesters in education program at ASU and although it wont always be fun, I am excited to return to the front lines of a kingdom-sized battle between the Truth of God and the lies of the world! Exciting stuff!

One last word... if you know any college aged students, they NEED to spend a semester at FLI and Id love to be able to get in touch with them and encourage them to pursue this awesome opportunity.

Here's the painting I have just recently completed... next time I consider writing small words in the background of painting, remind me what a pain it was (click to make it bigger!) :)

Grace and Peace... :)