Walking in Freedom

Miscellaneous musings along the way

Notable Differences August 21, 2012

It’s amazing how different my new job is.  Sure I’m still teaching high school math and many of my new students are rough around the edges, as were my former students.  Many of them have chaotic home lives that affect their performance at school.  That’s about where the similarities end.  Here are some initial notable differences:

  • With class size ranging from 4-9 students “group work” becomes a whole class activity!  It makes it a lot easier to make sure the students are staying on track!
  • Teaching 4 different courses (Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2) with about 35 total students is easier than teaching just 2 courses with 135 total students… at least so far!
  • Staff meetings: At my old school, we had one per month with ~150 staff in attendance.  And, I’ll just say that most teachers did not look forward to them.  Now, we have daily meetings in the morning with 6-10 people in attendance.  Instead of staring blankly off into space and trying to pick out the bits and pieces that apply to you, every word spoken affects you in some way because you know every student and know something about each of the staff members.  We also pray for our students and each other every morning.
  • Not only am I allowed to share the most important aspect of my life with my students, I’m encouraged (and expected) to share my faith with them.  My job is not just to teach math, but to be an advocate and mentor for them.
  • I don’t have to worry about taking home papers to grade because I know I’ll be all caught up after working a little before school and during my prep period.
  • I’m finding that you can get about the same amount of work done in one 80 minute block than you can in two 50 minute class period- it makes prep work easier too! 🙂  And what makes the schedule even better is we get to see all our students on Friday!

Well, that’s a good start… you can be sure that there will be more to come! 🙂



Just another week in room 715 January 20, 2012

Three day weekends are nice… the fact that they are followed by 4 day weeks is pretty great too! 🙂

After a refreshing weekend which included a visit to a new coffee shop in town, I managed to get a pretty nasty cold.  But, not enough to keep me home- just enough to make me sneeze and cough on my students a lot and push my bedtime up a couple hours because I was so tired!!

Thought I’d just share some random happenings from the week:

  • Two senior (as in 17 or 18 year old) guys happily helped me grade some quizzes in exchange for some glittery Disney princess stickers.  One was planning to give them to his girlfriend…


  • In one of my classes, several students who I had 1st semester only (they were making up a credit) have stopped by to visit this week since it’s the first week of the 2nd semester.  Guess they’re just going through withdrawal!  haha!


  • In that same class, some of the girls wanted to know how I folded my scarf a particular way.  I showed them a couple weeks ago but someone wanted to see again, so I jumped at the opportunity to demonstrate.  Since it’s a Geometry class, I explained how “you find the midpoint and fold it in half so you have two congruent segments.  Then… etc. etc.”  After my animated explanation, I quickly racked my brain- ‘how can I transition to diagonals of a parallelogram??’  Then I had it… “So, just like the midpoint divides the scarf into 2 congruent segments, the diagonals of a parallelogram bisect each other- forming two congruent segments.”  Good times…

  • I’ll finish with one more: I have a student, I’ll call him Eric, in one of my classes and he somehow got this idea that he wants to have me as his math teacher again next year.  Well, there’s been a lot of talk with scheduling for next year already and he was asking me what math class he could take so that he could have me again.  He wanted to know if he’d be able to take the senior math class I currently teach.  Time will tell what I end of teaching (there will be lots of changes in the department next year), but it does make you feel like you’re doing something right when a student is trying to have you 2 years in a row.

More stories for another day… 🙂


All poured out October 26, 2011

Filed under: Faith,School — songofjoy88 @ 6:25 pm
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All poured out

I’m left here weak

Can’t even stand

No words to speak

I’m falling fast

When will I land?

He’s calling past

My circumstance.


He’s led me here

Despite my fear

So thankful cuz I know He’s near.

But I’m feeling a bit precarious

Because He’s living vicariously

through me.

He’s giving me eyes to see

What I missed before


An open door

But when opportunity knocks,

Will I usher her in?

Or just tell her to come back again?


Now’s not the right time

So much to do and I’m

Barely doing what I’ve got to do

What makes you think I have time for you?

But wait, this is the very reason He placed me here

I think it’s time that I finally faced my fear.

Step outside my comfort zone

Until outside myself begins to feel like home.


Like riding a bike September 4, 2011

Filed under: School — songofjoy88 @ 4:21 pm
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You know how people say- “it’s like riding a bike,” implying that you never forget how to do whatever activity they’re referring to.  Well, I can’t think of a better analogy for teaching.  Most of you know that my first semester of my first year was very rough (those were my training wheel days with a few nasty falls thrown in there).  Then, second semester things started to get a bit better (those were the parent, or in thise case fellow teacher(s), running next to your bike helping you ride by yourself days).  Now I can ride by myself, but I’m pretty sure I don’t have a “big girl” bike yet… probably more like one of those with streamers flowing off the handlebars in the wind.  And even though I can ride a bike pretty well now, there’s plenty more biking adventures I can try: mountain biking, racing, riding with no hands, etc.


These first 4 days of school really couldn’t have gone better!  Praise God! 🙂  Sure they weren’t perfect, but I’m so thankful for God’s guidance and that he chooses to work through me no matter what.  Here are a few highlights and lowlights (in more ways than one!) from the first week:


* On Monday (teacher meetings and work day), I had no power in my room.  No lights, many non-functional electric outlets and no AC (or even blowing air!).  But, I didn’t even have a computer in my room so did it really matter if the outlets worked??


* Tuesday morning (first day with students), I was plesantly surprised to walk into a fully lit room with a working AC (my students wouldn’t let me forget it- pretty much non-stop complaining about how cold it was!  haha!)… still no computer, but I’ll take what I can get! 


* At the end of the first day, one of the teachers down the hall asked in an astonished tone- “Did you kick a kid out on the first day?!”  Apparently he had seen Tony out in the hall during 6th period.  I told the teacher that Tony had kind of kicked himself out.  What happened was Tony (who I had last year) thought he could get away with being chatty since he knows me.  While students were working on their “About Me” WS, he continued to talk, so I told him he could move to a different seat or go out in the hallway.  In a melodramatic huff, he said- “I’m going out to the hallway!”  And I just said- “ok.”  So, I guess I kicked a kid out on the first day…


* On Wednesday morning, I was again plesantly surprised.  This time there was computer on my desk… apparently they found one of about 3 working outlets and it was all ready to go!


* On Thursday, students worked on a group work intro activity.  One of the questions was “What is one thing everyone in your group can agree on about math?”  A group of junior guys wrote- “It sucks!” (guess that’s what I get for telling them to be honest!)  When I asked if there was anything else… they apparently decided to add something else.  After the class turned in their papers and left, I glanced at that group’s sheet.  Next to “it sucks!” they had added “but we love the teacher <3”. (suck ups!)


* On Friday, we had an assembly outside.  The Navy band was there and performed for us… but this wasn’t your patriotic brass band that I envisioned.  No, no… they played Lady Gaga and Katy Perry while some men who weren’t performing launched small football stress balls into the bleachers.  Then several parachuters landed on the football field not more than about 40 feet away from me!  It was pretty fun and since I didn’t see some of my classes and don’t want to get off pace, the rest of my classes just got to color a geometric tile pattern involving grid paper and reflections.  They did really well and seemed to enjoy the activity.  One student even asked if they could do something like that every Friday… haha- nice try on his part.


Well, the adventures continue on Tuesday (thanks to the 3-day weekend!) :)… you can be sure that there will be more to come!


Little is Much August 26, 2011

Filed under: Faith,School — songofjoy88 @ 8:59 am
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The anticipation builds… on Monday, I’ll meet some of my students at orientation and then I’ll see all 153 of my students on Tuesday!  It’s kind of crazy to think back to a year ago and realize how much my Lord has graciously taught me.  I had no idea what to expect a year ago.  Since I student taught 7th and 8th graders, it was quite a jump for me to have a classroom full of 10-12th graders for six periods every day!  On top of all this, I was still recovering from my jaw surgery and eating mushy/soft foods.  It wasn’t all bad (I discovered the deliciousness of vanilla protein powder!), but it was a nuisance to plan around this different diet.  Also, the shift from college dorm/apartment living to having an apartment all to myself was quite an adjustment.


To compensate, I tried to exert more effort, especially at school.  School became my life.  Throughout the year, though, God began to reveal to me that my job was a lot less about anything I could teach or offer my students and more about me trusting God to use me as His vessel of truth and love…  You know that hissing sound when you run cold water over a pressure cooker that has all that steam built up inside?  That’s what this gradual realization was like- a release of all the pressure that I had internally put on myself.


I began to understand (and continue to learn now) that I have so little to offer these students.  Students coming from broken homes, evicted because of a parent’s drug addiction, caring for a 2-yr old son, dealing with abuse at home, experimenting with drugs, struggling with depression… the list goes on- so lost and desperate for love.  What can I bring?  How can I possibly have an impact?


The answer to these questions is simple.  Nothing.   And, I can’t… at least not if I’m the only one in the picture.  But thankfully I’m not!  There is work to be done, and with the power of God in me, I can press forward.  And the cool thing is I don’t even have to ask God to give me opportunities to show people grace.  He has already prepared the work for me and equipped me for the task.  Let’s get to work as we proclaim with our lives that, because of Christ, little really is MUCH!

Ephesians 2:10

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.


Hebrews 13:20-21

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen


Little is much when God’s in it
And no one can fathom the plans He holds
Little is much when God’s in it
He changes the world with the seeds we sow
Little is much, little is much


A new beginning August 1, 2011

Filed under: School — songofjoy88 @ 11:54 am

In just 4 weeks, I’ll be putting the final touches on my (new!) classroom before my students arrive on August 30!  And while I’ve been enjoying every minute of my summer, I’m already looking forward to starting my 2nd year of teaching high school math.  Not so much so that I want to fast-forward the last 4 weeks of summer… I didn’t say I was ready for it, just looking forward to it. 🙂  I’m excited to start fresh with a new group of students (all juniors and seniors) and teach a new class (Geometry).  Teaching is such a unique profession in that every August you can start fresh- do things completely differently with a new group of students!  The first half of last year was just a bit rocky (ok, A LOT!) so I’m excited to begin the year being myself- enthusiastic, funny (or at least attempting to be!), creative and hopefully an effective teacher (even though I still have sooo much to learn!).


I want to spend time during the first few days of school doing getting-to-know-you games and team-building activities instead of just going over rules and all that boring stuff.  So, if you have any good ideas, please comment on this post or comment on the facebook link.  Thanks!


I’ll leave you with this great Meijer commercial about heading back to school.  Hope you like it! 🙂


Yesterday June 18, 2011

Filed under: School — songofjoy88 @ 2:11 pm
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It’s so hard to know where to start since my last post was from the first day of school!!! So, I’ll do my best to sum things up (pun intended :-)). I’m sure memories will resurface in other posts throughout the summer.

First the facts… this was my first year of teaching and I was assigned to teach Algebra 1 part 2 (lower level math class for 10th and some 11th graders) and Algebra 3 (12th grade). I was the only first year math teacher at the high school but fortunately there were a few new science teachers who were a great support. My district is considered “urban,” but is definitely not inner city. Although 87% of statistics are made up on the spot, I’m know I’m pretty close when I say that about 60% of our student population is economically disadvantaged. This is even more apparent in the lower level courses I taught.

Now that I’ve set the stage, here’s a quick recap of 1st semester: It was awful! I can look back on it now and laugh about how bad it was, but it really was a tough season of my life! I had to adjust to living by myself (quite a change from college life!), being a teacher (not a student!), working with older students (I student taught 7th and 8th grade), transitioning to eating non-mushy foods (still recovering from my jaw surgery in the summer), getting to know people at a new church and new financial responsibilities. I was overwhelmed to say the least. My life was completely absorbed by school; it hardly mattered when I left my classroom, because I knew I’d just be doing school work from the time I got home until I went to bed. I was miserable. But, God was faithful! Through my daily, period-by-period, struggle to make it through each day, God sustained me.

Over winter break, I had a great time visiting with family in Colorado. I am blessed with a fabulous loving and supportive extended family who encouraged me to stick with it and trust God through the struggle.  I came back refreshed and eager to make changes in how I spent my time and how I viewed my job.  I started taking a weekly cardio dance class and committed to going to a weekly young adult Bible study.  As I slowly reached out to other people and carved out time for non-school activities, I found that things at school were going better.  It was definitely a process, but God was revealing how to find my identity as “Ms. S” in Him.  He had already taught me how to find my identity in Him when I was with friends, but now I had to relearn who I was when 50 eyes were looking at me.  Gradually I felt like I was being myself in my classroom; my quirky, nerdy, enthusiastic, funny, sometimes serious  personality was on full display in room 122.  And, by the end of the year, I came to enjoy every minute of it, praising God for such a great transformation!  I think I’ve learned more this year than I could have ever taught my students!

Since my blog name is “SongofJoy88,” I’m planning on including some sort of connection to music in each post.  These lyrics from Jonny Diaz’s song “Yesterday” fit my first year of teaching well.  Check them out as you listen to the song!

Yesterday was a big disaster, yesterday I was the boss
Yesterday couldn’t have gone faster, yesterday was one big loss
Yesterday I was the big dog, yesterday I was the tree
Yesterday I rolled with the punches, yesterday keeps hitting me

But the bridge has burned, the thing I’ve learned is:
Starting new with a brand new sunrise,
Moving on with the things I’ve learned
Amazing grace has made me realize
That yesterday is a page that’s turned

(… is a page that’s) turned me ’round and upside down and everywhere but free
But I thank God for grace, amazing grace, that it’s not based on me…
Lord You came and set me free…