Hello, God. Welcome to My Classroom

3 Things Complaining Shows

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on April 30, 2012

Most people complain at some point. I’m capable of a doozy of a complaint, vent, gripe, and even a whine. But I hate to think people classify me as a habitual complainer.

My students complain a lot in my classroom:
“I hate to read!” Ummm…sorry, but this is your English class.
“Do I have to write in complete sentences?” Yes, since this is, again, English.
“I don’t have time to do this stupid project.” Try turning off your cellphone for an hour.

Okay, so maybe I exaggerate that a bit, at least for most students. But adults complain too. Complainers are everywhere – homes, businesses, classrooms, churches – and they negatively affect the environment. The more I listen to complainers, the more I realize they rarely accomplish anything. In fact, I think complaining shows the following three things.

Complaining shows weakness. Let’s face it. Life is full of problems, trauma, stress, annoyances, drama, and even routine drudgery. It takes great strength of character to deal with it all. And with a smile on your face? For me, that takes extra help from above. If you are a complainer, it shows you are too weak to persevere through struggles and over obstacles.

Complaining shows laziness. Complainers focus on something they don’t like but are too lazy to generate change or create solutions. They gripe, whine, and moan, hoping someone else will take care of the issue. The doers – those who are too busy solving problems to complain – have the motivation to modify what bothers them. The doers won’t listen to complainers. It’s a waste of time. They see the complainers as a significant problem, so they eliminate complainers from their life. Problem solved.

Complaining shows ingratitude. If you are reading this blog, you have access to or own a computer, tablet, or smartphone. If you make more than minimum wage, you earn more than approximately 92% of the world’s population. If you know where your next meal is coming from, and you know it will be within hours instead of hopefully in the next day or so, you are blessed. When I ponder the incredible abundance of my life, it overwhelms me. If I focus on all I have, it becomes nearly impossible to complain. Complaining shows an ungrateful heart, discontentment, and an all-around bad attitude.

I want to be strong, motivated, and grateful, not a complainer. The Lord knows I might need some help with that at certain times in my life. Thankfully, He’s up to the task.

What do you think complaining shows?


Do They Know You Love Them?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on April 26, 2012

Yesterday evening, a 16-year-old boy who attends Autumn’s high school committed suicide. We live in a small rural county, so when a tragedy strikes, it affects almost everyone. Disbelief, debilitating grief, and the inevitable questions flew through phone lines, text messages, and social media.

When we heard about it, Autumn was at church for youth group while I attended Colton’s baseball game. Her messages to me revealed her struggle to absorb what had happened. When I picked her up, we talked about the boy for the rest of the evening, and one thing she said still resonates in my mind.

“He didn’t know how much he was loved.”

If that is true—and it’s hard to believe otherwise based on his actions – isn’t it sad? And appalling too? We can become so wrapped up in “life” that we miss the most important aspect of it…other living human beings. That’s the “life” we should be focusing on. Giving. Helping. Listening.

And this isn’t an issue of self-absorbed teens. Each of us can sometimes get caught up in activities and material things while ignoring the people in our lives. Today, many in our county are likely asking, “What could I have done differently?” Or saying, “I wish I had told him….”

Do your children know? Is there any question in their minds? Do family members know how much you love them? Do your friends realize how special they are to you? Tell them. Right away.

Who do you need to tell?

I Just Don’t Feel Like It

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on April 23, 2012

Some days, I just don’t feel like doing what I’m supposed to do. Today is one of those days. My to-do list sits in front of me, but I haven’t crossed anything off it yet.

Write a blog. Well, here it is, all about my lack of motivation. Make a quiz for class on Wednesday. The study guides sit patiently on my desk. Critique a chapter for a friend. I copied it into my “crits to do” folder but haven’t opened the file yet.

It’s a good thing we’re reading in class today (Why The Hunger Games Should be Taught in School) because I don’t know if I’d be prepared for anything else. I didn’t sleep well last night, I’m loading up on caffeine, and my body is screaming, “Give me some fuel!” It’s going to be a long day.

My students are forgiving. If one notices my tired, baggy eyes and asks, I’ll tell them I’m exhausted. They usually give me a break. A few might try to take advantage or to annoy me because I’m not at my best, but for the most part they’re considerate.

Of course, that means I need to be the same. On a day when I’m pumped about our lesson, I have to realize not all fifty-plus students are also having a great day. Do I hound them to get with it? Do I ignore them and allow them to float through their day? Or do I make an effort to show I’m concerned and care about their situation? I have to admit sometimes I get frustrated and think to myself If he doesn’t focus, there’s no way he’ll pass the next test.

Maybe I spent half the night tossing and turning to get me to this reminder that everyone has a day now and then when they just don’t feel like it. I’m sure God is saying, “Hooray! She got it!” and smiling down on me like He always does. He’s probably also saying, “I wish she’d get it during daytime…I hate seeing my child so tired.” What a loving, caring God I serve.

So I’ll keep slogging through my day. At least I can cross “Write a blog” off my list.

How do you motivate yourself on days when you just don’t feel like it?

Pleasant Surprises

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on April 19, 2012


Pleasant surprises…

A sometimes self-absorbed teen who says, “Thanks for dinner, Mama. It was great!”

A “slug” student (very intelligent but unmotivated and unconcerned) passes a test with flying colors. And shows enough pride to convince me he’ll try again.

A proposal presented to a usually contentious crowd of adults being approved unanimously.

Waking up my 8-year-old and hearing a muffled “I love you” from under the blankets.

Finding out someone who is a dedicated and caring volunteer will get paid for the position.

Opening my RSS feed to find one of my favorite blogs addressing an issue I’ve been trying to tackle.

A former student sends a message because she is proud of her current grade in English. Or better yet, just to say, “Hi. How are you doing?”

God confirming a heart-wrenching decision was the correct one.

Sometimes, it only takes one piece of news to make me want to give up. Today, I choose to dwell on the pleasant surprises instead.

What has pleasantly surprised you recently?

Why “The Hunger Games” Should Be Taught In School

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on April 17, 2012

Since the movie The Hunger Games has been released, many of my 8th grade students have seen it but have not read the book by Suzanne Collins. Not often do I see the movie after reading a book, (the movie rarely lives up to the book, in my opinion) but I did with this one because so many of my students and also my daughter, Autumn, wanted to see it. I have to admit, the producer, director, and/or screenwriter did a fairly good job of sticking to the story. Some characters were left out, I assume for financial reasons, so it had to be tweaked in a few places, but other than that I could only see one major change made by Hollywood.

They made the event seem like a video game.

A lot of kids are desensitized to violence. Many spend countless hours playing video games and watching television shows with murder and profound criminal attacks. After a certain amount of repeated exposure, this becomes less appalling and even acceptable. But it’s what kids like, and Hollywood knows it.

In the book, because it’s told through the eyes of the main character, Katniss, the reader experiences the games as she does. However in the movie, audiences see scenes which focus on the Gamemaker and depict the event as a huge video game with government workers at the controls, manipulating the landscape of the games and influencing the tributes as they fight to the death.

But I don’t want my students viewing this story solely as a live video game. Important lessons live within this tale; things youth and adults alike need to think about. My students, like most teens, can be very focused on their own circle of existence. Sometimes they need a reminder there’s a whole other world out there.

When I introduced the book in class yesterday, I asked some thought-provoking questions. Would you choose to die to save the life of a friend? Would you rather die of hunger or at the hands of your enemy? Should governments have the right to kill their own citizens? We talked about how, as citizens of the US, we don’t have to face those decisions on a daily basis, and yet so many people in other countries do.

When we finish reading The Hunger Games, my students will know it is a fiction story, but they will also know other human beings face life-and-death choices and oppressive governments every day of their lives. Hopefully, they will understand how blessed we are to live where we do.

Turn Now!

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on April 15, 2012

My daughter, Autumn, has her learner’s permit, but she isn’t an eager driver. Driving to church or school, she feels secure, but if we’re headed anywhere else, she dodges the opportunity to add to her behind-the-wheel hours.

This morning, she drove home from church, which can be quite a challenge. When coming from “town” (this term is used lightly when describing our rural county since it doesn’t have a single stoplight), we have to turn left onto our lane after coming around a long, sharp, 55 mph curve. If there is an oncoming car, we’re a sitting duck for any car flying around the curve behind us. It’s nerve-wracking even for someone who has been driving for decades, so I understand Autumn’s nervousness. One time a few months ago, I sat there waiting for an oncoming car to pass and watched in my rearview as a pick-up collided with the delivery truck stopped directly behind me.  The pick-up was demolished. If the delivery truck hadn’t been between us, my car would’ve been an accordion.

This morning as we rounded the curve, I glanced in the side mirror and noticed quite a few cars. Thankfully, they were close enough to take the curve with us. As we approached our lane, the only oncoming car passed by freeing us to turn. But Autumn continued to slow, almost to a stop.

“Turn now!” I hate to lose my cool while she’s driving, but I knew she needed to clear the way for the cars behind us. The longer they were slowed or stopped, the greater the chance someone would come speeding around the curve and rear-end them. Trying to calm my voice, I continued, “You don’t have to come to a complete stop before you change direction. Keep moving.”

As we idled down our gravel lane, I wondered how often God wants to holler the same thing at me. Probably a lot. “Keep moving! Why do you have to come to a standstill before you ask me for directions and turn the right way?” Too often when I’m headed in the wrong direction, I let myself stall out completely before looking to Him for guidance. I need to start listening closer when He shouts, “Turn now!”

3 Ways God Uses Interruptions

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on April 11, 2012

Interruptions, disturbances, disruptions. Aren’t they stressful? Wouldn’t life be more pleasant if they didn’t exist? Life is busy enough without having to deal with them. My days are usually planned to the hilt, every minute accounted for, each family member’s schedule aligned (sort of) with the rest.

This week is spring break. After two GLORIOUS days at the beach, I’m back at full speed. One child dropped off at a friend’s for the day, the other has a friend over to play, church dinner tonight, baseball practice, and a lot of computer work to get done before then. I opened my email this morning to 279 new messages in the inbox. That’s what I get for taking two days off, right? But I had the whole day to get everything done. No problem.

So far, I’ve fought with an irritable internet connection so the inbox still houses over 200 new messages. I froze my keyboard with some random combination of keystrokes. I’ve mopped the dining room floor because juice spilled at lunch. I’ve stripped a child of juice-splattered clothing and started another load of laundry. And I’ve only checked two items off my to-do list. It’s one-o’clock in the afternoon. Geez.

Since I couldn’t get the internet to work, I started this, my next blog post. As I began typing, a phrase from a past Bible study came to mind. The “captivity of activity” controls much of my life. And it isn’t a good thing. I should be mindful of filling every minute of the day with activities which do not belong at the top of my priority list. Thankfully, God is mindful of this problem, and he teaches me by using interruptions.

1)      Slow down and enjoy life. God interrupts my busyness so I can reset my priorities and focus on what is really important in life. If I go to bed tonight and there are still hundreds of messages in my inbox, will it really make a difference? Only if I let it.

2)      It about His plan, not mine. I’m sure God’s plan for my life doesn’t hinge on whether my to-do list becomes shorter as the day goes on. He’s got a bigger plan for my life, and sometimes He has to interrupt my plan to make me realize I’ve forgotten to ask Him what I should be doing with my time. If I take time to listen, maybe He’ll tell me to ignore the flickering router light for the rest of the afternoon. I’ll let you know.

3)      I am abundantly blessed. Let’s face it; my life is full of blessings. I have very little to stress over. And when I do stress, it’s my choice to do so because God is always there waiting to take any of it I’m willing to hand over to Him. All I have to do is turn on the news to remember what an absolutely wonderful life I’m living. A little spilled juice? No sweat. A dysfunctional internet connection? Breathe and let it waver. An inbox of hundreds of messages? Click “delete all” and watch them disappear. Well, maybe not, but it sure is fun to dream!

Does It Count?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on April 8, 2012

Does this count? Is this for a grade? These questions cause my eyebrows to twitch and my toes to curl with frustration when I introduce an assignment or project to my students. Unfortunately, many of them refuse to put forth effort unless they feel the activity translates into a grade. Doesn’t the experience itself and the knowledge gained matter? Not to many of them.

Once I gain control of my errant eyebrows and uncurl my toes, I remind myself these kids are thirteen or fourteen years old. Some simply aren’t mature enough to relate what they do now to their future. There is a certain percentage who understand the connection, but I always have many who prefer to do the absolute minimum. As long as they pass, they’re content.

But is this only an issue with teens? No, I have to admit it’s not. I wonder how many times I make God’s eyebrows twitch when I ignore an opportunity He places in my path because I don’t think it counts toward my future. Gee, isn’t my future eternal? Yes! He promised it. And yet, how often do I choose to stare at the television rather than read my Bible as if it doesn’t count? How many times do I buy myself something I don’t need instead of giving more to those in need?

No, this is in no way a teen issue. What I do every single day is directly related to my future. Thankfully, God promises it will be glorious. Even when I forget what counts.

Pure Anticipation

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on April 5, 2012

Three of the best days every school year:
#1 – the last day before summer break
#2 – the last day before Christmas break
#3 – the last day before spring break

Guess what? Tomorrow is #3. And are we ever ready for it. Students are fidgety and unfocused. Teachers are burnt out and anxious. We all need a break before school breaks us.

But there has been an underlying anticipation floating through the halls, buoying everyone’s spirit through these last few days. I can feel it in the air. It’s almost palpable.

For me, this anticipation is for Easter, celebrating Jesus’ sacrifice and spending time with loved ones. And it’s anticipation for going out of town with Autumn and Colton to spend two days with a good friend and her kids, hopefully soaking up some of God’s sunshine on the beach (even if I’m wrapped in a towel or blanket). And it’s for working with the youth group, serving our community one day and working to raise money for mission camp another.

After next week, I’ll be refreshed and ready to return to my classroom, equipped to prepare my students for the end-of-year tests. There’s nothing like time spent focusing on God and others to renew the soul.

What helps you restore your spirit?

It’s the journey, not the destination

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on April 2, 2012

I am not a runner. You know those little endorphins that are supposed to make you happy when you exercise? Well, I don’t think they exist in my body, or they’ve been dormant for so many years, they can no longer find their way to the surface. Don’t get me wrong…I exercise. I have a “dreadmill” that welcomes me whenever I decide to visit. I just don’t visit often enough nor do I stay long when I do.

Two years ago, a group of people in my school division participated in a 10K. We had some real race competitors, some who trained hard for the event, and others (like me) who just thought it would be a fun thing to do. (Sometimes I make no sense at all.) Many people brought family members along as well, so Autumn joined me. She ended up walking with a colleague who was moving at a faster pace than me. I happened to be walking with a friend who was 8 months pregnant, so records weren’t being broken.

Last year, Autumn and I went again. This time, Autumn and I did the whole thing together. She encouraged me and pushed me as we walked 2 hours to finish.

On Saturday, we did it again. I’ve actually been visiting my “dreadmill” more often lately, so I was hoping to finish in 1-1/2 hours. We jogged/walked the first half and were doing well, but then Autumn started getting blisters. By mile 5, she was limping. I told her we didn’t have to finish, but she wanted to push on. One hour and 44 minutes later, we crossed the finish line and made it into the medical tent. A very nice looking (Autumn would say “hot”) sports medicine volunteer checked out her toes and applied bandages. All was well in her world.

So how do I describe the event? A teen in my Sunday School class yesterday asked (with disbelief), “You ran a 10K?” No, I didn’t run a 10K. We walked and jogged. I didn’t compete in a 10K. We weren’t competing against the other people there. And I really don’t want to say I completed a 10K because that makes it all about the finish line. This tradition she and I have made our own is about the journey, not the destination. What we did along the way, talking, bonding, laughing – just being together – is what makes it a special thing. Finishing was great (I couldn’t go much farther!) but the trip itself made all the aches and pains worth it.

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