Hello, God. Welcome to My Classroom

Do You Like to Win?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on September 26, 2012
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I do! Thanks to Lisa at Deep and Wonderful Thoughts, I have won the One Lovely Blog Award. You should check out Lisa’s blog, a collection of illustrations on parenting, spirituality, and life. It’s inspiring and thought-provoking, and I’m so appreciative that she recognized me.

According to the rules of this award, I’m supposed to 1) recognize the one who nominated me (see above), 2) tell seven things about myself, and 3) nominate fifteen other bloggers. Here I go…

Seven things about me:

1. I have 2 kids, Autumn and Colton, and a new puppy, Rico.
2. My husband, Mark, is the sheriff of our rural county of Mathews, Virginia, which is a little slice of heaven on the Chesapeake Bay.
3. I teach 8th grade language arts and love to watch as a student begins to believe in him or herself.
4. My happy place is on the beach with a book in my hands.
5. I’m in intense training to learn how to say “no” to committees, roles, responsibilities, and anything else that takes up the little bit of time I have left at the end of the day.
6. My biggest regret in life is living far, far away from my family. I’m still a Missouri girl at heart.
7. The weirdest thing I eat is probably bacon and peanut butter sandwiches (which partially explains my love/hate relationship with my “dreadmill”).

The fifteen blogs I nominate are:

1. Elaine Baldwin at One Another Living. Elaine’s posts always push me to be a better person. I keep reading, hoping it works!

2. Judy at Connecting Dots to God. Her blog is a beautiful exploration of the connection between God and humans, heaven and earth.

3. Lisa Buffaloe shares informational book reviews along with uplifting spiritual contemplation which blesses me greatly.

4. Connie Almony at Living the Body of Christ. Connie provides interesting thoughts and helpful information on a variety of topics, such as adoption, God’s glory, military missions, and learning disabilities.

5. Ivon Prefontaine at Teacher as Transformer: Education, Leadership, Life, and Transformation. I know he’s been nominated recently by others, but I had to give him a mention. His blog is a wonderful collection of poetry, beautiful photography, and inspirational thoughts.

6. Paula Mowery is a writer and Christian who motivates me to work harder in both aspects of my life.

7. Marney McNall at The Volunteer Fringe. I’m not sure how Marney finds the time to blog because she tirelessly pursues every opportunity to serve others…but I’m glad she does blog because it blesses and encourages me every time I read her posts.

8. Elly at Philanthropy, a fashion company opened in June of 2007 with the belief that a business built around charitable works and grounded in Christ could make a difference in the world.

9. Pat Dyer at Ramblings of a Crowded Mind. Pat has provided support, advice, and encouragement in my writing journey. Her blog provides additional writing inspiration and awesome book reviews.

10. Melissa Finnegan at 5020genesis Exchanging Darkness for Light. Melissa offers exceptional, entertaining book reviews along with spiritual insights.

11. Eileen Rife at The Write Stuff. As the site states, it provides musings on live, love, and good books. What a great combination!

12. Lesley Carter at Bucket List Publications. Lesley allows me to travel the world through her outstanding images and adventures she shares.

13. Mique at Thirty Handmade Days. Mique provides great mom advice, recipes, and fun ideas. Her blog makes me smile!

14. Teaching in High Heels. Even though at 5’10” I rarely wear heels, I still love the imaginative teaching ideas in this colorful, creative blog.

15. April at Mama Loves Food. She features great recipes without making me feel guilty for allowing my kids to eat food that’s not completely raw, gluten-free, steroid-free, organic and/or any other label that makes it healthy. Yes, we could and should eat healthier, but it’s nice to find a site that doesn’t make my guilt meter spike.

Thanks again, Lisa. This has been fun!


Selfish or Service?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on September 24, 2012
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Selfish witnesses someone getting bullied but can’t step away from socializing with a friend.
Service intervenes, assures the victim is alright, and tells an adult.

Selfish drops trash on the floor but can’t be bothered to pick it up.
Service realizes someone else will have to clean up after them.

Selfish goes shopping and only buys for themselves.
Service buys for others first.

Selfish blames others for what goes wrong in life.
Service strives to improve other people’s lives instead of dwelling on their own.

Selfish keeps the best for themselves and is generous with the rest.
Service gives it all away.

Selfish thinks the world owes them.
Service thinks they owe the world.

Selfish wrinkles up their nose at a homeless man and wishes he’d take a bath.
Service offers him a place to clean up and eat a meal.

Selfish takes a break to go get themselves coffee.
Service asks everyone else if they’d like a cup.

Selfish is noisy when others want to listen.
Service makes sure everyone can hear what’s being shared.

Selfish feels service is a sacrifice.
Service embraces the sacrifice.

Selfish thinks they are strong.
Service acknowledges they are weak.

Selfish sees a need at church but says “I filled that position for three years already. I’m done now.”
Service steps in to fill the need immediately.

Selfish immediately asks God for something.
Service starts by praising and loving Him.

Is Your Grass Green?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on September 21, 2012
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I can’t wait to get to the high school. The ultimate “grass is always greener” scenario for my middle school students.

Yes, being in 8th grade can be tough. The kids are old enough to think they know it all but too young to be allowed the freedoms they think they deserve.

Usually I ask them what will be different there once they get there. I get a variety of answers. They’ll have more freedom. They won’t have dumb rules to follow. They won’t have to deal with drama. They’ll be happy.

If only it was that simple. Instead of accepting the current circumstances, taking advantage of the opportunities in their present life, the kids think moving to a different school will eliminate conflict and issues.

But do they realize their peers will be moving with them? Their study habits will tag along? And their attitudes – usually their worst enemies – are part of the high school package?

Do you know adults who have the same misconceptions?

If I could only get a new job.

If I could marry someone special.

If I could divorce my spouse.

If I could live in a bigger house.

If I had more friends.

If I drove a fancier car.

If my children weren’t little devils.

“If” is such a prison. It can suck you into the depths of delusion. It will shift your focus from what you have to everything you lack. And that sort of vision can warp your whole outlook and foster envy and discontent.

Achieving a level of success or accumulating “things” will not solve problems. They merely create their own set of problems, and if you don’t know how to deal with problems in one situation, you won’t in another.

Consider your present surroundings. Examine your life. Is it worth some gratitude? Take a moment today to count your blessings. I promise life will be much sweeter when you do.

Have You Ever Felt Abandoned?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on September 18, 2012
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Our new puppy is the sweetest little thing, but he can sure make me feel guilty. When we put him in the crate at bedtime or when we leave for school and work in the morning, he yelps and howls like we’re abandoning him forever. If someone walks out of the door, even if there are still other family members inside, he sits at the door and whines with sadness.

Have you ever felt this way before? Abandoned and alone? Or even abandoned when you’re still surrounded by others? So many experiences in life can cause those feelings – death, divorce, illness, conflict, gossip, job loss. It’s easy to dwell on those feelings and forget about everything else life offers, just like the puppy forgets there are other people in the room and a floor strewn with toys and chew bones.

Many of my students understand what it’s like to feel rejected. It breaks my heart when I overhear conversations about walking to the corner gas station to buy dinner because no one is home or seeing them come to school in filthy clothes because no one does the laundry. So many of these young adults struggle to become confident, responsible individuals, but they don’t have good role models to follow.

I’m sure it’s difficult to look at their environments and pick out any blessings. Being abandoned by those who should be taking care of them makes it hard to see a bright future. Of course the neglect invades their education. The feelings of hopelessness make it difficult to believe school can make a difference. That’s one of the greatest challenges the education system faces – teaching a student to believe and have hope in the future.

Last week at work, an email announced a leader in our district is leaving in December for an assignment in another school division. Ouch. The sense of abandonment immediately twisted my gut. My initial reaction doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that’s the way it happened.

Logically, I understand and even applaud his decision because I know it will benefit his family, and it’s refreshing for a man so dedicated to work to make choices based on the needs of his wife and children. Yes, that’s my logical viewpoint, but emotionally, I feel deserted. He has been a blessing to our district, and his announcement seemed to dim the future. I’m certain someone will replace him who is capable and will also lead our schools well, but it’s difficult to let go of something that has proven so positive. I’m extremely sorry to see him go.

Sometimes life gets so grim, it’s easy to just want to give up. Have you ever convinced yourself that God abandoned you or someone else? When times get tough, sometimes we cry out to God because He doesn’t seem to be present, but if you believe in Him, you know He is there.

Sometimes, like the puppy, we’re just too focused on those who abandon us to see the One who is remains right by our side at all times.

How do you refocus on the positive when you feel abandoned? Please share your story in a comment.

A Week of Firsts…

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on September 14, 2012
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Autumn’s first new (but old) car

Colton’s first puppy, Rico

It’s an exciting week in the Barrick house!

How Do You Make Connections?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on September 11, 2012
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Are you connected? How many people will you connect with today? In the “good ol’ days” connecting meant you had someone’s phone number and you actually heard their voice when you called. Or you used “snail mail” and sent a card or letter. Nowadays in addition to phone numbers, you probably have email contacts, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, blog followers, and any number of additional networks to keep in contact with others.

I blog, – both here and for my school district – post, tweet, email, text, call, and teach, so I’m probably in contact with hundreds of people every day. But do I make a connection? Sometimes I think I do, but other times, not so much. Is anything I say touching peoples’ lives? Do I cause anyone to smile, frown, cry, or take action?

I always strive to build relationships with my students at the beginning of the year. It’s easy with some, but others are a little more of a struggle. Usually if there’s conflict, it’s because my expectations are fairly rigorous, and I have very low tolerance for laziness. Inferior work is fine if it’s the best a student can produce. My job is to make what they produce better, but they have to do their part.

Last week, the first week of school, I could already identify a few students who might test my patience a bit. A few hostile glances and rude remarks uttered under their breath keyed me into the potential conflicts. (I’m quick like that…those signals clued me right in!)

I decided after the weekend, we needed a fresh start. I walked up the hall with one boy, acknowledging that we’d started off on rocky ground. Last week, I had shown anger when he wouldn’t quit talking and get to work. He showed annoyance when I tried to get him to focus. My ire escalated when he was rude and disrespectful. His irritation erupted when I made him move to a different seat.

As we walked together yesterday, I told him I didn’t want our year to be filled with animosity. It would be nice if we could work toward the common goal of him having a successful year in 8th grade. I stopped outside the doors to the media center, but he opened the door and began entering while I was still speaking to him. I asked him to please shut the door until our conversation was over. He rolled his eyes, kept his hand in the partially closed door, and refused to look at me. Talk about feeling my blood boil.

Our discussion apparently wasn’t working, so I bluntly asked, “Do you want to have a year filled with conflict in my class?” He shrugged, sauntered and swaggered around for a few seconds, then looked me in the eye and said, “I don’t really care.”

So much for making a connection. I guess this one is going to take a lot more effort. That’s alright though. I told all my students at the beginning of the year if I’m hard on them, it means I care. Once I leave them alone, that’s when they need to worry because it means I’ve given up on them.

What they don’t understand is I don’t give up on any of them; I’ll keep pushing and I pray they’ll quit pushing back and begin moving forward at some point.

I guess this might be how God feels about us. He wants to make a connection with us, but sometimes we aren’t interested. He’s not going to give up on us, and He’s certainly not going away. Making a connection with Him should surpass anything else we can achieve. We just have to do our part.

The Power of Influence

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on September 7, 2012
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School is back in session. Four days down, and I can honestly say I’m exhausted. I forgot how tired I get after teaching all day. This first week has been quite the eye-opener.

Yesterday, someone said in an off-hand way after asking about the start of the year, “You’ll be a good influence on the kids.”

Influence them? I’m supposed to educate them, prepare them for high school, and remind them there is a difference between there, their, and they’re.

But the comment kept sneaking around in my mind all evening, and I really began to consider how we influence others. How do we compel others to change, to alter their opinions or shift their focus? It’s awesome, if you think about it. Where does the power come from? At school, it won’t really matter how much preparation I put into my lessons because I think influence comes from the following three situations:

1) Love. If someone loves you, influencing them will be much easier than if they dislike you. Animosity causes people to reject your ideas no matter how valid they may be. Wouldn’t you be more willing to consider an issue from someone else’s perspective if you loved them?

I know some of my new students will love me. One year a boy said as he left my room, “Bye! I love you!” Yes, I realize it was said out of habit. He probably said the same to his mom when he left his house every morning, but it was still nice to hear.

Unfortunately, some kids won’t feel any love in their hearts towards me. It makes me sad when I can’t build a relationship with any student, but usually one or two escape me every year. Those are the ones I will not be able to influence with love.

2) Respect. I was reared to respect people older than me, people who hold positions of authority, and people who spend their time serving others. My classroom rules read, “Respect yourself. Respect others. Respect the school. If you do those things, no other rules are necessary.” It’s true, but don’t we all know someone who doesn’t show respect?

I have to admit, a lot of my students don’t care about my age or role in the classroom. Without respect, my ideas don’t sway them and are sometimes immediately rejected without consideration. Even though I’m acting for the benefit of their education and their future, they refuse to be influenced by anything I say or do.

3) Imbalance of power. Being influenced – or forced – by someone else’s strength, position, or some other attribute may change my mind, but it basically eliminates any possibility of me ever feeling love or respect toward the person who has caused the shift in my action. I think everyone feels this way when it comes to brute force. We may have to comply, but we don’t have to like it.

Using my position of authority to force a student to do (or quit doing) something creates tension and ill-will. I have to admit, some days I feel like it’s my only option with certain kids, but I pray the relationships I build with my students are strong enough to influence them through love and respect.

Clint Eastwood once said, “It takes tremendous discipline to control the influence, the power you have over other people’s lives.” I hope I have the discipline to do so because each of my students is an extraordinary individual with the potential to grow even more amazing. I am so blessed, honored, burdened, and overwhelmed to be a part of such an incredible experience.

What other factors do you think contribute to influence? 

And I Repeat…Change IS Good

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on September 4, 2012
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Last week, I wrote about changes taking place in my life. And like He does so often, God created a situation to let me know I was slightly off track.

Sunday morning in church, our worship leader challenged us by asking if our lives have changed since we accepted Jesus as our Savior. Then Pastor Tag gave a stirring message about growth in our spiritual life. Growing is an ideal way to change, don’t you think? I kept reflecting back to my post from last week and came to the conclusion I had been somewhat shallow in my thinking.

All of the changes happening in my life right now matter. They really do. Everyday milestones and events that alter our lives make a difference.

But the inner changes, changes which eventually become visible to others, are the most important.

Do you have aspects of your spiritual life you’d like to change? I do, and I have for a long time. A few years ago in January, the KLove radio announcers focused on choosing a word to live by during the upcoming year. I remember selecting “change” as my word. I had a list of things I’d like to change, a list longer than my usual grocery list. Have I succeeded in making those changes? Not even close. There have been some shifts in my actions and thoughts, but not the dramatic changes I planned.

Some of the changes I wrote about last week were sad or painful. Inner change will also be painful, especially if it manifests itself to others and they begin to treat you differently. In the grand scheme of eternity in Heaven, that’s good news, but it can be painful on earth when you are no longer part of the crowd. It’s human nature to want to belong, but sometimes when you change for the Lord, belonging in the world is a sacrifice you have to make.

Do you no longer get invitations to socialize with your colleagues? Good!

Do you feel left out when some friends and acquaintances are all discussing the #1 best-selling novel, but you don’t feel it’s appropriate to read? Great!

If someone tells an off-color joke, do they immediately apologize to you while laughing with everyone else? Fantastic!

All of those situations confirm that people understand you are different, or changed, because of your spiritual life. Sometimes it’s a challenge to accept these situations as positive. But Tag reminded me that love is about commitment, not about emotions. Being left out might make us feel sorry for ourselves, but we must ignore those feelings and instead focus on the commitment in our hearts.

Have you faced situations that demonstrate how you have changed because of your commitment?

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