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Christmas Traditions

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on December 24, 2012
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Tonight we’ll go to Christmas Eve service at church then come home to open one gift before we get the plate of cookies and carrots ready for Santa’s arrival. It’s a tradition in our family that the kids get to choose one gift to open the night before Christmas.

This tradition started in 1998 when our area suffered a devastating ice storm during the holidays and thousands were without power. We were camped out in our living room where the propane fireplace fought off the cold that had invaded the rest of the house. Mark’s camping stove warmed up cans of soup and other provisions for our meals.

Autumn was 22 months old then. It was difficult to keep her occupied while trapped in one room of the house, so we allowed her to open a present. There were already quite a few to choose from that had been arriving in the recent mail deliveries from my family in other states.

I’m not sure at this point, 14 years later, why we continued every year to open a present the night before Christmas, but it has become customary in our family.

Every year there are new experiences. This year Colton played Linus in “A Charlie Brown’s Christmas” and did an incredible job reciting the Christmas story. Autumn portrayed Mary in the Living Nativity. I went shopping with 30 teens from the youth group. Every day there is another exciting event to help celebrate the season. Maybe one or all will also become traditions that we enjoy every year.

The day after Christmas is another one in the Barrick house. We have a pajama day. Our Christmas Day is usually fairly hectic. As soon as we open gifts at home, we head to Mark’s brother’s house for breakfast. By noon we’ll be at his mom’s house to spend the rest of the day with everyone, opening more gifts and eating a blessedly generous meal. By the end of the day, we’re content and thankful, but we’re also ready for some time at our own house, so the next day we stay in our pajamas, watch new movies, and have a pizza carpet picnic at lunchtime.

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Traditions are wonderful threads that hold families together. The only fear is we get so wrapped up in the traditions that we forget the real reason for the season. I pray everyone who reads this is blessed by their time with families and friends. Enjoy your traditions but remember to tell Jesus “Happy Birthday” sometime during the day.

Merry Christmas!

What traditions do you share in your family? I’d love to hear about them in a comment.

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Wake Up!

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on December 17, 2012
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“Please pick your head up off the desk and pay attention.”

“You need to get more sleep at night.”

“Wake up!”

These words can be heard in classroom on almost a daily basis. The teens struggle to focus, suppress yawns, and fight to keep their eyes open. Students are tired. Many are tired all the time. Why don’t they get some sleep?

Some are student athletes and claim to stay up late finishing homework after games or practices. Others babysit or do other jobs after school. But I know the teachers on my 8th grade team don’t assign that much homework. So are the kids simply staying up late staring at the television or engrossed in video games? Do they sit on their beds until the wee hours texting friends?

I recently read an article on this subject by Daniel Willingham. Basically, Willingham says teens who do not get enough sleep will suffer negative consequences. These include problems with memory, mood, attention span, and academic performance. I see these problems all the time, and the negative effects include poor grades, discipline consequences, disrespect, and the inability to get along with peers.

Willingham explains that when adults are tired, they “listen” to the internal clues their bodies give telling them to get some shut-eye. Teens, for some reason, are less likely to “hear” those clues and claim they aren’t sleepy. When given the choice, they choose to continue playing their video games, listening to music, or watching television because their bodies fail to relay the message that they need to sleep.

The optimum amount of sleep for a teen is nine hours and less than eight is insufficient. I’m positive very few of my students get that much. No wonder they have such a hard time staying awake.

Parents need to set boundaries. As kids get older, we want to give them more freedom, but we have to remember we’re still their parents. They aren’t ready to be completely self-sufficient. If they were, kids would move out on their own at 13. Isn’t that a scary thought? There are a lot of decisions we wouldn’t let our teenagers make for themselves without some input or advice from us. If we as parents are concerned about our children’s education and future, we have to realize their bodies aren’t equipped to make the best choice in this area of their lives.

They may scream “I hate you!” when you cut off their computers, turn off the television, or put parental controls on their phones to stop texting late at night, but don’t worry. Once they are old enough to understand, they will be smarter and much more rested, and I’m certain they will appreciate the boundaries you set which prove you love them.

God designed us to be parents and guide our children throughout their lives, not just until they reach the teen years. Don’t be afraid to be a parent instead of a friend. Kids can find friends everywhere they go. Parents are harder to come by.

It’s My Party

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on December 12, 2012
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I’m hosting a good ol’ fashioned pity party, and I’m the guest of honor.

On Saturday, Colton had play practice in the morning, his Cub Scout troop walked in the Christmas parade and collected canned goods for the local food bank in the afternoon, and Autumn attended the Holly Ball at school that evening. On Sunday, Colton played Linus in “A Charlie Brown’s Christmas” at church.

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My calendar is brimming with activity. Not only are the weekends packed with holiday plays, parties, and other events, almost every evening there’s something planned. Yesterday, Mark called me at work and said, “Get out your calendar. We need to see when we can go shopping together.” We actually found one evening when both of us are free. And thankfully, it’s before Christmas Eve.

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The busyness has reached insane proportions, and I love all the activity. Right now I need it because I find myself celebrating my melancholy whenever I’m still. I haven’t read a book in over a week, I’m not writing like usual, I’m unenthused in my classroom, and I don’t want to clean (not that it’s ever a complete joy), cook, bake, or grade papers.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not moping around all the time. Certain moments coax me from my sullen fog. When I focus on the reason for this blessed season, my heart swells. When I watch Colton play Linus in the Christmas play at church, my smile cuts my face in two while sentimental tears overflow. When Autumn dresses up for the Holly Ball dance at school, I couldn’t be more proud of what a beautiful, young lady she’s become.

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But in the quiet moments, my mind immediately thinks of Christmas day without my mom and Fred. This will be the first Christmas in quite a few years I haven’t been with them. I know they are also feeling sad. They can’t make it from St. Louis to Virginia, and we aren’t able to go there. It just won’t work this year.

Usually, I accept disappointment without wallowing in it, but I’m having a hard time right now. I think God knows that because frequently when I’m starting to drift into my sour mood, He’ll put someone in my path to make me smile.

A student who asks how my day is going. A puppy that crawls into my lap on the couch. A smile from a stranger. A post on Facebook that forces me to realize I’m too blessed to be depressed.

No, it won’t be a Christmas like the ones from recent years, but it will still be a celebration of one of the greatest days in history, that of Jesus’ birth.

So if you see me with a frown on my face or a faraway look in my eyes, don’t feel sorry for me. I’ve been doing enough of that for myself. Instead, ask me what my kids want for Christmas or how big the puppy has grown or what events are planned for the youth group at church. Those things will snap me out of my mood and help me to enjoy this glorious holiday season.

And thank you, God, for all the reminders.

‘Tis the Season

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on December 5, 2012
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Cough. Hack. Sniff. A week later, I’m still fighting a wicked cold. I’m slogging my way through my days, trying not to contaminate everyone in my vicinity. I haven’t taken the time to rest and recuperate. ‘Tis the season to be busy, right?

It’s been more than a week since I wrote a blog post. My brain isn’t formulating words worth sharing, and I’m not motivated to do anything more than what is necessary. This short post will have to do for now.

Physically, I feel drained. But I haven’t done what is required to recover quickly. I’m still at work, I haven’t visited the doctor’s office, I am still taking care of my responsibilities, and I seem to expect healing to occur without any effort on my part except to take medicine to mask my symptoms.

It kind of reminds me of times when I’m spiritually drained. Yep, I’m a pro at masking those symptoms too. I continue to work, take care of responsibilities, even go to church, but I don’t do what is necessary for healing. I don’t immerse myself in His Word. I avoid asking for encouragement and support from fellow believers. Basically, I pretend all is well.

And just like my cold which could easily become bronchitis, pneumonia, or something else more serious while I refuse to care for myself, my spiritual self could fall even further into despair if I don’t respond to my needs.

During this blessed season that can turn into a chaotic swirl of activity, please take care of yourself – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And if you have any great advice for those of us who aren’t so adept in this area, please share in a comment!


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