Hello, God. Welcome to My Classroom


What Should We Read Next?

cheese

Recently, I planned to begin a new novel unit with my students, which always leads to a question:

What should we read?

Many people probably think it’s not a big deal, choosing a novel. Just pick one, right? There are so many available even when you narrow it down to books appropriate for my eighth grade students. It should be simple to pick something that would interest the majority of the students. (I’m not naive enough to think I’ll ever interest all of them.)

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Every year I have to consider what my students’ lives entail. While some students might benefit from reading about someone else sharing their problems, others might feel overwhelmed having to face such personal issues in the school setting. It’s a fine line to tiptoe, wanting to take advantage of literature without causing distress for my students.

A novel that focuses on the theme of survival from abuse or neglect? Some years I can’t teach it because of the level of abuse a current student may have endured.

A teenage character whose father is an alcoholic? Maybe not a good choice.

Murder? I’ve even had to make my decision based on that.

Suicide? Always a touchy subject for this age.

In addition to the emotional issues, I have to weigh the religious, racial, and political climate of my students and their families. Will a parent feel as if I’m trying to shove my beliefs down their child’s throat if I teach a novel with Christian characters? They might though I doubt if we read something with Jewish characters anyone would think I’m trying to convert the kids to Judaism.

The factors to consider are endless. The novel I’m currently teaching was a last-minute choice based on a conversation I had with the guidance counselor. A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer was not a good choice for this year, so we’re reading I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier instead.  (If someone in my class is in witness protection, there is no way for me to be aware of it, so I’m hoping it’s a safe choice.)

Obviously, trying to choose which novel to read pales in comparison to the horrifying situations in my students’ lives. I hate that I have to consider issues such as abuse and suicide. I repeatedly count my blessings and those of my whole family knowing what these young adults deal with every day. I pray they can all rise above the trauma in their lives and find success (along with a love of reading!) in my classroom and beyond.

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It’s My Party

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on December 12, 2012
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

cub scouts in parade

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.


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