Hello, God. Welcome to My Classroom


I Haven’t Written Anything Lately

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on October 7, 2013
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I have not posted on my blog for one month. The words haven’t been flowing, or maybe I’m swallowing them along with all the emotions I’m attempting to hide. My emotions have been so raw lately, blood might ooze onto the page with every keystroke. An illness in the family, surgeries, hospitalization, and more surgery to come, and yet my life keeps moving on, day by day, while I don’t write.

My family is far away. The majority of my family members live in Missouri; I’m in Virginia. Being many states away makes it difficult when I know I could help if I lived closer. Helplessness, sadness, and guilt become braided together tightly enough to create a noose, strangling me and making me unproductive.

I have been alternating between bouts of intense prayer, times of fighting the liquid emotions that flow freely at inopportune times, and periods of numbness. Happy moments seem faded, but welcome, like an old pair of tennis shoes that had been drying in the sun.

News from Missouri has become more positive of late. Thank you, God. Hope continues to grow, and my numbness is starting to wane. So for today, a few words flow from my fingertips without too many emotions welling over.

No, I haven’t written anything lately. But prayer is powerful.

&*$%#&!!!!!

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on April 11, 2013
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“I wnt to say sorry for what had happen in 4th block and people said that I had called u a name but I said this stupid sh** because I had to get off Google because (name deleted) wuz laughing at some of the pictures which made me start to laugh so you told me to get off I just wanted to say sorry”

Please excuse the atrocious grammar and spelling in the above message. (As a side note, this student recently took his Virginia state standardized writing test. The scary thing is he isn’t one I am worried about failing the test. It’s a perfect example of how horribly students write when using technology outside of school. Maybe the focus for a future blog…)

I found the message in my Facebook inbox one evening. (No, I am not friends with students on Facebook…another blog focus.) That day while in the computer lab, I told students when they completed the assigned test they could continue working on a PowerPoint they began earlier in the week as long as they remained silent while others completed the assessment.

When I heard giggles and whispers from one area of the lab, I approached two boys noticing one continued to work on the day’s test while the other had finished and was searching for images to use in his PowerPoint. Unfortunately, the images distracted the other student and the disruption resulted.

I bent down and told the student he would have to close the web browser until the other student finished because it was causing a distraction. I gave no further consequences. I simply said he needed to stop.

As I straightened to walk away, I heard an obscenity, verified by the gasps and the looks of horror on the faces of the other students. I couldn’t believe “stupid b*&%h” had come from that student’s mouth. Normally, he is a quiet boy who rarely engages in conversation unless he’s in his group of buddies. He answers in class when called on, had always been polite to me, and in his group of peers, I considered him one of the nicest and best behaved.

Dumbfounded, I called the office and had him removed from the lab. I didn’t have any referral forms with me, so he was going to have to sit in the office or the ISS room until I could write him up. The incident happened in last block, and by the time I got the referral to the office, buses had already left with the students. No matter. I knew administration would address it the following day.

When I saw the message on Facebook, I believed it immediately. He is simply one of those students who doesn’t cause my suspicions to flare and seems inherently honest. Cursing from him had been surprising enough. The extreme disrespect in what I thought I had heard was nearly unbelievable, so his message gave me a sense of relief. I feared I had read his personality and character wrong all year.

I didn’t respond online but planned to meet with him the following morning. One of the questions I asked when we met was, “Why did you use symbols in the word when you typed it in the Facebook message?” He said it wouldn’t be right to type it out. Obviously, my next question was, “Why is it okay to say it in my classroom but not to type it in a message?”

Don’t get me wrong. I realize words sometimes slip out in the heat of the moment. Typing takes more thought and is intentional in comparison. Whether spoken or written, it takes determination and effort to control our words, but they are powerful weapons and can cause a lot of damage if not controlled.

When I dismissed the student to return to class after our meeting, I prayed he would think twice before letting loose his tongue in the future instead of simply serving his consequences and forgetting the incident. I believe he will, which makes me extremely happy and hopeful. Teaching language arts (or any subject) isn’t simply sharing content knowledge. Sometimes as teachers, we also have the privilege of sharing life lessons as well.

Recipe for an 8th Grade Writer

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on March 2, 2013
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Ingredients:

1 unit on sentence structure, end punctuation, and comma usage (This is not optional. They do not remember from previous years. Ditto for all ingredients.)

1 unit on verb tense, subject verb agreement, pronoun antecedent agreement, plurals and possessives, homophones, and double negatives

1 unit on capitalization and spelling

1 unit on narrowing and focusing on topic

1 unit on elaboration and details as main idea support

1 unit on effective introductions and conclusions

1 unit on sentence variety, point of view, tone, and voice

1 unit on purpose and audience

1 unit on organizational structures

1 unit on advanced vocabulary and figurative language usage

Steps:

1) Mix ingredients one at a time into a slouching, uninterested, unmotivated 14-year-old student.

2) Add additional amounts of any of the above ingredients as needed for desired outcome.

3) Pray. A lot.

Run, Linden, Run!

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on January 5, 2013
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I am not a runner chick. In fact, I truly despise the act of running. I have a love/hate relationship with my “dreadmill,” and I rarely go beyond a brisk walk when I climb aboard.

I admire runners. I work with and am close to so many people who enjoy the physical and mental benefits of running, but it doesn’t seem to be a part of my genetic makeup.

But I am proficient at one kind of running. Very often, I run, sprint, dash, and rush in the opposite direction of where I’m supposed to be. I’ll be on a mission, moving as fast as I can to reach a goal, when suddenly I realize I shouldn’t be pursuing it.

It happens all the time. You’d think I’d learn my lesson. What causes me to do this?

Sometimes I attempt to reach a goal or accomplish something to please other people. Have you ever done that? Usually in my experience, if my actions do please someone else, they often leave me feeling void of any triumph. Achieving things for others rarely satisfies my own sense of accomplishment. So why do I continue to do it?

Another reason I believe I run from what I’m supposed to be doing is because what God is calling me to do is scary or just plain hard work. I’m not the most self-disciplined person and taking the easy route appeals to my lazy side. But think about it…God’s will is rarely easy.

Was it easy for Noah to build an ark? Not only was it physically taxing, I’m sure the ridicule from others caused him great emotional anxiety as well.

Was it easy for Abraham to follow the command to sacrifice his son?

Was it easy for Mother Teresa to share the love of Jesus with others?

Is it easy for missionaries today to spread the Word of God in hostile countries?

Honestly, I don’t think God has ever asked me to do anything that extreme. So why do I run the other way in a furious attempt to do my own thing? Or to follow the will of others?

The answers elude me.

The one thing I know for certain is when I’m racing toward something with blinders on, God will shake His head, tap me on the shoulder, and make me realize I’ve chosen the easy path. Sometimes He does this with a Bible verse that pops up over and over again. Or it might be a certain song I hear on K-Love. Or maybe it’s just an uneasy feeling in my stomach. Whatever means He uses, I’m sure I don’t always get the hint on the first try, but He keeps sending me clues and reminders until I recognize the need to switch directions.

Thank you, God, for your patience and guidance.

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.

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.

‘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!

If the World Gives Up on You…

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on November 20, 2012
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The other morning I passed a car on the side of the road. A white slip of fabric fluttered out the window surrendering its ability to move. As I drove by, I noticed the dents, rust, and other bruises mottling the battered body. No wonder it had given up.

Then something else caught my attention. This pile of abandoned metal wore 30-day tags. My initial reaction was Why would someone buy that piece of junk? Did they really think it would run?

As I drove by shaking my head in disbelief, my thoughts suddenly did a 180-degree turn, and I started considering the hope that must have been involved in the purchase.  Someone hoped that car would provide them with the transportation he or she needed. Even though it looked like it was near death, the purchaser believed.

Likewise, even when I feel battered and useless, God has hope that He can use me. That I can still fulfill the purpose He has for my life. He would still purchase me, no matter how I looked. In fact, He did and the cost was His Son. Even if I feel like waving my flag in surrender, He believes I can keep going and chooses me for the job He requires of me.

Do you ever feel abandoned on the side of the road if you can’t provide what other people expect or need? Sometimes it’s impossible to accomplish everything, and the rejection or dismissal hurts when it’s not done successfully. But that’s what happens when we focus on the world instead of on God. If we concentrate on doing God’s will, the world’s needs will also be met.

Because God doesn’t care if the world has left me stranded at the curb. It doesn’t matter how dented and rusted I look to the world; He still has hope for my future.

Liquid Emotions are Genetic

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on November 12, 2012
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Do you have liquid emotions? I most certainly do. Overwhelming sadness? I cry. Mad and indignant? The tears flow. Frustrated beyond belief? The dam opens. Laughing hysterically? Yep, even then.

There’s absolutely nothing I can do to prevent the tears. They have caused me embarrassment, frustration, and even horror, but still they flow. I’m not sure why I’m made this way, but I do know I inherited this trait honestly from my mom. During my childhood, I can recall seeing her crying in response to television commercials. I thought she was a mess, but now I’m a mess too.

Years ago, I watched Steel Magnolias and was able to relate to the comment made my Dolly Parton’s character. Truvy said, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” Well, I’m not sure it’s my favorite, but it is probably one of my most frequent.

Currently, I’m reading Chasing Fireflies by Charles Martin with my students. This is the fourth year I’ve read it in class after reading it once for pleasure and once to make sure it was appropriate for my students. Altogether, I’ve probably read it at least a dozen times. It’s one of my all-time favorite novels, and I recommend it highly. One of the characters, Uncle Willee, cries freely. His emotions are definitely liquid, and for one abused little boy, Unc’s tears are the first time he’s ever seen a grown man cry. That boy has trouble accepting Unc’s tears as a positive thing when his own make him feel like a weakling.

Yesterday, Colton stayed with friends while I went ice skating with the high school students from the youth group. At one point, he misbehaved by being unkind to his friend, and he cried when reprimanded. To some people this seems absurd, but to those of us with liquid emotions, it is very familiar.

At the dinner table as he and I discussed what had happened and what his consequences would be, his eyes flooded again. When I asked why he was crying, his chin quivered. “Because I hurt my friend.”

Cynics would say he’s merely upset because of the consequences. I would also be skeptical except I’ve seen the same young boy tear up and try to hide his emotions many times. When watching a movie that touches his heart, usually because an animal gets badly hurt or is treated cruelly, he just can’t help himself.

I’m sure it’s difficult for him to reconcile his tears with his need to feel like a “man”. I want him to be brave and strong, but I also admire his kind-hearted response to life. I’m not sure how to foster one of those traits without compromising the other.

What I am certain of, whether good or bad, is he gets his liquid emotions from me.

Negativity Will Get You Nowhere.

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on November 7, 2012
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As I posted yesterday, I truly believe that God is in control and He can use anyone to further His kingdom.

I have stayed out of political conversations for the most part over the last year. Students frequently ask who I’m voting for, but I’ve learned it’s not a smart move to reveal my choice. That being said, I feel the need this morning to share my feelings about one aspect of the election.

I’ve been stunned and saddened by the negativity during the campaign. Not that negativity is anything new in politics. I remember in 1972 being on the playground at elementary school and hearing a boy yell, “Nixon, Nixon is our man. Throw McGovern in the trash can.” Such eloquence certainly trickled down from an adult to this vocal second grader, and he felt the need to share with the rest of us. I don’t remember his name, but I can still see the ruthless triumph in his eyes and the wicked smile on his face.

With that in mind, I felt the need to discuss the election results with Colton this morning. Not only so he would be up-to-date with what’s going on, but so he would be prepared for any of his third-grade peers who felt the need to be mouthy in support of their (ummm…their parents’) own camp or with antagonism toward their opposition.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to send kids off to school without having to prepare them for adversity?

Nothing has changed since my playground days. Now my peers are a little older than second grade, but many still spew hate to try to get their point across. Instead of on the swing set, it’s now carried out on Facebook, Twitter, and any other avenue at their disposal.

The interesting thing to me is how many Christians are involved in this ugliness. Have we forgotten WWJD? What would Jesus do in this situation? I’m positive he would not be spouting revenge and hate.

The United States has fewer Christians now than ever before. If someone who claims to be Christian truly wants more people to vote Christian values, wouldn’t it make sense to leave the negativity to the politicians and focus on spreading Christian love? Serving others and growing His kingdom seems to me to be the logical strategy for creating change in our world.

The last time the U.S. had a surge in church attendance was after the attacks on September 11th.  Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you turn to God and cry out for help.

I certainly don’t know the future or what God has planned, but a lot of people think our country is going to be destroyed in the next four years.

I’m not sure, but maybe it’s just going to hit rock bottom.

The Results Are In…

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on November 6, 2012
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Not really…it’s going to be a long evening of anticipation, waiting for the final results to be tallied. No matter who wins this election, there will be many people convinced our country is facing the worst four years ever. I feel a blanket of uncertainty settling over me.

The news announced some people in Virginia are waiting in line for 5 hours to exercise their right to vote (I’m feeling very blessed about my 25 minutes). Good for them. Everyone should do their duty, no matter the length of the line or the state of the weather. I truly believe apathy eliminates an individual’s right to complain.

At this point, I have no idea what the outcome will be, but in these two things I am confident:

1) God is in control.
2) He can use anyone to further His kingdom.

As my good friend Bobbi posted, “Duty is ours; results are God’s.” John Quincy Adams.

I’m praying His will, not mine, be done today.

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