Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sometimes it's the little things...

Sometimes it's the little things that make you smile the biggest. It's things like...

Finding a way to make learning fun ;)


A pretty surprise 


Learning a cool bit of history


Supper eaten in the A/C


Late night cereal and Duck Dynasty :)


A new behavior chart


Finding the necessary supplies for a class project


A gift that speaks volumes 


A new school year


An electric pencil sharpener


A kid that makes me smile


Time spent with friends

A fun "get to know you" activity


A verse from the Bible


Talking to a friend for hours and hours

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A quote to get you through the hard days of your job

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What They Wish I Knew

A few years back I saw an article online which told how a teacher had asked her class to anonymously answer the following question...

What do you wish your teacher knew about you?

It was a way for the teacher to learn more about her students, their backgrounds, etc. And she was able to do so more easily, because the kids weren't afraid of anyone knowing what they were writing.

She then took their answers and used them to better herself , to help open her eyes to the issues her students faced, and to become a better teacher for those kids.

I don't remember where I found the article, but I know it has definitely stuck with me all this time. So I decided to "borrow" her idea.

The other day I sent a writing assignment home with my students, where I asked them to answer the following question...

What do I wish Ms Nichols knew about me?

I gave them plenty of room to answer the question and gave them an envelope to place their papers in and then seal so to keep their answers anonymous.

I finally read their answers the other night and came away, having learned so much...

Some of their answers were funny.

Some were serious.

Some surprised me.

And some... 

Some broke my heart and even made me cry.

But you know...

I took each one seriously. 

And I prayed (and am still praying) that God will help me use these handwritten lists to be the best teacher I can possibly be for each and every one of these kids.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Letter to My High School Self

Today I'm joining Andrea and a whole lot of other bloggers for her Show and Tell Tuesday link-up, where the prompt is... 

Share advice for your high school self.

So in true Elisabeth writing form, I decided to write a letter to myself back in High School.

Dear High School Version of Me, 

I'd love to tell you that life gets easier after high school. But the truth is, it doesn't. Yes, good things happen. But so do bad things. Your life takes a few twists and turns and even a few loop-de-loops. But you know what? All in all, I'd say it's a good life. So, back to the point of this letter. Want to hear some advice? 

Quit worrying so much about what other people think. Who cares that you're not the most fashionable or the one with the highest GPA. You're still beautiful and you're still smart. 

Listen to Mom and Dad. They actually do know what they're talking about. I know that they seem goofy sometimes. But they're pretty stinkin' smart and have been in your shoes before. 

And while we're on the subject of Mom and Dad, spend as much time as possible with them. Dad will only be around another 12 years after graduation. You'll feel the most awfully gut-wrenching pain ever the day you say your forever goodbye to him. And Mom? Well she'll still be there, but you'll have moved overseas. So you won't get to see her as often. And trust me, you'll miss being in the house with her more than you could ever imagine. 

Ok, on to other things...

Pick the right classes. You're going to struggle with college at first. Going from such a tiny high school straight to college will be difficult at first. Don't give up, though. You'll make it through with your head held high, and end up with a Bachelor's and a Master's in 10 years. And yes, that's a longer time than you'd prefer, but that's okay. ...because you did it almost entirely by yourself! 

Make time for friends. You'll stay in touch with friends from high school. ...some more than others. But you have to put forth the effort. It's so worth it. So do it.

Enjoy your free time. It won't be long before you have to start working 40 hours a week to help you get through college. And then after that, when you start teaching, you'll be working well over 40 each week. You'll love your work. But free time won't be as common. Neither will sleeping late and being lazy all day on your "off" days. So enjoy your freedom while you can.

Dream big. You are a dreamer. You'll accomplish some of your dreams. Some you may not. But never ever stop dreaming. One day when you're 31, you'll be working in your school's office over the summer, and in a meeting, you'll tell your school's director that you realize you're a big dreamer and probably need to reign in your dreams a bit. But thankfully, this man will tell you that's crazy talk and that we all need to dream big. 

Pay attention to the little things. Sure the big things are great. But it's the seemingly little things that often get overlooked and at the same time, can often mean the most. Stop and smell the roses, so to speak. Don't get so busy and overloaded and stressed that you miss the good things in life.

And last, but most certainly not least...

Draw close to your Savior. You'll be tested a lot over the years. You'll face trials and temptations. You'll face decisions that are so far out of your control and your grasp. The only way you'll make it is by clinging to your Savior and the promises He's given. Study His Word. Commit it to memory. You'll be surprised how often it'll come back to you at just the needed moment.

Your 31 Year Old (and no that's not old) Future Self

Monday, August 22, 2016

Q and A Time

How long could you live without tv?

Honestly, I think I could go forever. TV's just not my thing anymore. Yes, I'll watch it sometimes. But I could totally live without it.

What book are you reading?

Finding Zoe by Brandi Rarus and Gail Harris - A friend recommended and sent it to me.

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Thoughts on Pokemon Go?

I think it's silly. But hey... If it makes you happy, go for it :)

When was the last time you cried?

The other night on the phone with my mom... I had a lot on my mind/heart and just needed to unload and get it off my chest. I tend to bottle stuff up inside until I just can't stand it any longer.

Do you usually think too much or too little about things?

Oh I'm definitely 100 % an over-thinker.

Biggest fear(s)?

Snakes! Break ins, bad guys...

What's on your menu for today?

Breakfast - an oatmeal cookie and a handful of mixed nuts
Lunch - sandwich with chips & salsa
Supper - spanish rice with sausage, peppers, & onions

Bible passage you read most recently?

Does 1 Peter count since I'm reading through it with my 5th graders. I'm always impressed at their level of thought when it comes to the Bible. ...even the kids who haven't grown up reading the Bible can give such amazingly deep answers to discussion questions.

Which version of the Bible is your #1?

I like the ESV. 

Share the last selfie you took.

I was with one of our sweet AG kiddos ;)


It's time for cereal. What's in your bowl?

I love Cookie Crisp ;)

Read to or read yourself?

I hate listening to someone else read. Obviously I don't mind in the classroom. That's different. But past that... It's so hard for me to concentrate when someone else is reading. 

Where's your happy place?

...anywhere with my family. Or in London :)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Introducing My '16 - '17 Class

First up is A1, from Sierra Leone. He's a quiet little guy, who may not talk often, but boy when he does, he shares big, huge ideas! He loves God and says he loves that God lets him come to our school. He also loves swimming, which is why his self-portrait shows him underwater :)


Next is A2, A1's older brother. He has a big smile that can instantly make you feel better. He may not be the first one to answer a question, but he'll get there eventually. And y'all... Spelling is the subject where this guy shines, blowing my mind at the words he can spell. He has one of the most loving spirits and brightens up a room upon entering.


Then we have E, from Brazil. She is quite the thinker, taking loads of time to make a decision, only because she wants to make sure she's correct. She loves Art and Music the best, but said she's happy with all subjects too. She calls me Auntie because that's what they called teachers in her last school, but also she told me I remind her of a sweet Auntie who loves all her kids. So I'm totally fine with being called Auntie :)


Next up is H, from America. Last year she was the only girl, so she was super stoked to see so many new girls this year in our class. She likes experiments and projects, and wishes we could do more of that and less "boring reading and writing" stuff. She said when her family leaves America, they're sad to miss family, but they're happy too, because it means they're going back to Senegal to do God's work. She was the biggest fan of our class ROCKSTAR theme and compliments me on that "decor" decision daily :)


Then there's Miss G, from India. She's very soft spoken, but loves to read and draw. She's quite smart. Plus, she's a very talented artist and has very neat handwriting. Mark my word... One day she'll be a famous fashion designer, I have no doubt.


And then there's J, from America. J's probably my biggest reader. He would read all day long if I'd let him. He's a funny guy and tells the best jokes. He says he loves life here in Dakar and is so glad his family moved here to work with people and tell them about God. 


And then there's Mr. I, also from America. He loves reading and will often "sneak" and try reading a library book while I'm teaching. He said Math's okay, but Reading is his favorite. He's super athletic and shines in any sport he plays. His family teaches people English and teaches them about Jesus too. He thinks that's cool.


Next up is Miss I, from India. She's a sweet girl who can't start her day without a hug. She absolutely LOVES to read. She says "the maths" are hard for her. But I can see that she's a super hard worker, so I think that'll change soon. She's super eager to succeed and will ask if her answers are correct probably a zillion times a day ;)


And then there's Jr, from Rwanda. He has the sweetest smile and loves to make people laugh. He says his favorite subject is Science and he's ready for us to start our experiments. He's a big fan of drawing and wishes I gave him more class time to do it :)


Then there's Mr. G, also from Rwanda. He seems to be a thinker, taking a while to ponder anything before acting on it. He's very bright, but shy. He's new this year, but seems to have settled into our class very well. 


And W. He's a character. At the end of the school year last year, his friends voted him the Most Likely to Become the Leader of Canada and Lebanon at the same time. I could totally see it happening, too. :) He's very personable, and strives to make sure everyone in our class gets along. 


And then there's M, from Finland. She's a smart girl with a super sweet and positive attitude. She seems to like all subjects, although I'm thinking math might be her favorite. She's a talented artist and a great student.


There's Y, my one Senegalese student. He's very studious, and loves all subjects, so much he can't pick out a favorite. He said his hero is his dad, who is a pastor. He wants to be like him when he grows up. 


And here's M from Oman. He's very quiet and respectful. He loves moving around because after all, sitting still all day is super boring. He seems to really like being read to, so Read Aloud time is a hit in his books. He's a funny kid and will definitely give me a run for my money this year.


Here's H.I., from Korea. She doesn't say a lot right now, due to her lack of English. But she has made it very clear that Math is her favorite subject. She's super sweet and has a beautiful smile that she shares with us all the time - especially when I try to get her to teach me Korean words :)


And last, but certainly not least, there's Z, my most avid reader. He's a smart kid, who catches on to almost any new topic super fast. He doesn't know it yet, but he will be our official class Googler. If we have a question about something, he'll grab the iPad and go online to research it for us. That's because he loves to ask super deep questions that boggle my mind. He once told me last year that his parents are super cool missionaries and he's their super cool youngest son ;)


And that, my friends, is my class this year. We have 11 different nationalities and 9 different languages represented. We have academic abilities ranging from one extreme end to the other. We have unique gifts and talents and characteristics and we are Rockstars :)

I feel so incredibly blessed that God sent these 16 in my life this school year. I can't wait to see what He has in store for them!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Welcome to My Classroom

Welcome to my home away from home for the 2016-2017 school year. Room A7 is officially open for learning ;)

When I found out our 5th Grade teacher would be taking a year off, I was sad. But, at the same time, I happily jumped at the chance to stay with my crew and move up with them.  

As time went on, I learned more about my squirrely crew and about the new kids that would be joining the mix and I quickly realized that teaching this class God was blessing me with would definitely not by any means, be a boring job. This class has, by far, the widest range of ability levels and widest range of English fluency of all the classes I've taught over the years.

I know it will be a challenge.

...a good challenge

...but a challenge nonetheless.

But do you want to know something?

I love a good challenge.

And I'm ready for what's coming my way. I have studied and prepared. I've researched and worked during the summer. 

I've planned our daily schedules. And I've arranged their desks, praying over every single one.

I've chosen class jobs, with my kids in mind. My goal is that these "jobs" will teach my crew skills like leadership and citizenship and communication and how to have a servant's heart.

Our class decor "theme" is Rockstars. I want my 5th graders, upon entering this room, to realize that they are, indeed, Rockstars. They are smart and talented and creative and gifted in their own unique ways. They are fearfully and wonderfully made and they are royalty because they're children of the King. And in my book, that makes them Rockstars :)

We will also have fun with the Rockstars theme at times, realizing that sometimes our brains just need a break from learning and that laughter is good for the soul. And we will also learn to embrace our differences, our families' cultures and languages, our uniqueness. After all, that's what good Rockstars do ;)

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I will encourage their already huge, insatiable love of reading.

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I will encourage their love of art and writing and just creativity, in general. I will encourage their love of questioning and research and even their love of asking "why" and "how" a zillion times a day. I will encourage their love of technology, (educational) games, and music.

I will use the cooperative learning strategy to teach many of our subjects, offering students more time in areas where needed and less where not.

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I will offer students time for advancement and challenging themselves in individualized areas. We'll have a weekly Imagination Station, where we do just what the name implies... Imagine.

I will spend very little time during the school day at this desk, but will use it wisely during break times and before/after school to plan/prepare how to best meet the needs of each of the students placed in my care.

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I will make it my mission to be organized this keep everything contained in my Binder of Awesomeness :) And hopefully, I will be leading by example, since my 5th graders will ideally be doing the same thing with their own binders of awesomeness.

I will learn all I can about my students, using the information I gather to be a better teacher, mentor, and encourager. I will also utilize the resources at our disposal, inviting parents to come and teach us about their home countries, cultures, languages, jobs, etc. 

I will guide my students, using rules associated with the Word of God. And I will spend more time focusing on the rewarding of good/positive behavior and less time focusing on the punishing of bad/negative behavior.

I am blessed that God chose me to teach these the students who walked through the door of my room this morning. I will take my passion for teaching and use it to the very best of my ability.

I, with God's help of course, will work my absolute hardest to make this classroom and its 2016-2017 school year's occupants the best they can be. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Random Q & A

If you were given $1 million, what would you buy first?

I'd pay my tithes and then I would completely pay off my student loans. And with the maybe $1 I had left, I'd buy a Dr. Pepper ;)

What are 3 things that few people know about you?

1) I can remember names/dates, but past that, my memory stinks. 
2) I am scared to death of needles/shots. As in, semi-panic attack, tears, the works...
3) I try to act like I don't care what people think about me when in reality, I really do care.

Who do you most admire? Why?

my mom - She's had to overcome so much in her life to get to where she is today. She is the most selfless, generous, loving person I've ever met. She knows the Word like no one else and she's always been the best role model possible.

What's the most difficult thing you have ever done?

Burying my dad wasn't enjoyable.  After that, I'd say that leaving my mom to go back to Senegal for the first time after my dad had passed away was probably the most difficult thing I've ever done.

Describe your usual "uniform." What are you normally wearing?

Well, since I live in Dakar, it's changed a bit. You'll most often find me in a long skirt and top. If I'm wearing pants/capris in public (as in, not at the school, friend's home, etc.), then I'll have a wrap skirt on over them. It's a form of respect for the culture I live in.

Put your music on shuffle. What are the first 3 songs to play?

1)  Immortals by Fall Out Boy
2) My Lighthouse by Rend Collective
3)  Be Thou My Vision by Selah

Coke or Pepsi?


What are you reading?

I've got 4 books on Differentiating Instruction with Small Groups in teaching. It may sound boring to you, but I am so excited about this stuff! I can't wait to implement it with my 5th graders!

Everybody's creative in some way. Where's your creativity?

I like to write. 

Favorite Bible story?

Naomi and Ruth

Holiday plans?

I don't know exactly, but thanks to an unexpected blessing coming my way, I'm now highly considering going home to Alabama for Christmas this year. We'll see.

New Rule: For the rest of your life, you can only eat the meals you ate yesterday. So your breakfast will be the same as yesterday's breakfast, and so on. What are you eating?

Breakfast - fresh mango
Lunch - steak quesadilla & fries from The Spot
Supper - staff potluck dinner

Have any pets?

We can't have pets in staff housing here. But I have a black lab, named Allie, in the US. She is now my mom's "baby" since I'm gone :)

You're required to go an entire week without the use of any technology for fun. You can still use it for work purposes, though. Can you make it the whole week?

I'd like to think so... 

What'd you do for your last birthday?

I went to lunch with some friends. I went shopping (new scarf, new shoes, groceries). Then I had dinner with my "family away from family" as a joint bday dinner for me and my bday buddy. It was a fun day, full of good food and fellowship and fun :)

What'd you do yesterday?

I worked in my classroom, went to the store, went out to lunch with a friend, went to our staff cookout, and then went to a friend's house to watch the US win a couple medals at the Olympics :)

What's on the agenda for tomorrow?

I'm going to work in my classroom. I need to finish setting it up and start on lesson planning. And I need to reign in all the big ideas I have for my kiddos and this school year :) 

Then we have a Progressive Dinner for our Staff and I'm in charge of an appetizer station. 

Last frustration?

Someone who said something that wasn't very nice/true. Here's the deal... Some people like to spout off a bunch of garbage when they really don't know the truth. All they have to do is ask. It's really not that difficult. Just sayin'

Last excitement?

...finding out that the air conditioner in my classroom had been fixed. Y'all have no idea how excited I was! I mean, this heat/humidity has been no joke lately. So this was HUGE!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Who knows? Honestly, I quit trying to answer questions like this a few years back. I know where I'd like to be and what I'd like to be doing. But as we all know, life/plans change. So again, who knows?

What do you wish more people knew about your job?

Missionaries do more than just sitting with the locals and building churches. We are doctors and dentists. We are relationship builders. We are mechanics and students. We are teachers. We do so much more than the stereotypical missionaries you see in movies.

Also, a teacher's job is not easy. If done well, it involves a LOT of hard work. It involves more time than can fit into a typical 7:30 to 3:30 work day. It involves more than just teaching - there's counseling and first aid and mediating and more. It's not "free babysitting" or just having kids sit around, playing and eating candy all day. It's a lot of work. But it's so worth it! very much worth it!