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Since I met Tim at the wonderfully fashionable tacky Christmas sweater party in 2008 we have just clicked.

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And marriage hasn’t phased us terribly yet.  We’ve definitely had some nasty fights, and there are days where we get so frustrated with this person we live with that we can’t fathom another day, let alone a lifetime of being with each other.

But most days we are just having a great time with the person we love: watching TV, walking our dogs, grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments, you name it, we will have a blast being together.

But what happens when all of a sudden two people have dramatically different visions for their lives?

I never considered this as a potential in marriage, I always assumed God would move both of our hearts in the same direction at the same time… always.

But apparently this can happen and it did.  After we found out that we would not be going to Malaysia, we were both really bummed out.  Instead of sulking (for too long) we decided to seek God on the matter, and what we found were two beautiful paths, that did not align at ALL.

As Tim prayed he became more convinced that this opportunity had been purposeful, and that we should be seeking other opportunities like it.  I always use the phrase if Tim could have packed up and moved us two weeks ago we would be gone to describe his enthusiasm for living internationally.  He was confident, steady, and determined.

I prayed as well, but instead of receiving this same message it became abundantly clear to my heart that God was calling us to live more intentionally in our community here in Houston.  I have at times felt Houston is not our forever city, but our city for now.  I prayed about this from the perspective of a teacher wanting to know if she should be looking to sign another contract, and received a very firm answer that we should plan to stay another academic year.  I was confident, steady, and determined.  And scared… but save that for another day.

So Tim was ready to pack us up and ship out, and I was ready to dig roots deeper here.  Hmmm.

So many nights we would get frustrated with each other both saying “I don’t feel like you are honoring the call that is on my heart” and both being right.

When I wanted to talk about what we could do here to settle in Tim wanted to talk about applications for positions across seas.  When I wanted to invest time in friendships, Tim wanted to invest connecting internationally.

Oh crap.

Compromise.  How do we compromise?

His heart:

Tim and I have decided to visit some friends in Kurdistan this summer and also take some time to visit Jerusalem.  On our trip to Asia, we will also be stopping in London and Istanbul.  Tim has been planning like crazy for weeks now and I have been doing my best to stay focused during our itinerary meetings and keep up with his enthusiasm.

I have no idea how we will react to traveling.  We are both so excited, but we could go and decide another country is indeed where we need to be, or we could go and decide that this country is where we need to be.  Either way there are so many questions we will then want to ask.

Her heart:

And when we are not running around new cities and airports? We will be focused on being present here where we are.  Being more intentional about time with others and service (hopefully starting in July when we return).

So many things are still undetermined.  We know that we will be in Houston this next year, but doing what? After that, then what? We don’t have a five year plan, or even a 5 month plan, but in this we feel most content.

Some may say we are being unwise, but we are learning to trust our Savior daily, a difficult lesson indeed.  For now we do our best to honor each other, and above this, the one who calls our hearts to live fully and wonderfully, individually and together.

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This week was by far the WORST week of teaching yet! Between relentlessly unforgiving radicals, fist fights, and ungrateful students (love them, but… it’s the truth) Wednesday, I was ready to quit.  I called Tim that afternoon on my way home and told him I was not going back.

It all started Monday, when the lesson I intended to take half a period began its 4 day journey.  I was teaching special right triangles, which is a very abstract concept compared to other topics we learn in geometry.  I quickly realized that the only thing that could be more frustrating than teaching special right triangles, was learning about special right triangles.  After 50 minutes of unsuccessful hands on discovery I gave up and resorted to lecture and note taking, thinking if I can demonstrate the development of special right triangles THEN they will be able to see and understand, I just need to talk and write through it for them to see.  Oh, how sorry I feel for Monday me.

I’m not sure how, but at some point in the conversation this happened:

Me: “Ok, if I have A and I add another A to it, what will I have?”

Student 1: B!

Student 2: 6.2!

Student 3: 11!

Me: (silently, in my head) what the hell…. b? 6.2? crap… (out loud again…) ok… think of it this way, if i have an apple and I add another apple to it then I’ll have

Students: 2 apples!!

Me: awesome! ok so now I’ll just say A instead of apple.  if I have A, and I add another A, what will I get?

Students: 2 A! This is easy! This is stupid!

Me: ok that’s awesome, so what if I have A^2 and I add another A^2? what will I have?

Students: C^2!

Me: ….. (stunned silence)

Students: I don’t get it, this is hard, this is stupid!

At one point I began talking about taking apples^bannanas… and eventually I just turned around and started gently tapping my head against the white board out of frustration.  My class started apologizing which tore my heart apart.  I told them in the last seconds I had that this was NOT their fault and that my frustration was with my inability to teach them this concept.

In an hour and 20 minutes my entire lesson plan came crashing down (which if you’ve ever made a lesson plan, you know how heart wrenching that is).  So I quickly revised my plan for the next period and the lesson went better… minimally.  The next day I tried to repeat my revised lesson plan with my students in first period only to have everything come crashing down AGAIN, and then to find that the “improvement” in my other classes was not showing up in the data (grades).  2 days, 1 lesson, and 0 growth out of my students.

Repetition.

That will fix the problem.  I’ll just have them do the same thing they don’t know how to do over and over and then magically they will get it.

I actually thought that would work… poor wednesday me…

Needless to say that didn’t, and even working with students individually was not helping to get the concept through. On top of this when fifth period rolled around I almost had a fight break out in my class WHILE visitors from another school came in and another student protested against geometry. W.O.W.

NOTHING WAS WORKING! 3 different lessons which resulted in 3 failed attempts, and on top of that classroom discipline just seemed to disappear.  I went home and I cried. and I cried. and I cried. Then I called a teacher to ask for advice and she said to give it one more shot.  Look up different ideas and give it one more shot.

Well by that time I needed to go to bible study, so before I could plan yet ANOTHER lesson over what I was beginning to think was the devil’s subject, Tim and I got in the car where I pouted all the entire drive while eating nearly half the grapes we were taking to share (how rude).     I made it through dinner barely.  However, when it came time for the actual study part of the evening, while the leader prayed, I went to the bathroom and wept.

Being so far away from family

Feeling so distant from friends

The stress of trying to study for my certification exam

The exhaustion of a full time job and a certification class

The feeling of failure after being so sure I had finally found my rhythm

Exasperation.

Am I doing what God wants me to be doing?

I felt so sure of it… until now. 

Were we where God wanted us?

If yes, then why was it taking so long to form intimate community?

Was it me? My track record in friendships wasn’t great… so was it my fault? Again?

I cried and cried and cried until Tim found me and took me home.  I cried all the way home, and I cried myself to sleep.  Not a big dramatic cry.  The kind of cry where your heart feels like it’s doing more of the weeping then your eyes. I went to sleep at 8:30 that night and did not care to think about the next day, it could take it’s sweet time getting there.

However, as it usually does, the morning came and it was time to go to work.  Not early as I had hoped so that I could PUT a lesson together.  That was a miserable commute that day.

God. Please help me just to make it through the day, and please, PLEASE help my students to get this concept… I can’t stand teaching it anymore.  Also, I need a lesson plan, please help me think of something.

I made it in time for the prayer meeting.  My mentor teacher asked me if I had come up with a new lesson to which I explained how I was too busy crying the night before to come up with one.  I mentioned how frustrated I was and another teacher turned to me and said that I should have the students lay on the floor to be the triangles.  Because of the concept I knew that I couldn’t represent the concept accurately given the varying body lengths of my students but suddenly wheels began turning.

Triangles on the floor.  I was seeing triangles on the floor.

Paper! Colored Paper!

My students couldn’t BE the triangle, but they COULD be parts of the triangle! My head shot up and I announced that I would need some tape.  My mentor teacher happened to have some that I could borrow, as well as colored paper.  After the prayer I quickly ran upstairs to shove all of the desks out of the way and I began feverishly taping giant triangles on my classroom floor.  I finished making the signs just as my first two students walked through the door.

“Class, we will not be sitting today, we will be trying a final attempt at the concept of special right triangles, line up against the wall”

My confused class reluctantly walked over to the wall and I began asking for volunteers.  Here’s a summary:

3 students represented an angle measure: one 30, one 60, and one 90 degrees. This group carried Blue signs with their measurement labeled on it.

3 students represented the side names: shorter leg, longer leg, and hypotenuse. This student carried light green signs with their name labeled on it.

3 students represented the variables that coincided with those sides: x, x times the square root of 3, and 2x. This group carried golden signs with their variables written on it.

I instructed each group to find their location on the triangle one at a time.  At the end I would give a side a number on a small white board and the class would solve out for the other two sides.

This was BEYOND successful, and here is why:

  1. My students learned the concept!!! OH MY GOSH this was amazing to see.  After three full days on this concept with confused in frustrated students, I was able to give my students a handful of scenarios that they were able to solve without aid confidently. w.o.w.
  2. it was fun! We all made up stories during the story time portion to describe scenarios where we would have to solve for the length of the sides of a triangle, my personal favorite was the one about Tom and Jerry (my students are so creative!)
  3. it caught the eye of my academic supivisor who not only recorded it, but used it the video to show student engagement to other math teachers AND some people in the district… I was too excited to catch who
  4. it caught the eye of my AP! She stopped me in the hall to tell me that she loved the idea and e-mailed the principle about it the next day!

WOW. what a difference one day can make.  I went from exasperated failure to successful potential in 2 hours.  As soon as I finished talking with my academic supervisor I closed the door to my classroom, laid my head on my desk, and praised God, because after the past three days HE is the only explanation for such an incredible turn around.

Today my students still knew the concept, almost TOO well as they wanted to use it EVERYWHERE instead of just with special right triangles (opposed to the normal ones… a sarcastic fact).

I am in no hurry to take the tape off my floor as it serves as a good reminder of the lessons teaching the concept taught me:

  1. Try, try, and try again.  If something doesn’t work, learn, research, and try something new
  2. It’s OK to fail… it sucks, but it’s ok.  If I hadn’t done such a terrible job, seeing the success would not have been nearly as humbling or exciting
  3. Learn from others.  Relying on my own brain is a huge mistake when there are so many other people with so many creative ideas.  Limiting my resources to myself is not only a hindrance to me, but also to my students
  4. Plans don’t always work, be flexible.

Thursday didn’t end perfectly, I still left frustrated by other things occurring in the classroom, but it was encouraging.  I am so thankful that God took me through the week and helped me through to the other side.  I still don’t have a lot of answers, and there is still fear in me about community, but if God is willing to meet me on a level as trivial as a lesson plan, I believe I can rest in the knowledge that He will meet me everywhere else.  I am one lucky lady.

So what’s the real lesson here? Hug your teacher, it’s harder than you think.

It’s funny how quickly I can become overly concerned about me.  Specifically others’ perceptions of me.  I needed to take a break from blogging due to the fact that I started worrying more about people “liking” my posts than sticking to the purpose of my blog: to document my journey as this new chapter of my life unfolds.  I started thinking along lines of what my viewers liked to read about instead of what was going on in my life.  At one point I honestly considered writing a blog devoted to the fights Tim and I have had because my entry TheFirstFight  has received the most hits (seriously I get like a few followers and all of a sudden I think I’m some big shot blogger who needs to maintain a following… really Hughes? wait, I mean Hendricks… still adjusting to that).

I didn’t want to deal with the MeMonster because of blogging so I stepped away for awhile to make sure my focus stayed on loving Him and loving others, and not loving what others thought about me, which has been really hard to do! I’ve also stepped away from facebook, almost entirely because at this point it has just gotten depressing.  When you leave a community … you leave the entire community and you really mourn the loss of that community.  However, when a person, or two, leave a community, life in the community keeps going.  The community probably misses those who left, but life’s rhythms aren’t entirely changed.  Because of this it’s really hard to see how friends and family are just going about business as usual while my business has turned inside out, upside down, without anyone I’ve grown to love over my 23 years.  It’s not a bad thing that the rhythm of life keeps going, it’s a beautiful thing, it just stinks to be on the outside looking in while Tim and I are still in this awkward limbo seeking community.

We have found a good bible study, one where I believe we will flourish, and we are getting acquainted with new people, but acquaintances and friends are far from the same thing and acquaintances don’t fill that God designed desire for deep and intimate community.  So we are in limbo now, officially gone so long from our original home that life’s rhythms have changed and evolved without us, while we look on from 12 hours away getting bits and pieces of what is happening, but not yet here long enough to begin seeing where we are on the inside while we begin being apart of something and somewhere new.  And it hurts.  It hurts the heart so much to be without community.

Still this is a beautiful thing, and though we feel the pain of not being with the people we love, we sense a joy that we are only now beginning to explain.

I’m not sure when it dawned on me.  Maybe it was while I was driving to work, the job I love, on the roads that have become second nature (rhythmic) on my daily commute, or maybe it was while I was on my way to ACT Houston, driving on 5 lane highways during rush hour in the city, which suddenly is feeling more natural (rhythmic).  Whenever it was, I was behind the wheel, thinking and thanking through this calm confidence that has been growing within me since June 15th.  Many theories had passed my mind as to why this confidence has grown.  Maybe it was Tim,  because he was able to bring out the best in me, or my job because for the first time I’m doing something that I love, or even just not being in school because I didn’t have to deal with the intense workload or stress that had become my worst and closest friend it had seemed over the past 4 years.

But in one clear instance it was made known to me the reason for my calm confidence: for the first time in my life I was becoming me.

100% me the way I was created to be.

            All my life I have struggled between two things: 

  1. Trying to live up to a set of self defined expectations that I thought would give me worth
  2. Trying to live up to my perceived perceptions I thought others had about me

Let me elaborate.  In college I got two majors, two relatively difficult majors, I worked part time, did YoungLife, was in a sorority, did leadership for the sorority, did leadership for YoungLife, tried to play my role at church etc.  Not because I’m a super good person, but because I thought I needed to look like a super good person.  I needed to look smart, look caring, look strong, so I way overdid it trying to be these things to other people, and in the process I made myself miserable.  That was just in the “success” and “self-worth” areas.  Simultaneously I had this notion of other people’s perceptions of me and I felt I needed to be consistent with those.  Some thought of me as serious and loud in my opinions, some thought of me as shy, others funny, others smart… I had these roles that had, in my mind, been forming since high school and I needed to some how keep them going, keep being the person people thought I was… which was not consistent and a lot to juggle.

So basically it was a good move on God’s part picking me up and placing me in an entirely new place because all of a sudden no one had any perceptions of me.  Suddenly I had nothing to lose and I wasn’t worried about gaining anyone’s approval.  I had learned the lesson to rely on God and find my worth in Him, so if people disliked me, that was fine, God liked me and he would help me find another person who would too.

At first I thought I was putting on a show everywhere I went.  I mean, who was this girl who smiled all the time, cracked jokes (some funny others not) with out hesitation, had a positive outlook constantly, worked hard with out complaint, enjoyed driving on city roads?  Could initiate conversation with anyone, anywhere, at any time, about anything, awkward or not, and walk away feeling confident in what had taken place?  Who was this person that prayed about anything that popped in her mind, and didn’t second guess it? Who was this person that was becoming more in-tune with the Spirit inside her? Who was this person? She kept showing up… consistently, and quite frankly I liked her.  It took me a while to realize that this new girl was me…

I’m not trying to build myself up to be some super awesome person, me is still very selfish, short tempered, and human.  However, me is way better than the “me” I thought I needed to be.

I know I’m happier than ever because I’m in a place where my mind can’t get in the way (at least not all the time) so God can finally start showing me His daughter, the daughter he made, and loves, and delights in.

God knows me better than I know myself.  He knew, all along, who I was trying to be, and how to help me see who I’m meant to be.  I’m meant to be Hailey Hendricks, married to a man who brings out my best qualities and balances out my weaknesses.  I’m a teacher, meant to interact with people, to instruct, organize, create, laugh, and love passionately.  I’m in Texas, far away from everything I’m familiar with, exposed, so for the first time I have no one and nothing to hide behind, but instead am forced to face the real me.  And I like me.

I’m not self obsessed now, by no means, I was before! I know that now looking back, but now I’m simply flourishing.  Finally I’m flourishing.  For so long I’ve wanted to find my music, like Mozart had his, and I have.  Not without a few bumps in the road, but I know that I can flourish, which drives me to learn, and rest, and do the best I can.  I am flourishing as Tim’s partner, as a teacher, and yes, a Texan.  All because I am finally free, just to be me, to delight in who God made me to be, to delight in who he made others to be, and to flourish.  It is a wonderful, beautiful, humbling experience to be free to be me.

Ok, so this lesson is actually not solely my mom’s, it was kind of the Hughes family motto (yes, we are so awesome that we have our own motto… which may or may not have been stolen from one of the best films of our time).  Ever since we went to see Galaxy Quest for our family movie night, it has been our mission to never give and to never surrender.  I think this is one of the most valuable lessons my family taught me, and this learned attitude has carried me through a lot.

When I didn’t make drill team the first year never give up when I was tired after an all nighter at the end of finals week never surrender when I felt like I had lost all my drive to get through this life never give up when graduation felt like it would never come never surrender when depression and self hatred overwhelmed me never give up and when anxiety tried to win me over never, ever, surrender.  This attitude has seen me through many trials, and for that I thank my family (whom I miss so much).

And now, once again I’m at a mountain that seems impossible to climb.  This mountain is the respect and trust of my students.  Ah my students, my moody, emotional, crazy, unpredictable, have a millon other things in life to worry about, students.  How much I love them can not be written in words.

You see, I work at an alternative education school, so the kids that I work with have been failed by the school system thus far, have had very bad experiences at school, and therefore do not LIKE school, teachers, or administration one bit.  So on a fairly regular basis I can expect to see crying, yelling, mocking, ignoring, and my personal nonfavorite eye rolling.  My kids are awesome kids, don’t get me wrong, they just haven’t seen it yet.

Gosh, I just love them.  So much.

Everyday when I go to school I wish I could just take the love that is on the inside of me and put it on the outside so people could see it.  Because in my mind, if they could just see the real love that I have for them the walls would all just come down and we could work together to help them towards the life they want for themselves.

And though I can not do this, I can.

I have come to understand that the only way to show my students the Love that lives in my heart is through my actions.

Continually serving them and pursuing their trust never give up not becoming disheartened on the bad days never surrender giving each day my all never give up  treating them consistently with kindness and compassion despite how yesterday may have been never surrender when they yell and get upset, I turn the other cheek never give up when they shut down and ignore me, I lovingly push with empathy to find the reason behind the behavior rather than trying to correct the behavior in and of  itself never surrender taking my role and time with them seriously never give up and most importantly though I discipline, I never ever judge never surrender. 

I have come to understand that the only way to show my students the Love that lives in my heart is through my actions. I only hope that the human inside of me does not get in the way.

I am learning, slowly.  I make mistakes each day.  I’m too quick to judge or too passive to help them learn from their own mistakes.  But I am searching for a balance between these two, and I am leaning on the Love that changed my heart and makes me capable of loving others.  On the good days I celebrate, on the bad days I learn and move on.  I take the good and I leave the bad, because right now I can’t afford to give up, and I can not afford to surrender to the challenges.  I was made to love and be loved, and I will love these students with all my strength until I run out and have to use a little of His, because these students were made to be loved, so that is just what I will do. 

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