Investing Professionally in 2017

Going back to work after a long break is hard.  Last week it felt especially hard.

I’m not ready to go back to work, and I’m really not ready to go back to all of the stress and anxiety that comes along with going back to a workplace that isn’t always the way I think it should be.  I know I’m not alone in this.  I mean, whose work place is always 100% ideal?  There are a few careers and workplaces I have idealized and fantasized about for far too long, but I’m sure even these places that are so picture-perfect in my mind aren’t as picture-perfect in real life.  So if 2017 is a year of investing, what does it look like for me to invest in a workplace and in a career, even when it’s really, really hard?

I could talk about all of the ideal ways I should be approaching my job and my career path, but before I jump straight into the way perfect Erin or perfect Ms. Green (both of those characters are fictitious, btw) would act in every stressful workplace situation, I want to first identify the things that I believe.  Just like I did when looking at investing financially, I want to start with the foundational beliefs.  So what is it that I believe about this area of my life?

  • I believe that I have a calling placed upon my life, and I know that right now, I am called to be inside a classroom full of fifth graders.
  • I believe that I have a higher calling, a forever calling, and that is to the Kingdom of God.  Any earthly calling that I pursue should be ultimately pointing me back towards Jesus and His forever redemption.

Until this forever calling is fulfilled, until I am at the gates of heaven, I believe that I am in my right now calling to point towards this forever calling.  I believe this means that:

  • I am called to do all things with patience, prayer, and love.  I believe that I am called to be a light in the midst of darkness.
  • I am called to do my job with excellence.
  • Jesus has uniquely gifted me with multiple passions and multiple facets in which I can pursue those passions.  I believe that I am called to steward each of these unique gifts that I have been given, and that I am called to listen to the direction the Lord calls me.

These are the things that I foundationally believe about my job and my career path.  These are the things that should transform the way that I approach each day at work.  The reality is, it is much easier to write these things out than it is to actually act accordingly.  Just like with my finances, it is much easier to say that my bank account belongs to Jesus.  Actually giving my money away and capping my taco purchases at El Chilito is much more challenging.

So how do I take a step past just believing theses things, and how do I wake up each morning and carry these beliefs into work with me?  Unfortunately, I haven’t found any super cool apps to make me be a kind and grateful teacher and coworker (I searched “be nice app” on the apple store, but all that came up were some selfie editing tools and a “call Santa” app.  The Santa one seems pretty cool).

If these are the things that I really believe, then here are some ways I think these beliefs should manifest at work and in my attitude towards work:

  • If I believe that I have a forever calling higher than my right now calling, then I can rest in the knowledge that my day or week or month at work is not the end-all-be-all of my life.  There is more.  I am not limited to living in the right here and right now.  If I do excellently at work, it’s for the Kingdom.  If I do poorly at work, it’s okay, because I know that in the end, it’s not about me, and there is someone greater who holds each of my students in the palm of His hand.
  • If I believe that I am called to be a light in the midst of darkness, then I am called to pray.  And if I really believe in Scripture truths, then I believe in the power of prayer, and prayer can transform everything.  What would it look like if I prayed for those students and coworkers who are the hardest for me to love?  Like, really prayed for them, instead of complaining about them?
  • If I believe that I am called to do my job with excellence, then I am free to pursue lines of continuing education and continuing opportunity for the sake of Christ and His calling, not just for my own personal, financial, or professional gain.
  • If I believe that I am uniquely gifted and called, then I can live in the confidence that my worth comes from Christ, that I am where I’m supposed to be, and that the path I’m on is the one He has set out for me.  I can live in the freedom of knowing that when it’s time for a change in setting or a change in career, that will be a calling that has been ordained by the One who is greater than I, and His plan is sovereign.  I am free to be used for the Kingdom in the capacity Jesus sets before me in each season.

 

Jesus, thank you for my job, than you for a career that I am passionate about.  Thank you that my security comes from you, and not from how well I perform.  Lead me to invest my hands and my heart in the work you have set before me.  Let me listen to Your calling, and let me follow wherever you lead me.  Amen.

 


The Table: April Recap

The end of the school year brings along so much craziness.  Finals, standardized testing, graduations, with every grade comes along different stresses and a seemingly endless list of reasons to be anxious.  It was no surprise that stress and anxiety were the focus of our April conversation at The Table.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  As a teacher, there is never a time more fitting for this verse than in the middle of STAAR testing.

Unfortunately, being a believer doesn’t mean that we are somehow immune to stress.  We do, however, have a way of coping that is unknown to those who are not in Christ.  We have a hope, an endgame, a truth that tells us, in the end, it will all be okay.  In the end, you are not in control.  You cannot fix these children, you cannot solve all of their problems.  All you can do is love them with the love given to you in Jesus, and trust that in the end, their lives are in the hands of someone much more capable than ourselves.

So at the end of the school year, that is the truth that I cling to.  STAAR tests are over, lessons have been taught, some TEKS have been covered and some were never mentioned, and what’s done is done.  As my first group of students finish their last days in my classroom, and as they move onto middle school, I have faith in something and someone so much greater than myself and anything I am capable of doing or teaching.

So, teachers, let this be your hope, let this be your vision, your endgame.  You have loved your students, you have worked yourself to the ground all year long, and your students are better off because of you.  Regardless of what academia they have learned this year, they have encountered someone who knows Jesus, and they have seen Him reflected in you.  The stress and anxiety of their futures is not on your shoulders.  It is in the hands of the One who created you, who created your students, and who gave himself for us.  We can rest.

 


 

The Table has wrapped up monthly happy hours for the school year, and I have been so blessed by the beginning of this group.  There is talk of a summer book club, for anyone who is interested in participating, check out the Facebook group for more discussion around that.  We will start back up with happy hours again in August or September, and I am very much looking forward to the goodness and margaritas that lie ahead.

 

 


The Beginning of The Table

This week was our first happy hour with The Table.  I’m going to be honest, I was nervous.  I knew I would feel this way.  Jesus planted a dream in my heart and I jumped head first into planning it, just like I usually do.  I began planning and organizing, confident in the goodness of what Jesus had in store.  I knew the confidence wouldn’t last, and lies would sneak in.

The weeks and days leading up, I was nervous.  I questioned whether this was worth it, whether I had the time to organize anything, whether people would even show up.  But as anyone who knows Jesus could tell you, questioning His goodness and His plan is never a worthwhile activity.  He is good, always.  He shows up, always.  And so he did on Thursday.

We had a small group, which is almost always a gift.  A gift wrapped up with temptations of doubt and insecurity, yes, but at it’s core its a gift of intimacy, a gift of being known and heard.

It was a beautiful and diverse group, truly representing education across our city.  We had teachers spanning all the way through school system: teachers from pre school, elementary, middle school, high school, and college.  Sit in the power of that for a moment.  At every stage of development, a student in Austin has the opportunity to encounter Christ.  A teacher spending her days with three year olds sat across the table from a college professor, and they asked the same questions.  How can we give our students a glimpse of Jesus?  How can we love our students with a love that reaches beyond ourselves?  A three year old student is encountering the same gift as an overwhelmed college senior: a teacher who is praying for them, a teacher who is actively seeking Christ within this crazy school system.

Over queso and margaritas, we shared introductions and stories, struggles and dreams of what this group could be.  We talked about the struggles of balancing our own spiritual health, (something I’ve really struggled with this year), sharing grace with our students, and the power of prayer.

One of the most powerful take-aways I had from this week was the idea that while we can’t explicitly share the Gospel in our classrooms, we love differently, and our students recognize it.  Even the littlest of our students see something different and something good in us, something that can only come from Christ.  Whether they know what that love is yet or not, we can let go of our control and trust the One who called us in the first place.  Ultimately, Jesus doesn’t even need us, He just allows us to join Him in this gloriously messy mission field that is the public school system.

 

So, what’s next for The Table?  This week I will be beginning an email list of teachers interested in the group, via this survey, trying to figure out the best ways for this group to meet and to serve each other.  We have big dreams of continuing this group, and even talked about the possibilities of bringing in guests to share multiple perspectives and wisdom with us.  Our next happy hour will be Thursday, April 28th.  Mark your calendars!  I will send out details on time, place, and topics of discussion once I have some feedback from the group.

 

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take a minute to fill out the survey if you’re interested in The Table!

 

A special thanks to those who made it to the first happy hour.  I feel so blessed by this group already.

 


Prayers, Dreams, & The Merging of Passions

This year has been an adventure.  A rollercoaster, really.  Trying to figure out who I am as an adult has not been as easy thing.  A handful of passions pulling me in different directions has left me trying to figure out: how in the world do all of these things fit together?

There are three big things that I have been trying to balance and pursue:

  • teaching (something all of my energy has been going towards)
  • my relationship with Christ
  • writing and blogging (this blog, as you can see, has been nearly abandoned)

So how do all of these things fit together?  This has been a prayer of mine for awhile now, and I am so excited to share it with the world.  Welcome to The Table.  Come to the Table: A Gathering of Teachers, is the result of Jesus calling me to pursue Him through every avenue available to me, and to pull others alongside me in this pursuit.

The Table is a gathering of Christian teachers.  It’s a meeting place to further dialogue about loving our kids through Christ and pursuing grace and life through an exhausting and rewarding career.  Teaching is a calling, and following Christ is a calling, and it’s time to talk about what that means for teachers working in public schools.

The Table will meet every fourth Thursday at restaurants and happy hours in Austin to gather, dialogue, support and pray for one another.  Are you interested in joining in on my big project?  You can read more here, at the newest section of this blog.

Join our Facebook group, and RSVP to our first happy hour on March 24th.  Both the event and the group will remain “secret” for the sake of your privacy.

Will you join me in prayer as this newest project comes to fruition?  I am so excited to see what Jesus has in store for us.

 

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”  Matthew 18:20

 

 


Ballin’ on a Budget: The Life & Times of a First Year Teacher

My dad would be shocked to read that I’m writing about money (really, that I’m even willing to talk about money).  Not exactly this compulsive I-need-that-Anthropoligie-top-right-now-spender’s favorite topic.  But @dad, look who’s growing up 😉

I knew that I wouldn’t be making a ton of cold hard cash as a teacher, but I had no idea what it would actually look like.  I wanted to be responsible about it, and I wanted to make wise decisions, but there was a serious lack of financial teacher-to-teacher advice on the internet.  Turns out teachers don’t like talking about finances as much as we like talking about boogers and lesson plans.  Who would’ve thought?
In a series of grown up decisions, I adopted a dog last weekend.  He is beautiful and perfect and cuddly and I now have a man to spoon so I regret nothing.  This investment did, however, make my financial struggle bucket just a little bit heavier.  Worth it, like I said, but still a thing to be addressed.  So I figured the next best thing to spend more money, so I bought a book called Rich Bitch.  I bought it because it had the word bitch in the title and I need help with money.  It sounded like the right book for me.rich

I buy a lot of nonfiction books that I don’t end up reading, but this one has been awesome.  (I never would have thought I would use the word “awesome” in reference to anything with the subtitle “A simple 12-step plan for getting your financial life together…finally” But…here I am.)

Nicole Lapin covers a lot of material in this book, from retirement plans to student loans to credit cards to buying houses.  Many of these were applicable to me, and a few not at all (yet…this is a book I will hold onto).  I could talk about any number of these topics, but I want to cover the information that I wanted most when I accepted my first job offer (woohoo!) in April.

Alright, so it’s time to get financially vulnerable.  I’m totally okay with putting my salary on the internet because a) money shouldn’t be such a BFD, and b) I’m pretty sure you can just Google my salary and find out what it is.  So here it goes.

As a first year teacher at a rockin’ public school, I make $45,000 a year.  That $45,000 is a ten month salary, and I receive it monthly over a twelve month period.  That means that untaxed, I get $3,750 a month.  Once taxes and whatever insurance and ish I pay for, I get $2,757 in my bank account each month. As a hot single lady with no kids and few responsibilities, this is plenty of money.  I am not in need, and I praise Jesus for the privilege of being able to say such a thing. 🙌

Lapin, in her charming and witty and makes-you-want-to-read-about-finances way, says that I should be spending my money the following way:

70% should be going towards the essentials (housing, food, transportation, bills, insurance)

That 70% of essentials should be broken up as follows:

35% housing, 10% transportation, 10% food, 15% bills/insurance

15% should be going towards savings (or as she calls it, the endgame)

15% should be going towards extras (obviously, anything not included in savings or essentials)

 

Lapin then breaks this down with her starting salary of $150,000.  HAHA.  Honestly.  That’s all I have to say about that.

Here’s how that break down looks per month with a first year teaching salary of $45,000.

Essentials (70%): $1,930

From that 70%: Housing (35%): $965, Food (10%): $275, Transportation (10%): $275, Bills (15%): $413

Endgame (15%): $413

Extras (15%): $413

 

A priority for me, apart from the essentials, endgame, and extras, is tithing.  I could have pulled that money out of essentials or out of extras, but what made the most sense to me was to just calculate that ten percent first and then eliminate it from the equation afterwards.  So, here’s how that looked for me:

Monthly salary of $2,757 minus 10% tithe (which, TBH isn’t going to a church right now but rather to friends on missions and working in local ministry): $2,757 – $276 = $2,481.  So then I just adjusted everything as if my base salary was $2,481.  This made the most sense to me.  So then I ended up with this:
Essentials (70%): $1,737

From that 70%: Housing (35%): $868, Food (10%): $248, Transportation (10%): $248, Bills (15%): $372

Endgame (15%): $372

Extras (15%): $372

 

Lapin makes it clear that she believes if you can cut out expenses in one realm, you’re free to add that extra money somewhere else.  So, if you live with 4 other roommates and can find rent for $500, that frees up $370 to put towards your extras or wherever you want it.  Or if you’re like me and your parents are still paying your car insurance and phone bill, PTL for their generosity and put that extra money towards savings or paying off student loans or your weekly happy hour🍸🍹or wherever needed.

Right now, this budgeting is in it’s very first stages, as in, it has yet to be implemented but is purely ideological.  It is, however, the information that I needed last year and couldn’t find, so it’s what I’m spilling across the internet for all to read.  It’s not much, but I think it’s needed.  It’s the first set of building blocks towards the financial stability I hope we will all be able to find, because though teaching doesn’t make us rich, it’s worth it, and we can still live with the confidence of a Rich Bitch attitude.

 

In closing, know this, first year teachers:  1) This book is helpful and I like it because Nicole Lapin says dogthings like, “rich bitches do hard shit” (Lapin- pg.228), 2) don’t panic but also don’t overspend: your salary will be plenty, but you won’t be rolling in bathtubs full of dolla dolla bills, and 3) you should definitely get a dog even though it will cost $600 (aka 2 months of teacher “extras”) just to legally get him into your apartment.  Worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Why I Write in the Classroom

In April I wrote, “I Wish I Didn’t Want to be a Teacher,” and it went viral.  (Well, I don’t actually know the definition of viral, but as far as anything that I’ve ever written goes, the 100,000 views and publication at the Huffington Post puts it at the viral level in my books.)

Amidst the encouraging comments and shares and exciting buzz, there were a handful of negative comments.  Quite a few people asked, “how do you have time to blog while teaching?!”  Most of these questions were passive aggressive, suggesting that I was being irresponsible/bringing personal work into the classroom.  I have three responses to this question.  Number one, I wrote that article as a student teacher, there were days when I had more time than I knew what to do with.  So to put it eloquently, hop off.  Number two, I wrote that part of that post while in the classroom.  What writer sits down and writes a whole piece to perfection in one sitting?  Maybe some do, but certainly not me, and that’s not the writing process we teach our students either.  I started that post in the classroom, and finished it sitting on my bed, where most of my writing happens.

Thirdly, and this is the more important response, it is important and valuable for us, as teachers, to write in the classroom.  More than that, it is important for us to showcase to our students all of the skills that we are trying to convince them are important to hold on to as lifelong learners.  If I tell my students that writing is valuable, and then they never see me writing, what are my words worth?

I write in the classroom because I want my students to see the power that words hold.  I write in the classroom because I want to invite my students in to a world made better by the responsible expression of feelings.  I want my students to live in a world where they know they can be heard, where they know that words will bring about power and freedom and joy and change.

I have a confession: right now, as I type this, I am….in the classroom.  There are students in here,  *gasp* and they are engaged in their own writing projects.  They walk up to me and ask what I’m writing about, and I walk up to them and ask what they’re writing about.  When I was published on the Huffington Post, we shared that joy together and I read it aloud to them.  They have asked me several times this week I have written anything new yet, and many of them have explored my blog on their own time.  Yesterday I was able to share a piece of my writing with a student to use as a mentor text, and it was so exciting for both of us.

I write in the classroom because our classroom is a community in which we take risks, chase our dreams, and share our true selves with each other.  My true self is my best self, and I want to share my best self with my students.  And my true self, my best self, is full of ideas and words and phrases that just must be written down.  And what a valuable experience it is for ten and eleven year olds to firsthand witness the compulsive habits of someone who finds identity in being a writer.

It is widely accepted that everyone learns differently, so why is it so hard to accept that everyone teaches differently?  I cannot imagine teaching in a class restricted by four walls and everyone else’s idea of what teaching should be.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go conference with a student about my writing before it’s published.


I Wish I Didn’t Want to be a Teacher

These words came out of my mouth several times this week.  “I wish I didn’t want to be a teacher.”

This weekend I went to a brunch with one of my favorite momma friends and a couple of her employees.  She is a wonderful boss of a wonderful company, and sitting around a table eating tartlets and fancy poached eggs and drinking bottomless mimosas, I thought, I wish I didn’t want to be a teacher.  Because if I didn’t want to be a teacher, I would want to work here.  I would want to sleep in past 6 and write pretty words on a pretty blog and go to brunches and have real conversations with women over the age of 10.  And that’s where I get disappointed, because I do want to be a teacher.

For some insane reason, I want to be here.  I want to be exactly where I am, sitting in this classroom, surrounded by construction paper and broken pencils and spilled apple sauce.  I want to read storybooks and sit criss cross on the carpet and have thirty minute meetings about how to show empathy.

Life would be easier if I chose a different profession.  I know that.  Life would be easier if I chose a job I could walk away from at the end of the day, a job where I could put in my 8 hours and head home without giving the lives of 44 others a second thought.  Life would be easier if I worked with adults, rather than ill-behaved  fifth graders.  Life would be easier if my work friends didn’t have to ask my permission to go to the bathroom, and if I never needed to have a confrontation about the amount of febreeze that is needed to make a room smell better.  (spoiler alert: it’s one spray, not the whole bottle)

In sitting down to write this post, I have been interrupted every thirty seconds by the following questions:

Ms. Green, where is the tape?
Ms. Green, can I get water?
Ms. Green, where are the index cards?
Ms Green, can I go to the bathroom?
Ms. Green, will you sign my paper?
Ms. Green, is this right?
Ms. Green, are there any toilet paper rolls?
**wordless interaction: student puts paper and pen in my face, looks at me expectantly**
Ms. Green, so…where are the toilet paper rolls?

Life would be easier if I chose a profession that gave me answers, rather than endless questions.  Life would be easier if I chose a profession that didn’t involve bathroom passes and reporting evidence of lice.

But at the end of the day, coffee spilled down my shirt, marker stains on my palms and mud splattering my shoes, I am full of life.  I am more alive than I was when I began the day.  I am tired, yes, exhausted, yes, wanting a tall glass of wine- yes.  But alive.  Fully and truly alive.  For some inexplicable reason, every fiber of my being is called to be in this classroom with these kids.

 

My freshman year of college, going through training to be a  Young Life leader, Brett Rodgers would always ask us, “what makes you feel alive?”

Four years later, I have a clear answer to his question: teaching.  Teaching makes me feel alive.

I have found a profession that makes my feet sore and my heart full.  I have found a profession that isn’t okay with the easy route, a profession that forces me to make hard choices and spend way too much time thinking about others.  I have found something that makes me feel profoundly alive, and God willing, I will get to do it for the rest of my life.

So yes, sometimes I wish I didn’t want to be a teacher.  Sometimes I wish I could sleep in past 6 (did I already mention this one?) and make my own hours and wear wedges and not worry about standardized tests.  But at the end of the day, I am thankful.  Thankful for the messy and question filled prepubescent little people who are giving me life.

 


 

You might also be interested in reading, “Why I Write in the Classroom,” posted in response to comments on this post.

 


Becoming a Teacher: A Thank You to UT Elementary

Two semesters ago, I started in my Professional Development Sequence with a passion and enthusiasm for teaching.  I couldn’t wait to get inside a classroom, couldn’t wait to invest in the lives and the growth of children.  I wanted to see their horizons expand and wanted to see their eyes light up as we discovered something new and exciting together.

But something entirely different happened.

Day after day, I was torn down and discouraged.  I experienced the heartbreak of teaching at a low income school, teaching at schools where teachers had given up and stopped fighting for their students.  I was thrown into the midst of schools full of deficit language and curse words directed towards students.  I was surrounded by children who knew that no one believed in them, knew that no one was fighting for them.

It felt hopeless.  I felt lost and trapped, and left my second semester wanting to do anything but teach.

I came into this semester, my last and final semester of student teaching, with little hope for a reconciled relationship with the profession that had once stolen so much of my heart.

I walked into Scarlett Calvin’s room at the beginning of the new year, unexcited and unsure how to tell her that this whole teaching thing probably wasn’t for me, that I was wrong when I told the College of Education that I wanted to be a teacher, that she should probably ask for someone else to work under her because I really didn’t want to be here.

But over the last month, something has changed.  My enchantment with teaching has returned, my passion for education reignited.  UT Elementary is unlike any school I have ever experienced, and something different from what I have ever known is happening in the fifth grade classrooms of Scarlett Calvin and Mary Ledbetter.

The dynamic of an entire school shifts with the addition of just a few small ingredients: love, compassion, and tenacity.

 

Every morning, students walk into UT Elementary knowing that they will be greeted with the warm welcome of a hot breakfast and hugs from the school administration during morning assembly.  Community is central to this school’s rock solid foundation.  Students are greeted by name and welcomed into a safe place- somewhere they are free to dance (as done every morning before 7:40), be with their friends, and be themselves.

Before the school day even begins, you can tell that something different is happening here.

The rest of the day is spent learning and growing.  Never before have I been inside a school where students are so eager to learn.  The foundation of their excitement is found in genuine, authentic, hands on experiences.

History flies off of the pages of a textbook as students in Mary Ledbetter’s class examine primary documents and debate the pros and cons of the colonies declaring independence from Britain.  The Declaration of Independence is paraphrased into a break up letter to The King from his angry ex-girlfriend (America), and the Revolutionary War turns into a back and forth tug of war between the Colonies and Britain.  Eleven year olds are fully invested in the history that lies behind them, and are fully invested in the adventure that lies in front of them.  They are not just being taught, they are living it, they are experiencing it, and they are loving it.

Language arts is not an independent subject, but rather, it ties everything together.  Language is the tie that binds us, the strings that weave everything together.  History is nothing without the language to express it, science is nothing without the language to share it.  We don’t pick up a textbook and analyze the pieces, we open a book and we get lost in the story, we fall in love with the characters, we jump into the conflict, and we empathize with the injustice.

Science is not a rote memorization of safety procedures, but rather, it is the reason why everything is the way it is.  We don’t fill out a worksheet, we discover new things, we research better ways to do what we’re already doing, we talk about the world’s problems and we advocate for change.  We advocate for a better way to do things, because we know the scientific implications of what the world is currently doing.  We are scientists, we are advocates, and we are the beginning of a revolutionary generation.

A month into my last semester of student teaching, and I am back in love with teaching.  My teachers have become my mentors, and they have inspired me to care, to question what I know about teaching, to invest in the lives of my students, to teach not for test scores but for understanding.  They have shown me what it looks like to go beyond teaching, and to fully dive into the lives of students who so desperately need them.

Teaching is a hard profession.  It is one of little thanks and of little monetary pay off.  But as much as it is exhausting, it is rewarding, and it is worth it.  Two months ago I would have cried if you told me I had to teach when I graduated, and today, I would be honored to enter into this profession, and to follow in the footsteps of these amazing teachers.

Thank you, UT Elementary, for showing me that it is worth it, that teaching low-income students can be done successfully, that my students are worth fighting for.  Thank you, Scarlett Calvin and Mary Ledbetter, for investing into my life the same way you have invested into your students.  Thank you for pushing me to be better, for challenging me to do more.  Thank you.

 


 

If you want to learn more about UT Elementary and the amazing teachers who make it all possible, check out these links:

UT Elementary

Mary’s Social Studies Blog

You can look here to read more about my philosophy on teaching.