Daily Walking with God

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Plant City's First Baptist Church

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Y’all, y’all, and y’all!!! (I think that about covers everyone.)  Listen up! There are some critical issues going on in our children’s lives.   And your prayers are needed.

Being a teacher isn’t just about teaching reading, writing, and math.  Oh no.  My job goes way beyond just teaching math. 

In my classroom I’m a threat to throw out some “life lessons” to help my students relate math to everyday life, or sometimes just when the need arises according to issues at school. 

Recently I was teaching about integers (negative and positive numbers).  I always enjoy this topic because I get to relate it to the positives and negatives of life.  (Two entries from last May while teaching on this same subject)

For example, when introducing the coordinate plane, in order to help the students remember the positives and negative on the x and y axis, I hit these bullet points (with a little more elaboration of course):

  • X-axis:
    • When you are heading in the “right direction” in life that is a positive thing.
    • If you are choosing to go the opposite way of “doing the right thing” (left), you are making a negative choice.
  • Y-axis:
    • You want to surround yourself with people who lift you “up” and are positive influences on you.
    • If you surround yourself with people who bring you “down”, those folks are negative influences I your life.

Get it!  We all need to be reminded of those hints as well, no matter your age.

Well, this year I wanted/needed to take it a step further.  We teachers discuss about how we have never noticed so many sixth graders who skip school, get drunk, smoke weed, and cut themselves.  Yes, cutting is a huge problem!  So, when I had finished teaching how to add and subtract integers, I decided to take a break and talk about “The Integers of Life”.  Each class discussed out loud some of the positives of friends, school, and family.  I mentioned how heartbreaking it is to see so many young people making negative choices in their lives, and gave some examples.  Then I gave ample time for the kids to express themselves by writing about the positives and negatives in their lives according the headings of: friends, family, school, and self.  The students didn’t even have to write their name on their paper if it would help them to feel free to express themselves honestly.  Some students said they wanted to write their name on their paper so I could talk to them later.  And then…there were those kids who I WISH I would have known who they were.  My heart ached!

Wow!  Wow!  I was ready for some good reading, but this whole lesson…well, let’s just say that it has been and is life changing and hasn’t ended yet.  This will be an ongoing lesson from what I can see. (And all for the good!  Praise Jesus!)

If you were standing outside of my classroom last week, you would have seen students walking out crying and hugging each other.  I had positioned myself in the back of the room in case anyone needed to talk privately.  Kids would approach me and inform me of others who were making negative choices at school. (Yes, names were written down, and the matters are being looked into. The students knew I was writing names and were glad because they are tired of seeing their friends do these things.) Other students would walk up to me with tears streaming down their faces wanting me to hold them while they poured out their hearts.  Some even wanted me to pray with them. 

When I got a chance to sit down and read their papers, I needed a box of tissues.  The pressures that these young people have!  In every class period there was someone who either had a parent in jail, a parent had died, or they knew of friends doing self-harm.

After reading a few, I went to my principal to inform her of my day’s lesson just in case she received any phone calls from parents, and to let her know that I was going to be giving her a few names.  (I thank God for my boss, Susan Sullivan.  She is a great Christian principal!)

The next day, many children returned their “The Integers of Life” paper.  Double-sided and tear stained papers.  One girl turned in her paper the first thing in the morning, and I didn’t even have her in my class until the last period of the day.  When she walked up she had a pleasant smile on her face.  Smiling for her wasn’t uncommon, but her smile is usually a little more devious.  This smile was a smile of relief.  Half way through the day she said, “Mrs. Shuff, did you read my paper?  Did I make you cry?”  She wanted to feel validated!

Below are a few of the highlights from the students’ negative side.  The list is lengthy, and there are so many more comments and details I could write, but you’ll get the picture:

  • My parents don’t trust me.
  • Friends are cutting themselves.
  • I do self-harm.
  • I get bullied a lot.
  • The bullying gets to me and I start to believe it.
  • I hate my step-dad.
  • Mom and dad don’t come home until very late and I only eat ice cubes.
  • I think I’m fat and suck at everything.
  • Some friends are fake.
  • My family argues a lot.
  • People make fun of the way I look.
  • My dad died.
  • My dad used to cheat on my mom and hit her.
  • My dad does drugs. Drinks, smokes, and tries to ruin my life.
  • I have a hard time trusting others.
  • I’m shy.  I’m tall.  I have a skin disease and people make fun of me.
  • A friend drinks alcohol.
  • A friend came to school drunk.
  • My parent(s) is (are) in jail.
  • I’ve thought about cutting myself.
  •  Get pressured into doing things that I don’t want to do.
  • I get pushed around and picked on.
  • Kids bring weed to school.
  • My dad doesn’t listen to me.
  • My family doesn’t have money and we struggle paying the bills.
  • Friends ignore me.
  • I want to prove my dad wrong.  He says things like: “You are never going to reach college.  You are never going to be what you want to be.  You need me to have even gotten this far.  You are not smart enough”
  • My dad has turned his back on me.
  • I barely get anything to eat.
  • I wish I was never born.
  • I hate my life.
  • Me and my mom don’t like each other.  We fight and argue all the time.
  • I feel like no one cares about or loves me.
  • I think about if I should even be on this earth.
  • I have no one to talk to.
  • My dad is always with his friends.
  • Friends do bad things to their bodies.
  • My parents are divorced.
  • Dad gets drunk, mom and dad argue, and dad leaves and doesn’t return until the next day.
  • People curse.
  • People call me gay and I’m not.
  • My parents argue a lot and the intensity is increasing.
  • I’m fat.
  • My brother died.
  • My pet died.
  • I wonder if I were to run away would my family miss me.
  • My sister tried to kill herself.
  • My sixteen year old sister has ran away four times, and is now gone again.  It’s been three days.
  • I hit myself or hit my head against a wall.
  • Some friends have dirty minds.
  • Somebody stole my shoes.
  • People judge others.
  • Cyber-bullying.
  • My dad gets out of jail next year. (Yes, this was written in the negative section.)

What has happened?  I remember when I was in the sixth grade, the only thing we did was have recess, play basketball, learn a little math, and one of my teachers (I think she was supposed to be teaching me Language Arts) would shuffle herself out the door, with her cane sometimes in one hand and a cig wrapped in tissue in the other, and excuse herself for a minute.  She went out to take a smoke. Hahaha.  I’ll never forget that!

Many folks in our society are so wrapped up in themselves!  They worry about their own outward appearance and often neglect the inward self that needs some Jesus. (Okay, a lot of Jesus!) People are relieving their stresses in a negative way (getting drunk, hitting spouses, children, walls, etc., yelling at the kids, ignoring the family all together, etc.), instead of turning to God and making their home a safe haven.

I was talking to a friend who is a Christian counselor.  She told me to go to http://www.focusonthefamily.com/ and read about cutting.  She mentioned how people cut (or you can apply other self-harm issues here) to take away the pain they have in their heart.  I encourage you to visit that site if your need assistance. Seek out Christian counseling.

This past Sunday, I took my papers to my Sunday school class.  It tied in (somewhat) to the topic for that day.  I told my 9th grade girls (who probably know many friends who are going through these same struggles, if not themselves) about the life lesson taught and asked them to pray over these papers.  We divided ourselves in two groups and with papers in hand, prayed for my students. One of my faithful prayer girls mentioned in her prayer how we are often ignorant to the world’s problems right around us because we are in our own comfy world (something to that affect).  So true!

As I sat down today to write this journal entry, I picked up the stack of papers to refresh my memory.  There were a couple of papers that I hadn’t read yet because they turned it in late in the day on Friday.  So I read those first.  My heart ached when one student wrote, “I’m afraid to tell my parents things, but I feel safe with you.  I love you, Mrs. Shuff.  You are the best!”  *sniff, sniff, tissues please*

In Isaiah 40:30-13  we read, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Our young are tired and weary!  Will you please join me in praying for our youth?  I pray that we all will have a positive influence on those around us, and that we will surround ourselves with positive and godly people who will lift us up.  I pray that we will put our hope in the Lord.  He will renew our strength! 

Now, there were quite a few positives written by the students.  My heart was smiling!  But this entry was intended to make you aware of the stresses in our youth’s lives (11-12 year olds, for goodness sake!).

If you are a negative person yourself, please change!  If you surround yourself with negative people and choose to not do the “right” things in life, please change!  Let the change begin within ourselves.  May the new godly self flow out into the lives of others.

I pray God’s abundant love and blessings for y’all.

chalkboardDo you ever feel like you just can’t get ahead? Today was one of those days for me.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my children sent me a text saying, “I want to be homeschooled.” Well, today I sent my husband a text saying, “I want to be home.”

I LOVE being a teacher…if I could just teach.

My eyes swelled up with tears today with my precious 6th period class today.  Just thinking about how much pressure the county and state puts on these children, and the stress they must go through became an overwhelming feeling.  I had to stop explaining the lesson to compose myself, and I told them how I truly feel for them.  I guess if I didn’t care so much, I would get so upset.

I am a math teacher, and this is an “assessment driven” subject. It seems like we test the students like crazy, move so stinkin’ fast through the curriculum, and just pray that they can get extra help on the areas that they don’t understand.  Ugh!

I have about 140 sixth-graders come through my door each day. I get about 50 minutes with them, or less, and we rock-n-roll through the lesson. Being a sixth grader is an adjustment in itself coming from elementary school.  They now have seven teachers and often more homework or class work than they ever thought they would have so fast.  It’s easy to say “Put your big girl and big boys pants on and deal with it”, but there is so much more that goes along with their lives than we can imagine.  They’re still just kids for goodness sake!

When I reflect back on a lesson (not math necessarily) that I did with my students last year, (Please read “The Integers of Life” ) one can see the struggles that some (a lot) of these little ones bring to school with them.  I have kids with all kinds of backgrounds, various educational levels, and just “stuff” that they don’t just leave at home.

I can read and believe in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” I do work at it with all my heart.  I do want to make my Lord happy.  But these “human masters” (county, state, “Bill Gates” EET!) sure make it difficult sometimes.  If you’re not familiar with EET, it’s an evaluation system that Bill Gates has poured money into, and our county has bought into.  Now, I’m all for helping teachers become better teachers, and if you have to get rid of those who can’t or don’t teach, then by all means do so.  But, I see too many amazing teachers get worn down, stressed out, have sleepless nights, etc. all just to please the EETs of the world.  Here are my initials I’d like to put out there…LMT!  (Let me teach!)

Meetings galore, trying to have “stuff” up in my classroom and have them worded in such a way that the students could care less about (only for “EET” purposes), feeling like we have to “test for the test”…LMT!

Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatever work you do, do your best.” Amen!  And again I say amen.  But doing and being my best at school for 140 students means that other areas in my life must suffer.  I came home today, with school work to do, feeling like I am not giving my best to my children, husband, extended family, neighbors, yada yada yada.  When I feel like I’m failing my family that stinks.  (Hence the reason for my text to my husband earlier.)

As I sit here venting and trying to breathe in some Jesus, my daughter sends me a text. It’s a link to a website.  When I click on it I see two comments from former students.  The dates were marked 8/23/13 and 6/07/12.  The read:

  • “Well I just love Mrs. Shuff <3. She is so freaking nice. I never seen her get mad. This going to be mine last year seeing her. Imma miss her tho :(

 

  • “ I love Mrs. Shuff. She is fun and funny. I will miss here 4 ever and always.”

More tears stream down my face. I needed that.

Philippians 4:6-7 reads, “Don’t worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have. And because you belong to Christ Jesus, God’s peace will stand guard over all your thoughts and feelings. His peace can do this far better than our human minds.

  • Dear Heavenly Daddy, I am Yours! Thank You. Please help me to not worry about the stresses at school. I am grateful that I have a job where I get to do what I love and touch the lives of precious children. I need Your peace to wash over my thoughts and feelings. They are all over the place right now. I know Your peace is so much better than my mixed up and emotional mind. I want to be where You want me to be. Guide me in the direction You want to me to take. (Could you send me a text message, Lord? That would be great!) Help me to be a light in my work place and at home. May Your love shine through me. I love You, Lord! Amen.”

 

Thank you for allowing me to vent. Well, I guess you didn’t have any choice in the matter. LOL.  God has eased my mind, and I’m going to go out there and give it my best.

My teacher friends, I love you and am praying for you. Let’s remember to just do what is best for the students.  LMT!

I pray God’s abundant love and blessings for y’all.

The first day we laid eyes on Hunter we called him our "Little-man". My "Little-man" has become a fine young-man.

I’m trying to prepare myself for a week of a roller-coaster of emotions.

This Tuesday is June 3rd.  It’s a day that hasn’t left my mind in one year, and I’m sure it never will.  The phone call at five in the morning was devastating to say the least.  (See “Ode to Jany” for more about June 3, 2013.)  Heaven gained an angel that day, Rebecca Jane Shuff (mom, mother-in-law, grandmomma, g-ma, Jane, Rebecca, Mrs. Jany). You can tell that she was an encouragement to me by reading the over twenty journal entries she was the inspiration for.  (Click for a few inspirational and insightful writings. )

Wednesday, June 4th, will be a day of tears and smiles for reasons of joy, pride, growing, etc. Mine and Tim’s first child, Hunter Wayne Shuff, will graduate  from high school.  We are so proud of the man he has become and can’t wait to see what God has in store for Him in the future.  Hunter, always follow God’s path and plan for your life. You can’t go wrong with Him.  We love, love, love you!!!

Friday, June 6th, is the last day of school.  Can I get a big WHOOP-WHOOP?! The bond I’ve had with my students are always special, but this year a little different.  It could be because I’ve seen a lot of this group of students grow up through the years being that my youngest son, Cole, is classmates with them. But this year it seemed to go to a new level.  When I did a lesson (not math) titled, “The Integers of Life”  I felt like I was able to see into the students in a way that I, as a math teacher, doesn’t normally get to view.  I pray for these children and wish the much success. Nevertheless, school’s out for summer!!!!

No matter what emotions will come my way, I know that God is right beside me.

In 1 John 3:20b we read, “God is greater than our feelings, and He knows everything.  He does!  He’s been there, done that. 

I pray God’s abundant love and blessings for y’all.

Be friends with those who are wise, and you will become wise. Choose fools to be your friends, and you will have trouble. Proverbs 13:20.

Can I hang this in my classroom, in the hall, in the girls and boys restroom?  Middle school years are tough.  Wait, so are high school, college, and young adult years.  Shoot, forget just hanging this in my classroom, let’s just put out a big billboard on the interstate.

Wise doesn’t just have to be intelligence (even though that helps), but just being sensible about choices we make in life.

This verse also reminds me about chapter 11 that I recently taught the students.  This chapter was about integers.  When we discussed adding positive numbers, you keep going in the “positive” direction.  Negative numbers added together just keeps heading in the negative direction.  And when you add a positive and a negative number together, the result depends on the greater digit.  Oooo, don’t you know that Mrs. Shuff was in full “life lesson” mode.

I even did the old illustration that my youth pastor demonstrated for us many (many) years ago at a youth lake retreat.  I had one student stand on a chair (Shhh. I was right there.) who represented the positive, and the other student standing on the ground representing the negative.  They would lock arms and try to pull one another either up or down.  It was easier for the negative person to pull the positive person down, unless the one standing on the chair was a much greater person.

I was delighted to see that when some of the students created a card or letter for me last week during Teacher Appreciation Week, they even referred back to this lesson. Yes!   Life lesson on friendship learned!

Blessings to you.

May 15

Proverbs 12:27-28 “A lazy life is an empty life, but “early to rise” gets the job done.  Good men and women travel right into life; sin’s detours take you straight to hell.”

These two verses remind me of two “life lessons” I teach my students along with the “real math lesson”.

We just finished chapter 10 which covers finding the volume and surface area of pyramids, prisms, cones, and cylinders. (Fun, huh?) I drill into these sixth graders mind that you must show your work for each step to find the answer. Before they move on to the next problem they are told to go back and check the formula to make sure they have completed each step correctly.  Sometimes they discover that they have forgotten to divide by three if it is a pyramid or divide by two if the shape is a triangle. (You didn’t know you were going to school today, did you? Haha) If you get the answer wrong you can look back at your work and see where you made your mistake and make the correction.  The process is really simple if you just write the formula, plug in the numbers you are given, and work the process out one step at a time. If you just start plugging in the number to a calculator, without showing your work, you just may get the answer wrong. The slip of a finger on a number or symbol could easily happen and then you would have to start over again, unless you wrote the process down. (Remember these are 6th graders and we are not allowed to use calculators on county, state, or national test, so they don’t know the correct way to use a calculator.  Mistakes will happen.)

When I read verse 27, “A lazy life is an empty life, but “early to rise” gets the job done.” It reminded me of the work one must do in a math problem instead of being lazy and using the calculator the whole time. One of my students has a saying on her binder that says, “The elevator to success is broken.  You must use the stairs.”  I’m not sure who to give credit to for that one, but I love it!  That is a life lesson used when I teach math.

Don’t be lazy!  Do your work and get the job done right!  Life is not going to be handed to us, we must rise up and do some work. It may take a little longer to get to where you are going, but it is so worth it in the end.

In verse 28 it says, “Good men and women travel right into life; sin’s detours take you straight to hell.” Well, I may not say those exact words at the end of that verse when teaching my students, but the idea is there.  This past week the kids were learning integers (positive and negative numbers) and graphing on a coordinate plane. (Your second math lesson for today.)  You see, when teaching the four quadrants of a coordinate plane and reminding the students which way to go for negative and positive numbers, I told them when you do things “right” in life and you are “up” beat in your attitude, you are a more “positive” person.  But when you are not doing the right thing (going “left”) or bringing others “down”, you tend to have a more “negative” attitude. Positive and negative numbers go to the right and up.  Negative numbers go to the left and down.

Thoughts….Don’t be lazy, and do the right thing!

Okay, I’m done teaching for the day.

Have a blessed day.

(oh my! I just inserted the picture of the coordinate plane, and look…it’s a cross.  Another fine way to tie math into the godly life. Smile

May 5