The Thief of Joy

Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

I, like many people, find myself constantly comparing myself to others. I think about what makes them better than me or vice versa. I think about how much prettier they are, how much skinnier they are, how much more talented they are. You name it, I’ve compared it. But I’ve never experienced it worse than comparing myself to other teachers.

I want to be the best teacher for my students because that is what they deserve. So I am ALWAYS thinking about what is going well and what isn’t, how I could change things to be more effective, more efficient. That’s not the problem. Reflective teaching is important for both personal and professional growth. It helps me change what isn’t working so that I can be better and my classroom and students can be better in return. No, that’s not the problem.

The problem comes when I start doing that and then comparing myself to other teachers. I see another Pre-K class walking down the hallway and their teacher doesn’t have to say a word and they walk in a perfect line quickly and quietly. Meanwhile, I am constantly praising the students that are following expectations, “____, I love the way you are keeping your bubble,” or “Wow! ____, I am so impressed that you know how to walk on the first big tile with your eyes forward.” I do that, yet my students are still turning around causing them to run into the people in front of them when they stop. They are making silly noises, touching the wall, stomping, walking in the middle of the hallway. You name it, they are probably doing it (unless of course you name doing it the right way).

So I start thinking, “Wow, what are they doing that I’m not doing?” Not a bad question to ask. Learning from colleagues is also important. But then I take it a step further, “What am I doing wrong?” Still not the worst question to ask, even if it is phrased poorly. But do I stop there? Nope, I keep going, “I must just be a worse teacher. I must not know how to talk to these kids or how to teach them. Why did I even become a teacher in the first place? I’m not any good anyway.”

This is the problem. It is unhealthy and untrue.

Yet I still do it. All. The. Time.

So how do I draw the line between healthy reflection and unhealthy comparison?

In Galatians 6:4, it says “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.” Another translation of that verse says, “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others.”

This is the key.

God clearly says that it is important to reflect and to become a better version of yourself each day. By focusing on myself and doing the work that He has sent me to do. I work each day to become the best teacher, never staying satisfied with where I am at. Continually striving to be more. I look at what I am doing and the growth and progress I, as well as my students, have made. That is how I judge how I am doing. Are they getting better each day? Am I? Great, keep working at it. This is how I gain satisfaction from my work.

But do you know what I can’t do? I can’t compare myself. To anyone. About Anything. It will just bring me down and make me feel unworthy. Like Theodore Roosevelt said, it will steal my joy.

No, it’s not going to be easy. But it will be beyond worth it. And when I feel like comparing myself again, I’ll just remind myself, “Are they getting better each day? Am I? Great, keep working. Don’t compare.


Called to Something Greater

As I sit down to try to write a new post, my mind is filled with clutter and all sorts of things I have to do and think about before the start of this new school year. My first year as a classroom teacher. Which is both terrifying and exciting.

People keep asking me if I’m ready and the answer is I honestly don’t know if I ever will be. The daily pressure of making sure kids that might have unimaginable lives at home feel that my classroom is a safe space. Making sure these students that have never been in the social setting that school provides learn how to interact with others. Making sure these kiddos that have never had to sit still for more than a minute listen and learn. My job depends on all of it. But, more than that, my heart and soul depend on it. Because this is what I was made for.

From the day I started Kindergarten 18 years ago, I wanted to be a teacher. My favorite part of school wasn’t recess. It wasn’t PE or Music. Not even lunchtime. Nope, it was the teachers. That’s all I really remember from school – how much I looked up to and admired every teacher I ever had.

Somewhere along the way, I lost that vision. Sure, being a teacher would’ve been cool, but look at the state of education in our society. Look at how little teachers get paid for the incredible work they do. Why would anyone subject themselves to that, even if they love kids and are passionate about teaching?

Of course that logic seems silly now, but as a young teenager in high school, it wasn’t. I convinced myself that teaching was not the profession for me. Instead, I loved to work with numbers so I would be an accountant. Surely that would be a better choice for me. The pay was good, I liked the work, I could do this.

…until I attended events within the business school in college. Sure, I could do the work just fine and I even still liked it. But I just didn’t fit into the business world. Dressing business casual all the time and doing that type of work left me unfulfilled. So I decided to make a change.

Throughout my years in high school, I was a manager for the boys tennis team. I helped run tournaments and I. Loved. It. It made me so happy and I absolutely loved the critical thinking and problem solving it took to make the events run smoothly. It was my thing and I was good at it. So naturally when I found out I could make running sporting events my career, I jumped on the opportunity and switched my major to Sports Management. I thought it was the perfect fit for me and something I would be really happy doing, especially after taking some of my college classes.

…until I met with different people in that line of work and learned about the lack of job security, the countless overtime hours, the holidays spent away from family, the competitive nature of the field especially for women, the low pay. All of these things added up to show me that maybe this wasn’t the perfect fit I thought it was.

So back to the drawing board I went. I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, but I knew Accounting and Sports Management were not the answers. Around this time, I remembered always wanting to be a teacher and in a conversation with my mom about what to do, she remembered the same thing.

So I went for it. I applied as soon as I could. Started taking the gen ed courses I needed and hoped for the best. And here I am four years later getting ready to start a new school year as the teacher instead of the student.

I had so many great ideas and plans for my life. Ones that I thought would make me feel happy and fulfilled. But none of them worked out. Why? Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” I wasn’t meant to do those things. They weren’t God’s purpose for me. Teaching was. Teaching is.

So no, I might never be fully ready to start this new journey, but I know that no matter how hard it gets, how tired I feel, how much pressure I have, that I will never have to do it on my own. This is God’s purpose for me and I will “be strong and courageous…for the Lord my God goes with me; He will never leave me nor forsake me” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Maybe you haven’t discovered your purpose yet. Maybe your purpose isn’t your career. Maybe your purpose is the way you serve in the community. Maybe your purpose is always being that shoulder to lean on for another. Whatever it is, know that even when it gets tough, God has promised to never leave you and to never make you do it alone. So don’t be afraid to pursue that passion or take that leap of faith because God will always see you through.

Why Bilingual?

I’ve been spending the last week getting my new classroom ready for the upcoming school year. Organizing. Cleaning. Hanging things on the walls. All in an effort to give my students a place where they feel safe and comfortable so they can learn and grow alongside me.

But my students won’t be in a traditional pre-k classroom. I won’t teach them science or social studies. Why? Because they get to go next door and get taught those things in Spanish. These young kiddos have the privilege of getting to learn two languages starting at such a young age. This is huge, especially in today’s society.

But why do I even care? Why is this important to me?

In eighth grade, I started taking Spanish courses. I’m sure many people did the same as it is typically a requirement now. I took classes all the way through my sophomore year in college. I had different teachers that had different ways of teaching over those seven years, but one thing was always constant. I wasn’t just learning the language, I was learning about the people who speak the language, their cultures, their ways of life, what makes them who they are.

Sure, my teachers could have just taught me the language, but what is the point of speaking the language if you don’t know anything about it, where it comes from, or the people who speak it?

Fast forward to the summer of 2015. I went on a short study abroad trip to Costa Rica. It was only 11 days, but it was long enough to notice a common thread among the Ticos. Every single person we encountered was incredibly friendly toward us. I never felt judged. I felt welcomed. They wanted to show us what their country was about and were so happy we were there. Interestingly enough, almost everyone we encountered also spoke English (sans the taxi drivers and older generations).

Some may say this is a coincidence. Some may say that their leading industry is tourism so of course they are friendly to tourists. But I choose to believe otherwise.

I believe that when you learn another language and, in turn, more about the culture and the people that speak it, you become more accepting and welcoming of the people from that culture. You don’t feel the need to bash on their culture or where they come from, but instead you celebrate it and treat those people with kindness.

Why do I believe this? Because I’ve experienced it. The more I learned about the Spanish language and the places it is spoken and the various cultures and people associated with it, I developed an immense appreciation for them. It’s that simple.

My experiences, both with learning Spanish and the way I was treated abroad, are the epitome of why I am so incredibly passionate about children learning another language. Of course there are countless other reasons, but those are for another time. Yes, there are other ways to teach children about other cultures, people, and ways of life, but, in my experience, none of those have been as meaningful or impactful as the times I did so while also studying and learning the language.

I think about how so many Americans treat outsiders today and the lack of emphasis we put on bilingualism. Then I think about how welcome I felt in Costa Rica and the extreme emphasis they put on creating bilingual kids. We visited several schools during our time there, and each school, starting with preschool age kids, taught at least a little bit of English during their day.

It is important to them for their children to know another language and it should be just as important to us to create more opportunities for young children to become bilingual.

Just think about how our country could change if we really believed in educating our kids on other cultures, ways of life, and people. What better way to do that than teaching them another language?

That’s Not Your Gift

“You’re quiet.”

I hear it again and again.

I think my quietness often makes me come off as unapproachable, unkind, or even a little stuck-up. This is something about myself I have often resented because who wants to be seen as those things when in reality they aren’t any of them?

I’m sure I’m not the only one that is unbelievably introverted and painstakingly shy: quite the deadly combo if you ask me. Here’s the thing. I love people. I love getting to know them and find out what makes them who they are. But, unless that person is driving that conversation, I just don’t know how to do that. What questions do I ask? How do I show that I can relate without making it about me? How does this whole “making friends” thing even work?

I’m sure more than one of you have had a conversation with me where I just looked at you awkwardly because I didn’t know what to say or ask or do. Maybe you have actually had a great conversation with me, who knows. But if so, I guarantee you that it took every fiber of my being to not make it awkward.

It’s just who I am. I can do my best to get better, but really there is no changing it. But you know what? I’ve learned that that is okay. I don’t have to be the best conversationalist. I can be awkward. I can be quiet and shy. I can be all of the things that make me who I am.

Why? Because while those are things that I might not always like about myself, they bring out qualities in me that I am proud to have.

I might not talk much, but I am an excellent listener. I try to show you I relate or that I care because I DO. I empathize and care deeply about the people in my life. I might not know how to show it in a not awkward or “normal” way, but hopefully you can feel it.

1 Peter 4:10 tells us that “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts.” Being able to make small talk with others? Not one of my gifts. Making new friends? Not one of my gifts. But that is okay because God gave those gifts to someone else just like he gave me the gift of being a great listener and feeling empathy for others.

1 Corinthians 12:14 says, “For the body does not consist of one member, but many.” It takes all of us bringing our gifts together. I can’t do it on my own and neither can you. But when we bring our gifts together and have God on our side, I know there is nothing we cannot do.

Instead of thinking about the things you cannot do or the things you aren’t good at, think about the things that you excel at. Maybe the things you aren’t good at even make it that way, just like me being naturally quiet leads to me being a great listener. Whatever it is, choose to see how God uses us all as pieces of His puzzle. It can’t be put together without each of us. So forget about what you can’t do, focus on what you can, and choose to see the light that comes from everyone working together and supporting each other.

Fear is Just a Lie

Sitting in a salon getting my hair cut by one of my role models, we came to the conversation of my desire to write more. I told her the problem is I don’t know what to write. I don’t know where to start because I don’t know where I want to finish or what point I even want to make. You know what she told me? “Just start writing. You don’t have to have a plan when you start. It will come together on its own.” So here I am, just starting.

I have had this blog for over three years now and I have never shared it publicly with people I know. I am scared of what people will think. I am scared of the judgment I could receive. But mostly I am scared of simply being so vulnerable to every person that reads it.

I like to be this person that never says anything that could hurt someone else. This person that feels so much guilt when she inconveniences anyone, even a stranger. I keep my feelings inside of me and rarely let how I really feel out to anyone, even my closest friends. So the thought of sharing my deepest thoughts and moments terrifies me. I can’t get around that fact, but I can lessen that fear by leaning on God.

My favorite verse of the bible is from Joshua 1:9. The message is simple: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” But if I believe that verse, then why am I still living in fear?

Years ago I watched a video journal of Mike Donehey, the lead singer of Tenth Avenue North (my all-time favorite band). In it he talked about a book he had read by Fyodor Dostoyevsky called The Brothers Karamazov. The line that jumped out at him was “Avoid fear, though fear is just the consequence of every lie.” Really you should just go watch the video because he explains it so well, but basically Mike says that fear only exists when we choose to believe a lie. And who is the father of lies? Satan is. He plants those lies in our head and brings out our fears.

Think about it for a second. What are you afraid of? Why are you afraid of it? Why am I so afraid to be vulnerable and share this blog with people that actually know me? Is it because of that time in middle school that I was told I was annoying and believed it (and sometimes still do)? Is it because I believe that my thoughts and opinions have no worth? Is it because I believe what other people think of me matters in the long run?

The truth is none of it matters. Why? Because they are all lies. Lies that I have been believing for far too long. Lies that did nothing but produce fear and an unhealthy self-consciousness within me. How can I know? Simple. The bible tells us in Genesis 1:27 that “God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” If I believe that my thoughts and opinions are annoying and have no worth, then what am I saying about God? For me to say that about myself, aren’t I also saying that God has no worth since He created us in His image? No, I am not just like Him because no one is; we are imperfect. However, God loves me in spite of those flaws. Yes, He wants me to be more like Him, but Romans 15:7 tells me he accepts me just the same: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” In the end, it does not matter what others think of me, as long as I am striving each day to be more like God.

Instead of focusing on the fear created by believing lies, I am going to choose to focus on God and His Truth. No more being afraid of silly things. Because God will be with me wherever I go. When I feel that fear start creeping in, I am going to stop and choose to see the light: God’s light. I hope you will, too.