Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hope Ya Know, We Had a Hard Time

Yes, yes, I know.  The title of this post is definitely not original.  It comes from a talk given by Quentin L. Cook, and is one of my favorites.  To read the talk, click here.  With that being said, this phrase has been on my mind a lot lately, so obviously I had to blog about it.

Tonight I stopped at the grocery store to pick up some stuff for my mom on my way home.  I walked out right behind an elderly gentleman who was struggling to walk.  At first, I just said hello as I passed him, and kept walking to my car.  Then, I had an unmistakable feeling that I should go back and offer to help him put his groceries away (If I was a good person, I probably wouldn't have walked past him without offering to help to begin with!).  When I got to his car, I noticed that on his license plate, there was some sort of emblem indicating that he had received a purple heart for his military service.  I helped him put the last of his groceries in his car, and he thanked me.  I said, "No, thank you for your service to our country."  His eyes were wet with tears as he said, "It was a hard time, but we got through it."  He then proceeded to tell me a story about how his scriptures had literally saved his life when he was serving in Korea.  Then he gave me a copy of his story, which he just had in his back pocket--I guess he has copies of his story with him at all times.  For the full text, click here.  We talked for a minute more about his time in the military and the struggles he encountered.  I again thanked him for serving, and then he said, "Thank you for listening to the ramblings of an old man.  And thank you for expressing your thanks for my service.  It means a lot to an old soldier."

I walked away with tears of my own in my eyes.  When I got inside my car, I immediately said a prayer and thanked my Heavenly Father for this sweet man who had sacrificed so much in defense of the country he loves.  I thanked the Lord that He prompted me to talk to this man, because I had been truly blessed by the encounter. Last of all, I prayed that this man, who I suspect was a widower and possibly very lonely, would find comfort.  I prayed that he would find people to share his story with.  Because all he really wanted was to be heard.

It is precisely this concept of being heard that has been on my mind as of late.  I have just thought about how important it is for us, as human beings, to feel like someone is listening to us.  Sometimes, we just want someone to know that we're having a hard time--even if that person can't really do much to help us.  We just need to know that someone is aware of us and of our pain.  We just need to know that someone is listening.  

The past few weeks, I have gone to historic sites in Hiram and Kirtland, Ohio, Nauvoo, Illinois, and Salt Lake City.  For some reason, I am a gigantic nerd, and absolutely LOVE going to historic sites, especially when they have to do with the history of the LDS Church.  But I think one of the reasons I love historic sites so much is because I think every story deserves to be told--or rather, every person deserves to have his or her story told.  Everyone has something to offer.  No one should ever feel obsolete.  This is also probably the reason I love reading historical novels, biographies, and autobiographies.  

This is also the reason I have decided to stop teaching and go back to school for a Master's Degree in Counseling.  This was one of THE hardest decisions I have ever made.  My heart still hurts when I think about the fact that I will not be a teacher in the fall.  Every time I think about my students or picture their faces in my mind, I question my decision.  How can I leave them?  But then I picture what those same students look like when they are scared.  I can see in my mind's eye the look in their eyes when they are exceptionally sad.  I can almost feel the wetness of their tears on my shoulder when they have had experiences too big for their hearts to handle.  And then I remember that these kids, and children like them, deserve to be heard.  

The past 2 years of teaching have taught me SO much.  I have learned how to teach reading, writing, math, oral conversation, and even grammar--although how well I taught grammar is questionable.  But most of all, I learned that sometimes a child's ability to learn is made harder by matters of the heart.  How can we expect a student to learn how to read when he just visited his dad in prison yesterday, and is feeling all sorts of emotions that he can't quite explain or deal with?  Or, how can we expect a child to focus on writing when she's not sure if she'll get to eat dinner that night because her mom sometimes just doesn't come home?  It is for this reason that I have chosen to leave this profession and gain more education.  I hope to one day work with children who have suffered abuse, neglect, or have dealt with health crises.  I want to give these children a voice.  I want them to have someone to talk to when they just want to say, "I hope you know, I had a hard time."

The last day of school a couple of weeks ago was a very sad one.  There were many tears shed--by myself and by my students.  At the end of the day, we sat in a circle, and I went around the circle and told every single one of them what I loved about them.  Their eyes lit up as I let all of them know that they were important, valued, and loved more than they knew.  At the end of that time, one of my boys raised his hand and said, "Ms. Keddington, can we put our hands in and say, 'Together Forever!'?"  I said that of course we could do that.  So we did.  

I will miss these kids soooooo much.  They have taught me about love, patience, kindness, hard work, perseverance, and determination.  So of course we will be together forever--they are now apart of me.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"But Ms. Keddington, I still love you."

One of my favorite children’s books is “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.”  I think I love it so much because everyone can relate to it.  We all have days like that every once in a while.  Well, last week, I had one of those days.  It was not fun.  I am not generally known for being super emotional, but that day, I couldn’t contain my emotions.  I cried  Now, it’s not like I was sobbing or anything.  It was more like I was weeping.  I would still teach, it’s just that there were tears streaming down my face as I did so.  But there was one moment where the crying was a little more out of control.  Luckily it was during a time when my kids were working independently while I worked with small groups of kids.  Except for on this particular day, I just sat at my computer for a bit and tried to gain control of my emotions.  One of my little boys came over and said, “Ms. Keddington, are you crying?”  I told him that I was, so naturally he asked me why I was crying.  I said, “I am just very sad today, R.  That’s all.”  He replied, “But Ms. Keddington, I still love you.”  And then he threw his little arms around my neck and hugged me tight.  This obviously made me cry even more.  Then this boy, who is usually one of the “troublemakers” in my class, went around to every single group of kids and said to them, “Guys, Ms. Keddington is crying.  We have to be extra good today and follow the rules.”  Such a sweetheart. 

R. had the best of intentions, but when word got around that I was crying, the last thing the kids wanted to do was sit and do their work.  True to the nature of young children, what they wanted to do was see me crying.  Soon I had 23 children swarmed around my chair and each one of them was trying to wriggle his or her way forward to give me a hug.  I was literally surrounded by love in that moment.  Each of my students was so concerned for my welfare, and genuinely wanted to know what was wrong and how he or she could help.

I decided to take a moment to address their concerns, as well as teach them a little something about love and compassion if I could.   I asked them to join me in a circle on the carpet.  They did so, and for the first time in a long time, they did it quietly!!!!  Once we got to the circle, our conversation went something like this:

“Boys and girls, you have noticed that I have been crying today.  How many of you have ever cried?”

***Most students raised their hands…except for my boys who are too cool for school.

“What are some of the reasons you cry?”

***Answers ranged from someone taking their crackers at lunch, to getting hurt, to being scared.

“From what I’m hearing, sometimes you are sad and cry because of things that just happen to you because life is hard.  For example, when you fall off your bike and scrape your knee, that’s not really anyone’s fault.  That just happens sometimes.  But sometimes we also cry because of things that other people do.  For example, when someone says mean things to you at recess, you are sad because of a choice someone else made.  That is sometimes really hard.

“Well, today, boys and girls, I am sad because someone I care about a great deal has made some choices and said some things that have hurt my feelings.  This is hard for me because I try to be kind to everyone, and it is hard for me to understand why other people would do things to me that are not kind.  Have any of you ever felt sad because of choices other people have made?”

***At this point, many of my students raised their hands and shared things that made them sad.  They included things like parents getting arrested, parents drinking too much and fighting, parents staying in Mexico and sending their son to America, and classmates mocking other students.

***Also, by this point, a few of the children were also in tears, and I was wondering what in the world I had gotten myself in to.  Was I scarring these children for life? 

Then, a beautiful thing happened.  One of my students said, “Wait, F., your dad got arrested?  Wow.  That must make you so sad.  I’m sorry.”  There were murmurs of agreement all around the circle.  This wonderful, beautiful circle of precious children of God.  The next thing I knew, I was just watching as little acts of compassion and love were performed.  V. stood up and got a box of tissues and handed a tissue to every person who was crying.  A. put her arm around J. and started whispering things like, “It’s going to be okay.”  E. said to F., “My dad got arrested once.  I know how you feel.”

My heart overflowed with gratitude as I watched the scene unfold.  When we had come to the carpet, I had been determined to teach them about compassion and love.  But what I realized in that moment was that compassion and love are already in us.  We just have to be taught how to let it out. 

I asked my students if they had ever heard the word compassion before.  Some said they had, but most had not.  I told them that compassion meant caring about other people, and doing whatever we can to meet their needs and help them be happy.  Then I pointed out the acts of compassion I had just witnessed.  I told them that simply being a friend is an act of compassion.  They then came up with their own examples of compassion—inviting someone to play with them at recess, helping a friend walk to the nurse’s office when she got hurt, standing up for a friend who was being teased at lunch.  I pointed out to them that those things were acts of compassion.

Then we talked about why it is so important to be compassionate.  E. said, “Ms. Keddington, we are compassionate because when people are sad, we want to make them happy.”  Such a simple statement, but so true.  We are here on Earth to be happy.  Sometimes things happen that make us unhappy, so we sometimes rely on others to help us be happy.  Sometimes it’s the other way around—other people are unhappy, and it’s our job to make them happy.  Wouldn’t the world be such a better place if people understood that one, simple truth?  When people are sad, we should do our best to make them happy again.  The end.  So much hate, confusion, anger, and fear could be done away with if everyone lived that way.  I know that in those few moments with my students, my confusion, anger, and fear were definitely done away with because of the compassion I witnessed.  Turns out love and compassion work miracles.

And that was pretty much the end of our carpet experience that day.  I wish I could say that my students were kind and compassionate for the rest of the day… but I can’t.  5 minutes later it was, “Ms. Keddington, he took my pencil!”  or “Ms. Keddington, she looked at me!”  But, for a few glorious moments, we all just forgot ourselves for a bit, and loved our guts out.  And for that, I will be forever grateful.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

"...Or Maybe They Just Don't Think She's Very Pretty."

As you may have realized by now, I think my students are pretty much the funniest slash cutest creatures on the face of the planet.  For real.  I am obsessed with them.  Lately I have been keeping notes of the funny things they say.  I think it's pretty hilarious.  Enjoy!

A:  Ms. Keddington, I have 2 good newses!  Number One:  I am SUPER fast!  Number Two:...Actually, I don't remember number two.  I'm just super fast."

R:  Ms. Keddington, I have a super funny story... A frog and an ant.  ****Hysterical Laughter.****
Me:  Uhhhh, R., that's not a story.  There is no verb.
R:  But don't you get it?  A frog and an ant.  ****More hysterical laughter.****

A:  Ms. Keddington, guess what I learned today?
Me:  What?
A:  NEVER mess with a woman.
Me:  That's a very good thing to learn.

I have been testing my students' reading levels this past week.  In order for my 1st graders to be on grade level by the end of the year, they need to be on a level 16.  For my 2nd graders to be on grade level, they need to be on a level 24 by the end of the year.  My goal for my students is for them to go up 14 levels in one year, which is essentially a year and a half's growth in just one year.  If they reach their reading goal, they get to wear one of the medals I have gotten for running various races.  It's kind of a big deal for them.  On this particular day, I was testing a first grader, R.
Me:  R.!  You just passed a level 25!  You are now on a 3rd grade reading level!  That's soooo amazing!  I'm so proud of you!  You've gone up 21 levels in just one year!  WOW!
R:  What?!  Now I have to be in 3rd grade?

The next one I cannot take credit for.  One of my coworkers told me this one.
E:  Ms. Ogata, A. told me said that my mom is fat.  And she's NOT fat, Ms. Ogata.  Then he said that my dad is fat.  And well, Ms. Ogata, that's true.  He IS fat.  But my mom's not, so he shouldn't have said that.

In my class, I often have my kids "Kiss their brains."  They do it when they get an answer right, or when they are working really hard.  I tell them that they need to be kind to their brains since they work so hard.
J:  Ms. Keddington, I just kissed my brain, and I think it grew!!!  I am so smarter now!  (again, the English isn't always so good)

I already put this one on Facebook, but I think it is worth repeating.
A:  Ms. Keddington, did you see that?  I breathed and smoke came out of my mouth!  And I wasn't even smoking!  How did I do that?!

And, for the grand finale, my students recently fought over the reasons why I am not married.  This is how it went:
J:  Ms. Keddington, is your husband at war?
Me:  Ummm... no.  I'm not married.
J:  You're not married to a soldier?
Me:  I'm not married at all.
J:  Why not?
M:  Because she breaks up with EVERY boy!
A:  Or maybe they just don't think she's very pretty.
Am:  ***Mortified, outraged gasp*** She is soooooo pretty!  She just doesn't love them!

On a related note, my six year old niece, while talking to my mom about my dating habits said, in a very exasperated tone:  Grandma, how many boys is she going to date?!
My answer:  About a million, apparently.

Ah. Such is life.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I Am Not Their Teacher... They Are Mine...

One of my students recently found out that he has a brain tumor.  When I found out, I cried for hours.  Literally.  This kid is soooo smart.  And charming.  And just adorable.  Cutest child ever.  I was devastated to think about what his future might hold—or if he would even have a future (side note—after an MRI, doctors have determined that the tumor is not doing any damage, and as long as it doesn’t grow, they will not have to do surgery—or as he would say, “Ms. Keddington, they’re not going to surger me.”).  I felt physically ill whenever I thought about it, not to mention feeling near tears most of the time.  It was terrible.  There were so many other things that were worrisome:  parents didn’t have insurance, he lives below the poverty line, etc.  But overall, I just wanted this child to be happy and healthy.

Because of the tumor, A. couldn’t go to recess or to PE for almost 2 months.  At first, on days when we had PE, he would go to either computers or music with another 2nd grade class.  Twice a week, he would go hang out with the secretaries in the office during recess.  The rest of the time, he would come to my classroom and hang out with me.  As time went on, and the uncertainty in his life increased, he started to stay with me all the time.  When I would tell him it was time to go to the office or to computers or music, his huge brown eyes would fill with tears and he would ask if he could stay with me.  How can you say no to that?  Needless to say, A. and I became BFFs. 

One day, when A. was with me during my prep, we were running around doing a million different things—making copies, getting books, etc.  While we were walking back to my classroom, he said, “Wow, Ms. Keddington!  Being a teacher makes me tired!”  I had to laugh at that one!  About an hour later, as we were walking with the class out of the school at the end of the day, A. said to me, “Ms. Keddington, thanks for being my teacher.”  My eyes welled up with tears and I thought, “Oh, A.  Don’t you see—I am not your teacher, you are mine.” 

Just a few thoughts about what A. taught me during that experience:
  • ·         It is possible to think of others when going through a crisis.  I didn’t want A. to think it was a punishment that he couldn’t go to recess.  So, I asked him if he would like to invite a friend to stay with him on the days that he was with me during recess.  He said he would.  And then, a minute later he said, “Ms. Keddington, maybe we should just go in ABC Order, because I don’t want anyone to feel left out if I don’t choose them.”  Oh!  That just melted my heart!  But then I asked, “Should we maybe leave the girls out, though?”  To which he responded, “Yes!”  I guess his 7-year old compassion does have some boundaries…
  • ·         Sometimes, we just have to do things because they are what are good for us.  One day as A. and I were going to get the other kids from recess, I said to him, “A., I am really proud of you.  I know how much you love to run and play at recess and during P.E., but you have never once complained about having to stay inside.  I think that is pretty awesome.”  He replied, “But Ms. Keddington, this is for my best good.”  (Please keep in mind that English is not his first language, so sometimes he doesn’t speak correctly.  Ha ha.)  Sometimes I wish I understood that better.  I feel like I always complain about things when I don’t particularly want to do them!

  •            Doing kind things for people is always a good idea.  There were several times over the past few months when A. would persuade me to do something nice for the kids in our class.  For example, one day we were working on something during my prep and he said, “Ms. Keddington, I think the kids have been really good today.  We should surprise them with a treat on their desks for when they get back from P.E.  They love surprises!”  We put a cookie on each kid’s desk (after cleaning them with Clorox Wipes first, of course) and guess what?  He was so right!  The other kids were so excited, and he was even more excited than they were.

I am so grateful for the things I have learned this year from A.  I was his teacher last year, as well, and I feel so blessed to be in his life.  With that being said, I have some other really awesome students as well.  Here are just a few nuggets of wisdom I have gathered from them:
·         It really is easy to make someone’s day.  On days that my kids are driving me CRAZY (about once every 2 weeks), I like to eat lunch with them in the cafeteria, as long as I have checked with the lunch ladies to make sure the food is edible.  I do this because when my kids are nuts, it is really good for me to see them in a setting outside of the classroom.  It kind of reminds me that I actually like them.  The first time I did this, one of my little girls, M., said, “This is the best day of my WHOLE life!”  I thought, “Gee!  If I had known that, I would have done this a long time ago!”
·         Laughter really is the best medicine.  Sometimes being with a whole bunch of 6 and 7 year olds all day is hard.  But it seems like every time I feel frustrated with a student or something, someone will say or do something completely ridiculous, and we will all laugh together.  Like the time T. said to me, “Ms. Keddington, my mom has an octopus.”  And I said, “No, she doesn’t.”  And he simply said, “Oh. Okay.”  Hilarious.  The other day when my kids were walking back from art, they were nuts.  It’s like they forgot how to walk in a line.  I was feeling frustrated, but then my whole class (except for the Arabic speaking student, and the 2 Vietnamese speaking students) broke in to song.  Of course it was a Spanish song, so I had no idea what they were saying.  Neither did they, actually, which kind of worries me.  They couldn’t tell me what the words were in English, which leads me to believe it was Spanish slang or something.  Probably not good.  But it sure was funny.  I probably should have disciplined them, but I couldn’t stop laughing.  I seriously genuinely enjoy being with these kiddos.  They make me so happy.
·         My students are constantly giving me advice on how to find a husband and get married.  My two favorite pieces of advice are:  1.  Just go to the mall.  I can find a husband there.  2.  Just say hi to men.  WHY HAVE I NEVER SAID HI TO A MAN BEFORE?!?!
·         George Washington is the best president ever.  On Election Day, we were talking about the different presidential candidates.  Some of my students were saying how they would have voted for Barack Obama, and some were saying they would have voted for Mitt Romney.  And then, one student, R., said, “I would have voted for George Washington.”  I replied, “But George Washington is dead.”  ***Insert huge, mortified gasp!***  “He is?”  This child was devastated at the thought that this man was dead.  Apparently when we researched and wrote reports about the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers, I forgot to mention that George Washington was dead…   Oops.  My bad.
·         I am white.  A couple of weeks ago, I was getting hives every single day.  I have no idea why.  But one day, I was scratching my leg (who knew hives were so itchy?), and the very bottom of my pant leg came up.  One of my students, E., said, “Whoa, Ms. Keddington!  Your legs are so white!”  I said, “You’re right, E.  I wish I had beautiful dark skin like you guys do!”  A few hours later my kids were using their spelling words as they wrote sentences.  One of the words was “white.”  R. wrote, “Ms. Keddington is white.”  Ha ha.

I feel so lucky to work with these kids every day.  I work long hours and on Friday nights I am so tired that all I want to do is go to bed at 8:00 (and sometimes I do just that).  I feel burnt out almost all the time, and under appreciated much of the time.  But when I see 22 sets of beautiful brown eyes looking up at me, I remember why I do this job.  I do this job because the world has knocked these kids down, and they need someone to lift them higher.  I do this job because these children need someone to believe in them.  They need stability.  They need someone who will work relentlessly to help them reach their potential.  But most of all, they need love.  And although I inevitably fail them in some way or another, at least that one thing, I can provide.  And so I do.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Life Would Suck Without You
I was talking to a friend last night, and we were talking about how often we talk to our families.  I told him that I talk to my mom about once a week, my dad when I have a question about something (usually car/money/insurance related), and my brothers occasionally.  But my sisters—I talk to them at least once a week…both of them.  When I think about my sisters and my sisters-in-law, I am often reminded of the song by Kelly Clarkson called, “My Life Would Suck Without You” (hence the title of this post).  Let me just tell you why.

Amy is one of the funniest people I know.  At my house, we often talk about “Girl’s Camp Moods,” and Amy is the queen of those.  There have been many late nights where Amy just gets on a roll, and makes me laugh so much.  Amy has also made a lot of sacrifices for her family.  She stays at home with the kids because she knows that’s where she needs to be—even if that means giving up other things that the world might deem important.  Amy is also known for getting people in our family to do things they don't really want to do.  I hear that while I was on my mission, she worked so hard, and got everyone else to work so hard, when they were remodeling the house.  I also love the relationship she has with my mom.  Their situation is not easy, but she has a unique bond with my mom.  I really admire that.  Other random things:  she has a great laugh; she has a gift with putting small children to sleep; she LOVES her kids; she has a really tender heart; and she is excellent to talk to about boy problems.  I love Amy!

Mandi is like superwoman.  She is a fantastic mom to her son, Daxton, an amazing wife to her husband, Nate, and yet still manages to be a compassionate, wonderful nurse.  Mandi is also awesome because she always wants to spend time with the family.  Whenever I come home, she always makes time to see me as much as possible, and she just loves being with the family.  She and Nate always take Amy's kids and do fun things with them.  I think there are just as many pictures of Abby and Lyla on her blog as her own child.  But she loves them.  Family is what really matters to her.  I wish I were more like that.  Other random things:  she is super hard working; she somehow tamed Nate—not sure how she did that; she has really random, oftentimes disgusting experiences at work; and Daxton and Nate are the center of her universe.  I love Mandi!

Alicia seriously amazes me.  She works so hard for what she wants.  She always has.  Alicia wanted to sing well, so she worked hard, and she does.  She wanted to be really good at soccer, so she worked hard, and she is.  She wanted to get into nursing school, and do well there, so she worked hard, and she did.  It’s like, no matter what she wants, she can get it, because she is so darn determined and hard working.  Alicia never gives up.  When other people would just forget about their dreams because they are too scared of failing to really try, Alicia succeeds.  I am constantly in awe of her.  Other random things:  she and Peter are the most frugal, amazing budgeters known to mankind; she is such a good sport about trying new things (again, she is not afraid to fail)—she all of a sudden goes skiing and to amusement parks, despite puking after rides; she and her husband love and respect and adore each other SO much.  I love Alicia!

Krista is a really good listener.  And she is very wise for her age.  Even though I technically have more life experience, mostly just because I am older than her, she can still manage to give me advice and put my problems in perspective.  She is also very perceptive.  She intuitively knows when someone is struggling or having a hard time, and she knows just what to say to help.  Krista is also just very kind.  She really cares about people.  She seems to hurt right along with people she loves when they hurt.  She cries with them and for them.  She feels what they feel.  She succors people.  I really wish I were more like that.  Other random things:  she is incredibly independent and stubborn; she has fabulous ambition that will bless so many people’s lives in the end; and she loves our family more than anything, and does whatever it takes to make us happy.  I love Krista!

So basically, I have the best sisters ever.  They make me so happy, and I am in constant awe of them.  Even though we are all in different stages in our lives, we still love each other.  Even though sometimes we drive each other crazy, our lives would be so incomplete without each other.  So, ladies, my life would suck without you.  I love you all!

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Will of the Father
As I was reading in the Book of Mormon last night, I came across a scripture that many people are probably already aware of.  It is 3 Nephi 11:11.  In this chapter, the righteous people have gathered at the temple in Bountiful.  They have been talking about all of the things that have recently taken place in the land (since the crucifixion and resurrection of the Savior).  While they are talking, they hear a voice.  They don’t understand it at first.  But the 3rd time, after they have looked to the voice and taken the time to really listen, they understand what it says.  It is Heavenly Father announcing His son, who descends to the temple.  Then Christ testifies of Himself and of His divine mission.  In verse 11 He says, “And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.”

Now, as I was sitting in my room alone last night, looking back on yet another failed relationship, and feeling a little frustrated, and more than a little lonely, I thought about that last sentence.  He suffered the will of the Father in all things.  I had a few moments of self-reflection. I asked myself, “Do I suffer the will of the Father in all things?”  And I think I do.  But I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I don’t always feel like I have much choice in the matter.  His will is going to happen no matter what, so don’t I have to suffer His will?  But then I realized that, yes, I do suffer the will of the Father, but sometimes I S.U.F.F.E.R. the will of the Father, all the while making sure that other people, and the Lord, know just how much I am suffering His will in my life.

By that I mean that while I do accept the will of the Father, most of the time I don’t do it happily.  Unless, of course, my will happens to be in line with His will.  Then I am all for it.  It just seems to me sometimes that in the most major things in my life, the things I care the most about, my will is hardly ever in line with His will at first.  And I end up suffering a lot more than I would if I could just get my will in line with His from the very beginning.  I fight it so hard sometimes.  And make myself miserable in the process.

Helaman 10:4-5 talk about Nephi, who is the prophet at the time.  He is feeling very weighed down because of the wickedness of his people.  As he is walking, he hears a voice that praises him for declaring the word of God boldly and bravely, and for keeping the commandments.  Then verse 5 says, “And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.”  Nephi was promised that no matter what he asked, it would be done according to his will.  How cool is that!  But here is the kicker:  he will get whatever he asks, because the Lord knows that everything he asks for will be what the Lord wills already.  How in the world does one get to that point?  The point where their every will is in line with the will of the Father?

There has only been one time in my life where I feel like I experienced anything even close to this.  It was when I was serving a mission.  Toward the end of my mission, I hardly ever had to try and figure out if the thoughts I was having were my thoughts or the Lord’s thoughts.  My thoughts were the Lord’s thoughts.  I had such faith that I would get whatever I wanted because everything I wanted was already what the Lord desired, too.  What an amazing time that was.  But then, I came home.  And now I am struggling to get back to that point.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell gave a fabulous talk entitled "Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father"where he details what it means to really consecrate one’s life and one’s will to the service of God.  After reading that talk, and reflecting on my own experience on my mission, I have realized a few ways I can improve and bring my will more in line with His.

1.  I need to make sure that my desires are where they should be.  Elder Maxwell said, Actually, everything depends—initially and finally—on our desires. These shape our thought patterns. Our desires thus precede our deeds and lie at the very cores of our souls, tilting us toward or away from God (see D&C 4:3). God can “educate our desires” (see Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939, p. 297). Others seek to manipulate our desires. But it is we who form the desires, the “thoughts and intents of [our] hearts” (Mosiah 5:13).  The end rule is “according to [our] desires … shall it be done unto [us]” (D&C 11:17), “for I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts” (D&C 137:9; see also Alma 41:5; D&C 6:20, 27). One’s individual will thus remains uniquely his. God will not override it nor overwhelm it. Hence we’d better want the consequences of what we want!”

2.  I need to pray to have my will in line with His.  In the Bible Dictionary under prayer it says, “Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other.  The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them.”  See the whole text here.

3.  I need to stop being so selfish!  As a missionary, my every thought, my every action, was on behalf of someone else.  I was served other people.  I prayed for other people.  I studied for other people.  When we think of others more than we think of ourselves, we don’t have time to worry about whether or not the things in our lives are going as we had planned.  We are more grateful for the blessings we have received at the Lord’s hand.  So, I need to find other ways to serve.

Along with that, Elder Maxwell said, "So many of us are kept from eventual consecration because we mistakenly think that, somehow, by letting our will be swallowed up in the will of God, we lose our individuality (see Mosiah 15:7). What we are really worried about, of course, is not giving up self, but selfish things—like our roles, our time, our preeminence, and our possessions. No wonder we are instructed by the Savior to lose ourselves (see Luke 9:24). He is only asking us to lose the old self in order to find the new self. It is not a question of one’s losing identity but of finding his true identity! Ironically, so many people already lose themselves anyway in their consuming hobbies and preoccupations but with far, far lesser things."

4.  I need to go back to keeping a gratitude journal.  I did this for many years, but have gotten out of the habit of it.  I think that will help so much because when I realize how many blessings I have in my life, I think I will discover that the Lord’s will for me has not been so bad, after all.

In conclusion, Elder Maxwell counseled, “Progression toward submission confers another blessing: an enhanced capacity for joy. Counseled President Brigham Young, “If you want to enjoy exquisitely, become a Latter-day Saint, and then live the doctrine of Jesus Christ” (in Journal of Discourses, 18:247)…Then, the more one’s will is thus “swallowed up,” the more his afflictions, rather than necessarily being removed, will be “swallowed up in the joy of Christ” (Alma 31:38).” 

Here’s to finding more joy!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I survived!
Last Wednesday was my last official day of school!  I still had to go on Thursday to check out of my room and stuff, but there were no kids there!  I can’t believe my first year of teaching is over!  At times it FLEW by, and at times, it seemed as though the year would never end.  I have learned a great deal this year.  Here are some of the things I have learned (In no particular order):
1.  I will never, ever, ever understand 6 year old boys.  EVER.  Never, in my entire life, have I thought, “I am going to jump on this kid now, “ or “I think I am going to spit on this child.”  WHY do boys think like that?!  Sometimes one of the boys in my class would do something (hit someone, kick someone, trip someone), and I would ask him, “Why did you do that?”  The child would respond, “I don’t know.  I wanted to.”  Sometimes I would then counter with, “Well, if I wanted to run my car into this building, should I?”  The child would say, “No!”  And I would say, “Why not?  I want to!”  To which he would respond, “You can’t do stuff just because you want to.”  And then I would say, “Oh, so you shouldn’t just hit (or kick or trip) someone just because you want to?”  And click!  All of a sudden it would make sense to the child… At least until the next day when he hurt someone else.

2.  It helps so much to have fantastic co-workers.  I worked with some amazing women this year, and they helped me so much.  Kelsey and Sarah were so much fun to plan with and laugh with.  We did so many fun things with our classes—movie nights, field trips, kickball, etc.  I don’t know what I would have done without them this year!  They made my life so much less stressful!  And, there was Dawn and Jina.  They are the sweetest women in the world, and they always made me smile—even when they had to report that my kids (boys) were throwing food at lunch or something.  There was also Alice.  She was so supportive and always there with tips and resources... and a SMILE!  Especially while we waited for the kids we tutored in the morning.  Thank you to these wonderful women!

3.  As much as I loved my BYU education, it simply did NOT prepare me for some things.  BYU prepared me to work in schools where the families were white, middle-class, and Mormon.  It prepared me for kids who had gone to church every single week their entire lives and knew that sometimes, you just have to sit down and be quiet.  You’re not always going to be entertained, but you have to sit still anyway.  It prepared me to have one child in my class who has behavior issues, as opposed to 6 who are on individualized behavior plans.  BYU prepared me to teach in schools where parents were eager and willing and able to volunteer in my classroom.  It prepared me for families where parents always help their kids with their homework, always come to parent/teacher conferences, and are super involved in their children’s education.  BUT, that being said, I wouldn’t have gone to any other school, so I am not really complaining.  Just a little bit.

4.  Life is not fair.  My kids this year have experienced things that no kid should have to experience.  One day we had a conversation about how many of their dads had been in jail.  Well over half of my class raised their hands.  I had one boy who sobbed uncontrollably for hours, for 3 days, because he and his mom and siblings had left their abusive father and were now living in a shelter.  I had a little girl who couldn’t come on our field trip because her family couldn’t pay the $2 it cost to go… I ended up paying for her.  I had to write a letter last month to U.S. Border Control, detailing my interactions with the dad of one of my students.  Dad was being detained at the border and was on the brink of being deported.  I had to report on how this was affecting his son in the school setting, and what kind of parent his dad seemed like.  In all reality, his son was unable to concentrate on anything in class—even in a one-on-one setting.  Kids shouldn’t have to worry about this stuff.  Kids should be playing cops and robbers, building forts, and riding their bikes, not thinking about how their father will not be out of jail until they are fathers themselves.  Life is not fair. 

5.  People are generous.  When I started the year, I was so overwhelmed with how behind my students were.  I mean, I knew that none of them knew English as their first language, but I did not anticipate NONE of them even reading on an end of Kindergarten level when they came to me.  I started thinking about everything I needed to help these kids learn to read, and realized that they needed to read at home.  And then I realized that none of them had books at home—especially not in English.  Most of their parents couldn’t read in English, and some had parents who couldn’t read in Spanish, either.  So, I did a book drive in my hometown.  I started with my home ward (church congregation), and my aunt and uncle’s ward.  There was an overwhelming response, and at Christmas I took a few hundred books to Arizona with me.  For Christmas, I sent home 4 books with each of my kids.  They were so excited about getting their own books that they could barely contain themselves.  “Ms. Keddington, we can really take these home and keep them?”  I cried as I watched their joy overflow.  And then my aunt Michelle called me and said that one of the local elementary schools wanted to donate books to our school.  My dad and sister brought down the first load of books to Arizona—no less than about 1,000 books.  We estimate that total, Reading Elementary School donated 3,000 books to my school.  I am SO SO SO SO grateful to all who donated books.  When I told my principal, she almost cried.  She could not fathom how people could be so generous.  But I wasn’t surprised. That’s just how it is in Centerville.

I also had many people from the community (and especially my ward) come into my classroom and talk to my kids about what they do for a living (or are going to school to do).  They really opened my kids eyes up to the many possibilities that are there for them—besides working cleaning houses or working odd jobs to keep the family afloat.  At the beginning of the year, none of my kids even knew what college was, but thanks to Connor, David, Brian, Jeremy, and a few others, they want to go to college.  AND, they now know how much it is going to help them in life to know 2 languages.  So thank you to these wonderful friends, too, for being generous with their time.

6.  Exercise is good for the body and the soul.  I became a runner this year.  I’m not really sure how it happened, actually.  I was never much of a runner, but I think that was more because I was always playing soccer and stuff, so I didn’t feel the need to run long distances.  But this year I started running.  I usually run with my friend, Jenny, and it is wonderful.  Sometimes we don’t go very far or very fast, but we get to chat, and I get to vent.  It is delightful.  Thanks to Jenny for running with me a few times a week.  It gave me a much needed break from work.

7.  If teachers got paid by the hour, we would be rich.  I never imagined I would be spending 12 or 13 hours at school regularly—and then going home and working some more.  But, between tutoring students in the morning, lesson planning to the exact specifications of the silly ELD laws in Arizona, leveling my classroom library, and organizing paperwork and stuff, it was not uncommon for me to get to school at 6:30 am (school starts at 8:45) and stay until 6:30 pm. 

8.  Being a teacher includes so much more than teaching academic content.  Teaching for me has meant having a pizza party to teach my students how to eat, sitting down, at a table, and using manners (I came to the realization that most of my kids never eat sitting at a table, with their families—so of course they didn’t know how to behave at lunch!).  It has meant teaching kids self-control and self-discipline.  It has meant teaching kids how to say “please” and “thank you.”  It has meant being a counselor and a shoulder to cry on when my kids have experiences that are just too much for their little hearts to handle.  It has meant crying with the students sometimes, and sometimes it has meant going home and crying for those students.  It has meant late nights and early mornings.  It has meant more to me than I ever would have imagined.

9.  6 year olds are usually excellent for one’s self-esteem.  There was not a single day that went by this year when I wasn’t interrupted during a lesson by a student raising his or her hand, just to say something like, “Ms. Keddington, you’re beautiful,” or “Ms. Keddington, you’re the nicest teacher in the whole world.”  Class was also frequently interrupted by students coming and giving me a hug for no apparent reason, which would then result in everyone wanting to give me a hug, which would sometimes result in a big group hug, which then resulted in someone getting stepped on or smashed.  (We actually had to have a rule that we could only do group hugs outside at recess.)  With that being said, sometimes they are not so good for my self-esteem.  Example:  “Ms. Keddington, are you going to have a baby?”  “No, I am not.  Do I look like it?”  “…Yeah, you do.”

10.  I am absolutely in the right place, at the right time, with the right people.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.