i’m teaching for the money

I’ve been dragging my feet on this whole “next year” thing.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given some ridiculously vague answer to some person who I know well or don’t know well about what I may be doing with my time when the school year starts… or may not be.  You know.I snickered when I saw this on a friend’s Facebook page tonight.  We don’t even have to have that discussion today, do we? Fine. Short version. Most of us (except that handful of disheartening folks who need to find a different profession) don’t do it solely for the money, because the pay doesn’t come close to the value of the work when it’s done with passion. Good.  Glad you agree. And guess what?  If I go back to teaching this Fall, I’ll be doing it for the money. Ha!

Here’s my thought process this far:

1)  If I had no children of my own, I would go full-time, full strength back into teaching at the same school I’ve been at for the last few months.  After a semester of earning my stripes, I think I make a pretty decent maestro for those precious students.  My little ensemble would be putting on the Best Stinkin’ Musical Ever.  We’d be so good, Bev Perdue would have us performing to open the next session of the NC Legislature, and we’d make all the representatives cry and stand in line to hug us.  I’m feeling pretty good about us, me an’ them kids together.

2)  If we can squeeze it out financially, I would stay home full-time, and the Lutz kids would have SuperMom [trumpet fanfare!!!] to grow them into the best little Lutzes the world ever saw.  Gabby would have lunches packed with funny notes tucked inside them, Ben’s preschool teacher would never have to send another “ahem, your tuition is late again” note, and I’m certain Nate would be reading The Hardy Boys before he turns 2.  The boys would accompany me to sing at the assisted living home on Thursday mornings, and every neighbor of ours would know us as “that family that brings the awesome desserts” because I’d finally learn to bake while the kids tell me all about their day over a tall glass of milk.  I’m feeling pretty good about us, me an’ these babies together.

Time is so precious.

It’s easy to imagine that if I wasn’t dividing my time, I’d be so much better at the one thing on my proverbial plate.  However, I waste a lot of time as it is.  How much better a mom and teacher might I be if I was a little more organized, a little more focused, feeling a little better a little more often, a little… Yeah, that’s a quick way to beat myself up. No good.  Even if I tried to pour every bit of myself toward a single worthy goal, I’d still never achieve those pretty pictures I painted of perfection.  The fact is, we aren’t robots.  We aren’t designed to run at 100% efficiency, or with unlimited energy resources.

It’s not hard for me to know what I’d choose to do if money weren’t an issue.  I do have three very young children.  I’d go on most of the field trips with Gabby, and we would eat out waaaaay less because I’d be cooking gourmet meals to go along with our homemade pies.  I’d be more available for all the people who share the same address as me.

So in that sense, I do teach for the money.  If I teach during this season of my kids’ lives, it’s because I have to. But shame on me if I ever let my students – or my children – feel that I don’t want to be there with them.  In either case, that would be untrue.

What would you do if money weren’t an issue?

jumping in with both feet

So for those of you who don’t know about this blogging stuff, guest posting and participating in linky parties seem to be rites of passage. I had the honor of guest posting at Simply Cintia last week. I haven’t been feeling so hot, so I haven’t been writing, but when I saw this

WIPWednesday

I thought, “I’ve already written about this! Awesome!”  A linky party is where lots of people post about the same topic and then put links to those posts in one spot. So I’m linking up with New Life Steward today because I believe that we’re all works in progress – especially me. Maybe more about that next Wednesday…

first guest post

Well, y’all…

Who has a blog full of 5 whole posts (just five, that’s right) and takes up a friend’s offer to guest post on her blog?  Um, that’d be this lady right here.

While I’ve been avoiding writing while struggling with the purpose of me blogging, I thought I’d author words for someone else’s blog.  Makes total sense.

I’ve known Cintia since 2000, when we were members of a praise and worship team.  We shared a bathroom for a Summer, and she gave me a pedicure.  I wonder how many times she shook her head at my ridiculous sleeping schedule.  It’s funny how Twitter can reconnect a friendship even after a decade of not seeing someone face-to-face.

Drew Barrymore 2 by David ShankboneCintia just gave birth to her third child a few days ago, and she often blogs about motherhood, so I thought I’d share about how Drew Barrymore made me have a nervous breakdown.  Makes total sense.

Join me at simplycintia.com, won’t ya?

name-calling

I hate Facebook.  I say that a lot, either in my mind or to a friend who’s commiserating with me regarding that portal to darkness that I inexplicably continue to visit on a daily basis.  But that’s probably another post for another day.  Anyway, Sunday I didn’t hate Facebook.  Sunday was my birthday.

Thanks to Facebook, I was receiving notifications throughout the day that yet another handful of people had kindly taken ten seconds of their day to think of me and wish me well.  It was seeing how they might have personalized their greeting that was the most fun.

One of my college roommates:

Happy happy day, Larlo!  Can’t wait to see you soon!

She picked up that name from my AIM/ICQ handle circa 1999.  (Remember those?!  I miss that little incoming message giggle sound that ICQ made.) I was branded “Larlo” by my youngest sister many moons ago, since somehow that seemed to be easier to pronounce than “Lauren.”  It stuck.  Nicknames say, “We’ve got history.”

A co-worker from a school I used to work at:

Happy birthday, Lutz!

Like frat boys yelling across campus at one another, many of my teacher friends at that school just called me by my last name. No “Mrs.” to precede it.  Just “Lutz,” which rhymes with boots, in case you were wondering. There’s a certain energy and camaraderie to it that I find very endearing.  Teaching buddies can sometimes feel like fellow soldiers that are crawling around a bunker with you, so maybe it’s appropriate to bark at each other the way Sgt. Dan yells, “GUMP!”  Just-last-names says, “We’re in the trenches together.”

Other names I was given on my birthday: friend, lady, Lauren, niece, favorite music teacher (ahem, their only music teacher) — All these are signifiers of individual relationships that I’ve built, and what a lovely thing to be reminded of on a day that inevitably leaves me pondering what I’ve been doing for the past 31 years.

What do the names you own tell you about yourself?

how we speak to children

My friend Libby is forever telling her students that excuses belong in the trash can.  I think she even had a pail labeled “excuses” at one time.  Without a doubt, she’s a compassionate and forgiving person, but I think we could all take a dose of her no-nonsense medicine at some point in our lives.  I had a big spoonful of it this morning fed to me just this morning by my 3 year old son.

Mom, why did you say that mean to me?  You were happy just a minute ago.

He’s at that stage where he asks 19 questions per hour, and at least 10 of them he already knows the answer to.  Another 5 of his questions don’t really have an answer unless you want to get into philosophy or metaphysics.  I’d just finished an hour-long, unplanned visit to my doctor — with two kids and a loud baby in tow — when he asked,

Mom, why is this the way?

Gadget Mobile“We’re driving this direction because Mommy is still saving up for that Inspector Gadget-Mobile we want.  Otherwise, we’d be sprouting helicopter blades right now.” Okay, I didn’t say that.  I wish I had.  Sometimes I remember to use humor, but today I was more focused on getting out of the tightly crammed parking lot and getting the promised milkshake rewards.

I don’t know, Ben.

My words were clipped, and my cadence conveyed my annoyance.  Even a 3 year old knows tone, and we are foolish to forget that.  If this tiny 4-word sentence held enough meaning for my very young son to comment on it, what is it like for kids who hear daily that their very existence is, at best, an annoyance?  Sarah Mae recently wrote about an incident in an store that left her crying in the parking lot, and I’ve had so many similar experiences.  In a store, in a kitchen, in a school, at a gas station, way more children than you might realize are hearing horrendous, spirit-murdering statements from those who should love them.

I wish you were never born.

You screw up everything.

My life would be so much better without you.

To these fear-mongerers I’d like to say: No excuses.

  1. Bring the worst of your life’s circumstances to the table and they still won’t get you a “not guilty” plea in front of your judge.  Of course you’re angry that something bad happened to you;  you wouldn’t speak like that if everything was swell.  You can’t bring a worthy excuse regarding your own pain.
  2. Your judge is God, who created that precious child to be a tiny reflection of himself.  It really doesn’t matter if the kid asks 47 Q/hr.  It doesn’t matter if she just ruined your plans for the weekend out of her selfishness or if he did exactly what you told him not to do again.  You cannot bring a worthy excuse regarding how bad you think your child is.
  3. Newsflash:  All children are born selfish, impatient, and needy.  It’s a parent’s job to help grow them out of these traits and grow them into that reflection of God they were intended to be.

Parents are hurting, and they’re hurting their children in turn.  How can we teach parents to apologize and mean it?  How can we help them steer their pain away from their children and toward healing?  How can we warn teenagers and young adults that parenthood is so much more than having some cute picture to post on Facebook?  I find all of these lessons in Jesus.  He models humility, he brings peace and healing, and he grants undeserved grace to me over and over again.  My excuse pail runneth over.

I apologized to Ben, and I told him I’d work on not being mean.  He said, “Okay.  I’m still happy.  I love you.”  Parents who say and do really horrific things to their children and parents who get snappy over silly things have this in common:  we need mercy and grace and miraculous help to get over our selfishness.  I am so very grateful for a child who speaks grace to me.

What are we going to do for these kids?  Yes, we.  I don’t have an answer yet, but I know that a large mass of people need to take note, pray, and… I’m hoping someone knows what comes next.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. – Psalm 19:14

He Beat the Odds

He was kicked out of middle school for bringing a weapon in the building, and rightly so.
He’s expected to keep up at school after pacing the floors with his screaming infant half the night, and rightly so.
He was arrested for doing something illegal about 6 months ago, and rightly so.
I screamed with joy when he walked across the stage tonight, and rightly so.

This semester I’ve been teaching at an alternative high school. Community members tend to describe this school as “where the bad kids go.”  I’ve heard that more than once.  When a student at this school does every assignment on the spot, responds with some enthusiasm, enjoys coming to your class, defends your honor when another student is having a bad day, jumps in to help teach those who are struggling… Actually, I don’t care what school you’re at.  You’d love to teach him, right?

I loved teaching Z, and I’m rooting for him.  He’s one of my favorites of all the kids I’ve taught. I love them all, I like most, and I work hard to treat each one fairly. (I think it’s actually harmful to the “nice” kids when you let them slide too much because they’re nice, but that’s another post for another day.) It’s just that some touch your heart a little differently than others, and that’s okay.  Alongside the planned lessons, we jammed out to John Mayer a hundred times, we discussed infant earache symptoms, and I got a fist bump every time he came into class.  He’d already had a serious change of heart by the time I met him.  Prison will do that to you, according to him.  If you’d heard Z a few weeks ago preaching at a younger student headed down the same path, you’d have wanted to high five everything in sight, and you’d know in your heart that he has a real chance at succeeding. He has serious plans for the near future, which I’ll keep confidential at this time for his sake.

Right before he walked across the stage, he turned around and grabbed my hand in a kind of part handshake, part hug.  I wanted to jump up on the auditorium chair and yell, “Y’ALL!  DO YOU EVEN KNOW?!”  At that point in my daydream, I would begin rambling in the way I tend to do when I’m feeling passionate.  I’d tell them that I don’t care if lots of people think it’s uncouth to whoop and holler at a graduation; let’s tear the place down for this kid!  Cue the Kool and the Gang, turn on the fog machine, fade to black.

It’s risky to be excited for him.  He’s not entirely out of the woods.  But that risk was overwhelmed by joy last night, so when he shook hands with the principal and took hold of the paper declaring his accomplishment, I got uncouth with everybody else who saw the beauty in second chances.

Have you ever rooted for someone who wasn’t expected to succeed?

the end of the year & dean smith

“If I can’t give this team that enthusiasm, I said I would get out.  And that’s honestly how I feel.”

That’s what Basketball Hall of Fame Coach Dean Smith said at the press conference to announce his retirement.  He still loved basketball, but he was 66 at the time. He was just ready to do something else.

Former UNC Coach Dean Smith, Tar Heel Basketball Legend

Gallery 2 Images

I’ll be 31 in about a week, but I know that feeling that he’s talking about.  Ready for something else.  I’ve never met a teacher who wasn’t excited about the coming of Summer.  Even the best of us, who love every child and smile every day, need a break.  The end of a year brings testing [groan, sigh, stomp, groan again], weird schedules, squirm-in-your-chair assemblies, inventories, cleaning, remediation, packing… But worst of all, the kids know it’s over.  They’re mentally checked out, leaving them with little motivation for anything constructive.

I spent 7 years working full-time.  Nate (our third child) was born last August, and I took the semester off.  I started working part-time again in January.  Less than five months of only 3-4 hours a day.  So why am I burned out?  It’s not the students.  It’s not the curriculum.  It’s not the administrators.  It’s the end of the year.  This is normal, even in the very best circumstances.

Q: Why did Dean Smith wait to have this press conference on the first day of Fall practice? 

A:  Wisdom.  Every basketball season –unless you win the National Championship– ends with a let-down, and he knew that he shouldn’t allow that to cloud his decision.  He was in a unique position in knowing that if he stepped down, the program to which he’d dedicated his life was in good hands.  He waited out the end-of-the-year blues and waited to see how he’d feel when practice started up again. Normally, he’d feel “charged up” again. But October 1997 rolls around and for the first time, the enthusiasm wasn’t there, and so he left.  I really admire that.  I wish everyone had the option to walk away from a job that they aren’t loving in order to do something they do love.

Unfortunately, in my school district, teachers are asked to sign on the dotted line in April or May every year — right as the descent into the muck begins. Are you coming back or aren’t you? And unfortunately, things like paychecks and benefits and lack of immediate options can force our hand to the contract page.  Furthermore, we don’t all have a Bill Guthridge waiting in the wings to take up where we left off without a hitch, so it wouldn’t be fair to students or administrators if we waited until the first day of class to say, “Um, nah.  Not feeling it.”

We teachers have to do this thing on faith.  While staying late to clean up cumulative folders, make a point to remember the high points of the year.  When you are still tracking down that lost power cord that belongs to someone down the hall, be grateful for the rest you are just about to receive.  When it hurts to think about doing this all over again,  ask yourself if there is a child who is going to wake up soon and wish they could be at school with you.  And if you are a believer, be sure of your calling to this ministry called teaching.  If you’re not sure, it’s time to get that settled, because it could be time to step out in faith in a new direction.  You don’t want this end-of-the-year feeling to be your beginning-of-the-year-feeling, too.

step two

I’m writing an e-book.  Ebook?  E-Book?  I should probably find out the proper way to write that since I’m writing one and all.  I’m having a hard time publicly admitting this, because my imaginary wall chart titled “Finished Projects” isn’t full of gold stars.  Heck, that wall chart is just titled “Finis.”  I’d really like to put “Wrote The Book That Had Been On My Heart For Years” on a list of completed tasks.  When you’ve developed a reputation for enthusiasm sans follow-through, you tend to get scared to announce that you’re excited about yet another new idea.

Why me?  I can think of a eight reasons in less than 30 seconds why someone else is more qualified to write a devotional for teachers and administrators. For example, in three days, I’ll be finishing only my eighth year of teaching.  And yet, I’ve been reading about writing, thinking about writing, talking about writing…  (My sweet husband is probably thrilled to hear the click of this keyboard instead of the click of my tongue right now.)  I came to the conclusion that I should write it because God put it on my heart.  You know, the ol’ “‘Cause I Said So” rhetoric.  Done.

So, I started sketching out my topics for “Meditations for Educators” (working title) about a week ago on.  And now, I’m typing them and organizing them.  You know it’s for real when you put it in an Office document, right?

Topic Ideas