Why I Teach

In honor of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s birthday February 7,  1867, I share a previous post, “Why I Teach.

Childhood Dreams

As early as kindergarten, I identified teacher as a potential
occupation
in my “School Years” book, a collection of elementary school Kindergarten teachermemories. My kindergarten-self chose nurse, teacher, model and mother as possible career and life choices, although the options were limited to traditional girl-jobs only. (I’ve wondered why I didn’t dare to select baseball player or astronaut. Was it because those jobs did not interest me or did I not consider the boy-jobs? Or why were airline hostess and secretary NOT of interest to me?) Female stereotypes aside, by fourth grade, I had wisely eliminated model and nurse (yuk and yuk!!), leaving teacher and mother.fourth grade

I was interested in learning and teaching as soon as I was old enough to work my way through phonics, spelling and math workbooks, just for fun. And then creating worksheets and math problems, grading spelling quizzes and making lesson plans became my childhood joys. My brother was my first student and I worked him pretty hard. I remember taking the graded assignments I’d given him to my fourth-grade teacher, proudly showing her what I was helping him accomplish outside of school hours. Rather than receiving the anticipated (and sought-after) praise, she promptly told me I should back off and not force him to be my student anymore or he might hate school—my first humbling opportunity at professional self-reflection.

BooksLaura Ingalls Wilder was my childhood heroine. Pioneer girl turned teacher; wide-open prairie sky and her own classroom, from Little House on the Prairie to These Happy Golden Years —I wanted to BE Laura. I admired her sense of self-confidence and independence, how she encouraged students to overcome learning challenges, many not much younger than she. (I am such a huge fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder that when my daughter could barely read I bought the entire book series,  picture books and television movies for her and also road-tripped to Mansfield, Missouri to see the house where Laura penned all of the Little House books. Quite a thrill!)

All the evidence indicates that, if I wasn’t born with the desire to teach, the passion was stirring when I was very young.  Continue reading “Why I Teach”

Rome: Confessions, Truths and Carpe Diem!

Confession: I feel a little guilty for taking nine days off during the school year.

Truth: But not enough that I wouldn’t seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Rome.

It’s unheard of for a teacher to take off two weeks during the school year. First, we only get eleven days off for sick or vacations days per school year. Second and more importantly, it’s a lot of work to be gone, planning what students will do, securing a trusted substitute teacher to deliver curriculum, and “letting go” of controlling my classroom. (Perhaps this has something to do with being a bit of a perfectionist, control-freak, as I’m learning about Enneagram, Type One.)  Usually, teachers take time off for a wedding or funeral, a child starting college, an important doctor’s appointment, but a two-week long trip? Nope.

After reviewing my teaching contract, I knew I didn’t need formal permission to take the nine days off in a row, but it was important to me that I have my principal’s blessing because it can be just as difficult for students when teachers are absent. But, Principal Brent Toalson was so gracious in understanding my unique request to take time off. He agreed with what I strongly believe: life is short and it’s important to seize the day when opportunities come.

carpe diem

Confession: I’m a little nervous about leaving my classroom for two weeks.

Truth: I have no reason to feel nervous because I have an amazing substitute teacher, Karen Kay, a retired business teacher and my former department chair, who will step in and do everything perfectly (I think she’s probably an Enneagram One, too.)  When my mother-in-law passed away two years ago at the beginning of the school year, Karen taught the first week of classes for me. It was the best start of a school year my students ever had!

So CARPE DIEM!! I’m off to Rome to attend the Fourth International Congress for Benedictine Oblates. The conference is hosted every four years for Benedictine oblates, novices and oblate directors from around the world.

Oblates are ordinary people who want to live as a monk in the world. Affiliated with a specific monastery (for me, that is Christ the King Priory in Schuyler, Nebraska), oblates strive to become holy in their everyday life, in their family and their workplace. Oblates promise to live a prayerful life according to the Rule of St. Benedict. I write about being an oblate at Being Benedictine.

being ben

The Congress theme, A Way Forward – The Benedictine Community in Movement, will provide encouragement for oblates to be peacemakers in a broken world, sharing hospitality in the face of war, terrorism, refugee crises and religious fanaticism, and to be stewards of an abused planet as challenged and inspired by Pope Francis in his encyclical “Laudato Si”. Surrounded by chaos, idolized entertainment, digital noise, and consumerism, oblates desire a life of silence, contemplation, and simplicity.  We hope to answer the question: How can we as oblates create and contribute to communities around us – in our oblate groups and chapters, in our families and neighborhoods, in our workplaces, in our own monasteries of oblation and in society as a whole?

Oblates desire to be change agents in their own communities – together finding a new way forward. It sounds like a daunting task, a tall order, and very serious business. But as an oblate, I have hope that each of us can do our part to encourage peace.

A few things I look forward to:

  • Meeting and hearing Keynote Speaker, Sister Joan Chittister, OSB aka my (s)hero! Joan is one of the best known international speakers on Benedictine spirituality and social justice in the world. Author of over 50 books, Sr. Joan has been a courageous and sometimes controversial advocate of social justice, especially for women, in both church and society. She founded Benetvision, a web-based movement sharing Benedictine spirituality and currently co-chairs the United Nations-sponsored Global Peace Initiative of Women. More info about Joan Chittister HERE.
  • Spending time with my spiritual director and friend, Father Mauritius Wilde, who moved to Rome a year ago to serve as Prior of Sant Anselmo Abbey. I’m excited to see where he lives and works, to walk the streets of Rome together, to sneak in a spiritual direction session and to just be in the presence of a special friend. Fr. Mauritius writes a blog and has over thirty podcasts on Benedictine spirituality.
  • Visiting historic and religious sites including the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica and the necropolis on a Scavi tour, St. Benedict’s cell at San Benedetto and the Abbey he founded at Montecassino and attending a General Audience with Pope Francis (I harbor a secret desire of a drop-in visit by him at the conference. I will secure selfie evidence if my dream comes true.)

Confession: I plan to post updates while in Rome, making a conscious effort to let go of some perfectionist tendencies I have of editing, re-editing, and rewriting. Another confession: I have a few dozen blog posts sitting in a folder waiting for the perfect touches. I take solace in the fact that there are few sleepless nights for those wondering when I will publish my next post.) I surrender the notion that any of my blogs are perfect anyway.

Truth: I plan to live in the present moment, seizing opportunities, meeting new friends and enjoying many new experiences. Carpe diem! 

present moment 2

Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning?

Where were you when the world stopped turnin’
That September day?­
Teachin’ a class full of innocent children
Or drivin’ on some cold interstate?

We remember when the world stopped turning because, for most of us, it felt as if it did. Time stood still. We remember where we were, who we were with, and how we felt. And, since then, we feel compelled to share our experience with others. I don’t think it’s about reliving tragedy, working through stages of grief or some kind of talk therapy, I think it’s more about remembering the connectedness we felt with the people we were with. We felt something together, a soul experience that goes beyond words—perhaps fear faith hope and loveand despair, likely sadness and shock, but also a collective yearning for faith, hope, and love.

Teachin’ a class full of innocent children
As a high school teacher, I sometimes forget that my students are really children, but there was never a day when I felt that more than September 11, 2001. Together, we witnessed the second hijacked airplane fly into the World Trade Center, watching both buildings crumble to the ground. The day the world stopped turning, I was profoundly aware that I was the adult and responsible for the children in my classroom. I felt an obligation to hold it together, to remain calm, to comfort, to help them process difficult feelings and to find a reflective, intelligent way to answer their questions with as much of a knowing “I don’t know” that I could muster.

United Flight 175 Impacting Two World Trade Center
Image by © Sean Adair/Reuters/CORBIS

We know how the morning ended, but when my Business Management students asked to turn on the news, we had only heard that an airplane had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers. We had no idea that we weren’t just watching the news; we were watching a tragedy unfold, a real-life horror movie. When that 110-story building collapsed like a rambunctious toddler crashing into toy building blocks, time stood still. This split second, the most poignant moment of that September day, is also one of the most memorable of my twenty-year teaching career. It remains with me as a moment of Divine accompaniment and connectedness with my students.

Scanning the faces of my students, my eyes connected with Grant’s, a student sitting in the front row. I saw the disbelief in his eyes, the pain on his face, and watched him drop his head onto the desk. How long his head stayed cradled in his own hands, I don’t know, but it is a moment that has never left me. It was a moment of mutual grief for humanity, a oneness.


When we resumed classes as best we could, we went through the motions of school, adults trying to be adults—attempting to stay calm, our minds preoccupied with thoughts of our own children, our parents, our lives, our country, our future. As the details of the hijacking unfolded, I remember thinking that I could never take students on a trip again. As the sponsor of a student organization, travel with students was an important part of my duties, but it was heartbreaking to hear there had been a teacher with a class of young children on one of the planes. I felt the enormous responsibility of taking students outside the classroom.

But as the days, turned into weeks and months, the trauma of that day became more distant. We found ways to manage our fears and plan for potential tragedies that helped us all feel better. And despite my knee-jerk reaction resolving not to travel with students again, that following spring I took eight students to the DECA National Conference in Salt Lake City. Traveling was different from that point on, but I realized over the months that even if there were some fearful and challenging moments, I still wanted to have this special relationship with my students. Fear passes, faith, hope, and love win, and the world starts turning again. We heal. 

Serendipity, eight years later

It was an ordinary school morning. Students were researching how business and marketing plans are impacted by economic conditions and world events, such as the tragedy of 9/11. We reminisced about where we were that day, and I shared the powerful moment of making eye contact with Grant. We talked about the song, “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning” and how we will never forget the people we were with that day.

After class, I learned that I had a visitor–unusual for an ordinary day. When I arrived in our office, Grant, from the front row of my 2001 Business Management class, was standing there.

Stunned, I say, “You are not going to believe this, but I was just talking about you! I was telling the story of how our eyes met when the towers came down.”

His response: “You’re not going to believe this. I was on my way to see a client when the song, “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning” came on the radio. I knew I needed to see you, so I turned around and drove to school.”

 There really aren’t words to describe how touching that moment was. But this I know and deeply felt–that God works in beautiful ways through the events and people in our lives, a divine reminder that we are held by a hand that unites us all.

And more God-moments, eleven years later

In 2012, eight students and I had the opportunity to travel to New York City for a DECA conference. Visiting the 9/11 Memorial to honor Jennifer Dorsey-Howley, a graduate from our high school that died in the WTC, was a must-see on our itinerary. Jennifer was able to get all of her co-workers out of Tower One, but she and her unborn child perished.1

Our school’s Performing Arts Center bears her name and we honor her memory each September 11th. My students and I shared a time of silence when we found her name at the reflecting pools, located exactly where the Twin Towers once stood. As we shared our memories of that day, I told them about the special connection with Grant and his unexpected visit after hearing the song on the radio. Now, at the 9/11 Memorial, I was having another miraculous moment with students, yet another experience that reminds me how essential my students are to my life and my spirit.DSC_0245

The experiences I have shared with students are the golden thread woven into the tapestry of my life. The responsibilities of teaching and adulting are tremendous, but the gifts are priceless, my heart is full, and as the song says,

I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love.

DSC_0004

 

 

Always We Begin Again

st ben begin again

“Always we begin again.” –St. Benedict

I just started my 39th semester of teaching.  I love the “beginning again” that comes with the teaching profession.  Two of my favorite things about teaching are discovering new ways to share the love of learning with students and the chance to start the next semester with a clean slate. Fresh ideas, new teaching strategies, another opportunity to grow and learn and improve—and hoping a little of that rubs off on my students. I want to make a difference and help students learn.

I think I’m still learning that I will never get it just right. I will never be perfect. But I love that I can be creative each day, trying new things, forgiving myself for what doesn’t work and starting over again the next day, week or semester.

 It’s a good reminder for everyday life as well.  So often in our relationships we carry the mistakes, hurts, expectations and fears into our next day; never really giving others, or ourselves, a chance to begin again.

What if we could truly give ourselves and others a clean slate? A fresh start?

What if we really could be merciful…compassionate, gentle, loving, understanding, kind, accepting, giving, patient, forgiving INSTEAD OF cold-hearted, impatient, irritated, withholding, reluctant, hard, thoughtless, self-centered, judgmental?

Being merciful means allowing ourselves and others the chance to begin again. How do we get there…to being more merciful?

mercy1

This year, Pope Francis  has declared a Jubilee or Holy Year of Mercy. He believes we need a  “revolution of tenderness”—between nations and in our personal relationships.

revolution4“How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God,” he wrote. He believes it is time for the Church to show her motherly face to a humanity that is wounded.”

What powerful images Pope Francis brings to this word we all too often use, but do not understand or practice: MERCY. A chance to begin again.

For Christmas, I wanted to create a SoulCollage® card for my monk friends at Christ the King Priory that represented the season. I gathered images that seemed Christmas-y and tried to bring them into unity on a card.  But it just wasn’t working; images that called to me instead kept saying MERCY. So I went with it. I let the word and idea of mercy flow over me and into the creation. The process of creating was prayerful and inspired and joyful. The card and words that follow are the result:

mercy

A gesture, an embrace, a tender gaze
Lays bare every vein, wrinkle, pore and blade.
In the Light, transparent and humbled,
We are seen, truly seen.

Despite our failures and flights,
Doors of mercy open to
Eternal love made visible. 

Pope Francis believes, “The most important thing in the life of every man and every woman is not that they should never fall along the way, the important thing is always to get back up.”

May we take this word and image, MERCY, into our year and our lives. The doors are always open for us to begin again. We are received just as the Prodigal Son was received, with open and forgiving arms. The image of the Prodigal Son, created by Rembrandt, communicates both the motherly and fatherly qualities of a God who welcomes us all home. It conveys all of the qualities of mercy that we hope to receive and can strive to give: compassion, tenderness, love and acceptance.

In our thoughts, words and actions, towards ourselves and others, we have a new day to try again to give and receive the mercy that God has given us.

Each new day is a new day.  Always we begin again.

SoulFully You: 2015 in Review

Happy New Year from SoulFully You!butterfly no logo Thank you for subscribing to and sharing my posts during 2015. Your comments and feedback have been encouraging.

Thanks to you, SoulFully You was viewed 6200 times by over 2500 readers in 39 countries during 2015. Readers have found SoulFully You through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, SoulCollage, Becoming Minimalist, Jumping Tandem, Abbey of the Arts, St. Benedict Center and Google. It’s been a serendipitous blessing to connect with people around the world and to stumble upon new readers in my hometown, Lincoln, Nebraska.

SoulFully You, the name of this blog /hobby/ business/vocation /passion /endeavor is about my own pursuit of a creative, spiritual  and authentic life and my desire to accompany others on that journey. It’s about listening and praying and living a creative, purposeful, passionate life.

It’s about becoming SoulFully You. So thank you for accompanying me.DSC_0323a

There is no formula for what and when I share. There are no strategically-planned weekly posts (who would want notifications or email from me every week?). It may seem a little haphazard to the reader (and even within the writer, ha!), but it’s important for me to wait for inspiration and to listen for guidance about what to write; to be soulful about what I share.  I know when it feels right; and I know when it feels forced or unnatural. I’m not going to “leap ahead of grace” (quoting Sr. Helen Prejean) when it comes to SoulFully You.

SoulFully You, the blog, was birthed to connect with others who find DSC_0730SoulCollage® a creative and prayerful form of self-expression and to share information about retreats and workshops. 

But it has transformed into something more for me: a way to reflect, grow spirituality and express myself creatively. Both words (writing/reading) and images (SoulCollage®) resonate with me; I surrender to the synergy that is greater than either practice alone; I listen and learn and follow my intuition.   I write about what I am passionate about, often prompted through SoulCollage®I am one who” statements; send it out into the universe; and hope that it resonates with a few people.  I have faith that what I create will be a spark of light for the right people, at the right time.

WordPress, the blog platform used for SoulFully You, prepares an annual report, basically a report card, for every blog they host. The cool thing is that it’s just about my blog…no comparisons, no goal setting, no pressure to increase blog traffic…just a good old-fashioned report. It honors what IS and I appreciate that. 

According to WordPress, the top 5 posts on SoulFully You were:

1. Giving up to Gain: Selling, Decluttering and the 68506

2. It’s About Time We Start Sharing the Same Breath

3. Selling Our House: Surrender to Surprise

4. Decluttering: Taking Off the Top Layer

5.  A Picture Can Reveal the Soul: Using Images in the Classroom

Decluttering and selling our house was a defining element of 2015. Writing about it was tonic, and accountability, for the soul…and it seemed to have resonated with others–Google search brings a new reader almost daily for those posts. I haven’t written about our move (and the downstairs storage room that affirms the decluttering process as yet unfinished), but I hope to bring this theme back to life in 2016…life just got complicated during the process.

In the midst of moving to a temporary dwelling while our new house was finished, my mother-in-law (pictured) became ill, was hospitalized for several weeks and then suddenly passed away.

Our hearts are broken. Perhaps the greatest stress and loss in our lives, combined with sending our senior-in-college daughter to Washington DC for an internship, IMG_8622starting a new school year myself and then finally moving for the last time, has thrown us into survival mode for the second half of 2015. Lots of tasks are still on the list of things-to-do.

Creating and writing about other topics has been helpful and healing, but likely a bit of avoidance as well. I hope to write about my mother-in-law when the time feels right. In the meantime writing and reflecting about spirituality and Soul Collage®, creativity and country drives, friends and family has been a balm for my soul.

Some of my favorite 2015 posts

love and marriageSome of my favorite posts are about my husband and daughter. Joe and I celebrated 30  years of marriage this year and Jessica is just one semester away from being a college graduate.  See A Marriage Made of Moments and Jessica Becoming.

Driving country roads is contemplative prayer for me. I get lost in the beauty and I know I am in the presence of God. See Country Road Contemplative (also shared on Abbey of the Arts Monk in the World guest blog), The Same Two Trees, The Grandeur of God, Signs on Country Roads.

Using SoulCollage® to honor and remember friends and family is not just an option for me….I have to, I am compelled. This year I created cards and wrote about Cece, a grandma collageneighbor who was like a grandma to us (See Cece: A Snow Day Reflection); my own grandma Helen Blazek (pictured) and what I learned about faith from her (See Images of Faith); and about my friend Judy, part of our Circle (See Circle of Friends), who also passed away in 2015.

Reading “Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are” by Deidra Riggs was a surreal experience. Being neighbors by chance, and having as much in common as different, brought the exciting opportunity to be on the launch team for her first (and likely not last) book. (See It’s About Time We Start Sharing the Same Breath and Every Little Thing).

And of course, writing and reflecting on the power of images and creativity is my afavorite topic to write about–in my job as a teacher, in my spiritual life, leading retreats (especially Full Moon retreats!) and in reflecting on nature and the environment. (See We are Moons, Not Suns; Living in the Fullness of God; Praying with Scissors; Why I Teach; Earth Gratitude; We are Made in the Image of God;  A Picture Can Reveal The Soul)

Some of the topics I hope to write about in 2016 are Benedictine spirituality (including obedience, stability and conversion of life….and what all of that really means for a “monk in the world“), Lectio and Visio Divina prayer practice, creating and reflecting on Community Suit (friends and family) SoulCollage cards®, being a Catholic-Come-Home, the on-going decluttering process and using SoulCollage® to celebrate Earth Day! Whatever it is, I shall wait for the Divine nudge and then hit PUBLISH. We’ll see how it goes.

Thank you for following SoulFully You! May 2016 bring you joy, reflection, peace, creativity and love!  Blessings, Jodi

For the official WordPress report card, see link below.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,200 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

SoulFully You 2015 in Blogging Annual Report

 

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