". . .the word of God is not bound." II Tim. 2:9b

Sunday, January 29, 2017

When Teachers Question God: Wilderness Times in the Believing Teacher's Life

Bible clipart image picture painting public domain wilderness leadership
"Moses and the Burning Bush" by James J. Tissot
We question God. It's natural. Men and women of faith have been questioning God since the beginning of time. Rather than discouraging questions, God welcomes them. He even responds.

From Moses's time in the wilderness (Exodus 3) comes a discussion with the Lord about needs and fears that are close to every believer's heart. During times of wandering, these needs and fears come to the forefront.

The Christian teacher may ask some of the same big questions that Moses wrestled with when he met with God at Horeb, the Mountain of God:

"Who am I?"

  • Am I called to be a teacher?
  • How can I juggle my career and all my other roles?
  • Which role is most important?
  • What do you want me to be when I grow up?

"Why are the people I care for being treated unjustly?"

  • How can I stand up to bullying in my school--from students and adults?
  • How can I show compassion to the downtrodden?
  • How can I exercise my First Amendment rights and inspire others to do the same?

"Do you see me, Lord? Do you hear?"

  • What do you see when you look at me, Lord?
  • Do you remember my frailty?
  • Why is it so hard to carve out devotional time in my day?
  • Are you hearing my prayers? Nothing seems to change.
  • I feel like no one listens to me. Are you listening?
  • The world is darkening. How can I maintain hope?
  • I'm hurting. How can I find your comfort?
  • I'm burnt out. Where can I find rest?

"Why am I in this wilderness?"

  • Is this the place you want me to be?
  • My desires are not being satisfied. Why?
  • What are you trying to teach me, Lord?
  • Am I willing to listen?
  • Am I willing to change?

"How long will this season last?"

  • I get impatient. Will you give me a glimmer of hope to keep me going?
  • Am I learning patience? Am I learning the other lessons I need to learn?
  • Am I drawing close to you?
  • Do I believe that you have something good in mind? Do I trust you?

"Where are you leading me?"

  • Am I teaching at the right district? In the right grade level or subject area?
  • Is it time to look for something different? Or to rest in you right here, right now?
  • Is there an area of passion that you are calling me to explore?
  • Do I trust you to lead me when I don't know the destination?
  • Can I remember that your timing and your purpose may look different from my expectation?
  • Do I trust that you are all-wise, all-powerful, and good?

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Deserts of the Heart
Right now, many of these questions are settled in my mind, but I can vividly remember times when some of them blazed in front of my eyes every day, keeping me from being effective as a teacher, wife, and mother. Having wrestled with these questions, posed them to God, and learned His will for me, I am a happier, more blessed person for having been led through the wilderness. Yes, I still struggle in my calling at times. Yes, I still have days of confusion and questioning. But I remember the lessons from the desert, and they bring me peace.

Facing the wilderness?
Sometimes we need to ask the help of another Christian friend or two or three to steer us to a place where we can ask these questions. Sometimes God will steer us there directly, by removing responsibilities, by sending obstacles, by bringing us to a desperate place so we have to look to Him.

If you're there now in that desperate place, I hope you will run to the wilderness as Moses did. Allow yourself to thirst and hunger. Wait for God to meet you. Treasure His word. Ask your questions. Believe that it has a purpose.

For further reading:
Devotional Aids for Every Christian Teacher
Teaching As Calling
Exodus Chapter 3 (Bible Gateway)
Deserts of the Heart: Finding God During the Dry Times by Pamela Reeve

Monday, January 23, 2017

New Kindle eBook: The Swans of Starlight Lake

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The Swans of Starlight Lake
When my daughter was very small, she began drawing ducks and swans, teaching herself to draw by constant practice. We had printer paper all over the house—drafts of swan necks and wings, nests, eggs, swans in flight, nesting swans, swans on water, frightened swans, and proud mother swans with newly-hatched eggs.

Today I feel like one of those proud mother swans. My daughter and I have self-published a fairy tale we wrote together—about swans, of course. The Swans of Starlight Lake began as a bedtime story, evolved into an ebook typed and illustrated for our own enjoyment, and now comes into its own as a Kindle edition.
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With fairy-tale tradition entwined throughout, this new story by a mother-daughter team is a classic tale of adventure and love.

Readers ages 5-10 will wonder what's going to happen next as Muriel, Leo, and their mother set out to rescue two stolen swan eggs from a reclusive noble who hides beneath a feathered cape. The kids work together to thwart the guards and bring their treasure safely home to Starlight Lake.

The Swans of Starlight Lake contains several vintage, color illustrations and has a 14-point font for little eyes. Get it for Kindle for .99¢, or free with Kindle Unlimited.

If you read the story, please consider leaving a review on Amazon.com and using social media buttons to share. Thanks for helping our story reach a wider audience!

And the Winner Is. . .

It was lots of fun talking poetry with readers of the Overcoming With God blog last week! Carrie Fancett Pagels was so kind to invite me to guest post about my new poetry chapbook, Landlocked. The winner of the giveaway was Debbie M. —Congratulations, Debbie!

Want to get the book for yourself? For a limited time, save 20% when you purchase Landlocked from the CreateSpace store. Just use the code RMH99YW4 at checkout.

Coming soon, I'll be announcing a new Kindle Edition of a children's book project my daughter Reagan and I have just completed. For a sneak peek, visit my Web site, www.amyballard.com and click on the tab for The Swans of Starlight Lake.

Blessings on you this winter day, my sixth snow day this month.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Shoveling a Path Through the Snowdrifts for New Teachers

"The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." --II Timothy 2:2

Record snowfall, sub-zero temps, high winds. . .the perfect recipe for a snow day. My southern Idaho district has had a few of them this year--five, to be exact--and the weather forecast indicates prime conditions for another snow day tomorrow. Some of my fellow teachers are sick to death of snow. And it has been inconvenient. But then, I know a farmer who prays every year for just such an "inconvenient snow" to give moisture for the summer's crops. This year, she sure saw her prayers answered!

Yesterday, I uncharacteristically picked up a shovel and cleared a path through some three feet of snow (deeper in places where the wind had drifted it) to the woodshed. The experience reminded me how wimpy I really am (had to take a break half-way through, and by the time the path was clear, I was so tired I didn't know if I could survive the actual carrying-the-wood part). How much more grateful I am today for my wood fire because of the effort I went to to get it.

Now, my three kids can use the path I cleared. This morning they each brought me an armload of wood from the shed--something they would not have been able to do if I had continued to ignore the arduous chore of shoveling that path.

In teaching, sometimes, we need someone to clear a path for us, too. As a young teacher, I often found myself struggling with classroom management, organization, or maintaining student engagement. Teachers with far more experience offered a listening ear and the much-needed use of their tool-kits at the moment when I was most frustrated. God placed compassionate, skilled mentors in my life who had shoveled that path, clearing the way for me to find success in the classroom. I'm so grateful!

If you've been teaching for fewer than ten years, you probably don't feel like an "expert" yet. Maybe you never will, because teaching is a constantly changing world, and wise teachers know they must continue to learn and grow throughout their careers. But even with a few school years under your belt, you have the needed perspective to help someone newer than you.

In fact, you might already have put in the grunt work to clear one of these paths for new teachers:

  • Identifying priorities in work and in life
  • Aligning lessons to standards
  • Lesson planning
  • Creating effective plans for subs
  • Communicating with parents
  • Meeting the needs of diverse learners
  • Implementing character education or other program
  • Getting the most out of professional development
  • Planning for efficient use of prep time
  • Using formative assessments effectively
  • Reflecting on successes and growth areas

You've been down that path. You had a tough time, and it was work. Real work. Now it's time to take on the role of a mentor and help someone else get through the same snowdrift.

What "snowdrifts" could you help another teacher through? What drifts do you need help shoveling? Share in the comments, then go get that shovel!

Image credit: The Graphics Fairy, a wonderful site for vintage clip art!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Speaking Schedule: Federal Programs Conference April 5-7 in Boise, Idaho

The snow is falling thick again, as if four snow days last week were not enough! Meanwhile, I just found out I'll be presenting at the 2017 Federal Programs Conference in Boise in April. As always, I'm thrilled to be able to share my session on Choose Your Own Adventure: Writing and Publishing Narratives Using Digital Technology with a wider audience. Some 900 teachers, administrators, and other school personnel will be attending. Teachers, I hope to see you there!

Going on right now, I'm talking poetry with readers on the Overcoming With God blog. Stop by and leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Landlocked, my new poetry chapbook. You can also buy the book now.

So blessed yesterday to present Using Mentor Texts to Enhance Creativity (free to you here) at a hub meeting of Idaho Core Teacher Network teachers in Twin Falls. Our little group of participants worked hard, laughed a lot, and wrote some moving poetry, too.

Want to book me for a conference or professional development? I speak to writers' groups and Christian ladies' groups, too. Email me at amy @ amyballard .com [remove spaces].

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Fighting the Natural Urge to Protect Our Wounds

So blessed this morning by a book excerpt by Kristen Strong on Dayspring.com (affiliate link). Just read the title, and you'll understand: "When Wounds from Women are Hard To Forgive." Kristen relates how a conference with another child's parent about a bullying situation went wrong and the hurt she felt from another woman's words.

This part stood out to me:

"You find yourself picking those slights and slanders up one by one with your hand and stacking them like firebricks around your heart. With one brick you say, 'This will teach me not to open up to friends.' And then with another you say, 'Lonely is better than looking like a loser.'"

Haven't we all been there? I know I have. It happens in teaching situations and in our lives outside our jobs. It even happens in churches.

Kristen's answer to the urge to build up a firewall to protect our hearts is forgiveness.

In a recent situation, I felt hurt by something another woman said to me. My natural inclination was to protect myself, to defend, to defy, to prove. But I believe fundamentally that Christ-likeness demands a humbler response. It demands a heart that forgives. Right now, I'm still in a conversation with God about it all. "Help me forgive," I'm praying. "Help me lay aside pride so that I can be an example of the believer in Jesus. Help me be a channel for your spirit to work healing on both sides."

Dear Lord, work in our hearts and keep them tender to your leading. Don't let us build walls around our hearts to protect ourselves, but let us remain open to loving and forgiving as you have loved and forgiven us. Amen.

For further reading:
Showing Compassion
Coming tomorrow, Amy Ballard guest blogs on Carry Fancett Pagels's blog; she'll give away a free copy of her poetry chapbook, Landlocked.
Find Amy's poem "A Feather" on p. 18 of the newly-released Winter Poetry Issue of GNU Journal

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Guest Blog Post and Poetry Giveaway Hosted by Carrie Fancett Pagels

poetry, maine, idaho, place, home, homesickness, chapbook, new, 2017
Landlocked: Poems by Amy Ballard
What's the antidote to four snow days in a row? A visit to another great blog!

Next week, I'll be guest blogging about my new poetry chapbook, Landlocked, on Carrie Fancett Pagels's blog. Carrie is an inspirational fiction author you may know from titles like The Blue Ribbon Brides Collection from Barbour and The Substitute Bride, a Christmas novella. Carrie has also agreed to guest blog here on Christian Teacher, Public School in March and share with us about her fun novella, The Fruitcake Challenge.

Poetry is close to many a teacher's heart, so grab some friends and swing on by Carrie's blog on Monday for a chance to win a copy of Landlocked, my first poetry collection. I'll share why I think everyone secretly likes poetry and how God is still transforming me as a Christian woman living in the West.

What's a chapbook? It's a short book or pamphlet (mine is 34 pages) containing poems or fiction, usually on a single theme. The theme of Landlocked is my feeling of being uprooted when I moved from Maine to Idaho as a newlywed and the ways God is still teaching me contentment. Other motifs in the book include postcards, water (and sometimes the lack thereof), and specific flowers that grow wild in Maine and Idaho.

For more information about Landlocked, please visit my Web site, www.amyballard.com.

Let your friends know about the free book giveaway Monday!

Tweet this:
Enter to win Landlocked: Poems by Amy Ballard at https://cfpagels.blogspot.com Jan 16 #BookGiveaway #Poetry

Thanks, and blessings upon those of you who aren't snowed in and have to teach today!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Using Mentor Texts to Teach Writing and Enhance Creativity

"Mentor text" is a buzz-word in education circles, but what does it mean? How can teachers use mentor texts effectively in the classroom to teach reading and writing?

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Free PD Presentation on Using Mentor Texts
I recently had the opportunity to explore the topic of mentor texts and create a professional development presentation for my Idaho Coaching Network class. The result is "Using Mentor Texts to Enhance Creativity," and it's free to you from Christian Teacher, Public School for educational or PD use.

This presentation focuses on teaching writing using mentor texts such as "Four Eyes" by Nikki Grimes, "April Rain Song" by Langston Hughes, "Hope is the Thing with Feathers" by Emily Dickinson, and "The Rainy Day" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The grade-level examples are approximately third-sixth, though the principles for using mentor texts extend lower and higher.

It's twenty-four below here in southern Idaho, and the snow is reaching record depths, but my mind turned toward spring when creating this Google Slides presentation. Hence the rainy-day, umbrellas-and-rubber boots theme. I hope you enjoy!

Know of a great strategy or resource to use with mentor texts? Have a favorite mentor text that you use in your classroom? Share in the comments!

More teacher resources:
Free Ninth Grade Vocabulary Presentation with Lots of Images to Help Kids Learn Words
Visit Brevity on Teachers Pay Teachers
Freebies from Dover Publishing

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Encourage a Teacher by Sharing Christian Teacher, Public School

"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Galatians 6:9

There are days when we all need a word of motivation and encouragement to keep us going. In this new year, build someone up by using the social media buttons to share this blog with a teacher in your life.

Let's pray today that God will guide and bless us

  • in our personal walk with Him
  • in the use of our time
  • in our lesson preparations
  • in our classroom management
  • in our communication with colleagues, students, and parents
  • in our skill as teachers
  • in our continuing professional education
  • in our vision for the future.

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Monday, January 2, 2017

Upcoming Guest Post on Carrie Fancett Pagels's Blog for Landlocked, My New Poetry Chapbook

". . .for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am." 
Philippians 4:11

I'd dearly like to be able to say the words above with Paul, but contentment is one of the greatest challenges I've faced in life. Just when I think I'm finally learning, something gets me thinking about what I want that I don't have. May God continue to teach me, and may I be willing to listen in this new year!

The struggle for contentment is prominent in my poetry. Coming up soon, I'll be celebrating the launch of my new chapbook, Landlocked, with a guest post on Carrie Fancett Pagels's blog. Carrie is a writer friend I met online through my mother, author Susan Page Davis. I'm looking forward to chatting with Carrie and her readers. Make sure to stop by and say hello!

poetry, maine, idaho, place, home, homesickness, chapbook, new, 2017
Landlocked: Poems by Amy Ballard
Landlocked is my first poetry collection. It's about growing up in Maine and moving to Idaho, a state that is vastly different, notably by being dry and landlocked. It's about being uprooted and undergoing the difficult process of adapting to a new place. It's about learning contentment despite a very real homesickness.

This chapbook, or short collection of poems, is a project I've had on the back burner for fifteen years. Two of the poems found publication in magazines before being included in Landlocked. Others won honorable mentions in contests. Even back in 2002, when I first started thinking of creating a chapbook, I knew what its theme would be. I didn't know the motif of postcards would appear when the book finally came together! Both the first and the last poems in the collection mention postcards. In the first, a postcard makes me homesick. In the last, I savor the view of the trees lining the creek and accept that I live in a postcard-perfect place. In between are glimpses of the journey toward that sense of contentment.

You can help this book reach a wider audience by visiting my Web site, amyballard.com. Click on the "Landlocked" tab and use social media buttons to boost. Thanks for making a difference!

Stop by my Pinterest collection for Landlocked, where I've pinned some vintage postcards and other images that fit the theme of my book.

Did you know Christian Teacher, Public School is on Pinterest, too? Stop by for encouragement and blessings for the new semester!