Different Countries, Same Struggles

Collaborating, Training, and Learning with Teachers in Haiti.

I’m a Special Education Teacher, a youth ministry leader, and a thrill seeking explorer. On July 20, 2015 all these passions merged together into one culminating call: a youth mission’s trip to Haiti. Initially, I was hesitant about whether I should go on the seven day mission trip. I read and heard about how short term missions often imperialistically bring American values and culture on the communities they seek to serve. How it develops a ‘hero syndrome’ on the short term missionaries and they often fail to recognize and reflect on their own brokenness. I wanted everyone involved to come back home with more than just having learned,“Wow, I’m so thankful for what I have, because they have so little.” Despite my concerns I still felt a strong call from the Lord to go as a youth chaperon on the Haiti mission trip.

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Pastor Beneet and Me

Our team of nine partnered with a local Pastor in Haiti, Pastor Beneet. He has a compound that serves as an orphanage, church, and school for 750 students. During the first couple of days of my stay in Haiti, I collaborated with two other American Teachers, Joan and Amy, (who also were serving at the compound) to conduct a two day seminar for 25 Haitian Elementary teachers. I just barely finished my rookie year of teaching a K/1 Special Education class. Before that I was a substitute teacher for a year and some change. On the other hand, Joan and Amy had a combined experience of 45 years of teaching elementary students. Needless to say, I learned a lot from simply conversing with them and planning how to conduct the seminar. We were very adamant about wanting to make the seminar more of a collaboration effort between us and the Haitian teachers. We did not want to approach the seminar as we the American teachers being the ‘experts’, and them being the ‘learners’. We wanted to affirm that we were all professionals of the same field and can learn from one another. The first day was primarily a discussion. We introduced ourselves and discussed our experience and vice versa. We dialogued about the how the education system is set up in both countries, what’s expected of teacher’s, and what are the needs of our students. To our surprise we had more similarities than differences. Overall, we all expressed a desire to improve reading comprehension and managing student/classroom behavior.  At the end of the day, kids are kids, and the same chatterbox Jonny that won’t play nice at recess can be found in any teacher’s class around the world. However, one major difference I learned is a majority of children in Haiti do not have access to education. The children who do receive it value education as a precious jewel. Whereas, American students are often more difficult to motivate and less appreciative of their education.

Haitian teachers applying reading comprehension strategies

Haitian teachers applying reading comprehension strategies

On the second day of the Teacher’s seminar we taught the latest American teaching strategy for increasing reading comprehension, Depths of Knowledge. This method was also new to me! Essentially, it assists teachers in asking more critical thinking questions surrounding various texts.  Less who, what, when, where, why questions, and more compare, construct, assess and revise directions. I was so excited and humbled to lead the application portion of the seminar! It was very empowering to learn from everyone’s abundant

Leading teachers through application of stategies

Leading teachers through application of stategies

experiences and be able to share some of my own knowledge and experience as well. At the end we donated dozens of math books, science posters, and school supplies. We received great feedback from the teachers, administrators and translator who attended the seminar. As I prepare for my second year of teaching, all the testimonies I heard in Haiti truly inspire me to continue growing as an educator.

 Though our education system and cultures may differ, our love and heart for educating children beats the same.  

Teaching and learning togeher
Teaching and learning together!
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Us Against the World? When friends and Family Don’t Support your LDR

Opinions are like noses, everyone has one. You may have heard this saying before, or a similar version of it. If you’re in a relationship, especially a long distance relationship (LDR), you know all too well the opinions of what your friends and family think of it. Even though we now live in age where access to information, entertainment, and face-to-face communication is literally at our finger tips, many people still find long distance relationships bizarre, and frankly not a ‘real’ relationship.

My boyfriend and I were recently at a gym signing up for their free week promo. As we were touring the gym with a supervisor, we shared that we were long distance and I was visiting. He didn’t say anything, but he looked at us like we told him we wrangle wild unicorns for a living.  When people do actually have the audacity to speak up, they often ask questions like, “How do you make a long distance relationship work?” “How can you REALLY get to know someone so far away?” “How can you trust them?” “What if you both meet other people locally?” etc… Being asked such loaded questions can be draining and make you feel like not enough of your friends are really in your corner rooting you.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned that not every question that’s asked about my relationship is locked and loaded with a hidden agenda. And not every opinion shared simply needs to be dismissed. I have several close friends and family who really encourage me about the future. Alex and I are blessed to have a Christian couple in their 30’s, who were once long distance, and are now married with children mentor us. However, I’ve learned to exercise wisdom before I allow anyone to speak into my relationship and have some influence in it.

I think it’s really important to analyze WHY someone may be telling you an opinion they may have about your relationship or significant other.  Do you believe their motives pure? Sometimes people share an opinion because they are coming from a place of loving concern and other times it can be because of jealousy or anger or whatever else. Do you believe they have your best interest at heart?

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How to Get Support

Tell your friends and family your relationship plans

Sometimes family and friends may not be supportive of the relationship because they simply just don’t know your significant other. Share about the other person and what you see in them. Share the future plans you and your significant other have for the relationship. Let them meet him/her. If it can’t be done in person, then over the phone or FaceTime. The first time Alex came to visit me in LA we weren’t officially in a relationship yet. I still introduced him to my family because I knew it would be a while before they saw him again and I knew we were moving towards dating with purpose. Introducing your partner to people your close to may not wipe away all of their doubts but it will give them a better sense of who he/she is.

Seek online support

Being in a long distance relationship that’s not heavily supported by friends and family can feel lonesome. I knew a few acquaintances who dated long distance but none of my close friends or family. But there are tons of long distance relationships out there and communities of couples who are rallying around each other to support one another. Read encouraging blogs about LDR’s.  Click here and join online community of folks in LDR’s and believe in them.

My friends or Family don’t like my significant Other

Now this situation is very difficult. But before you decide it’s going to be you and your partner against the world, you should find out why and listen to why your close friends and family may not like him/her. Sometimes your close friend can see or pick up on something you may be overlooking. Issues and concerns regarding character flaws should be taken seriously. I would suggest praying about it and asking God to reveal to you any truth that may be in their concerns. On the other hand, close friends can also bring up things that are petty or simply based on what THEY prefer. Those things should be dismissed!

Remember keep believing and stay encouraged! Long distance is not for the faint at heart.

Xtina

muesum

Inspired by LDR prompt: Support
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The 5 Golden Rules For Fighting and Making up

Every relationship, no matter how crazy in love you are with each other, will at times have arguments. If you are in a relationship and haven’t had a disagreement or at least gotten on each other’s nerves, chances are high that you are still in the honeymoon stage or one/both of you are not being honest about things that are bothering you. Contrary to popular belief, arguing is not always a bad thing. It tests your communication skills and reveals the health of your overall relationship. In fact, arguing the right way can lead to growth in your relationship. On the other hand arguing the wrong way can lead to its demise. After being in a Long Distance Relationship (LDR) for 18 months and having ups and downs throughout it, I’ve learned 5 Golden Rules to abide by when arguing.

Golden Rule #1:Address facts not assumptions
When you’re upset it’s all to easy to get caught up in your emotions and begin to make assumptions about the other person’s intentions, wrongly interpret their actions, and assume why they did what you are upset about. Allow your significant other to address what you are upset about before you assume the worst.
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Golden Rule #2: Give space to process and cool down
Sometimes you or your significant other may need space to cool down. Don’t force yourselves to stay on the phone or keep talking about it if your interactions are going to be toxic. There have been times when I knew I needed space but decided to just keep FaceTiming. Nothing fruitful came from our interaction and only put me in a worse mood. At the same time, while you should give space don’t let the time be unlimited. You don’t want to go days without speaking and attempting to reconcile. Try not to let the sun set on your anger (Ephesians 4:26).

Golden Rule #3: Over-communicate
Typical communication is usually under-communicating. Many people tend to not say exactly what they are feeling. BE CLEAR. Be Direct. When you’re in an LDR a lot of communication is lost because you are not in person. Even if you are FaceTiming, you still cannot see their full body language. So much of what we think and feel is expressed non-verbally. That’s why it’s key to over-communicate so what you’re saying and feeling isn’t misinterpreted. Now that my boyfriend and I are intentionally more clear and direct, we have fewer misunderstandings caused by bad Internet connections or mis-read texts. (NEVER try and solve big issues via Text or Email. It’s a total recipe for miscommunication. Even if you have to wait until you can be on the phone again, just wait).

Golden Rule #4: Know your communication styles
Some people, like myself, are external processors. We often think aloud and when trying to reconcile or reach a conclusion we often want to hear the other person’s thoughts and feelings right away as we share ours. However, if you’re an internal processor (like my boyfriend) you tend to speak in thoughtful conclusions after you’ve fully worked out the issue in your mind. I often want an answer or his response immediately, whereas he will need time and space to really think about what he is feeling and then share. We’ve learned to respect the ways in which we communicate differently.

Golden Rule #5: Forgive and Move Forward
This is the most important rule. Even if you and your significant other do not stay together still forgive and move forward. Notice I didn’t say forget, sometimes that’s simply impossible. When I step back and realize how much my Heavenly Father has forgiven me, it makes it easier to forgive others (Isaiah 23: 45-46). Moving forward is a choice. You decide whether or not you will continue to stew in anger and replay the offense in your mind. When arguing/reconciling just keep in mind what Love truly is!

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

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Inspired by this LDR Prompt: Amazing Advice
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Thriving in the Distance

Getting to know someone and dating can be fun and exciting, but if we’re honest, its also nerve-wracking and a lot of work. It’s even more work when you’re in different time zones, separated by 2,000 miles, and costs hundreds of dollars to see each other. If you haven’t guessed already, I’m in a Long Distance Relationship/Courtship/Whatever. (Because if you’re Christian, it doesn’t really matter what you call it, but how you do it, and how you pursue Christ together)

Our Story

I Live in LA. He Lives in Chicago. We met in Raleigh, North Carolina. Random? Maybe…I tend to believe it’s not. In March 2013, we both attended an InterVarsity Black staff conference. I’d love to say it was love at first sight, but in reality the sparks didn’t really go flying. During prayer in a small group, he shared he just experienced a hard break up a couple of weeks ago. Needless to say, I left the conference wanting to be JUST FRIENDS. After a couple of weeks he friended me on FB and tried to connect with me. I responded slowly, sometimes taking weeks. He still didn’t give up.  Our FB messaging, soon turned into phones calls, SKYPE, and eventually him visiting me in LA. One thing that made Alex stand out more than any other guy I previously liked, was he made it very clear to me what his INTENTIONS were. After some time, he told me “I am interested in you and I am pursuing you.” Too often Christian guys leave everything ambiguous. Ladies are often left wondering, “Is this a date, or are we just ‘hanging out?” “Are we just friends?” As Christians we want to date with purpose. Guys, this doesn’t mean you have to know right away whether she’s your future wife. But it does mean that if you’re going on dates, after a short while you need to make your intentions known, whether its friendship or more. I’ve been in my long distance relationship for 1 year, 3 months and 18 days, but who’s really counting lol. I readily admit that I’m NO expert. I just know what has worked for us, what areas we need to grow in, and how God calls us to love in all our relationships. With that said, I’ve thought of 5 key things that are needed in Long Distance relationships and ALL relationships.


 5 C’s for Thriving in your relationship.

Communicate effectively. Communication is VITAL. If something is bothering you, just say it! (Kindly). I’ve learned the hard way by sweeping stuff under the rug that it will still bother Continue reading

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Top 5 Do’s and Don’ts of Substitute Teaching

Substitute teaching is a job like no other. It requires you to be a fast thinker, good multi-tasker, an excellent discerner of bull crap, and a chameleon that can roll with the punches of any situation. I have been a sub for 15 months, and after being in over 100 classes, 25 schools, and three districts, I’m still no expert but I can certainly offer some essential survival skills.

Believe it or not, there are a lot of perks to subbing, especially if you are a recent college grad!

Pro’s include:

1)       Decent reliable pay: People often asked me with concern “Do you work every day?” Actually yes, yes I do. I have picked up an assignment every single school day that I have wanted to work.

2)      You make your schedule: As a sub you can choose to work every day, some days, half days, whatever.  You pick up assignments as you please and can drop them (within a certain time frame) I went to Chicago for a week in the middle of March and didn’t have to ask for the time off!

3)      Off of work by 3 p.m. sometimes earlier: Need I say more?

Although subbing has it’s perks, I must warn you, it’s a job only for the brave at heart. Being sub is like being thrown into a lion’s den with raw meat strapped to your back. THERE IS NO TRAINING… NONE! Not even an advice pamphlet. Once your fingerprints clear you start.

Con’s include:

1)       Being relentlessly tested by bay-bay students: I’ve been yelled at, laughed at, lied too,  asked really personal questions, and everything else under the sun (try your best not to take it personal).

2)      Everybody and they mama thinks you’re a student (if you’re young): I’ve been hit on by the HS boys, asked if I was the “new girl,” stopped by security, and accused of ditching. Once a boy walked in my class and asked, “Where’s the teacher?” Another student pointed at me, he burst into laughter, and walked out.

3)      NO WORK IN THE SUMMER.

So, after reading, if you still think you’re cut out to be a sub follow these DO’s and Don’ts

DO:Establish your authority in classroom within the first five minutes of class. Introduce yourself with confidence, stand up straight, project, look students in the eye and go over the expectations for behavior. Be firm. Leave the teacher a note on behavior.

  • Don’t:Come down like an iron fist. While you should be firm don’t be overly punitive, students, especially older ones, respect those who respect them.

DO:Tell the students about yourself. Show them you’re human and not just some temporary dictator. Smile, share an appropriate story or hobby.

  • Don’t:Answer personal questions. If you give a kid an INCH, they will take a MILE. I once hesitantly answered what type of shaving cream I use. The follow up question was “Do you get bikini waxes?” -_____-

DO:Follow the lesson plan as best as you can.

  • Don’t:Expect for there to be a lesson plan lol

DO:Get in good with the office manager and other teacher’s. If you can find favor with the them  they will request for you and tell you about the best assignments first.

  • Don’t:Join in on the gossip about other employees, especially the principal. Sometimes the teachers’ lounge is more like a blood bath of backstabbing, gossip, and negativity. Don’t get caught up in it!!

DO:Try to relate to the students.

  • Don’t:Create an alter ego as a teenager, make friends and become the popular new girl, and try to re-live your high school yrs (am I weird for that thought popping into my mind once? lol)

As a sub each day is different but you will learn as you go! Leave a comment if you have any questions.

Happy Subbing! 

 

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Life is But a Vapor

Life is but a shoreline.
It is shaped by the beating of the rocks and winds, and the relentless waves that crash and crash upon it. Yet, behind it the land, marked by its deep valleys and mountain peaks. Their magnificent glory.
And before it the ocean, and all its mysterious beauty.

Life is but a shooting star.
Burning and lighting up the midnight sky, as it swiftly passes through the night. Captivating every eye and soul that catches its glimpse.

Life is but a rose.
Blooming forth vibrant color and delight.

Rooted so preciously in the ground, that when its last pedal falls, the very earth mourns.

Life is but a songbird.

Her melody is of both joy and melancholy.

Her tune is intricate, and yet simultaneously oh so simple.

Life is but a vapor.
Like a soothing mist, a refreshing steam, or a rising fog gently hovering over the moonlit river. Just as beautifully and quickly as it comes, it fades, it goes.

Life is but a super nova explosion.
Bursting forth with energy, mystery, and tragedy.

Illuminating the very universe, just before it says goodbye.

In Memory of cousin Kaylesha, for blessing the world with your brief, yet beautiful and magnificent life.
Age 33. Mother. Daughter. Sister. Dreamer

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Fruitvale Station: A MUST SEE MOVIE!!

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Fruitvale Station is a film that depicts what we see when we hold up a mirror to America and gaze into its long standing history of racism and injustice that doesn’t seem to go away.

Fruitvale Station is the portrayal of 22 year old, Oscar Grant’s (enacted by Michael B. Jordan) last day of life. New Years Eve 2009, marked the day Oscar Grant’s friends were beaten by Bay Area Transit Police on a subway platform and he was fatally shot and murdered by an officer while handcuffed on his knees. The events throughout the movie lead up to that fatal moment where lives would be forever changed and a city would ignite in rage.

The film does not depict Oscar as a person who always got everything right. Nonetheless, it shows how he was an ambitious young man who was in the beginning stages of turning his life around. It depicts how he deeply loved and cared for his family, especially his four yr old daughter (Tatiana Grant). As the scenes progress, you begin to step into the shoes of Oscar and quickly become attached to his character. The audience’s heart shatters as His mother, Wanda (enacted by Octavia Spencer), learns of her sons tragic death. This remarkable film puts a name and a face to all the daunting statistics of unarmed black men who are murdered by law enforcement. Oscar Grant was a man of compassion, dreams, and hope. It diminishes the media’s portrayal of young black men as dangerous animals and pierces hardened hearts that deny racial division.

This TRUE STORY is brilliantly and passionately enacted. And in light of the recent Trayvon Martin case, it couldn’t have been timelier. We all have struggles, we all yearn to love, in one way or another, we are all Oscar Grant. Its message of the beauty of life and the cost of senseless hatred is profound. Fruitvale Station is an ABSOLUTE MUST SEE!

R.I.P. OSCAR GRANT. FATHER. SON. DREAMER.

(Movie Trailer) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yy1znso-fc

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3 Ways Christians Should Respond to the Zimmerman Verdict…

My heart is broken. A boy was murdered. A mother still grieves. And a nation is once again polarized and sharply divided along racial lines.

For the last three weeks, I only allowed myself to watch highlights about the Zimmerman case and read articles online occasionally to keep updated. I was trying my best not to get too emotionally entangled in the already heart-wrenching story of Trayvon Martin. My efforts proved to be somewhat futile because when I heard the verdict of ‘not guilty,’ my heart dropped. Once again the American criminal justice system utterly failed. No differently than it had failed Oscar Grant in 2009, Rodney King in 1992, and Emmitt Till in 1955. However, failure is to be expected for any man-made system that is not in submission or alignment with God’s Kingdom.

I realize that I, like many other Christians, were placing too much of my hope in a corruptible man-made legal system to bring about justice. The American justice system is mans futile attempt to contain, deter, and reduce the fruit of societies true problem (sin). Which is about as effective as putting a band aid on a decapitated arm. For every one Trayvon Martin case that is nationally heard, there are HUNDREDS of murdered black and brown boys who’s cases never even make it to trial.

Jesus is the ONLY resolution for our sin ridden world, and the Kingdom of God is where true justice is established. We cannot place our hope for justice in anyone other than Christ. He assures us that in this world we will have trials, tribulations, and sufferings, but we are to put our hope in Him knowing that He, and He alone, has overcome the world (John 16.33).

Christians, we are the salt and light of the earth! Society cannot and will not change until we do. The more people who come to know Christ and commit their lives to Him the more this broken world will heal. In tragic moments such as these we can express our support, our grief, and even our righteous anger. But we should NEVER express hopelessness, knowing that at the end of the day God is in control and absolutely nothing has ever or will ever take Him by surprise. And we should never express hatred. There are way too many believers tweeting, blogging, FB ranting, IG posting, extreme hatred and even wishing death upon Zimmerman. He, (just like the rest of us) will one day stand before the author and finisher of justice and give an account for his actions. This does not mean we idly stand by as injustices happen around us, but when our earthly system fail us we know The Lord has the final say. Until then, Zimmerman is still a human being with a family that loves him, and who as Christians we too are called to love.

As believers we need to resist the temptation to react from our emotions and instead respond with the love of Christ.

3 Ways Christians should respond to this verdict…

1) Examine ourselves. Are we adding to the problem by spewing hatred and hopelessness? By all means be angry, but sin NOT (Ephesians 4:26). Are we putting our trust in man-made systems, or the Creator of the Universe?

2) PRAY. Pray earnestly that the Martin family would have the Lord’s peace, comfort, and healing. Pray for our nation, for unity and racial reconciliation. And pray against division and racial polarization. Pray for salvation for our law-makers to see true change within the system. Pray that Zimmerman and his family would come to know Christ. Pray without ceasing! (1st Thess. 5:17)..

3) No matter how many experts insist, we are NOT in a “post-racial era.” Regardless of who is in the White House, the fact remains that we still live in a racialized society; with few groups of people receiving privileges, and many groups of people, who are in various forms institutionally oppressed (minorities). We cannot afford for anyone to turn a blind eye or dismiss/belittle the much larger racial systemic problem at hand. Therefore, it is ESSENTIAL that privileged Christians seek to stand in solidarity and battle alongside people with problems that look completely different than their own. (Romans 12:15-16).

True Justice can only be found in Christ. Spread the Gospel to bring about true change! I pray this verdict serves as the ignition for widespread revival for our nation.

I know many of you are hurting fam, I am too, but be of good cheer!!

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” 2 Corinthians 4:17

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