Friday, June 23, 2017

What is Transformational Education?

I just finished orientation with TeachBeyond, my sending organization. Part of the orientation included a capstone project. Below are my thoughts on what "transformational education" means for me in my Hungarian public school context. 

When God called me to teach Hungarian high school students, I felt that He is calling me to serve Him by serving His children. He has laid it on my heart to love my students like He loves them. I know love because of God alone, and I'm called to share His unfailing love with them by serving them as an English teacher. Ultimately, though, my calling is to show God's glory to my students by living a life that glorifies Him. I'm called to, "Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the people's" (Psalms 96:3). My ministry in Hungary is to show Christ through how I conduct myself as a teacher, colleague and friend.

I'll be in a public high school, and that means certain limitations on what I should say during class time, but because I live my life through a Biblically integrated worldview, I can show Christ without speaking of Christ. My life is a testament to Christ's faithfulness. My teaching in Hungary is a result of obedience to follow God's calling on my life. I'm not going out of my own will--I would never be able to do this on my own. But just by showing up in the classroom, my life can display Christ. My witness is a result of my Biblical worldview and that is apparent even when I'm not verbally sharing Christ. I believe actions speak louder than words, and my dedication to serving my students is equally as important as sharing the gospel. I can maintain my personal Biblical worldview as a public school teacher in Budapest without crossing boundaries. I want my students to feel Christ's love in my classroom and know that I love them because God first loved me. That doesn't have to require words.

Transformational education is a totally new concept to me. This week, I learned so much about the power of education. Education is about change. Education pushes students to grow. This starts on a small scale--one student, one classroom at a time. That small scale can become a much larger scale as students grow up and begin to make changes and spark growth in their communities. Very quickly, education has the power to transform students and societies when teachers that honor God are there to provide quality education. This environment promotes change and student growth. 2 Corinthians 5:20 talks about being an ambassador of Christ and I think that transformational education is about God-honoring teachers serving students as an ambassador of Christ and creating an environment that promotes student growth. I may not get to see immediate changes in my students' lives, but God has called me to be a part of transformational education and He has a plan for each of the students I will have in my classes this year. That's a beautiful truth to keep in mind as I consider the definition of transformational education. It's about God changing students' lives and giving me an opportunity to be just a small part of my students' lives. God uses education to bring change and I'm so very excited to be a part of it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

{Book Review} "Just Look Up" by Courtney Walsh

Rating: 4/5

Just Look Up is the latest romantic fiction release from Tyndale House Publishers. I didn't expect much except a few hours of entertainment from a lighthearted read, but the story actually delivered much more.

Lane Kelley left Harbor Pointe behind by leaving for college and then starting her career in Chicago. With her departure, she ran from a childhood of bullying and a town that held many painful memories. For many years, her family has been split by a serious rift, and Lane just hasn't bothered to return to the town or family that hurt her so deeply. That is, until Lane's younger brother, Nate, is in a serious motorcycle accident. Nate, and his friend, Ryan, are fun off the road by a truck. The accident leaves Nate hospitalized and Ryan beat up. Can Lane face her family? Is she brave enough to return to Harbor Pointe to be there for her favorite brother? Pressures at work create tension. Pain within her family creates tension. Lane's cell phone creates tension. Basically, Lane's life is a serious of tense moments.

Ryan Brooks is lucky to be alive. He walked away from the motorcycle accident with minor scrapes and a headache. His best friend was laying in a coma. Ryan needed to find out who recklessly ran them off the road and left them for dead. He's also in the middle of a giant reconstruction on Cedar Grove, a collection of cottages that Ryan recently bought with the intent of updating them and hopefully using them to revitalize Harbor Pointe's tourism industry. However, running into Lane Kelley has changed his life. Who knew his childhood friend would have such a memorizing hold on him ten years after they'd last seen each other?

Lane and Ryan's lives intersect and it leaves them both unsure how to proceed. Can Ryan influence Lane's life for the better? Will Lane ever trust another guy again after how she was treated by the last one?

Just Look Up is a captivating love story. The theme of forgiveness is thread throughout the plot, and it's done in such a way that readers feel emotionally invested in whether or not the characters choose forgiveness. Additionally, the theme of simply looking up resonates so easily with readers. How much do we miss because we constantly forget to look around? Just Look Up is a sweet love story that also offers readers important lessons to be gleaned from the main characters' lives. The characters are easy to relate to, and the plot moves at just the right place. Overall, Just Look Up is worth reading simply because the characters are so easy to connect to.

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Wandering Around Chicago

After spending 30 hours in a classroom last week, I decided to explore Chicago over the weekend. It wasn't exactly a relaxing weekend, but I had lots of fun seeing the city.  I went to the Lincoln Park Zoo, Navy Pier, Millennium Park and then took a boat tour to see the city from the Chicago River. the next day, I went to the Art Institute of Chicago. I loved it all.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Quitting my Job and Beginning TEFL Training

A lot has happened in the past two weeks. To sum it up, I finished out my job as a nanny and flew to Chicago. I've spent the past week at Wheaton College taking a course called "Reaching Out with English" from the Institute for Cross Cultural Training. It's been a wonderful week! I've learned so much and I already feel better prepared to teach overseas. I've learned so much new information that it's been just the right amount of challenging and thought-provoking. There are so many factors to teaching EFL that I've never even considered before. After this week, I now know things like the difference between ESL (English as a Second Language) and EFL (English as a Foreign Language). I've also learned so much about lesson planning, language functions, learning styles, etc. 

One of my favorite things about the course is the other people taking it. There are about twenty of us, each taking the course for a different purpose. Several people are taking it so they are better prepared to teach ESL in America. There's a group taking the class together and then leaving for Asia on Monday to spend two months teaching children English. One guy is planning to work with refugees in Europe to help them learn English. There's even a lady from Central America that came to take the class so that she can learn strategies for teaching in her home country. There's such an amazing mix of individuals and it's been so fun hearing the plans they all have.

The highlight of the class is most definitely the instructors, though. I've been really impressed by the ICCT department at Wheaton. The professors are absolutely incredible. They work so hard to put together a well-organized, thorough course. I couldn't imagine enjoying the training so much if it were taught by anyone else. I'm going to be taking a second course with the same instructor next week. Then I'll have a week long orientation with my organization, and the last week in June I have one last week of training. This month of classes will bringing me one step closer to teaching in Budapest!

{Book Review} "Sandpiper Cove" by Irene Hannon

Rating: 3/5

Sandpiper Cove draws readers into the quaint Oregon town of Hop Harbor. Lexie Graham, the town's police chief, works hard to keep the city safe and comfortable for its residents. When a string of vandalism incidents occur, Lexie finds herself in contact with ex-con Adam Stone. Adam moved to Hope Harbor for a fresh start after being released from prison. Both Lexie and Adam have their own difficult backgrounds to overcome, but is it really possible for them to do so? As they both learn to move on from the pain and struggles of their pasts, they are drawn to each other. That is, until a nasty rumor threatens to tear them apart. Can the two of them find a way to forge ahead with their lives?

Sandpiper Cove is a lighthearted story that centers on themes of grace, redemption and looking ahead to the future rather than behind to prior mistakes. Nothing about the story is particularly deep or enticing to readers, but it makes for a great story to get lost it. The characters aren't very complex, and the plot is basic and easy to predict, but that is part of the appeal of these kinds of fiction books. If you're looking for a deep story, this isn't for you. If you want a book to spend a few hours getting lost in, this is a great choice. It's lighthearted, fun and romantic.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Random Questions: June 2017

1. List the credit cards in your wallet. I don't have any credit cards; just a Visa debit card.
 2. How close to perfect was today? Pretty far from it.
 3. When did you last sing out loud? Last night on my drive home.
4. What was the last gathering you attended? My send-off party.
 5. Did anything make you sad today? Yep
 6. Share a secret thought. I never thought I'd be sad to leave Memphis, but now that it's getting closer, I'm actually going to miss it.
7. List 5 things you wish you invented. Coffee maker, computer, cars, planes, iPhone
8. What’s the last recipe you prepared? Cupcakes
9. Who is your most reliable friend? Emily
10. What made you lose track of time today? My phone
11. What are you confident about? Jesus saves.
 12. How did you do it? Perfectly. :)
 13. What is the last purchase you made? Groceries
14. Did you show someone appreciation today? Not yet
15. How many push-ups can you do? One? 
16. What are you looking forward to? Taking classes at Wheaton next week.
17. What is your favorite dish to prepare? Rice and vegetables
18. There is no such thing as too much love
19. What is the most important thing you were told today? "Unity in the church is vital."
20. What was the last thing you thought about today? Budapest
 21. What is the last book you read? 30,000 Teachers
22. What matters today? How well I serve others
23. What project are you working on? Getting things prepared for a month long trip.
24. What is your most prized possession? My books
25. Were you ‘good’ or ‘bad’ today? Umm...good?
26. What is the smartest thing you did today? Rested my voice so that I can hopefully talk normally tomorrow!
27. What was in your mailbox today? Nothing.
28. Today I was so sick
29. The last thing I bought myself was 2 new cardigans

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Identity Shift: Processing My Job Change

I've been a nanny for five years. In five days, I'll transition from "nanny" to "teacher" as I say goodbye to the kids I've grown so close to and go to Chicago for some ESL training before moving overseas. Up until this point, I've mostly held it together and haven't cried a whole lot. I know I'll see the kids again--I'll see them several times even between now and when I actually move in August. But, on Thursday, I'll say goodbye to my title as "nanny." And that's a hard transition to process. I'm not just saying goodbye to the kids. I'm saying bye to all the things that I get to do with them: hours of reading books, baking cookies, taking walks, playing at the pool. My new job will look completely different from my old job. And that's a good thing. I'm so excited for it. I love teaching and can't wait for that to get to be what I do everyday. But tonight, in this moment, I'm grieving the end of a chapter that I have loved so much.

I realized tonight that I most definitely placed a lot of my identity in being a nanny. When people would tell me I'm good with kids, I'd say, "Yeah, I'm a nanny so I spend lots of time with kids." Whenever someone asked what I do, I'd tell them I get to play with kids all day. I love, love, love being a babysitter/nanny. I've been so blessed to get to do a job that never really felt like a job for five years.

When God called me to serve in Hungary, I figured the hardest part would be leaving my family and friends. Moving to another continent is a big change! But, I've learned that the hardest part is the shift in my job title because I never realized how much of my identity I find in my job. I realize this isn't Biblical: my identity is in Christ, not my occupation. No matter what my job is, I'm always going to be a child of God. That won't change. Life circumstances change. Who I am in Christ doesn't. This is a truth that I've been reminding myself a lot of today. 

 I guess it's just that I've been a nanny for so long that it's hard to accept the transition that's coming. It's so crazy that the part I'm having the toughest time processing isn't the moving 5,000 miles from Tennessee but leaving one job I love for another job I love. It's most definitely a shift in how I define myself and that's why it's hitting me so hard. I believe that it's totally okay to grieve the end of a chapter in life in preparation for moving onto the next thing. In my case, God has called me to Europe to serve Hungarian students and I'm incredibly excited about the plan He has for my life. While I'm excited and eager to begin, tonight, that excitement is mixed with sadness and just a little bit of grief. I'm in that messy middle right now.