Let's just be honest here. Going into my third year teaching inner city, hormonal pre-teens was not my ideal career choice. I've wrestled with this job already for 2 years, and signing up to do it again this year was tough.

Some days are hard...really hard. It challenges my patience every. single. day. Breaking up fist fights. Being cussed out on the telephone by disgruntled parents. Calling CPS. Constant sore throats from yelling over students. One step forward, two steps back. Defeated. Exhausted. Feeling hopeless.

A year ago, after finishing my first year of teaching, I wrote a post to my first year self. After one year, I thought I'd remember to continue to keep persepective of my kids stories. These precious lives that, at times, have unthinkable home lives.

And yet, I easily forget what my students are coming from as they walk through my door every morning.

Last year, my Facebook newsfeed blew up with this article about a teacher in Denver who had her students finish the sentence, "I wish my teacher knew..." on a sticky note. This randomly came to my mind this past week as I was thinking about my students and how to connect with them.

So I thought I'd give it a try. Every morning we do a "morning meeting" and talk about what we can improve on from the day before, and goals we have for the day ahead. I gave them each a half piece of lined paper and told them to start their sentences with

I wish my teacher knew...

A small glimpse into the students in my classroom, some being a bit more light hearted than others... but each student has a story.

In my students defense, I'm still a stranger. I'm still someone who needs to earn their trust. Being that we are weeks into starting this school year, I know that I am only beginning to scratch the surface of who my students are and what they are coming from. Again, it feels a little daunting to know we still have a ways to go, but gives me reason to wake up every day with a purpose.

My wish for my students this year is that they can see their own potential and understand how much they are loved and cared for.

This week I had my students watch Kid president, A letter to a person on their first day here. When I’m having hair pulling days and the kids don’t know how to be respectful to each other, I like to show this little guy for a little inspiration. Watch it. You won’t regret it. So naturally, I had to make this into some sort of writing assignment for the kiddos. I told them they had to write a letter to the incoming fifth graders and talk about what they had learned in the fifth grade and what they would warn them about or get them excited about. We had a long class conversation about how we learn from our mistakes and it just makes us stronger people and prepares us for future experiences.

I thought it only fair to write a letter myself. Heavens knows, I wouldn’t have predicted being thrown into this job when I graduated from college. Nothing could’ve fully prepared me for what I was stepping into when I stepped into my first ever classroom (three weeks into the school year starting).

So here’s a little reflection for myself. This won’t do justice to everything I’ve learned throughout this year, but we can give it a try.

Dear Rookie Teacher Miss. P,

            We always rolled our eyes when people told us that the first year was going to involve many tears, and nights of wanting to drink a whole bottle of wine to ourselves…. Unfortunately, they weren’t kidding. This year is going to break you into so many pieces. So many beautiful, confusing, hurtful, growing pieces.
            When you first meet your kiddos, they are going to test you like it’s their job. Let them. Stand your ground. They just want to see that you’re not going to leave them like every other person in their lives have done (teachers, families and friends included). Consistency is a sort of foreign term to these kids. Don’t worry, when they steal your iphone in the first week, you’ll eventually find it in a little angel’s bag before he sneaks onto the bus. (and this won’t be the first time you have to deal with stealing and class bag searches). 
            You’ll learn that you can simply walk down the hallways and exchange looks with a coworker and understand the exact frustration and weariness they are feeling with their crazy, unorganized, “single file” troop stomping behind them. These people are a huge reason you’ll get through this first year. On days when you just want to give up, you'll get a special delivery like this to your room:

...Or texts and emails with little reminders that you’re not alone and verses that have encouraged them as they’ve struggled in the same way. You’ll go on many (code word) “shopping” trips on Fridays after school to Dukes, to have a drink and vent about your weeks. The friendships that you have formed in this first year will forever make an impact due to everything you’ve gone through together.
            You will constantly doubt your ability and your decision in choosing this  freaking career. Not to sound arrogant, but don’t listen to those lies. You’re a damn good teacher, you’re just learning.
            When I talked about being broken, I’m really not kidding. You’re going to wrestle a lot with this this year. You’re going to pray a lot of angry, confused prayers at God. You’re, at times, going to completely doubt that you really do serve a loving God with what you see your kiddos go through. Why these kids have a childhood, that pails in comparison to what you had, will always race through your mind. Yet, it’s a reminder of how blessed you’ve been and how much love you now have to pour out on these little lives. 
            When you sign that teaching contract, you’re not just signing up to be a teacher. You’ve got a lot more responsibility on your hands. You’re going to feel like you have to take on the role of mom for the little guy who lost his last year to a gang related murder. You’ll spend the whole year trying to convince that trouble maker that you truly love and care for him, even though his mom wants nothing to do with him and put him into the foster care system.
            In college when they told you each kid learns and reacts to environments differently, THEY WEREN’T KIDDING. It’ll take a long time to learn how to work with your students individually and what makes them tick. Some days certain students will completely shut down or, out of no where, break down in tears. You’ll slowly learn their backgrounds. You’ll find out about dad going to jail the weekend before or abuse situations at home. Be patient. They have no idea how to sift through these emotions that no kid should have to try to understand.   
            Make it a point to sit and talk with the class every morning about “good things” happening in their lives. When you give writing assignments, let them share. Let them simply know that they are being heard. They need that so badly.
            Your voice will be gone quite consistently, and you’ll sometimes see a side of yourself that you will never want to see again. There will be days that you will literally want to pull your hair out. (and you’ll slowly discover more gray hair this year…).  On those kind of days you’ll have a student randomly raise her hand to ask “Hey Miss. Pickett, do you need some ice?” ….  “because you need to chill out”….. (which will result in a class discussion on timing with our joke telling and when not to “push Miss. Pickett’s buttons”).
            This letter makes it sound like you’re going to be completely miserable all year long, that is not true. Yes, it’s tough, and you will most certainly have your days, but there are so many cool blessings weaved through it. God will continually show you why you’re there. You will grow to love these kids so much it hurts, and they will show you love and appreciation in so many little ways. Notes will be left on your desk from that little guy who gives you a hard time in class, but tells you in a letter that he loves you and you’re his favorite teacher he’s ever had. 

Remember that each day, you’re very slowly implanting things into these little minds that will hopefully help to build character and create good citizens in our messed up World. Keep teaching them to turn the other cheek. Don’t ever stop emphasizing that it only takes one person to really stand up against the crowd and be a leader.

You could be one of the only postive role models they have in their lives right now. You've got 18 pairs of eyes on you constantly watching how you react to situations and how you choose to love. 

Just keep chugging along. One day at a time. Keep learning. Keep loving. Keep growing. 

…. And don’t just sit there on the sidewalk at recess, pick up the 4 square ball and go play. 

Now I'll leave you with a few words of wisdom from a fifth grader to a fourth grader: ( and I'd just like to say, this teacher DID work on grammar this year. May not seem like it, but we've come a LONG way...)

... but she can be very mean if you get on her bad side (don't). hahaha

Here we are. Saying goodbye to a really good year. 2013, you treated me well.

Favorite songs of 2013:

1. Little Hands by: Inland Sky
2. Foxbeard by: Run River North
3. Wildfire by: Johnny Boy Mayer
4. Old Pine- Ben Howard
5. Wake Me Up By: Avicii
6. Now is the Start by: A Fine Frenzy
7. Difference Maker- NEEDTOBREATHE
8. Human by: Gabrielle Aplin
9. About Today by: The National
10. I like to be with me when I'm with you- Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors

Favorite video finds of 2013:
1.How to Talk to Girls
2. How to be Alone
3. First World Problems Anthem
4. Worn Wear
5. Live in Amazement
6. The Pursuit of Bravery
7. Hopeless Wanderer
8. Ed's Story

Favorite Books Read:

1. Love Does
2. Wrecked
3. Bread and Wine
4. Radical
5. Freefall to Fly

Major Life Events of 2013:

1. Experiencing a month in Guatemala with my best friend. My heart was changed and my eyes were open.
2.  A Year of Concerts. Lumineers. John Mayer. Ben Rector. David Crowder. NEEDTOBREATHE. Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors. Old Crow Medicine Show. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes... and (drum roll please) MUMFORD AND SONS (can officially cross that one off of the bucket list. life goal complete.)
3. Got my first teaching job in Lansing....... Quit my first teaching job in Lansing.
4. 1 week later, stepped into my own classroom in GR. One of the most challenging/ rewarding jobs I've had to date. Although I've had many tear filled drives home and days where I'm ready to pull my hair out, those eighteen 5th graders have completely stolen my heart.
5. Dated. Got to know some pretty cool people in the process. 

I'm especially excited to start a new year this time around. This past year has been quite a whirlwind. I've learned so much from relationships and experiences and am continuing to learn more about what I truly love and what makes my heart skip a beat.

My goal in this next year is to do a lot of letting go...

Letting go of underlying pressures from society and social media to be at a different point in my journey.

Letting go of playing comparison games and caring about other peoples opinions.

Letting go of trying to please everyone else.

Letting go of always trying to fix things and realizing that sometimes, it's okay to be broken.

Letting go of trying to change people and manipulate relationships.

Letting go of holding on to past things and robbing myself of the story that is unraveling before me.

Letting go of regrets and learning to forgive myself and move on.

I recently re read Bittersweet by the ever so amazing, Shauna Niequist. In it, she has a chapter called "Twenty Five"... and what do ya know, that's the age I'm coming up on. I found this to be so incredibly encouraging and uplifting with where I'm at in life right now. Shauna speaks to being truly amazed with life. With not comparing your life to where everyone else is, but finding the beauty in the present journey God has you in. So I leave you with this quote by Shauna. May we all learn to love and be fully present in this next year.

Now is your time. Become, believe, try. Walk closely with people you love, 
and with other people who believe that God is very good and life is a grand
adventure. Don't spend time with people who make you feel like less than you are. 
Don't get stuck in the past, and don't try to fast-forward yourself into a future
you haven't yet earned. Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, 
and keep traveling honestly along life's path. 

Three years ago we started a tradition. This weekend we celebrated our third anniversary of this tradition. Some of the people have changed. (A few dearly missed this summer ) The location is always different. But the heart of the weekend remains the same.

The beach is still a priority in this tradition. 
As is community teeth brushing in the woods..
time around the fire..
And cheesy group picture taking with the self timer. 

Feeling really blessed with these people right here. I wouldn't trade them for the World. Crazy to think about the stages of life we've all been experiencing. Now we have one married couple, and one on their way. Some of us started our full time "big kids jobs" this year... and we're all still processing life together. Different things are going on for everyone. 

Somehow fear was something we got into a big discussion about around the campfire. 
No matter where we're at in life, we all have it. 
We're all learning to understand what it means to "fear the Lord" andcast ALL anxieties on him. 
It's tough. Life can be. So glad I have the community to fall back on. 

I know this is just the start of something really cool. 

To most people, the thought of putting 19 family members into one beach house for a week sounds a bit crazy. To the Kinard fam, it's normal. 
It feels like just yesterday we were on the beach flying kites with papa, hitting up Captain Sundaes, and playing in the waves. We blink, and we're back again. After another year of change. Another year of growing up. Another year of new happenings, and learning from mistakes. 
When growing up, our parents have always made it a priority to get away for a week with the family. It was once Myrtle Beach, then Traverse City, then a cruise for the grandparents 50th.. and now our new home is right here in the beautiful mitten state. 
What I've really come to find, is that it doesn't matter one bit where our famiy is for that one week. What matters is that short amount of time we get to soak up just being together. (the beach and sunny weather doesn't hurt the situation either..). It's weeks like this that make me come back to what really matters.

What matters is getting excited about having "the blue lagoon" for a week
and sticking 6 middle aged women in the waves, to watch them freak out... (and popping it within 2 days of using it)
What matters is bringing siblings back together after a year of being apart...
What matters is sitting down next to your grandpa on the couch and watching a little golf...
What matters is watching Uncle Lew and Zach sit off to the side during "family pictures" to joke around and most likely make fun of overdramatic family members...
What matters is attempting to take pictures of the siblings with Meena and Papa and getting this instead...
What matters is having the ability to play Settlers of Cataan for hours upon hours and forgetting about the things that normally take up your days at home...
What matters is the grandma who refuses to take pictures and the uncle who sneakily tries to photo bomb every picture you take (please take note of the creeper Uncle Kev in the background)...
Let's be honest with ourselves, we're all a mess of life in our own ways. Nobody has things fully together. We're constantly learning to love. Constantly learning how to do this crazy life, to the best of our abilities. 

But what really matters, is this family. 
This family, who shows me what love looks like, no matter what decision I make.
This family, who is outside the boundaries of "normal".
This family, who will have my back for years to come. 

This is my kind of happiness.

I couldn't help it, I had to rewatch the Finale show of The Office again last night. Not going to deny it, I shed some tears watching the tear-eyed actors share about their time on the set.  I felt like I was actually saying goodbye to friends that I grew up with. In thinking about it, I did grow up with the characters. (also growing was my celebrity crush on the one and only, Jim Halpert)

I can't pinpoint when I actually started watching the show. What I can remember is microwaving popcorn in my freshman dorm and racing up to the commons area every Thursday at 9 to catch the opening scene and hear the "dun dun dunananana" (which became my ringtone for months... quickly ruining the catchy rythm of it). My sophmore year in college, "Office Parties" were had in the small living room of my off campus apartment. Some nights we would have up to 20 of us, huddled in, to watch Andy punch through walls and cheer on Jim and Pam's blossoming relationship on the screen. Many rainy summer nights were spent in Austin's parents basement watching re-runs of whatever season looked appealing.

"that's what she said's", "bears, beats, battlestar galactica" and Andy's infamous "Rit-Dit-Dit-Duh-Doo" would randomly often pop up in conversation among friends.

The show had genuine heart to it. You could relate to the characters in really weird ways. You could even take the most obnoxious of characters (like Kelly) and find yourself rooting for her and Ryan to actually end up together. Or take Merideth, who gets excited to see her son walk in the door as the stripper at Angela's bachlorette party, or keeps a fifth in the bottom drawer of her desk at work. Whaaaaat? Who does that? And yet, you just can't help but love her.

And the best relationship of all: Jim and Dwight. The best man scene at the end of the finale.... cue the water works. Through their sarcastic, joke playing relationship, came such a strange deep friendship. And then you have Micheal Scott, Dwight's hero and fatherlike figure (despite his lack of father like maturity), coming in to take over as place as best man. Micheal Scott, who you just feel uncomfortable for half of the time, and wish for him to just keep his mouth shut... and yet, you just never know what's going to come from his awkward character. I think that's what the producers did best in the show. They had a way of adding just enough serious and funny.. to make the show unpredictable and hillarious. Like when Dwight comforts Pam as she cries and he asks her if she's PMS'ing. Or take the wedding scene, where Michael sits basking in the serenity of the wedding reception and says,"I feel like all my kids grew up and married each other," he said, beaming with pride. And then: "It's like every parent's dream."

And I quote Andy Bernard: "I wish there was a way to know you're in the good ol' days before you actually left them". How often do we neglect the imporance of each and every character in our own lives? Each relationship that we build, even if it is the awkward boss at work or obnoxious friend who doesn't pick up on your sarcasm? Each and every person still brings an element to life, that keeps things exciting and brings meaning. Memories are always being made, even when we strive to be somewhere else in our lives. 

Pam said it best. "There's a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn't that kind of the point?"

Nicely done Producers of the Office.

Ya did good.

... that's what she said.

Did a lot of reading this past week on the beach in Florida.
... and this book in particular really rocked my World. 
Here's a little excerpt from the book:

Surrender changes everything.
But we can't choose to surrender. It chooses us.
It finds us and meets us in our pain.
When we are at our lowest point. Our weariness. Our longing.
It enters in when we have run out of our own strength.
When we start to believe that things may never actually change.
That our lives don't really matter... and we break.

How could it be?
How could a good God create a life that doesn't matter?
So we cry out, and we ask for rescue.
Because somewhere deep down we know we are missing it.
Our own attempts have failed us.
This life we have orchestrated falls flat and leaves us lying in a corner,
huddled in despair in those dark hours of the early morning.

Then we see it. The crack of sunrise. Just a glow on the horizon.
Pink and orange starting to rise and create a hue that colors the sky.
It's God whispering: I am here. I am true. I am strength.
I love you as you are. Broken and fragmented. Let me carry you.
Let me show you a life that you never dreamed or imagined.
Let me take you on a journey so marvelous you point back to me.
Let me rename you.
Let me bring you back to your truest self.
The way I ordered you from the beginning.

All this for my glory.

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