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I’m Not Their Mom otherwise titled Why The Value Added Model Doesn’t Make Sense

March 24, 2014

Just in case you don’t know education has changed majorly…more than Common Core. There’s this thing called VAM (value added model) scores. The VAM scores are 60% of my evaluation and going to be part of my merit pay. VAM scores are based on how well my students perform on a test. Yes, first graders…on a test that is administered over a week. In many parts of the country VAM scores along with the teacher’s names are being published in the paper. Yeah, because everyone else in the general public has their evaluations published. And a good way to judge a teacher is by how well her students perform on a test? 

So, Kelley you might be asking what does this have to do with you being their mom? Well, I work at a school that is in severe poverty in one of the worst neighborhoods in my city. Often times teachers in high poverty schools will say that they are like parents to the kids. Which in some ways is true…I teach a lot of them about life and how to treat each other…I give them books to read and sometimes even buy them shoes. But at the end of the day, I’m not their parent. I’m not the one spending all the time influencing them. I’m not the one letting them stay up to all hours of the night. I’m not the one that’s not helping with homework because I can’t read myself. I’m not the one that puts more emphasis on a new pair of Jordans over getting good grades. 

I value education and try to teach my students the value of education, but sometimes there’s such a disconnect between my world and theirs. I tell them the importance of first grade so they can continue to do well to continue on. I tell them how fun college is and different jobs you can only do with college. But I’m not their parent. I don’t have the overall influence. And when the odds are against education…when the students are hungry, dealing with emotional stress, living out of hotels it makes teaching that much harder. This is why value added doesn’t make sense. When the value in the home is not on education how can it be measured at school?

I teach my students the best that I can. I teach them the same academic content that I would if I was in a middle class school. But not the same emotional content. I remember my guidance counselor talking about stranger danger. And we had a character education program. But we came to school with these values. In my class we talk about when you fight back (with words) you give the other person the power. I talk about the importance of reading. Practice makes perfect. I make sure everyone goes home with a book every single night, because many kids have told me there are no books in their homes. 

I’m not saying don’t hold me to high standards. I want the best for them and I expect the best from them. But don’t evaluate me on a single test score. Don’t publish it in the paper. Because every teacher I know is working hard to do right by these kids. We give our whole hearts. But at the end of the day we don’t hold the overall influence. It’s the parents. Parents are the overall factor in a student’s education. So unless these parents are going to be held accountable just like me, please do not judge me by test scores. 

The beach

March 22, 2014

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This is my love letter to the beach. Today I went solo and it hit me why the beach was so crowded. When you come to the beach no one asks your creed, social status, or who you love. We sit close to people who in real life we would never talk to. We are all here to escape from the stresses of life.

The salt air breathes new life into us and we soak up the sun. The pounding of the waves becomes our new rhythm instead of the hustle of life.

Rarely do I see siblings fighting or parents yelling. It’s a place of harmony. Kids trade iPads for paddleball and digging in the sand for hours. Dad puts down his iPhone and chases his kids for hours in the ocean.

Free from all that weighs us down we start to let go. It’s a place of beauty that makes us connect with God and each other. A place that says, “Come as you are.” Little is required to enjoy the beach. It’s a return to a simpler way…a way where we connect to each other instead of devices.

I realize that not everyone shares my love of sand-filled swimsuits and salty water but I hope everyone finds that place that says, “Come as you are.” A place that where you connect to God and others around you. A place where the stresses of life fade away for a moment.

When Will It Stop?

February 9, 2014

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Last week my facebook feed was bombarded with 2 photos of the same woman. A woman I had never met or heard of until last week. She was a contestant on the Biggest Loser, a reality weight loss show. It’s actually not much of reality because for a certain amount of time the contestants live and breathe working out and eating healthy. They have trainers in their faces while they work out, pushing them to the max. The woman had won the contest and people were complaining that she looked too thin. 

Seriously? When will it stop? When will the madness and obsession over weight and how women look end? As a society we have a madness and it is hurting women. How many people when they saw the first woman would have been repulsed by her? Silently or verbally judging her that she needs to not be so lazy and get to a gym. She should stop stuffing her mouth with junk food or watching so much tv. I’ll admit it…I judge people when I see them. Then, this lady did something. She humiliated herself in front of America…having her weight on every television screen in America. Being made to wear a sports bra and shorts when I’m sure she would rather cover up. She did get off the couch. She did get to a gym and she did eat healthy. And how do people respond? They judge her more. Telling her that she’s too thin and looks sick.

WE.NEED.TO.STOP. As a society, we need to stop judging people for how much they weigh. Advertisers need to stop photo shopping models.  No more air brushing. But as a more grassroots movement women need to stop making body comments in front of little girls. Men need to stop in front of boys. We should praise people based on their intellect and their hearts. After all what is most important is how a person acts and treats others. This is how we should judge people. Is this person kind? Does this person treat others with respect? Does this person help without requiring anything in return? That’s the message that needs to be sent to our children. Women are worthy based on their character, not the size on the tag of their jeans. Teach girls to love being active, but at the same time to love who they are. Most importantly, we need to retrain our brains to stop being so critical on ourselves. Women are so harsh on themselves. Change begins with me and hopefully that means a more positive body image for myself and the girls in my influence. 

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My Christmas Lesson

December 20, 2013

To say the last few weeks have been rough is an understatement. I have a kid in my class that 20 year veteran teachers are stumped on what to do with. It is stressful, tiring, and disheartening. I have some beautiful angels, but it’s hard to focus on that when there’s a HUGE rain cloud. My first stop today was Michael’s to get a craft for our party tomorrow and the total comes to $16.  They don’t deserve it I thought. Maybe a few, but most don’t deserve it. 

Then, I went to Wal-Mart and  and continued to pile more stuff in my cart. And somewhere between the awful Christmas music (as in HORRIFYING singing) and loading my cart with ice cream cones and colored marshmallows it hit me. Grace. That’s what Christmas is about. Grace. They don’t deserve this party, but I don’t deserve one gift that I’ve been given. People give me those gifts out of love. Because they can look past my shortcomings and see the potential in me. Every gift I’ve been given is because people accept me for who I am. Imagine that a Christmas lesson in Wal-Mart…that’s almost a Christmas miracle 🙂 

So I loaded up the cart with lots of goodies and most of the students had so much fun 🙂 They made ornaments for their parents, made an edible Christmas tree with an ice cream cone, played pin the ornament on the tree and used toilet paper to turn 3 students into snowmen. I think everyone went home full of sugar and Christmas love. I also loved that this week I introduced (for the first time to most of my students) the Grinch. They loved the story and we spent sometime talking about that “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.” ImageImageImage

Thank You

December 14, 2013

I feel like this post is 4 days late and a million dollars short, but I have to say it. Thank you, Isaac Hunter. Thank you for teaching me that there isn’t a person who I’ve locked eyes with who doesn’t matter to God. For teaching me that I can never go so low that God would stop loving me. Thank you for teaching me that the people God uses are not perfect, they are broken. The people who make an impact don’t have everything together.  Thank you for shaping Summit church around the true love of God. A love that is gracious and compassionate. Through the space of Summit I have met so many people who  have so much love and grace.  I have seen the love of God come down to Orlando and beyond and do amazing things. I have seen a church come together and provide hundreds of poverty stricken children with school supplies, backpacks, and shoes. As a teacher of these children, I know that they would just go without if it wasn’t for compassionate people. I have seen thousands of people come together on a Saturday and volunteer all over Orlando. I have seen a house built for women escaping prostitution. Fresh, clean water has come to Africa. Monday nights are filled with stories of broken people realizing God loves them beyond their failures, addictions and shortcomings.

Yes, it was God who did these amazing things. However, Isaac was faithful to Summit for ten years. The atmosphere of caring at Summit is because of three men had a vision for a place where people would know that they matter to God. Isaac was one of those men.  I am so grateful for his time at Summit. I am saddened that his life ended way to short. However, the ripple of Isaac’s actions of compassion and letting people know that they matter to God is one that will change the earth for years to come. So thank you, Isaac.

Thank you.

Nothing is Wasted

March 17, 2013

For a couple of months I knew that things weren’t right. I know my body and things were going on that were not right. I brought it up to my doctor and she said to monitor it. Then, when I saw her again she said 4 letters…PCOS. Something that I’ve heard tossed around with me and medical terms. Something that I ignored because for about 5 years (one 4 year stretch and then another 1 year stretch) I didn’t have medical insurance. But the deeper issue was I didn’t want it to be true. Now here I sat and she brought up those dirty 4 letters again. She rattled off a bunch of symptoms that I had and how they correlated with PCOS. She ordered bloodwork and lab tests. A month later the tests would confirm that I had PCOS. Something that I’ve been denying since I was 22 and had a cyst rupture.

PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) is something that affects around 10% of women…left untreated it can lead to cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. But the part that killed me inside was that PCOS is strong cause of infertility. To me there’s nothing worse than hearing you have something that means you’ll have a hard time having a baby. There are not a lot of dreams that I’ve had in my life, but since I was young being a mom has always been one of my top desires. I was angry and heartbroken. That week a bunch of people announced they were pregnant on Facebook. I felt like a failure…betrayed by my own body. I see irresponsible parents at my work. I would do ANYTHING to be blessed with the gift that they have and they squander what has been given to them.

I felt that God had turned his back on me. How could he make it so hard to have the one thing that I desired so much? What had I done to piss Him off?

Then, I went to see a specialist to help me with my PCOS and some severe symptoms that I had. It was the doctor’s appointment from hell. He was horrible. He didn’t care about what was going on with me and ignored my problems. I cried all the way home and to my boyfriend after the appointment. To make it worse I had to sit in class and pretend like things like informational texts were important. I was so exhausted. I wanted Ben and Jerry’s. I wanted to be anywhere, but that class.

Today something in me changed. I really believe that nothing is wasted. I’ve done a lot of research in the past 2 days. I’ve found what kind of diet I need to be on. I can use the summer to really work on my weight and get in shape. I’ve found out a lot of information and I have a lot to learn. It sucks…big time. But I believe in miracles. I believe in a God that gives me the desires of my heart. I believe that one day I WILL get to hold a baby in my arms.  I’m gonna fight this and I’m gonna fight hard-like a girl 🙂

Advent is Messy

December 16, 2012

I’ve necer been a Christmas person. I’m not a Scrooge, but I also don’t feel like it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

This year I’ve really been reminded of the messiness of it all. Many people will say Christmas is about Jesus and family, but they still want it picturesque. Neatly wrapped presents and family gathered close and having a good time. If this defines a good Christmas for you I say you’re missing the point.

Nothing about the first Christmas is neatly wrapped. Imagine being a 9 month pregnant teenager and going on an 80 mile trek by donkey. Then, giving birth in a barn. Not my idea of a perfect getaway. Add to it you’re a social outcast because you’re an unwed mother. Probably no cozy family reunions that year for the Joseph and Mary family.

I don’t have a problem with people enjoying Christmas. I just wish more people would realize that it’s messy. This advent I’ve had a lot of that messiness…church scandal on a leadership level, a transition time in my connect group, realizing that people I thought I knew I really didn’t, realizing a lot of people are unsafe. Then, you add national tragedies such as Shady Oak and it all hits home. Maybe a little too close to home as I’m an elementary school teacher.

Jesus didn’t come to earth for neatly wrapped presents and joyful family reunions. He came to give us new life. He came to give us purpose and hope. He knew that the world was messed up. He said we would have troubles.

My daily reminder of how messy advent is comes from my Christmas tree. I had the perfect one picked out and got sent home with the wrong one. It’s lopsided and to add to that the dogs chase each other under it and the lights have come off and in some sprofs the lights have burnt out. It’s not a perfect tree by any means. It reminds me that even though things are messy and lopsided I still need to shine. Keep on. Life is tragic. Best laid plans don’t work out. People fail you. You fail people. But in the midst of the mess is love, grace for the mistakes, and hope for a brighter tomorrow.
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