"Tell your story. Tell it on your bruised knees if you must, tell it at the risk of madness, scream it at the top of your lungs." –Andrew Lam

Category: substitute teaching


65. My classy grandma Mabel and feisty, kind-hearted grandpa Earnie
66. the surprise gift of a sweet summer dress from my mother-in-law that makes me feel special (I plan to wear it with my cowboy boots).
67. little pick-me-ups, like new yellow shoes, that make me feel sunny

68. pretty old quilts and the hands that made them

69. gerber daisies

70. strangers who became friends who reach out to me when I’m being weird and unfriendly
71. my one friend who is my person, who gets my weirdness, and who knows I’m not actually unfriendly
73. cool evenings on the stoop with Jovie and Josh

74. pretty, colorful, preppy prints

75. My barn (it’s not actually mine; I just call it that) that says “To God be the Glory.” Amen, yes?
76. my latest best discovery which I slather on every inch of my body (and smells awesome):
coconut oil
77. coconut shrimp. and lobster and crab legs. and plans to go to Maine someday and eat the same.
78. husband hugs. I feel like I’ve loved him for a thousand years. and would love him for a thousand more.
79. walking into a middle school now and feeling like a celebrity (waves, excited hellos, invitations to sit at every table). yet when i was a middle school student myself? the cafeteria terrified me.
80. asking a special needs kid to teach me sign language. i remember….about five words. but he loved being the teacher.
81. warmer temperatures. thank you, thank you, thank you.
82. knowing we get to visit home soon and having lots to celebrate there
83. seeing pictures of my beautiful ladies and dashing gentlemen from memorial’s prom. so grown up. and feeling like their mama again. all proud and teary-eyed.
84. OL memories. realizing just how much they created me. I wrote about it in an article that will be published later this month. Remember how we sat for hours duck-duck-goose style? you made me feel, for the first time, like i was more than an awkward timid ugly duckling. i want to look all of you in the eyes right now and not say anything. and make you understand how much you are still a part of me. that was my becoming.
85. hearing from my sis
86. art.
87. words. words are an art. ❤
88. the fact that I’m not steering the ship. but also the fact that the ship is not left in harbor. that’s not what ships were meant for.


(find the joy)
41. watching kids help one another during study hall. when and how and why do we lose this *desire to help* as adults?
42. a warm bed. the man I share it with. open windows. listening to the wind and rain.
43.  any opportunity to learn, to be a student again.
44. farms, friends, new experiences, apple cider, wide-eyed wonder, organic everything
45. a friend’s engagement– congrats Court and Nathan!
46. lambs, calves, chicks, ducks
47. kindergarten silent dance parties in the hallway. they were in line waiting to go to p.e. i demonstrated a funky dance move. they mirrored every funky dance move. the only rule was that they had to be quiet. (tip: turn everything into a game. it works.)
48. listening to kindergartners read expressively. such animation!
49. story time. when I get to read to them.
50. watching the kindergarten students play “school” during their free time (instead of leggos or play-doh) and hearing them say and do the exact same things i said and did while teaching their lesson.
51. listening to middle schoolers sing that “hey, soul sister” song in choir practice.
52. pretty coffee mugs. and the warm delicious liquid drug inside.
53. the wisdom of ladies in my sunday school class. i think the age range is about ten-seventy. oh how they teach me.
54. a spiritual mentor from back home and the way she lovingly convicts me, challenges me, encourages me.
55. visitors coming this weekend, going home soon for a special wedding celebration, plans for dear friend visits in the future. things to look forward to.
56. hearing my best friend talk to her baby while she’s on the phone with me. and hearing him squeal with delight. because life is delightful-squeal worthy.
57. God’s power to heal, to prove doctors wrong, to defy a diagnosis, a prognosis…to be the holder of time and how much we have of it. to be the only holder of time.
58. His comfort. reminders of faithfulness. His patience with our questions.
59. singing Johnny Cash (and June) songs with my husband in the car. for an hour.
60. words. writing. chances. writing chances. (you’ll hopefully know about my exciting writing opportunity very soon! and you’ll support? you have been so good to me.)  🙂
61. the first grader in pigtails who told me, “you have a pretty voice…(but it sounds kinda funny).” oh how i love the honesty of children. i simply explained, “i’m from the south, sweetie. (bless your heart).”
62. reconnecting
63. feeling tired and satisfied at the end of a day. because i sucked the marrow from it.
64. a crossed-off entry on the bucket list.

More Joy

26. peonies, grapes, raspberries, and asparagus in my yard. in. my. yard. ! oh, spring. *be still my heart.
27. recess, enthusiasm, sitting with jr. high kids at lunch..and eating a few bites then rotating so that i sit with as many tables as possible 🙂
28. singing while learning. during grammar. during math. it helps, ok. (and it is more amusing to junior highers than it ever was to my high school students).
29. pictures, drawing, notes (especially ones that say Mrs. “KEEFER” Rocks)
30. blueberry pancakes
31. country drives
32. echoes of mercy, whispers of love
33. TRUTH and the reminder to fill myself back up with truth (i.e scripture) because the world and my brain skew my perception of myself every day. oh, you too?
34. 2nd chances. To be able to rewrite and revise in articles, columns, (and in life).
35. learning to deal with constructive criticism. And making it work.
36. baby animals.
37. the sound of water. fresh air.
38.  reading Hosea. understanding that I am Israel. thankful God takes me back. again. again.
39. a job interview this week. (technically i need a masters. i don’t have one. hmm, we’ll see).
40. the trust that God knows what He’s doing in this little life of mine. and just wanting to be a vessel that allows Him to shine. 

C is for Classroom

Yes, I do know my alphabet and realize that this entry is out of order in the A-Z blog challenge.

C is for Classroom
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Teachers can control the climate, the atmosphere of their classrooms. They have the choice to be the thermostat or the thermometer. They can make their classrooms miserable or joyous. They can humiliate or humor. They can hurt or heal. They can humanize or dehumanize. A teacher should have pride in his or her classroom. If it looks like trash, students will trash it. They’ll continue to believe they are trash. Clean it. Make it stimulating, colorful, beautiful.  Turn it into a world for joy, humor, healing.
Dear teachers I see in the schools where I substitute teach: please stop frowning. Students see you as just another person they disappoint. If you hate teaching, don’t be a teacher. Simple logic, really. Your students are angry, unmotivated, and misunderstood. So don’t dive right in to the lesson. You need an opener. You need to connect to their world. Make them care. Make it fun. And you need a closer. Tie it up. Make it memorable. In classroom management, don’t threat. But when you do, follow through. Make the lesson about them. Use examples with the students in it. Don’t get frustrated. It is part of your job to explain concepts over and over again. What the student on the other side of the classroom just learned because you explained it is not something that the current student with his hand up who asked the exact same question heard. It is not his fault. Explain it again. Explain it in a way that he can understand.  Explain the concept using football or “Jersey Shore” or Hunger Games. Speak his language. With a smile. It’s your job.   
Not every teacher I observed while subbing was a burnt out, joy-sucking monster. Meet Mr. Richardson the Rock Star.
His classroom? Perfect. His shirt? Pink. His personality? Hilarious. His smile? Infectious. He taught fifth grade. Some days I want to be a special education teacher. Some days I want to be a college literature professor. Some days a writer of books and magazine columns. And now, some days I want to teach fifth grade. But what I really want? I want so badly to entertain. To be silly, clever ,charming, quick. I have a need to love deeply and to be loved deeply back. Ridiculously so. Idolized almost. A terrible, vain foible of mine.  I was a lowly substitute aide in Mr. Richardson’s classroom. I was to keep quiet and keep an eye out on my students with IEPs. It was not my stage. I was not supposed to interject with grammar songs or anecdotes, especially not when the teacher on his own rightful stage was rocking it. The spotlight wasn’t mine to have. He had a video. He used the students as examples. He used what they ate for lunch as examples. He used school events as examples.  He asked for them to give their own examples. He was using humor, using control, using precise classroom management. He was born to teach, knowing it, making it easy, showing off. And I was the crazed fan, the groupie screaming to please, please pull me up on stage, let me have the chorus or the bridge or the verse. Let me sing with the rock star. I thought about how brilliant co-teaching could be if done correctly, equally, shared– if the teachers got along. But I knew I really wanted the solo; let me hit those high notes. I can. I have a teacher crush. No, not a physical one. The man was wearing pink. I have a teacher crush on technique and charm and colorful classroom and brilliant ideas and memorable tactics.
I wonder why I need this attention. Perhaps because I can’t or don’t take the lead or solo in any social situation. I’m not the entertaining one of any circle. I prefer not to talk, especially not about myself. I start sweating. I start stumbling. I start making not a smidge of sense. I don’t know how to interject politely, so I don’t. I don’t need to be the subject of any conversation–not my problems, not my interests, not my plans or wants or what I’m wearing or what I had to eat today. I want you to talk about you. I am content, a good listener.  I don’t tell interesting stories. I don’t know jokes. I don’t offer examples or worthwhile comments or questions. But in a classroom? I need not a pin to drop. I need them in the palm of my hand. I feel the need to make rabbits appear out of my hat, to twirl my magician cape, to mesmerize with words and material and wit and the wild shock of learning.
I should not have made a scene. I should have known my place. I am not a teacher anymore. What gives me the right? Mr. Richardson’s room was the powerful pull of atmosphere, environment, surroundings. And the classroom proves that in the debate of nature vs. nurture, nature conquers me.
Can you relate? Have you had a similar experience?

Kind. Smart. Important.

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credit: (via pinterest) vi.sualize.us

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” Character Aibileen Clark’s words from The Helpwere the only words I could think of as I substitute taught in some very special classes today. Because those words are the only ones making sense in my head right now, this blog post is not polished or eloquent or cohesive or poetic or even long enough.

But I couldn’t not write about the high school boy much bigger than I, the one who spoke sometimes in the soft angelic voice and sometimes with the too-deep demonic voice who works daily on counting to one hundred and concentrates hard on coloring the apple red and the ball green and the chicken yellow. He dirties his pants weekly and must change into his gym clothes while waiting for the clothes he came to school in to wash and dry. He has a bad habit of sticking his fingers in any crack or crevice of his body. He reminds me hourly that my name is Mrs. Kiefer, that I will be back to see him on Friday, and Friday is the day that we will eat sausage pizza in the cafeteria and his dad will pick him up for the weekend and he will get to feed the ducks. And I hate myself for dreading Friday just like I hate myself for hating my imperfect face and brain and body and imperfect smile as I wipe the string of drool from another high school boy’s open mouth for the hundredth time. He’s had a heart attack. He’s had a stroke. And his open mouth still smiles while I vainly wonder for myself, “What price beauty?” Lord, make me a better person. Make me want to go back when I go back on Friday. Make me thankful. Make me see.  
 I couldn’t not write about the handsome high school boy who has frequent seizures and his own rocking chair, a padded room, and a helmet. He insists on holding my hand, drawing pictures only on blue construction paper, and has a reminder taped to his desk that states specific names of people who make mistakes (and it’s okay). He can make mistakes, and it is okay. His mom makes mistakes. His dad makes mistakes. His brother and sister. His teachers. His friends. And it’s okay. And there’s a smiley face on the reminder to reinforce the “okay-ness.” And I want to make a sign for myself. There is no reason to panic when we make mistakes. Forgive, forgive. Forgive myself and stay calm. I realize we are not much different at all, he and I.

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credit: (via pinterest) www.yanilavigne.net and naturallymeashley.tumblr.com
I couldn’t not write about the spirited high school girl learning how to measure with a ruler and subtract numbers and tell the time. Our enthusiasm bonded us. “We’re going to read this graph now, okay?” I said.  She re-chirped my “okay” each time sounding like a peppy cheerleader who shouts, “Ready? Oh-kay!!” And she always smiled. She smiled during reading. She smiled during math. She smiled when it was time for her job. She proudly told me she “goes to work” each day in the cafeteria collecting and washing the dirty dishes. I want that joy. I want her wisdom and joy she finds in dirty dishes, in doing whatever task before her, in helping and taking care of people. These new dear ones of mine, they teach me. They break my heart and heal it simultaneously. They teach me how to be kind. They teach me how to be smart. They teach me how to be important.   

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credit: (via pinterest) google.com