August 28, 2008

Mrs. Hottie

I knew it would happen. Really, it was inevitable. You spend most of middle school doodling on notebooks your name with the last name of the latest crush. Once engaged, I secretly began signing Harris Teeter receipts as "Chrissy Hardy" just to try out a few different forms with the H. I delighted in the first few times I was able to introduce myself to someone with this new name. But today, it happened. I got sick of it.

I probably heard, "Mrs. Hardy" about three thousand, eight hundred, fifty-seven times today. Except it didn't usually just sound like, "Mrs. Hardy" the way the nice lady at the Harris Teeter check out said it. This was pitched in five-year-old-speak with the vowel stretched way out. Something like, "Mrs. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaardy." It's a shame that I didn't make it to the three month mark of being married before this new name is already sounding a bit like fingernails scratching down a chalkboard.

But it's okay. They'll learn eventually to raise their hands and stay in their seats and all that jazz. And I have one student who doesn't know my name yet anyways and he's the one I love the most, not just because he can't contribute to the chorus. I could spend pages telling you about Tyson* already and I've only known him for four days. Suffice it to say his home life is rocky at best. He is living in extreme poverty and to say that his life experiences are limited doesn't begin to cover it. He's scared out of his mind, feels completely unsafe and abandoned and doesn't know the first thing about the culture of school. But he has a sweet heart and I know he'll be okay eventually.

Today was the first day we've been able to go out on the playground since school started thanks to Tropical Storm Fay. The whole kindergarten grade level was out there and it's always fun to watch how the children negotiate play. This group was doing an exceptional job of creating a line for the slide. Everyone seemed to be getting along well and participating in the newly developed system. All except Tyson. He was wondering around the playground, just looking at the pieces of equipment with wide eyes. I left the teacher bench and approached him.
"Tyson, have you ever been to a playground before?"
"uuuuhuuuuu." (I should mention that among other things Tyson has a severe speech/articulation issue that has not been addressed since he's never been in school. Most of what he says is nearly indiscernible, but we've learned that by asking yes or no questions we can usually differentiate between the two grunts that stand for yes and no. His response about the playground was a yes, but I'm not sure he really has.)
"Well, what would you like to play on?"
"That." Tyson points to the curly slide and moves his arms to show the motion of children spiraling down it.
Tyson didn't understand the line that was forming at all, so I took his hand and went and stood beside him in line. We reached the top and he had his chance to go down. I wish I could describe for you the look on a five year old child's face who is going down a slide for the first time. It was pure, unabated joy. I am so grateful that Tyson has another 176 days of Kindergarten where he can play on that slide as much as he wants.

After recess, we came back inside and went to centers. The volume in the room quickly rose and I took a moment to excuse myself to the staff bathroom right outside my door. From inside the bathroom I could hear the voice of a little boy in the boy's bathroom inside my classroom. He has a hard time with his r's, so he was calling my name out over and over, but it sounded mostly like "Mrs. Hoddy, Mrs. Hoddy, Mrs. Hoooooooooooooooddy!!!!!!" I quickly finished up and went to go check on him. What I found in the bathroom is another story altogether and while it's far funnier than the story about Tyson, it tells better with hand motions and voices. But I turned to my teaching assistant and said, "It's a shame I hate my new name already, but at least when Chris says it, it sounds like "Mrs. Hottie."

* Names changed to protect the identities of my students who haven't a clue I'm writing about them. And I'd quite like it to stay that way.

August 25, 2008

New School Year

The beginning of school is always a little challenging for me. No matter how much I plan out and think things through in advance, there always seems to be a 2-3 week period where I work 60+ hours a week ending in exhaustion. I think I'm about half way through that time now. Somehow it's always worth it though, and I know that I'll emerge from this fog sometime in September and be ready to become human again.

Last year was a tough year at school. I'm sure it was a combination of several things... a new administration, an unusual group dynamic among my students, parents that didn't really seem to 'get it,' and my own distractions with planning a wedding and preparing for a marriage. Regardless, it was a rocky year. So, this year I've been determined to make better. I've been repeating the mantra in my head for weeks now: "It's going to be a great year. It's going to be a great year. It's going to be a great year."

Today was the first day with students. As I was driving to school at 6:45, it was drizzling and I was thinking about the potential of a rainy first day of school. I was repeating my mantra and asking God for strength and grace and love for this new group of kids. I was confessing my fears and anxieties and again pleading with God that this be the beginning to a better year. I turned the corner onto Harper Road and at the end of the street there was the most magnificent rainbow I have ever seen in my life. Usually rainbows are pretty and rare, but kind of faded and faint. This looked like a rainbow my students could have drawn. It was so vibrant and bold and bright; I could see every single color like it was straight out of the Crayola box. And it was so powerful. It was one of those few times in life when it feels like God just steps out of his ethereal world and allows himself to be among us in a tangible way. It was as if I could hear him speaking to me and saying, "Remember my promise? It won't rain forever. You won't have that flood from last year again. There may be challenges, you may have rain on the first day of school, but I have promised to never let you drown. Rest in my hope and peace." And I did. I drove another mile or so before I got to a stoplight and could dig out my camera and take a picture. By then, the rainbow had already faded from its initial glory. And it seems a photo can never really catch the beauty of a rainbow very well anyways. But I'm posting the picture so you can see it. I'm going to print it too and put it by my desk at school. It will be a reminder.

I'm also posting some photos of my classroom. I've worked hard on it and I want someone other than my students' parents to see it. We've gone with a new theme this year: Hardy's Honeys. So it's all bees and hives and quite frankly, it's super cute. Hope you enjoy.

*** Note: I can't figure out how to post more than one photo per posting. So, if want to see my classroom pics you'll have to go to our Smugmug site. (The link is to the left). I'll post classroom photos there under the category "Children."

August 11, 2008

I Love the Olympics

I've always loved the Olympics, but this year I think I might be even more addicted to them. There are several things I love:

One, I think it's incredible that these really random obscure bizarre sports get their brief moment in the spotlight. These people have been spending their whole lives preparing for this moment even though most people haven't ever even heard of the sport (handball? pentathlon?). And they get their chance to be a celebrity and an inspiration and give it their all. And that brings me to...

Two, I've always been so drawn to people of passion. I don't know that it matters that much what the passion even is, I just love people of passion. In high school I was drawn to people passionate about theatre, I married a man who is passionate about kayaking (I don't get it); I just think passion is so important. It's a breath of life and energy and focus and determination that is just really attractive to me. And one thing's for sure - these Olympic atheletes have lots of passion.

Three, I love competition. The stakes are never higher than the Olympics and the raw competition just makes my heart sing. I love the tension and the pressure and the great look of victory. It's a great ideal.

Four, I love how swept up in the emotion of it everyone gets. Just as much as I'm drawn to competetion, I'm also drawn into the emotion of it. I know that Nike and Visa are toying with me with their inspiring heavy-handed commercials and I know that NBC is reeling me in with their human interest angles on every athlete, but I don't care. I love it. I love to hear these people's stories and hear the powerful music and see the close ups of sweat and tears. It's even better than a chick flick.

So, I'm revelling in the Olympics this week. I'm not even trying to turn the TV off or pretend like I'm not going to watch every chance I can get. After all, it'll be another four years before I can watch synchronized diving again.


August 7, 2008

Why Blog Now?

For the last couple of weeks I've been thinking about this whole blog thing. It seems that more and more people I know are posting blogs and it's just gotten me thinking. Part of me wants to resist how much we're dependent (reliant?) on internet interactions with other people. But then there's this other part of me that's grateful for how easy it makes it to stay in touch with and connect with friends and loved ones who are scattered across this country and world.

I've just gotten married and taken this new name "Hardy." (See definition above.) It's something I'm proud of and excited about and inspired by. I hope that the adjectives 'bold,' 'daring,' 'adventurous,' 'sturdy,' 'strong,' and 'courageous' are words that could describe me, if not now, maybe someday. It's a new chapter of my life and it seems an appropriate time to begin something new, like perhaps a blog.

I've also just finished reading a great book - Eat, Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. It's a memoir about this woman's search for..... all kinds of things. But it's wonderfully written and a fresh and inspiring look at spirituality, self and love. I've come away from this book thinking about all sorts of different things, but one thing it's left me with is the desire to write again. I don't claim to be any kind of excellent writer, and I doubt Penguin Books will be picking up my memoir any time soon. But there have been times in my life when I was a devout journaler and avid letter writer. I don't know that either is true of me now (unless wedding thank-you notes count), but maybe having an audience - no matter how small - will be what I need to try to find my own voice again.

So, it's the combination of those three things: seeing the rising popularity of blogs, feeling like I'm starting a new chapter in my own life with this marriage, and a little push from a woman whose story touched me personally that's provided me with the impetus for creating this blog.

I'm not really sure what role it will have or what its purpose will be. I don't know if Robert will ever post on here or not. Maybe someday I'll be posting pictures and videos of some little baby like many of my friends, but for now it'll just be a place for me to share with you about my life, my work, the things I love, and what God is teaching me. I hope it'll give you a glimpse into my heart.

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