Author Archives: heatherbwikowsky

Thought for today

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Wrestle with this…

“I want peace so badly that I’m willing to listen if that’s what it takes. I’m even willing to let you speak first. And while you are speaking I will not be formulating a reply. I will not be identifying all the ways you’re wrong. I will be considering all the ways you could be right.”

 

Read entire blig post here: http://momastery.com/blog/2013/07/18/you-do-not-have-to-agree-with-me-to-love-me/

 

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Week..I lost count

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Today, I had a pretty good day. The kids were pretty well behaved, except for the little guy who thought jumping off a desk was a good idea. We tried white boards for the first time in writing, and it went…OK. I have high expectations for tomorrow. But today something really special and really scary happened.

I have this one little girl in my class, who’s just super sweet and always on task. We also dress similarly every now and again. Don’t worry, I leave my J. Bieber shirts at home on school days. But, for instance, I work a pink, floral skirt one morning with a yellow shirt and she was wearing a pink skirt/ yellow shirt. Today, she was dressed in a patterned dress today like the Math teacher in my group. It’s always a game to figure out who she’s dressed like that day. But today, she asked me what I was wearing tomorrow. I responded that I wasn’t quite sure and we’d have to use our telepathic minds to dress alike tomorrow. Then, as I was telling this story to my coach and a couple other fellows a new feeling developed within me . These kids want to be like us. They are looking and watching our every move, imitating us at our best and, unfortunately, at our worst.

Tonight, my prayer is that I strive to be someone worth imitating in my classroom, in Nashville, in the world. Please join me in this prayer for me and for you.

A first week teacher

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Dang.

Teaching is harder than I ever thought it would be. There is nothing like losing to four 1st grade boys. Good thing they only made me cry, twice, right? All in all, it was an amazing week. One hundred times better than sitting in training for twelve hours straight. Each time I stood up to deliver one of my lessons, I grew as a teacher. My strong voice, my downward intonation patterns, positive reinforcement. It’s really neat getting to watch myself progress and I’m excited to see what this next week holds.

This past week I had two classrooms of about nine students each. This week, because they want to give us an authentic experience of what stepping in our classrooms will be like in August, they are combining classrooms, giving us each shy of about 20 students. Pressure is own to maintain and continue growing in the areas that need growth, much growth. aka:Strong Voice.

Also, the first famous person I’m going to meet is Doug Lemov! He’s coming to observe our classrooms tomorrow and our off stage practice during training in the afternoon. He’s the author of Teach Like A Champion, The New Teacher Project’s bible. I am slightly disappointed he’s not more famous for being my first Nashville star, but let’s be honest: If I saw someone famous I probably wouldn’t know it.

Sorry for the lack of keeping up with everyone I’ve been doing. The 18 hour work days are harder than I anticipated. Even today I put in a good seven hours.

Enough about school.

Nashville is still everything I could want, at least for now! Last night I went with some friends to eat at this Vegetarian restaurant called the Wild Cow in East Nashville. It was a fun experience. Obviously, the food wasn’t up to par for my palate but the vegetarians at the table though it was the excellent. Anyways, if you come to visit, we won’t be going there.

CMA fest was this past week in Nashville. All the country stars at my fingertips. I went to bed early. Speaking of going to bed…I have a countdown going until I move into my permanent place and sleep in my own bed. I won’t tell you how many days I have left, it’s too depressing. 

This morning I got to experience half of a worship service at a new church. Between the rain keeping me in bed and needing to stop for gas, I arrived a lot late. Luckily, my friend Erin saved me a seat! I went to McKendree which is in downtown Nashville. The congregation is very diverse from race to age. I’ve learned the best way to meet people at a new church is to ask for directions in the parking lot. Then, the members of the congregations show you around the whole place! By whole place, I mean the hallway and door leading to the sanctuary. That was fine though. It left some adventuring up to Erin and I. We went to the north part of the church and tried walking into this quaint parlor. Low and behold, there was a man sleeping in one of the chairs that we didn’t notice, needless to say we were caught a little off guard. It was an awesome worship experience and I think I’ll be going back, especially when people come to visit!

Well, it’s been a fun week, prayers appreciated for this upcoming week as it holds my first salary/teaching/future interview! I’ll keep you posted!

 

Understanding the Loops

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So I moved to Nashville on Monday. 6 days ago. Wow.

I don’t think I’ve felt this happy and content in a long time. This past year of college was, ehh, rough. I think I’ve caught up on all the missed sleep and haven’t cried a tear since hitting the Illinois border. Life as I know it is looking up.

I do want to fill you in on something that have happened this week:

Home:

I have settled into my rather large summer living space. I live in the upstairs of an older country home North of Nashville. The lady who lives downstairs is part of the same program that I am in and she has a 17 year old daughter, 3 dogs, and 3 cats. They are a fun bunch! I look forward to getting to know the mom better as we travel to training together this upcoming week, but I’ll save all those details for the work category. The space is much larger than I imagined it would be. I’ve moved in most of my things except this one pile of clothes I keep forgetting in the backseat of my car. Speaking of clothes, my wardrobe hasn’t doubled yet, but it’s becoming much more blue and gray. I should probably start stretching my color spectrum.

The apartment isn’t permanent so I didn’t bring a lot of furniture. When I find out more specifically where I’ll be working, I’ll move closer in towards the city. Until then, let’s hear it for the 45 minute commute!

Also! I walked down the dog aisle today in Target. BIG MISTAKE. I have the feeling that my Nashville family will be growing in August. Check facebook for pictures.

Family:

Today is my mom’s 43rd Birthday!! I wish I could be with her celebrating, but let’s face it. I’ve been giving her the great gift of parenthood for 22 years and the 2200 miles or however long Illinois is long wasn’t an efficient use of time. I’m looking forward to the family coming down and moving me in once I get settled into a permanent location.

Tomorrow, my cousin graduates from college! Again, wishing I could be there. I guess it’s time to start saving to fly in for her wedding? (Hopefully, it’s in Hawaii!)

Work: I guess you should know in February, I got accepted to be a Nashville Teaching Fellow. It is a program in Nashville and in several other cities (with different names of course, but all part of The New Teacher Project (TNTP)). Throughout this summer, I will be teaching Summer School to students in the Metro Nashville Public Schools to improve my already stellar teaching skills. I am currently applying to schools in the MNPS district and will keep you updated when I land my dream job!

More specific details about the program: I had orientation on Thursday. It was very insightful and kind of overwhelming. There are around 180 of us. Three from Missouri. Three born on February 18th, that I know of so far! Tuesday we hit the ground running with training and next Monday I will start teaching. I’m sure I’ll have to create a whole new blog filled with quotes and stories from the classroom. So keep your eyes open for that!

First experiences:

I went to breakfast yesterday with a friend from Project Transformation to a kinda famous and really hipster place called the Phunky Griddle. It was my second time at the restaurant, which I realize in contradicting to place it under the “first experiences” category, but as we were leaving we heard some music but didn’t know where it was coming from. As we made it further down the road we saw this group of three who were singing! We pulled into the “Curious Heart Emporium” and right in front of us was this little band singing live music, for FREE. They had laid out quilts and everything under this huge shade tree. It was so fun and totally Nashville. When you come to visit me, I’ll look so see if there is any other free concerts with quilts and shade trees because it was so fun! It was also at the intersection of a road called “Heather PL” so I think it was more than a coincidence that we found it!

Last night on my way home from helping set up for the arrival of the 2013 Project Transformation interns, I drove right up to my first experience with mile long traffic to find drunk drivers. I was happy to participate in the sobriety line because of my personal views on first drinking and then drinking and driving. I passed with flying colors as I’m sure most of you are not surprised.

I’ve also managed to get lost several times. I’m trying not to use my GPS too many times so I can really learn my way around the neighborhoods. Luckily, I’ve taken the same wrong turns and have figured my way home every time.

Week 3

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What a whirlwind of a week.

Sunday we had another awesome sermon about suffering and had a chance to reflect on the fathers and fatherly figures in our lives. The church i attend this summer is small, diverse, and God is moving in big ways in the life of the congregation. 

Monday my phone was stolen by someone, possibly a parent but maybe just a person who wandered into the church. It was my own fault for leaving it unattended while I trained the volunteers. I was in high hopes that maybe one of the kids had just grabbed it, but I rest confident that is not in the homes of one of my kid’s because I was making pretty good prizes for anyone who found it. Anyways, the new one came yesterday and should be activated by this afternoon.

Tuesday I was able to borrow one of my interns phones to make any and all calls. The kids and programming planned by the interns were both great, therefore I got tons of work done. I planned 2 field trips! We will be going to The Tennessee State Museum ( I’m going today to check it out, I’m kinda realllly excited!) and then we will also be going to The Frist Museum. I know most kids aren’t really into the whole museum thing, but the total cost of both field trips is $0.00 so they’ll have to appreciate what they are given. 

Wednesday flew by, but our evening meeting in preparation for week 4 (which means we are one week from being half way done with this new experience! so sad) was tons of fun. My team is really coming together, cracking jokes, and, for the most part, enjoying each other. 

And then there was yesterday, Thursday! Our first FAMILY FUN NIGHT! Family fun night is when we invite the kids and their families to all come to the church and share a meal with the interns, church members, and volunteers. WE had over 125 people in attendance and it was adorable to see our kids interact with all of their families. They were so proud of where they came from and really wanted to show their families off. Especially baby brothers and sisters. The interns and I got to see a new perspective of their life. Some of our kids really are their own parents and others have great parents who are just trying to make it with what they’ve been given. It’s a really diverse group.

Also this week we found out as a team that we won’t be able to do home visits which is where the team goes to the kids home and visits in a team on one family basis. When we told volunteers and church members about these ‘home visits’ we would be going on, their faces became blank. Many told me that I should reconsider. After talking to both of my bosses and them looking to trusting advice givers, the conclusion was made that it would  be much too dangerous for us to visit their homes. I found out that I’m serving in the most dangerous part of Nashville where there are anywhere between 3-12 gangs represented and gang violence is higher during the summer months. It’s also late afternoon when some of the people who hang out in the projects are either sobering up from last nights intoxication or just beginning that day’s drinking bonanza. There was also fear that we would end up in a situation and have no way out, such as finding drugs in the home or other illegal material and be mandated to report it, which could hurt the relationship that we are trying to build with our families. So when the decision was made to support our relationship with the families and church we decided it might be best to meet with our families upon arriving and bringing their kids to site in the morning and picking them up in the afternoons. Luckily, I’ve also been able to call a ton of our parents and build a relationship with them over the phone.

After this week, it’s obvious that our whole team is falling in love with  our kids and this summer is just starting to get good. 

 

Aside

So I might be the worst blogger ever. Here is jist of what has happened the last two weeks.

The first week with the kids was awesome. Our theme that was week was “to infinity and beyond. Buzz Lightyear, one of my interns, came to our site and told the kids all about his time in outer space and his star command journey. They were so intrigued! Here is a picture of Buzz himself. My site pastor Rev. Pet and house pastor, Sam decided they needed a picture with this Pixar superstar.

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This last week we had empowerment week. Monday was unplanned and went really rough. Thankfully the week only went up from there. Thursday we had a talent show and it was so good! One of our 1st grade girls wore her tap shoes and did a dance for us. There were so proud to have the attention of all the other kids and especially the interns. Sam came for a visit that day, so they enjoyed having a “special guest” watch them too! We had a few of the boys break dance, a talent I never appreciated until I saw my own 3rd-5th grade boys doing it!

Also, another special moment from the past few weeks. I’ve began to love the older boys in the program. One day at recess I was invited to play football with them. Growing up without boys I didn’t have much experience with a football in my hands, but it was so much fun!

Another little boy is an attention-seeking child. He runs the show most days and it has been a real challenge for the interns and I to have him where he’s suppose to be. He is constantly in my office for one reason or another and we get to have a talk about why he can’t behave. All that is easy, and then every time I send him back to his class, he hugs me! It’s hard to discipline a child who hugs!

We have some special prayer request from our sites, no details, I just ask that you pray for the 58 kids on the rooster. Serving in the most dangerous part of Nashville was easy at the beginning, then I realized I was sending my kids home to that. Trusting God is the only thing I can do.

As far as site is concerned, things are great and God has continued to bless each of us.

As far as community living on Belmont is concerned, we are still learning to love each other. When that happens, it’ll be much easier to love the kids. We are growing together though, it’s just going to take some time. Five of us went to the Nashville Rescue Mission (a men’s shelter) to volunteer at their coffee house. After leaving around 7:45, we decided it was time for some dinner. We traveled around East Nashville trying to find a southern style restaurant. Our attempts fell and in the middle of the pouring rain we decided to come back to Belmont and settle for something closer to campus. Chipotle it was! Luckily, I wasn’t with any of the interns who I had really gotten to know except Victoria from Truman and Katie from my first summer in Dallas. The floor was open so I made the five of us discuss questions like where we had come from and what kind of stuff we were passionate about. The conversation came back to Belmont with us when we all sat around a round table in the devotion room. At the end of the night, 7 others had joined us! It was great to see each of us actually learning about each other and why we act and think they way we do.

Sorry this post is kind of here kind of there. Maybe I’ll blog more regularly and they can flow a little better! Maybe…

Lastly, I want to share this picture that I found on my way to get lunch one day:

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Catching up on the last two weeks

The start of a new story…

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I’ve been in Nashville for a little more than a week now, training and preparing for the inaugural summer of Project Transformation Tennessee. I have been blessed in so many ways. Before arriving to Tennessee, I received an email from Erin, my boss, that I had already collected my fundraising goal. I safely arrived in Nashville, on the 1 year anniversary of the tornadoes that hit Joplin and devastated their community. On the same day the tornadoes went through Joplin,Missouri, I went through Joplin on my way to Dallas, Texas. I was lucky once again to make it safely to my destination and thankfully, the weather was good! Site coordinator training is over and training for the interns is well under way. My team of 6 interns and I were able to be in worship with our site church on Sunday. They, like many other churches were celebrating Pentecost. Before I go into stories about the site church, you should first know this. They are a African American Methodist Church, most of their congregation is made up by individuals and families that live near by and walk to the church. The church is in a very poor neighborhood surrounded by the projects of Nashville, Tennessee. (These are the same homes many of the children we will be serving live, too.) The worship experience was an experience I’ll never forget. It was spiritually filling. I didn’t realize just how dry I was until I was nourished on Sunday. I felt like a sponge, soaking up everything the pastor was saying and the youth choir was sharing through their talent of music. At one point in the service, they had my entire team come to the front to be recognized and consecrated. Upon doing so, they had us kneel at the alter, then invited the youth and children of the congregation come and lay hand upon each of us. After they children and youth were in place, other members of the congregation were invited to follow in the children’s footsteps and lay hands upon us. It was an incredibly special experience, one that I’ll never be able to forget. After church, the congregation had prepared a meal for us and we were able to eat in fellowship with them. They were incredibly welcoming and kindhearted and so anxious to get to know each of us on a personal level. (thankfully, it was a southern style meal with tons of chicken strips, salad, rolls, and sweet tea, the only thing I turned down were the turnip greens…I’m still not sure what they consisted of!) Many of the members asked about where we were from, what brought us to our PTT experience, and what we were studying in school. The experience I had with them left me so excited to experience worship again with them next Sunday!

As training continued through this week, it’s been a struggle to stay focused. However, today we were invited in to the home of a family to learn about component planning and how to make it effective to each age group we will be working with. Patty, our leader today was so knowledgeable and full of joy. Being her presence made me a little sad that I wouldn’t get to make component sheets because the resources she gave us to use were so helpful and constructive! I think it really energized the interns and gave them purpose for the intense training because today was all hands on training that would benefit the kids that we came to Tennessee to serve.

Tomorrow we have another intense day of training, 1st aid and CPR, both very important. I pray we will be able to stay focused and realize the importance of the training, God forbid we ever have to use anything we learn at site. But, if the occasion arises, it’s much better to be safe and aware than sorry. Thursday we get to go to our site and set it up, which will be another fun day for the interns. It’ll make the experience seem more real. and then come Friday, I’m headed home for my best friends wedding!

I know I’ve said this every year, but I hope to keep this blog a little bit more up to date. I know that this new thing that God is allowing to happen here in Nashville is huge and a blessing to so many people and I want to share my experience with as many people as possible!

I appreciate your support, now and always, in ways I’ll never be able to express with words.

With much love,

Heather