An angel in human form…

God sent me a sign…and a new friend…today.

So if you know me, you know patience is not one of my virtues. I am not a patient person…period. We’re talking not even a little bit. Understand my point yet? Because I don’t have the patience to keep explaining it if you don’t.

So you can probably imagine how well I’m handling the printer setback we had. “Never Alone” was almost done printing and we were actually going to hold it in our hands…after three years of writing and then waiting for it to actually happen. And then we had another holdup. We just want the book in our hands. We want to be able to get it to as many people as we can. We know there are so many who need to understand they are never alone. But we also are beginning to understand we can help in many ways. The book is not God. Our goal is to help people understand, to support those suffering…the book is not the only way to do that. Yes God is using us to spread His good. And today He sent us another sign.

The day started out very busy. We had every intention of really sleeping in and being lazy this morning; it seemed a good day to just chill out and catch up after a long weekend of tons of faith, fun, and family. But at 8:15, a semi truck rolled up to our house (note that we live 20 feet from our landscaping and greenhouse services business…Natural Escapes in Cozad). He was loaded with 41 trees and it was time to unload. We began and 8:30 and quickly learned these trees were not only huge, they were completely water saturated…which means they were three times as heavy to move as they normally would be. With me operating the Multitrac (our loader) and my husband climbing in and out of the bucket loading and unloading trees, Jeremy and I were finally done at 10:40. I was exhausted…and Jeremy had done all the manual labor. I just drove a loader. So I can’t even imagine how tired he was! After that, I cleaned up the house (dishes, laundry, vacuuming, a bit of back yard spring cleaning) and dealt with an extremely cranky and stubborn 8-year-old who was pretty sure my grounding him for being disrespectful and mouthy was the end of his entire world. So I truly punished myself by punishing him. The weather was dreary, the attitudes were flying…it was not a good day.

So I walked outside ready to just be cranky, and I saw him. An older gentleman sat on our stump next to my minivan in front of our house. He looked around 70 years old and there was no car to be seen. He explained that he was on a mission to find something, but it became more clear he just needed a friend. I sat with him as he told me about his “lady friend” in another state and his beautiful plans to buy every empty building in Cozad and revitalize the town. From time to time in between and during his stories, I watched tears fall from his eyes. He had walked all around town and his water cup was empty. So I asked if he would like some. I went in and filled his cup he had carried with him with ice and fresh water and brought it back out to him. I still had two boys testing me as I chatted with my new friend, and I smiled when this gentleman looked at my oldest and said, “Didn’t you hear your mom? She told you to knock it off.” I love having parenting support. Hudson just looked at me with a “Can he say that to me?” look. Yes, he can, my son. He’s got more life experience than the four of us combined.

Finally, I asked this man where his tears were coming from. He replied, “Well when you talk to somebody real…” Then I couldn’t stop the tears. I understood.

After about an hour of our chatting, he decided he best walk back home, but he was exhausted and beat up, and I knew God brought him to me for a reason. He told me who he was living with and who his children were, a wonderful family here in town and I knew of them well. So I loaded him up in my van and drove him across town to his home. As we turned the corner leaving my home, he revealed something I had seen in his eyes when he first appeared in front of our home.

“I just got out of the mental hospital in Kearney.”

My response was, “My husband has been in there twice. I get it. It’s not easy to live with depression.”

“That’s what I have. Manic depression. I think about suicide every day.”

“I know. I can see it because we live it. But it’s a lot worse when you think you’re alone.”

I told the man about our book and what we lived and we talked about how God had obviously put us in one another’s lives for a reason. Tears continued to flow. I dropped him off where he lives and chatted with his son for a few minutes. What a beautiful family. To you…you know who you are…you are never alone. God is always with you. Support and love. We are always here for you as well because we know what that life is like…we know how hard it can be. But it gets better. We can be here to support you in lots of ways…one of those ways is to just be someone who will listen when you need to talk. The gentleman ended our conversation with, “When that book comes, I want one. And I want you to sign it. And I want your husband to sign it. And I want your kids to sign it.”

You got it, JJ. I didn’t just help you today. You helped me too.

You helped me understand we can help in lots of ways. There are lots of ways to help those suffering understand none of us are ever alone. Sometimes it’s just listening to your heart and allowing God to use you to support those He loves…everyone.

My Own Worst Bully

There seems to be so much negativity in the world anymore that our brains are naturally wired to think the worst of ourselves. As I sit in the shade at a water park watching my two beautiful boys splash carefree in the water, a breathtakingly beautiful woman is sunbathing a mere 20 feet away.

She is wearing a pink polka-dot bikini and looks absolutely stunning. Her skin is naturally pale, just lightly kissed by the sun. Her hair rests in a messy bun atop her head and she laughs with the kids. She looks to be in her mid to late twenties. This woman looks so healthy; she does not have chiseled abs or legs that look like she spends hours running or at the gym. She looks healthy, happy, and…normal. She’s perfect.

But even as I sit here thinking this about this woman, I rest in the shade while covering my legs and belly so nobody sees my stretch marks from the miracle of two baby boys. “She looks amazing,” I think, “I wish I looked like her.” And at that moment, I was re-wired. God whispered, “You do.”

I mustered up the courage to approach her.

I told her that I noticed her in her bikini, while apologizing for the forwardness of my crazy, red-headed self. I told her how beautiful she is and that she gave me confidence in myself. It was a very special moment, because as I told her how stunning she is and how I wish I had her confidence, she insisted, “We are built a lot alike!” And we are. She told me that I am beautiful and that she had noticed me too.

Thank you to this mystery woman who God sent. Why can I see the beauty in her but not in myself?

I’m fighting it now. No more. I will stop being my own worst bully. I will stop the negative digs I give to myself. No. More.

YOU are beautiful. Open your eyes and see yourself from God’s eyes. If you are against bullying and want to change it, start within yourself.

Who’s with me?!?!

The Benefits of a Bestie (especially one who lives 5 minutes away)

This is me right now…full belly (frozen pizza…well, I did cook it), glass of Sangria on ice (I have a fabulous box of it in my fridge…yes, I said box…”simplicity” should have been my middle name), and most importantly, a heart filled with hope and happiness.

Today was one of those days. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very blessed. But my family and I took a huge leap of faith this year. I still know it was the right decision, but I don’t have a full-time job yet after leaving my job as a special educator. I know I’ll find one; God is amazing and I know that He has big plans for us. But the security of that lifestyle was hard to leave. It was a risk, but we knew (and still know) that it was the right decision. I’ll find a job to support my family. But I am REALLY good at not believing in myself.

Today, our boys were doing everything in their power to get on each others’ nerves. So when my mom arrived this morning and noticed that my nerves were on edge, she immediately volunteered (with a bit of coaching from Hudson I would assume) to take them both for a sleepover. Knowing what may happen to her blood pressure if I sent them both, we opted for her taking one and leaving one home. It was the best decision this week; not to mention, it allowed Asher to have a play date with his little friend, Bryna (my best friend’s daughter). It doesn’t matter what is going on, I can call Cara (bestie) and she will let me steal one or more of her children. Her second and our oldest are wonderful friends. And her third and our youngest are wonderful friends as well. It works wonderfully. I’m so blessed. She trusts me completely with the care of her kids; and that is the highest level of respect and honor that anyone can give another person, in my opinion.

So we had Bryna for a play date. Asher and Bryna play so well together, it’s just precious. They played in the sand under our shaded deck. They played in the pond in the back yard. They ran around in the front and rode bikes and scooters. Finally, they got tired and headed in to completely cover my living room with every tiny piece of every game we own while watching “Teen Beach Movie” on Disney. They melt my heart.

But while they were playing, I was preoccupied. I was sad. I was looking for jobs…and I haven’t found one yet.

When I left my job, and still to this day, everyone tells me, “With your qualifications and personality, you’ll get hired immediately!” Will I? Why is it not happening in my time frame? I have to find a job working from home so that I can support my family and pursue our dreams of helping others on a larger scale. I’m qualified. I’m enthusiastic. I’m an extremely dedicated and hard worker. I’m also unemployed. It’s hard to believe in myself right now.

So I was on a pity party. And guess what? Just like every other time I question myself, God reminded me of how I believed in God’s plan for our lives, in myself, and in what our family needs from me so much that I marched into my administrators’ offices at the beginning of the ’13-’14 school year and gave my notice. I could no longer handle what public education has become and I know that I am meant to help remedy the situation on a larger scale. I know God has big plans; it’s just beginning.

But I didn’t know all of this (or didn’t remember it today) until God smacked me up-side the head…again. No, He didn’t hit me with a brick, tree, or His literal hand (though I likely deserved it). He hit me with a visit from my bestie.

Cara runs an in-home daycare, getting away is not easy. So you can imagine my surprise when she walked in my front door at 4:30 in the afternoon and announced, “I have to set this down and then I’m coming to give you a huge hug. We’re celebrating.” I followed her, intrigued. “What are we celebrating?” I inquired. She embraced me in a hug so tight that I almost fell over. “I am just so proud of you!” she said out loud as she squeezed the air out of me. “I just read your post about why you left your job. God has such big plans for you. I am just so proud of you.”

And I lost it…

God sent Cara to me today. She had randomly been called to read my post two ahead of this one. It’s called, “This Is Why…” I had explained to her in the past why I left education, but I’m not as good at explaining myself when I don’t have time to really think about my words. This is why I love writing (see…just fixed that sentence and you didn’t even know it). Not to mention, Cara’s and my conversations (with six kids between the two of us) usually go something like this…

Cara… “Did you read that post about…Bryna! Give that back to him! You say sorry to your brother. Rogan! No! We do not hit!”

Bailey… “Oh you mean the post when you…Asher Lane! Quit kicking Hudson! Hudson, that does not mean you kick back!”

Cara… “Yeah the one where I mentioned…Did you seriously just say that to her?”

Bailey… “I think I know the one you are talking…Are you kidding me, child?!?!”

You laugh because you understand. We both know what we are talking about. We speak the same language. But it doesn’t always work the way it can when you write it. Texting helps! We should start texting when we are sitting next to each other…maybe then we will get a full sentence out.

So today Cara finally, truly understood. We hadn’t even spoken. But I truly believe that God put Cara and I on this earth together to support each other. Today, He called her to help Him reinforce His plan for my life. I cried so hard, hugged her tighter than I ever have, and explained to her how amazing it was that she read that post today and felt compelled to come to me. She explained that it was obviously God at work; she’s a planner, and she so strongly felt the need to come to my side and tell me how proud she is of me that she left a tray full of hash browns on her counter ready to go in the oven for supper. Instead, they came to our house and we celebrated our family’s new life with wine and frozen pizza while our kids belly-laughed and got covered in sand.

Cara has amazing faith and is the best prayer I have ever met. She has a heart of gold, is an unbelievably dedicated wife and mother, and does it all with such poise and positivity that the rest of us just watch in awe. Cara lost her mom when she was a teen; she could be bitter about it. But instead, she uses that pain that she had to fuel her desire to be there for her own kids in every way possible. She’s another rock in my life. I have God. I have Jeremy. I have my kids. I have my mother. But having my bestie is another type of love that I pray everyone has. Thank you, Cara. You are my sister from another mother. I love you.

This Is Why…

The decision for me to leave education after seven years as a Special Education, Spanish, and Business teacher was easier than you might think. And today, again, I was reinforced in my decision.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Gothenburg. We do have amazing students there, and the administrators (especially Mr. Evans…shout-out) do the best they can with the situation that they are in because of what education has become nationally. So don’t take this or any other posts about my feelings on education to be about Gothenburg, it’s just where I was at. Gothenburg, just like every other school, is under so much pressure from the government (mainly testing and budgeting) that they have no choice but to “teach to the test”. Yes, you’ve heard it a million times. And you may be thinking, “Yeah, yeah…teach to the test.” But it’s true. And it’s sad.

I truly don’t believe that education was always like this. In fact, when I began in education I was completely fired up for it! I was very fortunate. The general education classes that I taught were not courses that were assessed with standardized testing; this left me with a lot of freedom. I created the curriculum myself for 7th grade Spanish, 8th grade Spanish, and Entrepreneurship. And it was fun! My administrators were wonderful in supporting me with different activities for reinforcement. I had a blast teaching. Why? Because I was able to get to know my students individually and teach them in their own unique ways. I tried very hard to do just that as it was always my goal…to connect with kids and give them someone responsible whom they could trust. I was honest. I made mistakes and I called myself out on them…it made me human to my students. And I have made wonderful professional relationships with kids to this day. Will I friend those kids on Facebook now that I am no longer their teacher? You’re darn right I will. And why would I do this? Some of these kids just need to know that somebody cares. And when they feel sad or depressed, where is the first place they turn to anymore? Facebook. They put it out there on the Internet just hoping somebody will notice them. So I do. I want them to know that I will always be their teacher. I will always support them. And I will always believe in them.

Leaving my students was the hardest part by far. One the last day of school, they threw me a surprise party in our co-taught English class. I was unbelievably blessed to co-teach 7th grade English with, by far, the most amazing teacher I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and now calling a friend. Mrs. Clark (another shout-out) has a way of getting students to understand material while having a blast and learning respect. She’s absolutely amazing. Kids give Mrs. Clark and I memories that we treasure forever. And on that last day of school this year, I was a blubbering mess. I was ready for my new adventure, but I wasn’t ready to not see those junior high smiles and get those hugs and high fives when kids come running at you so fast that you have no choice but to hug back or you’ll fall over. I’ll miss that. Kids are amazing.

So why isn’t education about kids anymore? We make kids sit in a blank room because “colors and too much on the walls distract from learning”. Crap. We make everyone be completely silent because it’s easier for everyone to learn. No (not for everyone). The danger is in believing that every kid learns in the same ways; and that is what education is about now.

Let’s use me for example…yes, I’m 30. But I have the maturity of a 7th grader so I count as a fabulous example. I’m going to be a doctor of Special Education soon (hopefully by May 2016). Not once…ever…have I actually read an assignment. Not. Once. I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Spanish, Business Administration, and Secondary Education. Did I read the assigned chapters one through four for any week? Nope. I have a Master of Arts Degree in Special Education. Did I read the entire article assigned for that big exam? No…didn’t do that one either. Don’t get me wrong, I do my work. But I don’t learn by sitting down and reading an entire chapter or article. In fact, I’ll read a paragraph and have no idea what it said…so I’ll go back and read it again. Still no clue. I figured out how I learn…and that’s why I can keep going with my education when everyone thinks I’m crazy. I read parts of assignments and skim. I highlight. I make note cards. I have others read to me. Yes, I said that. I learn better when someone reads to me. It doesn’t make me worse or any less smart than anyone else…it makes me a different learner. Just like you. Just like him. Just like her.

I’m not done. When I study or write a paper, I have music blaring. I have “Friends” on in the background. My husband just shakes his head when I appear to be concentrating super hard on a sentence typing and I will bust a gut laughing at something that Rachel or Chandler just said (my two favorite characters). Jeremy says, “How on earth can you do that?” It’s my brain! I can double, triple, and quadruple task to no end! Lol…but I cannot concentrate on one thing at one time. Doesn’t happen. I like that about myself. I’m very random. I’m sure you can already see that. It can be annoying (sometimes I even annoy myself), but God made me this way. Diagnosed with ADHD? Yes…self-diagnosed. I am almost a doctor of Special Education; trust me, I know the disorder. I have it; and that’s okay. The key is to learn how to deal with it if it’s not diagnosed! Medications help many. Honestly, I like my ADHD. I get a lot done.

I am the perfect example of what is not happening in schools anymore. It can’t. Teachers can’t teach to my style of learning…there’s red tape everywhere. English, Reading, Social Sciences, Math, and Science are all assessed to the level that teachers have zero freedom. You may be thinking, “Oh, poor Bailey. What would you know about teaching these subjects? You’re a Special Education teacher.” Darn right I am! We SPED teachers are the family practitioners of education. We aren’t specialized in one area; we have to know a little bit about a lot of areas. That is why tutoring is a great fit for me. I’ve been in almost every type of junior high and high school classroom there is as either a co-teacher or a support for a student with a disability. My job, as a special educator, is to assist general educators in providing accommodations and tailoring instruction for students with disabilities. You can imagine how difficult this can be. Even with two teachers in the room, it isn’t easy. But it can be done! It takes planning time (wait…what’s that?…we’re always in meetings). It takes specialized training with follow-up (huh? Workshops that actually result in improvement?). It takes time to adjust materials and schedules (hold on…this is getting out of hand).

So this is why…none of this is happening. This is why I’m leaving. Education is not about students anymore. It is about what is easier because of so many “have tos”. We “have to” have a workshop about this. We “have to” budget for a new gym floor. We “have to” concentrate on teaching students the material on the standardized test. We “have to” only do what is necessary to keep us from getting in trouble.

Well here is my top 20 list of what we “HAVE TO” do…mine’s different from what we are told we “have to” do:

1. We HAVE TO recognize that every student learns differently.

2. We HAVE TO learn what students need. (Ask them…they’ll tell you how they learn best. And guess what? You just taught independence and respect for oneself without even trying)

3. We HAVE TO try different methods of instruction rather than relying on “what used to work”.

4. We HAVE TO make time to work together and make it about students.

5. We HAVE TO treat our educators with the respect that they deserve. (They have no motivation to do more…drained…overworked…underpaid…exhausted)

6. We HAVE TO realize that we don’t always have the right answers. (Look in other places, to other people…including parents, caretakers, other teachers)

7. We HAVE TO learn evidence-based strategies and employ them. (Most of the evidence-based strategies that I have learned about or tried have been very geared toward differentiated instruction…trying different methods than the typical talk and take notes type of teaching…they can be very fun…no wonder they actually work for students)

8. We HAVE TO find different ways of teaching that will help all kids learn. (It’s easy to teach the easy kids)

9. We HAVE TO focus on strengths of kids and stop constantly telling them what they are doing wrong! (This one is a must…focus on the positive. Yes, I get that we have to teach kids differently if they are misbehaving, but why is that always the first thing we notice?)

10. We HAVE TO take the time to learn what accommodations will help kids and figure out how to implement them DAILY! (Many students with disabilities require even more changes in the classroom…it’s not easy…teachers need time and support to sort out how to make it work)

11. We HAVE TO build the time and money in to supporting KIDS in their learning.

12. We HAVE TO recognize that while one environment is great for one learner, it may not be great for another. (It isn’t hard to allow a kid to listen to music while taking a test…oh I know…but what if they are cheating?!?!…You do realize that there are controls on most devices…have them available in your classroom so you have more control over what they are able to do)

13. We HAVE TO stop with this standardized testing testing testing. (It doesn’t help kids…at all.)

14. We HAVE TO give teachers more planning time with other teachers (even including students and their parents/guardians) to help one another.

15. We HAVE TO shift budgets to focus on creating an environment where individual learning styles are nurtured and encouraged.

16. We HAVE TO help kids learn how they learn.

17. We HAVE TO show kids that we care by being respectful of their needs and learning styles. (It doesn’t seem right to demand respect from them if we aren’t willing to give it back)

18. We HAVE TO learn to remove our own frustrations about education and remember that it is not the fault of our students.

19. We HAVE TO express what we see education becoming and try to change it!

20. We HAVE TO do the best we can for students in the situation we are in. (I’m working on moving up the ladder to try to do something about the governmental pressures and I know many are…but it won’t happen overnight. For now, we get to be the positive driving forces behind helping students learn the material they “have to” know in order to test well…but we can do our part in helping them learn it in their own ways. It’s a powerful position to be in…and one of the most important.)

Am I an expert on education? No. But I am a teacher. I am a parent. I am a student. I am a business owner. I am almost a doctor of education. Maybe I am an expert (at the very least…I’m trying to be). Maybe that’s the issue. We are allowing people to run education who have no experience what-so-ever with actually teaching. So take it or leave it, but I don’t like what education has become and I believe these are things that can be (need to be) done NOW to make the best of what we have!

Bottom line…make education about students again. It’s not about adults. It’s not about what’s easier. Make it about kids.