chauntegarrett

Love. Serve. Teach. Learn.

Posts tagged ‘faith’

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The struggle…IS REAL! This is an understatement for many people, including myself, experiencing loss over the holidays. The months of November and December especially reign as pervasive reminders of what is lost. After a loss, be it a loved one, a relationship, a home, or a job…simply put life changes; and so does the experience during this time of the year. Loss, a physical event, leads to grief, an emotional journey. Grief creates this physical sensation of hollowness that our logical brain convinces us we can find a way to stuff full again. Therefore, we seek a lot of different ways to deal; sending us on a ride of emotions.
A few years ago, a civic minded friend invited me to feed the homeless on Christmas day. In this experience, I felt many emotions including shame and gratitude. After suffering several losses this year, and remembering those lost long before, serving on Christmas day 2017 became all the more important to me. As I recruited friends to participate; I wanted to believe it was my selfless nature that was driving me. As I reflect on our Christmas day experience; I was very selfishly needing an unnamed something from this experience. I found it in the form of the lessons below:

To Remember that in the midst of our experience we are still called to serve. “On a single night in 2017, 553,742 people were experiencing homelessness in the United States,” (2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, HUD Exchange, December 2017). This is less than a 1% increase from last year (HUD Exchange, 2017); yet speaks to the persistence of the issue in all of our communities. Driving home from serving, I debriefed with my godchildren. When asked, what was shocking, my godson replied, “I recognized some of the same people from last year.” Truthfully, so did I. Then reality struck: a moment of charity made everyone feel better but it did not change the condition. The emotional experience of loss does not absolve us of our personal responsibility in the world. the feelings associated with loss become inconsistent overtime; where as our homeless community experience the feelings and the conditions of loss, day in day out and for some, year after year. Service as an event is a band aid; it is help but it is not healing. What more can we do to serve others by way of healing conditions rather than bandaging them?

To Recognize a new normal. When experiencing loss, whether we realize it, the way we eat, sleep, perform basic tasks and engage in what seems like minor daily events change. We can fight it by trying to make everything look and seem the same or we can embrace it. I used to take great pride in gifting during the holidays (or anytime of the year really!). Without the chance to exert that time and energy; I am confronted with the reality that the opportunity is no longer there. Rather than gifting; my new normal is giving. Feeding the homeless on Christmas day may be thought of a selfless giving of my time, my resources and myself; but honestly, it selfishly fills me with gratitude and fulfillment and reminds me of the grace and mercy that supports me through the tough times. We cannot erase the loss we feel but our new normal can invite many healthier emotions, like joy.

To Reinforce what makes you healthy. When experiencing loss we are often encouraged to find ways to make us happy. Happiness is an emotional choice; however, because it is a choice, when we are not attending to it; it can escape us. While striving to be happy we must also strive to be healthy! Our health is the collective of what we experience emotionally, physically, and spiritually. The weight of loss is heavy and it permeates through every aspect of our being creating fatigue without obvious warrant, frustration with misaligned triggers, withdrawal without cognition of where our presence should be, and making decisions with a long-term impact during a temporary mindset. I first accepted the invitation to feed the homeless because it just didn’t feel right to say no. The preferred alternative was limited interaction, introspective solitude and sleep. What I gained is an experience that rejuvenates and recalls me to my purpose; impacting me personally, in how I steward my gifts and resources and professionally by the attention I give to identifying and supporting students affected by homelessness. This service is my healthy choice for the holidays. Before reacting, deciding, and committing, give great thought into what will help you be healthy overall, beyond being happy in the moment.

To Receive each blessing as intended. As we grow older, we realize that people and relationships we value are irreplaceable. There isn’t a new relationship that makes us forget a past one; we are simply blessed to move past it. There isn’t a new baby that replaces a beloved family member; our families are simply blessed to keep growing. The blessings that are connected or follow are the next steps in God’s design, with their own intended purpose. As I reflect upon the homeless men, women and children that came through the serving lines on Christmas day, there was no emphasis placed on their current circumstance. A citizenry that knows loss as a way of life, there was a willingness to engage and a gracious “thank you,” for the blessing in the moment at hand. Every moment of our lives works together together for our good as a part of His plan (Romans 8:28). No moment or event can be replaced or erased; only acknowledged for what it is and the blessings that are revealed unto us as we go through it.

I know holidays will always be different from before and no experience can replace what and who is no longer there.

I also know to look for more.

Christmas day, I selfishly set out to walk in my purpose of serving not knowing how I would be served. With my family and several dear friends experiencing the absence of loved ones this season and the life changes that accompany it, I felt the need to share these lessons learned. I selfishly write as a welcome for anyone who knows this journey to share the experiences that taught valuable lessons while experiencing loss.

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a-faith-to-educate

All I wanted to do was teach: A Reasonable Service, Part 1,” describes the emotional roller coaster educators ride before they can ever begin to teach:

Baffled. Humbled. Grateful. Awestruck. Relieved. Hungry. Sympathetic. Empathetic. Infuriated. Exhausted. Hopeful. Triumphant. Data-driven. Thoughtful. Pensive.

I came into this profession wanting to impact lives; especially for under served populations. Teaching was the vehicle to do so. With every challenging reality of what it takes, my faith, determining my “reasonable service” is my guide.

Integrity:

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Pastor Marion B. Robinson speaks with youth and their mentors during a youth summit.

As my career unfolds, my pastor, Rev. Marion B. Robinson reminds me to, “Always do what is right.” Rev. Robinson mobilizes whole communities around issues in education. As an educator, anything that is wrong within, our power and influence, we are obligated to change it. If it is not within our influence, we are required to challenge it. We are advocates for the students we serve. Who else knows their story like we do? Who else knows how it impacts their learning like we do? I can recall being infuriated as a brand new teacher to be handed a full course load of the lowest level students. I wasn’t furious because I did not want to teach them. I was furious because of what their placement and the expectations that were set for them implied about them. My response: teach them; with everything I had. I recall being further infuriated when these same students were not placed in higher level courses the following year as I recommended. Many of those students were more successful than they had ever been because barriers were removed.

Our “reasonable service:”

  • Measure every decision against, “What is best for kids?”
  • Remove barriers
  • Challenge policy
  • Challenge Colleagues

Intel:

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Outside of the Impact Center, Pastor James D. Gailliard shares with visiting educators the need for holistic ministries and services in order to impact communities.

Along the way in my career, I met Pastor James D. Gailliard. While leading a holistic ministry to meet spiritual, physical and social needs in his community, he reminds me, “Every number has a name, every name has a story and every story matters.” I am encouraged to serve the whole child in order to impact the whole community. In this world of accountability, everything we do in the classroom will translate into test scores for our students. Students are not scores. We are reminded to look beyond the output and focus on the input; our service to our students. Getting to know our students’ stories is what helps us to know how to meet their needs. Why are they hungry? Is the food in the drawer enough or do we need to help parents find extra income or assistance? Why are they acting out? Is there positive or negative attention provided at home. What are their goals and dreams? How can we provide curriculum and experiences to help them? What experiences are needed that they are not getting? What colleges do we need to visit or work force development opportunities can be created? WHAT DOES HOPE MEAN TO THIS CHILD AND THIS COMMUNITY?

Our “reasonable service:”

  • Do not pass judgment on students, families and their circumstances. “Unpack” issues to determine what help is within our abilities to provide.
  • Do not ignore student needs. Always have a willingness to meet student needs. “Where there is a will; there is a way.”

Inter-mutual:

As I am trying to figure out many things in order to better serve my students, I met Rev. Richard Joyner. Rev. Joyner is changing the lives of children and their families through a community garden. He compassionately shared with me, “The schools cannot do this alone. It is our [community] job to get students ready to return to school each day.” He is right; there is a lot we [educators] can do; however, we cannot do it all. We have to enlist our allies, the home and the community.

Our “reasonable service:”

  • Value and invite parents to engage and get involved. Be mindful that engagement and involvement are two distinct and equally valuable assets.
  • Tap into the available resources through churches, businesses and agencies. Resources are not always monetary donations or tangible goods; it can be a service.
  • Be open minded of ideas and suggestions from outside the school. We are serving the same communities there may be some issues or needs the school may not be fully aware. Be open to developing solutions collaboratively with parents and communities.

Intra-personal:

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Pastor J. Jasper Wilkins visits our schools to make an assessment of how his ministry can support our work.

Most recently in my career, I have reconnected with Pastor J. Jasper Wilkins. Pastor Wilkins was my pastor early on in my life. In my current role, I serve a community dear to his heart- his home. In alignment with his church’s mission to help, hope and heal he is investing in our endeavors along with the surrounding community. Most recently he inquired, “What’s going on in your world?” I immediately run down the list of “band-aids,” we were putting in place in order to get students where they need to be. He then looks at me and says, “How are you?” Band-aids would not do; and it was probably all over my face. I unloaded the frustration of only having “band-aids,” at my disposal. The next question was, “Who do you speak with to make sure that happens?” It is very easy to absorb issues in a manner of bandaging without repairing. Taking some time to debrief within yourself will allow the opportunity to think deeper toward the steps that drive solutions.

Our “reasonable service:”

  • Take care of yourself in a manner that provides clarity around important decisions that impacts the students we serve.
  • Take the time to determine how you feel about the service you are rendering to your students.
  • Before a collective conversation, think about what it will take to move beyond the “bandages.”

I walk into my role every day with joy– loving curriculum and what it brings to the students I serve. I also know the daily heartache that comes when I have to unpack students’ stories before my eyes in order for them to attend to the curriculum of the day and obtain the opportunities that await them. Learning involves more than we can imagine; before students ever take their seats and books are ever cracked open. Who am I to not serve with my gifts? Who am I to not serve in the ways that I am able? I may not be able to do it all; but I can commit to doing what I can. My faith will not allow me to do this- Education- any other way.

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A heart formed after a storm.

I will ride the emotional roller coaster…I trust that daily I visit the following peaks:

Called. I am doing exactly what I am supposed to do and serving faithfully who and where I am supposed to serve.

Fulfilled. My heart is full. I can rest knowing I have done what I can for those I serve. I have given my “reasonable service.”

What is your “reasonable service?” I welcome you to share your thoughts.

Note:

  1. James D. Gailliard serves as pastor of Word Tabernacle Church, Rocky Mount, NC and president and founder of the Impact Center.
  2. Richard Joyner serves as pastor of Conetoe Missionary Baptist Church, Conetoe, North Carolina and CEO and founder of the Conetoe Family Life Center/Community Garden.
  3. Marion B. Robinson serves as pastor of Saint Matthew AME Church, Raleigh, NC and founder of the Harriet B. Webster Task Force for Student Success, the Flood Group: A Community Education Committee and sits on the board for Wake Education Partnership.
  4. J. Jasper Wilkins serves as pastor of Wake Chapel Church, having two locations in Raleigh, NC. He serves multiple facets of the community in the areas of religion, civics, politics and health.
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ALL I WANTED TO DO WAS TEACH. However, often I find myself…

Baffled. I received praise as I traveled my 50-mile commute post the 8:00 PM hour because we received a call about a missing student. I was just informing. I did not need the praise. I needed to find the student. The student was found.

Humbled. In my absence, my mom informs my church that a number of students were affected and even displaced by Hurricane Matthew. My church family proceeds to fill whole rooms in my mother’s home with clothes and goods to donate to the families I serve.

Grateful. When I share with the marketing director of the local Zaxby’s of the challenges we face in a school in which 75% of students receive free and reduced lunch, she reaches out to her church and provide us with enough food to serve 75 families the Saturday immediately following Hurricane Matthew.

Awestruck. Three local churches reach out to our schools because they know our needs and offer assistance during the holiday season. We were able to provide Christmas gifts to over 32 families.

Relieved. When a parent expresses wanting to find work and establish a career; I can connect them to the local agency and they receive one-on-one assistance and guidance toward their goal…toward better for their family.

Hungry. The snacks purchased for personal sustenance during the day becomes manna for the hungry students I serve. The snack drawer; now a pantry.

Sympathetic. Preparing assignments to send to the local prison for an incarcerated or homebound students. Developing a means to translate the content feasibly in the absence of face-to-face instruction.

Empathetic. Stock piling clothes into a clothes closet to ensure students have uniforms and clothing to wear to school.

Infuriated. Adhering to policies that do not serve students well and ostracize certain populations.

Exhausted. Addressing social-emotional needs that stem from loss, lack of exposure and experiences, and poverty, be it absolute, generational, or relative. We extend our day to support students in extra-curricular activities or engage parents in meetings, conferences and discussions.

Excited. When donating items to a local church for Hurricane Matthew victims and volunteering during their giveaway, I connect with families that I did not know were displaced and in need. We are able to help them find the social service assistance needed to help with recovery.

Hopeful. Helping more students to gain exposure to a college-going culture, career pathway, and opportunity unknown as they prepare for graduation through local community college partnerships. Connecting with local mental health services to address some of the needs students have that may impede learning.

Triumphant. Doubling the number of students gaining access to college level courses in high school.

Data-driven. Using every tool to understand what the students I serve need and how the curriculum needs to be delivered to ensure they receive it.

Thoughtful. Trying to determine what needs to happen to create the best school culture for students to learn. Figuring out ways to reach parents and partner with community entities. Putting the puzzle together to determine which partners can help plug which holes for students and their families.

Pensive. Racing to the end of the year, to get end of grade/course test scores securing the evidence needed to show we helped students grow and gain proficiency.

ALL I EVER REALLY WANTED TO DO… WAS TEACH and somehow I find myself on this emotional roller coaster.

I enjoyed teaching so much; I wanted to help others love teaching and curriculum as much as I do. In July, I began serving in my dream job: Chief Academic Officer. I love where I am in my career. Although, there were many changes traveling the road from being a teacher; what has not changed are the daily peaks and dips of this roller coaster ride.

When I share my day with others I often hear the sympathetic, “I do not know how you do it.” Or as we vent as colleagues I hear, “That’s not my job.”

The issue is…if I was not doing all of these things…I would not be able to do my job.

I would not be able to educate.

All I wanted to do was teach. After years as an educator, with the ups and downs, sways and jerks of the roller coaster, I now understand it all as my “reasonable service.”

What necessary “ups, downs, sways and jerks” would you add to the roller coaster? How are you addressing them? Share your thoughts. Let’s keep this ride going…

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