Monthly Archives: December, 2008

Reclaiming Advent

Every year, over the first weekend of December, all the teachers in ACE gather in a central location for a retreat. It gives us a chance to reunite with the ACE family, relax, and renew our relationship with God. I discovered over that weekend that ACE became my life, but not in a fully positive way. I let school and work–which are now the same thing–take over every aspect of my life. My relationship with God, which had once been the strongest point of my life, started to dwindle. That scared me a lot.

On retreat, I made a commitment to get back my life. I know that, as a first-year ACE teacher, I have already committed myself to these two years of service. It’s supposed to take a lot from me. It’s not supposed to eat me alive, though. So, after school resumes in January, I am making a new commitment. I want to spend fifteen minutes a day doing something just for me. Reading along with the daily lectionary takes about that long. The Liturgy of the Hours takes that long. Writing in my blog or in my spiritual journal takes that long. I just need to do something that reminds me of who I am, and who God is in me.

I managed already to take a small step towards that reclamation. Elena at My Domestic Church wrote about reclaiming the remnants of Advent after being caught in the dizzying flurry of outward Christmas preparations. Thanks be to God, I did that this past week. It was my turn to lead community prayer on Tuesday night. I had a little extra time on Monday because I’d already written my final exams, and I love Advent, so I had a brilliant idea.

adventwreath1

I made our Advent wreath out of construction paper during sophomore year (we weren’t allowed to light candles in the dorms), so this is an upgrade. With a little help from the USCCB, I created and led a prayer service to bless the wreath and light it. I lit all four candles, since we’d be separated again by the fourth Sunday. It took a long time to put together, even with our community candle as the centerpiece, but I loved every minute. It reminded me that I find God in my community, and that, as much as I feel far from God in those endless weeks of teaching, he is still there, and so am I.

New York and Loneliness

I just read a New Yorker article on urban loneliness linked from BustedHalo‘s “What We’re Reading.” I only have time to skim nowadays, so I didn’t get to ponder it yet, but it was interesting nevertheless. I’m fairly prone to loneliness, though living in community has all but eliminated that.

The author’s point about friends and social connections replacing traditional family ties is particularly relevant to my life right now. My friends have become my family in a way I never expected, and it sustains me. Friends aren’t as permanent as family, but there’s something about choosing to be in relationship with someone, to stick it out despite hardships, that makes the love of friends so strong. They give me life.

Final Frustration

In a stroke of genius and exhaustion, I decided to let my students earn a project grade in class by writing final exam questions. That way, they’d look through their books and notes (i.e., study–but don’t tell them that!) and refresh themselves about the way multiple-choice questions work in English class. Essentially, they did part of my work for me, because in exchange for writing good, test-worthy questions, I offered them a five-point bonus on the final exam.

Some of their questions were good. Two of my ninth-grade girls wrote some really insightful ones. One of my tenth-graders in particular struggles a lot, and as I drown in this whole experience, I can tell that I’ve lost him. One of his questions was this:

Who is the main character in “The Book of Ruth“? (emphasis mine)

  • a. Lil’ Wayne
  • b. T.I.
  • c. Ms. W. (that’s me)
  • d. Naomi

Better luck next semester?

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