Monday, August 30, 2010

Ray of Light

Once a college education professor asked each of us to fill out a survey about ourselves so she could know us better. The last question asked us to put what we would most want our epitaph (I think that's the right word) to say about a few simple words.

I said, "Ray of light."

I have to admit, I borrowed the words from the name of a community service award I received the same semester, but how perfectly they fit the desire I have for my life each day.

I pray God will use me as a ray of light to reflect His joy, love, peace, and faithful presence to others I meet on a daily basis. I want to be more like Him with every step I take.

Often people mention my smile. I guess I don't always realize I am doing it, but I love to smile. Teachers have said, "There's Alicia with that smile..." going down the hallway. The ladies where I exercise said, "I think you'll still be smiling like that when you're 80!" Another friend said to me, "God has you teaching for a reason. You may not always understand why or see the immediate results, but just think of how many lives you have touched with that smile of yours..."

I think that even on days when I don't feel like I've taught all the music objectives and GLEs and curriculum materials I was supposed students remember more about the care and love I have for them. At least, that is what I hope. And if I can leave having brightened one life in a day, I know that I am fulfilling a purpose in spreading the joy of Christ.

I can't help but share with the world that God has given me the joy I share with others. This doesn't always mean that I am "happy" in each moment, or that I don't cry, or have bad days. It simply means that through it any circumstances...I know my Jesus will carry me through and provide contentment and joy that only comes with trusting Him.

So...through my smiles, through my joy, through who I am in Jesus, I hope that one day others will look at me and celebrate me as a "ray of light."

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in Heaven." - Matthew 5:14-16

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Good Ol' Fashioned Update...

Lately I just don't know what to write about. This may be a little boring, but it's just a good ol' fashioned update...

Weight Watchers - 

After maintaining the weight loss of around 20lbs all summer and working out at Curves 3 times EVERY week except one and walking many other nights, (this was good for me since before WW I probably would have gained about 5-10 lbs back and probably would not have made a specific effort to exercise regularly!), I am finally on the right track again! I lost 1.4 lbs this week, and am up to a new total of 23.4 lbs!! Hooray! I think it has been good for me to maintain for awhile so my body can get used to the weight loss, and I can see it as more of a lifestyle than a "diet." And now I can focus on continuing in a healthy, doable pace. 

School - 

School has started. Each day is getting a little better, and I've made it through two weeks and two days now! 

I love my kids, and God has given me a new enthusiasm for teaching music. I just know I'm supposed to be there...and I actually feel like I'm ok at what I'm doing. I think part of it is the fact that I'm in my third year now. And part of it is the fact that I'm realizing I'm not perfect, and no one expects me to be. Also, the fact that God truly worked this position out for me...and I know He has a purpose for me being there. It is so good to be confident in that. 

My kindergarteners cracked me up today...I was out all day yesterday at a PBS meeting and when I got back today, and they came to music, they said, "Miss Whitaker! Where were you yesterday? We missed you?" As I started to say, "I was at a meeting, and I missed you too..." one cut me off and said, "That sub CREEPED us out!" And it wasn't just one...a couple others chimed in and said, "Yeah! He was CREEPY!" lol When I asked them why he creeped them out, they just said something about him making crazy faces with his eyes rolling back in his head. Oh my. You just never know what goes on in your classroom when you're gone favorite last year was the sub who played Michael Jackson all day and gave the kids Smarties. (I did not leave Michael Jackson OR Smarties with my sub plans, but oh well...ha)

The kids are loving our new drums! I even worked them into first grade a little bit last week when we were practicing steady beat. I incorporated literature by reading a Dr. Seuss book and having the children take turns keeping a steady beat on the drum while I read. This is really exciting, because maintaining steady beat at the same time as reading can really help to develop fluency! 

I'm trying hard to think of funny things each day my kids say or do and be better at writing them down...but there is already so much going on and soooo many kids with lots of things to think about! 

Our schedule is a little crazy...ok a lot crazy - teaching 22 classes, 8 each day (one day with 6), no breaks in between from 8:30-11:50, quick lunch, 12:15-2:45, and a little down/plan time before afternoon bus duty. Needless to say, I'm up on my feet, constantly going, going! I'm building some endurance as the days go on...

Commuting - 

The drive is long, but not too bad. Only 45 minutes...and all interstate. Lots of praying time! Not looking forward to Winter, but we'll see how it goes. The hardest are Wednesdays and Thursdays when I stay to help with the kids' program at church and have praise team practice, and don't get home until after 9...then get up in the morning and drive back again. I usually get up around 4:45 and try to leave by 6:15 so I can get through traffic onto post and have a little peaceful time in my classroom before the day gets going. 

Church - 

Still attending Westside and really loving it. I chose to keep going there after moving, because I just feel like I fit in there more now than I do at my home church I grew up in. It's good to have friends and a family of support in the community where I teach. I've been singing on the praise team since April, and that is a blessing to me. I am about to start working with Team Kid on Wednesday nights and teaching missions lessons with 3-4 graders, so I am SUPER excited about that! We are even going to try to plan some hands-on activities so that they can experience missions where they are at too!

Journeyman - 

I finished the entire application process at the end of July with the Lord's help! Now I wait...good thing God has been teaching me a lot about waiting lately! I probably won't hear from them until late fall, and won't receive my invitation to the job interview conference, if I am invited, until December or January. 

Budget - 

Man, that's a tough one. I finally made one. With my mom's help. Yes, I'm 25, and that is hard for me, and I needed my mom's help. I moved home this year to save money, and am thankful for my parents allowing me to do that, and for the opportunity to do it while I live so close. I always paid the bills I knew I had every month and tried not to spend more than I had...but I was never sure how to/very good at dividing up the rest. So...better late than never, and I'm going to do my best to stick with it. I need to/have to, and to me it feels kind of like a challenge...which motivates me even more. Kind of like - I want to see how much money I can have left over at the end of the month because I spent less than the amount of each area...or something. We'll see. 

I'm Famous! - 

Ok, so maybe not too famous. But the mother of one of my childhood friends who writes freelance for one of the local newspapers interviewed me this week and wanted to share my story about all that I have done, and where God has led/is leading me with the community. So...look for me in the St. James Press next was such a surprise when she asked if she could write about me! I'll give you my autograph if you want! ;) haha 

That's all folks...

Thanks for sticking with me. I'm working on thinking about more interesting things to write about soon. I've just had writer's block lately, I guess...

Happy Weekend! 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


What does it mean to trust?

To me it means I am fully confident that no matter what is in store for me - I have a God who was, who is, and who will always be with me. He goes before me and lays the path for me to walk.

It means that instead of praying for circumstances to change, I pray for God to change me and shape me into who He wants me to be in these circumstances, asking Him what I can learn from how He is working. Even when I fail Him, He picks me up and provides grace to start anew. Even when I am unsure of myself...He provides assurance.

"Be confident in this, that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus." -Philippians 1:6

It means asking Him purposely to take me out of my comfort zone and to use me. To really use me. And to know that He is going to equip me and make me qualified for whatever He puts in my path. Even when it's not easy.

It also means knowing that He gives me desires and to pray unselfishly that my desires align with the desires and plans God has for my life, and if they don't...that I would put them aside and seek Him wholeheartedly. 

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust Him, and He will do this." -Psalm 37:4-5

Trusting, to me, means I don't ask God to close a million doors and leave one wide open so I know where to go, when to go, and how to get there. It means I ask for wisdom every day to see all the doors and the opportunities God puts before me, and to make choices that glorify Him.  I don't know what He has in store for me, and sometimes don't know how to pray for it, but He knows. He intercedes. And He provides wisdom, guidance, and peace. 

"Since this is your heart's desire...therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given to you." - 2 Chronicles 1:11-12

"Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!...For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever, Amen!" -Romans 11:33, 36

Sometimes, it's hard to trust. Ok, almost always, it's hard to trust. But it is so exciting and challenging to know I have a God who I can trust. I long to draw nearer to Him every day.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths." - Proverbs 3:5-6

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Feeling Organized! they are - the after pictures! It took a lot of organizing, but it feels so good, and I feel really ready to kick the year off now. 

The instrument closet...look at all those great Orff instruments! I can't wait to put them to use!!

The "music" closet...ok - this picture makes me feel LOTS better than the before one! 

More instruments...and they are all together by kind! Hooray! 

Even the Boomwhackers have a home now! What are Boomwhackers?...Well - they are lots of FUN, that's what they are! haha And full of color! (Plastic tubes that make up the notes of a musical scale and can be "whacked" on things to make music!)

I have my own office now too! :) 

My desk...we'll see how long it stays this organized! haha That's usually my one downfall...

Here's a big view of the room - I love, love, love bright colors! And it made me feel extra good when a little girl came in on Friday and said, "Wow! This is so much brighter than last year...and so organized! It's....gorgeous!" (She was in first bet she lives in a really structured/organized home environment!) Also super glad the carpet from my room at Pick fit into the space in the new classroom!

The front of the room...

The far side/back of the room...I brought my "tempo cats" with me from Pick, and....check out my NEW drums from my AOSA grant I wrote last year....I am SO excited about using those this year!

The other side of the room - with my office, the instrument closet, and the music closet

One of my favorite places in the room - My "World Music" display! Not as much space as I had at Pick for that, but just enough, I think! I plan to put some pictures and post cards from my trip on the bulletin board, and when I find the box my letters are packed in, I'll put "Music Takes You Places" above the map! :) The instruments are from my trips to Africa, Brazil, Okinawa Japan, Mexico, Austria, Italy, and France, and a few are from friends who have traveled to Indonesia, Spain, and Thailand!

Another of my favorite spots - the book area! I love to use children's books and literature to correlate with music through rhythm, rhyming, songs, and information from the books! 

The entrance stairs...I don't have a lot of bulletin boards this year like I used to, so I just have to creatively use the wall space...oh well! And we have to display our objectives every week somehow, so I figured I might as well make them colorful too! :) they are close up!! My fabulous new tubano, djembe, and buffalo drums, thanks to the grant I wrote to the American Orff Schulwerk Association!! Hooray! This picture just makes my heart happy!

We've had two days of school so far...and I'm not going to lie. They were a challenge. This whole year is going to be full of challenges. But not any that I can't overcome with God's strength, and that the school can't overcome with the great teachers there. We have 28-32 students in each class, with 24 being my lowest number because they allowed the principal to hire a fourth kindergarten teacher so that there wouldn't be 34 kindergarteners in each class! Yikes! It has been SO good to see my kids from Pick there - as good for me to see them as it has been for them to see familiar faces in their new school, I think. I admit, I got a little teary eyed on Thursday when they jumped off the bus and ran to me, excited to see me and give me hugs. I needed their little hugs! I'll tell you more about the first few days when there's time, but for now...I just wanted to give you a tour of my new room (which I'm excited about being so large!) So...welcome to Miss Whitaker's music class 2010-2011!! 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Well friends, tomorrow is the day. I will start my third year of teaching. Yes, third. Time has gone so quickly! I'm excited for a new year and will post more "after" pictures of my classroom when I can...hopefully this weekend. I'll be commuting this year, so I will have to plan my time carefully!

As I said yesterday, I feel so assured that God has given me this position, and I have a purpose there this year. Already, this week, and especially today, the patience and flexibility of our administrators, teachers, staff, and parents have been tested as our numbers continue to grow, and new teachers are being added, even up to the day when school begins. But...God is good, and He will give us strength to make it through the year, no matter what it brings. I pray that I will be a mirror reflection of His joy and peace, and continue to rely on Him for strength each day.

Blessings to you in whatever life has for you right now, whether it be teaching, learning, sending your children to school, working, taking care of a home and family, or something else...remember that God has a  purpose for you, and His desire is for you to draw near to Him and grow in His will each day!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I Should Be Nervous...

But for some reason I'm really not. I feel relaxed. Organized. And ready for the new school year. Sure there are still a few things to finish tomorrow and some lesson plans to work on, but I almost feel nervous about not feeling nervous, if that makes sense.

Most of all, God continues to remind me that He gave me this position. He allowed me to learn complete trust in Him in the Spring when I was unsure what I would be doing this year. Then, when I got the job teaching guitar and elementary, it was definitely not what I had planned. But what are my plans compared to His anyway? I prayed. I questioned what in the world He had in store, but felt a peace and willingness to do what was in store if that was what He wanted. Maybe He wanted me to rely fully on Him to learn a new skill and work with an age group that makes me uncomfortable.

Or maybe He just wanted me to trust. To show Him that I was willing to follow Him where ever He led. To step outside my comfort zone.

So, I can't help but have a confidence and an assurance that only comes from God as I prepare for the new school year. I know it will be challenging at times, but I feel so content in the fact that He took my situation, taught me to wait, gave me peace, "threw me for a loop," and put me just where He knew I would fit in.

God is good. All the time. I pray that I will continue to rely on Him each and every day for this exciting journey of a year...even when things seem "normal."

"When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers - the moon and the stars you set in place - what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them? Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor. O Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!" -Psalm 8:3-5, 9

Sunday, August 8, 2010

It Looks Like The Closets Exploded...

I can't believe it's already time for school to start. This week! I can't help but feel excited at the same time though. After all...this is my third year. I've got it down, right? Well, more than my first year, anyway! This year is different though...I will be in a brand new place with lots of new faces and a new classroom, and...well lots of..."new" all around me.

Speaking of the new classroom...

Some of you might remember that I shared at the end of last year about my school being closed. I was so blessed though, because the district provided jobs for all of us from the school, and to make a long story short, after lots of waiting, praying, being placed once (in a crazy situation that I was less than prepared for!), God showed me his goodness once again, and provided a K-6 music position for me in a new building in my same district instead. So here are all my boxes lined up ready to be unpacked! But not 'til AFTER I make room and go through all the closets to "organize" and make space for the stuff from my school! 

My new classroom is huge with lots of storage space...

Unfortunately, it just hasn't been gone through or "organized" and "cleaned out" in 5-10 years. And that is no exaggeration! It's not just that I'm a person who has to be super organized (which I am!), but 5-10 years is a LONG time! So...I took EVERYthing out of the closets...including scary construction paper backgrounds, wigs, and half-costumes from the 90s (complete with an eight-legged welcome committee member or two in each closet, if you get what I mean...aaaahhh - spiders!! YUCK!), got rid of what I will never need/use...and started organizing!! 

This is the "music closet" with old books, magazines, paper copies, and many other piles of...ummm....treasure? (Including music curriculum from the 60s-70s and records to go with the books!) I just CAN'T throw the stuff away, even though everyone told me I think I will donate the old books to our local library for their used book sale in the fall. This way I can clear out the space, but not waste all those fun old things!

Next came the instrument closet...

It doesn't look SO bad, but if you were there, looking closely, (and trying to breathe!) you would see/feel all the inches of dust on the shelves and the random piles of instruments everywhere that haven't been used in awhile. (So sad to me! I'm a hands-on, use them all the time kind of teacher!)  But I pulled all that out too, and organized them into containers by kind...

And life started to feel a LOT better! haha Hey - if you look to the left, you can almost see the new drums I just got through a grant from AOSA this Spring! I'm SO excited to get started using them and using rhythm as a core part of music AND interdisciplinary lessons! Yay!

Did I mention that I get my own little office in the new room too? It used to be a choir/band room when the building was a middle school several years ago (which also adds to the interesting collection of "stuff" accumulated in the room over the years...)

But I had to take everything out of the drawers/desk/filing cabinets in the office too...and make it mine! This picture is looking a little toooooo crazy for me! 

Here's some progress after the first two days of work last week! The instruments are organized and ready to go back in the closet, and if you can see in the background, all of the "treasures" from the back closets have been boxed up and fit into one closet! Hooray! 

So - here's what things looked like last week...let's just say they are my "before" pictures. Tomorrow we start inservice, and Thursday we start school. I have a few minor things to unpack/finish organizing tomorrow, then I can decorate and really make the room mine! There will be lots of bright colors and "after" pictures to come! :) 

By the way, I could write a whole tribute to the wonderful custodians at my building! They have been so gracious to take the "piles" away as I cleared them from the closets, and one man even came and vacuumed all my shelves in the closets to get the dust cleared out before I put everything back. Then, when the vacuum didn't work well enough, he personally spent almost an hour using a dust cloth and spray to get the rest out!! Wow!! I am SO thankful! Every role in a school building is an important one! 

So, there you have it for now...confessions of an ultra-organized, excited for the third year school teacher who is looking forward to sharing "after" pictures with you soon so that you don't have to think my room looks like THIS all year! Happy New Week to everyone!