And just like that...the last school year of my teaching career is over.
You might remember a few months ago when I announced my new position as the director of special services in my current district.
At the time that I agreed to this position, back in late August of last year, it seemed like a lifetime away.
It seemed like there was so much more time left in my classroom. I mean, nine months is a LONG time, right?
And yet, here we are...the last day of school.
I'd be lying if I said I was over-joyed as I left the school parking lot today.
Yes, I'm excited for my new journey, but I feel like every time a season in our lives comes to an end, there is some grieving that must take place.
I have known that public education was the career choice for me ever since I can remember.
There was never a time in my life that I thought of any other career choice.
I can remember being preschool age and "playing school" with my dolls and stuffed animals in my bedroom. (I always tried to recruit my little brother, but it wasn't quite as enjoyable for him.)
My new role is exciting and refreshing and something I am looking forward to.
But in reality, there are things I am losing.
Things I'm giving up.
Things I am having to let go of.
Building relationships with the same 20-30 kids day-in and day-out.
Being able to make an impact in the daily lives of the students in my classroom.
Creating lessons that are engaging and interesting for my kiddos.
Spending time with some of my dearest friends all day, every day...my hallway colleagues.
Yes, I know I'll still be making a difference.
I know I'll still be able to connect with children.
I know I'll still have an impact.
I know I'll be in the same building I've been in for the last eleven years.
But this afternoon, my students of nine months walked out of my room.
I waved goodbye to my students and headed straight to the cafeteria to set up for the celebration we have at the end of every year.
When the staff get-together was finished, I headed back to my room.
I walked down a mostly empty hallway to my mostly empty classroom.
And it was then that I had a few tears.
Okay, I had a lot of tears.
Even tonight, as I sit here typing this, I have a tear rolling down my cheek.
There are a lot of things to look forward to..
There's a lot to be excited about.
But there are also a lot of things to be sad about...and that's okay.
I think that sometimes we feel like there's something wrong with grief.
Like we shouldn't feel sad when we are moving into something that seems bigger and better. Why would I be sad about this opportunity? Why would I have a hard time moving into a position that seems so perfect for me?
Well...because it's normal.
It's completely natural to grieve the seasons of our lives.
Change is necessary and important...but change can also be difficult and painful.
So as I sit here tonight on the farmhouse front porch, watching the fireflies blinking away in the field across the road...I will just have a good cry. You might remember that I believe ugly-crying is a vitally important part of life.
I will cry for the thirteen years I spent in a classroom.
I will cry for the dear friends and colleagues...my teaching BFFs.
I will cry for lesson planning and connecting with "that one kid" and lightbulb moments for struggling learners.
I will cry for read-aloud chapter books, scented chart markers, and my favorite bright pink fake leather rolling office chair that I bought on clearance for $15 a few years ago.
I will cry for my teaching partner who has become like an older brother to me over the last ten years. I will cry for the comfort and the security and the partnership that will change drastically in the near future.
I will cry and I will smile.
I will look back fondly on the experiences and lessons and memories that have become so important to me inside the walls of my classroom.
I will clean out that classroom over the next few weeks and I will move (some of) my belongings down the hallway to my new office.
I can't promise that there won't be more tears.
And there's nothing wrong with that.
Cherish the seasons, friends. Each of our seasons is filled with important lessons and precious memories.
But grieve the seasons if you have to.
Tears from the farmhouse tonight...and hope for tomorrow.
Back in January, I made the goal to read 30 books in 2018.
Well, it's mid-April and I am in the middle of books number SIX and SEVEN.
Book number six is The 7 Experiment (Jen Hatmaker).
And book number seven is The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact (Michael Fullan).
I will post a completed list at year-end, but for today, I would love to talk to you about the book I finished just last week, The 12-Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Others Get Done in 12 Months (Brian P. Moran & Michael Lennington).
I immediately downloaded it and started listening to it that night.
The concepts in the book were so obvious and yet, I needed to hear them so badly.
How many of us wake up on January 1st every single year with so many hopes and dreams for the year?
We make goals (New Years' Resolutions, if you will), whether on paper or in our heads.
There are so many things we want to accomplish by December 31st, and yet by the time February hits, adequate progress towards most of our goals has not been made.
We don't have to work too hard in January and February because December is still SO...FAR...AWAY.
We push through March and April, making excuses as to why we are not moving towards our goals.
It's so cold.
When it warms up, I will get to work on those goals. I promise!
When the school year ends, I'll have so much more time to focus on my plans.
There's still PLENTY of time to meet my goals before the end of the year! We're not even halfway through the year!
May, June, and July come and go.
The summer is just so busy. When school starts, I'll be able to focus more.
It's too hot!
Summer is for rest and relaxation.
By the time we hit August and September, we are ready to get the kids back into the routine of school and get to work on those "New Years' resolutions"!
But it's just crazy when everyone is trying to get back into the grind of school.
On October 1st, it hits us...we only have three more months to reach our goals.
We start to get a glimpse of the urgency that is needed if we're going to hit our goals before January 1st, but by this point...it feels like it's too late.
We'll try again next year.
I knew I couldn't continue this cycle forever.
With all of the changes coming in our life over the next six months, I knew that I needed to get it together.
I'll be starting a new job on August 1st and life will be different at the farmhouse at that time if we don't start to mark some things off of our giant to-do list.
The basic premise of the 12-week year is that we get rid of our "annualized" thinking when it comes to goal-setting and working towards making our vision for our life a reality.
We start to think of each 12-week section of time as a year.
Instead of putting off tasks until the end of the year when the urgency starts to take over, we keep that sense of urgency year-round, while setting realistic goals and focusing on the execution of daily tasks to help us reach our desired result.
"If you want to know what your future holds, look at your current daily actions. Those are the best predictor of your future. Not your hopes and dreams and visions. Your daily action. Because daily action is what moves a person forward."
We can have the most well thought-out vision and the most wonderful plan in the world.
However, if we don't execute well...none of that matters.
So remember as you think about your vision, your goals, and your plan that we need to also think about the effectiveness of our execution.
We have to DO the hard work every stinking day. Even when we don't feel like it.
Just do it.
We are in Week 2 of our first 12-week year and we are LOVING the results we are seeing.
I'm going to take you through the process of how Mr. Farmhouse and I set up our first 12 weeks.
This is, in no way, a substitution for you reading the actual book and following the plan.
But I'm hoping it can at least inspire you to get started!
1. Write out your personal vision for your life 10 or 15 years down the road.
Be specific! Close your eyes and picture the life you've always dreamed about! There's no goal too lofty. Just write it all down!
2. Based on that vision, think about what parts of that vision you could work towards for the next three years.
We are zooming in at this point.
We're taking that lifelong vision and breaking it into more measurable and attainable chunks.
We went through our vision and wrote some attainable goals.
I'm not going to share every single part of our personal family vision because your vision should be your own.
However, on our long-term vision, we wrote that we want to be completely debt-free in ten years.
So for our three-year plan, we want to work towards having everything paid off except for the farmhouse and my student loans.
3. Based on your three-year goals, set goals for the next 12 weeks.
We are zooming in even farther at this point.
What can we do to move ourselves closer to meeting that long-term vision and that three-year goal in the next three months?
At this point, we broke down our 12-week plan into fourteen very specific, small, and attainable goals.
It includes blogging goals, a plan to get my classroom completely cleaned out before I move into an office next year, and a plan for our first garden here at the farmhouse.
On this step, be specific.
And be realistic.
4. Create a weekly plan including activity that needs to be completed every week to help you reach your goals.
We did this on the Sunday evening before we started into our first week.
These are very specific tasks that will move you toward your 12-week goals.
Here's an example of this from our 12-week year.
We want to finish the wall and closet for the fourth bedroom.
During week 1, we needed to measure the closet and wall space and make a materials list. We needed to order the supplies from Sutherland's. These are the only two tasks for that goal that we could realistically finish in Week 1.
But we finished those two tasks and moved farther along in the process than we have in the last six weeks.
We aren't putting that task it off any longer because now it seems manageable.
It seems attainable.
We can do this!
5. Every single week, check your progress from the previous week and plan the next week.
This part is crucial to the success of the 12-week year.
What daily action did you carry out regarding each goal?
How much progress did you make towards your goals?
Were you diligent in doing the hard work every single day?
If not...OWN IT and vow to do better this week!
After checking your progress, make a new weekly plan!
In the book, Moran talks about three different blocks of time we need to religiously schedule each week.
Strategic Blocks - 3 hours of protected time early in the week where you knock out a lot of your weekly activity work (1 time per week)
Buffer Blocks - 30 minutes to one hour blocks of time where you do those mundane yet necessary daily tasks like checking emails and social media (1-2 times per day)
Breakout Blocks - 3 hours of time later in the week where you BREAKOUT of the work cycle and focus on pouring back into yourself (1 time per week)
I tried this schedule this week and could not believe how much more I was able to accomplish during that first strategic block when I wasn't distracted by emails, my phone, or other daily (sometimes meaningless) tasks that I spend so much time on each week.
Week 13 in the 12-week year is for reflection and celebration!
Because you're not thinking about the annual goals that are looming over you, you are able to be more focused on a few attainable goals and the tasks that will get you to the end result you desire.
I would encourage you to grab the book or at the very least, try to plan your own 12-week year soon.
You won't be sorry.
Happy Windy Saturday from the farmhouse, friends.
Week 2...here we come!
Every single Sunday, I find myself worrying that people think I'm texting or checking my Facebook during the sermon.
Granted, I do reply to a text message here and there.
But usually, I am looking up the scripture that Brother Matt is referencing or taking notes on my phone.
I started taking notes on Google Docs in January of 2017 and it has been amazing.
Brother Matt is in the middle of a sermon series entitled "Second Chances" right now.
He preached his first message on Easter.
It was amazing. You can check it out here.
Today was week 2.
The message was from Acts, Chapter 2.
Acts Chapter 2 was after...
the betrayal in the garden,
and 40 days of traveling and teaching.
In Acts 2:38, we read these words that Peter had said when the people asked him what they needed to do to make Jesus Lord.
"Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
I grew up in the Church.
I can't even tell you how many times I have read that passage or heard that passage read aloud during a sermon or Bible study.
And yet today...I got a fresh perspective on it.
Repent means I'm turning AWAY from my sin.
Baptism is when I'm turning TO God.
When we choose to leave behind those behaviors that are not pleasing to Him, we choose to leave behind those feelings of guilt and remorse.
The feelings of not being good enough.
The feeling that we are "broken by our own mistakes" (good words, Brother Matt!).
We choose to turn towards Jesus and the feeling of hope that He brings.
So we stop repeating our bad behaviors, turn towards Jesus, and He sends us the Holy Spirit to help us to keep ourselves out of the situations we have been in for so long.
It's like a lightbulb popped on for me.
So I took notes and journaled about it this afternoon.
Sometimes, my pages are a lot more detailed.
But today, this was fine.
Turn away from sin.
Turn to God.
The stain will be removed and a Helper will be sent to you.
If you enjoy art and would like a creative way to connect with God's Word, I would recommend the art of Bible journaling.
Happy Sunday from the Farmhouse, friends.
Isn't it grand?
You wait nine months for this little bundle of joy to be put into your arms and then you question every single decision you make for the next 18 years.
There are so many joy-filled moments that come along with raising kids.
And let's be real...some moments that are, eh...not so wonderful.
Toddler fit-throwing in public.
Eye-rolls from the pre-teen.
Sibling arguments one minute and them teaming up against you in the next.
And perhaps the most difficult of parenting challenges...struggles with friends.
I was a young girl once.
I knew that our girls' friendships wouldn't always be beautiful and wonderful and easy.
After all, we are all human.
However, I have been struggling with something that I believe most parents struggle with...
The tendency to make an excuse.
A few years ago, one of our daughters was having a hard time with a girl who she considered to be a good friend.
This classmate had kind of distanced herself from our daughter and hasn't been the kindest at times.
When I mentioned their friendship, I could tell that there was some tension there...a bit of a strained relationship.
I heard of things the friend had said,
faces she had made,
and other behaviors that would be frustrating for a friend.
However, when I would ask our daughter about her own contribution to the situation,
she admitted that she sometimes snapped back at the friend,
avoided her at times,
and probably was not acting in the way that I would expect her to act...
regardless of how she has been treated.
And my tendency, as a human and as a mother, is to make an excuse for her actions.
But it's not okay.
It's not okay for a child to treat her friend unkindly.
It's not okay for a student to talk back to a teacher.
It's not okay for a player to roll her eyes at the referee...no matter how ridiculous she thinks the call was.
When we, as parents, make excuses for our children's poor behavior, we are reinforcing the choices they are making.
We are justifying the disrespect, the lack of kindness, and the inappropriate behaviors.
I fear that we are raising a generation of entitled youth who don't even understand the concept of respect.
Whether it's respecting their elders,
respecting their peers,
or respecting property.
I'm afraid the concept of respect (even when it's undeserved) has gone out the window some days.
And I'm afraid that every time I make an excuse for my child's lack of respect or justify her actions, I'm contributing to the problem.
Friends, we have to stop the cycle.
I'm not talking about respecting adults who are abusive or pretending like there's no issue with peers who are exhibiting bullying behaviors.
But in the majority of our day-to-day interactions with other human beings, we should be showing kindness...
And we should be teaching our children this attitude, as well.
This week, let's really help our kiddos be accountable for their behavior.
Let's try to not make an excuse when they don't make the right choice.
Let's support that teacher...that coach...that referee.
It's up to us. The parents.
It's not up to the iPad.
Not up to the TV.
Not up to their older siblings.
Not up to their teachers (although we teachers try to set the same expectations in our classrooms).
Let's set an expectation for how they treat people.
Let's work hard to raise a generation that we are proud of.
It's up to us...and it's a challenging and rewarding responsibility.
Happy Tuesday from the Farmhouse, friends.
May the force be with you.
This is a big one, folks.
This post will be unlike any post I've ever written.
Yesterday, a student asked me about the situation and I decided it was probably time to let the cat out of the bag.
My colleagues and my family, along with some friends, already know my big news.
However, I feel like posting it on the blog makes it public knowledge and that can only mean one thing...
This is really happening.
After thirteen years as a teacher of one kind or another, I'll be leaving the classroom.
I wanted to be the reason that a student with special needs felt successful in the general education classroom.
When my former students were asked later in life who their favorite teacher was...I wanted to make that list.
I wanted my kiddos to look back on their time with Mrs. Newkirk as their teacher and say, "She played a small part of who I am today."
I'm hopeful that I've been able to make a difference like this in the lives of kids and families over the last thirteen years.
However, the Lord has also given me a passion for people with special needs.
My parents opened up a group home for adults with disabilities when I was in upper-elementary school.
What started out as four adult women with various needs living with us in our home from then until my high school years has now grown to three separate group homes in our small town, where we provide housing and community habilitation services for twelve ladies.
Growing up in the group home led me to pursue a double-major in college...elementary education and special education.
In fact, I started my career in the special education classroom and only transitioned into the general education classroom because of a series of crazy events that I believe the Lord orchestrated to give me general education experience, to allow me to meet and work with some of my very best friends in the world, and to give me an opportunity to touch the lives of many children over the last ten years.
Almost nine years ago, I graduated with my masters degree in Education Administration.
My plan was to continue teaching for several years and then hopefully find an elementary principal's job to finish out my career...but not for a looooooong while.
And then, a few years ago, my principal (a mentor and friend to me) said, "Have you ever thought about going into special education administration?"
Well, I hadn't really considered that and honestly didn't even want to think about going back to school.
(Okay, in the interest of full disclosure...I didn't want to think about PAYING to go back to school.)
However, the administrative team encouraged me to not dismiss the idea immediately, but instead to call and see what classes I would need to fulfill the requirements necessary for a job in special education administration.
So in April of 2016, I called.
And I needed two classes. Two.
I needed one class that was offered only a 45-minute drive away, over three weekends that next summer. Three weekends that were open on our family calendar.
I also needed an internship class that I could do right there in my home district with the Director of Special Services.
And we could pay for them both in cash. No more student loans.
That seemed easy enough. So I signed up, thinking it would be good to have options for my very distant future.
I finished up the class over the summer of 2016 and finished the internship in the spring of 2017.
Fast-forward to this past August...the beginning of this school year.
Our superintendent calls me into his office to tell me that our current Director of Special Services is retiring at the end of the year and he would like me to be ready to present to the school board about the possibility of stepping into that position for the next school year.
WHAT!?! Like NEXT YEAR!?!
His idea was that I could be trained during this school year...to shadow our current director, to prepare to take that role the following August.
Long story short, Mr. Farmhouse and I prayed about it.
A host of family and friends prayed about it with us and for us.
We had lots and lots of conversation about it.
I talked for hours about the possibility to my current teaching partner.
I contacted friends of mine who are special education directors for support and answers to my questions.
I presented to the board.
They offered me the job.
And I accepted.
I believe that I will be able to use my leadership skills, my passion for education, and my knowledge and experience working with my students and the adults in our group home with special needs in this new role.
I believe that this is just another place that God can use me to make a difference in the lives of children and families.
There are things about this transition that will not be easy.
With any transition, there will be some sorrow...some difficulty.
But there will also be joy, excitement, reflection, and new ideas.
I am so thankful to be able to stay in my current district. I've grown so much as an educator and met so many people who are near and dear to my heart.
I'm grateful to my principal for pushing me to go back to school,
our superintendent for encouraging me to move forward,
our school board for giving me this opportunity,
our current special education director for training me,
my mentor special education director from my alma mater,
my colleagues (current and former) for believing in me,
the two fourth grade teachers in my building that make up the other half of our team for offering so much encouragement this year,
my teaching partner for all of his support through the years...especially this year,
my family...our parents, grandparents, and siblings,
my dear Mr. Farmhouse and our three sweet girls.
I'm grateful for my students & their parents through all of my teaching years.
For the life lessons that I have learned standing in front of that classroom.
For the opportunities to grow and develop into the educator I am today.
I'm just so very grateful.
Life will be different here in the farmhouse in just a few short months.
For now though, I'm going to enjoy the time I have left this year with my darling third graders...shaping young minds. Laughing with them and cheering with them. Helping them along and making sure to let them know how much they help me along, too.
Mr. Farmhouse has been working tirelessly in all of his spare time to get the girls a second bathroom.
We paid a buddy of ours to do the rough-in work and plumbing (thanks, Brent!), but Mr. Farmhouse decided he could finish the rest out himself.
With lots of help from our dads, we have finished the sheetrock, cement board for the tile, and wiring.
Next up is paint,
then putting in the vanity & sink,
finishing the accent wall with barn wood & metal from the barn that is lying beside our house,
the tile work,
and installing the toilet & plumbing fixtures.
It's such a great word.
So fresh. So promising. So full of hope.
Happy New Year, friends.
Here we are. January 1st.
I used to set goals for the new year in several different categories.
I made these big elaborate lists and sometimes I stuck to one or two of my "resolutions".
A few years ago, however, I began trying to really focus in on one word or phrase each new year.
One year it was "balance", another year it was "no".
This year, I've had three words and/or phrases running through my mind over the last few weeks, so I think I'll use them all as my focus for 2018.
Our minister has been preaching for the last several weeks on the transformation that should come from knowing Jesus.
I want to focus this year on being transformed because of Who Jesus is.
I want people to be able to see Him in every aspect of my life.
I want to be transformed.
I read an article this week about the addictive nature of a cell phone for young kids.
I was convicted about the addictive nature of technology for myself.
I know that technology can be a good thing, but I think sometimes satan uses good things to distract us from our purpose.
The purpose of being a good wife.
...of raising Kingdom kids.
...of building deep relationships with people.
...of creating a home environment that is beautiful for our families.
...of taking care of ourselves so we can pour into others.
This year I will set limitations on social media usage and spend more time focusing on face-to-face interaction with those I love.
Do fewer things, better.
I am notorious for working hard to balance too many spinning plates.
I can usually multi-task without much problem.
I say "yes" often to lighten the load for others.
I get a lot accomplished and a lot of times, those accomplishments are just "good enough".
This year, I want to simplify.
To do fewer things and to do them better.
What are your goals for 2018?
Do you set resolutions?
If you could choose one word to take with you this year...what would it be?
Make it a great year, friends!
New Year's Love from the Farmhouse,