May Monthly Newsletter

Check out some of the most exciting things that happened during the month of May!

My Garden Continues to Grow

Lots of Fire

This month has been full of peace, but also full of extremes!

First, I had a desperate need to write. Then, I had a desperate need to teach. Now, I have a desperate need to read as much as humanly possible. I’m excited to get the chance to explore new things with God this summer!

Tracking the Supernatural

Since mid-April, I’ve used spreadsheets to make declarations and track answered prayer for my school. God has had me focus on specific psalms (including Psalm 119). I’ve made declarations based on scriptures and dreams I’ve had for my school, and have gotten into a routine of merely writing down all the wonderful things God does each day.

Recently, I’ve gone back several months and curated all of the prophetic words and dreams I’ve had or received for myself, or different nations. As I organized all the information, I noticed at least 50% more connections than I had previously, and spent some time just marveling at the glory of God.

Praying into Relocation

For several months now, I’ve been praying into the topic of relocation. I continue to get images when I’m praying and dreams that show the scenery of the United Kingdom, but in various parts. As you can imagine, it’s somewhat crazy-making. But I’m starting to really view this process as collecting pieces of a puzzle, and I know God will make it clear soon enough.

I have started to accept that it’s likely I will have to give up my most favorite part of being in DC: my apartment. Nearly 18 months ago, I got so stressed out in apartment shopping that I poured myself a glass of wine and just made declarations about the type of apartment the Lord would be sending me. He honored everything I prayed for and more. This apartment has been a place of freedom, healing, and joy. While I’ll be sad to give it up, I will certainly do so in order to follow God and the more he has for me.

When will this happen? Who knows! God will work out the timing.

An Abundance of Joy

From Field Day to every day life in the classroom, this month held incredible joy! There was even a week where I was absolutely miserable from an ear infection, but transparently told God that if he sent any more fire, I would not be able to physically handle it. I asked God to heal it in a way that I didn’t expect, and he sent me so much overwhelming joy and good sleep the following day that it was cleared quickly thereafter.

Acting out the book of Judges

Simple Pleasures

Celebrating the Servant Heart of Jesus

This month, my students read and memorized the Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise to God in Luke 3. Based on the themes of humility and justice in this prayer, we spent the majority of this month understanding the difference between the Christlike Heart of a Servant and the Heart of a Rebel.

We also spoke about the reality of being held accountable by God for our actions, and God’s role (along with the rest of the Trinity) as the Righteous Judge.

Third grade was very convinced that people who have the Holy Spirit would have no good reason to disobey God. I tried to explain that as Christians and/or Catholics, we have choices to obey or disobey God all the time. They still seemed too pure of heart to understand, so I decided to leave it until a better time.
I decided to include the background noises because it tells a more accurate story of our daily, classroom experience. 🙂
.This student chose to record herself explaining the main ideas. Woohoo!

Bringing the School Year to a Close

As I move boxes into my closet, cover up bookshelves with paper, and clear my white boards of any and all detritus, it’s clear: Just one more week until the end of the school year. During this daunting year, there have been so many times where I’ve longed for this moment. And now? I’m very much at peace, but also very interested in spending more time with my kids. Yet, I’m so excited to rest! I have some things I need to establish with the Lord this summer, but I will be excited to see them again at the right time.

April Monthly Summary

With just 1 day until my birthday, there are many exciting developments pouring out of our classroom!

Obsessed with the Bible

As we’ve done more and more Lectio Divina this month, one of my 3rd graders asked me to tell teach them about the Story of Joseph. I wasn’t quite expecting it, but I never turn down an opportunity to teach about the Bible. Using this Comic and this translation side-by-side, God has used this study over the past 2 weeks as an open door for me to teach about the supernatural realm, specifically seeing and partnering with angels and listening to God’s voice through dreams. Through this study, the Holy Spirit has been speaking to my students not just to reveal the text, but to understand signs and how God is speaking through them. All I’ve had to do is point out when what they are saying is prophetic, or how it connects to the larger story. They are starting to recognize when thoughts they have actually come from the Holy Spirit, and I’ve started to actively release students to listen the Holy Spirit’s voice.

Please read the section “Prayer Strategy coming to Life” to see just how explosive this change has been. In addition to the supernatural, the Holy Spirit has had us talking a lot about the grace of God, the effects of sin, how God heals family trauma, and learning to read the Bible allegorically. This week, my Vice Principal also approved my request to purchase 12 more bibles (so we will have a full class set), because she “knows that we will definitely use them.” Oh, we will!

Fun Forward

This week, students and I reviewed so many literacy and math concepts with Blooket games. There was some light trash talking and they kept ganging up on me (as a multiplayer game), but overall, fun times.

Students enjoyed some of our goofier socio-emotional checkins using Poll Everywhere.

During our afternoon sessions, students also got to chat in Break out rooms to answer Would You Rather questions, such as “Would you rather have the feet of a duck or a horse’s head?

We painted crosses this month to commemorate lives lost to COVID. This meant sitting under shady trees in our parking lot outside, leisurely painting with the help of our Art teacher in the excellent weather.

Questions and Answers

  • Student: “Are there clues about Jesus in other places in the bible?”
  • Me, nearly screaming: “IN EVERY BOOK!”
  • Student, asking with genuine tenderness: “Ms. Nus, why can’t women be priests?”
  • Me, responding gently: “People are confused about what a few verses in the Bible mean. Instead of listening to God, they are spending more time arguing with each other. Meanwhile, a lot of women are made to feel rejected. BUT God calls both women and men to serve and love him. There are lots of women in other denominations that have a job like a Priest, but you call them “Reverend” or “Pastor”. Ultimately, God uses people most not based off of their title, but based on their hearts. If you love God with all your heart and want to serve him, he will open doors for you to serve him more. What really matters is your heart.”
  • Student, asking with fear for her own family: “Why do grown ups get divorced?”
  • Me, remembering that same fear: “Sometimes grown ups are like babies learning to walk. They don’t always know how to love each other well, and they use words or do things that aren’t kind. They fall down a lot of times, and it can be painful. When that happens, God keeps teaching them, no matter how many times they fall.”
  • Me: “Do you think God would say, “You’ve failed, I’m done teaching you, you should stop trying and just stay sitting down for the rest of your life.”
  • Students: “NO!”
  • Me: “In the same way, sometimes it takes longer for people to learn. People divorce sometimes when they have hurt each other really badly and need to take a break. But God is always whispering in their ear, trying to show them the right way to go, if they let him, just like with everything else. He wants to change their hearts and help them love others well.”
  • Me: Tells story of how God kept working on my parents hearts long after they divorced, and how God’s been working on my family
  • Me, asking a follow up question: “When you hear your parents fighting, what can you do?”
  • Students: “Sometimes I hide. Or I go to a different room. Or I watch TV.”
  • Students: *Telling me stories about dysfunctional family dynamics*
  • Me: “I notice that many of you seem to be scared for your parents. Maybe you notice that they use angry words with each other, or think mean things, or do things to each other that are hurtful. When they do that, can you put your hands over their mouths? Can you tell them to stop yelling?”
  • Students, laughing: “No, they would just get more mad.”
  • Me: “Here is what I would suggest you do, when you hear your family members fighting. I would go into another room, maybe with your brother or sister if you have siblings, and just pray. Ask God to show them how to speak to each other with love, and to change their hearts and minds. God will hear you, and he knows how to help them. THEN, I would actively entrust them to God. You have to let him be the one who is whispering in their ear, and let him be the one to change their hearts. Then once you’ve let them go to him, you get to go do something different, maybe something outside or away from the fighting. You still get to be kid, so you should do things that you like. God knows how to take care of your family way better than you, and you can trust him.”
  • Student: “How long will that take?”
  • Me: “It can take a long time. *Tells details about family, and some reasons that family members were scared to let God heal them* Even if it takes a long time. It’s up to them to listen, but God will do things to cause them to listen if they don’t want to for a long time.” *Tells story about my Dad losing his job*. God knows that are hearts are hurting, and sometimes he allows things to happen so that we will let him heal us (relating it to story of Joseph).

Prayer Strategy coming to Life

In late March, there was an incident at my school that required me to stand my ground to worship Jesus alone. Shortly after, the Lord began to show me things that he wanted me to start strategically praying to bind and loose in my school’s culture. This month, the Lord took me on a journey of developing a prayer strategy to intercede more effectively for my school.

This is a timeline what has come from that process so far:

Easter Sunday (April 4th):

-Waking up from a very specific dream that showed me 1) which friendships to prioritize with other staff in this season and 2) timing for God giving me a school of my own.

-Transcribing a list of objects I saw in a dream in August and their spiritual significance to my school at this time.

April 4-11th:

-Resting over Spring Break.

-Emotionally and spiritually gearing up for explosive changes.

– Receiving more strategic insight on how to build bridges with key staff, what changes will look like, and how to partner with God in advance.

April 12th-18th:

-Daily praying that God would bind and loose the spiritual significance of all the objects I saw in the dream.

-Listening carefully to what God is saying about people’s identities (as school community). Making daily declarations in alignment with what the Holy Spirit shared each morning.

-Documenting evidence in words and pictures of the ways God answered prayers related to each daily declaration. Spoiler alert: I had to keep adding columns nearly every day because God kept doing so many things.

April 19th-25th:

-Continued Daily Prayer, Daily Declarations, and Documenting Evidence

-Praying Psalm 119 Hebrew Acrostic (Hebrew ABCS) over school

-Studying the story of Joseph with 3rd and 4th grade over snack period (at a students’ request).

-Devoting more time to building relationships with key staff

April 26th-Today

-Precision and Reframing from the Holy Spirit to focus on what is mine to control and to release all the rest

-Allowing someone at the school who has become a mentor speak correctively and officially act as my main point of contact with administrative staff

-Continuing daily declarations, BUT simply selecting an object from the original list to receive first for myself, and then pray over the school (more in sync with my own needs)

-Kids becoming OBSESSED with the Bible! It had been growing up until this week but got to a point where we spent midmorning, snack, and all of lunch studying the book of Joseph because they were pleading with me to read the story. Training the kids vicariously to read the bible allegorically (as they said, “Looking for clues of Jesus”). As one student said yesterday (Thursday), “I feel like my brain just opened up! This is more important than math!!!” Don’t worry, we still do plenty of math, but the Holy Spirit has worked it out so we’re covering the same amount of instructional ground in less time. The kids ask me to tell teach them about the Bible at recess, during specials, when we’re at dismissal, when we’re walking down the hall. I usually don’t know most of what I’m going to teach them until it comes out of my mouth.

This week, God used this study to reach one student who has been skeptical about faith, but has fallen in love with the imperfect characters of the Bible and has begun to believe that God wants to know her too, warts and all. God also used this study to break a stronghold of perfectionism off another student, who for the first time this week, truly understood what it feels like to receive grace instead of striving. Wow!

By now, no one should be surprised that my weapon of choice is a spreadsheet

Looking forward with Transgressive Hope

Lately, leadership has felt like the courage to hope and cast vision. As a person who likes a challenge, I’m giving myself permission to be radically hopeful about next school year. I’m energized by the thought of using instructional technology and strong social connection to recompense for students’ learning loss, and I’m expecting us to have fun doing it! I’m expecting God to show up in explosive and uncontainable ways.

Simple Pleasures

This picture summarizes the wave of fatigue that many people (myself included) felt in early April (A sign reading “Patience” had been torn down). God broke through that wall of fatigue about halfway through April in impressive ways.
Using this poster set to display A.W. Tozer’s attributes of God. The Lord is my banner! lololol
A student’s drawing of an angel after one our our class discussions! She added the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5 because she’s excited to start learning to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in new ways, and wants to know what to listen for.
This month, we integrated Lectio Divina, Art analysis, an in depth study of Protest Methods in the United Farm Workers Movement, and Cause and Effect paragraph writing. Check it out here!
Daffodils got a second bloom
I wove several epic flower crowns this month.
First four leaf clover of 2021, many more to come. Definitely accidentally stepped on it.

Here’s to 27

To be honest, 27 is a somewhat awkward number. From what I’ve discussed with the Lord, there are many reasons to be excited about this birthday, and this coming year. I’m expecting a handful of answers to prayer. Allowing myself to rest and let God be the one to bring it all together is both the blessing and struggle of this season. Twenty-six was such a year of refinement, and I’m 27 will be at least twice as epic.

Here’s to another year of favor!

Peace,

Haley

March Inquiry Projects: Experimenting with Alternative Presentation Ideas

In March, 12 of my 4th graders completed their an inquiry project on a variety of topics! Notably this month, students also experimented with different final project presentations, using Youtube and Kahoot (survey games) to share their learning with one another.

Animals Today and in the Past

This group studied Ancient sea monsters, Dinosaurs, Chihuahuas, and Cave dwelling animals. Two of the four students in this group used Kahoot to help present their work!

Chihuahuas

Troglodytes (Cave Dwelling Animals)

Ancient Sea Monsters

Check out how this student tackled the question of, “Who is Leviathan in the Bible?” in detail!

In explaining the concept of Leviathan to this student, I left it rather open ended so he could use his own reasoning. At the same time, many people consider these passages as representations of a spiritual stronghold. While I remain in this ministry context, I will leave it up to my students to decide. Similarly on his last slide, my student chose to keep it open ended.

Plants Today and in the Past

There were just two students in this group, but they were very passionate about their topics!

Desert Plants

One student shared a poster on desert plants, focusing on the uses and foods made available through them.

StarFruit

The same mastermind student who brought us a 31 page powerpoint on Ramen Noodles created a Youtube video all about Starfruit, complete with special effects and all! It’s been a pleasure to see him develop a passion for horticulture.

Like a professional, he outlined his video before he shot it:

With his blessing, check out his video here!

This student then spent the remainder of this group’s discussion teaching them the tricks he had used to design his Youtube video. I am amazed! This is what learning should be!!

Video Games

This group of students studied both video game design AND the history of popular video games like Dragon Ball Z, PacMan, and Sonic the Hedgehog. Two of the five students in this group used Kahoot in their presentations!

Video Game Design

Dragon Ball Z

PacMan

Sonic the Hedgehog

Check out this students’ Kahoot on Sonic the Hedgehog!

Check out how this student connected his faith IN DETAIL to the plot of his video game (Dragon Ball Z)!

Children’s Rights

The student who created this presentation is a natural leader who feels a great sense of solidarity with other children. One day, the Lord is going to use her to speak truth in gentleness and realign systems.

This student used Kahoot as her final project:

Reflection

I am so proud of how my students’ stretched their thinking this month! At the end of this month and into May, we will begin doing a whole class Inquiry Project, differentiated with graphic organizers and all for students who need extra support. Many of the students’ who have done Inquiry Projects these past months see themselves as experts in the process, and have offered freely to come alongside their peers (especially those who struggle with motivation or organization) to lead groups or support them as partners. I did not even need to ask, but they were excited to join me in leadership. I can’t WAIT to share how it goes!

Cross-pollination: Reflecting on How Student’s Interests have Formed me this Year, and vice versa

I’ve been blessed this year with thoughtful, kindhearted students. As a whole, my 3rd and 4th grade classes each have their own unique characters. Fourth grade is much like a bookish older brother, while 3rd grade is a slightly insecure younger sister who loves craft projects. While it’s been an interesting year to see these trends emerge, I am already wondering what traits will strengthen and diminish as we (God willing) head into a more normal school year in the fall.

As both individuals and classes, young humans are unique. In practice, most educators no longer ascribe to John Locke’s 17th century concept of tabula rasa. The majority of educators I’ve seen make a concerted effort to acknowledge the unique gifts, talents, and interested students bring to the classroom, instead of viewing their students’ as consumers. At the same time, it goes without saying that all teachers are unique, and carry their own mixture of gifts. Before the school year comes to a close, I want to share what I’ve learned from my students’, and what I’ve observed them absorbing from me.

Think of this table as a kind of Venn Diagram. On the left are my interests, on the right are students’ interests, and in the middle are things we have in common. As the colors shift from red to yellow to green, that represents a deepening interest or comfort with a specific topic.

At the Beginning

Two-Thirds Down: As of March 14th

What they’ve received from Me

Focus on the Nations and Prayer

At the beginning of the year, not many of my students were comfortable with praying out loud. Through our Praying for the Nations projects, students became increasingly comfortable praying as both individuals and as members in a group. They allowed me to take them down a road of prayer that most wouldn’t have chosen, but many enjoyed. I saw students energized by the importance of their prayers, and their passion providing opportunities for them to step outside of self-consciousness to focus on others. I saw very unmotivated students pour their hearts into prayer. I also saw students develop a healthy curiosity about other countries, learn how to google information like pros, and internalize some basic concepts of intercession (like praying for the opposite thing to be released over a region, praying specifically about wars/regional conflicts, etc). Wow!

Praying for Enemies

This was a harder sell, but by praying for the people who led the Capitol Insurrection and talking about how it felt to be DC residents during that time, we really tapped into something powerful. Students are beginning to complain less about people who they disagree with politically and pray more for them. They are starting to see the connections between sacrificial forgiveness for those who hurt us and how conviction from the Holy Spirit can change people’s hearts.

Praying Healing over Past Enemies of War

I barely touched on the concept of praying for our past enemies and for the wound of war to be healed, but something deep inside of students just understood. Praise God!

Seeing God in All Subjects

When we met, students were not used to seeing Jesus as Lord of all subjects. As they’ve noticed connections between topics they once saw as separate, they are starting to see God’s closeness in all things. This has involved reflection and Bible study, as well as plenty of support from me, helping to bridge the gap. Studying concrete examples of people who were led from faith into social action has helped them understand (ex: stories of Saints who loved animals, like Francis of Assisi). I am praying that God will continue to develop their insight, as it can take a while for them to see that God is simultaneously greater than our understanding AND within the facts.

Believing that the Gospel is the key for Changing Hearts (and Social Change)

This is probably my greatest contribution this year. The kids seem to know that I care about this more than anything else, and seem to be intentionally clued into this concept across subjects. May genuine Christlike love always lead us into the unknown to follow Jesus!

What I’ve received from them

Tender Love of Animals (like you love your own heart)

I have been just overwhelmed by students’ love for animals this year. Their passion has caused me to reflect on the ways I interacted with animals at their age, and the emotions behind feeling grief over the brokenness of creation. Check out this post about what those conversations have looked like!

Environmentalism

If I’m being completely honest, I’ve gotten a little too sloppy in my habits. I just was not as convicted as I should have been when it comes to energy conservation, recycling, and more. My students’ sincere concern for the islands of trash in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans really changed me.

Organic Connection

Throughout the school year and like all years, I’ve listened to my students eagerly and enjoyed figuring them out. This year, my students had so many questions for me about what it meant to be an adult, what it means to grow older, and about me in general. In my last school, we had to skip morning meetings and other important rituals because my administrators saw connection as an enemy of learning (it was not valued in and of itself). It took me a while to realize that I had permission to make connection central and not something that had to be snuck in almost secretively. If I’m being honest, this is one thing I picked up from my former workplace that has taken time to unlearn, but my students are sincere and savvy. I’m excited to have another year with my 3rd graders, and see my 4th graders thrive in the challenge of middle school.

More in the Moment, Less Task-Oriented

Having more freedom and autonomy to manage my day has allowed me to be much more in the moment with student interests. Them being so young has also forced me to set aside my grown up cares in order to have fun and meet them where they’re at. To be fair, balance has been hard to come by during this time of distance learning, but I’ve gotten us into a routine of shutting off screens over snack and lunch, and writing, reading, or socializing face to face after our morning and afternoon Zoom calls. I’m reflecting this week on how Benedictine rhythms can further balance and strengthen these opportunities once we return from Spring Break.

Conclusion

As I plan for next Quarter and next school year, it’s refreshing to see how much there still is to learn, but how much we’ve learned already. I have a couple tricks up my sleeve to end the school year strong. For now, I will use the rest of my Spring Break to store up rest like a cactus takes in water.

March Monthly Summary

March was full, sweet, and sour. Some hints of rest, lots to consider, and some weighty concerns for prayer.

Simple Pleasures

  • Being on Spring Break!
  • March 26th was my 7 year Jesus-versary
  • Seeing my students hungry to know more about God. Our lunch period frequently turns into a student-led theology block where they bring me their wildest questions (ex: “How can I be closer with God?”). My third graders will literally hold their breath until I have finished answering so they can insert their question right after the words have left my mouth. I breath when they are talking. And we go back and forth like that until they have run out of burning questions and are ready to talk about something less intense (like dogs).
  • My new hammock. Some purchases are frivolous, but others are life-changing. I’m so excited to read books on my kindle and lounge throughout the rest of this week and summer!
  • Enjoying the benefits of Intermittent Fasting
  • Just re-started mosiacing with a friend! Looking forward to the stress relief and the creative outlet
  • Deeply celebrating Easter and Passover with my new church community. Feeling really at home in that space and getting to share meals with people.
  • Gardening! Repotting my strawberries, seeing my crocus, daffodils, and grape hyacinth bloom, ripping out English Ivy and adding a trellis. planting my vining Jasmine and sweet peas, having many seedlings on the way

Important Updates

  • I will find out later this month if I’ve been awarded a scholarship that has the potential to pay for the rest of my degree
  • Been receiving some important dreams about next steps regarding career stuff

Shifting Priorities on Friendships

I intentionally pulled back from my normal rhythms of hanging out with friends last month, both to focus my energy on completing my Contextual study and to reflect on how my priorities for friendship having changed within the last year. Lately I’ve noticed that I am seeking out certain types of people more than I have in the past, and needing more distance from others, based on the season of life I’m in. These are some general trends I’m noticing as my preferences shift.

Personalities I crave like I’m missing a vitamin:

  • People who will talk to me about Theology and want to go deeper
  • People who are wildly creative (in prayer, in their teaching as a craft, in entrepreneurship, and more)
  • People who are dead-set on worshipping Jesus as the sole object of their sight!
  • People who believe the Church is worth fighting for
  • People who genuinely LOVE making peace with those who disagree with them

An added plus

  • The type of people who clean up trash that isn’t theirs, and genuinely want to leave spaces better than they found them.
  • People who love to cook and will push my creativity. Also, people who will let me feed them and will enjoy my food.
  • People who are anointed listeners, who can help detect the root cause if I’m sharing something tender and encourage/empower me to pray into it.
  • People who are weirder than me (so I don’t have to be the weirdest for a while).
  • Gardeners! This one has the effect of being soothing to me, because so much of my family is into gardening, horticulture, botany that people who have similar interests carry a specific kind of peaceful familiarity. Also, people who aren’t necessarily skilled but have an interest in talking about plants and will allow me to share the many things I know.
  • People who take big risks, people who aren’t afraid to speak with conviction (whether in gentleness or healthy boldness).
  • People who I can comfortably talk to about next to nothing (history, ease, accumulated time). To be able to pull this off, you have to be really good at taking yourself less seriously.
  • People with pets I can play with.
  • People who have a lot of working knowledge about different cultures and can apply it fluently in a way that honors and ministers to those communities.
  • Women who have more experience than me, both in age or by the virtue of other life experiences (as mentors, adoptive older sisters, adoptive grandmothers, friends).

Becoming less crucial

  • People who had specific advice for how to navigate D.C. (first 2 years of me moving here).
  • Friendships with people who are different from me just for the sake of learning from those differences (pursuing difference is healthy only when you preemptively build rapport by building common ground).
  • Adventure partners who AREN’T also hungry for God.

Pondering

  • The Parable of the Wise Virgins as a word about Denominational Unity/Ecumenism
  • Would Judas have still killed himself if the religious authorities had taken accountability for their role in Christ’s death?
  • How can Benedictine spirituality provide me a model of classroom management for after Spring Break? How can it help re-balance our classroom dynamic this fall, in a mostly post-COVID school year?
  • How did animal and plant life look before and after the Fall?

Things I’m Praying For

At work:

  • Favor (not favoritism), the softening of hearts
  • For everyone in my school community to know the love of Christ personally, at an identity level
  • Genuine love, freedom, and healthy balance

Until later,

Haley

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