An Open Letter to the School Where I Began My Career

On Friday, May 11, 2018, I accepted an offer from Stuart W. Cramer High School to continue my career as a social studies educator. This means June 2018 will end my time with the school that I grew to love over the last five years of my life. It is the most bittersweet decision of my life thus far.

I fell in love with you, Hunter Huss, from the first time I set foot in the school as a college student. I had been to the school as a high school cheerleader, but from the first time I entered the school as an adult, I knew this is where I wanted to begin my teaching career. I started my time here while completing observations in the social studies department, during my junior year of college. Let me be honest, when I was first assigned my clinical observations here, I was terrified. The reputation you carried to the high school I attended was not one to be cherished. From the moment I began my time here, you opened my eyes to the fact you were not and are not what the community, especially other high schoolers, believe that you are. I told my parents after my first day of completed observations that I could not wait to return here and that I wanted to begin my teaching career here once I graduated.

During the spring semester of my senior year, I repeatedly sent emails to the principal and assistant principals, basically begging just to have a tour. When I was granted a tour, I was also interviewed on the spot by the administration. I was not told if they would even have an opening for me, but I prayed fervently that they would. I interviewed with other schools. I turned down the opportunity to work in the school I did my student teaching in during my senior year. I took a spot on a summer long mission trip. On my first day of actual work with this mission group, I received a phone call not only from Hunter Huss offering me a position but also a very nice school right across the South Carolina border. I then received two more interview requests based on my initial county interview and resume. I prayed nonstop for about 24 hours and talked to some very trusted individuals in my life to ask their Godly advice. On a Friday in May of 2015, I accepted my position with Hunter Huss.

Within weeks I was busy buying supplies for my classroom and began cleaning room C112 out from its previous owner. I began the steps to become a new teacher in Gaston County Schools. I spent time praying over the students that would step through the doorway of my classroom. One bulletin board still has not changed since the design I gave it in early August of 2015, because I was just so happy with the way it turned out. I put the letters on my door to spell “Miss Freeman” and beamed with pride as C112 became my own. C112, you have been home for three years, and when I clean you out in a few weeks, I guarantee you will see tears shed. You have been my retreat when I needed a few moments to breathe in hectic days. You have been the place where relationships have grown with my students. You have hosted meetings. You have seen me push my students. You have seen me cry tears of frustration when things weren’t going as well as I planned or when life’s hardships hit me at the end of the day. You have seen me laugh with my kids. You have seen me get riled up about politics and conspiracies and when I was encouraging them. You have also seen me work a lot of overtime….sweet second home of mine, we have shared many hours together. Thanks, C112, for being the safe place for me to grow as an educator and to learn about myself and my “babies.”

I have been part of the Husky (although yall would spell it Huskie and that will forever kill me slightly) Family officially for almost three years. (May 29 will mark the official day). Some members of this staff will remain a part of my life. Some of you, as life goes, will fade into my memory. But every one of you has made a mark on my life. We encourage our students to “make a mark” and you, Husky Family, surely have done so to each person who enters this building. There’s a saying “people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime” and this season has been pretty awesome for the most part. You have pushed me as an educator. You have given me resources and allowed me to share my own. Some of you, in all honesty, have tested my patience; some of you have deeply hurt my feelings. And some of you, wow, you have become family, absolutely, and forever. But each of you, I respect as my colleagues and as the people who are helping in raising the children that I think of as my own. Thank you for how you have helped me grow in the last 3-5 years.

I tell you, my sweet babies, that I don’t have biological children and so when you join my class you forever become one of mine, and there has never been anything truer. I have had over 400 children in my lifetime, and I reflect each year on the unique things you have brought into my life. My new students at this new school will not take your place, they will simply become my “babies” as well, but as a good “mom” I promise to still love you equally, just like if I was still here bringing in a new class of juniors. But before I go, I have a few words left for you all. You have tested me and have pushed me and have made me grow. And I hope you walk away from my classroom believing the same of me. I admire each of you. I love each and every one of you. Just like a mom can be tried by her children and still love them endlessly, some of you have been corrected by me more times than I can count, but that does not mean I don’t love as much as my straight-A-never-get-chastised-students. I have prayed for each of you even before you came into my classroom. I have prayed for you through the semester I have taught you. I know some of you believe the opposite, but everything I have done in this classroom has been to push you to be a better you. I have nothing but your best interests at heart. I want the best for each of you. I want you to be who you were created to be. I want you to be happy. I want you to realize each day that you woke up with a purpose and that you have what you need within you to reach the goals you have for yourself. I have been so privileged to watch you all grow in the time that I have had with you, and I cannot wait to see what stands ahead of you. Out of the talks I’ve given in my years, I want you all to remember a few things: stop watering dead plants, you did not wake up today to be mediocre, and you are so incredibly loved. Even though I’m heading a few minutes down the road, I will always be here for you when you need me. I will always love you as my own and support you to be the best you that you can be. I’ve most likely lost your interest by now, so I’ll stop.

To the Gaston County Community, I wish that I could show you the things that I love about Hunter Huss. My students are brilliant. When they set their mind to something, they are determined to achieve it. They are caring, they have big hearts ready to be loved and ready to give love. They are not the stories you tell about them or the reputation you have grown to believe is true. They are not a bunch of hoodlums who are held in by a barbed wire fence..that fence was to keep yall out and it’s been gone since I was in high school, update your knowledge of the city. They are children who are receiving an education in the oldest high school in Gaston County- which I would consider a privilege because I love my historic sites. They are not obnoxious, loud, disrespectful kids, they are young adults who are learning and growing, who yes may occasionally talk too much, but who are growing into the citizens who will one day give back to the community that they love- if you will allow them to do so. They are talented, in so many more ways than you could begin to imagine, and I hope you will allow them to show you the things they are passionate about.

I have loved this job. I have also been frustrated beyond compare. I think that may be the way life goes. You love what you do but sometimes you get frustrated. Sometimes you consider grabbing your bag and not coming back but the next morning you come back anyway to do what you were led to do to begin with. There have been times I have gone home with tears in my eyes. There have been days I have had to take off. There have been days when I said I was done, just to return the next day ready to give my best effort all over again. I have adored being able to say I work in the school from which both of my parents graduated. I have loved working in a building that has such significance for the Gaston County area. I have loved being able to brag about who my kids actually are as individuals and the narrative they are writing for themselves. I have loved being a part of this family. Huskies, I hope when I move my materials and work to another classroom to love a new set of kids, that you still allow me to be a part of this family. I will cherish you, I will cherish this experience, forever. I would love to still show up here and bother you all on work days. I would love to still support you guys. I would love to see baby pics, and wedding pics, and graduation pics (although my students better have graduation pics before anything else), and spend time with you over a cup of coffee, catching up on life. I would love to annoy you will conspiracies, rants, and my ever-ready “I’m livin the dream every day, how are you?”

Thank you for everything. I love you all more than words could say. 

“Freeman”

“In the Mourning” of yet another high school shooting

Let me begin this post with a few disclaimers. First, I am a high school teacher, but I am not sitting with my students right now, I am home sick, and I will touch later on the fact of how this has broken me this week. Secondly, I am a registered Republican, but according to a few of my friends, I am an extremely “liberal Republican.” Thirdly, this post will not be eloquent by any means, because I am writing with pure emotion, and my heart is broken today. But if you’re sticking with me so far, let’s go.

Today children who are the age of the students I teach are being prepared by a funeral home to be buried. Today teachers, just like me, are being prepared for their funeral and burial. If the news was right, some of the funerals begin today. Not only are these people just like the people I see daily being buried, their families just like my family are mourning them, their work family who are just like my work family is mourning them, these students who are just like my students are mourning them and wondering how they will ever move on with their lives.

I did something I rarely do today, I sat down my cup of coffee, and if you know me my morning cup of coffee is important….I sat down my cup of coffee, so I could cry. I watched two young ladies stand on camera and BEG for their to be change in this country. One said she could not shower, use the bathroom, or sleep alone because she is so distraught in the aftermath of seeing her fellow classmates and teachers gunned down.

Then, mere moments later, the same news outlet silently scrolled the pictures of the victims. There was another thing I wasn’t used to….silence. My coffee cup remained on a coaster, and I wailed into my grandfather’s rocking chair at the lives lost and the hearts broken as a result. The silence, that I so often claim I want, was deafening. It physically hurt me to cry, yet I could not stop. My heart was broken for each of these lives lost, and the people they left behind.

So somebody somewhere is asking in their head: If you’re such a great teacher and you care so much, why are you not at school today?

Great question, somebody somewhere, let me explain. If you are new to this blog or don’t pay attention, I have a chronic pain disorder and an autoimmune disease. On Wednesday, I had more medical testing done to try to diagnose some irksome symptoms I have been having for over two months. I had taken yesterday off to recover, and unfortunately my body is not recovering at the pace I would like it to, so here I am stuck at home for another day. (yes, I’ve cried about that too). It has been hard being away from my kids for three days. It breaks me to know that I just want to hug all of them in the aftermath of this news, and I won’t be able to until next week. So, doing what I could I left them a message on Google Classroom, where they should be doing their work, so I can see it from home. The message read like this:

In light of everything that has happened nationally this week, I just want to remind you, you are each cared about. I am so thankful to teach each and every one of you. All of you have things in you that make you special, and you all have a bright future ahead of you. Strive to achieve those dreams. Be safe over your long weekend. Can’t wait to see you all on Tuesday!

My kids know that every Friday I give what we call the “Friday lecture.” I urge them to make smart choices, and we go through the places I don’t want to visit them: the hospital, jail, or the funeral home. It breaks my heart that today there are students and teachers visiting two of those three places as a result of this tragedy. I have buried one student in my teaching career, and it made me unbelievably sad, so I cannot imagine burying 14, nor do I want to think about it. Burying one still hurts my heart. This week actually marked the one year anniversary and I cried about that, mere hours before the news broke that 14 students had been gunned down when they were trying to head home for the day.

THIS SHOULD NOT BE THE NEW NORMAL FOR OUR CHILDREN. Our children should not have to practice drills to know what to do if someone is trying to murder them while they are at school where they should be safe. Now, does my school do it? yes. Do I hate it? Also yes. I joke with my kids if I look out in the hallway and it’s clear we’re making a run for it. Yet, I also know in my inmost being I would do everything in my power to shelter them in place and fight an armed assailant off and if it meant risking my life I would give my life for theirs.

As I typed that statement, my selfish 20something inside me was like “oh no girl.” I am 24. I am not married. I have no biological children. I am in grad school. I have student loan debt to pay off. I have some awesome best friends. and I have four fur babies that I love to death. And I have a man in my life, whom I would love to marry. But would I stand in front of my children and block them from death, even if it meant that my own life would be cut short? Yes. I tell them from the get go that I prayed over who would end up in my classroom and that I don’t have biological children, so they now have become my children. Once mine, always mine. At the age of 24, I have over 400 children who have come through my classroom and they are all MY CHILDREN. I wish that the adults of this country would realize the responsibility we have to protect these children. My 400 are also your children, they are the future, and they are awesome, and they don’t deserve to be gunned down in their prime.

Oh god, Logan, didn’t you say that you’re a registered Republican? Yes. I registered as a Republican when I turned 18. I am extremely fiscally conservative, yet I am extremely socially liberal. But even registered as a Republican, I realize that something is wrong. There is something wrong when my children have to fear being at school. There is something wrong when someone who has been flagged by the FBI then LEGALLY owns an assault weapon and guns down 17 people and almost makes an escape.

We need gun control. We also need mental health reform. We also need to teach our children AND ADULTS to love and be kind.

The young man who has been arraigned and who is sitting in jail with no bond, because he slayed 17 people, is a young person. WE ARE RESPONSIBLE. He is the age that I would have taught my first year after graduating college.

I have worked in a day homeless shelter. I have a parent who works in the government’s social service field. I have seen those who are flagged “mentally ill.” Mentally ill is not a label that means that you wake up one day and decide to gun down 17 innocent people. In fact, one of my favorite people in the world is “mentally ill” and that person is known to hug me and sing me a song when they see me…    Yes we need mental health reform and perhaps that should be part of the conversation but that does not need to be the whole conversation. We cannot leave gun violence and gun control out of this conversation. If you want to say that the assailant (I refuse to speak his name and make him famous) did this because he was mentally ill then why are you not acknowledging the fact that our government’s gun laws allowed him to legally buy the weapon even though he is quote “mentally ill” and there’s an issue there.

This conversation needs to be had by both sides of the aisle without a government shutdown. Yes, we need mental health reform. yes, we need stricter gun control laws. Yes, we need to teach love more often. Yes, my kids did grow up in a generation where they were given a participation trophy, but that doesn’t mean that they grow up to be violent. Yes, we need to take time to mourn. But finally yes, this is the time for the conversation to be had.

As a reporter said this morning, we mourn the 17 lives lost, but we also need to acknowledge the survivors, they are the ones who are going to make the change.

I believe in this generation. I believe they are going to be the change we want to see in the world. I believe they are just as tired of mourning those we lose, and nothing be done about it.

 

This post is a little different

If you’ve never met my mom, she’s pretty cool. She drives me crazy, but she’s also my best friend, as it should be. She goes by many names including: mom, Mumsy, mama, mooooooom, capt reg, Regina, aunt Gina, Gigi, aye girl, regggggg, Reggie….I think I got them all, if not sorry, reg.

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My mom does a lot for us. Like a lot. She runs the world basically. She works all day, takes care of us, takes care of her coworkers, does her job well, takes care of her mom, works out, has an amazing ability to sleep in a chair while HGTV is on the tv, works in our church nursery, helps out my brother with homework and sports stuff, really likes pageants, picks really good wine, listens to me complain or brag about work, likes Facebook and to text, loves Jesus, speaks truth unapologetically, has handled missing my sister after her move with an impressive peace that I wouldn’t have, and she’s just cool. Oh, and she also finds time to take part of yearly traditions with me even when life is crazy. She also makes a really awesome chicken pot pie that is life giving.

So today, I read a devotion, and it asked how they could pray for the women reading it. Typically I would’ve thought about the hectic beautiful hard mess that is my life, but instead I thought of my mom. And I posted the following comment…

“Normally after reading these I think of the prayer that I need to deal with the tough situations of my life. Today, I was moved to ask for prayer for my mother. She is a mother of three, her name is Regina. She works serving others as a social worker who trains those who want to be foster parents. She is not an only child, but she is the only one who lives near her aging mother and takes steps to care for her that have to be done by someone close by. In August, my dad/ her husband, had a heart attack and quadruple bypass a month before my sisters wedding. My mom took off work then worked from home to care for him and make sure he fully recovered- which praise be, he did. My mom helped plan and pay for my sisters big day. My mom helped prepare me for a pageant and to begin grad school as I work. My mom doesn’t miss a game that my little brother plays in, and helps raise money for his teams. On Sunday, my mom’s best friend Mandy, had a stroke and had hemorrhaging on her brain from the stroke. They have been best friends for over 40 years. They share life. They share memories. They share love. A lot of people are praying for Mandy to come off the ventilator she is on, and to have healing for her body, and peace for her family- which is beautiful and wonderful, and I praise god for those prayers. My mom has been relentless in her prayer for her friend and has spent many hours in the hospital waiting for news, waiting for Mandy to wake up, supporting mandy’s Husband and daughters, before coming home to still take care of her own family and go to work the next morning. This morning I want to lift my mother up in prayer. For her peace. For her sanity in overwhelming circumstances. For her to felt taken care of. For her to feel loved. For her to be restored and rested. For me to be the daughter she needs. To hear her laugh more like she was able to do yesterday while we enjoyed a snow day. Please think of her. Please pray for her. Help me pray for her to be covered in love and peace.”

So today’s post is different. Today’s post is to say my mom rocks. Today’s post is to say if you have a minute lift up my mom in prayer today. Today’s post is to say call your mom, or give her a hug, or send a prayer or good vibe her way. Moms are cool….they wiped your butt for a long time, and cleaned up your puke, and made you spaghettios, and cheered you on through what you were doing, and now that you’re grown enough to be reading this maybe she’s the one who needs a hug today.

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“If you want me, earn me”

“If you want me, earn me”- Olivia Pope

Olivia looks at Fitz and says that if he wants her, he has to earn her. Yes, I’m back on Scandal. This comment is part of a longer rant that goes a little like this I am not a toy you can play with when you’re bored, or lonely… I am not the girl a guy gets at the end of the movie. I am not a fantasy. If you want me, earn me. Until then, we are done.”

So, some of you are going to think this is dramatic. Some of you are going to think this is old fashioned. Some of you may think that a man should not have to prove himself to a woman, or a woman should not have to prove herself to a man. But you should prove yourself and your love to your significant other.

Relationships require work. Relationships require work from both sides. Relationships deserve the effort. To some extent it should be easy, no relationship should be forced. But a relationship does require and deserve attention, effort, work from both parties.

If you don’t think you need to put effort into your relationship, I hope that your significant other realizes quickly that they deserve better. I hope they flee as quickly as possible because they deserve better and shouldn’t waste their time and emotions. They deserve someone who is willing to give the time to make the relationship the best it can be.

Every person, and therefore every relationship, has different needs to feel wanted, valued, and be happy. Here’s how to earn me:

When you know something bothers me, don’t do it. Don’t ever food shame me, let me eat what I want, when I want….along with this keep me stocked up on ice cream at your place. Bring me coffee, and know my coffee order. Let me pay for dates occasionally. Go to church with me. Pray with me. Tell me how I can pray for you and ask how you can pray for me. Tell me how beautiful I look, and know I hate being called cute. Support my endeavors (work, grad school, community service, pageants). Ask me how my day was. Tell me about your day. Volunteer with me. Let me sleep in. Go to the doctor with me, because all of this health stuff is really stressful and scary. Pick what we’re eating for dinner, because I make decisions all week, and sometimes I just want to be told what the decision is. Cuddle with me. Give me the space to finish a book every week, it fuels my spirit. Know that I really enjoy cleaning when I feel up to it, and let me clean without telling me to not worry about it. Laugh at my jokes, I think I’m really funny, but maybe also tell me if it isn’t funny. Know how to make tacos, tacos are life. Don’t lie to me. Don’t have an attitude with me if I have done nothing wrong. Don’t have double standards. Don’t tear me down. Speak life to me. Don’t underestimate me, but congratulate me and celebrate with me when I do something well. Understand that date nights are really nice, but I am also super content with laying in bed binge watching Netflix. Go on adventures with me, traveling makes me happy. Let me build you up. Let me do things for you. Let me laugh at your jokes, but also tell you if it was an awful joke. Be honest with me, did I already say this? Take me around your family and friends and make me feel included, I promise my family and friends will love you and open their arms wide to include you. Know that I will talk to you like you are my best friend, because you will be. Understand that I also will talk to my best friend B at all hours of the day, because she’s my girl, and she has my back, so if you mess with me you have earned a place on her bad side. Love my kids, ask me about them, let me brag about the great things they do. Talk to me, about the good, the bad, the mundane. Don’t ever call me names, it’s not cute. Talk to me about our future. Love you like you don’t want to lose me. 

Give your best to your relationship. If you want them, earn them. If you earn them, keep earning them every day.

Liv Pope is one of my alternate TV personalities, and this is one of the things that she says that resonates the deepest with me. If you give the time, attention, and effort, I promise I’ll be the best thing you ever had. But if you want me, earn me.

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