Achievement or Well-Being?

This morning I read a short article about how parents in the Netherlands raise their children to value education for their well being, rather than for achievement. The Netherlands has one of the top education systems in the world. Naturally, I was intrigued as to what makes it the top-ranked country in the world and what are they doing differently compared to my upbringing in the education field. One aspect that the article highlighted was students are encouraged to see themselves as they are without the pressure of performance, competing with their peers, and grades.

I grew up in a household where education was everything. You go to school to apply yourself, be the best student, and bring home only the best grades. My parent’s always reminded my siblings and me of the opportunities that were easily given to us. In Haiti, they had to pay for school, prepare their own lunch, and travel far to get to the school building. In America, the school system provided school bus transportation, free education, and depending on your home situation, free lunch. My parents would say we were privileged compared to other students across the world and they were right. Sometimes I miss those days when my only responsibility was to be a student.

However, as I think about my son and have discussions with my husband about how we want to raise him, I can’t help but wonder, is that all there is to education– going to school, getting good grades, and being the best? How about the wholesomeness of the child and how will we make sure, as parents, that our children feel a sense of completeness within themselves, despite the pressures to conform, and perform in an educational world saturated with the need to prove self-worth by achievement and accolades from others?

I must give my parents credit because they raised me up to be a passionate, inquisitive, and curious young woman. I understand I was raised and brought up in a different time period. My parents projected upon my siblings and me, what their parents always wanted from them, or what they wished they could’ve had for themselves when they were my age. So it’s not a surprise that in elementary and junior high school, my parents expected me to apply myself. In high school, I had to remain focus to be qualified for the university level. During university, the expectation was to do well so I can get a good paying job. The problem is at these crucial stages of my educational journey; I lost my sense of purpose because I was too busy competing with my peers. I saw myself in who ‘they‘ were and not in who ‘I‘ was–I think that’s something many young people can connect with.

Competition.jpgAs a young teen, I maintained a mindset of always being the best and working hard. By the time I entered high school the value of education had become a source of achievement, rather than the awakening of my mind. At Mount Pleasant High, I was not only in competition in the classroom, (that’s if I was even interested in the content matter) image also became a defining factor of who I was and how others saw me. What I wore, the style of my hair, my friends, and overall demeanor. My intellect took a backburner, and if I was in good terms with the teacher, grades were not a problem. High school was all about graduating and getting into university.

My college years were a whirlwind of emotions. I entered a different world, with student peers that had a broader perspective on life and wasn’t afraid to share their opinions and worldview in the classroom. I felt like the invisible man occupying space. I thought college was just about doing well, earning a degree, and at the end of all your efforts, getting a good paying job. The reality of it all is college was a time in my life where I recognized my achievement gaps. It was no longer about competition or image–it was about proving myself worthy of the opportunity placed in front of me. For so many years, my mindset was all about being the best and achieving good grades to be successful. It never occurred to me, till then, the importance of communication, working collaboratively with different people that are entirely different from me and the importance of learning to appreciate and utilize my voice as well as life experiences to contribute to what should’ve been my real educational journey from the beginning.

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The beauty of different seasons and stages I have encountered throughout my academic journey is the growth and progress that it has made in my well-being. My parents were right by teaching me the value of education at a young age. Although I got lost along the way, it was the many lessons I allowed myself to learn throughout my process that has shaped me into the woman I am today.

So, as I think about my children and how I hope to raise them up, I pray my husband and I will be parents that teach them how to be confident individuals. I hope our children will welcome different opinions and have the courage to stand in their convictions in what they believe to be real and authentic, while also being receptive to what others can teach them. I have no desire to move to the Netherlands, but I sure can learn from their model and apply it to my household.

Signing Out,

~Esther Lynn~

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

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A Fight to the Finish

This morning I am reminded of Apostle Paul’s famous words, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” (2 Timothy 4:7) I’m reminiscent of these words because lately, it feels like I’m fighting to finish strong during my last several days at work. As of this week, I have only 30 days left until my maternity leave starts. Remaining focused in the present moment is a challenge. My son consumes my mind and the upcoming transition back to the United States keeps me distracted and staring off into space.

The difference between Apostle Paul and me is he was actually at the end of the finish line. He lived a gruesome but fulfilling life. He endured the greatest storms and not once did he recant his trust in God. He walked into situations where the result was often unknown. It’s almost like he never had his own set of expectations as to how things would turn out. He only expected God to take over and guide his path through the dark valleys of uncertainty. He had hope that God will attend to his needs as he climbed up the troublesome mountains of this world. Paul was never sure of the end result here on earth. But he knew what awaited him in glory. For him, the fight to the finish to see the greater glory of what awaited him was worth far more in comparison to the precariousness of this passing world.

I glean on Paul’s perseverance. I read his words and allow them to uplift me; as I take hold of what my present moment has to offer me. An old Haitian proverb seeps its way through my pores and penetrates my heart, “Deye mon gen mon.” (Translated in English, “Beyond the mountains, there are more mountains.”) An idiom most Americans could relate to is, “The grass isn’t greener on the other side.” As I go through this waiting period towards the finish, I must remember to keep my head focused in all situations and live in the present because that’s what dictates the outcome of my future. Endure hardships by not easily being distracted by fears of what’s to come or what currently is–I must remember to trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, and love extravagantly.

I believe what Apostle Paul was trying to convey to Timothy is a persistent pace forward is needed when running a race that feels everlasting. Emotions are misleading if one allows them to take over. His words serve as a reminder, a forecast of what can happen if one allows the anxieties of tomorrow to cloud their judgment about today. Therefore, I must keep my head above the torrent of negative thoughts and strive to finish strong. I must fight the good fight, finish the race, and remain faithful till the very end.

We are all in the process of becoming. I just live to speak mine out loud.

Signing Out,

~Esther Lynn~

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

Gracefully Broken

For the past several weeks I’ve been listening to Tasha Cobbs, Gracefully Broken on constant repeat. I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy with only nine weeks left before I meet my little boy. Gracefully Broken, is how I would define this journey into motherhood.

Before pregnancy, I was very active; always riding my bike, working out, hiking steep mountains, traveling–the list goes on and on. I was always doing something. Hubby and I were always on a MicNilly Adventure. When I became pregnant, everything changed.

Almost everything I loved to do became embellished with constraints. It was like I started a new process of becoming that I consistently found myself wrestling. It was bizarre because on the one hand being pregnant was a blessing, but on the other side of the coin, I had to find myself somehow within my new limitations. And I must admit at the beginning stages of pregnancy it was tough redefining routines and overall just the way in which I thought about things. I always had to be aware of the life that was growing inside of me.

Eventually, I got to a place where I surrendered the freedoms of my past (life before pregnancy) to embrace my hidden treasure wholeheartedly. In my process of complete surrender, I’ve drawn closer, like never before, to my mother. Saturday mornings are our chat days. She will often share stories about me and my siblings I never was aware of before. Through her stories, she eases my many anxieties. Reassuring me at the end of it all, I’ll look back at this time in my life with gladness. The process of life is like a never-ending cycle. It doesn’t matter how old you get, the people that were always there from the beginning will almost always be there at the end.

My mom just recently immigrated to the United States when she became pregnant with my older sister. My mom was apart from her family during her first pregnancy. It was just her and my dad. Fortunately, they established strong relationships within their church, and that’s what kept her sane throughout her first pregnancy. Years, decades later, her second child is experiencing the same thing in a foreign land. It’s beautiful that my mother can still find my heart, navigate through my thoughts, even though I am thousands of miles away. What makes these precious moments with my mom over the phone so special is she speaks to me with so much grace, admiration, and love.

So, as I reflect on my beginning stages of pregnancy to my current stage–I am so glad I had to get to a place of complete surrender. I am grateful that God had to deconstruct my independence entirely for me to be open to what this new level could and would teach me. There is a reason why pregnancy takes nine months. As the child develops within the cocoon of the womb, the woman is gracefully woven into a mother. Once the child evolves out of the darkness of the womb, gracefully broken, seeking his mother’s voice, comfort, and smell. They both blossom with unconditional love towards one another.  Carrying life is a beautiful masterpiece that can only be painted and told by the God of all creation. Yes, I’ve been gracefully broken, and I am beyond grateful for it. We are all in the process of becoming. I just live to speak mine out loud.

Signing Out,

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

~Esther Lynn~

The Fledge Method

In recent months, I have been fascinated with the mother eagle, particularly on how she cares for her young. Several times I found myself asking, how is a young eaglet taught to fly? At what stage in life do they start learning how to use their wings and eventually maximize them? At what point does the mother eagle decide that it is time to let go? I believe a series of events prompted these questions– Lately, I’ve been thinking about my son. I’ve been imagining what his childhood, adolescence, and adult years will be like and this short story was created in dedication to him.

The Fledge Method

When I was just a seed, mother prepared the nest for me. She worked diligently to find the sturdiest of branches. Gliding through the winds to build the nest that would one day house me. I was her priority, her joy, her heartbeat.

Then I was born. I was white, frail, and extremely needy. Mother nursed me; in her wings, I was comforted and warm. We delighted in each other. For me, life was mother, and somehow, mother was me. I saw the world through her eyes. I understood in part by what she seen.

One day mother started acting strangely. She flew out of the nest with a look of determination in her eyes. My eyes followed her as she soared high through the winds. That is all I could do, after all, life was mother and mother was me. But something about that day, made a chill go up my spine. Before mother left the nest, she kept repeating one thing,“The time to fledge has come.”

Fledge, the one word that kept imprinting itself in my mind. Curiosity was starting to overtake me, so I stood at the edge of the nest protected by its borders, awaiting mother. I thought maybe she just went out to get me food. Surely she will come back soon. The sun relentlessly beat against me; slowly hours turned into days, no sign of mother or the sound of her voice making way in the wind.

The fourth day I decided to peer at the edge of the nest. My feeble legs somehow lifted me to the peak. Then a blustery breeze overtook my balance. I was falling out fast, uncontrollably with no awareness as to where I would end up. Swoosh was the sound of the wind, and I found myself laying on mother’s back. “Mother you saved me!” I beamed with contentment and joy. But all mother said was, “The time to fledge has come.”

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“Mother?” I asked nervously. “What does that mean…fledge?” Her only words, “The time to fledge has come.” Mother’s wings guided us back to the nest. However, the nest that once housed me was destroyed. “Mother, what happened to our home?” Her only words, “The time to fledge has come.” “Mother, I don’t understand what does that mean? Why do you keep saying that? You’re scaring me.” She looked at me with her potent eyes and began to hover over me.

It was at that moment; I begin to be entranced by her wings. They were dazzling. It was like they were singing a song to the wind. Mother said nothing. She just simply fluttered her wings above me. I was transfixed at all that was happening. Suddenly I had this urge to stretch. As I started to extend my feathers, Mother’s flutters became faster. Her eyes glued to me and my–feathers. My feathers. I was mother and mother was me, so I began to flap them.

Mother rose higher. In the still air, she watched me intensely as I started flapping uncontrollably. Then slowly but surely, the wind lifted me. I had the look of terror in my eyes. I’m almost certain of it. Yet, I felt carried by something bigger than me. I looked away from mother, and through the distance, I noticed others; other eaglets that were taking their first flight away from the nest.

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My eyes zoned in on them. Until I finally heard mother say, It is done. The fledge method is complete.” On that day, I learned, I was no longer mother and mother was no longer me. She was my first foundation and will always be the steady force behind who I am. But she is her own entity, and the same goes for me. Her wings were taught how to mount through the dangerous of winds courageously; so that one day, she, in turn, can teach me. She destroyed the nest for me to understand life in its wildest, windswept form.

Now that I am older, I later learned more about that day when my mother glided through the winds  and just left me with the words, “The time to fledge has come.” She flew to the peak of the highest mountain to watch me and what I would do. She recaptures her side of the story with only a few words, A mother learns early on in life the art of waiting on her young.” I asked mother, “What made you decide that it was time to let go?” She simply responded, “It was time.”

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So, as I prepare for my son, I imagine his life through stages. When he is first born, I will be like the mother eagle caring intently for her young. In my son’s young eyes, he will be like his mother, and I will reflect him. But he will someday grow to become a man, and I must be prepared to release him to the winds. I will someday have to recognize when the time to fledge has come. In that realization, I pray throughout his upbringing, his father and I will help him to see himself as his own entity. I hope at an early age he comprehends the power of his wings.

Because, son, if years later you find yourself reading this short story, mama and papa always knew the weighted significance of time and you, son, was created to soar high.

-The Fledge Method-

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

Signing Out,

Esther Lynn

Listen. Write. Speak.=Inklub

Hello, World!

Micah and I been active on our new youtube channel, The Inklub. Below are our latest videos on our page. Check them out!

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With a baby on the way, I’ve been thinking a lot about “pregnancy-related things.” Thus, the title shouldn’t surprise anyone. But, this poem goes beyond the anticipated birth of our son. There’s an even greater birth that I’m anticipating. Take a listen.

What makes words so powerful? Here’s my explanation. – Micah

Powerful spoken word about race relations in a foreign country. Take a listen.

One word to describe my life: Drum. – Willynn

Summer English Camp 2017!

I’m super ecstatic right now because as of today the first half of the academic school year is officially over! I completed my last day of English summer camp, and for the next three weeks, I can finally relax. No deadlines, obligations, expectations–just pure relaxation. Micah and I are using the break to set off on our baby moon. We’ll be beach bums traveling to different islands in South Korea. But before I go on a tangent about vacation, let me focus on what I planned for my kiddos.

There’s this popular show in South Korea called the Running Man. It’s a game variety show where the guests are placed in teams and compete against each other in different locations across Korea. The show is hilarious! Even as a foreigner watching it, I found myself laughing so hard at certain episodes. Since it was my last camp, I wanted to make it not only educational but very fun for my kiddos. My husband and I worked together to adapt some of the games they used on the show for the classroom and worked it out perfectly.

At the start of camp, I put the students in teams, and they had to work together to complete the task at hand. The class always started with new vocabulary and expressions. We did one worksheet a day to practice writing the language and the rest of the day was hands on learning. As an icebreaker, the students played a game called, pass the bomb (which was just a ball) they had to introduce their names, grade, and the favorite thing they liked to do and the last person had to repeat what their team mate shared within one minute. The team that finished the fastest got a running ball added to their team. It was a great hit.

The camp lasted five days with different learning objectives each day. But for the sake of my blog, I will only focus on the activities I did the first day and add pictures of the following days. The first day we learned about physical appearance. Where the students learned how to describe what someone looks like, using the key expressions, (he/she has ~ they have~) We played a Make A Face game. We also played Draw in Rows. Where I would show a vocabulary card, and the first student on the team had 10 seconds to draw it, five seconds to show the second student, erase it, and the process goes on to the last student, who has to guess what vocabulary word it was. The team(s) that got most points have to roll the big dice. The winning team gets a running ball added for their team.

Since Draw In Rows was a very competitive and active game, the next game was quieter and calming. It’s called Pass the Word. It’s similar to the whisper game, but instead of the students whispering the word to the next person in line, they are mouthing the word with no sound. The second student in line continues the same procedure until it gets to the last person that has to guess the vocabulary word. The winning team gets a running ball added for their team.

 

 

We also played a game called Thieves in the Classroom that game also worked well. Around the classroom, I posted descriptions of the thieves and covered it with post-it notes. This game is very similar to running dictation, with a slight difference. Instead of runners and writers, I had one student as the artist drawing the description, and the rest of the team members were detectives dictating what they just read and remembered to the artist. Afterward, the students had to show the class their pictures and describe the drawings. It was a great laugh. In the end, I revealed what the thieves looked like and voted on the best drawings. The teams with the most points got a running ball added to their team.

 

The last activity of the day was the Running Man Lottery. The students looked forward to this because it meant they would win a “special prize.” The “special prize” was just two pieces of candy, but what kid doesn’t like candy! Hahaha

All in all, the camp was a great success, and the students and I had a great time together. I couldn’t have done it without my amazing co-teachers that assisted me along the way. Deep sigh of relief. The first semester ended on a great note. I’m sure eventually after break I’ll look forward to my second and last semester in Korea as a Guest English Teacher. Until then, cheers to freedom, bliss, and RELAXATION!

Latest Update In the Land of the Morning Calm

This past month I’ve had a lot of cool cultural experiences. Last week, the school of the blind came to my school to give free massages to the teachers. Of course being pregnant, made me jump at the opportunity. It was a fascinating experience. As soon as I walked in the room, the chaperone for the blind students said, “This is the 원어민” (The Native English Teacher). The students gasped in excitement. One of my colleagues informed them I was pregnant and that made them even more amazed with me. I watched as the students talked back and forth about who should give a massage to the pregnant foreign teacher. I just sat back and enjoyed the scene taking place in front of me. What made the whole scenario interesting is their way of identifying who I was, and certain characteristics about me, through the art of touch and the sound of my voice.

The Best Cultural Experience Ever

It was my first real encounter with blind people. It was astounding to hear and see how they interacted with each other and with me. It’s as if I was a part of a reality show, but instead I was watching through a television screen, rather than a present part of the whole encounter. I loved every moment of it. All the other teachers had only their upper back massaged. But, for me, they gave me an arm, shoulder, upper back, and scalp massage. My hair blew them away. I heard them talking amongst themselves about it. Soon, I had three blind students crowded in front of me. “Waaw,” they exclaimed with their mouths open, as they touched, felt, and massaged my scalp. It was SO relaxing! Did I mention it was free! My co-teacher was finished in ten minutes. Before she left the room, she stopped by my chair and said, “Willynn, you must have been the special guest everyone was waiting for.” When I finally went back to the English office, I exclaimed to my colleagues, “Now that was the best cultural experience I ever had!”

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Students Behavior: End of Semester

Other than that great moment in time last week. Around this time of year, students get very antsy and obnoxious. It’s humid, sticky, and rainy. The first semester is slowly coming to an end and summer vacation is on the horizon. They talk more than listen and are always ready to be competitive during game time. Despite it all, they are still endearing and caring towards me and Baby T. Every morning, when they see me walking to school, they run to me and with their high pitched piercing voices they say, “Good morning, Willynn Teacher! Hello, baby!” I can’t help but have a smile when interacting with these little people I have grown to appreciate and admire.

 

My Stalkerish First Graders

The English office is on the second floor, which is the same floor as the first-grade classes. My first graders get really excited when they see me. In Korea, there is no such thing as staff bathrooms. Everyone shares the same bathroom, which can be overwhelming at times. A prime example of this is when I go use the bathroom; the first-grade girls become borderline stalker-ish. They stand guard in front of the bathroom stall, whispering to each other, “Willynn Teacher and baby is in there.” (As if I physically have a baby in my hand.) I appreciate my students, but, my goodness, they get taxing at times. The joys and woes of being an elementary school teacher.

The Speed of Time

The days and months go by quickly here. One day it’s Monday, and next I know, it’s already Friday. The weekends are like quick daydreams and the week starts over again. Just yesterday it was March and it’s already July. The speed of time just makes me more aware of every moment. My heart has changed tremendously for these little people. I can now value their roles in adult lives. They are the best teachers with amazingly creative minds. They have this way of transforming any adult and making them in tune with their suppressed inner child. The wonderful thing about it all is when that inner child is finally released from its confines, the world opens up to you, and you begin to see the beauty in all things.

Oh Yeah, Pregnancy Update!

IMG_4721As you can imagine, I’m getting bigger by the day. The women teachers are captivated by my baby bump. They say, they have never seen my sort of belly shape before. (Um, okay. Whatever that means. I never knew there was such a thing.) Just today one of my co-teachers said, “Willynn, your belly! It grew over the weekend! It’s more forward than wide. Wow! I never saw a belly like that before.” My only response is my baby has an appetite just like his father. “But you’re not fat,” is her response. Um, thanks. (LOL, what else can I say.) A few weeks ago we found out that Baby T is a BOY!!! That is what we prayed for and that’s what God has granted us. Micah and I are ecstatic for our baby boy.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how God brings us through certain journeys and experiences. I compare pregnancy to the process of preparing for a wedding. If not careful, the soon to be newlyweds can get caught up with only the wedding aspect and not the actual marriage. Because at the end of the day that’s what matters. Just like pregnancy, soon-to-be parents, get caught up with the pregnancy, the material possessions, the praise, baby registry, baby shower, and labor. But, forsake to look forward.

Pregnancy is only momentary, just like a wedding. After all the glitz and glamor, another life begins, and an old self-image ends. It’s something Micah and I try to constantly be aware of and keep at the forefront as we transition into parenthood. It’s not always easy, but our baby boy deserves to enter the world with parents that are prepared mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to receive him. Even an innocent child deserves wholesomeness in their environment.

We are all in our own process of becoming. I just live to speak mine out loud.

Signing Out,

Esther Lynn

Monday, July 3rd, 2017