Thursday, November 17, 2016

I Wish the Parents of My Students Understood...

Image result for teacher memes + do your work

We are getting close to the end of the semester. For me, that means kicking a lot of kids butts and contacting a lot of parents to warn them that their kids are failing a class that is required to graduate. It is one of my least favorite parts of this job. 

I set up my class so that students always have time in class to work on any assignments I give. I tell them at the beginning of the year that if they use the time in class I give them, they should never have homework. Most of the students take advantage of that.
I also tell them at the beginning of the year that as long as they complete their assignments and turn them in on time, then they will pass. If it's poorly done they aren't going to get an A, but they won't fail the class. You'd be surprised at how many kids don't grasp that concept. Just do the work during the time I give you in class and turn it in on time and you won't fail. Easy, right?

For most of my kids, it is easy. Most of them grasp the concept. But for the few who don't, this is one of the times during the year that makes me want to tear my hair out, because this is when I have to deal with those kids' parents. I dread it. Talking to parents makes me nervous. I try to communicate through email or phone calls when I can. I am young, and I look even younger than I am, so parents have a tendency to write me off before I even open my mouth. I often get comments along the lines of "Excuse me young lady, do you know where Mrs. Cockrell is? Oh! You're Mrs. Cockrell? I'm sorry, you look like a student!" or "Are you sure you're old enough to be a teacher? HaHa!"

It gets old.

Last week, I had a conversation with a parent about her child's failing grade. I've met this parent in person before, but this conversation was over email. We went back and forth a few times and talked about some of the things her child could do to help her grade - basically she just needed to turn in her missing work. After I had explained this to the mom, she responded by thanking me. She thanked me for letting her know, for being willing to help, and for everything I do for my kids. And I was shocked; floored, even. I was touched that this mom would say such nice things, especially after I had broken the news that her child was failing. It was one of the nicest things a parent has ever sent me. 

It was such a simple thing for her to say: "thank you." She understood that I wasn't out to get her child. She understood that I wanted her child to succeed in my class just as much as she did. She understood that my grading was fair, and that I couldn't just raise her child's grade - that it depended on her child turning in the work. That was so refreshing, and I realized how crazy it is that I would be so shocked by this; that this is something that is so rare

When I was training to become a teacher (yes, I have a degree, a teaching license, and everything - I am a professional who is qualified to do what I do), I was taught that parents and teachers are partners; that we should work together to ensure the education of the child. I naively thought that this was true and that my students' parents and I would support each other in trying to help the students understand and complete the work required. Unfortunately, that is all too often not how the parent-teacher relationship works. In fact, more often that not, teachers are put on the chopping block by parents. We are immediately distrusted. It's sad how such a kind and thoughtful email from a parent was so unusual for me. It's sad that this isn't the norm. 

I  wish the parents of my students understood, the way this one parent did, that I truly do want their child to succeed. I wish they understood how difficult it is to keep up with 150 teenagers; how they're all doing, what assignments they're missing, what their grades are, and how I can help each of them individually. And that doesn't even cover the personal stuff. I wish the parents of my students understood that I am not - nor will I ever be "out to get" their child...ever. 

I wish the parents of my students understood that I do not "give" students their grades. Students earn them. If their child is not happy with the grade they have in my class, then that isn't something I can just magically fix. I can help them understand concepts they are struggling with and I can allow them to turn in missing or late work for partial credit, but I can't just raise their grade for nothing. Not only is that unethical, what kind of message does it send our students? You might read this and think that it's crazy and that no one would ask a teacher to do that...you'd be wrong. 

I wish the parents of my students understood that I find absolutely no joy in their child's failures. Quite the opposite, actually.

A simple "thank you" from this parent went such a long way. It shouldn't be this shocking and it shouldn't be this rare, although that did make me appreciate it all the more. 

Please try to remember that your children's teachers are overworked and underpaid for a job that takes so much out of them. We wouldn't do what we did if we didn't genuinely care about your kids. When they have a failing grade, try to be open minded about the way you handle that discussion. Don't assign us a guilty verdict before understanding the circumstances around the grade - especially if the guilt lies heavily on your child for not completing required work. We want to work with you.

Let's make parent-teacher conferences a pleasant experience for all involved. It really is one of the best ways to help ensure that students succeed. 

That parent who sent me the nice email thanking me - her child has now completed enough of her missing work to bring her grade to well above passing.

Crazy how that works out...huh?

I Wish the Parents of My Students Understood...

Image result for teacher memes + do your work

We are getting close to the end of the semester. For me, that means kicking a lot of kids butts and contacting a lot of parents to warn them that their kids are failing a class that is required to graduate. It is one of my least favorite parts of this job. 

I set up my class so that students always have time in class to work on any assignments I give. I tell them at the beginning of the year that if they use the time in class I give them, they should never have homework. Most of the students take advantage of that.
I also tell them at the beginning of the year that as long as they complete their assignments and turn them in on time, then they will pass. If it's poorly done they aren't going to get an A, but they won't fail the class. You'd be surprised at how many kids don't grasp that concept. Just do the work during the time I give you in class and turn it in on time and you won't fail. Easy, right?

For most of my kids, it is easy. Most of them grasp the concept. But for the few who don't, this is one of the times during the year that makes me want to tear my hair out, because this is when I have to deal with those kids' parents. I dread it. Talking to parents makes me nervous. I try to communicate through email or phone calls when I can. I am young, and I look even younger than I am, so parents have a tendency to write me off before I even open my mouth. I often get comments along the lines of "Excuse me young lady, do you know where Mrs. Cockrell is? Oh! You're Mrs. Cockrell? I'm sorry, you look like a student!" or "Are you sure you're old enough to be a teacher? HaHa!"

It gets old.

Last week, I had a conversation with a parent about her child's failing grade. I've met this parent in person before, but this conversation was over email. We went back and forth a few times and talked about some of the things her child could do to help her grade - basically she just needed to turn in her missing work. After I had explained this to the mom, she responded by thanking me. She thanked me for letting her know, for being willing to help, and for everything I do for my kids. And I was shocked; floored, even. I was touched that this mom would say such nice things, especially after I had broken the news that her child was failing. It was one of the nicest things a parent has ever sent me. 

It was such a simple thing for her to say: "thank you." She understood that I wasn't out to get her child. She understood that I wanted her child to succeed in my class just as much as she did. She understood that my grading was fair, and that I couldn't just raise her child's grade - that it depended on her child turning in the work. That was so refreshing, and I realized how crazy it is that I would be so shocked by this; that this is something that is so rare

When I was training to become a teacher (yes, I have a degree, a teaching license, and everything - I am a professional who is qualified to do what I do), I was taught that parents and teachers are partners; that we should work together to ensure the education of the child. I naively thought that this was true and that my students' parents and I would support each other in trying to help the students understand and complete the work required. Unfortunately, that is all too often not how the parent-teacher relationship works. In fact, more often that not, teachers are put on the chopping block by parents. We are immediately distrusted. It's sad how such a kind and thoughtful email from a parent was so unusual for me. It's sad that this isn't the norm. 

I  wish the parents of my students understood, the way this one parent did, that I truly do want their child to succeed. I wish they understood how difficult it is to keep up with 150 teenagers; how they're all doing, what assignments they're missing, what their grades are, and how I can help each of them individually. And that doesn't even cover the personal stuff. I wish the parents of my students understood that I am not - nor will I ever be "out to get" their child...ever. 

I wish the parents of my students understood that I do not "give" students their grades. Students earn them. If their child is not happy with the grade they have in my class, then that isn't something I can just magically fix. I can help them understand concepts they are struggling with and I can allow them to turn in missing or late work for partial credit, but I can't just raise their grade for nothing. Not only is that unethical, what kind of message does it send our students? You might read this and think that it's crazy and that no one would ask a teacher to do that...you'd be wrong. 

I wish the parents of my students understood that I find absolutely no joy in their child's failures. Quite the opposite, actually.

A simple "thank you" from this parent went such a long way. It shouldn't be this shocking and it shouldn't be this rare, although that did make me appreciate it all the more. 

Please try to remember that your children's teachers are overworked and underpaid for a job that takes so much out of them. We wouldn't do what we did if we didn't genuinely care about your kids. When they have a failing grade, try to be open minded about the way you handle that discussion. Don't assign us a guilty verdict before understanding the circumstances around the grade - especially if the guilt lies heavily on your child for not completing required work. We want to work with you.

Let's make parent-teacher conferences a pleasant experience for all involved. It really is one of the best ways to help ensure that students succeed. 

That parent who sent me the nice email thanking me - her child has now completed enough of her missing work to bring her grade to well above passing.

Crazy how that works out...huh?

Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween!!

I'm excited today because for the first time EVER our principal is allowing us to dress up in costumes for Halloween. A couple of my Student Council kids cornered him at a football game and pled their case. There were some caveats (no face paint or masks and everything had to follow dress code), but we got to dress up.

In celebration of this momentous occasion, I decided to share some pictures from this Halloween and Halloween's past. Enjoy!
Displaying IMG_0951.JPG
Halloween last year (2015) we were Darth Vader and a Storm Trooper.


Displaying IMG_0952.JPG
Halloween 2 years ago (2014) We were Flo from Progressive and Jake from State Farm.

Displaying FullSizeRender.jpg
This year (2016) we were a villain and a damsel in distress. Yes...that's fake TNT strapped to my waist. It's all in the details people.


I love getting the opportunity to dress up. Halloween and Spirit Week are some of the best times of the year because I get to wear ridiculous costumes. I re-used the damsel in distress one today (without the dynamite) and am a 1920's flapper, because I teach The Great Gatsby, so it's even relevant. And if you know my school, I know what you're thinking, "But Mrs. Cockrell! Shoulders are against dress code!" Don't worry, I have on a fur wrap. It's hot. I'm a little sweaty. Also, it's really hard to do anything in gloves. 

Displaying File_000.jpeg

My AP Lit kids in 4th hour had some pretty legit costumes. We have Katniss Everdeen and Violet from the Incredibles in the front, then we have a cat, Cleopatra, Daisy Buchanan (me), a nun praying over a convict, a deer, and a renaissance girl. 

Displaying 7th Hour Halloween.jpeg

My 7th hour AP Lit had a hippie, a doe (no antlers), Daisy Buchanan, a panda, a shark, Eyore, and....well I'm not sure about that last one...but I'm sure it's something quirky that I just don't get.

Displaying IMG_0957.JPG

I'm not the only teacher who gets into this stuff. My friend Mrs. Moore is Mary Poppins.


I know that the focus of school is academics and learning. I believe in that, and I try to teach my kids as much as I can while I've got them. But I also think that they are going to be more inclined to learn if we let them have a little fun. If they are proud of their school then that pride will bleed into their work. Some teachers are above this kind of thing. Some teachers don't dress up during Spirit Week because they want their students to see them as a professional and take them seriously, and I get that. Some just don't have the time to put together a costume. I get that,too. I don't judge and I don't blame them, I'm just not part of that group. For me, it's more important for these kids to see that I'm one of them. I'm part of their school. I'm not "too cool" to dress like an idiot and they shouldn't be either. I go all out because I want them to know that's OK; that sometimes you need to do things just because they're fun and for no other reason. There's plenty of bad crap in life so you have to grab at the fun things whenever you can. 

Halloween!!

I'm excited today because for the first time EVER our principal is allowing us to dress up in costumes for Halloween. A couple of my Student Council kids cornered him at a football game and pled their case. There were some caveats (no face paint or masks and everything had to follow dress code), but we got to dress up.

In celebration of this momentous occasion, I decided to share some pictures from this Halloween and Halloween's past. Enjoy!
Displaying IMG_0951.JPG
Halloween last year (2015) we were Darth Vader and a Storm Trooper.


Displaying IMG_0952.JPG
Halloween 2 years ago (2014) We were Flo from Progressive and Jake from State Farm.

Displaying FullSizeRender.jpg
This year (2016) we were a villain and a damsel in distress. Yes...that's fake TNT strapped to my waist. It's all in the details people.


I love getting the opportunity to dress up. Halloween and Spirit Week are some of the best times of the year because I get to wear ridiculous costumes. I re-used the damsel in distress one today (without the dynamite) and am a 1920's flapper, because I teach The Great Gatsby, so it's even relevant. And if you know my school, I know what you're thinking, "But Mrs. Cockrell! Shoulders are against dress code!" Don't worry, I have on a fur wrap. It's hot. I'm a little sweaty. Also, it's really hard to do anything in gloves. 

Displaying File_000.jpeg

My AP Lit kids in 4th hour had some pretty legit costumes. We have Katniss Everdeen and Violet from the Incredibles in the front, then we have a cat, Cleopatra, Daisy Buchanan (me), a nun praying over a convict, a deer, and a renaissance girl. 

Displaying 7th Hour Halloween.jpeg

My 7th hour AP Lit had a hippie, a doe (no antlers), Daisy Buchanan, a panda, a shark, Eyore, and....well I'm not sure about that last one...but I'm sure it's something quirky that I just don't get.

Displaying IMG_0957.JPG

I'm not the only teacher who gets into this stuff. My friend Mrs. Moore is Mary Poppins.


I know that the focus of school is academics and learning. I believe in that, and I try to teach my kids as much as I can while I've got them. But I also think that they are going to be more inclined to learn if we let them have a little fun. If they are proud of their school then that pride will bleed into their work. Some teachers are above this kind of thing. Some teachers don't dress up during Spirit Week because they want their students to see them as a professional and take them seriously, and I get that. Some just don't have the time to put together a costume. I get that,too. I don't judge and I don't blame them, I'm just not part of that group. For me, it's more important for these kids to see that I'm one of them. I'm part of their school. I'm not "too cool" to dress like an idiot and they shouldn't be either. I go all out because I want them to know that's OK; that sometimes you need to do things just because they're fun and for no other reason. There's plenty of bad crap in life so you have to grab at the fun things whenever you can. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Let's Get Real for a Minute...

Image result for exhaustion

I know that my posts on this blog vary in length and distribution. I try to post every month or more, but sometimes that just doesn't happen. It's been a couple of months since my last post, and in order to relieve some of my own stress and frustration I decided to explain why.

For some reason (at the moment, I can't remember why), I agreed to teach all new classes this year. One of those new classes is an AP course, which means it's college-level. I have to prepare my students for an exam in May that will determine whether or not they get college credit for this course. And while I knew it would be difficult, I had no idea how difficult. I've had 120 essays turned in just this week, and next week there will be 120 more. On top of all that, I am in charge of my school's Student Council. Student Council does homecoming. Homecoming was this weekend. It involved a parade, an assembly, a coronation before the football game, and a dance. And I am the only teacher at my school in charge of Student Council.

Needless to say, I am exhausted. Like, the kind of bone-weary exhaustion that makes you feel like the only solution is to put on some sweats and become a vegetable for a few days, only coming out of a lethargic stupor in order to eat a pint of Ben & Jerry's or sip on a glass of wine while watching some kind of trashy TV show that requires no brain power at all to understand. I can't do that, though, because I had to be out of my classroom Thursday and Friday in order to prepare for and run the homecoming festivities. Which means I'm behind on grading all those essays (i.e. I have about 200 or so that need to be graded in a timely manner so that my students can use the feedback for their next essays). I just finished one set and now I've decided to reward myself by procrastinating on the rest and writing this post instead. And I feel better already.

I am an organized person - at least when it comes to my job. And I have always prided myself on keeping up with my planning and grading. Normally, I am proud of what I do, but right now all I am is tired. 

I think transparency is important; for me it's even cathartic. So, I've decided to be transparent right now, because I am not only on the struggle bus...I'm driving it.

All aboard!

Sometimes though, that's just how it is. Sometimes I feel like I'm rocking it. Sometimes I'm the world's most awesome and put-together person. Sometimes I wake up, look at myself in the mirror, and say "You is kind. You is smart. You is important!" (That is a reference from The Help and as an English teacher I feel compelled to point out that the poor grammar is part of the allure of the reference. If you haven't read The Help, you should). But sometimes I'm doing good just to get out of bed, brush my teeth, and put on mascara. The last week or so has been full of only those "mascara and fresh breath are about all I can handle right now" kind of days. I'm not ashamed to admit it's been a uphill battle for a while. 

The worst of the battle is over and I'm finally on the downhill slope. I can see the end of the 6 foot tall pile of papers on my desk waiting for me to grade them - it's far away...but I can see it. I am done with the most stressful week of my year (Fall Homecoming). I'm starting to get my sh*t back together again and that's a good feeling, but man it sure seems like it's been a long time coming. 

Please don't read this and think that I'm whining or complaining. I'm not. This isn't a cry for help or anything like that. I'm slowly catching up on all the grading. This is all part of my job, it's just a crazy stressful part. If you want to feel bad for someone, feel bad for my husband. He gets the full brunt of the crazy (and handles it like a champ most of the time). I just wanted to take a moment, be real, and let you know that right now, I really need a nap. But I'll just write this all down instead and use it as a way to rejuvenate myself so I can grade the next set of 60 essays. 

Some days - uh...or weeks - are harder than others. Last week was one of those weeks for me. This week is already better and hopefully it'll keep getting better from here. 

So, thanks for letting me procrastinate, vent, and gear up for round 2 of AP essay grading. You guys are awesome. 

The takeaway from today is that "this, too, shall pass."

Have a great week! Happy Monday!

Let's Get Real for a Minute...

Image result for exhaustion

I know that my posts on this blog vary in length and distribution. I try to post every month or more, but sometimes that just doesn't happen. It's been a couple of months since my last post, and in order to relieve some of my own stress and frustration I decided to explain why.

For some reason (at the moment, I can't remember why), I agreed to teach all new classes this year. One of those new classes is an AP course, which means it's college-level. I have to prepare my students for an exam in May that will determine whether or not they get college credit for this course. And while I knew it would be difficult, I had no idea how difficult. I've had 120 essays turned in just this week, and next week there will be 120 more. On top of all that, I am in charge of my school's Student Council. Student Council does homecoming. Homecoming was this weekend. It involved a parade, an assembly, a coronation before the football game, and a dance. And I am the only teacher at my school in charge of Student Council.

Needless to say, I am exhausted. Like, the kind of bone-weary exhaustion that makes you feel like the only solution is to put on some sweats and become a vegetable for a few days, only coming out of a lethargic stupor in order to eat a pint of Ben & Jerry's or sip on a glass of wine while watching some kind of trashy TV show that requires no brain power at all to understand. I can't do that, though, because I had to be out of my classroom Thursday and Friday in order to prepare for and run the homecoming festivities. Which means I'm behind on grading all those essays (i.e. I have about 200 or so that need to be graded in a timely manner so that my students can use the feedback for their next essays). I just finished one set and now I've decided to reward myself by procrastinating on the rest and writing this post instead. And I feel better already.

I am an organized person - at least when it comes to my job. And I have always prided myself on keeping up with my planning and grading. Normally, I am proud of what I do, but right now all I am is tired. 

I think transparency is important; for me it's even cathartic. So, I've decided to be transparent right now, because I am not only on the struggle bus...I'm driving it.

All aboard!

Sometimes though, that's just how it is. Sometimes I feel like I'm rocking it. Sometimes I'm the world's most awesome and put-together person. Sometimes I wake up, look at myself in the mirror, and say "You is kind. You is smart. You is important!" (That is a reference from The Help and as an English teacher I feel compelled to point out that the poor grammar is part of the allure of the reference. If you haven't read The Help, you should). But sometimes I'm doing good just to get out of bed, brush my teeth, and put on mascara. The last week or so has been full of only those "mascara and fresh breath are about all I can handle right now" kind of days. I'm not ashamed to admit it's been a uphill battle for a while. 

The worst of the battle is over and I'm finally on the downhill slope. I can see the end of the 6 foot tall pile of papers on my desk waiting for me to grade them - it's far away...but I can see it. I am done with the most stressful week of my year (Fall Homecoming). I'm starting to get my sh*t back together again and that's a good feeling, but man it sure seems like it's been a long time coming. 

Please don't read this and think that I'm whining or complaining. I'm not. This isn't a cry for help or anything like that. I'm slowly catching up on all the grading. This is all part of my job, it's just a crazy stressful part. If you want to feel bad for someone, feel bad for my husband. He gets the full brunt of the crazy (and handles it like a champ most of the time). I just wanted to take a moment, be real, and let you know that right now, I really need a nap. But I'll just write this all down instead and use it as a way to rejuvenate myself so I can grade the next set of 60 essays. 

Some days - uh...or weeks - are harder than others. Last week was one of those weeks for me. This week is already better and hopefully it'll keep getting better from here. 

So, thanks for letting me procrastinate, vent, and gear up for round 2 of AP essay grading. You guys are awesome. 

The takeaway from today is that "this, too, shall pass."

Have a great week! Happy Monday!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Love Never Fails

I've noticed a trend recently that genuinely breaks my heart. It hits me when I read quotes like this one from a Baptist pastor in California in reference to the attack in Orlando, “Hey, are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today? No...I think that’s great...The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die.” This is a preacher, a man called to love and serve God and his congregation, calling for a mass killing of human beings. The Orlando attacks aren't even the most recent. It seems like there's a new story every day about someone who has been hurt out of fear and hate. We just keep hurting each other for stupid reasons: sexual orientation, religion, skin color, nationality...the list never ends. And with every new terrible event, there is a bombardment of hate speech spewed all over social media. People react out of fear, and fear causes us to behave appallingly.


"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst." 1 Timothy 1:15


Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst; me, Rachel Claire Cockrell. I am the worst sinner. I am worse than all of you. I talk about this verse a lot, but that's because I think it is so crucial for Christians to embrace.


I need Christ in my life more than anyone else. There is not a single homosexual, Muslim, alcoholic, grocery clerk, adulterer, republican, transgender person, cheater, teacher, liar, bigot, immigrant, racist, democrat, thief, prostitute, or next door neighbor who is worse than I am. I can do nothing but embrace my weaknesses because they serve only to magnify Christ's power and grace.


I am no better than anyone else. The only significant difference in me is that I have found the Savior. I am washed by the blood and covered in his grace (cue the gospel music). I am clean; not because of anything I have ever done, but because I have accepted the sacrifice that Jesus made on my behalf. My only goal should be sharing that knowledge with others. Our goal as Christians should never be to exclude, condemn, or judge those who do not have Christ in their lives. On the contrary, we should love those people. We, more than anyone else, understand how deceptive the enemy is.


When we stop comparing ourselves to everyone else in an attempt to make us feel like we are better, then think about what we, as Christians, could do for Christ! Think about how many more people would feel the love of Christ. We forget that this is what he was known for. He wasn't known for his condemnation. He was known for love.


Loving others is how the world will identify us as Christ followers, and unfortunately there are too many Christians out there who spread nothing but hate. We have to stop assuming that we know what God is thinking, that’s just arrogance and pride, and we are called to be humble. We have to stop assuming that we are here to tell everyone what they are doing wrong. I have to stop assuming that I am a better Christian or a better person than anyone else.


To the LGBT community, to the followers of other religions, to the person who feels like a failure, to the next door neighbor who feels judged, I apologize on behalf of all self-proclaimed Christians for the way we have treated you. Please do not assume that we follow a God who condemns the way that we have. God is love. Period. Jesus loves you for who you are right now. We would have you believe that he doesn't. We would have you believe that Jesus only loves you when you've changed, when you look just like we expect you to. This is a lie. Jesus loves you exactly as you are right at this moment. I am sorry at how often we forget that. We assume that we have to tell you all about how the Bible says whatever you're doing is a sin, but the truth is we should be loving you and showing you how much Jesus loves you.


I have no right to tell anyone else how to live their lives. All I can do is tell you what a difference Jesus has made in my life. All I can tell you is how much more fulfilling it is to worship and follow a Savior who sacrificed his life for me, because he desired a relationship with me that much. That is our calling as Christians, to spread the gospel and to share the love of Christ. We are to hold other Christians accountable in love (which is key...anything not done in love is useless), but we cannot judge those who do not have Christ.


Love never fails. It didn't fail 2000 years ago on a cross when a man who was far from ordinary because he was fully God and fully man decided he loved me enough to die so that I could have a relationship with him. Love succeeded when he chose to take me as I am. Love succeeded when he decided that I was worth his sacrifice, even though I am the worst of all sinners. That is our focus. We have to remember that we need Jesus’ love and sacrifice just as much as anyone else. We need to remember that Jesus loved the prostitute, the adulterer, and the tax collector exactly as they were, with no strings attached. Jesus said it himself in John chapter 13, “A new command I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” If we spew hate, fear, and judgement, then we look nothing like Christ.


Show everyone who Christ really is. He is love. He is forgiveness. He is truth. And thank goodness he separates the sinner from the sin, or I would be more condemned than anyone else. I deserve Christ’s love less than anyone, and yet I have it. How could I not share it?


So, how do we change the current culture in our country? What is the solution to the division and the hate and the ridiculousness?

Love.

We. Have. To. Love.

We have to love the way Christ loved. We assume that in order to love we have to agree. That's not true! Christ didn't agree with the adulterous ways of the Samaritan woman at the well, but he still treated her with love and respect. We will never reach the masses for Christ; we will never be able to convince anyone that there is anything worthwhile about Jesus until we learn to love the way he did.

I don't care about what the rest of the world does. But Christians, I'm calling you out. Stop spewing hate. Try for some empathy. Learn how to love. Show the world who Christ really is.

Love Never Fails

I've noticed a trend recently that genuinely breaks my heart. It hits me when I read quotes like this one from a Baptist pastor in California in reference to the attack in Orlando, “Hey, are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today? No...I think that’s great...The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die.” This is a preacher, a man called to love and serve God and his congregation, calling for a mass killing of human beings. The Orlando attacks aren't even the most recent. It seems like there's a new story every day about someone who has been hurt out of fear and hate. We just keep hurting each other for stupid reasons: sexual orientation, religion, skin color, nationality...the list never ends. And with every new terrible event, there is a bombardment of hate speech spewed all over social media. People react out of fear, and fear causes us to behave appallingly.


"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst." 1 Timothy 1:15


Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst; me, Rachel Claire Cockrell. I am the worst sinner. I am worse than all of you. I talk about this verse a lot, but that's because I think it is so crucial for Christians to embrace.


I need Christ in my life more than anyone else. There is not a single homosexual, Muslim, alcoholic, grocery clerk, adulterer, republican, transgender person, cheater, teacher, liar, bigot, immigrant, racist, democrat, thief, prostitute, or next door neighbor who is worse than I am. I can do nothing but embrace my weaknesses because they serve only to magnify Christ's power and grace.


I am no better than anyone else. The only significant difference in me is that I have found the Savior. I am washed by the blood and covered in his grace (cue the gospel music). I am clean; not because of anything I have ever done, but because I have accepted the sacrifice that Jesus made on my behalf. My only goal should be sharing that knowledge with others. Our goal as Christians should never be to exclude, condemn, or judge those who do not have Christ in their lives. On the contrary, we should love those people. We, more than anyone else, understand how deceptive the enemy is.


When we stop comparing ourselves to everyone else in an attempt to make us feel like we are better, then think about what we, as Christians, could do for Christ! Think about how many more people would feel the love of Christ. We forget that this is what he was known for. He wasn't known for his condemnation. He was known for love.


Loving others is how the world will identify us as Christ followers, and unfortunately there are too many Christians out there who spread nothing but hate. We have to stop assuming that we know what God is thinking, that’s just arrogance and pride, and we are called to be humble. We have to stop assuming that we are here to tell everyone what they are doing wrong. I have to stop assuming that I am a better Christian or a better person than anyone else.


To the LGBT community, to the followers of other religions, to the person who feels like a failure, to the next door neighbor who feels judged, I apologize on behalf of all self-proclaimed Christians for the way we have treated you. Please do not assume that we follow a God who condemns the way that we have. God is love. Period. Jesus loves you for who you are right now. We would have you believe that he doesn't. We would have you believe that Jesus only loves you when you've changed, when you look just like we expect you to. This is a lie. Jesus loves you exactly as you are right at this moment. I am sorry at how often we forget that. We assume that we have to tell you all about how the Bible says whatever you're doing is a sin, but the truth is we should be loving you and showing you how much Jesus loves you.


I have no right to tell anyone else how to live their lives. All I can do is tell you what a difference Jesus has made in my life. All I can tell you is how much more fulfilling it is to worship and follow a Savior who sacrificed his life for me, because he desired a relationship with me that much. That is our calling as Christians, to spread the gospel and to share the love of Christ. We are to hold other Christians accountable in love (which is key...anything not done in love is useless), but we cannot judge those who do not have Christ.


Love never fails. It didn't fail 2000 years ago on a cross when a man who was far from ordinary because he was fully God and fully man decided he loved me enough to die so that I could have a relationship with him. Love succeeded when he chose to take me as I am. Love succeeded when he decided that I was worth his sacrifice, even though I am the worst of all sinners. That is our focus. We have to remember that we need Jesus’ love and sacrifice just as much as anyone else. We need to remember that Jesus loved the prostitute, the adulterer, and the tax collector exactly as they were, with no strings attached. Jesus said it himself in John chapter 13, “A new command I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” If we spew hate, fear, and judgement, then we look nothing like Christ.


Show everyone who Christ really is. He is love. He is forgiveness. He is truth. And thank goodness he separates the sinner from the sin, or I would be more condemned than anyone else. I deserve Christ’s love less than anyone, and yet I have it. How could I not share it?


So, how do we change the current culture in our country? What is the solution to the division and the hate and the ridiculousness?

Love.

We. Have. To. Love.

We have to love the way Christ loved. We assume that in order to love we have to agree. That's not true! Christ didn't agree with the adulterous ways of the Samaritan woman at the well, but he still treated her with love and respect. We will never reach the masses for Christ; we will never be able to convince anyone that there is anything worthwhile about Jesus until we learn to love the way he did.

I don't care about what the rest of the world does. But Christians, I'm calling you out. Stop spewing hate. Try for some empathy. Learn how to love. Show the world who Christ really is.

Friday, August 5, 2016

My Summer Book List: Part 4


Don't miss out on the first 3 parts of this series!
This is the fourth and final installment of my summer book list series, and this will be the longest one so far since I've waited so long to add this one. I apologize in advance.

The summer ends, for me, on Monday. I'm bummed and excited all at the same time. I'm currently reading a young adult novel called Feed by M.T Anderson, recommended to me by my friend, Lauren. I think I might be able to finish it before Monday if I really get on it, but I wanted to go ahead and get this out before then, so it won't make it into the series. However, it is my 30th book of the summer, which is a goal I wasn't sure I would be able to accomplish. That comes out to about one book every other day, on average. 

I really love to read. I'm not sure if you could call fast reading a talent, but I guess I'll take it. But let's get into this...

13. The Last Star by Rick Yancey
This is the final book in The Fifth Wave trilogy. I really enjoyed the series. I still haven't watched the movie (I'm afraid that'll ruin it). This series had a pretty awesome ending that makes the reading worth it. I don't want to say too much more, because I gave you a good idea of what the series is about in part 3.

14. The Stand by Stephen King
I haven't read many Stephen King books, just two others that I can think of off the top of my head. But this one was my favorite so far. It's huge. If you aren't a reader you'll hate it because it's so long. And in typical Stephen King fashion the storyline drags out for ages. This is a post-apocalyptic America where a virus has wiped out 99% of the population. All who are left are having some crazy dreams tugging them west, either towards an old woman who could be their savior, or an evil man who could be their downfall. This is a wonderful portrayal of good vs evil. The characters are rich and well-rounded and the story will suck you in immediately. The one problem I have with Stephen King is probably the same problem most people have. He struggles with his endings. The story will drag on forever and then the ending will seem to leave a little to be desired, almost like he's never sure how to end it so he just keeps going until he can't keep going anymore. This one ended in a way that I enjoyed, but it was a little beneath what my expectations were. In spite of that, I loved it. Great book.

15 & 16. Queen of the Tearling and Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
  
The Queen of the Tearling is a trilogy and I had to read it because there is a movie coming out supposedly starring Emma Watson as the main character. The third and final book, The Fate of the Tearling doesn't come out until November and I'm about to pre-order my copy on Amazon. This series is incredible. If you love fierce, independent female leads, a little bit of science fiction, and a little bit of fantasy, then you will love Queen Kelsea and her continuously uphill struggle to save her kingdom from the evil Red Queen (who has some serious mommy issues). This novel is set in a future that looks more like the past and I promise you will fall in love with, not only the setting, but the story and the characters as well. Kelsea is strong, intelligent, and a bit stubborn. Think Katniss Everdeen if she were queen of her own country. Disclaimer: this series is labeled young adult fantasy, but there is relatively liberal usage of the F bomb and a few sexually suggestive situations. So, I'm a little more inclined just label it just plain old adult fiction. It's no 50 Shades of Grey, but I'm not sure I would want my 13 year old sister reading it just yet. It's a wonderful story, though, and I highly recommend it.


17. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
This is one of those books that you finish, put down, and have to take a second to digest. The novel focuses on 3 friends who grew up together at a kind of boarding school. They are told their whole lives how "special" they are, and they have a pretty good idea why, even if they aren't quite able to grasp it. This is a novel that shows how scary and inhumane our future has the potential to be. I wouldn't be surprised if it provided some of the inspiration behind the Unwind series by Neal Shusterman (which I will get to in a moment). Ishiguro is an incredibly talented writer. I believe everyone should read this book.

18. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
I read this book because I've never read it before, which seems like a sin for an English teacher, and because it's the 2nd most mentioned book on the AP Literature exam. Since I'm supposed to be teaching AP Lit next year, it seemed like a good idea to start reading the books most frequently used/mentioned in the exam. I love the Bronte sisters and their stories. Jane Eyre is one of my favorite novels of all time. Since almost everyone has heard of this book I'm sure I don't need to give a lot of detail on what it's about. I love good character stories, and I think this was a good character story. I hated the characters, but I also loved them, and that's a hard feat to accomplish for a writer. The love story of Catherine and Heathcliff is infamous, but I saw this book as more of a cautionary tale to certain character flaws. If you like the classics and you haven't read it already, I recommend it.

19. Unwind by Neal Shusterman
I had so many people recommend this book to me that I had to read it. It's the first in the series and I can't wait to read the rest. My sister had to read this book in her 7th grade English class. It's also labeled as young adult fiction, but the themes and ideas presented in this book are so beyond just young adults. The premise is that the second civil war in America was fought between a pro-life and pro-choice army over reproductive rights. In the end, the two sides compromised. They determined that life was sacred from the moment of conception until the child turns 13. A person has 13 years to prove their worth, to prove that they won't waste their life. From the ages of 13 to 18, a person can be "unwound." In this future Shusterman has created, all parts of the body can be transplanted to someone else. If a child is unwound, all of his organs and body parts are donated. This story focuses on 3 kids who, for varying reasons, are set to be unwound. This is a novel that will break your heart and make you think about what life really means and how ethical some decisions are. It's amazing. You should read it.

20. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
There is no better book to end my summer book list series on than another installment in my favorite story of all time, The Harry Potter series. I can't express to you how excited I was when this book was finally dropped off at my house. I devoured it in 2 hours. I know my love for all things Harry Potter probably makes me biased, but I loved it. Anyone who loves the old story needs to read this script. You do need to keep in mind that it is a script not a novel. It is intended to be acted out on stage, and that makes a difference. It's a much shorter read because of that. But the story is, in true J.K. Rowling fashion, wonderful and riveting, and our 3 favorite Gryffindors are all grown up and exactly who you would expect them to be. I don't want to give away any of the plot of this story because part of the magic is not knowing. This was the perfect way to close up my summer of reading.

Now, I know what you're thinking. She said she read 30 books and there's only 20 listed! I left out some books that I re-read, and I also counted all 7 Harry Potter books as one. 
I don't restrict my reading to only in the summer, so if you need any book recommendations or you're wondering if a book is worth reading just let me know. Shoot me a message on my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/rachelclaireunworthy/ or leave a comment on the blog. I love talking books, it's one of my favorite things. And I love sharing my favorite books with my favorite people.
So, with that I say goodbye to summer. Now it's time to start getting ready for the 150 or so 11th graders who will be blessed (or cursed....) to be in my class next year.

Keep reading!