by heatherkoozin

One Step Closer

This past Saturday I completed the biggest project of my undergraduate career, my senior capstone. This is a project that I have been working on for the past three months, and it is finally done. Let me tell you, it is a huge relief to be finished with this grand project. This is one of the final stepping-stones to graduation. With this project complete, graduation is closer then ever.

You may be wondering what my capstone consists of or how long it is. Basically, it is a summary of all of the classes that I have taken during my time at California Baptist University. There were a total of 13 sections that needed to be completed in my portfolio. Each section included a reflection on the class, or classes included in the section, and how they helped to prepare me for teaching. Then there were a few sections where I had to write narratives on certain projects that I did and how it has helped prepare me. The final thing I had to do was upload examples of work from each class that I took during my time here at California Baptist University.

You see, the content of what went into my portfolio was not that hard. It was just time consuming. This biggest struggle was trying to remember assignments that I completed almost four years ago and determining how they helped as I prepare to become a teacher.

Once I completed my capstone I felt a big weight lifted off my shoulders, but it was soon right back on when I sat down to figure out what needed to be done by the end of the semester. I am a list maker and after I completed my capstone, I made a list of homework that needs to be completed by April 25th, which is when all work for graduating seniors is due. As I made the list of 19 items, I began to feel a little overwhelmed but excited as I realized once I finished everything on this list I would be ready for graduation.

Here’s a fun fact about myself: being able to highlight tasks off of a to do list is my favorite thing to do. Sometimes I will even add something to my list just so I can cross it off. Since Saturday I have been able to cross a few more things off my list. I’ve recognized that each item crossed off is one step closer to graduation, and that’s exciting.

The Potters House

This past weekend I had the incredible opportunity to go on a women’s retreat with my church. I am on the women’s ministry team, and this is something we have been planning for more than a year. It was great to have it finally come into fruition; it felt like we were planning it forever. We had the opportunity to have an outside speaker come in. Usually we would have women from our church do the speaking, but a few women heard this lady speak, and we knew that we had to have her at our retreat.

The speaker, Carole, calls herself “The Pottery Lady.” As you can imagine the foundation of her messages was that we are the clay and God is the master potter. However, she took a slightly different approach to the messages then we are used to hearing. While Carole spoke, she would sit at her wheel and make pottery. She would work with the clay and use her knowledge of pottery to make comparisons to God being our master potter.

There were so many things I took away from this weekend, but let me share two big takeaways with you. First, you cannot fill a vessel that is full; we need to be emptied of ourselves and filled with Him. It is important to be completely Christ-centered, and it is impossible to be Christ-centered if we are self-centered. We are called to be like Him, so how can we be like him if we are not emptied of ourselves first? Then we are caused to ask the question, what does it look like to be like Christ? There is one thing that we can be sure of: it will not be easy. Being like Christ means that we have to take up our cross daily.

The other takeaway from the weekend is that God will never take us to a place for which He has not prepared us. The trials that God puts us through are always for a reason, and there is always a purpose. God is sovereign and His plan will prevail. When He brings us to it, He will bring us through it.  He is always faithful to complete the work that He has begun in us.

This past weekend was amazing—a time of relaxation and retreat, rejuvenating me enough to finish out the last month in the semester strong.

The Final Month

One month. There is one month left of school until graduation. It is safe to say that I am freaking out a little bit. As I sat down to reflect on the past week and write this blog, I realized I did not do anything exciting this past week. Getting ready to graduate has filled my plate with an endless to-do list before May 3rd.

The question that I constantly get is, “Are you excited to graduate?” Without fail my answer is always, “Ummm, kind of.” Don’t get me wrong; I am excited to graduate. I’m ready to be one step closer to starting my career as a teacher. However, when I think about all of the things that I need to get done between now and graduation I am slightly overwhelmed with the workload.

One thing that I always do as the final month of classes comes around is make a to-do list. I love making lists and being able to cross off a task when it has been completed. Usually my end-of-semester to-do list is a half page or less, but my current list is slightly longer than a page. How is that even possible? Looking at that to-do list is stressful, but slowly crossing off tasks is rewarding. Each task completed is a step closer to graduation, a step closer to being done.

This last week was literally packed full of homework. Every spare moment I had was used to work on homework; free time did not exist at all last week. The biggest project that I am working to complete is my capstone. Basically, I have to give an example of work from every class, and I have to write reflections on almost every class that I have taken at CBU. As you could imagine, this is not the most exciting thing to do, but it must be done in order to graduate.

Although boring, working on my capstone has given me an ample amount of time to reflect on my time here at CBU. There is a section in my capstone where I have to explain how I have been able to grow spiritually at CBU. This has probably been the most rewarding section to complete of my capstone. It has allowed me to see how blessed I have been to attend a school that encourages my spiritual growth along with my education. I have been extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to attend CBU and this was another good reminder of that fact.

Life of an RA

Spring break is officially over. and school is back in full swing. With a little more than a month left of school, there are many things to be done before deadlines hit and graduation nears. Instead of boring you with the detail of homework and studying that took place over spring break, I’ll tell a bit more of an exciting tale about the insides of residence life, the things that resident assistants do for some fun.

Being a part of residence life has made for a year full of events and such. Every month ResLife plans “family time” for the RAs. It is a time where the staff comes together to connect with the other RAs and do something together. Family time has consisted of anything from a worship night to a chili cook-off. When family time rolled around on Tuesday night, we were in for something special. Dodge ball.

Let me start by saying dodge ball is the one game I do not enjoy. You are literally signing up to get balls thrown at you. When guys are involved, the balls aren’t thrown in any sort of nice fashion. The balls are thrown hard in your direction, and, if you are fortunate enough to dodge the bal,l then you are not left with a red mark where the ball made contact with you. Needless to say, I was not necessarily looking forward to spending an hour getting balls thrown at me.

However, once the games began, I actually had a lot of fun. They mixed all of the staffs and placed us onto eight teams. Then the tournament began. Teams were paired, and then the winners of those games played each other. The final two teams played each other in the championship round. Each team had nine players, and each team was given a team name. (The names were given to us, we did not choose them.) My team was called Don’t Stop Ballieving, which came in handy when cheering on the team, even if it was a little cheesy.

The first round that my team played was a close one, but in the end we came out victorious. That meant we were onto the second round. We waited to see which team we would be up against and were a little nervous when the opposing team turned out to be pretty good. The second game we played was still tough, but we were again victorious, which meant we were onto the championship! At this point we kept saying ‘we made it to the finals and that’s a pretty great success.’ You see, the teams we were playing had some pretty good players; they knew what they were doing. In the end, once we put their star players out of the game, the Don’t Stop Ballieving was the champion.

To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to this night. Like I said before, dodge ball has never been one of my favorite things to do. Tuesday night proved to be a little more fun then I had anticipated, even if balls were being thrown in my direction the entire time. Winning, I think, had a lot to do with our enjoyment in the game.

 

When Life Was Simple

Starting my day in an elementary school classroom is one of my favorite things to do and is something I’ve been involved in for the past couple of weeks. I have acquired many stories through the hours that I have spent inside classrooms, whether it is through tutoring or just observing. One of my favorite memories came from a kindergarten classroom.

I was tutoring in this classroom and working on reading with the students. The task was to read the short story three times out loud and then write a sentence and draw a picture representing their favorite part. Once the students had finished, they were allowed to go back to their seat and do the rest of their classwork. As the hour was coming to a close, there were two students left at the table. The boy had finished the task, and the girl was almost done. I told the boy that he could go back to his seat since he had finished. He told me that he was going to wait for the girl to finish her assignment, because they were best friends. Then he said: “We just became best friends today, because the teacher sat us next to each other.”

My heart melted. How great is the simplicity of a kindergartener’s thoughts? Don’t you wish you could go back to the time when you became best friends with someone just because the teacher sat you next to each other? I know I found myself wishing that I could go back to a time where making friends was so simple, a time when my biggest worry of the day was what I was going to have for lunch. Making friends when you are older requires much more effort on your part, and then you have to decide whether or not they would be a good person to have as a friend. A 5 year old doesn’t have to worry about any of that. All they know is this is who they sit next to in class and that makes them friends.

Gone are the days of simplicity.  Life is much more complicated now than it was back then. Days are filled with classes and homework. Then there’s the whole worrying-about-what-the-future-holds aspect of life. The simple words of a kindergartener caused me to reexamine how I approach life. Not everything needs to be complicated. Sometimes the simple route is the way to go.

I encourage you to find the simple joys in life. They’re worth it.

Sing to the King

There is one thing I have learned while being in choir. When you constantly have to sing for concerts on weekends, you are bound to get tired of the constant singing and traveling. Being apart of the University Choir and Orchestra has been great, but all of these concerts have made me look forward to a break.

After this weekend, UCO will have completed nine concerts in 15 days. Granted five of those concerts happened the weekend of mini tour, but, regardless, it is a lot of concerts in a short amount of time. I was ready for a break, but these concerts reminded me why we are doing this.

At both concerts I had family and friends in attendance, which means I was able to have good conversation with people who were in the audience and to see how they were affected by the concert. Everyone I talked to loved the time of worship that night.

This reminded me that we are singing for a greater purpose. We are not just singing to show people how great we are but to show people how great our King is. Our goal is to lead the audience in a time of worship. We have the privilege of partaking in a time of worship every weekend, and for the past few weekends we had the privilege of doing it more than once.

No matter how many concerts we do, we are doing them for a greater purpose. It is a great reminder to have when life is full of concerts. Entering into a time of worship each time we are in choir is a privilege that we are given and it is a privilege we should take advantage of to the fullest.

Mini Tour 2014

This past weekend was packed with bus rides, concerts, and staying in strangers’ homes. This weekend was mini tour with the University Choir and Orchestra. What is mini tour, you ask? Mini tour is a weekend where UCO traveled to Arizona and put on a weekend of concerts. Mini tour is just a quick version of the two week tour the choir takes at the end of the school year, hence the name mini tour.

UCO left for Arizona on Friday morning, making only one lunch stop along the way for the five and a half hour drive. You may be thinking, five hours on a bus sounds awful. The ride really isn’t all that bad. Sure, sitting on a bus for hours can get uncomfortable but spending hours on a bus allows for many things to happen. I personally like to read when I am on the bus and since I finished all my homework before tour started I was able to do some reading for fun. With a heavy homework load I never get to do my own personal reading but hours on a bus allows me to finish almost finish two books. There are also movies that are played on the bus and a lot of sleeping going on, traveling is hard work.

Throughout the weekend we performed a total of five concerts: one on Friday, one of Saturday, and three on Sunday. Each concert was unique and incredible. We have the amazing opportunity to minister to a multitude of people, young and old. Some of my favorite memories come from the young members of the audience. From the little girl raising her hands to the little boy with his hands rested behind his head enjoying the concert.

At this point you are probably wondering where we stayed this entire weekend, especially since I mentioned something about strangers’ homes earlier. Well, during tour we stay in host homes. Families in the church volunteer to take in all of us. We are randomly paired off with other members of the choir and then randomly placed in a host home. We always joke that it is like we are being auctioned off. Getting placed into host homes is always slightly nerve racking because you never know who you are going to get.

During this tour I was blessed with two great homes. The first night I was with an extremely down to earth family that joked and laughed with us the entire night. The second night we ended up spending an extended amount of time with the family because our concert on Saturday was in the morning. That night my host family had planned a barbeque with four other families that allowed us to hang out with other members of UCO. Staying with host families also allows you to get to know other members of the choir better, which is always great.

Mini tour was a crazy, packed weekend. It was great getting to know people in the group better and getting away from campus for a few days.

A Broken World

As a future teacher, many of my courses require me to do observation or tutoring hours. I am required to do a mixture of both for a total of about 15 hours this semester. I have been working with sixth graders the past few weeks, tutoring them in math and language arts.

When I was told I would be working with this group, I thought I would have a difficult time. I honestly thought that these students would not want to work with a tutor and would be difficult to get them to cooperate. However, I have been blessed with students who are excited to work with me. (Although, I think they are just excited to be able to work with a college student.)

This past week we were working on how to cite sources when my heart just broke for these children. While we were working, the students began to ask questions and engage in more off-topic conversations than normal. A few of them had already made comments like, “She knows a lot since she’s in college,” or “She probably does this all the time since she is in college.” I tried to engage them by telling them learning how to cite now is important because they will have to do it all the time when they go to college. One girl told me her brother had already been accepted to colleges, but she did not want him to leave home.

The students were doing quite well at getting off-topic during this tutoring session. However, it was this next portion of conversation that was absolutely heartbreaking. The students then began asking me what college was like, how many roommates I had, if boys were allowed in ourrooms/apartments, and if boys were allowed to live with us. I told them a little about my three roommates and that boys could not live with girls, but they were allowed to visit at certain times, all while trying to get them focused back on citing sources.

Then came the question, “Do you go to a lot of parties, you know like the ones that they have on TV and in movies?”Of course, I said “No, I don’t go to parties like that.” They asked if I ever have parties at my apartment. I explained to them that I can have parties at my apartment, but they are not like the ones you see on TV.

Throughout this entire conversation thoughts were flowing through my head: “why are your parents allowing an 11-year-old to watch these shows?” Then the reality hit me. This is the world that we live in. This is the world that I will be teaching in. However, another reality hit me, a reality that is a little bit more difficult to cope with. As a teacher, I can never share my beliefs with my students. In the situation that I just recently encountered, the most I can do is tell them that I do not party like in the movies,because it’s a bad thing to do. How lame does that sound?The question I constantly ask myself is ‘how can I be a light in a place that is so dark?’

 

The most I can do is love my students and show them the love of Christ through my actions. The reality is we live in a broken world, full of broken people who just need to be loved. Although this thought is a little frightening, it is also an exciting challenge and a constant reminder that this world needs Christ and the hope that He brings.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Semester

Every year I most look forward to one event that residence life puts on: Woofest. Since freshman year it has been my favorite event to attend. I mean, who doesn’t want to get dressed up and get “wooed” by the boys of CBU? Woofest has never disappointed, and this year was no different.

This past Friday, Feb. 7th, was the date for Woofest.  This year was slightly different for me, though. As an RA (resident advisor) employed by Res Life, I helped to plan the event. I was placed on the committee, and we started planning. Everything was delegated, and each living area was in charge of taking care of something specific. The weeks that led up to Woofest were filled with creating flyers, making paper owls for advertisements and getting little things together for the big night.

Friday morning started the big preparations, preparing the gym and business building breezeway for the night. We started in the gym. Pulling out chairs, perfectly placing the center stage, perfectly placing the chairs so that everyone could see each stage well. The main stage was set up, and the entire morning was spent getting the gym perfect for the performances that would take place the rest of the night. Then we moved to the breezeway. The trees were decorated, trash cans were decorated, umbrellas were hung, tables were set. We were finally ready for the night to begin.

Woofest is an exciting time. Everyone puts on their best dress and best suit; they dress to impress. The night started in the breezeway where hot chocolate, popcorn, and s’mores were served. People packed out the breezeway taking pictures and talking to friends as the notes of a live band danced through the air.

Then it was time. Everyone funneled to the gym and got ready for the show. The boys did not disappoint. They sang, they danced, told jokes, and there was even a magic act. One of my favorite acts was when the guys of Res Life danced at the end. I loved seeing these people that have become like family let loose and have fun on that stage. It brought out a side of some of those guys that we had never seen before, and it was great. It’s extremely difficult to choose a favorite act because they were absolutely phenomenal.

Once the show was over, we quickly started taking down the gym, and soon the magic of the night was put away until next year. Like I said before, Woofest has always been my favorite event of the year at CBU, and it did not disappoint this year. Woofest was a blast! Being able to hang out with friends and enjoy the night with my staff was more then I could have ever asked for.

I’m A Big Girl Now

As a student who is graduating in May, there are a lot of unknowns and steps that need to be taken for the future. In the last few months, I have taken three big steps to moving on toward the future.

First, I turned in my graduation application. A post ago, I mentioned that I had picked up the application and filled it out.  Well, I turned that sucker in. Now all I have to do is wait for the approval, which I think is the worst part, because now all I do is worry that I will have missed a class or somehow not have enough credits to graduate. Yeah, waiting is definitely the worst part. I just want to receive that e-mail of approval!

Second, I filled out a graduate school application. You see, I am going to school to teach. To become a teacher, I have to get my teaching credential, and for that, I must apply for grad school. So, you might be wondering if graduate school is required to teach. The answer to that is no–to teach in California you must have a credential. Here’s the confusing part, to get into the credential program you must apply for grad school first and then be placed into a credential program (not a grad school program). At CBU, there are a few options for getting your credential. You can either get just your credential or you can get your credential and master’s degree at the same time. It is possible to be able to teach without a master’s degree, but it is not possible to teach without a credential, at least in California. Now I have to give out references, finish essays and sign up for interviews with the education department. It’s definitely a process that will take a little time, but starting the process is a big, daunting step that has already been taken.

Third, I signed up for my first subset for the CSET, the California Subject Examination for Teachers. What is the CSET? The CSET is one of the tests that I have to take in order to be a teacher. The CSET can be taken in three subtests. The first subtest is Language Arts and History. The second subtest is Mathematics and Science. The final subtest is Physical Education, Human Development, Visual Arts and Performing Arts. Basically, this test covers everything I have learned in my years of education. Every section has multiple choice and essay questions. I’m pretty sure the essay questions are going to be the worst part. I mean, how are you supposed to write an essay about a math question? I don’t know, but that’s why I’m gearing up for some crazy study questions.

As a graduating senior, the inevitable question is, “So, what are you doing after graduation?” Seriously, if I had a quarter for every time I heard that question, or some version of that question, I would have a lot of quarters. It is probably my least favorite question to hear. Not because I do not know what I’m going to do, but because it reminds me that I will not be at CBU much longer.

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