Tag Archives: teaching

High School Dances and Crop Tops

Me: “The night before Spirit Week I always get self-conscious.”

Paul: “Why? About what?”

Me: “Dressing up.  I worry other teachers will think I’m a fool and my students will think I’m lame.”

Paul looked me straight in the eye and replied, “Katie, go all out.  Haters gonna hate.”

I exploded into laughter and then resolved to do just that.  Go. All. Out.

Because Paul was right.  Haters gonna hate.  So I should be myself and look a fool and not care what others are thinking about me or whispering to their friends about their teacher who has a little too much school spirit.  I shouldn’t just wear a cute blue shirt on class color day.  No, I should wear a blue sequin top with blue pants and a blue cardigan and a blue necklace with blue shoes.  Heck, I might as well top it off with Paul’s blue hard hat.  So I went to school looking like this.IMG_3272

I didn’t care about the haters who might think I am a desperate adult longing to be young again and I didn’t care that it was my turn to lead staff devotions though I looked like Smurfette heading to the club.  Hello my name is Katie Van Dyk and I like to wear weird costumes.  I’m owning it now.

But I didn’t in high school.

It wasn’t cool to wear costumes to school when I was in high school so I never did.  Didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself.  I did, however, wear tube tops with overalls because somehow that outfit was “cool” and I would wear just about anything to fit in.

When flipping through scrapbooks from the late 90’s, I don’t see Katie Hardeman, proud individual who knows who she is and doesn’t give a rip about what others say about her.  No, I see Katie Hardeman, still figuring out what’s important to her, best friends with Stefanie Schilling who is popular and cool and therefore Katie’s model for what to wear….no matter how ridiculous:IMG_3336

Tube tops?

Crop tops?

Really, Katie?  Really?

And you roll your eyes at girls today who wear short shirts.  You were there once too.  You weren’t trying to be scandalous.  You were just trying to be stylish and fit in, so you borrowed your older sister’s tiny top. (Sorry, Heid.  How’s it feel under that bus?)

Don’t worry, Katie, you’ll learn.  You’ll learn that showing your belly button in public is only okay when wearing a bathing suit.  And you’ll learn that some fashion trends just need to be ignored.  You’ll also learn to lather on the sunblock.  Was it really necessary to get so tan?

Throughout Spirit Week last week, I was reminded how much high schoolers want to fit in and how much they worry about the haters.  They all WANT to be unique individuals but the fact that they have the same clothes and haircuts as all their friends suggests they have a long way to go before they stop caring about the crowd.

I get it.  I was there not too long ago.  If you stand out too much, people will laugh at you and the fear of mockery and rejection is multiplied by a thousand when you’re in high school.  Kids will do and say and wear ridiculous things just to be cool (see above pictures).  Paul and I witnessed this tendency as we chaperoned the Homecoming dance on Friday.

High school dancing is dramatically different from adult dancing.  The main difference, other than the volume of music being at a reasonable decimal, is that when adults get on a dance floor, they actually dance.  High schoolers jump and push and scream and wave their arms around, but they don’t do much actual dancing.  I took a video of the dance/jump-fest and showed it to my 8-year old nephew who said, “Why is everyone just jumping?  Don’t they dance?”

No, Vander, they don’t. IMG_3320

I’m convinced this jumping phenomenon is because less than 5 % of the population actually knows how to dance well.  The rest of us, and I am definitely in the 95% category,  have no clue what we’re doing with our limbs when we’re “dancing.”  This is why dance circles are created and the 5 % jump in the middle to show off their skills, while the rest of us pray to baby Jesus that none of our idiot friends shove us to the center of the circle.  My.  Worst.  Nightmare.

In high school, you compensate for your lack of dancing skills by copying everyone else.  This way so no one realizes your lack of rhythm or how little control you actually have of your hips.  So when everyone else jumps and bobs their heads and lifts their arms, you follow suit.

But then you grow up and you stop trying to look cool.

Eventually I stopped dressing like Stefanie.  In fact, after college it was comical how different we had become.  We’d go to the movies, Stefanie in high heels and me in sweatpants.  Seriously.  We had both realized who we were by that point and we dressed the part.

One of the great things about getting older is that you can finally stop trying to impress people.  You know who you are so it doesn’t matter what Joe Schmoe over there thinks of you.  This is why parents of teenagers embarrass their children so easily.  This is also why adults who enjoy dancing but are terrible at it (people like me) can jiggle like an idiot on the dance floor, having a grand ol’ time.  At Chris and Lindsay’s wedding, a stranger told Paul and I that we win for “most entertaining couple on the dance floor.”  We knew this was not exactly a compliment.  But we danced hard that night and didn’t care that small town Texas-folks had a good laugh at our expense.

There is great freedom that comes with adulthood (along with laugh lines and poor vision)- Freedom to truly be yourself and stop caring about the haters. Don’t get me wrong, I still care to some degree.  I needed a pep talk from my husband before I dressed up like a fool at work.  But I definitely care less about others’ opinions than I did 10 years ago.

While I miss my teenage metabolism and smooth skin, I most certainly do NOT miss the days when I was still figuring out who I wanted to be and what I wanted to be about.   In high school, it’s easy to let others tell you who you are and who you should be.  It’s much harder to be original and confident and different from the crowd.

The older I get, the more my identity becomes cemented.  I know who I am. I am Katie Van Dyk, lover of Jesus, wearer of costumes.  So I will hold my head up high on hippie day:IMG_3330

and I will ride a tricycle through the halls while wearing a kimono simply because it’s fun.


However, I still often forget who I am and need reminders.

I need to continually be reading the Bible and talking to God to ensure that He is the one defining me, not the people around me.  He tells me who I am and what I’m about.  Not my colleagues or my students.  Not my even my family or my friends.  Only God knows the insides of my soul and only He gets to tell me how to live.

It also helps that when I feel self-conscious, I have a husband who reminds me, “Haters gonna hate.”

Sunday Morning Confessions # 16-18

Summer officially ended last week and so too did my hiatus from writing.  It’s always tough for me to get back into the groove of writing, but confessions basically write themselves.  So here are 3 confessions from my first week of school:

16.  I fell asleep in my classroom.

This was entirely intentional and I feel no shame because that first week back is straight up exhausting.  During my prep period, I turned off the lights, curled up in my papasan chair, set my alarm for 5 minutes before the bell rang, and knocked out.   Hopefully no one came looking for me.  I was well-rested for 6th period and the kids were none the wiser. (Unless they noticed my bed-head).

I know I am not alone in my first week exhaustion.  After months of sleeping in and peeing whenever our bladders’ desire, getting back “on-stage” all day is always a rough transition.  During break on the first day, the Bible teacher was sprawled out on the couch in the teacher’s lounge.  And the kids think THEY have a hard time coming back to school…

17.  I was late on the second day of school.

We have a new principal and my goal has been to make him think I am one of those “punctual” kinds of people who is responsible and professional and never falls asleep in staff meetings.  I’ve shown up on time to all our meetings and he hasn’t noticed my coworkers winking at me and congratulating me for being a real-life adult.  But alas, day two and I made it to campus 20 minutes late, just as the bell was about to ring.

In my defense, I would have been on time if my car had started, but a dead battery left me scrambling.  Ironically, this dead battery was an answer to prayer.  I was bone tired and had prayed that God would give me energy for the day.  Nothing wakes you up quite like the thought that you won’t be able to get to work.  So, thanks for that, God.  I may have been 20 minutes late but I was WIDE awake.

18. I spent more time making this poster than I did lesson-planning.IMG_3123

We were granted huge chunks of time to work in our classrooms before the first day of school, and I should have spent that time preparing lessons.  Instead, I killed spiders, arranged a gazillion nic nacs on my desk:IMG_3146

and made my annual “ugly faces from last year” poster.  I now have an entire wall covered in ugly faces.  It. Is. Awesome.  And super distracting for the ADD kids, but whatevs.

I tell my students that I keep all these old posters so they can laugh at their older siblings, so I can remember my past students, and just in case someone becomes wildly famous, I will have an incriminating photo to share with US Weekly.  Cha ching!

Now it’s your turn: Have you taken naps in unconventional places? Have you been late to places you really shouldn’t be late to?  If you’re a teacher, did you struggle like me during your first week back? I’d love to hear any and all of your me-too confessions!

Reasons I love to teach # 11

Kids Say Weird Things

My friend Amanda teaches little ones in Canada and she sometimes writes posts like THIS ONE recording the bizarre things they say.  I’m not sure if it’s because they’re so young or because they’re so Canadian, but these kids are downright weird.  (It’s probably a combination of both.)

My students are American teenagers so they are not nearly as cute or as Canadian-weird, but lately they have been saying some pretty ridiculous things.  The following are a few comments and conversations from the semester that have made me love my job even more.

First, you need to know that the students wear uniforms so they are extra observant when it comes to what their teachers are wearing.  Here are two of my favorite student observations concerning my clothes:

A: If I wore your outfit, I would look like a homeless hobo in pajamas, but you are totally pulling it off.

Me: Thank you?

C: Why do you have so many cute clothes when you’re not even dating anyone?

Me: Excellent question.

To understand these next comments, you need to know that I am not very how you say “affectionate” and am therefore not much of a hugger.  And when I say “not a hugger,” I mean I really don’t like hugging and try to avoid it when at all possible.  (If you too have an aversion to hugging, you will LOVE THIS POST by a fellow hug-hater.)

C: We’ve been having a competition all semester to see who you will hug first.

Me: Please stop.

T: How about a grandpa?

Me: What are you talking about?

T: You said you’d hug me if my mom or dad died, but how bout if my grandpa died?

Me: Nice try.  I know he died last year.

Said after I gave a kid a high-five:

B: That’s the second time you’ve made physical contact with me.  The first time was last year when you bumped my shoulder.

Me: Please don’t keep track of that statistic.

A comment I overheard while our Cross Country team was stretching:

J: If you ever brought a gun to school, I would tell on you so hard.

A conversation I overheard in class:

D: It was not my day yesterday.

C: Why not?

D: My boomer rang broke.

Lastly, the following is a conversation I had yesterday with a kid who collapsed after our last Cross Country meet and went to the hospital because he was having serious heart issues.

Me: Hey, how’s your heart?

Kid: Good.  I’m getting 2 pacemakers put in.

Me: What?!?

Kid: Yeah, I’m having surgery next week.

Me: Are you serious? You’re having HEART surgery?

Kid: Pretty cool, right?

Me: Cool?  No.  “Cool” is definitely not the right adjective. You’re only 16!

Kid: Miss Hardeman.

Me: What?

Kid: I’m just kidding.

Who does that?!?

Gotta love these kids…


Reasons I love to teach # 10

Kids Have School Spirit

Not all kids.  And not at all schools. But one of the many joys of teaching at Valley Christian High School is the fact that so many kids do actually love their school and participate during Spirit Week.  Participation looks like wearing crazy outfits every day of the week and being loud and obnoxious and wild and crazy without any fear of judgment during the pep assemblies.  It’s so fun to see so many teenagers who aren’t “too cool” to yell for their school.  In fact, it’s the ones who refuse to join in who are looked down upon.

Don’t believe me?

I was one of the judges for the cheering competitions this year and captured some of the craziness:

Pretty intense, right?

And here’s my favorite shot of the day:

All this for the bragging rights of being the loudest class.

Somewhere along the way, we lose this kind of energy and enthusiasm.  We stop screaming at the top of our lungs, and we stifle our wild and crazy ways.  Sure, they resurface at concerts and some sporting events, but for the most part, adults are too tired or too cool or maybe too fearful of judgment to jump and yell and scream for something we believe in.

It’s a joy to be around kids who don’t care yet- who aren’t yet shackled by society’s rules to “be normal.” Sure, these kids are probably hyped up on Mountain Dew and Hot Cheetos.  And yeah, they fall into a bit of the Lord of the Flies mob mentality when they all get together.  But they are willing to dress in ridiculous outfits and lose their voices screaming at a pep rally simply because they can and because it’s fun and because no one’s judging them for their enthusiasm…yet.

One of the perks of teaching these spirited screamers is that we get to be around their crazy energy all the time.

And sometimes their ridiculousness brings out a bit of our own:

Reasons I love to teach # 9

After five years it finally happened.  A history teaching spot finally opened up and I am back in my natural element, teaching the classes that I love and loving what I teach.  No more googling grammar rules during class.  No more faking enthusiasm about poetry.  No more feeling like an idiot when I don’t know how to spell a word.  And, praise the Lord, no more weekends spent grading endless stacks of essays.

So for the first time in five years, I actually have some free time!  Like enough free time to watch 8 straight episodes of Scandal on Saturday because the show is that good and my social life is that pathetic.  

Time to watch addictive television is not the only reason I love teaching History.  I love talking about how history has shaped today’s world, and I love that my T.A. can grade all the quizzes.  I love tracing God’s hand throughout time, and I love that when students think of the state of Massachusetts, they think of Matt and Ben:

I love thinking about how people and situations have changed the entire world, and I love that one of my students thought Columbus came to America on the Mayflower.

I love telling stories of weirdos from a long time ago, and I love that a student asked me if the “framers of the Constitution” were the men who put the Constitution in a frame. (He was dead serious.)

I love proving to kids that history is not boring, and I love that one student drew this picture in her Spanish class:

Her depiction of students sitting in class yelling out the names of Greek philosophers is pretty spot on. 

However, despite all this love for teaching History, there actually are a few things I will miss about teaching English.  I will miss listening to freshmen read Romeo and Juliet and have the whole class snicker when they say, “my naked weapon is out.”

I will miss the simple lesson planning (read this/write that).

I will miss reading All Quiet on the Western Front and crying in front of the class every single time I read the end of chapter six.

I will miss getting kids excited about books and getting e-mails like this:

Happy, sad, and lost without the book? A reader was birthed in my class!

I will also miss the irony of notes like this:

For the record, I end each semester with a speech where I tell them that they are not allowed to ignore me in the halls the following year.

And though I will never ever miss grading formal essays, I will truly miss reading journals and informal writing where kids were always willing to share their hearts and so often cracked me up.  So reason # 9 that I love to teach is because…

Teenagers give great advice

Take, for instance, this advice they wrote to International students to help them fit in at Valley:

* It’s horrible if you have a bottom locker, such as I, because sometimes you will accidentally bump into a person’s butt, and that’s not good because it just makes the situation awkward.

* Instead of awkward meaning awkward, it now means awkward, unfortunate, or just not good.  Rape means someone is barely touching you or just standing too close, and being a “stalker” can mean you did something as simple as seeing someone in public or knowing their birthday or middle name.

* Fly isn’t just something birds do, “sick” doesn’t necessarily mean you have a virus, and being called a “dawg” doesn’t mean you’re being compared to an animal.  Look out for things like someone asking if you want to get stoned with them.  It doens’t mean you’re going to be pelted with rocks, but it’s best to just say no.

* One of the most well-known restaurants in the US is McDonald’s.  No.  Just…no.  You’ll thank me later.

* Nothing from the Dollar Tree is good.  Except their hair dye.  That stuff doesn’t come out.

* If you have Miss Hardeman, she will usually tell you one of her stories during class, and if she gets off track, ask her if she found twenty dollars and she will know what you mean. (I never should have told them about $ 20 dollar stories.)

* Don’t be scared if someone says they want to tweet you, skype you, or oovoo with you.  None of those are dirty.  I promise.

* Everyone speaks American here.  (oh good gosh)

* Don’t play video games.  Don’t even touch a game controller.  They suck you in and don’t let go.  They’re like cocaine except instead of making people skinny and hyper, they make people obese and incontinent. (weirdly proud that he knew this word) 

* Watching out for Raiders fans.  They’re not nice people.

* Not all parts of California are beaches and smiles.  If someone asks you to got to a place called downtown LA, don’t.

* Beware: Americans are horrible about flushing the toilet in public bathrooms.  Always flush the toilet!

* Don’t be one of those weirdoes who picks their nose then eats it.  Nobody likes those kids.  (my brothers would object)

* You should know that sometimes Canadian bands get into the top ten on the music charts.

* Don’t watch any of these vampire movies.  They’re all terrible.

* There is a boy band called One Direction that all the girls love.  They are terrible but you should know their names so you don’t start off on the wrong foot with the girls.

*Hopefully you tan easily because here in California, people get very tan.  If you don’t tan easily, like me, make pale friends.

* Don’t get angry because it takes six hours to get from California to New York.  That used to take thirty years and most of the people would die.  Now you watch an Adam Sandler movie, take a big runny dump, and you’re there.

Yes, I will truly miss reading gems like those.  I can’t imagine anyone using the phrase “runny dump” in a history assignment except maybe if they are referring to Montezuma.

The next pieces of advice come from an assignment where they had to write a letter to their pretend new baby sibling.  You will quickly see why I love my students so much:

“Be nice to people, read the bible, and listen to Mom and Dad.”  That’s my favorite piece of advice.  Well, that and the warning about Canadian bands.  That line was pure gold…
How about you?  Which piece of teenager advice did you like the best?

10 challenges teachers face the first week of school

This year marks the beginning of my 10th year as a teacher.  I’ve taught in a large public school, a tiny missionary school, and a medium-size Christian school and have found that no matter the location or school size, there are certain things about teaching will always be the same.  It will always be a truly wonderful profession, one that is fulfilling and fun and has fantastic perks like students who make us laugh every day and a 10 week summer.

But teaching is certainly not without it’s challenges, and during our first days of school last week, I couldn’t help but think about some of the annual transitions we teachers must make every September.  I realize lots of people who work “normal jobs” face these same challenges every day for 50 plus weeks, and you probably have zero sympathy for us as we recover from summer.  But I think my fellow teachers will admit that it’s always a bit of a strain on our bodies and minds as we switch gears and turn back to teacher mode.  That being said, here are a few of those challenges we faced last week.

10 challenges teachers face the first week of school

1. Waking up 

It’s not that we dread the first day of school.  We really don’t.  I mean sure, we spend the last few nights of summer having first day of school nightmares about horrific students and showing up to school without shoes or a prepared syllabus, but for the most part, we are ready and eager to start a new school year.  However, after 10 weeks of getting decent sleep, our bodies revolt against the absurdity of rising before the sun.  There is something just plain unnatural about waking to darkness.  Without any light one might even, hypothetically speaking of course, accidentally step in the pile of cat puke so conveniently left beside the bed as she staggers to the shower.  So yes, just getting started in the morning can be quite the struggle. Continue reading

Miss Kitty’s Class

A few weeks ago I was rummaging through old albums looking for a picture for “Throw Back Thursday,” when I stumbled upon a typical scene from my teen years.  There was a turtle neck involved, feathered bangs, a sports watch, and my favorite oversized t-shirt that said, “Messiah.”

What I love about this picture, other than the fact that the little Mexican girl is mad-dogging the camera and copping a feel, is that I can remember feeling truly happy and fulfilled at this moment.  Sure, my eyes are tired but that is probably because I was up in the middle of the night with one of my crazy friends who convinced me to leave the tent to go pee in the woods with her.  (You know who you are.  And you know it wasn’t pee.)

As a 14 year old, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to “do when I grow up.”  I’m pretty sure I thought I’d be dead by now because 31?  That would have sounded ancient to the teen version of Katie.  I was too busy thinking about Leo DiCaprio and how to hide my acne than to wonder about what life would be like in my 30’s.  However, now I can see that it was during those trips to Mexico that God was planting seeds and growing in me a love for working with other cultures.  I had no idea what the future had in store, but He knew exactly what He had in store for me. Continue reading

Reasons I love to teach # 8

High school teachers are goofy.

This is most likely due to the fact that we spend so much time with teenagers.  Somehow their juvenile sense of humor has rubbed off on us.  Or perhaps we all chose this profession so we’d never have to actually grow up.  Either way, it’s kinda wonderful working with people who don’t pretend to be normal or cool.  God sure knew what He was doing when He directed me to Valley Christian, a place where my colleagues would be an extra kind of wacky and weird.

In fact, just yesterday at the end of the year BBQ, I joined a table of 6 male coworkers who all began applauding when I approached.  They shook my hand and said things like, “Well done”  and “There she is” and  “Congratulations” and “You’re the # 1 seed.”  When I asked what on earth they were talking about, they explained that they had spent the last 30 minutes debating which of the female teachers would win in fights against each other. Continue reading

Reasons I Love to Teach # 7

Memorable Class Periods

Every once in awhile teachers are given a new attendance sheet like none other.  On this list are the names of kids who will make a class that will leave a lasting impression on the teacher.  This year period 6 was that class.  Before I tell you why, here are some of my other memorable class periods: Continue reading

Reasons I love to teach # 6

Freshman artwork.

Some freshmen are really talented and can draw a pretty vicious snake.

Others draw things like this:

I’ve had this picture on my phone since November and look at it almost every time I’m having a bad day.  I’m not sure if it’s the butt crack or the look of quiet desperation on his face, but something about the morbid ridiculousness of this picture never fails to make me laugh.

So, to the freshman boy who composed “Pet Island” and drew this marvelous illustration,


Thank you for giving me a glimpse into your slightly twisted imagination.

Thank you for sketching hands and feet so horribly but a bending butt with surprising accuracy.

You are one of the many reasons I love this job.


Miss Hardeman

ps- Why the red eyes?