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Wave adieu to Switzerland

The email finally arrived from Switzerland - and the answer was "thanks, but no thanks". My application "was not shortlisted at this time" or whatever that means. There's my answer to that prayer, and I'm relieved in a way. Like I mentioned in my last post, the corporate life was never where I wanted to end up in my career. And really, who believed I would actually wear heels every day?

There was a meeting tonight about the opportunity in Nepal, very informal in nature, but a few points were clarified. At the same time, many more questions were raised. The man coordinating everything for us with the organization is himself Nepali, and he has been a wonderful fount of knowledge when it comes to cultural questions and even telling me about the agency I might work with, as he helped found it many years ago. However, the internship program with this ministry is brand new, and while there are about 5 or 6 of us students interested in going with them, they don't have all the details worked out yet with placements and funding. So it's all a work in progress. We should be getting more details soon, but until then it will be a matter of "prayerful discernment", as one of my professors here is famous for saying.

Long time, no post

It's been ages since I've posted anything on here. Following my heart and my Jesus have taken me to some new places, specifically the Philadelphia area, and grad school. In four months, I'll be finishing up an MA in International Development and looking forward to a field placement somewhere overseas. Right now I have two very viable options: Switzerland and Nepal. They are with two very different organizations, one large and corporate, one small and grassroots, but both interest me and would stretch and grow my skills and abilities. If I'm completely honest with myself, I would have to admit the real appeal of each is their location. Switzerland would be a beautiful place to live for several months, especially through a winter season, but the idea of wearing power suits and heels every day makes me cringe and wonder if the paid internship would be worth the foot problems. Nepal, on the other hand, is also gorgeous, full of trekking opportunities as the position I would have would require travel through several districts and raise support for my time there. I would also get to wear whatever I wanted (within reason) and try out some comfortable saris while I'm at it. The opportunity in Nepal would be best really -it would use the experience I have as a teacher while also stretching me, both in developing skills as well as physical and emotional limits.

The issue that I'm facing with deciding on possibilities for the future is that, right now, I just don't feel talented or skilled at anything in particular. I've always loved it about myself that I'm sort of a jill-of-all-trades, knowing just enough about a lot of things, and having a wide range of interests. But now, that pride is turning into fear that without a specific skill set I will always be wondering if I'm taking the right path for me or doing what I could be doing with my life. I've been spending a lot of time praying and hashing things out with God about this issue, but so far no real answers have come to me.

So for now, we keep up the praying and seeking. That's usually the best answer anyway.

Pioneering spirit

I had lunch with my friend, Michele, the other day. While we were talking about everything under the sun, from boyfriends, to teaching, to parents and clothes, she informed me that she thinks I'm nomadic. Apparently, I move around a lot. Told my mom about this and her response was that I'm not nomadic, I have a "pioneering spirit". I've decided I like that description. It makes me smile.

So what made these two people make those statements about me? Well, it seems that pioneering spirit has struck again. I'm currently working on selling my house, my beautiful, good grief I worked hard on this place, all mine, house. I've been here for over 3 years (it will be 4 by the end of this school year). My parents have helped me make it what it is now - a comfortable, cute home. They helped me paint, carpet, install, mow grass, chop trees, repair, and maintain. Although I personally did a lot of work, I know there are some things I couldn't have done without them. I've learned a lot about the responsibility of owning a home. That's probably the greatest of what this house has given me, besides a place to call my own and rest my head. It's given me a maturity and responsibility that I don't think I would have learned otherwise. I'm very thankful for this house and the memories I've made here with friends and family, and just the blessings I've had for the last 3+ years.

But, it seems like it's time again for me to make a big decision about my living situation based on being responsible with what I have. I can't afford to stay in this house anymore. It's been tight for the last year or so, and has been slowly getting worse. And, according to the administration at school and in the county, things are about to get even more interesting. Cuts to staff and funding are being made at my school next year, class sizes are increasing, benefits being cut, extra periods to teach, unrealistic evaluation standards (pay for performance is one of the most stupid movements ever), and other fun little changes are in store for next school year.

And I've got to be honest - it's not worth it to me to keep teaching here, emotionally and financially. Yes, teachers make a difference. One of my former students dropped by a couple weeks ago. He had dropped out at 18 (still in 10th grade) and I helped him connect with a GED class at the local college, as well as meet the local Army recruiter. He came to my classroom to tell me that he passed his GED and got into the Army; he'll be leaving in January for basic training. He said he wanted to come by because he knew that out of all of his teachers, I would be the most proud of what he's accomplished. We took a picture together and he gave me a hug and promised to write. I look forward to seeing how he does from here on out. Even with that wonderful confirmation that I'm actually doing a good job (well, that and my kids got their writing test scores back and only 1 of them failed! yup... all but one passed!!) it's still time for me to take a break from teaching. Financially, it's not wise or even possible to stay where I am. Emotionally, I can't handle another year of what I'm currently dealing with, let alone what's to come for next year.

So here come the changes. First step, sell my house. Second step, find a job doing something else, even if it means I work as a secretary or in a bookstore for a while. Third step, find a new place to live. Most likely an apartment, especially one that will let me keep my cat. Fourth step, find someone who will keep my dog for a while - it wouldn't be fair to her to keep her in a little apartment.

So there's the plan. Let's see how it goes and what adventures may come the way of this pioneering spirit.

15 things

Today, for your reading pleasure, I have produced a list entitled "15 Things About Today". It will be comprised of a list of 15 things about today.

Commence.

1. No breakfast.

2. Sub in my classroom so I could write benchmark tests.

3. I wore jeans and flip-flops.

4. Bomb threat called into 911 for both high schools in the county.

5. Evacuation to football field.

6. Sub disappeared. Guess I'd better watch my class.

7. Dang... purse, or more importantly sunglasses, left in school.

8. Nearly 3 hours of whiny, hungry, hot teenagers sitting on football field.

9. No bomb. Back to classroom, sub reappears, I go back to writing benchmarks.

10. Leave early as have finished said test writing.

11. Go home, make bacon, red pepper, broccoli quiche.

12. Grade papers, eat quiche, read book.

13. Fall asleep.

14. Cat litter... bleh

15. Dinner.

So there you have it.

Thank you.

Back to school 2011

Presented in numbered list for reading convenience.

1. I'm teaching 3 different subjects this year - Honors 10th grade, regular 10th grade, and American Lit. And please don't try to tell me that honors and regular are like teaching the same thing, cuz they're not and you're dumb. Having to write 3 sets of lesson plans every week is stressing me out, but I'm hoping that soon I'll get the hang of it and things will be good.

2. Moved to the vacated classroom across the hall - there's a window so I can actually feel like I'm still part of the world during the day and not in a concrete prison cell with 32 obnoxious bunk mates.

3. After eating lunch alone (or with three very dramatic girly students) all of last year, I now have several teachers from my department who eat with me EVERY DAY. We chat, complain, and encourage. It's a wonderful break in the day.

4. I've started off the year so tough - any work written in pencil will be thrown away and not graded; I've taken up 4 phones, 3 ipods, and one handheld gaming system; thrown away countless sodas, bags of chips, and candy; written up two students, called 4 parents, emailed 3 others; pulled two kids into the hall to have a little chat about appropriate behavior. And it's only week 2.

5. The most wonderful comment was said about me the other day - a darling little girl was scared of a fly (yes, a fly) in the room and ran across the room to get away from it. While standing in front of the class, who by this time had given her their full attention, she proceeded to tell them that we wouldn't have any flies in the room if Ms. B (that's me) would keep her legs closed. Yup. She said that. When I went to the assistant principal to ask where exactly on the behavior scale that falls so I could fill in the appropriate documentation, he asked me if I slapped her, because he would have understood if I did.

6. For wondering minds, no, I didn't.

7. I already have a 10 inch stack of papers to grade, including benchmark writing tests from another teacher's class, cuz ya know... we like to share the love in the English department. Why keep all these future Faulkners and Steinbecks to ourselves when we can let someone else read them?

8. Played this for my students: Push, a slam poem. They loved it and wanted to hear it multiple times. Of course I made them write about it, cuz I'm mean like that, but they really got into it. Watch! My parents even loved it.

9. Hardly any of my work clothes fit. They're all a little on the snug side. That makes me mad. Guess I spent too much time this summer in comfy shorts and tanks to notice the change.

10. On that note, I have begun the Paleo diet, not 100%, but working up to it. Have cut nearly all grains from my diet, most sugars, and have been eating about 5x more vegetables and fruits. Already noticing a difference in sleep at night, energy during the day, and so far I haven't gotten the "back to school cold/flu" that normally hits me by now. Even my usual fall allergies haven't reared their ugly head. I've been getting up early enough to cook an actual breakfast in the morning and it's made a huge difference in how I start my day.

11. Found out my district is offering free fitness classes to teachers - ones that interest me are yoga on Mondays, and Zumba on Wednesdays. After payday I can buy a yoga mat, and am planning to start up with the new set of classes in September. Maybe I'll make new friends, see old friends, and that will help with the stress and diet.

12. If I finish this year and next at the same school, I can apply for teacher loan forgiveness, which will get rid of nearly all my student loans. So I'm determined to stick it out. I'll have turned 30, and if education has not been reformed so that the system is better by then, it will be the perfect time to see what other options I might have at that point.



That's about it for school/work stuff right now. I'm sure there will be more to come.

So... I have a kitten...

Two of the periods I taught this past year were collaborative classes, meaning there were special education students in the class and a special ed co-teacher in the room. My collab teacher, Elaine, is an older, single lady who, funnily enough, is actually a crazy cat lady. :) She has over the legal limit of cats and several dogs, and she's always rescuing more from random places. One Monday in early May, she showed up for class with a cat carrier. Over the weekend, she had been at a PetSmart when a young couple brought in a tiny kitten in a cardboard box, asking the workers there if they could take it. Apparently, it had been abandoned by its mother and they heard it crying in their garage. For some strange "liability" reasons, the PetSmart people wouldn't take the kitten, so Elaine did. So there she was on that Monday, with this tiny kitten whose eyes weren't even open, needing to bottle-feed it every couple of hours. So for about 4 weeks, she brought this kitten to school every day, hiding him in his little heat-blanket warmed carrier under my desk, taking him out to feed him every once in a while. The kids finally noticed him and, as we were reading Shakespeare at the time, decided to name him Gaius Julius Caesar (called Julius). He was a fun distraction while they were getting ready for finals, and a great incentive as the kids were told that they might hold him if they were quiet and finished their work.

One day, Elaine and I got to talking about pets and I mentioned that I like cats and had kind of been wanting one. Long story short, she offered to finish weaning him, getting his shots, having him neutered, and in general raising him for me until he was ready to come live with me.

Julius has been living with me for over a week now, and he's now nearly 9 weeks old. It's been interesting having this little orange, furry ball of claws running around my house, but we're getting along. I play with him until he's so tired naps just attack him, and he's beginning to learn that I really dislike being scratched or bitten. Today we took a little nap together on the couch, and he woke me up by licking my face, which is a very odd feeling indeed, but pretty adorable too.

I realize that this whole post is a little pathetic, but I'm ok with that. I like having a cat, and it's been fun to have him around. If typical cat life-expectancy is correct, he should be around the next 15 years or so, and I promised Elaine I'd give Julius a "forever home", so that's that. :)





So... kitten post down. Next update - school/work happenings.

Jun. 9th, 2011

Bless me, interwebs, for I have sinned. It's been 3 months since my last post. I wish I had some amazing reason for why I've not written, like I'd been on a whirlwind adventure in Corfu or something. Sadly, I've not written simply because I've not had much to write about. It's been wake up, go to work, do something boring in the evening, sleep, rinse, repeat. Except for the really fun weekend for my brother's wedding (talk about a whirlwind), that's pretty much been my life for a couple months now. Oh, and we can't forget stressing out about money, like always. Throw a crazy housemate into the works for 6 weeks and that's been my life.

So anyways... upcoming posts (keep your fingers crossed) -
- crazy housemate escapades
- new kitten
- interesting happenings with work for the next school year
- "edu-blogging" and a new fave, plus some ideas they've given me



So.... yup. That's about it. I'll leave you with this thought - "Writing well means never having to say, 'I guess you had to be there.'" - Jef Mallett

Time and regret

I mentioned a couple of issues that were brought to my mind by a survey I completed for a friend's daughters. Here are my thoughts on one of those issues:

Brace yourself - it's a little long. :)Collapse )

another month

I ended my last post by talking about the weather and how my students were all praying for a snow day. Well, they got it - 3 of them in fact, but they were really ice days, not snow. Georgia got a freak ice-storm that left up to 6 inches of ice in some places, making driving school buses suicide. Some counties lost a whole week of school. Fortunately, we only missed 3, and 2 of those count for the built-in snow days, so we'll only have to make up 1 day at the end of the year.

This semester so far, I'm facing some of my biggest challenges ever when it comes to being a teacher. I've had a student sexually harass me and had to deal with that (incident reports were filed with the campus police officer). My wheelchair-bound student uses his disability as an excuse to do nothing unless I get really witchy and take away his cell phone and don't allow his parapro to look things up for him. I even made him read out loud one day (we were reading Of Mice and Men) and he sure gave me a hard time about it. The kids had a test one day that we had been preparing for for over 2 weeks. I gave them study guides with actual test questions. We went over the questions and I made sure that everyone wrote down the answers. The test itself was all matching and multiple choice AND it was open book! I finally finished grading them the other night and about 50 or 60% of them failed. Miserably. Not because they put down wrong answers mind you, but because they didn't even answer at all. The 40 or 50% that passed didn't just pass with D's. No, they got B's and A's! My immediate worry was that people (meaning administration) would see this and think that I'm a horrible teacher who's not actually educating my students, or I'm asking too much of them. So I talked to my department chair. His response was that if kids were passing it, then I had obviously taught them the necessary information and that it was obvious who had not listened and learned, or studied. He said there was nothing wrong with my test or with me as a teacher, that it was now on the students' shoulders whether they were learning or not. That was an amazing thing to hear. Usually teachers whose students are failing are told that it's their fault and their fault alone, that everything that's wrong with education in this country is because of crappy teachers. No one ever seems to mention lazy students and parents who are not involved or don't give a crap. To be told by a "boss" that he knows I'm doing all I can was and their failure in this case does not reflect on me was very affirming, since I know I'm running myself ragged making sure I do everything I possibly can to teach my students.


Ok, that's enough teacher talk.

My brother is getting married in May, so everyone in the family is all a-twitter with wedding talk. There are showers to attend, gifts to buy, dresses to try on, hotel arrangements to make, and the list goes on. I think it's a whole lot of fun, and can't wait to spend a weekend in May celebrating with my brother and his fiancée.

A friend recently asked me if her daughters could interview me for a project they were doing about female missionaries. They sent me a page full of questions to answer, and I got to work writing my responses. There were a lot of really good questions in there that aren't your typical "what's it like being a missionary" questions. It really got me thinking about a few things, and one issue in particular that seems to keep cropping up in my head as something I'd love to really write about. Maybe I'll have to do some thinking and try writing up my thoughts on the subject.

Tomorrow, I'm back to work after a week off for mid-winter break. So I'd best get off here and enjoy the rest of my free time. :)

Quick recap and update

Christmas was lovely. My entire immediate family was present at my parents house. Christmas eve was like a big slumber party, complete with my brother playing video games until the wee hours of the morning, and some of us sleeping on mattresses on the floor. Christmas day was complete with snow that ended up sticking for a good 24 hours. Everyone here in Georgia kept calling it a "white Christmas" but I'd love to see what they would do if it was a real white Christmas like they have in the mid-west, with over a foot of snow. :)

I think there was only one, maybe 2, days of Christmas break where I was at home alone. Every other day had some sort of activity. My mom and sister and I had fun at Charming Charlie, spending over 2 hours browsing and buying fun jewelry. I went along with Nicole to help her brother and sister-in-law move into their new place, which was right next to a park by the river, so I was happy when they asked us to walk their dog because we got to explore the park. That night was New Year's, so Nicole glammed it up by wearing sequins and bringing champagne. We got to watch the New York ball drop online and toast the new year.

My birthday was a couple days ago, but while people were still off work, I came up with a bowling birthday party at the local bowling alley. The whole family was there and a couple friends, and it was great. I followed Nicole's new year's example and wore sequins, just because I'm 28 and I can. :) We all had so much fun trying to beat each other and teaching Thomas how to bowl. I even commented to my brother at one point that this was one of the best 20-something birthdays I've ever had.

School started back on Wednesday, and I was hoping things would be different, a new start, better behaving kids. But the first day felt like any day of last semester. I'm learning and realizing that part of my frustration with my students is that I expect them to mature over the year and be able to function academically and socially on a certain level, and they're either just not capable or don't know how, so I need to adjust my expectations of my kids and find ways to help them grow in those areas without becoming frustrated. There were some small victories and moments of "yay, I don't fail as a teacher!" on Thursday when they did a mini-research project in the media center. Most of them were remembering how to properly cite sources in MLA format, something I ran myself ragged teaching them last semester. So they are learning what I'm desperately trying to teach them and I should focus on that and not the more frustrating and depressing aspects of my days with them.

There are several new kids in my classes, transfers from other schools or other teachers in my building, and a couple of kids who are new in town. The most challenging new kid, teaching-wise, is a boy in a wheelchair. A couple years ago, he was shot and paralyzed from the waist down. We've had to rearrange my room to accommodate a table for him to sit at in his wheelchair, and space for him and his parapro, who helps him with a lot of different things. He's very smart, respectful, and hardworking, which is wonderful. Because of some brain damage, he doesn't have full use of his hands, but with a special tool, he's able to hold a pencil and write. His writing is chicken scratch, but is actually better than some of my other students handwriting. He asked me yesterday if I could read it, and I told him just that, which made him laugh. I talked to him quite a bit yesterday, along with his parapro, about how we would work together this semester so he still got what he needed and wasn't slacking or falling behind. It's going to be a bit of a steep learning curve for me, since I've never faced this type of challenge in my classroom before, but I'm actually excited to have a "problem" to solve, so I can grow as an educator.

It's only been 3 days, but this new semester, while still similar to last semester in matters of actual classroom issues and teaching, is different due to the simple fact that more people are taking time to chat with me. A few teachers in my department are beginning to make more of an effort to chat in the mornings or between classes, two of the front office ladies have actually gone out of their way to talk to me after I had gone out of my to talk to them, and the ladies in the media center continue to be friendly and sociable. It's funny how the simple change of having people be friendly can make a workplace so much better. I hope this trend continues throughout the semester.

The first few days back after a break are always hard to adjust to, so I've been very tired and actually went to bed around 9 last night. Hopefully soon, my internal clock with adjust to being back on a schedule. There's supposed to be a winter storm, with snow and sleet and freezing rain, coming through this weekend, all the kids are desperately praying for a snow day Monday, and the weatherman actually said we should go stock up at the grocery store today. So that's what I'm off to do. :)