Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rough Week

Usually I have cute and endearing stories about my kids but not today. 

This week I found out that one of my kids is being deported back to El Salvador.

This kid is amazing. He's always smiling, always respectful, and is the kind of kid I want as my own one day. 

His home-life situation is one of the best I've seen since I've been in DC. His mom and dad are very present in his life (always attend conferences and you can tell they help him at home) and he is very close with his two younger siblings (he's the best big brother ever). Apparently, his parents came here legally (I do believe his younger siblings were born in the states) but my student was born in El Salvador and is apparently not currently a citizen of the United States. 

A judge has decided to send him back to El Salvador. Alone. 

This kid has a great attitude about moving back there. His family was not below the poverty line in El Salvador and he'll live with his grandmother. After a year, the rest of his family will join him there. 

It really pains me to think that we live in a country that would send such a wonderful child back to El Salvador ALONE. His parents are citizens and they are lovely,  hard-working Americans. 

Since I've taken this job I've been made aware of some very bleak circumstances in which my children live in. Most of my students are below the poverty line. Only a handful have both parents present in their life. They've dealt with abuse, being homeless, and now I'm seeing them deal with immigration issues.

My kids deal with more pain and loss than I will probably ever know or experience myself, and that fact is a hard one to take. 

It's so easy to fall in love with my little 6th graders but the most difficult thing is sending them home every evening to instability. We give them a balanced breakfast and lunch, we help them read, we help them get organized, we give them a hug when they are having a bad day, we teach them math, science, etc. but when the clock reaches 4:10 and they're dismissed, our role ends and we have to just hope that our kids we be safe and warm at night.

It's been a rather rough week at school but not because of bad behavior or children doing poorly in their academics but because of a lot of disappointing things happening.

2 of my favorite students (including the one above) are moving, many of my colleagues are deciding not to return next year (one of whom is leaving in a week to live in Abu Dhabi), and my principal has decided not to return after having her baby. 
I know I'm lucky to be working in such a wonderful place, but this week has just got me down. It also hasn't helped that Mike has been in Orlando all week on business.

This weekend I'll be headed to our annual family trip to our river house to do some wildlife watching. I'm not going to bring any work and plan on spending my down time in the evenings visiting with my family and reading the Hunger Games. 

Thank goodness for Isla and her cuddles because this week has been a wee bit rough.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Why hello there, 2012!

Goodness gracious! It's 2012 and I am feeling SUPER old! It's true, turning 25 was a bit difficult for me to take at first (quarter of a century old! ah!) but I'm going to take this new year and new age and make it the best one ever.

I am, of course, making my usual extensive list of resolutions (exercise more, eat more whole grains and vegetables, save more money, meditate daily, drink more water, don't use plastic bags, etc.) but there are a couple that I think will really make my year more rewarding.

During our winter break I had a moment with my dad where he helped me to see that I need to quit worrying so much and just live in the moment. I'm going to take this year to just take it all in and to remember all of the ways I'm blessed. One of my resolutions (which I believe to be the most important) is to record more memories during 2012 and to recall every day all of the things I'm thankful for.

2011 was a wonderful year and I have so much to be thankful for:
my wonderful, happy, and healthy family (and the ability to talk and visit them regularly)
my loving and thoughtful boyfriend, Mike
the best dog EVER
a fabulous job at the greatest school with the greatest administrators and co-workers
the most adorable students in the world
a nice new apartment and life in DC

This year I plan on being more attentive to my blog. Over Christmas break I got several compliments on the few posts I've done, so I'd like to do more with it... keep posted.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It's hard to discipline students when they're this funny.

Since I've started teaching I've had many laugh-out-loud moments so I thought I would share a few:

-Towards the beginning of the year I introduced my science classes to my "answer ball". My "answer ball" is a koosh ball that I throw to the kids when they know an answer to my question. It gets them engaged and has been one of those "tricks" I've developed. 

I teach environmental clubs on Friday afternoons and the students in my club are some of the more adorable students in the school (these kids actually chose to be in the environmental club over board games club, ultimate frisbee club, etc... so you can imagine what kind of students they are). One of them is one of my personal favorite 6th graders who is my science whiz (the kid also calls me his "teacher mommy" and is a crazy clinger but that's a whole different story)... let's call him O. 

That afternoon after school I was spending some time with a co-worker when all of a sudden I get about 5 phone calls from the same local number. All of my kids have my cell phone number so I called it back immediately expecting some sort of emergency brewing... it was O. O had "accidentally" taken the answer ball home with him (who he has now affectionately named "Atom"). After hearing his apologies I told him that it was okay if he kept it for the weekend and that I could just get it back on Monday. His response was: "Does he have any dietary restrictions I should be aware of?"

Definitely one of my favorites.

-We have some characters in 6th grade with a variety of maturity levels. We've got a lot of students who look 18 but act 10... it's tricky and brings along some interesting conflicts within the grade.

This week we had a student walk in late to school and another female student noted out loud:
"You're late."

The late student immediately responded with:
"Your mustache is early."

Done and DONE.
Of course, comments like that are NOT okay or tolerated in my classroom or in the school but WOW...

- I share my homeroom class (GW House) with 2 other teachers, Ms. D and Mr. T. We advise those students and not only teach them our content classes but also get them ready in the mornings, afternoons, and spend lunch with them. Ms. D, Mr. T, and myself have all told the students that we are older than we actually are in hopes of getting more of their respect and less of that awkward "we're new at this but do what we say anyways" problem. With that being said, our middle school girls are at that tender age where they are noticing boys... and Mr. T... which makes for some amusing (and uncomfortable for Mr. T) moments.

This week it was Mr. T's "47th birthday" (ahem... 24th) and the kids all signed a large poster for him.
One female student wrote the following:
U did it! You made it into my heart! <3

Yes. Even with some bureaucracy issues (that I'm sure all teachers deal with), my job makes me smile every day. I'm extremely lucky.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Snow in October?!?!

I realize it's been quite a while since I've posted on my blog and I apologize for its neglect.
Things in DC have been going going going. The first quarter of the school year came to a close last Friday and our second quarter starts tomorrow. It's hard to believe that the year is already 1/4 over! I'm 1/4 of the way to my summer vacation!

Living in the city took some adjustments. I am now an absolute pro at parallel parking but I still get very stressed out on the city streets (I also lock the doors whenever someone is walking on the sidewalk when I'm at a stop sign).

I feel very safe in our apartment but the total lack of sunshine has started to get to me and I'm fairly certain I may go crazy this winter when I get to work before the sun rises and I leave work after it has set. The cold is also starting to take its toll on me. This weekend we had a nasty wintry mix that reminded me a little too much of Raleigh's crappy winter. I'm looking for an indoor hobby so if you have any ideas PLEASE let me know.

I now feel 90% comfortable getting around by myself on the metro. Thankfully, I don't have to do it very often because I'm able to drive to and from work. I tried taking the metro one day when my car was in the shop and it just took waaaaaaay too long (1 hour vs. 20 minutes... plus I have to walk over 1 mile in the cold).

I'm finding that I'm not doing the kinds of exciting things I had planned on doing when I moved up here. I thought I'd get settled here and have some sort of exciting life that was reminiscent to the girls on Sex & the City but it just turns out that I'm more of a homebody who is a little uncomfortable living in such a bustling area. I think part of it is that I'm just too exhausted to do much. I leave for work at 6:20 and get home around 5:30 every day. When I get home I make dinner, do work, and then usually pass out around 9pm. My weekends aren't much better. By the time I get home on Fridays I just want to curl up in bed and go to sleep. The rest of the weekend usually consists of work and cleaning but usually Mike and I get out at least once to do something.

Work has been going well. The adjustment to so much "new" took a while but now I can say that I'm very happy and comfortable with my job. I LOVE my boss and my co-workers. It's really refreshing to work with people who also like what they do.

I'm considering starting a new blog that's only dedicated to the teaching aspect of my life. I have so many crazy interactions and great stories that I feel like I should share them. I'd also like to share what I've learned about teaching (what strategies work for certain children, etc) and even add some lesson plans and activities. We'll see if that ever gets off the ground. It's been 2 months since I've written on this blog so the chances that another blog would be well maintained are very slim. Oh well.

I do miss Raleigh. A lot. But overall I'm happy here with my new job and with Mike. Some days I wish I could just move my school and Mike down to NC but I think this experience in DC will be good for me.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

First full week as a big girl with a big girl job? Check.

Boy, have things started to pick up pace here in DC! 

Our full staff-training started on Monday and we got straight to work. We discussed several new strategies, philosophies, and also got more accustom to our newly implemented Common Core Standards. We also spent two days with all of the other schools that we're associated with so that we could get our curriculum. 

It was a week slam full of professional development. 

I was relieved to finally get my curriculum... until I actually read it. We were given our basic standards and objectives and then we were given units for the year. These units were created this summer by contractors. The person that was hired to make the curriculum for science was charged with creating 7 courses worth of curriculums and unfortunately, she had no experience with Earth Science, let alone teaching Earth Science. In other words, we're not using this suggested curriculum. 

I was lucky enough to be able to work with my equivalent at the other school, so she and I planned out our year together. Our exams, projects, and units will all be aligned with one another. She seems really great and I feel very lucky to be working with her. 

I'm also very lucky to have such wonderful co-workers. I had more of an opportunity to get to know them this week and they are awesome. We had a staff cook-out on Wednesday at my principal's house and then Friday afternoon after our last PD day, some of us went to a bar by the school to get some food and a beer. 

As expected, things at home have been going great. Isla seems to have adjusted well to life here and Mike has been very supportive. I even think Isla now loves him more than she loves me. 

We went to Annapolis yesterday evening to see Mike's family. His grandparents were visiting from New York, so I got to meet them for the first time. Mimi and Pop-Pop are awesome :D

This coming week I have another full schedule. I'll be doing training all day from 8-4 and then two nights this evening I'll have either more PD over dinner or will be going to a school open-house. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Good Morning GW House!

Oh my goodness! This week was quite the exciting blur. 

I started new-teacher training at my school on Wednesday. There are 7 other new teachers joining the team this year and they are all wonderful people. We are from all over the country and of very different backgrounds. I've really enjoyed getting to know them and I know that it will be a blast working with them.

The school was very welcoming when we started. They gave us a lot of school supplies and started to get us all settled in. I was also very pleased to see a Keurig machine so that I can get some tea throughout the day! What a treat! 

Training this week consisted a lot of learning the operations of the school. We are an 'uncommon school' which means we use a lot of uncommon practices from Doug Lemov's book 'Teach Like a Champion'. There are a lot of specific procedures that the entire school uses. For instance, if a student has a question they raise up three fingers, if they have a comment or answer they hold up two fingers, etc. It's a very respectful environment and I think I'm going to enjoy it greatly. My favorite part of the procedure is that at the beginning and end of every class period, students stand up and greet the teacher and the teacher does the same. My homeroom is GW House (all of the homerooms are named after universities), so in the morning for their science class I'll give them the greeting:
Teacher: Good Morning GW House!
Students: Good Morning Ms. M!
Teacher: Today we'll be...

And then they'll be instructed to sit down and we will begin our lesson. 

I will be traveling from class to class (there are 4 classes I'll be teaching daily) with a cart with my things. I also have a science lab that I can reserve whenever I need it. (*The science department has a whole big family of Madagascar hissing cockroaches! I can't wait to come up with a lesson for them!) My work space (a desk and file cabinet) are located in a workroom with the other 6th and 7th grade teachers. I was blessed to have a wonderful teacher in my position before me who has left me an incredible amount of resources so my work area is FULL. As most of my family and teacher friends know, I'm also a hoarder of school supplies and teacher tools, so I'm REALLY at capacity at my work space. I will soon be taking over other parts of the school just as my predecessor did :D

The school itself is gorgeous. It's located in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of D.C. and is over 100 years old. They've really done the place up nicely and have utilized the space. It's a little confusing to get around seeing as it's actually two buildings that were built at different times just scrunched together, but I feel like I'm getting a hang of it. 

My co-workers and I explored the Columbia Heights neighborhood this week during our lunch hour. Most of them just moved to DC as well and live in Columbia Heights themselves. There is a great shopping area just about 4 blocks away from the school. There is a Target, Best Buy, Giant, 5 Guys, a great pizza place called 'Pete's' and much much more. I can't wait to explore it more! 

This weekend I haven't done much of anything. I've been getting settled in a little bit more and then Mike and I ran some errands together yesterday. I got some more plants for our front yard and got a plant for my classroom :)

We've also discovered a WONDERFUL dog park about 6 blocks away. Isla had a great time! We went down there Friday evening and met some wonderful dogs and owners. I'm so lucky to be in such a wonderful neighborhood! Our area is still diverse and feels like the city, but it's also where you can say "hello" as you walk down the street. 

This week we are starting staff training for all of the teachers at my school. The hours will be a little longer than last week- they are slowly but surely introducing us to the long hours. Thank goodness. 

On a sad note, my Godfather, Leon Craven, passed away earlier this week. He had been sick for a long time but it's still very sad to lose such a special person. I love him and his wife, Ethel, very very much and I wish I could be in Rock Hill for the service on Monday but unfortunately there is no way I can make it :(
I will definitely be thinking of him all day as I'm sitting at work. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

It's a Record-Breaking Heatwave... Let's MOVE!

After a summer of job applications, interviews, resumes.... 

I got a job.

I got an AWESOME job.

I'll be teaching 6th grade Earth Science at a charter school up in Washington DC. Those of you who know me know that this is my dream subject and age level. 6th graders are precious- old enough to do things on their own but at the same time they still want to please you. 
I couldn't be more excited!

Moving to the city will definitely be a change for me. I've only ever really lived in NC and I LOVE IT. I love how every building has central air and that the mountains and the beach are both just a couple of hours away. I love that there are plenty of college sports to follow and I love how our winters only last a couple of months. I especially love that all of my family is there. 

I decided to move up in the middle/end of July. My parents and I took their car and my car up from NC with all of my things. Thankfully, I didn't have to bring much furniture, so the cars weren't too packed. 

The day I moved in, THE HEAT INDEX WAS 121. Yes. You read that correctly. 121. 

My mom stayed in the AC in my new English Basement apartment on the Hill with the puppy while Dad and I moved things into the apartment. It was quite the feat but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. 

After we got all of my things into the new apartment Mike got home and we all went to Maryland to spend the weekend with his parents. It was a wonderful weekend full of a lot of embarrassing stories about Mike and myself. 

The week after our Maryland vacation was spent getting settled. Mike and I took trips to IKEA, Walmart, Eastern Market and Harris Teeter. I had my days to get settled and to do some experimenting the kitchen (berry cobbler, chorizo + tomato sauce, tacos, etc.) 

I also got the pleasure of going to the DMV to get my car registration and driver's license taken care of. What a joy that was... not. DC has this silly inspection program where they only have 1 inspection station for all of the vehicles in the city. The line was ~6 blocks long and I had the joy of being behind a garbage truck. Thankfully when I got towards the actual inspection station, I put on my southern charm and got things moving a little faster. 
After the inspection I had to go to the actual DMV on the other side of town to get my registration and license taken care of. Before I left, I thoroughly checked online to see if that DMV did all of the services I needed it to. After I drove all of the way there, I found out that they shut down all services except traffic school. #FAIL

I then had to go home and investigate where the other DMVs were. I finally found one and was able to drive there (the drive involved me going the wrong way on a one-way street at one point but eh... it was east of the Potomac so no big deal). After waiting for ~2 hours I FINALLY got things finished and oh let me tell you... not having to worry about parking in DC is a HUGE weight off of my shoulders. In DC, if your car is registered here, you can get a parking pass for your ward for only $15. It is GREAT! 

This week I'm having the joy of going to the police department for my background check for my job. I already had to go down there this morning to make an appointment and make my payment. I have to go back tomorrow to actually get the job done. I drove a little bit closer to the Capitol today (hooray for living in this neighborhood!) and then walked down to 3rd NE and back. It wasn't that bad of the walk except for the HEAT. I think tomorrow I'll ask the Capitol police what the penalty would be if I ran through the sprinklers on the Capitol's lawn. It was AWFULLY tempting today.