Thursday, November 3, 2011

That Time of Year

Its that time of year where nothing seems to go right.

I love NaNoWriMo. Its honestly what is keeping me from crawling into bed, but I just need something to give. At some point this year I have found myself in a position where I think, no, correction, I am CONVINCED that I am neither intelligent enough no qualified enough for the job that I currently have.

Nothing I ever seem to do is right. I seem to screw something up and then I go to the next thing and I screw that up to and.. just ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

Today after school I kicked my shoes off, closed the blinds to my classroom, locked the door and sat on the floor. Crying never felt so good. All day I have felt it coming on like a storm brewing and dark clouds moving in. You know it will rain. All of the telltale signs are there; wind, lightening, thunder, but you just keep waiting for the rain to start. That was me today.

A kid thanked me for giving him feedback on his paper. I welled up in tears. My boss told me what I was trying to talk about wasn't what he was interested in talking about. I welled up in tears. Someone asked me if I was doing ok. I welled up in tears.

*deep breath*

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Soccer balls and weird hats...

Somedays I feel like this is such a weird place to work.

Friday night, while many were out with friends, and family, at dinner and a movie, or date night with a new attraction, I was at a party with fifty teenagers and their families. The parents drank, we laughed, and spent time together. Student Council was hosting a welcoming party for the Peruvian students. Our president, a wonderful young lady, volunteered her home and her time in order to facilitate this event. Parents brought food and drinks, I brought our portable PA system, and by plugging in an iPod we made a party our of nothing. The students danced and laughed and stayed until the very end. They are truly one of the easiest crowds to entertain, the kind of students who give a refrigerator box to and they make it into a fort, or a space ship, or a boat. They have yet to loose that curiosity and intuition.

Saturday I was on campus at 10am to build a garden with a bunch of Middle Schoolers, because that is what we do here. We build completely organic gardens that will eventually all together break down and be a part of the Earth, the only pieces of the entire raised bed garden that is not compostable is the chicken wire we used to keep it all contained, and the posts that we used to hold up the chicken wire. What amazed me most were the Upper School students who came to help out, even though it was not their project in the first place. They truly look out for each other in multiple grades.

But that is not what is weird about this place. Monday after school, after what was truly a busy weekend,  at about fifteen minutes to the end of the day, we decide as a school to have an American vs. Peruvian soccer match. Why? I'm not sure, but the school, both middle and upper school, head out the to field, and held a match. We passed our jersey's, they warmed up and then, let the game begin. Our division director (my boss) referred the game, in a truly dedicated manner. As I watched him run up and down the side of the field in his dress shoes, khakis and School embroidered polo I was moved by how truly special this place is.

Oh wait, did I mention what was on his head. Hold on, back up. He and the year book teacher had taken the Yearbook students to In-and-Out burger for lunch as a reward for reaching a goal they had set. So as he is running up and down the field he has one hand is on his whistle, and the other hand is on his head in order to keep his In-and-Out burger hat from falling off of his head. Ok, now that you have a much better visual I can continue on.

That is what makes this school what it is and who we are and I for one am thrilled to be a part of it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Another Sunday

... and here I am at work. Tomorrow begins our accreditation and it couldn't be sooner. The last few weeks have flown by but in a more positive way than a negative one. Since my last post on stress and fear and frustration I have been able to wrap my head more around the way that things are going to be at this school, and thank god for that considering it is already the second of October, YIKES!

The student council event was wonderful! I'm really proud of the students I am working with. September was far too early to plan an event, but it came together which is good since we were unsure up until the event started of how it was going to go. Friday at lunch on the day of the event, the President walked into the room in tears because she thought it was going to be a flop.But a few strands of Christmas lights later, couches pulled in from the surrounding classrooms (did I mention that we all have a couch in our classroom?) and our Movie Night was a hit. Students showed up which is always good and we actually made a profit on the night. Our next stresses for student council is a social event hosted by us for the Peruvian Foreign Exchange students that will be with us for a fifteen days and the Haunted House. More work intensive but with more time to plan, I have faith.

My classes are going along. Every week I have a meeting with my administrator where he asks me superficial questions that I feel like I don't have the right answer to. I feel like he wants some extraordinary blow your mind enlighten your sole kind of answer to "How are classes going?". He sits and waits while I mumble about them going well, that we are moving along. Compared to things at my last school I do not know what I am supposed to say. I have actually started keeping a word document of things that happen in class so that perhaps at some point I will say something that makes it seem like I finally got the right answer.

Planning a trip to go to Greece and Italy though... now that is stressful ESPECIALLY considering the state of affairs on that side of the world. I can't even begin to explain the amount of hours that I have put in already, I don't even think I really want an exact count. At this point, finding an alternative location for the Greece part of the Greece and Italy trip is my newest priority, something else that I feel like I have to have made huge strides on for those meetings with my Director. Oh well, all and all things are doing as well as they can. I try to find time each day to relax, I try not to consume too many glasses of the addictively sweet wine in my fridge, and I try VERY hard to always put my students first, which is the one thing on that list that I truly thing I succeed at :)

Cheers to my friends, family and fellow teachers. I'm off to a pile of work!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How are you doing?

The question has been floating around to everyone. The honeymoon period is over and we are ALL feeling it, teachers, administrators, and students alike. I have been impressed by all involved, and let down by all involved. Its a very complex emotion :) I have cried, and laughed, and bitched, and really any thing that can be done to express emotion I have done sans murder, and trust me, the thought has crossed my mind.

Friday was my breaking point. I went home, took a long hot bath, and drank TWO glasses of wine, a big deal in my little light weight world. Why did I do this? Because I am not used to feeling behind. The biggest adjustment for me thus far has that there is no fluff time, not filler, no break from the constant need of my attention and my academic brain. I'm constantly working all day long, in class, during my planning period, and after school. Part of the biggest problem I'm sure I have mentioned is our accreditation that will take place in 13 days and counting if my math is correct. Friday is our first Student Council event, and everything is going together about as well as a square peg in a round hole.

So how do you counteract feeling totally behind? My initial reaction was to go into school on Sunday and get all caught up. Go lesson plan, grade papers, clean my room, get ahead. But, this hasn't been working for me. Its what I have done EVERY single Sunday since school started. So if I identify that what I'm doing isn't working, then screw it! Going in on Sunday's have made me feel more behind. I get caught up and then fail, get caught up then fail, so forget it!

Accepting that being behind is ok was magical. For my weekend instead, I spent Saturday with Thane in beautiful downtown Phoenix, I spent Sunday with myself relaxing, seeing the new Harry Potter film, and ONLY doing things for me. Monday I felt a little frantic, but it felt good to feel frantic with a reason behind it versus great I have failed again. I'm not good with failure, most teachers aren't. We take the time to pour our hearts and souls into what we do, exchanging our knowledge and passion for passive responses, and sometimes meaningful conversation. Failure is hard, but I'm going to accept it. The only way to improve is to assume that nothing is as perfect as I want it to be, accept, modify and move on :)

Cheers to my friends, family and fellow teachers. I'm off to another pile of grading!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Its been a while...

I apologize that it has been so long since I last blogged. I think about it often, being able to get my thoughts, worries, and concerns on paper, but at the end of the day, I'm exhausted and not sure I have the energy to move.

Instead of updating you on the entirety of my life up until this point, I would like to hit some major points to catch you up.

First of all, I love my job. I have never been so happy to come to work everyday. My colleagues are supportive, and kind hearted. This is not that the people I spent my time with at my last school weren't these things but as an entire group the teachers here are happy to come to work, and are not just collecting a pay check... and here is why.

Working at an Independent school, is a LOT of work. Loads. More than I could ever have imagined. A few things are contributing to this; including an accreditation process that will be underway in three weeks, Back to School Night, happening this evening, and for myself planning a trip internationally to a place I have never been.

What makes it worth it?

I have never had such a kind sweet loving group of kids. Of course I've taught those students before. Many of my favorite students were these kids, they cared about each other, they were thoughtful and inclusive, they were good people at their heart and soul. But every single student who steps through my door, is THAT kind of student. They are caring and passionate about everything they do. They are respectful to each other, their teachers, and the schools property cleaning up after themselves and taking care to make sure that what they have lasts.

Before I have to sign off I would like to say that teaching Freshmen is a whole other animal that I have not experienced. They are wild and crazy and full of wonderful energy. They make me laugh on a truly consistent basis, and have absolutely no filter what so ever. This is a truly impressive group of students and I'm not sure if I would be as happy if it weren't for them.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Post Retreat

For those of you who have never working in an Independent School you will thing we're nuts, for those of you who have, you probably think this is totally normal. Coming from a public school to independent school's has been a complete 180 degree turn around.

For starters, starting school doesn't REALLY mean starting school. Starting school REALLY means going to camp together. That is where we have returned from, in the blistering heat where Phoenix has broken more records than I would like to even think of. It was hot, it was miserable at night, and the kids had an ABSOLUTE ball!!!

Combined with get to know you activities and fun activities the who three days was jam packed with sending the message that we are a community and this is what it means to be in that community, along with we will have fun together and that's ok was an excellent combination and although WE the adults were kind of miserable, the kids made it totally worth the while.

My favorite moment, and the only one I will share to not bore everyone to tears with a play by play account was from the last night that we were at camp. We hosted a talent like show where the students were given a few hours time to prepare and then performed. It was... INCREDIBLE! Given only a few hours notice they stuck their heads together, ensured that EVERYONE was participating in one way shape or form, and they actually put on really good acts. It wasn't just a bunch of students getting up and goofing off, they learned skits and lines, they taught and choreographed dances, and they even wrote their own lyrics to songs including one that three of my freshman girls did to the tune of Rebecca Black's Friday "We're freshman, freshman, everybody wants to be freshman, everybody's looking forward to the first day of school, we're freshman freshman" you get the idea. ADORABLE! But no, that's not my favorite moment.

My favorite moment was when one of the weaker acts got up, by herself, to sing a song that was truly WAY too far outside of her vocal range. No one laughed, no one started conversations, instead they turned on their flashlights held them up in the air and cheered her on by waving them as if it was a 1980's concern with lighters in the air. I was so touched that they wanted to make her feel like a part of the group, like a member of their community, that they would support her. No where in this world have I ever met a group of students who would do something outside of their comfort zone for someone else, I was truly taken aback by it.

Anyway Monday is our opening of school ceremony, and then we will have our first day of classes. Hope all of my teacher friends are doing well at their prospective schools, and  I will see everyone on the flip side of the start of the school year!


Monday, August 15, 2011

Embarrassed About Being Appreciated?

Yes, it is true. I have had to come to the unacceptable realization that I am uncomfortable when it comes to being complimented and appreciated; and I am absolutely appalled by the realization.

What kind of place was I working in that has left me shell shocked about being appreciated? What kind of place left me lacking basic life skills like being able to say thank you when you are told that you're energy is astounding? Am I really that different here? I truly do not think so... and yet.... here I am.

Today the full faculty is back in action and everyone is equally as friendly and equally as helpful as the staff I have met thus far. In new teacher introductions I heard multiple times people say "This school is my philosophy of education embodied", "This school is my dream job", "This school will allow me to be a better educator and do better for my students" and I can't say I disagree.

A philosophy of student choice (that is actually a philosophy of student choice and not just words), a philosophy that pays credence to the fact that there are human elements to educators (people are people and their emotions are important!), it truly is my dream job just like my fellow faculty members.

I will try to sound less excited, and try to sound less obsessed with my new jobs, but for now I will be obsessed and a work-a-holic :)

Cheers to my fellow teachers and friends!!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

After Three Days of PD...

After three days of Professional Development I am both completely thrilled and completely terrified. I am in a place where I feel that everyone is so much smarter than I am. This is both a relief... and a terrifying concept. I feel like I'm back in a "fake it till I make it" mentality. Everyone has such amazingly  different strengths that I have never tapped into that I seem to find myself not saying much and instead watching and listening to what is going on around me.

People say "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" which is a crock. Its "If you don't have anything intelligent to add, don't say anything at all".

On the plus side, NOT ONCE has my time been wasted in the last three days and not ONCE have I felt than anyone has treated me like I wasn't valuable. Its a wonderful time of change and wonder at the school as a whole, there are seven new faculty members and being a part of such a large group has made my experience much better as well, including being treated to lunch two of the three days, once by the Director of my school and once by the Director of the whole school.

Such a positive experience has of course been coupled with stress dreams but... no beginning of school experience would be whole with out them :)

More to come I promise, for now its nap time in order to help my brain function in a more productive capacity vs. in a lets avoid work capacity :)

Cheers my fellow teachers and friends!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

First Day Of School

Everyone keeps asking me when I go back. Even the administrators from my old school seem genuinely interested in when I go back. "I go back the same day you do, I just don't have students for two and half a weeks". While their eyes bulge out of their heads they ask "What will you do for two and a half weeks with out students?" A genuine question that I myself have been wondering. The answer... I have no idea BUT they have yet to waste my time. My next three days are New Teacher Orientation which involves today, an entire day to work in my classroom (justified by my Directors comment of 'What's the point of having teachers in meetings if all they will think about is how much work they need to accomplish in their classrooms?'), tomorrow where I then have a Front Office Orientation, and time to work on my curriculum, and Friday where I have a Financial Orientation, Lunch with the Director of the whole School, and again, time to work on my curriculum.

Thus far they are keeping to their philosophy of education that my time is actually worth something, which I appreciate more than they know!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Stress Dreams

Well the stress dreams have already started. Last night I dreamt that I missed the first day of my upcoming three day new teacher orientation and I was fired for nonattendance. Then I found out I found out I wasn't fired but was teaching in Phoenix AND in Tucson, Tucson night classes and Phoenix during the day. It was a very exhausting dream in which I do not feel rested today because I was so busy last night :(

On a side note I visited by previous school yesterday briefly which was not enough time and the goodbyes finally started to set in. Driving back last night was bitter sweet. Come Wednesday I feel I will have a better idea of what is going on (and WHY there are three days of New Teacher Orientation). Should be good :)

Good luck to all my teacher friends!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Losing Momentum

I finally feel myself losing my momentum. After recovering from the lack of sleep the last few weeks of school I found myself REALLY motivated to do a lot of things. I was going to blog, and I was going to run, and I was going to have my curriculum planned before school next year and now... I'm finding myself falling short on a lot of things. This is something I suppose that I tend to do, one of the flaws of my personality if you will that I get really excited, over do it, and then don't know how to recoup and get down on myself in the process. Its always the same every time. I have to find my way back to schedules, routines, and remind  myself that come August 10th it will start all over again.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Professional Development Day Two

I have sat down to write this post multiple times now and failed each and every time. My brain is more fried than I expected and I'm happy to be in my home. Note to self: biggest adjustment to living at home this first month of school... NO down time what-so-ever.

But on to more important matters. Yesterday was a much more fluid day, setting our own times for meetings and deciding what those meetings entailed which was a benefit to me because it gave me a chance to wrap my brain around the amount of work that will need to be accomplished even before the start of the school year. I spent some time getting a key and a pass card -  even though my contract doesn't start until August which wowed me. I think that at some point the professionalism and the trust in my judgement as a professional will stop to shock me, however, I have not reached that point yet.

I started my day meeting with the woman whose class I am teaching next year and discussed with her what she has done in the past, and moreover was introduced to the resources at my disposal. The classroom is gorgeous with a beautiful view of the desert mountains, something I was going to miss about Tucson were the desert landscape views... now I have one to look out at from my own classroom. After meeting with her it was down time, technology meetings, lunch, and then ending the day with meeting with the 8th grade teachers. We discussed the students who will be staying, and I now feel like I already know these students. These teachers are so in-tune to their students, they have obviously taken the time to get to know their strengths and the weaknesses, and were so sad to see each and every one of them go. With only 20 students it is easy enough to discuss who we are getting in the 9th grade and how the social dynamics of that will work. And people say that small numbers don't matter...

This summer I have a lot of work to do, and what seems like not enough time to get it done and yet I'm absolutely thrilled by the challenges ahead. Woot!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Professional Development Day One

Its day one and my head is still spinning even hours after I left my new place of employment. Professional development today reminded me of what my professors in college said that education would be like, educators putting their heads together to make sense of a situation, and make decisions that are best for students. The honest feedback given to the administrator, the collaboration, and the total honesty from top down "I have to run this by admin but it sounds great to me" was refreshing (or the counter of… let me ask this question first… a nice way to say I don’t see things your way let’s talk about it). With only nine people in an entire “faculty” it creates such a manageable situation where all voices, opinions, and concerns can be heard and no one walks away upset with anyone else.

I'm thrilled, and exhausted all at the same time. The job will not be easy but I'm hoping it will be one of the best things I have done for myself in my professional experience. In general what I am going to be teaching is overwhelming, I will be asked to do more and be more involved than I am used to having to be, but the staff is great and works together in MANY aspects not because they are forced but because they want to work together. I seem to have found a job where everyone is truly gifted in their own areas of expertise. Andrew Carnegie once said that the key to effective leadership is having the courage to surround yourself with people smarter than yourself. This adage a hundred years later is so sound that I can’t help but take comfort in its existence in my little world today.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

To Raise A Child

I'm hoping that this will be the first post of many to this blog. It was suggested to me, as I enter this new phase of my teaching career, that I chronicle the year. The triumphs and the disappointments, the stress free and stressful times, and everything in between. It will be like starting over in a lot of ways, and that has to be ok. It is bittersweet to say goodbye.