Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Let’s go on a safari!

August 10, 2011

The Serengeti was the perfect ending to a wonderful 17+days in the bush!  My pictures and videos did not capture the beauty of the safari.  It’s something that everyone should have on their bucket list!

We spent an entire day driving though a small section of the Serengeti National Park.  As we drove into the park, we saw a herd of elephants.  Absolutely amazing creatures!  It just got better from there!  We came across lions, wildebeests, giraffes, zebras, buffalo, you name it…we saw it.  After an entire day driving through the park, we made our way to the hotel.  I’m not sure what we liked most – the giraffes walking by our tent or the fact that we had a real toilet!!!!  🙂  It was a nice place to spend one night.

The next morning we headed back through the Serengeti on our way to Ngorongoro Crater.  Where a volcano once stood, there is now a beautiful crater filled with animals, water, animals!  We drove down into the crater, which was a little nerve-wracking.  Driving out of the crater was ridiculously scary.  The “road” was narrow and our van fish-tailed and I swore I was going to meet the Maker!  Luckily, we made it out and the view was gorgeous!

The roof of our vehicle popped up and it allowed us to stand.  While we were driving around the park, I was filled with such awe.  I don’t believe that the world collided with something and BANG it appeared.  It is too majestic and amazing for that.  God is one mighty fine artist!  To create each plant, rock, animal….it’s beyond our comprehension, but it makes me smile.

And poor Noah.  That ark must have been CRAZY!!!

I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking!  This is just a sample of what we saw both days!  Enjoy!!!


It was a good day.

February 6, 2011

I haven’t had a good day at work in a long time.   Some of that is probably my fault, but I’d like to blame everyone else 😉  Part of my job this year is to do RTI (Response to Intervention) with all grade levels.  I pull a few students out of the classroom to work on specific areas where they are struggling.  I have been working with 3 Kindergarten students on letter recognition, letter sounds, writing CVC words, etc… 2 of the 3 students are doing ok, 1 is absolutely lost.  She doesn’t know her alphabet, she doesn’t know sounds, basically she’s really behind.  We’ve been working for a few weeks now and it’s been kinda frustrating.  She knows how to spell CAT but doesn’t know sounds or can’t form the word “BAT”.  Friday I was working her and another student and I noticed that she was able to spell “at” words and sound them out correctly.  We moved to the “it” family and she was spelling 8 out of 10 correctly.  I was excited, giving her high-fives.  You could tell she was proud of herself and that made my day!  Her classroom teacher is awesome and has done such a great job with her.  I’d like to think I helped a little!  But it’s the moments like this that remind me why I love being a teacher.

Calgon, take me away….

August 27, 2010

I am done with my first week at my new school.  I feel like I have been on a rollercoaster.  Monday and Tuesday were full of admin duties….you would think that would be an “easy” day but you would be so wrong.  By lunch my feet were killing me and were dying to just have a few minutes to sit down.  Lunch on Monday was such a treat at 1pm 🙂  Wednesday I started “pushing in” with the 3rd grade classes.  Most of the day was fine.  One teacher had me laminating and making labels but she is so nice it’s hard to say no.   The goal is for the resource (music, pe, art, library and technology) teachers to be working with the students each morning.   Thursday I began teaching music!!!!  Yippee!!  After my morning car duty (insert a HUGE eye roll and LOUD sound of disgust), I finished helping in the cafeteria with the morning breakfast.  My first class was 4th grade.  It became quickly apparent that they are way behind.  I showed a piece of music on the screen and asked them to point to the time signature.  One kid pointed to the track numbers and when I said no, he responds, “oh yeah, that’s the date”.  Seriously?  When have seen a date printed on a picture of a CD with 6/12/22/23.   When someone finally pointed to the time signature I asked, what does it mean?  Every face went blank.  These kids do not know the basic music symbols, how to sing properly, how to read the melodic movement of notes on the staff.  This is something my Kindergartners were learning last year.  When I asked a group of 2nd and 5th graders what they learned last year in music, it was – “watched movies (which I’m sure happened once) and “watched a video of Michael Jackson”.  That might give you some perspective of where I am starting.  I’m hopeful that they are testing me right now and they do know more than they are letting on.  I asked the 5th graders to draw a quarter note, which is basic knowledge for elementary students, and they were unsuccessful.  We were able to speak a few rhythms but I felt like I was teaching 1st graders.  It didn’t help that this 5th grade is full of ATTITUDE.  They are going to drain me every other week….maybe that is the one positive of seeing students so infrequently – less gray hairs 🙂  This morning I found out that the 2nd and 5th graders take a music test in their classroom at the beginning of the year and the identical test at the end of the year.  If the students score well on this test then I get a bonus called MAP pay.  I am not for this type of bonus structure and I’ll tell you why! 

  1.  This puts an enormous amount of pressure on the students. 
  2. If they do not score as well as another school then I do not receive a bonus.  It is not taken into account that some schools see their classes every week and have more resources available.  My students should learn and retain the same information as a school who sees their classes once a week, every week and has the opportunities for music programs.
  3. Some teachers have in the past, not properly taught K, 1, 3, and 4th graders so that they learn a lot in the 2nd and 5th grade and do well on the test.  How stupid is that.
  4. I should not be evaluated and respected for how my students do on a written test.  I do not test well and have had some failures in the past due to that.  Does that mean I am a horrible teacher?  I would like to think not.  Why should my students have the extra pressure of doing well on this test so I can receive a bonus?  It’s just a ridiculous process.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t want the extra pay.  I believe teachers are overworked and underpaid.  I feel as though they should award us for our time and effort not for how well kids do on a standardized test.  While we are at it, let’s please get rid of the FCAT’s, VA SOL’s, and all the other ridiculous tests given to students to evaluate how “smart” they are and how “respected” the school is.

It’s been a long week and I am looking forward to the weekend filled with sunshine, pool, and beer 🙂

First day on the job

August 16, 2010

Where to begin….Let’s start with the roach infested room!  YUCK!  It is really quite disgusting but the super nice Head Custodian is going to take care of it.  I will be going in tomorrow with a dustbuster and cleaning everything – everyday!  It could be worse, I’m not sure how, but it could!  Note the upbeat, positive attitude here 🙂

My new school is called Oak Hill.  It’s a Title One school and received a grade of a very low ‘C’.  There are not many, if any, ESOL students (English as a second or other language) but there is a huge percentage of free and reduced lunch students.  Similar situation to ATES.  Low income families, low students, etc….

This morning we had a staff meeting and everyone introduced themselves.  It seems like a really nice staff.  Before we ate the delicious hot breakfast, we said grace.  Immediately after the “AMEN” I turned to the girl next to me and said “Are you kidding?  I couldn’t even say the word prayer without some sort of backlash!”.  She said “welcome to the south” to which I responded “I LOVE it!!”.  It was actually quite refreshing.  I think I may ask the next time we say grace if they could ask God to take away the ROACHES!

Now to the good part!  The Fine Arts Schedule.  This is where my FCPS friends will crap themselves.  I teach each class for 40 minutes every other week.  WHAT – twice a month?  I’m glad I spent 4.5 years on a college education to not teach music.  Argh.  On every other Wednesday the students dismiss early.  On those early Wednesdays, I basically tutor kids in the classroom.  On the Wednesdays that are full day, I rotate to different classrooms for 1 hour so the teachers can have a planning time with each other and the principal.  Again, WHAT?  Apparently this is one of the reasons I was hired.  The principal was impressed with the Intersession classes and such that I taught.  I knew that would some day come back and bite me in the arse!  haha!  While I am disappointed that music is not respected, I am excited to “push into” the classroom.  From the sounds of it, they need all the help they can get. 

I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out how to set up my room.  I am a little ticked that I gave Essel a lot of my stuff!  This place is not like ATES but then again, no place can equal ATES.  This will be a challenge.  I know there will be times that I will sit in my room and cry.  I know there will be times that these students will impress me and give me joy.  I’m excited for this new adventure!

Life in sunny FL

August 12, 2010

I have been in Florida for about 1 month and thought it was time to update my blog.  Especially for those select few who check my blog often and then yell at me to write something 🙂  I wish I could tell you that I absolutely love it down here but that would be a lie and my parents taught me to tell the truth!  There are many things I do like; the quiet neighborhood, the beach, the sun, my sister.  Then there are the things I don’t like; no job, no friends, the insane weight gain(my clients who be so disappointed!), the vacant condo in VA….the list goes on but I’m trying to be positive!

After about a week or so of feeling sorry for myself, a good friend sent me a text to read a blog from Runners World.  Kristin Armstrong writes beautifully about running, life, kids, friendship.  She always has something excellent to write and is usually centered around God (but not in a preachy way!).  This entry was about transitions and the 10 steps to take.  It was actually quite perfect.  I won’t write all the steps, I encourage you to read her entry (click the word entry above) for yourself. 

I would like to share the step that hit me the most – “2. Part two of step one: Begin anything with what, people? Gratitude. Find at least three things to be thankful for, right at this moment. Gratitude will always pull your gaze higher and beyond yourself–this is essential for maintaining perspective.”  How often do we find ourselves wallowing in self-pity and complaining about everything that is so horribly wrong with our pathetic life?!  Geez, I really hope that you all feel that way and it’s not just me!  haha!  I decided to wake up each morning and talk about things that I am grateful for.  Does this mean that I am a jolly little Christmas elf everyday?  Absolutely not!  I still have my moments of “my life sucks and I wish I was in VA” but I’m happy to report that those days are getting easier to handle and happen a lot less. 

As you wake up each morning, list the things you are grateful for in that moment and keep that with you all day!  Love to you all!

Just when I thought I had enough…

April 13, 2010

Monday was our final day of Intersession for at least the near future.  Due to budget cuts, the modified FCPS schools will go back to the traditional calendar.  I decided I wanted to teach my drumming class to both the AM and PM class.  I usually teach 2 different classes b/c I can’t stand the repetition, but I love this class and this is the final opportunity.  My AM class is a group that Essel and I started a year ago for our Teacher Research project.  Our goal is to help students learn how to be respectful, show discipline and work as a unit through drumming.  I was feeling really good about the group and the kids until I heard that one girl lost her patrol belt b/c she’s turning into a bossy, rude person.  Another boy is calling kids names that I won’t type.  Then you have boy, who wont’ be named, who apparently hasn’t learned a thing.  So, I decided that I wanted to talk to them a little more about self-control and what our words really do to people.  I found this great video of Benajmin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, who is talking about classical music.  The last minute or two he tells a story about a brother and sister heading to Auschwitz and the last thing the girl says to her brother.  I was impressed and overwhelmed by the emotions and comments the students made.  They were so mature and respectful that it made me cry.  Luckily I got it together quickly!!!  I honestly thought these kids were not grasping the point of our time together and couldn’t be bothered.  Boy was I wrong. 

This video opened a great discussion for us and I wanted to share it with you.  The whole video is great from a music view and he’s funny but if you don’t want to watch the whole 20 mins, fast forward to the last 2.

Got Talent?

February 11, 2010

I recived a few emails from a 19 year old girl serving in Iraq.  To protect her identity, I’m going to call her Lucy.  Lucy is a paralegal and joined the army out of high school.  Lucy and my sister met over the summer when my sister was interning with the JAG program in GA.  Lucy deployed to Iraq in October and has been having a difficult time.  I don’t think that is hard for us civilians to understand. 

Yesterday Lucy sent me an email about her passion for soccer.  She has had the opportunity to play with guards from Uganda.  She finds such joy in the sport and I’m sure it’s a time spent that takes her away from war.   As I read her words I couldn’t help but think she was reading my heart.  I love helping others.   I love the look on their face when a complete stranger helps them.   I love knowing that I am part of something bigger than myself.  Lucy loves soccer and would like nothing more than to use that talent to help others.  

What bothered me about her email was the part where someone told her that her talent will never materialize because she did not go to college.  He said that talent was not enough, you need to be educated.  God has nothing to do with talents.   Her opinion is not worth anything and she has not acheived anything in life.  SERIOUSLY?  You all know that I value education and I believe that doors are opened and lives are changed through education.  But I do not believe someone without a college degree is “stupid”.  I find it incredibly heart-breaking that someone would tear someone down b/c they do not have college education.  I think someone joining the military out of high school and being shipped off to war is incredibly brave. 

So my question to you – what is your talent?  Do you believe that it is a God-given talent?  I assume you would have to believe in God first!   Here’s an excerpt from one of Lucy’s emails and I think it will give you a little more insight. 

One of the lawyers here asked me to read a book. I started reading it and the book was basically saying that there is no such thing as a “God-given” talent. That great performers and great people have had to input at least 10,000 hrs of “DIRECT PRACTICE” in order to achieve greatness.

It states that God has nothing to do with our future and how we turn out to be because “TALENT” and “GREATNESS” can be achieved by constant “DIRECT PRACTICE” of 10,000 hrs or more.
I told the lawyer that I do not agree with what the book is saying, and that I haven’t fully read it, but so far, I believe in God and that some people do in fact receive “God-given Talent.”

He tries to persuade me to believe the book because the theory was “PROVEN” by surveys and statistics received from thousands of GREAT PEOPLE! So I asked him, “What defines “GREATNESS”? And he proceeded with this example; a child who was raised in a household with parents who loves to read will in fact love reading and will sit and read to please his parents, and that that love for reading will cause that child to be successful in their studies and have a bright future. I replied by saying. Not true. That child could in fact be pretending to read just to please his parents, and further inquired what defines ones’ “GREATNESS”?

Here’s the thing.  I believe that my talents are from God.  I also believe that I have to work at my talents.  I read a book by Carol Dweck last year called “Mindset” and she talks about Michael Jordan’s gift and how he worked incredibly hard to become what he is.  He didn’t come out of womb draining 3 pointers!  I can understand where the practicing of your talent increases it.  I get that.  What I don’t believe in is that you do it alone.  I honestly don’t think I would be who I am if God wasn’t by my side every step.  I am comforted by the fact that God is there every step and whatever choice I make, he loves me unconditionally. 

I am inspired by Lucy.  Her life is not easy and I know she’s depressed.  She has chosen to take a Christian attitude and pray for this man.  She wants to use her talent and see how she can help Uganda.  What an amazing 19 year old. 

So again, I ask…what is your talent?  How are you going to use that talent?


January 27, 2010

I have the worlds greatest friends.  People who are always there for me.  Show me support in ways that I didn’t know existed.  Make me laugh and toss me a tissue when I cry!  I don’t know what I did for God place these people in my life but I am not going to question. 

I want to talk about one friend in particular.  This friend covers my classes when I need to take a break.  She brings me lunch.  Shops till we drop or find the greatest deals!  She never questions my decisions and supports me in every move I make.  She shares my love for mission work and the desire to change the world one stamp at a time  🙂  Not many people would take up a huge task without reaping any benefits.  She is the most gracious and humble person I know.   I am honored to be her friend and know whatever paths we choose, we will be friends forever (and yes I know that sounds cheesy!).

 I wish and pray that you are as blessed as I am in friendship!  Love to you all!!


January 20, 2010

My sister said I need to update my blog, so here it goes….

October 2009 a friend and I decided we wanted to do something to help educate children in Africa.  We both love to make greeting cards using rubber stamps and ribbon (that would be Essel 🙂 )  and thought this might be a good place to start.  We designed everyday greeting cards and holiday cards and made an astonishing $550 for the scholarships!  Definitely not what I thought we would do.  I assumed we would make $100 – $200. 

Our goal is to create scholarships for children in Africa to attend school.  I have been to Africa 3 times and it bothers me that children are not in school.  There are many reasons why some children are out of school but the main one is money.  To be honest that infuriates me.  I don’t like the fact that kids can’t afford to attend school and I want to do something to change that.  I truly believe that education is the only way to better yourself and these kids deserve a chance.  I have connections in a beautiful village in S. Africa so our journey begins there. 

We are working on paperwork to become “legit”.  It is a very, very expensive and laboring process but it’s one that we are wiling and eager to take on. 

If you would like to help, here are some options:

1.  Purchase some cards through the Cards 4 Kids program by clicking the link below

2.  Fill out our paperwork for the IRS!!  haha…serioulsy though, we’ll take the help.

3.  Donate money to the cause either purchasing cards or towards the start-up.

4.  Purchase supplies through Stampin’ Up  – this is the company we buy our supplies – you can do so through Essel.

5.  Pass this along to your friends, family, co-workers, metro riders!!!  We need your help to spread the word! 

6. Pray for the success of our journey and that God will bless our every move so we can help children become successful.  After all, the children are OUR future. 

I will try to update my blog weekly or when I something important to share!

Merry Christmas!

December 20, 2009

I made so many holiday cards this year that I was too tired to make some for myself!  I decided to send you all my holiday greeting in my blog…it seems appropriate for 2009!  This year has been a blessing to me in so many ways and I anxiously await for what 2010 will bring.  I hope you and yours have a very blessed, safe Christmas and New Year. 

 At this time of gift and giving, take a moment ot recall a baby in a manager – Heaven’s greatest gift to all! 

Merry Christmas!!