Toilet for Tanzania :)

March 18, 2011

One of my team members has a great idea for a toilet in Tanzania.  He sent us the picture below.

Ah, wishful thinking!!!  I can tell you that my quad muscles are going to be ridiculously fit after 3 weeks of squatting!  hahahaha!!!

Please continue to keep us in your prayers!  I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

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For Lori :)

March 17, 2011

How many of you remember a teacher from elementary school that made learning fun?  Or maybe they made you feel welcome into their room.  You might remember a teacher who allowed you to be yourself or listened when you had a problem.  I remember a few teachers from elementary through high school who inspired me to be a good student and work hard.   Some were patient and allowed me to have extra time to learn something new.  Of course, one helped me see that music was my “thing” and that I should pursue a music career.  I remember that 10th grade is when I decided I wanted to be a teacher.  It wasn’t a career I chose later in life or decided to do because it would be easy.  I want to be that “teacher someone remembers”….in a good way of course 😉

Most of you know that this year has been challenging.  Not just for the “new” music teacher, but for many of the veteran teachers.  My dear friend Lori teaches 4th grade at my school.  She was one of the first people to welcome me and include me in things.  She is an amazing teacher – she will be the “teacher someone remembers” by many!  Twice I week I pull out a few of her students for RtI.  She values her students time and mine which is why she gives me materials for the month.  It takes time to plan for RtI and to ensure that the grouping of students is appropriate.  The students speak so highly of her and that is due to her respect for them and her LOVE for teaching.

When I hear of teachers, like Lori, feeling so discouraged and depleted, it breaks my heart.  I would hate for teachers to become so robotic that we are not allowed to give children the space they need to learn.  The requirements that are being placed on teachers and students is making it difficult to teach.  It is a shame that our future leaders are not given the same opportunities we had.  It is a shame that our future leaders are forced to learn how to TEST instead of learning.  It is a shame that amazing teachers are struggling to find the desire and LOVE to come to work everyday.

So to Lori and all the teachers like her – Thank you for your compassion and love for our future leaders!  Thank you for taking time away from your families to plan lessons, grade papers, call parents, attend evening events.  Most of all, thank you for being the wonderful person God created you 🙂  (especially LORI!)

Tanzania

March 10, 2011

As most of you know, I will be traveling to Tanzania this summer on a 3 week mission trip where our team will work on a remote medical clinic on the edge of the Serengeti. I will be part of a 14 person team led by my Pastor from Grace Lutheran Church and School in Jacksonville, Fl.  Pastor Rick has been traveling to Tanzania for 12 years so I have complete faith in him to lead us….or I’ll be finding a new church!  JUST KIDDING!!!!

While I am extremely excited to be a part of this mission trip, I am beginning to have quite a bit of anxiety.  I’m anxious about a bunch of things.  I have never been camping where it didn’t include a cabin and indoor plumbing.  I’ve never slept outside….unless you count sleeping on the trampoline in the backyard, but even then I was scared when it got dark and we usually ended up in the house before the sun came up!  We won’t have fresh drinking water at our fingertips.  We will boil the water or use a 2-day filter.  We’ll also be cooking our own food…..I don’t really like to cook as it is.  There won’t be access to internet or phone while we are on site.  I won’t know if something happens to my loved ones at home BUT that’s where faith in Christ kicks in and I know that His will be done.

While this anxiety is causing lack of sleep, I am also really excited and humbled to be a part of this team.  There are about 6 high school/college freshman on the team.  They make me smile 🙂  Instead of spending their summer at parties or visiting friends before they begin college, they will be sleeping in the Bush boiling water with me!  Why are they doing this?  Because God spoke to them and they have the courage to answer the call and be a witness to the Maasai.  Doesn’t it make you smile?!

Please pray for us.  Pray for my anxiety to be silenced.  Pray that we raise the funds we need by the 1st week of May.  Pray that God shines through us.  Pray that I don’t get eaten by wild animals 😉

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.

The Life of a Teacher

October 12, 2010

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered someone who has commented on how “easy” teaching is.  They wish they had their summers off.  You know that saying, “Those who can, do.  Those who can’t, teach”.  I hate that stupid phrase.  I would like to see how a non-educator would have survived my last few days.

Yesterday, I had back to back classes(which is common for most teachers) with little time to use the bathroom or eat lunch.  I walked into one of the ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) classrooms to teach music.  This class is composed of 1st and 2nd grade BOYS!  This is the 2nd time I’ve been in the classroom to teach and there were 2 new boys.  The classroom teacher was there along with a substitute.  2 of the boys were hitting each other, 1 would not come to his seat, and 1 was talking non-stop!  The classroom teacher removed one of the boys that was fighting and I started teaching.  I thought it would be a good idea to get the one boy to participate so I removed the crayons he was using to color.  BIG MISTAKE!  He took his chair, which was adult size, and threw it across the room.  Luckily, it was not directed at the other boys, but by my computer and a glass mirror!  Just as he knocked my water bottle off and went for my laptop, I directed him back to his seat and gave him his crayons back.  It could have been worse than it was but definitely threw things for a loop for a few minutes! 

Today, I was “loaned” to another school so the staff could attend a funeral of a 2nd grade student.  Very sad situation and I would ask you to keep the school, staff, and students of Fishweir Elementary in your prayers.  I was glad to be able to help but I would have appreciated being asked before I was told to cancel my classes for the day and go to another school.  I arrived at the school with our PE teacher.  He was on the list, I was NOT.  Ugh.  I was put in a 1st grade class with another teacher.  This was a good move!  There were a few disruptive kids in this class.  To make a long story short – after recess one boy decided to shove (again) another student because he wanted to be first.  The other teacher asked if I’d take him.  I tried to get him to the back of the line.  He wasn’t going.  Instead this little angel decided to run away from me, hit me, throw dirt on me, kick over a garbage can and piss me off. 

I would love to see a corporate person teach my classes for 1 day and then tell me teaching is easy.  I have no doubt that their job is equally as difficult.  I would just like the respect that we educators deserve.

My new favorite

September 15, 2010

Dale is a kindergarten student at my school in Florida.  I first met Dale at my lovely morning car duty during the first week of school.  I stand outside every morning with a few patrols and open car doors and greet the kids and parents.  Some of the cars drive up way too fast, play really loud music, and ignore me as I say “good morning”.  Then you have the cutie pies who wave to you in the car, jump out say good morning and give you a hug.  Dale is one of those precious ones!   His mom is really polite and greets me each morning by name.  Last week Dale gave me an envelope with a picture inside (below). 

This is me and Dale!  As my sister so kindly pointed out – he made me skinny 🙂 

This morning Dale’s mom told me that he thinks of me at night and draws me pictures!  Here is today’s artwork!

I asked him to tell me about the picture because sometimes I have a hard time deciphering what everything is.  He said “you, me, flowers, heart, and the sun”.  Then he gave me 2 huge hugs.  He is quickly becoming my new favorite!  Now if the rest of the kids would be this sweet, I’d really like it here!  Maybe tomorrow…..

Baby steps

September 8, 2010

Today was test day.  I sat in a 3rd grade classroom for 2 hours watching these kids take 2 math benchmark tests given by the county.  I watched as a girl answered almost every question wrong and I just wanted to guide her through each question but I would have been fired!  I understand these tests help show the teachers where the students are but it doesn’t help that the test doesn’t have the correct numbers and the answer letters are missing and some of the questions were cut off. I feel bad for the students who were struggling because of the mistakes on the test.  Did I mention this test came from the COUNTY that way?!  Isn’t that crazy?  Then you have the few kids who couldn’t have possibly read the questions because they were done way too fast. 

The highlight of my day was when I was leaving a sweet girl said “bye Miss D” and I turned and said “bye sweetie” (b/c I don’t have all their names down yet, especially when I see them so infrequently) and just as I turned back to go out the door a boy said “I hate her”.  Really kid?  Geez.  I walked back to his table and said “That’s fine if you hate me b/c I hate you too”  Ok, I didn’t say the last part but I may have thought it!  I said “you can’t say things like that aloud b/c that hurts my feelings”.  I don’t think he really cared which is the saddest part of all.   I left school feeling discouraged.  It’s hard starting at square one with students and staff.  I gained 9 years of respect at my old school and I guess I thought it would automatically carryover!  I know it’ll happen…baby steps.

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!