Monday, March 24, 2008

Update on the cool basketball thingie...

I didn't even get to watch the ONE game. My dad informed me that in that game, which I had no idea was going on, Georgetown DESTROYED the Retrievers!! The BULLDOGS destroyed us! I knew we should have changed to a tougher mascot!

My dad tried to console me by telling me that they always pit the rookie teams in the tournament against the top teams. For another example, he says, Carolina ANNIHALATED St. Mary's, another Maryland college. I think he only used this example to rub it in that his team is still in the running. And probably going to win.

Well, it was fun while it lasted. But in the end, we ARE still the Harvard of Nigeria!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Go Retrievers!

Wow! Who even knew my alma mater HAD a basketball team???

Here's the scoop. I went to UMBC, or the University of Maryland Baltimore County, a smaller honor's university version of the big U of Maryland. It is tucked away in a hillside of Baltimore and it is filled to the brim with academic overachievers and Chinese students (official statistics say the nationality is nearly the majority on campus). It has one of the best undergraduate programs for cultural anthropology in the country. And one more bit of trivia: our overwhelmingly large Nigerian student population has informed me that UMBC is like Harvard in Nigeria!

I absolutely loved my time here but still cringe a little when people ask me where I went to school because I can't just say "UMBC". Not only has nobody heard of it, but people notice immediately that the name is an acronym, so I have to explain the full name, which totally makes it sound like a community college.

Again, honor's university -- this mostly means we're better with our brains than our brawn. We don't have a football team, and the only sport I've known us to kick any form of butt in is lacrosse. But lo and behold, UMBC has made me very proud recently!

Yes, my readers, UMBC has made it to.... ummm.... some sort of NCAA basketball thing.... that is, like, really special? Spoken like a true alumnus, I have no idea about the sports world. But the beauty of it is that people no longer look at me quizzically when I speak of UMBC!

Exhibit A: After my dad telling me this news on Sunday, I put it to the test yesterday. I saw a new doctor and THANK GOD he asked me where I went to college! Avoiding my usual spiel, I simply said "Oh, UMBC." Despite my smugness, his smile took me offguard! He knew! I couldn't help but say "...You know what that is?" to which he replied "Of course I do, they made it to the [insert name of NCAA special tournament thing here]. YESSSSSS!!

I am so psyched to think of the possibility of watching a sports game and actually CARING who wins!! The ultimate would be if it comes down to UMBC and my dad's alma mater, Carolina, in the finals! My mom is already going wild in her imagination with all the dips she could make for that day!

So, I sum up by saying "GO UMBC CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVERS!" and " you think that, now that we're getting noticed, we should perhaps come up with a less wimpy mascot? Maybe a dalmation? They're serious biters."

I'm off to write a letter to alumni relations about this. Eve, I hope you're also jumping with joy and that you'll come to Florida for the aforementioned PARTAY!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy Saint Patty's Day?

It's not going too happily so far! I am supposed to spend the entire day in the classroom, beginning at 8:30 this morning. Well, I got all ready right on time, and headed out the door, when I realized my keys were missing.

It turns out that they are in my mom's car, left there after our day of house hunting (which was depressing by the way -- everything I can afford in the neighborhood I want to living in is a foreclosure that the previous owners decided to trash. One is promising and I'll tell you about it later). Unluckily for me, my mom was gracious enough yesterday to unlock my front door with her key to my house. Otherwise, I would have obviously noticed it right then and there.

So my mom, bless her heart, is making the 35 minute drive to my house as we speak. I really hope the rest of the day goes a bit more smoothly.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A week in retrospect

It's been crazy. Coming back from Spring Break into overdrive, with the news of not getting the house weighing me down, I am suprisingly content and even optimistic today.

I battled with extreme exahaustion earlier in the week, with the potential for a strike draining me even more every day at work. Wednesday night came and went with the strike still on for the next day. It was at that point that I finally accepted that it was going to happen. I made plans to be with my class the next day and went to bed for a long, much-needed, winter's nap. Alas, all was in vain because I was rudely awoken at almost midnight by a call from some people in California (obviously with complete disregard for the time difference) who wanted to -- cheerfully -- let me know that the strike has been cancelled! Woohoo? Not so much. I didn't want to go on strike in the first place, didn't want to be a part of the union in the first place, but since I was forced into the latter, I accepted the former, only to be disturbed from the sleep I so desperately craved by someone telling me "never mind, but thanks for your solidarity!" Needless to say, I was one unhappy camper.

But all is well, everyone seems happy, and I didn't have to miss a day of pay on Thursday. Also, I rest in the fact that by the time this contract expires in 2010, I will be battling with a whole new union: that of the teachers of the world!

I am still enthralled with all that I'm learning in school and in the classroom, and I couldn't be more grateful that my grades are actually reflecting this! We all know that this is not always the case. The stars have to be in perfect alignment, and the formula must involve enthrallment, dedication, great professors, supportive peers, and patient co-op teachers. well, I've been blessed with it all!

This weekend contains the following awesomeness:
Tonight: babysitting for sleeping children (aka watching HGTV)
Tomorrow: dog beach (it's supposed to be the most perfect beach weather conditions!)
Tomorrow night: an evening out with friends to Mad Dogs and Englishman to bring the house down rebel style in true St. Patty's Day fashion. Maybe a little tinwhistle playing if people play their cards right.
Sunday morning: teaching the teens at church alone for the first time ever (gulp)
Sunday afternoon: looking at houses with the trusty real estate man and my parents
Sunday evening: my only time I'm choosing to devote to schoolwork since nothing is imminently due
Monday: SAINT PATRICK'S DAY!! I'll be in the classroom all day, wearing my Irish clothing (aka clothes I bought during my summer in Ireland: they are neither traditional nor green but I will personally get the point!) and playing my tinwhistle for the kids (they ALWAYS play their cards right!)

I'm happy to say I have nothing to dread at this point in my life -- ok except a little dread associated with the rain outside. It can't all be bliss I guess.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hutchison Island, FL

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike. ~ John Muir

Monday, March 10, 2008

Not-so-great news

Alas, things are not looking good for me on the house. Mostly, without going into the stupid details, it has to do with bank bureaucracy bull. Not my bank of course, but theirs. Since this house is almost in foreclosure, the bank has a big part in deciding what they will sell it for. Well, the bank did their "estimated value" and came up with a number that was $65,000 more than the sellers had LISTED it for!!! You expect uneducated sellers to ignore the market and list their homes too high, only to sit on them for a year with no bites. But in this case, it's the opposite. The sellers are the realistic ones and the bank is still living in the Dark Ages of 2005.

So anyway, we know what they've assessed it at, but they haven't come back to the table with a counteroffer. So it's not over. But let me say this: I put in an offer well below what the sellers were asking for it. I will go up to their original number and not a penny over. If the bank doesn't take it, I'll be disappointed, but they'll be the ones to ultimately regret it. Because the house will not sell higher than that, and they'll have to pay the $50,000 in costs to go through with a foreclosure. They'll end up giving it away eventually and losing much more money than is at stake right now.

Please still keep your fingers crossed for me because it's not over and I really do want this house. If I don't buy by June 30, I am going to have to sign a new lease and I'll have to wait ANOTHER year to buy! Who knows what the market will look like then...

Friday, March 7, 2008


Wow, I don't see how my lesson could have gone much better this morning. Well, ok, *I* see how it could have, but the important thing is my supervisor doesn't.

The lesson -- which if I never said, was on rhyming -- went really well and after about 3 minutes my nerves were gone and everything felt so natural and I just had a really good time. The kids did GREAT. After reading the Shel Silverstein poem "Spaghetti" and identifying the rhymes, we went through with my plan to sing through all 18 personalized verses of "Down by the Bay" that each student wrote. They wrote verses and drew pictures on Tuesday, so today I had each student come up when I showed their picture and we did indeed sing 18 VERSES of Down by the Bay!!! I was mostly nervous about the students getting fidgety, but it didn't last as long as I thought it would and they were overall pretty durn good for kindergartners!

Now for the conference afterwards. Let's boil it down to this: we are scored 1-5 in about 30 different skills. 1 is the lowest, 2 isn't any better than one really, 3 is satisfactory and where we should be at during internships, 4 means you do this skill better than most first-year teachers, and 5 means you do this skill so well that you could teach others to do it.

When it came to communication with the students, my supervisor said in a very matter-of-fact tone, "We aren't supposed to give 5's but I did it anyway" !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

She continued by saying that I have an "innate ability" with this age group and that I was made to be a teacher.

Well this is where I started to cry. What a loser am I!?

She also gave me a handful of constructive criticisms which of course I am so grateful for. She helped me to expand on my Professional Development Plan (where we discuss our areas needing improvement, our strategy for improving them, and our deadline to complete them). She did insist that I remove "planning creative, concise, and engaging lessons" from the needs improvement list since she believes I've already mastered that (!!!!!!!). I am in such a joyous state of shock I cannot begin to explain.

So my overall score was a 4, which I couldn't be more happy with. And I can't wait to be back again on Wednesday :) My next "observed" lesson will actually be a video of my science lesson that I am already working hard on. Now it's time to focus on my assignments for my actual college classes that are coming due. A pre-service teacher's work is never done! :)

Thank you to Shelley for your support and your interest in my blog, and to all of the people I've spoken with on the phone and in person who have encouraged me this week and always!!

Much love guys,

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

While searching for a really good Shel Silverstein poem to open my rhyming lesson with, I came across this one, and I had to take a moment to acknowledge the genius of this man.

The Little Boy and the Old Man
by Shel Silverstein

Said the little boy, "Sometimes I drop my spoon."
Said the old man, "I do that too."
The little boy whispered, "I wet my pants."
"I do that too," laughed the little old man.
Said the little boy, "I often cry."
The old man nodded, "So do I."
"But worst of all," said the boy, "it seems
Grown-ups don't pay attention to me."
And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
"I know what you mean," said the little old man.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

An attempt at a short story

Today I had the chance to be with my class all day and despite being exhausted with a headache at 3pm, I had a great time! I didn't even mind going into work for 3 hours afterward. :)

So a great story: first of all, let me set this up. My classroom is actually half of one giant room that is split into two classrooms by a concrete wall. The rooms are open to each other in the back of the room, for about 10 feet before the concrete wall starts. A classmate of mine is student teaching in that room, but we are rarely in the classrooms at the same time.

So today was very interesting. The boy with serious behavior problems decided to egg on my autistic student (let's call him Jacob), and the incident culminated in the two of them running through the school courtyard, in and out of the buildings, up and down the outdoor stairs, with no fewer than 5 adults, including my classroom teacher, chasing after them. I was staying with the rest of the class doing group reading. At one point, the teacher from the next room was trying to help catch the boys but then went back to her class.

At one point, Jacob, who was the lone one left to be caught, ran through the room, laughing maniacally. I seized the opportunity, leapt to my feet, and grabbed him. I carried him to that opening in the walls and yelled to the other teacher that I'd caught him.

That's when I saw a face at a desk in her room, a face I knew that I knew from somewhere. It turns out that not only was my fellow classmate in the middle of her first observed lesson, but that was MY supervisor (from our college) as well, sitting there watching this entire incident unfold!!!

I definitely didn't do anything wrong, and everyone was glad that I had caught Jacob (he was obviously creating a disturbance to the entire school and was posing a danger to himself), but that supervisor was giving me a bit of a death stare! So Friday should be interesting.

Worst of all, I hate that I interrupted my classmate's lesson. I felt less bad when her entire class started acting up -- I mean, I still felt bad for HER, but all my guilt floated right out the window :)

The rest of the day was GREAT -- we got Jacob back in less than an hour after his mom came to calm him down (the other student, whose mom is, sadly, the entire problem and wouldn't come to check on him, stayed with the principal for the rest of the day). We did a GREAT lesson in which I got to sing some songs while working on rhyming, and the lesson went so well that my teacher suggested we do a follow-up lesson for my observed lesson on Friday. It will be a language arts lesson on rhyming, but it will incorporate both music and art! I am so excited.

I am also finally developing ideas for my science lesson coming up at the end of this month. Now that I'm really starting to know my class and their learning styles, I'm at last able to translate the difficult concepts from the topics list into kindergarten lessons. My lesson will be on characteristics of living things, and I ordered my first BIG BOOK! This is one of those giant books that you put on an easel and read to the student as they look at the pictures and read along. I've really gone above and beyond monetarily but I see this as an investment, because it's something I can use for years. Can't wait to get it!!

So much for a short babble. :p Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 3, 2008

The good life

I find it hilarious that you guys see me as "having a life". Here is my life:

Monday: Wake up, shower, walk dogs, work 9-4:30, school 5:30-9:40, bed.
Tuesday: Wake up, shower, walk dogs, work 9-5, school 5:30-8:15, American Idol, bed.
Wednesday: Wake up, shower, walk dogs, teach 8:30-11, work 11-6:30, NIGHT OFF! = make dinner, walk dogs, early bed.
Thursday: Wake up, shower, walk dogs,
Thursday: Wake upm shower, walk dogs, work 9-4:30, school 5:30-8:15, LOST, bed.
Friday: Wake up, shower, pack for parents' house, walk dogs, teach 8:30-11, work 11-6:30, pick up dogs, sleepover at parents' house.
Saturday: Wake up, walk dogs, do homework, nap, eat late lunch, babysit, bed.
Sunday: Wake up, shower, walk dogs, church, homework, go to dog park, dinner, bed.

If having a life means not having a single free second, yes indeed I really really have a life! But I like to think of having a life as making enough to survive on and still having time for the things you love. Well, I love teaching but I only get to do it 5 hours a week. I love my dogs and I don't get nearly as much time with them. I love eating out but I don't have the money. I love my friends but so many are so far away.

I am kind of making a point, but I am certainly trying not to complain, even though it does sound like it a lot! Because I KNOW this is a means to an end.

During orientation for this school program, no one underestimated how crazy we will go. In fact, someone said that one student found herself hiding under her bed. I have to say that considering how bad I COULD be feeling, I'm doing pretty good!

Change of heart

Ok so now, instead of feeling depressed, I feel serious pressure to update for both of you reading!! :)

Just kidding, but thank you guys for reading and remembering me! I am also a slightly obsessive blog checker, so to feel like mine is being skipped over even by the obsessed ones -- how boring I felt!

So I have been asked to give an update on the house, but I'm going to have to disappoint! I did put an offer in, the sellers accepted, which means only that we are in contract. We have been waiting almost 4 weeks now for the sellers' bank to either accept the offer or make a counteroffer. Usually when you put an offer in on a house, the seller has 24 hours to respond. Well, in this case, the seller had 24 hours to respond, and their bank has 45 businees days! That's 2 months!!!

So even though I try to put the house in the back of my mind, I really do picture myself in it EVERY day. I am so ready for this change: new house (my very OWN), new neighborhood (ok I lived here a year ago but only for a few short months and I loved it!), no awful landlords to deal with, no security deposit, no more throwing my money in the trash every month, living 5 blocks from the school I want to teach at!!! A precious little yard for the girls... it's almost too good to be true. You are guaranteed an update the second I hear something.

I am so excited this week for two reasons! First, it is my Spring Break at my college, which means I have all my weeknights free to spend with the girls and to work on all these long-term projects that I haven't had time for. Secondly, I get to spend the ENTIRE day tomorrow in my classroom! So far I have really only been there in the mornings, then I come to work at 11. Well I am coming into work tomorrow at 3 so I will be with the class from 8:30 until the end of their day at 2:30. So exciting!

Now for the terrifying part of my week: Friday at 9am, I have my first lesson being observed by my supervisor. This date really snuck up on me. I haven't written that lesson yet -- I don't even know what it is going to be on! But hopefully my teacher and I will spend a lot of time going over this tomorrow. Please pray realllllly hard for me at 9am on Friday!