Friday, December 14, 2012

the end of block two

Another semester over, another semester closer to finishing my degree. I'm pretty pleased with the way things worked out this semester. I mean, after so many semesters of just kind of plodding through, struggling for a passing grade, getting straight As feels good. It feels good to finally know that I'm on the right path. Of course, being on the President's List never gets old either. :)

I will say, it is a weird feeling knowing that next semester is my last one with regular undergrad classes. One last semester of going to campus, sitting through lectures, and taking tests. After May 2013 I'll just be in the classroom teaching.... maybe even teaching my own class if this Project Retain thing works out.

I don't think I mentioned it here, but I'm a finalist for Project RETAIN: a partnership program between GSU and the City Schools of Decatur where they will choose two interns to be hired as teachers during their last semester. Essentially, if chosen, I would be hired by CSD as a teacher, receive a salary, and complete my student teaching requirements by co-teaching with a mentor teacher for the 2013-2014 school year in a Decatur school. I would still graduate in December, but my job would be guaranteed through the end of the school year.

It doesn't get much better than that.

As a finalist, I will be doing my block III practicum in a CSD school. It also means that I will be completing my ESOL student teaching during block III rather than during my student teaching semester. More work now for a possibly huge payoff down the road. It seems to be fitting with the theme Steve and I have had for the last 3 years.

There are a total of 7 finalists and 2 will be chosen as teachers. At the end of block III I will submit my professional portfolio, my ESOL student teaching notebook, and my resume before participating in an actual job interview for the position. I'll know sometime around my birthday if they picked me. Here's hoping they do.

Besides the academics and finishing up classes, block III is when I will be taking my GACE exam (Georgia's version of the Praxis) and applying to graduate. It seems pretty surreal.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Happy Tuesday!

Tuesdays are probably my least favorite days of the week this semester. I have my science and math methods courses on Tuesdays at the downtown campus, and I also always seem to have a ton of homework to do on Tuesdays. I have to go to bed super early in order to be awake in time for placement on Wednesday, so all of my homework and dinner making and such gets squished into teeny tiny amounts of time.

Multiply that sense of panic when my weekend is already stocked with plans and activities which don't lend themselves to completing school work.

So you see, I need to find a way to make Tuesdays better. I need to find a way to focus on the positives and feel less stabby on Tuesdays. This is why I am going to try out a weekly blog posting called Happy Tuesday where I list good, funny, interesting things that happened on that particular day. I'm hoping that by consciously looking for things that make me happy I will me able to more easily brush off the things that make me want to punch people.

Today these things made me happy:
- playdough mustache pictures created by friends during science class
- my new doctor actually taking the time to talk to me and make me feel like she wanted to know me as a person rather than just a medical history chart.
- lots of those cute little brown finches were hopping around five points today and they don't fly away from me right away anymore.
- There was a seat available on the train this morning so I could sit and read on my way to class.

Friday, October 19, 2012

third grade

This week I began my practicum experience in third grade. I'm in the same school where I did my first grade practicum, so I don't have too much of a school culture adjustment. What I am finding though is that third grade is about a million times different than the other grades I've observed. The students have fully developed personalities and they are testing the boundaries of the classroom in much more obvious ways. I don't have a class full of sweet babies who spend the whole day trying to love on me, I've got a room full of sweet babies who are trying their best NOT to be seen as sweet babies.

In the two days I spent in the classroom we had some explosive situations and events which required really strong classroom management skills. Skills that I am still in the process of developing. There were tears, hurt feelings, and more drama than a Real Housewives episode. Never in my life would I have believed 8 year olds would experience such intense changes in attitude throughout the day. I figured they were still too young to begin experiencing the craziness that comes with trying to establish yourself as an individual.

Boy was I wrong.

However, all of this being said, I have never felt so alive and important and needed than I did over the last two days. There is a group of boys in particular that made me feel like dragging my butt out of bed and showing up that day was worth something to someone.

This is not to say that I didn't have similar feelings during other practicum experiences. I did. This experience feels different though. I'm not able to put my finger on why that may be just yet, but I am beyond excited to spend more time with these kids and find out.

Monday, October 8, 2012

painful eyeballs exhausted

There are two points during the typical semester when I really feel overwhelmed and stressed out: the midpoint and finals week.

Since entering the program I haven't had to deal with midterm or final exams too much. My professors seem to really enjoy giving big projects instead. Just this week I had two due and I've got another paper due tomorrow and a science project due next week. All of this in addition to lesson planning for the two days each week I teach and prepping for the transition to the next grade level.

It's a barrel of fun over here, let me tell you!

I got home from class tonight just about thirty minutes ago and I am so exhausted that my eyeballs hurt. So tired that my shoulders creep up into this tense kind of shrug without me even realizing it. So stressed that I compulsively check my homework app to see if I forgot an assignment. I really don't like feeling this way.

What I do like is learning a great new way to inspire a love of writing in a student. I love finding fun activities to make a subject come alive for students, possibly for the first time. I love the pride in a kid's voice when they tell me they asked their mom to buy them a box of rigatoni because we used it in class during a math lesson on shapes and graphing and they wanted to show their brother what they learned. I live for lightbulb moments and successful mystery walkers and laughter from the reading corner.

It is really really REALLY hard to stay focused on all of these things I love when I am so tired that I'm not sure I can spell my own name, but I have to. I have come to the realization that the workload in this program is intentional. This struggle between finding time to get all the work done and being alert enough to enjoy it is not going to magically get easier after graduation. Somehow, my friends and I must find a way to convert small bits of classroom joy into an efficient fuel to get us through rough patches.

Until then, there's always chocolate and back rubs from a very understanding and encouraging husband. :)

Saturday, September 29, 2012


This last week was a real bear to get through. I spent over 20 hours last weekend on assignments/projects/lessons due over the last seven days and I am completely worn out. I came home from class yesterday and slept from 4pm until 9pm. Then I woke up to grab something quick to eat for dinner before passing out asleep again until 8am this morning. For those of you who are not aware, 7am is "sleeping in" for me... even on the weekend. Clearly, my body was in need of some major rest in order to recover.

What makes crazy weeks like this one worth it? Knowing that my work is appreciated and the quality matches the time invested.

My observation was one of the bigger issues on my plate this week. I was supervised during my literature lesson on Thursday (the one on Strega Nona I posted about recently) and felt great about it. The kids, of course, loved the story and laughed like only first graders can at the part where Big Anthony gets fat from eating all the pasta. My supervisor seemed to like the lesson as much as the kids. I got some really positive and encouraging feedback from her about my lesson plans themselves, as well as my teaching methods.

Then, this afternoon I checked our online assignment site and saw that my literacy professor returned my second draft of our main paper with her comments. She had some very positive things to say about the paper and my writing which made me feel so encouraged.

To top it off, I earned an A on my math methods midterm exam.

Each of these achievements individually are great, but to come all at once after a week like this week seems like a huge gift of encouragement. I greatly respect all three of these professors who assessed my work this week and to get such great results and feedback from them makes me feel like my hard work is finally paying off. This program can feel so challenging. It is a wonderful experience to have people who have been there before tell you that you not only have what it takes, but that you have a true talent for the task.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

mystery walker

This week I found an idea on Pinterest that pretty much worked a miracle with my first graders. No joke, I wish I knew who first invented this idea because I would make them cookies or something... it helped so much!

My class has a lot of energy. They're six. Talking and being silly is kind of their thing. Unfortunately, this does not lend itself well to walking down the hall in any sort of orderly fashion and it causes teachers to close their door when we walk by. I also have one or two students with tons and tons of personality that tends to come out in the form of talking to anyone they see, walking/running/jumping/dancing any time they can, and touching everything within arm's reach.

So, when I stumbled across the mystery reader idea, I was a tad skeptical. It just seemed too simple.

What the plan entails:
- cut cardstock into small squares and write the students' names one per square.
- place the squares in a bowl/bag/container near the door (or carpet area if you have one)
- tell the students before lining up what the expectations are for walking in the hall. (I told my students to do three things: hands to themselves, mouth silent, feet walking like a 1st grader).
- make a big show of choosing a name from the container, but don't show it to anyone. Glance at the name and then put the paper in your pocket.
-tell the kids that the name on the square is your mystery walker and if they can walk to wherever you're going with perfect hallway manners, they get a reward (we used the current stickers system in place in the classroom).

The genius of this method is that first graders are still self centered enough that they are all convinced they are the mystery walker. Even better than that? They all are highly motivated by stickers.

I did this with my class today and it was like I had a different class. They were silent walking down the hall and received lots of compliments. We did this twice today (once for lunch/recess and once for specials) and both times I was able to reward my mystery walker.

The final thing to keep in mind with this mystery walker business is that you don't tell the kids who the walker is unless that person is getting a reward. If the mystery walker failed in their efforts, then simply tell the students that the walker did not meet the expectation and will be placed back in the container to try again another day.

I made a point to go over the expectations a few times before leaving the classroom just so everyone was clear. I'm so thrilled that this method worked today! Hopefully my cooperating teacher is able to keep up with it while I am gone and the kids will continue to enjoy it!

Monday, September 17, 2012

story mapping

Last week my supervisor observed me for the first time this semester. I wasn't nearly as nervous as I was during my observations last semester, but I was also less excited about the lesson because it was completely NOT my style of teaching. I was required to use a lesson from my cooperating teacher's plans. As sweet as she is, we come from two very different schools of thought.

In two weeks I am having my second observation in first grade and I'll be using an original lesson plan based on an assigned common core standard. The lesson is going to be on story sequencing. After a bit of wrestling with this topic and browsing a bunch of stories and pins on pinterest, I decided on a really fun activity.

I'm going to have the kids help me make a huge story map!

We are going to read a book aloud (the exact book is TBD, but I'm thinking Strega Nona?) then I am going to put a huge piece of bright colored butcher paper on the board with a road winding through the middle horizontally. Then, the kids are going to come up and write the events of the story in order. Once we have the whole story mapped out, I am going to ask the kids to go to their seats and illustrate their favorite part of the story.

Afterward, we can put the map in the hall and put the pictures next to the part they correspond to!

We will see how this works out next week. I'm really excited about it!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Beginning of Block II

As of Monday I began my Block II classes! 

Nobody told me this prior to the beginning of classes, but apparently this block is the most difficult and demanding... at least that is what all of our professors have been saying for the last two days. Our program coordinator in particular seemed to feel it was important to tell us this so we would be prepared. Honestly though, this semester does not feel as intimidating as Block I did.

Of course, that may not have anything to do with the workload and everything to do with my own confidence level.

This is not to say that this semester will be a cake walk. We have quite a few assignments due each week and some projects that will be time consuming. It will boil down to commitment and passion for teaching just like it did last semester. What helps the situation is the fact that everything we will be doing for class is logically assigned and laid out. We don't seem to be doing anything that isn't directly related to our success in our field placements or a deeper understanding of the concepts in our textbooks. I appreciate that.

Last semester we did some interesting projects and had assignments that I found fun and exciting, but they were not necessarily something I anticipate using in my future classroom. Maybe once I get into the assignments for this semester I will feel differently, but as of right now I can see direct uses and purposes which makes it easy to find motivation and enthusiasm.

Although classes have begun, I still have a full week until my field placement starts. This makes me a bit sad because I have been so anxious to get back in the classroom, but it's just a week. Seven days from now I will finally meet and greet my first graders! I have a really fun getting-to-know-you math activity planned for them and I can not WAIT to see how they like it! Once I try it out with them I'll post more information here on the blog and let you know how it went.

By the way, I think I am going to be adding a countdown to graduation on the left side bar of the blog. If you see a countdown pop up over there, that's what it is for. :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A letter and some new ideas

A few days ago I received an email from my cohort coordinator for this semester. She is the professor for our Classroom Management II course as well as the person keeping up with our practicum experiences. Her letter provided some necessary information about the semester, our field placement schedule, and what to expect this fall. It also included the syllabus for her course.

Now, I know most people would probably not be excited about receiving an email like this. However I was thrilled! Looking through the calendar allows me to get a grasp of how the semester will be paced.... how many holidays we have and how long they will be, spacing of CM2 classes, observations, etc. All of these things help me plan out how I will approach my courses. Obviously I will have a more complete plan once I receive all my course syllabi, but at least now I don't feel so wound up without any type of outlet.

Another reason I was excited to get the syllabus so early is because it also allows me to begin looking around for ideas that fit my assignments.

Within my Classroom Management course we have a few projects for the semester, most of which are lessons we develop and implement within our practicum classrooms. Last spring we did lessons using large, interactive props as well as some transition practice as our semester projects within Classroom Management I. According to the syllabus, we will be focusing on community building and overall classroom management philosophy this semester and doing projects which reflect those ideas.

Obviously I popped right over to pinterest once I read our assignment list. :)

As annoying as that website can be with all the wannabe fashionistas and blinding amounts of chevrons, sometimes there are educational gems to be found. Better yet, there are links to a HUGE amount of education blogs I probably would not have found otherwise. As with everything else, there is no small amount of sorting to be done to find the good stuff, but it is really fun and exciting when you do find something you can use.

For example:
This image grabbed me on pinterest and led me to the blog of a first grade teacher with some excellent room decoration and organization ideas. Just from my experience last semester I can tell that getting organized is a HUGE part of being a good teacher and having a happy, bright, engaging room helps the students feel excited about learning. Ideas like this will help me get there without going broke!

The idea for a classroom QR code to provide essential information to parents on open house night really got my attention. It is very easy to set up and a great way to include technology as well as getting parents included in the classroom. Obviously this would be a better fit for some schools than others, but a great idea either way. Definitely a good inspiration point for other parent-inclusive ideas.

And possibly my favorite community behavior incentive ever:
When the class receives a compliment for good behavior outside the classroom (hallway, bathrooms, lunchroom, etc) they get to add a feature to Mr. Potato Head. Once he is completely assembled, the whole class gets a reward! I have seen compliment jars and several other variations, but this particular version just makes me smile.

These are just a few of the ideas I came across in my searching and sifting over the past few days. If any of you find other community building or general management style ideas, I would love to see them! Although I am working with lower elementary kids this year, who knows where I will end up once the job hunt begins next year. :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

525,600 minutes

In about two weeks the fall semester will start and I'll be back in a classroom on campus with my cohort to begin our second block courses. I'll be less than a year from completing my coursework, less than a year from taking my certification exams, and 18 months from receiving my degree and becoming a fully certified teacher.

These are the things I have been thinking about this summer and I have to admit, I'm completely blown away by how different I felt at this time last year.

Two weeks before school started last August I was freaking out. I was only taking three classes, but all three were mandatory prerequisites for getting into the Early Childhood Education program. I needed to do well in them or risk being turned down when applying to my major.

This time last year I was still struggling with the remnants of the depression I battled in Savannah and still experienced anxiety attacks whenever I was in a large group of people... like, in the grocery store. I was still seeing my therapist regularly just to cope with daily life.

This time last year I still believed that passing my math class was sheer luck and I really didn't think I had the drive, dedication, and talent to make it into the ECE program, much less through it. I still didn't believe in myself or in this insane calling I feel to be a teacher.

This year though? This year my mind and heart are in a completely different place. Not only did I do well in my prerequisite classes, I made a 4.0. Not only was I accepted to my major, but I maintained my status on the President's List throughout the spring semester... easily one of the most mentally challenging semesters of my college career. Not only did I succeed in courses which dealt directly with education, but I made the Dean's List this summer while taking two courses that intimidated me to the point of tears.

Besides all of the educational success and proving to myself that I can mentally handle it, I have found a certain level of emotional peace as well. I haven't had an anxiety attack in over six months. Unless you have had one I don't think you can understand how amazing it feels to be able to walk into a crowded grocery store without being afraid of ending up a sobbing mess in the produce section. I don't doubt myself as much anymore either. When I feel bits of fear and doubt creeping in I remind myself of how far I have come and I think back to the days I spent in Mexico where I first felt the call to teach.

This year I have no doubts that I can handle my courses and work. Even though I am taking 18 hours, more than I have ever taken in one semester, I find myself more excited than intimidated. I get to do science this semester! Anyone who doesn't think science + kids = FUN clearly didn't get messy enough as a child.

With all of the incredible changes that have happened since this time last year I can't help but be grateful and look forward to what this coming year will hold for me.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Feeling strong

I think I mentioned before that I was going to be getting back into running and seriously training for races. Well, that is exactly what I have been doing since the first week of June and I have to say, I am feeling so strong! My current schedule is running MWF and doing some sort of strength workout on TR and sometimes Saturday. My gym offers some fun classes which I have been trying out now and then too. I have been having a lot of fun with it and trying to stay focused. So far I have lost a few pounds and started noticing that my clothes are fitting different than they did a few weeks ago when I started this journey. However, the biggest difference is in how I feel over all. Being able to walk into the gym and the receptionist recognizes me as a regular, not being intimidated to run next to other more advanced runners, my increased flexibility, all of these things are things I have gained over the last 5 weeks and they are all things I didn't even think about before. I love seeing my progression and I am really grateful that I made the choice to get back into this routine.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

opportunity, hard work, and summer semester

There is a quote by Thomas Edison that I have been thinking about a lot lately:
"People often miss out on opportunity because it shows up in overalls and looks like work."

Now, I am not a big fan of Mr. Edison, but I have liked this quote since I stumbled across it back in middle school. It is quite true that opportunity requires hard work. It is also true that many people don't understand that link.

As I progress through summer semester classes, I have found myself thinking even more about this particular relationship between hard work and opportunity. It is no secret that I am having to work very hard in order to achieve good grades in these math classes. I am also having to work very hard to maintain my motivation for the classes since the material makes me want to rip my hair out and quit trying. This made me wonder, if so much hard work is going in, shouldn't there be an equal amount of opportunity created? What exactly am I getting out of all of this struggle?

Obviously, I am getting credit for the course and fulfilling degree requirements. That is kind of a big deal. :)

But other than that, am I really gaining anything other than stress and tension headaches?

Last night I decided to take a break from the craziness and listen to some relaxing music while soaking my feet in some hot water. It helps me clear my head and work through complex situations. As I sat there on the edge of my tub, I tried to look at my summer courses (specifically my horrific algebra course) from a new perspective to see what opportunities I might gain from them.

I came to understand that my terrible, condescending, rude, unhelpful algebra professor is yet another opportunity to learn what NOT to do as a teacher. This is almost more important than learning the good things. If you know what absolutely ruins a student's motivation, you can focus on developing strategies that don;t include those things.

I've also realized that through tutoring some friends on the weekends over material from my statistics class I have gradually been building my confidence in the subject matter. This is a real life reinforcement of the "students learn by doing" principle I have stated in my teaching philosophy. I inadvertently put myself in a position to test out that philosophy and build a solid foundation for my argument. That's quite an opportunity.

Finally, I feel like, deep down, these math courses are giving me the opportunity to better understand my own learning process and how my mind functions. These subjects are not easy for me and require a lot of effort just to get a passing grade. That knowledge of best study practices and discipline will only serve me well in the future as I finish my degree and as I attempt to help others learn how to learn.

Taking the time to really think this through really helped me feel better about the situation as a whole. I still don't like my algebra professor, I still wish I didn't have to sit through two more weeks of 3 hour classes, and I will still be thrilled when the semester is over, but I feel slightly more in control of the situation now. I feel that this craziness and frustration might really be worth more than what will appear on my transcripts. It may not be glamorous, but it is useful and that's all I can really hope for.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Some things just aren't surprising

As I stated before, this summer I am taking two math courses. I have a statistics course and an algebra course. When I first signed up for these courses at the same time and chose to cram a traditional 15 week semester into 6 weeks, I knew I was taking on a lot. I knew it would involve a lot of studying. I knew it would be a major effort to come out of the ordeal with a C at minimum. Now that I have passed the midpoint in each course I am here to tell you all that my perception of the semester was right on the money. I am working my butt off and feeling the strain. Statistics isn't so bad. I seem to be able to recall quite a bit from high school and catch on quickly to the new stuff. Algebra is still an ugly beast though. However, I currently have an A in statistics and a low B in algebra so we are counting it as a win thus far. I just have to keep up this momentum for another 3ish weeks until finals are over. Then it's on to block 2 and fun times in the first grade! I've got less than a year of classes left and then student teaching, then I am officially a teacher. This process is painful and frustrating at times, but I am learning so much about myself that I can't help but be grateful for the journey.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Complaining gets results

Just as I had finally found some peace about the fact that Georgia State did away with December graduation, I saw this news story on the university home page.

That's right, folks, enough people complained about the issue and we were able to change the minds of the powers that be. I will actually have a real graduation ceremony!

Which means that I get to wear this:

And send out these:

And walk across this stage:

When I thought I wasn't going to get a traditional graduation ceremony, I tried my best to focus on the fact that my degree is a personal accomplishment and remind myself that I don't really need public recognition of the achievement outside of my family. However, now that the possibility is open and available again and I am allowing myself to think about it, I really, really can't wait for that day. I WANT to wear the unflattering regalia. I WANT to sit for hours waiting for my turn to cross that stage and shake the Dean's hand. 

I definitely want my name read out loud for the whole Georgia Dome to hear followed by the words "magna/summa cum laude". 

I cannot even begin to express how thrilled I am with the Georgia State commencement committee for changing their minds and bringing back the December graduation ceremony. 

(the pictures are courtesy of, herff jones and the GSU facebook page)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Jillian is nothing after today's class

This morning I tried out one of the fitness classes at my gym. There are two LA Fitness locations within three miles of my apartment so I really have an excellent range of class choices during the times I am free. Since I am trying to be more consistent with my running, I decided to take the advice of many other runners and cross train with strength exercises. I have been told a body pump class is amazing for that so off I went. My happy little butt showed up 10 minutes early with my towel and water bottle ready to go. I figured, I can handle my Jillian Michaels DVD, I can handle a regular class. For those of you who think Jillian is super intense and the best workout of your life, I am here to tell you that you are wrong. That body pump class was at or even slightly above Jillian level and it lasted for a full hour. My arms are jello. It took a concentrated effort just to wash my hair when I got home. That said, I plan to go back on Thursday. Cross training on that level can only bring good results to my running efforts and the endorphin rush after I finished was pretty awesome. I would also like to add that it would seem the gym commercials are correct in their advertising, only people who are already in shape actually attend a gym. I was one of two non-twigs in a class of twenty this morning. It speaks to the workout intensity level that I did not think about this fact, or the fact that I looked like a sweaty pig half the time, until after the workout was over. Let's all keep out fingers crossed that my legs still want to work tomorrow for my scheduled run!

Monday, June 4, 2012

the challenge

My running history looks a bit like this: 
sign up for a 5k
train really hard 
run the race
don't look at my running shoes for weeks until another race comes up.

It is really easy to put my running on the back burner with school and everything else going on. No matter how much I enjoy the run once I'm out there, actually getting myself out the door has proven to be the most difficult part of being a runner. I would really like to change this bad habit and get into a more consistent running routine so that I can run longer races. Almost anyone can go out and walk/run a 5K with no training. That is not the case for a half marathon or any race that results in finisher bling.

I really want race bling.

More specifically, I want finisher bling from the Atlanta half marathon held in the city each year on Thanksgiving. So I brought it up to Steve this weekend and asked for his advice on the situation. He asked the typical Steve question "how much does this race cost?" and almost choked on air when I said $60.

Apparently paying $60 for the privilege of running 13.1 miles on public streets seems crazy to him.

He ended up having a really great idea though. He suggested setting a challenge for myself and making the "prize" the ability to register for the race. I thought about it for a minute and I came to the conclusion that this might just work. 

So, from now until the end of July I will be training as if I have already registered. If I can stick to the training plan while maintaining my grades during summer semester, then I will register for the half marathon. If not, then I'll be a spectator this year and pick another half marathon to try for in the spring.

It's a good plan because it gives me something to work for, but the reward won't allow me to slow down my training. I'm putting this out here in blog land for accountability. As I finish this up I am going to be heading over to the gym for some quality treadmill time. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Stuff I Love

A blog I follow has done "stuff I love" posts a few times and I always find out about really cool things by reading them... either gift inspiration, stuff for me, or an idea about some DIY project for the apartment. I always enjoy those posts and I just happen to have some great products that I would like to gush about. Sounds like a great time for a post.

Here we go:

Daiya Mozzarella shreds
This cheese substitute is awesome because it not only tastes good, but it behaves like real cheese. I'm sure that sounds funny to people who don't eat dairy free, but trust me when I say that most cheese imitators get scary looking when subjected to heat. I can actually make pizza with this stuff and have the end result look and taste like the pizzas I used to love. This is a huge win in my book.

Whole Soy and Co. yogurt
My perfect breakfast is sweet, something you want to eat slowly and savor. When I found soy yogurt at my local Kroger I about cried in joy. When I tasted this particular brad, I was hooked. Mixed with a bit of oats and honey granola this yogurt makes for one awesome breakfast or snack. So far blueberry and strawberry are my favorites.

La Croix sparkling water
During my kindergarten observations my cooperating teacher brought one of these in her lunch every day. She said it was nice to have something that reminded her of soda without the heavy taste, tons of sugar, and caffeine. I finally tasted it a few weeks ago and I am hooked! The flavor is refreshing without being overpowering. I'm in the process of learning how to make something similar with my soda stream, but the cans make for easier day to day transport for things like school lunches.

Gap curvy bootcut jeans
Two weeks ago my favorite jeans gave out on me. There is a rather inappropriate hole in them, so I needed to find a replacement. I tried out a few different pairs from different places in an effort to try new things. It's been over 18 months since i have purchased jeans so it was entirely possible that something better had come along. In the end, I ended up back at the Gap grabbing a pair of their curvy bootcut jeans. They fit just like my trusty favorite pair and they don't break the bank. Perfection.

Vera Bradley tote

Steve purchased this tote bag for me as a Christmas gift last year and I cannot explain how useful this sucker has been. It kept all of my school materials organized and I continue to receive compliments on the print. It's a very happy print. You can't help but smile with all the different colors going on.... or maybe that's just me. The shoulder strap is the perfect length for my short self and the interior pockets keep my cell phone and ipad safe from campus bandits.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Why the dietary hate?

In the last few days I have been looking up recipes for dairy free cakes and frosting. Why? Because my birthday is coming up and even those of us with dietary restrictions enjoy dessert ;) Lucky for me, I have found some incredible looking recipes and inspirations for birthday treats. I am currently planning to combine a delicious looking lemon cake with some fresh strawberry icing for strawberry lemonade cupcakes. I will certainly be sure to let you know how those turn out if I do make them. What concerns me the most when I find these recipes though, is the hateful comments left by others. People I call "normal eaters". People who don't feel like they are going to die for three days if they happen to ingest something that doesn't agree with them. I can't for the life of me understand the point of saying "eww" or "I would never eat that" in regard to a post simply because it avoids a particular ingredient. That's like me liking cucumbers and leaving a comment on someone's pasta salad recipe saying that I would never give the recipe a shot because it is different than what I am used to. A similar issue is name calling. Just because I do not eat dairy products, red meat, or nuts does not make it okay to say that I (or anyone else making different food choices) am stupid, weird, or a "dumb communist hippie". Some people eat differently than you. They still share recipes and enjoy a good meal.... Including dessert. Get over yourself, food haters.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

300th post - sorry it's not more upbeat

Maybe I'm just a poor future teacher who doesn't truly understand what goes on in a classroom from day to day. Maybe I'm really clueless and idealistic. It just seems to me that once a person reaches the point in their teaching career where they don't honestly care about the success and well being of their students then that person should find a new career.

Kids these days have literally hundreds of negative influences and people telling them that they aren't good enough. Shouldn't the classroom be as safe and removed from that as possible?

Again, maybe I'm a crazy liberal with backwards ideas about real life, but shouldn't a teacher be someone a student can trust to be honest and accepting no matter what the situation? Isn't that the point of all of these classes I am taking? I'm learning how to provide instruction that includes and accepts students from every possible situation. If teaching is really just glorified babysitting and putting up with various problems as they arise then I should just be able to renew my CPR and first aid certifications and have at it, right? I mean, I have 12 years experience with babysitting. Why bother with all of these papers and readings about being culturally responsive and accepting if that has nothing to do with being a "real" teacher?

I have had the opportunity lately to meet some teachers who have made my blood boil. They tell children to their face and in notes home to parents that the child is a burden and the teacher does not have time to deal with them each day. They tell the parents to medicate the children because the child is a distraction and a menace in the classroom... never mind what might be best for the actual child in question. If there are legitimate issues, then work with the family to help them figure out the issues in a way that sets the child up for success.

My parents dealt with this to some extent with my younger brother and I know it made them angry. Now that I am seeing it from a teacher's perspective I am even more angry about it. These are KIDS for goodness sake. If a kindergartner makes jokes using toilet humor and it offends you, the problem is not the 5 year-old... the problem is YOU! Hate to break it to you, but kids are gross and they find all things related to bathrooms and underwear to be hilarious. If this offends your delicate sensibilities then please find another profession.

A child should not have to go through life thinking he or she is a dirty, shameful child just because his or her teacher didn't pay attention in child development class back in college.

Please note that these comments are about a few different teachers I have met recently outside of my courses at GSU and are in no way connected to my field placements within that program.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

first block grades are in

child development - A
cultural foundations - A+
language and literacy - A
classroom management - A+

Straight As.

And no, your eyes are not playing tricks on you... that is definitely an A+ in geometry up there. I have one thing to say about that: in your FACE Mr. Kinney!

Mr. Kinney was my 9th grade geometry teacher in high school. He treated my friend and me like crap and I felt like he was never willing to help us out because we had skipped a grade in math. I made a D in his class that year and the idea that I was bad at math was born. It may have taken me 10 years, but I finally proved to myself that I AM smart and I AM intelligent enough to succeed at subjects that do not come natural to me.

I would also just like to say that I am incredibly proud of myself. I made the President's list last semester and chalked it up to only having three classes. I was proud, but didn't think it would be repeated. However, I still made it my goal to get back on that list this semester carrying a full course load. The fact that I achieved this goal means the world to me. It is such an affirmation that I am exactly where I need to be. 

Now I can truly relax and enjoy my break before summer classes start. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

you may have noticed a change...

Back when I created this blog I chose the name "A lot of love, A lot of hope" because I felt that was all I had. Steve and I had love and hope on our side and absolutely no clue how to get where we wanted to be. We persevered through some really trying times in Savannah, confusing times during and after our move to Atlanta, and have finally come to a place where the path toward our dreams has become clear.

In light of this new found focus, I felt that this blog should change to reflect our lives as they are now.

The tag line has stayed the same since the overall goal is still the same: to live the life we have imagined. However, the title "The Thoreau Experiment" is, in my opinion, more indicative of our attempts to "go confidently in the direction of our dreams" as Mr. Thoreau encourages us to do.

There has also been some cleaning up around the edges. I found that many of the things I had placed around the edges of the blog were simply to take up space and were no longer necessary or relevant. It was time to simplify.

I feel that the blog as it is now can easily grow with me as things change in my life... beyond the completion of my degree and on into the other adventures awaiting me. Life truly is a great big experiment and I hope to become better at documenting the process.

block 1 = complete

It is official, as of approximately 8:55am this morning I am finished with block 1. All I have to do now is wait for tomorrow when my final grades will be published, then I have three weeks of relaxing to do before summer classes begin.

Oh, and what a glorious few weeks they will be! I will be volunteering with my favorite kindergarten class for field day one day next week, then Steve and I go on our Disney trip, and then it's Steve's big 30th birthday celebration. I am pretty sure May is going to be epic.

With any luck, I will decompress and get rid of all the spring semester stress so that I am fresh and ready for summer classes. I think I mentioned this on here before, but I am taking Statistics and Algebra this summer. It has sarcastically lovingly been dubbed "the summer of incredible fun" since, well, I can think of many things I would prefer than spending six weeks doing nothing but math. However, it is a necessary evil.

Also, I don't want to jinx anything by speaking too soon, but I am pretty sure I got at least a B+ in Geometry this semester. I might just be able to rock these classes and then move on to more happy fun times classes like science methods in early childhood. Now THAT sounds like a good time.

If you couldn't tell, I am incredibly relieved to be finished with the semester. I will be back tomorrow to post the official grades from the semester. :) 

Friday, April 27, 2012

not a graduation, but a convocation

Very early on in the semester I found out that Georgia State was doing away with Fall commencement ceremonies in favor of one big ceremony in the spring. As someone admitted to a program that will not be complete until December of 2013, and as someone who will have waited 8 years for my college degree, this news was most unwelcome. I sure as hell was not willing to wait another six months to have my moment walking across that stage.

After pouting and complaining for a while, I found out that the College of Education would continue to hold convocation for all graduates in the semester which they complete their coursework. Since I had never attended a convocation, this news did little to make me feel better.

I felt very angry at Georgia State for making - what I perceived to be - such a rash and insensitive decision.

Fast forward to the present.... I finally saw pictures and video of the most recent fall convocation for the Georgia State College of Education. Not only was it a beautiful ceremony, but it was much smaller, much more intimate, and allowed for the event to truly reflect the specific triumphs of those graduating in the field of education. The keynote speaker, the Dean of the college, and everyone else is focused on the 30-40 new teachers receiving their certification and degrees.

Even better? I don't have to wear a cap and gown! As iconic as those articles of clothing are for graduation, I am happy to forego them in order to feel comfortable... not to mention maintaining my individuality throughout the event. It is difficult to tell one person from another when they are all wearing the same thing.

The more I think about having a convocation instead of a traditional graduation ceremony, the less angry and upset I get. I had the typical cap and gown, pomp and circumstance, boring commencement ceremony when I graduated from high school. It matched the typical high school experience that I had. I really love the idea of having a different, more personal experience when I (finally) finish college in just about 18 months. It compliments the distinctly unique experience I have had in pursuit of this degree.

By the way.... I get to apply to graduate at the end of the coming fall semester. Hold on to your hats, folks. The end is near!

Friday, April 6, 2012

nothing pretty about the end of the semester

This is the last month of classes and I am more stressed than I can remember ever being because of school.

We have a major project due every week until the end of the semester in addition to several less important projects due at the same time. Then I have my math class which is another headache entirely.

I feel like a huge whiner, but I really am super stressed. I've never taken 15 hours before. I certainly have never taken so many high stakes classes at one time. Getting a C could mean being dropped from the program.... which would be a nightmare.

I had a huge IBS flare up on Monday the likes of which I haven't seen since my days at the library in Savannah. It lasted three days. I've been chugging water just trying to maintain an acceptable level of hydration. Monday all I could keep in my system was ginger tea with a small bit of honey.

Of course, it wasn't strictly due to stress. I made some poor food choices last weekend and had an allergic reaction to peanut oil and dairy that really made the flare up ugly.

All of those things being said, that does not mean there are nto positives around here. In the midst of my issues this week I made my way to kroger and found an excellent brand of soy yogurt and soy cheese which are both lactose and casein free! They are also cheap and I can buy them at the regular grocery store. They also do not use genetically modified soybeans.

I believe that is pretty much the definition of a BFD in my book.

Yay soy products!

Another happy thing? I get to see Steve today (he's been gone for two weeks) and tomorrow we will be at the beach!

Yay beach time!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Great literature FTW

In case you were not aware, I have been reading the Harry Potter series this semester during what I call down time. Which usually means on the train to and from class or during the kiddos' karate lessons.

I had read the first four books when they initially came out. My grandma bought them for me as a birthday gift from her book club or something and I loved them. Then I got to high school and had enough reading to do with my AP and honors classes. Books 5 through 7 never made it into my reading que. It wasn't until after I had seen all of the movies that I really felt the urge to dive into the books again.

That urge to read them, coupled with the need for something interesting to take my mind off of those tedious moments on the train and a shiny new library card, brought me to where I am now.

Halfway through the last book crying over Dobby's death harder than I did in the theatre.

In all seriousness, I am loving this series all over again and finding some connections to my own life in the pages just like I did when I was eleven. It is times like this that I get excited about the day when I have my own children and they are old enough to read these books just like I read the Chronicles of Narnia with my mom.

With all of the craziness from school it is nice to daydream sometimes about Felix Felicis or some charm to cheer yourself up. These things make for great metaphors.

Friday, March 30, 2012

tough times never last, tough people do

Registration was this week for the fall semester and I have to admit, I am a bit intimidated by my schedule. I will be taking 18 hours in the fall. That's more than I have ever attempted in one semester and they are all mandatory for my program... no dropping one if it gets to be too much to handle.

The other intimidating part is that in order to maintin a schedule that allows me to work (read: pay all of our bills) in the fall, I had to rearrange my summer schedule. Now, instead of a math class and an art/music education class, I will be taking two math classes over the summer and the art/music education class on fridays in the fall. You read that correctly. I will be taking two math classes concurrently for six weeks this summer... Statistics and algebra to be exact. Yay me.

The good part of this plan is that I only have to have my math courses for six weeks instead of 15 like I would if I took it during the fall. I will also be completely done with my upper division math courses by August. These are all happy, good things.

When I first applied to this program I knew it was going to be challenging. I knew it was going to take all the brain power and determination I have and then a bunch of organizational skills I do not have. I knew I was going to be tired, uncomfortable, intimidated, and quite a bit scared most of the time. But even with that knowledge, it is not easy and sometimes it isn't even fun. At this point in the semester, my brain is essentially fried and the last thing I want to do is spend another Friday and Saturday working on the never ending pile of projects and homework I have.


I will.

I will do all of it and try to be grateful for the opportunity.

I will remind myself that I am stronger than I was five years ago. I can handle this.

I am 18 months away from graduation. 18 months of hard work, long days, and a bit of sacrifice in exchange for being able to live out all of my wildest dreams?

I can definitely handle this. Bring on the maths!

Friday, March 23, 2012

C is for Confidence

My supervisor observed me teaching a lesson this week in my Kindergarten class. I was teaching the struggling readers group about the -en word family using a lesson plan created by the teacher I'm observing. We had fun and I scored well on the observation form. The one thing that both my supervisor and my observing teacher said was that I need more confidence in myself. They both had several wonderful things to say about my teaching, my positive relationship with the kids, and my enthusiasm for giving them quality instruction, but both of them said they could see how nervous I was.

This is pretty much what my supervisor said the last time he observed me in the classroom. As much as I would like to say it was a fluke, I am well aware that I am lacking confidence when it comes to being observed and graded on my teaching performance.

Most of you reading this are probably well aware, but I actually started out as an early childhood education major back in 2005 when this whole college thing started. I got amazing grades, exempted from several tests, and was actually slated to graduate a semester early due to my AP credits from high school. Then I went into the classroom to teach for the first time.

To make a very long story short, my 19 year-old self was terrified. All I could think about was how I was going to screw up these kids and their development. I was terrified that they would be bored out of their minds and never learn anything. I was so scared that I changed my major to anything I thought I might possibly enjoy that didn't involve teaching.

Now that I'm older, I realize that teaching is my passion. Being with kids and working with them so they can acheive a new level of understanding sounds like an amazing way to spend the rest of my life. Those fears are still lingering in the back of my mind though... coming out every now and then to make sure I don't get too excited about teaching or too confident in my progress toward my degree.

After receiving feedback from my teacher, my supervisor, friends in my cohort, and Steve all telling me I'm a great teacher but I need to start believing in myself, I've decided that it is time to get rid of these fears once and for all.

After all, my favorite quote from Thoreau says to go CONFIDENTLY in the direction of your dreams. Not go meekly and fearfully in the direction of your dreams. If I want to live the life I have always imagined for myself, then I need to dig deep, find my confidence, and stop holding onto these unfounded fears.

In case anyone was wondering.... I currently have an A in my geometry class. I haven't had that subject in 10 years and back then I barely passed with a D. Here's to chasing down your demons, whatever they may be.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

hanging in there: a quick update on the semester so far

Nope, you're not hallucinating, I am actually updating my blog!

This semester has been a big adjustment for me since there are so many projects that require incredible amounts of time. Just when you finish one, you've got another one due in a week! Not that I am complaining. The information and experiences I have encountered so far have helped me grow by leaps and bounds already. This program is tough, but so am I.

The ABC book I mentioned a while back has been turned in and your's truly made top marks. Of course. :) Here is a little sample of my work for those who are interested...

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The book was about grocery shopping for ingredients needed to make dinner for a group of friends with various diet restrictions such as gluten free and vegan. Who knew having knowledge about foods that start with X and Q would come in handy? Or that the few months of a strict elimination diet would provide source material for a creative assignment? Just goes to show you that there is a reason for everything.

Like I said, the completion of this project doesn't mean I can really relax. Next up I have to compile a text set comprised of children's books that address the topic of immigration. This assignment will hopefully be helpful when it comes time to actually write a story of my own (which is the next assignment for my ESOL class). Meanwhile, I will also be gathering information for my focal child project in which I monitor and report on the physical, social, and cognitive growth of one of the children in my kindergarten placement.

Of course we have lesson plans to write, journals to keep, and readings to keep up with each week as well. I've said it before... this program is tough. I am really enjoying it though. Nothing has really felt like busy work so far and that is a welcome change.

This week is my spring break so I have a bit of leisure time between working on projects. You can thank the break for this update. Next week it is back to kindergarten and due dates. This week is also registration for the summer semester. No rest for the weary.... after a break over the month of May (in which Steve and I are actually taking a vacation) I start classes again. I am registered for Statistics and an Art/Music in Education course. Should be fun!

I think that pretty much sums up the semester thus far. No promises about updates on the regular, but I do hope to be able to pop in more often. My fancy new ipad should help me out with that. :)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tim Gunn would be proud

Tomorrow marks the beginning of week three of the semester and I am making it work!

The amount of reading and prep required for class is still an adjustment since there is a lot, but I am slowly getting used to it and finding "extra" time to work it all in. Switching from my purse to simply carrying my school tote makes a huge difference.

Thirty minute karate class waiting on the kiddos? That's thirty minutes to work through a chapter for class. Sitting in the carpool line to pick up kiddo A? That's fifteen minutes to review notes and start my literacy reading responses.

It is strange to spend a weekend reading class materials and completing assignments when before my homework took maybe an hour. The program director wasn't trying to intimidate us when she said this was a rigorous program. It truly is going to require more dedication than any of us imagined in order to do well.

However, the more work I do and the more time I spend in class discussion and at retreats with others in my block (like the one on Friday), I begin to feel even more motivated to do well. I feel even more proud of the fact that I was accepted to the program. I feel even more excited about what is to come.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

be careful what you ask for

My mom came over on Monday (MLK Day) since we both had the day off. She and I went through my syllabi, grabbed some lunch, scored two great blazers at Goodwill, and raided the Children's Literature section of Barnes and Noble. It was awesome.

However, the best point of the day may have been about five minutes after she arrived at my house. You see, my mom reads this blog and, after my last post, showed up at my door with my very own Yoda bobble head.

He has been dubbed Study Buddy Yoda and lives on my nightstand when I'm not doing school work. It's a nice reminder of my mantra (Do or do not.... there is no try) and of all the people I have rooting for me while I complete my program.

And the force must really be with me because I got an idea for my ABC's book today that is so full of win even Tom Brady is jealous. I'll post more about that once the assignment is complete and I have my book published. No need to tempt people into stealing the idea. ;)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Where is Yoda when you need him?

This first week of classes has shown me a few key concepts about what the next 2 years are going to be like in the College of Education.

1. I will need to get myself together and get organized

It's the first week and I'm already a bit overwhelmed. One of my classes has a 27 page syllabus. Half of which is explaining the various projects we are responsible for. It is incredibly intimidating... especially when I was nervous in the first place. All of my classes are pretty much based on two or three big assignments that I have to complete simultaneously while in my field placement... which requires its own projects/assignments. Having never taken 15 hours at a time, this is a huge adjustment.

2. Between work and class, I am going to be a zombie by Spring Break.

Tuesday was a 12 hour day for me. Starting next week I will have three 12 hour days in a row preceded by a 10 hour day. Thank God Fridays don't have any scheduled classes so I can study before work.

3. If I can handle the work load and schedule, this semester is going to be really worth it in the end.

All craziness aside, the projects we are doing this year and the time spent in the classroom will definitely be worth it. It will also be a huge indicator as to whether I can handle being a teacher. I'm freaking out at the present moment, but once I digest the information and get into the swing of things I know I am going to learn so much more than I expected... mostly about myself and my abilities. If I make it through the semester successfully then I may just put my fears from Sunday night (and 4 years ago) to rest.

4. There will be tears and new friends.

There already have been a few tears over this semester. It's bound to happen when you really want something and habe to stretch way beyond yoru comfort zone to get it. Yesterday I foudn out that GSU isn't doing December graduation ceremonies anymore. When I complete my coursework in December 2013 I'll get my diploma, but if I want the ceremony then I have to come back in May. I'm insanely disappointed. However, I've already made a bunch of new friends to hang out with during class breaks and study with. Everythign is easier when you have friends to share it with.

I feel like I need my own personal Yoda to get me through this semester. The popular quote "Do or do not, there is no try." has been my mantra the last couple of days. Especially while attempting my math homework.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

thinking about tomorrow

Tomorrow is the first day of the spring semester and my level of excitement can only be surpassed by my level of nervousness. Everyone I know has told me many times that I have nothing to be nervous about. Steve is practically blue in the face from telling me I have nothing to worry about.

And I do believe him... them... everyone. I believe that this is absolutely the right path for me and that tomorrow, sitting in that classroom, is exactly where I need to be. Hence the excitement.

Still, the fact remains that I ran away from this exact scenario four years ago because it was intimidating. It still is intimidating and apparently, it is supposed to be that way.

I have a very distinct memory of a discussion I had with my Educational Foundations professor back at Columbus State University during my first attempt at my education degree. During this conversation I expressed my feelings of intimidation and their basis in fears of somehow doing more harm than good for my students. My professor replied with a big grin on his face and said that all the best teachers have that fear. He said that particular fear is what helps them make good choices and truly enrich the lives of their students.

With that memory playing on a near constant loop in my head today and after organizing my materials for tomorrow, there is only one more thing to do... get a good night's rest.

In an effort to do just that as well as calm myself down a bit, I've decided to add more structure to my evening routine. Just before bedtime I am going to set aside at least 30 minutes to have a hot cup of tea and read a chapter of whatever book I happen to be reading. Not a textbook or lesson plans, a book just for fun. This way I can clear my head and relax.

I have a feeling that will be important as I face down my fears over the next few semesters.