Thursday, April 28, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my birthday, and I feel SO loved and appreciated by all my friends, family, coworkers, and students.   It's a wonderful feeling.  I feel like I'm walking on air.  That could be the fact that there're only 21 days of school left with my students, though.  It's the Final Countdown!

I've reached the peak of the mountain for this week and am on my way down, feeling great.  Thanks to everybody who's helping to make this day great!

I would like to add that my students are taking a test (much easier day of teaching than normal for me), and I'm playing concentration music for them on Pandora.   I'm pretty sure that the whole "improved concentration thing is blown, though, when the music is randomly interrupted by very loud, obnoxious ads.  Just sayin'.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Because grades are due again...

Terrifying Moment that I'm sure will be funny later

I took all my grading to my parents' house (4 hours away) over the winter break.  When I got back to school and went to pull out my gradebook and my last couple of remaining "to-be graded" stacks, they weren't in my school bag.  I pushed the panic away and decided that they must be in the house or in my car somewhere.  So, I came home last night expecting to find my gradebook.  Long story short, it was in the back of my dad's car....four hours' drive away.  It is now Tuesday night, and grades are due by midnight Thursday.  Totally panicking now.  My dad is my hero for scanning some of the grades and overnighting my gradebook and ungraded papers.  So, hopefully they'll arrive sometime Thursday and I can rush to get everything done after work but before midnight.  Here's to hoping, and here's to hoping this will be a really funny oops! moment sometime in the future.  For right now, I'm terrified that I won't be able to get my grades in on time.

4 months later: it's still not funny.

Something to think about.

I wrote this in January, so about three months ago.  I forget sometimes how much good there really is in my life, and need to remind myself to be more like one of my role models- Pollyanna!  If you don't get it, watch the link. alll the way through. :)

I'm really stressed right now, but it'll all pass soon, and I'm looking for the silver lining.

Here's the old post: I titled it Maybe

This is my second consecutive entire day with my first period class.  Three hours left with them, but as of right now, I'm not sick and tired of them yet.  They're not getting on my nerves, and I'm actually having a really good day.  Minus the fact that they're taking an exam, and my bladder feels like it's absolutely going to burst.  Maybe #1- Maybe I COULD teach in a self-contained/ elementary classroom.  I've always wondered.

Maybe # 2- Maybe this school will be great next year.  If I am given the opportunity to teach at this school again next year, and we can continue to keep our star students and recruit a good number of similar students, I think this would be, like, one of the greatest schools ever.  I had a great conversation with the parent of one of the basketball players (not my student) about the school, the students, and what it's like working for the school.  I told him that I really do enjoy it, especially now that behavior's finally improving and I feel like I can teach more and discipline less.  Maybe, Maybe, we'll continue on the path to being a leading school.  I'm so glad the first-year bumps are smoothing themselves out.

Maybe # 3- Maybe my roommates and I will stop having such vivid, weird dreams and nightmares.  Last night after dinner, we talked about how frequently we have school-related dreams/ nightmares.  Dreaming about the realities that our students face and that we as teachers face on a daily basis is borderline terrifying.  I mean, I spend ALL day with these kids and their parents.  When I go to sleep, I want to dream about something nice, like long vacations and lazy days on the beach.  

Maybe, maybe, maybe.  I guess we'll see.

Gold Nugget

One of the reasons I love my job is that I love working with kids.  While grading exams, I found this cute little nugget:

The assignment was to write 6 things they've learned in life science so far that weren't on the exam.

My student, Johnnie, responded this way:

I learned big words such as deciduous, eutrophication, and ion.

I learned my niche at home is to be a good, smart, intelligent son.

I love this kid.  He's adorable.  The phrase "big words" from a seventh grader. Precious.


Well, as you know, Florence started off as an adventure.  Of course, we all know I'm a little directionally challenged, so asking me to get to the Rome airport all the way to Florence without mishaps might've been a little overzealous.

So, I had my pizza. And my first caffeine in over 24 hours.  And the next day, I accidentally slept until 11. Serious oops!  This was Palm Sunday, and we decided to adventure around Florence.  We hiked up to the top of Piazza Michelangelo, a hill that has a great view of the entire city, the Medici corridor, the Arno, and the old Fort.  It was beautiful, and we did our first bit of "touristy" shopping- t-shirts and seriously tacky boxers. 
 See?  We found some even tackier ones later on in the trip, but those were not for purchasing- even tacky tourists have their limits!

We went over to the Duomo, took pictures, and avoided the sharp entrance fee by going to Palm Sunday Mass.  It was a beautiful service in Italian, but a little disappointing in that there was no singing and no ceremony with the palms or the blessing of the palms, though we were told they were blessed before we came in.  Kevin proved to be a bad Catholic as he didn't know how to take communion.  I guess he's not used to being spoon fed.  Too independent a man!

Here's a few shots of the view from Piazza Michelangelo.  Oh, we also saw our first fake David-- albeit a little weathered, he was still impressive looking.

The Arno and all the bridges connecting the two sides of Florence.
 The old fort.  We heard some horror stories about its walls.

We ordered in calzones that night, and as good as it was, it still made me miss the Charleston Famous Luna Rossa's calzones, and their fabulous cooks! ;)

The next day was Monday.  Jess had to go to class in the morning, so Kevin and I were on our own.  We walked along the Arno and down to Ponte Vecchio, which was beautiful, but sooo expensive.  You know those stores where you're afraid to even touch anything and it ruins the window shopping? Imagine a district where every single store is like that. 

It was so neat though...the village really looks like it could drop right off the bridge and into the river at any moment.  Kev got a couple of great pictures of the village and its colors (it looks a little like Rainbow Row at home), but I can't find it right now, so you'll have to dig for it on facebook.

From there, we wandered through the shops and streets on both sides of the river and found a new route to Santa Croce- right near Jess' school.  We checked out the street vendors and the progress of the TRL set-up for MTV's big final Italian appearance and concert Wednesday night in the Piazza.  Met up with Jess and set off to see Pinno, the sandwich man.  He hand-made FRESH, beautiful, tasty sandwiches.  Despite the fact that my Memaw said it looked alive, the sandwich was tasty and the portions were huge and less expensive than most things we found in Italy.  Of course, after another good Italian meal, we needed a good Italian dessert.  Jess took us to a great gelato/ dessert shop/ bakery/ candy shop, where we all tried a very tasty mini cannoli.  Because most of the museums were closed on Monday, we had to revise our plans.  We ditched the museum plans (except for the outdoor statue garden- fake David #2), and crammed in most of the vital sightseeing for the city that afternoon.  We went to an authentic butcher shop where we saw cow stomach linings on display in the window, Dante's home and church, the carousel, talked about the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, and Jess and I got to shop and have a cappuccino for about an hour.  It was quality girl time, and I know Kevin enjoyed his break.  When we met up, it was time to try our first Italian beers and head to a wine tasting.  We got to drink our beers openly in the street- not even in a brown bag! I felt like such a rebel. 

The wine tasting was amazing.  There's simply no other way to describe it, as with many things we experienced in Italy.  Pinno and his translator were great, and we had a blast with each other and the others in our group.  The wine cellar is on the top 100 things for women to do in Firenze book.  We went and walked/ sat by the Arno and waited for our dinner reservation at a restaurant the locals loved- Dante's.  That was about the end of the night, as the wine tasting did us all in.  We were up early in the morning to see the REAL David, but the line was too long, so we headed to the train station and set off for Rome.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Italy- The arrival

I've given a lot of thought to what my first blog should be, and what it should NOT be.  After all of this though, I figure I'll just jump right in.  That's pretty much how my life operates.  I set a goal, I reach it, and God makes it happen.  This particular instance of jumping right in entails my fabulous Spring Break from teaching trip to Italy.  I get to see my little (older) brother and hopefully some good friends from college.

So, after all of the research and planning and arrangements back home were made, it was off to Italy on a Friday early morning.  Everything went smoothly through GSP and into Newark.  Of course, the security guards wouldn't let me into the international flights terminal in the airport so I got stuck in airport limbo, which is cold, noisy, dirty, and empty.  Not to mention, I was in Jersey.  It was beyond stereotypical NJ and I literally felt like I was watching an episode of the Jersey shore.  I found a corner to hole up in and do some work, but with almost a 7 hour layover, ended up bored even with my wealth of people-watching opportunities.

Finally, I got on the plane to Lisbon, Portugal.  This, of course, was after a long conversation and some very suavely spoken Portugese with a beautiful, drop-dead gorgeous, so so so sexy Portugese flight attendant.  Seriously, I wanted to learn Portugese on the spot.  The flight over wasn't bad.  I was on the end of the middle row of the plane, and the two women next to me were great.  One was Portugese and lives in the US- we chatted about the different educational systems and reforms, etc....right up my alley.  Unfortunately, across the aisle from me was an adorable BABY.  You can guess how that went.  They left the lights on the entire flight, and I was in the very back row, so we were pretty cozy with the flight attendants, which was great for my "more agua please."  You know what else is in the back of an airplane? The toilet. ooo, fun. Anyway, I survived.  Our flight got in a little late and I had less than twenty minutes to get the bus to the terminal, through customs, and to my next terminal and gate.  Luckily, my next flight ended up getting delayed three times, so I made it.  Customs was so easy- I hope it's that easy on the way out.  I got my first Euros at the airport while I waited! I couldn't get them in Newark because EVERY SINGLE ATM in the two terminals I was in was out of commission for servicing and the money exchange's credit card reader was down.  Just my luck, of course.  Anyway, like I was saying, my luck was improving for a little while.  Because the flight was so late, I got into Rome later than expected.  I found some really helpful people along the way, found the train to the main train station, Termini, and purchased my ticket and got on the train- all without difficulty.  Then, I had quite a time trying to get a ticket to Florence, who's Italian name is Firenze.  I bought a ticket for the fast train (1 hr 35 min as opposed to 4 hrs) and barely made it on the train.  Thank goodness for information kiosks in the EU!!!  I dozed off for the first time and scared myself half to death that I'd missed my stop and was going to wind up somewhere in northern Italy with my luggage and fantastic knowledge of the Italian language (code for: none).

Long story short: I made it.

Scene: I'm in Florence, exhausted, running on adrenaline and sooooo psyched that I'm finally in Italy with Kevin and Jess.  I'd told them I'd be in between 2 and 3, but actually got in at about 3:15 knowing they were waiting in the station.  Of course, the station was huge.  I have no cell phone and don't have Jess or Kevin's international numbers. Fabulous.  Then, I met another wonderful person.  She saw my Vera Bradley tote, knew I must be American, and came up to me asking me to help her find my friend.  I told her that'd be fantastic, and that I could use some help looking for my friend and brother.  This was after about half an hour of pacing the station.  We ended up walking a few more laps, then talking to the police and getting an announcement out on the loudspeaker.  We didn't understand anything in the announcement except the names.  Anyway, this girl, Steph, and I found an internet cafe and got on the internet to contact the people we were meeting.  She got in contact with another girl she knew in Florence, who came to pick her up.  Since we'd continued to hang out in front of the McDonald's at the station, this really nice girl said she lived nearby (less than a five minute walk) and that I could come to her apartment till I found Jess and Kevin.  I walked with them.  She lives in a wealthy part of Florence...right in front of Il Duomo!!! I used her internet to get directions to Jess' apartment, a 30 minute walk.  Off I went adventuring. I saw some beautiful sights on my walk!   When I got to Jess' apartment, nobody was home, so I decided to walk around and find an internet cafe.  This is virtually impossible in residential areas.  Italians are also smarter than Americans and lock their wi-fi networks.  Finally, I start to get worried that it's now dinner time, I haven't slept in forever, I want a shower, and I want to SIT DOWN and stop walking, plus I was really looking forward to starting my Italian tour with Jess and Kev.  Just on a whim, I turned on my phone and guess what? It's international, and I could've saved myself all that trouble if I'd known it.  From there, I found my way to a major intersection near the apartment and it was not long before Kevin and Jess came to meet me.  I'd been thinking all along that I was going to be absolutely thrilled to see them, but by this time, they had no idea how excited I was.

So, we reunited, went to the apartment, and went for a long walk along and across the Arno to get my first Italian meal: Pizza Margherita and a Coca-Cola light.  All was instantly made well.