Hellllllo. Today marked the end of my two week vacation from everything school, even this blog. :X
But now I am back at it, in the summer school mode, which - after the first day - seems to be 100 times more laid back than the school year. I am not sure if it is because the excitement of summer has worn off or that the mood of the students is brought instantly lower with the words “summer school,” but both the kids and teachers seemed to enjoy their two week cool off. And begrudgingly, the students are coming around. (I literally had to coax a hesitant student into class today.)
I am going to be the paraprofessional that floats around to all three classes (Language Arts, Science, and Math) with the 5th graders. I am excited about this because it will give me an opportunity to really get to know a new group of kids in this short time and hopefully be there to help them throughout the day.
Oh and did I mention? I have a job interview for the fall. Any prayers or positive energy you want to send my way would be greatly appreciated!!
Also, this article discusses a lot of the things teachers and parents have been saying here about this “moving up ceremony.”
I like the point that says:
"Marking the end of the starter years can be as important as a high school or even college ceremony to families that don’t have a tradition of academic progress, said Aara Davis-Jones, principal of Silver Spring’s Georgian Forest Elementary. At her school, one of Montgomery County’s poorest, with 75 percent of pupils on free or reduced-cost meals, many parents are recent immigrants who are thrilled to see their children with a certificate in hand."
No, graduating middle school or elementary school is not the same as finishing your undergraduate degree. But in some respects, surviving middle school might be harder than we adults like to remember.
And I say that hard work deserves recognition. And these kids deserve some!
Only got dunked in the teacher dunk tank about… five times. It was a lot of fun!
Tonight is our student’s moving up ceremony (high school starts at 8th grade here, so it is the end of middle school for these kids) and then tomorrow and Thursday are half days. Thursday is the last day of school!! (Also my birthday!)
One thing is for sure.. every single child is off the wall, bonkers, out of control excited for summer.
And me? Well, I’m just plain exhausted.
Can’t wait for my little two week break between regular school and summer school.
The whole grade is being spilt into two different days, but I’m actually going to the same place both days - a local park / garden where the kids will have a (science) assignment to take pictures of nature that they can connect to what they learned in class this year.
Should be interesting to have a group of 8 or 9 seventh graders at this point in the year… they are all crawling out of their skin and are dying to be done with school.
But don’t worry, Ms. S will keep the kiddies in check :p
Today I got to go visit some of my original student teaching kids in their science class while I was on my lunch break. We went outside to relase butterflies that they had raised from larva. It was a beautiful day and the kids were excited and restless, to say the least. So restless that some really just could not handle a gentle butterfly or the smell of a beautiful spring day without the want, need and desire to roll down the hill we were placed on top of. The begging came from multiple voices as my cooperating teacher just looked at me, laughed and shook her head, but ultimately said yes. My focus moved from chasing newly freed butterflies to groups of seventh graders (boys mostly) tumbling and tripping and falling and stumbling up and down the hill continuously for what was at least 10 minutes.
And it never got old. To me, who was watching, and to the students, were just so happy to have the chance to roll down that hill.
I think I was so amused because as I stood on top of that hill, watching Nikes and mopey-haired heads spin out of control, accompanied by a constant stream of laugher, I remembered that they really are just kids. Kids who, when placed atop a grassy hill on a sunny day, want to roll down it.
Got a job as a paraprofessional in the school where I student taught and am currently subbing at!!!!!!!!!
So freaking excited / thankful / relieved / happy.
The job is just for summer school, but I feel like this is the foot in the door I need. If anything, it will calm my crazy nerves and give me a good chunk of time to fully focus on my plans for the fall.
Job searching makes me feel a whole bunch of different emotions. And quite honestly its exhausting.
First, you get really motivated and ready to tackle every thing on your to do list and email everyone you can and fill out every application that crosses your path.
Then, you get excited with the possibility that you are actually that much closer to getting a real live job! Ooh, if this job comes through with this school system, than my life will be like this. Here comes the intense day dreaming. Not just about what grade you would teach, or what school system you would be a part of, but the really small details like what color your couch in your new apartment would be and where you would stop in the mornings to get coffee.
The daydreaming goes on for far too long and far too in depth, as you find yourself running red lights and loosing sleep because of your hopeful wishing.
Then, a couple days later, when nothing has magically landed at your feet (as planned!!) you go from thinking about every little detail of your life-to-be to sitting far too close to the edge of giving up in the matter of seconds. No emails have been returned, applications sit at a stand still, and you sit, wait, and worry throughout every minute of your current nannying job. As the three year old boy repeatedly hits you in the head with a stuffed animal penguin for about thirty minutes straight, you become numb and stop caring. Fine, I quit. I guess I’ll just be a nanny for the rest of my life. I make good enough money.
But its not about the money. And that’s where the real emotional roller coaster comes in. You don’t want a teaching job because of the money (or lack thereof) or because of the politics and test scores and overprotective parents or the budget cuts and the bad press, you want a teaching job because it is what you are meant to do. You want a teaching job because you truly believe in the children, and you care so much about them that you are willing to put up with all of the other nonsense, if you can just reach one student a day. You want to be a teacher because you know you can do it. And you worry because on paper, through the endless applications, you are not sure that they convey the depth of your passion.
So, after rock bottom, you hit a plateu. A half-hearted trust in the bigger picture. And resort to all that is left: hope, and patience.
“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world better, whether by a healthy child or a garden patch…to know even one life was breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succedeed.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Budget cuts in the schools, sex offender teachers and students less prepared for college than ten years ago? (these were all headlines in today’s Washington Post)
Sick of the negativity and bad press - I even hear it from teachers in the school! If students see that you’re negative, then they will surely follow suit. Teachers need some real support, and we need it now before the best ones we have are burnt out and gone.
No, not to New Zealand (yet). Tomorrow I am going back to my first placement here in the states to visit my little 7th graders! I am so excited that I get to share my pictures and stories with them. I am putting together a little slide show right now : )
Now, lets see if I’m able to wake up at 5:45 tomorrow morning…. uhhh.
Well, after a busy week of battling jet-lag, readjusting to driving on the right side of the road, and lots of story telling with friends and family, I am finally able to come to terms with the fact that I am home from New Zealand.
Now I am dealing with my “real life,” like a job to have or a place to live. For a good 24 hours, I was in full freak out mode, stressing out and loosing sleep. (might have been from the jet lag still)
Then I realized one of the biggest things I learned in New Zealand.
I was half way across the world, hours away from anything familiar, and not only did I survive, but I also thrived and had heaps of fun. I learned to roll with the punches and trust in weekends that didn’t have plans. I adopted a “why not - I’m in New Zealand” attitude that brought me to do things and meet people I could have never imagined. After being home for a week, I realize I never want to loose that attitude. I want to be as care free and as trusting as the time I slept in a strangers house. Or bungee jumped. Or got in a car in another country with a group of girls I barely knew - that quickly became my close friends. I want to continue on doing the things that make me happy and trusting in the unsure parts of my life. The ability to be flexible and open for any new opportunity is what gets you places, not the worry or the need to stick to the “plan.”
So, I carry this bit of new found wisdom to my “real life” here in America. Instead of stressing about things like an apartment or a job, I am just going to be as proactive as possible, do what I can, and trust that something will fall into place. Might not be what I planned, but as long as I am doing something that gets my foot in the field of education, and am working with the kids, then I don’t have much to complain about. Even if I am sleeping on someones couch for a month or two.
And for those of you who are interested, I will probably continue on with this blog to talk about my newest adventure in the teaching field: graduating college and the ever-exciting job search. :)
This week at school is pretty much putting together all of the loose ends: my year 12s have handed in their Fairy Tale projects, which I was very pleased with. I opened the project by reading “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” to the class, which is a kid’s book but also a great way to show how point of view can change a story. So, my students were assigned to make a parody of their own favorite fairy tale. I recieved some really great and humorus stories, ranging from a bitter and jelous Ron Weasley to a pimpin’ womanizer Prince Charming. One group even wrote a twist on Hansel and Gretel, and named the town “MissSavaisdebest.” I really enjoyed reading them and the students did a really impressive job of capturing the different point of views.
My year 9’s are currently in the process of working through a grammar section, so I decided to introduce the use of Mad Libs to my class. A lot of students had never even heard of the silly stories that also help you learn your parts of speech, so they were very entertained by them. I am having the kids write their own story, identify the parts of speech, and remove the words to make their own Mad Lib that they will be able to share with their peers. From what I have learned about my year 9’s, I think we are going to end up with some really silly stories, which I am excited about.
And finally, my year 10’s are finishing up a marketing project that I connected to their assessment of persuasive language. This project requires them to market their own candy (or lollies as they call them here) through the food wrapper, a print advertisement, and a commercial. Wednesday we film the commercials, and I am really excited to see the final outcome - the past few periods the class has remained genuinely focused and interested in their project. And of course, there are some very silly and cute ideas, such as a life-sized gummy bear or toast flavored tic tacs.
Other than seeing all of this great progress in the classroom, I am completely bummin’ and trying not to stress. I am just so blah right now. Trying to just enjoy my last week here, but the thought of the real world keeps creeping up into my brain… All I can do is remain proactive about applying for jobs and continue to work towards the one thing I know I want: a classroom to teach in come this Fall.
The past few days, I have found myself walking home from school without shoes on. I get half way home and my feet are just dying to be free. So, I walk down the main road, shoes hanging from my hands at my side, teacher slacks barely hitting the ground and cardigan sleeves rolled up to my elbows. The weather is starting to turn here, and fall is slowly creeping in. But after a long day at school and with the warm New Zealand sun still burning strong into the new season, I decide to embrace the culture around me. So I walk, barefoot and happy.
This weekend seven of us American teachers piled once again into the rented mini van and drove about three hours south to the town of Rotorua, famous for its geothermal activity (including hot pools) and its distinct smell of sulfur mixed with rotten eggs.
Saturday morning we went to the Polynesian spas, which were so amazingly relaxing. Because five of us were doing it, we ended up spending all morning at the spa, which consisted of four different outdoor hot pools that looked out onto Lake Rotorua and our individual 30 minute spa sampler. It was kind of a grey day which only made working my way through the four gradually warming hot pools even easier. The spa treatment was just as great as expected, including a mud rub and a exfoliated scrub for my legs and back. We were given robes to wear and when the massage was done, we were led to a sort of debriefing room where we were served herbal tea while listening to calming music and watching the birds fly over the lake out of the bay window in front of us. Honestly, it was well worth the sixty American dollars I paid, especially because at home, I would never ever treat myself to something like that. The whole time at the spa my mind and body felt like jello, looking like a zombie on sedatives, smiling at nothing. The Polynesian Spas helped me fulfill the vacation aspect of this trip, for sure.
The rest of the day was spent walking around the town of Rotorua and hanging out at the hostel. That night we attended the Hangi meal at the Tameki Village in Rotorua. This is an authentic Maori village where we were greeted by a warrior outside of the village walls, testing our newly appointed “chief” of the group. After the offer of peace was made, we were allowed to move into the village walk about, learning some traditional games and practices such as cooking or catching animals. From there we were directed to view the removal of the Hangi or our meal for the night. The Hangi is actually cooked by a oven that is underground, placed on top of hot stones and then covered with dirt. It simply looked like a regular old mound of dirt except for the bright green Nz fern that was placed so delicately on top as a blessing. The men of the village then began to gently dig away the dirt to reveal the vegetable level of the meal (my favorite) which consisted of potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots. The next level held chicken and pork for those meat eaters of the tribe. This process took all of five minutes, but the food had been cooking underground nearly all afternoon.
Before we could eat, we were entertained and educated through tradition song and dance of the Maori people. The traditional Haka was performed and also the traditional greeting of the culture. One way to describe it might be a remix of an Eskimo kiss. A hand is held out for a handshake, and then foreheads and noses touch not once, but twice. It is really quite intimate which is a huge contrast to the usual yelling and hitting and fighting moves that makes up the war-driven Maori culture. If I were a visitor, I would definitely be intimidated by all of their tattoos and warning songs and battle cries such as the Haka. Maybe that is why their greeting is so personal and intimate, to ensure their visitors that once they are accepted, they are not only safe, but also considered family.
The rest of the night was spent enjoying the amazing meal and a bus ride back to the the hostel. This weekend, we were able to meet some fellow travelers and some locals that showed us around the Rotorua nightlife. It was quite fun but one of those moments where you think like “I am at a bar. In New Zealand.” Some things still don’t seem to register as real in my mind.
Sunday morning we went to the geothermal park called Hell’s Gate. This place was another experience that was weirdly unreal. The landscape consisted of warm mud pools, acidic bubbling, boiling hot pools and ash colored earth that resembled the moon. Steam was coming off the pools and the stench of eggs was at its strongest. The park had been visited by author George Bernard Shaw and various pools were named by him, such as Devil’s Bath and Soddom and Gomorrah. There was one part that miraculously had a bright green patch growing due to the only cold spring that ran up to the geothermal site. I dubbed this “Devil’s Soul Patch” but I’m not sure if the name will catch on.
On the car ride home, we relized that for our next and final weekend we all had different plans, so Rotorua was our last weekend together. Kind of crazy to think about all of the unbelievable things we experienced just driving around in a rented car through the countryside of New Zealand.
I just got an email from the travel agency confirming my flight home on the 16th of April. What?! I don’t want to think about that, let alone make anything offical through email confirmation. It seems that just as I get comfortable in a placement, it ends up being time for me to leave!
Trying to not be overwhelemed by real life, but its hard. Graduation is a little more than a month away. Ahhrrggh.
Once a week, at the end of each period, I have been giving my kids a chance to ask any (appropriate) questions they have about America. The things they have come up with are pretty entertaining.
Here are a few examples / some of my favorites:
Do White Castle restaurants really exist?
Have you ever been to Hooters?
(This question was asked with an alarming amount of enthusiasm) Have you ever eaten a Pop Tart?!
Are there a lot of Wal-Marts?
Is the ghetto really as bad as they make it seem?
I have gotten many questions about meeting various famous people - they seem to think that famous people are just everywhere, like I’m sure tabloids like TMZ or E! make it seem.
I even heard one kid mumble to his group of friends “Are you all fat?” and his table of students laughed. I ignored the comment and finished talking to the student in front of me and waited for the laugh from the table to die down. When my time was right, I turned to the boys and quickly said “No, we’re not all fat, but we do have really good hearing.” They turned all different shades of red with that one.
Its really just funny to see how these kids perceive America through the media and wherever else they get these ideas about the US. I am trying my best to deflect these assumptions as best I can, but some questions are just too random for me to even begin to guess where they come from.
Well, this weekend was amazing. I was traveling with 5 other girls that are here through the same Junior Class Learning program and I just met them when I got here a few weeks ago. Nothing like a few hours in a rental van and some really cool experiences to learn about each other and ultimatly make new friends.
Friday night we rushed over on the ferry to get the rental car (which we almost did not get, because we showed up 15 minutes after they closed) and hopped right on the highway into Friday night traffic. The plan for the weekend was to head about two hours south to spend the night in a hostel in the town of Waitomo and then head straight to the caves the next morning. In Waitomo, there are many caves that are famous for their “glow worms” - little worms that omit a tiny, glowing green light at the top of the dark, dismal cave. They offer a black water rafting tour where you explore the caves for an hour in a wet suit, a helmet with a light on the top, and a big black inner tube. I was pretty excited to do this, but first we had to get through Friday night…
After getting through traffic and being lost for a good twenty minutes, we finally arrived at the backpackers we had made reservations at around 10 pm. Six loud American girls fell into the cozy little backpackers and received stares from people behind their books and cups of coffee. Being so late, there was no one at the desk to sign us in. Here is where the confusion began. There was a sign on the desk that left a key for another booking, but our name was no where to be found on that list. Did we really have a place to sleep here tonight? After about 20 minutes of tracking down the owner, he arrived from the pub to help us figure this out. The reason it was a pretty big problem was because, well, there is pretty much nothing out in Waitomo. When I say nothing, I mean the caves, a backpackers, and a few little country stores. That’s about it. So a place to sleep, and preferably at the hostel we had (thought) we booked was a necessity. After some deliberation, the owner (who was very nice, but also a little annoyed) decided that they never got our booking, but since we had no where to sleep we could go up the hill to sleep at his house for the night.
We followed his car up the hill in the dark and pouring rain to his house up on a hill that overlooked the backpackers lot. All six of us sat in the car with our hands on the door. “Wait a minute, are we really going to do this? Do we feel comfortable sleeping in this guys house? Who we don’t even know? …In New Zealand?!?” There was a dead silence between us, as we all thought about every scarey movie we have ever seen. I quickly snapped out of it and began reasoning. There were six of us, if we felt uncomfortable we could leave, we have no where else to go its 11 o’clock at night in the middle of nowhere, its just like a hostel - sleeping in the same house as strangers, trust that people are good, he’s offering his house to us. After what seemed like an hour (but was really 3 minutes) of deliberation, we got out of the car and walked up to the house, giggling nervously and holding our bags close.
We get in the house, and it turns out he has a young daughter just hanging out watching television. Instantly, I felt even better. This man had a family, runs a business, and is really just trying to help out these poor little American girls. The six of us split up into two’s and the famiy situated us with blankets, mattresses and pillows. My friend Brittany and I ended up sleeping in what looked like his older daughters room. Although I felt okay about sleeping at this guys house, I couldn’t help but laugh about how bizarre this really was. We all kept saying “Uhm, so… is this real life? Are we really doing this right now?” At the end of the day I figured my gut feelings wouldn’t lead me astray, and if anything, it would be a great story to tell.
The next morning we woke up nice and early to get out of the family’s hair. Turns out, we DID have a booking but there was some confusion with the company we contacted from the internet. Oh well. We had a place to stay and we were all safe - what more can you ask for?
So Saturday morning we grabbed some (amazing) breakfast and headed over to the black water rafting. There I had to sign my life away to some release forms, warning that this activity required you to be physically fit and might be a bit challenging. What am I getting myself into? I thought. I really could have never guessed what I was about to do. First, we all had to get situated in our (pre-worn, damp and disgusting) wet suits, gum boots and helmets with flashlights attached. This process must have taken about 30 minutes longer than it ever should have, but squirming into those wetsuits on the already wet and rainy day was challenging enough. The end resulted in all of us looking like absolute fools in wet suits, stomping around puddles in the rain.
From the first site, we drove down to the Ruakuri Cave that we would be spending the next hour in. After picking our tube and taking a practice jump in the ice cold river, we entered the cave through what looked like a crack in the ground. Because it had been raining for almost 12 hours, the water was rushing through my gum boots and pulling at my ankles. I scooted through the entrance and looked around the small cave, noticing there wasn’t any place to go next, or so I thought. The guides told us to sit on our raft, get as flat as possible and squeeze through there. “There” ended up being this 10 inch crack that the water left between you and the ceiling of the cave. I held my breath (which I probably shouldn’t have) as I pulled myself, laying flat on my tube, through the small pocket of air. I felt like I was on the bottom level of the Titanic right before it flooded up to the next level. After I was through that, I realized how intense some of this trip may be, and took a second to catch my breath and mentally prepare.
The rest of tour included alot of walking through the river that ran through the cave, jumping butt first down mini-waterfalls, and feeling our way through the cave with no lights on. Then, we got to the glow worms. I was actually speechless. Up on the roof of the cave, which at some spots was in reach, others about 200 feet above, you could see little green glowing lights. The ceiling of the cave reminded me of what you see out of the window of an airplane when you are passing over a city - little dots of light, dots of life - lighting up the black background in no particular order. At one point, we floated down the river and were able to just look up and take in the sight of these little lights. I forgot that it was day time and that we were in a cave, and instead saw the little lights as stars that lit the way through the icy cold. So amazing, and so worth it. It was all so unreal - my friend compared it to a ride at Disney Land, like splash mountain or something - except this was REAL. After an hour, we emerged into back out to the rainy day that, despite the gray, was much brighter than the dark cave we had just traveled through.
That night, we drove up to Taupo where we stayed (sucessfully and without problems) at another backpackers. It was really pouring, and we hoped that our plans for Sunday would not be affected. Sunday we had planned on bungy jumping. Some of the girls actually hoped outloud that the rain would fault our plans, because the more they thought about it the more nervous they got. I was excited to do it, and kind of just like hey well why not. A perfect way to top off this crazy weekend. Jump off a cliff head first into water? Sure, I’ll try it.
Sunday morning we arrived to the bungy place right at nine when they opened. All six of us looked over the ledge, probably said some explicatives, and looked at each other for a confirmation that we were actually going to do it. Again, we signed our life away, strapped up and took our turns walking out to the platform. This particular bungy jump boasts that it is the tallest bungy dip in New Zealand, meaning that instead of just bungy-ing over the water, you can actually dip your head in the amazing blue river below you. Naturally, I requested this to happen.
I went second out of the group, and when I got up there I started to get a little nervous. It took them all of two minutes to check the straps that kept my feet together, and then asked me to shuffle to the edge of the platform. I made it to the edge and looked down, thinking nothing but Uhhhhhh. I realized that I would not be able to willingly dive head first 145 feet into the water below, so I said to the lady “Uh, could you just push me or something?” Almost instantly she counted down from three and my hands were out in front of me with the water getting closer and closer. I hit the water and instantly came back out, soaked to my shoulders. I don’t think I screamed on the way down because it happened so fast, but after the dunk I may or may not have come out screaming some semi-inappropriate things.
But man, was it awesome. A perfect way to end a rediculous, unreal weekend.
On the car ride home, we were all talking about how weird this trip is, because after a weekend like that we have to go home and write lesson plans for the week to come. Back to “real life,” whatever that means.
Today I got observed during my year 10 lesson. The man that came used to be a teacher here in New Zealand and is also an author of kids books. The lesson went well and he seemed pleased. Afterwards, when we were reviewing his observations he said something along the lines of this:
"You do a really impressive job of combining humor with focus, and are always able to joke around but then never fail to bring the class back. You make it work really well."
This was a huge compliment to me, and it just made me feel really good that this man, who I just met, completely hit my teaching style on the head after only one period of observation.
Each day at school grows exponentially better and better as I continue to find my comfort zone. I am taking over three full classes: year 9, 10, and 12. (the age group is pretty close to the U.S. Kids usually graduate around age 18. However, school here goes up to year 13, meaning that, in American terms, high school for kiwis starts at 8th grade. Therefore, my year 9s are around 13 years old.) I am glad to have the older kids since my previous placement in the states was with middle schoolers, but I think I have come to realize how much I really enjoy teaching the younger kids. There are no problems, by any means, with my year 12s, and they are really very bright. However, the older kids also have alot of school figured out, and can easily see right through lessons, or find the easiest ways around work. And I don’t really say this negativly, especially because I know they are 17, and I remember feeling the same way about high school by the end of it.
Anyways, there is something about hearing the year 9s standing outside of the door waiting to come in, asking their friends excitedly “Is Ms. Sava teaching today? I HOOOPE so!” That can just make a day so much better. The younger kids seem to not care if they show their excitement about school, whereas most of the older kids find it their job to cover up their interest in school. As a teacher, my job is to find ways to excite the students about learning, and as it seems right now, the younger kids just seem a little but more fun to me. Like I stated before, not a judgement or a complaint, just a realization I’ve had about my personal teaching preferences. And despite this realization, getting a bit out of my comfort zone and teaching the year 12s will only help me that much more. Usually, doing something that you are unfamiliar with or uncomfortable only helps you learn more in the end.
On a different note..
I am teaching descriptive writing to my year 9s, which is really open ended and has the possibilities to do a lot of fun things. So today I took advantage of the beautiful lot of land that Macleans College is on and brought my class outside. The idea was that they were to use their five senses to take notes about the scenery around them. Thirty little blue dots spread out on the rolling green hillside that butts up to the dark green of a patch of bushes and leads the eye a couple hundred yards down to the white of the beach and the crash of the waves. The kids were more than happy to be outside on such a beautiful day. As they dispersed to start their observations I told them to find a spot to sit and get comfortable. One of the boys yelled “Ms. Sava, can I take off my shoes?” I laughed and said “Yes, if that makes you comfortable. And I have come to find that Kiwis seem to be most comfortable with their shoes off.” The student laughed and smiled back to me saying, “Well, what do you do in America?” As if he could not imagine a world that supported such a calamity. “Shoes,” I said “in America, we wear shoes.”
While we were outside, another student sidled up to me and quietly asked “Miss, in America, you don’t have big green fields like this at school, do you?” I smiled and shook my head saying that no, not quite like this.
So glad to be back in front of the classroom. I had a good first day with the students, and know from my last experience that by the end of the first week, I will surely find my groove. I didn’t do any amazing lesson or anything, being it the first day and all, but I got to say and do all of the things I have been wanting to with the kids from day one. For example, one senior class is so amazingly clicky. There are all different “types” or groups of kid, but they all have one thing in common: they live in their own little five desk world. So, I turned a simple introductory defintion lesson of descriptive writing into a jigsaw activity. A jigsaw activity takes a group and divdes them into seperate “experts” on a topic, and then regroups the students as a way to share their expertise knowledge. They were, at first, hesitiant to leave their bubble. But, painfully and reluctantly, they survived the activity and the goal of the lesson was achieved. So I was pleased.
Begrudginly, I know these students will adjust to my style of teaching, just as I will continue to adjust to the NZ school system. I am happy to be able to experience these adjustments first hand, back in front of the classroom, where I feel most comfortble in (seemingly) any country.
Whenever I start these posts I feel like I’m starting a writing prompt for my third grade teacher. But, I will recap nonetheless :D
Friday, I was exhausted yet again and had no plans but to read and chill out in front of the television. I had no idea that I would spend the night watching the horrible news in Japan unfold. So amazingly devastating, I can’t even begin to describe. Not to mention because of the activity in Japan, we got a tsunami warning all the way here in New Zealand. So crazy! I wasn’t really worried about here, I was more shocked at the footage of cars and houses being moved about like little toys. Especially devastating to watch all of this unfold in Japan because New Zealand itself is still in healing from the Christchurch earthquake. The news said that the quake in Japan was something like 8,000 times more powerful than the quake here in Nz. It doesn’t take away from any of the tragedy here by any means, but instead puts the power of the Japan quake into perspective. I can only hope that the world will come together and help and pray for those affected.
Friday night I went to bed unsure if my plans for Saturday would have to change: I was planning on going on a harbor cruise around Auckland…with a national tsunami warning in place? I figured I would see what happened during the night, and deal with it in the morning. The next day I found on the ferry website that, “despite the tsunami warning, no areas will be effected therefore all ferries would be running as scheduled.” I paused, shrugged and started to get ready for the day. Obviously the people at the ferry know much more about tsunamis than I ever will.
It turned out to be an absolutely beautiful day to be out on the water. I took my new form of public transportation (the 20 minute ferry across the bay into Auckland central) and met up with a friend. We had a few hours to kill before the cruise so we went to the maritime museum. I really enjoyed it. Even though it was based around boats (duh) it told an important part of New Zealand’s history, dating all the way back to the initial migration of the Maori people. The types of boats that the first people of NZ traveled over weeks of open and uncharted waters were essentially open sailboats. I could not even begin to imagine how people had the courage to leave their home and set out on this undetermined journey. Really made me think that the cramped leg space on the plane ride over might not have been as bad as I thought.
After the museum we ate lunch right on the pier as we watched men prepare their boat for a trip out to sea. Auckland has a huge marina with all kinds of boats (mostly expensive yachts) and the bay is typically scattered with sails of many different colors. I took some pictures of this view, but it barely does the marina justice.
The cruise was about two hours long, and it took us up and around and all through the different bays and islands that make up Auckland. It was nice and relaxing to sit out on the top of the ferry boat being warmed by the sun but staying nice and cool from the breeze. It was also very interesting to learn a bit more history and information about Auckland. Its funny because the friend I was with asked me just in conversation “So how much did you know about New Zealand before you came here?” I laughed and answered, “Hadn’t the slightest clue.” With that being said, having zero background knowledge only makes exploring that much more exciting.
We finished back at Half Moon Bay (which is my neck of the woods) with some tapas, wine, and the view of Eastern Beach. Very relaxing but busy day. When I got home and told my homestay about my day she laughed and said “So, on the day there is a tsunami warning, you base your activities solely around water?” I laughed when I realized that she was right!
Today, I knew I wanted to sleep in a bit, but I also knew that sleeping in for me is till 9 am. So I slept without setting an alarm (which is always a great feeling) and woke up, had some breakfast and said to myself What do you want to do today? Somewhere in my head I answered Well, you can always hike up that volcano. The dormant volcanoRangitoto can be seen from almost every bay in Auckland. It is an island that is almost perfectly round and mostly black and sticks out like a thumb on top of the blue water and next to the other islands that are that neon, New Zealand green. The ferry goes from Half Moon Bay right over to Rangitoto, so I decided to take this journey by myself. Now, I know that is one of the biggest things you probably shouldn’t do when you are traveling, but my homestay knew where I was going, I had my sweet pay-as-you-go New Zealand cell phone, and anyways, I do live here after all.
Going alone on this one hour hike to the summit was probably the highlight of my weekend. (For those of you worried, its not some remote place. There are trails and people go there daily from the city. However, there is not much else besides trails there.) I didn’t even have my Ipod on. I just walked up, taking my time to stop and take pictures as I pleased, alone with my thoughts. Since Rangitoto was once an active volcano, there are massive black rocks everywhere. The path was just like any other path in any other forest, except it was outlined by these mounds and mounds of lava rock. Like I said before, my pictures barely do justice. On on part of the trail, I looked out into the field of lava rock and saw a green plant that found hold to some sort of soil below and was surviving amongst the black terrain. Such a determined little thing.
The whole walk in solitude allowed my thoughts to wander from topic to topic, my mind brewing with all of these great ideas to write down once I reached the summit. At one point, I was so into my own thoughts I didn’t realized that I was rushing up the path, and quickly loosing my breath. I slowed down, reached some wooden steps, and realized I was finally close to the top.
The views from the summit were amazing; I was able to point out everywhere I had been the previous day on the cruise. I sat on a bench and took it all in as the blue of the sky and the blue of the sea nearly engulfed me in full. I took out my journal, ready to write all the awesome wisdom that had come into my head on the trip to the top.
All I came up with was this:
Opportunities are God given, and therefore must be accepted with a humble heart.
I’ve just realized that I’m living here. Not just visiting. For five more weeks. Not that I’m homesick by any means, but its just weird to think. I am part tourist, but also part resident. Such a cool way to learn about a new place. I love the thought and I think about how much I have enjoyed exploring when I moved down to the Dc area for college. I mean, I am obviously going to do some very tourist-y things while I’m here in Nz (I mean, last weekend I went to Hobbiton-pretttty toursity) but I also want to immerse myself if the simpler things that this new city has to offer. Even if that means wandering Auckland for a bit. I am more than happy to have the chance to wander in a new place, a new home.
Also.. I AM READY TO TEACH. I am not nervous like I was my very first day of student teaching in the states. I look at this new school-even though its in a different country- as a new challenge. My nerves are have long gone out the window and since almost day one here I have been itching to teach. Instead, I am sitting in the back of the room still. I understand that its a transition for my cooperating teacher as well, and he’s waiting for a new unit for me to pick up on, but still. I found during my six weeks in America that I felt most at ease and had the most fun while I was up at the front of the class, teaching and interacting with the kids. And right now it feels like I’ve been benched for the big game.
Please don’t read that as a complaint. Instead look at the passion I have been so lucky to find in the career I have pursued. I mean, where I am right now, I really have no room for any type of whining.