Tuesday, May 27, 2008


N. (not the N. I usually write about) is definitely what I would consider a success story. In addition to coming into the year with very low math skills (like most of my kids), he is also an English language learner and is designated with special needs. Until about late February/early March, he barely ever talked. At all. He took a month-long absence from school to visit relatives out of the country, and when he came back there were some concerns that he'd forgotten most of his English. He only nodded when I said hello and asked how he was doing. He never asked for help, and barely responded with more than one or two words when someone tried to give help. Yikes.

Then something changed. N. started smiling in the morning when I would ask how he was doing. By coincidence, I sat him with O., another English language learner (who is not really hindered by language), and the synergy blew my mind. N. talked to O. more than I'd ever seen him talk to anyone. They even started teasing each other, which was by far the most social I'd ever seen N. Then he started to understand the material a little bit, and from there developed the courage to ask for help with the parts that were confusing. He started coming in at lunch and after school for extra help and extra practice. Then everyone in the class got the impression that he is ultra-smart, and his academic status shot through the roof. The result? He got over 100% in the second marking period. The even better result? N. has made himself a part of the class. He interacts with other students, he talks to me about his interests outside of school, and the other students care when he's not there.

Now for my favorite--and completely selfish--result: this morning N. got to class early (as he has started to do) and he asked me where I would be teaching next year. When I told him that I won't be at Mission, his face fell. Despite all the ways that N.'s newfound success should indicate my own success as a teacher, it was not until this conversation that I actually felt like I'd contributed to his growth. N. is an amazing person who could be successful in any class, but it's my success that he feels like I'm the one who brought it out of him.

Thank you, N. What more could I ask for in my student teaching year?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Summer Plans

Summers off? That's questionable. Somehow, half my summer has already been sucked up by professional development and planning for the upcoming year, and that's just the official stuff. I also plan on doing a lot of reading and re-reading of everything I've learned this year and all the other things I want to learn before I have my own classroom.

So somewhere in there I want to do something that's not related to teaching. I'm looking at two different options right now. The first is traveling. Obviously, it's hard for me to pass up more stamps in my passport, and the current possibilities are looking pretty amazing (Costa Rica? Cuba? Peru?). On the other hand, a two week journey to another country would leave me with very little time for doing absolutely nothing--something I desperately need. I'm fortunate to be living in a beautiful house this summer with lots of great opportunities for cooking, watching TV, sleeping, reading, and general lolling about. If I were to just stick around here, would I regret passing up the travel? Would I end up getting bored? Or if I did head south, would I have to wait another year before I had time to myself again?

With all these airlines going under, I'd better make my plan soon.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Heat Wave

It is HOT. It's hot as... well, let's just say it's probably best not to repeat the ways my students were completing that sentence. For the past few days it's been in the 90's, even up in San Francisco, the city that has no summer. So of course the kids reactions are completely over the top. I could do without N. and S. throwing wet washcloths at each other, but mostly it's just a lot of whining. O. came into my room on Thursday morning complaining that it was way too hot to do anything. I just couldn't feel sorry for him when (1) it was 8am and probably still in the 70s and (2) he was wearing black jeans, a black sweatshirt, and a black knit cap. Finally he took off his sweatshirt and quit whining, but I couldn't help but point out his ridiculousness when halfway through class he put his sweatshirt back on, complaining that he was too cold.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

One Year On

Exactly two years ago, I stepped on a plane in Sydney, crossed the ditch, and disembarked to make a new life in what quickly came to be my favourite country in the entire universe (sorry, USA). Then, exactly a year ago, my visa told me that if I ever wanted to come back to New Zealand, I'd have to leave. So now it's been a year since I ended my traveling adventure and came back "home."

Oh Kiwistan, how I miss you. I constantly dream about your breathtaking scenery, your unbelievably kind residents, and your generally awesome national self-image. When I'm not checking airfare prices, I'm counting down the days until the end of my five year comittment to teaching in the US. I listen to the podcast of Prime News everyday, and try to read the the New Zealand Herald when possible. I'm trying my best to maintain my connection, but life seems to get in the way.

This is not to say that I'm unhappy with where I am now or that the past year has been inferior to the previous one. This year in STEP has been just as--if not more--life-changing than any other. I've made amazing friends, learned more than I could ever imagine, and I don't plan on leaving any time soon. I love it here. So what do I do about the fact that two places I love so much are so far away, both geographically and emotionally? Do I really have to choose between the Bay Area and the Bay of Plenty?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Secret Lives of Teachers

N. (yes, that N.): "Ms. L., that shirt you're wearing, sometimes it looks like there's a little bump on your stomach. It looks like you have a bellybutton ring or something."
Me: "That's because I do have a bellybutton ring."
N: "No way! I never would have thought you would have a bellybutton ring."
Me: "Why not?"
N: "I mean..."