Friday, February 26, 2010

I'm just really happy! :)

Be warned...this post is long overdue, and so of course, very long! I went through and bolded sentences...if you read those only, it will be like reading the Cliff's Notes. :)

One-sentence summary? I am just very happy, and things are going really well.

Two weeks ago, I had great observations with my principal and my credentialing advisor. Here are a few quotes from their logs and notes for me:

From my advisor... The pace of the lessons and movement in the classroom was very good. ...Bravo for the excellent differentiation of math lessons you did for the various groups. ...Management was outstanding. ...It was an excellent lesson!!!!

From my principal...Alex has done a wonderful job this year in kindergarten. She has stellar classroom management and is very well organized. Her lessons are well planned and she truly maximizes every minute of instructional time. She is an outstanding educator.

Needless to say I really have been feeling great's also just very exciting as a first-year teacher to receive this kind of feedback. The first month and a half of teaching was filled with addressing a LOT of issues, like the set-up and organization of my classroom--I had to go in, take the lead with my co-teacher, and change and clean things that weren't mine...and it was very stressful. So to get to this point, to teach solid lessons, to feel confident in the classroom is amazing, because I unfortunately have had very little guidance as to what my class should look like, and now I feel I am in a rhythm and routine at school. Even more great, I now leave school at a decent time (ideally 3 P.M. unless I have 5th grade intervention).

...and 5th grade intervention is finally progressing too! It has not been easy, and we've only been focusing on one standard thus far, but they are getting it! I have the benefit of being close in age to these kids; it wasn't so long ago that I was taking standardized tests just like they were on the same material, so I just have to remember how I solved the problems and share that with them. However, one thing that is hard about doing intervention is that my students have not mastered things as simple as addition and subtraction (if I ask what is 7-3 they will use their fingers to solve the problem...). I remember learning about automaticity in a cognitive psychology class my senior year, and it really seems to me that addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are all things that students in 5th grade need to know automatically--and well, the way to get there is practice.

One other great story from my classroom is that one of my students who has been very far behind showed tremendous growth this past month. In January, she knew 4 capital letters, 4 lowercase letters, and 4 letter sounds. Since then, she has been coming in twice a week for extra help after class...and now she knows 20 capital letters, 17 lowercase letters, and 21 letter sounds! We still have a lot of hard work to do, but that kind of growth is very exciting and encouraging!!

As for non-school life, well things are pretty great there too. I am officially a California resident (and I'll be honest I'm not so sure how I feel about that!). If I have California plates and a driver's license, then that means I really live here--and according to Chris, I do live here--I've lived here for over 4 years now, so it's about time!

This past weekend I drove down to LA to visit some people from Pepperdine who I haven't seen in a while. I'm not sure why I haven't gone sooner! Chloe and I drove down Friday, and I was able to catch up briefly with a professor and friend, Liz, who I did an independent study with last year. The independent study was actually on education--I planned it after accepting Teach For America, and it's amazing how it has popped up in my thoughts all this year. It was so nice to hear how things are going back at Pepperdine, though quite bizarre to realize that chapter in my life has closed!

That night I also saw my friend Molly. She's a Tri Delt (and I'm now realizing that every female friend I saw that weekend, with the exception of Liz, was a Tri Delt...), who was a senior when I was a freshman, and she's just one of those friends who I've always valued spending time with, because though she and I are certainly very different, we can talk endlessly, as we did Friday. Plus, she is one smart cookie and suggested Marmalade for dinner, one of my favorite restaurants. We must have spent 3 hours chatting--and I was lucky enough to finally hear *in person* all about her wedding plans since she is getting married May 1!!

I stayed at my friend Caitlin's that weekend, so I saw her later that night after she got back from a Brad Paisley concert (I'm a little jealous), and the next morning met up with Jess and Val who are two of the most wonderful women I know, and yes, two Tri Delts (in fact, I invited them to our spring rush my freshman year, because I loved them so much!). The three of us did Jumpstart our freshman year, where we would go teach in a preschool every week, and we've been friends ever since.

This past year, Jessica came up with an amazing idea for a non-profit called yogacore. The mission of yogacore is (in essence) to promote health and well-being in schools through yoga. Most states, like California, have a requirement of PE but little to no resources available for teachers. For example, my students are supposed to get 20 minutes of structured activities at PE everyday, but I provide the activities, equipment, games, and this is also their 20 minutes of snack. Yogacore presents a solution to this problem by training volunteers to lead a yoga session during this time. Not only are students being exposed to exercise, but yoga is a great option for students to reduce stress, to calm themselves, and so the program really promotes not just healthy bodies but minds as well, which I love. Jess and Valerie invited me to be on the executive board, and I'm ecstatic to say I now am a part of this amazing mission.

After coffee, Caitlin and I spent a little bit of time together, getting ready for the night, catching up on life so far this year, the normal conversations we would have weekly at Coffee Bean last year now condensed into two days! I was trying to figure out when Caitlin and I really became good friends, because we actually did not meet until my junior year...and I think it has to be when we made this cake for a fraternity's philanthropy:

Yes, we won with our cake (the theme for the philanthropy that year was Caddyshack), and I'm pretty sure that might have started it all. That, plus a common love of 24. I am quite lucky to know her, and I cannot put into words how great it was to see her!

That night, I grabbed dinner with my friend Brett, who you may or may not have seen on Survivor this past season. I'd never watched the show until he was on it, but it was fun to watch it when you know someone. It was the first time I had seen him and really talked to him for more than a few minutes since I graduated, and it was great, plus I had chocolate chip pancakes for dinner so I was one happy girl! I've known him, like Valerie and Jess, since freshman year, and it was just kind of crazy to see the change in him since his time in Samoa. They certainly weren't bad changes, but I could see a difference in him, and I guess I never appreciated the change that something like that could have on a person. Last year when he was working on getting his clothing company, The Monument of Our Hearts (TMOOH), up and running, I wrote and edited some things for the website, and it is a very exciting company!

TMOOH, like yogacore, is also promoting healthy body image. I feel lucky to have been a part of it and proud to know the founder!

After dinner, I met up with Caitlin again and our friend Courtney, and we headed out to this great little bar in LA called The Edison.
> Though we weren't sure initially at 9:45 P.M. if we wanted to stick out the semi-long line, we did, and it was worth it (I think we waited 20 minutes?). It's 40s themed, and let's just say I was very content! I'll be honest, though, talking with Caitlin and Courtney just made the night 100x better. It was so refreshing to be around people who've known me for more than a couple months, and I've really missed that! Plus, I had two very lovely drinks: the first one Caitlin and I actually don't know what it was, only that it had champagne in it--and well, it tasted like candy, which is my favorite kind of drink, and the second drink was a Citizen Kane, and well, any place that has a drink called the Citizen Kane is fine by me.

The next morning Caitlin and I went to visit Bobbie, the lady we used to babysit for and her kids Jack and Luxie. (Okay, I lied, everyone I saw this weekend was not a Tri Delt--Luxie and Bobbie are not Tri Delts!) Bobbie is one of the nicest people I know, and it was fun to see Jack and Luxie and to see how much they've grown.

Before I headed out back to San Jose, I had coffee with Afton, my little sis from Tri Delt. She is now a junior at Pepperdine, and it's been so wonderful to see her grow into such a phenomenal woman (is that weird to say? It's true! I have been so lucky to have her in my life!). I can't believe she's going to be a senior next year, and it was funny to hear her say: "I don't feel as old or as prepared as I thought you were when you were a senior," because I remember saying the same thing. I remember looking at the seniors in Tri Delta when I was a freshman and thinking wow, they are so composed, they have everything together, and they are much older than I am. Then I became a senior, and I did not feel as old as I thought they looked! I assured her that I knew the feeling...and trust me, she is far more prepared than she knows.

The last bit of news I wanted to share goes back to my friends Molly and Lauren who started the Kind Campaign, which I've mentioned in earlier posts and conversations. The trailer is up on youtube, and I just think it's amazing:

I look around at all the amazing and wonderful things my friends are doing, and I feel so very blessed.
It's inspiring to see people, the oldest of whom is 24 (!), starting organizations and non-profits all geared towards making very positive and lasting impacts in others' lives.

All in all, as I said, life is wonderful.

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