Never give up

This week has been emotionally taxing. I need thicker skin. Have you ever wanted something for someone else so bad that it frustrates you to no end when they aren’t doing what they need to to to become that amazing person you know they can be? You see them knowingly making the wrong decisions and you just want to scream and pull your hair out because you know it isn’t good for them?

Unfortunately, that seems to be my whole life as a teacher right now.

Being a teacher is like a great balancing act. Your method of motivation on Wednesday morning is not going to work on Wednesday afternoon and students will change moods in just a moment. One moment they are the studious student they know they can be and then something triggers them and then they have suddenly lost all interest and recollection of that same attitude. It is so frustrating sometimes!

After a week of laxing about students grades due to Terra Nova (the high-stakes testing used in DoDDs, like the Indiana ISTEP+) testing and no homework last week, grades have significantly dropped. Students are missing all kinds of work and they only have a short period of time to bring those back up. Do you know how hard it is to motivate someone to work who does not care about grades in the first place? Well you have two options. 1-You give them the information, remind them what this will do to their grade, tell them what can happen if they don’t, nag them until they say that “completed” their work, and simply hope for the best -OR- 2-Stand next to them and re-direct them back until it gets done and they resent you for making them do work.

I need thicker skin because I just can’t give up. There have found out that someone telling me to “let a person fall on their face” is not something that I can do. I WILL help someone for as long as I am their mentor. I will show them mercy when others have given up. I will show them that there is hope and that people will believe in them.

Everyone has a past and can name a specific person that always believed in them. If I can do that for someone and make a difference in their lives, all the pain, frustration, disbelief, and tears from the hard times will be worth it.

Every person is valuable. Every battle is worth it and no one can tell me otherwise.

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Julie and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

How frustrating! A student who knows a word one minute but forgets it the next. A two minute attention span CONSECUTIVELY seems like a blessing. Those times when you can’t decide if the child actually doesn’t know how to read or word or if he/she is trying to torture you. Random students show up during the busiest time of the day. Being late sucks. Thinking you are going to have a good day but then you wake up and go to work. Warning: working off of someone else’s time schedule is harder than it may appear.

It was a bad day. Let’s just leave it at that.

Note to self: always watch where you sit in a first grade classroom. I may have crushed a 6 year old’s bag of Valentine’s day treats. Here’s to hoping it was just hard candy!

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One month.

Based on discussions with teachers in the DoDDS system, teaching overseas is like a whirlwind adventure. Some people were picked up by the system only a month after applying and it took as much as years to receive the call. If the system decides to offer you a job, a few different things can happen. Sometimes, you get the job offer on the spot and other times you must have an interview. I have heard of an instance in which the person’s response to a job offer WAS their interview to receive the position at the job. If a school wants you and decides to call you, more often than not that job offer is the only one that you will receive. Thousands of professionals apply for DoDEA every year so if you don’t accept their first offer then they know that there are many more people to pick from that may be ready to take the leap.

Most everyone that I have talked to had a very short window of time to report for duty. It is common to accept a position and have just one month’s time to get to your destination. In one month your whole life can change. There is one month to pack up all of your belongings, get all documentation (such as passports or visas) necessary to travel and work overseas, and be at your new location ready to work. One month. In roughly 30 days your life can change completely. You could end up living halfway around the world in a matter of weeks.

I graduate in May.  If I apply, then I am saying that I am ready for my whole life to change at a moment’s notice. Am I ready to make such a big decision?

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Oh the life of a teacher.

I know, I have not been posting lately but don’t worry! I have some blogs written but not quite revised that is from the past week so you will be updated soon!! I have pictures from the Tutankhamun exhibit, my weekend in the Black Forest, and some stories and insights from the past week at school. Right now, I want to tell you about my day.

Every day we are picked up by Kaye at 0700 and this week, she has been out sick. On Monday and Tuesday, she forgot to arrange for someone else to come pick us up, so she took us to school and went back home. Wednesday, she arranged for us to be picked up by another teacher but we did not know this until Wednesday morning, as we were not told. Luckily, the other teacher was told and told us that morning that she was coming at 7:30 for us so we knew not to stand out in the cold for a half an hour and then be uber surprised when another person showed up to pick us up. The other three girls go to the other portion of the base and I am the only one on my side. These sides are basically separate campuses of the same base; one must drive about 7 minutes to get from one campus to the other and then I.D. has to be checked at each entrance. To go from one base to the other can take up nearly 20 minutes of time. Instead of asking someone to take time out and take me to a different campus than the others, I opted to find my own ride to school. Luckily, I have made some friends so I was picked up. I know that I said that I would talk about today, but know that I was already annoyed with the morning routines the past few days.

Everything was fine this morning; there were no messages that our ride situation had changed, so we assumed that Kaye would be picking us up like normal. 7:10 rolls around and nobody has showed up, no messages, and nobody is picking up. Instead of waiting around, I call my cooperating teacher to come pick me up and warn him that if the other girls cannot get a hold of anyone, then he may have to take the other girls to the other campus first. It is 0710, School starts at 0800, our duty time begins at 0740, it takes 10 minutes to get to our apartment, and there is at least 20 minutes transit time. Turns out, cell reception was poor this morning so nobody showed up. Christopher was gracious enough to take all of us, so everyone made it to school on time. Instead of arriving at 10 after 7 like usual, I did not get to school until 10 til 8. My morning was all screwed up.

I started working on my LAMP with two students and I gave homework yesterday. Only one student came back with the work completed. The other did not come with homework OR agenda. She said she forgot them in her classroom but that her homework was half done. Needless to say, my mood went from bad to worse. I had to have a serious talk with the student about responsibility. There were a few tears involved.

Next, I was playing a vocabulary game with three boys and it is set up like a board game. If you make it to the space before the end space, then you have to roll a 1 in order to win, otherwise you go too much. These are the rules. This particular student had been trying to roll a 1 in order to win for about 5 turns. I got to the second to last space like him, he rolled and did not get a 1, I rolled and failed, he rolled and failed, then I rolled a 1 and ended up winning.  He then said that I was being really mean to him. I assured him that I am just as mean to the other kids. He looked me square in the eye and told me that I am evil. Not exactly the reaction I was expecting, but inappropriate nonetheless. He was firmly told to respect his teachers and that was an inappropriate thing to say.

While working with one of the few girls on the case load, I informed her that she would be working with Mr. Born today. She protested, ran up, hugged me, and said that I was like her momma. I then reminded her that I am her teacher, not her mother. She said okay, smiled really big, and skipped over to her seat. Before she left for the day, she spotted me from the other side of the room, ran over, waved, said, “Bye, Mom!”, and ran out the door before I could correct her.

One of my other students asked if she was working with me today. Her reaction upon hearing that I would be reading with her was priceless: “But it is Mr. Born’s turn today!” She then went on to tell me that I needed to share and that he would be upset if he did not get his turn to work with him today. I know that I should have been a little offended that she did not want to work with me, but she was genuinely concerned with his feelings! How cute!

I wanted to make sure to check on my previous student’s homework, so I went up to her homeroom before the end of the day. I asked to see her homework, and there was nothing there at all. I was definitely frustrated. I wrote a note in her agenda and re-assigned the homework.

After school, I found out that a student got his tongue stuck on the playground equipment. That’s right, it is about 4 degrees Fahrenheit and the kid decides to lick metal.They had to pour hot water on his tongue to get it off.

 

Kids do the darndest things.

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COW

In DoDEA schools across the globe, there is one day out of the week that is dedicated to meetings related to special education. Instead of seeing students that day, case conference meetings (to determine what special education services a child should receive), business meetings (to discuss students throughout the school), and assessment meetings (the initial meeting to begin testing a student to determine if he/she should receive special education services) are all booked on this day. So today I was in meetings from 9:45-3:45 pm with only a 30 minute break.

So after a long day of meetings, we are in the technology meeting when I hear the phrase, “Make sure you put the cows away after you use them.”

Now, you are probably just as confused as I was. Especially if you heard adults talking about “closing the barn door” and “color coding the barns”. There are tons of acronyms that are used in schools and especially in DoDEA. I figured that “cow” was an acronym for something but I could not figure it out! Luckily, I was sitting next to the speech pathologist and she kindly filled me in. “COW” refers to “Computers on Wheels”, as in the cart of laptop computers that teachers can use.

Note to self: Never leave my room on Wednesday without my acronym sheets.

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1,2, buckle my shoe? No way! I can tie it!!!

HE TIED HIS SHOES!!!!!!

During the first week of school, I noticed that a student’s shoes were both untied. I asked him to tie them before going back to class and he told me, “I can’t tie my shoes…” I did not believe him since he is about 10 years old and asked him to try. After watching him attempt to tie his shoes, I came to the realization that I had just drawn unwanted attention to a little boy who couldn’t tie shoes because he could not see very well. You see, he just got his first pair of glasses not too long ago so the whole seeing minute details has not been a strong suit of his in the past.

After seeing this, I began to work with him on tying his shoes. First, I tied his shoes a few times (modeling) while talking about everything I was doing. Then, when I tried to have him do it himself, I found that the process that I use (make one loop, swing the other string around, pull through the hole, then pull down) was not working for him. He would simply wrap the second string around the first over and over again and could not find the hole. So, I researched a few different ways to tie shoes and came up with having two loops that you tie around each other and pull one through the hole. That seemed to work better, but he still was not getting it. It was raining heavily when I left, so I had worn my boots to school. These boots have really long shoe strings, so I let him tie my shoes instead of his. This seemed to work! The strings were long enough that he could see them and wide enough that he could easily maneuver them. He successfully tied one of the boots, but we each had to tie a shoe and there was a lot of directing and prompting.

Today, he was walking around with both shoes untied. I sat him down on the floor and we worked on tying his shoes. I tightened his shoes so that his laces would be longer and we got to work. He did a great job, but I still had to direct him a lot. Finally, I figured out that the problem was that he could not find the “burrow” to loop through, so we tried a different hand position. Instead of using just his index and thumb to make the loops, I had him use his middle fingers as well. His middle fingers were told to touch and he scooted his other two fingers up to make his “x” in preparation for the looping. His middle fingers being in the way created a natural burrow!!! He made an x with the two loops, crossed the front loop over the back, under the burrow, then looked up at me with a big grin! I told him to pull down and he did! He tied his shoes with minimal prompting!!!! I wanted to make sure he could follow through, and then he double knotted them!!!!!!! I was so excited!!!!!!

I will admit that I jumped up, told everyone in the room that would listen, and started doing a celebratory dance. Nothing major, but just enough to make the student smile and do a mini-jig himself. Seriously, I was so proud :)

I’m so happy I’m in Germany!!!!!!!

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After Week 2

During the last two days of school last week, my cooperating teacher was out for training. There was a sub in the room, but I ran the reading and she worked with other students in between. I learned so many things about pacing! Some students whip right through their work while others struggle immensely, causing others to not have the required amount of time. The second day went a little better, but still not where it should be.

I am learning more and more about DoDEA. That is the Department of Defense Education Activity, or the military school system. The US Department of Defense is in charge of these schools and there is a district for the Pacific, Europe, and America (otherwise known as stateside). To get a better idea of this, think of DoDEA as a 51st state in the US school system. The system follows federal law, just like every other state, but can have stricter laws and regulations just like other states. Under DoDEA are like “counties’, DoDEA Europe (DoDDS), DoDEAPacific (DoDDS), and DoDEA Americas (DDESS). Within these three areas are districts and then individual schools; my school falls under the Kaiserslautern district in DoDEA Europe. DoDEA has its own special set of rules, regulations, and procedures that are specific to these military schools only. One difference that I see is how students with special needs are identified as well as discussed.

In military life, if a student is not performing up to par, then the school may directly inform the chain of command and the parent in the military is notified and ordered to rectify the problem. One time, a student did not have a winter coat and it was snowing outside. The school went to the parent’s superior and the child came to school the next week with a brand new coat. In the military, there is accountability that is not present in civilian schools.

In identifying a student with special needs, there are different requirements than there are in the states. I am not entirely sure what those are yet, but it is week 3 for me. Also, there are individuals hired specifically to assess students. I am student teaching with an educator, therefore he does not deal much with the assessment portion except that he is informed of students so he can get to know students. Often times, these assessors service a district or number of schools in one area, therefore all they do is assess students for special education. The Speech and Language assessor works only in Baumholder, so she services both of the elementary schools and the middle/high school.

There is more to learn! I am excited to have my teacher back tomorrow, there is so much to go over and talk about!

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Week 2

This week has been an unusual one. There was no school on Monday, as it was a national holiday, Wednesday is the day for meetings and observations, and Thursday/Friday my cooperating teacher is out on training. There is a sub filling in for my teacher for Thursday and Friday, but as I am already familiar with the reading program I am the one instructing reading and she works with the other students while they work on their packets. I have learned that I need to make a few adjustments.

My teaching style is strict yet laid back; I want to get things done and be efficient (which is the strict side of me) and yet I do not want to stifle the kids so they do not feel like they are accepted or listened to (thus the laid back). It is a strange mixture. There were  times when I told the students that they may talk after every other page that is read and they can only share one short thing. There were other times in which the students had way too much time to share thoughts and stories. I need to be more consistent! Some groups finished way too early and yet there were others that did not have enough time to finish everything. I made notes in the sub plans (I have an extra copy for myself so I know exactly what everyone is supposed to be doing) so that I can adjust tomorrow. I am actually excited to fix my mistake! Hopefully I can get all of the students back on track by the end of tomorrow, I would not want any students to be behind for my cooperating teacher to come back to!

I absolutely LOVE my building. During the business meetings every Wednesdays, several different professionals get together to discuss problem students as well as any other issues. There are several acronyms that are thrown around quickly in conversation and last week I felt a little lost. This week, I learned from that mistake and took a cheat sheet of acronyms with me to the meeting. It helped tremendously!! I could easily look up what they were talking about and hardly skip a beat in the meetings! Thank goodness for my cooperating teacher, he is the one who gave me two packets worth of military and DoDDs acronyms to look off of!

This weekend, we have no plans. On Sunday, we were thinking about taking a train to a nearby town and visit a castle, but who knows what the weekend has in store for us!

It is currently a little past 2300 hours and is therefore bedtime! Gute nacht!!!!!

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What a weekend-Madrid style

So! Last Tuesday, my roommates and I had the sudden realization that the upcoming weekend was a 3 day weekend and we had zero plans. We had been hanging out with one of the teachers and asked about her travel plans, which happened to be Madrid. She said she had spare room, if we wanted a place to stay for the weekend. Naturally, we went back to our apartment, searched for tickets, and bought the cheapest set we could find for about 80 euros. Our flight was to leave Frankfurt at 7:20pm on Saturday and we would get back to Frankfurt around 5:30pm on Monday.

Apparently, I do not know how to pack for a weekend. I wanted to make sure that I had everything and I definitely overpacked. I will give you some advice when you are overseas and are taking a weekend trip: simply take a carry-on and pack the bare minimum for the ENTIRE WEEKEND! You will only be gone a few days! Pack light and save yourself the hassle! I planned the essentials (an extra shirt, only one pair of shoes, pants that can go with several different options, under-garments for the two days, etc) but I also packed an extra sweater, face wipes, fash wash (which was 5 oz and the limit for a carry-on is 4, you do the math!), contacts, toothe paste/brush, makeup, a book, a purse, and my camera bag. Now, leaving the apartment, I felt pretty good. I had the bag, my camera bag, and my purse. I looked at the other two girls and they each had simply a backpack and I thought they were crazy. I was wrong. They were brilliant! It was so much easier to get through security and such with only one thing! They had to wait on me to get all of my bags and things through before moving on. Then, whenever we sat down to wait on the plane and wanted to go get in line, they had to wait on me to grab everything so we would stay together. What did they pack? Undergarments for two days, an extra shirt, and a tooth brush/paste. We all wore clean shirts for the short plane ride and wore them the next day as a space saver but their traveling was much easier than mine. For weekend trips, don’t stress, just pack light.

We were picked up at 3:00pm to make it to the train station by 3:38 and we got there in plenty of time to buy tickets and board. The train to the Frankfurt airport was about 2 hours long but I didn’t mind, we got to see more of Germany! There is a city called Idar-Oberstein and there is a church built in to the rock face. I didn’t have time to take a picture, but we plan on going there some weekend and I will post a better picture than a glimpse from the train! We get to the airport and I realized that I had forgotten to print out my itinerary for the flight, meaning I couldn’t check-in for the flight at the self-help module. So, we had to go to the customer desk. I do not speak German, so Sarah (one of my roommates who is fluent in German) had to come to translate. Only one other of my roommates could make it to Madrid (Leander) so she came to stand with us so she wouldn’t be alone. The woman at the counter didn’t understand that Sarah and Leander had already checked-in and that it was just me, so she made them give her their passports as well. She re-checked Leander in before she realized her mistake and completely checked me in as well. That took an extra 15 minutes. Then, I took the face wash (mistake! as described above) by accident and it was over the liquid limit. Not to mention I forgot to put my bag of liquids in the outside tub even though the guard asked me to. I win. After that, if anything went wrong it was declared to be my fault and I agreed. I could have made the trip there a little smoother. The flight was a little over two hours and mine was grand: there wasn’t a soul seated in the seat next to me.

One of the best ways to travel around Madrid, aside from walking, is to ride the Metro. That is how we got from the airport to the apartment. We had to change trains twice and it took about an hour to get to the correct stop but it was cheap and much faster than walking. We paid about 12 euros for 10 trips in the Metro. Luckily, I have ridden a metro in Paris and in Istanbul before, so it was easy to read where we had to go. We went to the right stop, and our directions did not match the streets we were seeing. We decided to just walk until we found something familiar and luckily we only had to walk two blocks until we found the street sign we wanted. We walked a few blocks off the main road and came to the doorstep of the apartment building. To be honest, the walk there seemed a little sketchy: there was absolutely no one around even though it was Saturday night around midnight, there was graffiti all over the walls, and our apartment was in a completely random place. Our apartment was actually pretty nice! It had wooden floors, two full bathrooms, three bedrooms (2 twin beds, 1 queen bed, and 1 twin bed), a kitchen, and a living area and both couches could be pulled out into beds. We stayed with a fellow teacher, Tammy, and a few of her friends and they invited us to go to the city flea market at 9 in the morning. We got settled and went to bed.

Leander woke me up around 8:30 and I quickly got ready for the day, as there were six girls and two bathrooms available. Apparently the flea market was a huge thing in Madrid and it was literally on our street! It took up several streets and had such great stuff!! There were tons of scarves, t-shirts, other clothes, leather jackets and bags, trinkets, just about everything you could imagine. It was FANTASTIC!!! We were really cold so we stopped for some coffee then we split up. Leander, Sarah, and I went to the Palacio Real, Plaza Mayor, and just walked around enjoying the city. The Palace was my favorite, even though there are only 16 rooms open to the public. The throne room has red velvet, gold accent color, and dark wood; that is my favorite color combination! Unfortunately, the Almudena Cathedral was close by the time we got there but it will just go on my list of places to go next time I’m in Madrid! We met back up with the other girls at 5:00pm and went to the Prado Museum. We met up with one of the other girl’s friends who is studying in Madrid and we all met for dinner. Then, we went in search of chocolate churros! They are these straw-like doughnut-consistency treats that you dip in melted chocolate and they are THE BEST!!!!!

On Monday, Leander, Sarah, and I were on our own, as the other girls left early that day for their flight back to Germany. we woke up and decided to hit the area by Puerta de la Indepencia and the Parque del Retiro. These areas have such beautiful gardens! Parque del Retiro was my favorite, as there were fountains, and beautiful paths, butterfly bushes, and the monument of D. Alfonso XII, El Pacificador. In front of this giant monument is a tiny lake in which one may rent a paddle boat and boat around but it was much too cold. It was still just as majestic, even though the sun didn’t shine until we reached the backside of the monument.

Madrid is gorgeous. There is graffiti EVERYWHERE but it gives the city a sort of charm. This place has history and everyone wants to leave a mark. Europe has a vintage appeal; it has been around so long that you get the chance to walk where some of the greats have been. You literally walk on the ground that some of the greatest people in the world walked hundreds of years ago. It is fantastic. My favorite site was, without a doubt, the Palacio Real but I was just as content to simply walk around and soak in the culture. Spanish is a beautiful language and everyone there was so kind to us! I studied French in high school and some of the words are the same, so I often found myself recognizing words in print or in passing conversations. It was really amazing to just sit and listen to the city. I had such a great time! I can’t wait to go back someday!!!!

There is a link to see the pictures below! Just click on the link and it will send you to the photobucket site for this album.

http://s1153.photobucket.com/albums/p508/bsugermany/Madrid/

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GO!!!!!!!!!!!

Let School begin!!!!

School Day #1 was FANTASTIC!!!!!! Kaye picked us up at 7:00 this morning and as my school, Smith Elementary, is closer to our humble abode, I was the first one to be dropped off. As we are pulling up to the building, another teacher is walking up and Kaye gets very excited. She jumped out of the car and gave her a hug and introduced me with the biggest smile on her face! The teacher then walked me into the building, welcoming me the entire way! She was rummaging in her bag to get her keys, as the building is locked before students arrive, and my cooperating teacher was walking up the stairs and let us in. He then walked me to the principal’s office and Sue welcomed me to the school! We sat down and discussed my goals for this week as well as the semester, and then gave me a tour of the school. Luckily, it is three floors and each floor only has one hallway so it was fairly easy to try and remember as we walked around. I met as many staff members as we could find and everyone was so welcoming!! Sue then walked me to my classroom and I was shown where to put my things and where my desk is. That’s right, I get my own desk and computer!

The school day was a little rough, but when isn’t a Monday rough? I was told that the students were a little off today and that hopefully tomorrow would get back to normal. I am in for an interesting and great year! There are about 21 students on the case load from grades 1-6. The classroom has two teacher desks, a Smart Board, a play area with legos and tiny couches and a bean bag, a wall of cabinets, and three work areas. There is also a sink with a drinking fountain as well. My schedule does not include bus duty, lunch duty, or recess duty, but I know that the paraprofessionals have some of those. There are 4 1/2 (one only comes in the afternoons) paraprofessionals in the classroom, which I think is great!! Most of the day, the paraprofessionals are out in the classroom for inclusion support while my cooperating teacher and myself stay in the classroom to work with the students who are to receive services in the resource room.

The teacher work day technically ends at 2:40, but we stayed until a little after 3:00 today going over expectations and things. I also started cleaning out my desk, as it is FULL of unnecessary papers. Thank goodness for recycling because that would have been a hefty stack of wasted paper and I only halfway finished!

I know that it is only the first day, but I really feel like I will grow to love my time at Smith Elementary. The atmosphere is so incredibly positive! Everyone is extremely nice! I have only heard positive things from the staff! I can only hope that this is not just the “honeymoon phase” and that this is simply the actual atmosphere of the school. I am so happy I made the decision to student teach overseas!!!!!

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