Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Year in Review

My year in a nutshell:

A year ago I was on a plane, heading to all the unknown that Thailand had to offer me. Never in a million years did I imagine that I would experience so many amazing things in one short year. Living, eating, breathing Thai culture. Teaching 36 Thai students, learning enough language to survive, embracing the motorbike without using a helmet, and exploring Thailand from north to south. Taking in the peacefulness of Loi Krathong, riding an elephant in the luscious Thai jungle, scuba diving the waters of Koh Tao, trekking through a wildlife preserve, and the list goes on.

Then came a whirlwind of a backpacking adventure. Cambodia: A Great Wonder of the World in Siem Reap, the most beautiful and remote beach I will ever see in Koh Rong, a heavy heart learning about a recent genocide in Phnom Pehn. Vietnam: The hustle and bustle and Vietnam War history in Ho Chi Mihn City, hiking the Himalaya Mountains and rice terraces in Sapa, calm water kayaking and giant islands in Ha Long Bay. Back to Thailand: Partying, temples, custom-made suits, more partying and fun in the sun with a long-time friend from home. Singapore: A cousin, cleanliness, toilets that flush, and the most modern place I'd seen in six months.

Off to London it was to stay with my best friend, Kristen, for a month. One of my old favorite places in the world with one of my favorite people. Catching up on tv, browsing jobs back home, meeting new faces, and seeing old friends. I was honestly mostly lazy but after backpacking for a month, I needed it. Lots of Indian food and lots of Hyde Park. I then had a frenzie reunion for a week where I became unlazy and enjoyed exploring London with four of the people who I had missed laughing with the most in the past six months.

I was abroad for seven months total, and boy did that time fly by so quickly. As soon as I got back to Hudson, it was clear to me that I wouldn't be finding teaching jobs available, and I also quickly became restless. I had just been on such an amazing adventure and I was already itching for something new. I got offered the job in Arizona and I am happy to be here starting a new adventure.

When looking for places to move, Arizona happened to be perfect. My cousin Mandy hooked me up with my interview at her charter school. I got offered the job over the phone and basically decided within two days that I would be moving. I was doing a leave position at Taconic Hills, which although my class was rough, I really truly did enjoy teaching where I had done student teaching three years prior.

The week before I left was filled with millions of errands, figuring out how to pack my car with clothing, shoes, and school supplies, and saying goodbyes for the second time in a year. The goodbyes never seem to get easier, but at least I am still in the country this time. We of course had a going away party. As my cousin Courtney put it, "I think you move just so you can throw parties." Yeah so, what if I do?!

Off my dad and I went on our short little road trip to Tempe, Arizona. We stopped in Louisville, Nashville, Dallas, and Albuquerque. Shoutout to Caitlin, Lincoln, and Susie for hosting us on our way!

I had little time to get acquainted with my new surroundings before I began two weeks of training. Two weeks to figure out what Burke Basic Charter School was all about. Come to find out, they are about practically nothing that I had ever been taught at home. Not a horribly bad thing, but different. Old school. Like parts of curriculum from the early 1900's. It has been difficult to get used to but almost three months in and I've got a much better grasp on it.

Now, I can't imagine I'm the only first year teacher that this happens to but, for the first four weeks of school, I spent at least 12 hours a day in my classroom, plus stopping in on the weekends. I had papers to copy, papers to grade, curriculum to make myself understand, and a room to put together. Well, 12 weeks later, this still seems to be a vicious cycle. There are still papers to copy, still papers to grade, still a curriculum to understand, and still a room to put together. My mind is never at ease because there is always something else that could be done, but I'm finally forcing myself to go home before 4 as often as possible. For those of you who think teachers are overpaid and get too much time off, you're wrong. We work hard and we deserve it.

Any time I feel like I want to toss my papers in the air in anger, I think of things that I know I'm making a difference with. My student demographic is low socio-economic status and Mexican. They don't have the greatest home lives, so I know that these kids love coming to school and they love learning. I also think about how even when I have had it up to here with the chatter, something hysterical happens and I completely lose it.

For example, there was the cockroach incident. My first live cockroach. Ever. Mid-phonics lesson, one girl stood up on her chair, screamed COCKROACH!, and ran to the back of the room. With obvious horror, I saw that I was right in its path, and I too started screaming, running towards the door. As we all huddled scream-laughing together, two brave boys walked right over to it, stomped on it, and picked it up with a paper towel. Piece of cake. I wish I could have seen myself on video.

I have a sweetheart student who also happens to be completely blunt, not ever trying to be rude. He told me the other day out of nowhere that I needed to lose weight in my legs, but with a big smile on his face. I looked at him, started laughing (but kind of wanting to cry) and asked why he said that. I don't think he knew how to answer so I did for him, "Are my pants too tight?!" I still haven't gotten an answer for that one, but he has now motivated me to work out. Thanks, Francisco. Oh, and when I got a cold this week he was also the one to tell me "Ms. K, you don't look too good."

So, there wraps it up. I couldn't have asked for a more exciting, exhausting, eye-opening, adventurous, and precious year. I doubt that my next year will even slightly compare to the last, but here's to hoping!