Monday, August 31, 2009

"We have a form for that"

Thanks to those who've given me suggestions on how to deal with my neighbor issues. I haven't determined the best direction to go, but if the situation changes, I'll definitely update you all on it! (Side-note: Blair, were you talking to Mom? She made the same suggestion.)

Right now I'm just trying my very best to stay on top of everything. Tomorrow starts our regular schedule, and I'm looking forward to establishing a final routine. Of course, I know I've got to be flexible at the same time, but I really want to make it appear like I know what I'm doing (even if I'm all panic on the inside!).

Before you start to worry, my issues aren't with the teaching. I'm too versed in my content to really fret about that. Although I am concerned that my preoccupation with other procedures will distract or get in the way of a good lesson, I'm confident that I CAN teach -- when I have time!

The school, and the district, have very developed and disciplined policies and procedures for everyday school issues and events. Maybe I just have been clueless in the past, but I don't remember so many forms for this referral and that request! Seriously, it's a lot of paperwork. Nothing can be said or done without documentation, it seems. Not that I think it should be done any other way... I am not in a position to question or dismantle a regimen that serves its purpose -- to make sure that everyone is treated in an ethical and equal way.

I just get nervous that somewhere in the midst of me trying to "learn the ropes", I'll misstep, or make an error, and it will cause a disturbance that I'd rather avoid. I am afraid of missing something, forgetting to do something, because its not my nature yet, and having to clean up the chaos that it creates. Basically, I just want to do it right. The first time and every time. Which I know is unfair pressure to put on myself... But you who know me know that I can't change that.

Emails that we get from administrators that say "it's everyone's responsibility to... [make sure the policies are being upheld]" just reinforce to me that I am still very new, and still have to prove myself that I am someone valuable, someone who they can trust to help maintain the structure and order of the institution. When I look around at other teachers who seem to have it all put together -- they know it all for rote, and no one questions their actions -- I can't see myself ever being on the same level as them!

I suppose this is all quite confusing without specific examples. Let's try to make it seem relevant...

The school has a pretty extensive dress-code policy. There are several bullet points on what students can wear, and what they can't wear, how they should wear it, the consequences of violation, etc. Girls cannot wear spaghetti straps or halters, and cannot show cleavage. All kids need to have their shirts tucked in. Sweatshirts are an exception. Pants with belt loops need to have belts. Okay, that makes sense, mostly. They want to avoid saggy, baggy pants, and this is one way to do that. There's more, but those are the biggest issues. So we as teachers need to become sticklers for those who try to slip around without having to abide by the rules. We issue violations. Some give out more than others.

Teachers are expected to be at their doors, greeting their students, but also sending away the kids who try to enter the room with their shirttails untucked or their necklines too low. Teachers are also expected to start teaching the moment the class bell sounds, and keep the kids engaged and on task until the very last second before the bell rings again. We are frowned at when we forget to do attendance. We have to know which form to fill out for this, and which we fill out for that. We have to keep up with our grades every week, and assign kids to 5th block when their marks drop or their attendance falters. We must read the emails, the announcements, keep track of time, cover the curriculum and make sure the kids know that they are important and necessary for our success!

So, what happens if, in the midst of my quest to keep on top of everything, I don't spot the kids who should have been issued violations? What happens if I see a kid in the hallway that really should be sent to detention, but I don't know his name or even what grade he's in? How many am I allowed to miss before I get those quiet requests to keep better track, or (gulp) visit the admin for a discussion. I really don't know, and that's probably my biggest concern of all! I'm afraid to be only moderately consistent simply because I'm trying keep it all together!

I'm not looking for pep talks. Really! I know that you all support me and are rooting for me. Deep down, I know that it will get better. I know that not everyone expects me to be perfect on day 1, day 5 or even day 155! They really are decent people who understand. But when it comes to easily to everyone else, I wonder when it will come easily to me!

Okay, I've lingered on this nauseating topic for far too many words. It exhausts me. Someone give me a better topic to talk about next time. I really do feel positive most of the time, and I'd like to share it with you just to prove it!

Love to all!

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Steph -- I am familiar with block teaching. It's really the only schedule I've ever had to follow. I've typically had between 60-80 minute periods, so I'm used to it. In fact, I like it more than shorter classes, especially in higher grades, because you can get a lot done. Then again, if it's an especially difficult class, it can seem much longer for both the teacher and the kids. ;o) When I taught 40 minute classes, I felt like we'd just be getting into the lesson, and the bell would ring. Plus, shorter classes meant more during the day, which meant you'd be transitioning often, which takes up time, and well... The benefits and disadvantages of each kind of schedule are good for a debate, because it means that we're thinking about how kids learn best throughout the entire school year!

My seminar today was very good. Engaging and motivating. I definitely feel good about having given up a Saturday to go. It continues on the 12th and the 26th of September, so it will really gear me up for the rest of the year. Today we talked a lot about ways that we can effectively manage our classrooms effectively while still maintaining positive, productive relationships with our students. I grabbed a couple of tools for my back pocket, and will definitely consider trying them out in the near future. My classes seem like they would respond well to them, and I could be able to avoid any pending problems that are bound to crop up once the honeymoon phase dies off... which is already beginning to happen.

I thought a lot about my former students back home today. I do miss (most) of them! I wonder how they are doing, and how the new school year will be for them. If any of my HAWKS cronies are lurking in the background -- let the kids know that I'm thinking about them!

I'm planning a little shopping trip to Fayetteville next weekend... Probably Saturday. I figured I would deserve it by then, and it'll be something fun to do to keep me from going catty on the long weekend (since I currently have no other plans). They say that the weather is supposed to cool this week. Not sure how "chilly" it's actually going to get, but I'm sure whatever the temperature becomes, it will likely still be warmer here than it is up north! (Sorry... I am missing the cooler temps, though.)

The guy in the apartment to very left of me is not exactly the most considerate of neighbors. For starters, he likes to thump around, and I can hear it pretty good depending on where I am in my place. We share front steps, and he often sits out and chats on the phone -- while smoking. The smoking doesn't bother me, but it might if I spent more time outside. It's his dogs that are the bigger issue. He's got two small ones, and I really just lets them have the run of the complex. they run all over the parking lot! One even did his business right on my back porch! I complained to my landlord once about them being loose, and him not picking up after them. I guess she talked to him but I'm not sure how seriously he took it, because now he only ties up one, and it's still on a leash long enough for the dog to get into my space. I still haven't seen him pick up after them, but that doesn't mean he doesn't do it. I'd say something to him, but is he really going to listen to me? Should I call the landlord again. What will she do? Will it fix the problem, or cause him to be even more obnoxious?

Last Saturday, I guess a couple of his buddies dropped by, and one parked in the stall directly outside my front window. They didn't even have the decency to turn off their lights -- just let them shine right in! And since all our windows are single paned, I can pretty much hear any kind of commotion that comes from outside.

(FYI, I barely hear my neighbors on the right. Mind you, the orientation the apartments promotes more of a sound barrier, but still. Barely anything)

Am I being a little too stiff on all of this? Could it be that I've just been spoiled by good neighbors in the past? I was told that this was a quiet, unobtrusive complex? Maybe I'm just next to the wrong person, and I have to build up more tolerance. Any advice?

Okay, I think I'm going to go ahead and post this thing, or I'll babble even myself to sleep! I'm sorry. None of it is breaking news or even poignant stuff, but it's the best I can come up with after a long week. I promise I'll post more entertaining material at another time. :o)


Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Day in the Life?

Day three is over and I'm... alive? Relieved? Exhausted? A little of all, I guess!

Sorry I didn't blog yesterday, but I pretty much worked all evening. I figured if I got a lot accomplished, I'd be able to justify taking a break tonight. However, as it turns out, quality work only motivates me to continue being productive, which is why I was at school until 5:30 PM and still brought a small to-do list home!

I promised I'd give you more insight into my schedule at CHS. It's actually pretty decent, I think. Not really much different from a work day I'm used to, except that I don't have to travel over 1 hour to and from the school anymore! (I never realized how much the drive affected me until I realized how much I could get done in the same amount of time!)

These days I'm arriving on campus between 7:15 and 7:25. Our work day technically begins at 7:30 AM, and we've got an electronic system that we're supposed to log in and out of in order to record that we were present at school all day. When I get to school, there are a few kids there already, mostly students who are on an early bus. It doesn't take long for more and more to show up.

Breakfast is served between 7:15 and 7:40 AM. All the kids are entitled to a free breakfast from the district. The menu is different everyday and includes hot and cold options. For some kids, the only time they actually get food during the day is at school, and only because it's offered at a reduced rate.

The school day starts at 7:45 AM. This week, we've begun everyday with our Advisor (homeroom), but the normal schedule has these groups meeting Mondays only. We've been doing typical first week stuff, including making sure all kids become familiar with the school handbook. When there is no Advisor block, then we launch straight into our instructional blocks at 7:45 AM.

There are 4 instructional blocks during the day, and most teachers teach 3, plus have a planning period. Each block is 85 minutes long, except for the third block, which is 120 minutes long and includes a 30 minute lunch break that rotates throughout the block.

I teach during the first three blocks. My lunch period is 30 minutes into my third-block, so I dismiss the class down to the cafeteria for their lunch, and then meet them again 30 minutes later for the last hour of our class. When I originally found out that I would have a split block like that, I was a little unsure about how it would workout. Turns out it's not that bad -- and actually makes the time go by faster. That's fantastic, because after third block ends, I'm effectively done for the day! This week, that's been at 12:55 PM, but once we're using our normal schedule, I'll be student-free ten minutes earlier!

But the reward is short-lived... Recently the school amended the schedule and added a short, 40 minute block at the end of the day. The 5th block is a repeat of one of the other four, and is assigned to students based on their progress in the class. I have three 5th block assignments a week, one for each of my classes. It's not a time for instruction, but it is intended for students who need or could benefit from extra help in the class. Students can attend by choice, but many of them come because they have been assigned to come, and there are consequences of skipping out of a 5th block assignment. I have yet to see 5th block in action, but I've heard positives and negatives about it.

On days with 5th block, school ends at 3:00 PM. Typically I stay until 4 or 4:30, but that changes depending on how much work I have to do, and just how itchy I am to get home! It's nice to stay after -- I find I get a fair amount of work done.

The school has a few different teacher "work rooms", which are basically like smaller staffrooms. Each one has it's own photocopier and printer that your computer is connected to (yes, an actual working printer!), plus a fridge, a microwave, sink and some tables. Staff can eat in these rooms if they want to, or down in the cafeteria when their kids eat lunch, or in their classrooms... whichever they prefer. The main staffroom off the office has our mailboxes, so I'm constantly reminding myself to make sure I go and check for mail!

There a quite a few extra curricular opportunities for students to get involved in, including athletics and clubs, etc. It's nice to see that kind of variety. Still, the administration makes it clear that there are to be no kids on campus after school ends unless they have a specific reason and permission from a teacher or administrator. That means we don't get kids hanging out because it's better than being at home.

I'm sure there is a lot more I could write about if you wanted... I've covered some of the details, but if there's anything more specific that you want me to fill in... Just ask! I'm still just learning the ropes, but sometimes letting others in helps me recall all the massive information I've absorbed in the last three weeks!

Tomorrow I'm hoping to attend another football game -- this time as a spectator! I realize that I haven't said much else sports-wise besides talking about the FB games. There are also volleyball and soccer teams that are well into their seasons. I might stop in for a game here or there if it fits my schedule.

Saturday I've signed up for a staff development workshop at the community college. A couple of other teachers have recommended it, so I thought I'd give it a try. It's actually the first of three seminars spread over the next four weeks. It's a bummer that they are on a Saturday, but it beats having to prep for a sub, and I get a little participation stipend for attending!

Okay, time to go and tick a couple more items off my checklist. :o) Enjoy what's left of your work-week!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Good. I think I'll come back tomorrow..."

(That's what I said to a coworker this afternoon when he asked me about my first day with students.)

So I did manage to get more sleep than I thought I would! Was sacked out by 9:30 PM. Maybe it was the sangria...

Why did I worry? Today went well! Sure, it wasn't "perfect"... But it really doesn't matter because it's OVER! Made only two "rookie" mistakes... The first was thinking I could wear a pair of new shoes on a day when I knew I'd be on my feet 98.7% of the time. My puppy dawgs were hurting! (Note to self: Pack a pair of flip flops for the end of the day!) The second mistake was dismissing my class too early for lunch. (Second bell, second bell!) But everyone made it through the day without life-threatening incidents, so we're calling it a success. :o) I did learn one thing though...

Kids are kids, no matter what school, country or state you're in. I see the behaviors of many of my former students in the manners of those I teach now, and it confirms my belief that you can't just simply rely on the comments of a few. Give respect and you'll get respect. Kids these days just want to be made to feel important! You can be firm, fair and friendly at the same time. Smiling on the first day is not a way of showing weakness. Make your expectations clear, be consistent and you'll get results. It doesn't have to be a war. We can get along, despite having different personalities, opinions and goals.

Who wants to sing Kumbyah with me? ;o)

I got the nicest treat at the end of the day... A floral arrangement from friends back home! Tina, Doug and Joan -- Thank you soooo much! You made my day! I thought briefly about leaving it at the school, but I'm not sure I'm ready for the questions! Besides, I think I'll enjoy it much better at home where I can see them in the evening after a long day! And since they arranged the whole thing over the phone, they probably want to know what it looks like, so they'll appreciate this pic...


I'll comment a little more on my schedule tomorrow (the highlights and the lowlights!) or Thursday, depending on how tired I am!

One down, 179 to go!

Monday, August 24, 2009

T'was the Night Before Chaos...

So tomorrow is the first day of classes. Am I nervous? YES!

In a way, the first day of school has always been laced with a little bit of anxiety. Even when I was a student, I'd find it hard to sleep the night before we went back. Mostly, it was excitement. The anticipation of a new school year, a fresh start, a chance to persue new goals and aquire new experience.

Things haven't changed much, now that I am the teacher. I'll probably lie awake tonight and run through my first day checklist, going over my new routine that has yet to become routine. If I'm lucky, I'll get a few hours. And I'll be up early, my body and my brain anxious to get it all started, to find a path and just move ahead.

It doesn't matter the location, the people, the schedule or the subject material. Just because I'm here doesn't make this any more (or less) nerve-wrecking. It's just the way I am! And that's the way I'll always be... even 10-20 years from now when it's all old hat. :o)

Just breathe. It's going to be just fine.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

An event ten years in the making...

Back from Apex. Had a lovely lunch with Barb. She's as awesome in person as she is online! Why did we wait this long to meet up? Silly girls we be.

Didn't get a picture of the two of us. Barb is likely silently relieved about that. One day soon though... We will document that we've finally learned how to get our act in gear and be in the same place! ;o)

But this post is naught without image... I snapped this of myself and my new hairdo this AM. Most of you could care less, I'm sure. But if you were wondering...

Not exactly the style I was looking for... it's a little more bobish than I wanted. But I can live with it for now. It's hair.

Looking forward to a lazy evening. I'll probably spend tomorrow holed up in my classroom with my iPod, working on my units and fighting off the jitters about Tuesday. School is right around the corner!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

When it rains, it POURS!

And pours... and pours...

Seriously folks. I waited about 20 minutes at the Walmart doors for the storm to let up. It never did. I could literally see my car parked 50 feet from me, so I decided to chance it. I was soaked by the time I loaded my stuff into the car (I literally shoved it all in there, including my new vacuum), and climbed dripping wet into the front seat. I took a few moments to shake myself off, which was probably a nanosecond too many for some one else who decided they wanted my primo spot by the door. They didn't even leave me a lot of room to back up and out of the stall... and I could barely see out the rear window!

The roads were a little flooded, but I made it back in one piece. I left half my stuff in the car, and still got drenched again in the 15 feet I sprinted from my car to the front door. Why doesn't this building have evestroughs or downspouts?

That was forty minutes ago. The storm has let up a little, and I'm waiting for the time to get the rest of my stuff. I knew I needed a shower, but I didn't think mother nature would take care of it for me!

Anyway, that's about as exciting as my day has been. I got a haircut, an oil change (for my car, not for me!) and went shopping. Whee. Thank God for the rain, or this post would have been very short.

Open House/Orientation was busy. I met a lot of my students, and they all seem like good kids. Makes me very hopeful that I'll be able to establish some solid teacher-student bonds with some of them. Met several parents too. It was a good turn out, and I kept remarking to them that this was the largest school I'd worked at in a few years, so if I seemed a little awestruck, that was why! The night completely wiped me out though. Friday was a hard day to get through.

I did get to the game last night -- sort of. They needed some additional helpers at the ticket window, so I volunteered. I thought that I'd just be selling tickets until the game started, and then I'd get to watch the rest of the game. Nope. We sold tickets up till the start of the 4th quarter, and we were busy the entire time! Why do some people come so late to the game? Yeah, so I didn't get to see the game. I heard it. Lots of cheering, bells, horns. All ado for the visiting team, who pretty much whooped CHS arse. Rats. Heard the band at halftime, too, and tried to peer outside the ticket booth far enough to see some marching. Oh well. They sounded good. I'll definitely make sure that the next game I go as a spectator and not as a worker.

Okay, so the links weren't working. That was my bad. I should know how to copy and paste rather than memorize URLs. They have to be working now. For those of you who hunted me out, you get a gold star! Sorry there is no pic with the bio. Maybe once I get my ID.

Steph -- the band director is a brand new teacher. All gungho and everything. He's been in the school since March, working with the kids and infusing his style into the program. The previous band director has taken a job as the technology director for the middle and high schools. Good guys. Oh, and the reason why we're so excited about a real American high school football game is because these aren't events that typically happen where I'm from. We do have sports teams and events, but never with this amount of fanfare. Marching bands are even more of a rarity. You now you know why some of my Canuck contingent is so enthusiastic about it!

Kimber -- No, I don't think the MMCI football team was formed until after we graduated. I remember the hockey team, and that wasn't even established until we were in our last couple of years. Other schools have FB teams and you can follow their progress in the paper. But it's not as common or as touted as it is down here.

Tomorrow will be the highlight of my weekend... I'm going up to Apex to have lunch with Barb!!! FINALLY! Seriously, this is actually going to happen. I don't know if I'll quite believe it until she's sitting across from me. Ten years is too long to know someone without actually having met them in the flesh. Hopefully it's worth the hype. Heh. Must bring camera to commemorate the event. You can expect a picture post in the near future. ;o)

Okay, I think it's safe to venture outside again. Gotta go grab the rest of my stuff. Later!

Edited to add: Forgot to mention, I got my social security card in the mail yesterday, so I guess I can officially get paid for working now!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Short and sweet!

I was blessed with something glorious this AM... the chance to sleep in! We're working 12 - 8 PM today for our Open House. Yesterday was another full one, but I managed to have some time in the afternoon in my classroom. Tomorrow night is the first football game (a home game) of the season. If they don't need any help at the ticket booth, I'll probably go and give my support to the team. I'll also get to see the marching band debut at the game, too! This is the stuff of a real AMERICAN high school! ;o)

I added some links at the bottom of the blog. I'm finally on the school website! Yesterday I updated my profile, so if you care to take a gander, go and find it!

Hope you're all doing well!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

TMA = Too Many Acronymns!

I. Am. Saturated.

I think I've absorbed more information in the past two weeks than I did in the entire year previous. Seriously, at this point, I'm not even registering most of it... It's just being moved into temporary folder until I can find time to reference it again.

Yesterday I learned all about the new evaluation process for teachers. I'm definitely glad I have a heads up on that. I've been evaluated before, but I've never been given the actual rubric in advance. Knowing makes me much calmer. It's pretty official stuff, but not extremely daunting. For one, I've been asked to do a self-assessment at the beginning of the year, to establish my baseline on where I think I excel and where I'd like to improve. I'll use that to help me develop my professional growth plan, where I will set a couple of goals that I'll focus on through the year. I'll be observed four times in the classroom, and all observations will influence my year-end evaluation, where I'll revisit my growth plan once more and see exactly what I've accomplished.

I think the hardest part of this whole process will be trying to narrow down my goals. I've been told not to spread myself too thin -- pick two or three specific goals and really concentrate on them. But there's so much I want to work on, I'm finding it difficult to prioritize one over the other. Getting used to a new school system, new curriculum, teaching to reach different academic levels, infusing global awareness into my instruction, and mastering an inventory of technology. How do I pick?

Everyone here has been extremely nice, accommodating and helpful... It's really making the transition 100% easier because I know that my questions can be answered without judgement. I haven't met anyone yet who has rubbed me the wrong way (well, maybe one) or hasn't acted as if I wasn't an equal. They are excited to work with me, trust me to do a good job -- everything that encourages me to strive to live up to their expectations.

There's still LOTS to do in the next week to prepare for my new classes, but every day I feel a little more accomplished. If my blogs are sparse for a little while, it's because I'm working hard and don't want to bore you all with my lack of an exceptional lifestyle! I've already started tweaking the blog and will be adding a few little "extras" in the days to come, when I've got some spare time. And if you want to hear from me, all you've got to do is fill out the comment form and send me some love!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Today's geometry lesson...

The "Triangle" (Chapel Hill-Raleigh-Durham) trip was full -- lots of driving, walking, closed venues, humidity...

We started the day early, because we wanted to pack enough in. The triangle is just over an hour away, and we arrived in Chapel Hill around 9:30. Our first stop was the UNC Botanical Gardens -- a request of my mothers. We had a great tour guide named Ina, who told us all about plants native to the region. We explored the gardens for about an hour. I wish I knew more about plants to have been more involved in the tour.

We went to downtown Chapel Hill to look for lunch. Eventhough it was only 11 am, I had been up since 6:30 and was pretty ravenous. We ate at Panera Bread -- good place to load up on your carbs! :o) We had thought about exploring downtown CH a little more, but we wanted to get to Raleigh and didn't know how long it would take us to find our next destination.

NC is a gorgeous state, and Chapel Hill is no exception. It's great to see all the greenery throughout the residential and even in the business districts. Some of the neighbourhoods we drove through looked pretty upscale too, with large custom homes and fantastic yards.

After another stint on the expressway, we got into Raleigh and headed for the State Farmer's Market. Located on NC State Univeristy campus, this place puts 'ol St. Norbert to shame! Lots of vendors selling produce, baking, flowers, crafts and more. If I had been going straight home, I probably would have shopped more. The place was packed with people, all friendly!

When I'd been researching the triangle area for things to do, I came across listings for different Breweries and Brewing Companies. I thought it might be neat to take my dad to one, who likes his ale. The first one I looked up was the Carolina Brewing Company in Chapel Hill, but I soon found out that the location is more of a pub and less of an actual brewing facility. (Later I found out that their loaction in Pittsboro offered tours and tastings.) My computer konked out on me before I could properly research my second choice -- Big Boss Brewing Company. I had a magazine that mentioned the place, and said you could take free tours. After we relentlessly hunted it down (literally), we were disappointed to find out that the tours only occur on once a month, and we choose the wrong weekend. Big Boss bummer!

By this time we were pretty exhausted, and decided that it might be good to check into our hotel by RDU (airport) for a little bit of a rest. We didn't really know what we wanted to do next, but we all agreed that it should be indoors and close by. That pretty much only left shopping centres -- so we picked the Southpoint Street Crossings Mall. It's more of a higher-end centre, big an beautiful with lots to look at! It's too bad we weren't in the mood to enjoy it more, but we mostly just wanted to kill time before dinner.

I wanted to try out a BBQ restaurant for dinner, and found a listing for Danny's near our hotel. Well, after looking and looking for a little hole in the wall (hard to find) place in a business strip, we found out the place is only open from Mon-Fri. Since we didn't have a second choice picked out, we consulted the GPS for our list of options and found Kemps Seafood. We still enjoyed our meal, but it would have been nice to treat my parents to real BBQ while they were in the south!

Back at the hotel, I could hardly keep my eyes open past 9 pm (lame). After sharing breakfast with my parents, I decided that I couldn't put off the inevitable and prepared to leave them there for the airport shuttle to pick them up. My mom was a little concerned about me finding my way to the interstate again (without getting turned around), but I assured her I would be fine. We exchanged some bittersweet goodbyes, and I left. Made it home without one wrong turn! That's a good sign, right?

So now I'm really on my own. Part of me is sad, but a larger part is just ready to get the rest started. I came home and finished unpacking my boxes -- sorting through the rest of the stuff I'd brought with me. Tonight I will do some work for school, and tomorrow I have another orientation. Time will go by quickly, I think, and it won't seem so bad not having my favourite people around me all the time. This is what I wanted -- not to be seperated from all of you -- but to challenge myself to explore step outside of my comfort circle and gain the strength I need for myself, by myself! How very inspriational, I know. ;o)

Just a few not-so-random shout outs to those who have left multiple comments. Sometimes I comment on your comments underneath, so if you asked a question or said something witty you think I'll notice, check there first. I can't comment on everything you leave, but I'll try to keep as best I can. Here are a few I'm catching up on...

Steph -- To calculate from degrees F to C... subtract 32 and then divide by 1.8. I'll probably flip-flop back and forth from C to F, depending on what I'm talking about. And if you think that 29 is cold... It's one of the highest temps that they've had back home all summer!

The apartment is pretty white, which was bothering me when there wasn't much in it. Once I get some stuff on the walls, it will look and feel much more like a place I want to call home. It already does. And my mailing address will be in your inbox very soon. If anyone else wants it, just email me. But remember, once you have it, I expect you to use it! ;o)

Kimber -- Oh, a Smartboard is almost exactly like your description, except so much more awesome! Yes, you can use it as a monitor for your computer, but there are sensors in the board that respond to touch, so your fingers act as a mouse click! You can open and use apps, click on links and surf the web, even type and write without having to leave the board. The words I wrote in that picture were actually "drawn" on the board! It's even more nifty in person. ;o)

Barbs -- Hey... Maybe I will take you up on your poster offer. How It might take care of the starkness. And yes... Feel free to call (or text!) me whenever you need an interupption from your own school prep! :o)

Time for dinner. See ya!

*Waves to Mom and Dad, who will be reading this sometime soon... Yes, all that really did happen. That's why you're so tired and glad to be home!*

Friday, August 14, 2009

You asked for it...

... a picture post!

The first set of photos were taken when we went to Wilmington last Sunday and visited the USS North Carolina battleship, and actualy vessel used in WWII. We spent about 1.5 hours on the ship, exploring all the levels and sections. Lots of hot and cramped spots!

Yes, the sign in that last one actually says 'Don't Feed the Alligators'. We were tempted, but looked in the river and didn't see any. :o(

This batch was taken yesterday at my school. My mom played photog while she helped me set up my classroom.

The lights in the room are on motion sensors... They automatically come on when you enter, and go out when there has been much motion in the room after some time. It's a way to conserve energy... But I imagine it will get annoying when I have a class writing a test, and suddenly all the lights go out!

Playing around with my SmartBoard!

My is on the second floor, and opens out into the atrium. There's a lot of natural light in this area of the school. Sweet view!

This is what greets you when you enter the front doors of the school. My mom thought that it was pretty impressive that there was such elaborate furniture out there where students gather. I think it's rather cool, too!

Outside the front doors of the school. The school opened year, and until this fall was the most state of the art school in all of NC. (I think another new school is opening somewhere else this fall that slightly edges us out!)

Okay, okay... I know you've been waiting patiently to see pictures of my new apartment. Just remember! I moved in exactly a week ago with no furniture! I still have not had time to unpack any accessories or personal items. It's pretty sparse, and these are the only photos I'm showing you right now. If you're very nice and send presents, perhaps one day when I finally get this place looking 85% decent, I will show you more.

The last one was taken last night at dinner with Alvin and his family. I said before... They are are really great people to hang out with. Alvin and his wife, Rosalyn make the transition easier, and I know I'm going to enjoy having them as neighbours!

I promise, these won't be the last of the pictures. But they might be the last ones for a little while, as I transfer my concentration from the move to getting ready for the start of school.

My parents leave on Sunday, so tomorrow we're going in to the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area to do a little exploring. We'll spend the night near the airport, then I'll come back Sunday by myself. It's going to be hard saying goodbye to them, because I know that it will be months before I have visitors from home again. But I plan to use the time wisely, and am looking forward to the next phase of the transition!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Squeezing out the remaining moments...

I'm headed into the last three days of my "summer vacation", and I'm planning to enjoy them as much as I possibly can!

Yesterday I was able to spend some time in my classroom exploring all the nooks and crannies. I met with my mentor, another teacher in my department who will help me get orientated to the school. She answered a lot of my questions about what to expect in the first few weeks at the school, showed me around the building (sweet!) and introduced me to a few other teachers and auxiliary staff. I even though it was only a few hours, I felt relief in just knowing some additional things that were nagging on me. I like to have a good idea in advance of what is around the corner, especially when it comes to my job and my expected commitments.

I also got my schedule, and a list of my classes! What I gain in planning time (compared to what I've had), I lose in the size of my classes. They are larger than I'm used to. It could be a big change from the smaller classes I've had in the past -- some are almost twice as big as my larger classes in St. Laurent! My planning period is at the end of the day, which will be nice. And did I mention my classroom? It's loaded with all the bells and whistles!

I attended a Smartboard session yesterday afternoon, which was on my personal "to do" list since I found out all the classrooms have one. What an amazing teaching tool this is. I doubt I'll be able to master it all in my first year, but I am bound and determined to try! I played around with the board again today and I can't wait to try planning lessons with it.

I brought my mother into the school today because I wanted her help moving some furniture around, and she wanted to take pictures to take home with her. (Yes, there are pictures on the way!) We spent about an hour trying to determine the best layout of the room. We moved desks, and moved desks, and moved a few more desks. The final layout seems like the most optimal -- I hope. I suppose I'll find out in the first few weeks of school if it will work or not!

My parents wanted to take my local advisor, Alvin, and his family out to dinner tonight as a way of thanking them for their support here in NC. We had a really nice visit. They are a great family and I know that I will enjoy getting to know them and work with Alvin over the next year.

It's been raining on and off for the last couple of days, which makes the non-rain periods really really humid. But it isn't as got here as it was earlier in the week -- about 29 C. The flash flood warning we had two days ago didn't amount to much in this community, but other areas were slightly affected by the heavy rainfall. They say we've got a few more weeks of summer weather before the temperatures start to drop more.

Tomorrow is a day off. School is closed and we're not expected to attend any meetings. Hallelujah! I think we are going to go into Fayetteville (about 45 minutes away) again and see what's to offer there.

Will post more tomorrow! Hopefully some pictures, too!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Two photos...

... From orientation. The first is my roommate, Isabel and I. The second is a bunch of us at our party the last night of orientation. We represent the future of global education!

More photos will come in the future.... Of my new apt, my new school.... Just stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It ebbs and flows...

This just in. As of 8:17 PM, my county is under a Flash Flood warning. What exactly am I supposed to do during a flash flood? Stay inside? Climb to higher ground? Grab my paddle?

I'm not in Manitoba anymore!

But I am back to the land of the living, thanks to my new internet connection. Gosh, I feel like I've been out of touch for ages! There's probably a lot that you all want to know, and maybe I'll answer some of that here. But if I don't... just send me a comment and ask!

Thursday was a very long day. After three full days of travel and orientation, I really just wanted to lay in bed all day and sleep. But I couldn't, because I had to travel from Raleigh to Clinton and meet my local advisor. So we all said goodbye (some of us were travelling in the same direction - I was not) and left the luxury hotel and entered the unknown. The drive to Clinton was... umm... awkward? Really, I just wanted to sit and observe the passing scenery. I think my driver (an older guy from Durham... Could have been my grandpa) caught on to that. When we arrived in Clinton, he waited at the car while I went into the Central Office (like the division board office) and asked for whomever was expecting me. I guess I came at lunch, because there weren't many people there. Including my local advisor. I knew he was at a conference in Charlotte, so his wife met me a short while later and we loaded my stuff into her car and left the office. She took me to their place, introduced me to her kids and fed me lunch. (My local advisor, Alvin, and his wife, Rosalyn, are from the Phillipines and have been with the VIF program for two years. Kind folk. Very helpful.)

After lunch, we went to the rental office where my landlord was expecting me. I had filled out an application for an apartment the week before, and she took me to go see the apartment that was available -- which just happened to be in the same area that Alvin and his family live. I liked what I saw, and felt that the rent was reasonable. In a smaller community, there really isn't much availability of rental places, especially if you're not looking for a house with the bigger bills and rent payments. The unit was available right away, so after signing the agreement, I was given the keys to my new two bedroom townhouse. (Photos to come... eventually.)

Next came my favourite... shopping! The first piece of furniture that I bought was a bed. That was the only furniture I had for the first two nights! My last trip out on Thursday was to Walmart (!!) to buy sheets and some essentials for the place. I wish I could say that I slept soundly that night, but well... not so much.

On Friday I got the sweetest phone call... from my parents telling me that they'd just arrived in town and were on their way to my new place. Seriously -- I almost cried! After meeting so many new faces in the last four days, I just wanted to surround myself with familiar people who knew me and loved me in spite of it! We did a little more shopping and went out for dinner. Later that night I got a phone call from Alvin -- he was back in town and wanted to show me the school where I'd be teaching. So I took my parents and I got my first look at the school and my classroom. More on that in another post. Let's just say... I liked what I saw. ;o)

Saturday I shopped... and shopped... and shopped. We went to Fayetteville (about 45 min away) because we were told that they had a larger Walmart with more selection. Still, couldn't buy more than would fit in my car. Managed to get lots on my list, though.

Sunday we decided to take a break... relax... and go to the coast. Ha! Obviously we weren't thinking about all the crowds we'd have to fight on the weekend. We got about as close as we could get without actually having our feet in the sand. Toured the USS North Carolina -- a real battleship used in WWII. Very cool. Ate lunch in Wilmington at a dockside restaurant that looked very familiar (seriously... it was like I was at the Ice House!) and then tried to find a parking spot at Wrightsville Beach (fail!) before heading over to the nearest Walmart (3 different stores in three days!) to tick off more items from my list. Whew. Who thought that would be a relaxing day?

Monday I headed with Alvin back to the Central Office to fill out some paperwork -- and was promptly informed that I was expected at a new teacher orientation that started an hour earlier at the high school! How was I to know?? We rushed over there, gave our apologies. Everyone understood. Met a few more new teachers who were also teaching at the high school. Except they'd already had time in the school (some had taught there the previous year) -- I was the only one who was brand-spanking new to the building! I felt like I blended in really well though... The new teachers are around my age and we had a good time chatting and getting to know each other. The seminar topics were, well... Those of you who were once new teachers and went through similar orientations... it was exactly like what you'd expect. A little redundant for someone who isn't quite as green as the rest... But I still felt like the whole thing served its purpose!

Today was much the same. More new teacher orientation -- more paperwork at the Central Office. Tomorrow I get to spend more time in my classroom and also get to meet my teacher mentor -- whoever he or she will be!

The whole process so far has been... Eye-opening. Overwhelming. Scary. Fascinating. Yeah, all of that. I've been close to tears a few times... moments of trepidation where I wondered if I would be able to cope. Having my parents here has been my saving grace. They've been there for whatever I need and I'm going to be more than sad to say goodbye to them in Raleigh on Sunday. But that's still a few days away, and I'd rather not dwell on it right now.

Sounds like the storm seems to have subsided a little bit. It's almost 9:30! I was in bed by this time yesterday!

I want to close by letting you all know that I adore and appreciate each and every one of you and the support you send me. It's great to read your comments. Thank you.

**I apologize for any typos and/or grammatical errors in this entry. They won't all be perfect!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Breaking in...

Just a few comments as I wait for my roomie to hand over the bathroom...

Okay, so maybe 40 C was a little bit of an overestimate in the temperature when I was trying to describe how hot it was outside. Heh. But it's still hot -- and with the humidity it can feel like about 100 F. Thankfully today is supposed to be a little cooler. There were some thunderstorms through the night. It's supposed to get warmer for the weekend -- maybe I could send a few degrees your way, fellow 'Peggers?

As far as I know, I'm the only new teacher in the Clinton district. At least, I was at this orientation. They haven't said that there was another teacher missing, so I'm going to guess that I'm it.

This weekend is tax-free weekend at most of the stores... Yay for me and all the shopping I have to do! :o)

Signing off!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A, B... C?

Hi everyone! This will be short, since I'm going to try my best to squeeze in a nap before I have to get ready for the reception tonight. After the last three days, I'm so tired right now... I'm not sure I'd be able to recite the alphabet... nevermind remember what country I'm in!

Today we learned all about what it's like to work in a U.S. school. You would think that it would be similar to what I've been doing over the last five years... and in many ways it is. But there are also some differences that are on the horizon that I might find a challenge to adjust to! I'll comment more on them later down the line when I've had more experience and can give a fairer interpretation. ;o)

Tomorrow we're all being split up after breakfast and are being taken to our teaching districts. Which means tonight is our last night as one big, happy VIF group! But I am excited to see my community, find out where I'll be living and finally start settling in. There's lots of stuff to do on my checklist -- so if you don't get another update for a little while, it's because I'm busy getting established and/or I haven't gotten my internet connection set up yet! The computers at the hotel (and the free wireless in the rooms) has been nice to have over the last two days -- but I have to say goodbye to that tomorrow as well.

Take care everyone -- Have great weekend! :o)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

There's the heat!

To all of you back in Manitoba that are wondering where summer is... I think I found it!

Not sure what the temperature is right now, but I'm sure with the humidity it's somewhere near 40 degrees celcius! But we've been inside for most of the day, and the AC is cranked, which is why I'm sitting here in my jacket dabbing my runny nose.

For those of you who haven't figured it out, I arrived safe last night, though a little worse for wear. I spent three hours in the Chicago airport, which was probably about 2 hours too many. It's a big airport, and I managed to walk a lot of it just to kill time! Landed in Raleigh at 9:00 PM local time (8 PM "PT" - 'Peg time) amid a thunderstorm, and was greeted almost immediately by Daphne, one of VIFs reps. She brought me back to my hotel, gave me my room key, welcome package and schedule for orientation. I found out that the next day would start early -- at 8 AM -- which wouldn't have been so bad if I could have gone back to my room and just fallen into bed. However, I was a little keyed up (though completely exhausted at the same time), and so I waited up for Maria, my roommate, to arrive at midnight. We talked for a little bit, then I tried to relax enough to settle down so that I could be up early!

There are about 25 of us participating in this orientation, which is a larger number than they originally expected, so we're staying at a different hotel than I was told last week. There are at least 8 countries represented in our group, and everyone I've met so far is super nice and excited to be here! There is also one other Canadian (from Nova Scotia), but she's not a newcomer to the program like me, so a lot of this is old hat to her.

The day has been good. Busy, but less so for me than for others. I was exempt from the driving practice this morning, but I tagged along anyway. I would say that I was there to give the others moral support, but really I just wanted to check out my surroundings in daylight! I forgot what it's like to be in a car with inexperienced drivers! Yikes! The same groups went out this afternoon for more practice, but I decided to spare my nerves and catch a nap instead.

VIF has given us all pre-paid cell phones to use for a little while, and then after that we can decide if we want to keep them or find our own plan or provider. I appreciate that, because I can shop around for a good deal later.

We've got one last thing on our schedule for today -- dinner as a group. Tomorrow is another full day, and I won't get as many breaks as I did today. Thursday I will head off to Clinton, and finally get to see the community where I will be living. I'll try to post again before then, because I don't know if I will get many more chances after that until I get my own internet provider.

Whew! I'm beat! Thanks to those of you who have left comments and have sent me emails. I'll try to reply to them when I've got the time. I hope everyone is enjoying their summer!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Well... This is it. Sort of.

Okay, the thing is, I KNOW I'm going to forget to post something tomorrow, which is why I'm doing one now. This will likely be my last update until I'm in North Carolina, and I definitely did not want to leave you all hanging!

So... How do I feel? Excited. Nervous. Sad. Optimistic. Very very humble. Everyone I've run into the last few days has been super supportive and happy for me. Where did I earn this kind of respect? Honestly -- I love that you all are excited for me and want the best for me, but reminding me of the awesome people I'm leaving behind here isn't making the departure any easier!

I'm trying not to be sad. I'm trying not to think about how I will miss my family and friends so, so much! I'm fighting the urge to NOT WANT to GO! Instead I remind myself of what a huge opportunity this is for me, and continue to list the reasons of why this whole experience will be GOOD FOR ME.

Really. I'll be okay. I'm not going to Kathmandu. I won't have to fight violence, poverty or overpopulation. I can do this. I will survive, and hopefully, become a stronger person for it.

So. There it is. Last one -- for now. I don't know when the next post will come. It all depends on how fast I establish an internet account down there. Don't worry if it takes a few days, or more than that. I'm not lying in a ditch somewhere. I've got people who will make sure I find my way around. :o)

Love to all.

P.S. I've now enabled it so anyone can leave a comment on this blog. No account required. Now you have no excuse. Heh.