IRELAND 2015

IRELAND 2015

I started this post shortly after returning from Ireland, and I’ve decided now is the time to finally finish it!

From October 2015 –

Yes. Yes. Yes. Ireland was everything I could have imagined! Breathtaking views, the kindest people, and new experiences.

In these pictures, you’ll find everything from a full Irish breakfast to kissing the Blarney Stone to horseback riding at the Cliffs of Moher to hours spent on Irish busses crossing the country. We also fit a flight delayed for 24 hours, a Guinness factory tour, museum visits, new friends in different cities, shopping, and general sister shenanigans, among other adventures! Such a good trip❤

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Giving it Time

Giving it Time

When I was traveling to Ireland and my canceled flight led to a 24 hour layover, I spent a lot of time with a woman who was going to be on my flight. We enjoyed our meals together and hung out and talked as we waited to get on our flight the next day. One of the stories she shared is something that has stuck with me as it relates to my current situation in a way. She talked about this person she knows (let’s call her R), and how R is always moving around in life. R has a teaching degree and has had many jobs in various states over the past few years. She constantly moves to a new area, tries it out for a few months, and then decides she doesn’t like it and moves somewhere else.

When I first moved to Virginia, I was so overwhelmed by all the newness – my new job, my new apartment, my new dog, my new area. I was kept so busy by it all, and with keeping in touch with my old friends, that I couldn’t even really have an opinion as to whether or not I liked my new spot. I was pretty taken with my job right away and I was liking hanging with Kato and relaxing, but it didn’t necessarily feel like home at all for the first..6 months maybe. Thinking about R and her quick decisions about whether or not a place was home for her made me think about what my decision would have been if I had to make it so soon after moving somewhere. A year and a half later, I can fully say that I love my area, the people there, my job, and everything about it. I do have a tendency to grow where I’m planted, so it’s not surprising to me that I’m happy where I am, but if you would have asked me 6 months in versus now, my answer would have had different emphasis.

You have to give yourself time to adjust and enjoy a place, and to fully explore all that somewhere can be. Even to become close to new friends, you have to give it time. One of my very best friends right now is a friend from my new area. I wouldn’t have told you this would be the case a year ago!

If I could give R some advice, I would tell her to slow down and give it time. It’s completely okay for a place to not be right for you, but it needs a fair chance to be explored for all that it can be.

 

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Perspective

Perspective

Usually, I would rank myself pretty well in terms of keeping things in perspective. One of my favorite life strategies to get me through something that is hard/nerve-wracking/intimidating/etc. is to think about myself after whatever the event or situation is. For example, when I was presenting at the National Council for the Social Studies Annual Convention a few years ago, I was a little bit nervous (okay a lot nervous!) for my presentation to start. I was also excited and grateful to be presenting, but nervous nonetheless. Whenever I felt myself getting nervous in the days/hours leading up to my presentation, I would picture myself 24 hours after the event (or even just 5 minutes after!). Hard things pass too, and it often helps me to picture myself going about my normal life even after going through something embarrassing, hard, or scary – because that is how it happens, you do go about your life normally after getting the hard thing out of the way! It’s my way of telling myself that it will all be okay.

This works in phases of life, too. Last year, at the start of my first year of teaching, I found myself staying late after school, bringing work home every night, working till bedtime, and even working through most weekends. As I created lessons and trudged through some of the challenging first-year work, I was able to think about how all of the work I was doing then would help me in the future. I knew that it wouldn’t always be like that and to appreciate it for what it was.

Today, Kato had a vet appointment. As the vet and I chatted, he told me that it was great to see me working so hard to give Kato a great life and that he really gives me credit for all I’ve been through with this dog. This really made me step back for a moment and think about our journey together. Even through all the times I contemplated whether my house was the best place for him, I always ended up coming back to the thought that no one else would put up with this craziness! The vet shared that this really is the case, and with a surplus of dogs out there, people would normally put a dog with this many high needs down and just get another and start fresh. Of course, this is not always the case, and there are a great many people who would probably go to much greater lengths for their dogs than I even have for Kato. During the last year, when I was really going through some hard times with him, I didn’t really have my perspective in place. Yes, I would often tell myself, “It’s just one bad year for 10 good ones,” which really is exactly that perspective I was talking about, but it wasn’t sinking in as much as I would have hoped.

A little over a year later, I’ve finally found that perspective that I was looking for. When I come home now, whether there’s a mess to clean up or not, I greet him with the happiness he deserves. When he randomly chooses a stranger to be wary of and growl quietly at, I sometimes think, “well, maybe you were creepy,” instead of, “GEEZE KATO WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!” Basically, I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt so much more. I used to really think in a ‘grass is greener’ perspective – thinking about all the other perfect dogs out there, and why couldn’t mine be like that! Now, there aren’t times that that thought doesn’t cross my mind, but I really have a new perspective on this little dog laying next to me right now. He definitely isn’t normal and he definitely has his own range of high needs, but who else could love him as well as I do?

What I Love

What I Love

“What do YOU love about being a teacher?” 

This caption accompanied a post on Facebook about World Teacher Day today, and I knew it wasn’t something I could answer in just a sentence or two. 

I’ve been amazed this year by the similarities and differences between my first year of teaching and my second year of teaching. And while I loved my kids so much last year, and everyone who knows me knows how much I always gushed about them, there’s something amazing to me about the fact that I can love my group this year just as much! But this year, my love for them is different – it’s so much more apparent to me and easy to articulate in so many ways. Last year, I remember talking about how lucky I was to have such a great class. I joked around with people that I might have a rude awakening this year if my new students weren’t as angelic as last year’s. I also used to say that I wasn’t sure of my impact on the group, and that this year would be telling to see if last year’s group was just magical or if it was my leadership that set the tone for the year. I’ve only recently come to realize that me calling my kids angels last year and talking about how “good” they were was just my way of sharing how much I loved them. In all honesty, they weren’t angels! We had an amazing year and I wouldn’t change anything about it, but it wasn’t as if I went to school each day and could just sit back and watch them interact perfectly and teach themselves! Lots of teaching, prodding, and encouraging went into these kids every single day. I was exhausted at the end of each day, but I left feeling that my kids were such good kids because I saw the way they worked to grow and learn each day. Even when they messed up, you could feel the love between us under the surface and we knew it would be okay. As a first year teacher, I wasn’t sure how okay it was to profess your love for your class every day. And while my coworkers joked because I did talk about how great my class was ALL THE TIME, I still did it in a way that wasn’t quite putting into words what was really going on. 

This year, I LOVE my class and I LOVE their hard work and I LOVE their enthusiasm and I LOVE their eagerness to adapt and learn. 

I don’t need to call them angels or say that they’re perfect to know that I love them every day. In the days before this year began, I tried to think back to whatever “magical” thing I did last year to create our classroom dynamic. I couldn’t pinpoint any specific thing, so I just knew I’d have to wing it again this year and use everything I learned last year to make this one even better. Now that we’re almost done with the first quarter, I can again say that I don’t know what magical thing has been done in our room. 

What I can say is that my kids feel the love from me every day and this is something I now KNOW. This makes a difference, and it only makes me approach every day with a fresh heart and positive attitude so the love in our room can keep growing. 

In our room, love looks a little like this (I’d like to add to/rearrange/reword this list and potentially make it into its own post – but for now, these are the things that make my heart happy every day):

The kids give me spontaneous hugs as they come back from lunch because they missed me while they were gone for 25 minutes.

All my students drag their chairs around my desk during our quiet work time so that they can work right next to me. 

When there’s no homework written on the board, someone always adds “come in with a positive attitude!”

After two students had to write their names on the board today for goofing off in line, they came to me at separate times to apologize for their behavior (this is definitely not necessary and they know that once an issue is taken care of we all move on, but them caring enough to apologize shows me they respect and care for me, too).

Yesterday when someone said that our new math topic was easy, that same student chided himself for saying it and reminded everyone that we needed to keep the whole class feeling safe in the classroom. Hearing these words from a student’s mouth in this way reaffirmed everything I’ve known about kids hearing your every word and taking what you say to heart. 

We only allow positive attitudes in our room, so my kids cheer when it’s time to write notes, take quizzes, or do anything else equally boring. A quick, “do I hear complaining?” takes care of any stray comments we get in the 8th week now that might not be wholly positive. 

I make sure to verbalize my thoughts to the kids. Today before sending them off to specials for their first block, I took a minute to share how proud I was of their hard work and their determination to try a new testing strategy we learned last week. I shared how I was grading papers at 11pm last night with a huge smile on my face. And I shared that I was so happy to have them in my class. This took less than 1 minute, but the proud looks on their faces didn’t come off till much later!🙂

One of Those Moments

One of Those Moments

Today,

I had one of those moments.

 

One of those moments I’ve had only a handful of times,

since the beginning of last year,

since the start of my career,

since becoming a teacher,

since fulfilling my childhood dream.

 

During math class, as my students took their Unit 3 Test, and I sat at my desk in the back grading one of the first papers to be handed in, someone tapped his pencil on a desk.

Tap, tap, tap.

Pause.

Tap, tap, tap.

Pause. I waited to see if the student would stop on his own and our “electric” silence would return to the room.

Pause.

Taptaptaptap.

From my desk in the back, in my quiet, amiable, magical teacher voice – “Whoever is tapping, make sure you’re working so that everyone can concentrate on their own test.” The absentminded tapping had stopped the second my voice entered the space. And as my words floated out into the room, that feeling came to me. The one that makes a smile break out over my face and fills my stomach with that fluttery realization.

These are my kids. This is my classroom. This is real life!

For so long, I dreamed, planned, and worked toward this result. It was never something unattainable and unreachable, never something that I had to be encouraged to not give up on, nothing that I thought might not come true. But how many times had I imagined my OWN classroom, written about my OWN classroom, talked about my OWN classroom.

I remember student teaching and the magic of being a student teacher. I am so lucky to have loved all of my mentor teachers and to have had such supportive placements. Even so, I was still a shy student teacher, who didn’t really have her place in these other classrooms. Even becoming as confident as I did in those rooms and in my roles there, they were never my classrooms.

Now, as I sit at my desk and plan lessons, walk around the room and listen to groups reading, get pulled suddenly into a hug as a student passes by, it sometimes hits me. This is mine! These are the little humans that I get to spend my days with. The people that I have the chance to shape, mold, teach, and learn from.

I stand at the front of the room each day, 22 smiling faces eager to hear what I have to say, eager to share in more experiences together, eager to have their minds opened to new ideas. Most days, it’s my job. It’s what I do, and I never lose sight of the fact that I love it.

But some days,

it’s more than just a sure feeling that I’m doing the right thing,

more than the realization that I am so lucky to be doing what I love,

more than the smiles on their faces.

 

Some days,

I have one of those moments.

 

 

 

My Kayaking Pup

My Kayaking Pup

Photo May 09, 2 11 54 PM

 

Ever since bringing Kato home at the end of last summer, I’ve been eagerly awaiting his first kayaking experience! I wasn’t sure how he would take to it. I read a few things online, but as with most dog advice I find, it seemed fairly self explanatory and almost like too much worrying for something that didn’t need to be a big deal! I just decided to try it out and see how he did. Two things I did read were that you should give the dog practice being in the kayak with it on land and give the dog practice with wearing his/her life vest. Because I live 150 miles from my kayak (it stays at my parents’ house because I don’t have anywhere to store it at my apartment in VA), Kato didn’t have time to practice hanging out in the kayak. While loading the kayaks up Saturday morning with my sister and boyfriend, I sat in it and had Kato come in with me. He got right in and sat between my legs, so things were already looking good! Once we got to the spot where we were going to kayak, I placed my own life vest on Kato (mainly just for a laugh) and he wore it around like no big deal! It just made me laugh to think how people said they had to get their dogs used to wearing one for months. I’m sure he would definitely need practice swimming in a real one, but that will have to wait until I get him one. Also, I shouldn’t really talk because other dog owners might be side-eyeing the fact that my dog doesn’t always behave super well when left home alone….so I digress.

When I run with Kato, I use a belt attachment on me connected to a harness on him. This ended up being the perfect length between us while I sat on the seat in the kayak and had him sit between my legs. At first I had his regular leash attached to his collar too, (I really wanted him to be safe and secure!) but that was just overkill and I ended up taking it off almost immediately. He got right in and sat down between my legs and stayed right there for me! It was sooo cute. Alicia was paddling up ahead and called out a duck warning, as we all now how much Kato loves ducks…as in, loves to maniacally chase them! We came around a small bend in a very shallow part of the stream, and Kato hopped out and started pulling me toward the ducks! Haha! It was actually a fun way to get around. After a little bit of that, I helped him back in (he used the side of the creekbed to get high enough to jump back in – it definitely wouldn’t be that easy if we were out where he couldn’t stand). As we traveled back out into the Susquehanna River from this small side creek, I stayed close to the shore to be safe. Kato got up and turned around a few times, all without tipping us! At one point he was whining so I pulled over to let him pee on some trees, and then we hopped back in.  All in all, it was so satisfying to have him be such a natural kayak dog!! I definitely need to get him a life vest so we can really go out everywhere without having to worry. I’m excited for this summer!

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2 months to go!

2 months to go!

I think my “just go for it!” attitude might bite me in the butt this time – there are exactly two months until my first marathon! my “training” so far has consisted of a few 4 miles runs…and one 6 mile run. sooooo yeah. Alicia tells me that just because I ran a half marathon last summer (after minimal training – which compared to my training now was actually so much!!) does not mean I can just up and run a full marathon this summer after no training. while I still have two months to go…I also have tons of plans between now and then! this weekend I’m heading up to state college for the annual Blue and White game so there will be lots of driving and hanging out with friends, and not really any time for running. this does not bode well as my race comes closer and closer!!! hopefully I’ll be back in a few weeks with a better running update!