Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Are we going to actually learn anything today?"

It's official: I am back at school again. The first official day of school was yesterday, although I met some of the students and parents on Monday at "Back to School" night and all of them Tuesday during 7th grade orientation. It's been a busy week trying to get everything set up, planning lessons, cleaning, organizing, making copies, meeting with colleagues, etc. I forget how much energy teaching takes. I have taken a nap almost every day this week! I'm sure I'll get used to it again, but it's hard to get back in the habit.

I'm really excited about my classes this year, and I don't see any major behavior issues yet, which is a good sign. It is interesting, however, to see the difference between my honors and regular students. During orientation, one of my honors students asked, "Are we actually going to learn anything today?" Bless his heart, I thought to myself, only an honors student would be concerned about the level of academic rigor on the first day of school. My actual reply was, "Yes, you're going to learn today, it just won't relate directly to English curriculum. You'll learn all about how to survive the first week of middle school." That seemed to satisfy him, at least temporarily. I guess I better gear up and get some killer lessons ready, though. These kids are ready to learn! Now, if I could only learn their names!

Here's my inspirational quote for the day:
"Education is not filling a pail but the lighting of a fire." ~William Butler Yeats

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Home on the Range!

Ever since I was little, I have loved horses. I love the balance between beauty and strength that they epitomize. Like most little girls, I wanted a horse of my very own. In fact, I distinctly remember asking over and over again for a horse. One day, my mom looked at me and said, "Megan, I have wanted a horse since I was younger than you. When I get a horse, we can talk about you getting one." I couldn't argue with Mom's logic (she was good at coming up with the most unarguable answers), and I don't think I ever asked again.

Still it didn't stop me from loving them. This week, I got relive that childhood love when I went up to my roommate's house to ride horses that her mom owns. It was fun (and fast! The horses didn't really like walking.). So, for your enjoyment, here are a few pictures of us riding Rico and Dante.
Me on Dante--trying to differentiate between gaiting and trotting.

Brenda on Dante
Getting saddled up for the first time. Danielle and her mom helping Brenda and Emily.
Emily... pondering what life would be like as a horse?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Nearsighted Princess (A modern fairytale)

This is a unique fairytale. It doesn't involve a prince saving a damsel in distress, or a dragon wreaking havoc on the countryside, or a disgruntled witch who lives deep in the woods. Instead, it is the story of an ordinary, visually challenged girl.

Once upon a time, there was a princess who couldn't see very well. In fact, she was so nearsighted that she was practically farsighted as well. It didn't bother her too much because she had been that way since she was very young, and the kingdom's inventors has created lenses that made her able to see. Still, sometimes she wished that she could just see like normal people. She wondered what it would be like to wake up in the morning and look around her bedroom and actually be able to clearly see the objects that were in it.

One day, she went to see a wizard in the kingdom and asked him about it. He told her that a procedure could be done that would fix her eyes permanently. She was ecstatic, but a little wary of the wizard's promise. Would it really work? What if something went wrong and she went blind? These and many other questions swirled around her head, making her nervous. She told the wizard she would think about it and get back to him.

The princess went to the royal library to investigate. She found out that a lot had been written about the procedure and read everything she could get her hands on. Finally, she was satisfied and told the wizard that she wanted him to fix her eyes. They scheduled an appointment for a fortnight hence, and the princess skipped home happily.

The next two weeks were torture. She had to wear glasses rather than contacts in preparation for the procedure, and they kept sliding down her nose and falling off her face. Plus, they made her much clumsier because she didn't have peripheral vision. But, she got through the annoyance, and told herself repeatedly that it would be worth it when the procedure was over.

Finally the day of the procedure came. The princess wasn't nervous until several of the other courtiers in the castle asked her if she was. Then the old questions and doubts came back. "

What if I go blind?" she thought. "This could be the last day of my life that I see."

Shortly thereafter, the princess told herself to stop being melodramatic, and she sallied forth to meet her fate.

At the wizard's chambers, she waited for a long time before they actually called her name. The princess passed the time by reading just about every magazine in the waiting room and staring at the walls. Finally, it was her turn. She was taken back to a small, dimly lit room and told to sit in a chair. They leaned the chair back and told her to look at a magical, flashing orange light. The wizard talked her through the whole procedure and ten minutes later, she was done! It was that simple!

Already, the princess could see better than before, although the world was a little hazy. It would only be a matter of days before the princess would be able to see perfectly and the scratchiness in her eyes would fade away. And she lived happily--with 20/20 vision--ever after.

P.S. - Stay tuned for the next installment of the story: The Not-so-nearsighted Princess Finds Her Prince! (Publication date is yet unknown, but the author is open to suggestions on how the plot of the sequel should unfold.)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Lessons Learned at Summer Camp

As a favor to a friend, last week I spent two days cooking at a boys' ranch in the mountains about an hour from where I live. Isn't it beautiful! I didn't really know what to expect from the experience, and wasn't sure whether it would be a blast or whether it would be awkward to be the token girl at the camp (other than my friend's mom who was the head cook).

I am happy to report, however, that I had a blast. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, but I also got to do some of the fun activities with the campers and counselors. We weeded, kayaked, biked, rode horses, played games, ate milkshakes, watched the meteor shower, built log furniture and a tipi, tie-dyed, and more. I was so busy, I didn't even have time to read my book, and you all know how significant THAT is. :)

I learned a few things, too:

1) Don't try to run down hill with a kayak. They are really heavy, and you will likely end up with your body too far ahead of your feet. This will probably end with you sprawled on the ground on top of the kayak. (Be prepared to find bruises on your hips the next day.)

2) If you are going to compete in the bike leg of a mini-triathlon relay, make sure that you know how to change gears on the bike you are using. Otherwise, you will spend half of your time on the course feeling like a clown on a little kid's bike, and you'll likely get so flustered that you miss the final turn and go the wrong way. Still, it's not the end of the world because you'll still finish the course and be no worse for wear.

3) Teenage boys will take every opportunity imaginable to compete. It's really entertaining to watch. Usually they stop when someone starts bleeding though (at least long enough to clean up the blood).

4) Meteor showers are best viewed from the top deck of a barn inside a sleeping bag. Simply beautiful. It's like Heavenly Father is waving hello.

5) Food always tastes better after you have been running around for hours and hours. It's amazing how good it feels sometimes to be tired and hungry when it's from working and playing hard.

So, that's the gist of my adventure. I had forgotten how much fun it is to hang out with teenage boys. They are hilarious. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to be a part of this program for a few days. It has made me even more excited to go back to school next week.

Monday, August 3, 2009

There's No Place Like Home

I went home to California last week, and I loved every second of it. There's something exhilarating about driving down the highway past rows and rows of fruit trees, knowing that every second you are getting closer to a farmer's market where you can partake of the yumminess! There's something soothing about pulling up to the same lakeside general store you've been going to since before you can remember, and finding out the the night crawlers are still kept in the same spot. There's just something wonderful about going home and being reminded of people and places that are so familiar and that hold so many memories.

I spent the week shopping, going to Huntington Lake, meeting up with friends from high school, eating fabulous food, play Super Scrabble, and watching Center Stage's production of Beauty and the Beast.

It was a great week and many thanks go out to Mom and Dad for all the entertaining they did and for all of the years of memories! Here's to...

Baking hundreds of cookies in 104 degree weather

Picking grapes on the welfare farm and getting slurpies afterwards

Fishing with Dad, even when I wouldn't touch the fish I caught

Sticking labels on thousands of postcard ads for musicals to be mailed all over the valley

Making apricot jam, and apricot fruit leather, and dried apricots, and...who-knows-what-else

Swimming in the pool, trying not to puncture any beach balls on the rose bushes, and failing

Camping, especially waking up to Mom cooking over a camp fire

And all the other fun times we have every time I go home!