Friday, April 24, 2015

"There's a teacher in the classroom. She is cute."

My goodness it's been an eventful two weeks! When I last left you, we were about go to Opening Day. Well, it was a beautiful day! (I even got a little sunburned!) We spent some time exploring all the ballpark renovations they did over the winter and I'm excited to go to another game to try out some of the new bars and restaurants. The only downside of that day was that it seems the Tribe has, well, forgotten how to play baseball. It could be a long season if they keep playing the way they have been for the past two weeks.. 

We spent the following weekend in the Hocking Hills with some friends. We went on a couple of beautiful hikes and were both feeling very inspired to go hiking again. Hoping we can make good on that little promise to ourselves.  Here are some pictures from the hikes we went on!

The week after that was unfortunately pretty rough. We came home to discover my car had a flat tire and spent two days trying to resolve that issue. We ended up only needing to get one new tire, thank goodness. Then on Thursday that week I got sick with some kind of sinus thing and I'm only now starting to feel better. Ugh. 

My classes are going well. We are heading into the final stretch! Progress testing starts next week.  My students were especially awesome last week - they must have sensed I was having a rough time. One of them brought me some decorated eggs for Orthodox Easter.

Another day, one of my classes told me that I looked beautiful that day - so much so that two of my students started taking pictures while I was teaching!  I had them send me the photos so you could enjoy some "action shots" ;) The last one was taken during our break in the middle of class - I don't carry my cell phone while teaching! 


In my two multi-level classes, we did some work with "there + to be" (a chapter from the book Grammar in Context, which I really love!) I was having my students come up with "real life" examples to practice the construction "there is a.... it is.."  I had my students give examples and they said things like "There are dictionaries in the classroom. They are black." and "There are chairs in the room. They are uncomfortable."  One said "There is a teacher in the classroom" and the two things they wanted me to write to describe the teacher (me!) were "She is cute" and "She is a good teacher."  Have I mentioned lately that my students are the best? ;)

A few other notable items in brief from these past two weeks:
-Conway got a new squeaky toy. And he loves it :) 
-We went to see the folk duo Dala and they were just lovely. 
-I've been on a bit of a cleaning-out-my-closets binge. I bought a huge rubbermaid container and packed away a lot of my clothes. Not going to get rid of them just yet. But I want to put it somewhere out of sight and if I don't miss the things in there - then I'll do something with them. I hope to spend some time this summer really working on going through some of my other areas of life/the house where I just have too much stuff I don't need!
-I spent some more time with my sewing machine last weekend and got this skirt finished. I'm in love. Now I just need warm weather again  so I can wear it (it snowed this week!) 

And that's it from me for now! I could write more, but then I'd never get this actually posted :) Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The path appears when you take the first step

This past week has been a pretty good one. I love spring. I love the spring-time holidays and spending time with family and friends.  The semester for my online class is wrapping up and my official PhD commencement is just a few short weeks away! (I officially graduated last August, but will participate in the graduation ceremony this month)

On Saturday I had a fantastic run, despite the snow on the ground. It was sunny and I listened to a "This American Life" podcast. Did 6.5 miles, which is my longest run in a very, very long time.  I'm very happy about increasing my mileage and really hope I can continue to do so.  I'm pretty sure I owe miss Tess a half marathon together sometime in the future.

Friday was the first night of Passover. It was also the 7th anniversary of my first date with J according to the Jewish calendar (Our first date was the first night of Passover, so we always joke about celebrating our anniversary according to the Jewish calendar ;) ) We had a lovely time at a family friend's Seder and got to spend time with some awesome people we see very rarely. 

Sunday was Easter. For me, Easter is a time for happy spring dresses and spending time with the family.  We also got to see some adorable little animals at church! (They had an Easter egg hunt, party, and mini petting zoo for the kids at church).  This was all followed by brunch with J's family, an afternoon walk with our dogs, and Skyping with my adorable nephews.

Our own animal, however, is kind of a goofball.

It's been fun to talk about holiday traditions with my students. Many of them have learned the American Easter traditions, but fewer of them know much about Passover, so I make sure to discuss both. I also talked about Dyngus Day with them. While it's not a major holiday, is definitely becoming more of an event in Cleveland and I thought they should know a little about it. I also discovered many of them celebrate something similar in their home countries (such as Romania, Hungary, and Czech Republic). And speaking of my students, I had a fabulous moment this morning when going over words for the house and yard with my class this morning. I asked my students "What is the chimney for?" and one student said "For Santa Claus."  Brilliant.  (and, on a side note, I'm a big of The ESL Teacher's Holiday Activities Kit. While it's rather dated, it makes a good jumping off point for lessons!)

I've been finding myself feeling rather reflective lately. I almost never talk about my weight, but I was thinking this morning about how it's been *ten years* since I had my "oh shit something has to change" realization about my weight/health and how different on SO many levels my life is now.  On the most superficial level, I am literally fifty pounds lighter than I was then! But my hopes, dreams, interests, and priorities in life have all shifted as well.

Speaking of self-reflection, this is also the time of year where academics (which many of my friends are) have to start to think about not only "what am I going to do now that I didn't get a job?" but "*who am I* now that I didn't get a job?" I am happy where I am now, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't still wonder that sometimes and I definitely still wonder where I'm going to end up.

This Sunday at church, our minister said something that really stuck with me. He was talking about the Passover story and how, if you read the scriptures, the Red Sea doesn't part magically as Moses approaches. It parts when he steps into the water. "The path appears when we take the first step."   I need to keep reminding myself this. I have taken so many "first steps" this past year, but I have a feeling there will be many more until my path appears. 

And, because I wanted to end on a lighter note, I spent a little bit of time with my dear sewing machine this afternoon. As I mentioned in my last post, I haven't been crafting as much as I'd like to be. But today, there was an urgent task that had to be completed in a timely manner:

Yes, folks, the home opener is tomorrow and I needed a new headband to wear :) Cross your fingers that it brings us luck... and that the weather holds out!  

Hope you all have a great weekend :)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Bringing your passion with you

I feel like I start every post with "I've been so busy!" And this one is no exception. I'm coming off of a three-week stretch where I've been working all day for one or two of my usual days off (staff meeting, professional development, meeting with my online students, vendor event for Thirty-One) and it also happened that two of those three weeks I also had something going on Tuesday night, my usual evening off.  So here I am, nearly a month later and no blog posts. But, as you all understand, a girl only has so much brain power! I really hope to get more consistent with my posts..  (in part so you don't feel obligated to read so much at a time!)

I feel like I've had so much going on and so many thought-provoking things to say these past few weeks and I want to share them briefly, but not inundate you all with a dissertation-length blog post. So let's break this down into sections. The first are more updates on my daily life. The last couple start to get really deep :)

1. We've done some really fun things these past few weeks, like seeing a favorite Irish Band (not Gaelic Storm!) on St. Patrick's Day.  I also saw Carbon Leaf (one of my all-time favorites) last week. I've been a fan for 14 years and I swear they just keep getting better and better.  Some things I'm looking forward to in the next few weeks are the Passover Seder and the beginning of baseball season!

Carbon Leaf, always amazing!

2. My college students took their midterm exam the week after spring break. Which meant I was answering a lot of emails. And then grading ~60 essays.  And we had an in-person meeting the week after! I am glad things are slowing down in that class for the moment. 

This is why I struggle doing yoga at home!
3. I took Conway to a specialist today to talk about some issues he's had pretty much since we got him nearly 3 years ago. We'll be trying a strict elimination diet (his new food is made of, no April Fool's jokes here, kangaroo. I'm... not really sure how I feel about this!) and then seeing a DIFFERENT specialist in the next few weeks. Never a dull moment with this little guy. But if we can make him feel better, then it's worth it.

4. Thirty-One stuff is going well. I did a Pet Expo two weeks ago which was great fun. And I just finished up a party for a dear friend of mine. Nothing huge on the radar for Thirty-One this month, which is fine with me. May's customer special is seriously awesome and I look forward to sharing it with you! I'm also going to be a vendor at wing cook-off in June. So come visit me there!

5. I tried a new running experiment recently. I've been hearing more and more about shorter run:walk intervals. I tried 30 seconds on:30 seconds off. It drove me a little crazy, but I felt great. Did 5 miles like that. I'm likely going to try it again.  Short intervals seems to help my stomach feel best when running... Looking forward to finally being home for run club this weekend (assuming I don't eat so much at the Seder Friday night that I feel like I'm doing to die ;) )

6. I've done approximately nothing craft-related these past three weeks and it makes me sad. Maybe tonight we'll watch a movie and I'll do some knitting. My regular Thursday-evening band rehearsal is cancelled for Maundy Thursday. I have been doing some fun cooking, like a totally meat and cheese lasagna (even the "noodles" were meat!). Tonight I'm making crepes and I'm searching for a good muffin recipe to make this weekend... 

These last few all relate to my ESOL teaching job and are much more thought-provoking :)

7. A few weeks ago, my yoga instructor said something that really spoke to me about teaching.  She talked about the difference between being a teacher and being an instructor.  I wish I had blogged about it earlier so I could remember it better, but the short version is that a teacher tells you what you need, and an instructor guides you and gives you ideas for how you can help yourself. Her point was, in yoga, we are the teachers (we tell ourselves what we need when we step on the mat) and she is the instructor. I really liked this as a metaphor for my ESOL teaching. My students all have such different needs and they really need to be aware of what they want to get out of the classes. I am there to give them guidance, but I can't *make* them learn. 

8. I heard an amazing episode of NPR's Ted Radio hour about success. As someone who isn't employed full-time in a career related to my degree, sometimes I struggle with things related to the notion of "success." One of the Ted talks focused on the idea of "status anxiety" which spoke some to me for sure. (Hello,I have a PhD and am a Thirty-One consultant! I do it because I seriously love it, but sometimes it's hard not to feel a little strange talking about it with certain people.)  But the one idea that really, really stuck with me was that we should not "follow our passion". We should "bring it with us."  I think this spoke to me because, had I just "followed my passion" - I would never have found this job that brings me so much joy. Instead, I've taken my passion with me and poured it into my unexpected career change/detour/whatever. I care so much about my students. I love teaching and goshdarnit I'm good at it and I'm going to do everything I can to be the best teacher possible.

9. Finally, my students are the most amazing people in the world. Every day they surprise me with their dedication, their humor, their passion, their struggles, and their genuine good hearts. This week a student brought me seeds for my garden. One said "Teacher, you look beautiful today." Another student asked if it was ok with me if he used his food stamps to buy coffee and snacks to share with the class. A student scheduled her cancer radiation treatments around our classes because that's how much learning English and our community means to her. My students shared their struggles with me and with each other about having to truly start over again. About having a Master's Degree or being a teacher with years and years of experience in their home country, but only being able to get a job at WalMart because no one accepts their credentials or believes they can do the work. If this all isn't inspiration to give it my all to make a difference in their lives, then I don't know what is. 

I've never felt more inspired than ever to just focus on a simple, one-word mantra: believe.