Friday, June 10, 2011

Long time, no blog

Well, hi! Here's my latest news...

I completed my student teaching experience after giving my portfolio presentation on May 23rd. My license is currently being processed and I am doing that old job search thing again. Yuck. I forgot how much I dislike job hunting. I think that I might be able to start blogging again now that I have time to breath. We'll see if I can keep it up after I start teaching :) Here are some photos from my presentation. If you're interested, here's a link to my online portfolio, but I warn you, it's a ton of writing. If you do happen to read a bit, let me know if you find any errors... it was very difficult to write and proof on the funky software in just one week :)

 Hallway mosaic
 Some school stats

My host teacher

Some dehydrated plant cells under the microscope

Carbon footprints :)

Amazing handmade gifts from my students

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

The Easter bunny still visits me every year. His love knows no age boundaries. It's 12:15 p.m. and all I've eaten today is jelly beans, Haribo Happy Cola gummis, and a chocolate egg. My Mom just told me that if I don't eat anything normal I'm going to die and to please pop a few raspberries in my mouth in between gummis. So dramatic.

It's so good to be home for Easter :) Dad is healing quickly and doing really well after having had surgery at Mayo last Wednesday. Mom has been very much enjoying her roll as nurse. She keeps demanding Dad drink more water and asks him about every 15 minutes if he's still doing okay. Our neighbors and my aunt Pat have delivered all kinds of delicious food and treats and Mom is making a fancy Easter dinner with leg of lamb, asparagus, potatoes, salad, and a gorgeous pineapple up-side-down cake! I'm loving all the food and Dad doesn't seem to mind the attention :) One top of all that, the sun is here and I think spring might finally be here to stay!

Happy Easter everyone!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Checking in...


I'm still alive! I am almost there! Only a few weeks left of student teaching. You guys, I am really getting the hang of this too. It's amazing how much teaching is actually really just psychology. It's about convincing a room full of kids that they are amazing and capable, that you are worth listening too for a hour, and that what you have to say is worth learning, studying, and retaining. It's a one-woman show every single day on the topic of biology and your audience doesn't really want to be there. Oh, and no refreshments provided.

I have learned SO MUCH in these past few weeks. I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't be relieved once it's all over, but I have confidence that once the classroom is my own, I will be prepared to provide my students with what they need and deserve.

Reeeeaaaallly looking forward to summer though :) If you haven't seen me in several months, I should be back as a normal-functioning member of society by the end of May. If you hear of any nice summer jobs let me know. I will be unemployed come June and won't be teaching until next fall. I am also sharing the awesome and oh-so-true video that I discovered on my friend Ali's blog. You rock Ali :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

brace yourself

I don't know if anyone still reads my blog. Probably not, considering there's nothing to read anymore. Sorry. My life has become student teaching. When I am not teaching, I am preparing for teaching, talking about teaching, dreaming about teaching, or rushing through meals and chores so that I can get back to my lesson planning. Once in a while I try to escape and do something different, but even while squatting in weight lifting class this morning at the YMCA, I was putting together a list in my head of everything I wanted to accomplish this weekend in order to be prepared for Monday. It consumes me.

My family has also been dealing with the fact that my Dad was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. That word. Cancer. It's like a punch to the gut. The situation is good though. He was proactive and caught it very early. The issue now is not the cancer itself, but the getting rid of it. I think he is leaning towards surgery, but either way, treatment has its own risks and side effects. My plan is that he will be totally back to normal in no time at all. My Dad is a very healthy guy and we don't have a history of cancer in our family. That, along with the fact that I am willing it to happen, is why my plan is going to work.

Scary- but did you know that one in six men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime!? Yeah!! Really! So go tell all the men you know to go get checked. Guys are a little more shy than us women. We've got our 40-mile walks, hot pink ribbons and booby bracelets all over the place - but it's time to raise awareness about prostate cancer. Go. Now. Tell someone. Then send some good vibes my Dad's way.

So, if you've hit your quota of emotional reading material for the day, it's time to quit. There's a lot that I would love to share about student teaching, but just like the actual experience, it's a roller coaster. Up, down, up, down, up, down. Throw in some screaming, barf, and that feeling of being out of control and that pretty much sums it up. You don't know why you keep getting on, but something about it is just so satisfying.

Let's start with some ups...

- The student production of "Grease the Musical."  SO MUCH TALENT.

- Community Day where organizations and businesses from the Northside came to talk to the students about what they do and how to turn their interests into careers.

- The incredible talents of the Step Team, Breakdance Club, Tumbling Team, and Hmong Dancers.

- The showing of the film "Bullied", followed by a guest appearance and discussion with Jamie Nabozny himself.

- Student comments like "You icy Ms. Westby. I like you."

- Kids who have been in this country only 5 months using the term "first order heterotroph" correctly in a sentence.

- One of my special ed students suddenly outperforming most of the regular ed students in class.

- Spring break! Only a week away and my chance to finally catch up with life :)

And then there are the downs...

- Several students are leaving because our interventions are no longer effective. Their behavior has gotten out of control. I worry about where they will end up and if they will ever get the help they really need.

- A star student losing his head and the resulting media attention. So many of my students look up to him as a role model. The situation is incredibly disappointing and upsetting for everyone.

- Scary politics. Would you support a law that made it easier to become a doctor, lawyer, or police officer? Do you think that it would attract more people to the profession? How do you they would do with less training? What type of people would you expect to be attracted to this new easier, alternative route? So why is it okay for teachers? Is that what we want for kids? And where is this teacher shortage you speak of? Teachers are being laid off every day because of cut backs and school closings. Get real.

- Wisconsin deciding to take away collective bargaining rights for public workers. Take away public workers rights and call it "balancing the budget" and then turn around and offer tax breaks to the rich. Real smart.

- Looking over teaching contracts and the legal issues of being a teacher, mandated reporter, and public employee. The accountability and responsibility is HUGE. The salary and benefits... not so much. The highest salary on the chart for a teacher with a PhD and over 15 years is less than the starting salary of a pharmacist. I know this because one of my friends in class is a pharmacist trying to become a math teacher. God bless her.

Did you make it to the end of my post!? If so, thanks for reading - I know I unloaded a lot this time. Maybe over spring break I'll have a chance to do something lighthearted or crafty and then blog about it. Fingers crossed!!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"How's it going?" you ask?

Well hey folks!

Long time, no blog!

Since my last post I left my job of 2.5 years, took a week off and enjoyed some much needed R and R, and this past week I started my semester-long student teaching gig. Awesome! Well, I thought it was going to be awesome, but unfortunately things did not unfold all sunshine and smiles. On my first day, I got lost trying to find the classroom right off the bat. Thankfully I was early so I showed up at 7:15 as planned... unfortunately, my host teacher was nowhere to be found. I wandered around and made my way to the staff meeting we had planned on attending and finally found my teacher when she arrived somewhere around 7:30. Thus began the pattern of being lost and not knowing where to go or what to do that week.

By the end of the first day I was completely exhausted. The next morning I woke up with a massive cold and felt like I had been hit my a truck. I am not supposed to miss ANY days, so I hauled myself out of bed, popped some ibuprofen and made my way to North Minneapolis. I survived until lunch. My skin ached, my head felt like it had been kicked, and the spins were setting in. As I visualized the route to the staff bathroom (a floor and two hallways down, where you have to use one of four unmarked identical keys to gain access) in my head, I realized toughing out my wooziness was probably not something I should be attempting at this point. So I gave up and went home. The whole time all I could think was that my teacher didn't believe me. She probably thought I was just weak. A quitter. Pathetic.

I spent the next two days in a cold-medicine induced fog. Still feeling lost, alone and very out of place. Still not sure what my host teacher expected of me and not really feeling like I was gaining any insight on the whole student teaching experience. Thankfully, after school on Friday, we finally had a chance to sit down and talk about what I would be doing. I think I finally am adjusting to her communication style, which is pretty different from my own. Not bad - just different. I would call her "go with the flow" while I tend to be more "go with the detailed, diagrammed, outlined, and pre-scheduled flow." Could have been the cold-medicine fog that I was under too though...

I have a feeling that going with the flow is probably helpful for someone teaching at a school like this. The population is about half Hmong, half African American, with a few white kids sprinkled in here and there. I was at one point worried I might be mistaken for a student, but as soon as I walked in, everyone automatically took me for staff. A white woman not wearing a hoodie, skinny jeans or Uggs is obviously staff member. It was a strange realization that my skin color gave me automatic authority and credibility. The students are incredibly good kids and many of them come from incredibly difficult situations. They are for the most part respectful, nice, positive and friendly. This is amazing when you consider that in the first week I was made aware of several homeless students, students who had lost family members to violence, students who are "married" and pregnant, students with no transportation, and students with some very troubling family situations.  I overheard kids talking about not sleeping because of gunshots fired overnight, getting drunk on a cousins "homemade" booze, and fist fights over boyfriends and girlfriends. Did I mention these kids are freshman? Yeah fifteen and sixteen years-old and I only have about a hundred of them.  All of that in this small group of about 100 students. When I was fifteen I was still collecting Hello Kitty stuff and putting mascara on in the locker room when I got to school so my Mom wouldn't know. Needless to say, the motivations, teaching strategies and dialog is completely different.

So that was my week guys. Oh yeah, then my truck died last night and the hood wouldn't open. Dad came to my rescue and we spent a very frigid few hours late last night towing my truck around a strange neighborhood in the dark trying to drop it in gear and get it to start. No go. We both had to skip the races we were supposed to coach today and spent the day with my brother towing the truck across Burnsville, thawing it out, recharging the battery, realizing I needed a new battery, getting a new battery, and then laughing over Davanni's hoagies and being grateful that the situation didn't end up being worse. I am so lucky to have them. They have come to my rescue more times than I can count. I don't know what I would do without them.

So I say so long to this past week, and I look forward to a fresh start tomorrow, with considerably less congested sinuses and a strong new battery to beat these freezing cold MN temps.

Bring it on!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Things I learned this week...

There is something oddly comforting about shopping at the Target you grew up shopping in. Even if it has been completely remodeled into a Super Target.

Scandinavians love to eat food that is white. It has nothing to do with race and everything to do with starch.

The Sonicare toothbrush will change your life.

Northeast Minneapolis is not really on the northeast side of Minneapolis. It's called Northeast because of the city's street naming system where all streets north and east of the Mississippi were labeled "NE." It is sometimes referred to as "Nordeast" as a tribute to the immigrant influence and their central European accents. It is also where I will be doing my student teaching starting January 19th.

Quitting my job last Thursday was ten times more difficult than I thought it was going to be. I have formed some amazing friendships here and I will miss them immensely. It will take a lot of effort not to shed any tears on January 7th, but you can bet that I will do my darndest to hold them back... at least until the car ride home. 

I have no problem squeezing glass ornaments (until they shatter in my hands) but I do have a hard time squeezing my new caroling Christmas bear. Also - some family memories really don't need to be posted on YouTube.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cherrrrrryyy Mistmas!!!

This sums up how I feel right about now.

Festive... but uff da.

I'll fill you in later. Right now it's time for me to get my Christmas on!