A small town girl takes on the world

Sunday, July 11, 2010

new blog

hi there.

for my giant adventure, beginning september 3rd, 2010, i'll be blogging HERE!

check me out there. :)


Thursday, April 22, 2010

BIG news

I have on my to do list: "Final Blog Update", among several other things. I thought, okay, I'm home, I should blog about San Cristóbal and coming home. It will be my LAST BLOG.

Well, I will get to that, maybe later today, maybe this weekend. But for now, here is some news and some thoughts.

No, I didn't get married in Mexico.
Last February, I applied for a fellowship. It's called the Bonderman Travel Fellowship. More or less, it's $20,000 to travel for at least 8 months, solo (or, for me, sola). :)

Yep, you guessed it, I GOT IT. I found out last Friday, but didn't start telling people until I told my parents (e.g. now). So, in September, I am going to be taking a year leave from school in order to travel the world for 8 months.

This is still all quite unreal to me, and nothing is finalized except the fact that I have the award, but here is my tentative itinerary:

1. I am absolutely definitely without a doubt returning to Mexico. Which means that I will get to see Oaxaca, staying with another family, I hope. I will also probably get to go to Guatemala and El Salvador. I hope to be in Spanish speaking countries for at least 3-4 months, because it is TIME to really learn that Spanish, dag-nabit!
2. After that, I think I will venture out into the Pacific Ocean to Western & American Samoa. I want to spend most of my time on Western Samoa, but my students have told me (my Samoan students, that is) that I have to see American Samoa so I can compare the two.
3. After that, I'd like to swing over to the Philippines and Indonesia (yeah, relatively vague...not like there are hundreds of Islands or anything).

I was considering Thailand and Vietnam, but I think I would like to focus my attention on two major regions of the world, to begin with. I might start with Central America, or I might end closer to home. That way, if money does run out, etc., it's a cheaper plane ticket home.

Regardless of where I go, this opportunity continues to just blow my mind. It feels like every time I tell someone about it, I realize all over again that this is, indeed, happening to ME. I can't believe it.

On a closing note, I can't believe the incredible nature of the past four months. At the end of January, I thought my life was taking a turn for the worse. I had been sick, lost a bunch of weight because of it, lost an important relationship, and things were very uncertain. I'm not sure how I managed to do it, since it was so out of character for me, but I embraced the uncertainty. I think it saved me. The entire situation with the Bonderman Travel Fellowship is based on embracing uncertainty, and I feel that I can do it. It's funny how life events play into one another like that.

I think that going to Mexico was healing for me in many ways, but more importantly, it opened my eyes to how little I know about the world. And it helped me see how dangerous that is, especially as a citizen of the most influential nation in the world. It's opened up this treasure chest of feelings and dreams inside of me. In a way, I have the travel bug, but it's not desperate or "come on come on come on". It's just as if I found a new room in my house, and realized that I have tons of cool things to play with for the rest of my life. So now, I know that I have all of these dreams, all of these places I want to see, and more importantly, people I want to meet.

The Bonderman is helping me address at least six of those dreams in one continuous streak (six countries, that is, at least). Wow.

I told my host mom in San Cristóbal about it, and side commented, ¡Qué suerte! ¿Sí?

She sternly informed me, en español, that it was not luck. Clearly, I didn't understand what "luck" was. This was obviously ("¡Claro que sí!") a case of intelligence and a deserving person. It was humbling. But you know what? She's right. And I'm ready.

More on the tail end of my Mexico journey soon. Know that I'm home, safe, incredibly happy, and tanner than everyone else in Seattle, for at least the next week.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

i can´t stop eating. and pictures.

I cannot refuse any food that my host mom puts in front of me. It´s impossible. Today, la comida was ginormous, and then at 5 we went for crepes and coffee. At 7, I went salsa dancing and was STILL FULL, but when I got home at 8, Isabel had tacos for me....of course, I ate them all. I think I am going to explode, but I can´t stop. I am eating like I will never eat real Mexican food again. Oh, my stomach...Today, la comida was accompanied by homemade horchata and salsa verde. Need I say more? I did have a fleeting thought of my mom´s baked mac and cheese today, somewhere in between the exploding stomach feeling. So perhaps that´s the meal I will pursue when I first get home. :)

I thought I would write a bit about the other places I saw on the Yucatan, and link to the photo albums, even though you have probably seen them already.

After Palenque, Jessie and I went to Tulum, which used to be a sleepy little beach town that didn´t have much but cabanas and a Mexican population. Now, there´s an ADO bus station and a zona hotelera (a hotel zone, much like in Cancun). But, you can still get away from it all. We stayed in the second home of a couple (who spoke little English), and were the only renters that night, so we had a whole house to ourselves. A shared bedroom and bathroom, but an open air kitchen and courtyard. All for us! We rode bikes to the Tulum ruins, where we not only saw Mayan ruins but played on one of the most beautiful beaches I think I will ever see in my life. Then, we rode our bikes to Gran Cenote, which is a big cenote just outside of Tulum. A cenote is an underground cave that has an underground freshwater source. It´s really cool, you can snorkel and there is actually quite a bit of life. Stalactites and the like (or stalagmites....I don´t remember which goes up and which goes down). Then, we biked back to town and went to the supermarket for a few grand meals: Nutella and banana, pastries, and some sandwich fixings. Oh, and a six pack of XX Lager, which we found incredibly difficult to consume. No, I´m serious, we ended up pouring out half of our last one, because we were so tired and so NOT in the mood for full tummies of beer. Haha, such partiers. Anyway, Tulum was wonderful. I got to use Spanish, the beach was beautiful, the ruins are in an incredibly scenic, unique place (on the edge of the Caribbean), and we experienced it all via bike. Link to the album below...


The day we left Tulum, we went out to Coba, another Mayan site that is a little more remote. It is situated next to a lake with CROCODILES!!! OMG!!!!! Cool! Lots of cool birds there, too....unfortunately I don´t know the names of any of them...When we arrived on the bus, the bus driver told me, in Spanish, that we could leave our bags on the bus because he was staying in town and driving us back at 330 pm. Uhhh...what? No, no, he says, me confides!!! (Trust me).....uhhhh....welll, we had no other option. It was either trust him or carry full bags all the way through the ruins in the we took a huge chance. And he totally wasn´t lying at all, and was REALLY offended that we didn´t trust him. We agonized over whether we should tip him, but ended up just saying "Lo siento" a lot, and accepting the fact that he hated us. Coba was fantastic! These were the only ruins we visited that had something to climb that was tall enough to break the canopy. The view was astounding. It was also really fun because there were lots of English speaking guides there, so we just listened in without paying. Ha! Frugal much? We rode bikes around the site, which is really spread out, and ate at a restaurant that claimed to be "la comida tipica de Yucatan", but I´m not sure it actually was. Oh well. We then took the bus from Coba to Playa del Carmen, where we planned to stay, but we hated it so much we left after 2 hours. Apparently you need to leave the main part of town to find anywhere worth enjoying, because it´s being "Cancun-ized". We decided to stay a night in Cancun instead before Jessie´s flight, and chose the worst hostel I have ever stayed in. Dirty, loud, only ONE BATHROOM FOR THE WHOLE HOSTEL, and none of the fans worked. We were glad to leave. Link to the photos from Coba below.


I went back out to Isla Mujeres to regroup and decide what to do, and my previous post explains how I chose San Cristobal de las Casas....and here we are, totally updated, yes?

Just because I haven´t done it, here´s a link to my photos from Isla Mujeres and Cancun (the first days of my trip). I haven´t gone through them at all, so there are way too many and some are sideways.

Isla and Cancun

More later.


Monday, April 12, 2010

On the best choice I have ever made...

I am sitting here in a fantastic Mexican home in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. Let me tell you how I got here, typing on a small German computer.

Last week, on Thursday, I had a Skype interview for the Bonderman Fellowship. They asked me lots of tough questions, and I did the best I could given the delayed connection and my incredible lack of travel experience. One of my College of Ed professors actually interviewed me, and his question really changed my experience in Mexico. He said, "So, Anna, when you get to all of these places, what will you do to get a feel for the culture?" I realized that I have not really yet done that here in Mexico....wait, WHAT?! That´s why I came here....well, I did see a lot of things of historical significance...I realized that my trip has been marvelous, but I haven´t learned a lick of Spanish OR immersed myself in the culture at all. I am comfortable here, now, it is easy for me to get around, but wait...isn´t that a safe spot?

Uh oh...

So, my options for my last week were to spend it snorkeling on Caye Caulker in Belize or to come back to Chiapas for some real Mexico. As you already know the choice I made...well, I don´t need to explain why. But I do need to tell you why this is the best choice I have ever made:

1. Homecooked Mexican food, in Chiapas, is so excellent that I can´t even begin to tell you. A peek into it: my first meal was a stuffed poblano pepper, baked in cheese and covered in a homemade sauce. Paired with some kind of pear juice. For dessert? A fresh mango. This one did NOT give me diarrhea. Yet.
2. Being forced to use Spanish has already given me a fantastic insight into what I need to learn (VERBS and more than just the PRESENT tense). I am taking three hours of private Spanish classes per day, and I already have used the Spanish I learned this morning in the market, to barter prices with las artesenias.
3. Being outside of my comfort zone, which is why I am here. I have already thought "I want to go HOME" but it was fantastic because immediately after I thought "shut up you wussy and just enjoy the moments and days before they are gone and you dwell on missing Mexico!" worked. I have never before been able to quell homesickness like that, but it worked.
4. Getting out of party central, a.k.a. most hostels in Mexico that have lots of traveler traffic. While it´s easy to meet people who are looking for more than a party, it´s hard to get out of the scene. That was the problem with Isla Mujeres, and why I left so soon after returning for some easy living. I realized it was too much bum life and not enough experience.

So, I realize that when Gene (mi profesor) asked me how I would get to know cultures, he was really asking me if I was doing that here. The answer was no, and I think that it´s possible it could cost me the Bonderman (yikes), but the real growth here, and the real win is that now I know how I want to experience other countries and cultures. Hostels are great, and cheap, but families are welcome and knowledgeable, and FORCE you to accustom to their way of life. Hostels cater to travelers.

I love Chiapas, too, because in a way it reminds me of home. It poured today, freezing cold rain, and it is not humid or super arid here. It´s been relatively temperate, and I had to buy some sweaters because my trip originally planned only for the Yucatan. I love it. The people here are split between the indigenos (indigenous people) and the Ladinos (those of Spanish descent) and the split is pretty obvious. But nevertheless, the cultures exist, and I get to experience them. Ah....

I realize this is a long post, and I am sick of typing with the y and z switched places (German keyboard), so I will sign off. Bedtime, I think.

I love you all so much, and appreciate you all now more than ever, as I am such a stranger in this world over here....but I will come home soon, and probably spend too much time talking about Mexico as well as wear too many brightly colored pieces of clothing and jewelry. :) Can´t wait, but for now, it´s espanol classes and San Cristobal!

Hasta luego....

Friday, April 9, 2010

wow, i'm backlogged on photos

Jessie flew in, we went to Merida. Great Mexican city, good food and great museums which we never got to see because it was Easter and everything shuts down...We met some Germans. They had a car, and they let us ride with them to Uxmal and Kabah, two cool Mayan's a link to that album...Not all of these are worth looking at, but I don't have the internet time to sift through them all!! Sorry! I will be going back and adding captions soon..

Uxmal and Kabah

Next, we went to Palenque, which is in the jungle and also in Chiapas...amazing. The people we met there were great - it was much more real Mexico than anywhere else we'd seen yet, even with all the tourists. We drove out to Agua Azul, one of the amazing waterfall systems out there, and saw another beautiful waterfall that reminded me of Multnomah Falls. We also went to see the Mayan ruins there, which were really impressive, especially surrounded by jungle...As I mentioned before, I don't promise that all of these photos are worth looking at, but I put up everything I took...The Palenque ruins were also the site of the infamous street mango...


Post on Tulum and Coba coming soon...feel free to peruse the photos on Picasa and I will get captions up soon!

Much love!

Monday, April 5, 2010

on getting diarrhea during an 11 hour bus trip

FYI this is graphic but I think it´s welcome to last night for me.

Okay, so now I know what I´m made of. And it STINKS!

No, but seriously, at about 3:30 am today, I realized that I was going to lose my sh*t during the bus ride (of which there were still 4 hours left)...NOT a good feeling. Worst stomach cramps ever, and as I made my way to the back of the bus in a panic, I cursed Don Muchos and his stupid restaurant´s disclaimer that they "disinfect the food and water, always". I made it to the toilet, but couldn´t lock the door, so I proceeded to sit down and let loose one-handed. Yeah, I had to hold the door closed the WHOLE TIME. After I was sitting there for about 20 minutes, I realized that if I braced my feet on the wall next to the door, I could hanker it closed and force the lock. Ahhh, sweet victory. But it was soooo hot, sweat was dripping down my face and I was sure I was going to die in the sardine can bathroom on an ADO bus. Nausea was washing over me in waves, and I thought, what the hell am I supposed to do if I start puking, too?!?!?! About 1 hour and 4 bathroom trips later, all resembling the first, I felt like maybe it had passed...It´s been about six hours now, and while things are much improved, I can assure you that it´s not over yet. Bienvenido a Mexico.....Then I realize that I ate a street mango´s totally my fault. :)

But why stop there, when the entire bus trip was eventful! We began it by being stopped by the federal police, and they instructed all of us to get off the bus, where we were sniffed by drug dogs and got to watch them check our luggage, presumably for drugs or weapons. So that was a bit unnerving, but I felt okay since I didn´t have any drugs or weapons.

At the beginning of the trip, I had developed this amazing knack for sleeping while traveling. Yeah, that´s gone now. Now, diarrhea aside, I tend to wake up at the oddest times (like 1 am, after sleeping for 1 hour). The nice thing is that everyone else is asleep, and no lights are on in the bus, so you can see the star or moonlit country side. It´s a bit magical, really. I have been plugging in my iPod and letting the music take me wherever it will...It´s a nice little break from it all.

My camera battery is dead, but we supposedly have a private room at this hostel in Tulum, so I will charge everything and maybe get a chance to post photos from Merida (including Uxmal and Kabah) and then from Palenque (including Agua Azul and the Palenque ruins, site of the infamous street mango) as we leave Tulum tomorrow.

Wish me and my bowels well, I fear we´re in for a ride.

Hasta luego, amigos....

Friday, April 2, 2010


Still can't figure out the accents on the keyboards. This one shows a typical keyboard here, but types like one in the US. Huh?

Let me tell you quickly about today, and then I have to run to catch a bus. No photos yet, sorry, don't have time to upload, but today was an adventure.

We've been in Merida (a REAL Mexican city, according to all) for two nights. Same cool story: meeting great people and having a good time eating and lazing about. Also, went to see the ruins at Uxmal today with a group of German girls (3) and one German guy. They had a rental car, so we rode with wow. I thought I was going to DIE. Driving here is crazy. At one point, we tried to get lunch in a little town called Ticul (a whole story in itself), and ended up going the wrong way down the busiest street. Crazy gringas....

The ruins, though, the ruins! I took over 200 photos today, I'm pretty sure. I will sift through and upload some probably when we are in Tulum in a few days. By then, We'll also have seen the Palenque ruins, too. It's really quite touristy (or, touristic, as the Germans say) at Uxmal, but we got there early enough to have a bit to ourselves and before the heat was unbearable. Amazing that these structures still exist like they do, and it's amazing to climb up and down them and realize that the steps are so small because they fit the people that built them. My duck feet barely fit on the steps, and as the wind was blowing I felt a few times as if I might tumble down as a punishment for my huge Chacos.

Lunch in Ticul was amazing, we paid 188 pesos for 6 people to eat a full, wonderful, local meal - with drinks. The people here take Easter seriously, too - we got to witness the locals walking around town singing, chanting, and carrying lifesize crosses as a way to begin celebrating....It is Good Friday, after all.

Jessie and I catch a night bus to Palenque tonight, and I hope we will get some much needed sleep because I am exhausted. So much sun, sweat, and not enough water, no matter how much I drink.

I can't get enough of this region: the food, the people, the places, the weather, the sights, the language....It's a shame I have to come home. But then I realize something cool about myself, as I'm thinking this: part of what's going to make me an excellent teacher is my openness to people who are different from me. In fact, not just openness - excitedness or interest or something. It's what makes me able to hang at these hostels, with a bunch of (let's face it) sometimes weird's what makes it so much fun. But my drive to use that part of my personality and others to really serve a population that deserves high quality teachers is what really brings it all together.

It's funny, because I was thinking about this trip today, and how it's probably the best thing I've ever done for myself. Oddly enough, I'm not doing very much soul searching, not like I thought I would. I'm mostly just RELAXING....which is what I needed anyway. I know who I am (or who I am becoming), and what I want, but I work too damn hard. So I don't need solitude and soul searching - I need fun and adventure! Exactly what I'm getting.

Photos soon....

Muchos besos!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Isla Mujeres Photos

Here are some photos that show the spirit of Isla Mujeres. I am definitely coming back here. It's so easy and fun to be here. It might make me lazy, though.

The three lies of Isla Mujeres:
1. "I am leaving tomorrow" - the running joke is that everyone comes for a few nights but stays for a few weeks. It is hard to leave
2. "I am not drinking tonight" - even if you aren't getting drunk, you are having a beer or two, because after about 8 pm there is nothing to do but have a beer, and you can't sleep because the music is so loud
3. "I love you" - the same story wherever there are groups of Latin men, I think

So far, I have stuck to my leave date, I have had beers even when I said I am not drinking, and only one man has told me he loves me. Ha! The three lies hold true....

And now, on to some photos, ya? I can't get the captions to work, so here are what the photos are of...I am sick of messing with the layout so deal with the ugly ok?!?!?!

#1: The ferry ride to Isla of the most beautiful boat rides I have ever taken!
#2: Las chicas...
#3: Snorkeling trip...
#4: Kerstin and I!
#5: A typical day..
#6: Me gusta Isla Mujeres...
#7: New friends...Jito, Kerstin y Kian

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Still in Isla Mujeres

I don't want to leave Isla Mujeres. In fact, I think I'll come back and spent my last few days of the trip here. There are so many cool people, and it feels much safer here than in Cancun, of course. It's nice because there are so many turistas here, backpackers and otherwise, so lots of ease getting around and communicating, and all of that. I like it. Tomorrow, I leave to meet Jessie in Cancun, which will be sad and happy, because I will leave here but start a fun week with a good friend.

Not much to update, other than yes, I'm still alive. Been going to the beach during the day, reading a lot, and at night just hanging out at the hostel bar reading or playing games. I love it here. Everyone is very interested in the book I'm reading, Subtractive Schooling, and then I get to talk about teaching. I guess I never will leave it behind anywhere, you know?

I haven't figured out how to upload my photos to these computers, yet, but sometime when there is no, as they say, long row for the computers, I will have another whack at it.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Current place: Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Learned today that they don't let you board a flight to Mexico unless you have a ticket back. Therefore, I'm coming back on April 20th. Cheapest fare I could find, and I decided that I'm not going to push the solo traveling past a month.

I also realized that when you travel, you find "safe spots". You know, you spend all this time embarrassed, finding a bus, but once you are nestled into that seat, no one can touch you. I'm in a safe spot right now, on the computer, instead of out meeting people like I should be. So, here I go....but Isla Mujeres is beautiful - full of Europeans as it turns out. I'm not sure what I'm getting myself into, but I hope its more than just a bunch of safe spots all over the world.

I already made a bad move: I took a colectivo which you are apparently not supposed to do. But I waited for 35 minutes for the Ruta 13, which I'm pretty sure doesn't exist, and it was HOT as HELL, so I jumped onto a colectivo (on accident, really). So far, I've only been ripped off twice and had someone not get what I was saying once. I'm on a top bunk and have no idea where to get food. Follow your nose?

Hasta luego....

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Current town: Orlando, FL

This is suddenly morphing from a teaching blog into a travel blog. Sorry, but that's just the way it is. I'm currently in Orlando, FL, by way of Cedar Key, FL, en route to Mexico.

Some current highlights of my life:

1. Just found out that I am a 2010 Knowles Teaching Fellow. If you don't know what that means, Google it. It's pretty amazing, and to be quite honest, was VERY unexpected.
2. I am a finalist for the 2010 Bonderman Travel Fellowship. Again, Google it, surprised, amaaaaazing.
3. On my way to Mexico for ___???___ weeks. Not sure when I'm coming back, but I do think that I will be in Mexico for the entire time. No border crossing for me this trip, save the U.S.-Mexico water border.
4. Spent a few days in an idyllic town called Cedar Key, FL. Amazing place. So many types of birds, I couldn't even begin to count them or name them. Among the many, though: pelicans - such awesome birds! Egrets, herons, bald! Saw manatees, too! They are SO CUTE and SO UGLY all at the same time. Confusing, really. Such a beautiful place....Got to visit with family that I don't see enough, as well, and ate the most wonderful food.

5. Also! Forgot that this morning I got to grab a quick breakfast just off the UF campus in Gainesville with an old friend from the SRS Research days. Julian gave me lots of good advice for places to go and see in me really excited to get there!
6. Last, but not least, I dyed my hair. It's a little hilarious, because I did it out of a box, but whatever. Don't worry, to all who know me well, of COURSE it's wash out, non-permanent dye. It's already been through 1 of the 28 washes that will take it out. Actually, it's still coming out of my hair. Pretty funny, especially because I missed a big chunk in the front. Oh well, can't do anything about it now. All the blond I tried to cover up has turned reddish brown, so I hope that goes away. I know I won't wash my hair 28 times over the next month, though. :) Who knows what will happen on that front!

All in all, I'm having a great post-teaching program life. Money is getting tighter, but my worries are fading away. My biggest decisions facing me are which Mayan ruin to visit first. But before that....Isla Mujeres. Google it. :)

This is how I will be keeping people (mostly my mother) posted during my trip. So don't expect a quick email response. Check here first!

Hasta luego...


A parting thought: I've spent most of the afternoon in my hotel room, packing, showering, eating, prepping, checking over and over that I know where my money is, and then had a brief conversation with my friend Heather. After talking with her, I realized that even though this is a minor adventure to some people, this is a huge one for me. This is the first time that I have left the country on my own. This is the first time I have really traveled on my own, period. It's certainly the first time I've ventured somewhere on my own that isn't English-speaking (well, let's be honest, a lot of the Yucatan is English speaking...). But still. This is a big deal for me, and even though I know it will fly by, I am really proud of myself. I am really proud of who I am becoming, and the way that I allow (and do NOT allow) things that happen to me to shape who I am. This is a sort of liberation movement for me, one that can't really be taken on by anyone else. To me, that's really exciting (scary too). Aside from all of this serious crap, it's also just really FUN. I haven't even left the country and I'm already having fun meeting people and just having pleasant interactions with strangers.

Either way, I'm proud of myself, and I'm proud of anybody who's been through tough things and not let them define who they will become. Wheeeee haw!!!!!

On a side note, I have no idea if I will be able to post pictures to this at any time, but I'm going to try my hardest.

See you on the flip side!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

...On coming to the end.

Well, here it is. The end of student teaching. The end of the hardest 7 months of my life. I've failed, succeeded, lost relationships, made new ones (hell, strengthened old ones), and through it all I have held my head high and forged ahead to this point.

This week, I am saying goodbye to the 150 young people who have taught me how to be a teacher. 150 young people who somehow managed to get me to open my heart up to myself again. 150 young people who showed me what respect really is, and what culture really is. 150 young people that I will never be able to forget.

I am saying goodbye to two fabulous people that I have lived with for almost 3 years now (I'm only saying goodbye as roommates, but it's still sad!). I am saying goodbye to the staff at this school, who have taught me more than I thought I could ever learn about teaching for social justice, teaching for learning, teaching for kids. I am saying goodbye to my teaching cohort, who went through this hurricane with me, and will likely never all be in the same room again. And, of course, I am saying goodbye to my comfort, as I break out on a month long solo-ish adventure to Central America.

All of these changes are resonating with me deeply right now. As I move towards Monday, I move towards a day when everything is going to change for me, permanently. When I come back from this trip, I will not be the same - that's the point.

As I read the notes that students have written me, I am realizing how many kids I really did reach. I always said that for me, teaching was about making an impact - at least one. If I made an impact in even one kid's life, I would be happy. Today, I'm realizing that I can set my goals a little higher than that. I have made a difference in so many kids' lives, and even if the only thing they remember is that they like science - mission accomplished, that's an impact.

There are lots of things that I want to write here. But I think I'll leave all 3 of the people who will read this a rather extensive sample of quotes from my students, regarding me leaving...

"I only came to class because of you."

"OMG! I'm gonna miss you soooo much!"

"Damn class feels super weird without you and boring!"

"If the chicken don't fly on Saturday, then it's probably gonna fly on Sunday."

"Remember the chicken taste its best fried."

"When you are here, I had a lot of time funny! I don't know how to say with you, but I'm so sad when you leave...I wish you have happy time in the new place. And we always welcome you back in this school. Miss you!!"

"Your a pretty KOOL chick and I hope you seriously find some doode whos lucky enough to have you and totally make some cute babies [LOL] haha sorry talk about random."

"I am gonna miss you because you are one of that best teacher that I had in my life. I want to thank you because you always help me when I have questions."

"Your style of teaching is very helpful to me."

"You are a great teacher because you really cares about us and you don't want anybody to get hurt during the lab."

"I loved learning from you and your cool ways."

"We all created a bond with you as a class."

"Stay safe!"

"God bless you!"

"You have been a great teacher to me and I'm sad that your leaving but I know thats how life goes people that you love or you like come and go. I think that you have made me a better student."

"Being a TA for you guys was fun. Even though you guys didn't have much for me to do."

"It's a very good thing for me to know you, and you be my teacher...So now I know that you will lelf use soon, and I think it's really bad between us. But I hope that you have a lot of fun when you gonna travel and take care of yourself, be back soon."

"To be honest, I really disliked you in the beginning of the year but at the same time that was cause I didnt know u...but you did what other student teachers couldn't do, that was steping up, we put you threw alot of crap but hey were lovable...Your mean for leaving us by the way"

"Don't forget me!"

"Don't get arrested stealing Mexican sand for me!"

"Have fun without us...but not too much."

"You have been wonderful and you have been there for me when I needed you...I love the way you teach!"

"Come visit, and maybe I'll come visit you too!"

"Come see us play next year we going to state come support the football team first game in september"

"Smile, pat yourself on the back, be happy, cause your officially cut out to do this stuff, yeah teaching. There are very few adults or teachers that are accepted by these students including myself. It's typical for kids to disrespect and often act in bad manners towards someone that is not the real teacher and has not been around long enough to demand kids but that someone isn't you. Somehow you have really connected w/the students and they don't want you gone. That's a big deal and a huge success"

"I know how kids can be but you've proven that they can all be more than they sometimes make themselves out to be. I thank you for teaching the greatest and most rare skill to these students, which is how to be GREATFUL..they give more effort, want to try harder, and actually care for education due to your guidance. I speak of only some but I have witnessed this myself. It's a good change to see in my classmates and friends."

"Once again, grin, smile, or something cause you have accomplished something many people don't. You have gain, earned, and deserve the respect of young youth b/c you gave it first and returned it when it was ever given - RESPECT."

"Thank you for being here. Thank you for stamping my entry task. Thank you for having a last name that reminds me of my favorite show Seinfeld. LOL :)"

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Coming to the end...

Here it comes...the end of student teaching. I have two more weeks...that's it! I can't believe it!

I have realized this week that March is when students really begin to trust you. They begin to buy into the fact that maybe you are here for them, for awhile (or for good). This is both amazing and problematic: I love these relationships I have built, but I have to leave them.

My current plan is to come back to visit and/or volunteer in the classroom during the month of May/June, when I return from my trip. Oh, I'm going on a trip. I'm going to Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica for a month. Exciting! One of my students is making a list of places to see when I visit Oaxaca, because that's where she is from. I love this job. I love the things that it allows me to do, and the connections I get to make with people.

My students this round are people that I will remember all my life, I think. They have impacted me a lot....

More later....

:) Big smiles today!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

the Knowles Teaching Fellowship

I applied for this fellowship awhile ago, and recently (read: ten minutes ago) received an email letting me know that I have made it to the in-person interview portion of the selection process. There were about 200 applications, and 72 people have made it to this stage. Approximately half of these will actually receive the award, but that includes three subject areas (math, physical science, and biological science). So, my actually number of "competitors" is smaller (about 23 or so).

I am super excited about this - not only is it an exciting weekend in Philadelphia, meeting people and having the potential of receiving a great fellowship at the end - it is also a really great acknowledgment of my accomplishments s
o far. This is definitely something I needed right now!

I am feeling good! :)

Here's a screen shot of the email I got (hope you can see it!):

Friday, February 12, 2010

My Recent Life in a Paragraph

Life is a funny thing. About two weeks ago (three weeks ago? not sure...) I got hit with a terrible stomach flu bug, couldn't make it out of my car, but ended up on the side of a busy street in Seattle throwing up and crying. This was Friday night. I got some pretty bad news the following day, and my life has been on mend ever since.

That weekend really threw off my teaching for awhile, mostly because I couldn't plan for anything while I was vomiting and trying to reintroduce food into my life. I'm really proud of myself, though, because I've bounced back from such a "non-Anna" scenario (not prepared, etc.). And, I don't think my teaching or my students really truly suffered in the meantime. I think in a way, even though they didn't know it, my students helped me through all that. Because of the relationships I've built with them, they were patient with me when I had my moments of "bad" teaching, they were helpful when they could see that I needed it, and they were kind when they could tell I was frustrated with myself for not being as ready for the day as I usually am. One student asked me if I was okay, and I told her that I was, I had just received some bad news. She told me, "Wow, Ms. Kramer, you must be really strong to be here with us after all of that." That one little statement has really carried me through. I am strong, aren't I? :)

All of this came right in the middle of what's called my PPA+ unit. It's basically a unit I teach that will get super judged/evaluated to assess whether I deserve a teaching certificate or not. Poor timing, hm? Yeah. But guess what? It's turning out really well. I think I really have a knack for this teaching thing. Even in the midst of a personal/organization upheaval, I'm able to be here for these kids, and actually use it to help me figure my stuff out. It's incredible!

I also went to our boys' last basketball game last night: phenomenal! They only beat the other team by 2 points in the last 18 seconds. There were some awesome dunks involved, a missed dunk that could have made the game, and some amazing basketball. Loved every second of it! I am really going to miss this school...I'm trying to think of something I can do for the students when I leave, because they have already done so much for me...

Ideas???? Anyone?

So far I have:
1) Write something nice about each kid, and read it aloud on the last day.
2) Have the students work as a class to make scientific posters for an experiment we are doing soon (write up the purpose, the methods, etc.) and put all of our names on it and then print it up for them

Give me ideas!

EDIT: Just realized the title implies that this post would be a paragraph. Sorry about that, definitely not a paragraph.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

...On subbing a whole day by myself & ARTS NIGHT!

This would be a long post if it weren't limited by my need for sleep. Here is the excitement that has happened in the past week, during which I believe I have taken a huge step toward becoming a "REAL" TEACHER:

Subbing: My mentor teacher was unexpectedly really ill, and at the last minute I found out that I was going to be in charge of our entire 1 - Biology, 3 - Biology, 5 - Chemistry day myself, which is really intense. I ended up having about 4 people come in to observe me that day, too. But I rocked it. Seriously, it was great! Of course, I will post photos later, but I managed to do some really cool stuff in my chemistry class, thanks to the advice of a certain genius mentor Melissa. I'm going to post that this weekend though, because it's 11 and I HAVE to write about Arts Night before I go to sleep. The moral of this paragraph, though, is that I can totally handle being by myself, even if I'm still shaky and a little bit unprepared, still, for TWO different preps (classes). Feeling good...

So, on to the really exciting stuff: ARTS NIGHT!
This was basically a night for all of our Arts Core students to show off the skills they had learned this semester in their Arts Core classes. Since we're an arts themed school, this is a big deal. There were yoga demonstrations, break dancing sessions, choreographed dancing, band performances (one by students who had only played for 5 weeks!) and short skits performed. The entire event lasted about 1.5 hours, and was accompanied by an academic display of student work at the back of the gymnasium. Families were invited ----- and the gym was FULL. People had to stand. It was, in a word, inspiring!

I hear so much about how our students' families "don't care" and "aren't there" but they were there in full force tonight to support their students. Watching the kids perform with big smiles and, quite honestly, the passion in their hearts for what they were doing showing through on those smiles - it really gave me quite a start. I realized that this school has really become a part of me, and with only 5/6 weeks to go, I'm going to have to start letting it go a little. I've really put my whole self into this student teaching internship...and by doing that I've fully invested in these kids. I realized that I have to start talking soon about when I leave, so that I'm not abandoning them...because I really feel that I have become a part of their schedules, their routines, even maybe their lives. They have certainly become a solid part of mine.

Tonight, I really realized the power of the community my students come from. It's the type of community that I've always craved: a bunch of people who are SO different from each other, but united by SOMETHING. They're not always united, but the possibility exists, and tonight I saw that. There were no fights, no teasing, not even any drunk kids showing up (that I saw). This was a night relatively devoid of high school debauchery. These students took PRIDE in their work. Like I said, I was inspired....

On the other hand, it really made me sad to think that I won't get to see these particular students through their high school years. I won't be able to teach at this school, but I can hope for a community like this one. I'm really going to miss these kids, but I know that I will carry a lot of them in my heart and mind for a long time, since they are the ones who have really been teaching me how to teach (along with my mentor teacher, of course). These are the people who are shaping how I do things as an educator, and these are the students that I will think back on and be motivated by for quite some time.

In other words, I love my experience thus far, and it really floors me that things are this great. I want to bottle up this enthusiasm for the hard times that I'm sure are to come in my remaining weeks here...but I know now that the highs and lows are part of the job, for me. Tonight, I'm floating high high high, and I am so proud of both the work my students have done and the pride they are taking in it.

They have SO MUCH to be proud of!

Signing's past 11 now....must sleep!

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Here are some photos you can enjoy.

1. The type of vitamins I have to take now, sitting on top of a pile of grading that is beginning to require its own "INBOX" on my desk.

2. The attempt I made to explain "atomic radius" to my chemistry students. They hated it. "Ms. Kramer, no offense, but that's.....well it's just weird. It doesn't have anything to do with chemistry!" Bad representation....bad analogy....but I got to use the school copier to print a worksheet that said, "rollin' on dubs" :)...

I've been sick, and barely getting by with planning and such. So I'm going to go and keep working on that...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

...On never writing on your blog

Well, I guess I should start by apologizing to the 3 people that read this blog since I haven't updated it since....well, it's been awhile.

I go back to school tomorrow, and I only have 2 1/2 months left.
In the spirit of the new year, let's run through the good and bad stuff that's happened since I left you hanging (all 3 of you).

Here we go:

We got to do some cool experiments in biology with eggs. Basically, Devin (the other science teacher candidate) and I put eggs in vinegar and let them sit for a few days, then rubbed the shells off. This leaves only the membrane behind, and provides a really cool model of a cell for showing diffusion and osmosis. Of course, this makes the rooms smell like vinegar and eggs, so there's that. Devin and I had a great 2 hour session of rubbing shells off eggs and just catching up; it was quite a treat in the climax of last quarter (the quarter from HELL). The students thought the eggs were totally nasty (they were RIGHT) but they had such awesome ideas about what was happe
ning to them, and got really into designing experiments and talking science. It was great.

I bonded rather strongly with one of our biggest "troubled" students in our biology class. He informed me (this is the conversation in which we bonded) that he has 2 assault convictions, 1 residential burglary conviction, and 1 theft conviction. He is currently facing 2 more assault charges. Doesn't sound like the nicest guy, does he? But.....he really is quite a cool kid. He left for winter break, however, declaring he couldn't wait for the "party at his house tonight". After a few warnings from me about being safe and smart, he said, "Don't worry, Ms. Kramer, it's in an apartment complex. No one gets caught having parties in apartment complexes." Uhhhhh, yeah, kid, you have a lot to learn. :)

Major highlight: A student who normally sits back and feels intimidated by other students totally took charge of his lab group, "Well, we aren't going to get anything done unless we do what we need to do. So you have to listen to
me now." It was amazing to see him take charge like that. Go, little science leader, go! :)

I have only been in our 5th period chemistry class on Fridays, since my fall class schedule (UW) didn't allow me to be there M-Th. The last week before break, I was able to go full-time to my school. On Monday, when I walked into 5th period, one student said, "Ms. Kramer? MS. KRAMER'S HERE, GUYS!" and EVERYONE in the class cheered for me. It had been a particularly hard day, and I had to fight from crying it made me so happy. Ahhhh, juniors and seniors. So much NICER than freshmen and sophomores......

The week before break unfortunately resulted in several suspensions and some expulsions for our students. Apparently this is normal in, at least, our school, to have chaos right before the breaks. One student attacked another in the hall, seemingly unprovoked and kept hitting her even though she wasn't fighting back. Another robbed a student before school of his backpack, iPod, wallet, and WINTER COAT. It was probably about 25 degrees that morning. Those two have been expelled, and it's really too bad because even though they obviously have trouble making good choices, they both had lots of potential. Especially the boy who robbed another student. He was so good at science, but just didn't see it as something that was worthwhile to him. These are the students who motivate me to teach. :)

A student came up to me after our last class before break and whispered, "Ms. Kramer, when are you going to teach us again? I really like when you teach."

An ELL student who I speak Spanish to the most (and badly) gave me a Christmas card. He wrote in Spanish AND translated it to English, and there might be a little "Spanglish" (Naviday). SO cute, and warmed my heart just in time for winter break because I have been working hard to encourage him to use English in class.

In my "non-teaching life" (which, let's face it, doesn't really exist), I have been snowshoeing, visiting, relaxing, enjoying local jazz shows, concerts, and just spending time with the lovely people in my life that I never get to see (read: my boyfriend and my roommates......pathetic, right?).

Things are starting up again, and I'm heading into the new quarter (UW) teaching chemistry this time. More on that later..... :)