Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dreams and Struggles

The time has come to start thinking about the future. And by future, I mean where I will be four months from now. WIll I be staying in Spain? Will I be moving on to new adventures? Will I go work somewhere? Will I go back to school?

I thought about all of these things. And then something hit me. I have a dream and I just need to go for it. I want to help people, specifically people who are going through a hard time with mental illness. 

I have a special places in my heart for things like The Butterfly Project, NAMI, and TWLOHA. One of the best moments of my life was getting to meet Jamie Tworkowski, founder of TWLOHA.

So, I decided that if my dream is to help people, what am I waiting for? I just shot an email off to TWLOHA inquiring about jobs in July. As much as I love Spain, I would take a job with that company in a heartbeat. Or any company that would allow me to pursue something I am so passionate about.

This thought and this posst couldn't have come at a more perfect time. This Saturday, March 1, is National Self-Harm Awareness Day (in America). I encourage all of you who self-harm to reach out for help. I encourage all of you that know someone who does to let them know you care. And I encourage everyone to write (or tattoo :P) the word "Love" on your arms. I know that I will. 

Also, everyone stop what you are doing. Stop. And go do something that will lead you in the direction of your dreams.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Education Rants

I work with many teachers at this school. I love them all for different reasons. They are all great teachers in their own way and they are all so different from one another. And none of them is Kim Jaxon....

Teacher 1: JM Barrie - I cannot praise this teacher's teaching skills highly enough. He's awesome. Students love and respect him. His lessons are very captivating. He is capable of making every student feel smart. He has incredible patience with the children. Today, Jean Valjean knocked over some kids backpack and kicked it when JM Barrie told him to pick it up. JM Barrie told him to repeat the motion of picking the backpack up until he could do so in a mannerly fashion. It literally went something like this. "Put the backpack on the floor and pick it up again." The girl would lay her backpack on the floor and Jean Valjean would kick the air and pick it up. "Okay, you're going to do it three more times. Lay the backpack back down. He'd kick the air and pick the backpack up. On the 7th time "Okay, you are going to do it three more times, and if you keep doing it like that, you are going to go talk to the Principal." He never raised his voice. Not even once. 

In class, he makes every moment a moment where life lessons can be learned. He rewards the students and he makes learning feel like magic. He hardly ever loses his temper. He encourages their imagination by telling them to invent answers. He makes every single kid in there feel smart and he makes his class a safe environment. I do not know a single kid in that class who would be afraid to speak because their classmates might make fun of them, or they might say something wrong. He treats it as a true learning environment where everyone can improve. Because of that, he has their respect, they respect each other and they respect every individual that walks into their classroom. Seriously, he can leave me alone with the students and they will not say a word while he is gone. They will all work on the assignment he has asked them to do unless they have a question or something. And it's not like I would get them in trouble if they did. (Okay, so, maybe I'm biased. They are my favorite class.)

The downside to JM Barrie. He's overly ambitious. Like OVERLY. But it's because he wants every single one of them to succeed. He cares far too much. When I walk into the classroom, he has everything planned down to the second. "Okay, we have a half hour. Do you think you can grade all thirty paragraphs, file three sets of exams and talk to seven students?" Okay, that's a bit of a stretch, but, you get the picture. 

Also, there was one time he let a child get away with plagiarism. PLAGIARISM. One of the only education sins I am fully against. The kids had to write paragraphs about food and a kid copied word for word out of their science book. I recognized it and immediately showed it to JM Barrie, who pretty much dismissed it. "It's good he knew what the topic was about and I doubt he would remember the wording during an exam, but if he did I'd be impressed. He's a good student though, so, write 'Good Job' at the top or something." I'm pretty sure that's almost word for word what he said.

Teacher 2: Elphaba - I love Elphaba. She truly is the misunderstood green lady who just wanted her shoes back because she was upset about her sister's death. Or something like that. But, like the character Elphaba, she has a reputation. Unlike the character, Gregory Maguire has not written a story about her to defend her honor. 

Elphaba also cares too much. She wants her students to be the best and they are. But they are also afraid of her. Maybe she subscribes to the theory that fear motivates them. 

A few of her students had to stay at lunch the other day to finish art projects and they were in the English room with me. They were speaking Spanish even though I kept reminding them that art was a subject they did in English. They didn't listen. Then I asked "What would happen if Elphaba were to walk by and hear you speak Spanish?" I didn't hear a word of Spanish the rest of the time.

Elphaba likes to yell. She likes when kids are wrong because she can go on a half hour tangent to show the person with wrong answer why they were wrong. Yes, she uses this as a learning opportunity, but she uses it to bitch rant. 

One time, a kid was five minutes late to class and she asked him why he was late. He mumbled something that we couldn't hear and she spent fifteen minutes yelling at him to speak up while he stood there crying. "The examiners won't be interested in you crying, they will be interested in hearing you!!!!!!!!" After 15 minutes, I asked if I could say something. I told him how to use his diaphragm. Then she wanted me to teach the whole class. Then we practiced. The English class turned into an acting class for the day with an impromptu performance of Three Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf. It ended up being a lot of fun and even the crying kid was laughing hysterically by the end.

Elphaba loves that kind of stuff. She doesn't like actual lessons. She likes looking for unique ways for the kids to learn English and I really appreciate her for that. She has a lot of faith and pushes them to work really hard. She has them write poems and tell stories and do silly games. Her problem is her intensity, but she never means any harm. 

Okay, well, I will let this entry end here because I feel like it's getting too long and especially ranty. So, my apologies, but I hope you enjoyed the read!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cute Stories to Brighten Your Day

Sometimes they say really cute things. Spanish children use the words "got die" for kill and I honestly can't take them seriously when they say things like that. Sometimes they say things that just make you want to adopt them as your own. I have a few stories like that from this week.

First one involves Jean Valjean (I swear these literary names are NOT completely random and make sense when I choose them in my head). This kid can be trouble sometimes. And distracts his classmates. But he just does it because he likes to have fun and enjoy life. He never means any harm. 

Anyway, today in class, Elphaba was subbing and she was trying to get all of the kid's attentions by making them imagine creating a life on the moon. She asked them questions, like, "What would you want them to build on the moon?" To which they answered things like "A swimming pool with floating water!" "A park!" ("Without real trees of course because those need Oxygen!") "An amusement park with floating rides!" You know, perfectly acceptable answers for 9-year-olds imagining a life on the moon.

She then asked the question "What would be the first thing you would do on the moon?" Jean Valjean raised his hand and she called on him. "Read a book." Elphaba looked at him. "If you were visiting the moon and you could do anything including swim in a pool with floating water, you would read a book?!" He shook his head yes. 

I swear I did not pay this kid to say this, despite what people may think. I mean, maybe this kid didn't know how to say any other activities in English, but I prefer to think he would truly want to read a book. I love hearing that other people love to read and it was just a heartwarming moment!

Next story for you is about my third grade. The main teacher, Miss Clavel, was out for the day and the teacher from next store came into the classroom and said something in rapid fire Spanish to which I replied "No hablo Español. Pérdon." One of my kids translated for us and then she left. 

When she left, they burst out saying in almost perfect unison "YOU DO KNOW SPANISH!" Yes, I just said "I don't speak Spanish. Sorry." and, yes, it was in Spanish, but that is literally pretty much everything I know in Spanish. So, they decided they wanted to teach me Spanish instead of doing their English lesson. "Brittany, repeat 'Hola.'" "Guys, we really have to do phonics." "Repeat, rojo." "No, phonics." Within two minutes, they were calmer and doing their phonics and all was restored, but it was such a cute moment. And it was nice to know that someone had faith in my Spanish skills. Although it's kind of depressing that when they really thought that's all I knew in Spanish they proceeded to teach me "Hello" and "Red." I hope they know I live in Spain.

Last story of their cuteness. One day, there was freetime at the end of one class, so, I told them they could ask me questions in English using "Have you got...?" Their first question: "Have you got a husband?" "No, I haven't." They then got looks on their faces to reword their question. Some kid raised his hand. "Have you got a fiancé?" "No, I haven't." Another hand shot up. "Have you got a boyfriend?" "No, I haven't." The looks on their faces was that of shock and confusion. (I know, sweet kids with a lot of faith in my guy-catching abilities). Then someone let out a sigh of relief and smiled. Her hand went up. "Have you got a wife?" she asked. *facepalm* I told them "No, and I haven't got a girlfriend either. I'm young and sometimes people are just single." At least they are open-minded and still would have accepted me had I said yes I had a wife. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

For My Few Loyal Fans

You want more updates? I'll give you more updates. I can't promise they will be Spain-related, or even life-related, but I will write more. 

So, if you want me to write more then I'm going to write what I want to write about. And I've got books on the brain. 

But, to appease you, I will give you a quick life update. Randolph ran away. Again. And told the teacher it's funny when she's mad. So not true. 

Also, my fourth graders are studying hard and fast for the Trinity exams and they are in the process of preparing their topics. I had to help them with the present perfect category today. It felt like every kid - even the know-it-all that I have exceedingly high expectations of - wants their topic to be pets. Or football. Or family. Or holidays. And then Helen Burns sat down next to me and I asked what her topic was. Her response? "My topic is about how disabled people can participate in sports." (Okay, perhaps her English was a bit more broken than that). Wow, what an impressive topic. What a compassionate person. But then JM Barrie (that's a rant for a different day) had to ruin it by practically pointing out that he thought she had the BEST topic in class. I'm sure some kids thought really hard about their topics. And I'm sure they are equally as passionate about "My favorite band, One Direction" as Helen is about disabled athletes. I generally feel like JM Barrie is the best teacher at the school and has a gift of making all students feel respected and that their voice is heard, but I didn't like that he said that in front of the whole class.

Back to books.

I am taking on the challenge of reading a book set in each of the fifty states this year. I will occasionally be updating my readers with what I am reading and such, but for now I am going to go on a book rant about the books/states I have read so far.

1) Vermont - Dead Poet's Society (novelization by N.H. Kleinbaum (small tree, small tree!)). I must preface this with OMGILOVETHISMOVIESOMUCHANDCANWATCHITAMILLIONTIMES and not just because I think Robert Sean Leonard is a DREAM. And I knew it was a novelization of the film going in so I was already expecting it to be kind of crappy. But it was overly crappy. Overly. And the characterization was SOOOOO BAD! Especially the characterization of Todd Anderson. 

But then I watched the movie, so I will give you this meme:

which led me to this:

I whole-heartedly agree with Oh Captain, My Captain's quote as well as with the quote below. I think they can tie-in together. Or maybe I'm just easily wooed by words.

Also, in reading books set in each state, I am doing research about the states as well. So, an interesting Vermont fact: Rudyard Kipling lived in Vermont. 

2) Indiana - The Fault in Our Stars - John Green - "My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations." Minus the fact that I think that is one of the most brilliant sentences ever written (although, I have a notebook full of the most brilliant sentences ever written and a Donna Tartt tattoo to show my love of brilliant sentences), this book didn't do much for me. Maybe I went into it with too high expectations. This is one of those "everyone is talking about it" books and, really, it just didn't do much. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a heartless person and it did tug at my heartstrings a bit, but it was just predictable and a bit too idealistic for a book about cancer. Ya, I know the ending was sad and yada yada, but I found it oddly idealistic and optimistic. And no 17-year-old boy, even one who has been humbled by cancer, is that romantic. 

I do think John Green is an absolutely brilliant writer, perhaps the best YA writer next to David Levithan and Markus Zusak and Tim Tharp, but I don't think this book deserves the credit it does. Book after book, John Green displays excellent characterization and unique ways of expressing thigs, and this book was no exception, but I just don't feel like it was up to par with, let's say, Looking for Alaska.

Also, I am curious to see the movie adaptation of the book. I think Shailene Woodley is a fantastic, underrated star who has an interesting year ahead of her. And the preview looked surprisingly good.

And they make such a cute couple!! Although I have to say, I pictured Augustus to be a lot more outwarldy handsome. Ansel Elgert is soo adorable in an adorable way, not an Augustus Waters way.

Interesting Indiana Fact: There are none.

Just kidding, Scott and all my Indianian fans.

The Saturday Evening Post is published in Indiana.

Interesting Shailene Woodley fact: She attended the same high school as my ex-boyfriend. Also, we're soul sisters or something - both of us had to experience part of teenage life in a backbrace.

3) Louisiana - Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris - Exactly what you would expect from the novel that inspired True Blood, but with less sex. And written very modestly. Definitely entertaining, but the entire True Blood, Sookie Stackhouse, Southern Vampire Mysteries Franchise seems to be epically entertaining. I plan on reading more of these books after I finish all of my other states. Not necessarily intelligent reading, but fun reading.

Also, I'm pretty sure that Stephanie Meyer stole a lot of ideas from Charlaine Harris and used them for powers of evil. I'm so sorry, Charlaine.

While we are on Sookie Stackhouse, I think Anna Paquin is pretty kickass. While I'm saying this, I want to go on an X-Men tangent. But, don't worry, I won't. I will say that Paquin was an awesome Rogue, especially given the fact that she had to work with an utterly botched story line in The Last Stand.

Also, it's pretty adorable that her and Steven Moyer play each other's love interest on the show and they ended up together in real life, don't ya think?

Interesting Louisiana Fact: Pirates used to hide out in Jean Lafitte. Pirates. 

4) Oklahoma - The Spectacular Now - Tim Tharp - This is the second time I've read this book and I cannot say enough about how much I am in love with this book. Scratch that - how obsessed I am with this book.

Brilliant writing.
Brilliant characters.
Brilliant story.

I'm in love.

First of all, Sutter's philosophy on life is "embrace the weird," which I've contemplated getting tattooed (don't worry Mom, I don't have new tattoos. I do, however, have one less piercing, which I bet makes you happy!) because it's something you just have to do in life.

Plus Ricky spews this fantastic quote (it's in my Facebook favorites for the curious of you) about our need to experience the magic of new things. That quote made me feel incredibly sad about the fact that I grew up.

The first time I read this book, I found myself totally relating to Sutter Keely. This time around, I felt myself relating to Aimee Finnecky. Weird, I know. I guess people do feel differently at different circumstances in their life.

Also, if we take away the very end of the film, they actually did a pretty good job with the adaptation. I said it before, I think Shailene Woodley is fantastic. And even more fantastic, MILES TELLER. After this movie, Rabbit Hole, and Footloose, I think I love him. Okay, yes, I have a Hollywood crush on Miles Teller and I would say a good majority of the world either don't know him or know him as the guy in that crappy Zac Efrom movie (that I sadly want to see because of Miles Teller).

She looks different here than in the other picture, but they make an equally adorable couple. 

And given that they are both in Divergent, I kind of hope something actually happens between these two stars. Although, they cast Miles as Peter, which makes me hesitant to see it. It might ruin my romance with Mr. Teller.

Interesting Oklahoma fact: They disagree with the rest of the world. Their state motto is Labor Omnia Vincit - Labor Conquers All.

5) Nebraska - Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell - Hmm. I can't decide. Did I love it? Did I hate it? Did I like the very last sentence of the book? Is the end different than what I think it is? Did I think Eleanor was a complete bitch throughout the book? Or was I just overly protective about my innocent Park?

I have a lot of mixed-and-undecided feelings about this book. I think I just find it to be unrealistic. Maybe I was too jaded as a teenager, but love isn't like that. Holding hands with someone isn't like that. Kissing someone isn't like that. Hmm, maybe I was just too angsty to really get the feelings like others did, but I found the characters here completely unrelatable (for my ideas on first loves, experiences and such, please read the aforementioned The Spectacular Now and remind yourself that I am usually the non-alcoholic version of Sutter in relationships). Maybe that's it. They were unrelatable. 

I really wanted things in the book to be expanded on too, but oddly, at the end of the book, the biggest question in my mind wasn't what happened to the main characters or anything about them left untied, but rather, I wanted to know more about Steven and Tina, who didn't make up too much of the book. More importantly, I wanted to know about Tina's stepfather and (spoiler alert) how that made her relate to Eleanor and why Steven became accepting of Eleanor after he found out about her stepdad. (end spoiler alert).

Also, I usually have so many highlights in my books of quotes I want to remember or ideas I want to remember or things I need to look up later and here I only had a few, my favorite being "He didn't have bookmark like feelings for her." Although, I love bookmarks. Especially the handmade ones my students make me. And I can't say I have ever received a bookmark from one of my love interests, but I don't think it would upset me.

It is one of the most beautiful, yet simple covers I have ever seen. But my obsession with ampersands might make me a bit biased.

I do have to say, all of the music references, comic references and other references were such a joy and so fantastic. I love nerding out over nerdy things. Also, I liked this quote about the great Stan Lee's X-Men "They're a metaphor for acceptance; they've sworn to protect a world that hates and fears them." Thanks, fictional Park for that one. I can go on and on about how I wanted to be an X-Men as a teenage because of I thought I was different and all that jazz. I was one of those. 

And I have to admit, I nerded out a bit when I found out that having blue eyes is actually a genetic mutation. I'm pretty sure I ran up and down halls screaming "I'm a mutant!"

Interesting Nebraska fact: the author, Rainbow Rowell, is from Nebraska.

Alright, 'til next time!

Thanks for most of my interesting facts.