November 26, 2012

I'm Lichen This Hikin'

In the past month or so, my roommates Taryn and Abby and I have had several (two) hiking adventures. Our fourth roommate Julia has been absent for all (both) of our hikes, which is ironic because she is the coolest, adventuriest, outdoorsiest person we know (girlfriend bungee jumped and skydived in New Zealand. Need I say more?). But while she was at work saving lives in the ER, the three of us who are teachers took our days off to hike a little. As you can tell by the title of this post, we are incredibly funny people, and naturally some funny adventures occurred, including but not limited to realizing I had left the car keys in the car (thankfully, the car doors didn't lock for some reason, aka Jesus) and emerging on the Blue Ridge Parkway about a mile away from where our car was. I was all for hitchhiking, but not enough cars drove by.

Now that Thanksgiving Break has happened, Taryn, the photographer, has put pictures up so I can finally share them with you. (The trials of a blogger without a camera. Mine died a sandy death on Beach Week...RIP.) Get ready to be blown away by the glory of autumnal Virginia.

Hiking Adventure #1: White Rock Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway.



Hiking Adventure #2: House Mountain, Lexington VA

a view of House Mountain from Abby's home

Hiking with these two has been a good time. And stay tuned...there's talk of hiking Old Rag in the spring!

P.S. My Thanksgiving was wonderful, thanks for asking. I spent it at the home of one of my favorite, funniest friends from college, Taylor. She lives in Memphis this year, so it was so good to see her, but it was also wonderful to be at her home in Poquoson, VA, to hang out with her family, and to meet a bunch of new friends.

P.P.S. This also happened when we were at Abby's home in Lexington, where we hiked House Mountain: 

November 20, 2012

On Gratitude

Currently Listening To: Brooke Fraser
About To: pick up my friend Taylor at the airport and head to her house for Thanksgiving! Midnight roadtrip, here we come.

Step 1: read this post by Kate Elizabeth Conner.

In case you didn't read it, let me summarize it for you. What Kate puts forth about gratitude is that "our being “touched” is not the highest purpose of gratitude.  The higher purpose is to be moved." There is a progression that takes place: gratitude brings perspective, which brings awe, which brings contentment - but this is not the end. Contentment should then bring conviction; conviction, action. "The logical extreme then, the inevitable end of gratitude, is a life marked by consistent, intentional, extravagant generosity."

I love this. And I am convicted.

It brings to mind the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, which I read this summer. "We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks," she says. "Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to his grace." Also: "What precedes the miracle is thanksgiving, eucharisteo, and it is a Greek word with a hard meaning that is harder yet to live. Do I really want to take up this word?" This book traces the difficult, glorious pursuit of living it out.

And finally, another thought that intertwines well with this train of thought, by Karl Barth: "Grace and gratitude belong together like heaven and earth. Grace evokes gratitude like the voice an echo. Gratitude follows grace as thunder follows lightening."

I wish I had a concise way to wrap all these thoughts together, to weave them into a polished paragraph to finish out this post that leaves you inspired, but I don't. These are just the pieces that have been working their way through my mind these past few days and that are still sinking into my heart. And I hope they work their way into yours, too.

[image source]

November 18, 2012

Post-Grad Life

Currently Listening To: Cruise, Florida Georgia Line

In case you were wondering what grad student/student teachers do in their spare time, I decided to Things I Did This Weekend (spoiler: it's not the like the crazy days of undergrad where weekends involve 84038 different events with 487 different people):
  • Went to the library book sale for their HALF-OFF days, and stocked up on Young Adult books for my future classroom library. (I had already bought a stack earlier in the week, so in total I ended up with 18 books for $17.50. What a steal. Also, here is the stack of books I scored for FREE from my school earlier this semester:
So, even if I have no idea where I'll be next year, at least my students will have books to read.
  • Checked out Charlottesville's brand new Trader Joe's (!!!!!). Along with half of Charlottesville. We managed to somehow get an incredible parking spot and made it out with scratch-and-sniff stickers and three-buck-chuck, so we're counting that as a success.
  • Watched UVA beat Seattle in basketball...after watching UVA lose miserably to UNC in football on Thursday night. (Actually, this has been a big week for UVA sports in my life, in that I went to two football games in one week, after going to none all semester. The one last Saturday was a winner, with a close one-point win in the last couple seconds and getting to rush the field...)
  • Hardcore cleaned my room
  • Saw a play in which two of my students performed. (When I told my one student that I was coming, she ran over and hugged me, then said "I just have to warn you that it is PG-13 because there are swear words." Duly noted.
  • Overcame extreme adversity to successfully make pumpkin pie for a Thanksgiving dinner with friends
  • And spent my Saturday evening huddled beneath blankets (our heat is broken) watching Downton Abbey. 
It's not glamorous. But it's been pretty enjoyable. Excited for only two more days before Thanksgiving break!

[picture 2 via Julia, picture 3 via Kristen!]

November 14, 2012

Daily Life With 11-Year-Olds

Currently Reading: Al Capone Does my Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko
Today is Exciting Because: Trader Joe's opens in Charlottesville!!!

Here is one thing I love about teaching middle school: they do all the same things I did in middle school. I mean, the doodles, the funny sayings, the jokes.

You know that bubble-letter 'S' that looks like this?

They still draw that.

You know that thing where you write T-H-I-S across your fingers and draw a bug on your palm and say the "This is Buggy. Buggy says "Hi"..." rhyme? They still do that.

Then there's the boy who likes to say "You dropped your pocket!" and laugh hysterically when you look down (I only fell for it the first of the 48392 times I heard this), and the girls who put exclamation marks after everything, even their names on the tops of worksheets. Seriously, it's like these things lurk in middle school hallways, just waiting for the next group of kids to attach themselves to.

But what else is funny is what happens when you give middle schoolers technology: you get to see typical middle school obsessions and behaviors unfolding in new ways. At my school, every student gets a Netbook, and one of my student has a background that rotates through pictures of One Direction. A lot of my students have iPhone or iTouches, and one kid showed me an app yesterday where you take a video of someone, and then you can add an effect where they are blown up or, in this case, a giant boulder drops on their heard. (It was actually pretty amusing.)

The moral of the story, then, is this: 11-year-olds will be 11-year-olds. And I get to be entertained by it every day.

[image source]

November 7, 2012


Our apartment has had a song obsession for the past week and a half:

We love to blast it and dance along, particularly in the kitchen, especially while cooking or cleaning up (see below)Or just whenever, really. It got to the point that just now, we were about to start heading to bed (teachers and nurses living here, y'all. We aren't like those crazy college kids anymore.) and I was humming it and Taryn said "I have not heard that song in two days." Naturally, that meant we had to blast it and have a quick dance party before returning to the teeth brushing and whatnot that had been going on previously.

Apparently, we're not the only ones who think so: the apartment of male grad students we had over for dinner the other night also claimed it as "their jam." So, if you haven't had a chance to dance to Tay's new sound (listen for the dubstep!), please take a moment of out of your day and do so. You won't regret it.

P.S. At first, "22" was a strong contender for New Taylor Swift Song To Dance To All The Time. Being 22 myself, I was a proponent of this. ("We're happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time"...? Taylor, you give words to our 22-year-old souls.) But given that only 3/4 our apartment is 22 years old, we needed something a little more universal.

[pictures c/o Abby's camera]

November 4, 2012

Making A Comeback

Currently Listening To: "Give Me Love," Ed Sheeran. (obsessed with this ever since watching the Virginia Gentlemen sing it. The solo was done by the little brother of one of my good friends. So proud.)

Dear friends,

Welp, here I am. I mean, I've been here along, just not here here. I've just been spending my days in a middle school, teaching reading strategies and figurative language and discussion skillz and vocabulary and elements of literature to a crazy group of 6th graders. And laughing with them, listening to them, learning what they are in to (fact: mustaches are SO IN with 11-year-old girls right now. Why?), working with them on homework they forgot to do at home, helping them find lost assignments stuffed deep into binders, and just generally keeping them in line. Not to mention lunch and break duty, 6th grade team meetings twice a week and parent teacher conferences.

And when I'm not there doing all of that, I am here at home, writing the next day's lesson plan or grading assignments or trying to keep up with the work I have to do and post online for the Ed school side of things. (Because, after all, as I sometimes tell my kids and blow their minds, I'm a student too, still.) Or I am sitting on my couch trying to chill out after a long day watching How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory which so conveniently come on right after each other when I get home from school. And when I get a chance, I have adventures with my wonderful roommates (pictured above).

Maybe you can understand how Whimsy fell by the wayside.

But I am here with good news today! I am feeling very light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel-ish these days. Because this coming week is both a short week and my last week being in charge of all 3 of my blocks. And the following week, albeit a full week, is essentially my last week teaching...with less blocks and therefore a lighter load than these past six weeks. After that is Thanksgiving and getting to observe other classrooms in other schools, and then wrapping things up and saying goodbye to my own kids. (Sad.)

Back at the end of last year, the Ed school showed all us bright-eyed soon-to-be student teachers this chart of the phases of a first-year teacher (which is just concentrated into fewer months for a student teacher):

I am here to witness that this is 100% accurate and I am feeling a little bit March-April right now, amazed at the fact that I've made it through the hardest part of it.

So, all that to say, as I phase out of student teaching in the next few weeks, I am excited to phase back into blogging. YAY!

P.S. I'd like to give a shout out to Hurricane Sandy, for giving us two unexpected days off school last week but essentially bypassing us completely, which was EXACTLY what we needed and made this progression into the doable last few weeks happen all the more quickly. 
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