Wednesday, December 10, 2008


In the words of Eddie Vedder, I'm still alive.

I honestly cannot wrap my head around the fact that it's been almost two months since I updated. Stephen Hawking himself would have a hard time figuring out the space-time continuum malfunction that is currently operating in Charlotte, North Carolina. Since when is it December?? Wasn't I just graduating the other day??

Anyway, there's not time for a real post now, but hopefully I'll be able to cobble together some sort of "semester in review" while I'm at home for break--a MUCH needed break...

Until then, let out that big breath you've been holding and don't forget to take a new one. Ms. Collie's still here, she's just trying to remember to breathe.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Good golly, Ms. Collie

Greetings after another extended absence. Just thought I'd check in and let you all know that it's status quo here in Charlotte.

School has become routine. The kids are finally learning what to expect day to day, and while they're still incredibly talkative and prone to being CRAZY, I think we're making some progress. We've been working on a class story about Heritage (it being the first theme in our reading program) and they are really into it. I'm letting them write everything--literally every word--so we get some pretty creative sentence constructions. I think our final paragraph goes something like, "Thank you for reading our story today, our story about heritage from all over the world. From Africa to South America to Antarctica, our story about traditions and heritage passed down through generations. Thank you for getting to the end of our story, and if you just skipped to the end, go back and read the whole thing because it is awesome. Peace out." Budding Hemingways, all... Also, they are *fascinated* by how fast I type. I'm a pretty good typist--Mavis Beacon and I spent a lot of quality time together when I was young--and these kids are just so impressed. They make me close my eyes and then they dictate and watch as I type their words as they say them. It's so funny to watch. Oh, you went to Harvard? Big whoop. WAIT, you can type 100 wpm??? Ms. Collie, that's so cool!!!

You're perhaps wondering now who this Ms. Collie person is. That would be me. Apparently that "Mc" is just too hard to handle, so a significant portion of my students have dropped it altogether. Oh well. It's kind of cute, and I like it better than them pronouncing McCallie wrong (Mick-Caaaaallie, that would be).

Let's see... There are plenty of negative things I could write about. I wrote my first office referral the other day, for instance, and I have at least one student that I have absolutely no idea what to do with, but I really like to leave all those problems in my trailer, and that's probably good for all of us. Instead, I'll tell you that I went to see James Taylor for free today. Wow! He's doing a mini-tour in five North Carolina cities stumping for Barack Obama. It was an incredible show--short, but packed with his greatest hits. And he did some rallying/commentary in between the songs, so I now know that James Taylor is a) passionate about Barack Obama, and b) a little bit crazy. But so funny. It would be awesome to be his friend.

I'm sitting here now watching Game 7 of the ACLS, finding myself amazed that the Sox are here. What the heck! Don't they ever get tired of incredible comebacks? I mean, it's great, but stil... way to mess with our nerves. Also, as I typed "Game 7 of the ACLS," the commentator said the exact same thing. Creepy. Watching the game and realizing that it's 9 pm and we're only in the third inning makes me remember one of the things I don't like about teaching: there's no way I will be able to stay up to watch this whole game. I've come to feel like 10:30 pm is waaaay past my bedtime, which is so sad. But I guess when you're waking up at 5:30 am, it's pretty foolish to stay up too late, even if it is to see your team (hopefully) make it to the World Series...

Well, I've zoned out and it's 9:10 now, so we're getting dangerously close to bedtime, and I still have some spelling tests to grade. So I'll sign off now. But, just because it's been awhile, I'll leave you with some gnfabs: Conspicuous Indicator of Silence, The Meat Thieves, and Static Cling.

Go Sox,
--Ms. M. Or Ms. C, depending on who you are...

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sick Day

Well, I'm home sick today with vaguely flu-like symptoms. All yesterday I was feeling nauseous--I even threatened to throw up on my kids if they didn't behave. Too much? Probably. But it made them laugh (little did they know I was serious). Anyway, as soon as school ended, I felt like, in the words of Miranda Priestly, "an incubus of viral plague." So I figured out the substitute system, called in a sick day, and am now at home recuperating.

I felt really bad calling in sick. It just really makes me realize how high the stakes are in this job. OK, I'm working a nine-to-five and I get sick; what's the worst that could happen? I miss a meeting and someone fills me in about it the next day. With teaching, if I call in sick, my kids basically miss a day of instruction, because there's only so much a sub can do. Thankfully Friday is test day, so a good chunk of the day is pretty easy for the sub to implement, but I had such bigger things to do with the kids today which just won't get done. Plus, if my kids are monsters to the sub (a definite possibility), it reflects very badly on me. AND it's picture day, so I guess I'm out of the yearbook. Sad panda. Oh well. It had to be done.

So sick days aside, how's it going? Well... it has its ups and downs, like anything. Sometimes I feel like it's a world full of downs, but then the kids will do something that just cracks me up, and anytime they hug me, my anger just completely dissipates. Damn manipulative children...

I don't really know what to say. My weeks are pretty much identical--the nature of this reading program is that we do the same thing every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc., just with a different story each week. We're about to wrap up our "Heritage" theme and move on to "Energy at Work." I can't decide if that's going to be better or worse. It's really amazing, though, how little my kids know about the world. I've had so many comments like, "So is Asia next to North Carolina?" and "They wanted to leave Alaska and go to America." They don't know the difference between a country, a city, a state, a region. They think that African is a language and that Chinese and Japanese people are the same. They understand racism and get really fired up over the civil rights movement, but then don't get why I'm upset at them for saying that all Chinese people talk like "Ching chong ding dong." It's just kind of mind-boggling, and I can't figure out how much of this ignorance is just because they're in fifth grade and how much is brought on by the complete failure of their schooling up to now. Meanwhile, I have very little time to actually correct these misapprehensions, as all our waking minutes are supposed to be used prepping them for the End of Grade tests (EOGs), something I feel I am not doing a very good job at so far...

The good news (?) is that I think we're all pretty much in the same boat. I mean all the TFA people. Sure, some people are doing better and some are definitely doing worse, but overall, we're united in our seeming incompetence. But I think it's getting better, day by day. So, we'll see.

As usual, I'm sure there's more to say and more you want to know about, but I'm at a loss for words. My bed is calling me, so there I shall return.

Hope all is well with all of you...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Still Employed

No need to worry, folks: your kind wishes must have done the trick, as I am still employed. And the kids didn't have school today, so we got some much-needed time in the classroom.

A longer post is coming soon, I promise. And this time, I'm really serious...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

End Radio Silence


Not a full post (sorry), just checking in to say that I am alive and well, or as well as can be expected. I told Courtney today that I'm actually starting to really like my kids; however, there have been some *definite* bumps along the road, and there will be plenty of incredibly frustrating memories to choose from when I do a real update.

I will say this, though: our principal told us today that he's going to have to let one teacher go by the end of the week. Apparently, the order comes from the school district. He didn't say who, he didn't say which grade level, he basically didn't say anything. Will it be me? I don't know. There are arguments to convince myself it will be and assure myself it won't, so needless to say I'm a little on edge until Friday. Best case scenario: No one on the fifth grade team is fired. Worst case scenario: I'm transferred to another school in the district. Or fired outright. I can't decide which would actually be worse.

In better news, there's a dance on Friday. Let's hope I'm in good spirits and able to attend as a staff member...

Will keep you posted. Until then, happy thoughts!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Well, I guess it's official: I am a teacher in an inner city school. Yes, that's right. I broke up my first fight today. Wow, kids! 2.5 weeks in and you're already at each other's throats.

I don't even know how it happened. Some silly issue just escalated SO fast, and before I knew it, I was pulling two kids apart (with the help of three or four other kids, so you know--fifth grade boys are strong!). Also, can I just say that it's mildly ridiculous that we're not supposed to get physically involved in "altercations" like this? What am I supposed to do, let the kids wrestle each other to the ground and wait patiently for an administrator to make it all the way out to the trailers? That seems... silly, I guess is the word.

Whatever. It's over. I unleashed the fury of a thousand suns on the whole class (honestly, I have never seen such terror on kids' faces), pulled the boys into "the hall" (aka outside), yelled at them, and made the boys apologize to each other. They seemed to mean it, so that's good. And it won't happen again.


The serious upside to my week is that ESL (English as a Second Language) classes are *finally* going to start "soon" (of course we don't know when "soon" really is). That means that my two refugee children will be pulled from my class for significant amounts of time so they can, you know, actually learn that pesky language that I keep babbling to them.

That's it for now. More when I can find the energy.

Monday, September 1, 2008

"Frequently" Asked Questions

Well. Week One is done, Weekend One is almost done, and what do I have to show for it? A lot. The best news first: I got paid! The paltry salary actually gets paid. Whoo! The real world officially began upon receipt of my first real world paycheck. Aaaand the real world will officially be sad again once I spend all that hard-earned cash on stuff for my classroom, which is probably what will happen. Oh, and I'll probably get a couple Chipotle burritos, too. And maybe pay my rent?

OK, now to the other stuff. I'm going to write this in a FAQ format, even though the only person so far to ask these questions is Dad, which hardly makes them of the Frequent variety. Here goes, anyway:

How was your first week?
If I had to choose between good, OK, and bad, I would say good. It certainly wasn't bad, and I think it was more than OK.

How are your kids?
Again, I would say good. The biggest problem I had was that they are SO talkative. I wanted to be the "nice" teacher this week, so I let them pick their seats. Big mistake. By Friday, I had had enough, and at one point near the end of the day, I turned around from the board and just went, "Why? Why, why, why, why, why are you talking?" I reminded myself of the mom from Center Stage: "Why, why, why in God's name, WHY?" Anyway, I think they were scared, because they shut up for a whole 2 minutes. Assigned seats starting on Tuesday, I'm afraid. And I know they're not talking because they're bad kids, they're talking because they're kids! That's what kids do! I'm sure I talked that much in fifth grade, too. So I have to remind myself to be patient with them. Be firm and keep order in my class, but not be a Nazi.

The funny thing is, they LOVE to play the Silent Game. They were being particularly chatty one day, so I turned to them and said--dripping with sarcasm--that I would be amazed if they could keep silent for five whole seconds. They eagerly agreed to my challenge, and after three false starts, they managed to remain silent for five seconds. Almost immediately upon the conclusion of five seconds, they all clamored for me to extend the Time of Silence, so we tried it for a minute. They won that, too! By Friday afternoon, we were up to five whole minutes of silence, and then they were calling for ten. So we'll see what this week brings.

Basically, if you ever want anything out of a kid, just present it to him in game/competition format. When I was younger and lazier (if that's possible?), I would make Cam go get me stuff by telling him the "last kid" did it in X amount of seconds. "Cam, go get me some water." "I don't want to!" "Well, the last kid did it in thirty seconds--I bet you can't beat him." Sure enough, twenty-five seconds later, I would have a glass of water. Yes, I was manipulative--maybe I should have considered a career in teaching way back then! I tried that strategy the other week when Cam was visiting me here on his way to Duke, and I'm happy/sad to say that it no longer works. So, sorry, Cam. Thanks for all the stuff you got me, and I just talked to the "last kid"--he finally concedes defeat.

Anyway, on Wednesday I started this thing called the "lunch challenge," where I promised them one raffle ticket (winners of the weekly raffle get to choose candy/small toys from my "treasure box"--it's a high honor, to be sure) if they could all keep absolutely silent and in a straight line on the way to lunch. And by God, were they SILENT. I seriously thought I was going crazy because for the first time in a few days, I could hear myself think. I told them this as they walked like ghosts through the hall, but got not a peep in response. It was amazing. I was so proud of them, I extended the "lunch challenge" for the rest of the week. I wonder how long the lure of tickets will last...

OK, great. You're bribing your kids to keep silent. What about actual school stuff? You know, content knowledge?
Yeah, yeah. That stuff happened this week, too. It was a little bit difficult, since we didn't know if we were team teaching or not. I didn't want to start teaching math if I wasn't going to teach math for the rest of the year. Plus, I didn't have any textbooks, which makes teaching surprisingly hard. So we did a lot of projects this week. We made our frames to hang in the Hall of Frame (for showcasing student work), we wrote "I Am" poems about ourselves, etc. One kid said in his poem that he was taller than two of the smallest boys put together, then asked if we could stack them to prove his point. I successfully avoided a child-stacking scandal, much to everyone's dismay.

So, are you team teaching, or what?
Yes. It seems like we've finally got all the kinks ironed out, and if this week goes as planned, my schedule will look something like this:
  • 620-645ish: Anna arrives.
  • 645ish-700: Anna does last minute stuff and savors her final moments of sanity.
  • 700-730: Kids arrive. Start morning work.
  • 730-745: Go over morning work. Do Accelerated Math/Reader stuff (this has yet to be explained to me)
  • 745-830: Workshop (this has to do with the reading curriculum that many schools in the district use)
  • 830-1015: Teach my kids reading and writing.
  • 1015-1045: Recess! (Or SPA time, as we call it, since "recess" is taboo. SPA stands for Structured Physical Activity)
  • 1045-1125: Specials (art, music, computers, etc.)
  • 1125-1140: Awkward fifteen minutes of transition between specials, bathrooms, trailer, and lunch. Can't wait to maximize this time for learning... Or not.
  • 1140-1205: Lunch and transition.
  • 1205-135: Switch with Mr. Henry. I will teach his kids reading and writing as he teaches my kids math and science. The quick-minded among you will now make the correct assumption that his kids are getting math and science in the morning while mine are doing reading with me. Gold stars for you all!
  • 135-145: Pack up and dismissal. This is the time of day where my kids go crazy and damage my expensive dry erase markers by doodling on the board. Good times.
So, that's about it. We fit Social Studies in wherever we can, including the days when we don't have a special (at least once a week). This is sad to me, because Social Studies is my favorite subject (what up, NELC??). However, there is no Social Studies End of Grade test, which means that nobody cares because it doesn't affect No Child Left Behind (glory and wonder that it is), so... yeah. But whatever: I'm still making my kids look at maps whenever I can. At this point, they don't know the difference between a continent, a country, and a state, so at the very least, I will straighten out these severe misapprehensions.

Well, what do you do after school? Is planning hard?
I made a deal with myself to never stay at school later than 330 (except in the case of long-winded staff meetings). So far, so good. Planning hasn't been too bad--I'm extremely blessed to have another TFA girl on the 5th grade team with me. We call each other every night at 8 and discuss how our lives are in shambles. We call ourselves the mayor and judge of Shambleville. It would be hilarious if it weren't so depressing. Nahhhh, it's not that depressing. Ask me again about planning at the end of this week, when I should have it more under control.

Wow, you must be a) exhausted, and b) the best teacher in the whole world.
True on both counts, to be sure.

Well, I'm out of questions.
OK. Thanks for your concern. As a side note, this weekend was wonderful and totally relaxing, and I'm not even dreading tomorrow, because the Shambleville Town Council meeting/planning session was extremely productive.

And, since I know you've been eagerly anticipating them, here are this week's gnfabs: Grammatical Watchdoggery, Terminal Groin Chafing, Retired Chimp Astronauts, and Ischial Tuberosity. Yes, these are all phrases that came up during normal (?) conversations.

I realize that this post was a little bit lacking in hilarious classroom anecdotes. I wanted to include some more, but I'm struggling with the whole "disguising a child's identity" thing. I think it's pretty lame when people say "I have this child, let's call him B..." So, I'll keep thinking, and try to get some funny stories into the next post.

Until then, I should probably go do some work. Hope everyone had a fantastic Labor Day weekend!

P.S: I just reread this, and it would be easy to surmise that my kids hate me. Rest assured that they do NOT hate me (I don't think, at least), and I even think they might like me. So... that's good.

Monday, August 25, 2008

One Down...

Survived. Liked it. Feet hurt. Head hurts. Rain=no fun to be in trailers. Teaching actual content tomorrow=paranoia.

Best comment of the day: "You know, I think it might be sort of fun to be in your class this year. Sort of."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

AHHHHH Addendum

In fewer than 12 hours, I will be standing in front of a classroom full of students. My students, to be specific. And I will be teaching them...... what? Unclear. Here's a rundown on my life right now:

The Good:
  • The waiting is nearly over. I've sort of been thinking of this day ever since January 7, when I found out about TFA. Of course, I was more preoccupied with that pesky case of mono back in January, but regardless, this day has loomed large for quite some time now. I'm glad it's finally here and will be over and done with soon enough. No more holding my breath.
  • My classroom turned out slightly better than I expected. Yes, I'm in a trailer, which leaves lots to be desired (see upcoming section appropriately titled "The Bad"), but the classroom as it exists now is palatable. Pictures will come soon. Hopefully I can snap some tomorrow morning before the kids come in and "work their magic," aka destroy what I have spent the past week creating...
  • Labor Day Weekend is five days away.
The Bad:
  • I don't want to say anything bad about my school, because honestly I'm thrilled to be there. I think it's a great environment to work in, I like the people I've met so far, etc. etc. However, it has been a rather rushed week, what with all the training/meetings (like being at Institute all over again). We couldn't get into our rooms until Monday, and my cozy little trailer is still bereft of technology: no TV for morning announcements, no overhead, no computers, no clock. Must remind self ot bring a watch tomorrow. Oh, and the desks are too short for fifth graders. But I'm sure all this will get worked out over the next couple of days.
  • I don't know what to teach. Like, really don't know. The fifth grade team is awesome, but we don't know yet if we're departmentalizing (each teacher taking one subject), team teaching (pairing up in twos, so each teacher has 2 subjects), or being totally self-contained (every man for himself), and we won't know that until we see how the schedule works. Needless to say, this is causing great deals of frustration and stress. Will I be teaching math? Reading? Science? Any of them? All three? As of right now, I have no idea. So, that's fun. Tomorrow is just going over procedures, rules, and the like, so I'll be able to get through that OK, and I'm sure my team will help me with the rest of the week. But still.
  • Labor Day Weekend is five days away.
The Ugly:
  • Probably me after the sleepless night I'm pretty sure is coming.
So, that's an abbreviated version of what's going on in my life right now. There was so much more I wanted to say, but my brain still hurts and I should concentrate all my energy on two things: 1) Preparing for tomorrow and 2) watching the Closing Ceremonies. Mainly the latter. Related note: Up until faaaaar too late in my life, I thought that "latter" was pronounced like "later."

DNS: Have you ever stopped to consider that our national anthem ends in a question? "O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave???" How much cooler would it be if we all did a Scooby Doo-type inflection at the end of it? Home of the brave??? Also: every sentence in this paragraph except this one has ended in a question.

OK, must get to work. For realzies. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008



My brain hurts.

Coherent (?) post to come this weekend. Let's just say that school starts on Monday, but right now I'm more prepared to beat Usain Bolt in the 200m than teach 5th graders...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cue Gob Bluth

Yes, it's the final countdown (dee dee deeee duh... etc. etc.). School is officially less than two weeks away and I am officially less than prepared. Yikes. But I'm feeling good, and I'll tell you why, though without a numbered list, since we all saw how well that worked...

  • The Olympics. I'm a girl who likes her sports. That's just what happens when you grow up with rabid Duke fans. Well, maybe just with Andy and Dad--I don't think we can count Cam as a sports fan just quite yet*, though he's getting there. Anyway, I'm a big fan. But the Olympics seriously just take the cake. You can keep your NBA finals, your Superbowl, your World Series. LBJ, DWade, and Kobe agree: this is the biggest stage athletes will ever be on. And though the games are not without flaws, they remain faaaaar less tainted than that little bicycle tour through France, for instance, or the Barry Bonds Steroid Era from which baseball seemingly can't escape (though they're making progress?). And they come with faaaaar less drama, too. Wait, wait: I should be more specific, because there's plenty of drama in the Olympics (just watch those Morgan Freeman-narrated VISA ads). What the Olympics is blithely bereft of is the Brett Favre type of stuff. The contract negotiations. The "Manny Being Manny" (aka Manny Being an Idiot) junk that distracts from the game. All the Olympics have is pure, unadulterated SPORT, and it's breathtaking. Oh, and in case you were wondering: yes, I *do* cry every time the US wins something.
    • Some favorites: Obviously, I am in love with Michael Phelps. I think they take away your Social Security number if you don't like him. I personally am fascinated by his ears. They're quite spectacular. And that relay?? I mean, there's not much to be said about it without overdosing on exclamation points. If you haven't seen it, go find it now in the vast expanse of the interweb.
    • Synchronized Diving. The ability to do a two-and-a-half pike with a triple somersault at the exact same time as another human being off a ginormous platform into a comparatively tiny pool of water was never a quality I was sad to lack. Until now. I am blown away by this event. And I totally agree with one of the commentators who said something along the lines of, "Of course the Chinese excel at this sport." I mean, seriously, talk about precision. Did you see the Opening Ceremonies??
    • Speaking of said ceremonies: omg. We had some friends over to watch it, and about every three minutes, one of us would just exclaim, "CHINA!" in disbelief. Be afraid, America. Be very afraid. Somewhat related note: we successfully convinced one of our friends that dragons were real. Amazing.
I think I was making a list that contained elements other than the Olympics, but I honestly can't think about anything but the Games of the XXIX Olympiad. On another semi-related note, I am fascinated by the process where a city bids to become the Olympics host. I have no idea why this is so interesting to me. I guess it's because the cities bidding are always cities that I really want to visit (a list that includes just about every city in the world, so maybe that's not it...) Anyway, if you don't believe me, check my facebook: it's one of my interests. Right up there with Chipotle and flip-flops.

Our final TFA session is tomorrow. Hallelujah! Though, I must say that the past few days have been overwhelmingly more helpful. We're transitioning into the real, concrete stuff, blissfully moving out of the abstract. Yes, the abstract is important, but I'm ready to start making posters! And, you know... writing tests and stuff....

District orientation starts on Wednesday. No rest for the weary. I'll put up some sort of school-related post as soon as I stop living 100% Olympics.

'Til then, GO USA!

*Unless you count DDR as a sport. Some do.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Blog One-dot-Oh

Oh, hey. You'd thought I had forgotten you all, I'm sure. Well, in the words of Horace Slughorn, "Oho!" You're so wrong. Rather, I have spent the past X number of days moving into my house, making a mess of my room, spending lots of money at Charlotte's finest shopping establishments (Target, Wal-Mart, Harris Teeter, etc.) ((P.S: "Harris Teeter" is the name of the grocery store--how awesome is that?)) What I have *not* been doing, of course, is blogging. And for that, I apologize. However, I have taken a break from hanging bulletin boards and vacuuming and the like to assemble a list of Curiosities--things that have been percolating in my mind while I've been settling into life here.

Without further ado:
  1. The bug in my sink. Yes, this does sound like a book my fifth graders might be reading this year, but it is, in fact, NOT fiction. Every night around 10 pm, I walk into my bathroom and discover a very small, thin bug in my left-hand sink (why yes, I do have two sinks!) This has happened for 6 or 7 days now. I'm sorry to say that I usually flush him down the drain. Please don't tell PETA. I am curious if it is the same resilient bug every night (if so, he really needs to just drown already) or if there is a whole family residing somewhere in the bowels of our plumbing system. Will keep you posted.

  2. Security Questions. Today I had to do some very important financial what-have-yous, and they involved creating an online account with a bank. This being a bank (ideally, very secure), I had to choose not one, not two, but three security questions. And oh my, what a range. This wasn't your standard "Mother's Maiden Name" level of security. This was First Child's Baby Nickname (N/A), Place You Met Your Spouse (Also N/A), Street Your Childhood Best Friend Lived On (Applicable, but for the sake of security, I won't reveal!) level of security.
  1. The Way I Use Parentheses. I think I overuse them. Discuss. (Or don't) ((see??))
  1. Blogger's Numbering Mechanism. It is actually impossible to do a double-spaced numbered list, so I'm stuck with this bass-ackwards system. Apologies.

  2. "Course One-Dot-Oh." This is the online "class" we have to take for TFA right now. It's a bunch of readings and then a few exercises, and it's what we're all furiously working on this weekend (when we're not blogging and/or overusing parentheses, that is). In all our TFA literature, it's referred to as Course 1.0. There is a Course 2.0, in case you were wondering, but there is not a Course 1.5. Why not "Course 1" and "Course 2"? Why the .0? The other puzzling thing is how the entire staff says "Course One-dot-oh" instead of the more conventional "Course One-point-oh." Just something we've noticed*.
That's it. I should get back to One-dot-oh, I suppose. Or maybe finish unpacking. Either way, sorry about the lack of substantive updates. I'll placate you by saying that perhaps a video tour of my room will be in order soon? (Thanks, Carly for the idea!)


*"we" here refers to a group of Corps members, and is not--in a rare occurrence--the "royal we."**

**I think a sort-of-good/sort-of-bad name for a band (sogsobnfab) would be "Royal Wii." Like Nintendo Wii™.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I want a pet puma...

I'm just going to jump right in. This post is going to cover a lot of ground (literally?) and so will be split into two parts.

Part the First: ROAD TRIP!
A thousand apologies for not doing the "Where in the World is Anna?" follow-along thing. I was going to make a little graphic, and even found an Electric Blue™ Volkswagen Jetta® to stick my head out of, but then I started looking for a good picture of myself. Wow. There were some truly horrific pictures of me taken this year, and they're all posted on Facebook™®©. So that derailed the project.

The drive was excellent. As you may know, I really, really enjoy driving (seriously--via the internet that may have come off as sarcastic...), so I was totes stoked at the prospect of 16+ hours in the car. I split the trip into four days. Day One was a piece of cake: KC to St. Louis. I coulda done it with my eyes closed! (No, I couldn't have) I spent the night just outside St. Louis at my awesome cousin Helen's and had peanuts on a salad for the first time in my life.

Day Two was the longest leg. So, maybe it was a piece of... pie? Is pie harder to make/eat than cake? I guess I don't really understand that expression. Regardless, Day Two was St. Louis to Chattanooga, TN. Let me tell you a little something about Kentucky: that state is underrated. I had a lovely time throughout, especially at the Taco Bell in Paducah.

Not only is Kentucky underrated, it is also magical. Maybe people don't know that, hence the underrating. But for a stretch of 3 miles or so, every bump I hit on the road was timed perfectly to "Knock Three Times," by Tony Orlando and Dawn, which is the song I happened to be listening to. I'm not kidding. "[BUMP] [BUMP] [BUMP] on the ceiling if you want me..." It was extraordinary.

I spent the night in Chattanooga, and then spent all day Monday doing two things: shopping at stores and shopping at my grandma's house. I did not get much in the stores. I did get a lot from my grandma's house. Thanks to my grandparents, I now have a gorgeous antique bed, a perhaps even more gorgeous fainting couch, and also an armchair. That was a conscious and conspicuous omission of "gorgeous," but what this armchair lacks in beauty, it more than makes up for in comfort. Perhaps somebody will say that about me some day? (My apologies; that was weird)

So that was Day Three. Day Four was Cha-Cha (Chattanooga to Charlotte, if you need it spelled out). I started the day by having a fight with my GPS because it wanted to take me north via Knoxville and I had planned to go south around Atlanta. After hearing "Daniel" (the British voice) tell me he was "recalculating" about 700 times, I decided to just turn it off and find the way on my own. WHOA! Well, I called Dad to make sure. But yeah, I did some real, old school navigation. Hold your applause, please.

I got to Charlotte in the afternoon on Tuesday, and after swinging by the TFA office to pick up some paperwork, I arrived at 1924. OMG, it's better than I remember. I love this house more than I love almost all of my blockmates. Combined. Sorry, guys. (MColl, you're the exception)

This brings us to...

Part the Second: LOAD FLIP! (no, it doesn't make sense; it just happened to rhyme)
Umm... Charlotte is pretty much the best. I have spent many hours just lounging about my room and wandering around our house. It's in a definite state of transition (a state of definite transition? Definitely a state of transition?) right now, but that's OK because let's be real: my room is never going to be clean, so why bother?

Thanks to my extremely awesome grandparents (gnfab?), my furniture came on Wednesday, and I even made my bed in gratitude. Wednesday was also the day I was processed by the school district, having missed that part of Induction due to Graduation. I heard all about my benefits (I get dental!), got my ID badge (which looks surprisingly fake), and was drug tested (always a delightful experience), so I'm all set to go. Oh, and I'm teaching fifth grade. I actually found that out in Kansas, but just forgot to tell you all.

I'm still unpacking and spending lots of time/money at Target and Bed, Bath, & Beyond (thank you Bob & Sharon for the gift certificate!!!), and perhaps one day I will actually be fully moved in with all the required furniture, etc. I may even decorate the walls--whoa--but that day is not today. Oh, well. At least I can "borrow" wireless from someone else on this Pleasantville-y street, so not a bit of Hollywood gossip will escape me (congrats, Brad and Angie! Can't wait to meet the twins).

I guess that's about it. Now for some of our most beloved (?) blog segments:

Daily Bit of Meta (DBoM): I have been waiting for this experience for months: having my cell phone ring while listening to "Sweetest Thing." For those not in the know, "Sweetest Thing" is my cell phone ring. You might have been able to figure that out on your own, but I don't trust you. Anyway, it finally happened. It was awesome. Maybe more 'coincidental' than 'meta,' but I don't have a Daily Bit of Coincidence segment on this blog, now, do I??

Daily Non Sequitor (DNS): Have you ever stopped to consider just how many times you hit the "delete" key every day? I've probably hit it three or four times in the span of these two sentences. Oh, and there was another five times because I tried to spell "sentences" with a c at the beginning. If you consciously think about the delete key as you type, it will freak you out, but probably only if you're strange like me. Also, do you alternate thumbs that hit the space bar, like a good typist, or do you only use one of them? Me, I only space with my right thumb, and I only shift with my left pinkie. Doing anything else feels weird. Sorry, Mavis Beacon.

More updates on the house, et al as I remember funny things to say. I leave now with two requests:

Request the First:
If I haven't spoken to you in a while, I apologize, but do drop me a line and say "hi," or let me know how you're doing. If you're in Tanzania, please tell me how Tanzany it is. If you're in New York, how New Yorky. You get the drift. I miss you, and I'm terrible at communicating. You can try to phone me, but only if you're willing to suffer the consequences (I am *terrible* at speaking on the phone. It's a real hazard).

Request the Second:
Please throw up a prayer or some good thoughts where prayer and good thoughts are needed. These are strange and crazy times for many of us, and I'm sure good thoughts would be much appreciated by many.

OK, that's it for real. I'm off to go unpack... OH! Actually, I forgot one more thing. If you're wondering about the title of this post, I said that because I've been watching "Planet Earth," the BBC documentary. OH. EM. GEE. It is just amazing. If you haven't seen it, go buy or rent it. Like, right now. And get the one narrated by David Attenborough, because he blows Sigourney Weaver out of the water.

That's it for real for real.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The end of an era... and pictures!

Hello again.

So, almost exactly one year ago today, I was "surfing the web," as the cool kids say, and I stumbled across the site 43 Things. Now, I'm as much for goal setting as the next guy, but I wasn't about to go write a list of 43 things I wanted to do and then post them online. However, I was *very* bored, so I made a list, folded it up, and stuck it in my wallet, where it remains today. As of this precise moment, I have completed three of those 43 things. Well, sort of three and two halves, but that's too complicated to explain. In case you were wondering (and I know you were), some of my "Things" include visiting the Galapagos Islands, owning a horse, making my own paper, and learning how to tie a Windsor Knot. So, real Earth-shattering things we're talkin' about here.

Anyway, #11 on the list--which I have now had the extreme satisfaction of crossing off--was "Find one thing every day that makes me happy and record it for a year." I know. It's a bit new-agey, all bubble baths and Enya and finding my chakra. But despite the extreme schmaltz factor (gnfab?), it was actually a really fun exercise. I stapled six pieces of paper together and toted it around for a full year. And this list went everywhere with me. This list has enough frequent flier miles to book its own vacation. And it has enough memories to make even the most Tin Man-esque of us all (Chi) shed a bit of a tear. Yeah, it's been a good year.

Proof that The Happy List exists:

Further proof:
So, yeah. That's it. Handwritten, front and back, pretty much one day per line (though some days required two). 366 entries (pesky leap year). I'm thinking about getting it laminated. Or framed. Or something. Either way, it's an accomplishment. Doing things over the span of one year always feels good. In high school, I didn't eat red meat for the year. As soon as that quest was over (my first meal back was a McDonald's hamburger--hardly red meat, I know), I decided not to drink pop for a year. And then the third year, I wanted to not eat candy, but could never agree with myself on the definition of candy (does gum count? What about mints? These are tough questions).

I highly recommend that everyone start a Happy List. It takes a lot of dedication, and many have attempted this quest and failed (Marielle, Megan, I feel for you). But it's worth it in the end. Maybe some day I'll comb through it and compile a list of people who made The List, and we can see once and for all who makes me The Most Happy. Place your bets now...

In other news, I chopped off all my hair. Or, 10-12 inches of it at least. I love it, but you all are the ultimate judge and jury:

Apologies for the obvious self-portrait. At least I didn't take an emo picture of myself in the mirror, à la MySpace. And here's a weird-ish picture that sort of shows the back of it and actually does utilize the mirror. Whoops:

I guess that's about it. I also guess this means that Real Life (capital R, capital L) is about to begin. Finishing Institute and the Happy List, cutting off all my hair... It's the end of one chapter and the start of a new one. Scary stuff, but I'm excited.

This might be my last post before Charlotte, though Chi wants me to put up maps as I take my drive across the country. I think she's probably also imagining me posing with small-town locals as I go eat Kentucky's best hot dogs and see the world's largest ball of twine (that's in Kansas, by the way). That would be fun... Stay tuned?


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Semi-Vegetative State, Day 4

Breaking News: Long-time readers (and/or people who know too much about me) will know that since the mysterious She's The Man disappearance of aught-eight (Steve Lin?!?), I have been scouring the globe for a replacement copy to purchase, of course keeping with my "No DVDs for more than $10" rule. Well, today I found one, so you all can let out that breath now.

Rock Band News: Astute observers will have deduced that I am, in fact, back in Kansas now. Hence the semi-vegetative state. Seriously, the most productive thing I have done has been to jury rig (yes, I spelled that right) our microphone and one of the guitars together for some sweet Rock Band action. I can only sing and play together on songs that I know well, so rest assured these walls have heard some great renditions of "Say It Ain't So." Rivers Cuomo '99-'06 would be proud. Or not.

Regardless of my skills (or lack thereof), I have a newfound respect for rock stars. And by "rock stars," I mean the real ones who play their own instruments and sing at the same time. That ish is HARD! Also, it was literally impossible for me to just stand there and sing/play. I had to move around and tap my toes and stuff. I looked ridiculous, to be sure, but I was all alone, so I guess it doesn't really matter! And yes, I did get into it and grab the mic and go all Steven Tyler on a few songs. It was pretty sweet.

Institute Wrap-Up: Final thoughts. Hmm. Am I glad it's over? Yes. Yes, I am. Do I miss parts of it? Yes, absolutely. Oh sure, there are parts I don't miss, can't miss, won't miss. But I met some really awesome people down there in Hot-lanta, and unfortunately many of them are not in the Charlotte corps. Some field trips to Jacksonville and Miami might be in order for the fall. They'll all be research trips, of course, so I can Continually Increase my Effectiveness! (For those un-indoctrinated, Continually Increasing Effectiveness is one of TFA's Core Values)

At Closing Ceremonies, the Managing Director of Institute asked us to think of one of our students from this summer, then to picture where he or she would be in ten years. I picked a student who is tremendously bright, but suffers from a lack of confidence, among other things. This is the student who told me that his former teacher said he wouldn't pass the CRCT (the test that moves them on to 6th grade) because "Mexicans can't do well on the test." He is the same student who asked me why George Bush hates Mexicans, which made me laugh for a solid fifteen seconds. "We don't have enough time to talk about that," I told him before diving back into Miltie Math-head, Football Hero. Anyway, this kid is just amazing. He spoke at our school assembly on the last day--the only kid picked to speak--and he had us all in tears because he was so genuine and so grateful.

So I picked him, and I thought about where he might be in ten years. That would make him 22, so maybe he's about to graduate from college? My co-teachers and I spent two mornings talking about our colleges, the stuff they offered, ways to get financial aid (everyone was blown away by Harvard's financial aid initiative--go Fausty!), etc. As my co-teacher Kris finished talking about her school, this kid's eyes brightened and he says, "I want to go there!" It was great. So as the Director of Institute asks us to picture our students' futures, this is what I'm imagining. Needless to say, it brings a smile to my face.

Then, instead of saying something along the lines of "You should be so proud! Look what you've done in only five weeks!" she says this: "I know we're all feeling the same thing: uncertainty. There is a great deal of uncertainty about this child's future. This is the uncertainty we all feel, and why we are in this program."


On the one hand, I agree with that sentiment. Because of the schools that these kids will go to, because of pressures at home and from society, because they just got the short end of the stick in many cases, there is no telling where my bright young student will be in 10 years. College? Jail? They are perhaps equally likely. But come on! Where is the optimism? After 5 weeks of relentless work, where is that beacon of hope that says, "You've made a difference in this child's life"?? That's what I was looking for at Closing Ceremonies. That's what I feel was missing during a lot of Institute. Not always from the TFA bureaucrats, but from my fellow teachers. I constantly heard things like, "I can't believe so-and-so is in 5th grade. He's dumb. He can't read. He shouldn't move on." Pessimism confronted me at every turn--from one co-teacher in particular.

Look, people, these kids already have enough hardship on their plates. They don't need their teachers' disbelief added to the baggage society is already heaping on their shoulders. I know it's hard. I know there are immense challenges ahead. But if you for one second doubt your students' abilities to succeed, you are in the wrong job. And that's all I've got to say about that.

  • I know I said I would do a Happy List post today, July 15. However, it has come to my attention that said post must be pushed back at least until tomorrow. Stay tuned.
  • My brother's blog is too clever for me to follow. But you should read it anyway, because it's hilarious. Also, he shouted me out in his first post, and McCallies stick together.
  • Wall-E was really, really good.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Will update for real as soon as I can process this.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

It's Been Such a Long Time...

Yes, I am alive, and pretty well. I apologize for the extended absence, but stuff kept happening that distracted me from what should have been my #1 priority (this blog, obvi).

1) Big News (!) I found out the school where I will teach in the fall, and it looks SO cool. Yes, I realize that it might be foolish to say that this school "looks cool," since it undoubtedly has some serious issues that need to be addressed. But it's in a program that makes it an "Academy of World Studies," and here's what that means:
The choice theme program features student exposure to other cultures, traditions and heritage around the world. At each grade level, K-5, students will focus on one particular country or continent. Curriculum concepts and skills will be integrated through the studies of countries and continents, including their literature, arts and history. Each child will have the opportunity to acquire a richer and more meaningful awareness, understanding, acceptance and respect for diverse populations. Caring, sharing and cooperation will be fostered as students develop this global perspective.
WOW! Talk about right up my alley, yeah? In the fantasy world inside my head, I get assigned to the "Middle East/North Africa" grade and I teach my kids how to speak Arabic. Of course, this means I would have to remember how to speak Arabic... Yikes! Still don't know what grade level I'll be teaching, but the more I think about it, the more I would like 4th or 5th. I think that would be best, for reasons that are quite lengthy and involved. Just trust me on this one.

2) There are three (3) more days of Institute. To say that the mood here is overjoyed would be an understatement (did anyone notice that literary construction--the juxtaposition of overjoyed and understatement? Chi, it's like "overeager underclassman"!!!)

Anyway, we're all very happy. Of course, it's a happy-sad feeling, since I'm head-over-heels in love with my kids and I'm going to miss them so much. They took their CRCT retest today, aka the test that determines whether or not they move to 6th grade, aka the whole reason we're here this summer. We're all incredibly nervous, and the worst thing is that we won't even find out the results for weeks. AH! What agony!! The poor kids--you're not supposed to start stressing about tests until the SAT, and even then... No Child Left Behind (glory and wonder that it is) is making teachers and kids so paranoid about standardized tests, and it's definitely going to be a challenge in the future. Teaching to the Test is a strategy that I'm not 100% comfortable with...

3) There hasn't been enough funny in this post, and for that I apologize. We talked about a phonemic/literacy strategy today involving blending sounds together to make nonsense words, so I spent *literally* eight hours running around school muttering/yelling, "BLOIST!" in a British accent. Is my mind slowly exiting the premises? Why yes, yes it is...

4) I'm sorry, #3 should not have been included in this post.

5) There have been a few interesting additions to the gnfab (good name for a band) list, including:
  • Raffle Bag
  • Incongruous Juxtaposition
  • Spoiler Alert
  • Something With Puppets
  • Large Group of Asians
Related note: All credit for this idea goes to Dave Barry. Check out his infinitely superior list here. My list is currently at 132 entries. If only I had the desire/talent/inclination/will power/free time to start a band....

6) Today's Daily Bit of Meta (DBoM): Garmin and Chipotle are co-sponsoring a team in the Tour de France. Today, my friends and I used a Garmin GPS to drive to a Chipotle. Discuss.

That's all I've got for now. To those of you who know about my Happy List project, you'll be dismayed to find out that it has not been updated since June 19, so I must fix this grievous situation. For those of you not in the know, tune in on July 15...

Missing you all,

Monday, June 30, 2008

Great success

What a fantastic weekend. I got to escape Institute and go back to Charlotte, Spain won the Euro, and... oh yeah, my awesome roommates and I signed an awesome lease with the most awesome landlords for the most awesome house ever, and it's totally awesome.

Yeah. That's ours. All 3 Bedrooms, 3.5 Bathrooms of it. Did I mention it's awesome?

Here are some pictures I surreptitiously took of the inside. Click on the pictures to get a bigger version:

Our gorgeous Kitchen

Our cozy Breakfast Nook

Our spacious Dining Area
Our excellent Living Room
What the pictures don't really show are the following things:
  • Fireplace (surely to be used during the bitter Charlotte winters?)
  • Balcony (hopefully with a to-be-installed porch swing)
  • Bedrooms with vaulted ceilings.
  • HUGE bathrooms and closets. Seriously. If anyone comes to visit, you might get a better sleep in the Master Bathtub than on a couch or air mattress.
Every mile we drove on the way back to Atlanta was more painful than the last. We just can't wait to get back to Charlotte. The good news is that it's just about three weeks away. Book your tickets now--the Hotel 1924 is filling up fast!

Semi-related note: Why is it just a breakfast nook? Why can't it be a lunch or dinner nook? Or coffee nook? This is a question I have never asked myself until now. Think about it and get back to me.

Friday, June 27, 2008



I'm off to Charlotte to find a place to live. Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I've got to admit it's getting better...

... A little better all the time.

(It can't get much worse)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The most ridiculous thing I have ever witnessed...

I know what you're thinking: blogging at 1:30 in the afternoon? Miss McCallie, you must be breaking the rules! Rest assured that I am back in the comfort of my room and no, I'm not playing hooky. I just wanted to give you all a shockingly hilarious picture of what the mentality is right now.

A week ago Friday (i.e. at the end of our first week of teaching), our elementary school got the terrific news that our bus would be leaving at 6:50 instead of 6:15. I never thought I would see a group of people happier than we all were that day. Boy, was I wrong.

According to our calendar, our first afternoon session today was called "Creating a Welcoming Environment." Great. We're two weeks into this thing, and NOW you're going to teach us how to welcome the students? There was much grumbling in the halls. We file into the *freezing* cold auditorium and are greeted with a "Do Now"--usually a moment for reflection or discussion in partners or groups. The question for today: "What does TFA mean to you?" We're all feeling like we've answered this question a few times, so there's a bit of eye rolling. Nevertheless, we all turn to each other and start to "discuss." Snark abounds.* A few people are asked to share, and we get some standard responses. "TFA means being a catalyst for change." "TFA means hard work." etc. etc. Our facilitator nods her head. Good work, good work. "Well," she says, "to us, TFA means Totally. Free. Afternoon."

The place erupts. It was like Oprah's Favorite Things episode: "EVERYONE IN HERE IS GETTING A NEW CAR!" I'm pretty sure our decibel level rivaled a jet engine at 100', or at least a Pneumatic Riveter at 4'... No joke, people were crying at the thought of having four "free" hours this afternoon. Obviously, it's awesome, and I'm *so* happy to be sitting here instead of in a session. I just got such a kick out of the overall reaction. The look on some people's faces was like, "The birth of my first child will not rival the happiness I feel at this moment." It's like that scene in Shawshank where they get to have a beer on the roof after they've re-tarred it. Never you mind that we soon will have to go back into prison--for now, there is elation. Thank you, TFA!!!

*Snark Abounds: good name for a band? Better or worse than The Pneumatic Riveters?

Monday, June 23, 2008

See how they run!

Well, as I alluded to in the last post, I'm getting better and better at determining exactly what is frustrating me about this little shindig. I unleashed my theory on poor Dad the other day, but I think it boils down to me feeling stifled. Or stymied. Or some other sti/sty word that I will perhaps think of in the middle of the night. Basically, I find myself bereft of the ability to be creative. Muffled. Forced to think inside the box. I understand why I feel like this, and I also understand that TFA has an incredibly hard job teaching 600 novices how to become decent teachers in 5 weeks (a job I very much appreciate). But still.

Since I'm still trying to enforce my self-imposed moratorium on complaining, I'll cut it off here, and instead let you know what I've been doing in order to avoid thinking about how frustrated I am:
  1. Baking. My roommates love me.
  2. Watching Movies. This is pure escapism. I have purchased no fewer than 11 movies while at Institute, and I'm slowly making my way through them. Something to know for the future: I think my greatest weakness might be $5-7 DVDs. Do not let me near the Wal-Mart entertainment section or I will go crazy. I don't even want to tell you some of the less-than-stellar titles I almost picked up because they were only $5. Also, Amazon was having a great sale (thanks for all the gift certificates, family!)
  3. Teaching Myself to Draw. If talent with a pencil is a genetic trait, I should probably have it. So I'm trying to unlock that part of myself. Today was my first lesson, and--speaking as the teacher and student--I must say it went... OK. At this stage in the game, I'm googling peoples' line drawings and copying them. I found sketches of a cartoonish man and woman on someone's blog and did my best. For some reason, I can only draw sad eyes. Perhaps all the characters that inhabit Imagination Town have had some sort of recent trauma. The woman's ears looked nice, though. The man kind of looked like a cartoon Brad Pitt with Conan O'Brien's hair. I haven't figured out whether or not this is a good thing... Oh, and I'm awesome at eyebrows. Probably the least helpful part of the face to know how to draw, but I've got it down.
Follow-up question for self: Is there such thing as a helpful part of the face to know how to draw? Must think on this one.

DNS: I had sushi for the first time on Friday. Yes, I managed to avoid it in the Greenhouse Cafe for four years, though the end-of-the-year Board Plus Surplus (Board SurPlus?) always tempted me. But I did it right and went to a real sushi restaurant (which was really cool, by the way, though I'm not entirely comfortable with the tagline "Food. Fun. Flirt." for a restaurant... Discuss...) ANYWAY, it was... surprisingly good. I'm 98% sure I ordered the lamest one on the menu (aka the one that tasted most like chicken), but hey, at least I tried!

Totally Awesome Person of the Week (TAPoW): Fellow fontophile Megan, for sending me this link after my last post.

And now, of course, it is well past my bedtime. Must wake up tomorrow and do it all over again.

Please let me know how you all are doing, and whether or not your fifth graders are able to make inferences...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Go crazy is what I will do

This morning, we had the kids write what they wanted to be when they grew up. It was like pulling teeth.
Teacher: “What do you want to be?”
Student: “I don’t know.”
T: “You have no idea?”
S: Shakes head
T: “Well, what about a doctor? Lawyer? Teacher?”
S: No, no, heck no (ouch)
T: “What does your mom do?”
S: “She’s a police officer. I don’t want to do that because she’s already doing that.”

Finally, I got one of them to say “builder,” which I turned into “architect.” So now this kid wants to be an architect. But not really. Mainly he just wanted to finish the assignment.

Regardless, the activity got me thinking. In eighth grade, my Enrichment teacher Bob “Bobcat” Metcalf had us write an essay about what we wanted to be when we grew up and why. He said that in all his years teaching (they were many, FYI), not one of his students had ever become what they said they would in eighth grade. I distinctly remember thinking that this was a challenge, and I was SO SURE that I would be the first one to stroll triumphantly back into Blue Valley Middle School (at the ripe old “grown up” age of 25, probably) and proudly, loudly proclaim that I had done it. I also distinctly remember the profession I was so profoundly convinced would be my life’s work: Pediatric Ophthalmologist.


If you will grant me leave to defend myself, I will say that my second choice was lawyer, and if Dr. Dave finally breaks my spirit, law school is something I might consider (See, Dad? I’m thinking about it!) I don’t my think that coming back in with my second choice would satisfy Mr. Metcalf’s challenge, but I’m sure he’d be happy that I’m a teacher.

It just goes to show that you really never know what’s going to come next. Even at the beginning of college, when the teaching idea was beginning to ferment in my mind, I couldn’t have had any idea that I would be here right now, mainly because I had never heard of Teach for America. Also, if I compare the idea of my being a teacher to a bottle of wine, I guess that makes a 2004 vintage. It was a good year for my mind grapes (20 points to the first person to comment with the reference!)

I had some negative things to say today because I think I’m finally getting to the point where I can pinpoint exactly what is frustrating me about this program. However, I think I’ve got to call a moratorium on complaining, at least for the time being. You don’t spend your precious minutes reading this blog to hear me moan about my life, especially not when you could be watching reality TV (::cough:: Marielle ::cough::) If you really want to know what irks me, or if there are any potential applicants out there who would like an accurate comment on this program, please let me know. As a reminder/clarification: I would still recommend TFA to almost anyone, and there is nary a doubt in my mind that at its core, it is an outstanding program. I’m just sayin’.

Now, for our DNS: What ever happened to Fruitopia??? That stuff was so good. I think it was probably less than zero percent real fruit juice, but it sure was tasty. And the bottles used such a cool font. They had Fruitopia machines in some of the lines at Worlds of Fun—I bet they’ve switched to Pepsi now (vom). Another flashback: Who remembers those ads for bottled water that went, “Hungry for life, thirsty for NAYA!” Those commercials were awesome. I miss certain beverages of the ‘90s.

Speaking of the ‘90s, an update on an earlier item: Gina says our generation is called “The Millennials,” while Pat Z. thinks we are Gen Y. The debate rages on…

Well, it’s Thursday afternoon and I don’t have much due tomorrow, so I think I might relax now. What a novel concept! I hope you all are doing well and still celebrating the Celtics' incredible victory.

Miss McCallie out.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Remember Well This Day.

This is the day I officially became a teacher. This is the day when I stood in front of a classroom and delivered my lesson plan. This is the day I finally confirmed to myself that Teach for America was the right choice for me. Whoa...

Some thoughts: It was awesome. No matter what comes in the next few weeks of Institute, no matter what comes in the fall, or next spring, or next year, I need to remember the feeling of today, which--as aforementioned--is awesome.

It's really incredible how much this is preparing me for the fall, and yet how much it is *not * preparing me. For instance, in the fall I will have 15-20 kids, all at different levels of comprehension and fluency. Right now, I have one child (who is incredibly bright and an eager participant when he's given texts that challenge him). In the fall, I will have a self-contained classroom unit* where I will teach reading, math, writing, science, social studies, etc. Right now, I teach reading. In the fall, I will probably be working in Charlotte's "Inner City" (though it all looked pretty nice to me). Right now, I teach in a gorgeous school in the middle of what seems to be one of Atlanta's wealthiest areas. It's not the school most of the kids attend, just where they have summer school. Anyway, that's just what's going through my mind.

Confession: I feel, at times, mildly guilty for not being as stressed as other people. I think Harvard really prepared me for this experience--all the stress going around here makes me think (fondly, to be sure) of dear Harvard during those last days of Reading Period, when all the papers are due and finals are just around the corner. Except here, I can't lounge about all day and then work all night. No, it's quite the opposite. But cut out the lounging about. Yeah, that's it. I'm just trying to stay positive. It's going to be just as stressful come August, but if you get frustrated or spend all your time complaining about how much you have to do, it won't get done. I know, I know, I'm a bit of a hypocrite, since I've spent much of this blog griping about TFA. But... still.

Clarification: I don't actually feel guilty. But I do feel bad that they're so stressed. I'm giving them chocolate.

OK, that was a little too much maturity and relevance. Let's turn to our daily non sequitur (DNS): Atlanta is a shapeshifter. I'm not kidding. Any time I'm driving around (riding, rather, as I have no car), I look out the window and the city looks miles away. 15 seconds later, we're smack in the middle of downtown. Also, there seems to be a vast expanse of low-story buildings between two centers of hi-rises. When we were leaving the movies the other day, I remarked that it was like Atlanta proper and then Narnia over to the east. Of course, we had just seen Narnia, so maybe this wasn't the most creative comment, but it was striking nonetheless.

Happy thought: I think I have found a roommate, and we may have even found a place to live. More coming on this soon...

Sporting thoughts of the day: 1) Tiger Woods is unbelievable. 2) I am so bummed that all those guys withdrew from the draft to go back to UNC. Cam, you're going to have to cheer even louder next year, OK??

Now to do some laundry,

*Self-Contained Classroom Unit: good name for a band?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

These are the days of miracle and wonder

Well. Week One done. Never in my life had I been more excited for Friday than I was yesterday, and that's counting my TGIF-fueled youth (Oh Sabrina, how we miss you and your teenage witchy ways...) That's not to say that the week was bad, just exhausting. Very exhausting. And I'm getting *much* more sleep than a lot of people. I think I'm still averaging 6-7, whereas one of my roommates slept for FORTY-FIVE MINUTES on Thursday night. That, friends, is not even a nap. I think I might be getting used to the whole waking up early thing, but who knows. For a deeper look at Circadian rhythms and sleep cycles, please see Naila's thesis.

Anyway, it's the weekend now, and I have been successful in my quest to avoid work since Friday at 5. Spent today watching the Euro with a few of the Charlotte dudes (side note: I see you, Gina! Other side note: go Spain. Other, other side note: Sorry, Chris. Looks like the Motherland is out). Then I watched "Dirty Dancing" and I just got back from seeing Prince Caspian. Productive day, no?

Some thoughts on "Caspian":
  • Centaurs: awesome. Lady centaurs: lame.
  • Was that river god thingy supposed to be Jesus? Because it looked like Gandalf. I'm sure there's a joke to be made here about good friends JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis, I'm just not sure what it is...
  • Old school warfare seems so inefficient. And I feel bad for the horses.
  • Ben Barnes. Also, Marielle, you were totally right about the guy who plays Edmund.
I think I had much more constructive things to say, but I can't seem to remember them now. I'm incredibly nervous for Monday, which will be my first day as an actual teacher. You know, you can plan and plan and plan, but who knows what's going to happen. Also, there's a good chance that due to the fact that four of the kids in my class go to ESL for an hour a day, I will be teaching ONE kid. Yes, one. No child left behind, for real.

I'm sure I'll be back tomorrow when I take a much-needed break from finishing my lesson plans and classroom management plans and investment plans (that's investment as in getting the kids invested in the goal, not what I'm going to do to turn my paltry salary into big bucks). However, now I'm going to go have some fun with my fellow future teachers...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Letters Unlikely to be Answered

Dear You-Know-Who (not Voldemort),

Please stop making me go to these reflection sessions. Life can be challenging--I am aware.


Dear Microsoft Word,

Please stop being completely useless when I need you most. I promise that it is not hard to let my text wrap around the picture. I promise!


Dear Steve Jobs,

Thank you for releasing a faster and cheaper iPhone. I would like to buy one now.


Dear Environment,

I would like to apologize in advance for consuming so many of your resources this summer. Please know that I will recycle as many of them as I can and perhaps make my students plant a tree...

All best,

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

In the Beginning...

I felt like a teacher for the first time today. Yes, I have yet to interact with the kids. Yes, the amount of things I need to learn is beyond staggering. Yes, I am so exhausted that I was kind of unaware I could feel anything... But despite all this, when I went to the Resource Room on campus today and checked out three books to start lesson planning, I really felt like a teacher. Was it amazing? Sort of. I'm too cynical to be truly moved by all the super-duper feelings that run rampant here at Institute, which may or may not be to my detriment. But it was cool nonetheless.

Let me back up. I realize I've done a shoddy job of keeping everyone informed on the specifics of what I'm doing this summer. Institute is Teach for America's massive teacher boot camp. For five weeks, future Corps Members from Atlanta, Charlotte (that's me!), Memphis, Jacksonville, Eastern North Carolina, and Miami-Dade descend on the Georgia Tech campus in the heart of Atlanta and work absolutely grueling hours in the aim of helping to close the nation's achievement gap. The official TFA literature puts the purpose/mission into much better words than I can, so I encourage you to do a bit of Googling if you're so inspired...

Anyway, at Institute this summer, we not only learn, we teach. I found out yesterday I'll be teaching 5th grade reading at an Atlanta summer school starting on Monday. The nuances of what exactly I'll be teaching are still a bit murky, but I will have real, live students in my classroom, and I'll be the one they're looking to for inspiration and instruction. In a word: Yikes.

Because I want to give you the most accurate picture (and because I want you to feel sorry for me), here is a typical daily schedule for this first week:
  • 5:30 am (yes, ante meridian): Wake up. The only times I have ever been awake this early include those rare nights when I just didn't sleep at all and the occasional morning flight. Do I have the willpower to drag myself out of bed before the sun is up? Hardly. But if we miss the bus, we have to pay for our own cab to the school. Suffice it to say that my stinginess just barely edges out my tiredness. For now, at least. Let it also be known that 5:30 is cutting it really close (duh), and many people are waking up at 5 am or earlier. Ouch.
  • 5:45 am: Eat breakfast. Why, yes, I *do* get ready in fifteen minutes. I have finally learned the importance of preparing for the morning before I go to bed. This might be because I am not coherent enough at 5:30 am to pick out an outfit, let alone pack up my materials.
  • 6:15 am: Load the bus. Don't even get me started on this. The bus has yet to leave before 6:30, though we've been told time and time again that the doors will mercilessly shut on any and everyone at 6:15 sharp.
  • 7 am (ish): Arrive at school. It's a beautiful building, though perhaps more structurally complicated than that Escher-esque room at the end of Labyrinth.
  • 7:15 am - 4:30 pm: Work. It's nearly bedtime now and these nine hours deserve a proper unpacking, so I'm going to fudge this section a little bit. If I ever find the motivation to update this blog, you better believe I'll detail what's going on during this time. As a brief summary, we're spending time learning about TFA's mission and how best to implement it in the schools this summer and fall. We get time to plan our lessons and all that, which is great, but there are severe flaws in the system. I spent a good 40 minutes today detailing said flaws in an email to the School Director that might never get sent, but we'll see. They're working hard and they're working us hard, and I just want to make sure our limited time is being spent well. Is that too much to ask? Who knows...
  • 4:30 pm - 5:45 pm: Travel back to school and eat dinner. Not much to say here except that the Georgia Tech Dining Staff know how to make a mean pasta salad.
  • 5:45 pm - 11 pm: There are usually some sessions in the evening. Today we had Opening Ceremonies and Wendy Kopp (the Founder and CEO) came to speak. I'd seen her speak at Harvard and she's always inspiring, but at the same time, I kind of wished I had been napping. But at this point in my life, I kind of always wish I were napping. No offense, Wendy! As the weeks progress and we get into actual teaching, I assume we'll burn the midnight oil doing lesson plans. The good news is that we're working in groups for a lot of it. The bad news is that none of us have ever planned a lesson before, so we're about as clueless as Cher Horowitz herself (to the old-timers reading this, many apologies for the thoroughly Gen X reference--or am I Gen Y? No one ever taught me this).
  • 11 pm - 5:30 am (for now): Sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat.
That's all I have time and energy for now. I need to skim these lovely tomes I've just picked up (including The Twits by Roald Dahl!) and--most importantly--I need to go to sleep.

If you're reading this, you're probably someone I love and miss very much. If I don't know you, you're kind of a creeper, but welcome nonetheless. To those of you who are postally inclined, please email me and I will send you my address here so you can send me lots of letters and pictures and all that good stuff.

For now, Miss McCallie out.