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,