August 20, 2011

Year Three Begins...

Currently writing to you from somewhere over Tennessee-ish area at about 30,000 feet, with obligatory screaming baby in the background. Obvio. Because that’s just how travel is. Despite only having been back in Colombia for 12 days I am headed to Minnesota for my friend Maria’s wedding this Friday! YAY!

Two weeks ago I left Minnesota at 6 AM, after 75 minutes of sleep since I am terrible at both goodbyes and packing in time. I spent six hours with my co-worker, Stetson, in the lacking-free-WIFI Miami airport before a joyful reunion with Kelsi when she landed from LAX. One last stop at Starbucks later and we were seated in 11D, 11E and 11F for the three and a half hour flight back to Cali.

Year three of teaching in Cali, Colombia had begun.

When I accepted the job to teach 8th grade math in Colombia I thought two year would feel like eternity. Turns out that it felt like about two months, and so when the time came to decide whether to renew my contract or not, I decided to stay for a third year.

I am excited about this school year for many reasons both personally and professionally, but here is a little preview:

  • I am the 8th grade team leader again this year, which means responsibility and work, but also a very active role in the direction of the school year.
  • For the first time ever, my school decided to offer both an advanced Algebra class in addition to a support Algebra class. For lack of better explanation at this point, this means that instead of teaching the exact same thing five times in a row, I will teach the same thing to three of my five sections, but the other two will be somewhat different both in teaching methods and pace. I am excited for this opportunity as an educator. Also, happily, my students will not be with their math class group all day long, which means just because you are in advanced math does not mean you only have classes with those students all day long. After all the research I have read about the benefits of heterogeneous as opposed to homogeneous grouping, this is incredibly important to me because it means my students still have variety in who their peers are.
  • Math journals. Before you get that terrified look on your face that my 8th graders got when I said these words on the first day of school, just hear me out. Since my days of student teaching in college I have realized the importance of writing (and reading) in all content areas, not just in language arts class. Math is probably the class where this is most frequently ignored because there is not an obvious and easy way to incorporate literacy in mathematics. However, I am making it happen this year. In addition to a regular notebook for class, my students will have small math journals to be kept in the classroom for use on an (at minimum) weekly basis. I am not 100% sure of all the specifics yet, but I know I want my journal prompts to be things like “Write a paragraph explaining how to do the following problem to a friend” or “Explain the difference between linear equations and linear inequalities in complete sentences” or “There are many different strategies a person might use to solve this problem. Think of at least two and explain both of them. Then, choose the strategy you would use and explain why you chose it.” Etc. Suggestions welcome! :)
  • Say it with me: A-R-G-E-N-T-I-N-A. Winter break 2011-2012. It’s happening. Buy your plane tickets now if you would like to meet Kelsi and I anywhere in the country. Some of our priorities include a biking tour on Mendoza wineries, exploring the cultural and foodie offerings of Buenos Aires, roaming the streets of Bariloche, checking out the falls of Iguazu, traveling by train and toasting the new year together!
  • New colleagues/friends. As always happens with the start of a new school year, there are new people to work with and get to know. I didn’t write very much about this at the end of the school year, but the people who left to pursue other interests/jobs were important to me. Very important to me. They had all been in Colombia as long or longer than me. Many of my best memories and experiences in Colombia involved people like Tara, Angie, Caleb, Steph, Scott and Catie. However, in just two weeks, the new people seem like they are going to fit right in at school and in Cali. Goodbyes are and always will be hard, but hellos are just so much fun!
  • Kelsi and I stayed in our same apartment, while we are still completely in love with for so many reasons including but not limited to our awesome patio. I am excited for the consistency this brings to our lives (getting your internet service moved to a new address in Colombia takes about three weeks minimum) as well as the time to spend living with Kelsi. In just two years of knowing each other and one year of living together she has become one of the most important people in my life. When the day comes that she no longer sleeps in the room right next door to mine I know I will go through serious withdrawal (reference this summer when we didn’t speak for days at a time and I felt like I had so much to tell her all the time!), so I want to make all our roommate time together as fabulous as possible!
  • Living in Cali, a city I now feel like I know enough about to really own it. To feel like it is really and truly a place I call home happily. A place where I have a favorite restaurant, a favorite bar, a favorite movie theater, a favorite coffee shop, (a few) favorite happy hour spots, and fabulous friends, both Colombian and ex-pats.
  • Speaking Spanish. While my Spanish skills are far from perfect, I am now at a point where I feel comfortable calling myself proficient. I am able to translate most everything from school meetings to non-Spanish-speaking colleagues. I can write emails to parents in Spanish. I just wrote two days worth of sub plans with limited help from I talked my way onto a direct Cali-Miami flight and got bumped to first class just this morning. This year I want to get better at speaking grammatically correct Spanish, so as not to sound like a 4-year-old during moments like Open House for parents, Parent-Teacher conferences, and just life in general.

…so there you have it. A preview of all the fabulous-ness year three has in store for me to experience and for YOU to read about here. It's going to be great!

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