Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Semana Santa Empieza!!

I'm on spring break! I'm currently sitting in my hostel room in Malaga because I left a day earlier then I wanted to. Spain is having a national strike tomorrow, and there's a pretty good chance buses won't be running, and if I missed a bus tomorrow, I couldn't make my flight from Malaga to Munich on Friday. So, I get a bonus free day to hang out in Malaga, but I am missing some school, which is depressing.

I love my kids. Today was apparently the day to ask me questions about the States in 6th grade science/history. They're learning about the history of Spain and today was about the 19th century (government and culture). I shocked them all when I said that we learned about Picasso's Guernica painting since it's an important piece. 2 of the girls LOVE to say hi to me, and today they copied every move I made. It was both hilarious and weird. If I folded my hands, they did. If I crossed my legs, they did. I'm not sure I love being this kind of role model, but they're sweet and they don't mean anything by it. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery right? One of them wanted to know if people in the States spoke Spanish. When I told her that some did, she wanted to know what people spoke in the UK. The teacher stopped class and made sure everybody remembered where I was from and how far apart the US and the UK are. Apparently I'm the expert on English-speaking culture everywhere! They do love hearing random facts about life here, so I'm hoping I can do a presentation on the States before I leave!

My little kids are just awesome. I'm the rockstar of first and 2nd grades. In Ana's class, we did an Easter egg hunt, and it was hilarious. I hid them all over the room, and they took their little baskets they made and went hunting. They loved seeing where everyone found eggs, and since they had so much fun, we're already planning a pirate one for the Treasure unit! Yay!! I still get told I'm beautiful almost everyday, and it's so sincere every time...they really mean it, so I can't get annoyed with hearing it. I also got kisses blown at me from my first grade art class since I won't see them until after Semana Santa. They're so cute...their teacher is awesome about making a great classroom community, and it shows!

Can't wait to see Tom on Friday! Get ready for an overload of pictures of us in awesome places!


Friday, March 16, 2012


As our wedding, and the weddings of quite a few friends, get closer, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to me to be a wife, and how that doesn't always line up with what Christian society says a wife is.

I was blessed enough to be part of a Christian sorority in college, and I loved that I made amazing, lasting friendships with strong women who inspire me to be a better Christian and woman, but there were some things that I didn't agree with. Our university is in the Bible Belt, so many of the girls are very conservative, and planned to be engaged, if not married, by the time they graduated from college. I knew that's not what I wanted, and I've always said I wanted to be engaged for at least a year, but it's hard to stay true to yourself when people start expecting you to be the next one engaged. I remember sitting through engagement circles and being told afterwards by my friends that they were expecting it to be me. It sucked. I knew why we weren't engaged, and I knew why it wasn't coming soon, but I started feeling like maybe people thought he didn't want to marry me. That sucked too, because I knew I wanted to marry him. He's the only guy in college that I actually called home to tell them I was going on a first date with...I knew he was special from the beginning.

After we both graduated in May of 2010, I started getting impatient. I am naturally impatient, and waiting for anything makes me want to die. Case in point: I wake up early every Christmas morning, and want nothing more than to wake everyone else up as soon as I'm up. (Tom celebrated Christmas with us this year, and thankfully, he's okay with the early morning wake up call.) Tom finally told me I could look at rings, but to not expect it anytime soon. I looked at 1 store and fell in love with a vintage ring that I knew I'd never get. Awesome. That fall we looked at some more stores together, and I realized I'd be waiting a while since I didn't want him to go broke buying a ring, but all the rings I loved were expensive. I tried my best to wait. Then I realized I'd be moving back to Texas in December and didn't know where life was going after that. I needed an engagement. I needed to know there was going to be a future- a definite, planned-out, we're-a-family-now future. I got impatient again. We fought, I cried, Tom was frustrated. It was terrible. He had his reasons and plans and didn't want to share it with me. I needed something concrete, and I wasn't getting it. When he finally proposed, it was totally worth it, and I was thrilled, and the ring is amazing. I would've said yes even if there wasn't a ring though- I was so excited and relieved to know that he wanted to marry me too. (Yes, I overthink things. And yes, I'm slightly dramatic.)

Then I got accepted to Spain. And the wedding date is just under 2 years after we got engaged. That's where we are now, and the long engagement is bringing its own set of pressures and frustrations. There's something really frustrating watching so many people get engaged after us, and married before us. Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled for most of them, and happy for the rest, but it does make me feel like we're doing something wrong. (Realistically, I know we're doing the right thing for us, and the waiting is going to make it so much sweeter when we're finally together). I'm just jealous that everyone else gets their happy day sooner than I do.

I can deal with the waiting. We get to spend a week traveling in Europe together, which is amazing. We can be so happy to be together that the little details of wedding planning that we could get caught up in just don't matter. Who cares if I don't have a theme? We get to become our own family- totally better! But what I can't deal with is the pressure that is being put on us by people with our best interests at heart. I've been told so much here that people can't wait to see pictures of my babies in a year or 2. I just smile, because we're not sure when we're having kids, just that I'm getting a master's degree and we're getting a house first. Along with that, we don't want to rent a house. We're happy with an apartment until we know where we'll be going. As long as it's nicer than a college apartment, we're happy. But somehow that seems to be the minority opinion among the people in our circle. Everyone is renting or buying a house within their first year of being married, and some want to go straight into a house after the wedding. If you have the money for that, I think that's great. But I want something different. I want to be able to move to a new place if we want, or save money for a down payment on our first house. If we can only have 1 first house, I want it to be perfect. I want a place we could see ourselves in for years, not just a place that we're renting because we can.

I'm not discounting people who choose to do these things...that's their lives, and as long as they're happy- I'm happy for them. But when did Christianity tell us this is the only way to be a married couple? Why is it that couples who wait or do something that makes them happy but is against the norm are looked down on? Where does it say that you can't be a godly couple if you don't have your own home filled with babies? I personally need more. I need my identity outside of being a wife- I am thrilled to become Tom's wife, but he proposed knowing that we had separate interests and I have big dreams, and I refuse to give them up just to fit in with the norm.

I love where our lives are going, and I just wish people would consider that just because it's a different place or journey then their lives doesn't make it worse or better. It just makes it our life- full of grad school, apartments, traveling, and way too much happiness. I can't wait for it to start!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

School's in Session

I've had quite a bit of classroom and teaching experience, but I feel like this job is giving me a whole new way to look at things. Different culture means a different approach to learning and education, which is cool, but also throws me off since it's so different than what I learned. I've been pushing myself to get over my "cultural bias" and take away as many new tips and techniques as possible, which has been interesting.

The postcards we sent to AK.
The one "bad" thing I've noticed myself doing is raising my voice more with students. Teachers in Spain raise their voices, and bang on the desks or blackboards, to get attention or to settle a class down. They also have no problem raising their voice to a student if that student isn't behaving. I've been fairly successful at not banging on things to get attention, but I've noticed that my voice gets raised more than I'd prefer and that I have a little less patience with students sometimes. I'm aware of the problem, and I'm really trying to fix it. I love using a countdown to bring them back under control for quite a few reasons: fairly each to teach, even for students who don't completely understand English; they start counting with me, and as I lower my voice, they do too; it gives me 5 seconds to refocus myself on what's going on- not on the frustration I have when they're talking over me. (I've been reading lots of teaching blogs and websites, especially ones focusing on classroom management, and apparently it's been helping me get better with it.)

One of my teachers gave control of the classroom to me for the whole time I was there yesterday. It's 30 minutes right before the recreo (break) and they're 3rd graders, so it's always a little crazy and hectic. She explained what she wanted them to do, and then let me do everything. We're making a "crazy solar system" so the kids had to write a description of their made-up planet. I explained it in English, slowly and with actions, and no one got it. I did it again, supplementing with Spanish, and no one really got it. And then I did an example on the board, in English, with Spanish and we finally got there. Once it clicked, they LOVED the project, and I loved getting to see them so excited about it. That class really likes me, so they love showing me their work, so it's fun to see what they do.

Today, I got the chance to deal more with the emotional needs of students. I normally try to avoid being the teacher kids come to with a problem at recreo, because I can't understand them, but today it kept happening. I got to hear about whose birthday it was from the other kids, say congrats to them, listen to tattling, and even talk to one of my first grade kiddos who was upset because someone didn't want to play with her. I didn't have any great words of advice, but sitting and listening is sometimes all they need.

How cute are the "signatures" over their names? Love those boys!
All of the 2nd graders heard a presentation from the doctor about being healthy, and my teacher was planning with another teacher in the hall while I sat and listened with them. (I was practicing my listening skills, and learning about lice. Gross.) One of my girls came up to me sobbing, and almost hyperventilating, and couldn't even tell me what was wrong. I got her calmed down and apparently she was scared of the doctor because last year she got vaccinated. Oh L., I feel your pain. I cried like you did when I was 21. I let her sit next to me and hold my hand, and told my teacher about it. It happened again though, and my teacher asked me to take her outside and rinse her face and let her calm down. Then another teacher started talking to her, and wouldn't let me take her out, and then took her out and lectured her about how she shouldn't cry.

What should I have done? Disrespected a teacher, who is both older and more experienced, and a REAL teacher, and followed my teacher's directions? I'm still upset about it. I hate the language barrier. I hate that I didn't know how to handle it because it wasn't my student. And I hate that my sweet girl was lectured about not being afraid. It doesn't always work- I was lectured until I turned 23 about how shots weren't bad and I needed to grow up and it didn't help. I had to force myself to get over it, and I'm still working on that.

On a positive note, I had a 6th grade class clap and cheer for me when I brought them copies of their textbook since their projector didn't work and I saved class. I also had art with my adorable first graders, who love to show off their English and tell me all about their lives. And one of my second graders held my hand all the way to the meeting, told me I'm the best teacher, and then talked to me about her favorite season- IN ENGLISH! The ones around her joined in too, so we had a nice review of seasons on our walk. Overall, the day was definitely a win. I am going to miss these kids more than they know.

The pen pal wall. I love this!
The pictures have nothing to do with anything recent, but I forgot to post them, and I love that the first graders can write in cursive, and some of the adorable pictures.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Brain dump

I'm still fighting off this cold I've had since January. I'm ignoring the cold from December since I was better when I was home in Texas- or at least I was too happy and busy to notice it. That means I've been sick for 2 months with a bad cold and a cough and no other symptoms. No fever, no aches, not even a painful cough....there's no symptoms that a doctor could fix, and really, the idea of communicating in Spanish just to be told there's nothing they could do doesn't even sounds worth it to me. So, I'm working through it. I do all my hours for work and my private lesson- I just don't do as much on the weekends or my days off.

Sometimes I worry that my Epstein-Barr Virus is coming back. Not very often, because I tend to believe that if I refuse to acknowledge it then it could never come back. Kind of how I got over it by living my life like I didn't have it. (This strategy only works for non-serious conditions...I don't count my EBV as serious.) I have so many things to do this summer and fall that I can't be sick for them. If I have to be sick, I'm glad it's here while I have the free time to relax and sleep and rest as much as possible. I do miss having people who can help me when I need it though.

I'm so excited about this summer! I get just a few days home, and then I'll be starting my crazy busy summer, and I can't wait! Work, going to friend's weddings, planning and preparing for ours, finding a new job in Oklahoma, moving myself to Oklahoma for good, and hopefully starting my teaching career. That's a lot, but I think I do better when I have a busy schedule, and none of my responsibilities are things I want to give up. I'm already mourning that this is my last summer to work summer camps at HMNS.

There's not really a point to this, I just needed to write about things.