16 December 2012

Tire Fire

Last week we got stuck in traffic because of a tire fire.  It is a usual thing...but do you see the big billowing smoke?

I love Bahrain, Wallah

So my blog is outed.  My students became my Twitter friends (I never use it anymore, so didn't think anything of it).  Well I forgot that my blog was my website listed.  I've only had one student admit to reading it, and he said he wouldn't tell anyone about it, but I may have to go private if it does get out.
When I saw that he had read it I freaked out and immediately read all my past posts.  I mean they aren't the cleanest, or most public, but as I told the student, if I didn't want my life out in the public I shouldn't put it on the I internet.
Now follow my tangent...
At the bar this weekend, I met a guy who said he knew I was an Ahole.  I was a little thrown off guard, insulted (I'm so not) yet flattered (just glad not to be a goody goody), but I decided to just go with it.  Apparently, I give off an attitude?  Well when I go with it I really can be quite an ahole.  Anyways, one of the things this guy was complaining about, about me, was that I liked Bahrain.  First of all, to each his own, but I'm sorry, you are not allowed to judge me and my country, pick one.
He couldn't get over the fact that I thought it was a lot like America.  I go to school, the mall, watch movies, go out to bars, wear what I want, buy what I want, I really do think it is a lot like America.  So while playing my "role" I said he must really miss his girlfriend.  That would be the only reason he couldn't appreciate the awesomeness around him, he was hung up on what he left at home. 
Because that is the only thing Bahrain is missing, my friends and family.  I'm not going home on Friday for food (although I want bacon and home cooking if Joan is asking).  I'm not going home to buy things I miss (although I plan on doing some cheap shopping while I'm there).  I won't go directly to bojangles when I land in NC (although if joe reed wants to split a boberry biscuit i wont turn him down).  I won't rush to see an unedited movie (but i want to see Les Mis).  I will hug the necks of everyone I see though.  I miss people. 
Well anyways, this guy said he didn't have a girlfriend, he just thought Bahrain was a dustbowl of nothing to do. 
Well when you insult girls as an introduction I can only imagine how much positivity you have in your life. 
So lesson: only put info on internet you don't mind people knowing.  Think positively about everyone around you and your surroundings. Hug everyone you love as often as you can.  It is important to make sure everyone knows how much you love them.

03 December 2012

I might lose a few political friends for this one...

I recently read "An intolerable status quo in Bahrain" and was extremely upset that the title did not match the story.*

I'm not political, nor do I support or protest the happenings on of Bahrain, however the line...
"no other country has a greater stake in seeing a peaceful transition to democracy there. And that requires the United States to find its voice."

made me question all the other points that Massimino wrote about in her article.  All of the sudden I was not concerned with the care of the medics, but rather why the 5th fleet is being dragged in to the article? 

Do I believe in Democracy?  Yes I do.  I think it is amazing that we vote for our leaders, we all have a say in what state we live in and rules govern us.  Do I think the US needs to change everyone in the world to their ways?  Heck no.  We have so much we need to take care of that we cannot take on all of the world's struggles.

Should the prisoners be treated fairly?  yes.  Should they be prisoners?  Um, probably not.  Massimino's article from the standpoint of a CEO of Human Rights First is valid and belongs...her talking about the US's next political move?  Not needed. 

Sorry for sounding like a horrible person who doesn't want equal rights spread around, it's not that, but I just think that this line does not belong in this article.  If it had been titled "What the US should do to 'help' Bahrain" I would have felt differently. 

Also, one final comment about this...I have never felt threatened, accosted, belittled, in danger, or persecuted (or any other word to mean unsafe) for being an American here.  My school is safer than in America.  I go places with my friends in groups or with Jay** (who is 6'3" and covered in tattoos, seriously, they avoid us) 90% of the time, so I'm never alone.  I avoid confrontational areas because they are of no interest to me.  So when Ms. Massimino says we are "(i)n a region where threats to U.S. interests abound" she should specify the countries, because I know that UAE and Bahrain are very different than other areas of the Gulf.  

*I knew that the article would be about the unfair treatment of the medics.  Every article is about the unfair treatment of the medics.  

**There was one time I felt unsafe, but it was in broad day light when a drunk Scottish*** guy was hitting on me... 

***Drunk and Scottish go hand in hand

"no other country has a greater stake in seeing a peaceful transition to democracy there. And that requires the United States to find its voice."

22 November 2012

What are you thankful for?

Well it’s a holiday weekend!  I know I am in Bahrain but we still have this weekend off.  Granted I am working on Thanksgiving day (parent conferences at least, no students) but I still have a 4 day weekend.  Ours is for the Ashoora. This weekend is, as my department chair described it me, a “very sad holiday.”  Where I come from the word “holiday” means a time to celebrate, so having a time of mourning as a holiday seems a little odd to me. 

Also if you feel as if I’ve had a lot of time off lately (6 day weekend at the end of October, three day weekend last weekend, 4 day weekend this weekend) it is because we celebrate all Muslim Holidays, Shi’ite and Sunni.  The Ashoora is a traditional Shi’ite Holiday, Sunni’s may or may not celebrate.  Since we are a Shi’ite majority (with a Sunni Government) I find it interesting that we recognize both holidays.  Not sure which should be chosen if we only recognized one set, but I find it interesting.  I also find it interesting that only one of my students recognized this holiday in class. 

This student who recognizes Ashoora is a Shi’ite.  She told me this very quietly, not sure if this how it is done, or if she was embarrassed.  I ask her a lot of questions, so I hope I am not offending her.  During Eid she did Hajj, which is the trip to Mecca.  She was telling me a story about Ashoora, how the whole family was killed to prove faith in God, and she said “Miss you can google it, it is true.”  This statement to me is wrong on so many levels, not the faith part but the fact that she believes it happened just that way, and to prove it to me she is going to show it to me on the internet.  Off topic…anways…This student, Fatima, has been a great guide into traditional Muslim culture.  Her class is pretty non-traditional, they have long curly hair, and talk about risqué things like crude humor and kissing.  I find it refreshing that she can hold on to her faith while her friends are all testing their boundaries.  I worry about her though, because she is limited to her view point.  Her parents are not allowing her to travel outside of Bahrain for college because they do not want her too far from home.  I always worry when parents restrict students’ capabilities due to fear, Muslim or not. 

The past paragraph may have been the most negative I’ve sounded lately.  I’m trying to be happy.  I’m trying to find the good in all, and to see positives.  My friends who are having boy problems may completely disagree with this fact because I am very blunt with them but all in all, I’m trying to find realistic happiness.  I was explaining to Jay what happens in a parent conference when you have 20-30 in one day.  He asked “how do you stay so happy and positive for each new parent?”  I thought about it and really, it doesn’t feel any different than any other day.  You cannot let one class, or one student impact your behavior or attitude towards another class or student. Each time you switch gears to another student or a new class walks in you have to act like this is the beginning and a clean slate for your day.  I am really great at this, however I blow at remembering this in my personal life.  I blame my Mom for this.  She was the only person I could argue with, and it’s funny how much you miss being able to have a fight with someone and know that they will still love you at the end of it.  I could be as mean to her as all get out, she was still my Mom and had to love me.  Now I was also a teenager when she died so we were at the height of yelling and screaming, but it’s strange to go from having that, to not.  However, once I get comfortable with someone, they start to see the “less impressive” me.  I cannot be on 100% of the time, and the people that surround me, that I know love me, suffer from this, I know. 

So why am I telling all about Farfoora and her spirit?  Why mention the Ashoora Holiday? And parent conferences, my Mom and being “on”?   Because I am thankful.

I am thankful for having time off.  While I stress about if I will finish material with students, or if they will remember anything, I do feel refreshed because we have time off. 

I am thankful that my parents brought me up to be strong and test boundaries.  I was never limited to where I could go or what I could do (physically or mentally).  Even coming to Bahrain at 28, I know that they were scared, and sad to see me go, I also know that they love me enough to let me  take the adventure I need.

I am thankful for my traditional students for teaching me about their religion and culture.  I feel I have grown in my acceptance because some (see Eid post) are explaining why things, are the way they are.

I am thankful for my non-traditional students for pushing their boundaries and for seeing what the world has at their feet, yet still being very respectful of their culture, family and faith, which I feel is lacking in America.  
I am thankful for the parents of my students.  My conferences are going very well because the parents are involved and my students are amazing.  I have been told very complimentary things by parents and students.  It is an honor to work them.

I am thankful for Eileen Hartwell who encouraged me to move abroad and calmed my fears that my teaching would be “different.”  My students like my “different” just like she said. 

I am thankful for my Lakewood Montessori family, especially Sheldon, Meg and Katy for our round table discussions that I miss, but what were gave me the confidence to know I could teach, and do professional development and be a great, in all senses of the word, educator.  They did this through their modeling.  I miss the Lakewood family everyday when I do celebrations with my class, when I calmly ask a student why they made a bad life decision, instead of yelling at them, and when I see everyone’s fun updates on facebook and gchat.  Thank you to Susie, Beth, Laine, Lindsay, Josh, Betsy and Liz for keeping me in the Lakewood Loop.

I am thankful for my colleagues that I have met here at Bayan.  They became my instant family.  We have great bus rides, fun walks and quality sofa time.  It is important that we understand, support and believe in each other because we are each other’s family here.  I am so grateful that the people that I am surrounded by are ones that I do understand, support and believe in.

I am thankful for American Thanksgiving in Bahrain tomorrow. Although it is a day late, it will be just as yummy…maybe…I’m in charge of the turkey…in a little itty bitty oven…that only gets to about 150C, even though it says 250C. 

I am thankful that my friends will understand if my turkey sucks. 

I am thankful that KFC delivers 24 hours a day so I can buy chicken if my turkey does suck. 

I am thankful that my friend Joe is back in the states with his family for Thanksgiving, after serving in Afghanistan since April.

I am thankful for the people in my life that are serving, or have served.

I am thankful for my family back home and I am praying for those that have lost some recently.  My cousins Lindsey, Haley and Chip lost their Mom this week after losing their Dad last year.  I’m thankful that Keresa is not in pain anymore, but I’m aching over my cousins’ loss.  My Aunt Kathy also lost her nephew this week, when he died after fighting a fire.  I’m thankful for his heroics, and praying for his young family and their strength to carry on. 

I am thankful for my “daughter” Leah and that we were able to provide support to each other.  I glad she understands my “tough” love. 

I am thankful for my mom, who had me experience good and bad regarding life, so that I can celebrate the good times, and support the bad times.  Without this, I would never have been strong enough to be with Leah, and share so much with her. I am very excited to celebrate all of the good that she is doing too!

I am thankful that I am able to come home at Christmas.  I will spend time with Minnesota family and North Carolina family.  I am so lucky to be able to be afforded the time off, the money and health to travel.

I am thankful for my family who are excited to see me when I am home.  Emily’s reaction of “I can barely read the computer screen through the tears” makes me feel so loved.  Joan can’t wait to have all of her girls home for Christmas, and I can’t wait to see all my girls (Deanna I’m counting you and a glass of wine in this!)

I am thankful for my friends, who I consider my extended family, who are already planning how we can work in millions of hours of catch up time into my short visit.  I have loved the messages from MGC, Bailey, and Ann.

I am thankful that 4 months away is considered too long.

I am thankful for being so blessed. 

And right now, most of all, I am thankful for the catered lunch I am about to enjoy, because it is parent conferences. 

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!  

09 November 2012


Look, Bahrain is pretty, this is right by my house.

08 November 2012


So i officially avoided the election in the states.  And by avoided i mean i had the election smacked in my face more.  It was amazing how involved my kids were (they were even more excited about Illinois and Colorado).  The teachers here were hugging after the announcement too.  I am always am optimiat and felt that both candidates have their good points and their faults, so while yes, i was very happy Obama won, I could see reaons to vote against him. 

Really I am just sad I am not in a probability unit right now so that i could use this cool data?

25 October 2012

Eid Mubarak

If someone asked me why we celebrate Christmas I would have a couple of explanations.  These are from my head, so excuse the misinterpretations, but this is honestly what I would say when someone says why do you celebrate Christmas  I would say it is the time Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus.  The Virgin Mary and Joseph gave birth to baby Jesus in a manger.  We give presents representative of the presents the three wisemen brought to baby Jesus.  It has become marketed and commercialized with the invention of Santa Claus has origins of greek and german descent, coming from Sinterklaus and Saint Nicholas.  Coca Cola really brought the image of Santa to our minds.  Christmas to me is a time for family to gather, eat good food and exchange presents to show your gratitude. 
What do you wear?  For family dinner you look nice, nothing too dressy, at church you dress up and then you wear pajamas Christmas morning when Santa comes.  And if you are like my mom’s family, you wear the pajamas you opened the night before. 
What do you eat? Turkey or Ham and all of the fixings but each family is different.  My MN family does a Christmas eve brunch with egg bake and then dinner (stuffed shells always pop into my head, but it varies).  Most families make their favorites.  And there are more cookies and bars than you can imagine.
What kind of presents do you give?  Whatever people want, or want to give!  I can always guarantee underwear and gum from Santa.  Kids usually get one super cool big present, Barbie dream house esque.  But again, it varies. 
What do you do? Play games as a family, catch up with the relatives you only see once a year, enjoy each others company, go to church, watch football, etc.
Well I asked my students to describe Eid to me.  I asked what should I know about the holiday.  I am very eager to learn about the Arabic culture and Islamic traditions.  My kids do a great job of teaching me Arabic; I can now say a formal hello and response, good morning, hi, thank you, good night, and Happy Eid.  However they sucked at teaching me about Eid. 
I had my tutor group (14 year olds) write something on the board about Eid.  I got $, money, dinars, we get moola.  I asked what other presents they give and they said it is not a present holiday, it is only money.  And only kids get money.  I actually had one kid say, “Miss you are giving us money, yes?”  I laughed in his face, I’m not sure how joking he was being.  So I asked more direct questions:
What do you wear?  Traditional clothes.  Everyone does? No. Why do you wear traditional clothes (Abayas and Dishdash)? Because we are supposed to.
What do you eat? Machboos (a REALLY good yellow rice dish with chicken or lamb…or La7am as my kids spell it)
What do you do?  We see our family, we play games, we get money, we go shopping. 
Why do you do all of this?  Because it is Eid.
I then asked my other classes….
Why do you celebrate Eid? Because of Hajj (trip to Mecca)
Why do people go to Mecca? Because it is holy. 
God it’s like pulling teeth sometimes…
Now I am not a good Christian. I actually often question my faith or the word Christian.  I do believe in a higher power.  I think the world is a scary place without a little faith.  However, my journey as a spiritual person is still in its beginning stages.  Saying that, I was brought up knowing what Christmas was about.  I don’t know if it’s America, the Christian faith or what…but I bet any Atheist can tell you the “story” of Jesus or Santa Claus.  My students told me nothing about the Abraham sacrificing Ishmael to show his obedience to God.  Or that God intervened with a sheep, which is why it’s the Feast of the Sacrifice holiday.  Its why they eat lamb.  Now Kristi’s sixth graders told her about the sacrificing of the sheep and that you give some to the poor.  But my teenagers couldn’t?  I was very frustrated.  However some of you may be frustrated with my lack of Christmas knowledge.  Maybe I’ll learn more Inshallah.    

18 October 2012

Technology differences

Its funny how technolgy differs here.  Some things are so advanced and others seem so behind. 

Cell phones (mobiles): text messages are the most expensive things on earth here.  Ok not really ( 35 fils, which is 10 cents) but you do have to pay per text, most packages come with 30 texts a month.

Wifi: the reason texts are so uncommon is because people use wifi.  i actually carry around a hotspot with me. 

Banks: pin codes are so secret. Online banking makes you use their scrambled keyboard to input your password. However online bill pay is a pain which requires special set up through the bank which has crazy hours. Food: delivery is serious around here. Call centers distribute your order and know your name and location when you call. However, notice "call". Online ordering is just becoming common place. I'll think of more I'm sure, but that starts you off :)

14 October 2012

In response to my first tears in Bahrain…

It’s no surprise that I want babies. I’ve seriously wanted kids since I was 18.  While I went through a phase where the idea of having a child repulsed me, I believe it was due to setting and plot rather than actual feelings.  People here cannot believe how badly I want to play with a baby (so that I can give it back).  I think it’s mostly because I left some important people back in the states, including my daughter, who is not a baby, but still needs to be taken care of every now and then like we all do.   While I’m not sure how a biological family will play in my cards, I know how important family in all senses of the word is, and I will expand on my current family in the future, I know I will. 

First of all, why is family so important?  I have two dads, two moms and multiple grandparents.  A lot of people would put labels on all of them, my biological dad, my maternal grandparents, etc, but really why do it?  I know the moment a true friend has been made because they can tell which parent/grandparent I am talking about by context.  They also understand, and aren’t weirded out when I say “my kids” or “my daughter”. 

Family is important because I know how lucky I am to have so many adults in my life who care about me and my happiness and who helped raise me.  I say adults because I am referring to those older than me….my mom’s parents who, no matter how hard they fight it, still cry almost every time I call them (this has only been exacerbated by me living on the opposite side of the world.)  My Aunt Peggy and Uncle Jeff who show me that love can work, and being best friends is important, and having passion for life is even more so.  My Grandma Sarah, who I know waits for facebook updates to make sure I’m ok, and also probably updates John about my life more than I do.  I love my Aunt Barb who gets me, and I wish I got to see her more than every other year. 

There are also adults who are not older (well slightly) than me, but are definitely more adult than I am.  I used to feel like the “adult” of MGC but now living over here I’ve realized I’m definitely not.  Jamie has a baby (who I miss seeing).  Leslie is everything I want to be as an educator and Leigh Ann is the blend of fun and professional all adults should be.  My cousin Jessi is the adult that I can’t believe.  She is a mom of two and I cannot believe what an amazing job she is doing.  I’m very proud of her (if I can be since I consider her to be more adult than me).
Notice I haven’t mentioned parents?  Well I feel like I talk about them a lot.  However when I read Leah’s post, especially this part:

“the most comforting thing about my mom is that doesn’t judge me, regardless of what I do.  The choices I make are completely up to me, and she knows that.  She always says, ‘As long as you’re happy, I support you.’”

I realized how much they shaped me.  They let me make my own mistakes.  They help me when I need it.  They taught me that love and support can get you through anything, but you have to be strong enough to get through. I haven’t always been strong enough, but I feel like I am a strong, confident adult because of my upbringing. I want to share this attitude with my current and future family. 

I am a teacher because I love family.  The classroom is my family.  The students are my kids.  For some, literally.   I’m not sure if I needed Leah or if Leah needed me more.  I think we needed each other at this point in our lives.  We needed to know that there was someone out there who cared enough.  She needed to know that someone loved her enough to kick her ass into gear, and love her when an ass kicking didn’t work.  I needed someone to show me how real a family is beyond traditional definition.  I have always said I have had more than I should, money, time, love; I have more than any one person deserves.   All I want is to share, but I had no idea when I cooked a dinner, or took a math book (god am I really that nerdy?) that I would find such a great kid to love. 

It’s amazing that while miles separate me from my “family” I know that if I were to move back to North Carolina tomorrow I could pick right back up.  I am doing great here in Bahrain.  I really do love it and am feeling good about my decision.  However tonight was the first night where I realized how much I am missing back home.  I knew that the world would go on without me, I knew that I would go on and do great things (parents also taught me to be overly confident).  However, I forgot that I would miss the great accomplishments of people.  

I am missing relationships form and get serious and I guarantee I will miss an engagement or wedding amongst my closest friends. I missed Leslie run a half marathon.   I am missing Emily graduate from college in a VERY surprising three years.  And the one who brought on this sapfest, I am missing Leah be an adult, so I want to say that I am proud…of everyone, because in some way or another, I hope to have a little bit of the faith, love and courage that the people I am missing tonight have, to do all of these great things that I am missing.   Keep trucking.  I love everyone.  I miss everyone, but all it takes is someone behind you, pushing you, with arms to catch you, to remind you that you can achieve anything you set your heart out to accomplish. 

How appropriate that we read this in class today…

But on you will go though the weather be foul. On you will go through your enemies prowl. On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl. Onward up many a frightening creek, though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak. On and on you will hike. And I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

Kid, you’ll move mountains!
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!”

09 October 2012

Nurses wear suits

I'm at the hospital, not for me, with a friend. I'll update about her nausea and abdominal pain later (hypothesis is appendix, but really we're hoping for just BGs).
Here is what happens though.....
Go in to ER.  Everyone looks at you like you are crazy.  Apparently you only go to ER if they deem you to be an emergency.  My friend was not, but they escorted us to check in.  We waited for about 5 mins before they took care of her health insurance forms.  They called her back to triage, which is where they took her temperature and blood pressure.  That's it.  Then they sent us to the doctor.  The doctor looked at her (before the nurse) said all was fine, but he wanted samples and an ultrasound.  We did the samples, well she did them I stood there.  We left for a couple of hours and went back for the results.  Because this time we were there at night, the wait was a little longer, but she saw her doctor from earlier in the day, and a new doctor in an hours time.  She then went to the pharmacy and got her meds (nothing serious, but so glad we went to the hospital) and well...that was it.  It cost 5BD ($13).  The only annoying thing was that we had to leave and come back.

Quick facts about hospitals in Bahrain:

  • Nurses wear suit jackets made out of scrub material over their cutesy scrubs.
  • You queue for everything with a number.  And they ring an annoying doorbell to update you on which number is up...hope you don't have a headache!
  • You are constantly on the move.  I thought I would sit and wait for a long time with her...it wasn't even worth it to set up my computer.  
  • I watched a guy pass chocolates on a tray to the staff . I'm serious.
  • They have modesty nurses.  A person who is meant to protect your modesty.  My friend had a male doctor with a female nurse in the room.  The nurse pulled my friends shirt up for the doctor...that's it.  We have a friend who had her gallbladder taken out last year and she had a nurse primarily meant to keep her covered the entire time.  
  • Security is not big at the hospital...we walked where ever we wanted to
  • I already said it but 5BD....for the whole day....awesome

06 October 2012

What is brunch?

So there is something you should know about Bahrain, it is an awkward blend of Islamic culture, western ways and social status'. 

The island is smaller than most US capitals.  With that being said, half of the island is desert where large (religious) families live in compounds.  So basically everything I do is within Manama which is probably the size of Durham. 

So within this tiny area, you have a smattering of cultures from the traditional Muslims, to Hindu, to westerners like myself.  It is also a very hypocritical island.  This is like a judgement free zone as long as you do not mind being judged.  Muslims drink here, and some even eat pork, but don't you dare say that outloud.  The westerners all date eachother and can trace their relationships through others, but dont discuss who did what with who at the party, unless they are out of earshot.

So what do you do on this Muslim island? 
Shop: the stores here are just like home, including varying levels of slut tasticness.  The lingerie stores are worse than Victorias Secret with their mannequins.  The clothes are all short, or backless.  Malls are extravagant and over the top.  But you better believe they have a mosque and a call to prayer.

Pool: it is hot here so pool parties are common.  Hotels will have pool parties. However, just to note, most of the time, you do not go swimming.  You just look cute.  Because it is a time to be seen, be social and not judge who is judging who.  Oh and dress in very little clothing that costs more than my rent.  I think I have figured out there is a mathematical relationship between clothes and conservativeness...you can dress anyway you want to as long as the cost of the clothes is worth it,  if x=amount covered and y=cost of clothes then x+y>the cost of judgement.  This does not apply to women who wear the long robes, because some of them cost more than my house, not mortgage payment, but my house.

Eat:  food is available anytime of day, with free delivery, anytime.  There is also any type of food you can imagine, local cuisine, mexican, east asian, etc.  The portions are not huge, but they always want you to try as much as you can.  If you are offered food, it is also very rude to turn it down.  Of course you will like anything they serve, otherwise you are so american.

Drink: alcohol is not widely available,  not all restaurants have a liquor license.  It is actually illegal to sell alcohol to a Muslim.  However when they have alcohol, they do it right.  The liquor store delivers and you get a discount when you do that.  Restaurants always try to get you a double when they can.  I've been in restaurants with men covered drinking a bottle of wine, and then judging me for wearing a short dress.  I was at a party with a friend from Lebanon.  Another friend was there and he was from the same city as her.  She drank her drink out of a juice glass because he may tell somebody back home that she was drinking.  His rum and coke looked great in the coke bottle too. 

Well anyways, the hotels around here combine two of these things into a 4 hour marathon of all you can eat and drink brunch.  Stations are set up in different areas with different foods and drinks.  They keep your champagne glass full at all times.  It is also the place to be seen.  I knew people there and I've only been on the island for a month!

After brunch, you continue drinking.  Then you go to a pool party.  This was my Friday.  

And as I say in my perfected Arabic voice "this is how we do." 

Just so there is no confusion, it is a lot of fun here, and I do like it :)

20 September 2012

Just so you know...

Just so you know...because I get this question a lot...

Life is good here...and hot like a desert....

However on this island....

Even though we are in the Middle East (Gulf)....

Even though you saw Sex and the City 2......

Even though Lawrence of Arabia had them everywhere....

These are the only Camels I've seen....

Courtyard of my School

17 September 2012

life unpaused

I just reread my post before I left NC.  I discuss how I'm putting my life on pause to move to Bahrain.  Funny thing is, in just three/four weeks, I know my life is not on pause here.  I'm not saying this is where I want to live for the rest of my life.  I'm not saying that I have found my calling and it is Bahrain.  What I am saying is that my life is not on pause.  I know that.

I feel like I'm already growing in my knowledge as a teacher, I am about to go to IB training in one week and I feel a huge need at the school for assessment analysis, why do we test, how do we know the students learned, etc.  I am attached to some of my kids (I want to kick some too-kids are kids!)  I feel a need here, which is crucial for me in a school.

I am going out and having fun.  It's funny but since everyone here is in the same boat we understand that we have to be flexible.  I can see how people meet internationally and become life-long "whatevers".  It's kind of exciting.  I know that I want to settle down somewhere.  And I'm not saying Bahrain, I'm not even saying internationally.  But I am saying my life is not on pause.  And that is exciting.  

15 September 2012


I have been receiving many messages asking if I am safe.  I woke up this morning and read the Gulf Daily News article regarding the protests yesterday.  First, let me explain some things I know about the protests.

1. Fridays are the worst days for protests.  Our weekend is Friday and Saturday here.  Saturday is a normal Saturday, Friday is our Sunday.  If that makes sense.  The weekend used to be Thursday and Friday, but they switched it. Anyways, the groups form after religious services, which is why Fridays are the most prominent days for protests.

2. The protests are not intended to be deadly or dangerous.  Their goal is to literally be a pain in the ass.  One of the major things that occur through out the week are tire fires.  They take large tires, douse them with petroleum and light them on fire in the middle of the freeway, just to be an annoyance, and show the powers that be that they are powerful. There are cop cars stationed on all the freeways and at the gas stations.  If you pull over a cop car will immediately be on you.

So now lets talk about where I live. I live in Manama (pronounced Muh-NAM-a).  My school is in Isa Town (Eesa) which is where ALL of the private schools are and the Ministry of Education.  If you read the article, you see that the protests took place in Riffa and Isa Town, both south of where I live.  They are towards the desert, which the southern half of the island is desert and large compounds for families.  My school in Isa Town is about 15 minutes away with no traffic, but there is always traffic.  There is a small mall in Isa Town, but besides that, the only reason I go there is for school.  Riffa is a compound area.  The other places listed were Muharraq, which is in the diplomat area of the island, and it's own island of the archipelago.  Tubli Bay is the same.  When they say parts of Manama, lets go over what they mean.

I live in a district of Manama called Adliya (pronounced Adlee-ya).  The area where we are used to be water we were told.  You can see my neighborhood on the lower part of the map.  The Navy base is in Juffair (pronounced jew-fair).  We are friends with some of the Royal Navy so we know all riots and protests in advance and are constantly being looked after.  Juffair is about 5 minutes by taxi from my apartment.  Adliya does start the Navy "off limits zone".  We are on the edge of the range of possible activity.  It goes up to the Souq (or Souk pronounced sook) which you can see is close to the diplomatic area.  So basically, the protests are taking place north of me and south of me.  No matter what you believe about politics and policies in the middle east I have been told (and shown nothing different) that the protesters want nothing to do with westerners HERE.  They are not mad at me, or my friends.  They are upset with their government, not me, I am completely safe.  I live in a very western neighborhood and Juffair is all western.  

When we go out to dinner, or grocery shopping, or to bars, it is in Adliya or Juffair.  We have no need to go anywhere else.  My students and their parents are incredibly sweet and eager to learn about my culture and life, as I am to learn about their culture and life.  Half of the population of Bahrain is foreign, with 20% of the total population being western.  It is very welcoming to western life.  

I have not seen any action, riots, protests or disruptions.  I am completely aware of the city around me and like I said, I get daily safety reports from my friends. 

So thank you all for your concerns, thoughts and prayers.  I really am having fun and feel very safe.

***edited to add: New information just came through text that things are still unsafe.  We are taking precautions.  I was supposed to go to base today but the boats (ships, but I like to call them boats) are confined.  I'll keep you updated. ***

05 September 2012

How do you know you are too rich?

Today a girl was wearing sparkle Toms.  If you didn’t know, I own sparkle Toms.  I told her that I did and she said “don’t you love how cheap they are?!”  Yeah, cheap…that’s what I think when I think of Tom’s.  Now we all know that I will spend money on clothes and shoes, but I also know that $60 is not “cheap.”   That is one point today where I realized there is a class difference between me and my students.  

I heard that clothes were expensive here.  That was not a lie.  Everything is priced the same as the States.  I looked at a Michael Kors purse at the mall.  It would have been around $250 in the states (not on sale).  It was 199BD here.  Discount right?  Wrong.  With an exchange rate of 1BD=$2.65 That 199BD purse is now roughly $500.  So my girl's “cheap” Toms were to her, they were only 20-25BD.  That’s the kind of prices their Spring store has (a cheaper shoe store here and in the states.)  Another example is Bath and Body Works.  I wanted hand soap.  Usually it’s 5 for $12 on special, or around $3 a piece when not on a good sale.  I got 3 for 5BD.  That is 3 for $13 roughly.  That stuff adds up fast!  So while I will be making more money here, I won’t be buying that much.  I know, I know, I joke, I kid…I’m going to buy stuff.  Lots of it.  I can’t help it when you have a Tory Burch STORE!!!

Now what is cheap here?  Service industry.  Food is 1-3BD per entrée.  The most expensive place we’ve gone so far (and it was really nice) was 5BD for steak, mashed potatoes and vegetables.  There is also no formal tipping here and everything delivers.  A couple of nights ago I ordered Hummus, Tabbouleh, and a chicken dish (three different things).  Yes, that’s a lot of food, but it was lunch the next day too.  It cost 4.200BD and I had it delivered to my door.  I gave the guy a 5, because we were told to round up for a tip (it’s a local place and I want them to know I am worth delivering to) so for $13 I had two meals of food...delivered.  Another girl had fried rice delivered.  It was 1.800BD.  So for around $5 she had food at her door.  Ridiculous. 

Taxis are also cheap.  5 of us took one to the local mall which is about 15 minutes away, for 4BD, we thought that was fine, but we were told that was too much by friends!  You can also have secret drivers who are not associated with Taxi companies and they are cheaper.  It is crazy to me how that works.  About half the people I work with have cars and half do not.  I would really like to not have one, and if I can get over having to call someone to pick me up, I think I can make.  We live in a good part of town to walk to things too, so that will be good!

See, with all of the money I’m saving on food and car I can definitely buy more clothes J

Carissa, my love, where are you?

I know, I know, I know….I’ve been in Bahrain almost 2 weeks and no update.  It’s not that I’m too busy.  I’m actually impressed with my free time so far.  I know it won’t stay that way, and I’m hoping to get some tutoring time in, but I’m not too busy.  Well then I must be out going and doing right?  That’s why I’m not blogging.  Well, it’s not really that either.  I am not out and about that much.  The thing is that there is not really anything to blog about.  Life here is pretty much the same as it was back in the states.  Right now I’m sitting at a coffee shop watching a mustang, CRV and Mazda CX9 (cry!) go by.  There are cell phones ringing around me, and a family having coffee on the couch next to me.  Really the only difference right now is that BBC is on the television instead of CNN (and to be honest with the DNC coverage on right now, I’m happy to be watching BBC). 

School starts at 7 (like it did last year) and since I ride the bus we leave the house at 6:15 (like last year).  I get home around 4, and I’m tired by 8 (like last year).  I’m not doing my National Boards (like two years ago) and I’m not doing my Masters (like last year) or coaching/working another job…so basically, I’m bored. 

The main reason we aren’t going and doing right now is because we haven’t been paid yet.  We get paid at the end of the month, so all of us are strapped for cash.  They gave us moving in money which was nice so we are trying to make that last until September 28th .  I’m not bored as in unhappy, I do like it, it’s just there is nothing to blog about!

So let me first start with my “classmates”. We are all starting at the same time and on a two year contract, so it’s like we graduate together.  First of all there is Ezza, Camille and Kristi, all people I had communicated with before I got here.  It was so nice to have a familiar name/face!  Ezza teaches primary and she reminds of Leigh Ann if Leigh Ann could stand little kids.  Camille teaches 7th grade English and is always up for hanging out which is so nice to have a built in friend.  Kristi is my math partner and I’m feeling a flash back to 2006 when Ann and I started at Northwest together.  Kristi and Carissa and we both teach math…and we’re both white girls with light brown hair.  If I didn’t have a foot on her in height there would be no hope (like the height comment Kristi?)  I am so happy to have her as my partner in crime though.

There is also Susan (primary), Allison (primary), Matt (primary), Greg (theatre) Emishea (business) and Dennis (high school Art).  They are all fabulous.  Literally.  Not just saying that.  I am really lucky to have such a good group.  We all live together in great apartments.  It makes me not want to go anywhere else foreign to teach because everyone keeps talking about how nice our places are.  I have tile everything.  Ever wonder how much hair a girl loses during the day?  I know, just look at my floor. 

My school is nice.  It is 80’s vintage, so just like working at NE in the old building.  I really like the faculty.  My classes are going well and everything is smooth so far.  See?  So boring.

Last weekend we all went out to celebrate our first week of work.  We went to a local expat bar.  It is a 5 minute walk from our house so with it being the local navy hang out and so close in this heat, it is our favorite place in Bahrain J  I may expand on this a little more in a later blog…maybe not.  Let’s see how this weekend goes and then I’ll decide the amount of details everybody gets.  As the girls said Thursday night “what happens at JJ’s………gets talked about for the next week on the bus”. 

Thank you to everybody for the well wishes and prayers.  I know you are all anxious for my address, but I don’t have one yet for mail…I’ll let you know.  I do have mobile router so I have skype and gchat at all times.  Add me at Carissa.berglund. 

26 July 2012

What I've learned...

Today I cried in class.  Well it was after, but there were numerous tears that I could not control.  I was talking to Dr. C about the class and most specifically, quiz 1.  It has been a joke in my cohort that we only need a C to graduate.  Who knew the first quiz would jeopardize that C.  It was a funny joke because none of us have made a C in a course yet.  It wasn’t so funny when I made a 26.7 on the first quiz (most scores were terrible, but mine was extremely bad).  I emphasize the .7 so everyone knows that it rounds up to 27.  Well Dr. C said that he was astonished we did so poorly as a class.  Honestly, I’m not sure many of us were astonished, I know I wasn’t.  I bought the book Thursday, before the Friday test.  We were told the material would be on only what we read, not what we discussed in class-which I thought was ridiculous and so therefore I didn’t believe.  I figured the assessment would be a synthesis between the reading and the discussions in class.  Yep, nope, it was purely on Joyce Van Tassel-Baska and memorizing specific topics.  I had taken notes, I had all of the answers…however I messed up the sections.  I put the topic after question 2 as it’s answer.  When Dr. C announced that we could do test corrections/explain our answers to improve our grade my classmates went home and wrote out the correct answers (from the book or notes) and explained why they did poorly.  Some turned in revisions on the test, others turned in four pages of rewrites and I’m sure ass kissing (I love you all, I do).  I looked at my test, discovered my errors and put the test in my notebook.  I deserved my “27”.  I did not study as much as I should have.  I did not memorize what should have been memorized.  However after emails and urgings from Dr. C it was pressed upon me to turn in an explanation. 

My beliefs on education are that not one person can dictate appropriateness for a general population.  I have already expressed this concern in my Common Core post.  I am enamored by the Sal Kahn debates in the Washington Post right now (he is not a king of math, he is just a guy with a good video voice).  I can memorize JVTB’s beliefs, but I don’t believe that me copying them from the book would express that for Dr. C.  I also don’t feel that I was given an outlet for relearning the material.  Remediation and relearning information is a huge platform for me and integrating parts of Rick Stiggin’s Assessment forLearning.  I provide my students newoutlets to learn, guidelines for turning in/showing their new learning.  Test corrections do not do this in their practice alone.  As a teacher, I consider it my job to ensure that students learn and that I have measurable, whether quantitative or qualitative, outcomes to demonstrate their learning.  As the AFL framework suggests, these outcomes are not solely for me, but they are for the students too, so they know their learning objectives and can assess for themselves if they learned them.  I do not know if my learning objectives for this assessment were to memorize JVTB’s work or to explain how this assessment was either appropriate or inappropriate.  When it came down to it, I had higher priorities on my list than rewriting answers.  Good attitude? No. There go those disposition points….

So back to me crying.  I’m not sure if it was the fact that I’m sad about leaving my classmates, embarrassed about my performance in the class or that I’m exhausted with thoughts running through my head.  Dan asked me this morning how my family was handling all the changes in my life.  He emphasized “all” and I knew what he meant.  How are they handling them?  Well it ranges from excitement  for my new beginning, to fear for the lack of children in my immediate future, to complete disregard for any future changes…I started the program married, confused about my educational stance and with a 5 year plan.  I am ending the program divorced, overly confident in my educational stance and no f’n clue what my one year plan has, let alone a 5. 

I entered this program because I needed more in my life.  I wanted to learn how to teach all kids better, especially the gifted students.  I wanted to be a leader in my school and lifelong learning example for my students.  Did I expect all A’s?  No.  If I had known half of the personal and professional ups and downs I would encounter in this process I may have expected less of myself.  I believe that the fact that I made a B in my math class was fantastic.  That was the semester that I taught three preps, coached tennis, lead professional development and moved out.  I spent a lot of time on the math steps and processes, very little time on the journals.  I put emphasis on what I thought was valuable for me, at the time, in my classroom.  I made an A in our Foundations course.  That, in and of itself is amazing, considering I never did the second half of the final exam.  My first half kicked ass (thanks Liz!) and I learned SO much from it, I did not write the reflection of it.  I learned so much in these classes, and I feel that I showed that I learned a lot in these classes, however I also prioritized my learning.  This is a way that we differentiate in our classes whether it is from tiered lessons or unit matrices, students learn what they need to learn, but can focus on their interests through authentic assessment (cough: JVTB: cough)

So let’s Dweck this out.  One thing I have focused on is constantly challenging myself.  I want to build stronger, smarter, me.  I want to surround myself with people that encourage and challenge me to learn more and be better.  So what can I do with this “27”?  Learn from it-reread, and then do better in the future.  I tried my hardest on quiz 2…even though I didn’t follow Dr. C’s guidelines of only using JVTB because I don’t think we can just synthesize on JVTB.  I want to put everything I’ve learned into practice.  I have put a lot of work into our curriculum unit and expanded on my previous matrix skills from Anderson and Krathwohl to a more intense plan.  I’m anxious for the final exam tomorrow.  I’m nervous that I will not show how much I learned in this course.  I’m nervous my over-exuberance in over-citations will annoy Dr. C.  I’m also nervous that I will cry because the waterworks still have not stopped.  I’m sad that I will be leaving some of the greatest professional development I have ever had-the people, the professors and Elon’s resources. 

So think about me around 10 am tomorrow.  Whether you are excited for new beginnings as a masters graduate or worried that all this “smarts” will make me not want to have kids (Gee and Pa) just send good vibes my way.  I’ll make you proud.  It may not be the way you want me to go about it, and it may involve more than you want, but I’ll make you proud.  Or at least I’ll make myself proud. 

07 July 2012

if you are at all sad I'm moving...don't read.

So I am quite sad to move.  I am scared out of my mind and do not want to leave a lot of this behind.  However, on that note, I am also incredibly excited.  I have constant knots in my stomach-the nervous butterflies are fighting the lumps that keep sneaking my throat making me want to cry.  I then also have a constant feeling that I’ve consumed too much caffeine because I’m jittery with excitement. 

When I want to cry the most is when Bakerloo is being a snuggle bug.

baby bakey

terror loo
So if you have never had the pleasure of meeting Bakerloo then you are missing out.  This dog was the cutest puppy you have ever seen.  Seriously.  When Canden and I got her people thought we were crazy.  We were seniors in college and, in all sincerity, probably didn’t need a dog.  However, it took one look at our Bakerloo and people would go…”oh that’s why you got a dog-she’s freakin’ adorable.”  Then this damned dog turned 1 and 2 and she was a terror.  Not really, but she was full of energy and cuh-razy.  Well this now almost 7 year old dog is quite possibly the sweetest, cuddliest, princess puppy ever.  She is so well behaved, still has a little crazy streak in her but calms down instantly.  I love her.  The thought of leaving her behind crushes me.  She wouldn’t live with me if I was in the country, but I could visit.  Seriously, if you haven’t met Bakerloo, you should.  Her number is 555-SNU-GGLE.  She responds well to treats, cuddles and the Family Guy theme song.

Can you take Bakerloo to Bahrain with you?
Legally?  Yes.  Dogs are allowed to travel to Bahrain and there is no quarantine time.  Real answer?  No. They are not supposed to travel in the summer months.  It is too hot and they do not acclimate the extreme heat well.  If you are taking an animal it is advised that you bring them in winter.  So if I wanted to bring her, it would have to be then.  But let’s be honest, just like when I was a senior in college, I do not need a dog in Bahrain.  And if we are being really honest, I’m a crappy mom to Loo.  She will be in much better hands with her Dad.  Hard to believe she will be nearly 9 when I come back. 

Another time I get sad is when I think about how my life will be on pause for two years.  I worked really hard to unpause my life in the past year.  I want to move forward professionally and personally.  I’m not sure if a two year stint where I throw my stuff in a storage room and have it chill until I come back is really “moving on.”  I have no freakin’ clue what I will learn in Manama.  I have no clue who I will meet.  But right now, as I pack up (or talk about packing up) my life it revolves around keeping things intact for when I move back in two years. 

Can you stay longer than 2 years?
Yes, if I’m hired.  You get a pretty big bonus too. 

What happens if you don’t stay for 2 years?
I don’t lose money, but I don’t get money. I get paid 12 months, but the 12th month is received when you come back…so if I don’t go back, I don’t get it.  If I resign AFTER January (after either 1 or 2 years) then I do lose summer checks.  Basically, unless I completely despise it, I’m planning on staying for two years. 

Will you be safe?
Do you trust me in American schools?  Then yes.  Honestly, the island is safe.  But for those of you that want to see for yourself you can visit the UK travel site.

Some things that I am getting excited about are scuba diving, traveling and teaching again!  I want to seek adventure and live it up!  I want to come back to America, smarter, wiser and even more excited to teach! 

Can you use more exclamation marks?
YES!!!!!  YES I CAN!!!!  (this is quite a spicy post-right Katy?)

06 July 2012

Let's recap June and move on....

Dear life,
Why are you continuing to happen here, when I leave in1-2 months and need you to slow the hell down? 

Summer is freakin’ flying by and I cannot even begin to discuss how much has happened in the month of June.  I started and finished my Master’s Portfolio (most likely why I will have to restart and finish it in July, but whatever).  I created a camp class, put on the camp and recapped the camp with the amazing help of my favorite cohort member Liz.  I realized that I love middle schoolers…but not for long periods of time.  I realized that elementary school kids make me want to go “Squeeee”, as in “You’re so cute, get away from me!”  I realized that I miss teaching.

Dear current and future employers,
I am feeling completely jaded by the current state of education and think I need a change.  Will you be completely heart-broken if I leave?  Can you offer me my dream job?

I managed a ton at Da Vinci’s Table with the help of Will and the rest of my favorites there.  We went out for two weekends in a row to celebrate Stephanie’s birthday and her leaving.  I blended DVT family with teaching family at a pool party saying goodbye to Bob and Ramsey before they set sail for Arizona.  It was the first time I had seen Leigh Ann in forever.  I realized I missed all of my friends, even the ones I just saw five minutes ago.

Dear friends and family,
I love you and know that you will support me through whatever I do.  Will you still be here when I get back?  Will you be completely heartbroken and forget about me before I even leave?

I put my heart out there, and then pulled it in real quick before it could get taken, or stepped on.  I laid out my feelings, in my own incoherent words and then blamed myself for being stupid.  I played games because they were easier than anything else, until it hurts.  

Dear future love interest,
I believe in love and want to have the best relationship ever.  How do we move forward?  Where do we go from here?

I fell in love with Bakerloo all over again and cannot imagine saying goodbye to her, let alone the humans I actually love who will know I’m leaving.

The ultimate conclusion of June?  Leaving the known is easier than leaving the unknown.  Leaving securities and sureties is easier than leaving questions and confusions.  Constants will still be somewhat constant when I return.  Sure things will change, but all in all, the people I know and love and the places I value will still be around.  The questions, concerns and knots in my stomachs are what I’m scared about…

I know that I will miss my friends, family and opportunities here.  That is a given.  However it is the unknowns that I will miss that scare me.  I know I will have different opportunities abroad, but are they what I want or need?  Are the opportunities here what I want or need? 


29 June 2012


Long time no blog….

I couldn’t blog last week.  Every bit of writing that I did had to be concentrated on my portfolio.  While, admittingly, I did not concentrate as much as I should, I did avoid blogging, which is something I would enjoy much more than writing about how much I have learned in a program.  I sometimes felt like I was writing a “how awesome am I?” paper, and let’s be honest, I know I am awesome, but documenting awesomeness is sometimes more difficult than an upload.  I had to write about instruction, learners, content, professional development and research and what I have done in each of those five fields since being at Elon.  I know that I am not the first person to do this.  I know that there are many people who have passed and failed before me.  However I think the process needs some revision.  I understand the point of writing the synthesis papers and providing documentation.  While I sucked at it, I get it.  I wished, however, they provided more pointed questions to better guide the process, similar to National Boards.  The whole process is similar to National Boards, but a lot more vague. 

It was also due the week of camp at Elon.  We held a camp through my masters program for gifted students.  I worked with my fellow math nerd Liz.  We helped students make awesome Rube Goldberg machines, simple machines put together to make illogical, yet working machines to accomplish a task.  They could feed a dog, capture a dinosaur or land a frog on a lilypad.  They all chose not to deal with the cool jumping frogs we bought.   The kids were amazing but I came to the realization…I love high school.  I don’t know what I am going to do when I have kids. Thank goodness that is not happening for a long time (just so rumors don’t start….)

I enjoyed camp because I got to guide investigations with little to no time limit.  The problem with class is that time is crunched.  Camp it wasn't.  I got to see students in their element learning what they wanted to learn.  You can see my video that I made (YES MADE!) recapping the week: Flex Camp.  You can also watch some of our machines working...for the most part.

So anyways, we were all wiped from camp each day and writing portfolio entries each night.  When we brought this to the attention of the higher ups the response was “you have known the deadline since you started”.  We always knew it would be due the second week of summer school.   However, as our professor said, it is human nature to work up until the deadline, so why not set it earlier.  It wasn’t that we didn’t have enough time, it was that the deadline was the same time as another deadline….and hello, my name is Carissa and I am a procrastinator.  I work better under pressure.  I personally think that statement is not true for anybody, but we say it because we have all succeeding under circumstances when we worked under pressure.  But I digress….

So anyways….I’ve been writing a lot, just not blogging.  

14 June 2012

Back to Bahrain

I got the weekly gazette this week.  First of all the graduation looks amazing, second of all...I see some knees!  I have also contacted a couple of other teachers...I'm getting really excited!

11 June 2012

The one with too many sidenotes...please forgive me

Whose responsibility is it to educate our children?  Is it the parents?  Is it the teachers?  Is it the community members?

Well my question is why are we educating the children?   What is the point of teaching children responsibility, academics and proper attitudes?  I firmly believe that we are raising our next generation so that they can be the leaders of our country and provide for the future.  I do not have children but I still would like a competent president, knowledgeable doctors and businessmen and women to help me in the future.  I believe that we all pay taxes to education to ensure that society is educated to serve the needs of the country. 

As a teacher, I guess you could say I’m a little selfish.  I am teaching students to act and behave the way I want them to-respectful, but with a sense of humor.  I believe that mathematics is important, not because everyone needs Pythagorean Theorem in their life, but because they need the logical reasoning sense it takes to solve problems.

So my Dad says he hates the phrase “it takes a village”.  He believes it takes away all personal responsibility of parents from raising their children.  I think it should put more responsibility on all individuals involved.  If I’m apart of the raising, I need to do my part.  We are each responsible for the actions that take place in our daily lives.  Any thing that happens to us is for a reason, even things we say are because of someone else’s fault.  We allowed them in our lives. 

Anything I’m blamed for I accept….almost to a fault.  If it’s not my fault, I will still try to rectify it.  Example: At the restaurant I had an order come to the window made incorrectly.  I told the kitchen that it was wrong.  They told me I rang it in wrong.  We looked at the ticket, and it was rung in correctly.  They apologized and fixed my order.  Had I rung it in wrong I would have apologized.  But here’s the thing, this generation, would have blamed the computer for making them ring it in wrong. 

I blame myself for perpetuating the cycle.  I never tell the students they are wrong.  Instead I say something encouraging like “That was a good try but let’s see if we can get a closer answer.”  I admire the teachers who teach students responsibility and ownership.  However, I blame the parents for perpetuating that cycle. 

I have a really good friend (sidenote: he is probably too good of a friend to me, but that deserves another blog post in itself) who teaches at some high school that I have a certain affinity for and he is one who believes that people need to take responsibility for their own actions (sidenote: he is good at doing this in his own life, even if I have to point it out for him).  He had a student who avoided turning in a project worth 20% of their grade.  Avoided the teacher for one week, then they blamed the teacher for not being where they said they would be (in his classroom).  When he finally got it, the student emailed it to him…was his email not where it said it would be for a week? The student should have taken responsibility and said that they had not finished the assignment and needed more time, but no, instead, they blamed my friend for not doing his part.  Well my friend took points off of the final grade for it being late.  Then he thought part of it was “too good”.  He googled it…and there was the student’s project!  So he did not give the student credit for that part.  This caused the C student to fail the class (sidenote: he’s a hardass). 

Of course he had to call home to the parent.  As a parent, if my student had turned in a project a week late, and plagiarized, I would have felt like a failure for not have hounding her for her assignment and for not teaching her that printing things off the internet is wrong.  But what was the parent’s reaction?  “Why did my child fail, when other students cheated too?”  They had to have a meeting regarding the grade and about how this student didn’t do anything wrong…………(sidenote: my friend was pissed).

Honestly, what has society become?  I believe that it takes a village. The student needs the parents to raise them to be ethical individuals.  The student needs their peers and mentors to advocate for completing school-work.  The student needs teachers to teach them what ethical practices are for completing work.  No matter what, the student, nor society need cop-outs and excuses.  Excuses are tools of incompetence (sidenote: my friend is a hard ass like Mr. Burke).

So in the end, what did this student learn?  Was she properly educated and/or raised?  Well if the teacher flunked her, she was taught that average work for a year, and bailing in the end, gets you nowhere.  If she passes, she was taught that average work and messing up can be forgiven.  What if she had been an excellent student all year?  She could have not turned in the exam and passed.  What lesson does that teach?  What if she had been a horrible student all year and passed the exam with flying colors to pass with a D?  D stands for Diploma.  Which would you rather teach, parent or be friends with?

We all have to be responsible for our actions, but who taught us that?  Surely, it was not just your parents.  I hope that you see it all around you, modeled by graciousness, strong characters and responsible actions. 

Back to the question, “what did the student learn?”  If she walks away from this experience and realizes that she disappointed people, then this was a good problem.  Everyone messes up.  We all have low points in our lives and if not for forgiveness we would all be miserable people.  But what if she hasn’t learned? What if she does the same thing again?  What if she has the same teacher next year and is a problem child because she resents him?  Where do we learn forgiveness? 

We learn it from having others forgive us.  By the actions we are shown.  So remember to be an example for everyone.  Be gracious, be generous, be responsible.  If people put their prides aside and thanked their neighbor for something small, helped a stranger with simple task and held themselves accountable for their own actions the world would be a much better place.  By the way, it’s not too late to start doing these things, or forgive or apologize. Our actions today may influence who we are tomorrow but they do not define who we are…at least I’m hoping I was a better person today, than I was yesterday, and I strive to be a better person tomorrow, than I was today.

07 June 2012

light me up like a bottle rocket

Tomorrow is the last day with students.  I'm not sad.  I'm not excited.  I'm apathetic.  Pretty much the same feeling I've had all year.  I am sad to see the year end with some teachers.  I am sad that I won't see some of these students continue to grow up.  However, after leaving my favorites at Northeast last year, I feel like I can leave anywhere...a job's a job.

However leaving Burlington may be another story.  I have lived here for 10 years (minus the one year in Charlotte with Ann).  I have known where to get food, airports to fly in and out of, roads to take in traffic and roads to take when I want to drive.  I have had friends surrounding me and I know where to go to meet new ones.

So with tomorrow being my last day, it is also my last day of familiarity.  I have ended 6 school years now.  However this time, when we end, I am pausing a career in North Carolina.  I don't know where I will be in two years-do I come back to NC or move to Minnesota?  Why not just put my finger on a map and pick a new place?  Do I think administration or keep teaching or get out of education (stop laughing, I can do other careers!)

Part of my thought process for moving was a fresh start-what will my fresh start look like in two years?  I know no one can answer these thoughts.  I know part of the awesomeness about it all is that no one can or will answer these.

"I ain't here to do anything half-way
Don't give a damn what anyone might say
I just wanna free fall for a while...

Usually the end of the school year signifies my break, my time to recuperate from the year and prepare for the next school year.  This summer is so different because I cannot prepare for next year. I can pack and I can sell all my belongings but mostly it will just be living every moment to the fullest so that my memories of people and places can hold me until I come back...where back is...

...That rebel moon is shinin'
Those stars burn like diamonds
Hell bent on chasin' down that crazy spark
I'll follow you where you're leading
To the first sweet taste of freedom
You got me runnin' baby,
wild at heart."