Monday, December 17, 2012

birthday in boston

I know that it was a great weekend when I don't want to go back. Whenever I'm on vacation, there's always a little part of me that is excited to get back in my bed and have my routine back.  Even trips where I'm having a blast, there's always a little desire for the normalcy.  There are very few trips where I don't feel that.  This weekend was one of them. If I could have kept this weekend going (or rewind to last year), I would have.  It was an amazing two days.

I landed at 9:30 and boarded the T to meet Sam. It's funny how much I missed little things like the T.  I love public transportation and how easy it makes it to get around. Anyways, I met Sam at South Station.  I felt like there should have been like sentimental music or something.  We boarded the T and headed to Matt's.  By the time, we got to Matt's house, it was pretty late.  We were both tired, Sam was a little sick, and we wanted to get to bed, so we weren't up very late that night.

The next morning (my birthday), we woke up around nine.  I was really excited to go back to NHCS to see all of our students. Both Sam and I had emailed a few to let them know we were coming, but I think we both were starting to get a little nervous as well.  We got Dunkin Donuts (also something I missed) and walked to school.  The kids were in class, so we waited until the middle schoolers got out for lunch. I was really nervous then because I wasn't sure how they would react.  When they came down, one girl dropped her coat and ran to Sam to give her a hug. Some of them were really funny. Jahnelle hid behind a book, but was smiling and seemed excited.  She's pretty shy, so I didn't expect a huge to-do. Michael, though, was at a loss for words for once in his life.  It was cute and I could tell he was still excited.  Jadanies, of course, didn't come up to me, but she did take a picture with me when I asked, which is more than I could have asked for.

After middle school lunch, it was first and second grade recess.  I was so excited to see all of them because I knew their reactions would be so fun.  Sure enough, they were on the playground when I got out there. I walked out and they didn't really notice me, so I called one of them over and he did a double take.  Then all of a sudden, everyone realized I was there and there were a dozen second graders running towards me.  It made my day.  They were so excited to see me.  We took tons of pictures and I heard all about second grade.  I went inside and had lunch with them, which was fun because I got to talk to a lot of them.  Brandon Deleon, who is just a character, told me he dreams of me every night and Khaymare didn't want to let go of me.  I loved it.  I didn't want to leave.  We stayed through town meeting at the end of the day because I was savoring every moment.

We had a few hours to kill between the end of school and dinner, so Sam and I  grabbed a cup of coffee/hot chocolate and caught up.  It was really good to just be back with Sam.  She was my rock last year through everything.  Our hour long T rides at the end of the day were sometimes all I needed. We headed to dinner in Chinatown and met up with Megan, Pat and Pat's boyfriend Sam. I was so glad to be back with everyone.  It was the best. Dinner was really good.  We went to this Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant and I had a beef and broccoli concoction.  It was really good.   I love Chinese food, especially good Chinese food.

Luckily, Megan had driven so it didn't take long to get to the Blarney.  The best part about the Blarney Stone is that it's not downtown, so even on a Friday night, you can get a table, but it's still crowded enough that you feel like you are "out."  Margaret came and met us eventually, so it was basically like old times.

Saturday, we continued the tradition of McKenna's breakfast. McKenna's is the absolute BEST breakfast place in all of Boston.  It's worth the half hour wait and a long commute. It's the best.  The omelettes are to die for and the pancakes melt in your mouth. I love it. Sam wasn't feeling so great, so afterwards, we went and saw the Hobbit instead of spending the afternoon in the cold.  The Hobbit was really good! I'm not a huge Lord of the Rings fan, but this was awesome. It was really well written and the scenery was beautiful.  I haven't read the book in a while, but I heard it followed it really closely.  That night, Sam, Pat, Margaret and I hung out at Matt (my old room mate)'s house.  It was great to end the weekend reminiscing and just hanging out with everyone.

I really miss them. They are some of my best friends.  Never have I felt so comfortable and myself in a group of people. They always say that you only get one corps year.  I'm glad that I got the one I got.  I wouldn't change a thing.  Just like this weekend.

three of my favorite boys!

God bless these little guys

recess reunion!

such an old and refreshing soul

photoshoot outside of McKenna's

Look who I found!

This kid grew like a foot in the past six months!

The new City Year team. Thank you for taking care of the kids and school we care about so much. We are eternally grateful!

These boys found a special place in my heart last year. 

Best friends that have my heart and soul!

Pure joy!

Little angels <3

Best friends a girl could ask for <3

The weekend ended with birthday flowers from Mike! He's a keeper :)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Newtown, CT

I am still in shock over what happened on Friday.   I can't help but feel overwhelmed with grief as I think about the presents under the Christmas tree or the students backpacks, both of which now have no owners.  I am brought to tears every time I read the news because I can't help but think about my students. I was with my former first graders and middle schoolers on Friday and I hugged them a little longer and harder as news broke out about the shootings in Newtown.

 It's so unfair that complete mayhem broke out in a school, where students are allowed to feel safe and comfortable.  So many students are glad to come to school because it's the one place they do feel safe.  Often times, their homes and surrounding neighborhoods are filled with violence and school provides a safe haven.

If kids can't feel safe at school, where can they?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Oh Christmas Tree..."

I think my teacher is need of a break. I mean, if I were him, I would be so overwhelmed and frustrated.  It doesn't merit the behavior he showed the other day, though.  We were doing a test prep game for the mock AP exam today and the kids were not behaving.  They were in groups and were constantly talking and not paying attention. One student, who is pretty well behaved, but can test the limits was talking. He's definitely not a "behavior problem" though and I've heard he behaves in classes where the teacher is good at behavior management. He had been asked to stop multiple times, so I definitely understand my teacher's frustrations.   There were multiple students not paying attention, but all of a sudden, my teacher turns to this student and, in front of the entire class, says "I don't know what works better, Be Quiet or Shutup?"  This poor student just shut down and refused to participate for the rest of class. When I went to go talk to him and try and get him to participate, he just said he was shutting up like he had been asked to.  It was really sad and I felt really bad for the student.  I mean, I understand my teacher's frustrations, but that was completely out of line.

Anyways, here's a little "holiday cheer" for ya....

Slang Definition of the Day
Christmas Tree-(verb) to randomly fill in bubbles on a test when the test is difficult, if you are creative, you'll make the shape of a Christmas Tree on your scantron.

Today, my AP students were taking a mock AP exam in class to get them used to the time limit and the format of the exam.  Seeing as they haven't learned much of anything,  I knew they were going to have a hard time staying focused and completing the exam, so I braced myself as I headed to class.  Overall, they were pretty good.  If they got overwhelmed, they just fell asleep.  While it's not ideal, it's a lot easier to redirect than acting out and it doesn't disrupt everyone else.  Anyways, there was one student who definitely didn't fall asleep.  She is one of the students who I sometimes pull out, but she's also a major behavior issue in class (which is why this shouldn't have been a surprise).  All of a sudden, she started singing "Oh Christmas Tree..." very loudly in an almost silent classroom. I went over, looked at her paper and saw that in fact, there was a Christmas tree shape on her scantron.  I couldn't help but laugh.  I mean, none of the kids knew any of the answers, so it wasn't a surprise.  I just laughed and told her to try her best.  The singing stopped, but the humming picked up and I just ignored it.  What can ya do?

I'm heading to Boston tomorrow night for my birthday and I couldn't be more excited! I just want it to be tomorrow night at 9:15.  I'll be back in the best city with some of the greatest friends and students.  I can't wait!!

"I began learning long ago that those who are happiest are those who do the most for others."-Booker T. Washington

Monday, December 10, 2012

Party time!

This past weekend was the weekend of parties and it was a blast!

I went to my first ever work holiday party on Friday night! I felt so grown up! Granted, there were only ten of us and it was at our office, but it was still so much fun!  After work on Friday, we dashed home to change out of our uniforms and head back to the office for the party.  When we got there, there were signs in the lobby leading to the "Winter Wonderland."

When we got upstairs, the whole office was decorated in winter wonderland theme.  It didn't look like the office at all!  It was awesome.  We played holiday games before and after dinner, did a gift exchange, and had lots of holiday cheer.  The dinner was really good. It was catered by Bucca di Beppo, so there was lots of delicious pasta, salad, bread and dessert.  The whole thing was awesome.  I ended up taking home a bottle of wine, an ornament with my name and CY JAX '12 on it, and a M&M candy cane.  Definitely a successful night!

Happy holidays! love, the senior corps house

Christmas card picture for sure

Jay Thompson: Start-Up Director and back up santa

Saturday morning, I volunteered at the middle school City Year serves in.  They were having the second half of a gift drive that morning, so I went (along with some other CMs) and helped wrap presents for the middle schoolers.  It was fun and definitely got me in the holiday spirit, which is hard considering it's been 75 degrees here all week. 

After the gift wrapping, I spent a few hours in Panera finishing up grad school essays and getting my life organized.  I'm unofficially done writing grad school essays (still waiting for a few people to edit them before I submit them) and then I'll submit the last application hopefully in the next week or so.  So excited!

Anyways, after a few hours in Panera, I headed to my next party. Mike Hogan, Anna and Mike Fick are friends (and former room mates) with a guy named Shawn who's stationed down here.  He and his fiance were having a Army/Navy game party and had invited me to come, so I definitely took them up on the offer.  Even though I didn't know anyone besides them, it was still a lot of fun.  The game was a really good game, especially since Navy ended up winning in the last few minutes.  It was also just really nice to spend time with non City Year people. I love City Year, but it consumes my life and it was nice to talk about something other than CY.  I hope that I get to see Shawn and Christina more once we get back from Christmas.   They're definitely a nice distraction from the chaos.

It was a fun weekend in Jacksonville. It's my last weekend here for a while since this weekend I'll be in BOSTON!!! and the weekend after that I'll be home!! I'm so excited! The next month is going to fly by and I am so excited for all of it!

"I'll be home for Christmas, you can count on me."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

round tables

Round tables are one of my favorite things to do as a Project Leader.  It's basically an hour or so of you talking about yourself and City Year! What could be better? This morning, I was asked to join in a meeting with two administrators from Jackson, as well as two Teach For America representatives, Ashlee, Jay and our guest of honor.  Gary Chartrand, our guest, is on the founding committee for City Year Jacksonville and helped bring TFA and the KIPP school to Jacksonville.

Jay prepped with me in the morning before the meeting.  He went over my testimonial and gave me a  little background into our meeting.  I was supposed to talk about what a day in the life of a corps member is like at school and about specific students I've worked with.  When we got to school, I waited in the board room while Jay showed Gary around.

Once the meeting started, Gary had a lot of questions for Principal Wright and the other administrator, Ms. Crady about how all of the partnerships that Jackson has with other organizations work together.  I didn't really get to talk until the end of the meeting, where I talked about my relationship that I've formed with a lot of my students and how they really like City Year.

Even though I didn't talk for most of the meeting, it was really interesting.  It was like a peak behind the curtains of everything that goes on backstage at school.  Principal Wright is hilarious and not afraid to speak her own mind.  Overall, it was a really good meeting and I think the guest of honor, Gary, really liked all of the stuff he heard.

Adrienne, Joe and I celebrated a good day (or commiserated a bad day in Joe's case) by going to wine tasting at a local coffee shop/bar a few blocks from our house. They have it on the first Tuesday of every month.  It was only $5 for five "glasses" of wine.  It was pretty bad wine, but we played Scrabbled, listened to the singer performing,  It was a good end to the day.

We're continuing data chats tomorrow, so the day should be pretty relaxed.  Fingers crossed!

"Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy. "
Benjamin Franklin 

Monday, December 3, 2012

data chats

I just got back from yoga and I think every muscle in my body is sore.  Every toxin in my body was sweated out, though, and it felt so good.  I love it.  

Today was really good.  We weren't in class because we were doing data chats. Basically, we were talking to every ninth grader who didn't pass the FCAT (Florida's version of the SOL) and going over the FCAT scores as well as all of their other standardized test scores.  Lots of times, they don't even know their scores and no one at home pays attention to the scores or understands them, so the kids don't really try.  It was a lot of fun, especially when they realized how close they were to passing.  I think it was good motivation for them to pay attention and stay focused.  I really liked meeting with the students.  I felt like they really listened and cared, which I don't always see in class.  I also got to talk to kids in our class that I don't always get to work with. One kid who's super quiet was hilarious once I actually talked to him one on one.  He told me that he didn't even try on the test.  One part of the test was to listen to words said aloud and they have to spell it out.  The kid didn't even try and put on the headphones!  Driving me crazy!  Once I showed him how close he was to passing, I think he felt pretty silly, so I hope he remembers it the next time testing comes along. 

I sometimes get frustrated being in class because my teacher is sub par and the kids don't show any motivation.  I got to see them in a whole new light and, in turn, was motivation for myself to keep pushing on.  It was a good day.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Happy December!

I've gotten really bad at this blogging thing. I barely write once a week now, whereas before it was almost every day. I don't know why.  If anything, I have more time to blog.  Anyways, here are the highlights of the week

1.  Volunteering at Sanctuary on 8th Street.  School was closed for the kiddos on Monday, but we were in service, so we spent the afternoon volunteering at the Sanctuary. It's an after school place for low income kids.   Some of the students who go to the middle school we're serving in go to the Sanctuary in the afternoon.  It was a really cool facility.  We just cleaned and organized all of their stuff, but it was a lot of fun to look around and see where some of students spend their afternoons.

2. My teacher's revelation.  On Thursday, he called me over while the students were working.  Fourth block is pretty hyperactive and usually a pretty stressful block.  He had given them book work to do for basically the whole block, so they were preoccupied and doing their work.  They were behaving really well and a lot better than they normally do. My teacher pulled me aside and said "I realized that when the students are engaged and participating, they are well behaved and interested in what we're studying." I wanted to shake him and be like "DUHHHH!!" but I just nodded and said yes.  I guess it's better late than never. He has a tendency to have these revelations and then not really act on them, but let's hope he follows through.

3.  A student telling me jokes.  This student is about six feet tall and definitely doesn't quite understand how big his body is.  He's always running into things and is just too big for his body.  He also doesn't show a lot of emotion.  He hardly ever talks or smiles and just kind of plods along.  I was talking to him at the end of class on Thursday.  I know he likes jokes so I usually have a joke for him so I can get him to smile.  Thursday, he was like

 "Ms. Russo, what kind of music does a car like to listen to?"
"I don't know, what kind?"

He started cracking up and his arms started flailing.  Papers were flying everywhere and he was just laughing.  It was the funniest thing.

4. The beach.  Today was super warm, so Joe, Adrienne, and I headed to the beach.  It still wasn't very warm and I kept my cover up on the whole time, but it was so nice.  There were a ton of dogs running in the water and playing on the beach.  There was even a woman walking in a red workout suit wearing a red santa hat.  The things you see at the beach....

5. I'M GOING TO BOSTON!!  Sam texted me and asked if I wanted to go to Boston the weekend of my birthday and I obviously had to say yes! I'm leaving on Thursday  the 13th after school and coming back that Sunday.  We're going to go to NHCS on Friday and see our babies, go out Friday night for my birthday and then spend the day in the city on Saturday.  I'M SO EXCITED!!! I can't wait!

And on that note, I'm going to bed.  Well I'm going to eat some ice cream and then go to bed.  Happy December everyone!

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.
Muhammad Ali 

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Every year at Thanksgiving dinner, my family goes around and says one thing we're thankful for.  It's always a huge challenge to come up with one single thing.  How do I come up with the one thing I'm most thankful for? I don't.  I came up with twelve things that I'm especially thankful for this year.  Some are the same from year to year, but there are a few that are new editions to the list...

1. My parents.  I couldn't make it without their love and support.  They mean the world to me.  I cannot express how thankful I am for them. 
2. Andrew and Ben- They're turning out to be amazing men and I am so glad to have them as my brothers.  They make me a better sister and a better person.  I am so proud of the men they are becoming and I know they are going to do great things (and already have).  They are a constant source of inspiration and motivation, especially when serving my male students.
3. Anna - I wouldn't have survived JMU without her.  She knows how to be girly and excited with me over stuff, but she also keeps me grounded and brings me back to reality when I need it.  She's best friend.  
4. Karen- When she moved into our apartment senior year, I wasn't sure what to expect, but she turned out to be one of my best friends.  She can make me laugh whenever I need her to and whenever I have a crazy story, she's the one I go to. 
5. Mike-  He makes me super happy and I kind of like him :)
6.  My education-  Over the past year and a half, I've realized how lucky I am to have received such a great public education.  I've seen the disparities between urban and suburban education.  It's so unfair and definitely something I want to help make a difference in.
7. JMU- Everyone says that college is the best four years of your life and I can definitely say that's true for me.  It was a life changing experience and probably the best decision I have ever made.
8.  City Year Boston-  If college is the best four years of your life, then City Year was the best single year of my life. That experience helped me grow as an educator, a friend, and a person.  
9. Holly Moulton- I served in her classroom last year and I learned so much from her.  She was an incredible mentor and an amazing teacher.  I couldn't have asked for a better partner teacher last year. 
10.  My twenty first graders-  They were seven, but they served as a constant source of joy and inspiration last year (and this year). I am so proud of the progress that they all made last year.  They are some of the funniest, cutest, and toughest kids I know and they deserve everything possible.  
11.  Jadanies, Jahnelle, and Michael-  My three middle school course coaching students.  At the beginning of the year, I was super intimidated by middle schoolers, but they made (almost) every afternoon the best part of the day. I learned to love and embrace sass and attitude. I taught them math and ELA, but they taught me so much more.  
12.  The fact that I have a job, a roof over my head, and food in my belly.  It's something my students worry about everyday and I'm glad I don't have to worry about it. Ever. 

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” ― John F. Kennedy

Sunday, November 18, 2012

life size jenga!

This week, senior corps and staff were at a facilitation training on Tuesday and Thursday, so I was only in class on Wednesday.  It was definitely an easy week, which I appreciated.   I'm excited to take everything that we learned back to the classroom and to the corps for Friday trainings, though.  There were a ton of great techniques that they showed us.

Anyways, yesterday, the room mates, Jacqui and I went to a brewery that was having a two year anniversary party.  I'm not a beer drinker, but even I found a beer that I liked.  The best part of it all, though, were the games they had.  There was corn hole, foose ball, and best of all, life size jenga.  We played one game of jenga that lasted over an hour and, by the end, was taller than Adrienne and I.  Unfortunately, it was my block that made the tower crumble.

I'm  super excited for Thanksgiving and to go home. I am leaving on Wednesday after a short day at work and I couldn't be more excited! I'm ready to be home with my family.  I. Can't. Wait!

The tower is as tall as we are!

So happy the tower survived my block removal (that time!).

hahahahah joe!

Quinci hard at work.

My emotion every time a block was removed.

Tower down.

slowly but surely

The room mates supporting Quinci