Thursday, September 27, 2012

great week at school

This week at school has been 
  • exhausting
  • inspiring
  • hilarious
  • motivating 
  • ridiculous and
  • productive
to name a few.  

Tuesdays I'm in the office, so things are usually a lot calmer.  This Tuesday was no exception. There was a huge conference that Bill Clinton and Mitt Romney were both at (the Clinton Global Initiative) and City Year got a MAJOR endorsement and shoutout from both Mitt Romney (who gave a bunch of money to CY through Bain and Co.) and Bill Clinton, who started AmeriCorps based on what he saw in City Year.  So freaking cool!!  Watch the video here and check out how huge this is for City Year!

Wednesday I was back at school and had some really inspiring moments with students, which is always good and usually needed.  Here's what happened.

 During my first block on A days, there are two students who can usually find a way to get out of doing anything.  Ray (who I've mentioned before), has recently been on top of his game and he and I have started forming some sort of respectful relationship, which I'm so excited about. The second student, Bobby, is a lot more trouble.  He lives in a group home and I don't think there has ever been a lot of structure in his life.  He usually comes late to class and then sits at his desk doing nothing for about twenty minutes before he needs to go to the bathroom. When he leaves for the bathroom, he wanders the hall for about 20 minutes doing nothing before coming back. Today was different.  Bobby showed up late (as usual), but he was followed by one of the security ladies.  She dropped him off and told him to come find her after class was over.  He sat down at his desk, got out his book and worked the entire period! It was actually incredible. I felt like I should take a picture or something. After the block was over, I saw him being escorted to his next class by the same security lady.  She came up to me afterwards and I told her how great he was in class. She just smiled and said something like "well some of them just need a little bit of extra love and attention," so maybe all Bobby needs is an escort to class. We'll see....

The second was during 4th block with a student named Tyrique.  Tyrique is super difficult at times and Mr. Robinson (my teacher) thinks he may have some sort of mental issue. Apparently, yesterday he was a huge distraction in class and Adrienne spent all class trying to get him to sit and do his work. Today, Mr. Robinson was just like "sarah, can you sit with Tyrique and help him?" so I sat with Tyrique the entire block.  At first, he was really resistant.  He kept saying that he didn't feel good and that his hand hurt from writing. I told him he should just write with his left hand since his right hand was hurting, so he did, which was really funny. It was so messy it was practically illegible, but at least he was writing.  He stopped after writing a few notes and went back to being really resistant.  The class had moved on to answering questions out of the book, so I told him that if he wrote the answer to one question, I would write the answer to the next (he had to tell me exactly what to write, though) and we would alternate.  He wasn't very happy, but he did it.  Eventually he got tired of writing with his left hand and switched to his right hand. Before I knew it, he was just doing the work by himself.  It was really cool to see him go from completely to resistant to unhappy, but still doing the work.  

Today wasn't as inspiring, but the kids were really funny.  A student told another City Year they though I was always high because I'm always so happy. I don't know if that's a compliment or not, but oh well.  Then, we're studying the Caribbean in World Geography and Mr. Robinson played Bob Marley's "One love"  He asked for the meaning behind the song and one kid (Tyrique, the one I worked with the entire class last time) wrote "The world would be more peaceful if you legalized marijuana."

I'll end with a quote from a student yesterday, because I feel like it is the epitome of my week.   We were talking about China in World History and Mr. Robinson was referencing some movie (I forget which one).  He asked if anyone had seen the movie and this one girl yells out "Oooohhh yeah, my daddy got that on bootleg."  

This is my life. I know I'm making a difference.  Do you?

Monday, September 24, 2012

marvelous monday

Today was a pretty awesome Monday.  The kids in my morning classes were really great.  The student I've started working with pretty regularly, Ray,  was on top of his game.  When he found out they had to answer questions out of the book, he looked at me and was like "Ms. Russo, you gunna help me?" which was secretly really nice to hear.  The kids don't really show that they like adults all that much, and that was a pretty big sign that Ray kind of, sort of likes me.  He didn't even need my help and did all of his work, which is the complete opposite of how he is in other classes.  Apparently, he's a complete nutcase in other classes, walking around the classroom, always talking, etc.  I really like him, though, and he's easily becoming one of my favorite students. 

After lunch, I was a little tired and the kids were wild (they always are in the afternoon).  After school was awesome, though.  One of the teachers teaches a college application class for the seniors who are college bound.  Since almost all of them will be the first in their families to go to college, they don't really know where to begin applying or how to do it all, and they definitely don't know all of the tricks of financial aid.  So, she has this class that basically helps them apply to college.  Their homework assignments are writing their essays and their tests are to have applications submitted by a certain date.  So cool! I wish that had been a class for me!  Anyways, she also hosts like "college prep study hall" after school and City Year has been helping out with it.  There were like ten students who stayed and I helped two of them with filling out their applications.  It was awesome. It's so much fun to work with students when they actually want to do the work. There wasn't any resistance or complaining because they wanted to do the work.  So nice.  

We had to go back to the office after work for our weekly meeting, which was fine. I don't really mind staying late because we have a ton of stuff to do. Plus, Jay, the Executive Director, bought us pizza and wings for dinner, so I can't really complain too much. :)  I'm at the office all day tomorrow, too, which is nice. As much as I love the students, I like working at the office. 

Oh, and my friend Pat, who was on my team last year, sent me a picture of a couple of my students from last year and I almost started crying.  He's working for the after school program at NHCS and gets to hang out with my kids a few days a week. I'm so freaking jealous. I miss them and love them tons. I can't wait to go and visit them.  

Oh and one last thing, I bought my ticket home for Thanksgiving last night! I'm so so so excited! Can't wait to be home!

"A smile is a curve that straightens everything out."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

nerd post

Yesterday was Adrienne's first day in school, as well as benchmark testing day, so it was much different than I was used to.  The first two and a half hours were just testing for the entire school.  No one was allowed to leave their rooms, be in the halls, or talk unless it was during a break. I wasn't sure how the students would handle it, since they usually have trouble being quiet, but they handled it like pros.  They were actually really quiet and took the test without a problem. Now I know that they can make it a few hours without talking, so the bar has been raised! Corps Members don't really have much to do during testing, so we just sat in the back and read a book (thank goodness I remembered my kindle!).

It was good to ease Adrienne into school with testing, though.  She could observe the students without having to really enforce rules or make them work.  I was able to point out the class clowns, the talkers and the teacher's pets.  In the afternoon, though, they came in full force.  She was thrown into our most talkative class and worked with a student who has popped up on the radar of a lot of teachers as being a potential problem. I think the students were a little thrown off by her sarcasm, but I think they'll warm up to her.

Today at the office was somewhat productive.  I spent the morning tweeting for our twitter account. There is a website that you can input tweets and schedule them to show up throughout the week.  This is awesome since I'm in class three days a week. It helps to make sure that things are being tweeted regularly without taking me away from my in-class service.  Pretty cool if you're really into social media stuff like I am!  In the afternoon, Sean, Joe, Adrienne and I met to plan out this Friday's trainings.   I really like my Project Leader role because I get to use my Communications degree in my service.  Very cool.

Last, I also started looking at grad schools for next year.  After spending last year in first grade, I realized that I love my first graders, but could never teach them full time.  I've come to realize that I love middle schoolers. Their spunk and attitude makes it so much fun, but they're still young enough that you can be kind of cheesy and corny and they secretly like it.  Anyways, I've also realized that I love middle school math.  Kind of perfect, huh?  When I first started looking, I was realizing that it's hard to get a masters in middle school/high school education if you didn't major in the subject you wanted to teach. Luckily, after some searching, I found a program at Lesley, a school in Boston (YAY!), that offers a masters for grades 5-8, which is perfect.  I love the older elementary and younger middle school. I had contemplated going for my elementary education masters since it's through sixth grade, but this is perfect. I'm really excited about this possibility and can't wait to get started on the application process.

Basically, this whole blogpost has been one big nerd alert. From talking about how much I love my major and using it in my service to saying how excited I am to start on grad school applications, I'm a self-proclaimed nerd.  Nerd alert.

Hope you all are having a great start to the week!

Instead of a quote, I'm going to leave you with this video, just because I love JMU and miss it every day.
watch. fall in love. apply.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

post-hawaii life

Well, my three day work week wasn't nearly as exciting as my time in Hawaii, but there were a few things that happened that are blog-worthy.

First, my room mate Adrienne came! YAY!!! So exciting! I'm so happy to have a girl in the house and (starting Monday), have another corps member in my classroom to help me control the wild children that are my students :)

Second, I had a "This is why I serve" moment on Thursday.  One of my students was doing a worksheet that I was helping him with. As he was working, he asked me "How do you spell the word suspensive?" I paused before asking him to use it in a sentence.  He said "Ya know, like something is suspensive. It costs a lot."  The poor kid didn't know that the word he should have been saying was expensive.  He's in ninth grade.  Moments like these help remind me why I'm here doing what I'm doing .

Third, I love the corps.  Friday at the office was a blast.  They have such great energy and are so much fun to be around.  I look forward to it every week. We had an all site cook out Friday night at Ben's house where I ate wayyyy too much food.

Fourth, at this cookout, there was nonstop foolery.  From trying to smile without your teeth or your eyes to Biasia jumping in the pool not knowing how to swim, it was nonstop nonsense.  I left feeling full and happy.  Can't ask for much more.

Sometimes I have a hard time loving Jacksonville. It's not Boston, which I love and my work is a lot tougher than it was last year. It's weeks like these though that remind me that, while it may not be last year, it's not a bad year or a bad place to be right now.

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” 
― Eleanor Roosevelt


I don't even know where to begin to describe how great Hawaii and seeing Mike was.  I know that if I were reading this, I probably wouldn't want to hear all the lovey dovey stuff a million times, so I'll try to refrain.  Just know, though, that if there was no filter, it would be all over this blog because it was by far one of the best weekends I've had in a while. If you want to hear that stuff though, by all means, just ask because I could talk about it for hours :)

first glimpse of Hawaii from the airplane! So excited!
Anyways, let's start from the beginning.  I left bright and early Friday morning to catch my 6:30 flight to Houston. Once in Houston, I grabbed some breakfast and boarded the plane to Hawaii.  After spending all year flying on the little, tiny planes that go from Boston to Baltimore or Norfolk, this plane was like the motherload of all planes.  It had huge seats, TVs on the backs of chairs, 100s of movies and shows to watch, and free headphones and blankets for each passenger! I even had the seat next to me open, which NEVER happens on the short flights. I was in heaven! I didn't even mind that it was eight hours.  I watched a couple of movies, took a few naps, and drank a lot of Diet Coke.  It was perfect.  We landed about fifteen minutes early and I ran into the bathroom to change and brush my teeth.  Mike had been on the boat for the past few days and was getting back around the same time that I landed.  I grabbed my bags and met him at curbside pickup.  ::insert cheesy comment about the first moment I saw Mike:: On the way home, we stopped for ice cream at Coldstone. since we both share a love for ice cream.

Both of us were pretty tired that afternoon and night, so I met his room mates and we just hung out that afternoon.  I was super jet lagged and he was running on no sleep from the boat, so it worked out.  We did go out for sushi for dinner that night, which was some of the best sushi I've ever had.  We biked downtown, which was fun, except that it started raining right as we were about to bike home.  We got a movie from RedBox, but I fell asleep about a half an hour in because of the 6 hour jet lag.

That same jet lag woke me up pretty early on Saturday.  I guess it was good because Mike gets up early, too. It's amazing how much you can get done when you get going by 9am.   Maybe I should try it more often....  Anyways, we went to breakfast with Mike's room mates and a couple of his friends at this really good breakfast restaurant.  I got an omelette, which was delicious, but the best were the Red Velvet pancakes that Mike got. If I ever go back to Cinnamon's, I know what I'll be getting! For all of my Boston friends, Cinnamon's is like the Hawaiian version of McKenna's. So good! Once breakfast was over, we went back to his house and got ready for the beach.  He only lives two blocks from the beach!  How awesome is that?  I mean, I know I only live like a half hour from Jax beaches, but two blocks from a Hawaiian beach is pretty close to heaven.  Mike and I spent the afternoon on the beach, which was phenomenal.  When we were planning this trip, I felt like Mike thought we had to be constantly doing stuff, and I kept telling him that I would be perfectly happy just going to the beach. When we got to the beach that Saturday, that statement was confirmed.  It was by far the nicest beach I've ever been to.  Being able to sit back and relax on the beach with Mike was amazing.  It was like one of those perfect moments where you wouldn't change anything and just wished time stopped (whoops, I know I promised not to get too mushy, but that one slipped). Throughout our hours on the beach, I got super sun burnt thanks to the strong Hawaiian sun, but it was way worth it. I've realized that I like the beach way more than most people. Most people enjoy the beach and love going for a few hours. I love the beach so much and could honestly spend all day there.  While we were swimming, we saw a turtle! So cool! Apparently, it's pretty rare to see them in the water.  I like to think I was a good luck charm or something :) After the beach, we went back home and got ready to go over to one of Mike and Jud's (Mike's room mate) friend's house.  All of Mike's friends have barbecues every weekend, which is so cool and this weekend, it was at Angel's house. It was fun to go and meet all of the people I've heard about.  I hope they enjoyed meeting me as much I liked meeting them!
Hawaiian beaches (and a little bit of my finger...ooops!)

Mike is a huge Philadelphia sports fan (much to my dismay...), so Sunday we were up and out of the house early to watch the Eagles/Browns game at a sports bar.  We got there around 8:30am (the game started at 7 thanks to Hawaii being six hours behind!), got breakfast and watched the rest of the game.  There was even a Notre Dame fan there!  The Eagles won and we headed home happy and ready to hike.   Around noon, Mike and I, along with his room mates met up with two of their friends to hike to a waterfall.  I was super excited to see a different side of Hawaii besides the beaches. I don't know how long the hike was, but it was definitely worth it.  We forged through mud and streams to make it to a water fall and swimming hole.  The water was freeeeeezing, so Mike and I just went in for a second to say we did it.  Jud, on the other hand, was in and out.  He even jumped off of this ledge that was probably 30 ft high into the water multiple times! My fear of heights kept me on the ground, but it was fun to watch him and a bunch of other people jump. I'm not a  huge hiker, but when I go, it's always a lot of fun (besides the fall on the way back that left multiple bruises on my leg...).  

Hiking to the waterfall
Sunday night was probably my favorite of the whole trip. After spending all weekend in a pony tail and bathing suit (which I loved as well), I was excited to get somewhat dressed up and go on an actual date. I wore a dress, did my hair and makeup and was ready for a night out in Honolulu.  We were kind of early for dinner, but we found an Italian restaurant.  It was so fun to actually go on a real date.  The food was yummy, the sangria was delicious, and the conversation was great.  It was like our first real date. I loved it! After dinner, we went to a restaurant/bar on the water which was awesome.  I had some sort of cucumber melon drink which was really good, but not as good as the view of the water as the sun was setting. After drinks, we walked on the beach for a little bit before heading home. I love being on the beach at night with the cool sand between your toes and the sound of the waves crashing in the darkness. It was the perfect last night in Hawaii. (If you would like to hear all the mushy stuff, there is plenty on this night, so ask away!)

My flight didn't leave until 8 on Monday night, so we had all day on Monday to hang out, which was so nice. Even though Mike lives two blocks from the beach, we decided to check out the North Shore beaches.  This is where the huge surf competitions are in the winter, but in the summer, it's just like any other (Hawaiian) beach.    The drive is about 45 minutes from Mike's house, but it was an awesome drive.  So scenic!  We stopped at a Mexican restaurant for breakfast burritos, which were delicious. The waiter there recommended a beach to go to, so we headed there.  Mike fell asleep pretty quickly for a nice morning nap on the beach, while I was a little more restless and took in the scenery. There was a big rock that people were jumping off of in the distance and lots of vacationers enjoying the beach.  Lots of good people watching! The water was kind of cold, but we went in a few times to cool off.  It got deep really fast and neither of us could touch, but I could see how the big waves would stand a chance there.  Around two, we headed home to shower, pack and take Paisley (the dog) for a walk on the beach.  Paisley wasn't a very good dog on her walk.  She ran far ahead a few times, which resulted in Mike chasing her every time.  Needless to say, she wasn't on the good list after that walk.  Too bad she's too cute to stay mad at for very long. :)

I packed up my stuff and around five, we headed out to the airport.  We stopped for Chinese food on the way and got to the airport around six.  After a very sad goodbye, I got in line to check my bags and headed on my way. It's a good thing we got there so early because the line to check in was over an hour long.  I only had about twenty minutes to spare by the time I went through security and found my gate. I slept most of the flight from Hawaii to DC, which was nice. I even had the seat next to me open again! Such a nice treat.  I made it to DC and then to JAX without a hitch and the trip to Hawaii was over with the blink of an eye.

I can't wait to go visit again and see Mike again. I miss him a lot, especially after such an incredible weekend.  I know that Hawaii is pretty far and that some people are skeptical, but I think it will work.  It was such an amazing weekend with a very special person and I am truly lucky.  Thanks for everything, Mike! You're the best!
miss you :)

"I'm a little drunk on you and high on summertime..."  -Luke Bryan

Thursday, September 6, 2012

the week in review

Well, this work week was short and sweet.   It was only three days long, but each day was better and better.  I could definitely get used to having Monday and Friday off each week.  I guess a girl can dream....

Anyways, Tuesday was my first day at the office and I loved it! After being in a classroom where there's never a dull moment, it's nice to be in the office where you can put in your headphones and just get stuff done on your own schedule.  There wasn't a ton for me to do, but it actually was really productive. I made the first Weekly Briefing EVER in City Year Jacksonville history (another cool perk of doing startup) and met with Jay (the Startup Director) and Joe about defining the Project Leader role. We decided on specific tasks for Joe and I (and Adrienne once she gets settled) to work on. I'm going to be running the social media for City Year Jacksonville, which is kind of cool.  Follow us on Twitter (@CityYearJAX) and Like us on Facebook!  Hopefully by Christmas we will have a blog up and going, which I'll be REALLY excited about! Being at the office will be just as busy as school is, but hopefully not quite as taxing.

Wednesday was my first day at school this week and it was pretty uneventful.  It was an early release day (every other Wednesday is), but that just meant an extra long staff meeting. I had a flat tire that I got on my way to work or probably before, so I spent the afternoon kind of dealing with that in between the release of school and the meeting. Luckily, it was a quick fix and just needed a patch, so nothing too extravagant.

Today was a normal day at school, but it was a really good day. I can't quite pinpoint it (maybe it was because I was having a good hair day), but for some reason, I felt like today was a good day.  I think the students are really starting to like me (not trust me so much, but they like me) and I feel comfortable helping them with classwork. I even had a student come eat lunch with me. He saw me in the City Year office during lunch on his way to the bathroom and stopped by.  It was a lot of fun. I really hope more students come and stop by during lunch because it's such a great way to get to know them. They are such interesting and inspirational people if you can get to know them. Their life experiences baffle my minds.  From living in group homes to experiencing sexual assaults, from having the traditional family to having no family at all, they are such complex and motivating people that just take a little bit more time and encouragement than some of their peers.

I can't believe I can say this, but this time tomorrow I'll be landing in Hawaii!! It'll be about 1pm there, so I'll have basically all afternoon to sleep. I can't wait to be there and see Mike!  I feel like we've all been talking about this for forever and I'm so excited to finally be there.

Last, I don't know how many of you have been watching the Democratic National Convention this week. I haven't watched a lot of it, but I did manage to catch the First Lady's address.  Let. Me. Tell. You. WHAT A WOMAN!! She is quickly moving up on my list of inspirational women and I definitely don't hate it! I think someone on facebook said it perfectly when they said "I'll vote for Barack just because he was smart enough to marry Michelle #obama2012" I couldn't have said it better myself.  Also, governor Duval Patrick mentioned a school that City Year served at last year which was super cool.  Finally, one of City Year's culture pieces is this call and response...."City Year, how are you feeling?" and you respond "FIRED UP!"  Well, it looks like President Obama is feeling pretty fired up and I am too!  Check out this video!

Have a great weekend everyone! Aloha!

"Success isn't about how much money you make, it's about the difference you make in people's lives."
-Michelle Obama

Couldn't have said it better myself!

Monday, September 3, 2012

labor day weekend

I'm lying in my bed waiting to Skype with one of my friends and realizing how relaxing this weekend was.  The end of last week was good and I'm beginning to realize how much I like Fridays at the office.  It's a nice change of pace from the classroom where the kids are less than thrilled to have ANOTHER teacher in the room, plus we get a late start and things are more structured, yet laid back.

Friday, we went to Old Navy as a corps because our uniform pants are coming from there this year!! Wahooo!! Last year, the pants fit horribly, so we were allowed to wear our own khakis.  This year, that's not even necessary. They actually look somewhat normal on us.  It's great. Starting tomorrow, the entire corps will be uniformed out and looking sharp. Unfortunately, senior corps' uniforms didn't come (except for the boots), so we have to wait, but we all have ours from last year, so it works out.

Anyways, after work on Friday, staff and senior corps heading out to our favorite local bar, The Pearl, which was having it's last weekend open celebration. It's within walking distance of our house and pretty cool. They even had karaoke, which I definitely did not participate in, but was still a lot of fun to watch.   It's really sad that it's closing now.  I wonder if something as cool is coming to fill it's spot. Let's hope so!

Saturday was nothing too exciting. I wasn't feeling good and had a pretty sore throat that I think was from just being exhausted, both physically and mentally.  Luckily, doing a lot of nothing on Saturday cured it all and I was ready and able to spend all of Sunday afternoon at the beach, which is exactly what Joe and I did.  We tried out a new beach, but ended up having to pay for parking and feeling like intruders on a church cookout, so we didn't stay long.  Today, I went back to our old beach by myself (Joe was playing golf) and spent a good six hours there.  It was perfect. The water was warm, but not too warm, the sun was hot, but not too hot and the afternoon seemed to last forever.  The only reason I left was because of a big rain cloud that was settling in (and opened up about an hour after I left!).

I've realized that I love going to the beach. I mean, I always knew that I liked it, but I could go every day if I had the time.  I never realized that some people (like my room mate Quinci), don't like the beach.  It baffles me. It's so relaxing and calming.  If you have a towel, music and a good book, you're all set. I hope that I have at least a couple more weekends of beach going here in Jax. Next weekend, I'll be at the motherland of all beaches in Hawaii with Mike and I can't wait.  I feel like after next weekend, these little Jacksonville beaches are going to seem like nothing.  Oh well, I'll take what I can get.

Anyways, time for bed to rest up for a short week of work and then a very exciting vacation!!  Good luck to all of my friends who are starting school tomorrow as students AND teachers! I know you're going to rock this year!

"There are seven days in the week and someday isn't one of them." -Swedish Proverb
SO TRUE!! Hence the reason I moved to Boston last year, moved to Jacksonville and am going to Hawaii. If you wait, someday will never come. YOLO/Carpe Diem