Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Testing, Testing, 1-2-3

Today at my site was testing day. The PLAN, EXPLORE, and either the PSAT or practice ACT were administered to all 9th, 10th, and 11th grade students. Unfortunately, I was not at my site to see how it all goes down, but I did have a chance to help organize test materials. I also sat in a meeting where accommodations, and other logistical planning took place. There did not seem to be too much anxiety or stress during the days leading up to the testing. Are these students so used to testing that it doesn't phase them? Will their attitudes be different when they get their test results back? I would assume the students taking PLAN would have some idea of where their strengths and weaknesses lie, after taking EXPLORE the year prior. I hope I can work with some kids to interpret their results. I should make a list of things I'd like to do during my internship.

Anyone else out there help with the testing today? How did it go?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Swish Your Bushy Tail

Grey squirrel, Grey squirrel
Swish your bushy tail.

Put a nut between your toes
Wrinkel up your little nose.

Grey squirrel, grey squirrel 
Swish your bushy tail!  

I love this camp song, but I do not love the three dead squirrels I have seen in the past two weeks. Who is killing all our squirrels?! I don't always like the squirrels, especially when they make that barking sound, but that doesn't mean I want to see them dead in the alley. They are so cute and one of the few species of wildlife we have in the city. I hate to think that people's rat poison is also killing the squirrels. The ones I've seen look in tact, so I know they weren't hit by cars. I wonder if there is anything that can be done about this? Anyone a squirrel expert?

Monday, September 19, 2011

More Second City Firsts

I decided to revisit my list of things to do in Chicago that I created when I first started the blog. I was able to cross off a handful of items. This September I went to my first Chicago Bears game. BEAR DOWN! It was a preseason game, but it was still exciting and nice to see Soldier Field. I was also able to cross off visits to many of the museums in the city. During my job with Disney I chaperoned a few field trips with a student who needed assistance with walking. I also chaperoned the 8th grade overnight that took the students all over the city. This was a great way to get a taste of what Chicago has to offer for free! I would like to revisit some of the spots so I can spend a bit more time experiencing them.

I wish my 30 before 30 list was getting more attention. I just re-read it and I can't cross off a single thing! Even with a list, I have to be intentional and make a plan to achieve goals, whatever they might be.

Bears game. It was pretty hot that night!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Taking a Stance

Right now is such an exciting time to be in education, but it is also a very scary time. There are so many aspects to consider when forming a stance on public/private/charter education and its reform. How can I take a stance when I have no idea where to even begin? Currently I subscribe to a handful of education blogs. Many of the blogs I read probably fall into the more "liberal" stance on education. This is most likely a direct result of my graduate courses that highly emphasize the professional urban and multicultural educator and Vincentian Personalism. I am not a highly religious person, raised in the church, but not an active member since I left my family  home. However, I think the philosophy behind Vincentian Personalism is further reaching than organized religion allows. Sorry for the rambling tangent.

Things that come to mind while trying to discover my stand on education:
  1. The information I continue to read is pretty one sided an I feel like I need to read more opinions and research about the corporate takeover structure of schools and education in general. Are these business men doing their due diligence? What do they really know about classroom management, teacher unions, angry parents, social-emotional learning, etc.?
  2. There are so many amazing things happening in suburban, rural, and urban schools that need to be spotlighted . If we emphasized the positive more often it will become infectious and inspiring! 
  3. While there are exciting things happening, it is very scary with the CPS union contracts being renegotiated. It seems like there is a very real possibility of a strike in the future. What impacts might this have for us entering the field next fall? What will this mean for future union members? What's up with unions anyway? How will this impact the students of today and years to come?
  4. I am currently interning at a school with great teachers and heavy parent involvement. Many of these students have more access than imaginable, while others are on free and reduced lunch. How can we help those with less access and opportunity?
  5. Do I feel called to work in a school like Northside, Payton, and Whitney or somewhere that has no counseling program, where the need is much greater?
In other news: MSU alum, Magic Johnson has just partnered with a charter school. Why not in Lansing, Magic? Can't support your hometown and home state that has been in economic crisis longer than most? Either way, it's nice to see him making an investment in the future. Edison Learning

A few edu blogs in my Google Reader:

Gregory Michie for Huffington Post
Gregory Michie has been a teacher and teacher educator in Chicago for 20 years. He has published numerous essays and articles about his work with children, and is the author of Holler If You Hear Me: The Education of a Teacher and his Students (2nd edition, Teachers College Press, 2009), and See You When We Get There: Teaching for Change in Urban Schools (Teachers College Press, 2005). He also co-edited City Kids, City Schools: More Reports from the Front Row (The New Press, 2008). He teaches in the Department of Foundations, Social Policy, and Research at Concordia University Chicago.

Education Week's Bridging Differences with Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch 
Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch have found themselves at odds on policy over the years, but they share a passion for improving schools. Bridging Differences will offer their insights on what matters most in education.

Chicago Teachers Union Blog 

Ed Week's Why Boys Fail by Richard Whitmire 
Former editorial writer at USA Today and past board president of the National Education Writers Association, is a frequent commentator on national education issues. 

Leave comments on other blogs that are worth reading!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Final Gifts

I hated Statistics in college, thankfully this is not the Stats I am writing about. Blogger has a new format and it's interesting to easily see the stats of each blog post. No one ever read the ones tagged Death and Loss. I can't say I'm completely shocked. Who wants to read about death and loss? The bf and I are currently faced with a very sick family member once again and it makes me reflect on the past year. I think death and loss are such funny things, but it happens to EVERYONE at some point. Why do we feel so awkward talking about it? I am working very hard to challenge myself to be open about my own personal thoughts on the subject and hope to have more dialogue with people, not just via the blog.

Watching the 9/11 reflections on TV really had me worked up today. It is so interesting how people make sense of death and loss in such different ways. I noticed they only interviewed people who were able to draw strength from the horrible attacks. What factors are at play that allow some to rise above, draw meaning, and turn their hurt and loss into something that serves others? What is missing in those who are still out for blood, unable to cope, and honor those dead by living their best life possible?

After my mom died I read Final Gifts. It truly changed my views on dying and death, not in terms of heaven, hell, and afterlife. Rather, on how to approach those who are dying to make them more comfortable and in turn comfort oneself. I highly recommend everyone read it, even if you don't know someone who is dying right now, chances are you will someday. You can never be prepared to lose someone you love, but you can definitely have some understanding of the process before it comes. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Have a Slice of Humble Pie

My first official week of internship is over. The students all seemed really excited to be back at school, catching up with friends, and getting into the swing of things. I was just as excited as they were to be at the school. I won't bore you with the details of my first week as a school counselor intern. Let's just say, it was a bit boring! I can definitely see value in what I was doing during the two days, but it just wasn't exciting. I sat in on schedule changes, made some bulletin boards, read through a very rough draft of a RAMP application, and printed schedules. I shuffled around trying to stay out of people's way and asked most of my questions while trying not to be a pest.

I talked to some other girls who were in their first week of internship and they all felt similar. The first week was very humbling. I am used to being in control, knowing the answers, feeling a sense of mastery in my school work or tasks on the job. I don't have a home at my site; no desk, not even a drawer to put my purse, let alone my own supplies. It's so strange having to ask for EVERYTHING. stapler, staples, scissors, computer log in, etc. I know this is part of a new job, but I felt like having an intern was somewhat of an afterthought of the department. (This is probably absolutely not true, but it's just where I was at that moment.)  I think it would have been helpful if they had a binder of general information for the interns. Things they could include in the binder would be a bell schedule (they have 4 different schedules depending on the day or week), a list of the teacher and their emails, a list of the programs and services they are currently providing, the code to the copy machine, etc. There were times in the day when my supervisor had absolutely nothing for me to do so I came up with my own suggestions. I asked to get a Naviance account so I could explore the site and to read through their RAMP documents. Even with these ideas to work on, there were times I felt helpless, like more of a burden than asset. This upset me because I felt like I could be working at my job instead of bumming around a school like a lost puppy. I kept telling myself this is normal for the first week and it will certainly get better. Drinks with my student colleagues certainly helped. They all had similar experiences and we pepped each other up!

DISCLAIMER: I hope no one takes this the wrong way, I am so blessed to be at a school with such great teachers, administration, students, and parents. I can't wait to get more involved in the school. This is just my processing the first week in an informal candid way.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fall Leaves, Fall

Fall leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leave speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autum tree.

I shall smile while wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night's decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

-Emily Bronte

The past few days have brought the first taste of fall. The fall is my absolute favorite season. I love the leaves, crisp air, smell of fires, snugly clothing, and football. For some reason the onset of fall has me feeling very sad and emotional. During my mom's service there was a reading about how we'll remember her at all these different points in time. One of those times was the changing of the seasons. I didn't feel this way when summer arrived, but fall really has me missing her. It feels like I am getting further and further away from her. Fall means it was 3 seasons ago she was with us. Fall means it is almost a year since I've talked to her. Fall means the holidays are around the corner, the first time without her doing the Christmas shopping.

We were at the cottage, now Dad's house, this past weekend. It seemed oddly normal to be there without her bustling around cooking, cleaning, chatting, and shopping. It shouldn't seem normal. She shouldn't be gone. The reality is almost too much to bear when I really stop and think about it, but I will survive. I have to find the balance of missing her, remembering good times, and looking to the future. What other choice is there? Exactly. None.

Well, there is a choice, it might be time to visit the counseling center at DePaul.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I Did It!

After the chop
I did it people, I finally cut my hair. I hadn't had a hair cut since right after my mom died. It is so liberating, but I really miss the length. I love how quick I can wash it and condition it. I love that it isn't always stuck under my purse strap. I think when I style it I look more professional.

My long hair in MAY! Me and Ms. Cali at my first ever Chicago White Sox game! ( I need to blog about this still)

Today was the first day of student attendance at my internship site. The students seemed really excited to be back in the building and catching up with friends who they haven't seen all summer. I also had my very first practicum class. It went okay, there was some confusion and miscommunication, but I think we're going to be a great group!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Pinterest Party!

I am not the best photographer
Some of my lady friends and I are newly obsessed with Pinterest. Monday night they came over, brought a homemade appetizer (many found on Pinterest!), and we each made a craft. I made a wreath to hang in September to celebrate the onset of the greatest season of all, FOOTBALL season! Specifically, MSU football.

The basic directions can be found at Domestifluff. I added a hand made green bow made with wire ribbon and a squishy football I found at Michael's for $1.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I get by with a little help from my friends

I know this has been said before, but today I am thankful for my friends. A few weeks ago at my retail job a co-worker told me I harp on people and I would be more successful in whatever my future profession might be if I could reflect on that. This guy was my favorite co-worker, nice to everyone, and generally a good mood dude. I told him that I felt like I worked really hard and try to encourage others to as well. I was so shocked that he was bold enough to tell me this, and even more shocked that he felt this way. I went in the bathroom and nearly cried, lost sleep, and dreaded going to work with him the next week. The more I think about it, the more I feel like this may be true. I do nag the boyfriend, I do find myself stepping up and delegating, but I also try to encourage and say thanks.

Death is a funny thing. So is moving far distances. People the boyfriend and I were very close with  never once reached out to me when my mom passed. Now, understand that I told James I didn't want to really be fielding phone calls, but I am still kind of hurt about it. I would never say anything to them, but I'm not sure it's something I'll forget. No text, no card, no plant, no facebook message, basically nothing. Are these friends? How do we define friends? By convenience? Proximity? This is especially interesting when evaluating relationships when it comes to the wedding invite list. Do you invite people who only show up for the good times in your life and are non-existent during your lowest points?

Now, for the thankful part. I have made some great new friends and developed deeper relationships with acquaintances who are the best time to hang out with. Not only are they so fun, they really care. I hope I adequately express how much I value their relationships.

Today after leaving internship I had a new text from a newer friend. "Based on weekend's observations-you delegating breakfast duties, inspiring campfire games, and asking about my well being-I know you will be a great counselor, mentor and contact for all students you encounter. It's a perfect fit." This text was so uplifting and meaningful to me, particularly because of the above experience with my coworker. It felt so good to be validated in this way.

How can I have that type of impact on others? Who can you sincerely thank today?