Hello everyone! The last 10 days have been so busy and filled that I have only just sat down to update you all. The past week has seen me celebrate my 30th birthday, meet new people, start teaching Fourth Grade and continue to be amazed at the gorgeous scenery that surrounds me every day. Here are some updates:
Happy Birthday To Me!
I spent my birthday with a wonderful family who are good friends already after only knowing them two weeks. Janel works at the school with me in the Library and I went to her house on the edge of town for the afternoon and evening. We went for a hike up snow covered mountains for about a mile or so, taking in the absolutely beautiful views over Palisade and towards Grand Junction. Janel's house sits on hills outside of Palisade and has 360 degree views of the red mountains surrounding us here in the valley. Photos do not do any of these views justice but I will chronicle as much as I can for all of you back home in sweltering Australia! (I was unable to upload here - please look at the Photos pages located on the right)
After we hiked out and back I had dinner with Janel's family - they have twin boys and another who is in my grade - as well as a chocolate chip cookie slab cake!! It was a wonderful evening talking about Australia with the boys and Janel and her husband, comparing it to the States. The boys and their dad Russ go hunting for game on the hills where we took a hike and earlier that day had killed an elk! This led to me not only having my very first try of elk jerky (which was gamey but quite nice!) but leaving the boys astounded that hunting is not a 'big thing' back home and our gun availability is not as spread as it is here in Colorado and the States.
*Side note - After being introduced to elk jerky, I was told that anything elk is better than beef and that when I try beef jerky I will be severely disappointed! Another moment of interest for the boys was that jerky was not a huge seller in Australia - in fact, I had to tell them I have never seen it myself. We had a few laughs thinking up business names for our new jerky import business though - and working out the profit splits!!
So a week ago I began the official part of my whole 'year overseas thing' - teaching. Monday morning came and I arrived at school at 8am, car pooling with Janel and her son. I vividly remember feeling the exact same emotions when I started at Korumburra 6 1/2 years ago (also halfway through the school year) - nerves, excitement, fear, anticipation, worry and wonder at what I had gotten myself in for. However everyone I met was wonderfully warm and friendly and made me feel very welcome and brave for what I was doing!
Monday was a teacher work day with no students and most of the staff were finalising their second quarter report scores, so I spent the day familiarising myself with the room layout and trying to get my head around the fact that I would be teaching 65 students each day. Yes, that's right - I did not make a mistake. I teach ALL the Grade 4 students every day, either in a writing block or for science sessions. To break it down for those in Australia my basic day looks like this:
8:50 - 9am Homeroom group arrives in class; Pledge of Allegiance and Morning
Announcement over PA system.
9 - 10am Special Education classes for students - ESL, Speech, OT, Behaviour. While these
students are out, the remaining students are mixed together and we look at
reading or maths skills practice using SRAs, book studies and maths facts
work. When students return from Special Ed, they are absorbed and picked up
by myself or the other two Grade 4 teachers to work on certain skills.
10 - 11:25am Block 1 starts. Students from all three Grade 4 classes are mixed into three 'block'
groups. They rotate through each teacher every day - I teach Writing, Dave
teaches Math (with no 's' at the end!) and Tracy teaches Reading.
11:25 - 12:25pm Specials classes (Specialists to us Australians!) Half hour sessions of Library and
Computers Monday and Thursday, with Music and PE half hours on
Tuesday and Friday. All up students get 4 hours of Specials - this is
teacher planning time. Very different to the 2 1/2 hours back home -
however I unfortunately have to say this week I still was distracted from
my planning by other things, just like I am always doing back home!!
12:25pm Block 1 students come back to drop off their things and collect their food, jackets,
hats, scarves, etc.
12:30 - 1:05pm Recess / Lunch.........Students spend 15 minutes outside for recess playtime and
then eat their lunch in the cafeteria for 20 minutes. This 35 minutes is my
lunchtime as well (I do no duty during this time - I was told the reason for this
is that I am required have 30 minutes free for break. Other staff, such as the
specials teachers, cover the duty).
1:05 - 2:25pm Block 2
2:25 - 3:45pm Block 3
3:45 - 3:50pm Homeroom returns to the class for any final handouts and the end of the day.
Wednesday is slightly different with the times. There are no Specials classes and the students move around between the three teachers in their homeroom groups. On this day of the week I teach Science, Dave teaches Social Studies and Tracy teaches Research. Another change on Wednesdays is that school finishes at 1:50pm for the students. That's right my Aussie friends and students - school is out at 1:50pm on Wednesday. The School District brought this change in as a way to save money from what I gather. While the students get the afternoon to go home and enjoy being a kid, we teachers spend this time on Professional Development and planning.
There is probably one major thing I have noticed this week which is different between Australian and USA schools. Here, every class is on a different schedule due to the need for students to eat in (and fit into!) the cafeteria, which is a commercial kitchen style deal. At Nisley, most students eat lunch from the cafeteria - and this is their ONLY food break in the day. They spend 15 minutes outside for recess time and then come straight into the cafeteria to eat their lunches for 20 minutes. At Korumburra, most of our students bring their lunch as we don't offer a full service canteen, with a recess AND a seperate lunch break (1 1/2 hours in total). Our students also spend most of their eating time outside and if it is bad weather we eat in the classroom or building. Weather wise, our climate makes it so much easier to do this eating outside though!
Anyway, before I sign off for another week of school there are a few more interesting points that I feel I would like to share with you:
* My mobile talk to me! Yes, that's right - when I have a call or a text my phone tells me who it is from and if it is a message or a call. Very freaky - and not at ALL like Siri!!
* It is so dry here (I am in desert country) everything is static. I keep shocking myself on light switches and bathroom fixtures!
* The Grand Junction valley is currently facing an inversion. Basically, the cold air is being kept down here near the ground and it has been weirdly freezing for the last week. Apparently they never have this long of a cold snap like we have had. Welcome to Colorado Candice!!
* I have yet to find bread here! I have tried a few different types but they are all very sweet - just does not give my Vegemite the best base!!
* Cake mixture boxes here have high altitude cooking instructions! I plan on trying to cook a pavlova for the staff in honour of Australia Day - this could be interesting in more ways than one!!
* Walmart = Big W.......this is the conclusion I have come to - except Walmart also has a supermarket in each store!
*People driving can turn right at traffic light corners when they have a red light - as long as there is no traffic coming obviously (remember Aussies, Americans drive on the right side of the road - which is still really weird occasionally!)
*American printer paper is smaller than ours! That's right - our A4 paper is larger than their standard paper size. Their standard size is 8.5" x 11" - basically our 'letter' size in office print settings. Important I find that out - printing things off for school was interesting the first few times when I was missing the ends of pages!
* Lastly, watching the Australian Open Day 1 tonight is not quite the same without our wonderful Aussie commentators - the Americans just don't have our same jovial attitude to everything!
Every day I am blown away by the majestic scenery I am surrounded by on all sides here in the valley. I have posted some photos of when I went to the Colorado Monument yesterday - we stopped at a viewing station and I took a few pictures quickly. I will be returning again but it just reaffirmed that I have been placed in a gorgeous area of Colorado. I look forward to exploring it more over the next 12 months!!
Take care everyone in Australia - keep drinking water and stay out of the extreme heat if it is affecting your area. To cool off, feel free to look at my photos and think of me here facing -20 degrees Celsius and snow flurries!!
Keep smiling and dreaming!