Tuesday, 5 March 2013

February Update ........ (Part 1)

Okay - so I know I haven't posted for a while. I apologise - it has been a huge month of events and happenings both at school and at home. So grab a snack and a drink, sit down and get comfortable - here is the update for the entire month of February!

Partying like it's the 1970s

My friend Janel is what we would call the teacher-librarian at Nisley and I have had some great times with her since we met on my first day in Grand Junction. In February she turned 40 and celebrated with a 70s themed party. It was awesome! A small group of teachers from school were invited as well as some of her other friends and family. It was a lovely party with great 70s themed drinks and dancing - I had a great time and I was glad to hear later that Janel did as well!

Me and Janel - the birthday girl!
Sara and I in our 70s gear! - Sara teaches with me in 2nd grade
(I have embroidered flowers on the hips and butt of my jeans!)

Kim, Me and Cinnamon - they teach 5th grade
Tanya (computer teacher), me, Janel and Cinnamon

A Sad Call from Home

One of the hardest moments last month was receiving a call from my parents to say we had lost my Pop. It was tremendously hard not being there in Australia to help support my Nan, Dad and Mum as well as my sister and all my Aunts, Uncles and cousins as they struggled through the loss that first week. Pop's passing was sudden and not what we were expecting to have happen but I was so thankful for the support of my friends - both at home in Australia and here in Grand Junction. Quick responses from friends at home via messages were so welcomed and made the week pass more easily than it could have. I did not feel like I was overseas alone - so thanks again to my friends and family and the wonders of technology.

Valentine's Day

I knew Valentine's Day was big. I've seen the movies, read the books and heard the stories. However, I never really expected it to be this big - particularly in school! Before I go there, I have to let you know that the shops were crazy with Valentine's Day merchandise. Lollies, cards, toys, animals, books, calendars, magnets, badges, chocolate ...... whatever you can imagine, it was packaged for Valentine's Day. And through this comes the expectation of celebrating this 'holiday' with students at school. I admit, I felt a bit weird - in Australia this day is reserved for couples. Here, it is for anyone. Couples celebrate each other, students and teachers at school celebrate their friendships, parents celebrate their children - we had more than one Dad come into school with flowers for his daughter! I was not expecting the degree to which this day was shared with the students at school - at 3pm all classes stopped for their Valentine's Day parties. I was lucky and Tracy, who I teach 4th grade with, shared with me her idea (and note) for an ice cream party she had planned. A few other teachers also gave me helpful 'hints' regarding how to handle the 'madness' that would ensue and Janel gave me a heads up the night before about having something for the kids to put their Valentine's they receive into during the party. Ahhh! So a quick trip to Walmart netted me some paper envelopes that I imagined the kids could decorate at the start of the party and that night I printed some little "You're Awesome" cards for each of my homeroom students. I believed I was prepared.......

The day started by being presented with a vase with beautiful daisies and an armful of gifts - teddies, chocolates and stickers - from students. This 'pile' of gifts continued to grow throughout the day as I watched in amazement. I was told partway through the day that Valentine's is often celebrated more that Christmas is here - and I can relate to that. Teachers, imagine what you get for Christmas / End of Year from your students? That is what I was receiving for Valentine's Day from them. And at the end of the day during our party? Mayhem!! It all started out well; we were decorating our envelopes, we went to get our ice cream sundaes from the other 4th grade room and were eating them nicely at our tables quietly.......and then someone asked if we could hand out Valentine's and Miss H said "Of course you can." Note to self - next time, think about instigating some type of order to this system! For the next 15 minutes kids were roaming the room with bags of lollies and stickers and lollipops, handing them out to all or a few of their classmates. I even received more items! I did feel okay by then about only giving the students a message - they did not need any more sugar at all! I was very thankful for the end of the day, let me tell you! :-)

Overall however I was incredibly thankful for the kind gifts and words the students gave me on this day - not only from my homeroom but students from the other two homerooms who I also take for writing sessions. Below is a picture of my amazing gifts from these students:

I was so spoilt!

I had to share this one in particular - the
student was so happy she found a koala Valentine
for her Australian teacher!

Arches National Park - Utah

My first interstate 'jaunt' took me 2 hours west from Grand Junction across state lines into Utah. I travelled with Linda, a CITEL buddy and friend, to a little town called Moab. This weekend, at the end of winter, it was not too busy at all. However, from around the end of March (Spring Break time) the crowds arrive and it is bursting at the seams to accommodate everyone. There is a huge pull for mountain biking, hiking, climbing, off road adventures in jeeps (and other vehicles), skydiving, base jumping and river rafting enthusiasts.

Linda and I were in Moab to see Arches National Park, which is about 5 miles north of the town. Arches NP has over 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks. It is a "red rock wonderland" for sure! We spent a good 4-5 hours or so in the park and there is still heaps to go back and see. On this day there was a lot of amazing photo opportunities and red rock scenery - below I have included a few I had on my iPad. Check out the Pages section to the right to see more (I will also hopefully post ones I receive from Linda).

A balancing rock - the number of these blew my mind!
I kept expecting them to fall right in front of my eyes!

Flat land leads to huge red rock formations!

On our way out of Arches, we drove on the scenic route - Highway 128 along the Colorado River. I have also put more of these photos from the drive home on the Pages section with the Arches photos.

Girls On The Run

Girls on the Run
The last few weeks I have been introduced to a program run here in the area called 'Girls On the Run' (or GOTR). This program is for girls in 3rd-8th grade and it teaches self esteem and life skills through dynamic, conversation-based lessons and running games. The program culminates with the girls being physically and emotionally prepared to complete a celebratory 5k running event. The goal of the program is to unleash confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness. (http://www.girlsontherun.org/)

I am helping with the program this season and have been loving the messages these girls have been getting about body image, self esteem and being true to who they are - realising that they are an amazing girl and they are truly great! Each session starts with a lesson that gets the girls thinking about themselves and others. For example, our lesson last week was around turning our negative thoughts or sayings into positive ones and how this is a much happier and positive way to look at ourselves. We end the sessions with running laps of the track - as incentive, when each girl completes a mile she gets a little token so she can keep track of how many she runs over the program. At the start of May there is a 5km run where all the schools participating in the program compete in the spirit of fun and girl power! It is a great self esteem program and one that sounds similar to a few I have heard of back home in Australia - although none I know of also link in fitness......... I'd love to look at a program like this at home with our Aussie girls!! Something to think about on the flight home in January :-)

Kids Voting

I was lucky to be invited to attend the banquet for Kids Voting this year. Kids Voting USA (KVUSA) gets students involved and ready to be educated, engaged citizens. Students learn about democracy through a combination of classroom activities, family dialogue and an authentic voting experience. (http://kidsvotingusa.org/) Students participate in school based activities based around learning about voting and democracy, which even include actual candidates being involved! At the end of the election period, the students also get to actually participate in an Election Day with voting ballots, booths and the whole she-bang! It sounds like a great program and one I would like to learn more about.

Not only was the banquet night to celebrate the end of the year and all those students and schools who had participated in the Kids Voting during the last election, I was astounded at the young people from elementary school through high school who were recognised for selfless achievements in their school and community. They celebrated students who raise funds or look out for those less fortunate than themselves as well as those who work with (or create) non-profit organisations supporting the community. It was inspiring to hear and amazing stories for me to bring back to our students.

Other goings-on......

I have begun regularly hiking on Mondays with Kristi, a CITEL member and new friend. She is introducing me to different trails every week. So far we have been on two trails but I look forward to what is to come! I even went and bought actual hiking shoes - don't I feel special!! :-)

I also have joined a book club that meets once a month. This is an activity that Kristi introduced me to and my first gathering was a great event with dinner, chat and only a little discussion about the book. :-) It will get me into some different types of books throughout the year as everyone chooses a book each month. I have even made a book selection for May - A Rose For The Anzacs by Jackie French! (My book discussion girls from last year, if you have any notes just let me know!) Although there is enough books in the house here to keep me going for months! Theresa has so many books I don't know where to start reading - I go back and forth and have about four on the go at once at the moment! :-)

 This week I was lucky to get tickets to see the US Navy Band perform in Grand Junction. It was a great performance with amazing talented singers and musicians - I was in awe of all of them! A magical night of music :-)

Oh - and I am very excited as I received in the mail the tickets to Taylor Swift for May! My sister and I are going to be singing along to Taylor and Ed Sheeran in Denver. Big concert, big US arena = big amounts of fun!! (KPS girls, please do not throw your netbooks - it is not good for them. Just be jealous of your teacher instead!!)

To Be Continued.........

There is one more event I need to share with you from February and that is my trip to Denver across the mountains via the Amtrak train for the CITEL Snowshoeing day at Rocky Mountain NP. However I will have to post this particular event tomorrow as this post has taken two hours so far and I feel I will not do justice to the awesome scenery and adventure I had at the moment.

So be warned (or not) my friends - there is another (shorter) post to follow to finish up that which was the month of February...................... hopefully those groans are not coming from my former students!! :-P

Hope you enjoyed my February adventures so far - I'll be back shortly to wrap it all up.

Keep smiling :-D

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