Thursday, December 24, 2015

Did You Ever Think?

Hi all,

Merry Almost Christmas.

Will has a saying (that he loves to whip out at random times, like in the midst of a 50km hike), of "Did you ever think that you'd be doing X in Ukraine?"

And honestly, Hugo and I usually just have to laugh and answer no.

Being a volunteer is filled with moments that when I stop to think about them, quietly blow my mind. Part of it is just attitude - in my life in America, I had moments as well, of course. It's a great tool for mindfulness however, especially as I have now hit my 5 month mark in country, and things are feeling pretty settled.

I have a weekly routine: classes, meeting to lesson plan with teachers, Ukrainian tutoring, cooking, maybe doing a training, cleaning my apartment, working on  grad school papers, and communicating with friends and family both in Ukraine and abroad. The little victories seem to be less important to share, and this demotivates my blogging. But here are some moments:

In my 5th form class I planned an activity around food: students would work in groups of 4-5, each group got about 15 or so food cards, and were told that they were opening a shop. They needed to organize their items by food group, and write out a price list. Then we would cover the concept and design of a balanced meal using food groups. They would write their own menu and then write an ingredients list. Finally, they would see what things they needed from their shop, and visit the other groups to see what else they could buy. In the end, they had to announce the total price of their meal, and any items they couldn't find. It was an in-depth activity, and took two class periods.

However, a moment before the class started, I realized that the order was wrong. That students would (most likely) try to make a menu centered around their own shop offerings. So I turned to my co-teacher and said "I'm going to change this, ok?". She said sure, and I changed the order - having them start with the menu/balanced meal, and then going to the shop formation. And although there was the normal amount of confusion at times, it went really well.

It was a moment of personal triumph on two levels: I was able to trouble-shoot a potential problem before it happened, and my co-teacher had complete faith in my ability and judgement to make a last minute change. So that was really awesome.

I also found myself sitting in as part of a jury for the English teacher of the year (which happens every 4 years??), and it was an interesting process. There was a new format of having the teachers submit materials, rather than come in person for the first stage. Participants needed to submit documentation (15 points), a video component/presentation (20 points), and have prepared a blog (65 points).

First of all, the weighting perplexed all the judges. One exclaimed that what we would see was not the best English teacher,  but the best tech teacher helping to create the blog. The criteria for judging that weighty category seemed vague - comments, visits...but very little about the actual content. Every single teacher who submitted the blog link had created it solely for the competition. We had no rubric for judging them, and it soon became apparent. Luckily, we were all pretty united on the top 3 choices and little discussion produced numbers 4 and 5.

I will return in a month for two days of judging the next and final phases - a test portion, a presentation, and a teaching demonstration in a random classroom. I'm hoping that this levels the playing field.

Funny that the first time I'm on a jury is under these circumstances.

Life Updates
So, here's a list of things that I don't have time to expand on...

1. I got a sitemate - he is a community development volunteer and he arrived yesterday. We connected by phone briefly, and he only seemed semi-shell-shocked.

2. I was selected to be on the National Olympiad Committee with 9 other volunteers - so my spring break will be helping to judge that, and in a few weeks we have our first meeting to create materials for the competition

3. I was also honored by being named chair of the Olympiad Committee.

4. I've hung out with the "orienteering group" a few more times and also have been invited on Saturday to go to one of my students' house to celebrate with her family.

5. I submitted my final draft of my second short grad paper, leaving me with 1 more plus the thesis.

6. I am cleared for my whirlwind tour through The Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic and Slovakia in a few weeks, and looking forward to it immensely.

7. My kids at club created Christmas decorations for me, and we had fun making cookies and other decorations at club.

Anyhow, clearly I'm glossing over a few things that happened in the last 2 months or so, but here's a start to the catching up.

Hope all is well, and happy holidays!


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A New Level of Exhaustion: Achieved!

Hello all,

I just posted a beautiful post about my weekend.

And then the fucking computer ate it.