Friday, August 29, 2008

We keep visiting these technical colleges

...and I keep thinking to myself, "HEY SELF! YOU COULD TOTALLY DO A COMPUTER-BASED JOB IT WOULD BE RAD YOU WOULD BE THE RADDEST WEB-DESIGNER TO EVER WEB DESIGN." (My inner self, you may note, is prone to shouting.)

I've been trying to type up notes from our college visits and format them with pictures so we can make nice little hand-outs for our students since about 8:30am.


Perhaps I should reconsider my job future job-o-awesome in web design. It was a nice pipe-dream while it lasted. By "while it lasted" I think I mean "since Tuesday."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A whole new world

Truth about blogging: the more days you go without blogging, the harder the blogging becomes.

Truth about life: the more you put ANYTHING off, the harder it becomes…unless we’re talking, like, eating a fruit. In the case of fruit-eating, the fruit might become SOFTER, due to rotting and nefarious invasion by THE REALLY ANNOYING FRUIT FLIES THAT LIVE IN MY KITCHEN SOMETIMES. I guess that still makes “eating the fruit” harder, because now it is the picture of gross and disgusting things, but the fruit itself has, in fact, softened. MY ANALOGY IS PRICELESS AND WORKABLE.

Other truth about blogging: "blogging" is a stupid word and I feel sort of dirty whenever I write it. I do. Dirty. Drrrrrty, Xtina style, even. That reference will never get old.

Despite the fact that the students don't arrive until Tuesday, this past week has been an exercise in things that are harder than they seem like they'll be. I can only imagine how hard our job, which we already anticipate rating fairly high on the difficulty scale, will prove to be.

Examples of things with unexpected difficulty levels:
  • Visiting Colleges: For the last week or so, Mary and I have been spending our days traipsing around the Roanoke Valley area visiting local colleges and universities. Our mission - introduce ourselves and make solid contacts, tell schools what we're all about, learn what schools are all about. Learn where to send our students, and how we can get our students into these institutions. This is difficult and exhausting for several reasons. Firstly, this requires Being On All The Time for lots of hours, with travel time in between. Also, despite it seeming like an organic relationship to form, the relationship we're aiming for is actually a weird one. It's hard to not seem like we're some how either in an adversarial relationship or making a business deal. Lastly, absorbing facts and figures, along with "soft factors" quickly, efficiently, and while also trying to think of relevant questions to ask just becomes exhausting sooner than anticipated. By "sooner than anticipated" I mean "within moments." Dear College Guides: HOW I ENVY YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK.
  • Telling People What Our Job Is: Under this category, really, fall several things. Thing one: convincing people that we do, in fact, work at their school. Thing two: convincing people that we are full-time employees, not interns. Thing three: convincing people that we do, indeed, have a niche distinct from (or, rather, taking over one of the burdens of) a normal guidance counselor. Thing four: convincing people that we work for Roanoke City, not any college. No, no, we graduated from UVa, but we're not with UVa., see, we're working for Roanoke City so that means we really report to the Central Administration office - but we're on-site to work directly with the students. Um, actually, we're not so much interns...
  • Painting cinderblock walls: Our office/hole of despair and no return at one of the high schools we're working with, William Fleming, is a little dreary. Basically, Fleming is slated to be torn down in a year, and they've already started construction on the New, Shiny, Fancy School, so the Old Not Shiny School is being allowed to fall into even greater disrepair than might otherwise be the case. Our office is a rectangle with no windows and cinderblock walls and water leaking through the roof and the smell of mold and despair. Mary, being industrious, suggested that we paint the room (an action we got permission from the principal to undertake). Now, if you know Mary, you know "Mary blue" and you also know that the girl is the most understanding, amazing, loving, caring person you'll ever meet - but she's a stickler when it comes to room colors. Let's...let's just say that our room is now bright turquoise with some darker turquoise accent walls. Really, we had brightening, calming ideas in mind. Instead, managed to decorate our room MERMAID. Fo' serious. Also, painting cinderblock is HATEFUL AND DIFFICULT. We're planning on painting inspriational quotations on top of the darker green accent walls, in an effort to cover up the fact that it is impossible to get an even coat of that darn stuff. We, darlings, are obviously professionals. We're also going to sponge some of the darker turquoise over the lighter, in an effort to counteract the feeling of a 90s TV special.
As with most clouds, our painting not-exactly-debauchal has a few silverlinings. First of all - pretty much anything is better than drab cinder block, and once we stalk enough sales at Wal-Mart, we are confident we can get a $5 floor lamp or two into that room, too and we'll be in business. Also, as far as the people at Fleming are concerned, we're spunky. We're those girls with ideals too big for our britches who just came in an PAINTED THE WALLS, gosh darnit. We've also now begun the valauable process of making friends with the maitence crew. I think they think we're crazy, but in the cute way. If there's one thing that seems like a useful life-skill, it's most certainly making friends with the maitence crew - good job, us.

In short: this whole dealy has a few speed-bumps, but we do not intend to become deterred. We are strong. We are UVa women. We don't take no for an answer! We, yes we are the kind of women who can make mermaid walls work for us. Look out, students - we're getting ready to infuse you with idealism and energy.

Ready or not, difficult and exhausting tasks - we conquored hateful cinderblock walls already, we can take anything else down in our path too.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

They gave us nametags and everything


Warning: this post contains lots of information about my new job, but very little of it is snarky or humorous! There are almost no exclamation marks after the third paragraph! Read warily and forewarned-ly!

It’s official – we are working in the school system. How do I know? There is a small gift bag sitting on my desk right now. Said small gift bag is decorated with pictures of pencils, rulers, stars, and apples and says “Teachers RULE” and inside has a bunch of small, symbolic, inspirational things.

I imagine my writing voice sounds like it’s dripping with “so over it” style sarcasm. It is. But, if you know me, you know this is all a front. I love “teachers RULE” and symbolic inspirational things and power points with high-fiving stick figures. I love “move around the room” activities and learning about the power of small groups. I have, in short, loved the past two days of new teacher orientation.

Simple - and perhaps hyperbolic - love aside, these past two days were the beginning of Actually Having A Job In The Real World. Roanoke City requires all new teachers (new to teaching and new to the school system) attend the New Teacher Orientation in order to be…oriented. After only two days, I feel that we’ve been given an interesting and clear look at the administrative attitude within Roanoke City: energized, focused, and in crisis mode.

Day one consisted, in large part, of training based on and around Ruby Payne’s A Framework for Understanding Poverty – basically “class diversity” training. Now, this is interesting for several reasons. First and foremost, it drives home the attitude that the Roanoke City school system is an “urban” system, versus a suburban or rural system, which faces issues of class differentiation and poverty in a very urban sense of the terms. I just spent the last chunk of my life googling Payne reviews and while I think that there may be some deeply flawed assumptions her theory asks the educator to accept in a large Cultural Studies sense, I actually think the practical aspects of the theory seem sound. (Interestingly, a huge criticism of Payne's work, a work explicitly ON class, is that it is classist.) The basic rules that our training wanted to impart upon us seem to be these:

  • Do not assume that all students come from similar backgrounds - either to each other, or to you. Furthermore, do not assume that they come from a background in which the school paradigms are universal norms.
  • All effective teaching/counseling is based on effective relationships with students.
  • All effective relationships with students are based on mutual respect.
    • Respect is something a teacher must give in order to receive, but must also expect.
  • School systems are based on middle class norms and values. If a student does not arrive with middle class norms or values from the home, the educator should do the best to both understand and teach that there can be multiple "languages" or sets of rules for multiple different settings. (This is, understandably, the piece with which reviewers have the most difficulty.)
I think I'd like more time to really think about the Payne work before I make any concrete decisions in regards to my feelings. Regardless, though, I think explicitly stating and reinforcing the importance of both respect and relationships is a good strategy to employ during orientation lessons.

Our presentations today focused mostly around reinforcing reading ("Reading is Everyone's Responsibility") and understanding/dealing with mainstreamed learning disabled children in classrooms. Now, as the product of mainstreaming, I have some pretty strong feelings about LD students and mainstreaming - but those are probably for another day. All this training really reinforces one major point: you are the first and last line of defense.

Like I said: crisis mode. Roanoke City Schools is really trying to pull itself up by its bootstraps, and the tactic it appears to be employing is this: everyone needs to think they're fighting for the system's life.

Starting a new program within this sort of battle zone is certainly going to be an interesting experience - especially our kind of program. We're focusing, hopefully, on retention (keeping kids in high school because they have post-high school options) but also on elevating the system nationally (as we elevate our college stats) and providing for students AFTER they leave a system which identifies itself as in crisis. Ultimately, while I think we're going to be up against some unique challenges, I'm excited. I love the energy everyone from the Central Administration Office carries with her (or him). I love the loyalty you can feel for the superintendent. I love feeling like we're gearing up for war - because I think we're going to win.

We're also making friends with all manner of Sassy Young Teachers (SYTs) and the like. Hopefully we're going to host a SYT dinner party on Friday.

Tomorrow we start visiting colleges. Adventure!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bad Guys: this post is for you!

Attention Bad Guys who planned on kidnapping me, in order to make me participate in nefarious capers: I am about to “go on the record!"

Truth: I do not know if “on the record” is actually slang for anything!

Other truth: I’m about to get finger-printed for my job! Now, to the best of my knowledge, my finger prints will be in the system FOR EVER.

Hear that, Bad Guys? If you kidnap me, assuming you will use my DASHING GOOD LOOKS and YOUTHFUL NIEVATE to commit your crimes because there is NO WAY a girl this DASHINGLY GOOD LOOKING AND YOUTHFULLY NAIEVE could possibly have her prints in the system, thus, your scene will be clean – think again!

Finger prints, ID badges, and lots of official paper work: an auspicious beginning to the job, indeed!

In other news, Mary arrived yesterday afternoon with our third half, Corelyn, in tow. (Three halves work, I promise – our math is just a little TOO advanced for most.) My life is no longer craigslist-readingly boring! It’s amazing, really. I…I actually can’t think of a way to appropriately describe how astronomically my quality of life just rose – just take my word for it?

In third, and other OTHER news, Georgia (the puppers) went in yesterday to be spayed. And I hate my vet. And I get to pick her up today. And I feel like a HORRIBLE PERSON for sending her under the knife but – let’s be honest – it’s the better option. I hadn’t realized how intensely bonded to that dog I am, though. Not having her around for 24 hours, even with the arrival of Mary and Corelyn has been cause for intense distress, let me tell you.

Now - off to Official Administrative Business!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

When they find me dead in a ditch

...I want everyone to know, "Nick told me so."

My job does not start until August 19 (so close, yet so far) and, while many might see this as a "priceless opportunity" or "time to be wisely spent"  I've chosen to see it as "proof that I flounder without structure."  Yeah - go ahead, say I told you so Mr. Smuggysmug - you go enjoy your time alone, and I'll pine for my structure.  

Weekend jaunts to the DC and Charlottesville areas, while hilarious, haven't quite been enough to keep me sane during the work week and a girl can go on but SO MANY hikes with her adorable dog before she gets tired of being sweaty all the time.   So, after a lot of pacing, several hours of catching up on almost the entire dinosaur comics archive, and infinite youtube surfing I finally found myself sinking to the lowest level of entertainment.  No, not pornography folks - I wrote a whole thesis on that junk, it's way better than this - I've become an avid reader of the cragislist personals. 

I'm new to the personals business, so I don't think I've quite figured out how to decode them yet - but they provide a heck of a lot of entertainment.  I might not know what "bmi" stands for - but I DO know that picture of you in a bathing suit has a 1997 date on it.  I'm on to you, Mister! However, as all hilarity in my life,  good-natured hilarity slowly leads to Very Bad Ideas.  

Very Bad Idea associated with reading the cragislist personals: answering a craigslist personal.  

Here is the personal ad in question: 

I know when to use two, too, to or 2... amazing, right? - 32 (Roanoke)
Yep, I know all about to and too, I'm fluent that way. 

So anyway, I'm white, into film, well traveled, about 5,9 but sometimes my hair, which is thick and brown, gets a little wavy (70's style) and makes me taller! No kids, no ex wives or anything, and I don't smell weird. 

I assume you are bored with eating out with your parents or that one friend that talks about her bf/husband non-stop. Maybe you are a student but want something more than just books to spend time with. Whatever, just be sane please... no more than two cats. 

If you don't go out much, that's fine with me. I'm really easy to talk to and specialize in shy people, or at least they gravitate toward me for some reason... so maybe I've got a niche!"

Now - this person sounds adorable.  His pick-up line is, in essence, "I can properly manipulate homonyms!"  And he says he doesn't smell weird!  And...and he acknowledges the existence of cat ladies!  How cute!  How appropriately adorable and witty!  How perfect a match!

The women in my life, namely my mother, best buds, and other consulted female friends, all feel that contacting this dude would be a good idea.  His age, we all feel, should not stop OUR POSSIBLE LOVE (or friendship).   However, my loving and caring care-taker, Nick feels differently.  Emphatically differently.  He echoed the fears I will now outline:

- Dude might ax-murder me.  Sure, we'd meet in a public place and talk about adorable things, but then he could be an ax murder.  And ax murder me later.  It could happen.  Sure, maybe I can' ACTUALLY live my life in fear of being serial-killed (killed!  multiple times!  in similar ways!) but...I feel personal ads have an extra high "ax murder fear" attached to them.
- Answering personal ads is creepy.  Maybe I've got latent ax-murdering tendencies which will never be realized unless I start doing creepy things like answering craigslist personal ads.
- Dude could be creepy in non-ax murdering ways.  And then we live in the same, not exactly large, area.  And that could be unfortunate for all sorts of reasons.
- Answering a personal ad makes me feel like I'm very desperate.  I don't even really WANT to be dating someone right now - it's not like I'm dying for Male Relationships such that I've resorted to personal ads.  I DO want friends, I want the personal ads kind?


Certainly not - then what would there to be for me to have all kinds of drama over? 

The time has come, the Walrus Said...

... to superfluously drop quotations into blog posts. 

The time has also come (with or without the Walrus' explicit prediction) to face the fact that I have officially Graduated From College and, as such, am expected to Face The Real World.  This prospect is a frightening one, one which reeks of "abandoning the bubble," "facing up," and "needing to become a neat and clean person."  A few months ago, I could assure myself that things were going to be alright because I, in my infinite wisdom (dumb luck) had secured Real Life Employment in this time of economic depression.  However, by this point, so have many (thankfully, most) of my peers.  My false sense of potential security has left me, and doubts about my position are creeping in.

Daily, I get e-mails about people's blogs from the wilds of Africa, the heat of Latin America, the hilariously-accented British Isles, and sassy New York.  People are flocking to big cities, far away states, and exotic foreign countries.  I, on the other hand, am working in Roanoke, Virginia.  Excited as I am about my job, I am beginning to worry I signed on for a bum deal here.  

Out of these creeping fears was born the idea for this blog.  Sure,  it's easy to blog about your WACKY ADVENTURES when those adventures are taking place in, say, Malawi, but what about when they're happening in Little 'Ole Roanoke? I'm positive that, around every turn, hilarity is just waiting to ensue - so why not document it?  Take that, people who live in intrinsically exciting places - I'm challenging you to an Interesting Things blog war.

Thus, the purpose of this blog is as follows:
- Chronicle the Trials and Tribulations of setting up a new position within the Roanoke City School System (more details to follow).
- Make sure I seize the note-worthy moments in my life by upping the ante from just "note-worthy" to "blog worthy."
- Feed my inflated sense of self worth.
- Keep writing, even though college is over.

To this end I  hope to post witty anecdotes, hilarious photographs, and un-whiny rants about the world around me.  That third thing probably won't happen - they'll almost certainly be whiny, but you can skip over those.  

For those of you who don't know how we got to Roanoke in the first place, let me briefly outline what the next 1-3 years of my life are slated to hold.  My college roommate/best friend, Mary, and I signed contracts with the Roanoke City School System to be, officially, "College Counselor Liaisons."   In short this means we'll be doing several things:
- Advising kids who know they want to go to college on how to write essays, getting good letters of recommendation, choosing good schools, etc. 
- Helping kids who didn't really think college was an option for them, but who want to go to college, figure out what their options are.
- Helping kids of all descriptions find money for college.
- Finding kids who haven't been traditionally "tracked" for college (placed in the advanced classes, etc) but look like they could go and encouraging them to make college-minded choices/consider college as an option, etc. 
- Various and sundry tasks I'm sure we'll discover along the way. 

I'm excited about the program for a number of reasons.  First of all, we essentially get to create this position within the Roanoke City School System which, while also terrifying, is incredibly exciting.  Trail blazing, 2themax!  Secondly, I feel that this is the sort of position in which we're REALLY going to be helping people, not just ourselves.  As much as this will be a learning experience, I think we're going to actually get to make demonstrable changes in people's lives.  Thirdly, this is one of the few jobs I looked at in which it truly behooves us to be right out of college.  We're full of ideals and vigor...and we can also speak from experience.  Lastly, it was about time I faced my Roanoke demons.  I've spent far too much time and energy over the past few years hating on a place which actually has a lot going for it - and it's time to give credit where credit is due.  I was offered the opportunity to do the exact kind of position I was looking seriously into, in a town I haven't given a fair chance, while allowing my relationship with my parents to grow and mature (via living in my home town but not at home).  Sure, it's not Portland, but it's not a bad gig either. 

So that's that - what I'm doing in life, what I'm doing online, and what I hope to get out of both.  Hopefully this will be the kind of journey we're both glad we signed on for.  

Let the shenanigans begin.