Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fresh Start

It all comes down to tomorrow...the kids will be there bright and early and so begins the first year of Mastery Charter School - Mann Elementary! We'll begin with the first day of orientation tomorrow which consists of building culture, teaching procedures, and some group ice breakers. Here goes nothing...

Paint Party

Saturday morning my school has a paint party to paint the bottom portion of our building blue, to match the Mastery color scheme. I thought it came out well! Plus, it was a great bonding opportunity and a chance to meet some students and parents as well. It really proved that our school is trying to make a difference in the community, starting with changing the old and bringing in the new. The blue really stands out and brings some new life into this school circa 1923:



Then that night Tao and I made some hot pot at home which was delicious! We spent the afternoon roaming around Chinatown and bought a lot of fresh produce and some seafood and then came home and made the hot pot (after a long nap actually because we're both so lazy).



We worked really hard on it and it came out pretty good. We made it a different way from normal hot pot - it involved putting the food on skewers instead of just dropping them into the pot and scooping them out when ready. I'm so excited to utilize this hot pot maker more in the future (as well as shop in Chinatown for food now that I've gotten a home base on places that are good).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Come Together Now

Slowly but surely my classroom is coming together. I don't have many supplies to decorate the classroom with, but I do have plenty of poster ideas that I'm going to work on this weekend. I'm not upset, as students complete work and projects I can use those as decorations.

The front end of the classroom.


The back end of the classroom.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Numbers Game

"Two posts in one day?" - Yes.

Well I have been scouring the news websites today because I've been pretty bored, and I found two stories which both contain ridiculous amounts of time that really piqued my interest.

The first article that I read was outlandish. It's about a traffic jam north of Beijing, China which has lasted for over nine days, and spans over 62 miles. Imagine waiting in that! Most of the drivers are migrant workers and supply trucks heading into the city from outlying areas, but still. It says how the drivers are especially angry because local people are supplying them food and water at outrageously high prices. It just seems so ridiculous, but at the same time, it's so China.

The second article, I'm sure most people have heard about, discusses the trapped Chilean miners and how they've been told they won't be able to be rescued for about FOUR MONTHS! Four months!? That is crazy. If I were trapped that far underground, in dark and cramped spaces, I would probably lose my sanity. The article mentions how they are being told to entertain themselves, make sure they walk around the caves, and that they must do daily exercises, so that when the lever system is set up, they will be able to get out. Imagine waiting all that time and then not being strong or able enough to get out in the end?

The trapped miners story reminds me of The Descent and that freaks me out. Perhaps they will find some sub-human underground creatures like the pack of girls in that horror movie. That terrifies me, but then again I am highly claustrophobic, yet at the same time terrified of heights.

Please Don't Stop the Music

I just got through reading this article on Boston.com about a Boston University student who is appealing a $67,500 verdict that he pay for getting caught for downloading music. The lawsuit comes from the ever-glorious RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). My two cents is that the US judicial system is lagging behind technology, especially on the music front. The amounts that people (mostly college students) get sued for for downloading music is outlandish, and furthermore, in many of the cases it's unclear as to whether or not the music was simply downloaded, or if it was downloaded and then shared to other people.

Two of my close friends were targeted for downloading music while at UMass a few years ago, and after they settled, each had to pay $3,000. And these two were not heavy downloaders and rarely downloaded anything - yet had to pay this very large amount (for college students with a limited income).

Where do these exuberant prices come from? I can see a high punishment being put out there to get others to stop sharing music illegally, but this is absurd. In the BU case the man was originally being held accountable for over $600,000. The punishment just doesn't seem (to me at least) to fit the crime. For one thing, the action is not a threat and causes very minor harm to recording artists (although done on a large scale they can be out thousands/millions of dollars). And recording artists are already rolling in the dough due to their outrageously priced concerts and merchandise that having to pay $600,000, most of which probably doesn't even go to them, is ridiculous.

And if the United States wants to crack down on copyright violations, why don't we look abroad!? When I was living in China you could find any US/Hollywood movie and TV series either copied or bootlegged over there. DVD stores were all over Beijing that sold copied discs of Hollywood films. Not to mention there are Chinese versions of YouTube which post full-length Hollywood movies with Chinese subtitles. Furthermore, there are actually Chinese computer programs that will search and retrieve any TV series or movie you want and load it up streaming to your computer. I'm not sure how it works, but I've both seen and used all of these resources. And from all of these outlets to watch Hollywood movies, not a cent is going towards America or the acting studios

And the same can be said about US music being sold and downloaded in China (and hundreds of other countries I'm sure). Again, my mindset remains: why do we punish our own people so severely when this behavior is rampant all over? Let's increase our international copyright laws and claims and hold others responsible as well.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mr. Capone's Day Off

We've been working at my school site now for almost two weeks and I've gotten a lot of planning done. The building has undergone over $500,000 worth of renovations, and so it's no surprise that even though school begins in two weeks, we haven't been able to get into our classrooms to set up and start decorating yet (as if that will help me seeing I have next to no supplies or materials). But today we got to look at the building map and find out what classrooms everyone is located in. Of course mine turned out to be on the top (third) floor - a hefty hike up the stairs but the view is nice, and the classroom itself is one of the bigger ones.

This is the back of the classroom.

This is the front of the classroom.

The view from the classroom.

I have a lot of ideas I want to bring about in my classroom. Here is a list of some of the ideas I came up with, and hopefully in the future when I get the materials and bring about these things I will post pictures of them. But for now, here are some descriptions:

- a current events wall
- a history-spanning timeline with photos and little descriptions
- a college corner with lots of information/posters/mementos from UMass - we're supposed to really stress the path to college success for our students and by doing so deck out a portion of our rooms to our undergrad schools
- a "historical figure" of the week poster that will highlight a historical person each week, but I want to set it up like a Facebook page, listing their name, years of birth/death, interests they would have had, and a bio written as if by the person
- an artifacts tables where kids can go during free time to explore some cultural mementos I have from my travels, as well as play cultural games that I hope to buy and work on some map skills

Instruction doesn't actually begin until Monday, September 13th, but the kids come to school starting the first of September. They have a four day orientation to familiarize them with the systems, culture, and rules of the school. It seems very intense but I'm sure it will really get them energized and excited to be there, and it will also set high expectations and our team culture from the start.

Something else I'm so happy about: lesson planning is nowhere NEAR as detailed and scripted as Teach for America asked of it at Institute this summer. At the time I voiced my opinions often, saying that scripting out EVERYTHING you would do and say was too formulated and ridiculous for teachers. And even though Mastery has such high expectations, they are all set allowing teachers to outline their plans and not go through and script out every word you will say - which I think is the better way to do it. With Teach for America I felt tied to my lesson plan and it made me feel more nervous and confused. And with EVERY word scripted out, I felt that the real content and expectations of my lesson were muddled and hidden under all the text, and so when I was actually giving my lessons, I never looked at my lesson plans, because they were too convoluted to use when you were up in front of a class. Thanks TFA, but no thanks!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Not Gonna Reach My Telephone

Sadly realizing just now that I will miss out on Lady Gaga's infamous Monster Ball Tour for a second time this year. The first time I was supposed to go was way back in January. My friends and I had tickets to one of her shows in Connecticut but this was about the time right when she collapsed on stage from exhaustion and being overworked, so she canceled some of her shows that week, one of which just happened to be ours.


Because of this cancellation though, we had priority to get tickets to her show this September when she comes back to the area. But I'm just realizing that the show is on a Thursday night in early September, and with my new teaching job, I don't foresee myself being able to miss a day of school for this concert. Damn, why did it have to be on a Thursday night!?

However, there is a four-day weekend coming up the first week of school due to Rosh Hashanah. Therefore, I will be gracing the Boston area with my presence from September 9-12th!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Skin Crawling

So, I was sitting here watching one of the last episodes of Skins when what do I see out of the corner of my eye? A little silverfish scurrying out of the bathroom and into the bedroom rug. My fight or flight instincts kicked right in and I was out of the bed in a second with a book flying at the little bugger. Well it missed and he ducked out for cover. I then proceeded to take EVERYTHING off the bed and floor to search for him, and spent a good five minutes slowly and nervously searching for him, all the while thinking he would jet at me and make my skin crawl. Then what do I see next to the book I initially threw? He's right next to it hanging out and watching me tear apart my room in search of him! Well, thankfully I had a smaller book in my hand and made quick work of him - and then I took his remains in a tissue (screaming aloud the whole time) and tossed him into the toilet.

In related news, I finished the last season of Skins. I feel I'm left with more questions and I really hate it when TV shows end without a resolution, or when they end with a scene that leaves the ending up to the viewer (which happened here). But I'm excited - because now I'm going to begin re-watching seasons one and two again!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Oh you know, just the President of the United States, Barack Obama talking about education reform and using my charter school as an example of one of the best in the nation. Mastery Charter Schools now have seven campuses, three of which are new elementary schools opening this fall, and have shown tremendous growth in reading and math and also a steep decrease in violence due to their strong school culture and strive for high expectations and excellence. I am excited and proud to be working at Mann Elementary this fall and welcoming in our first batch of kids!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Telephonic

I finished season 7 of Project Runway the other day and I have to say it was one of my favorite seasons. I was in love with Maya and Mila from the start, and I feel that this season had some of the best designers on it in the history of the show. And with this show over for me, I've begun to watch series 3 of Skins. I downloaded series 3 and 4 months ago but haven't had the drive to watch them, even though I absolutely loved and was obsessed with series 1 and 2. I just hate it when a TV show begins fresh with a new cast. I've watched four of the episodes so far and I must say that the new cast is alright and so far the storylines haven't been that bad. If you've never seen Skins, I highly HIGHLY recommend watching the first two series.


In real life news, today was the first day that we got to see our school for the fall - Mann Elementary. The building has been under renovation and considering all the painting and work that's been done, it looks great! The building is over 85 years old and is a mirror image of Emlen Elementary, the school I worked at last month. I never said that on this blog, but I hated that building - it was so old and stuffy, and the air was thick with nearly a century's worth of chalk dust. In good news, the new Mann Elementary building chucked the chalk boards for white boards! Thank god because chalk is the bane of my existence. The building itself isn't in bad shape, and is four stories tall, and shaped in a strange "u" shape. From one side of the building, you can  see the Philly skyline in the distance which looks amazing - I am pretty sure my classroom will be on the top floor and I hope I get a room with a view.

I can see lightning and hear thunder in the distance; a summer heat storm without the rain. I hope it breaks the humidity, but it is forecasted to be another 90 degree day tomorrow.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Accomplished

I just built an IKEA bureau this afternoon that took me three hours to put together, and I feel like it's one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. How sad is that?

There were times I thought I would never put the damn thing together properly, and I even snapped a piece of wood off because I nailed it into another piece in the wrong directions, but it was nothing a little super glue couldn't fix. All in all it came together and came out pretty well. It looks good in the bedroom and fit perfectly between the two closet doors. I put some little trinkets and my college degree frame on it and now my bedroom is starting to come together.

Now, all I need is a bed...

Brought Me Down

Again my worries come back to the state of the environment and the situations across the globe. Earlier we had BP spoil our environment by destroying the Gulf coast with their man-made disaster, flooding oil into our waters. Then there was the awful wild fires that raged throughout Russia, destroying arable land and shutting off exports of grain. And now there is the widespread damage throughout Asia from the heavy monsoon season. The devastation and loss of life in Pakistan is just unbelievable, and then there is the landslide damage in China.


I don't know about you, but it makes me worried for the state of the world. We have these powerful nations that rule our lives and actions, and yet they are utterly powerless when faced with the force of mother nature. And what is causing these abnormally strong storms around the globe? Is it global warming? Or is it something more? Could it be that our planet is so overpopulated that we're spreading out into areas of the world that were not meant to house people safely? Or perhaps the Earth has always been this active and we've just not noticed it so much because of the rapid growth of the world's population and the birth of media.

I don't believe in any of the 2012 nonsense or any judgement day looming in the near future, but I am curious as to what we've done to our planet to make it so volatile recently.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Broke into the Apartment

A week has passed since my last post which was, well, a little overly dramatic. Now that I'm back in Philly I feel that those emotions were driven because I had been in Boston and had had a whirlwind week of seeing lots of friends and having some great times with them. But now that I'm back, my head is cleared and I am ready to move forward with a new sense of possibility (to quote Teach for America).

The Apartment:
Last Sunday (less than a week ago, but it feel so much longer) I moved into my new apartment in Philadelphia. It's a little small but it's cozy and it is in a locked building which makes me feel safer, although at the same time, more concealed - I've barely seen or heard anyone else in the building. I'm living a bit west of UPenn and the neighborhood is pretty awesome: it's hip, has a lot of trees, and feels a LOT like Brookline, MA. There is a trolley two blocks away to take me downtown, and there are small markets, coffee shops, and restaurants in the vicinity. Plus, there are a hoard of other TFA corps members who live only a few blocks from me, a few of which are my friends who I should see pretty often.

Moving in was alright. The only downside is I am without much furniture. I don't even have a bed - I'm using an air mattress borrowed from my friend. The sad thing is I don't even have the money to go out and buy one anytime soon! This past week though I scoured Craigslist and found some really cheap shelves, TV stand, and microwave that I went and picked up from college students who were moving.

Decorating my apartment was also really fun. I hung up my wall scroll, some pictures, a few posters and pieces of art, and made it more homey. The only downside is that I need more shelves and furniture to truly make it feel more lived in and comfortable, and I don't foresee this being finished until mid-October when I have a few paychecks under my belt.



The cable man comes tomorrow morning so that should be good! I can finally start watching Bravo again, and that background noise will make the apartment feel more welcoming I think.

Mastery Charter Schools:
I began orientation at my actual school site this past week. Mastery Charter Schools are very good schools in this system and were recently honored by President Obama for their high turnaround rates. I met my fellow teachers and staff and I can't even wait to get started now! I am the only social studies teacher and I'm super pumped to get into my classroom next week. They are renovating the building so it's quite a mess I hear, but that doesn't bother me. The school's culture and systems are very similar to the beliefs of Teach for America, but I am getting really great vibes from Mastery, where at some points Teach for America rubbed me the wrong way.

UPenn:
This week I also began my enrollment and coursework for UPenn. I can't believe I'm an Ivy League grad student. I foresee this all being a lot of work for me, but it will be worth it - and terribly expensive. But it's still a great chance and I am excited to get underway with the classes in September. There are only about four class days a month, so it shouldn't be too time-consuming (aside from the papers and actual work).

Teach for America:
Since I'm at Mastery, and they run their own professional development and unit planning, I don't attend the Teach for America events this month, which is leaving me feeling a little disconnected from the program. And I'm sad that I am not part of the main group and I don't see my Teach for America friends often because of it. There are about twenty-five of us working for Mastery schools (they have seven now) but still the bulk of my friends are still attending the Teach for America sessions.

Project Runway:
Since I have mainly just had my computer to keep me busy in the apartment, I become re-obsessed with Project Runway this week. I just marathoned Season 7 the past three days, and I downloaded Season 6 to watch after that. Plus the new season is up to the third episode too! And then throw in Top Chef which is halfway through their DC season and I'm in heaven!

Aside from all of these main points in my life, I'm feeling alright. I do miss Boston and my friends still, but I'm getting along alright here. I'm by myself and in my apartment most of the time when I'm not attending work sessions, but it's mainly because I can't even afford to go out or into the city because my bank account is so low. I don't even know how I'm going to pay my September rent and utilities, so how can I go out and meet people when I have no cash? (not to mention HOW does one even "meet" people these days?)

And my fridge is miserably empty...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

No Way Out?

Part of me wants to quit Teach for America. Not because I don't enjoy the program or want to teach, it's just that I really REALLY don't want to be in Philadelphia - I just want to stay in Boston. I'd feel the same way regardless of where I was placed, I just want to live in Boston, even if that means being at home longer.

I just can't imagine living down in Philly and actually enjoying my life there. Sure I can be content, but the work is going to be so trying and difficult, and without any of my really good friends there, and knowing they are all still together in Boston, is going to make it even more difficult.

And while I am psyched to teach social studies, it's still not exactly what I would like to be doing. I'd rather be in Boston, either teaching ESL again or doing something else, or even going back to China or Korea and doing some program there. Anything but being in a city that I'm not excited to be in. And if anything does happen and I do quit, I feel like it has to be done sooner rather than later. Once I start taking UPenn courses, I will be placed into further debt due to their tuition loans.

Part of me wishes I had committed to the Peace Corps way back when. I could be in Mongolia right now living in a tent, uncomfortable but content.

I don't know, I think it's just that I feel this way because I'm having a pretty rough day, and I'm not prepared to leave Boston on Sunday - I need more time to patch up some lose ends. And I'm not looking forward to the move either; it's going to be a long, stressful, and hectic day. Things just aren't coming together I way I had thought.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Angry Ramblings

I sacrifice so much and get nothing in return. I cancel plans, do things I don't want to do, and stay in all day and then he turns it against me in the end. I canceled a lunch/movie date with a friend to stay with him in the afternoon and go out to eat. Instead we sat in his room, argued, and never ended up eating lunch. Finally he wants to go eat but I have to return home to meet my friends for dinner, and he tags along thinking I'll change my mind. When we get to Park Street and I tell him either he can come with me back home or not, he storms off.

Perhaps it's better off over?

But in much happier news, Donghae of Super Junior posted this on his Twitter today: oh my love for Super Junior!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Quote It

"It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America."
- Molly Ivins

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Commitment

A comment from a Boston.com post about legalizing gay marriage:

Then what a church chooses to recognize as marriage is entirely their own business. They can say, 'no, we will not honor gay marriage.' And while that might be regrettable, at least then their refusal does not have any bearing on the nice gay couple down the street having the right to pay taxes jointly or have joint medical coverage. Which is, in the end, what most of them I know want... the ability to be recognized as a single family unit under the law.

Pack it Up

Packing is such a pain in the behind! I have a few boxes down my grandmother's basement, some things at my dad's, and the bulk of it in my mother's basement to pack up. I have three boxes that are JUST books that I'm bringing - not sure why, although most are historical books and textbooks I used in college that "may" be useful planning for classes. Having all my things packed up and inaccessible makes me nervous, especially all my clothes because I know most of them are going to get all wrinkled!

I've had this insane idea recently: that I will join a gym once I get all settled in Philadelphia. Let's see if this ever materializes!

Oh, and a funny story: I just went over my dad's to clean up some rugs I'm going to take with me. When I walked into the house, I went into the kitchen and what do I see hanging on the fridge? MY UMASS DEGREE! Just sitting there on the fridge, just asking to get some grease stains or dirty fingerprints on it. Needless to say I grabbed that thing and I'm going out to buy a frame for it tonight.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Utilize Me

I'm an adult now: I signed up for utilities this morning. I set up an appointment with Comcast, called and set up an appointment with the Philadelphia Gas Works for hot water, heat, and gas, and turned on my electricity with PECO. I'm a big kid now :)

As much as I want to stay in Boston, I am looking forward to moving on Sunday because I am so so so sick of living out of a suitcase! But I'm not looking forward to the actual drive down - I hate long and cramped packed up car rides.

On perk about being home: TV! I haven't watched TV in over a month. I am enjoying watching Bravo and Food Network and even if cable is $40 a month, I'm going to pay for it just for these channels. Besides, how can you live alone without a TV!? I'd go insane without the use of it for background noise.

Monday, August 2, 2010

One Bedroom House

So, Institute is over and gone. It's a bittersweet feeling: I really enjoyed the kids and working at Emlen Elementary, and I'll certainly miss my collab members and CMA group! But I'm not going to miss the work, staying at Temple, or waking up super early.

That being said, that last week was a lot of fun. What wasn't so fun was that my housing plans broke down last minute which caused me to go into a one-bedroom frenzy. I tried to find a place with only two days left in the city, and I found and signed off on a one bedroom the night before I high-tailed it out of the city. It's not the best of places, but it's not bad either.

I'll be living on Pine St. near 45th which is in West Philly and close to UPenn. The neighborhood is cozy, and has trees on the street so it's not so urban-looking. There is a trolley two blocks away which will take me into Center City and it's within walking distance to Penn where all my classes will be, and it's a half hour by bus to work.

The building is an apartment complex with probably about twenty apartments. I heard that it's mostly young people and students living there. It's not the most classy place but it's not gross either. My apartment is a one bedroom but it's not a studio (thank god!) So you walk into the living room and off to the left is a small kitchen with enough room for a two person table. And on the right of the living room is the bedroom which is big enough for a large-sized bed, desk, and a bureau. The apartment overlooks a cute little garden from the building next door, which is nice. There are also three closets within the apartment. And since it's in a building that you have to buzz into, it's relatively safe. And in the neighborhood are some cute cafes and markets, and there's a park near the trolley stop.

It was such a whirlwind though - I went to check it out (by myself) and then called the realtor back and went to her office and signed the papers. She was this older Italian woman who sort of reminded me of my grandmother in a way. The rent isn't too bad ($750) and I'm pretty satisfied with this. I want to get a cat to keep me company once I get settled in. I'm going to have to buy lots of new furniture too and get it delivered. And I have to sign up for all the utilities this week which should be fun (not).

I'm dreading the move down though because, as is typical, it's causing this uproar in the family. Why can't everyone just calm down and figure things out calmly? Guess that's not the Capone way.

But it's good to be back in Boston for the week. I've already seen so many people in the two days I've been back and it really makes me wish I could be staying in this city instead. I have no desire to go through my things and decide what to pack and take with me, so this should be an interesting week...