Wednesday, June 22, 2011

School's Out For Summer!!!!!!

Can you believe it?! Another school year has come and gone (for those of you in this business, you would have understood if I said another year has come and gone, but we gotta spell it out for the non-schoolies...).

At the beginning of each year, I am excited about what will come and I have forgotten how hard those first 6-8 weeks can be to get to know kids, to find out what their needs will be, to set up routines, to create a safe, learning environment and to scale back my expectations (based on what my last class could do at the end). I forget that I will be frustrated and working overly hard to get things rolling the way I want and need them to go. I am simply thrilled at the prospect of a new group of kids and then the work begins.

About mid way through the year, I'm feeling exhausted but some measure of success in what the kids can do and what I've done to help get them there. I feel like the kids will get to where I need them to go and every year I feel like this class is better than the last (with the exception of a few super star classes I've had in the past - ICS grade 1 you know who you are!!). I have lost the beginning of the year excitement and am just getting bogged down in the work and the paperwork that piles up with teaching. It's at this point in the year when summer seems farthest away and like we might never get there for all the weeks of teaching without a break.

Close to the spring, I'm beyond exhausted and worried about the few kids who aren't pulling up their socks and getting to where I need to go and I'm putting in extra hours at home researching or designing ways to help meet them where they are at and reach their potential. I'm now aching for a break and we get a week in the spring which is welcome but seemingly not enough. Also, at this point in the year, summer seems all too close and there is just too much to do still. Too much content left to teach, too many reports left to write, too many kids to help, too many little ceremonies and other things that come out of nowhere to try and fit in the already over-busy schedule.

After spring break comes and goes, it dawns on me that there is just no time left. We are now in full emergency teaching mode, we have to get all the kids ready for the next grade academically and behaviourly. It becomes a high pressure cooker full of expectations, worries, love and care. By now, I am far too attached to each of the little munchkins that walk into my classroom everyday and I'm even attached to their parents.

As the end of the year approaches, I panic! I know you would think that this would be the slow release of the kids but it's not. I panic to make sure that I've done enough to prepare them, in fact, to over prepare them in case there is some regression of language and understanding over the summer break. I'm stressed and worried about who will teach them the next year (we have FABULOUS teachers at every grade level here and I love the second grade team). I worry that they won't understand the quirks of this boy or the seemingly annoying habits of that girl. I worry that they won't be patient enough with my babies or that they won't love them as much or as fiercely as I do (again, let me tell you how GREAT our second grade team is and how hard they work... I know this in my head but my heart just can't absorb it for some reason, no matter the school or the teachers in the next grade). And so I try to squeeze learning and loving into every last second of the day. My goal isn't just to academically and behaviourly prepare them anymore... it's to send them off into the summer so full of knowledge and LOVE that they are eager to come back in the fall.

And then in the blink of an eye, the year is OVER. One minute the kids are chattering in your ear, annoying you with silly questions and goofy answers, making you double over in laughter with their antics and squeezing the life out of you in a bear hug and the next... the classroom is empty and the only sound is you clacking away on your keyboard trying to complete your paperwork or you putting things in boxes or you taking down the wall decorations etc. You go from ear-splitting noise to relative silence in a heartbeat and it feels wonderful and horrible at the same time. Wonderful that you are getting the break you desperately need to recharge and do it all over again in the fall and horrible because the little people you've poured your life into for the past 9 months are just gone.

So there... teachers out there... I hope I haven't misrepresented what we do in any way... this is how I see it and this is the first time I'm able to sit and reflect on it this way. And for those of you who don't teach or know a teacher well, I hope this gives you a little insight to what we do and how it feels for us when school's out for summer!!

Appreciate the educators in your life!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Case of the Turkish Cat Burglar

Okay... so there really wasn't a robbery, but it sure felt like it this weekend. On Saturday I came home from a day out in town to find my balcony door (which was shut when I left) wide open. I thought it was odd, but assume the wind had blown it open as it was a little gusty at times.

Then last night (or really this morning at 3:47 exactly) I woke to the sound of thumps and bumps INSIDE my apartment. I got up (which always makes me think of the time in the horror movies when the girls go to see what's causing the noises and then die... I'm the one who screams at them to stop being stupid) and looked around my apartment to find my front door and balcony door wide open. I then checked my apartment over and nothing was missing. So I closed and locked both doors (Turkish doors can't be opened from the outside without a key whether you lock it or not, so I usually don't bother when I am home), went into my bedroom, kept the light on and pretended to sleep.

Then when I got up for work, I heard a meow outside my door. A little black cat wanted to come back out the way she came in... hm... Needless to say, I did NOT let her back through... So even though none of my belongings were stolen, my sleep was!

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Anıtkabir is a stunning place in Ankara. It is the place that houses the final resting place and masoleum for the father of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

It is a sight to behold and a wonderful place to spend a couple of hours. I highly recommend it if you ever come to Ankara. There is more to see in this city than it's wonderful airport (as suggested by some guide books as the only thing to see here). Here are some images taken there at the end of May when I went for the first time with visiting family:

There are a few of these stone reliefs... stunning.

A huge promenade is lined by these tigers.

Large statues are seen everywhere on the grounds.

Ataturk's final resting place.

The changing of the guard is truly something to be seen. It was mesmerizing.

Guards stand at just about every entrance. They rarely move and don't speak unless they are changing the guard...

The tomb as seen from the entrance where you come up into the masoleum space. It is so huge, so beautiful and FREE to go and see!!

Rain, Rain Go AWAY!!

Spring is a rainy affair in Ankara, which is a semi-arid desert. The summers are hot and DRY and there is little rain in the fall and winter... but spring makes up for it. This spring has been especially bad, or so I am told. It has rained at some point just about every day since April and it's crazy. The huge claps of thunder, the lightning, the downpours and the hail. It's wild and fun to watch, that is unless you are stuck in a restaurant that has a river of rain water coming in the front doors. That's what happened at the end of May when my two aunts and two uncles dropped by for a weekend visit. Here is what it looked like through the lens of my camera:

By the time the rain stopped, it was well up past the door wells of all the cars. It was incredible.

Too Young to Dance?!

So when was your first school dance? I think mine was a class dance party in grade 5. And then the first real dance came in Junior High. I remember worrying about what to wear, how to act, who would be going, who might or might not ask me to dance. I remember it being anti-climactic because I'd had just a little TOO much anticipation about what might or might not happen.

Well here in Turkey, school dances can begin as early as PRE-KINDERGARTEN!! Yup.... you read right... At the school I work out, the student council wanted to have a "Disco" to help raise funds for future projects. They planned it with the help of the adults, advertised it and sold tickets. Some of us teachers volunteered to chaperone (who doesn't want to see their students boogie down?!?!), and it was a go. I volunteered to watch the grade 1-3 hour and here is a little of what it looked like:

Yup... that's right, you do see a smoke machine, balloons and a professional DJ! The kids were coiffed (one even wore his rayban shades inside) and ready to party! And they made the most of the hour they had. The sang, danced, ate pizza and screamed when there was a song they liked.

Best part? The song selection. Being that this is NOT an English speaking country, lots of people here don't speak, read or understand English but they love the sound of English pop music for dancing. So amongst the great Turkish songs were things like: "Sex on the Beach" "I Kissed a Girl" "S&M" and a whole host of other songs that were crazy for little kids to listen too... but the kids didn't notice and just us stick-in-the-mud responsible adults did... no harm done!

Gorgeous Antalya

Turkey is full of wonderful places to visit and loads of things to see. I've been here a year and traveled to a few of these places but the more I see, the more I want to see. And the best part is that when you live here, it is AFFORDABLE!! One of the greatest places is Antalya. It's right on the Mediterranean Sea and is beyond beautiful! Below are some pictures of my time there. I highly recommend it as a place to relax!!

This is part of the old bazaar in the area that winds up from the harbour all the way up to the top. It's beautiful, perhaps one of the nicest bazaars I've seen so far.

There was a man repairing carpets outside his shop in the bazaar. I love the thought of how the old things are revered and cared for here.

When you come out of the top of the bazaar you are next to the mosque or camii in the heart of the city, or the old city at least. It's beautiful and the grounds surrounding it are lovely as well.
From near the mosque, if you look out towards the water, this is what you see... a hillside, crammed full of shops, houses, hotels, restaurants and cafes. It's actually quite beautiful.

A little further along is the harbour. I walked all the way down there (there are steps and a road). It was beautiful.

At the harbour there are oodles of little restaurants, cafes and these boats. They are all eager to have you join their tours for various prices and lengths of time. And just like everything (or almost) in Turkey, the price is negotiable. The boat that I took was supposed to be out for a 45 minute tour of the harbour area (that was all I wanted to see) and the price started at 70 Euros. I ended up paying 30 Turkish Lira and got my drink for free and I am SURE that more bargin savvy people could get a better deal than I did. The down side is that they wait until they have a good number of people on the boat. Some bigger boats fill up faster but at the same time, this was not crowded and very nice.

Here I am... waiting for my boat to go out... it was a good chance to work on my tan... bring SUNSCREEN... the sun here is POWERFUL!!

On the way, you will see little coves like this, waterfalls and even hotels and restaurants built into the cliffs. AMAZING!

And one of my favourite parts of the trip was seeing this guy... *sigh* happiness!!

So go... go to Turkey and go to Antalya... it's worth it!!