Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tips for Teachers 2

Dear Teacher,

I know I've given you some stuff to think about already, but more occurred advice to me since we last spoke.

1. Teachers To Know
Many will introduce themselves in the mornings. Still, I like it when I get the names of teachers (or aides) I should know that can help out the classroom. Please tell me where their room is located as well so that I may call on them more easily.

2. Curriculum
I understand that you are pushed to meet certain deadlines with teaching. However, I am not a certified teacher nor do I know your curriculum, intention, or students in the way that you do. So please, don't have me teach something new to them. A lot of times (even though it is review for me) the way to teach them is not. I end up explaining it poorly, they suffer and struggle, and we fall behind schedule.

3a. Classroom Management (Elementary)
Each teacher has different management styles and tolerances. Let me know what you use as well as where it is located in the classroom. A bell? 123 All Eyes On Me? Clap Pattern? Light Switching? Sometimes the kids will point it out. Other times they will continue to be distracted and take advantage, and then bawl when I change their name on from Green to Yellow.

3b. Classroom Management (High School)
It's always good advice to know where you draw the line as to sending a student to the office or calling up an administrator. Three warnings? Late bells? Or are there certain kids that if they act up to send them out immediately?

4. Dismissal (Elementary)
It is different at every school. Some have bells. Others an intercom. And still others do it on a time schedule without any audio warnings. When you're letting me know who rides the bus, add in how I should figure out when to dismiss them.

5. When will you be back?
Sometimes absences are personal, and I know many times you have told your students in advance. I can also estimate by how many days you took off my scheduling roster. Yet, students love to ask when you'll return or why you are gone. If you're comfortable sharing this information, please do so. It especially comforts the younger kids.

Your Faithful Substitute,

Monday, July 23, 2012

Celebration: Book Update

I just signed the contract for my debut novel, Zarconian Island, with Curiosity Quills publisher. It should be available online and in print at the end of this year or the beginning of the next year.

I will fill you all in as we get closer.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tips for Teachers

Dear Teacher,

It's always a pleasure to substitute for you. I wanted to share a few things that, as a sub, I found would be helpful in the future.

1. The Helpful Kids
Let me know who the good kids are by name and description*. I like to know who I can rely on to tell me whether they really did that assignment already or if they're trying to get out of it.

*Descriptions work best because I am not going to know the kids' names right away, let alone every child's name (even by the end of the day).

2. The Not So Helpful Kids
Same as above. It's good to have a head's up on who to watch out for, crack down on, and just immediately send to the office.

3. Keep It Short
While I love the detail on how your class runs, multiple single-spaced pages are confusing. I don't know what's important information and what is not. I only have a half-hour to review everything for the whole day (something you've planned for months). Really, I'd like to be able to spend part of my morning time getting familiar with your classroom.

4. Be Specific
I know I just said your schedule is sometimes too detailed, but I'd like to point out a few things you could add to make my job easier.

  • Is it Collected?
  • Is it Graded?
  • Bathroom Passes and Policies - where are they, how many at a time & when, and who cannot go to the bathroom together even if it's an emergency?
  • Extra Work or Reading - what do I do if they finish early?
If you want to give the kids free time that day or for a solid amount of time, please leave a movie for me to play so that they don't just run amok. 

5. Fire Drills
Give me a head's up that it will happen and let me know where the emergency binder or folder is.

6. Materials
Please leave all the materials in one place or be very specific about where each worksheet or book is. I'm not as familiar with your classroom and a lot of the time I only find one pile of materials in the beginning.

Your Faithful Substitute,

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Organize My Life, Please

Life is here. It's time to figure out the future some more. I'm a college graduate. I work a lot of small jobs: online copyeditor, blogging, camp counselor (summer), and substitute (school year). Still, I need to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life.

Organizing means optimizing time and resources to finish essential tasks or products. It means finding the priority and following through until the desired result is reached. Without organization, the world becomes chaos.

Organizing means having a keen and detail-oriented eye. I've been organizing since I could write: creating schedules and timelines, to-do lists and wish lists with goal markers, pros and cons, etc. This organization has helped me be the first to graduate college in my family, to afford the basics in life, and to find purpose in my desired careers.

If only I could organize my life.

What do I want to do:

  • Write (preferably YA literature)
  • Travel


  • No health/dental insurance
  • No stable income
  • No loan assistance

I have few options. I could live a poor, starving artist life OR stay with my parents forever. Both are right out. With college loans to pay off and other expenses (gas, food, utilities, etc.), I need something more stable.

Potential Careers:

  • Peace Corp
  • Librarian
  • Editorial Assistant
  • Military Service
  • Teacher
  • Teacher Abroad
I suppose I could detail the pros and cons of each one here, but that is personal and this blog is already long enough. We will see where I end up. Hopefully, I will look back on this entry and laugh.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Characters in Real Life, Estes Park

Real People I Met in Estes:

A romantic hike-master who falls head-over-heels for a beautiful and waif blonde that works behind the front desk and likes to read Guns, Germs, and Steel on her down time. Ultimately, she will leave for a teaching position in Burma.

A dark-haired, barefoot boy that works the empty museum on Thursdays and Sundays. He pronounces the state like Coal-or-add-o and wears plaid shirts, which are always untucked and pushed up to his elbows. He carries a rusted tin bucket over his hooked arm and futilely attempts to wash the yellow pollen off the wooden deck as hummingbirds dive-bomb his head.

A Jewish girl that hides her identity behind aviator glasses and a corporate pleasantries. She buys the same sunglasses every year from the same Shell gas station because she always loses the previous pair before she arrives in Estes Park.

Her unofficial nickname is "Bangs" for her mousy brown hair that reaches her lower back. She's subdued and introverted until the music comes on. It's always alternative--Avett Brothers and Regina Spektor are the closest to well-known--and she will sings like there's no tomorrow.

A 22-year-old lab tech, who gestures like a theatre major and plays guitar as if it were the most beautiful thing he'd ever held in his hands. He'd rather drift to Portland than finish his major.  You can hardly make out his mumbled words over the engine of his beat-down car. He's a chronic mumbler in a flat cap but budding renaissance man.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fresh From The Mountain: No Lie

There's something to be said about tap water that sits out overnight. In the morning, it's funky and tastes slightly of metal and things I'd rather not know. At least, that's how it was in MD.

In Colorado, everything is so fresh. I can drink my bottle of water in the morning without balking at the taste. It's no wonder they advertise mountain water on every water bottle. I've seen it up close and tasted the drops that float on the air after the crush of a waterfall.

 Even in July, the lakes are as cold as the glaciers they're melted from. The water bounces on the surface, and I understand the phrase clear as crystal.

Up into the sky, the droplets go, creating giant clouds that move over the Rockies, their shadows traceable on the mountainsides. Some float down to Earth and I remember we are at 8,000 feet, not as nearly down to earth as I know on the east coast.

Despite the fires and occasional scent of smoke, the air is crispest I've ever taken in. The airways of my nose hurts from the dry weather and I'm surprised I haven't gotten a bleed from it. Colorado is so dry that it smells of nothing, not dirt or trees or smog. Not, at least, until it rains. Then it's a thousand smells of nature that have been missing for weeks. The Ponderosa, the elk and coyote scat, the dirt and the sidewalk all come alive.

I leave my window open so that humidity fills my room. I plug up the door with rags and pillowcases so that I might hold in the sweet, overpowering liquidity for as long as I can.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fire and Ice: The Rockies

Some say the world will end in fire
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice. 

Robert Frost

The fires in CO are no longer local news. I can see the blazes, the white clouds of smoke, from over the mountain. Listening to satellite radio, I hear my local morning radio show talk about another fire in Colorado Springs. There are pictures in online forums of at least seven fires in the area, and my Red Cross Disaster Action Team sent out an email. 

Where I am, it reaches high 80s and 90s. I trek around camp laden with 14 or so children, forcing them to drink and sit in the shade from time-to-time. Trees are down everywhere, dead from pine beetles and overcrowding. There hasn't been a proper, natural wildfire to weed out the weak and the sick for years.

Then something starts only five miles away from my room. A tourist has burnt trash outside, or welded metal, or some other rumor. 

People are talking about hiking above the fires, above tree-line, to Longs where I've never been. I sit in the foyer because my room has no A/C and hear roads are shut down.

It feels like the whole world is on fire. A giant storm hits my hometown and they have no power. The next day temperatures soar to the 100s. The news is saying it may be up to a week before it can be fixed.

So I reach out and up, and I climb. I go past the falls and rivers and lakes. I climb higher with the sun beating down on my green tank-top, burning me pink and brown, until I see snow. It'll be gone soon, but it's here now. 

My friend falls into a snow-trap up to her waist and we rush to slide down the rest. There's a glacier in the distance but we don't have the proper tools to slide it yet so we head down below tree-line, where the wind can't reach us lest we be blown off the mountain or struck down by lightening because surely we'll fall into the blaze.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

In the Heart of Colorado

Colorado is beautiful in a way that Maryland is not. It has no grass, only brush which scratches at your legs. In high winds, the dirt comes up off the ground, a dustbowl, and serves you straight in the mouth.

But the Aspens, with their small leaves, flutter in the wind and filter out the sunlight. The vanilla scent of Ponderosa Pine finds floats on the air on warm days. (We've told the children one chocolate manufactured one exists somewhere on the property. They constantly run to sniff each tree. Ha!)

Strange and beautiful flowers dot the paths. Mostly yellows, but there are blues and purples. I learn which ones I can eat, which are sweet, and which will kill if picked at the wrong season. Guides point out prickly, whimsy, and flimsy ferns and bushes so they can tell me that the American Indians used it for sickness or mixing colors or lining their beds. Even the pinecones look like flowers when turned on their sides.

Rocks, giant and black, and red and beautiful stick out of the side of mountains and thrust up in the streams. They've been carried over from the Ice Age, from glaciers, moving slowly for thousands of years before being deposited willy nilly into a carved out field somewhere.

I try to touch all of it and none of it. It's a National Park after all and I have to stay on the trails. But, Oh! The pictures do not to justice and I have to wander off a bit so that I can be surrounded by the whole thing at once.

Hopefully, I wander where no bear or big cat are.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

To Hike or to Write: Tales from Estes Park, Colorado

I've been trying to hike every weekend since I got to Colorado. The views are fantastic and, at some point, you hit that high where it seems like you could walk forever: to the next peak and more, to the Great Divide, the plains and onward to California.

To write here is the most inspiring and exhausting thing. As you can tell, my posts fell off. I've started a writing group and just writing 5 pages a week is enough to put me out after a 40/hr work week.

I'm planning to become a drifter, possibly. I have no flight home when this job ends. Not yet anyway. If If I have the guts, I'll end up in another state. Perhaps I'll find a short job and a place to crash. Or maybe I'll hit the road with a brown-haired boy, whose engine cuts off when we idle below 10.