Feb 19, 2011

On the Proverbial Calm Before the Proverbial Storm

I had a good day today.

Sleeping in, reading and finishing a book (I Am Number Four. It was okay.), a cup of coffee with Caramel Torani syrup, breakfast rice, a trip to the market, Bible study with the South Africans, and shawarma and Phase 10 at the Lebanese church's restaurant.

This, however, is the proverbial calm before the storm.

Tuesday we have the all-school Valentine's Day program (basically a variety show). Wednesday and Thursday we have parent-teacher conferences until the evening. Friday I'm taking my students on a field trip to Ile-Ife (pronounced ee-'leh ee-'feh) to visit the Ooni's Palace and the museum. Saturday is a student's birthday party. Will it be a crazy week? Absolutely. Will the next week be easier? Absolutely not. Science Fair and tests and projects due. Oh brother.

It's a good thing that today has been a bit relaxing.

Feb 9, 2011

Of a Memory

I have already shared my love of Bon Iver on this blog. However, I keep coming back to the music. Their lyrics and simple sound just fit with many varied situations. At times, I can't help but think that the music is perfect winter music. Yet it also works so perfectly in summer.

Anyways, the reason for this blabbering is that I listened to a lot of Bon Iver when I was road tripping around Minnesota last summer. However, one specific moment stands out and every time I hear the song "Re: Stacks," I remember.

I remember driving with my sister's family from a hot day full of parades, the Amish, country roads, and field after field; to the farm where we camped. We had walked around looking at the old barn, exploring some of the paths that led to the ravine and the old, rusting cars. We were tired. We were hot. The boys were getting crabby.

So we piled back into my car. My road trip mix was on, and Bon Iver played once more. We drove down the bumpy dirt road through the fields of endless corn that stretched up from the ground to taste the cooler air above the heat trapped by their leaves.

It was that hour between late afternoon and early evening when the sun was getting low in the sky. It cast its amber light across that small farm in Southeastern Minnesota and it lit up my world at that moment.

The boys were quiet in their seats - no more whine. No more fuss. I drove slowly to keep from bumping too much, but more to preserve this moment in my head. I knew at that moment that when things got difficult in a foreign land, and when I missed my family, that I would look back on that moment and remember.

In all my time in Nigeria, I have never had a moment where I wanted to drop everything and simply be home for good. But there have been so many times when a late afternoon car ride through a corn field with Bon Iver and the people I love would mean the world to me.

I know it's a cliched saying, but that doesn't make it any less true. Sometimes you don't really appreciate the things that you have until they are gone.

Feb 6, 2011

In Which the Author Poses a Question About His Class

I know that most of you who read this are not teachers, so I try to keep posts about teaching to a minimum.* That being said, this one needs to be shared.

Currently, I'm looking through my students' children's books. Some of them are SPECTACULAR and way above and beyond what I was looking for. I love seeing these books because it shows so much potential in a student.

But. . .

I also have those stories which are very clearly taken from another source. Whether that's a parent who meddles too much in the child's work (which basically ruins all learning that goes on for the child), or whether that's a child who has seen a movie and decided to write down the exact same plot with the exact same characters, these stories are a huge source of frustration for me.

I don't know how to deal with plagiarism. Last year I had many instances of plagiarism, and this year, that seems to be continuing.

I'm not sure why these students don't get the concept of plagiarism. It's like they don't see it as something that is wrong to do. 'Oh, I really liked that movie. I'll write it down without changing anything and turn it in! I'm so awesome.'  They understand that taking answers from another student is wrong. I wish I could somehow teach them that plagiarism is the same as cheating. I've tried explaining it like this in class, but there's somehow a disconnect.

So, does anyone have any ideas? I've tried explaining the concept every way I know how and I still have students who continue to copy. I've given zeros for copying and told the students that they can make it up if they don't plagiarize. Nothing works. Any help or ideas would be greatly appreciated!

* Some of you may be surprised to hear that I don't post about teaching as much as I want to. It kind of consumes most of my life, so I usually have to work hard to post about non-teaching subjects. Sorry if it ever gets to be too much!

Feb 3, 2011

About Prayer and, Unfortunately, Samwise Gamgee

 I would love your prayers.

Nerd Alert: I was watching the end of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers today (we never have time to watch a complete movie of LOTR because they're so freaking long!), and something that Sam said really resonated with me, especially now in my situation. He said, "Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding onto something." Now, I realize how corny and cliche it is to quote from Lord of the Rings and apply it to your life, but I'm feeling like a person in that story. I now have a chance to "turn back" to America and enjoy a potentially comfortable life among people that I love and culture that is familiar. But I won't. (This is not a dig at those of you who live in America. I just know that my life isn't there for . . . awhile yet.)

So, tomorrow morning I have an interview with Horizon Japan International School in Yokohama, Japan. It is my second interview with the school. It looks decent, and I would definitely be ok teaching there.

However, on Saturday, I also have an interview with a principal at a school in Qingdao, China. This looks much more interesting and it looks like something more closely aligned to my goals in life. I'm quite far into the application process for the school, and I'm really feeling a pull in that direction.

So I would love your prayers. I realize that some of you may not even read this until I have already had both interviews, but I would still love prayers for guidance and peace about wherever I'm going to be living next.