27 May 2011

back and forth

On the one hand:

1. During a bake sale the other day, a student who forgot money said that he would "just have to rob someone" in order to get the funds he needed to buy a treat.

2. In a group discussion during Values class, the school counselor asked my students to think of times when people behave inappropriately and to brainstorm better behavioral choices.

"I have an inappropriate situation," one student proclaimed. "When you kick someone in the nuts!"

Yes, student of mine, that would be inappropriate, much like your language right there. (Not going to lie, though, I had a hard time not laughing out loud when I heard that comment...)

Afterwards, I told my student that I was very embarrassed to hear him say that. Another student overheard me and asked me, "Do you have angry, Teacher, or do you have shame?" (Again, it was a little hard for me to keep from laughing out loud.)

On the other hand:

1. Arriving at school the other day, I found two students sitting outside my classroom, completing some schoolwork. When I asked if they had forgotten to do their homework the night before, they showed me their completed homework, and asked me if they could get a head start on next week's assignments. ???

2. My entire class has spontaneously burst into applause at the conclusion of two read-alouds in the last week. I like to think I do a mean read aloud, but...wow!

Is it just me, or do kids everywhere seem to be going a little nuts in anticipation of summer vacation?

24 May 2011

best in show

A few weekends ago, my friend E.G. and I attended the National Orchid Show. Orchids are fairly common in tropical areas like Costa Rica, and the guaria morada, a type of orchid known for its gorgeous pinky-purple petals, is the national flower, so we figured we'd get to see some beautiful plants.

When we arrived at the venue in San Pedro, we found this cool structure constructed from milk crates. The artist who made this has many other creations featured around downtown San Jose.
I wonder if you can climb this thing...

Inside the venue, we saw hundreds of types orchids, most of which I never knew were orchids. My camera didn't take great pictures with the lighting at the show, but luckily, E.G.'s did! I have to give her credit for these photos.

This type of flower is what usually comes to mind when I think of orchids

These buttery orchids were some of my favorites

Cool details on the center of the flower

I love the unusual purple color of these flowers!

Lovely velvety color

This orchid has an animal-print thing going on

Great bright green/berry color combo

We had such a beautiful, calm afternoon...thanks for inviting me, E.G.!

21 May 2011


Today I'm flying to California to celebrate the wedding of S.R., one of my best friends from college. I'm her maid of honor, and I'm so excited! Over the past few days, I've been getting things ready for the substitute teacher who will teach my class next week.

Having a substitute teacher is always kind of nerve-wracking for me. It takes quite a bit of time to get lesson plans and materials ready for someone else to use, and when you return after your absence...well, there's no telling what you'll find!

Picture it: October. My first year of teaching. I had just received a memo saying that I was being sent to a district technology training and needed to prepare for a substitute. I was kind of excited, because I really needed a break by that time! I had been put in charge of leading the kids in creating our grade's entry into the school-wide pumpkin-decorating contest, so I thought that that would be a nice, wholesome activity that would keep the kids engaged while I was gone. My students had decided to decorate our pumpkins as "spooky graveyard" characters, complete with painted faces and 3-D bodies. The night before my training, I set out paints, brushes, newspapers, pumpkins, costumes, and various other arts-and-crafts supplies, slapped some instructions up on the board, and headed home for the evening.

(I know you're probably thinking that I was crazy to leave such an activity for my students to complete with a substitute. And you're right. I was crazy. All I can do is plead temporary insanity, because I was going nuts by that point. Don't get me wrong, I have loved every group of students, but still, we all need a break sometimes...especially first-year teachers.)

Anyway, the day after my training, I came back to my classroom, refreshed from my day "off" and ready to integrate technology into my lessons like nobody's business. Until I opened my classroom door. Honestly, I cannot imagine what exactly went down while I was gone, but it looked like one of those Spin-Art machines from the early 1990s had gone off in there.

The best part? As I waded to my desk through the paint splotches and costume remnants, I noticed a giant piece of paper on the floor. ??? When I got to the front of the room, I realized that it was my rules poster, which my students had torn off the wall! And then stomped on, judging by the footprints all over it.

So yeah, that was the first time I had a substitute. The second time, I got back to school about 30 minutes before the day ended. When I entered my classroom, I was struck by an overwhelmingly foul odor, which prompted me to ask my substitute what had happened.

"Two boys were mad that you were gone," she replied, "So they teamed up and decided to pee in their pants."

Right, because sit-ins are sooo over...everyone's having pee-ins now. I mean, guys, I'm glad you missed me, but let's keep the bodily functions in the bathroom next time, okay?

My experiences with substitutes have only improved from those beginnings. But even still, along with preparing my lesson plans, I've been keeping my fingers crossed that all will go smoothly next week. I'll let you know what happens!

p.s.: That pumpkin contest my first year? My students totally won. Yesss.

19 May 2011

visitors from the golden state

A few days after my friends A.M. and L.H. returned to the U.S., I was lucky enough to have two more fun visitors! S.R., one of my best friends and roommates from college, and her fiance, S.P., came down from California for a few days. While they were here, we spent the weekend at Puerto Viejo, a great, funky beach on the Caribbean coast.

Paddling to the sea

Play ball!

Eating an island

Enjoying the view

Hanging out with friends is the best!

Strolling under the palm trees

Gearing up for the zipline canopy tour

Can't get enough of these sunsets...

We jumped at the chance to go white water rafting on the beautiful Rio Pacuare! To go on the rafting trip, we needed closed-toe shoes or sandals with straps. S.P. had his hiking boots (not a great option for rafting), and his flip flops (not strappy), so we had a MacGyver moment and improvised by removing the laces from his boots, then tying them through his flip flop straps and around his ankles.
S.P. channeling his inner-Russel Crowe (in Gladiator, of course)

And we're off!

One of the many gorgeous waterfalls we passed on the four-hour trip

Cooling off after a day of paddling

It was a blast showing S.R. and S.P. some of my favorite places in Costa Rica! The best part is, I'll be seeing them again soon, when I travel to Los Angeles to be maid of honor in their wedding. Can't wait!!

16 May 2011

keeping it classy

There's a restaurant called Legends near school that my friends and I like to go to from time to time. They have tasty food and excellent musical selections, as evidenced by their non-stop playing of music videos from the 1950s through the 1990s. My friend E.A. and I decided to grab an early dinner there one Friday afternoon. The bus we usually ride home passes Legends on the way home, so we decided we could just get off a little earlier than usual, do some grocery shopping, and then walk over to Legends. We explained our plan to the bus driver, trying to do so very inconspicuously, as Legends also has a bar, and we didn't want any students to know where we were going and think anything weird about it. Unfortunately, he didn't understand what we meant, and started loudly questioning us about our plan. At that point, everyone starting putting in their two cents' worth, so the jig was up.

Finally, when we got to Legends, it wasn't even open. Ha! We had to wait outside for it to open. Of course, pretty much all the school buses and parents who pick up their kids have to drive past Legends to get home, so we spent that time trying not to look ridiculous while waiting for the restaurant to open.

E.A. and me, waiting for Legends to open/trying to hide from students' families and co-workers as they drive by.

Yeah, we keep it classy.

13 May 2011

rolling in the dough

My school has been having weekly bake sales for the past few months, as various organizations try to raise money for end-of-the-year trips. I must say, I prefer the bake sale route to those fundraisers where kids have to sell things, collect money, and turn it in to me. Those are a little stressful, because I'm always worried about what will happen to the money. When I lived in Texas, my fifth graders sold discount cards to local businesses to raise money for a trip to San Antonio. For a mere $10, supporters could have access to discounts at McDonald's, the Sears Garden Center, and Roger's Tire Shop. I was collecting funds from one of my students, Baby G, when Vivi, a girl in my class (who happened to have a very big, very obvious crush on Baby G) approached us.

Vivi: Hey! Baby G! Buy one for me!
Baby G: Huuuuuuh? (while flaring his nostrils quite widely)
Me: (thinking) What do you want one of these cards for? Do you need to get your four-wheeler tires rotated or something?
Girl: Buy me a card! I want one!
Baby G: (remains silent and continues flaring nostrils)
Girl: Oh, never mind! (walking off in a huff)

At that point, Baby G turned to me. "Aw, Miss! They know that I got the money...that I got the STRENGTH!" he half-mourned, half-grinned as he flexed his biceps.

I didn't want to hurt Baby G's feelings, but I couldn't help bursting out laughing right then and there. Luckily, he did too. For the rest of the year, any time I caught his eye as he stared into space during class time, he would perk up, grin, and flex his biceps.

Oh, these kids...what would I do without them?!

10 May 2011

hitting the trail

A few Sundays ago, some friends and I decided to hike up to Chicharronera El Pizote, a well-known restaurant near my friend's house. A chicharronera is an eating establishment that specializes in chicharrones, or fried chunks of pork rind. The weather was beautiful!
I love these colorful houses.

G.H. and J.F. hiking with Tobey

Nice day for sitting on the patio

After a while, we came to this bridge. Luckily, we did not have to cross it.

We came upon this nativity set up and decorated all Christmas-like in the woods outside the local water treatment plant. I love finding hidden surprises like this.

Almost there...

An hour and half later, we made it! I kept a lookout, but did not see any pizotes (tapirs) in the area.

Mmmm...chifrijo. (The name comes from chicharrones with frijoles). Now we can make up for all those calories we burned on the hike there!

07 May 2011

texas comes to costa rica

A few days after my sister returned to the United States, two friends from Texas came to spend their spring break in Costa Rica! I had to work for most of the time they were here enjoying the country, but we did make it over to Manuel Antonio for a weekend.

I just love the blue water of the beaches in Costa Rica.

I never get tired of the monkeys and their tricks. We caught this one trying to steal food from some beachcombers.

Check out his face here...he looks so angry that people were trying to get their stuff back from him. Too funny!

Enjoying the beautiful sunset

On our second day there, A.M. and I decided to go parasailing. Here we are, getting strapped in for the ride.

Flying over the ocean! It was so much fun...not scary at all! Okay, actually the hook holding us into the harness was a little flimsy for my taste, but other than that...not scary at all!

It was so great to have some more friends in town. A.M. and L.H., I'm so glad you came to visit!

04 May 2011

shake, rattle, and roll

The town I where live is located on a tectonic fault line, so there's a lot of geological activity in the area. We had a little earthquake one night while I was at my dance studio. Although the earthquake was not serious, the studio is located in an old building, so we had to evacuate because it was shaking pretty badly and the wall-length mirrors were in danger of falling on us. As we were filing off the dance floor, a "gentleman" in my class grabbed me from behind, offering to rescue me. Ugh! I mean, a natural disaster is not the time to get fresh.

Anyway, it reminded me of Kewpie Kid's explanation of earthquakes, which is too funny not to share! You may remember Kewpie Kid from his previous tectonic theories and his serenade to the treasure troll. I taught earth science last year, so tectonic plates, eathquakes, and other related phenomena were a big deal for us. After we had been studying them for a few weeks, Kewpie raised his hand...

Me: Yes, Kewpie, do you have a question?
Kewpie: No, Miss! I have another idea about
what causes earthquakes!
Me: Great, what is it?
Kewpie: Well, I think that even though we feel big,
we're actually really tiny, you know?
Me: Okaaaaay...
Kewpie: And so, since we're all tiny and stuff,
giant scientists are always looking at us under a microscope.
Me: Uh huh...
Kewpie: And then, you know, when they want to look
at something else, they need to move the little glass thing that we're on.
When they do that, we go "Whoooooaaaaa!" and move all around. And
that's when the earthquakes happen!
Me: Wow, Kewpie, that is quite a theory! But
I'd really like you to learn the tectonic plate theory too, ok?
Kewpie: Sure, Miss.

What can I say? He's definitely an independent thinker!

02 May 2011

did you get the memo?

Dear Memo Sender,

I really don't mind substituting for the P.E. teacher. Despite my complete lack of knowledge of the rules of soccer and how to conduct "trapping drills," it's actually pretty fun. But it would rock if you could let me know more than -3 minutes ahead of time, so that I could show up with these:

instead of these:
Yes, the wedges are definitely more fab, but they just don't work that well on the soccer field.

Thanks a bunch!

Miss L

Images found here and here.