31 October 2012

what other stories do they have?

Have you ever thought you knew someone fairly well, and then learned something about him or her that made you realize you didn't after all?  My church in Rio Grande City had a special event called "Talents Sunday" once a year.  Everyone who wanted to participate could bring in something that represented a talent s/he had.  One year, I noticed an old baseball glove on the table, and wondered who it belonged to.  I later discovered that it belonged to my elderly friend, Mr. S...and it turns out that he played professional baseball after college and before returning to the Valley to run his family's onion farm!  I didn't think I knew him inside and out, but I had been to have Thanksgiving dinner with his family before, so I had seen the inside of their house a few times, and never noticed anything dedicated to his career as a professional athlete.  What a surprise!  

When I was a child, my friend and I would visit her elderly neighbor who lived across the alley behind her house every time I went over to play with her.  He recently passed away, and my mom sent me his obituary.  While reading that, I learned that he was the lead scientist on the team that developed the first birth control pills.  Whoa--talk about a major scientific advancement.  

My last prominent example of when you learn something really surprising about someone comes from my own family.  My maternal grandmother had tons of photos from when she was a child, and my sister and I were organizing them into albums for her one summer.  Even though the photos were in black and white, I noticed that some of them seemed to have lush, tropical-seeming backdrops.  I asked her where they were taken, and she responded, "Costa Rica."  I asked, "Oh did you go on vacation there?"  She replied, "No, I used to live there."  Ummm...news to me!  How did I not know that before college?!  Anyway, that's definitely what got me started thinking about spending a lot of time in Costa Rica, which ultimately resulted in my decision to move there years later.  

I share these stories because I think it's interesting how we can always learn more about the people we know--and sometimes, we can learn really BIG things about them.  Everyone has stories saved up, and I really enjoy discovering those stories that aren't immediately obvious.  Even children who haven't lived for as long can have lots of stories about their lives.  I've realized that for all the time I spend with my kiddos, and all the stories they have shared with me (you hear a lot over the course of a 10-hour school day!), I'm sure they have thousands of other stories that I know nothing about.  

30 October 2012


If you're still reading, thank you!  Originally, I started this blog to tell about my experiences teaching.  When I moved to Costa Rica, it became more of a place to talk about my adventures living abroad.  When I returned to the U.S. and was neither living abroad nor teaching any longer, I wasn't sure what to write about any more.  However, I still have some student stories left, and it is very important to me that I tell them, as children don't always get their stories told.  So, for now, I will continue doing so, although I can't promise that I will be here as often as before.  Nevertheless, I appreciate those of you who continue to read.

And now, back to our scheduled program...

One day during the spring of my first year of teaching, the fourth graders down the hall were taking their TAKS test.  Because of the testing, my principal asked us fifth grade teachers to rotate classrooms, rather than having our students switch rooms between classes, to minimize the noise in the hallways.  Sure, great idea.  During first period, my Program Director from Teach For America (sort of like an instructional coach) came to observe me.  The observation went well, and I was feeling good.  For second period, I loaded up my science lab supplies into my trusty milk crate and trotted next door to my mentor teacher's classroom and got set up.  The kids were into the lab; life was swell.  I used the overhead projector and projection screen to illustrate a concept for my students, and they got it quickly. Yesssss.  Then, oh, then.  I pulled down on the screen to retract it to its "away" position up near the ceiling, and as I straightened up after doing so, I heard a loud BANG and saw a look of dismay on the face of one of my students sitting in the first row.  Then everything went black...

When I came to, I was laying on the floor in a pool of blood and several of my students were lifting my legs onto the teacher's chair in an attempt to roll me to the nurse's office.  (The teacher's chair was just like one of those blue plastic student chairs, except it also had a thin cushion attached to the seat and wheels on the legs.  It was kind of lame as far as teachers' chairs go but kind of awesome at the same time.)  As they were doing so, several of the students exclaimed, "Ay Miss, hay mucho sangre!" [There's a lot of blood!]  It turns out that one end of the overhead screen had somehow bounced off of its hook on the ceiling and swung down and hit me right in the face, knocking me out in the process.  The blood was from my resulting facial wounds.

A few moments later, my mentor teacher rushed in, gasped, and cried, "What if it had been me?!"  Ummm, yeah.  Then I wouldn't be lying here with a busted face, which, frankly, would be preferable to me.  But she called the nurse, which was helpful, the nurse came to cart me away in a wheelchair, which was unnecessary, and my principal sent me to the town clinic to get facial X-rays, which also turned out to be unnecessary--amazingly, despite all the blood, there was no real damage done.  My face was just super swollen for a week or so.  The best part was, while I was waiting for my appointment, I got to watch What Not to Wear at my friend's house.  Sweet!  My only concern was that my face would be all puffy and ugly when my boyfriend came to visit me.  Kind of vain, I know, but can you tell me you wouldn't be worried about that?!  Luckily, the swelling went down before he got to town.  All's well that ends well, right? :)  But between this experience and the episode with the dead bird burning in my classroom heater, part of me does wonder if observation days are somehow cursed...