I think that life, God, fate, whatever you want to call it, gives us only what we can handle. In high school, the most I had to balance was homework, friends, choir, and swimming, and it felt like that was a lot. While in college, I juggled a part-time job at a restaurant and my studies, and felt like that was plenty. Then, after graduating, I managed to hold three different jobs, which kept me on my toes. I thought that my life in Ecuador would be relaxing, that I would learn to live like a Latino and enjoy more leisure time, but it turned out I had gotten involved in a well-intentioned, but under-staffed and unorganized, non-profit that needed a lot of administrative assistance, so I stepped up. Balancing my own teaching there with helping out the organization, trying to improve my Spanish, carefully interacting with my infamous host mother so as to not unintentionally upset her, spending time with friends, and traveling around that lovely country took up much more time than I ever imagined it would, and yes, I felt busy. However, nothing can compare to the busyness I have felt in the last ten months of my life. (I say this knowing that some of my friends tackled the first year of teaching while being mothers, wives, and even taking Master’s level classes. I honestly don’t know how they do it!) After a year like the one I’ve had, I am appreciative of summer break.
Teaching is always a time-consuming job. Outside of the eight hours that teachers spend each day at school switching between about 27 different roles including, but not limited to: educator, professional, counselor, parent, friend, policeman, entertainer, scan-tron machine, curriculum planner, and problem solver, they have a heck of a lot of homework! More homework than their students have (but students never believe it’s true). Do you think that those entertaining, engaging, thought-out lessons plan themselves? No! Do those tests, which include some multiple choice, some matching, some short answer, and some essay questions, write or grade themselves miraculously? No! What about weekly lesson plans, or a year-long curriculum map? Who organizes the sequence of what will be taught, when it will be taught, and the materials that will be used to teach it? That’s right, the teacher. No matter what, it’s a lot. However, for a first year teacher, especially one who has just moved to a whole new country, has her very own apartment for the first time in her life, wants to learn about the culture and people of a new region, and is trying really hard to hold onto her twentysomething-ness and be somewhat social, HOLY COW it was overwhelming. I had to prioritize, list-make, and use my time well as I’d never had to before. There is a reason that “teacher burn out” exists. The first year (or few years) are, without a doubt, the hardest.
With that being said, I am happy to announce that I loved teaching. By the end of the year, I saw how much my students had grown in their reading and writing abilities, and I cannot tell you how rewarding it was to know that I had helped them grow.
I also developed wonderful relationships with some of my students, and I cannot wait to see how they will continue to mature next year (my classroom is right next to the sixth grade hallway, so I will be seeing my girls on a daily basis.) For the longest time, I wasn’t sure that teaching was really the job for me. Now, having made it through the first school year, I am sure that it is (at least for now). I’m very excited to have a new and improved second year at my school in Kuwait. All year long, I kept a running record of strategies and lessons that worked, the ones that needed tweaking, and those that needed to be shoved under a rug and absolutely never attempted again! Next year will be my chance to start over, build a solid curriculum, my year of knowing exactly what I’m going into. I’ve been longing for that second chance since school began in September. Finally, summertime is here, giving me ample time to plan for year two.
Planning my second year won’t be the only thing I do this summer, though. I have been home in Topeka for about two weeks, and it has been wonderful. Kansas has never seemed more beautiful! I’ve been catching up with old friends, reading for fun, shopping, and getting plenty of rest. Glorious.
This weekend, my mom and I are heading to Virginia to see my darling Great Aunt Betty and Great Uncle Keith, 87 and 88 years old respectively. I haven’t seen them in a couple of years, so I’m really excited about it.
Then, my brother Paul will be driving from Colorado to Kansas with his adorable children. They will spend 4th of July and a few days afterwards with us. I’m really dying to see how much they have grown up since I last saw them in December.
Then, things get a little wonky.
On July 8th, I will fly across the Atlantic (courtesy of my school, which pays for me to fly home and back each summer, even if I choose to take a long layover some place in between home and Kuwait, which was my plan…) and stop in Paris. I will spend just two nights in Paris. It’s just a stepping stone toward my real summer destination:
Marbella, Spain, where I will give WWOOFing a go. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. I discovered it when I was asking the question I seem to ask myself every Winter. What am I going to do this summer? I knew that if I were to just hang out in Topeka, jobless and car-less, I would get bored. I wanted to go somewhere new, do something different. Working on an organic farm where I would be given food and lodging in exchange for putting in hours in the sun and getting to learn more about gardening? Sign me up. I’ll be staying with a woman who has also taught, and she is excited to help me improve my Spanish. She lives outside of the town of Marbella, but I will insert a picture of that lovely Mediterranean town below.
I will be living on the farm for about 3.5 weeks, spending my mornings assisting Maria and my afternoons/ evenings carving out the curriculum for year 2. That’s the plan, anyway. I wouldn’t be surprised if I spent some of my afternoons enjoying Spain. Wouldn’t be a bad idea…
Next, on August 8th, I will fly to Belgium, to see some of my relatives there. I met them in 2010, and found them to be incredibly warm and inviting. It will be great to see them again.
So I was planning spending all post-July-8th summer in Europe, planning on working on a farm in Spain and a farm in France, BUT my brother fell in love, which kind of ruined everything. (Just kidding)
As much as I may have preferred Tim and Melissa to plan their wedding around my schedule, it turns out that the expatriate sister has little say in these kinds of things 😉 I will be returning to Colorado on August 11th to witness their special day. It will be wonderful to see family gathered for such a joyful occasion. I’m very happy for them.
Oh, but first, I’ll be taking a 2-day layover in New York City. Because one of my best friends, Teresa, will be there. And because I adore that place.
After NYC and Colorado, I will fly out of Denver and make my way back to Kuwait, reaching the place currently call home on August 21st, about a week before I have to be back.
I’ve never been as appreciative of summer as I am now. I think it’s going to be a good one! Thanks for reading. I’ll try and give you a Spain update later on. Enjoy yourselves this summer too!