Friday, June 27, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Mia was my "farm pup" -- that girl loved the outdoors. Sometimes she would run around; sometimes she would tree a squirrel; and sometimes she would just sit in the sun and observe the landscape. Mia knew a few commands - like sit and "hi five" --- but the command she obeyed most often was "Mia - find the squirrelies". She would dart out the door as fast as possible and immediately go to one of the two trees in the back yard. She wasn't meaning to hunt the squirrels - she just wanted to play - and could never quite understand why they weren't so willing to come down and take part in her festivities.
Mia was a wonderful mom. She had three litters of puppies - way too many for a female dog of only three years old - but she simply couldn't say "no" to Ralfie. Mia tenderly nursed each one of her 20 puppies for a full three weeks - and then she instinctively weaned them and taught them independence. All 2o puppies were a pure delight and we will be forever grateful to Mia for those experiences. I am afraid that the last litter may have been too much for her, though. We all noticed how gray she seemed to become. That was truly the ultimate sacrifice, Mia - to give your life for your puppies - and your humans.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I have learned an incredible amount in only 3 short class periods. I have already taken a ton of notes and know how to improve my literature classes for next year. It has been well worth my time and anxiety for this benefit alone.
I will need to somehow review the 950 pages of Bleak House and be prepared to discuss in class on Monday. This is a stretch for me. I normally try to re-read a book prior to class -- but it is physically impossible to do that this time around. At the same time, I need to be developing a paper idea so that next weekend I can write a compare and contrast paper for Villette and Bleak House on one small detail/theme that is evident in both stories. This will be a huge step outside of my comfort zone!!
Sunday, June 15, 2008
After my first day of classes (I have two classes on Mondays and Wednesdays: Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is from 9:00 - 11:45 and Victorian Literature is from 2:00 - 4:45) I felt totally overwhelmed and truly not certain if I could do this. I was also wise enough to realize that I had not had much sleep in the past 48 hours, so I decided to go to bed early and see if things wouldn't look a little brighter the next morning.
Well, the Santa Fe sky was bright - but my outlook was pretty bleak. I spent most of the day Thursday trying to analyze the syllabi and to break it down into more manageable pieces. The Chaucer course will either be fairly manageable OR.....I will fall flat on my face. Here is a quick breakdown of what I will have to accomplish over the 6 week period: memorize the first 18 lines in Middle English by June 25 (although the instructor insists that all students will pass this no matter how long it takes); write a 2 page "close reading" of one tale (due July 4); write a 5 page "brief research paper" on a separate tale (due July 18); and teach one class on a very close reading of one tale (should be at least 10 minutes in length --- date to be announced). I spent most of my "Chaucer" time this weekend reading the cliffnotes version of the tales so that I would be able to take an educated guess as to which tales I would like to read and research closely. I have the first 4 lines (more or less) memorized --- and I have read the reading for tomorrow's class (the prologue in Middle English - although I did use a modern day translation to help me). I hope this will be satisfactory - I suppose I will find out tomorrow.
My second class was a bit more intimidating. There are only 7 students in the class (vs 14 students in Chaucer) - so there is no hiding from the instructor. Also, the instructor is VERY interested in class discussions - and she expects lots of interaction between the 7 of us (for those of you who know me --- that is NOT my favorite class environment to learn. I much prefer to take copious notes while the expert enlightens my mind). We will have two papers in that class as well - the first one will be due on June 30. That will be a compare and contrast paper for the novels Villette (540 pages) and Bleak House (975 pages). We will need to pick one reading from each book (about a page in length) and compare and contrast in terms of writing style, theme/topic development, etc. So far no page length has been announced. The 2nd paper will be due on July 16 and as of now it is a very open ended research paper on any of the themes/topics discussed in class. Again, no page length has been indicated. For tomorrow, we had to read Villette and bring to class 3 prepared questions that will elicit class discussion. That does not sound difficult -- unless you are like me and wonder how involved/in-depth these questions need to be. Consequently - I spent the rest of my weekend re-reading the novel and taking detailed notes - trying to track the themes/motifs of about 25 different topics. I have managed to come up with 5 questions that I think might be open-ended enough to elicit some conversation. Again, I guess I will find out tomorrow.
So, there you have it. LOTS of reading; 4 papers; some "teaching" or leading of class discussions; and lots of nerves to go with it. I am hoping that tomorrow I will have a better idea of class expectations on a day-to-day basis. I will still continue to sweat out the expectations of the writing assignments.
Lest I leave you with a negative impression of this experience - let me say that I absolutely LOVE the classes (so far), the people, and the learning experience. If I didn't have to depend on a B- grade --- I would have no anxiety whatsoever. This is exactly the caliber of learning that I expected from Bread Loaf, and anything less would have been a disappointment. I only hope that my brain has the capacity to keep up.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I also managed to lug both suitcases (although I did have to do it one at a time) up 2 flights of stairs. The 7,000 ft altitude causes one to become winded very quickly - so even though I know I am out of shape - I REALLY felt out of shape after accomplishing that feat.
There was a lovely, low-key reception for us this evening, and then a great dinner of some real Santa Fe cuisine: fajitas - chicken enchiladas - jicama salad. The professors spoke very briefly, but they all seem to be very approachable and low-key as well.
It was a huge days of firsts for me - and for an introvert like myself - it was exhausting! Tomorrow is another day of firsts: I have both classes tomorrow - one from 9:00 - 11:45 and the other from 2:00 - 4:45. However, I only have class Mondays and Wednesdays - so I will have a 4 day break --- good, I will need time to recuperate from all these new experiences --- and to begin the 6 weeks of work. From what I understand there will be a LOT of papers -- so perhaps this blog has been good practice.
Monday, June 9, 2008
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Since April, however, I have kept a second google countdown on my homepage --- days until I leave for Bread Loaf 2008. When I began the countdown it was approximately 65 days until I was to leave and to be quite honest, there was a TON of stuff that had to be accomplished in those 65 days. While I was excited about this new journey - it truly was on the backburner until the end of school and the trip to London. However, since returning from "across the pond" the google countdown has gone from 12 days to 2 days in what has seemed like a brief moment. Again, I know in reality it has been the same 24 hours in a day - 60 minutes in every hour - but this time rather than going incredibly slowly (as with London) it has gone way too fast.
I think I secretly hope that time will stand still - at least for a little while. I don't want to wake up tomorrow and my google homepage shouts out: Just one more day until you leave your comfortable life in KS for a totally unknown world in NM. I want to remain in my comfort zone for a while:
- I am not ready to leave a split-level house for a 10x10 dorm room;
- I am not ready to leave my private bath and shower for a shared bathroom in the middle of the hall;
- I am not ready to give up eating what, when and where I want in order to eat institutional food NOT of my own choosing in a cafeteria full of strangers;
- I am not ready to leave the unconditional love of my puppies who follow me everywhere for a place where I know no one;
- I am not ready to leave my family and friends - who know me and accept me for who I am - to be among those who might perhaps pre-judge me on the first meeting and not like who they see;
- and I think most importantly, I am not ready to switch roles from teacher (the one who is in charge and knows more than those in the classroom) to student (who is not in charge and probably knows less than most in the classroom). I suppose I am more of a control-freak than I originally suspected - and I am sure that this in an area where God would like to show me that really HE is the one in control.
Time is not standing still, however. The minutes continue to tick by and pretty soon there will only be 24 hours left in the comfort of home. While I know this experience will stretch me (in more ways than one) - and while I know that the initial 48 hours of this new experience will be VERY unsettling, I also know that I will learn a new definition of comfort --- and I will grow to appreciate more fully the blessings of my life in Olathe, KS. It is time to Let Go and Let God.
I'm off to pack!
Friday, June 6, 2008
I loved French and continued taking it from 2nd grade through college (it was my major). I never had the confidence to feel that I was truly fluent in the language, but I did enjoy reading it and hearing others speak. I was fortunate enough to attend a high school that offered an annual exchange program. Each year the high school would take 15 students to France for 3 weeks (stay with French families and attend French school) and then we would reciprocate and host 15 students here in America. While I thought I was a "shoe-in" to go my sophomore year, I was not accepted. This was a huge disappointment to me - but it was also a tremendous lesson in perseverance. I continued to study French and was accepted my junior year. This ended up to be a true blessing for I had one more year of French under my belt and that extra year of desire enabled me to truly experience all that I could while I was over there.
I returned from that experience even more desirous to spend an entire year abroad. So, I applied to Gettysburg College as a French major and continued to pursue that path. However, I never dreamed that I would meet the love of my life (which I did) and that I would choose to spend time with him rather than abroad (which I did). I knew that my experience in high school was enough to make this decision without any regrets - and I can honestly say that I have NO regrets to this day.
When I graduated from college I truly had no idea what I wanted to do with that education. I used to think that I wanted to teach, but I quickly realized that I did not want to teach French to high school students. I then considered becoming an international flight attendant (we called them stewardesses at the time), but decided that my personality did not fit with plastering a smile on my face for 12 hours at a time. Since my favorite subject of all time was Constitutional Law I also briefly considered going to law school, but my LSAT scores were only mediocre and besides - I was ready to get married and stop studying. So, I "endured" the career of financial market research analyst until I became a mom. At that point I knew that was my chosen profession: I wanted to raise my own children and not have a daycare do the job for me.
I was fortunate enough to have that dream come true for 15 years. However financial circumstances dictated that I needed to do something - at least part time - to help with cashflow. I was asked to be the part-time secretary for the private school that Mandy was attending and I readily accepted. This would allow me to remain in touch with Mandy (my youngest) on a daily basis, and it would bring in the necessary cash to help with financial obligations. Never in my wildest imagination did I dream that two weeks later I would be asked to take the full-time position of 6th grade teacher at this same private school. I thought they were crazy for even considering me in this position: I had no training nor any desire to teach 13 adolescent students (my own children would attest to my lack of patience!) However, it was VERY evident that this was God's will for my life - and I reluctantly accepted. I am ashamed to admit that I was really quite angry with God for the first 3 months of this new " career" and I was unable to rest in His divine wisdom. However, something happened between Thanksgiving and Christmas that year that turned my thinking to His way instead of my way. Once I accepted His will for my life, I truly began to see what a glorious profession this truly is.
It was quite a journey from 6th grade teacher of all core subjects to high school English teacher - but nevertheless, here I am. I have always enjoyed grammar and began this journey by becoming the elementary grammar teacher for another private school. This, in turn, led to becoming the junior high English teacher (somewhat natural progression) to the English 4 - British Literature - teacher (NOT a natural progression and one that, to be quite frank, absolutely terrified me). Most of the literature that I would be teaching in this class I never read before - and I was lucky if I could keep just two steps ahead of the students. I spent hours and hours reading and researching each of the unit studies. It was only after we made it through the first semester - and Shakespeare's Macbeth - that I began to relax just a little. Then, in January of that year, I had the idea - what I truly believe was Divine Inspiration - to travel to England and learn first hand about the history and authors that I was trying to teach. Through online research I found an educational travel company that would allow me to travel to England for FREE if I enrolled 6 students on the trip. This seemed too good to be true.
However, nothing is impossible if it is truly God's will - and I enrolled a total of 12 students - which meant that Geoff was also able to go with me for FREE. In addition, I also earned a FREE 3 day trip to Paris (see photo above). Isn't that amazing?! While I had to wait 25 years after graduating college, Geoff and I were both able to achieve our dream of traveling abroad. GOD IS GOOD - and He truly does give your heart's desire if you are willing to be patient and lean on His perfect timing.
While this trip to England enabled me to bring some new found knowledge back to the classroom, I still felt as though I was lacking the true qualifications to teach these students British Literature. I casually researched the possibility of becoming certified, but because my major was in French and not English - I would need to obtain an undergraduate degree in English, as most graduate programs deemed that a prerequisite. In addition, most graduate programs were geared toward the full-time student, and I simply could not give up teaching to pursue this advanced degree. There was one program, however, that truly fit the bill: Middlebury College Bread Loaf School of English. I applied to Middlebury as an undergraduate (they have one of the best foreign language programs in the country) and was waiting listed. This is an excellent school and truly one that I would consider out of my league. The Bread Loaf program is geared toward teachers -- so the classes meet for 6 intensive weeks in the summer - perfect for my schedule. The program does not require the GRE (thank goodness!!) AND there is not thesis (another major plus with a full teaching schedule). In addition, they do not require a undergraduate degree in English - just a desire to learn English literature through intense immersion - and, of course, a writing sample. I was very leery of the writing sample - and yet somehow they deemed it worthy enough for acceptance into the program.
Of course, masters programs are not free - and this one is certainly not cheap. I had no idea how we were going to pay for it, but I knew that I had followed the Lord's leading this far, and I would continue to follow Him until the door was completely closed. I mentioned this opportunity to my mom who was thrilled that I was pursuing this course. She immediately volunteered to pay for the program: tuition, room, board, books and travel expenses. I NEVER expected this response and am still somewhat in shock that all has truly come together so quickly - and easily. God is Amazing!!
So, here I am -- 4 days away from leaving for my first Bread Loaf summer. Nerves are frayed - anxiety is high - but knowledge that God is in complete control of the situation is reassuring.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
This represents a HUGE step out of my comfort for several reasons. First of all, it will be the longest time I have ever been away from my family since I was married - and that was nearly 26 years ago! Secondly, it involves going to a new place where I know absolutely no one and I have no idea what to expect -- in short, the worst imaginable environment (to quote Armageddon). Thirdly, I will now be the student rather than the teacher - again, this is a situation that I have not experienced for nearly 26 years. I have NO idea if I am capable of this role reversal. English was NOT my favorite subject in high school and I am just not sure that I have what it takes to analyze and draw noteworthy conclusions on my own.
However, I do feel that I have been blessed with this opportunity (however scary it might be) and I intend to make the best of the situation. While this is a 5 year program, I am only going to take it one summer at a time. If I learn that this is really not the program for me I have only lost 6 weeks of my time and I still will gain invaluable information that I will be able to use in my classroom.
I am a life-long learner. I LOVE to learn - and whether I have a MA after my name or not, this will never change. I have learned so much just by doing the pre-reading assignments -- I simply cannot imagine what insights I will gain from the instructors. So while I may or may not succeed in the Masters program, I know that I have succeeded in taking the next step to enriching my own life for the better.
I will covet all prayers while I am away - and I will try to update this blog on a daily basis, for anyone who would care to follow my progress.