Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Paradise Regained

Chapter 1 The Island Chalets

Well as promised, I have returned to finish this epic story about Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. For those of you just joining us, you can start at the beginning of Paradise Lost in order to get some context. Since our vacation did turn around for the better, Paradise Regained will also have a few chapters. So enjoy…

While at the gift shop talking with Tori, we had also met Dean (I sure hope I got the name right, sorry if I didn’t). Dean was another very pleasant and helpful individual who, upon hearing a bit of a brief summary of our Lupine Lodge “welcome to the Island” affair, immediately expressed concern and felt genuinely saddened by the fact that our initial welcome to the Island had been a poor one. Like Tori, he too expressed a desire to have us try another location and give the Island another chance before making a final decision. So upon Tori’s recommendation, we decided to check out An Island Chalet. Dean kindly offered to show us the way, and said he would be happy to go down there with us and help us out with inquiring about the availability of cabins. So we were off again.

This time we pulled off the main road and into the dirt driveway, which looked like a normal dirt driveway enveloped in trees – no compost heaps or junk anywhere in sight. As we got to the top of the hill and rounded the corner, the driveway opened up to a wide open property sitting right on the ocean with 5 beautiful log cabins. The view itself was stunning. It looked like a magazine picture. In addition to that, the lawn was neatly cut and trimmed and the cabins looked beautiful. What we were looking at was an absolute antithesis of Lupine Lodge. The very sight of An Island Chalet made you breath a sigh of peace. And you knew just looking at it that the establishment was loved and well cared for.

If the yard, the view and the outside of the cabins hadn’t convinced us to stay, the inside surely would have. We asked if we could take a look inside the cabins. The property owner was not on the grounds at that moment, but another very helpful individual who worked there told us to feel free to go ahead and take a look at the cabins. And when we opened the door of one of the cabins, we were greeted with a very large, bright, airy and spotlessly clean sitting room and full kitchen area. The scent in the cabin reminded me of a Clean Cotton fragrance from a Yankee Candle. It was so clean that you could have given it the white glove test and left with your glove cleaner than when you started. The floors and the bathroom sparkled. Basically, when you see them in person, the cabins look even better than the pictures on the web site. We were thrilled to be there.

That evening we relaxed on the grounds, watched a couple seals swimming just off-shore, and saw an eagle fly by. We also met the owner of the property. He saw us sitting outside and came over, introduced himself and talked with us for a few minutes. He was very pleasant to speak with and made us feel very welcome. That evening we went to bed very peaceful.

Tuesday morning we woke up very early and started to discuss what we should do with the rest of our week. We did feel that An Island Chalet would be a lovely place to spend another night or two, but at the same time we were still feeling upset about the previous day’s episode at Lupine Lodge. We considered staying longer, since we had not even visited the Roosevelt Home or the International Park, and that is obviously a primary reason to visit Campobello Island. Nevertheless, we decided we didn’t want to be on the Island any longer. We decided to head back into Maine and, once we were on the road for a bit, see where the wind might blow us.

Thus concludes our trip to Campobello Island. If anyone is headed that way, you will most certainly want to check out Island Chalets as a place to stay. As for us, I don’t know if we’ll ever go back to Campobello Island. Furthermore, I’m not sure if we’ll ever go back to New Brunswick. At the moment, the only reason I want to be in New Brunswick is to travel through it in order to get to Prince Edward Island. PEI, by the way, is somewhere that we have spent several weeks over the past couple of summers, and much of it really is a piece of Heaven on Earth. It was a wonderful experience, and we will be retuning there again. Perhaps that will get a blog of it’s own one of these days. I may return to Campobello Island, I don’t know. If I do, I’ll head directly for An Island Chalet!

Well, I did say that Paradise Regained would have a few chapters, and it will. Our vacation did continue for several more days. After leaving Campobello, we found that the wind blew us across Maine and over to the Conway area of New Hampshire and the White Mountains. So stay tuned for more blogs about Paradise Regained. We found a piece of Heaven in New Hampshire also. In fact, it was such a wonderful experience that we are returning this week for several days to the same place. So tune in next time for a blog about New England Inn…

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Paradise Lost

A Little Piece of Hell on Earth (Chapter 3)

(For those of you just joining us please read Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 first.)

Well, there you have it. We were already out $290 plus 13% tax and we hadn’t even been on the Island two hours. Furthermore we had no intention of staying a minute longer on the Island. Wow, what a costly place to visit!

At this point I asked to speak to a manager. The receptionist/bartender/waitress said that “it didn’t matter if [she] called the manger, who wasn’t on site anyway because he was home sick, he wasn’t going to budge because that’s the policy”. I asked if anyone else was in charge when the manager was “home sick”. She said “no, that’s just the way it is”. At this point I had about had enough. So I tried a different approach. I asked the receptionist/bartender/waitress if she had ever heard of Google, Blogs, or Twitter. She began to laugh right in my face and shook her head “no”. I asked one more time, “Are you honestly telling me you are completely ignorant of how Google, Twitter and Blogs work?”. She could hardly control her laughter, while she said she didn’t know what those were. So at that point I said “Call your manager and give him this message. Keep your $300, have a nice lunch on us, and Google yourselves or do a search for LupineLodge on Twitter tonight and see what you find”. And at that point we walked out the door. When we got to the porch we were accosted by a man we didn’t know who wanted to know why we had been talking to the receptionist/bartender/waitress in such a rude maner. I said “Who are you? Do you own the place?” “No”, he said, “I just help out around here”. So we continued walking, got in our car and drove away.

We were headed for that international bridge as fast as the speed limit allowed. But just before we got to the bridge we passed by the Welcome Center. So I decided we should stop in and make some inquires about the local Tourism Association, Better Business Bureau, etc. The two lovely ladies that we had met just a little while earlier were still there, and once again they proved very helpful. Not only did they provide us with some forms to fill out and some contact names, but one of them told us she would call someone who was right there on the Island; the president of the local Tourism Association. So we waited while she made the phone call. When she was done, she told us to take a drive up the road to a little gift shop called Lights n Lupines and we could speak to Tori Cunningham from the Tourism Association. We decided that we should do so, and we headed up the street. And thankfully, that was when our luck slowly but surely began to change. When we drove up to Lights n Lupines, Tori was right there waiting for us. We were very cordially greeted and as we started to talk with her she pulled out a notebook and took note of our comments and concerns. Tori was polite, attentive, understanding and genuinely disappointed to hear that our initial exposure to the Island had been a negative one. She was also shocked to find out that Lupine Lodge was not agreeable to canceling the Tuesday night charge after we had said we would pay for Monday. She thought perhaps there had just been a misunderstanding. She made a phone call to Lupine Lodge and asked if a manger or someone in charge would come up to talk with us and try to come to an agreement about lodging charges. And guess who came up from Lupine Lodge? Right, the same person who had accosted us on the porch when we had been there. The same person that said he “just help[ed] out around here”. He kept repeating the same mantra about "48 hours" (which was now beginning to remind me of a horror movie). He also told us that the Lodge was “rustic” and was being kept exactly as the Adams family had it in 1915 when they built it. Mmmmm…. He also said that they had never had any other complaints. Mmmmm…. Furthermore we were informed that it was “you Americans who had built the place”. Mmmmm…. At this point I sort of tuned out because, well, uh… ummmm…. yeah, well you get the idea. I don’t know. I heard some more stuff about “you Americans”, “rustic” and “48 hours” being babbled for a while. Finally Tori wisely broke in and thanked him for taking a ride over. I also thanked him for taking a ride over. And, thankfully, he got in his truck and drove away.

After that we talked for a bit longer with Tori. And I will say that she was doing a very good job trying to make up for the Lupine Lodge experience. She also is quite tuned in to tourists and tourism, and what it means to be a place that depends on tourism money. And she understood what it meant to try to make a tourist happy and comfortable. She also understood the potential of return visits by happy tourists, and that perhaps in the future a happy tourist would bring an entire family, or even a business group, to the Island to spend their money. Additionally, she was quite familiar with the power of Blogs and Twitter. There could not have been a better person to talk to, and she is exactly the person that should be representing the Tourism Association. She expressed quite a number of times that she would love to see us give somewhere else a try, and she was sure we would enjoy the peace and beauty of the Island if we stayed. Initially I was not willing to even consider staying on the Isalnd. However she did finally convince us to go and check out a place called Island Chalets. And that was the turning point. Our luck began to change for the better.

So when I come back with the rest of the story, it will be entitled “Paradise Regained”. So tune in again, and find out about the wonderful Island Chalets and the potential of Campobello Island to be a piece of heaven on earth.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Paradise Lost

A Little Piece of Hell on Earth (Chapter 2)

(For anyone just joining us, this blog begins back at Chapter 1 )

Thus far Campobello Island had proven to be beautiful and it’s inhabitants friendly and helpful. As we drove down the road toward Lupine Lodge, we expected things to continue in the same vein. Little did we know…

The first thing we noticed about Lupine Lodge was its sign. It was hanging off a metal pole, which was fine, except for the fact that the pole continued off past the sign and had something hanging off of it that looked like a broken wire or cord – perhaps the remains of another part of the sign in days gone by? The part of the sign that did remain was rather faded and unkempt looking, not providing a very welcoming feeling. However, we turned off the main road and into the dirt driveway. The first thing that greeted us was piles of grass clippings and compost. We continued past those and right toward a large wooden bin that contained either garbage or more compost, I’m not sure. As we begin to turn a corner we got a view of what we thought was an out-building with a parking lot and piles of yard junk and other types of forsaken and forgotten items. We finally turned the corner and got a complete view of Lupine Lodge. Well, it was a sight that would turn any eyes sore.

“The lodge” consists of three log buildings that back in their day (circa 1918) must have been lovely. (Oh, and remember that “out-building”. Yep, that was part of the Lodge, not the shed.) However, 2009 is a long way from 1918, and so was the love and care that the original Lodge must have seen. But, one should never be too hasty with making judgements. And an inside of a building could look much different from the outside. So we proceeded on.

Now, at this point, before I continue, please do recall what I have previously said about being very familiar with old homes and restoration projects. I have seen 42 years worth of old homes that have been well kept and/or beautifully restored. Some are B&Bs that I have stayed in. Some are private residences that I have lived in. And some are private residences that I have visited. (Picture in your mind old, beautiful coastal New England/Maritime Provinces homes that have been loved and cared for, and you’ll get what I’m talking about.) So I must re-iterate that I am no stranger to living in or vacationing in old homes. And I know that with love and care, they can be something that is featured in Down East or East Coast Living magazines.

The primary entrance/check in area for Lupine Lodge required us to walk across a deck, which was in need of attention, and enter into the bar of a restaurant which, at one time may have been loved and well cared for, but not any more. The bar, we soon found out, doubled as the reception area for check in for the Lodge. The waitress/bartender/receptionist was running around chaotically (understandably so) but did manage to make her way over to us to assist with the check in process. She then escorted us over to another one of the log buildings which was where our room was. She opened the door and I stepped into the hallway. I instantly thought I had entered an army bunker or barracks. It was dark, dank, musty smelling (sort of like a leaky, moldy basement) and gave an overall appearance of dirty and uncared for. The walls were completely bare, as in not a single picture or decoration in sight. Additionally, the natural wood, which at one time may have been beautiful, was dark and dirty from neglect. And the “private bath” had a door which was wide open into the hallway, which we were informed, “we could just lock from the other side”. Oh, and lest I forget, no meals at all were included in this “Lodge”. No, not even breakfast. We were welcome to eat at the on site restaurant, but no meals were included in the price of the room. At this point words fail me. If I were to try to describe the feeling in my chest or my thoughts about the place, this blog would be much longer. Think horror stories about bed bugs and weird skin rashes. Suffice it to say, that my husband and I immediately came to the decision that it was so bad, we would be happy to pay money NOT to stay there. And on that note, we went back to the front desk/bar and let the receptionist/bartender/waitress know that we would be paying for that evening, but we were not planning on staying for a second night so we would like to cancel Tuesday night’s reservation. (Keep in mind that it is only a little after lunch time on Monday – a full 30 hours before Tuesday evening.)

Now make sure you caught that last sentence. We said right up front, without any discussion, that since it was already Monday (early afternoon, maybe 1 PM), we would pay for Monday night, but we were not planning on being there Tuesday night and would like to cancel Tuesday night’s stay. Keep in mind also, that we had no intention whatsoever of setting foot in that room. We were going to get in our car and head for that international bridge, and back into Maine as fast as the speed limit would allow. However, we still were going to pay for Monday night’s lodging. Sound reasonable to you? Well, we thought it was pretty reasonable.

And just when we thought it couldn't get worse…. It did.

When we let the receptionist/bartender/waitress know that we would not be staying Tuesday evening, she informed us that it didn't matter because the Lodge had a 48 hour cancellation policy, and that our credit card would be charged for two nights. No, I did not say she told us our credit card would be charged for the deposit amount. I said we were told that our credit card would be charged the full amount, plus the 13% tax, for two nights lodging. Now this cancellation policy was not on the web site (but we doubled checked on 8/20/09 to make sure we hadn't missed it a few days earlier, and as of that date it still wasn't there – yes, we have dated screen shots to prove it), and had not been verbally mentioned on the phone when we called.

And that concludes chapter 2.

Well the good news is that there is only one more installment of bad news coming. Then after that, thankfully, we began our ascent into finding a good accommodation and vacation salvation. But before then, be sure to tune in one more time for the “vacation from hell” section of this blog. In “chapter” 3, you’ll hear all about the money nightmare that followed and the lack of a manager on the premises…

Paradise Lost

A Little Piece of Hell on Earth (Chapter 1)

I’m taking a break from blogging about education related items in order to share some recent adventures I’ve had over summer vacation. I will be returning to education related blogs also, so for those of you who have been reading those, they’ll be back.

This blog is going to have a few “chapters”. The first couple will have to do with Paradise Lost. After that, I will complete the story will a couple of “chapters” of Paradise Regained. For my experiences did run the gamut. I promise that it will be a much shorter read than Milton! But in the interest in not making any one blog too long, I will separate it into short “chapters”. I hope you enjoy it.

Prologue:
My husband and I are New Englanders. And many of those years have been spent on Coastal New England, from Cape Cod, to Boston, to New Hampshire to Maine. Between the two of us we have lived in four of the six New England states. We have lived in the “boonies” and we have lived in cities, Boston and Portland being two of them. We have lived in the foothills and we have lived on the coast. We are familiar with a farming way of life and a fishing way of life. We are familiar with city living and a corporate environment (Boston), and we are familiar with dairy farming communities (western CT) and working waterfronts (Portland & various Cape Cod towns). We are acquainted with people who have never left the town they were born in and we are acquainted with people who have lived and traveled all over the world. We are familiar with old farm houses on family property treasured by generations, and we are familiar with fancy, new, upper-end condominiums and 15 room, “showey”, sprawling houses in Boston suburbs. We are intimately acquainted with purchasing old homes and restoring them to their original, intended beauty. In short, the point is that we have a pretty broad view of our surroundings. Our experiences have given us a taste of, or at least an exposure to, a variety of lifestyles and domiciles. And we have friends and family that come from all ends of the spectrum and everything in between.

Chapter 1:
For several years my husband and I have been trying to find an opportunity to get away for a few days by ourselves and relax and revive our spirits without kids around. Since we don’t have family members in close proximity that our kids can visit for several days, needless to say, when these opportunities arise, they are very, very rare in our life, if they come around at all. So we were thrilled when this past week, last minute, a young woman that we know said that she would be able to stay with our kids for a few days while we took off to do whatever it is that grown-ups do without kids around. (We had almost forgotten exactly what that is!)

For a couple of years we have been eyeing, via internet information, several different places in New Brunswick that looked interesting for families to visit. The zoo in St. John was on our list, as was Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada. We also had been looking longingly at Campobello Island, but didn’t think we’d have a chance to get there since it didn’t seem like there would be much to do for a week with kids. So when this rare opportunity came up for us to “get away from it all” without kids, we immediately started doing Google searches for anything we could find about Campobello Island. We decided we would look for accomodations on the Island and stay for several nights. Now being from Coastal Maine, we were not headed up to Campobello Island for the view, nor were we even lured by the romantic idea of an “Island”, since at any time we can jump on the Casco Bay Ferry and cruise around to any Island in Casco Bay and spend a day there. No, we were envisioning peace and quiet in a nice B&B, or some sort of similar accomodation, a little romance, breakfast in a nice dining room each morning, and a cute, clean, romantic room to stay in at night. We were looking forward to a visit to the world famous Roosevelt International Park and days of quiet hiking and bike riding. We planned to spend one of the days over in Eastport, Maine, since it is only a short ferry ride from Campobello. We were expecting that we would be able to rest and restore and after several days, come back to “normal” life revived.

So after much searching around and looking at various web sites, we finally decided to spend our time and money at Lupine Lodge on Campobello Island. The web site made it sound like a little piece of heaven on earth. Well, there is really no reason to say more, you can look for yourself. So on Saturday, we called and made a reservation for two nights, figuring that we would play it by ear after that and stay longer if we decided we wanted to spend more time on the Island. The price was $145 per night, but based on the web site, we thought that was reasonable and were willing to spend that per night for a room in a nice lodge. We put a deposit down and eagerly awaited Monday morning. At 5 AM Monday morning we were up and on the road, anxious to get to “paradise”. We arrived late morning on the Island, and stopped at the Welcome Center after we crossed over the bridge. We were greeted by two very friendly and helpful ladies who gave us a map of the I sland detailing the International Park and trails, some brochures of other places of interest and some additional information about the area. After stopping at a lovely park and eating a pinic lunch, we eagerly made our way over to Lupine Lodge.

And here, ladies and gentelmen, let me assure you right now, if you have ever doubted it, doubt no longer – there really are places on earth where hell breaks through.

Thus ends Chapter 1. Stay tuned for more chapters in this epic adventure. I can assure you, this is only the beginning of a nightmare adventure, almost on par with a Stephen King novel! Fortunately, it did end well, but you’ll have to keep an eye on this blog for more information!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Teaching as a Relationship

Well, it took me little while to think on it, but for what it’s worth, here are some of my thoughts on Sarah Fine’s article on why she left teaching and Ms. Mercer’s blog response that I read.

As I was reading through the original article, when I read the sentence “I had fallen in love with the idea of the job”, my mind started wandering, as it sometimes does (which is why I may have some sympathy for my students). But did it start to wander through memories of teaching, or even of being a student? No. Interestingly enough it started to wander through memories of “falling in love”. Now upon an initial glance, one might wonder what falling in love has to do with teaching. So in the following paragraphs I will try to put forth some of the things in my mind that linked together the two seemingly different experiences.

Most of us remember our first love. Likely few of us are with that person today. Why is that? We were so sure that we had fallen in love. We had fallen hard, it consumed us, and we were sure it would last forever. Then a few short weeks or months later we were on to our next love. And then a few weeks or months later… Ok, we get the point. Then came the day that we were really, really sure… We had given it what we thought was a lot of consideration, this time was different, the feeling was unlike anything we had felt before, and we were willing to give it everything. So we did – we slept with the person. And a few short weeks or months later… Ok, so not everyone’s experiences are the same or worked quite that way. Nevertheless, you get the picture.

As my mind wandered through these memories I wondered why it is that most of us our not with our “first love”. Did we just forget about them? Did we stop loving them? I can’t speak for everyone, but there are “loves” from my past that I’ve never forgotten, and some that I may always love. So what happened? It is an interesting question. And again, my mind started to compare “first loves” to teaching.

And perhaps the picture is broader than just “first loves”. How about relationships in general; people that have been dear friends or perhaps family relationships? Over the years there have been people that I have “fallen in love with”, given a part of heart, life and time to, engaged with on deep levels, and yet some of them are not in my life today. Why is that?

Again, I can not speak for others, but I can tell you some of the things that connected in my mind when comparing teaching to relationships. In relationships, as in teaching, nothing is static. With every moment of time that passes, our experiences increase, our views broaden, our perspectives change. Sometimes one person may change in a way that ceases to make the relationship as beneficial or as meaningful as it once was. Sometimes in a relationship the common ground that draws people to one another shifts. Sometimes our maturity allows us to see things that we didn’t see before. Sometimes we begin to understand that the relationship is hurting us or those around us that we love and for whom we are responsible. Have you ever been in a relationship that you knew was over but you refused to admit it? Ever been in a situation where it was obvious to all around you that the relationship was over but you stuck your head in the sand? Relationships change for myriad reasons. Sometimes it happens quickly, other times after a period of many years. And so when I think about teaching, I see myself in a relationship with my teaching. In addition to that I see myself in a relationship with my students, my colleagues and my administration. And all of those relationships are always changing to one degree or another.

So am I implying that all relationships eventually end? Am I saying that no teachers last? Not at all! Some relationships continue to strengthen and grow through changes. They weather storms and beat odds. They become stronger, richer relationships that benefit not only the people involved but those around them and those observing them. Some relationships last a lifetime and, with each passing day, become better than the day before. Some relationships are able to take experiences and use them as glue to strengthen the bond between those involved. Sometimes you look at two people in a relationship, and you can not imagine one without the other; in fact either one without the other would be less of a person. And so it is with some teaching relationships. With each passing year or semester they become better and better. The individual can not imagine himself without his teaching, and the teaching would be lacking without that particular teacher. For that person to try to do something else would not prove beneficial.

Let’s consider another aspect of teaching as a relationship. Some relationships work well for a while and then, for whatever reasons, grow apart. But that is not the end of the story. Sometimes a relationship will revive after a period of time in dormancy. By way of a personal example, I have a relationship with a dear friend from whom I had been geographically separated for many years. We had formed a close bond as young people, but then we moved apart and lost contact for quite a long time. Then, just recently, thanks to the internet, I found her again. I found out that we live in relatively close proximity and we have revived our relationship. Would it have worked as well if we had been in contact over all those years? Who knows? But one thing is for certain, the revived relationship after many years is quite a lovely one. And so it has been for me with teaching. I have worked both in corporate and in education. I have taught all age ranges and levels. Sometimes I have had to take a break from education, or certain age groups. After a time away, I have returned to it feeling much revived. I believe, for me, an occasional break in my relationship with my teaching makes me better equipped for the relationship when I return to it.

As I conclude, I would also like to comment that with both my teaching and my personal relationships I have learned two things: 1. Comparing myself to others is deadly, and 2. I do not need to justify my status (or lack thereof) of a relationship with a person or with my teaching. I can, and do, go to seminars, conferences, webinars, meetings, continuing ed, etc. You name it, I’ve been there. The topic may be about teaching or about other relationships, such as marriage. The advice is good. The speakers are insightful. The time is often well spent. But at the end of the day, I am the one in the relationship. Only I am the one who knows the whole extent of the truth and all the ins and outs of the relationship. And in the end, only I can make the final decision.

So today, I believe that I am benefiting from being a teacher, and I believe that my teaching is also becoming richer. I believe that those engaged in this relationship with me, my students, colleagues and administrators are all benefiting from my being a teacher. And I am continually evaluating that. The day may come when that is no longer the case. At that time hopefully I will be wise enough to take a break from the relationship. It may be a temporary break, or it may be a permanent break. But if such a time comes for me to make the decision, it will be my decision because it is my relationship with my teaching. I will not compare myself to the teacher next to me, nor will I feel I have to justify my decision. I will not suggest that what is right for me is right for the next teacher. I will not feel guilty that my relationship with my teaching is not in the same place as the teacher next to me. However, today while my relationship with my teaching is in a good place, I will strive to continue to make it even better for as long as it lasts.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cramming It All In There:

A Semester In The Life Of A Math Teacher

Here is a little math problem that I always start my classes off with each semester. “Take 45 and multiply by 50.” Once I determine that we have all agreed upon 2250 for an answer, I then take them to step two of the problem. “Ok, now take the answer of 2250 and divide by 60 and tell me what you get”. If our math skills are up to snuff, we all agree that we arrive at a final answer of 37 ½ . Now this may seem like a rather elementary math problem for college level math classes, and, you’re right, it is. But the question does not serve to test multiplication and division skills. The question drives home a point. Over the course of the semester the class will meet 45 times. Each of those meetings will be 50 minutes long for a grand total of 2250 minutes. Now take the 2250 and divide by 60 minutes per hour and we come up with the amount of time that my students and I will spend together; 37 ½ hours, less than a traditional work week!

Now at this point in the exercise some students actually breathe a sigh of relief. And, granted, for some it is great news that they will only be required to spend 37 ½ hours in a math class. But at the same time many realize the implication of what we just calculated. In less than one work week we will be covering an entire math book! And for some, their faces become a little ashen. Fortunately, what they don’t see, because I’ve learned to hide it relatively well, is that my face becomes a little ashen too. No, it does not matter how many times I’ve taught a class. The thought of getting a group of 20 to 30 students through an entire math book in 37 ½ hours is overwhelming.

Another thing that I am considering, that the students don’t even think about, is that as a teacher of adult students, I am depending on 12 to 13 previous years of formal math instruction by other teachers whom I have never met to have prepared the students for what they will encounter in my classes. Furthermore, I am assuming that over the past 12 to 13 years of formal instruction, the students have applied themselves and learned various mathematical concepts. Sometimes this all works out. Other times one or both of these ingredients is missing.

Furthermore, one event that takes place when a young adult student first enters college is that not only is the parent no longer there to advocate in any way, but in fact, it is technically illegal for me to speak to anyone other than the student about the student’s progress. Now I must pause right here and be honest with you. For me personally, this is one of the biggest benefits of teaching at this level. I like dealing directly with my students and I am glad that the law prevents me from dealing with anyone else. However, that being said, for most of my “traditional age” adult students this is completely uncharted territory. The idea of speaking directly to a teacher and having to be responsible for themselves is very foreign to many of them. So they are emotionally and mentally dealing with this new phase of their education and working through the challenges of navigating all of that. Sadly, some do not ever reach a point where they are willing to understand that their educational success is very much in their own hands. Another unfamiliar road for some students is the way “special ed” or “special needs” is handled. Obviously all students with documented disabilities will be, and should be, provided with accommodations. However, these accommodations sometimes tend to look different from what the student has been accustomed to seeing in grades K – 12. Additionally, because each teacher has his/her own syllabus and attendance/testing/classroom policies, not all accommodations apply in the same way. So for some students this is also an emotional and mental adjustment. And for some this is taking place during a period of time where they are living away from home for the first time and are away from their usual support system.

As a college teacher working with adults, one of the aspects of my teaching experience is that the age range of the students in any one class may vary widely. I do have a good percentage of “traditional” students in their late teens to twenties. But I also have students that are in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and even 60’s. Often I have students that are carrying the full load of life’s responsibilities while at the same time being students. I have students who are parents. I have students that are caring for elderly parents or grandparents. I have students that are suffering through the pain of divorce. I have students that are in the middle of fierce custody battles. I have students that hold full time jobs while going to school. I have students that are in AA or NA or other rehab programs. I have students who have been in prison. I have students who, due to restraining orders, may not be able to be in a class with another one of my students, and are thus scheduling classes around that. As a college teacher I have been verbally and physically assaulted. Each person who walks into my classroom has a story and a history which often times is much more complicated than the life experiences of a K – 12 student. Therefore, as a teacher of adult students, I sometimes am required to have a different skill set than my K-12 counterparts. And so, you see, when I try to define what I do, I am not just a math teacher.

Now yes, I understand that I am primarily a math teacher. First and foremost I am there to teach math. And in that role, my goal is to help students overcome any previous obstacles, help them learn what is currently being required of them, and encourage them to push on to higher levels. In and of itself, this is a very large task. But in addition to that, as teachers we sometimes play the role of encourager, confidant, “den mother”, cheerleader, empathizer, and yes, sometimes friend. I love my students. To me each one of them is a real person. And those real people bring all of their real life experiences into my classroom with them. As humans we can not segment ourselves and send only the “math student” piece to math class, while the remainder of us goes to work or court or to the responsibilities of home. And as a math teacher, I understand that, yes, I am teaching math, but I am teaching it to a whole person.

And so as a teacher, I have my moments of noteworthy success and my moments of embarrassing errors. I have my days of high energy and my days of sheer exhaustion. Some days I feel like I do everything right, and other days I wonder if my students learned anything at all. Many days I’m sure I chose the right career, and other days I wonder if I should have been a taxi cab driver. (Just kidding, but I mean some other career that is completely different from teaching.) For you see, I too am a whole person. I bring to my teaching all of my life experiences with its successes and its failures, its lessons learned and its lessons missed. But one constant remains the same. I love my students. And no matter how tired or frustrated I get on some days, when I step back and catch my breath, I always want to go back for more.

And the most amazing part of all of this…. is that it all happens in 37 ½ hours, less than a traditional work week of time.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Twitter:

Blither Blather or Clever Conversation?

I have been re-evaluating my thoughts about Twitter since the event several weeks ago in my life when I finally broke down and decided to investigate it for myself. And I must admit, now that I am using it, that my initial opinion about it was wrong. But, that said, in my own defense I must say that my initial exposure to it was also wrong.

In past conversations, when the subject would come up, my husband and I would often refer to Twitter as “shitter”. And based on what we were seeing, the name fit. Often my students would use Twitter as something to do during math class instead of listening. So that turned me off right there. Then when I would find out someone’s Twitter name and go poking around on their page, or on the page of one of their followers, I would see the following types of tweets: “ok goin to class now”, “class over. my history teacher sucks”, “wow cute guy in my bio class. wonder if he has a gf. lol”, “goin to the bathroom now. be right back”, etc. Or worse yet, I would see all kinds of tweets that obviously were being sent while driving, such as “this moron in front of me is driving so friggin slow”, “idiot behind me just tried to pass in a no passing zone”, etc. Now while I’m just as inclined as the next person to look at good looking men, I didn’t really think I’d use Twitter to be informing the world if one showed up to teach a class in the next room over. And I certainly couldn’t imagine tweeting a blow by blow account of my drive to and from work every day. And I’m just mentioning some of the mild tweets that I saw. I also saw information being tweeted around out there that absolutely no one, let alone the whole world, should be privy to. So, in all honesty, I was thoroughly turned off to the whole Twitter thing.

I started to have a bit of a Twitter change of heart when a couple of people, other than my students, suggested I check it out. “Whatever for?”, I asked. “Oh, there’s all kind of interesting stuff out there and you can learn all kinds of things you might not otherwise find out about”. Well, I was quite skeptical at first. In my mind I was imagining that I would be learning when everyone was going to the bathroom with the door open, or what color they decided to dye their hair this week. But then again, the suggestions were coming from people whom I was pretty sure wouldn’t put only inane comments out there for the world to read. Then I happened upon an article in Information Week that was talking about Yammer and Twitter. So I decided that the best, and right, thing to do, before letting any more prejudice settle into my mind, was to go and investigate Twitter for myself. So I took the Twitter plunge and set up an account for myself.

I must say that my Twitter experience has been a good one. I found out right away that you can go in search of “Tweeple” in the “Twitterverse” that have interests similar to your own. Since I am a math teacher, the first thing I started to look for was education related tweets. It didn’t take very long at all, and I found several interesting and helpful people to follow. I now have several people that I follow who work in education, and some in math in particular, and through their tweets I have been exposed to ideas, articles, web sites, etc. that I would have otherwise never known about. It has been most helpful and enlightening and a good learning experience.

Furthermore, since I am more than just a teacher, I looked around for some other people that I might find fun or interesting to follow. I have found several that I thoroughly enjoy. Some keep me laughing with amusing tweets and quotes. A couple of magazine twitter pages that I follow keep me informed about various things in the world of science. Others keep me up to date on travel and places of interest around Maine. Still others are inspiring or encouraging. Some expose me to news from other parts of the world that I would otherwise never find. And still others tweet about things of interest to them which allow me to explore ideas or topics that are new to me. by following these “Tweeple”, I often get linked to interesting and insightful blogs or web sites. I have also learned that I can poke around and search for various “hashtags” or take a look at twitter pages of people I don’t normally follow. This is another way to find interesting information or humorous topics or blogs. I am sure that there is much more for me to learn about Twitter, so I will continue to investigate. Thank you to all of you who have made, and will continue to make this a beneficial and fun journey for me.

As for me, my tweets are similar to everything else in my life – an eclectic gallimaufry. While I am not completely above inane tweets, I do try to keep them to a minimum. I have been enjoying attempting to communicate tweets in haiku form – good exercise for the brain in concise communication skills. I am having fun being able to link photos to Twitter. And last night I found something that allows me to link files. So I am continuing to learn. I hope that anyone who follows me will find my tweets enjoyable and/or interesting, even if, upon occasion, a bit inane.