Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Little Bit of Everything

So much has happened since my first day at PAHS. I now have kids that I see on a regular basis, and I have been on a few adventures since then as well. The school itself has been an interesting place. It isn't really anything like I expected it to be, which isn't that surprising I guess. We've been working with a really wide range of students. Some of my kids are having in trouble in one class (it's usually math) and then they're doing really well in all of their other subjects. Others are failing everything, but they all tend to work hard and are eager to get help.  I've already learned a lot in the past week and a half about teaching and tutoring and being in a classroom and working one on one with kids. It's been an overwhelming eight days. But what I've really come to love, and what I hope to see at least once every single day is that AHA! moment on a kid's face. It just makes the hour of sitting there and trying to make them understand all worthwhile. That moment they figure it out and can suddenly do it all on their own. That brings a smile to my face everytime it happens.
Outside of school things have been a little on the amazing side. This past weekend I went out to the West End of the peninsula. We spent Friday night in Forks in my friend's cabin. The cabin is in the middle of a field, on a farm overlooking the mountains. There are cows, llamas, sheep, chickens and all other kinds of animals. It's not a bad spot. The cabin itself is pretty tiny, so fitting all 5 of us plus an energetic 2 year-old golden retriever made for an amusing evening. It was a very nice, calm, evening. That night everyone fell asleep to me reading Harry Potter aloud. The next day we all went down to Lake Quinault. At the lodge there they were having a native celebration of the return of the salmon. There was drumming and dancing and all sorts of awesome stuff going on. It was beautiful in the morning, but the clouds and fog rolled in after lunch. After the dancing, we drove to go find a campsite for the night. It started to sprinkle a little bit, but we played cards on the edge of the lake in the mist. The view from out campsite out onto the lake was pretty amazing. After playing in the rain, we went back to the lodge and enjoyed a cup of tea (or a glass of wine) in front of the fire before going back out to the campsite to meet some friends to make dinner and camp. That's when things started to get fun. We bought firewood, but it was apparently still a little damp (just like everything on the Olympic Peninsula), so starting a fire was very difficult. I really missed having my Hennedy around to light fires. Instead, we got some lighter fluid from the people at the next campsite and made about 5 roaring fires, all of which lasted about 2 minutes before going out. As soon as the fire was lit Meaghan would yell "get the hotdogs!" and we would all run over the fire and start grilling our hotdogs until the fire would go out. I must say it was one of the most amusing parts of the evening. After smores and some chatting we all got into our tents and I read some more Harry Potter aloud and everyone fell blissfully asleep. Until it started to downpour. At around 1 in the morning I hear Meaghan softly calling my name from the tent over. Their tent had flooded, and she and Britt were under about 3 inches of water. So, Meaghan came into our tent (3 people in a 2 person tent was nice and cozy!), and Britt went into the other tent. And everything seemed okay until Ms. Julia Cain yelled, "guys, the tents not gonna hold. pack it up!" to which the three of us in my tent replied, "are you out of your mind?!" which she was. So, we convinced her to wait out the night in the pouring rain to drive the 3 hours back to Port Angeles. Now that was an eventful camping trip. We spent the entire next day warming up and drying out. This included a homemade meatloaf dinner complete with mashed potatoes, gravy and broccoli. On the whole, an excellent experience.
Yesterday was a downright beautiful day. At around 4 I decided to drive out to the West End to see the sunset out at La Push. The result was one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. It sank right down between the large rock formations just off of First Beach. The colors were breathtaking. Driving back later that night, I saw the moon rise between the mountains over Lake Crescent. It was an entire evening of, "do I really live here?" and being so happy to realize that I do.

Monday, September 20, 2010

First Day at Port Angeles High!

This morning I walked toward Port Angeles High School in the drizzling rain and thought to myself, "What on earth have I gotten myself into?" There were kids everywhere, not a familiar face in sight, and the weather, as always, seemed to signal impending doom.  However, the moment I stepped foot into the school, I felt nothing but warmth and gratitude from all the teachers and administrators I met.  It was certainly overwhelming at times, but the day, on the whole, was a huge success.  After gaining the lay of the land, Ahmad (my fellow Americorps at the high school) and I set to work organizing our classroom and trying to get a better sense of what we'll be doing for the next year.  After the first day it appears that we will be at the high school Monday thru Thursday from about 8 until 3 or 4 (or in the case of days like today, more like 5) working in classrooms alongside teachers and in our own classroom tutoring kids on a  daily basis.  We already have a list of about 25 students that we'll be meeting with tomorrow morning to touch base and set up meeting times. It's going to be an exciting year. I can tell already.

A rather strange thing happened to me today while I was at the high school.  As I stood next to one of our desks in our classroom, I looked at a poster on the wall.  There was a green soccer field with bleachers and a brick building, alongside of which was a long stone pathway.  I did a double-take and thought about how much it looked like Trinity, only to come to the sudden realization that it was Trinity.  One of the Trinity posters had been cut and put up in pieces on the wall.  Below that was a picture of snow-covered Jarvis, Seabury and the whole Long Walk. There was my former home, sitting right next to my new desk at my first job.  Immediately, I felt a confidence that I hadn't felt yet that morning. I knew that I had been well-prepared to step into this role, and that everything I had learned there would help me step forward and continue onward. It may sound cheesy or stupid, but it could not be more true. When that whole world feels so far away right now, it was very comforting to feel it so close by today.

Tomorrow is another wonderful day. I get to meet more students and more teachers. The weather is supposed to be beautiful. Sunshine and little to no rain. Another discovery today taught me that I live 5 short blocks from the high school. And the view from the walk: the Strait of Juan de Fuco and the mountains of the Olympic National Park. I don't think anyone could ask for much more than that.