Saturday, February 16, 2013

Retreat to Reflect and Revisit What Matters

This week I left the city with my fifth graders for a retreat.  Each grade at my school, escapes the hustle and bustle of school and city life for two days to discuss, reflect, and set schools around the type of people and course they want to be.  Let me remind you, these are fifth graders, so the level of insight and depth of the conversations was not originally what I had expected.  But after reading their reflections on the retreat, it turns out they took away quite a bit and were very happy.

The retreat began with a discussion about how we all are born with a certain temperament, introverted or extroverted for example.  The students generated lists of the strengths of being these two temperaments and then the challenges or faults of many people with these temperaments.  We discussed how everyone is different and how everyone has areas of strength and areas for improvement, but that no one needs to change who they are.  The goal is to know who you are and consider what you need to improve in order to avoid harming others and to improve your own enjoyment of life as well.  The students seemed to understand this and appreciate this discussion, but so did I!  I found myself pondering over what my temperament is and thinking about the strengths and weaknesses that come with it...  still thinking about actually...

The next part of the retreat had the students focus on their strengths and weaknesses as a group, as a fifth grade.  They brainstormed, presented and discussed how these strengths and weaknesses manifest themselves in the day-to-day.  They also worked in groups to create a variety of presentations - games, skits, songs, etc. to teach about these traits and to consider what the group needs to do to improve.

In addition, to lots of discussions there were teamwork games and we ended the retreat with a viewing of Karate Kid (the new one with Jayden Smith) - too cute!!!

While I returned overly-fed and exhausted from the non-stop schedule and time with the students, I was happy to have the time with the students, to watch friendships develop, to witness some ah-ha moments, and to have the time to reflect on my own growth.  Great tradition, I recommend it for any class or school.

Here are some pics:

This game was incredible!  The person on the shoulders had a pin in their mouth and had to pop as many water balloons as he or she could without using his or her hands.  The team that collected the most balloons won.

The kids LOVED it!  I was scared that someone was going to swallow a pin...

Adorable discussions and teamwork.

Fire with marshmallow and wiener roasting. :-)

Evening fun!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Staying connected

It's been way too long since I've posted.  I think in my second year there is less that seems new and noteworthy.  Also, after my last post, it seemed strange to go back to simply reporting on my life here in Colombia.  Still, thought I'd share an update on my progress in staying connected to friends and family. I'm not doing super well, but there have been some improvements/discoveries.  In my last post, I said that my resolution for this year was to be better about my finances so that I can make the visits to friends and family for major events and when I feel the need.  This way Colombia won't feel so removed from the rest of the world.  I also, just generally need to be better about staying connected.

So how am I doing?

1) I've already booked the ticket for my friend Shannon's wedding in June.  I will be in the country for about 80 hours in total but it is soooo worth it.  Shannon is my oldest friend, not in age but in terms of the amount of time we've known each other.  We were in the same Kindergarten class and every Wednesday we were placed at the kitchen station together.  We've been friends ever since.  She's asked me to be in her wedding and I cannot wait to be there for the big day!

2) There was also talk about going to Shannon's second wedding in Macedonia (fiance's family is from there) and making it a super vacation by flying to Berlin to visit with my friend Sophia and then traveling by car, train, or plane (still undetermined) to visit a few places between Germany and Macedonia...Croatia for example.  This is still undetermined.  It would be amazing but also very expensive.  I've taken on some part-time work and I'm hoping to sell my car (my 2002 Honda that is sitting in my parents' garage) once springtime has sprung.  I also need to solidify a job for next year.  If these things happen, this trip might be possible.  I need  to visit Sophia and obviously the Macedonia wedding is a once in a lifetime opportunity... so it's still on the table.  If anyone reading this wins the lottery and wants to make someone verrrry happy, I'm your girl. (wink, wink)

3) Google Hangouts!  If you have not tried this yet, you should.  Last night I was able to talk to six of my friends from when I worked in Texas.  It was pure chaos and ridiculousness but it was also AWESOME!  We were all sitting in our own houses, at our computers, video-conferencing.  I could see and here everyone.  It was amazing.  There are lots of fun effects - like adding masks, eyewear, and hats to the videos and sounds to the conversations.  Again, ridiculous.  Hoping we can make this happen more regularly.  It made my week.  Here's a glimpse at what this conversation looked like:

4) Skyping with Mom and Dad.  In the past  I have always Skyped with my Mom and Dad at the same time, but a few weeks ago my Mom decided she was having it anymore.  Now I speak with each of them individually every other week.  It has turned out to be fabulous.  Dad and I talk about Dad and Kate stuff -  TUK (my car), weather, Yankees/Giants, work, love, funny stories about my mom (past and present), etc.  Mom and I talk about Mom and Kate stuff - work, books, exercise, recipes, love, education, etc.  Glad we have found a system that works and glad to have the quality time with each of them regularly.

Overall, I think I'm making progress.  Would like to Skype with some more friends regularly and need to be better about e-mailing Grandma and Grandpa, but I'm headed in the right direction.  Loving life in Colombia, but it's easier to love when I don't feel so far away from family and friends.