Showing posts from July, 2017

Teacher Motivation in the Summer

When I am back home in the summertime, I am at school pretty much every weekday doing some work. It might be all day or it might be a couple of hours, but I'm getting stuff done. I enjoy making my classroom look good - putting up bulletin boards, laminating, finding my posters, sticking stuff on the ceiling - but it seems like I'm often saddled in front of a computer doing some administrative work instead of doing the teacher stuff I consider fun! It has to get done, though. So how do I keep myself motivated while I'm typing curriculum maps and classroom inventories? Read on: Podcasts A lot of these tasks are pretty menial and don't require 100% concentration. When that's the case, I can turn on my podcasts and enjoy some chatter about my favorite topics.  Some of my favorites are Lattes with Leia, Rebel Force Radio, The Disney Dish Podcast with Jim Hill, The Disney Diet, Coffee with Kenobi, The Weekly Planet, and Mousetalgia .  Music During the s

Olympic Blurb: We're Mixing It Up

I recently upgraded my cable - I know; that's not the norm. Most people are downgrading or completely cancelling their cable! But when you're someone who has their cable strictly for live sports and Olympics coverage (and lives in an area with little to no antenna coverage) cable turns into a pretty big deal. The reason I upgraded was to get the Olympic Channel, a 24/7 channel devoted to the Olympics that should probably just have the tagline: Made just for Claire . At this very moment it's showing men's track and field from the London Olympic Games, and I'm sure once we finish up the World Championship season they will focus all of their time on winter sports. Speaking of World Championships, the Aquatic World Championships are going on right now, including diving, water polo, and swimming. I have been able to watch the swimming events, and was rewarded with a sneak peek of one of my most anticipated events of the Tokyo 2020 Games: the mixed 4x100 medley. &qu

Europe 2017: Lessons Learned

After three days of jet lag mainly dealing with nausea, dehydration, and loss of appetite, I'm finally starting to feel like my normal self again. Now I'm starting to see my friends and family and am hearing "How was Europe?" a lot. My answer is usually the same: "It was amazing!" But there is always so much more I could tell them! If we ever sat down and they let me rant for a couple of hours, here are a few things I would mention: I had some great shoes! I guess you could say I splurged on some shoes, if getting high-priced shoes at Meijer counts as "splurging." But I'm used to $20 shoes, and paying $75 for some quality black flats made me hesitate for a bit.  Thankfully, the shoes I purchased were worth the money. I walked all around London and ended up putting dozens of miles on those poor shoes over the span of just three weeks. They protected my feet from the rain, cushioned my feet with its extra padding, and worked with mos

Europe 2017: Back Home

Well, it was a long day and I've been up for 21 hours, but I am back in Michigan. I flew Air Canada from Prague to Toronto, and then had a crazy long layover before an extremely short flight back to Detroit on a 50-seat plane. I woke up in Plzeň and I'm going to sleep in Saline. It's been a crazy three weeks but it's been a lot of fun hanging out with you. I'll do one more final wrap-up in a few days, but don't be surprised if I don't post for a little bit. Typing all those articles was a ton of work, not to mention photos and videos! If you've ever thought of doing a trip overseas, do it. Do it as soon as possible - don't wait and put other things in the way, or else you'll never do it. Get out of your comfort zone. Embrace the relaxing, quiet, non-American lifestyle. Eat dinner at 8. Visit cathedrals that were built before the New World was even discovered. Stand and enjoy just being  somewhere without taking a dozen selfies! Six months&#

Europe 2017: Four Hours in Prague

Initially my plan for this afternoon was sit in my room, rest from my full week of VBS, tour Plzeň a little bit, eat dinner at my hotel's restaurant, and go to bed early. But then I suddenly realized that my vacation was almost over. I leave tomorrow morning and will (God-willing) be back in the United States by the time the sun sets. With that in mind, I decided to spend my last few hours in Europe traveling around my favorite city in the world: Prague. I was last in Prague in 2011, and it was one of the first places I visited in Europe. We went on a Saturday (after arriving on Friday) and spent the day seeing the main areas of the city: Wenceslas Square, the Old Town Square, Charles Bridge, St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle, the Prague astronomical clock, and the Jan Hus statue, plus a few other beautiful churches. I immediately fell in love with the beautiful buildings, the crazy pattern of streets, the remnants of the old wall, and the concerts that are offered pretty

Europe 2017: A Tale in Three Parts

Part 1: Information Once upon a time there was a girl. She was on the train from Hannover to Plzeň, where she was doing a VBS. The train she was on was heading straight to Prague, so she had to make sure to get off at the right stop. There were actually two  stops for Plzeň, but she knew she had to get off at hlavní nadraží, the main station.  Years before this trip, there also were two men - one Czech, and the other American. The Czech man had told the American man how to get to this train station: "Go on the tram until everyone gets off. That is the end." Part 2: Mistake Two days ago, there was a group of moms and a group of children. They were Americans visiting Plzeň. The menfolk had gone off to tour a hops farm and brewery and left the women and children to fend for themselves. (Those fiends!)  Anyway, after enjoying a pleasant meal in the center of town, the women and children got on the correct tram, but going in the wrong direction. They incorrectly

Europe 2017: Thank-You Notes

It's come to that time in the trip where I should send out some thank-you notes. I'm not attempting to make these sound funny, though they might come across as such. But first, some music... Thank you...Plzeň tram...for providing a pleasant mode of transportation...and also for conveniently leaving right before I arrive. Today as the group was headed for the Pilsner-Urquell tour, I got to the corner right when the tram was arriving. I haven't had the best luck having the train arrive right when I get there, but at least it appears every 8-10 minutes and is pretty regular. Here, take a look: Thank you...Shark Song...for being a source of nonstop entertainment. The kids unfortunately might not remember anything else but  "Baby Shark" from this VBS. Thank you...drum set...for making "The First Song of Isaiah" sound really, really cool. Have you ever done that song with a drum set? We are going to do it on Sunday - Ed secured a drum

Europe 2017: Hustle and Bustle

As I've said before, experiencing the hustle and bustle of a city is pretty great. I have been living in the city of Plzeň and taking public transportation to the outskirts, where the school is located. It almost feels like I'm part of the workforce, although most people are heading into  the city while I'm heading out . Today my breakfast included a couple of slices of salami, and I put those right into my sandwich for lunch. It was really nice to get that bit of spice at lunchtime along with the ham and gouda!  After VBS I was able to practice the Sunday songs with the Americans - something we hadn't been able to do the past couple of days. The ladies are all singing a song on their own, and then the Americans are singing the verses of "The First Song of Isaiah" while the Czech kids sing the refrain. A drum set is arriving tonight that we are able to use this weekend, so tomorrow I'll be practicing with our resident drummer to coordinate him

Europe 2017: Baby Shark Fever

Today I must have heard about ten kids singing some part of the "Baby Shark Song" as I walked down hallways and in classrooms of schools. I wish they'd caught on to one of my Christian songs so I knew exactly what to sing on Sunday, but it's still pretty cool to hear them break into song. With the huge success of "Baby Shark," I felt like doing the "Tootie-Ta" would be another hit. They enjoyed it, but I think "Baby Shark" still had the edge on the day! I finally felt today like I was filling the hours successfully. We did a good warm-up. We practiced our songs for Sunday. The lower three groups all did the "Mexican Hat Dance" which they had fun doing. I sang them "Zacchaeus" since that was our story of the day, while they did the actions. A few groups learned a little bit about the brass section of the orchestra. We watched two videos - one of my favorites called "Pipe Dream" by Animusic, and the

Europe 2017: Rain Delay

Rain in the summer is great...unless you're hosting a Vacation Bible School and half your sessions are taking place outside. That is the problem we came across when we woke up to rain drumming on the roof. It wasn't a quick rain. It was one of those on-off, downpour/sprinkle/downpour type rains that lasted (conveniently) until the VBS ended at 4. Then the sun came out and shone the rest of the day! Figures. While this issue didn't affect my classes (we're just in church the whole time) it did affect the Art and Bible/Gym classes. While the Gym class was supposed to do water balloons today, they moved that and instead did giant Jenga. They didn't bring them along; on Sunday Ed and Petr went to a Home Depot-style store and purchased timber, which then was cut into large pieces last night and sanded. The Art crew ended up in the dungeon of the school - a former location for locker rooms, but now an actually pleasant basement room with windows that show the bask

Europe 2017: Panic Day!

You know that feeling you get before you start something - that feeling of being pretty sure that you know what to do, have all the quirks worked out, and have planned for every problem? Never trust that feeling. I am about five weeks removed from teaching, and it isn't like hopping on a bike. I've been in tourist-mode for two solid weeks, so going back to Miss Nat is kind of a giant about-face. Then, of course, there's the language barrier. Keep one thing clear: children are the same everywhere. They all love to be friendly. They all love to talk. They all love fidget spinners and phones. Sitting down for six hours is not in their usual summer routine, I'm pretty sure. Unlike children at home, though, they cannot understand all the words that I am saying. We have children from ages 6 to 13, and helpers from ages 14 to 17 - some Czech, some American. The Czech helpers are great because I can make sure the children are absolutely sure about what I am trying

Europe 2017: Panic Day?

Today was supposed to be a day where I laid out all my music stuff and freaked out about how much I had to prepare. It ended up being about an hour of work at the table getting tomorrow's plans ready, an hour of prep in my teaching area, and then nothing! I guess I didn't need to panic after all. In the morning we had church at St. Paul's, which shares a building space with Martin Luther School. I had volunteered to play the keyboard, and Petr provided me with the hymns before the service started. They weren't difficult to play, especially because he had chosen tunes that are in our hymnal.  I had made copies of my favorite piano pieces so I wouldn't have to lug around all those books, and I played half of them as preservice music. Aside from the Wisconsin crew, only three other people came to church - Petr's son and a man in his late teens who had been baptized last year, and he had brought his girlfriend. All three of them are going to be helping wit