Friday, 29 March 2013

Reflection on the past 4mths

We arrived 4mths ago! That is quite hard to believe :O
We now have our greencards which means we are classified as US permanent residents. I am getting closer to having my Colorado teaching license. Matt and I have our driver's licenses and cars.  And Matt has started getting junk mail from credit card companies so he must be slowly building up a credit rating. So lots of things are finally resolved however some of the biggest hurdles might surprise you:

  • in the USA light switches flick up rather than down, I am still struggling to get the hang of that one!
  • Dressing in layers is imperative! After living in Melbourne for 8yrs you'd think I'd have some idea how to do this, but I am still usually too hot by the middle of the day on sunny days (which is most days)
  • Toilet training the dogs to apartment living. It was done so easily when we first arrived here and were staying in the temporary apartment for the first 2mths. They got the hang of toileting outdoors thanks to me walking them every 2hrs for the first 3 weeks. However once we moved into our rental apartment Henry decided the dining room was the place to toilet because from there he can see the balcony and outside, so he figures that is close enough. I also think a major part of it is him marking his territory as a warning for the dogs that walk past frequently! So now we have an indoor dog toilet - for those ignorant people who have no idea what I am talking about it is fake grass in a plastic tray which is lined with disposable pads. He does use it but his aim is a little off so the area covered by the disposable pads is growing with each day. I think I finally have the area right for him, but we still end up steam cleaning about once a week!!
  • The weather forecasts here are woefully inaccurate. Obviously the position of Denver makes it difficult to be accurate more than 1 day in advance. So we are learning not to make plans for the weekends until at least Friday;)
  • Toilets here actually do require the use of a plunger once in a while or as Brett learned at McDonalds they call it a plunge - nobody knew what he meant when he asked where the plunger was kept! Why don't they just make the diameter of their pipes bigger, seriously you'd think it was rocket science.
  • Beginning work in a US school was another eye opener for me with all the different vocab I need to integrate into my day. Garbage is now trash, lunch is recess, the gym is also the cafeteria or lunchroom and then things like; security swipe cards are required to enter the buildings, snowball throwing is not allowed but pretend gun play is.
  • Spring starts on the 20th or 21st of March with the equinox NOT the first of the month.
  • Speakly slowly and clearly is imperative especially when using a McDonalds drive thru window, because we now have accents which everybody loves but nobody can understand;)
  • And last but not least Americans aren't the arrogant types portrayed on TV shows but are actually a very welcoming people who have all made us feel very welcome.
I wonder what the next 4 mths will bring...

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Working at last...

After waiting 3mths Brett and i have both finally received our work authorisation permits, we then applied for social security numbers. Now that we have those we can officially work here in the USA.

Brett promptly applied for and got a job at our local McDonalds (taking after his big brother TJ who has worked at Willetton McDonalds for over 5 years now). He is settling in to the new job well :)

I applied for a temporary education assistant job, that goes through until the end of this school year on June 7th. This will help me get used to the American education system whilst I await my Colorado teaching license. I have now been in my new job for 2 weeks.

Day 1  was absolutely bamboozling, it is difficult to explain how different it felt to be in a school half a world away from my comfort zone. The kids say the pledge of allegiance every morning in class which was a shock to see on my first day and i still haven't gotten a straight answer out of anyone about whether I should be saying it too considering I am not American! For now I am joining in out of respect and to model appropriate behavior. I spent the morning assisting the other EAs in preparing the test papers for the Tcap standardised testing which is a huge undertaking. Year 3,4,5 & 6 are all tested in Math and Literacy and some grades do science as well. Maths is three 1hr sessions, literacy is six 1hr sessions and science is three 1hr sessions. Students with special needs are removed from class to do the exams so that they can have extra time and some questions read to them, so that is what I have been doing everyday for the last 2 weeks. We also have to do make-up tests with any student who is absent, so that will no doubt take up most of my time for the next week. So my 4hr a day job was only 4hrs for the first 2 days until they got around to doing the Tcap training with me ever since then I have  worked full days. That has been a challenge since i am suffering from fatigue due to an iron deficiency!! But we have spring break coming up and i could really use the 2 weeks break :)

Lunch is eaten indoors in the gym. The school custodian a lovely bloke named Jimmy has to set up the tables everyday and pack them away, so that during lunch the gym is the cafeteria and the rest of the day it is the gym for PE classes, it is a huge undertaking that Jimmy makes look easy. The school is the largest elementary school in the district with approximately 1000 students, so the students have staggered lunch breaks, one grade at a time. I do duty in the cafeteria during the grade 4 and then 5 lunchtimes. I also do duty outside at recess (the play portion of lunchtime) with the grade 4s and then 5s. The weather has been interesting with sometimes it is -5c outside with half a foot of snow on the ground and other days like yesterday it is 17c and a perfect spring day!!! 17c here feels a lot warmer than it does back home (maybe due to the altitude??).

The kids don't wear uniforms to school and so they can be playing in anything from high heels to uggs and are allowed to run on the concrete which is a big no no in every Aussie school I have ever worked in! They also do not have to wear hats outside :O

I am slowly learning the lingo, they have different terminology for almost everything, so I feel like I am learning a new language sometimes. But I am loving every minute of it and as expected it is a great initiation to the system before I actually get my teaching license. In fact on the 3rd day on the job I was asked to teach in the library all day because they couldn't get a sub at short notice.

The staff and students have all made me feel very welcome and in fact the majority of the students are fascinated with my Aussie accent and want to ask all sorts of questions about kangaroos LOL

Yesterday I had a half an hour spare between testing sessions so I went to help out in one of the grade 5 classes. They were doing research and creating posters about the causes and effects of the American Revolutionary War!!!!!!!!!!!! OMG a topic I know NOTHING about, so I was only able to help them with basic editing and research skills not content! So when I actually have some spare time I really need to do some research on the basics of American history. The problem is I am not sure what 'spare time' is anymore!

This is only the off the top of my head stuff i can remember but believe me it is vastly different here working as an educator, but I am up for the challenge:)