Saturday, November 10, 2012

You Know You're a Fourth Grade Teacher When...

1.  You're listening to Rihanna in your car and you incorporate the sign language for simile into your dance moves ("...shine bright like a diamond...").

2.  You're calling parents on a Friday night, after sending home progress reports, just to to tell them how great their kid is.

3.  You listen to the chorus of the Owl City song at the end of Wreck-it Ralph and think, "Wow, I should show this to the kids--that's three different sound spellings for long o."

4.  Your biggest smile of the week is when the class multiplication average goes from 74 to 82.

5.  You can't stop thinking long enough to fall asleep because you're so worried about creating differentiated instruction so that all of your kids reach their big goals and get the education they deserve.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cabin 2012

I rounded out my summer of traveling with my annual trip to Grandpa Smiley's cabin in Wood River, Wyoming.   It is probably my favorite place in the world.  My friend John Strott accompanied me for the trip and it was amazing.  Amazing.


The 14-hour ride is make so much sweeter by Maddi's homemade ice cream...

...and beautiful scenery along the way.

We hiked...

....saw incredible views of pristine wilderness...

...and basked in Wyoming awesomeness.

You know it's legit when you get your water from a mountain spring.

Probably my favorite cabin activity--picking wild raspberries.

We drove through Yellowstone on the way home.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Perfect Procedures

I taught this workshop today.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Favorite Pictures from Guatemala

Thank you SHe for an incredible experience.    I loved Guatemala, the Mayan people, and the other expeditioners.   It was truly amazing, and I cannot wait to join another expedition sometime very soon!

If you want to learn more about SHe, check out their website: or like them on Facebook:

Daily Life of a SHe Guatemala Expeditioner

Take the cattle druck 10-30 minutes to your village for the day
Work on whatever team you're on that day for 5-8 hours
Come back to home base and play with kids.  Bubbles, soccer...
.... cats cradle, Frisbee...
Eat delicious meals.  Thank you, Marta and the kitchen crew!

Hike to the showers and bathrooms.   We actually were lucky enough to have toilets,
which I think was a first for the expedition.  Thank you, Santi and Jorge!!

Education Team

So lets get down to what was really going on.   Singular Humanitarian Experience (SHe) is a group of LDS singles that does humanitarian trips abroad.  They've been going to Guatemala for quite a few years now, but this was the very first time in this specific area, the Polochic Valley.    There were about 50 of us in the group, and we were split into four teams: Medical, Business, Education, and Construction.  Before we arrived, I volunteered as co-leader of the Education team.

On the education team we spent the the first two days with 24 teachers and school directors, teaching a series of workshops we had prepared.  I taught about how to successfully introduce and model procedures so that everyone in your class can do them right.   They really liked that, and it set a good tone for the week.  We were also excited to learn from them--many of them teach two grades at the same time in the same classroom.  Wow.   The last two days of the week were classroom observations.  We got to visit some of the schools in the Polochic Valley, play with the kids, and exchange ideas.   I loved it.

I made a point of working at least half a day with each of the other teams, to see what everyone else is doing and experience the maximum possible.   That same desire drove me to wake up early one morning so I could spend an hour helping prepare breakfast.  That is one of my favorite memories of the expedition, cooking in the kitchen, butchering tomatoes, onions, and the Spanish language. :)

As I taught, John would translate into Spanish.
That's Khiah, my education co-lead, always fashionable. :)
Me and School Director/Teacher Edin Salva
Juan Jose shows us how he uses an abacus to teach place value
No idea what I'm explaining here, but I sure have managed to captivate
audience.  :)   I sure love being a teacher and I sure love kids.
Pretty sure I was mostly lost on cross multiplying fractions.

The Polochic Valley

After lunch on our way to the Polochic Valley
The most amazing bus ride I've ever been on
Our welcome from the village
We played with the kids almost everyday
This is our view riding out to the villages.   So Jurassic Park.   I kept expecting
a brontosaurus to raise its head above the trees.  Absolutely beautiful.


I arrived a day before the expedition was scheduled to start, so I went with some other expeditioners to the old capital of Guatemala, Antigua.   It's full of beautiful buildings, including churches, and lots and lots of touristy things.

The city is built in a beautiful valley with gorgeous tropical hills, including a large volcano.   I kept seeing hostels around, and you get could a bed and breakfast for 45 quetzales, or about $7.   I could totally spend a week there and just go hiking every day.   It was a nice introduction to Guatemala.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I Need Africa More Than Africa Needs Me

Well I'm back from Africa.  Words cannot describe how much I love that place.   I am glad that I get to help in some small way, but the reality is I am the one that is most blessed by my trip to Africa.   I am reminded of what really matters in this life, and what joy and love look like in their purest forms.   Being in Africa lets me unwind, de-stress, and truly rediscover myself.

Our team leader Greg showed us this video one night, and it became my mantra for this trip.

I need Africa more than Africa needs me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Not All Play

My trip to Africa wasn't all playing with kids and safari.  This year, as an Advisor, I was given the task of creating a performance evaluation system for the employees of Care For Life's Family Preservation Program. First I researched all about performance evaluations systems, and talked to friends and family who were managers to learn all about their systems.  I read a lot about my own evaluation tool, the one for CCSD teachers, and ended up using it as a model for the CFL evaluation.  I then combed through the CFL business plan and conducted field observations to learn about the responsibilities of each person in the program.   Finally, after creating a rough draft of the document, I sat with each level of employee (field officers, supervisors, coordinators) to get their input and ideas on the evaluation. One thing I'm really excited about is the personal professional goal.  I added a space on the evaluation for the employee to come up with a personal professional goal, and to discuss that with their manager.  This is something I wish my evaluation had.  I believe this evaluation system will be very helpful to Care For Life moving forward, and will make the incredible work they do even more incredible.

Also, while conducting the observations in the communities, I noticed that there wasn't a lot of modeling.   In a epiphany, I realized that I needed to share the gradual release model of teaching with the staff: I Do, We Do, You Do.   In one sentence, this is an effective lesson structure that begins with the teacher modeling, includes guided practice with teacher feedback, and finally independent practice.   So I prepared an I Do, We Do, You Do training for the last staff meeting I was in Mozambique, and it went over smashingly.   The staff really internalized the idea and saw immediately how it would be applicable--it's not enough to just explain to the zone leaders how to visit families, you have to model how to do so in an actual visit.  Again, this is a small thing to make their incredible work even better.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Kedesh might be my favorite place in the world.

Kedesh is an all boys orphanage here in Beira (Read about my visit last year here).   They are the lost boys from Peter Pan, and I love every minute there.    Tonight I hung out in the kitchen, and Joao Bude, 10, taught me how to make popcorn while my good friend David, 15, fried up the Mozambican cake/doughnut holes. Joao was an excellent teacher, modeling what to do then putting me in charge so I could get guided practice and independent practice.  I was very impressed.  I played games with Lucas and Vovo. I remembered Joao's and Alberto's and Sergio's names, a year later.  We all joked and chatted and danced.

I can't describe why I love Kedesh so much, but I truly do.  I just love being there.  The boys are so incredible, so happy, and so much fun.

Kedesh might be my favorite place in the world.

This is my favorite picture ever.  Props to the photographer, Natalie Stevens.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Rio Savane

After a pretty intense week of working in villages (and living without power!), we were all pretty excited for our beach day.  Work hard, play hard!

Our boat to cross Rio Savanne and get to the beach

Me chatting with the boat drivers

The whole area feels like a little resort paradise: palm trees, sandy
volleyball courts, little hotel cabins.

I don't know why jumping into, over, and through ocean
waves is so fun, but we sure did a lot of that!

Of course, as part of our day's festivities
 I organized the building of a sand castle...

..complete with a drawbridge, moat,
and the beautifully landscaped North Gardens.  
Our castle, however, often came under attack...

Secure the hatches!  Attack on the southern border!

Lunch was a delicious affair--the flies thought so too!