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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Wedding Pictures... sorta

Horyon made the flower girl dress that Emma (one of Jamie's cousins, I believe) is wearing below.It turned out absolutely lovely, and we took a lot of pictures.It kind of bothered Maxine that we were taking so many pictures of someone else's little girl, so she sort of made her way in to some of them
Later we changed into more informal clothing for the reception. Here we are wearing my birthday present t-shirts. Mine says, "This is MY daddy!" and hers says, "This is MY daughter!" They both have Maxine's hand prints on them. Very cool.
And we finally got a new picture of Uncle Bob. Uncle Bob has long been a favorite of Maxine's. She has been able to identify him in photos since before we came to America. I am not sure why this is. Perhaps the words "Uncle Bob" just sort of roll off the tongue, like marbles. Or maybe she likes that he is so tall. Or maybe she plans to go to him for financial advice some day, and is hoping to get it for free. Anyway, here they are:
We stayed overnight in the hotel. It was cool, but we didn't take many pictures. And we took so few pictures of the wedding party in their lovely outfits that I'm a bit embarrassed. Had I not a daughter as charming (and energetic) as Maxine, there would be no excuse for it.
video
And the account wouldn't be complete without a video of Maxine tearing up the dance floor. I've got a few more videos like this, with her spinning around, bumping into people, dissing me, and generally having a good time.

I've still got a few more pictures to go up, but your weekends are my heavy work days, so be patient!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Zoo Trip 2

Okay. There must be some trick to getting more than five photos at a time up here, and I just got lucky before. So I'm posting these and going to bed.



Zoo Trip 1

[To answer Colleen's comment, yes, it is indeed the "World Famous" Topeka zoo. I doubt her little brother was driving the train, as the two guys who were taking turns driving were older gentlemen. But next time we'll look out for Shane! We didn't ride the carousel this time, as we wanted to hit the zoo, but it's definitely on the itinerary for next time!]

Remember, I can only attach five photos to any given post, unless I can attach more. Huh. Whada ya know? I can attach more, it's just that I can only attach five at a time! Who knew! I've spent the last 20 minutes going through and choosing the best, so I'm not going to write about this event. If you want to read about it, check out my previous post, about the whole day, including a job interview. So here are some pictures, in no particular order




Thursday, May 22, 2008

Another one...

I got my rejection letter from Free State High School today, and interviewed at Highland Park High School in Topeka.

The interview was first, and so that's what I'm going to write about first. That and I don't want to tackle the letter just yet.

The interview went well, I thought. Of course, I thought the same about the Free State and South interviews. There are a couple of disadvantages of working at Highland Park: 1. It is half an hour to drive there from here. That's an hour per day, ten per week. I could probably arrange to car pool, saving on the gas bill, but adding to the ride time. No chance of biking to work at this place. The other disadvantage is, as the interviewer told me, that more than 60% of the students are minorities, and about 35% of them are from "poor" homes. Their standardized test scores are improving, but not as fast as the goals are going up. It seems that good things are happening in that school, and it wouldn't be a bad place to work. I could live with teaching minorities. After all, I spent the last twelve years being a minority.

Still, I hope that I will get a job in Lawrence. My time will already be tight with a new job, studies, and my girls.

Speaking of the girls, I dropped them off at Gage Park before going to the interview, then joined them afterwards. We had hot dogs, and went to the zoo. It was a fun afternoon. Then we joined my Aunt Becky and Uncle Don for dinner at the Coyote Canyon. It is an "American Buffet," as Uncle Don put it. They had steak, pork roast, fried catfish, plenty of vegetables, potatoes, and a new treat for me: deep fried macaroni and cheese. I had no idea what it was when I picked it up, other than it was a little deep fried puck. Imagine my delight when I bit into it and found everyone's favorite comfort food, surrounded by a crispy, golden shell. Maxine liked it, too. As usual, I ate too much. Made the drive back from Topeka a little long, but we made it.

When I got home, there was a message on the machine. The most recent addition to our jewelry staff called in sick today. Again. All week she's called in sick, and tonight there was no one to close. So I went to work for a couple of hours. I wanted to get through some of our sunglasses before Memorial Day Weekend hits hard.

When I got home, I went and got the mail. I knew what was inside the envelope from Free State High School without even opening it. The second rejection letter hurts more than the first, for a few reasons. The first reason is the most shallow: it's totally a form letter. I'm pretty sure the first one was, too, but it said things like, "Our decision is likely to be disappointing to you, but in view of the high quality of the candidates, you should not regard it as any reflection of you or your abilities." Whereas the second said, "While you have commendable qualifications, we have selected another candidate for the position at Lawrence Free State," along with two thank-yous for my interest in their school. I know, it shouldn't be a big deal, and it's not. But it's a difference in courtesy that would cost them very little effort. Or maybe not. Maybe they had so many applicants that anything more would have been a waste of time.

They also told me at the time that it was a screening interview, with call-backs within a week. If they followed through on that, I didn't even make call-backs. Ouch. Though I can imagine that they called back candidates in the order that they wanted to hire them, and stopped when they had both positions filled.

There's the other painful thing: they had two positions. That means three of the six positions in the district have been filled.

I think the worst thing about it is that it feels like the beginning of a downward trend.

I am sure that I will feel better tomorrow. After all, this means that my three toughest competitors are out of the race. I know that God has planned the right job for me, and I'm trusting God to lead me to it. But it sometimes feels like walking through a dark room, being led by someone holding my hand. I know that God isn't in the dark. I know that God isn't going to run me into stuff and then fall on the floor laughing. But I'm still so used to trusting my eyes that it's hard to walk without them.

So pray for me, please. Pray that God will lead me steadily and surely, and pray that I will follow just as steadily and surely. Because right now I feel very unsteady, and while I know that the unsteadiness is in me rather than the path I cannot see, it is still making my metaphorical tummy a bit queasy. As well as my real tummy.

p.s. Tomorrow I'll post some pictures from the zoo trip. If I don't, complain!

Slackline Yoga

How cool is this?

This guy is living an amazing life, totally devoid of consumerism, and loving it. Probably couldn't name a single current t.v. show, doesn't own an item of clothing that is fashionable (at least not on purpose), and lives his life going from adventure to adventure. No retirement plan, no 401K. Of course, his marriage fell apart, and I shudder a bit at the idea of this guy trying to raise kids, but what a unique human being!

He's in the spotlight because he is the originator of Slackline Yoga: holding yoga poses while balanced on a giant rubber band (OK, it's actually a piece of 1" flat tubular webbing, you know, like rock climbers use). They string it between any two anchor points three or four feet off the ground, then stand on it, sit on it, and do yoga on it. Check the videos on the site. I've done a little yoga myself, and this looks way more difficult. I'm thinking my buddy Mike Shea is probably reading this and thinking about going out and getting some 1" flat tubular webbing.

So that's a nice little distraction.

I've had five job interviews so far, and all went well. One rejection letter, four deafening silences. Well, not quite silence. My manager at Wal-Mart, Bob, told me that he talked to someone at Free State and told them about how awesome I am (not quite his words, but that's how I heard it). And my pastor told me the same thing, so it looks like Free State is interested enough to check up on my references. That's the job that will have another round of interviews. It's also a school which the children of some friends are or will be attending. My friend Anna really wants me to be there, as her daughter Monica has not had good math experiences so far. If anyone is capable of praying me into that job, it's her. And frankly, she could do worse for me. I was impressed with the principal, and the building itself is only about 11 years old. Maybe 13. Anyway, it wasn't around the last time I lived in this town. So it is hard-wired for internet, has projection computers and screens in every room, and it's close to the Lawrence Aquatic Center.

I'm not sure whether I would prefer a high school or jr. high teaching position now. As I have already written, Jr. High has some points in its favor. Granted, some of points in that post had to do with South Jr. High specifically, but some of them were universal. I am sure that I will be satisfied with any job in this district. The different schools face different problems, with a wide array of students from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. However, it seems that the district is strongly inclined to actually improve learning in the schools, rather than impressing politicians.

Tomorrow I have an interview at Highland Park High School in Topeka. Google Maps tells me that it will take about 27 minutes to drive there from here. We'll find out tomorrow. Horyon wants to take Maxine to the zoo at Gage Park, so I may drop them off first then go to the interview.

I'm not overly concerned about the interview itself. By now I've had lots of practice. The interview with Central on Monday was the toughest, in a way. The principal (who will not be there next year), a vice-principal, and a math teacher took turns asking questions. I answered their questions as best I could, including a pitch for a teaching idea that I've been developing since the first interview at South Jr. High. In hind sight, it might have served me well to put together some plans and ideas before starting the whole interview process. On the other hand, anything I come up with is just ideas, not experience. Let's see what you think of my plan:

Once a week we have a student-written test. I divide the students into groups of two or three, and they write a math word-problem, together with the problem that it breaks down to, and the solution. I collate the problems, clarify them, change a number or two, mix in a few of my own problems if needed, and pitch them back as a test during the next period. Every week the problems are based on the unit we are studying. Their grades are based on the problem they have created (as a small group) and their score on the test (as individuals). In a more experimental direction, I would also like to partly base their grade on how other students perform on the problem they wrote. To me, this would bring out the competitive spirit even more than usual, spurring them on to write problems with misleading information and requiring creative solutions. Of course, for me assigning grades in a situation like this would be a bit more of a headache than the usual test grading. I would have to do a fairly complex spreadsheet for each test. And I doubt I can get Miran (my former office assistant) to come help out on this for five bucks an hour.

I would like to hear your opinions on this, with this pre-comment reply:

I know it sounds difficult, as though I am asking for something that they simply will not be able to do. However, it is my experience that when students trust you, and you ask them to do fiendishly difficult things, they come through for you. PLUS this requires no out-of-class time. So comment away, especially if you have an idea that will make this go more smoothly!

Peace,

Rob

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Still Waiting

I've gotten my first rejection letter. South Jr. High sent me a very kind letter about how hard it was to make their decision, but they have. And I'm not it this time. But I've interviewed at West Jr. High, and I will interview at Central Jr. High next Monday, as well as Lawrence High School and Free State High School. Free State was actually a screening interview, so I will probably be back there at some point for another interview.

I still feel confident that I will get a job, it just seems that God is sort of smacking down my pride about it.

I love Pearls Before Swine. Cute little characters being so very obnoxious. Someday I will be that algebra teacher.

I had my final exam today at 7:30 a.m. I bicycled up to campus, figuring that the exercise would wake me up for the test. It worked. Partly because on the way there I looked down at my rear tire and started to veer off the sidewalk. I wobbled a lot, got back in control, and didn't fall, but my body had already started pumping adrenaline. I was very much awake. And the professor was kind enough to have some bread, cream cheese, and apple juice there for us to munch on. I got there around 7:15, had some food, and got started. It was a difficult test, but not unreasonably so. Took me an hour and half. Not bad considering the cold I am fighting. Some students finished within 45 minutes

Geometry for teachers was an interesting class. A lot more intense than when I studied geometry back in Jr. High. At this point, however, I am happy to be finished with it for one reason, and one reason alone: I will not have to go out on Wednesdays and Thursdays and do homework Wednesday nights.

Happy Rob!

On the work front, my Saturday hours are changing from 1-10 to 10-7. I'm pretty happy about this. It means I will be able to do stuff Saturday nights if we can get a babysitter. It means I won't be going to bed so late, and thus able to wake up more easily on Sunday mornings. It means getting off work before sunset! Huzzah!

Time to pack it in for the night. I need to get some sleep to be ready for tomorrow.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Update

I called South Jr. High at 4:15 and got their answering machine! I have no idea whether or not I'm hired!
It's going to be a long weekend. And Monday I will start applying to other districts.

(Thanks to Kevin Steele at Flickr for the cat image.)

Job Interviews (plural)

So Tuesday night I went to bed with a cough. Wednesday morning it was worse. We took Maxine to the dentist at 8:00 (no problems, just a discolored tooth we need to keep an eye on), then I went home and skipped class to sleep.

I slept for three or four hours, then went to the interview. I thought it went well. The principal, Will Fernandez, even told me that it went well. We spent 10 or 15 minutes with the head of the math department, with her asking a few questions and follow-ups to his. I thought I handled the questions well. I haven't taught math since Nepal, and that was pretty basic stuff in a foreign language, but I have been taking math classes since last summer, and I've been thinking about how to teach it since early this year.

As for the questions about classroom management and teaching strategies, relating to students, and other stuff that all teachers do, I think I gave answers reflecting the fact that I've been a teacher for twelve years, followed by this past year of subbing and working at Wal-Mart. In other words, I think I did OK.

Will has given a good impression every time I have met him, and Wednesday (yesterday!) was no exception. I had a few questions for him about his role as principal, the ways the school involves parents, and how teacher collaboration is encouraged. He answered those questions well, making me excited about the prospect of teaching at his school.

So at the end of the interview, he told me that I had interviewed well, and that there were three other candidates for the job. I hope it didn't show that my heart sort of skipped a beat, though it may be more accurate to say that it skipped, shuffle, step-2-3-4ed a beat. They are going to let me know one way or the other by tomorrow. (Well, it's today now, but somehow I doubt that they'll be calling me at 12:34 a.m. to let me know.)

I was tired. On the way home I thought of two or three things that I should have brought up but didn't. Cough. Cough. Ack. I went home, then out to pick up Maxine and Sofia from their daycare. We ate dinner at Cici's pizza, because we were both to beat to cook.

This morning I went to class. I've got a take-home final for math history to write by Wednesday noon, and the geometry for teachers final to take Friday morning at (gasp) 7:30. Yeah, that's gonna be fun. And I have tons of prep to do for both. I figure the take-home as a two hour job, hopefully less. And I need all the study and practice I can get.

So this afternoon I interviewed at West Jr. High. I went to school at West Jr. High in Leavenworth. Perhaps that is a good sign. Or perhaps every town in America has a West Jr. High and it's a flip of the coin whether you went to East or West. Lawrence needs to consider some renaming, because West Jr. High is almost at the center of a map of the city, and Central Jr. High services the Northeast part of town. They don't have any North or East Jr. Highs. It's like the restaurants that have medium and large drinks, but no small sizes.

Anyway, that interview went well, too. The principal, Myron Melton, was very personable. Our interview felt much more conversational; he asked quite a few questions about my experiences overseas without seeming to tie them as strongly to the job at hand. But once he got down to it, I heard many of the same questions as I had heard from Will, and some similar answers to my questions. Very similar on the runnings of the school, as it seems there is some district-wide pressure towards the Professional Learning Community approach. (I don't expect you to investigate much into that link unless you have a personal stake in education, but it is an exciting set of ideas that could potentially be the biggest transformation in education since making schools accessible to everyone.)

The biggest difference I saw was in the way they see their own roles in the school. Will sees himself as a coach, very much a leadership position, training his teachers and guiding them towards being better educators. Myron sees himself more as a facilitator, connecting people and bringing problems to everyone's attention to help find solutions. I think that either would be good to work for. Still, I feel a pull towards South. I prefer Will's style. Not that I think it is necessarily more effective in general, but that I think it will be more effective with me.

It's almost one a.m., and I was thinking about not posting this until I have an offer, but I know that some of you want to know. As soon as I have news I will post it here. Well, right after I call Mom and Dad anyway. In the mean time, pray for me.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Observed at Wal-Mart

A guy is carrying a baby, around three months old. The baby's pacifier pops out of her mouth and down onto the floor. The father gives a heavy sigh and picks it up. He then pops it in his mouth, sucks it clean, and gives it to his baby.

And I didn't laugh. Out loud.

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A guy is walking and talking on his cell phone. The only thing I hear him say is, "I gotta get some ear plugs. I guess revenge is sweet."

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I changed the battery on a watch with a layer of grime thick enough to grow weeds and nasty enough to evolve them.

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A couple came by this evening. I had sold them rings back in November, I think. Her daughter told me that her mommy graduated to be a nurse today. When I congratulated her, she proudly told me that a mother of four, six if you count her husbands kids, went back and graduated from college, and it felt great. As lousy as this job is at times, it does have its moments.

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Woman talking on her cell phone: "Don't give me that innocent look..."

Friday, May 02, 2008

Job Interview

I just got the phone call. Next Wednesday, May 7th, I have a job interview with the principal of South Junior High School here in Lawrence. I have a feeling this is the job I will take in the fall, for a few reasons which I will now share with you:

1. My first inclination towards Jr. High students is a polite, but firm, "No thank you." I would prefer High School students, as they are just a bit closer to sanity. Then the whole teacher instinct kicks in, as I contemplate what I did for the six years before moving back here: in a nutshell, teaching required classes for university freshmen in Korea is largely about getting them to come to class on time, be polite, and develop good work habits. Sounds like Jr. High students, doesn't it.

2. Jr. High marks some key points in mathematical thinking--working with variables (algebra), connecting shapes to math (geometry), and the beginning of the idea of functions. It may be arrogant of me, but I think I can help kids to make that transition.

3. Circumstances keep pointing me in that direction. The principal, Mr. Fernandez, spends lunch time in the cafeteria at South. One day I subbed for half a day, and introduced myself to him on the way out. I mentioned that I was planning to start in the fall as a math teacher, and he told me to check back later, as he didn't have any vacancies yet. A month or two later, he came to the jewelry counter to get his watch battery changed. I re-introduced myself, and he remembered me. He told me to be sure to submit my application, as they needed a full-time math teacher.

4. I substituted for an English teacher there a few weeks ago. She is very part time, teaching only two classes per day, but she just had to miss this one. The subbing instructions she left on the website asked me to call her, so I did. She emailed me detailed instructions and talked with me quite a bit about what the students were doing and what she needed from me: two students in each class were giving presentations, the last of both classes. She wanted me to take notes for her so that she could assign grades. So I did my best, and recommended grades for all four. She was happy with the results, so when I contacted her to ask for a recommendation letter, she replied quickly and positively.

5. I finished all of my application paperwork and turned it in to the district office yesterday. I got called by South Jr. High today. I submitted to two other schools: West Jr. High and Lawrence High School. They haven't called. Yet. But South got back to me so quickly that it feels like they want me.

So I got some happy feeling going on right about now. Time to go to Wal-Mart. That should take care of that.

Anyway, pray for me, wish me luck, or spit every time you say my name next Wednesday.

A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.