Where in the world is Miss Moo?

I recently received from emails from a few of my former students and I realized I never took time on this blog to update everyone on what I’ve been up to. So this post is really for all of my students – its dedicated to you.  While I returned to Boston a little over 8 months ago, life has continued to take me on all kinds of adventures. The most pressing question I want to answer is from my former students.  Most of you have been asking me what I’m doing and if I’m ever coming back to NHCS.  I’ll answer the first question first.  I am now a student as well – I am going to grad school at Northeastern University, right here in Boston. (Christopher Conroy…I’m an official Huskies ice hockey fan!) I’m learning all about the sports industry – from how athletes make it to professional status, to how stadiums are built and how much money it costs…I’m learning about advertising sports through commercials and magazines, and how coaches and teams are bought and sold. It’s all very fascinating and I’m learning a lot.  I’m also working as a soccer coach with a program called HappyFeet. I work with other coaches and teach kids ages 2-6 how to play soccer.  It’s a lot of fun and while I don’t get to see all of YOU everyday, I’m happy I get to see kids everyday.  So school and coaching keep me quite busy.  Now, as for the question many of you keep asking me over and over again if I’ll be returning to NHCS. Right now, the answer is no.  I can’t say I will never return, but it’s not in the plans for a little while. I will be in school at least until May 2014 to finish this degree, and I’m also hoping to coach more and more with HappyFeet.  I know it’s been a while, but if you think back to our meeting when I announced to you all that I wasn’t returning to NHCS, I think you’ll remember that I said I wasn’t coming back because I had a lot of learning I still need to do.  Just like you go to school and do homework and learn new things everyday, I’m doing the same thing. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to teach more future ahimsakas just like you, and use sports as a way to do that.  As I said during my winter visit, even though I won’t be there everyday, if you let me know when your games, recitals, field trips, or school events are, I can try and make them.  If you’re doing something special for Town Meeting, I’ll try and come to that as well.

I have so much more to share, but I will close this post here. You can respond on the blog or you can email me (teachermoo2@gmail.com) anytime. Miss you all a lot, and I hope the beginning of fourth grade is going well!!!

Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon), Vietnam

Our third (and final) overnight train ride was much less stressful, and we arrived very early in the morning in Ho Chi Minh City.  In the 18thcentury the area was occupied by the Nguyen lord based in Hue and named ‘Sai Gon’ after the kapok tree.  In 1802 he returned to Hué as the new emperor Gia Long and Saigon remained the administrative centre in the south, during which French traders and missionaries settled here.  The 1862 Treaty of Saigon declared the city the capital of French Cochin China and Saigon came to be known as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’.

Cu Chi Tunnels

Begun in the 1940s, this legendary tunnel network allowed the Viet Cong to control a large area close to Saigon.  At its peak, the tunnel system stretched from Saigon to the Cambodian border.  Over 250 kms of tunnels, some several stories deep included living areas, hospitals, storage facilities, weapons factories and kitchens.

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Reunification Palace

This was built in 1871 for the French Governor-General of Indochina, and it was later used as the presidential palace.  It was extensively damaged in an assassination attempt and subsequently demolished.  The current building was erected in 1966 and renamed Reunification Palace after April 30, 1975 when tanks smashed through the front gates and Saigon surrendered to Ho Chi Minh’s soldiers.

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Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta area is an intricate pattern of streams and canals.  Water is the focus of life and the main means of transportation.  Floating houses, markets, and fishing boats are everywhere.  The Mekong travels 4500 kms from the Tibetan Plateau to the delta, where it splits into the tributaries which give the area its name Song Cuu Long – River of Nine Dragons.  The rich soil and silt distributed by the river make the region agriculturally rich, growing predominantly rice and fruit. 

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Coconut Temple (in the Mekong Delta)

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And that concludes my whirlwind trip to Vietnam. As you can see, it’s an amazing country and I hope to go back one day. I am so grateful for the new international friends I made on this trip, and I hope we can meet up to travel together again one day!

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Nha Trang, Vietnam

It was time for our second overnight train ride, and this one did not go well…AT ALL!! When we got on board, there were people in our rooms and sleeping in our beds! When our guide went in to tell them to leave, they gave her an attitude.  So we had to go into cars with dirty sheets that had lingering dirty smells.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, all 4 of us found bugs in our beds and cockroaches on the floor.  It was all so disturbing, that we all busted out as much gear as we could to not have to make contact with any part of the room: mosquito nets, hoodies, raincoats – whatever we could find!

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In the morning, we reached the city, Nha Trang.  This port city is the biggest in Khanh Hoa province and lies at the opening of the Cai River, which runs for 412 km into Saigon. Khanh Hoa has a 200 km coastline and I was told the weather is pretty much perfect all year.  There were a few sites we could have visited, but we only had one day here.  We were all so traumatized from our train experience, we spent the whole time recovering at the beach and bars:

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Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An was definitely my favorite city in Vietnam! Hoi An is an ancient port town on the Thu Bon River.  The first inhabitants of the area were the Champa, who occupied the area from the 2nd-15th centuries.  Then under Vietnamese rule, the city attracted foreign trade, particularly with China, supplying silk, fabrics, tea, pepper, and medicines.  Other ships came from Japan, Portugal, Spain, India & France.  Old maps who Hoi An (then known as Faifo) as one of the most important trading ports of SE Asia.

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At night, on the opposite side of the Thu Bon River, across from the Old Quarter of town, there is a street of lanterns.  They light them up every night – they were beautiful!

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One of the ways to cross the river is via the Japanese Covered Bridge.  This was most likely constructed by the Japanese community to link the Chinese and Japanese quarters in the 16th century.  It has a green and yellow tiled roof, with 2 guardian dogs on the east side and 2 guardian monkeys on the west.  A small Japanese-style pagoda to protect sailors is built into the north side. The lighting was tricky so I could only get one good photo.

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Our second day in Hoi An, we went on a bike tour.  We got to see a lot of the countryside, and learned to how crops got watered.

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We even got to go on a buffalo ride!

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Our bike trip ended with a boat ride down the river.

My last day in Hoi An, I took a cooking class with one other person in our group, Chuck.  The class started off with a visit to the local market:

We then cooked a full 4-course meal:

Hué, Vietnam

A few nights after Halong Bay, I had my first overnight train experience in Vietnam.  They sure know how to squeeze people into one room – there were 4 of us in our “cabin”. The photos don’t accurately show exactly how small it was in there. I roomed with Mathilda, Amanda, & Laura.

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We arrived early the next morning in a town called Hué.  Imperial capital of the Nguyen Emporers, Hué was the political center of Vietnam from 1802-1945.  The most popular way to explore Hué is by motorbike. This was my driver/guide for the tour:

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We visited  the Thanh Toan covered bridge; ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

the countryside;ImageImageImageImageImage

the Thu Hieu Pagoda and Imperial Eunich graves;ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

the elephant and tiger fighting arena;ImageImageImage

the former US base overlooking the Perfume River;ImageImageImageImageImageImage

conical hat making:ImageImageImageImageImage

and incense making;ImageImageImageImage

Early the next morning, Mathilda, Amanda & I went see the Citadel.  The Imperial Palace was modeled on Beijing’s Forbidden City, while the ramparts follow French military architecture.  It is comprised of 3 walled enclosures, each within the other.  The exterior moated enclosure encompasses 6 square kilometers.

Editor’s note: I accidentally hit “publish” before putting the Citadel photos up. When I went back to update, I couldn’t have the photos in the same format. You should be able to see a “gallery” below of the  photos. Thanks for your patience as I’m still figuring this site out!

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Next stop was Halong Bay.  The name Ha Long Bay is literally translated as “Bay of Descending Dragons.” The legend of the area is that long ago, the Viet people were attached by foreign aggressors.  The Jade emperor sent a mother dragon and a herd of child dragons to help the Viet fight the invaders.  While the enemy vessels were launching massive attacks against the mainland, the dragons descended into flocks from the sky.  They spat out innumerable pearls that, in an instant, were changed into jade stone islands linked together into firm citadels that checked the enemy’s advance and smashed their vessels into pieces.  This helped lead to the Viet victory.  Halong Bay is more than 3000 islands and rocks that rise from crystal clear waters.  Here are some photos from our boat ride around the bay (peep the freshly caught lunch!):

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And here are some photos of our group – you’ll see them pop up throughout other posts 🙂

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Pernille (from Denmark) & Lousia (from England)

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Our whole international crew!

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The boat made one stop at Thien Cung Grotto.  This is considered the Cave of the Dragon, where the dragon who created Halong (see story above) sought refuge.  There’s a legend surrounding the cave about a young girl who, in order to end years of oppressive drought, married the presiding dragon in the cave, and their wedding was attended by all in the animal kingdom.  It is a “dead cave” in that, unlike many limestone caves, it is no longer dripping water and growing formations of additional deposits or creating new fissures and caves.

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Can you see the dragon’s head in this rock formation?

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We took the boat back to Halong Beach and spent the night there. Not much to speak of in the town, but it was fun to stay to close to the Bay.

Hanoi, Vietnam

Going to see Vietnam has been on my list for several years now, and I was more than thrilled to finally make it.  I had heard from several people that the best parts of the country are the towns between Hanoi (in the north) and Ho Chi Minh (the south).  Fellow travelers I met over the years said the best way to get from place to place is to find a tour or a guide. After a lot of research and cost comparison, I decided to join a “G adventures” tour. G adventures is the same tour group that I hiked Machu Picchu with so I knew they would be good. It was nice to have all the logistics taken care of – transportation, places to stay. But it was also nice to have the freedom to do what we wanted once we made it to each town.  Our leader would offer up suggestions but no one was bound a schedule.  I arrived in Vietnam a few days before the tour began – my visa from Indonesia was running out so I had to leave.  I flew into Ho Chi Minh on Saturday and then flew up to Hanoi on Sunday afternoon. I spent the rest of the day just wandering the streets. My favorite part were all the narrow streets:

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On Monday I took a day trip to Hoa Lu & Tam Coc, two areas that are 2 hours south of Hanoi.  Hoa Lu is the relics of the ancient capital and temples dedicated to King Dinh and King Le remain. The two heroes who lived in 10th century chose Hoa Lu to build the citadel of the capital city then. Archaeologists continue to excavate buried parts of the ancient citadel with rusty weapons and ceramics. The temples are said to be built on the old foundation of their original palaces from the 11 and 12th centuries, then restored in 17th century. Though the temples are not maintained entirely some precious antiques are still preserved such as the whole-stone dragon thrones, wooden and lacquered statues of King Dinh, Kinh Le, Queen Duong Van Nga – who in turn married both of the kings.

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We took a short bike ride after lunch and saw some amazing landscapes.

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Tam Coc translates to “Three Caves” and is very near to Hoa Lu. We took row-boat trip (they row the boats using their feet!) through the area’s three caves.  The meandering river is lined by rice paddies and guarded by limestone cliffs, often inhabited by local goats.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

 

On Tuesday, I took a day trip to the Perfume Pagoda, which is a vast complex of Buddhist temples built among the limestone hills and tropical forests in the area of Huong Mountain.  The center of the complex is Chua Trong (inner temple) located in Huong Tich Cave.

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We then took a cable car to the top of the mountain to see some views and to visit some other pagodas.

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Last on the agenda was a row boat ride on the Yen Stream. While very relaxing, nothing extremely different from yesterdays river trip.

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Wednesday was my chill day. I moved hotels because our group was meeting up that evening. I took a stroll around the Hoan Kiem Lake which is the centerpiece of Hanoi.

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The highlight from this day is that I was able to find a new backpack!! If you’re a backpacker, you can understand the time and energy it takes to find the right one, as well as the high prices that are involved. Fortunately, a lot of things made in Vietnam are cheaper to buy! This pack cost over $350 on the internet, but a mere $20 on the streets of Hanoi!  Check out my new traveling buddy:

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Thursday, the group went to visit some Hanoi landmarks.  The Mausoleum contains Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body.  The Ho Chi Minh Museum documents his life and the modern history of Vietnam.

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The Temple of Literature (Van Mieu) is Vietnam’s oldest institution of higher education.  Dedicated to Confucious, the temple served as a national university for over 700 years educating Mandarins.  Students at the time used an ideographic script based on Chinese.

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And that wraps up my 5 days in Hanoi!!

Bali – week 2 (Ubud, Lombok & Kuta)

Week 2 of our Bali adventure started off on Friday in Paradise. You may think I’m kidding, but I’m not. If you ever get to Ubud, Bali, make sure you stay here, because it’s a little bit of paradise on earth!

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Taman Bebek is a small, quaint homestay made up of cottages and rooms, and the property is sprawled across a beautiful part of Ubud amidst rice paddies, rolling hills and above the local river.  Each of the rooms its own unique design and style and the ones we saw were all incredible. Here are some snapshots of the room we stayed in:

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We wandered around the property and along the way saw some really amazing landscapes!

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Saturday (September 22) was Christina’s birthday!! It started off with breakfast on the terrace:

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We then spent the rest of the day wandering the street our hotel was on. We stumbled across a space that looked like it could have been an art studio/hang-out lounge, but there was not one around to tell us more. Since there was no one to stop us, we took some photos:

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The rest of the day we spent by the pool and in the evening we went to Mozaic for dinner.  Mozaic serves French fusion cuisine in a garden setting.  They have a fixed menu that changes daily depending on what is fresh.  This place was all about ambience. When you first walk in, you’re seated at a couch where you order drinks and they preview the menu for you. 

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After you’ve been able to enjoy your drink, they lead you to another part of the restaurant where you’re seated for a 7-course meal.  They were kind enough to add a little birthday flair to Christina’s dessert:

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Our last night in Ubud, we went to see a series of traditional Balinese dances performed at Ubud Palace Courtyard which is supposed to replicate what it looked like during the 16th century.  The dancing was interesting, but they do a lot of expression with their eyes and to be honest, their jumpy eyes started to freak me out a little. I don’t know if these photos capture it, but here is a glimpse:

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After our weekend in Paradise, we traveled to Lombok which is another island off the coast of Indonesia. Lombok is becoming an increasingly more popular vacation spot boasting the Gili Islands for water sports, the Rinjani volcano for trekking, and amazing beaches for surfing on the south coast.  Due to time restraints of our trip, we were only able to get to the south coast which is the part with the beautiful white sand beaches.  We took the local (a.k.a SLOW!) ferry from Bali for $2.00 and it took 6+ hours.  We could have opted for the fast boat which takes 45 – 60 minutes, but costs upwards of $45. Here are some photos from our slow ferry ride:

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Unfortunately, Christina suffered an injury as we were getting off the ferry and she ended up with a fractured finger. We spent our first morning there driving to the doctor in the ambulance. While the reason for our field trip wasn’t fun, it was interesting to be able to see parts of Lombok that we wouldn’t have had the opportunity otherwise. 

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Once we got back to the hotel, we spent our days lazing by the beach and pool!

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We went back to Bali for our last night and stayed in a town called Kuta.  It does have beautiful beaches and they are very popular with the surfers. However the rest of the town is a quite crowded with tourists and at night it becomes overwhelming! I think the closest thing I can compare it to is NYC Times Square on New Years Eve.  We focused our time in watching surfers at the beach! 🙂

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And that wraps up Bali! Would I go back? Absolutely!

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Bali – week 1 (Seminyak & Ubud)

On September 14, my dear friend Christina arrived in Jakarta all the way from Oakland, CA!! Before she knew about my travel plans after India, she had already booked a trip to Bali and when she realized where I’d be she asked me to join her. The trip was also to celebrate her birthday, and after our time there, I can honestly say it is the BEST birthday celebration I’ve ever been a part of!

We left for Bali on Sunday, September 16, and our first few days we spent in Seminyak, which is one of the many beach towns along South Bali. We stayed at a small homestay called Teka Teki which means “puzzle” in Bahasa. Sort of ironic, since we were very puzzled when we showed up and there was no one to greet us or show us to our room.  It was quite nerve-racking since we had quite a difficult time finding the place on our taxi ride from the airport.  One challenging feature of a lot of the roads is that they are too narrow for cars to drive down – only motorbikes can get through. After a stressful arrival, we made it here:

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And then we went to dinner at a local restaurant and had some delicious Balinese food!

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The next 2 days were filled with time at the beach and shopping at the various boutiques around town.  On Tuesday night, we went to a very popular restaurant called Ku De Ta.  The thing to do is have drinks on the beach to watch the sunset and then have dinner. We did it all and it was amazing!

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On Wednesday, we moved to another town in Bali called Ubud.  This town is known for its rich Balinese culture and various activities.  Around Ubud are temples, ancient sites and villages producing handicrafts.  There are also a surrounding countryside with lush rice paddies and towering coconut trees.  We spent our first few days in Ubud at this homestay:

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On Thursday, we woke up early for a Balinese cooking class at Warung Enak with our awesome cooking teacher Rai Sri.

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The class started with a visit to the local market.  It was quite busy when we got there at 7:15am.  These photos are merely an attempt to capture some of what we saw:

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We then went back to the restaurant and started to make a 7-course meal. Here was the menu:

*Grated Cassava Filled with Palm Sugar

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*West Javanese Spicy Fruit Salad, with guava, mango, pineapple & cucumber

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*Manduranese Chicken Broth with shredded cabbage, bean sprout & boiled egg

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*Poached Trevally in Spiced Herb Broth of lemongrass, ginger, chilli, pandan, & lime kaffir leaf

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*Duck Satay Lilit

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*Fermentation Rice & Cassava on Passion fruit caulis & shredded young coconut

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*Boiled Flour with Palm Sugar inside, tossed with grated coconut

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Needless to say we were STUFFED beyond belief by the end of the class!! We decided to walk back towards the hotel, and along the way we stumbled across a funky art museum belonging to the artist known simply as Symon.  We got to chat with him for a few minutes and he was quite the interesting fellow.  Here is a brief description that has been written about the artist:

Symon has lived in Bali since 1978 and is best known for his bold portraits of Balinese people, done in vivid tropical colours and often to an exaggerated scale, as in his series of Big Heads. His energetic and sometimes whimsical take on Balinese life and landscapes makes a refreshing change from the more sedate traditional views so popular with many other Ubud artists.”

Here are some snapshots of the space and some of my favorite paintings. For more info, you can check out his website at: www.symonstudios.com.

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Here are some other things we saw along our walk:

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And that wraps up the first half of our time in Bali. Next post will be about week 2!!

Identity Crisis??

For the past 14 years I have been an educator.  While my classroom time has always been in early education (pre-K, K, 2nd grade), through coaching, mentoring, and tutoring I have been able to work with kids of all ages.  I guess you could say I define myself as a teacher.  It’s all I’ve known and done since I graduated from university.  The fact of the matter is, I LOVE TEACHING!  Do I love ALL aspects of it? Of course not – I don’t think there’s a teacher who does!  But the joys that come from teaching are hard to rival: watching a child enter your classroom not knowing any letters of the alphabet and leaving in the spring being able to read; observing a group of 20+ students come in as individuals and leave as a community; being able to witness independence as it happens…the list goes on and on. Anyone who knows me can attest that I have had my fair share of tough times during my career, but I like to think I came out of those situations a better teacher and a stronger person.

 

This past February, I had an “experience” that altered my entire view of me as a teacher.  Without going into too many details, I will just say this: I had a meeting with some supervisors under the guise of something that needed to be discussed, and when I went into the meeting, I realized it was all a set-up to sabotage me.  There were a lot of very hurtful things said that attacked me as a teacher and person. Needless to say, I walked out of that meeting feeling like my world had just been turned upside down.  I didn’t understand where all of this negativity and hatred towards me was coming from.  I was hurt, angry, and confused.  I remember my initial reaction was, “I’m totally calling in ‘sick’ tomorrow” because I didn’t want to go back.  But after talking with a friend, I remember her saying, “You have to go in tomorrow – whatever you do – DON’T call in! If you do, it shows they got to you, and they win.”  She had a point, and I decided to go in the next day – and every day for the rest of the year. But I feel like from that day forward, I wasn’t the same teacher I was before. I felt I had been betrayed by my supervisors and I didn’t feel I could trust them (or anyone, really) with anything. What’s worse, was I started to doubt myself as a teacher, despite being in my 14th year.  I did what I had to do though – I put my nose to the grindstone and made the students in my class the only priority in my work life.  It was a rough 4 months but I made it to June.  Along the way, I decided not to return to that school but I didn’t have anything lined up.  This is very out-of-character for me, but I knew that there was no way I could return given what had happened.  So, I gave my notice and left for India in late June, and have been traveling around southeast Asia ever since.

 

One of the things I’ve been contemplating while traveling is what is next for me.  My confidence in teaching isn’t exactly stellar after what happened in February, but I also can’t picture myself doing anything else.  Outside of teaching, one of the things I’ve been most passionate about is athletics.  I decided to apply to Northeastern University for the Masters in Sports Leadership program.  Here is an excerpt from my personal statement that sums up why I decided to apply:

            “As an educator of urban youth for the last 14 years, I am dismayed at the shrinking opportunities for youth to participate in these kinds of sport activities.  Simply put, there aren’t enough fields, courts, coaches, or infrastructure and the cost is just too high for families.  I think back to how sports impacted my life while I was growing up, and I am challenged to make these opportunities accessible to all.  My vision is to have a year-round community sports program that specifically serves urban youth.  Through grants and private or corporate funding, the program would operate on a sliding scale based on what families can afford.  The program would offer a variety of sports throughout the year and would start by teaching the basic skills of each sport with an emphasis on teamwork and positive sportsmanship.  Besides learning how to play sports, the bigger goal would be that kids would learn about conflict resolution, collaboration, and healthy competition.  By learning and playing a sport together under the leadership of a coach, children would have the opportunity to experience these challenges, and in the process not only learn about themselves, but about their peers as well.  I have seen how sports can positively impact and change the course of a young person’s life.  My goal is to make this available to every child who desires it.”

I am excited to share that I was recently accepted into the program and will begin in January 2013!  I am thrilled about having the opportunity to start something new and pursue another interest I feel strongly about. I recently was thinking about this upcoming new direction I’m taking and I realized there is a good possibility I may not teach again. I’m not going to say never – life is too unpredictable to make such a statement.  I feel that teaching has defined me over the last 14 years and now…well, it’s going to change.  I am hoping that I contributed to future generations in some small way during my teaching career and I hope I can continue to do so in my new pursuits. It’s weird to think about not having that identity anymore.  Hope you all will stick with me as I start to build a new one.