1 month in Bend

8 Jul

Well, today marks one month of living in Bend, OR! It’s hard to believe because the month has flown by so quickly. Our first week was spent without any of our stuff…we were literally sitting on lawn chairs in our living room and sleeping on the floor. At the end of our first week, we ventured off to my cousin, Jeff’s, wedding in Chico, CA for a few days, and then we headed back to our new home and finally got our stuff.

Deschutes River Trail

Deschutes River Trail

So what have we done in the last month? Well, a lot of walking for starters. Everything is just beautiful here in Bend. From the Deschutes River to the trails near our home to the pristine mountain views. We really are very blessed to have found our way here. Not only that, but our home is absolutely beautiful. We are only renting for now, but I couldn’t be more content with our home. It’s spacious (but not too spacious) and it’s basically brand new, so everything is just gorgeous.

There is too much to cover in a single post, so I’ll tell you about our 3rd anniversary first. Ben planned the day and he did a great job! We started by going to Palmer’s Cafe for breakfast…best breakfast I’ve ever had! We then went kayaking on the Deschutes for a couple hours and later we went to dinner at 10 Barrel Brew Pub. It was a lot of fun, in part because we were (and still are) exploring our new home town.

I’ll share a lot more in the coming posts, but here are a few pictures for your viewing pleasure. :)

Our new home :)

Our new home :)

Sawyer Park

Sawyer Park

Deschutes River by the Old Mill District

Deschutes River by the Old Mill District

Hubby kayaking on our anniversary

Hubby kayaking on our anniversary

Yours truly

Yours truly

How I got the job…

25 Jun

While I can’t promise this post will be quite as heartwarming as the last, I know many of my family and friends who live far away, would enjoy hearing about my move and how we got from LA to Bend. As someone who has traveled a lot, but never made a big move, I had a lot of ground to navigate before actually making it happen.

Like I said in my last post, it was in April that I attended the job fair. I knew that getting a job was not going to be easy. Something I didn’t tell a lot of people was that I had actually had an interview the summer before but didn’t get the job. At the time, I was actually a bit relieved because I didn’t feel ready to move yet, but the experience did teach me a lot. First of all, I had never been rejected for a job after having at least gotten to the interview round, so even though I was somewhat relieved not to have gotten it, it was also a huge blow to my self-esteem. I asked the principal why I didn’t get the job, and basically it was because one of the other candidates had been working with a student population that was more similar to theirs than I had. I knew that might be an issue because I’d been teaching in a private school for the past five years, and now I was headed back to public. After being rejected for that reason, though, I really began to worry about my prospects.

I decided I had to “kick it up a notch.” I made portfolios of some of my lessons, including student work, and sent one to every principal in Bend. My friend, Vickie, videotaped me teach one of my 8th grade classes, and I included the DVD with my portfolio. God, I will miss those kids. What an amazing group of kindhearted 13-year-olds. Anyone who says that middle school kids are difficult, has never met the kids I had the privilege of working with this year. They were fun, funny, smart, kind, and just a blast to teach.

After sending out my portfolio to each principal, I followed up with emails (probably three to four times), and then I attended the job fair. I was the first one in line, the first to get my interviews, and it was over in about 45 minutes! I couldn’t believe how fast it went, but I knew it had been well worth my time to make the contacts and get my name out there. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet all the people I had wanted to, so after flying home, I began contacting the rest to see if I could meet them during my spring break when Ben and I would visit to find a home.

Long story short, I actually had three interviews. One in person that I flew up for and two via Skype. I was tentatively offered a position for one, but it wasn’t official until the person I was replacing resigned, so I took the other two Skype interviews I was offered. I pretty much thought I would end up with the first job (which I was excited about). I had heard that it was nearly  impossible to get a job because of all the qualified applicants. But the morning after we left Los Angeles (we were staying at my parents in Oakhurst for the week while the movers had our stuff), I got a call at 7am in the morning, offering me the position which I will begin in the fall. It’s at a high school 2.5 miles from my home.

In the end, things often don’t happen the way we think they will. I was fairly well convinced that I would have that first job I had interviewed for, and I was happy about it. But when an official offer came through which was so close to my house, it was impossible to turn down. The last five months were filled with excitement, but also a lot of fear. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to pull it off, especially after my experience last summer. People everywhere were telling me how hard it was to get a job, especially without having subbed for the district first.

In the end, I’m not quite sure why I was chosen, but if there was any one thing I can think of it would be grit. While I know I am a good, hardworking teacher, there are other teachers who work very hard too. But grit is a quality that got ingrained in me during those early days when I was a gymnast. A gymnast who didn’t make the competitive team the first time, so what did I do? I wrote my coach and told him I was going to try harder, and the second time I tried out, you know what? I made it.

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So if you’re looking for a job right now…my #1 piece of advice (other than being very competent at what you do) is to have grit. Don’t be afraid to let people know how much you want the job. You may think you’re annoying them, but guess what? When there are 150 other people vying for your position, you have to do something to stand out.

Get gritty. And if you don’t get the job…get grittier.

And when you do get the job, realize you didn’t get there all by yourself. I know for a fact that I had a whole team of people behind me. Vickie who videotaped my lesson, my administrators who gave me glowing reviews, my students who made sure the video went well, my husband who endured listening to me when I was scared, my parents who also listened to me when I was anxious, and most importantly God, who was surely looking out for me and my husband this whole time.

Thank You Jeremy, the 10 year old boy who sat next to me on a plane.

24 Jun

The last three months have definitely been a tad insane, which is one of the reasons I took a hiatus from blog writing for a while. The other was because I needed some time to process my emotions before sharing all my experiences with the world.

So what’s happened since my last post?  Well, I can’t cover it all in a single post, so I’m going to start from the beginning.  Well, the beginning of my “moving story” that is.

A picture I took while on this visit to Bend.

A picture I took while on this visit to Bend.

In early April I attended the job fair in Bend. Although I’ve flown by myself before on several occasions, I always had someone to pick me up upon my arrival. I know, that’s kind of sad for someone who was almost 30 years old. So I was a tad nervous (for a variety of reasons) to fly up to Bend by myself, rent a car, and attend a job fair. Although I’d been to Bend twice before, I definitely did not know my way around. On my flight up to Bend, I was seated next to a 10 year old boy who was flying by himself to go visit his grandparents in Bend and cousins in Portland. The fly attendant asked me if I could “keep my eye on him,” as it was his first time flying alone. I smiled and said “of course.” The boy and I quickly struck up a conversation about his family, the sports he liked to play, his favorite subject in school (reading…good kid!), and the game he was playing on his iPad. He asked me questions too, which not all 10 year old boys would do. After all a 30 year old woman is not always the most interesting person in the world to a 10 year old.

As we were talking about his first flight by himself, I told him he was very brave and asked him if he was scared. I was planning on offering to walk him to his grandparents after the flight, but was told that one of the flight crew would be doing that for him. Probably a good idea. I wouldn’t want my kid to be escorted by a stranger either. His response to my question was, “Eh it’s not that scary. I’m just excited to see my family.”

And here I was scared about my trip and I’m nearly 20 years older than this kid! I smiled and thought to myself, Good one God. I know why you put me next to this kid.

Over the course of the flight, the boy asked me if I had kids. When I told him “not yet,” he said, “Why not? I can tell you’d make a great mom.” I had a hard time not tearing up at that one. Sometimes God sends us little angels to help us. My angel was a 10 year old boy who taught me not to be afraid of new experiences.

And guess what? The trip went great. I made a lot of contacts at the job fair, drove myself all around Bend, and found my way around just fine. And every time I got a little nervous about where to park, or how to get back to my hotel, or whether or not the people at the job fair were going to like me or not, I thought of that 10 year old boy who wasn’t afraid to fly alone.

Entering a New Phase One Step at a Time

19 Mar

Ben finished his last final yesterday.  And I mean his last last final. He now has his Bachelor of Science in Fishery and Wildlife Biology (he also has a BA in Film from his first time in college). We started this journey in August 2011, two months after we were married. It’s been a long journey, and it hasn’t real settled in that this part of the journey is over. Now it’s on to finding jobs and making the second part of the goal a reality. I hope this will be a much easier part of our journey, as part one was exceedingly long and difficult.

To celebrate Ben’s accomplishments, we thought we would go to Santa Barbara for the weekend, but the hotel prices are outrageous, so instead, we are going to stay home and get massages, go for dinner, and see a movie.  I’m actually more excited about this plan because we’ll spend less money and I’ve been dying for a massage for months. The stress of the last few months has been horrible, so I really need it.

On another note, I have been listening to a lot of music and spoken word poetry this last week as inspiration. It’s been hard for me to focus on reading…normally reading is a joy for me, but I’ve been so exhausted since getting sick a couple weeks ago that it’s been hard to concentrate after teaching all day. Anyways, this week I keep hearing the song, “Happy,” and it’s been just the thing I’ve needed. Simple but fun.

I Need Inspiration and Mike Masse Gave Me Some

16 Mar

It’s been a little hard to feel inspired the last few weeks. I got really sick 2 weeks ago and I’m finally feeling better, but I’m still a bit tired. I had a sinus infection, eye infection, and early signs of bronchitis.  Thankfully, the second doctor I saw actually helped me, but by that time I was a total wreck.

Mike Masse

Mike Masse

In addition to being ill, I’ve been feeling very stressed lately…something I may blog about some other time when I have some distance from the stress.

It’s been hard to get back in my groove of reading, writing, etc.  When my husband introduced me to Mike Masse’s version of “Africa” by Toto, I felt so inspired. Here’s a regular guy who has true talent, and it’s beautiful. I don’t know why that means so much to me right now…the need to know that regular people can be inspiring.  Knowing that what I have to offer the world, as small as it may be, could be inspiring…that’s huge for me. I’m really hard on myself. I always think I’m not good enough, and here’s this man who is beyond good enough, and he plays music at a pizza place.  So yeah, that’s pretty damn inspiring.

You have to watch this:

5 Reasons “Chuck” is my favorite TV show

28 Feb

Let me start by saying that it is hard to impress me when it comes to television. I generally don’t like wasting my time, so unless a television show is really well done, it’s hard for me to stay with it.  In my life there are a few shows that have captured my heart: Who’s the Boss? and Boy Meets World (when I was a kid), and Frasier, and Chuck (as an adult).  What do they all have in common?  Although the story telling in each is superb, what really made me connect was the characters and their chemistry.  Like a good book that you just don’t want to leave, I felt emotionally distraught when I finished watching each of these shows.  And guess what?  Tonight was the night, I finished Chuck.  I began watching it in November on Netflix, and it took me almost exactly three months to finish watching the show.  I could have easily finished it much sooner, but because it’s so rare that I find something I like so much, I wanted to make it last.  So why was Chuck the best show on television, and why am I heartbroken that it’s over?  Here’s why:

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1. Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi): The character, Chuck, played by Zachary Levi, really makes the show. His warm-hearted, lovable personality is what tied each of the characters together. At the beginning of the series, he is working at the “Nerd Herd” at the local “Buy More” (which is essentially a “Best Buy”).  After being kicked out of Stanford and losing his college girlfriend, Chuck feels like a loser.  But what we as the audience can tell from the very beginning of the show, is that there is nothing “loser-ish” about Chuck. He is kind, funny, sincere, and family-oriented.  He loves his big sister, “Ellie,” (played by Sarah Lancaster), and he is extremely loyal to his best friend, Morgan.  All around, he’s the perfect catch.

2. The Chemistry Between the Characters: While there are an array of characters on the show from Ellie to “Awesome: (ie: Devon), Sarah Walker, Morgan, General Beckman, John Casey, Jeff, Lester, and Big Mike, each of the characters plays a vital role in the chemistry of the show.  When I finished the last episode tonight, I was not just upset that I would be leaving Chuck’s world, but I knew that I would actually miss the entire world of the show. I will miss Jeffster (a band created by the two Nerd Herding dweebs, Jeff and Lester), and I want to know if John Casey ever gets his woman.  Most of all I want to know what happens with Chuck and Sarah…where will their future lead?  I won’t give any spoilers, but the ending leaves you at a cliffhanger, and my heart literally ached as the scene faded out.  Now, you may be thinking, Wow this girl needs to get a life.  If I were reading this, I probably would have that reaction. But I am telling you, I NEVER FEEL THIS WAY about a television show.  Books yes, TV shows, no.  There is something magical about how these characters came together.  I will actually miss them even though I am fully aware that they are not real.

3. The Storytelling is “Awesome”: The writers of Chuck really nailed it, from the creation of the character’s personalities, to the stories they told. I have watched several spy related shows but this was by far my favorite. While Alias was a great show, I stopped watching it in the fourth season, when I no longer cared about the characters or the ridiculous “Rimbaldi” story.  The stories on Chuck are obviously not meant to be realistic; they are pure fun.  Yet even though it’s pure fun, the emotions feel very real, and the character development is organic.

4. It’s Funny: I cannot tell you how many times I came home after a stressful day and wanted to watch an episode of Chuck just so I could relax. This has been a very stressful year for me. My husband is finishing school, we are attempting to make some huge changes in our life, and it hasn’t been easy.  While watching the show, I could escape from all my troubles, even if it was just for one hour.  I cannot tell you how many times I laughed out loud with tears streaming down my cheeks.  Whether it was how perfectly perfect “Awesome” was, or how incredibly nerdy Jeff and Lester were, there was not a single episode that I didn’t laugh myself into their world.

5. It’s Heartwarming: You want to know my dirty little secret? The first thought I had when the show ended was,  Maybe I could just rewatch them?  Obviously, I won’t, at least not for a while, but the thought of never again being in that world with Chuck and Sarah and the gang, made me so sad!  And as I was thinking it, I was like, really Megan, you do need to get a life, but then I thought…no, I never feel this way when I watch a show!  These writers and actors really touched my heart.  I’d like to think they are all really great people in real life, because they convinced me of how awesome they are in the show.  And I suppose one day, maybe several years from now, I would venture to watch them again.  There was only one other show that made me feel that way, and that was Frasier.  When that show ended, I couldn’t imagine my life without Niles and Daphne and their gang.  I’ve gone back to them time and time again because you can watch a single episode of Frasier  and not be lost. The only problem with Chuck  is that it is a fairly linear show, so ideally, you should watch the episodes in order. I guess I can always hope that they will bring the show back.  So writers and actors, if you are reading this post….BRING BACK CHUCK!

10 reasons I’m glad I became a teacher before becoming a parent

27 Feb

I haven’t written many posts about teaching even though it’s what I “do” every working day.  I’ve contemplated writing some posts about how to teach writing (essay, narrative, persuasive, etc) or how to lead a literature discussion, but I feel like most of my audience would not be very interested.

But, here’s a topic I hope you’ll enjoy reading about.  These are my 10 reasons I am glad I became a teacher before becoming a parent:

1. Kids actually like structure:  Having taught grades 6-12 in my eight years teaching, I can attest to the fact that most kids like structure. The younger the student, the more structure they need.  Students, like many adults, like to know what to expect on a day-to-day basis.  Think of it like this. Imagine every day, your boss had different expectations of you.  That would make for a pretty unnerving, stressful job, wouldn’t it?  As a teacher, I have very clear expectations and procedures for my students. I post a daily agenda, have homework bins in the same spot each day, and follow basic routines so my students know what I expect.  As a future parent, I know that structure will be important for my kids.  Now, I don’t mean that I need to plan out their day to a tee.  But setting clear expectations for my kids about what kind of behaviors I expect from them, will make it a lot less confusing for them.  And routines, whether nap-time, story time or bed time, will most likely comfort them more than make them feel restricted or confined.

2. Be consistent.  Kids can spot a lack of fairness like a dog can smell a piece of meat. Now, I’m not one to tout the benefits of fairness.  Life isn’t fair and I don’t want my kids to get the wrong idea. But, I do believe that the key to classroom management (or discipline) is to be consistent. Decide what matters to you and then enforce the rules consistently each time.  The result of not doing so?  Kids won’t take you seriously and behavior problems will abound.

3. Kids, like all humans, are fragile.  It’s easy to judge a kid who is acting out. It’s easy to dismiss them or become bitter or angry. But I have learned time and time again, that there are things going on in kids’ lives that we can never even imagine. Case in point. I had a student who acted out and pushed the boundaries on a daily basis. I thought he was obnoxious and rude.  Then I found out that his father had recently died. I took a different approach in my discipline with him, choosing to talk to him in a way that I intuitively felt might reach him better.  Guess what?  He stopped acting out.  Now, that said, I would hope I would know my own children very well, but as all parents of teenagers know, many of them are moody for reasons they may not be able to fathom.  And while hormones are not an excuse for bad behavior, listening to them and genuinely showing you care, can actually go a long way.

Me with three girls I taught my first year as a teacher.

Me with three girls I taught my first year as a teacher.

4. Boys need good female role models. Having grown up with only a sister, I really knew nothing about how to raise a boy.  As a teacher, I have found that boys, especially between 8th and 12th grade, need women to talk to who are mentoring, mother figures. I cannot tell you how many times I have had boys, ages 13-18 come to me for advice. Just like girls, boys want to be known and understood, but they often take a very different approach.  Just this week, I had a young man say, “Mrs. Medley, you know so much about me!”  I asked him why he thought so, and he said that the way I talked to him, made him feel that I understood him. I could tell he wanted people to know and understand him and that he thought it was cool that I had tried to get to know him.

5.  Kids watch everything we do.  I can think of another time that a young man (an 11th grader), asked me for advice with respect to some family issues he was experiencing. While we were talking, an adult (a colleague) came up to me and proceeded to talk badly about his ex-wife.  After he left, the young man said, “See, all adults are screwed up! Except you!  That’s why I want to talk to you. You are a good person.”  Now, that said, I know for a fact that I am FAR from perfect, but what that interaction showed me is how careful we need to be about what we say in front of kids. They hear and judge everything we say and do.

6. Straight As may actually be bad for kids. Without meaning to, many parents force their children to be someone they’re not. By not allowing their kids to fail, this sends the message to kids that they have to be good at everything. JK Rowling, in her commencement speech at Harvard, explained that had she not failed at everything else she had tried to accomplish, she would never have even allowed herself to do what she was really meant to do on earth, which is write Harry Potter.  I wish I had learned this lesson earlier in life instead of beating myself up over an A- or a B+ (God forbid!).  I have had students so afraid to fail that they will cheat and lie to avoid doing poorly on an assignment. Instead of fostering good character, parents who pressure their kids to be perfect may actually be encouraging a weak moral character.

7. You don’t have to be friends with everybody. In a culture that uses the word “bullying” to describe any kid who is mean, we sometimes forget that YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE FRIENDS WITH EVERYONE. Come on adults!  There are plenty of people in our lives that we have to put up with, but we definitely don’t want to be their friend. And the reality is that we do not need those kinds of people in our lives.  Jerks are jerks, and we shouldn’t tell our children they have to be friends with everyone.  You can choose your friends and your kids should be able to as well (as long as they are still respectful toward everyone, of course).

8. Every child is different, so you can’t treat them the same. Fairness doesn’t mean sameness.  In the same class, I have a boy who makes ape noises and grunts as he tries to body slam his male friends in a sweaty male embrace, and another boy who is so fragile that he looks like he would break if you touched him.  So when Boy #1 doesn’t bring his homework, I might say something like, “Hey, Incredible Hulk (my nickname for him), why didn’t you do your homework?!”  I am straightforward, semi-mocking, and intense.  Why? Because that’s what he responds to, and he feels most comfortable when I interact with him like that.   When I talk to Boy #2, I pull him aside, away from any peers (so as not to embarrass him), and I ask him if anything is going on that kept him from doing his homework.  I encourage him and offer to help him if he needs extra help getting back on track.  Boy #2 needs that or he will turn red, start shaking, and potentially cry.   So how do I know this?  Well, it requires paying attention.  Even in the same family, kids can be so different.  Case in point, “Incredible Hulk” has an older brother who I taught two years ago.  He was somewhat like his brother, but he identified himself as a good public speaker more than as an athlete, so when I struck up a conversation with him, I would usually ask him about his speaking competitions.  Paying attention to what matters to kids is important.

9. If a kid doesn’t like what I like, it doesn’t mean they don’t like me.  When I first became a teacher, I thought if kids didn’t like English class, they didn’t like me.  Now, sometimes that’s true, but I have been amazed the kids who told me I was their favorite teacher even though they hated the book we read or the grammar they had to learn.  I really hope my kids will enjoy reading, writing, and discussing “the meaning of life,” but I know that they also might not like that. They may like math (dear God!). Maybe they’ll even want to be an engineer (God forbid…lol…just kidding!).

10.  The most important thing is that kids know you CARE about them. Teenagers can sense when a teacher is being genuine just as easily as they can spot someone who is disingenuous.  My former students have come back year after year (in person or on Facebook) to tell me how I made a difference in their life. 9 times out of 10 that difference had nothing to do with what I taught them in English class. It was because I took the time to CARE.  How do I show them that I care?  Well, believe it or not, kids can tell if you put your heart and soul into your teaching. In my first year teaching, before I had no idea what I was doing, I still made an impact on some kids because I was trying very hard to do a good job, and guess what…that goes a long way. Kids don’t expect you to be perfect. They expect you to care.

When I left Reseda HS, a student, Kimberly, baked me this cake.

When I left Reseda HS, a student, Kimberly, baked me this cake.

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