Sunday, March 29, 2009

Living The Dream

For two years now, I have been applying to the "Institute for Literacy Coaching and Whole School Reform" at the Columbia University Teachers College. I have been to Teachers College twice before for institutes on reading and writing workshop, and they basically changed my life. The Literacy Coaching institute was a dream of mine, but I never got in since they only select 50 people from the whole country. This year, I applied, and I got rejected (again). I just an email saying: "You're not accepted." I was like, "NO! This is ridiculous! I am getting in!" So I proceeded to email and call the NY office and ask them why I wasn't accepted because I really wanted to attend. They said they would get back to me. One day later, I got an email saying, "You have been accepted." Haha... I jumped up and screamed. Maybe the squeaky wheel gets the oil?

My first day in New York was rushed, freezing cold, and rainy/snowy. Thank goodness I stumbled upon the cutest French bistro for lunch. I had to take a picture of this lunch because it was so beautiful and SO GOOD. I got onion soup and a prosciutto sandwich. It came with the cutest little dish of grapes and iced tea! It was a great start to my stay in NY.
Basically, the institute was about learning how to coach teachers and lead school-wide reform in the areas of reading and writing. I knew we would be visiting New York schools, but at our very first session, they informed us that we would be teaching a class and coaching teachers at a middle school in the Bronx. I was SO EXCITED. Below is a picture of me after my first day of teaching in the Bronx. It was crazy and fun at the same time. I had never seen a New York school, so it was really an interesting experience. I rode the subway by myself to the Bronx and found my way to the school in the snow. When I arrived, it was about 7:30 and kids were congregated outside the school. As I pushed my way through to the door, the kids were saying, "Ooooh... a white girl!" This made me smile to myself. The school was actually pretty cool. They have a very dynamic principal and lots of young, talented staff. The kids were doing good work, and it was fun to be in classrooms and talk to teachers. Here is me outside the Bronx school:
We also got to visit a school on the East Side, which was a totally different story. SAME population of kids, but I could not wait to get out of there. I spent two days teaching small groups in a seventh grade special education and behavior modification class. Wow. On the second day, I fought back tears as I left the room. It was so painful to see these kids and try to work with them, but to no avail. The culture of the school was such that these kids were not set up for success. As hard as I tried, I could not imagine them going to college. And believe me... I can imagine LOTS of kids going to college. As I worked with one group, they refused to even pick up their pens. They glared at me and smacked their gum in my face while laughing and playing and mocking me. Several students even got up to wander around the room while I was teaching. Granted, I'm some "white lady" they've never seen before, but it was apparent that this behavior was an everyday occurrence. I tried my best to be patient and kind, but I seriously wanted to throw something out the window. What a frustrating situation. It made me so grateful to be in a school where everyone is focused on the same goal and there are systems in place to help kids and teachers be successful. My hat goes off to the teachers who can bear that every single day. I certainly couldn't. When I saw my real kiddos agian on Thursday, I cried. I have never been so glad to see them!!

Here is a shot of the Columbia campus. It is really beautiful and regal looking. I love the old buildings and sense of hisotry. There's something about it that really gives a sense of importance to learning.

We started each day with a keynote speaker inside Riverside Church on campus. It is absolutely beautiful. Not bad for a classroom, huh?

One night I ate at Shun Lee Cafe, a dim sum restaurant right across from Lincoln Center. They had these carts that Asian ladies pushed around the restaurant periodically. The lady would say (all in one breath), "You want some ginger shrimp? pork spring roll? sesame chicken? crab dumpling? vegetable tempura? chicken spring roll? shrimp dumpling?" and so on. Then you can just pick what you want. So fun. Here's what the restaurant looks like:

I was really enjoying myself and having fun being alone in the city... until about Saturday. That's when I realized how long I was going to be there (six nights!) and how much I kind of wanted to see Brent and Blazer and be home. I was really excited, though, because Saturday night I was supposed to have dinner with my good friend Katie Bailey who was in NY for buisness. We planned to meet at 7:00 at China Grill. I made my way over to Midtown and walked in the revolving door to China Grill, scanning the restaurant to see where Katie was waiting for me. Before I could even get in the restaruant, I looked through the glass door and saw:

... That's right. My husband. My wonderful, sweet, amazing, (somewhat liar) husband... who I had just talked to on the phone an hour earlier! And he told me he was walkling Blazer at the park! NO!!! He was in NYC!!! The look on my face must have been pretty funny. Brent said he's never seen me more confused. My brain simply could not process it. I could not believe my eyes that he was there when I thought he was across the country in Houston! So I cried, and it was probably the most surprised I've ever been. He proceeded to tell me the details of his surprise while I had a cocktail to calm down :-) My friend Katie wasn't even in town - he had her set it all up for his surprise. We had a super fun and amazingly delicious dinner. We ordered the Chef's tasting menu WITH the wine pairings. It was amazing!

We had fun in NY together for a few nights after I got out of class. We ate at another delicous Italian restaurant. We also walked around Midtown and the Upper West Side.

Here is Brent standing in front of the building where it all started: The New York Four Seasons where we got engaged. We have some special memories in NYC!

And finally, on my next-to-last night, I made my way to the Magnolia Bakery. I have been reading my friend Tiffany's facebook updates, so I know that she is obsessed with the place. So I had to try it. The cupcakes and coffee were awesome! The picture is me with my coffee because the cupcake was long gone by the time I thought of taking a picture!

... So there you have it! It was a wonderful week. I learned a ton and felt like I was going to explode with possibilities for my teaching when I came home. I also had a blast exploring New York again. It's a fun place to visit, but I still love Houston more :-) When I got back, I hit the ground running and life has been a blur ever since. I think the blur is just going to get faster since we are also moving in about three weeks. I guess that's our life from now on! I'll try to update more frequently!

Katie

2 comments:

Kate and Zach said...

Katie, I love reading your postings. You have such a wonderful attitude as a teacher! I love teaching so much and still am inspired by your great posts!

Katie said...

YAY! I got to be part of the fun. Sorta. Talking about NYC via email made me wish I was actually there. I'm thrilled it all worked out so well. I'm in Nashville (for real) for work right now, but hopefully we can get together soon. Happy Thursday!

-Katieb

 
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