Tuesday, September 24, 2013

They Call Me Miss Streisel

A few months ago, I posted about all the reasons I knew everything would be just fine, despite how stressed out I was. I'm beginning to understand that "stressed" is just my natural state, and that it's convinent that my name is Jesye because then I can call my stressed, OCD, freaking-out alter-ego "Stressy Jesye" and it rhymes, which is nice :) At the bottom of that post there is a video called "Jessica's Daily Affirmation" (it's not me, I swear!) that pretty much sums up how I feel about my life right now. But seriously, life is great.

I've talked a little about school, but haven't uploaded any pictures or gone into much detail. Please prepare yourself for a picture-heavy post!

I really couldn't ask for a more welcoming, supportive place to start my career. First of all, the staff and administration are wonderful. I'm never going to be able to work any where else, I'm too spoiled now. The principal knew I was nervous about Curriculum Night on Thursday and made time earlier in the day to meet with me about it, and then was in my classroom within minutes after parents had left to see how it had gone. It had gone wonderfully! I had been so nervous that parents would be like, "What are you doing, you're like 12. Get outta here," but they were all supportive and really seemed excited about the year! I recieved a few emails the next day that made me so happy. This is truly my calling.

My first bulletin board of the year :) The kids wrote out their hopes and
dreams for the year on handprints they traced. 
Some of their goals

Most grade levels have pretty small class sizes; usually 18-21ish, tops. 

Somehow, I only have 14 students, and one has yet to come to school. So really, I have 13 students. They are the most adorable, sweet group in the world. It's awesome having such a small class, and it really lets me have the chance to get to know every student. There is one little boy from Ecuador (he calls it Equator), a girl from Greece who has also lived in Romania and Serbia, a boy from Korea who is adorable but basically speaks no English at all, and a sweet little girl from Russia. I think the boy who hasn't been to school yet is from either Pakistan or Egypt (I've heard both).

The rest of my students are Italian. Most of them speak English pretty well, but it's funny how difficult communicating phrases or ideas I take for granted are. For example, one of my little boys was trying to explain to me about a "marmotta" he had seen and the way he described it made it sound like a chipmunk. I looked it up later and it was just a marmot, but for the rest of the story, every time he'd refer to the animal he'd say, "And thees uh, 'cheepmonk'," in his cute little Italian accent, putting 'cheepmonk' (with an o, not a u) in air-quotes each time he'd say it. Too funny. I'm supposed to enforce an English-only policy, but at times I let my little Ecuadorian boy use a word in Spanish and teach it to him in English, and the kids sometimes need to ask each other how to say something in English and speak in Italian for a minute before figuring out how to say what they want to say.

I had heard that there is a honeymoon period with teaching where the kids are super well behaved and respectful for the first week or two, and then all hell breaks loose. I had the opposite experience. Because I went into this thinking no one would take me seriously or respect me as professional because I look young, I decided to be super upfront with an "I have nothing to hide" attitude. I thought, I'd tell anyone who asked what I'd done before that I had just gotten my Masters and worked with third and fifth grade. If they pried deeper, I wouldn't hesitate to say that it had been student teaching, but I wouldn't just offer up the information. So when my students asked how old I was, I was pretty straightforward with them and told them I was 23. One of my little girls jokingly asked if I was sure I wasn't in high school, and I laughed it off but then that became something the kids said over and over and over (and over and over) again for dayyyyyyys. I'd say no, and they'd say, "But are you sure? Are you really sure you're not?" Yes I'm sure, now shut up! Really though, when parents, students, and other teachers ask me, "Are you a teacher or a student?"... grrrr. Kanye understands. It became such a problem that I actually had to sit the group down and tell them they were never ever allowed to ask about my age again. Ever. It was a rule. Since then, we really haven't had any issues! Wonderful, sweet little kids.

The atrium of my beautiful school

Outside of my classroom, the school is just as amazing. 

The teachers I've met have been so welcoming and helpful, and as I've said before the administration is great. On the Friday of our first week back, there was an after school celebration in the cafeteria for finishing our first week. Ok, sounds nice, party in the cafeteria. Except instead of just chips and dip with some diet Coke as I'd expected, there were different cakes, pastries, hor d'ouervres (including smoked salmon), and a few different types of wine and champagne. And if he couldn't get any cooler, the principal came over to our table to tell me and some of the other new teachers about where you could fill up empty wine and olive oil bottles on tap in Opera. Wait, what? Wine and olive oil? On tap? Only Italy.

Doesn't get more rewarding than this!

It's such a rewarding job. 

My kids make my day with letters they write me during Work on Writing time, journal and blog entries about how they don't have a favorite part of the day because it's all so fun,  and they've even started leaving me little gifts. One little girl left the cutest bookmark on my desk because I used a Post-It note to mark the place in our read-aloud, and when I told some students that had borrowed books on dinosaurs from the library that I loooooved learning about dinosaurs and Jurassic Park was my favorite movie, one little guy brought me some dinosaur stickers the next day. I'm so happy. I don't know how I'll ever teach anywhere else, because I don't think there could be a better school and I don't think this is the norm.

Just signing my life away...

The other day I had to go to the Questura to have some paperwork filled out for my work visa and when I got back to the classroom the kids literally attacked me with hugs and said to never leave them again (off topic, but going to all these meetings and signing all these papers in Italian is so stressful. I could be selling myself into slavery and wouldn't know the difference. I'm like, "Oh sure, I'll sign these contracts that I have no idea what they say. Why not?!"). It made my day though, knowing that they liked going to school and liked having me as a teacher!

Call me Miss Streisel. Or Khaleesi.
Either's fine.

Again, I just have to say...


If you think I'm being random, seriously go watch that video . So good.

And now for some pictures! 

Well... I've already showed pictures, but for the classroom tour!

This is what I walked into... Gulp! So much was there, but there was just an unbelievable amount to do in such a short amount of time!

Classroom view from my desk... I moved the smaller (still huge!) taller bookcase all by myself wootwoot!

My desk with our schedule and job chart

The Writing Center, our class rules, and the Morning Message

We started our poetry unit... the posters are our "Poet-tree" and the Poetry Battle Bracket

My reading area and Daily 5/CAFE board!

I love all my storage space! The Word Wall is on the cabinets; every time there is a new vocabulary word,
the kids add it to the wall. 

View from the door. You can see our Morse Code names in the back! 
I love my classroom :)

The class library. I brought over so many books!

Classroom view from the library!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Vogue Fashion Night Out in Milan

Me and Harris!

Recently I read something about being an introvert that gave me so much insight into who I really am.

I read that introverts don't dislike being around people, or being social, but they need quiet time to themselves to recharge. I love going out and partying, meeting my amazing and interesting coworkers, and spending time with old and new friends. But there gets to be a point where I just can't handle it anymore and I need to be alone. It's not that I'm unhappy around people, but it's about having the balance of socializing and revitalizing myself on my own. 

That said, I didn't move to Italy, completely away from everything and everyone I know, to hide away in my apartment. 

It was so packed full of people!
This weekend after Friday's apartment crawl (more on that another day), I could feel myself getting sick and I felt so behind on absolutely everything (cleaning, unpacking, planning the curriculum, laundry... you know, exciting things) so I spent the rest of the weekend getting settled and honestly I feel a million times better. Before that, I hadn't had a day (I might have had ONE a few weeks ago) that I said "No" to plans and really let myself get back to a comfortable place. This week though, even though it was a school night, there were plans that might have been outside of my comfort zone but were just so amazingly necessary: Vogue's Fashion Night Out in Milan.

Walking into the city at dusk was like walking into a different world. 

Free Prosecco!
There were points where you could hardly move because the streets were so packed with the fashionable crowd that had flooded in, but at the same time you had no choice but to keep walking or else be trampled by everyone behind you. I've been in a few times now during the day and evening, but this wasn't even close. Every designer in the city had their shop open late. I can't say I saw a single person with a shopping bag but every store was jammed full. We were lured in by dance music played by live DJs, free Prosecco and hors d'oeurves being passed around on trays, and the important look of stores with bouncers outside. It was unlike anything I've ever seen. 

I'm so glad to have finally seen the Duomo at night! It was absolutely amazing! Also, I should have worn heels...

Living mannequins!
 From what I've heard, this years Night Out wasn't quite as big or exciting as it's been in past years, but if that's the case I can't imagine what it must have been like. Apparently, amazing. There was an "anything goes" attitude towards clothes, leading to fun people-watching. Women wore heels I couldn't have stood in, let alone strutted down the cobblestoned streets in. Yet somehow the women in Chuck Taylor's, harem pants, and crop-tops looked just as amazing as those with Versace dresses and skyscraper heels. 

Mens fashion was something different, too. 

I'm really not picky when it comes to the way men dress; I'm just as happy with a good ol' wolf tee as I am with a button-down dress shirt. But there was something about the way the city men dressed and styled their hair and really paid attention to their appearance that I could definitely appreciate... It would probably get pretty old though to hang out with a man who spent more time getting ready in the morning than me. Other random Italian man facts: They are very forward and pushy if interested (I had one guy ask for my number probably 10 times the other night. I took his to make him go away and lied, saying I didn't have an Italian number yet, and he still wouldn't drop it!), and they pay absolutely no attention to their arms. I think mine have better muscle definition, and mine don't have any at all. Sad Jesye :(

Having a few drinks before heading home for the night... those waiters were so good to us!

Anyways, I really did debate going out for Fashion Night. I'm not a morning person at all and dreaded the idea of waking up the next day, and felt like I had a million things to do. It was such the right decision though! The people I'm meeting are so wonderful and fun- I got so lucky with this group! So I'm going to keep trying to put myself out of my comfort zone and enjoying this amazing experience. Woohoo!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

My New Apartment!

A post of apartment pictures is long overdue, but with how busy I've been it's been hard to find a second to unpack, let alone decorate! The apartment still isn't perfect, but it's starting to feel more like me. Soooo (drumroll please!), here goes a little tour of my lovely new Opera apartment!

This is what you see when you walk through the front door

I have a nice hutch for pictures and books, and those two white doors are storage space. Eventually I'll be able to put my guitar case in my cantina, but it's a little like a dungeon where they are so I have to go explore and find it when I'm feeling a little less terrified (and home during the daytime- it's only lit with any light that comes in through grates in the ceiling!). 

The little doorway leads to the bedroom and bathroom

Another angle on the living room- it's not totally decorated/done, but it's pretty cute! The couch is a horrible turquoise/purple/gold pattern (I love all those colors, so if I hate it, it just shows how awful it really is!), but luckily there was a sheet covering it. Those two pictures in the background came with the apartment and I don't love them, but they're nice until I find something of my own to hang!

I think this is for a TV, but I don't have (or want) one here

I love this kitchen so much! It's maybe the best part of the apartment :)

Another angle on the kitchen with the weird fruit decor (they came with the apartment)

Seriously though, could this be any cuter? The cupboards on the left are actually the fridge and freezer! So cute!
My weird, tiny little oven... it doesn't fit my cookie sheet or cupcake tin!
Love Love Love this! Coffee pots are so tiny- that's supposed to be two cups worth of coffee!

This is the little door off the living room- It's a tiny hallway (square) with doors to the bathroom and bedroom, with a little storage closet to the other side.
Awkward (but beautiful!) shower curtain that doesn't go all the way around the tub

Crazy showerhead at the wrong end of the tub leads to weird, shower-curtain-in-your-face showers

I have a little washing machine in the bathroom, and a bidet... So European! I haven't figured out how to use it for it's actual purpose yet, but I fill it up with water to give myself pedicures sometimes :)

Last but not least, the bedroom- look at all those closets! Woohoo! So much room for clothes!

So, I'm not allowed to put nails in the wall, but I had to hang my necklace board, so if I get in trouble I'll just pretend I didn't understand the rule (it was told to me in Italian!)
The door to the outside leads to a cute little balcony area. I don't go out there too much, but as soon as I have a little chair, table, and some plants I definitely will!

Another angle on the bedroom- it's so cozy!
 Anyways, that's my nice little apartment. I'm so happy with it. For those of you who saw my Alfred apartment, this is a huge size upgrade! You can fit more than one person in the kitchen, there is space for a table (complete with amazing bench seating), and it's possible to stand up in the bathroom, even if you're over 4'8" tall! I really couldn't be happier. I'll be searching out the Milan shops and antique markets in the next few years for cute additions to make it even more homey. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

God Bless America

This morning, I sat my students down for our morning meeting and told them, "Today's a very special day!" Before I could finish my thought one of my little boys chimed in "I know what today is, it's September 11th. That's the day the terrorists attacked America." Actually, I had planned on telling them that today we were using the school computers to start our class blogs, but I was so surprised by his comment that I had to stop for a minute. These are nine year olds. Is it appropriate to talk to them about terrorism? I decided yes.

To really understand why I paused, you have to understand that I don't have a single American in my class, and not one is a native English speaker. Most of my students are Italian, but I also have children from Russia, Greece, South Korea, Ecuador, and one boy who hasn't been to class in two weeks that I believe currently can't leave Egypt. They are all bilingual, some trilingual. On Monday when we shared about our weekends, I felt so worldly saying that I had ventured into the city of Milan to explore. I then realized how minimal that seemed to my children, one of whom went to Germany, one who spent the weekend at his country home in France, and another who went to London for a Bar Mitzvah. Like, seriously? That was your weekend? Not even a long weekend, just Saturday and Sunday! I use to think it was exciting to go to New Jersey for the weekend but I've been proved wrong!

I've been pretty stressed out recently and took the 40 minute walk home today instead of the bus to give myself some time to think before getting back to work (parents come in for Curriculum Night tomorrow- there's so much to do!). I can't get it out of my mind how innocent and yet how worldly these tiny little fourth graders are. When they brought up the attack on the World Trade Center, I asked what they knew:

"Osama Bin Ladin got in a plane, jumped out, and attacked the Twin Towers."

"That's not what happened. Bad men... terrorists... wanted to hurt the Americans even though they didn't do anything wrong so they drove planes right into the buildings. It was just a normal day, so people were just working and didn't even have time to leave."

"Lots of people were killed so everyone is usually sad today."

Then there were the questions. "Miss Streisel, were you alive that day?" "What were you doing?" "Did your family get out?" "Did you see it happen? Could you hear it?" They know I'm from New York and were horrified by the idea that I could have not only been alive ("You can't be THAT old!"), but that it could have directly affected someone I knew. Yes, I was alive. I was in Mrs. C.'s sixth grade English class, taking notes on how to take notes (does that make sense?). No, none of my family was there, and we're from Rochester, NY which is pretty far from New York City so I couldn't see or hear anything other than the TV that all of our teachers immediately turned on. We went home that night (actually, our new house was being built, so we were staying at my grandparents house for a few months) and stayed up late, watching the same videos over and over on the news. 

Sometimes I'm surprised by how much attention the school pays to the social curriculum. Today we had a meeting for two hours after school about the school values, and there is a character attribute that the entire school focuses on each month, spending time every day focusing on becoming a better person. This month, our attribute is "Caring," and we spend time every single day talking about how we can show we care about each other. But it makes so much sense. These kids don't speak the same language; some of them don't know any Italian or English at all! They aren't from the same cultural backgrounds. Their families are literally from all over the world. Most are from privileged, powerful families. Now, while they're still young and impressionable, we take the time to learn to be kind, be open minded, and really understand each other. 

I actually had goosebumps talking to the kids about 9/11 today. A few have been to the United States- one spent his whole summer in Los Angeles at his fathers house. Most haven't. Their parents sent them to an American school because they want them to speak English, but the kids typically don't know why they need to practice it so much. But hearing them talk about the impact of an event that I can remember so clearly, that happened before they were born in a country they've never been to was intense. It really shows how small the world really is.

As much as I love Italy, it's times like these that I'm especially proud to be an American.