Saturday, July 30, 2011


I know I've been here a month, and I haven't posted one thing. I'm terrible, and I don't know where to start. Oxford isn't quite what I imagined it would be. I'm having a good time, but parts of this summer have been absolutely incredible. For instance, many of my friends are here, and I love going out with them, staying in, and traveling around the country with their company. It's fabulous. My class is great because I get to go see all of these performances, but academically, I don't think I'm growing that much. But I can't really complain about seeing 10 plays in 5 weeks with some pretty huge actors. So here are some of the highlights:

Plays: I saw Merchant of Venice with Patrick Stewart as Shylock. The Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford has an incredible stage (called a thrust) where the audience basically surrounds the three sides of the stage. This means people sit closer and get to see more. I love it. Stewart was pretty awesome, but the play was set in Vegas and included a lot of stereotypes that really made my questions some of my own feelings about people. It was great. I've also seen Much Ado about Nothing with Eve Best, Cardenio (not by Shakespeare), Macbeth, City Madam (by Philip Massinger, not Shakespeare), and All's Well that Ends Well. I saw two at the Globe, and the rest have been in Stratford (which feels like a second home now). I have four left: Henry IV part 1 and 2 in Bath!, Midsummer Night's Dream in Stratford again, and . . . Richard the III with none other than KEVIN SPACEY! I'm so excited about that one. Spacey is one of the best villain actors alive and he's playing one of Shakespeare's most villainous characters. Can't wait.
I only have two weeks left until I'm home, so this last week we are seeing all four productions before my final project is due for class and then I'm finished. It will go by too quickly.

Trips: I went to London a few times with friends and for class, but I got to see some of the main attractions. Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and a few art galleries. oh and the Thames river, which is awesome.

I also went to Scotland last weekend. I went with five other people, we took the train 5 hours to Edinburgh and stayed in a hostel two nights. We stayed on the Royal Mile mostly, which is where most of the tourist attractions are anyway. We went to Edinburgh Castle and hiked up Arthur's Seat (trip highlight for me). We also spent Saturday afternoon at the Jazz Festival, which was another trip highlight. I picked up some souvenirs and came to the conclusion that Scotland is a place worth coming back to. The people are great and I would love to spend more time there. I had an awesome time, but mostly because I went with an awesome group. We all stayed in the same room so we got to know one another pretty well. Good friends, good fun, good place, good times. I even tried Haggis and it was too bad, though I couldn't quite get over the contents of Black pudding to swallow that down. . .

This weekend I took it nice and easy. Thursday we had what is called a High Table dinner, which is very formal. We all dress up and have a serious meal with wine and great food. It'd great fun. We have one about once a week, and this week I got to sit at the high table with our school's director because was honored this summer with a named scholarship. It's a pretty big honor, but I don't get any extra money besides the financial aid I already got. It just means that this financial aid came from a fund. It's pretty great. I went out Friday night after a day of class, so an 80's Dance Party was just what I needed. Today, I slept in late and spent the day at the Botanical Gardens with one of my best friends Amy. It was a great sunny day and I soaked it up. Tomorrow I'm off to Bath and hopefully next weekend I'll get to Wales. That will be my last adventure before I wrap things up probably. I'll be home before I know it. Enjoy the pictures, and I'm sure I've left things out, but that's what happens when I wait so long to post.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Yearbook Camp

I usually only update when interesting things happen, and well, my life has been anything but interesting as of late. I read Macbeth in one day on Friday and started Much Ado About Nothing. That's exciting right? No, you're right. I know boring when I see it . . . Since I got back from Joplin I've been busy getting things done for my classes in Oxford this summer. I went shopping with my dear friend Kim Gleason :) She's the best shopping buddy and keeps me rational and within budget. I had a blast with her. I also went to my cousin Jessica's wedding. It was a beautifully splendid day and my first temple sealing ceremony. I was glad to be invited, and it was a great moment for me to witness. I appreciate being a part of that special moment. I put a few pictures in the slide show above.
Other than driving to and from Salt Lake or Provo, I've been sheltered in my house packing and repacking and reading most of the time. Although I went to Yearbook Camp earlier in the week. Yeah, that sounds nerdy too, but it is actually a pretty good time. I took three of my seniors that will be on staff this year. We spent three days coming up with our concept for next year's book. They hold general and mini-sessions to teach different things like design, photography, cool ways to get everyone in the book, theme development, etc. We have deadlines and meet with cover artists who help design the cover of the book. Next year, Gunnison High is celebrating its 100th year as a school. So, no spoilers here, but the book is going traditional and really exciting. I've got an excellent crew this year, and I'm really looking forward to working with them. They should be some hard workers :)
The camp was held at Snowbird this year, and it is a beautiful place. There is still plenty of snow (though brownish now) and I was tempted to take my skis with me. But there was no time for playing around :) We road the tram lift up to the peak and walked around in the snow. It is a beautiful view, though my student who is afraid of heights didn't enjoy the edge much at all.
It was a great three days. Kim and Cody let me crash with my students at their house. They are so good to me that way. I loved seeing the boys and Laney, though I didn't get to play legos with them. I hope I can return the favor of hospitality someday. Maybe when Cody gets involved with Scouts he can bring the troupe down and I'll show them a good time :) I can teach woodcarving or something. :)
I'm trying not to count down to the day I leave, but I fly out in 5 days! This week has me busy with teaching stuff. I have a Core Academy to attend that will teach me the new standards and how to adapt my current curriculum to fit the new standards. I'm looking forward to it because it will be the only prep I'll do before school starts in August. Eek. But then, my mom drives down on Thursday to take me to St. George at which point I'll get on a shuttle Friday to the Vegas airport. Then, so long U.S. hello U.K. I don't know what it will be like, but I hope it's worth all the anticipation. I'll keep y'all updated while I'm gone. And of course I'll still be available via Skype, Facebook, and email :)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Joplin, MO

Okay, so here's the low down. I went to Joplin, Missouri last week and it was incredible. It was life changing. On the last day of school last week, or 10 days ago I guess, one of my co-workers and friends was telling us about her past in living in Missouri. She lived there with her husband and young family while he went to medical school. Before they moved to Utah, they lost their house to a tornado. She decided to fly to Missouri to help with the relief efforts with her husband, son and a few boys from town. I listened to her and the donations coming in from the county and I couldn't help but want to help. I don't have any money, but I do have a body that can work. I leaned over to the teacher next to me and said, "I wish I could go too." She said, "Let's take the seats out of my van and take supplies over." I said, "Are you serious?" and she said, "Yeah, why not." And that is how it started. The truly inspiring part of this story comes from my community. Without a daily newspaper, school being in session, or anything but word of mouth, Jolyn Chappell (my fellow teacher with the van) and I were able to get the word out about us collecting item donations. We put an ad on the radio, donation boxes at local stores, and flyers where ever we could. And something amazing happened: Over Memorial Day weekend this Valley gathered more donations than we could even imagine. Instead of taking a van without seats, we ended up loading a truck and a trailer. Even greater generosity came when a family in town LENT us their NEW truck to pull the trailer and a neighbor LENT us a trailer to take. If I learned anything from this trip, it's that the generosity of people is incredible. I'm so proud to be from Gunnison Valley. People give and give and give.
So with our load we left for Missouri. The crew consisted of me and my fellow teacher JoLyn and two former students Megan and Rayel. I know them as hard workers and drivers of trailers and standard trucks (hehe). We left Tuesday and arrived Wednesday evening to unload the trailer into the garage of the Bishop's house. He lined up to have some ladies in the ward to sort the stuff and lay it out for the members of the Ward that lost their houses (30 houses in the one Ward). Anyway, I know it will go to good use. We spent the next two days raking up debris mostly and listening to people. That is one thing that kind of fascinated me. People really just wanted to talk about what happened to them. Where they were in the storm, what saved them, etc. etc. It was interesting and touching.
So Joplin looks just like you've seen on TV but worse in person. Two dimensions have nothing on tornado destruction. I've posted a few pictures but that's not even the crazy stuff. St. John's hospital has been popular footage on news, but what you don't see are the concrete parking stops (rebarred into the pavement and 200-300 lbs. a piece) blown everywhere or the cars piled on top of each other. Or hundred year old trees uprooted all over the city. It's absolutely crazy.
Though, the devastation is nothing compared to the overwhelming generosity. When we unloaded our trailer of goods we met a member at the Bishop's house. She started talking to us and we talked to her too. We told her we came from Utah and she got touched. She asked where we were staying and we said the back of the trailer and sleeping bags. She wasn't going to have that so she offered us a place at her house and wouldn't take no for an answer. We followed her home and she made an awesome dinner for us. Meeting Nicole and her family was one of the highlights of the trip. She's good people. But really everywhere we went we met cool people. A Chaplain who travels to disasters and helps with grief counseling. He's been to Katrina and all over. A group of about 100 Wells Fargo employees doing service (man I love that bank). Churches opening their doors to everyone, feeding people. Chiropractors giving free care to victims and volunteers. Operation Blessing sending volunteers by the bus load and random people like us, manning shovels and rakes and doing anything asked. The list goes on and on and that doesn't include the many stories of heroism from the storm. Many of which have been made fairly public. The Joplin tornado was a tragedy, but the human response is almost as incredible to see as the destruction. Witnessing the kindness I saw this week restores some hope in humanity. People are good.
The work we did seems like peanuts in the grand perspective of it all, but someone reminded me of the starfish story and I know what we did meant something to someone. Anyway, that's what I did for my first week of vacation. Now I have three weeks to get some serious reading done and gear up for my summer in England. Man, my life seems unreal even to me.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Not much is going on in my life right now. I posted a few photos of my dance recital from last month. I had a blast with the ladies this year. Though, I don't have any cool stories or scars like my niece Faye has since her dance recital. (see Bret's blog).
School is almost out for the summer, and I for one can't wait. Hope your summers are going well.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Spring Break

Whew! What a month. I knew it would be mad, but I underestimated. I mean come on, Butler! None of my final four picks made it to the final four. Most of them didn't make Sweet 16, and that isn't even the half of it.

In my bullet style post of last month, I mentioned a few things that hadn't happened yet, but that I was looking forward to. It is now time to report on said events. Yay!

Being and American Contest:
As some of you know from Facebook, I went to Washington D.C. for an award program because one of my students won an essay contest. It ended up being a great few days. I flew in to DC early to hang out with my Uncle Doug and Aunt Sara and Cousin Cameron. They let me veg with them and stay in their basement. We went on a picnic lunch to Roosevelt Island and walked the perimeter of the island. I really enjoyed it. This sounds snobby, and I'm sorry for it but I can't think of how to phrase it otherwise: I've been to DC so many times it's hard to find something I've never done, but Doug and Sara always find something :) Cameron is growing up like crazy. We spent Sunday morning beading and making pretty bracelets and necklaces with her other cousin Olive. I loved spending time with them.
On Sunday Doug dropped me off at the JW Marriott for registration of my fun-filled awards week. I met up with my student and her mother for the dinner that evening and ran into a few familiar faces. Several of the teachers here this time were return teachers like myself. I think it was four total teachers with repeat winners. Anyway, we did a lot of the same things: Mount Vernon on Monday (one of my favorite spots in the Capitol); National Archives, Library of Congress, Capitol Building. They fed us well and I remembered to pack my exercise clothes this year. The hotel had awesome facilities. Ironically, the one morning I didn't work out Mit Romney did (we'd walked miles the day before). I was so close. Man.
The Gala on Tuesday and the final event of the trip was an awesome party. Wine and open bar to start with lots of shmoozing with donors. It was cool and I chatted up a few cool people with my cranberry-ginger-ale go-to cocktail. The Gala is the big event where everyone finds out what place the students took in the contest. Going in we only knew my student was top three in our region. The contest has 9 regions total. SO . . . my student took 1st place! I could barely contain my excitement. I'd been hoping but not too much just in case we got disappointed (not that 3rd is disappointing). My student won $5,000 and the best part is the Bill of Rights Institute gives equal awards to the teachers as well. I've never had $5000 at one time before; in fact, I got grilled at the bank when cashing the check to make sure it wasn't fraudulent. I feel blessed and proud. It felt so good that my student won. It put Gunnison on the map for just a minute.
We spent our last day hitting last minute must-sees for my student before hopping on a plane and jet-setting it home. I taught Thursday and Friday before getting on another plane and heading for San Francisco to start my Spring Break.

Last summer I arranged to visit a Bread Loaf friend (that's my master's program) in San Francisco in the spring. She teaches at a private school and I've always been curious about private schools. So my friend Margaret appeased my curiosity. We saw and walked a lot, which was cool because we ate really well too. SF has incredible restaurants and bakeries. We went to a farmer's market, Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Goldern Gate Park, the Full House houses, the bakery that invented sourdough, and lots of the bay. We also drove around a bit to see all the neighborhoods. We spent a day in Sausalito and Muir Woods which is home to the Redwoods. That was quite an adventure. California really is a beautiful state. I went to school with Margaret on Monday and toured her school and watched her teach. Her kids were bright! I was fascinated and it piqued my interest. Margaret helped me make some decisions. I know what it looks like to be young and single in a city and I think that is what I want. I'm ready for change!
Anyway, I'll keep you posted on that. I had a great start to an awesome spring break. I finished it by reading a book, watching some TV, working in the yard, watching Conference, and visiting Holland while he was in Provo. I bought new luggage for my England trip. After all the traveling I've been doing I realized my beat up old suitcase won't quite hack it anymore. But now March is over and hopefully so is the madness. As far as I can see I have free weekends and no special trips in mind (except Easter in St. George?) I'm a designated home body :) It'll be good for me and for my wallet.
So here's to another adventure!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

March Madness

I think it's always appropriate that College Basketball Tournaments are this month. March truly is Mad, but in other ways than basketball. Here's what I've been up to, bullet style:

* Junior Prom. The first week of the month brought on the Junior Prom, which I advise with a few other teachers. Mostly it's the ladies (me and one other teacher) that run the show. We've been planning and ordering and running fundraisers since the beginning of the year. During the week of prom, we decorate every night and practice dancing all week. It's a crazy mad dash until Saturday. The night turned out beautifully. Kids danced all night, girls looked gorgeous in their dresses and boys were dashing in their sharp tuxes. In the end it went off without a hitch, and I'm in gear for next year.

* Region Speech. In the middle of the week, I helped our speech coach (who is also the other adviser for the prom ironically) run Region Speech. It was our turn to host, so for two days I was helping run a tab room with my mentor Stella Hill (my old speech coach). She taught me a lot about how a tab room should work. I've seen a lot of coaches run a meet in the past few years and it was cool to be one of the decision makers finally. I got to stand up against some cheating, something I didn't stand up for last year and cost our school a place at Region. Though, because I didn't give half the competitors a bye and a free win to qualify them for State, I've made an enemy of our close rival North Sevier. Oh well. A little hateful competition is always healthy right? :)

* State Speech. This weekend I went to State Speech with our speech team. We left Friday for sunny St. George and competed in individual events. It was a great day, with a few minor drawbacks. A few of my students chose to participate in some illicit activities. No charges yet, but I think they underestimate the power of my hearing and innate goodness of the few of the students they told about their shenanigans. Anyway, students did well. A few of our kids made it to the final rounds of individual events and debate. In the end the school took 3rd place. My star public forum debate team didn't do as well as normal, but that happens. One of our other teams got to be in the spotlight and I must say they deserved it.
I also got to see Bret and Lori for a minute. We went karaoke-ing at our favorite place Honolulu Grill. Super fun. It was great to see them, even for a short time. My friends Cassey and Landon came over to my hotel too, and had an excellent talk. I love catching up with old friends.
The team had some pretty cool adventures over the weekend. At our hotel, we saw a full scale drug bust. Teams of drug units and their dogs invaded a room and arrested several guys and took them off in discrete white vans. Plus on the way home our bus broke down in Cedar City. Thank heavens our bus driver used to drive for Iron County and knew just who to call. A mechanic came but couldn't get the engine to turn over. In the end they lent us a bus to come home in. We got home at 1 a.m. and it was late. Overall I had a blast getting to know my students a little better and I'm proud of the work they did over the weekend. Way to represent.

Coming up: I'm headed to Washington D.C. this weekend for an essay contest ceremony with one of my students. We'll find out what place she took in the top 3, and we'll also get to see some pretty great sites. I love D.C. It's one of my favorite places to visit. I'm flying in a day early to see Doug and the family. The rest of the four days I'm there will be too busy to see much of them. I can't wait.
The next week (the last week of March and first of April) I'm flying to San Francisco to visit my good friend Margaret. I planned this trip to see her last summer when we were at school. I've never been to that part of California and I'm stoked. We have plans to see the Redwoods and many other things. I can't imagine a better way to start Spring Break.

After that, who knows. I have no April plans but I'm waiting for things to happen. Easter and General Conference are in there somewhere. But I really am looking forward to a little break from the Madness that is March. So have fun with all the bracketology and I'll see you when the madness is over. :)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pleasant President's Day

Hey, guess what? This blog post will have nothing to do with ranting! I know. I can hardly believe it myself. :) Here's the thing: winter has been hard, but it's almost over. For President's Day weekend I had an awesome time. Cody and Kim decided they needed a weekend away and picked my house as their destination. It was great to spend time with them. We went swimming on Friday; I watched the kids while Kim and Cody went to the temple Saturday morning; And we spent Sunday around the house and out taking family photos. We were relaxed and just enjoyed hanging out together. It was super nice to have people around the house and spend some quality time with my nephews and niece. Anyway, I really just wanted to post these pictures I took of Kim and Cody. I'm super amateur but they turned out pretty cute.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Time for Another Teacher Rant

I got my Time magazine this week, and the cover article is about “Tiger Moms.” It’s the new tough-love for those of you who haven’t heard about it yet (I hadn’t until the article). The article is about Chinese-parenting and making kids achieve a certain level of greatness. It’s all no-nonsense; “You don’t get to sleep or eat or pee until you can play this song on the violin. Stop your whining.” I think it’s great. Make your kids achieve greatness. Awesome. But I see it will never be the American way and that is “awesome” in its own right. Who wants to beat math, reading, and science into people and never acknowledge the importance for free thought and personal/individual accomplishment? Not me. Freedom is it’s own education in a way. I wonder if on these international tests there is ever a section of creativity or thought. I doubt it. But the truth remains. U.S. students are no longer achieving enough to compete in the world we live in. They aren’t prepared, and I’m not prepared for the future we are creating for ourselves. These kids in my classes are, after all, the same people who will be running this country when I’m 60. Sometimes that thought scares me. All I’ve prepared them for is a world full of second chances and no responsibility. I think that’s what we’ve all prepared them for unfortunately.
We still live in a world where entertainment is a billion dollar industry. After all, people may be out of work, but that won’t stop us from watching the Super Bowl or canceling our subscriptions to NetFlix. I think this is one of our biggest problems. We are born and bread as consumers, not creators or workers. We get things and buy things never really understanding what it means to have them. What happened to work ethic, or gratitude for that matter? Where did all this ‘expectance’ come from?
Now, in December President Obama mentioned that we are in the education version of Sputnik right now with China. They are blowing past the world in terms of economic growth and education. One area we expect to dominate has not been our strong suit for quite some time, and I feel a little defeated. I begin thinking, “What do we do?” or worse “Can I get out now and leave the problem to someone else?” I’m writing a portfolio of teaching philosophy right now for an award for which I was nominated. I find myself writing in a circle because I keep avoiding the question of why do I stay in the profession. Too much work and too few rewards, and for once I don’t mean money. I can’t tell you the last time I think one of my students took upon themselves to learn anything. Every day I get asked every variety of the same question “How little work can I do for enough credit?” No longer do students put effort in to learn. They ask for requirements for points. When I actually look at the quality of some of my student's work, I feel ashamed for them . . . and myself. How do I keep going?
I want to say the solution is in facing consequences and dealing with responsibility, even if it means failing. I can't say enough that sometimes we have to stop protecting kids from consequences. Maybe the real question is how do we start?