Friday, December 17, 2010

Rachel K. Decision

Seattle University wants me, too! Who would have thought this would happen? Certainly not me. In my infinite self-doubt, I seem to have forgotten somewhere along the graduate school application process to ... y'know... compare schools. My  preliminary search process for masters in teaching programs was as follows:
  1. Google "masters in teaching programs, Seattle." 
  2. Apply to top 3 search results. 
  3. Pour a glass of wine. 
And in fact, the google search is really no exaggeration of my "research efforts." Behold: 

And so I began applying to these programs. Or, I should say that I applied to the programs that weren't turbo sketchy. I haven't talked very much about Seattle Pacific University, but that's only because the application deadline is in February and by the time I was getting around to putting something together, I had already heard back from the University of Washington. 

So now I am accepted to two ostensibly good schools: The University of Washington and Seattle University. I have the greatest problem anyone could have: 

Which graduate program should I go to?

 Sure, UW was definitely my first choice and I was totally behind the idea of finishing up pre-requisite classes in the next two quarters and starting in June... but then I got into the other school! It changed everything! So, I started making lists  -- most of them in my head at around 2am -- and here is what my lists may have looked like were they written on paper:

UW v. SU 
UW has a bigger fountain than SU's... plus it has a vista of a volcano. 
SU's bathrooms are much nicer than UW's
UW has 220 people in the MIT program while SU's has 50
UW is broke and SU is backed by the DARK SIDE Catholic Church and has church $$$
UW is 2 years long, SU is 1
UW would save me $3,000... which I would end up spending on pre-requisites
I don't have to take anymore prerequisites if I go to SU... I could just take them during the program as opposed to before. 

For these reasons and generally no others, I have decided to officially enroll in the Seattle University and start my Masters in Teaching Program in early March of 2011. This is barring amnesia, peg-leggedness, and/or cold feet. 

So -- exciting news! This blog might actually turn into a teaching blog after a solid year and some months as a bunch of mild catastrophes. 

I'm going to be SO BROKE. 

And on that note, I'm going to visit my family in Virginia for a week and a half or so. I will probably report more on the graduate school enrollment from there. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Rachel K. UW & the Return of Lifeapocalypse

The news that I had been accepted to the University of Washington Masters in Teaching Program came over my iPod e-mail around 4:30pm while I was in the middle of a closing shift at Makeda Coffee. I was so stunned that I had to read it over about three times (iPod screens are very small). Finally I was convinced enough to tell my boss the good news, which she was excited to hear! 

I spent the rest of the shift texting and calling people between customers and then excitedly bounded down to Capitol Hill to tell Kevin the good news in PERSON and to go see a midnight showing of "Indiana Jones: The Temple of Doom," which is the silliest Indiana Jones movie ever. So many alligators. 


Then again, I have three more prerequisite courses that I need to sign up for, get into, and get B's in before I can go to this masters program. Rats. 

So, Lifeapocalypse returns in a new form. I managed to register for a US History class (Reconstruction and onwards,) but I have yet to be fully enrolled in the educational psychology or multi ethnic studies courses that I need to secure my place at UW in June. Basically I've earned the acceptance, but I'm not yet accepted... which is really stressful. 

I've spent the past week trying to feel happy, but mostly feeling inundated and worried about courses. I'm waitlisted for these classes at UW, but I won't know if I have a seat in them until the first week of classes (January 3rd, which is 4 days before my reply to UW is due.) I have tried unsuccessfully to enroll in the community college lifespan psych course, but the professor wouldn't let me on the wait list without Psych 101 under my belt... even though the psych class is a 200 level (really?) 

The Plan B is going to happen as soon as I have a few hours to bus it up to North Seattle Community College to try and appeal to the psych professors up there to let me into their classes. 

Nothing is easy, everything is still up in the air, and I know I should stop worrying and remember to celebrate this incredibly VICTORY that my hard work has finally paid off with. I'm hoping that the classes will all work out and I can start blogging about REAL TEACHER THINGS and not DEEPLY ROOTED NON-MATRICULATED ANXIETY. 

I should hear back from Seattle University in a few more weeks. I interviewed with them awhile ago, but forgot to write about it. All in all it was pretty unspectacular. I really liked the UW candidates in the group interview a lot better, which is something to consider if I end up having to decide between the programs. 

I hope my next blog post is an optimistic and cheery one!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Rachel K. Makeda

I finally have a weekend and part-time job! I finally have income that will cover the utilities and rent that I have been paying for with fumes and savings up until now!

This is a good thing.

I haven't talked about my financial situation too much on the blog, but it's about as good as you might think it would be (considering I'm a full-time, non-matriculated student paying full price for classes at UW and SCCC while having no real income or job and living in a metropolitan area.) so yeah, basically I have about as much money as the dude sitting outside the Wal-Mart smoking asking if you can help him out. Only I have an iPod. 

So having a part-time job that gives me free coffee and pastries will lead to a fatter, more financially stable less financially unstable Rachel. 

Plus, the cafe that hired me is very "Seattle," with its old school La Marzocco machine, Indian Ganesh statue, cement floors and general "chillaxed" feeling. I'm psyched to be working here! I get paid more than I ever did at Starbucks and I don't have to worry as much. I don't bring my work home with me and I get to listen to my own music and wear my own clothes. It's a great job to hold me over until I can get into an actual career; and for that I'm thankful. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Rachel K. Interview

On Friday of last week I found out that I was moving on up to the interview stage of the UW Masters in Teaching Program. I am PSYCHED that my application worked out so well. After spending almost an entire year trying to prepare for the basics of the program, it's nice to have some validation.

Of course I spent the entire week panicking about the interview and having my stomach in knots.

Well the interview is over now. I won't know how it went until November 12th (the countdown begins!) For anyone whose goal it is to apply to this program, I will explain how the interview went:

  1. The first half hour was a briefing by a woman who runs the program (whose name I cannot remember) and a current grad student named Marina. They told us about the program, reassured us that if we are at the interview stage, we should probably all be teachers regardless of being accepted into this program or another. 
  2. Part two was a 25 minute free write. We had a topic related to teaching and a topic related to a book or passage we had selected for the interview. However, we never ended up reading this aloud as we were supposed to, so I'm not sure what the writing was for in the end. Maybe nothing.
  3. I had a group interview with five other candidates. We met in a conference room with a 5th grade teacher and one of the UW faculty. We discussed pedagogial "issues" and trouble shooted possible solutions. It was fairly relaxed. 
  4. My final interview was a fifteen minute individual interview with two faculty members. One of them works with ELL (English as a learned language) programs and the other works with administration (like principals.) They were very nice and the interview didn't feel too nerve-wracking.
And that was all! I feel like I represented myself well, but my stomach is still in knots as I wait the three weeks to find out the final decision. If I get into this program, my life is going to be on a CAREER TRACK. If I don't get in, it's going to be hard to recover from the rejection. No two ways about it. 

When the interview was over, I finished out the day's classes and took a very long nap at home. Kevin took me out to celebrate the "done-ness" of the interview and we had delicious crepes at Citizen's in Queen Anne. I recommend crepes to anyone who has just gone to an interview. They have healing properties. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rachel K. Worst Field Trip Ever

I went on a geology class field trip to Mt. Rainier today. I earned myself some bonus points for my class grade by taking on the position of van driver for the trip. Driving a van, as it turns out, is pretty frightening. Driving a van full of Chinese freshmen who don't know the area or speak English or talk to me is really boring. The field trip was mostly unorganized and the van drivers had no real way of contacting each other. The walkie-talkies didn't work, nobody switched cell phone numbers, and we didn't have directions or maps on how to get BACK from the national park.
Rocks! Let us study them!

Without going into more detail, it was pretty awful. I drove a van for 8.5 hours and drove at uncomfortably fast speeds on the high way in the hopes of keeping up with the other van drivers who were speeding, but who knew the way home.

View of Mt. Rainier
Bonus points be damned. The trip was not worth the stress. HowEVER we did see beautiful mountain scenery, so I will put up some pictures of that and hope that it comes to be what I remember most about the trip... in time.

View of some kind of dam
A stream that turns into Narada Falls (which I don't have a decent picture of) 
The Reflecting Pools, which we fortunately got a great view of! 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rachel K. Discussion

The discussion section for my Intro to Globalization class is very fortunately full of non-freshmen. Nobody talks very much, but it's nice to have an hour to talk about the things we've been reading in a relaxed room in a beautiful Paccar Hall.
Paccar Hall at the University of Washington 
The TA is very sweet and has never been a TA before, which means she will hopefully be forgiving on our participation grades! 

My geology lab is early in the morning on Wednesdays and so far it's a little weird having a group of 5 freshmen, but they are all really nice and we've been doing better with each lab every week! So far we have learned about topography and minerals. Hooray! 
It will never matter how old I am. This will always make me giggle.

The air is very chilly and crisp and it's beginning to feel like Autumn at last. I'm excited to be going to classes every day and to have a little more purpose in my life. I also have a sore throat and feel totally under the weather, which PROVES that I have joined the masses in an enclosed germ box for the sake of higher learning! 
Sure it looks beautiful, but think of how many GERMS are here!

My greatest successes so far have been locating a quiet study area in Allen Library and finding cheap and healthy lunch alternatives on campus. For under $4 I can get yogurt, baby carrots and a tuna cup with crackers! My greatest challenge so far is having no water fountain in Kane Hall where the geology lecture takes place. Maybe someday...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rachel K. Classes

First day of non-matriculated classes at UW and my first day of math class at SCCC! I am psyched! I haven't gone to school in over four years now. Moreover, I never took a math or science class the whole time I was in college, so this is all very new and exciting.
Red Square on the first day of classes at UW

There were SO MANY PEOPLE AT UW. Red Square was completely packed with people and vendors and sororities or fraternities. It was a mad house and it was completely overwhelming. I always thought RIT, my Alma Mater, was a big school, but UW is about 7 times larger. My Introduction to Geology 101 course was held in Kane Hall, which holds about 600 people and was at maximum capacity. I have never been in a lecture with this many people before, and it is really distracting with the amount of students who are on their laptops or phones looking at facebook.  The professor, Terry Swanson, is a guy from Alberta who loves geology and is very used to teaching freshmen. He even went as far as to say he doesn't mind it when students sleep in class. I feel old.

My next class, which I was fifteen minutes late for because I got completely lost, ended up being cancelled due to the professor's illness. Dr. Joseph Hannah is the professor, which I know because I met him when he signed my form last month. This class seems very interesting, but I can't read the syllabus until I am completely accepted into the class, and I am still a second class citizen non-matriculated student, so who knows when that will even be! All I know is that this class is smaller, and I'm hoping it will be less distracting (facebook wise.)

The bus ride between UW and SCCC is really pretty and goes through the nicer parts of Capitol Hill. The math class is in the SAM building (the science and math building) where the bathrooms have tiles with illustrations of bugs on them! The math professor, Andrea Levy, is a total pro and I can tell that she is a veteran teacher. I'm looking forward to learning from her. This is the only class so far where I feel like I am going to make any friends since more of the people in class are my age and are going into teaching. It was also 1/3 the price of either of the UW classes (blargh!)

That's the update so far on school. Here is hoping I remember how to do homework.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Rachel K. Pass!

Wahoo! I passed the WEST-E with flying colors! I am done with standardized testing forever! Or at least for my current goal purposes...

Other than that, I am an official student at Seattle Central Community College, which will make taking classes there actually possible and thus a lot easier to do. Hooray!

I was able to sign up for the math class for elementary school teachers, but it cuts into my Kumon schedule, so I'll be working even less now. Yeugh. Oh well, at least I'll be knocking three prerequisite classes out of the way. Three more to go in the next few quarters, so hopefully I'll be able to find some kind of income by then and pay for it all. Damn you, financial pitfalls.

School things aside, this weekend I helped Kevin move two flights up, where he now has a view of Elliot Bay and a roommate who knows how to do dishes and vaccuum. This couldn't be a better situation. The kitties are confused, but they are having a good time bouncing around a new apartment.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rachel K. Community College

It is the calm before the storm! It is the Sunday before fall quarters at the University of Washington and Seattle Central Community College (SCCC for short) commence! I had a few misadventures at SCCC on Friday, but in the end it turned out well enough (I think.)

Friday morning I leapt out of bed and, after a week of studying factorials and quadratic equations to review my high school math concepts, I was going back to SCCC to retake the Compass placement test for mathematics. I had performed abysmally on my first try at the test (If the thought, "who needs to study for this?" ever pops into my head again, I'll know better.) I had placed in Math 098, which is essentially algebra 2. While teaching at Kumon and studying for the GRE have given me a firm grasp of mathematics concepts ranging from K-8 to college algebra, I had forgotten to review high school math.  As I now know, the Compass test feeds the user harder questions for every question answered correctly, and easier questions for every incorrect answer. Due to this egregious, but totally reasonable manner of testing, I never got a chance to show off my skills with complex numbers. Instead, I placed in a level I accomplished when I was 16. Damnation.

But why worry? The placement test could be taken again for a small $17 fee, and I would certainly place at a higher level this time around. Placing even one course higher would earn me the prerequisite necessary to take the elementary school teacher math course offered this fall at SCCC, which I had only recently discovered.

I was nervous, but confident when I showed up at SCCC that afternoon. This soon vanished when I was told that I needed to wait 90 days before retaking the compass test. I asked the receptionist (pleadingly) if there was another way. She told me I could talk to Mr. Appleton, the head adviser, who could waive the waiting period. I dashed off to his office down the hall, but he was out for the day and the entire office was closed. This was a significant setback, but I had other things to accomplish at the community college that day, and I went about doing them. My next step in becoming a full-fledged student at SCCC was to show my transcript to the lady at admissions and prove that I had taken a course in English composition, which would opt me out of the English writing Compass test.  The admissions lady told me that my English & Literature course did not count for composition, and neither did my numerous scriptwriting courses. Furthermore, there was no proof of graduation on my official transcript. I am still not sure why I would need proof of graduation to apply for classes at a community college. In any case, I left the Capitol Hill campus completely enervated and bummed out.

When I arrived back at my apartment, I immediately set out to make things right. If I couldn't prove I had graduated from RIT on my transcript, well then damn it I WILL BRING IN MY DIPLOMA. If my transcript couldn't opt me out of the English composition course, then damn it, I will bring in my GRE writing scores and barring that, I will take the damn placement test. So, I made an appointment with Mr. Appleton for 9am Monday; the day that my math class would in theory begin. I then set about e-mailing the professor of the math class and explaining my situation. She, in her infinite benevolence, told me that she would waive the prerequisite and that she would send me a link to the syllabus.

So now, after all that, my Monday morning plan is to meet with the head adviser to sort out my English composition nonsense.  After that, I'm going to buy the math textbook and notebook that I need for class. Then after Kumon, which I will now have to skip out of 2.5 hours early to make this class that I can't afford to be late to, I will hop the bus back from Greenwood to Capitol Hill for my first math class. Really, my first college class in four years!

As for my UW classes, they are set to begin on Wednesday. I am still on standby for both the geology and geography classes, but I am hopeful that I will be accepted into them and that I will be taking 15 credits of prerequisite goodness this fall quarter.

Tomorrow morning I will behold my test scores for the WEST-E exams from earlier this month. Dear God I hope I passed. I can recover from almost anything else so long as I passed this exam.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rachel K. Desperate

Seattle weather has taken a turn for the autumnal, which is a comfort and a reminder that I have been here longer than a year now. The leaves are starting to turn gold and red on a few kinds of trees and the air has turned crisper. It's the kind of weather that is conducive to reading, eating pie, and wearing over-sized sweaters. One of the blessings of having no real source of employment is that I have the time to enjoy these fall days at home and around downtown Seattle. The downside to having no real source of employment is that I have no real source of income, which is a constant reminder that I am fucked need graduate school to work out.

School-wise, I've been making slow progress. I've finally turned my applications in to the University of Washington and Seattle University. At this point I would gladly go to any school that would accept me, but I am currently hoping against hopes for UW to open up their lovin' arms and allow me the distinct pleasure of learning. I have also signed up as a second-class citizen non-matriculated student for two classes at UW. I'm on standby for Intro to Geology and Intro to Globalization. These classes, in theory, will fulfil my world geography and lab science course requirements as pre-requisites to either UW or SU graduate programs. In other words I've spent $3,000 in the hopes of taking classes to fulfil the needs of universities, in hopes that these universities will accept me.  I remain hopeful, since it's all I can really do.

On the community college front, I have applied for studentship at Seattle Central Community College, located on Capital Hill and right across the street from a Panera Bread that will OPEN SOON (according to its banner.) I took a math placement exam, but didn't place well enough to take the elementary school teacher math course that I need for one of my pre-requisites... SO I have spent the last weekend studying my polynomials and I plan to retake the placement test this week. This time I'll be ready! This is very much due to the kindly tutoring of Kevin, who has an exponential amount of patience with me and my inability to absorb mathematical concepts. <3

In the end of my application process, I took the WEST-E, which is the teacher's exam in Washington State for elementary endorsements. I have no idea if I passed, which is really scary. If I don't pass it, it could mean I don't get a graduate program this year, which would be an enormous set-back. I really hope I passed, and that's all I can do. On the bright side, it's the last exam I need to take, which is a tremendous relief. Or... a relief if I passed, anyway.

I am still tutoring part-time at the Kumon Center, which is my only source of income right now. My boss, Marty, has created a new position for me that she hopes will work out for me as well as for her. I'm somewhat of a glorified secretary starting in October. I'll be doing less tutoring, which is a bummer, but I'll have more responsibilities as a new title as, "classroom manager," which looks fancier than "tutor." I am thankful for the Kumon Center and all of the cash and sanity it has provided me with over the past year. Plus, my students are awesome and they're all getting SO TALL.

I am currently looking for part-time employment to supplement my meager income from Kumon and to give me more of a purpose in life. A year in Seattle and here I am applying to retail stores, the apple store, and coffee vendors that aren't Starbucks (I don't think they'll hire me back.) The apple store and multiple retail venues have thus far rejected me, but I am holding out for some kind of waitressing or barista position where I won't be expected to stay for the long haul. I just need something for the rest of the year or until I can finagle my way into a teacher certification program.

I feel more and more desperate all the time, I won't lie. All of my money from summer camp is going into classes and I feel like I am not making any progress with finding something to bring the money in. I hate that I have to focus on and worry about money and part-time jobs when I should really be focusing on salvaging a career out of this past year, which has been a glorious mess. Everything's always backwards. I'm stressed out and I hate that I'm 25 and I can't justify buying a hoodie for fall or yarn to make Christmas presents for my family. I've been filling a lot of the time with studying and baking bread. Somehow baking bread makes my day feel infinitely more successful, and I don't suppose I'll ever know why.

In a nutshell, my social and love lives are top notch, my professional life is non-existent, and I'm worried and anxious almost all of the time. I hope that my next blog post will be a lot more hopeful and that it will report a lot of GOOD THINGS. I will be hearing back from the Universities I applied to starting in October in any case.

I just want to teach.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rachel K. Blergh

I've been terrible about posting since I started camp... but now that I'm done with camp I can get back into blogging and trying to fill up my free hours of time and sadness. Hooray!

Camp was awesome. I worked there for eight straight weeks as an assistant director, which had me busy learning how to be managerial and to create order out of chaos. I also had to learn how to balance my newly acclaimed power with NOT being the director, which sucked. I'll probably apply for director next year since I think it'd be sweet to have LIMITLESS POWER AND INTRIGUE. And y'know because it's good money and good fun and it's the only decent job I've had in over a year now.

So now I'm back to not being in a graduate school program and to not having a job or job offer. It sucks. I've been enjoying these last warm days of Seattle summer and have been applying to the odd evening-friendly job like at hotels or costplus world market or the elusive apple store. Hopefully one of them will hire me and I'll have some kind of source of income to pay for my ridiculous pre-requisite classes for the graduate programs I seek to join.

I've taken one of the teacher exams, the WEST-B, which I passed with gusto! It was a four hour exam testing me on the basics of reading, writing and math. It was brutal simply because it was SO LONG. The next one is the WEST-E test, which has more specific questions aimed at elementary school endorsements. I need to study up on all the little modules such as the properties of light and color, elementary level physical education, language arts, history etc. I'm having fun studying for it (it's not like the GRE where it's difficult for no particular reason,) and I'm hoping to pass the test with flying colors come September 11th.

The next important date will be September 17th, which is the date that my application to the University of Washington is due.

Aside from the WEST-E test, I'm working on planning out and completing my pre-requisite courses for UW and Seattle U. I'm on standby as a non-matriculated student for a Geology 101 class and I'm hoping to take a geography one at the University of Washington as well. The only downside is that the classes are $1500 a piece and I have almost no money because I have almost no job. So, I'm hoping to take the rest of the classes I need to be considered for the grad programs at a community college because truly that is how dreams are made.

Until then I keep working part-time at Kumon and praying for some more employment, even if it's not a fulfilling or interesting job. I will sell chocolate or computers. Somebody hire me for the love of God.

On the plus side, Ian is getting back on Wednesday from Japan and I will have someone to commiserate with and go to art museums with!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rachel K. Standardized Testing

I continue to be the busiest person on earth, but in a totally wonderful way.

First and foremost : GRE - CHECK. DONE. VANQUISHED!!!!

The GRE is finally over and I have a majority of my life back! WahooOOoooo! After a week of hardcore crunching for the math and verbal sections and a quickie crash course in the writing sections, I took the test. I borrowed my grandfather's trusty vehicle and drove (the hell) up to Montlake Terrace where the test was held at some strange computer testing center. It was hella sketchy. The testing people made me empty my pockets and they checked up my pant legs for CHEATING STRATEGEMS (maybe). Anyway it hadn't occurred to me to hide answers up my pant legs, so I was allowed in and took the test.

Nothing more interesting about it really, but it's over and my score was about 140 points over what I wanted it to be, which is turbo awesome. I'll have to wait and see about my essay scores, but at this point I just don't have the energy left to care. I'm done and that's all there is to it!

Having my life back, I rejoined society spent some time with the roommate, the boyfriend and my roommate's new kitten, Yogurt. Yogurt is a wonderful distraction to all the things I should be doing. I could be studying for my up-and-coming teacher exams (the WEST-E and WEST-B exams for Washington State), but there's a KITTEN now and instead I can just wiggle a string in front of her for hours and hours. And I do.

Now it's crunch time for iD Tech Camps, where I'm assistant directing all summer long. I'm in San Francisco currently for camp training at UC Berkeley and am visiting with friends Natanya and Amy (former JET members like me) while I'm down in California. I had an online meeting for admin stuff today and I feel really good about the position; I think it'll have enough responsibilities to keep me busy, but it's a job I'm very qualified for. It feels nice to be counted on once in awhile, especially because I'm waiting to hear back from my UCDS job interview and the more I have to wait, the more I assume I don't have the job and start to panic.

I just have to keep a cool head about all this. If I don't get the job, it will be crummy. I'll have to find some other source of income for next year, which won't be easy and I really don't want to have to take a bunch of steps backwards and work somewhere at a coffee shop or retail store again; but if that's what it comes to, I guess I'll have to swallow my pride. Anyway I can't do anything about it until I hear back, and I haven't heard back so that's that for now.

I've heard from one person on my craigs list ad for private tutoring, which I'm trying to fill up my Saturdays with before climbing. I figured if I charge $25 an hour I can make some quick money doing something I like doing and have a bit of experience doing! We'll see if this works out, but I am hoping to hone in on this skill that I have been practicing since I was hired at Kumon last summer.

[ooh they're playing Soulja Boy on the radio! San Francisco coffee shops have earned new respect from me]

Other than that there's still the matter of getting my UW application together since that's due in mid-September and I'd best finish up most of it as quickly as I can. I still need a second letter of recommendation, which is proving arduous since none of my RIT professors are getting back to me... boo. I will persevere! I also have to investigate where and when to take these multiple pre-requisite courses like lab science, math, US history and early child development... that might actually end up being a lot easier if I DON'T get the UCDS job, which would really be the only good thing to come out of that.

For now, I'm going back to enjoy my time in San Francisco. Today I went to the Asian Art Museum downtown and saw some beautiful government buildings and sculptures. Tomorrow -- Golden Gate Park with Amy? I should also mention that I'm staying with Natanya and her wonderful parents who have a beautiful blue home in Daly City! San Francisco does not shy away from color. I thought Seattle was crazy!

Stay tuned for the next entry:

UCDS Spells Success OR Job Rejection Leads to Jumping from Golden Gate Bridge

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rachel K. Crunch

It's crunch time.

Lately I've been feeling overwhelmed with everything that I need to finish and underwhelmed with how I've been living my life lately.

I've been bouncing around the country every two weeks for awhile now. Spending time in Los Angeles visiting my friend Tristyn and my sister, Laura with Kevin was a blast! We saw Nickelodeon studios, where my sister just finished an intern position. Then, last week I joined my family in Boston for the Emerson College graduation ceremony and saw my sister and all of her friends in the beautiful sunshine.  On June first I'm heading south to San Francisco to hang out with fellow former-JETs Amy and Natanya in the foggy city! I'm hoping to be a little bit more relaxed then than I am now since the GRE will be over by that time and I'll be studying for tests that are less pointless.

So right now I'm in the middle of my most stressful week. On Monday I flew back on a disgustingly early flight from Boston to Seattle and immediately felt under the weather. The next day I had my 3 hour teaching interview at UCDS, where I taught a quickie lesson on algebraic concepts (fancier sounding than it was in actuality) and got to know some of the 4th and 5th graders and teachers in the block. UCDS is an amazing school right off the bat. It's beautiful, well-lit, well-designed, and it looks like the Disneyland of elementary schools. It's a stark contrast to the peeling paint on the walls of the public school I volunteer at. Those kids need pencils, these kids have macbooks and smart boards (the Ferrari of chalkboards). I'm not sure how the interview went, but I can say for sure that I really liked working with the teachers (Diane, Meg and another person whose name I've forgotten). The kids were fantastic and I hope that they ask me to join their staff! I'll hear back on the first week of June for better or for worse.

Other than that, it's crunch time for the GRE. I'm trying to cram all those principles of triangles, geometry, binomials, probability, vocabulary, grammar, and everything else into my brain. It's not fitting, and I'm pretty certain that I won't do spectacularly on the test. However, I have no plans in the near future to submit a GRE score to anyone, so I guess at this point I should just keep swimming and hope for the best.

After the GRE is over and done with, my life will be all about iD Tech Camps and preparing for the training seminar in San Francisco, which by the way is the main reason I'm going down there in the first place.

It's amazing how being busy with all the things you don't want to do makes you realize all the things you'd rather be doing. I miss going climbing and working out and drawing and studying Japanese and getting up to the market more than once every two weeks. At least I'm squeezing in lots of mad men watching while I take practice exams. Surely that's conducive to learning.

Stay tuned for the next entry:

Standardized Victory
You can't spell Egregious without "GRE"

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rachel K. Art Class

The art classes at BFD Elementary School are taught by its "resident artist," Julie Clownfish (the name has been changed to protect the banality of her actual surname). She dresses in cute, fun-pattern skirts, clompy platform sandals, and large hipster glasses. She plays Lady Gaga or Journey on her iPhone while the students utilize their creativity. Ms. Clownfish (this surname seems more befitting now that I think about it) gets the attention of her class by singing, "A-B-C," to which the children chime in, "1-2-3!" For the older classes, she reaches back into one of my favorite rap songs, saying, "Can I get a woop woop?" and the children raise the roof as they reply, "woop woop!" Amazing.

After spending a couple of weeks observing Ms. Clownfish's different classes, I finally got a chance to speak with her one-on-one. She, like me, hails from the East Coast (West Virginia, to be precise). She wanted to live in a more progressive area and Seattle won her over in the end. She told me that she used to teach other subjects besides art. She's taught just about everything, from 5th grade classroom teaching to 8th grade social studies. She told me that after doing middle school for awhile, she had to take a year off just to recuperate. Yipes.

Her advice to me, when it comes to getting certified in either elementary or secondary education, is generally the same as the advice I've gotten from my friend, Natanya, who is also going into the educator certification business. They both have said that it's easier to get a general, elementary school certification for teaching all subjects. After that, it's easier to, "find a niche" and collect endorsements for specific criteria that I'd be interested in teaching: Japanese, ELL, etc.

So, while I'm not interested in teaching elementary school art classes, I'm glad I've gotten a chance to see how they are run: and to meet Ms. Clownfish.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Rachel K. Philanthropy

I've been volunteering at BFD Elementary school for a week now! I've been wanting to blog about the experience there as a volunteer, but I have to be discreet when it comes to using names and stuff. So, BFD Elementary it is!

I got connected with the volunteer coordinator through a website of public schools in King County, which was sent to me by one of the people who organizes the masters in teaching program through the University of Washington. It was a really awesome resource -- I hadn't known that volunteering at an elementary, middle or high school was so easy. Plus, the school that I'm volunteering at was really eager to put me to work! So, I've started a schedule of three hours every day helping two students individually (one with math, one with English) and I shadow and observe two different 5th grade classes after the individual lessons. It has been an invaluable experience to see how public schools in the area function.

I can tell volunteers are paltry at this school. On my first day, they sat me down with a girl from Thailand (let's call her Sue) who speaks almost no English and can barely read or write. Me? Seriously? Sure I've taught English, but I taught it in Japan with an over-structured curriculum and seasoned teachers who could explain all the pains of English away in their own language! I am not qualified nor confident enough in ELL (English language learning) to teach this girl. Sike, j/k -- I'm teaching her anyway. PUBLIC SCHOOL, MOTHERTRUCKERS! So, now Sue's English capabilities have fallen to me, which is ridiculous. On the bright side, she's cheerful and seems to like me enough that she tries to focus on the boring stories in the English learners' booklets. Did you know you can buy pets at a pet store? Life lessons learned. Anyway, I'm bamboozled beyond belief that I have been given so much responsibility for this 5th grader's language abilities, but I've been told that, "if not for you, she'd be getting no attention." Eep.

More befitting of my level of pedagogy, I am helping a ridiculous 4th grade boy (who I shall call Shawn) with his math. Is he bad at math? NOPE -- he's a whiz. He just happens to be a whiz with attention deficit hyperactive disorder, or as its known to its fans, ADHD! I like to imagine that ADHD is like having a carnival in your brain all day. Sure, you could do the math on the page, but THEY'RE PASSING OUT COTTON CANDY BY THE HAUNTED HOUSE! What? I'm supposed to write a definition of a convex polygon? Sure, let me see -- OH BUT WAIT! THEY'RE STARTING UP THE FERRIS WHEEL! Yep.  So, after a week of working with Shawn, I've finally discovered a way to keep him on track (by which I mean keep him from drawing stick figures being blown up, hanged, boiled in acid, decapitated, defenestrated, or mangled by bears in the margins of his workbook). STOP WATCHES. Behold the power of the stopwatch! Every page is a race! A race against TIME! Sure you want to draw stick figures getting their heads bitten off by vampire bats, but THERE'S NO TIME! QUICK! NAME THE POLYGON! FIND THE QUOTIENT! Seriously -- stop watches and candy seem to equate to success: and you won't find that in your math book.

Aside from my two individual human case studies, I get to shadow the rest of the fifth graders in their art classes. Self portraits! It's such a fun class, but I think I'll talk more about it later on. For now, it's date night and I have to straighten the mass of curls that my  hair has morphed into. I blame the rain.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Rachel K. Goal-setting

To make this entry less ridiculous, I've decided to paste an e-mail I wrote to my family about the progress I've been making in the past few weeks with regards to teaching and whatnot.

Herro family,

SO there have been some developments in the misadventures of your daughter/granddaughter/niece/nephew/surrogate/shoe elf.

Firstly, I have been trying to get my grad school/life plan/job applications all organized and together. Right now they exist in a huge time line on the dining room wall. I think it compliments the room, personally.

So here are the goals... this is easier to send in an email than to explain anyway.

Jobs etc:
I have a phone interview with UCDS on April 28th. It's a private elementary school that Mo used to attend and they hire resident teachers, who are basically assistant teachers, every year. I hope to be one of them! The job would offer me about $30k as a salary with some compensation for health benefits. It would start right after summer camp and go up until next summer, so it would be the full on elementary classroom experience. I hope they hire me because I would like to have a full time job again someday.

 Volunteer Work:
As of tomorrow, I am starting at BFD Elementary School as a volunteer for two fifth grade classrooms helping out with math work. I'll be there from 9am until 12:30pm every week day from now until the end of school in early June. They seem really great there and I know I will learn a lot about how to become a teacher if I get to work with REAL ones and with other volunteers and student teachers. It's a public school, so it's good to see the differences between those and the private school that I applied to work for next year. I love the diversity at this school so far -- it's 60% minority, making it 160% less Japanese than my last school (or some non-apocryphal %). I'll let you know how that goes when I start tomorrow!

Grad School:
So far I haven't really applied to any graduate schools. Although, I did go to a q&a a session about the masters in teaching program that they have at UW. The program is two years long: the first year is courses and classroom experience and the second year is student teaching with minimal campus time to check in with mentors and supervisors. I would come out of this program with a residency certification (allowing me to teach in WA state) and I would attain my masters after the second year of student teaching. So, that would be ideal.
The only challenge to that program (the MIT) is that I need the following to be eligible:
  • 60 hours or more of classroom observation time (which is why I am doing the volunteer work). 
  • 6 prerequisite courses (which I would have to complete as a non-matriculated student, online or at night at community colleges before August 2011) 
  • The regular letters of recommendation, goal statement, resume, etc. for the application itself. They're allowing me to transfer my application from this year to next year for no extra cost (Huzzah!) 
  • taking and passing two state certification exams; the West-E and the West-B, which are for elementary school certification.
  • No GRE. God is laughing at me.
So the challenges for this program are mostly going to come down to me figuring out how to complete that many prerequisite courses within the next year! It sounds expensive and if I get the UCDS job, I'm not sure I would be up to the challenge since I would already have a full time job teaching. Though, it's something to think about and although the application for this job is due Sept 17, 2010, they allow you the rest of the year to find out if you got into the MIT program and to complete your prereq. studies between then and 2011, which is somewhat helpful.

As for other grad schools, I have a few in mind that I am going to apply for during the summertime. They have some teacher certification courses (no masters) and masters programs as well. If don't get the job with UCDS, I will look into ways to get some kind of certification while taking courses for the MIT program at UW. The downside is that I would likely have to get a part time job somewhere else to keep up with rent and study costs and food... things like that.
The Rest
Aside from all this craziness, I am trying to study for the GRE, which I will have on May 26th -- ready or not. I don't feel overly confident, but I also just want to get it over with so I can study for other things. I also need to eventually study for the WEST-E and WEST-B exams, although those will be a lot easier and less ridiculous.

Kevin and I have decided to visit Laura and Tristyn in LA at the end of the month to quasi celebrate our half-anniversary. Also, it's a good excuse to get out of Seattle for a while! Then I'll be traveling to San Francisco at the very beginning of June to visit Natanya and Amy, who live there, and to go to my iD Tech camp training seminar at UC Berkeley. I'm looking forward to that since I've never really gotten to explore San Francisco! And let us not forget, I will be spending a brief few days in Boston for Laura's graduation from Emerson. Bring on the Dunkin' Donuts and the funny accents!

I have a lot of work to do when it comes to the camp this summer. I haven't even opened my handbook, and I know I have a lot to read as far as being the asst. director goes. It's hard to make that a priority when there is so much else going on, but it's always in the back of my mind. That and refreshing myself on all the programs I might have to teach if the camp doesn't always have 60+ kids and I have to relegate myself to being an actual instructor again (oh no!) Oh well, the thought of a decent salary and free breakfast, lunch and dinner compensate my worries for now.

Kumon tutoring continues and remains totally awesome.
This completes my life outline to date.

Questions or comments are welcomed and can be directed to to our Life Coordinator, Rachel Sreebny.

Best Wishes,

Rachel's Brain & Friends

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rachel K Meals on Wheels

I woke up at a decent hour this morning and proceeded to shower and then [gasp] study for the GRE!

Not only that, but I managed to REGISTER for the GRE, which was an easy process, but will be a grueling commute. Why can't they have a test center that is bus accessible? The closest bus stop to the center is still about a mile away so I'll have to walk after taking two buses, or rent a car from Zipcar. I'll figure it out; I'm sure it'll be the least of my worries that day, anyhow.

General financial panic is setting in as my Japan money still hasn't arrived and I'm not sure if the checking account correction I made and sent back to Tokyo ever made it. I trust in Japanese bureaucracy almost entirely, but when it comes to the postal service, I'm never sure. I just need those thousands of dollars so I can do things like buy real bed-side tables, get a coffee table, and go to the dentist. I still have enough in my savings account to last me more than the next few months of unemployment, but I want my Japanese pension refund already! I want it! Gimme!

Now begins the ides of March! Today after studying for a solid three hours (aided with TV in the background, coffee, tea, lunch, a snuggie-cape that I made complete with belt, and colour coded notes), I'm off to Kumon for tutoring! Then I will scurry off to meet Kevin at Chipotle for our weekly tradition; burrito Monday. It makes Mondays bearable and delicious.

The weekend was relaxing and exhausting. Kevin and I visited my old Starbucks to pick up my last batch of tips and to say hi to the weekend girls (Hilary, Ashley, Ally etc) who I miss now that I don't work there. Kevin said it was cute to see me with all the tittering girliness of the store -- and I was happy to have him see that I had friends outside of Megan and Sarah. Friends who I miss! We spoke to Hilary about joining us for rock climbing on Sunday and went off to the Mobile Food Festival near Safeco Field.

The food festival should have been cooler, probably. There were too many people, the lines were too long and there wasn't enough seating or shelter. The temperatures ranged between a chilly, sunny day and a blustery cold one. Kevin and I trouped through three lines total; pizza, hamburgers and finally hot dogs (after meeting up with Sarah and Ian from Fremont). The food was good, but in the end it was just too cold and crowded.
Kevin and I later played board games at his friend Greg's house and then we went home early for rock climbing with Hilary on Sunday! We sprinted for the bus to Ballard, which we then had to wait for, and met Hilary at Stone Gardens around noon.

We climbed and climbed! Kevin had gone climbing the previous day, but went again with me because he is a trouper and loves climbing fake rocks. Hilary turned out to be a BEAST. She did most of the bouldering routines with ease and grace and went to work out in the gym after Kevin and I were ready for naps and death. I wore myself out, but I feel like I'm making a little progress considering the dearth of times I have tried it. I'm able to do routines more quickly, although I still can't finish a lot of them. I need more upper arm strength and then I will be able to do things more easily, I think. In any case it's nice to have an 'athletic activity' that I do once in awhile. How unlike me!

After grabbing food at Zak's burger place on NW Market Street, we grabbed a bus downtown and tried to catch another bus to a game store in upper Queen Anne so Kevin could find this game called 'agricola' that he wanted. I was looking for 'Mexican Train' anyway, so I decided to join him. We sprinted for another bus, catching it narrowly and with awesomeness, and went to the game store. The store was really decked out in all sorts of games, but they did not have the ones we were looking for. A bit disappointed, we returned to my condo to nap until hunger struck again.

Kevin had the idea to take us out for pasta at The Old Spaghetti Factory, where we got to sit in the fake trolley table area and dine on delicious spaghetti and something called a 'strawberry citrus fizz', which was mostly high fructose corn syrup in pretty colors.

I came home on Sunday night to hang out with Megan and we watched the newest episode of America's Next Top Model. I'm not sure if that show is getting stupider or I'm just getting older, but it's probably some combination. O Tyra, why are you so crazy?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Rachel K. Family Envy

I went to bed last night and watched Chuck in order to ignore my crippling feelings of inadequacy that I seem to get every time one of my cousins gets a full ride scholarship to a graduate school... and by "every time" I mean twice now.

Seriously though, how awesome is that!? My cousins are like Brilliantosaurus Rex! One of them, Olivia [pictured left], is studying and working for her PhD (I think) at NYU. She gets to study things in petri dishes, which she seems to thoroughly enjoy. The most recent news from the East coast family is that my other cousin, Dave [pictured left], is going to be studying and working for his masters at a school in Louisiana. They're both so focused on the things they want to study and they're both REALLY good at those things! It's no wonder the schools they've found want to pay them to be there and to help them expand their knowledge of the great wide world. Underneath my happy familial pride and joy, I'm envious as all hell! Man! Where does one find a program that pays YOU to go learn and earn a masters??? Maybe those only exist for obscure studies like the weirdo things Olivia and Dave are into (biochem and ... chasing alligators outdoors on motorcycles?)

I guess the fact of that matter is my cousins and my sister are all super brilliant at the things they do. My other cousins are all doing their own things in their own places and they're doing them WELL. Kristin [pictured below, top left], in Baltimore, is also attending a masters program and I believe she isn't paying full tuition either. I'll have to talk to her more about what she's been up to in order to give you more gossip. My culinary cousin Alan [below, bottom left] went to a two year culinary program in North Carolina and now he's working as an asst. chef in Virginia. Lastly, my sister [below, bottom right], who I am forever proud of, is working as an intern for Nickelodeon in Los Angeles. I'm so happy that she was able to break into an industry I only half-heartedly tried to get into myself in 2006 and 2006. She worked hard, applied to lots of internships, and now she's livin' the junior dream! My youngest cousin, Mo, is only twelve years old, but he amazes me already. He's athletic, kind and bright. There doesn't seem to be any challenge this kid can't defeat, and I know he'll do wonderful things now and in the future.

I just want to live up to the extraordinary expectations my family members are setting. I can't help like feeling like I don't tend to set or reach long term goals because I'm so used to inconsistency in my life. The whole never living anywhere for longer than four years, changing environments drastically, new friend groups,  new hobbies, new likes, new dislikes, and new jobs as different from one another as they come. How do I know I can achieve my goal of getting into a masters program and following through long enough to become a teacher when I was convinced I wanted to be an animator or a film director when I was 18? Or when I was trying to break into the casting industry in 2006? Or when I decided I was going to live in Japan and open a coffee shop in 2008? If there's always the expectation of an expiration date on whatever I'm doing and wherever I'm living, how can I make myself think long-term thoughts? How does anyone else do that anyway?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rachel K. Acclamating

I feel like I'm already going crazy from all this free time. What am I doing?! Why did I quit my job? I mean, I know I quit my job because it was super lame and stressful, but ... BLAGAGGHH!

I'm not doing all the things I told myself I would be doing! I keep freaking out about all the to-do-for-LIFE lists I've made for myself and running off to do random things like read blogs or watch old episodes of House. Shouldn't I be studying 9 hours a day? Or writing cover letters for assistant teaching positions?

I had a good Kumon day tutoring the children, but I am not bold enough to go up to the substitute teachers who work there and ask them, "HOW DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO AND HOW CAN I ALSO DO THIS?!" I am the meekest.

I admire Amy D., who I met on JET a few years back. I'll be visiting her in June when I go to Berkley to do my iD Tech Camps training and I'll have to pick her brain. Not only can this girl play the banjo, but she went through a masters program that she hated and now she has a job that she's really doing wonders with ESL kids. I wish I could have some of her awesomeness, but for now I'm just glad to be buddies with her so I can ask her a million billion questions about ... things.

I sat down with dinner tonight in my rocking chair and felt lonely all of a sudden. Megan is out with friends tonight doing JET alumni things and Kevin is out with his friends doing happy hour, which I opted out of because it feels irresponsible to spend money on beer when I should be saving my money for grad school and impending unemployment etc. All  of this non-Rachel fraternization leaves me high and dry in the social department. I guess after all those hours alone in my apartment, the last place I want to be in the evening is alone in my apartment. Although I should probably get used to being by myself since that's what happens when you don't have a job! Baby steps. 

For now I'm going to run away from my crippling fear of inadequacy by actually going for a jog on ye olde treadmill in the downstairs exercise area.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rachel K. Things that start with the letter M

I woke up at a reasonable hour and decided on how to organize and clean Kevin's room in my head.

Went home to work out a little bit, do dishes and shower. Then I took on THE MIGHTY TAXES. Ian in Kyoto helped me out a lot with this one. I am able to file for something that essentially says, "UNCLE SAM DON'T TOUCH MY JAPAN MONEY! I HAVE A FORM! MWAHHAAH" and then I can put said money into a Swiss bank account and let it fester into riches. Or spend it on a coffee table. The important thing is that I did something productive with my time.

In the afternoon, I joined Sarah for a viewing of Alice in Wonderland, which I'd give a 7 out of 10, although I didn't like the amount of bad CG. We also ate delicious sushi! Afterwards we explored the Pike Place Market some more and I bought sausages for dinner.

After another trip to the non-market grocery store, I went home to cook a large dinner of fettuccine Alfredo with sausage, corn and broccoli for dinner. Megan and Kevin showed up to eat it and we finished the meal off by drinking red wine and watching Zombieland, which I would give a 9 out of 10.

I'm still going to bed at a reasonable time and waking up at reasonable hours. So far, anyway. Tomorrow I have work at Kumon!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Rachel K. Crankypants

Went to the gym to do the cross trainer for 25 minutes, did a cardio workout for 40 minutes.
Made dinner for myself, failed to open jar, invited Kevin to eat said dinner if he could open the jar. He could.

Watched a movie called Departures or おくりびと in Japanese. It was totally amazing and I recommend it to everyone, especially people in Japan.

Did three loads of laundry, cleaned all the dishes.

Made plans to see a movie with Sarah, but we both had cranky attacks and had to cancel due to mood swings.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Rachel K. Restart

When I came to Seattle at the tail end of July, I had no idea what I really wanted out of my life. I knew that I'd like to explore the education career track, though in the past six months the only progress I've really made on that path is that I have expanded my "what NOT to do to become an educator" list.

After two years of teaching elementary and middle school students in Japan,  a summer of instructing at a computer camp and now tutoring kids in math and reading twice a week, I know that a teacher is what I want to become. So, after years of trying to figure out exactly what I really wanted to do with my life, I've reached the answer! This is exciting, there's no doubt about it. Though, now that I know what I want to do with my life, I'm having trouble finding a way to get there.

I'm jumping into education without any formal training. It's been difficult watching some of my friends from Japan find themselves in assistant teaching positions already, most notably because I didn't realize any of them actually wanted to become educators themselves. It seems that becoming a substitute in evergreen state is as challenging as becoming any kind of certified educator; it's going to require a lot of work and a lot of training. So I find myself back at square one -- "What do I do now?"

Applying to graduate programs was the next logical step! I put in an application to the University of Washington's Teaching & Curriculum program, which is one of the types of Masters in Education -- something I feel like I would like to achieve. The problem is that applying to grad school, along the process of becoming a certified teacher, is something I know nothing about. My background at a hippy burnout film program that was anti Hollywood and anti internships has prepared me for almost no part of the real world that I now seek to join. Though I rushed to put together my application, letters of recommendation and two written personal essays, I failed to complete the GRE in time to submit my scores to the school. I thought I was able to do it in March or April, but it turns out my GRE scores should have been submitted back in January with the rest of my application, again something I knew nothing about until I had made these mistakes.

With all the mistakes I am making, however sophomoric they may seem, I'm learning about the process of getting into graduate programs (or, in this case, NOT getting into graduate programs).

I have come to a new decision that may take this blog and my life in an interesting and possibly disastrous new direction! I have quit my primary job at Starbucks after six months of exhaustion, dissatisfaction, and low income. It's simply not worth the time and effort, and I need to start focusing on what I need to do to find the path I know I want to take in life.

I'm taking the next three months off from having a normal person job and I'm going to learn about grad school programs within Seattle, I'm going to try and pinpoint exactly what field of study I want to explore and I am going to study for and ace the GRE. This is a goal statement of sorts.

I also really want to start exercising more and become strong enough to keep up with my sports-enthusiast boyfriend, Kevin, who I admire and adore.

In a nutshell, I'm taking the next three months off in order to better my mind and body and to focus my life more.

I'll try to update on my progress or lackthereof in the coming weeks and months. Wish me luck!