Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summertime: VEGAS BABY!

321 Days have passes since we arrived in sunny California. This time last summer we were busy winding down from Mission Possible and getting ready for the madness of July: VBS, MC2 Camp, Game Nights, Bowling Trips, Mission Nights, softball games, and all the spontaneous fun that summer youth ministry brings. Parts of us still deeply miss those things. We miss the known. We miss the youth. We miss the families that we grew to love so deeply! However, we are continuously grateful for our West Coast adventure. Since we have come all this way, we decided early on to make the most of our time out here. With such a decision in the forefront of our minds, we decided to kick our summer off with a couple trips. Allow us to fill you in:

My (Megan) classes ended June 15. After completing my first year of doctoral studies I was ready for a break from the reading, studying, and researching for a bit (I have summer assignments to do). With a break needed we headed off to San Diego on June 17. We spent the day at the San Diego Safari Park Zoo. It was so nice to spend the day together. We rode the tram around the animal park and saw tons of cool animals. It’s the closest thing to an African Safari we’ve ever been on. We also walked around the park and checked out all the exhibits. It was a great day!

Shortly after our zoo adventure we packed up and headed east to Vegas. Since Chris had to work on our 4th Anniversary he planned the whole Vegas trip as an Anniversary surprise. Those of you that know me (Megan) well know I HATE surprises. I have to have a plan and I have to know the plan. However, he was relentless and would not divulge details. I knew we were going to Vegas but knew little more than that.

Upon our arrival we checked into the Luxor Hotel (it’s the pyramid shaped hotel) and changed to head down to the strip. We ate dinner at an Italian restaurant at the MGM and then saw the Jabbawockeez perform. It was awesome. (They are a dance crew if you’re not familiar with them).

The next day we got up early and walked around Vegas. We visited the Venetian Hotel and rode the famous Gondola ride. It was nice. (Side note: the couple that rode with us was celebrating their 25th Anniversary). We also walked around the Bellagio Hotel and toured an art exhibit in the hotel. That hotel was HUGE! We then headed back to our hotel for lunch and some down time before the big surprise.

Around 3pm we got ready and Chris informed me that we would be going to the Grand Canyon---via helicopter! I was so excited! It was an amazing trip. I’m convinced it is the only way to see the Grand Canyon. We flew over the Hoover Dam and right into the Canyon. It was awesome. God truly is the artist of all artists. It was a sight to see. I could have stayed there all day enjoying the beauty of it all! After taking a million pictures we enjoyed a picnic and then flew back to Vegas.

Our final evening in Vegas we walked around the strip, visited some additional hotels, and saw the Bellagio water/lights show. We concluded our evening with a ride on the Vegas Monorail. That was an experience. We have a really funny story of a lady we had the pleasure of accompanying on our ride back to the hotel. But words on a page just won’t do it justice. We die laughing every time we hear the word “monorail” now.

Wednesday morning we made the 4 hour drive back to CA. The rest of our summer will include Chris going to a conference, taking classes, Megan’s family visiting, Haley and Jay’s wedding in OH, and surely plenty of other adventures. We’ll keep you posted! What are your summer plans? We’d love to hear from all of you.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Professional Development

On Saturday, I went to an AP Economics conference in Los Angeles.  While I'm sure a lot of teachers would hate to have to give up an entire Saturday, to talk about the subject that they taught all week, I'm always excited to go to these conferences and workshops.  Teaching is not something that you ever master.  It is something that you must continue to develop.  The same can be said for our content knowledge.  History and the social sciences is one of the few subject areas that you truly never stop learning in.  New history is constantly being created, new trends develop in the field of political science, and economic models are disproved and new models created.  I am always trying to find some time to read a great book on one of these subjects, but we all know time can be very scarce.

For me, this is what makes these conferences so great.  First, the simple ability to get together with other teachers who are passionate about their subject, and the success of their students is always refreshing.  Plus, for me, still being a relatively new teacher, it is always great to be able to pick their brains for new ideas, strategies they've had success with, and to have the opportunity to bounce ideas off of them.  While it was a long day, I left with many wonderful resources and ideas, and a renewed vigor to be the best teacher that I can possibly be. 

On a similar note, I have also begun to look into some opportunities for this summer, again in the area of professional development.  I have applied/in the process of applying for several week long institutes, and even some 6-8 week fellowships.  Here are a few of the ones that I have applied for or will apply for in the next week or so:

James Madison Fellowship:  A program where they choose a teacher from every state to spend the summer in Washington D.C. with an emphasis on constitutional theory.  If chosen as a fellow, they also award you $24,000 to put towards a Masters program.  The hardest part of the application, however, is finding a master's program I would be interested in that would meet the requirements.

University of Delaware's Masters in Economic Education:  This master's program is largely paid for, but they only select 35 in each cohort.  You would spend 6 weeks for two summers on their campus, and complete the rest of your work during the school year online. 

College Board AP Fellow:  This would award $1000 to go towards attending a week long AP Summer Institute.  Even if I don't get this, I will most likely still attend one for Economics.  The AP Summer Institute I attended for US Government was fantastic, and an invaluable experience.

FTE's Economics for Leaders: A fantastic week long workshop for teachers of economics.  Every time I've been around an economics teacher that has attended one of the FTE's workshops, they all say at some point, you have to try and go to one of these.  They only have five or six sites around the country, and only take 30 at each site, so it is fairly hard to get chosen for these.  I applied for the one in Santa Barbara, CA.

TAH's week long programs:  I also applied for a couple of the TAH seminars (Teaching American History) in political parties and Congress.  They are probably best known by teachers for the grants that many districts have across the country, and very well respected in the social studies field.  Plus, the program is free, and you actually receive a stipend for attending.

I'll keep you posted as I hear back from these great opportunities.  Hopefully, I'll be able to do one or two of them this summer.  I'm positive any of these experiences would make me a better teacher.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Different Kind of Education

Megan, Mr. & Mrs. Temple, and Emily at Kerri and Tim's wedding. 
Theresa Lynn DeBruhl Temple (pictured above). You may know her as Terri, Mrs. Temple, or one of the WPHS lunch ladies; however, I call her Moma. She is one of the most intelligent people I know. Here is a little of her story:

She was born the oldest, only daughter, of five children. Her parents divorced when she was in elementary school. She moved more times than I can accurately account. She endured her teenage years in less than desirable circumstances with an alcoholic stepfather. She met a tall red-headed bag boy at the local grocery store at age fifteen. A few years later she graduated high school and got married to that bag boy a few months later. She entered the work force and within five years, after my birth, filled the role of stay-at-home-mom. Obviously, I spent countless hours with her. She taught me how to say my ABC’s, write my name, recognize colors, and countless other things. She even read my favorite book, Martha’s House, so many times that I had it memorized by age three or four and she thought I could read it (yeah, I’ve been fooling people for years). As I reflect upon my mother I can rarely remember a time that she was not reading something. She loved to read and still does. Her love of reading, study, and the world has led to her vast knowledge base. While she has never set foot in a college classroom she knows more than many college graduates. Let me be clear: if I were going to be on a trivia based game show like, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” she would be at the top of my phone-a-friend list.

We are all on a specific path in life. Each path is distinctly different. Educationally speaking, God places each of us in a different place. Sure, we should all seek to be continual learners; however, for some people this does not mean additional formal education. Some are supposed to work right after high school, some are supposed to go to a trade/technical school, some are supposed to go to college, some are supposed to go on to graduate school, medical school, law school, or some other form of higher education, and some are supposed to be parents right away. In the end, the formal education story we have to tell is not as important as the educational journey we are on. Some of the most learned, wise, knowledgeable people I know have never taken a single class beyond high school! Education comes in many forms.

Lately, I have been reflecting on where my path has taken me. Many of my friends are done with school, have full-time jobs, have purchased homes, and have started families. Sometimes I wonder why my path is so different. I wonder if I am going in the right direction. And, sometimes (ok–often), I am a bit jealous of their lives.

This week in one of my classes the professor offered the following bit of his personal story for encouragement. He told us how he too, as a young graduate student, felt inferior to others around him with full-time teaching positions. However, he stressed not to worry. God has placed us on our particular paths. We have no need to complain, apologize, or doubt that which we cannot control. God has a plan. God will guide. As my professor encouraged: your path, as long as you are following the Lord in obedience, is the perfect path for you.

So, in light of my constant self-doubt and uncertainty I am reminded that God has a plan. My path is not exactly “traditional” or just how I imagined it would be—but it is mine. I am assured that the desires of my heart will be fulfilled in God’s good time. I will, one day, have a full-time job, my own home, and a family. For now, I am privileged to be a part of a Ph.D. program and have wonderful friends and family behind me as I “endure” this formal education process of my journey!