Friday, August 12, 2011

The Whole Story Behind My Dream Job

I have always dreamed of teaching Chinese in an elementary school. But it was one of those dreams like living the whole summer in France exploring the countryside or owning a two-seater light blue convertible T-bird when you have four children ... very much in the back of my mind. In other words, it literally fell in my lap with no pursuit. Much preparation, but no pursuit.

I served my mission in Taiwan where I learned Mandarin Chinese. During that time, sister missionaries were (very) informally "not encouraged" to learn characters because they were only there for 18 months and most of our companions were Chinese, so they could read for us. I thought that was a bunch of crap. I remember taking the bus to my first area, about an hour and a half out of Taipei to HsinJu, I kept seeing this on the freeway signs:

出口 I asked my Chinese companion (who spoke pretty decent English) about this city, it must be huge, because we had been driving for over an hour and we were still in the same city. She giggled and explained that it meant "exit." Duh. But, I was hooked.

I was determined to read the Book of Mormon in Chinese. I mean, with all those Chinese companions, I might as well take advantage of them. I learned what I needed. Peoples' names, street signs, menus, restroom symbols. Basically survival vocabulary plus church content. But it was enough. The Elders got wind of my study and one, exceeding bright, elder asked me a very complicated character in a manner to expose my ignorance. I knew it. Thus my reputation grew. What he didn't know was that that happened to be one of our investigators' names. It was a total fluke. But armed with a reputation, I continued.

When I returned to school at BYU, I tested out of about 14-18 credits (I can't remember now and I am too lazy to check my transcripts.) I figured I was close enough to a minor that I should go for it. It was hard. I also took some Chinese history classes and a great class in Chinese calligraphy, but those language classes were hard. But, I did it. It was so hard that I determined never to lose it.

During that time, I also taught Chinese at the Missionary Training Center. A very fun experience. but was very focused on speaking and church vocabulary. I loved seeing the transformation on faces from complete fear to understanding. It was a great and I was hooked on teaching it.

Then I married a man who also went to Taiwan on his mission. I went to the north, he went to the south. We have always known that we would go back as a older couple and do missionary work in China. But that is still in the future.

When Ryan and I were engaged, an opportunity fell in my lap. Literally. My dad was working as an administrator at the school in San Fernando Juvenile Hall. In a meeting, the principal asked "Does anyone know someone who is fully credentialed who speaks Chinese?" My father replied: "I do and she is sleeping on my couch right now, my daughter." I was whisked into the district on the fastest hiring anyone had ever seen (one day - it usually was a two week process) and the next thing I knew, I was teaching a classroom full of forty "teenage" boys. They were the Boat People who were smuggled in the holding of a container ship and wound up on US soil. They all claimed to be teenagers because they were told that the US laws were kinder to minors. While the courts were trying to figure out what to do with them, they were detained at Juvenile Hall. I translated for Probation, I taught them survival English and US culture. I helped them fill out the legal forms. My vocabulary in legalese grew. It was quite fulfilling and fun to be needed. I even received a special commendation letter from the county for keeping everyone at bay. The immigration judge spoke to me and I told him the truth about their ages. I helped them work out a deal and they found sponsorships for them.

Now fast forward to this year. I found my Chinese slipping away. I have been sad over this. It takes a little more effort to slide into my language skills and I look at characters that I know that I once knew, but can't remember. Especially with a family friend leaving on her mission to Taiwan, I have had this weighing on my mind. I even prayed for a way to bring my language back. I decided that I would write to her in Chinese, with translation more for my benefit. I figured that was a start.

Now for the teaching side of things. When we moved here, I applied to the school district. I felt I should. In this uncertain economy, it never hurts. However, even though I felt I should apply, I decided I would only teach if the position was perfect. Perfect for my family, logistics, hours, school, subject, etc. Hence, many jobs were offered, but none chosen. My poor hiring liaison. She would get extremely frustrated with me. She kept asking me if I was truly serious about working or just wasting their time. I would reply, I was looking for perfection. Last summer, I was-this-close to accepting a position that was "almost" perfect. The right hours for my children, close to home, good schedule, etc. There was one problem: I did not feel completely right about it. I turned it down and I decided I was the most spoiled person on Earth. After Madison's broken ankle and Ryan's appendix rupture, I knew I made the right decision. That would have been grueling to not have been there for them. Besides, I had a great part-time gig as a community college professor. So, I was good. With the approach of this year, the offers started coming and I became even more picky. I thought there were only two schools I would go to. Take it or leave it.

A week ago, while we were driving into St. Louis, I got a phone call. An elementary school in Las Vegas is becoming IB (International Baccalaureate) and therefore was required to teach a foreign language. The vote from staff and parents went overwhelmingly for Mandarin Chinese. After scouring the files, they found only one person who was fully credentialed (in elementary), had adequate education (a minor), and therefore, was qualified to teach Chinese in elementary. That was ME! (After the interview and offer they explained that if they had not found me, they would have had to switch to another language.)

It is farther than I had hoped. The hours are later than I had hoped. It is full-time, so I will quit my community college job. But wow, when an answer to a prayer falls into your lap - you take it. This feels so right, and having felt other things were so wrong ... believe me, I know the difference. This will be an adjustment for the family, but I just have all the confidence in the world that things are going just as they should. I am at total peace in the midst of a raging sea - did I mention we bought a house and are moving within the next three weeks? I am literally sitting in the midst of floor to ceiling boxes that, if they were to fall, would kill me. I need to get everything ready for the move, for the kids' back-to-school and mine, and make serious decisions about curriculum and materials to purchase. But, I could not be more confident that all is well and as it should be.

My prayer was answered. By this time next year, my Chinese will all be back and stronger than ever. By the way, I am getting paid for this. A cherry on top.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Things I love about Betty ...

I wanted to capture this while it is still fresh. I am a big fan of Betty Ford. In fact, I love her.

I love that Betty turned tragedy into triumph.

By going public with her battles, she was able to help others. She made it okay to say the words BREAST CANCER and erased a silly taboo. She turned a dirty little secret into a DISEASE thereby allowing people to admit, get help and conquer alcoholism.

But my favorite thing about Betty is this ...

When we lived in the Palm Springs area, I had a friend whose husband was on the Ford's secret service detail. Like many people, the Fords liked to winter in Palm Desert and spend summers in cooler climates. Their favorite was Vail, CO. They would go back and forth according to the weather. When it got too hot in the desert and nice in Vail, they would go to Vail. When it got cold in Vail and nice in the desert, they would go to the desert.

This was what was best for them. Let's face it: that would be ideal and they had earned that luxury. The only problem was that the secret service detail had wives and children who went to public school. So if the Fords decided to leave in April (which many snowbirds do) then the families would have to choose between being separated for as much as two months OR to take the kids out of school. This placed a hardship on the secret service detail. Of course, it was not allowed for the men to request the Fords change their plans to accommodate them. The reverse would happen in September when school started. Snowbirds tended to return to the desert in Oct/Nov and sometimes as late as Dec. Once again the families were put in difficult situations trying to choose between keeping their family together, kids missing or changing school, or simply resigning from the detail and moving on to other duties.

The Fords noticed this dilemma and the toil it took on their beloved detail. Upon inquiry, they discovered the problem could be solved if THEY changed their schedule. The Fords opted to adjust their schedule to accommodate the families. They stayed in the desert according to the school schedule, not the temperature. They sacrificed their own comfort in order to do what was best for the families of their detail.

That is why I loved Betty Ford. Rest in Peace Betty with your Gerald forever.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Harry Potter and Mathematics

This is the explanation I gave to my students in a math class for nursing students. A dram is from the apothecary system which comes to us from the middle ages.


There was some question about # 25 on page 106. The answer in the back of the book states 30 mL. If you use the conversion on the chart, it states 5 mL = 1 tsp = 1 dram. According to that conversion, the answer should be 40 mL. However, at the bottom of the chart, it explains that the dram actually is worth 3.7 mL and has been rounded to 4 mL. Additionally on the chart, under 30 mL, it shows: 30 mL = 2 tbsp = 1 oz = 8 drams. Therefore, because it states "8 drams" that would be the most accurate conversion. If you used 3.7 as your conversion factor, your answer would be 29.6, which rounds to 30 as well.

I know this can be very confusing. I would like to apologize for it, but it is not my fault. Needless to say, there is a reason Harry Potter hated Snape and why simply following the potions formulas would not produce consistent results from student to student. That is why when Harry got a copy of the Half-Blood Prince's potion book, the notes provided the accurate amounts. Finally Harry was achieving the desired results while everyone else struggled, including Hermione. I think, most likely, the measurements were given in drams. So at least you are good company.

Good Luck!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Amazing (g)Race

Mom: How is the pool temperature?
Monterey: It is perfect, like the Amazing Race!
Mom: What does that mean?
Monterey: You know (singing to the tune of Amazing Grace) "Amazing Race, how sweet the sound."

I spend my days laughing at that child. I have to document this stuff. I would never be able to make it all up nor remember it all.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Out of the mouths of babes ...

Maya wanted to know how we get money. I explained that you get money by working. She said yeah, but how do they get the money to pay you. I explained that generally there are two ways. You are either a public sector employee like a fireman or police officer or a teacher who gets paid by the tax payers for the benifit they give to the community or you are a private sector emploee who provides good or services. She seemed satisfied with the answer.

However, her younger sister pointed out that there was a third way: gambling. Ah, the joys of raising a child in Las Vegas.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Pantone Color of the Year: Honeysuckle

A Color for All Seasons
Courageous. Confident. Vital. A brave new color, for a brave new world. Let the bold spirit of Honeysuckle infuse you, lift you and carry you through the year. It’s a color for every day – with nothing “everyday” about it.

While the 2010 color of the year, PANTONE 15-5519 Turquoise, served as an escape for many, Honeysuckle emboldens us to face everyday troubles with verve and vigor. A dynamic reddish pink, Honeysuckle is encouraging and uplifting. It elevates our psyche beyond escape, instilling the confidence, courage and spirit to meet the exhaustive challenges that have become part of everyday life.

“In times of stress, we need something to lift our spirits. Honeysuckle is a captivating, stimulating color that gets the adrenaline going – perfect to ward off the blues,” explains Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute®. “Honeysuckle derives its positive qualities from a powerful bond to its mother color red, the most physical, viscerally alive hue in the spectrum.”

Eiseman continues, “The intensity of this festive reddish pink allures and engages. In fact, this color, not the sweet fragrance of the flower blossoms for which it was named, is what attracts hummingbirds to nectar. Honeysuckle may also bring a wave of nostalgia for its associated delicious scent reminiscent of the carefree days of spring and summer.”

Honeysuckle is guaranteed to produce a healthy glow when worn by both men and women. It’s a striking, eye-catching hue that works well for day and night in women’s apparel, accessories and cosmetics, and in men’s ties, shirts and sportswear. Add a lively flair to interior spaces with Honeysuckle patterned pillows, bedspreads, small appliances and tabletop accessories. Looking for an inexpensive way to perk up your home? Paint a wall in Honeysuckle for a dynamic burst of energy in the family room, kitchen or hallway.