Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ten on Tuesday!

I'm FINALLY able to pull my life together enough to make one of these, so here goes!

1. In what is obviously the most important part of this post, I am officially a proud alumna of Oklahoma State University!!! Hooray! After four years of hard work, many sleepless nights, and enough memories to fill a lifetime, I have a Bachelor's degree, and, even better, a job awaiting me! I'm beyond happy to be done with school, at least for the moment. Yes, I will be pursuing a Master's, just not sure when, where, or what program yet. I'm tempted to start whittling away at a degree within the next year, but I really want to be sure that I'm able to pour myself into my first year in the classroom, so that's the main reason I'm holding off right now...also, see my previous reasoning of not knowing where I want to pursue it and (most importantly) what program I want to complete. At the moment, I'm torn between finding a program strictly for secondary math or pursuing something more related to the special education career path. A Master's in SPED with a Bachelor's in Secondary Math Ed and Math would basically open up any job to me, seeing as both of which are HIGHLY sought-after degrees. We'll see where life takes me! :)

2. Of course, my graduation was punctuated by some random speed bump. The week leading up to graduation was filled with rain and severe weather all over the state, in typical early-May Oklahoma fashion. At the beginning of the week, our meteorologists forecasted a "severe weather event" of Brobdingnagian proportion, or something like that. They talked it up as if it would be the "be-all, end-all" of severe storms in the history of ever. (Maybe that's a bit dramatic, but so are our local weatherpeople these days, if you ask me...) So I really shouldn't have been too surprised when I received a call and email blast from OSU telling me that my previously-scheduled 9:30 AM graduation was moved to 8:00 AM because of the impending doom forecasted for that evening. I think this was God's way of keeping me from being too lazy on the day of my last event for my undergraduate career! Nonetheless, I had to remember who I sent invitations to and attempt to guess who might possibly try to attend the ceremony so I could inform everyone of the time change. I spent about an hour or so calling, texting, emailing, posting, and messaging to get people on the same page. Thankfully, I didn't receive any reports of family members or friends who arrived to graduation 1.5 hours too late, so I think I did a good job of informing people! The real shock was when I realized that I had to be on campus by 7 AM, which is just wonderful when you're not a morning person! Thomas and I ended up leaving my trailer around 6:15 AM, just to be safe. I left like a crazy woman, bringing a travel mug of coffee to slurp down so I could be alert, nail polish to paint my nails because I procrastinated hardcore on that part (and had already committed to it), and trying to ensure that I didn't forget some part of my regalia for the morning. Whew! It was a sprint, but it was all worth it in the end :)

3. Besides walking the big stage, the best part of my celebration was the party my parents had for me that night! Because of the aforementioned rain, we were a little bit leery of who would show up for the party since basically all of the surrounding roads were in deplorable condition. Thanks to lots of divine intervention, we received almost no rain on Saturday, so while the roads were still sticky and gross, they were at least passable! Praise God!!! As it turned out, we had loads of people come over to celebrate with us! It warmed my heart to see so many people who wanted to wish me well! Being the youngest and never really having many opportunities to celebrate events in my life with massive amounts of people, this was still mostly uncharted territory for me! Some highlights of the evening were getting to see Tonisha, who so sweetly drove in from Wichita for the event! Thomas's parents drove up from Dallas just for this, which meant that our families were finally able to meet for the first time! I'm overjoyed to report that everyone got along smashingly and cannot wait for the next time we can all get together! To cap things off, three of my dear St. John's friends, Roz, Andrea, and Maria, all came over! They LOVED being out in the country and took loads of pictures of the scenery. There's something about seeing all of the people I love most all together in one place, mixing, mingling, and hitting it off that makes my heart happy! Side note: My family (and Thomas) were the real MVPs of that weekend. They worked tirelessly to prepare food, clean, AND leave at 6:00 AM to make it to my graduation ceremony all whilst dealing with muddy roads, last-second changes, and a backed-up sewer at Mom & Dad's. They rock. I love them immensely and couldn't have made it without any of them! They are seriously the best, ever! I couldn't have asked for a more awesome celebration!

4. One of the highlights from last week was that I was asked to come visit my future classroom and meet a few students/learn their favorite activities. It was an interesting day, to say the least, and perhaps a bit of a reality check. I'm really old enough to teach high schoolers. Also, it is going to be a huge transition for many students. I'm coming to terms with the fact that I probably won't be well-liked at first by many students, if only because I'm a new face and a drastic change from what they (and their families) are used to. I'm building thick skin now, because there are LOTS of changes in store, and I'm anticipating lots of backlash in some form or another. (Note: The changes I'm making aren't anything controversial, just different from what everyone has grown used to.) In some regards, this is a downside to replacing a retiring teacher. This is a hard thing for me to cope with, because I'm a people-pleaser, and I constantly seek to be well-liked by those around me. I know that I won't be universally liked as a teacher, and a math teacher at that. Even so, this will be a transition for me as well. People never talk about this side of teaching, but I'm certain that God has called me here, so I'm trying to not be too premature with my assessment of everything. God will carry me through this transition, so here goes!

5. Let's talk about something a little more positive, why don't we? Guess what Thomas is doing this summer? In a total fluke, he got a job in Hennessey! It came down to the wire, but he received notice of this opening through a mass email from a professor. On a whim, he inquired about the position and was hired on the spot! It was a huge relief to him, and it was welcome news to me! I'm ecstatic to have him nearby this summer and go on fun adventures with him! I can't wait!!! Even better, he will get to stay at Mimi's now-vacant house, which totally trumped his prior plans to live in a dorm on campus and commute every day. I say this all the time, but seriously guys, God is so good! It has been amazing to see how he has provided for me and all of my loved ones so generously! I'm also excited for him to get a better look at the place that has been such a huge piece of my life! Thanks be to God from whom all blessings flow!

6. So what are you up to this summer, Amanda? For once in my life, I have plans to visit a few places and do a few things! This will be my first summer in at least four years that I haven't had a "job", and I'm so excited! Granted, I have tons to do to prepare for teaching, but I can't really progress much on that stuff until I get my classroom keys/sign my contract/receive my teaching certificate in late June. Thus, I have a few weeks that I don't feel quite so pressured to be doing school things yet! My first trip that I'm planning is to travel down to Dallas for a few days to get to be with Thomas's family. I love the fact that Thomas is practically a fixture in my family, but I don't want his family to feel neglected AND I want to continue to build a great relationship with them. In a fun twist, instead of willing my almost twenty-year-old pickup to drive to Dallas and bracing my nerves to deal with the stress of navigating Dallas on my own, I'm taking a train down there and riding home with Thomas, who will be coming back then! I've never traveled via train, but I'm excited to do so! The other exciting thing on my agenda for this summer is a trip to Omaha with the long-lost Rebecca, who has been studying abroad in France this past semester! We're going to Omaha for my graduation present, tickets to an Imagine Dragons concert, one of my favorite bands!!! I'm pumped! It'll be a very short trip, basically there and back, but I'm still excited to visit another new place with one of my best friends!

7. This weekend I have the pleasure of getting to be a small-group leader for the TEC retreat! This will be my third time to be a part of this retreat, and my first to hold a leadership position, of sorts. The TEC retreat has had such a big impact on my faith life over the past 1.5 years, so I'm excited to be able to give back to it! Another highlight will be the fact that I'm giving a talk at the retreat about love in the context of the Holy Trinity. I think my talk has turned out well, and I'm praying that it'll be good for those attending, too!

8. As I mentioned previously, I'm now in the transition time of getting myself physically and mentally prepared for this school year, which means that I have tons of lesson planning awaiting me, along with deciding how I want to run my classroom, how I want to take grades, and how I want to organize/set up everything. I have lots to do, but I'm trying to keep all stress at bay!

9. Here's some awesome fun news: I sold my trailer that I've lived in for the last 2 years! Even better, I sold it to Gina and Jeremy, so I can take my time moving some stuff out and leave most everything else there, like dishes, non-perishable food, the TV, etc. This was a HUGE and welcome relief, as I hadn't received many serious offers after having it on the market for almost a month. I am so happy at how this played out! Once again, see my thankfulness for God's providence! I'm incredibly blessed!

10. The last bit of fun, much more random news is that I'm going to buy myself a new pair of glasses this summer! I need a new lens prescription in my current frames, and I've come to the realization that they just don't work as well for me as they originally did. I say this because I am horribly near-sighted and the lenses are a little too narrow for current needs and leave me with more blind area than I'd really care to have. Thankfully, larger frames are in vogue, so it shouldn't be too difficult to come across a nice pair of stylish frames that fit and suit me well. (Honestly, I really could care less if they are in style or not because I've already decided that that's what I want. Even so...) I'm hoping that once I get my new frames with updated lenses, I'll actually want to wear my glasses more often than I currently do, which is almost never! Here's hoping, and here's to this summer!

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My College Experience in Memes!

Now that I'm at the tail-end of my college career, I thought it would be fun to relive some of the best (and worst) memories from my classes in my favorite format: memes! Obviously, they might not all make sense if you didn't know the context, but I thought this would be the best way to commemorate my experience! Note: This is all in good fun, and no harm is meant toward anyone!

Freshman Year:
Remember how I was crazy ambitious and took Calculus as two five-hour courses that met literally every day? I sure do. Not fun times, but then again, I'd gladly go back to computational math that I knew how to do! Of course, that wasn't how everyone viewed it, so here's my advice...

Here's a throwback to my first semester of college when I took two math classes at once and thought my world was going to end. I also (naively) thought that I would never be faced with the "horror" of having to take multiple math classes in a semester ever again..oh, silly Freshman Amanda, if only you knew!

Another memory of Freshman year:

Sophomore Year:
When I was trying to think of highlights from my Sophomore year of college, I was plagued by memories of taking tests in my Physics class. That was one of the first classes I really had to work in. No matter how much I worked, I could never seem to get an A on any test in that class, which was all I had to worry about at that point in life, so in reality, everything was much better than I put it out to be! Ultimately, my hard work paid off and I earned an A on the final...I've never been so ecstatic in my life!!!

I actually found myself in this situation more times than I care to admit...

I still remember the days when it was useful to have a note card on a test. There was a guy in my Differential Equations class who would spend hours crafting the perfect note card...he even filed down his pencil lead to achieve optimum spacing...the finished result usually looked something like this:
Hahaha!! I had a friend in Calc class who made notecards like this before every test!

Junior Year:
Once I transferred to OSU, I realized that a LOT of people want to know where you're from and that literally NO ONE knows where Douglas is. I finally resorted to saying that I grew up near Enid, because people might actually know where that is...unless they're not even from Oklahoma or the US, in which case I resorted to telling them that I grew up an hour west of Stillwater. All in all, it was a little bit frustrating/tedious at times!

That was my biggest/only problem during my first semester here. The spring semester brought about the onslaught of upper level math classes that made me want to gouge my eyes out rethink my life choices. Here's a smattering of emotions I and my compadres felt during this semester. 

Homework took on a new meaning...rarely did I think that finishing an assignment would be worthy of celebrations, but with these classes, it DEFINITELY did!

I also made the sad realization that this wasn't really an option anymore if I wanted a shot at making good grades!

During our Intro to Modern Algebra course, we learned this lesson the hard way:
youre gonna have a bad time meme - if you skip dr. fili's  office hours  you're gonna have a bad time

The next biggest struggle of Modern Algebra was taking notes...
Unhelpful High School Teacher - wants you to take notes terrible handwriting

Unhelpful High School Teacher - wants you to take notes stands in front of board

Unhelpful High School Teacher - wants you to take notes writes at the speed of light

We also had to redefine the word "fun", as our professor so often used that word to describe our assignments...

We learned the sad reality that is proving an "if and only if" proof...it's not fun at all!

I felt almost the same way about lemmas...

Honestly, proof writing really wasn't all it was cracked up to be after a while:

We had our first Methods class, which generally worked about like this...
drew carey whose line is it anyway - welcome to methods class where the grades are made up and everyone gets an A

Every time we visited our advisor, she'd always promise us that better times and easier classes were ahead...obviously we were pretty skeptical.
Skeptical 3rd World Kid - so you're telling me  it does get bettter?

Even with all of the downsides, there were a couple of perks to be had, like this obvious gem:

...and this classic perk:

Senior Year:
The hard math classes still continued, so here's more memes commemorating our misery:

This sage advice...
Bad Advice Mallard - struggling in a math class? skip it
(I don't actually condone this advice.)
Did I mention that our homework was difficult?
aaaaaaaaaaaand it's gone - i had motivation to do homework

But every once in a while, I'd be on top of things, only to have this happen...

Pepperidge Farm Remembers Meme - remember when math classes were easy? pepperidge farm remembers

Reminder, everyone: Just because your professor has a doctorate in math, that doesn't mean they're perfect...

Both of these things happened regularly...
This also was a common occurrence for me towards the end of each semester!
Real Life. 
In between crazy math classes, I found a little time for a new hobby :)
sweet brown i got time for that - wine tasting class? I got time for that

Eventually, we arrived at our final semester: student teaching. The biggest challenge from this semester was completing the edTPA. I think this sums up my feelings on it:
Yeah that'd be great... - yeah, if the edtpa could just go away,  that'd be great

In the end, I can't complain too much...I accomplished one of my biggest goals in life (becoming a teacher), I've made amazing friends along the way, and I've had lots of laughs! I can't complain too much (even though it seems like that's all I did in this post!)...all in all, I'm incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to attend OSU! Go Pokes!!!

Spongebob -  #mathmagic

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Rest of My Semester!

I am officially awful at maintaining my blog this semester. I'm also too stubborn persistent to give it up just because my life is chaotic, so you're left with minimal posts that span literally months of my life's happenings! I should have known better when I left my previous post with a Part I in it. Part II just didn't happen. It never happens. It's life. The good news is that you're only going to get the highlights of everything that happened instead of the detailed play-by-play, so here goes!

I spent inordinate amounts of time being consumed with teacher stuff. Student teaching was incredibly busy, and sometimes I'm not even sure how I did it and kept my sanity! I hated keeping up with all of the not-so-little things OSU made us do while keeping up with our classroom. I really, really hate it. I felt like it generally a waste of my time and energy, but it was what I had do to graduate and be certified, so I moved on with life. While I hated most of those things, what I really loved were my students! They're equal parts crazy and sassy, but I loved them so much! They made all of the late nights up grading, lesson planning, and juggling all of my obligations worth it. They were wonderful, even on the days when they weren't quite so wonderful ;) They were easily the best part of this semester, and I consider myself blessed to have been able to be a part of their lives and learning experience for this semester! In the same vein, I greatly appreciate and respect my cooperating teacher! She is awesome and continually sought to help me grow to be the best teacher I could possibly be! (Yes, there was some tough love in there at times, but it was ultimately for the best!) I've said it before, but it bears repeating: good teachers make teaching look easy. My CT is the best example of this statement...she is wonderful, and I am blessed to have been under her tutelage!

In one week, I will graduate! I am becoming increasingly excited...senioritis hit right around spring break, which made it hard for me to stay motivated to complete anything! On an even more exciting note, I have a plan for after graduation and a pretty good one, at that! I have a job!!! Through what I can only describe as divine providence, a family friend from church is retiring after over thirty, maybe even forty years of teaching high school math. She called me on the the day she was submitting her retirement to the school board and gave me her principal's number to call if I was interested in her position! I'm happy to report that I will be the newest faculty member at Waukomis High School!!! I never would have guessed that I'd end up there, of all places (they were our biggest rival in high school), but I couldn't imagine a better place to begin my teaching career!!! I am beyond blessed to have this opportunity! After I graduate, I'll have an opportunity to sit in on classes and get to know my students a little bit before next year! All in all, I couldn't have asked for a better place to land for next year! Even better, I'll get to be back with my family all the time and watch my nephews grow up! Thomas is incredibly supportive of my career choice, too, and can't wait to get to experience a taste of small-town Oklahoma life whenever he's able to visit! (He still has one year left of school.)

Naturally, this brings me to the next topic: my beloved Thomas :) I don't know where to start in talking about him, because he has been such a HUGE part of this semester for me, in the best way possible!! He kept me sane, accountable, and laughing/smiling, all of which were VERY important things this semester! There were a few moments at the beginning of student teaching when I wondered why, of all times in my college career, when I seemingly had the least amount of extra time, that God decided to give me a boyfriend. (Hear me out!) I mean seriously, I had been waiting, praying, hoping, trying my hand at plenty of relationships that went nowhere fast, and waiting even more for a span of two years. (I know that that's not that long, but still!) Then, God trusted me to maintain a relationship with a man when I felt like I didn't even have time to eat a normal supper, when I had loads of free time in every other semester of my life?!?!?! Well, joke's on me. I have come to realize just how much I have really needed someone more this semester than in any other, and he has been a true Godsend! I have no idea how I could have even tried to conquer this semester without Thomas! He helped me with any and everything I could possibly need help on, he was a GREAT sounding board for ideas, he let me vent like a crazy lady, he was my shoulder to cry on when I felt like I sucked at life and should rethink every life choice I had made to date, he encouraged me, he prayed for me, and he helped me to know when to take a break and stop thinking about school for even ten minutes! I could go on and on about this amazing man...believe me, I'm just scratching the surface here!!! Words cannot express how grateful I am for this amazing man and how humbled I am that God sent him to me at the absolute perfect moment in my life!

I don't know if I've ever written about this, but he met my family at the end of January and has basically been a fixture with us ever since! He fits in really well, like scarily well, and everyone loves him! My nephews (with the exception of Andy at first) adore him and constantly ask where he is whenever I come home without him! Yeah, Andy was not exactly fond of him at first and wouldn't even talk to him until the third time they met. (I think he was being protective or guarding his heart, I'm not sure which.) However, now they're great pals :) Cole and Kyle have especially taken to him! Cole is always our shadow when we're at Mom and Dad's house, which I don't mind at all! Honestly, having my nephews around with us reminds me quite a bit of whenever I would tag along with Gina and Jeremy or Scotty and Emily when they were dating/engaged and is possibly a bit of payback at times, but I wouldn't have it any other way! I love seeing everyone together...it really makes my heart burst with joy! As time has passed, Thomas has also met Liz's family, various aunts, uncles, and cousins, and Tonisha! As of yet, all have approved of him! (I don't know why they wouldn't, but I'm pretty biased in the matter!)
Here's a great shot of Thomas and Cole, while Cole was pretending to drive the Kubota RTV :)

I've even had the opportunity to meet his family! Over spring break, he brought me down to Dallas for a few days to celebrate his birthday with his family and visit all of his favorite hometown places! Highlights of the trip were, of course, his birthday party, attending one of his sister's (Elizabeth) softball games, eating at his favorite restaurant (Love and War in Texas), taking pictures in their neighborhood park, walking around his high school campus, visiting his grandparents' cabin, and getting to know his parents and sister just a little bit better! Another related highlight for me was celebrating Ultimate Pi Day by getting pictures in front of the Texas Instruments headquarters and factory! :) He's truly a gem! Here's some pictures of the fun times that ensued!
Me at TI Headquarters on Pi Day, with my Pi Day t-shirt, wearing my math TOMS...math nerd heaven!!!

The beautiful neighborhood park we visited after Mass, hence the fancy clothes :)

The cabin, in all it's glory!

Thomas practicing his crossbow skills at the cabin!
We also celebrated each other's birthdays, as Thomas turned 21, and I turned 22! His birthday coincided with our celebration of dating for 3 months, so we super celebrated with supper at El Vaquero, our favorite Mexican restaurant in town and a celebratory trip to Finnegan's afterward! For my birthday, Thomas came home from break early and stayed over at Mom and Dad's so we could get a jump start on my birthday celebrations! Unfortunately, I woke up feeling crummy and didn't really feel well until late in the afternoon, so that put a damper on our original plans to go to a shooting range. The good news is that I live on a farm and there are lots of flat, cattle-less spaces in which you can do a little bit of target practice, so we made our own fun! We ended the evening by ordering chicken from Rooster's in Hennessey and celebrating with the whole family! It was a great night and a great birthday!!! 
Birthday sombrero and sopapilla :)
Obligatory Finnegan's 21st Birthday picture :)
(This is literally the third picture of its kind that I have!)
Celebrating with great friends!!!
L-R: Mari, Me, Sara, Thomas
Happy 22nd Birthday to me! :)
Also, here's a random picture that was taken sometime after Valentine's Day that I really like!
Golly, I love this man :)
So, I'm filling this post with lots of great pictures and happy thoughts because I'm leading up to the not-so-great part of what has happened in my life since I last posted.

Many of you know, but for those who haven't heard, my beloved Mimi passed away on March 26th. It seems weird to realize that a month has already passed since her death, because it still feels like it was yesterday. We knew it was coming, as she had fought a long, hard battle since January. As mentioned before, she did indeed have a compression fracture in her L6 region of vertebrae. The only way her doctors said she could heal was with bedrest, which entailed her being placed in a nursing home, much to her chagrin. I mean, she was willing to go, but she wanted to go home the whole time. After being in the nursing home for about 3 weeks, she had a stroke, which she never really recovered from. It greatly affected her speech, and left her almost incapable of speaking coherently. Most of the time when she spoke, it was in random letters or broken Czech. (She hadn't spoke Czech in MANY years and claimed she forgot it after her stroke 2 years ago.) Every once in a while, she'd come through with coherent English, but those times became fewer and fewer. Mostly, she laid in her hospital bed, moaning and writhing in pain, most likely wishing for death to come. Ultimately, she ended up returning to the nursing home with hospice care for a little less than a week before she passed away. Really, her funeral was a beautiful celebration of her beautiful life...I couldn't have asked for a better way to pay tribute to her. In the time since, I've found myself at various stages of the grieving process. Some days are just fine, but there are still days where I feel the sting of her death. I know she's where she's supposed to be, but I find myself feeling selfish and wishing she were physically here to see me graduate or to spend more time getting to know Thomas.

In case you were wondering, yes, Thomas was able to meet Mimi and see her multiple times before she died. His first time meeting her was just before she went to the nursing home initially, and they had a beautiful conversation. Many of the times he saw her after that were less than ideal for conversation, as most of them consisted of her time after the stroke. Ultimately, I can't become too hung up on this, as I knew with all of my heart that Mimi loved Thomas just as much as I do, if not more. His presence alone was instrumental in the last few weeks of her life. So many times, he was willing to drop everything on a school night and accompany me to Enid to visit her for a short while, which was an intense journey in and of itself. These trips consisted of late nights, forcing me to pause and eat a decent meal, consoling me as I sobbed uncontrollably, and pushing me to get a little bit of sleep so I wouldn't be useless the next day at school. He was my rock and helped me to survive the last week's of Mimi's life. He was over immediately after I called him when Mimi died, because he didn't want me to be alone since I couldn't be with my family right away. Like I said before, he truly was a Godsend this semester. God had to have known that I needed someone to specifically be there for me when Mimi died, and I'm eternally grateful for all that he did for me and my family in the days following her death.

Other highlights of the last few months were celebrating Easter with my family, during which time Thomas was able to experience Scheiber's Donuts in Enid for the very first time! (He LOVES them and is already ready to go back!) I had lots of fun teaching my Pre-Calc students how to make clinometers and using them to measure heights of buildings on their campus! Another fun thing I did regarding student teaching was attending their prom! It was my first time attending a prom, or really a dance in general, as a responsible adult, so that posed a bit of culture shock for me. Thankfully, I had Thomas with me (of course :) ), so I had lots of fun! We dazzled my students with our Macarena skills and felt a little bit old as we realized that the song "Yeah" by Usher is over ten years old and could be considered a throwback. The song literally came out when my students were 5-7 years old! Sheesh! Nonetheless, it was a great time, and Thomas had much more fun than I anticipated! I enjoyed seeing my students all dressed up and snazzy, and they were excited to see me and Thomas there!

A bit of a tangential point here, my students were oddly fascinated with Thomas. I was often asked if I had a boyfriend, and once they saw him with me earlier in the semester, one student asked if he was my "lover", while another student asked if he was my "bae". (Thomas shut down the bae question, as he despises that word and said that he was my boyfriend :) ) After prom, another student told me he was hot and that we were cute together. I really had no comment for that one! I've also started encountering students out and about around town, which still feels a bit awkward for me. I'm sure I'll embrace it as my career goes on. It will take some getting used to, though!

On my final day of student teaching, my cooperating teacher had my students write me encouraging farewell notes, all of which were really sweet! It was awesome and heartwarming to know that my students actually enjoyed having me there and that I had made at least a minuscule impact on their lives this semester! One of my Algebra II classes even threw me a party, complete with donuts and Dr. Pepper! It warmed my heart to know that my students were willing to spend their own money on a party for me...by the time I left school that day, my heart was full to the brim with love! It was a wonderful last day to an overall great semester!

Starting tomorrow, I begin my last official week of college and I have my very first finals week that contains absolutely NO finals :) It's a huge relief, to say the least! Tomorrow is the baccalaureate Mass at St. John's, Monday is a cookout for all of the math student teachers (hosted by our sweet supervisor and her husband), and Tuesday is our last meeting as a large group. Of course, Saturday is graduation :) Thankfully we have the first of the three ceremonies of the day, which leaves the remainder of the day to celebrate! As of now, there's a big celebration planned at Mom & Dad's that evening for those who want to celebrate all day with us, or for those who don't want to fight the crowds in Stillwater or wake up early but still celebrate a little bit! Dad is planning on putting pork loins on the rotisserie, so I'm sure that'll be wonderful! Even though I've been pushed to the brim this semester, I am proud to know that I've handily survived ALL of the challenges that have been placed in my life! I couldn't have done it without lots of support from my loved ones, TONS of Divine intercession, and the desire to fulfill my lifelong dream!

Here's hoping I'll get back to posting regularly! I've really missed it!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Update, Part I: Student Teaching

Hello! I'm back! 

I have a feeling that my loyal readers have come to the understanding that it is perfectly normal for me to have month-long gaps between posts and not think anything of it, or at least I hope they have! Oh my, so much has happened since the last time I posted and so many things have happened since last time. I have no idea where to begin...maybe if I didn't go for so long, I wouldn't be in this boat...food for thought. 

I think I'll split my update into a couple of different posts because I have so much to say about everything and want to organize it better, where I don't have one excessively long post! 

I'll dedicate this post solely to my adventures in student teaching, because I'm sure I left off on quite the apprehensive note last time! 

It seems crazy to me that I'm coming into my seventh, (7th), SEVEN-th week student teaching. I feel like I just got there, now I'm almost halfway done! What?! Before I know it, I'll be graduating and getting a real job. Yikes...let's not get ahead of ourselves, though! I can easily say that I've grown exponentially within the past seven weeks. When I began, I was honestly intimidated by my students and generally everyone. I felt like a little girl on the first day of kindergarten. Now, I'm teaching an entire unit on exponential and logarithmic functions to all four sections of Algebra II. Wow. I always thought my professors were crazy when they told us how intense student teaching would be. I always figured that if I could make it through Number Theory, for Heaven's sake, then student teaching would be a cinch. Well, in some ways it is, because I at least understand the math I'm doing now, and I honestly find it to be really fun :) I'm also doing what I set out to do all along, so that helps quite a bit. However, if we're being completely honest, I had NO idea what I was about to get myself into! Student teaching is intense, crazy, sometimes stressful, and sometimes as mentally taxing as my hard proof classes were. I think the craziest part of all is figuring out how to be a teacher while still technically being a student. 

My cooperating teacher is wonderful and generally a wealth of knowledge for me. She is very level-headed, kind, and helpful! She is wonderful about giving me constructive feedback on my lessons and guiding me to get better at teaching. She, herself, is an incredible, well-versed teacher who is also incredibly well-respected by her peers and students alike. She definitely is someone to look up to and try to model my future classroom and career after. I definitely hit the jackpot when I ended up being under her guidance this semester!!! 

I enjoy my students quite a good deal. They are good people who I'm sure will do good things in the world after high school, or at least I hope they will! I'm finding it interesting to learn how each class has a certain sort of dynamic about it. It's also fascinating to see which of my students from one class are friends with students from another class, or even more so, which students are dating or have a crush on one another! Oh high school relationships...how quickly I forgot about them! Looking back, I find it hard to understand how most people can go through their high school years blindly assuming that they have found "the one" at their high school when they are young and really haven't gone out into the world to see who else is out there! (Obviously, there are cases that do work, but I wish that they could see just how much of life they still have to live and not to settle for some mediocre imitation sort of relationship!) I love hearing the funny things my students say, and sometimes the funny things they put on their homework/quizzes/tests. They have definitely taught me that a sense of humor and flexibility are two of the most important things a high school teacher can bring to the table! Most of them call on me for assistance during class now and often acknowledge me in the hallways. I find some sort of unexpected joy from being called Ms. Hladik, even if I still find it bizarre! Then again, I feel like I'm at the beginning of what could eventually be a laundry list of my aliases...going from just plain Amanda, to Aunt Amanda, to Miss Amanda (when I taught Sunday school), now Ms. Hladik, and who knows what other names await me in the future!

Of course, actually being in the classroom is only about half of what I'm supposed to do this semester. If I just had to worry about being responsible for the classroom aspect of it, I'd be golden. Unfortunately, I still have GADS of tasks to do for OSU. Yuck. The biggest, most all-encompassing thing on my plate is what they call the edTPA. It is an assessment of my ability to successfully teach content to students and make a change in their knowledge and learning. It is comprised of three tasks. The first is easily the worst, as it requires the most "stuff". I had to write three extremely detailed lesson plans, supply the readers with images of all materials used for said lessons, supply the readers with copies of all assignments and quizzes that were provided to my students, AND complete a five-part commentary on my planning process. The second task requires me to film myself teaching and select a 10-15 minute clip, then complete a commentary reflecting on ways I could improve. The final part requires me to analyze student scores on pre- and post-assessments, as well as select three student work samples on which I gave detailed feedback. Also there's a commentary corresponding to this part too, surely you made that leap in logic, though! The trickiest part is the fact that I needed to get permission from my students' parents for them to be potentially included in my video and/or student work sample, since they are minors. Thank goodness, only one student's parent did not give me permission, and it really wasn't the end of the world! Even so, it was something else to worry about!

The craziest part of the edTPA is that you have to be prepared to collect and/or prepare materials for all three tasks simultaneously, but are given ample time afterward to fully complete the commentary for the last two tasks. Needless to say, this provided a lot of stress for me over the past couple of weeks, but I'm finally making headway. Also, at one of our Saturday school sessions, I found out that I was way ahead of most everyone else and that I was doing just fine! It was definitely the reassurance I needed after stressing myself almost to the point of oblivion!! I am almost completely finished with Task I, and have completed about half of Tasks II and III. I'm content with that for the time being! 

Now, I am currently soaking up the joy of having a day off because of snow...technically school was already cancelled for today due to teachers' meetings, but we also got a reprieve on the meeting part! What a deal! :) Here's hoping I can hold onto my sanity through the rest of the semester and hopefully get around to posting more than once every seven weeks! 

Keep your eyes peeled for another fun post soon! :)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Christmas Break Relaxation

Hello all! It turns out that even when I do have "more time", I still don't have as much time as I think I do...oops! I feel like this busy-ness is just the beginning, and I only have more of this to anticipate in my future! I have a few spare moments, so I let you know what adventures I've been up to over Christmas break!

Lately I feel like I've been experiencing a few unexpected costs due to my things needing to be replaced or updated. First it was my laptop, then, a mere day into Christmas break, my cell phone screen died. In all fairness, my phone was 4.5-ish years old, which is probably archaic in the world of technology, but was still serving me just fine. Needless to say, I am now the proud owner of my very first (yes, you read that correctly) smartphone! The first day or so was a bit overwhelming, just because I wasn't used to having a fancy phone, but I've since adjusted and am generally loving it! I fear that unexpected costs will be a trend for the rest of my life...remind me why I wanted to be a "grown-up" again? ;)

Knowing that I'll have to hit the ground running this semester, I've consciously decided to spend more of this Christmas break relaxing so that I'm not so amped up when I go back to student teach. On the whole, it has worked well for me! It's nice not having to worry about homework, writing math proofs (Yuck.), or anything school-related! I've loved having most of my days without much of an agenda; it is quite refreshing after I practically ran myself ragged last semester!!! I've been able to spend time with family and friends, which I really appreciate! Yes, this is the life!

In the midst of this relaxation, I realized that Christmas was sneaking up on me much sooner than I expected and that I needed to get going on shopping and other preparations. Thankfully, the adults in my family played Dirty Santa for our gift exchange, which helped me to streamline gift buying by only really having to focus on gifts for my nephews and one gift for the game! It was a nice change of pace, in my opinion. As far as our Christmas celebrations go, we kept things pretty simple this year. Of course, we had Mass at 7 PM on Christmas Eve. Sadly, Mimi's back was hurting her this year, so we didn't get to have our traditional Christmas Eve celebration with her...sad day :( After Mass, Mom and I scrambled to start finish wrapping presents before everyone came over the next morning! We had a nice brunch with everyone...there was something about the simplicity of it that was quite nice! After Gina and Emily left to visit their in-laws, Mom, Dad, and I went over to visit Mimi, which really brightened everyone's day!

In case you're wondering, Mimi is doing alright, although it is becoming more and more apparent that she is almost 97. She still stays at home by herself, but my mom and her siblings stop in more frequently to ensure that her medicine is set out, that she has food that is easily accessible/ample groceries, and to drive her to doctor's appointments/church/out and about. Yes, Mimi decided that she doesn't want to drive anymore, and it was probably best that that decision came from her instead of Mom and my aunts & uncle having to force her into it. She is still in good spirits and loves having people come visit, but she has definitely slowed down considerably, as could probably be expected. She had a couple of short stints in the hospital over the past couple of months, just because she was experiencing stroke symptoms and everyone wanted to make sure she was fine. (She was, actually, but better safe than sorry!) Currently, Mimi is experiencing some back problems, which we feared may have been a compression fracture, but she has been reporting less pain in recent days, so we just take it as it comes. Last Sunday, Mom and her siblings, plus their spouses, all went over and had a nice lunch with Mimi, just the nine of them. I think it did wonders in helping her feel better!

Believe it or not, I start student teaching on Monday. Yikes, that's scary!! I don't really want to think about it, but I know I need to, or at least get a really good look at the material we'll be covering on Monday morning. This is going to be quite interesting for me...just weeks after feeling like I'm fully capable of doing anything and just really being ready to be done with traditional classes, I now feel like the little kid who's afraid to go to kindergarten. I suppose we weren't made to feel comfortable at all times, and we learn the most from these situations. Either way, I'm nervous and would appreciate any and all prayers you could muster for me and my fellow student teachers this semester!!!!!

Last, but most definitely not least, is Thomas! I'll be honest, I really wasn't looking forward to spending a month apart from him...okay, I'm still not a fan of being away from him, but hear me out...if we're being perfectly honest, it hasn't been quite as bad as I thought it might be. Believe it or not, we've actually become closer in this time apart than we might have had we spent the whole first month of our relationship together. It seems crazy to say this, but I'm starting to believe it. You see, we talk on the phone pretty much every night for hours on end, probably much to our families' chagrin, just about our days, our plans for the next day, and really just our lives in general. We've had lots of AMAZING conversations, and it never ceases to amaze me how wonderful of a person he is and how lucky I am to get to share my life with him! I have never experienced anything remotely close to this in any relationship, and I'm so glad that I held out for him! He values time with me, whether it be in person or over the phone, he pursues my heart, he keeps me accountable and helps me to be a better person in general, and most of all, he genuinely just cares about me as a person. As my loyal readers know, I've been all over the place on relationships in the past, especially as of late, but this is hands-down the best relationship I've ever been in...no one even comes close to comparing to Thomas! I am so incredibly, infinitely, undeservingly, amazingly blessed! Honestly, I think that all couples should have to spend some time apart where they have to make a conscious effort to make the relationship work...it really is a make or break situation! We've both become even better at communicating with each other, by which I mean that we don't just assume that since we're talking to each other, we're communicating. We ask questions, we listen, we keep each other in the loop of what's happening on our respective ends, and, more than anything, we're honest with each other. It's quite refreshing, to say the least! With all of that being said, I am patiently awaiting next Saturday when we will be reunited after spending a month apart!!! As great as our phone conversations have been, I still can't wait to see him face-to-face! :) I could keep gushing, but I'll spare you the rest of my mushy ramblings!

Soon enough, I'll get around to posting about some high points of 2014 and some goals for 2015, but not right now. I hope everyone is having a great 2015 so far!!!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

End of Semester Fun Times!

I am finally free from the confines of this semester so I can return to the slow-paced life that I love so much! So many wonderful things have happened since last time, so I can't wait to fill you in!!!

I'll begin with Thanksgiving! (Why yes, it has been that long. I know.) I was extremely excited to come home and escape the craziness of school! Just before Thanksgiving, I had a final in my Geometry class, and I spent inordinate amounts of time working on a final project for my Math Modeling class. It was great to take a breather :) I'm happy to report that I was able to finish typing up my report over that break, and it took me ONLY five hours to do so! It was a twenty-three page mathematical report with more difficult equations than I ever care to type out in one setting again. Also, formatting was a bear. If you ever wondered why math textbooks were so expensive, I can tell you why...typesetting is a nightmare! It is hard work!!! Nonetheless, I finished it!

Also, just before Thanksgiving, one of my good friends from church, Stefano, who was a Master's student from Italy, bid us farewell. He was such a kind, joyful soul, and we were sad to tell him goodbye. On the upside, we did have lots of great celebrations in his honor! His official farewell party entailed he and our other Italian, Andrea cooking pasta for us! (Authentic Italian cooking is so good...it's also much simpler than one might imagine!) Also, the next day, a bunch of us took Stefano to lunch at Eskimo Joe's so that he could eat his favorite American foods (hamburgers & french fries) for one last time! It was a great day, and he is missed!
L-R: William, Celeste, Stefano, Kevin, Rebecca, me, Andrea
At home, we had a couple of celebrations for Thanksgiving. On the day of, Mom, Dad, and I made a large pot of chicken noodle soup and brought Mimi over for a simple afternoon meal with her favorite chocolate pudding dessert! It brightened everyone's day greatly! Then, on the Saturday after, we had our feast with Gina & Emily's families, which was absolutely spectacular! Everyone fell into a food coma afterwards...minus me and Cody. Jakub was in rare form that night, as he ran around having a grand time running and climbing everywhere! What a kid! The next day, we had a small birthday celebration for Kyle, who is now eight. At his request, we had a breakfast party with breakfast burritos and a turtle cheesecake for his cake! Kyle was in heaven with his party!
Yes, Cody is almost as tall as me...I now feel old and short ;)
I'm pretty sure I have multiple pictures of Kyle & me like this...love this kid!
Little did I know that when I returned to school that so much would happen in a span of two weeks. Everything that happened in that time made everything else this semester worth it, if you can believe that! I'll begin with the obvious school portions. I was completely done with Geometry (hence the aforementioned final), and was basically done with Math Modeling and Wine Tasting. As it turned out, there was still one more part to my report that our professor never really mentioned until then, but I figured it out thanks to my ability to create Excel spreadsheets that do the hard math for me...and friends who helped me create said spreadsheets :) For Wine Tasting, my group was supposed to give a final presentation that we ended up not presenting thanks to our professor who wanted to leave early that night and emailed it to him instead! One less thing to worry about! I was a little bit overwhelmed by all that I had to do for Methods because I (and everyone else in our class for that matter) had royally procrastinated because of the volume of everything else we had to do in our other classes. Also, my lack of a computer for 2 weeks didn't help matters. I had a couple of late nights, but I finally finished everything this past Thursday...Hallelujah! There was a group presentation for my SPED class for which I was generally not as prepared, if only because I was putting out small fires everywhere else for other classes. Thanks to my group members for being champs and not holding that against me, because that class really wasn't one of my biggest priorities this semester. Which brings me to Number Theory. Ugh. We covered new material up until the last class before finals week started. We also had a homework assignment due that day, which left little to no time to work on studying anything. (I also struggled with time-management for a little bit.) Needless to say, I was slightly less than prepared for the final, which was at 10 AM this past Monday. (I'm still not sure how I felt about having a hard final right away.) Throughout the test, I calculated estimated grades on everything, and once I knew that I had accomplished enough to pass after wracking my brains trying to figure out everything else, I threw in the towel. (Yes, this is one of my favorite parts of being a math major...no shame.) At first, I thought I received a C for the class, which would have been my first, and at that point, I really didn't care because I was just happy to have survived that class. However, by some miracle, I received a B!!! I'm not even sure how or why, but I'm not questioning it! Someone along the way had a little bit of mercy on me and a few of my classmates, and we're glad they did!!!

Another great part of this two-week span was that I FINALLY received my student teaching placements! It wasn't where I assumed I would go, but I'm really happy that I'm there! (Yeah, I'm gonna have to be vague from here on out...sorry!) Upon first receiving news of it, I was told by multiple sources that I'd love my experience with my cooperating teacher. After finally chatting with her via email, I was convinced that I'd enjoy working with her! I observed in her classroom all day yesterday, and I think that I'm really going to enjoy my experience next semester. She's a great teacher who makes things look much easier than they are, but she also has great advice and insight into the profession of teaching. Her students are generally well-behaved and respectful, so we can only hope that that will carry over to my time teaching! :) I'm impressed with the school itself, as it is neat, tidy, and welcoming! I'm much less fearful about next semester!!!!!

Speaking of teaching, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the other math education people who have really become like another family to me...maybe slightly dysfunctional, but a family nonetheless :) We've walked together through all of our hard classes: Modern Algebra, Combinatorics, Number Theory, Math Modeling, and of course all of the Methods classes! We started off not knowing much about each other, but here we are about to start the same adventure of student teaching! We've laughed, cried, complained, and lived our lives together. Especially this semester, we've gotten to know each other on a personal level and have built a community. We've shared embarrassing stories from our youth, we've shared meals, we've shared our time in listening to each others' problems/life stories, we've done a lot together. We even have a couple in our midst...I love Janey and Andrew together!!! After our last final together on Monday, we went to Fuzzy's for snacks and margaritas (or pop for Janey, Andrew, and Viktoria) and to the finals week pancake party at the Union. We laughed harder than ever and had great times before going our separate ways! I never thought I'd find myself actually knowing and investing time in my classmates, but I'm so glad I did! Love these crazy folks!!!
The crazy math kids!
Front Row (L-R): Me, Amanda M., Josh
Back Row (L-R): Janey, Andrew, Maria, Viktoria, Jim
So, what else could have possibly happened during this two week span? I mean, I finished my classes, I got little sleep, I received placement for next semester, AND I had a blast with my math friends, what else could have possibly happened? Just wait, there's more!!!

Oh yeah, OSU won Bedlam in a miraculous victory that essentially redeemed our less-than-stellar season AND made us bowl-eligible! (Who cares if it's only the Cactus Bowl...at least it's a bowl game!) What a night!!!!!

Well, going back to that Sunday when I returned from break, something unexpected happened. I was asked on a date for Friday night by my good friend Thomas. Okay, in typing that, it doesn't seem that unexpected, BUT at that point, he was one of my good friends who I had never quite seen in that light, but thought was a wonderful person. On a whim, I said yes! I was terrified in doing so, because I wasn't quite sure what would happen, but something about it seemed right. Throughout the next day, I became increasingly excited! There was a long string of crazy events that happened between Monday and Thursday that I'd rather not delve into here and now, but I'll suffice to say that I have never been more ready for a Friday than I was last week!

We went out to eat and spent the remainder of our evening sitting and talking beneath the stars at Boomer Lake in town (the weather wasn't too bad that night), and we had an amazing time together. It was then and there that we decided to go for it and start dating each other!!!!! :) We have been dating for a week now, and I am continually in awe of how wonderful he is and how great of a fit we are for one another. I am humbled by God's faithfulness to both of us by bringing us together when both of us were very frustrated by love. Never in a million years would I have guessed that I could find such happiness with another person, let alone him, but sometimes, two people just click, and that has definitely been the case for Thomas and me!!! The timing of everything was more perfect than either of us could have imagined. So, for a few facts about him, he is a junior studying Agribusiness and is from a suburb of Dallas. Yes, I am dating a man who is both younger than me AND a Texan...I never thought that either of those things would happen! :) He is incredibly kind, respectful, funny, chivalrous, intelligent, Godly, and yes, handsome! We're both pretty bummed out that just after starting to date one another we have to spend a month apart, but honestly, it's just a month, which is not a lot of time in the grand scheme of things. Also, we're excited to build our communication skills and get to know each other even better on that level before we both return to Stilly. He is nothing like what I envisioned my next boyfriend would be, but at the same time, he is. He is the embodiment of all that I've wanted in a man, and I cannot wait to see where life will take us!
Yes, we did plan to wear tacky Christmas sweaters together...and it was Thomas's idea :)
This is a better picture of Thomas's smile :)
And yes, he is willing to take crazy, fake sorority girl pictures with me...I hit the jackpot!
So, there you have it, the full update on my life! Here's hoping you all are doing well!!! :)