The Class

March 17, 2011

Heard from a good friend today about some students I used to teach.  Some are doing well, some are falling off, the usual trajectories for 13-14 year olds.   Working with adults is fun and challenging out here, but teenagers are a subset of humanity that can drive you mad with joy or rage.  I briefly forgot that.  As a teacher:

You identify with students.  A girl in New York used to read Harry Potter when she was bored during my classes.  Close friends and family know that this was a painful dilemma for me.   What really is more important, I thought, factoring binomials or allowing a child to experience Ron Weasley’s wit?  My ego was bruised that x2 – 9x + 14 being equivalent to (x – 7)(x – 2) wasn’t enough, but you know, I understand.  The last sections of Goblet of Fire are incredible.  Do I suppress her imagination or allow her to openly disrespect me?

You get angry with students.  A lesson went wrong or you’re behind on grading or you just feel off.  Irritable. One of the all-time great kids once brought drum sticks into my algebra class.  Unstimulated by our class discussion about example 42 on page 321, he started playing a mean solo in the back row. We’re talking about multi-step linear equations and he’s freaking out with these sticks.

Knock it off, please, I said. Ok, he said.  He’s a kind young man, generous in heart and spirit, but no kid worth anything can resist making a teacher fall into the abyss of insanity.  Five minutes later we’re on example 44 and I hear those drum sticks again, this time with whispering vocals.

Knock it off or I’m going to break those off my kneecap and throw them out the window.   As I said this, a blood vessel popped in forehead, or at least it felt that way.

Ok Mr. G, ok.

You respect the students.  There’s this one girl in Chicago who we called ‘Ice.’  A total killer in the classroom.  Worked hard, was always prepared, rarely showed emotion. Type of student that was so good you didn’t quite feel worthy- like your lessons were not commensurate with her character and intelligence.  I still speak with her through email, and her tone is the same: business, stoic, appreciative.  She’s straight A’s of course- but also professional and tough.  I would compare her to KG, but I’ve already done that 8 times on this blog.

Like any family, you see each other’s best and worst traits.  One kid gets a 48 on the exam and it’s like, buck up, work harder, come on.  Another gets accepted into Northwestern or wins the Science Fair and you’re infused with pride.  Someone’s mother gets sick and he’s off all day and you’re like, I’m sorry.  A kid who was always good does something bad. Gets caught with weed or cheats on a test or something.  You feel it because now they’re grown-up and not ready for it.

I don’t know.  It’s not an easy racket, but I highly recommend it.



September 12, 2010

We had some infestation issues at my old apartment in NYC.  They were mostly harmless little pests.  I’d wake up Sunday morning- reggae blasting from the outside – with papa roach creeping up my closet door.  I’d usher him out and he’d do his bidding someplace else.

But man, good rapport doesn’t excuse bad behavior.  Occasionally they’d feel my wrath, like when they would feast on some bbq chips in the kitchen.  I once blasted this red-looking one with a size 12 Timberland.  ‘Don’t come at the king,’ I whispered.

the real king

Out here we have this mouse situation.  He’s small, even by mouse standards.  He travels from under the washer to under the sink.  Mice used to (still kind of do) terrify me.  We told people back home we had one and they were like, ‘Don’t sleep with your mouth open.’  I told B, ‘We need a pistol.’

But he’s growing on us.  We’ve gone from devising possible traps (sticky bra, cheese taped to a knife) to appreciating his company.  He’s a modest little thing.  If he senses your presence, most times he’ll scurry away.  Although when we put ‘Breaking Bad’ on, he pretty much cozies up with a blanket.

He’s getting fat though, eating our crumbs all the time. And when we got back from a late-night stroll, I swear he had a party while we were gone.

So yeah, part of me still wants him out, but no longer by brutal massacre.

biting my nails

July 31, 2010

my latest anxiety revolves around what to do with our large furniture items… evidently, because we live in a highrise on michigan ave, we cannot leave the couches/mattress on the curb and hope a) a scavenger will pick them up, or b) the garbage truck will collect them. Plus! our building only lets us have furniture in the elevator if we reserve it and pay a 300 dollar fee in case of damage (which we get back if there are no damages). the dates for reserving the elevator are slim. hum… maybe i should put the items on craigslist. the mattress has my body impression in it. who wants that? yuck! the couch is terrible as well, tears, faded fabric.

on a happier note- work is winding down. i have had a handful of sad farewells already. next week i have a happy hour going away night at a bar with work folks. once im in RI i can finally meet my new nephew! here is a picture of him. he is so beautiful! b

the madrid apartment search is full speed ahead. i can’t actually commit to anything yet since 1. the apartments listed are for an august move in and 2. we don’t know if certain apartments truly exist. i was contacted by the classic scam artist. awesome apartment/great price/great location/owner isn’t worried about the money, just wants a “good person”/owner is doing humanitarian work in nigeria and needs the money wired through western union…

i have our potential neighborhoods whittled down to La Latina (connie says specifically the “almonso martinez” part) or salamanca (goya). La Latina is suppose to be classic madrid living with lovely architecture but with older buildings that might not have certain comforts (like heat). Goya is a bit uppity, but is near our tefl program and Spanish language school. pretty tree lined streets and a beautiful park to spend our days reading and lounging. i’m thinking about how to maximize my self indulgence during this trip and considering buying an apple piano keyboard to learn the piano on. maybe i will have enough learning with the language barrier though. -b

12 more days of work
7 more pediatric videoswallow studies
5 more days supervising my student
2 more voice evaluations
2 more paychecks…

we have lists for everything. List for the furniture/household items we need to get rid of. List for the items we want to keep. List for things coming to Spain. I’ve started throwing things out, things that I have debating about throwing out for at least three years. So much stuff that I don’t use but am comforted by having in storage just-in-case, like pomade (which I never use) and discontinued gap perfume from 1996 (“Om”, this didn’t make the throw out list once again. I have two bottles. One unopened). I brought sonia some food coloring because it was brand new. She declined it. Emily p. accepted it but left it in my office. Anyone want an alarm clock? Door hooks? Hot curlers? bl

visa submission

July 15, 2010

one more month until we leave chicago. three more weeks until my last day of work. yikes! last friday we had a meeting at the spanish consulate. it was an appointment but the office was practically empty. it looked like we could have just walked in a week earlier.

back to the friday- i got to the office before sean and started to submit my paperwork. i ended up having the incorrect background check (had one from a private company, needed one from the police station). sean didn’t have any background check because his hadn’t arrived in the mail. the guy helping me was very nice and lived in the fifth largest city in Spain (Seragovia? something like that). the guy took my application even though it wasn’t complete… despite the fact that the website says they would absolutely not do that. then sean arrived, he went through the process and we were done at 12:05. We decided to go directly to the police station. took a 10 dollar cab and ended up at the wrong police station. hopped in another cab for 15 dollars and was helped by the loveliest woman who said she was making roasted turkey and sweet potatoes for dinner. she told us she was glad we weren’t getting married abroad. after 30 minutes we started walking towards home, jumped on a bus, and made it back to the consulate office at 1:55 (5 minutes before it closed!). we submitted the forms and were good to go.

the visa application takes between 6-8 weeks to process… we are planning to move from chicago in 5 weeks. im crossing my fingers that the 6-8 time frame is an exaggeration.

thanks for reading (sophie)

one month in chicago

July 4, 2010

I’m becoming nostalgic. wistful about leaving Chicago. it has been good to me, and although it is not right for my future it was very right for my past and the dwindling present. my list of things to do and see in the windy city is practically complete. we were sitting outside at a restaurant, surrounded by tall buildings and the warm summer air, and i felt blessed. leaving a place lets  you appreciate it. we now have our list of things we want to do one last time- art institute of chicago (sean to see the van goghs, me to see the miniature room), picnic at the park during the outdoor music series, at least one last party at Ivan and Sara’s…- b

Had passport photos taken yesterday.




July 1, 2010

Everything is starting to fall into place. In the last week we have 1. gotten accepted into the Tefl program, 2. paid 300 euro deposit each, 3. submitted our fingerprints for a background check, 4. gotten physicals and signed letters from the MDs saying we are fit to travel, 5. made arrangements for living accommodations for our first month of abroad living, 6. and submitted resignation to job (me, sean did this awhile ago).  The things we don’t know include- 1. whether or not we will qualify for a full year visa versus 6 months (new rule says you need an FBI background check, not local… FBI check takes 12 weeks which we don’t have), 2. which travel insurance company to choose, 3. exactly what date to move to spain, 4. where we will live after the course, 5. where we will teach english, 6. when sean will take a flamenco dance class, 7. if we will buy a mobile device in the states for spain, or 8. if we will buy an ipad. ~b

Making Moves

June 22, 2010

Looked at a lot of different programs over the past few months.  Homegirl’s been on the research tip for a while.  Has like 85 Microsoft Word Documents with labels like ‘ItinerarySubSectionGQuadFZone’ and ‘PotentialBarcelonianLanguageAcademies.’  Right now, we’re leaning towards a TEFL program ( that looks like it will sponsor a student visa.  Cost us 2000 Euro bucks and a couple sticks of butter.


We get a visa and it’s like bye-bye birdie up in Europe.  One weekend OctoberFest.  The next weekend Prague.  The next weekend Prague: The Sequel.  The next weekend up in Iceland making videos with Sigur Ros and appreciating just how warm global warming warms.  Flash forward to the following Wednesday: Dublin, Ireland.  Visiting Great-Grandma’s grave in ol’ country, singing limericks and drinking Guin’.

Couples that stay together blog together. -sg