Life in the Green Mountain State

I am celebrating my 26th day living in Vermont!  Every day I learn something or discover a new place that I love.

Today, for example.  I walked to Northshire Bookstore, which is less than a mile from I live.  A mile.  Can you believe I’m this lucky?  It’s an adorable little bookshop near one of the roundabouts in the main part of town.  (Just a side note: roundabouts make so much more sense than stoplights.  Seriously, they’re amazing.)  I spent over an hour browsing and enjoying the atmosphere.  There’s also a coffee shop connected to the store, which makes it even better.  I got a book about being eco-friendly, like how to make your own laundry detergent and other ways to help be more green in everyday life.  It’s a big deal here in Vermont!

I recently completed my third week of teaching at my two elementary schools.  In some ways, every day gets easier, but in other ways it gets more difficult.  I finally have learned almost all the teachers’ and students’ names and I am more efficient at lesson planning and teaching to the needs of each class.  However, now band has started at one school and there’s a lot of work involved in getting rental instruments for kids, fixing the pesky clarinet whose bridge key is bent, talking to parents about costs, coordinating small group lessons with the classroom teachers, typing up practice sheets, updating my website page, and more.  It’s a lot of work!  Some days are tough – really, really draining.  I come home with a hoarse voice, a gigantic to-do list, tired feet, no food in the house, and very little money in my bank account.. But you know what?

I love those tiny humans.  I love music.  I love teaching.  Some days I walk out of school on such a high that I can’t help but smile and sing along to the radio the whole way home.  Those moments and days make up for all the tough ones.  Each day of teaching is unique and challenging in its own way.  It’s awesome.

Here’s pictures from both schools:

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2014-09-20 19.43.51My parents were visiting for the past 4 days, so I showed them the schools and some other places in the area.  It was great to have them here!  Now that all 3 of their kids have left home, hopefully they’ll have time in their schedules to visit us often (although mine is the farthest).

Speaking of visiting, I drove to Pennsylvania for my first drill weekend last weekend.  It was very tiring, but the traveling was fine.  Vamping up my energy level on Monday morning after this weekend was hard, but I survived.  It was so nice going to a familiar place where I didn’t have to concentrate on what anyone’s name was or use my GPS to get everywhere within a 10 mile radius of where I was staying!  My true introvert-ism shines through some teaching days because talking to so many new people exhausts me, but this weekend was great because it kind of recharged me talking to friends and familiar faces.  Here’s a shot of the sky as I was driving to PA.  I know, I know, I’m a terrible person for using my phone while driving.  I survived.  Lately, I have been obsessed with clouds!

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One exciting thing that happened a few days ago was that I became the official owner of my 1997 Volvo!  I drove it for most of college, but now it’s actually mine.  I have my Vermont plates and driver’s license!  I love this car.  It have more than 185,000 miles on it but it still runs like a champ, and is like a tank in winter.  It’ll be just fine for this coming winter.

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This past week was especially fun at one of my schools.  We had the “Junkman” visit and perform for us!  Don is basically a one-man Stomp performer who travels all over the place to do gigs like the one he did for Sunderland.  The kids LOVED it. Each grade had their own junk-playing class after an all-school assembly where he gave a short concert.  As a result, I am brainstorming ways on how the fifth and sixth graders can include our own composed junk piece on the holiday concert!  They did such a good job with playing rhythm patterns on their own junk, and they asked so many insightful questions.  I know you’re not supposed to have favorites as a teacher, but my 5/6 class is especially fantastic.  They are so musical and not afraid of doing anything in music class.  They’re a joy to teach.

(Just a little disclaimer, I had permission to take and use photos from our junk classes!)  You can see in this picture on the left Don’s set up where he uses 100% recycled materials to make music.  He did a great job with the kids.  I especially loved an exercise where 4 kids kept a beat on an upturned bucket with rubber band covered sticks to deaden the sound, and he and another student would take turns soloing on another louder, more metallic sounding bucket.  The students got really into it.  I loved seeing them be expressive and creative with music!  I’m working on getting him to visit the kids at Currier!

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Can I just say that it’s awesome to be loved as a teacher?  I see students everywhere (including a barn sale today, a restaurant this past week, and at church last Sunday), and in school and elsewhere, the kids are always waving at me and saying hi and coming up to give me hugs or to help me move instruments out of the closet to the music area.  I am doing my best to give them a well-rounded musical experience as possible.  I try to take notes after each lesson to remember what went well and what I could change for next time.  I’m sure I’m going to be such a better teacher after I’ve done it for one whole year but so far things are going pretty well!  I make mistakes every day, but kids are forgiving!  And the next class I teach a little bit better.

It’s beginning to get cold here!  I had frost on my windshield yesterday morning!  During the days it’s warm, but at night and early morning it’s very chilly.  I wore my first scarf and pair of boots of the season this week!  I had an especially good run yesterday at a nearby park (also within walking distance of where I live) when there was no humidity, a slight breeze, and the perfect amount of sunshine left in the afternoon.  It was perfect.

I’m trying to get involved in community events to meet people and socialize.  Next week, I am doing a yoga day at a studio in town whose proceeds benefit an organization called Women for Women, and I was recently invited to help lead Girls on the Run at school.  It’s a club in the spring that’s like an elementary version of cross country.  I’ve been to 2 different churches, and I’d like to try out a couple more in the coming weeks.  There’s also a house being built through Habitat for Humanity in a neighboring town soon, and I’m going to sign up to volunteer to help.  I also have 4 piano students and have met really nice families through that already.  And I’m playing with a samba group tomorrow!  I was invited by a fellow teacher at school who is also a musician.  So I’m definitely keeping busy!  I love having two mornings a week where I’m not at school, because it allows me to get everything done I need to and still have time to do this kind of stuff.

It’s a good life.  Have a great week, my friends.

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Change of Plans!

My life has changed drastically in the past week and a half!  I am now living in an adorable New England town, about to start teaching music in two elementary schools!  Honestly, I was planning on explaining how this entire thing came about, but I am totally worn out with sharing how I got hired, found a place to live, etc.  So you’ll just get to read about my adventure now that I’m here!  Which, in my opinion, is much more exciting anyways.  I know that in my last post I was all okay with subbing and was making the most of it, but I am so glad everything worked out the way it did!  This is way better than subbing.

First of all, my new home!  I am living in southern Vermont, smack dab in between the two schools I will be teaching at.  It’s almost exactly fifteen minutes north to one school, and another fifteen minutes south to the other.  It’s a beautiful, beautiful place to live.  I thought Pennsylvania has gorgeous, lush mountains, but the ones here are even better.  A picture can’t even do them justice so I’m not going to bother at the moment.  You have to be here to truly appreciate them.  (So come visit me!)  Frankly, I get quite distracted when I’m driving places because I’m too busy looking at the mountains that make me feel like an absolute dwarf.  Oops.  It’s a good thing there’s not too much traffic here!

I am renting part of a lovely little house, and it’s very close to the center of town.  There’s plenty of places to walk, run, and bike – my kind of place!  It’s actually quite a touristy area, with lots of people coming to shop and stay at the many bed and breakfasts that populate the area.  I can already tell I’m going to love it here.  I never thought that I’d want to live in Vermont, but now that I’m here I never want to leave!  This is a picture of my street with a beautiful sunset.  The mountains look small, but not when you’re standing in front of them!

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Speaking of leaving, I will have to once a month for National Guard stuff, but it’s only a little over 5 hours to the base.  When people find out I’ve moved here, they’re all saying, “Vermont?!  It’s so far away!”  But really it’s not.  It’s not any farther than going to the coast for vacation, or moving to Virginia to Pennsylvania.  But because not many people I know have been up this way, so it’s this strange, unknown, and frigid place.  Well, hopefully by my living here, my friends and family will learn a thing or two about Vermont!  I’m certainly learning a ton, and now I want everyone I know to have a vacation here.  And no, it’s not cold here…not yet at least!  I’m sure it will be, but from what I’ve heard from people, it isn’t that bad.  My principals told me the kids go outside every day for recess, almost every day of the year unless it’s absolutely far below freezing. 

I think it just stays cold here longer than in PA, that’s all.  Definitely manageable.  Another note about the upcoming cold weather: Every Wednesday during the winter months in VT public schools (and maybe private too), the schools shut down after lunch and the kids go skiing!  How awesome is that??  Guess that means I’ll be learning how!  I’ve gone snowboarding a few times, but never skiing.  I can’t wait to learn!

The two schools I’m working at are quite small.  And by that I mean very, very small.  There’s less than 100 students at each elementary school – only one class and teacher for each grade, and fifth/sixth grade are actually combined into one class.  I’m very excited to be working at small schools.  They are both very self-sufficient and the small numbers allow for more flexibility with scheduling and activities.  Here’s a picture of one of the schools.  When I asked about safety in the area, the principal told me seeing bears on the property was the biggest issue!  Bears!

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It’s adorable and I can’t wait to start!  My first day is this Wednesday.

It’s been such an adventure moving here.  I came up less than a week ago, not knowing a single soul besides the two principals who interviewed me.  My closest acquaintances are almost 3 hours away.  There’s been some frustrating parts to it, of course, like paperwork.  Dreaded paperwork!  Insurance, finding the grocery store, getting a new bank account, lesson planning with very limited resources, and having to do all of this on my own is pretty exhausting.  But my parents have been helping me work my way through the paperwork and any other questions I have about anything.  By the way, they are now empty-nesters as my younger brother just left for college!  I don’t know how they’ll deal with not having any kids at home!

It’s a good thing I’m rather independent and like doing things on my own, because moving to a new place is kind of lonely at first.  I’m sure I’ll make good friends, but it might take some time.  It’s not like college where there’s an organic place to meet other people with the same interests and age as me.  Instead, I’m going to have to join local groups and volunteer and just involved with the community.  I’m fine with going places on my own, but it will be nice to do things with friends.  For example, church.  I went to a church this past week by myself, and it was very nice, but it will be great to establish myself with a group of like-minded people once I decide on a church.  I’m going to try out a few before I make my decision.  After the church service, I went to an outdoor garlic and herb festival that happens annually this time of year!  Here’s a snapshot of some of the vendors:

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It would have been another place I’d loved to go with some friends, but again, I was okay with going by myself.  I talked to a lot of interesting people as I sampled local cheeses, garlic, fudge, pesto, and other delicious Vermont and New York products.  There was a live band playing and tons of people, so I was able to do one of my favorite things: people watch.  It’s fun just observing others and watching the world happen sometimes.  There were stalls selling alpaca products, fresh honey, woodworking, jewelry, and much more.  It was a great way to spend my Sunday afternoon, but next time I’m bringing a friend!

One of the first things I did here was locate the library and get a card, so the rest of my weekend has been spent reading and relaxing.  There are still things I need to do before Wednesday, but nothing is open today so I can’t go to the bank, print my lesson plans, etc.  It’ll all get done eventually.  I know it might be tough at first, because I’m jumping into the school year a little late with very limited knowledge about the students and what their level of musical knowledge is.  But I think after a week or two I’ll have a lot more figured out!

I have a little secret to share.  It’s something I wasn’t really proud of and didn’t like to tell people, but it’s turning out to be the biggest blessing of this whole experience.  And if you’ve made it this far in my post, you probably care about me and won’t think any less of me. 

Here it is: I’m only working part-time.  I will be teaching music three days a week, and that’s it.  At first, I was sad it wasn’t a full-time position, but then I read some articles and did some thinking, and I realized I don’t need or want full-time!  I am completely happy with the amount of work I have.  First of all, it’ll allow me ample time to lesson plan and get all the things I need to do as a first-year teacher, without feeling completely and totally overwhelmed.  Second of all, I can still do those things I wanted to do when I thought I was going to substitute teach!  I will still have time to run, to cook, to play music, to sew, to keep in touch with friends, everything.  Yes, I won’t make much money, but honestly, it’s not like I decided to be a music teacher for the paycheck.  I’m doing this because I love teaching and I love music.  With careful planning, the numbers will work out fine.  And, I do have a supplemental job helping with the after-school program every afternoon, which will give me more experience working with kids and teaching (and more money).

So it’s really a complete win-win situation.  I have plenty of time in my life to be full-time and I’m sure I will want to be at some point.  But for the next year (or however long I decide to stay) I’m loving the idea of part-time work.  I know it’s not as noble or as wonderful-sounding as full-time teaching, and I’m sure there are some people who think I shouldn’t have accepted the position, but I know in my heart it was the right thing to do.  It hasn’t been smooth-sailing the entire way, but not once have I regretted my decision to do this. 

I am capable of supporting myself, serving God, and getting to do what I love most in one wonderful package, all the while having a hugely grand adventure in a place I’ve never been before.  It takes a lot of guts and bravery to do what I did, and I’m really proud of myself.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my new life!  I’ll leave you with a pretty picture of the clouds from a few days ago.  They’re stunning.  Stay tuned for more Vermont adventures.  🙂

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