Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mr. Elementary Teacher

For the first time ever, I have taught in an elementary classroom...three times this week! I taught fourth grade on Monday and third grade on Tuesday and Thursday. The first two days I was at a brand new elementary school - it was a beautiful building and had Smart boards and all the technology a teacher could dream of! Today I subbed for Auntie Karole - she also had a Smart board, but they had taken away her computer for whatever reason, so it was back to the overhead - I have blue overhead pen covering my hands to prove it!

Highlights of teaching Elementary school:
1. The kids are ADORABLE!

2. The kids are ADORABLE!

3. The kids are ADOOOOOOORRRRABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So adorable, in fact, that I discovered that even though middle and high school students can't get away with anything when I'm in the classroom, the elementary kids are able to get away with MUCH more with me - I'm kinda a pushover with the little kids. Because they are just soooo darn cute!

4. On Tuesday, several of the kids in the class made me beautiful drawings that I now have with me at home as a keepsake. Middle schoolers NEVER draw anything for the teacher!

5. With the little kids, you end the day feeling like a GOD. You can do no wrong at all! Seriously, the kids think you are a GOD!!! I was even an "amazing basketball player" according to the boys who played on Tuesday. For those of you who have ever seen me "play", you know I can barely dribble and walk at the same time. But not with these kids - I was Shaq!!

6. At least as a substitute who has no accountability for grades and test scores, teaching elementary is like being a camp counselor. I mean, I even taught the kids camp songs and we had a blast doing wacky things normally only done at camp...not school. I felt like I do when I'm spending time with my nephews - Uncle lets them get away with more...because at the end of the day, I get to hand them right back to the regular teacher!

7. One last thing - the kids, are just, ADORABLE!!!!!!!!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Aren't Those Therapy Dogs??

One of my last duties Friday afternoon deserves its own post - both because of how stupid I felt and absolutely mortified I was when I finally figured out what I was doing. Around 5th period, the VP was with two ladies, each with a beautiful black labrador. They were precious dogs, very playful and friendly in the office. The VP asked if I could escort one of the dogs to various classrooms for their duty. I thought how absolutely wonderful this all was - because I'm thinking THERAPY dogs that I get to take to various classes - "randomly" - to help the children connect with animals, deal with anger issues, and gain a plethora of other positive benefits from their "interaction" with the dogs.

So we leave the office and I say, "Wow, I'm jealous we didn't have this when I was in school!" The lady kind of looks at me funny and says, "Well, that's probably because we trusted kids back then." I wish I could say her comment triggered the "aha moment" in me - but still, no. I thought her reply a bit odd, but still didn't realize what we were about to do. She told me to pick a classroom randomly. I picked, we went in. The teacher knew what was now happening and it slowly started to occur to me as well - we asked the children to leave everything at their desks, to take nothing with them and to file outside. Then, the dog started its job - sniffing every bag and every item left behind for any contraband.

Now, I must admit the lady and her dog were quite nice and were only doing their job. We did chat it up as the dog sniffed and I learned quite a bit about the program. At one point she told me there are some teachers who are quite rude to her in front of the kids, while others just tolerate the program and still others fully endorse it. I told her I absolutely would not condone a teacher being rude in front of the kids, but I myself would definitely fall into the "roughly tolerate" category. To be perfectly honest, I would not even imagine such a program would be necessary - it would not even cross my mind that kids would ever be subjected to this! My naivete about these sorts of issues continues to be eroded and chipped away.

Luckily, we caught no kids with any drugs and went back to the office without incident. The other admins got quite a kick out of my misinterpretation of what I was being sent to do. I still can't help but wonder, however, whether our money and efforts would be better served with therapy dogs instead of drug-sniffing ones.

Friday, August 22, 2008

5 Minutes

As a Guidance Learning Counselor (GLC) sub this past week, I have tried to make as much impact as possible on a child's psyche and thinking about her/his abilities within five minutes. Each of my interactions has averaged about five minutes. Sure, there are examples that took longer, some of which I have mentioned in previous posts. But for the most part, the kid comes in, spend a few minutes with you (mostly time spent trying to get the computer to do what you need it to do), before they return to class and their daily activities.

Five minutes. That's all you get as a GLC. Therefore, I have tried to be a good steward of that time and do my best to always prioritize the needs of a kid before any paperwork or straight administrative responsibility. My motto has been to keep the kids happy - and that no amount of time can be considered too long when helping one of the kid's in my office get what they need. Indeed, I have felt so fulfilled this week helping kids get that teacher they really want or helping a teacher reduce their class size or working with the other Administrators to ensure a seamless and fluid movement to the day.

At one point today, I sat back and realized that "in another life" (where I'm not in med school), being a GLC would be EXACTLY what I would want to do. It uses all my best talents for working with kids - keeping them interested, involved, passionate! It involves coordinating with adults and delegating responsibilities to adults based on their needs and talents. It is that "job" that doesn't feel like it because you wake up in the morning and are super excited to go and make a difference.

Highlights for today and final thoughts:
1. I really impressed the other administrators - they want me back next week when the other GLC will be out on Thursday and Friday. They were all extremely helpful and kind and nice and made the job super easy to fit right in and help out. THANKS SCANDINAVIAN ADMIN!

2. Kids have started to recognize me and call me "Mr. Tigger" since I wear a Tigger keychain on my lanyard. At lunch, my lunch line WANTED the "Answer a Question to Eat" - I ask the kids a question, usually Science related, before I let them through the line. A lot of the kids love it. Other kids just enjoy talking with me about how their day has been going while we wait for the lunch line to open up so I can send some more of them on through. And yes, of course, there are those that give me the "can you just hurry up and move out the way so I can eat" look - they are middle schoolers after all!

3. A child today came in after school needing a bus pass. As is usual, he was first told no by every adult who was there at the time, until they actually stopped to listen to the reason he needed it. As he was leaving, he stepped into my office and started telling me about why he was kicked off the football team this afternoon. Half way through, one of the secretaries came in to tell him he had to leave - but I said I had invited him in to chat. So he sat down and started describing how the area he was doing sit-ups at had ants crawling around and so he got up to dust them off and the Coach thought he was being lazy and just kicked him off. I'm sure there is more to the story - probably the Coach made some rude comment, ticked the kid off, so the kid said something back and VOILA - the one with the power (adult/coach) said "you're done." It amazes me how much power we have as adults that we squander or use inappropriately - and it breaks the spirit of a kid. It kills me inside to know that this kid may lose his chance to participate in something he absolutely loves and is passionate about...over ANTS! So he and I had a long discussion about passions. That when you are passionate about something, like football, you don't let one setback stop you from going for your dream. I told him he should cool off over the weekend and on Monday, ask the Coach in a professional way to sit down and talk with him about the situation and to ask the coach to let him back on the team. The kid's gut instinct was to say (and he did say): "I'm not speaking with that man." So I told him to listen to my words carefully - when you are passionate about something, you try every legal, professional, and respectful way to get it. Our conversation ended with him asking "Who are you?" and thanking me for taking time to talk.

4. Time is the most important resource we have with our kids. Spending and using that time wisely is an imperative we must not take lightly.

5. And finally, the spirit of a kid is a beautiful thing. We must realize the power we have to build up a kid - or strike them down - with our actions and words. I am beyond thankful for the opportunity over this past week and I hope I used it well to build up as many kids as possible!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Administrator for a Day...or 5

My dream has come true - I have been able to be an administrator for the past week. I was sent to Scandinavian Middle School on Monday for the first day of school, where I apparently was at the right place at the right time to meet the other Guidance Learning Counselor for the school, Ms. Armo - who is Armenian! Long story short, I have been subbing for the other GLC who has been absent this week - so I have been handling schedules for students, disciplinary issues, and just overall student questions and issues from an Admin perspective. It has been an absolute blast.

I have had the distinct honor of being able to do something special or "Above and Beyond" for a kid each day that I have been at Scan so far - it has been very fulfilling and rewarding. I feel very blessed. And the kids are absolutely awesome - a pleasure to work with and spend extra time to make positive things happen for them.

Some Highlights:
Monday - Working with Ms. Armo, we went through about 100-130 students who needed new schedules altogether or minor schedule updates/changes. By about lunch, we had finished the backlog and were able to spend the time after lunch (outside duty) fixing schedule mistakes that Advisor teachers sent in.

Tuesday - Dress Code Violation. Apparently absolutely ZERO red, not even some lines of red, are allowed on any item brought to school by a student. On this day, a very quiet kid with flat affect arrived, written up for having literally 4 or 5 lines of red in a picture on his t-shirt. The procedure is to call home, issue a warning, write it up in the computer log and place the write up in the student's folder. After calling home and making the student change shirts, I felt compelled to look up his test scores. He had scored Proficient in Language Arts and Advanced in Math. ADVANCED! I spoke with Ms. Armo that I felt strongly that such a kid should be given a chance and we shouldn't nit pick and drive him away from school any more than his demeanor suggested he was withdrawn. Ms. Armo (who is awesome, by the way), told me it was my call. She said I handled the situation and could see it through how I saw fit. SHE IS AWESOME! So, we decided he had earned one freebie - we tossed out the write-up and didn't record it in the computer. It is a small thing, but I felt really good about it. He came back to the office later to turn in his hat and while there, Ms. Armo told him that I had advocated for him. I walked him back to class and talked about his interests - I have decided he must go to UCLA for undergrad and then to med school. He said "ya" with an impish smile - we'll see!

Wednesday - A child who had scored Advanced and Proficient in Mathematics since whenever they first start testing, suddenly had scored only Basic on his tests last year in 7th grade. Wouldn't be a huge issue, except he really wanted to be in Algebra - but without passing the Math test, the policy is no go. Well, I called him into the office and asked him to explain what the problem was - what had happened the previous year. Without getting into details, he explained his family situation. The kid has been through a bit! But he was such a nice, well-mannered, kind and positive kid. So, I decided I could go to bat for him - with Ms. Armo's permission, I explained the situation to the Algebra teacher (who is also AWESOME!!!!!) and she agreed without hesitation to let him into the class! He was BEYOND excited - and now every time he sees me on campus, he thanks me again. To me, a very minor thing to make that change - to him, it could change his entire future academic career for the better. I know he will succeed with such passion and zeal to make it happen!

Thursday - Today was "fix all the one or two class mistakes we made the first couple days in our rush" Day. Tomorrow will be "Level off all the classes so you don't have 10 kids in one English class but 60 in another" Day. Without digressing to tomorrow, the highlight for today was making the day of two students who wanted to be in a specific period of PE because their younger sibling was there and they wanted to make sure they were not getting into trouble. Wow! Now that is being mature and responsible beyond your years. Unfortunately, nothing in scheduling is ever easy, as I have learned this week. So instead of being able to just make one class swap, it required fitting the pieces of an overburdened puzzle of classes into the ultimate final work of art of a functioning student schedule. We did it - 35 minutes later! It was rewarding to hear the students thank me and be surprised that I actually took the extra time to do it rather than just say "it can't be done."

Small Victories. Stay tuned to find out what happens tomorrow, on my final day at Scandinavian Middle School.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

8 is a Lucky Number

The Beijing Olympics started at 8pm on 8/8/08 - because 8 is a lucky number in China. And tonight, Michael Phelps made history going 8 for 8 in his swimming events - setting a record that no modern Olympian has ever achieved before and may very well not achieve in the near future.

And he is a classy guy! I feel like I got to see a very significant event tonight that will become a legendary part of history. Of course, Phelps could not have achieved this amazing feat without his AWESOME teammates on the US Team. They deserve recognition and praise as well for their excellent swimming over the last week.

Congratulations Michael and Team USA!!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Did You Know!

Instead of telling you the answer, we are going to do things a little differently this time. I am going to give you all a taste of the type of multiple choice questions we are asked on the USMLE Step 1. And remember, there are 342 questions we must answer, over an eight hour exam day.

Good luck! Post your answers in the comment section and let's see who gets it correct. I will post the right answer in a few days. And remember: No cheating - look up the answer on your own!

A 38 year old female patient presents to your clinic. You have been treating this patient regularly for seizures in the past. The patient now presents to you complaining of a rash on her face - you find redness extending outwards from the midline of her face onto her cheeks. Laboratory results show anti-histone antibodies. Which of the following drugs most likely caused the current symptoms in this patient:

A) Adriomycin
B) Ethosuximide
C) Furosemide
D) Hydrochlorothiazide
E) Methotrexate
F) Phenytoin
G) Quinidine
H) Rifampin
I) Warfarin

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


The boys of cabin 5 got past Tamara and I on night watch. We were stealth like whilst sitting in our comfy chairs, bundled up, watching a movie. OK, maybe we weren't very stealth like, but we sure were keeping our ears open for sounds.

Nothing. Those boys got past us in the dead of night, down to the lake, had some joy rides on the canoes, then left them all untied. The adults, of course, discovered this in the morning - when we found all the canoes floating in the lake. I actually got into one of the canoes and then towed the other five behind me, putting the rope for each under my foot and rowing them all back to dock on the other side of the lake. Good exercise.

Well, the boys, being boys, couldn't keep their mouth shut. So they bragged to some friends, who bragged to a counselor, who told Tammy and I on the sly. BATTLE ON! I decided we needed to play a prank back on those guys - so the fun started at evening chapel. We sent messengers to the boys with various messages - they never figured out who it was until the "earthquake" the next morning. But I'm jumping ahead.

Message 1: "We know what you did last night."

Message 2: "The canoes are not pleased. Be afraid - be very afraid."

Message 3: This was in the form of a letter from the canoes that was delivered to the boys at dinner time. "Dear Cabin 5, We know what you did last night. Canoes have feelings, too. Sleep with one eye open tonight. Love, The Canoes"; This message got the best response from the boys as they kept looking around trying to figure out who was sending them all these messages. It was awesome and very funny.

Message 4: During campfire, Tamara and I snuck into Cabin 5 and put signs up on every bunk and their door that said: "God is watching...and so were we!"

The rest of the night was uneventful. Then, at around 5:30am, the EARTHQUAKE!!!!! happened. Tam and I burst into their cabin, screaming "EARTHQUAKE, EARTHQUAKE, EARTHQUAKE, EARTHQUAKE!!!!!! GET UNDER YOUR BUNKS NOW!!!!!" We kept screaming this, and shaking their bunks, and a couple of other counselors helped out by banging on the walls from the outside. It was pure prank heaven.

Boys were dropping from the top bunks to the ground. Most were in their boxers since they were sleeping - but they got on the ground QUICK and started shimmying under their bunks. Tam and I did this for about a minute before we stopped, looked at each other, and then said to them: "Y'all got Punk'd! Have a great day, guys!"

Oh, the pleasures of camp!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Back from Camp! And Study Tips

"I'm back!!!" I know for those of you who read my blog religiously, this statement is getting quite old. It seems to be popping up quite a bit this summer :) I promise, it won't show up much in the next month or so.

That said, CAMP...WAS...AWESOME!!!!!!! It was super relaxing and absolutely rejuvenated my spirit to be in such a relaxing (albeit somewhat hot in the sun) place. I will blog more about camp in the coming days.

For now, I wanted to share a very important study tip from one of my dear friends from when I worked in Baltimore. Greta B. is now working in Seattle, WA, but was (and would absolutely be again if she went back into a classroom) an AWESOME teacher and a wonderful person.

Therefore, without delaying the point, here it is:
"Study Tip #7: Stop looking at the book and smell a green plant. Of any kind. Also, if you have five minutes to play in the dirt, this will help, too :)"

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Watch Your Knees!

Here is something you never hear about...ever!

Passengers on a United Airlines Flight had the unique opportunity to return to the ground shortly after departure. So far, not unique, right?

The reason: during takeoff, row 3 got loose and fell backward onto the laps of the people in row 4 of the airplane. You can read about it by clicking here.

When we flew Armenian Airlines back in 2001, overhead bin doors opened and seatbacks without passengers flew forward during landing, and the bathrooms smelled like the rest stops along highway 99 from Fresno to Los Angeles. But wow, now I feel lucky - because no seats actually fell on the people behind them.

Way to go United. They charge fees for every other service they offer - apparently from now on, your airfare won't include a seat that stays - you will need to pay a $45 fee for a seat that doesn't fall backwards and a $100 fee for insurance against the seats in front of you falling on your knees. Enjoy your flight and thanks for flying with us!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Even Failing is Part of the Journey

According to a review book just about every medical student uses, First Aid for USMLE Step 1, "Failure may trigger weeks or months of sadness, feelings of hopelessness, social withdrawal, and inability to concentrate - in other words, true clinical depression."

So, not to ignore the elephant in the room. For those of you who haven't yet heard, I did not pass my USMLE Step 1. I earned a 182, but needed a 185 to pass. And yes, the wind was knocked out of my sails when I got my score report and I was mopey and just plain lethargic for a few days afterwards. But, I was also reflective. I thought about my life choices, about whether med school truly is what I want or need to be doing. And after several days of prayer, meditation and reflection, I realized - being in medical school is EXACTLY what I want to be doing right now. Becoming a Doctor is EXACTLY what I see myself as doing. Our Lord has blessed me with a talent and I plan on investing it and returning it with even greater gains for His glory. True, I sometimes feel that I haven't been blessed with the best memory - but luckily, I do have lots of patience and determination.

Therefore, I respectfully request that people stop writing "So sorry to hear..." e-mails. I'm not sorry I failed. Failing is quite possibly the best thing that could have happened to me, as it has kicked me into high gear and instilled a sense of confidence in myself that I haven't had in medical school. I am more confident and strong and determined now about my abilities and my goals than I ever was the past two years leading up to this exam.

So what happens next? I am currently studying again, will retake the exam probably first week of September and I look forward to letting you all know that I PASSED the exam. Those results will probably arrive around end of September. Stay tuned!