Friday, December 20, 2013


A word that has become more difficult for me to describe in recent years. Is my home in Chardon where I was born and raised? Is home in Ashland where I set out on my own for the first time? Is home in Rio de Janeiro where I officially realized my calling in life? Is home here in Siguatepeque where my life has been changed within the walls of my Grade One and Two classroom?

I honestly don't know.

To me, each one of these places is home. Each one of these places holds a very real piece of my heart. Without each one of these places, I wouldn't be the person who I am today. Longevity has nothing to do with it-- I spent 18 years in Chardon and only 3 months in Brazil.

Every day my heart longs to be home. To be in Chardon, to be in Ashland, to be in Rio, to be in Sigua. Every day I feel like a piece of me is missing. Like I'm not completely whole. The unfortunate truth is that since my heart has made it's home in so many places, it never feels whole.

Going home is always a tricky blend of happiness and heartache. Joy to be seeing the people that have always meant the world to me (and joy to be eating Taco Bell again, if I'm being completely honest), but sadness to be leaving the people who have become regulars in my daily life.

While I don't particularly love always feeling like a piece of my heart is missing, I cannot help but know that this means I have been more abundantly blessed than I could have ever believed possible. I've loved people in many places, I have so many people and places that are hard to say good-bye to. And for that, I am grateful.

I'm going home tomorrow. While doing so, I'm leaving another home behind, but I'm coming home tomorrow.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


thank·ful [thangk-fuhl] adjective 
feeling or expressing gratitude; appreciative. 

Sometimes I get in really cranky, wallowing in self-pity moods and think of all of the things I've had to give up to be here. I play the victim, portray myself as such a good person who sacrifices so much for others. But let's be honest here for a second, I'm not. And I haven't.

We spent a lot of time in Grade One and Two talking about all of the things that we are thankful for. Which really reminded me of all of the blessings that came into my life the second that I stepped off the plane over a year ago.

Starting here, with Grade Two and all their crazy adventures.

Continuing here with my twenty-four blessings in Grade One.

And ending here with all of the people who have enriched my life inside and outside of the classroom. 

Being here is hard. There are things that I have given up to live here. But what I have gained has more than made up for the things that I have left behind. My life is more abundantly blessed because of all the people who have walked into it throughout the past two years.

On a more lighthearted note, Cristian and I gave our students the real American Thanksgiving experience by playing a little football on Thursday afternoon. It involved a lot of shrieking, a lot of  "hey, run that way!", and a lot of laughter. None of us may be headed to the NFL, but there's always next year.

Karen and I could never seem to decide if we wanted to high five or fist bump and accidentally ended up combining the two. All while saying "gobble, gobble". In true Thanksgiving tradition, we gobble gobbled all day long.

I am so thankful. I am so blessed.

Friday, November 15, 2013

On Living In The Most Dangerous Country In The World.

Let me just preface this entire thing by saying that I am speaking solely on my own experiences. I am well aware of the danger that comes with living in Honduras and that Sigua isn't the most dangerous community to live in while in here. There are dangerous places here, I get it. But we don't go there. Because, well, they're dangerous.

As it seems to happen pretty often, I came across an article that became a springboard for my own thoughts. An individual found themselves living in Copán, a city in northern Honduras that is famous for the Mayan ruins and speaks upon his own experiences living in Honduras. Personally, I felt that the author was trying a little to hard to sell Copán, but it's not my blog and the author didn't ask my opinion. I also completely understand being so in love with a town, and a country,  that others are quick to turn up their noses at, so I can see where the author is coming from.

When I first told people that I was moving to Honduras, I was met with a variety of reactions. Things ranging from "Wow! You'll be so fluent in Spanish" to "I've always wanted to visit  Africa!" But the most common reaction was some variation of "But it's so dangerous!"

Yes. It is. And so is being an elementary student because a gunman could come to your school and start shooting at you, your classmates, and your teachers. So is running in a marathon because someone could have planted bombs at the finish line. So is attending a movie because someone could open fire there, too. And so is returning to my own high school because three students could take their last breaths there after being shot at close range.

Despite the fact that these horrendous acts of violence occurred in our own towns in the United States, I'm willing to bet that there are still people in each of those towns who are singing the praises of where they've set down roots. Chardon is a more unified, more proud community after what happened. Those in the Sandy Hook community came together to support each other when violence hit too close to home. The entire nation boasted #BostonStrong in the wake of the marathon bombing.

Yes, violence is prevalent in Honduras. Armed guards man the door of every bank, grocery store, and hotel. Barbed wire lines the walls and fences of every establishment. Hondurans subscribe to the theory that "Good fences make good neighbors." When you Google Honduras, you will inevitably come across the statistics of violence, drug and gang activity, etc. I'm not saying that these things don't exist in Honduras because they absolutely do.

What I am saying is that there is a side of Honduras that doesn't get as much air time. The beautiful sunsets that I watch from my front porch every evening. The hilarity of laying in bed and hearing a cow chewing on grass right outside my window. Realizing the crush I have on this country every single time I drive past the lake. The breathtaking glimpses you can catch of Comayagua when driving from Sigua. Jaw dropping views of the mountains every where you look. Beaches that just don't compare to those anywhere else in the world. These things exist. These are the things that most of us in Honduras are encountering every day, not the statistics that can be found online.

So for those of you who want to hear the worst about Honduras, here you have it. "Every day I wake up, shivering with fear, hoping I’ll make it to see the light of another day here in Honduras. I live behind doors enforced with triple bolt locks and I barely dare to go out on the street. I trust no one, I never go out at night, instead I lock myself up, turning up the volume of my TV to drown out the sound of gunshots. If that’s what you want to hear, there you have it. But the truth is quite different."

But the truth is quite different...

Friday, November 1, 2013

Parcial One and Done

The beginning of November also marked the end of Parcial One, as well as the 50th day of school. We wrapped up our exhilarating units on living things and pronouns with the hope of more exciting units ahead. Spent some time cleaning up the classroom under the guise of getting all the bad germs out because Miss Caitlin is persuasive and tricky like that.

In Grade One Science the kids had to identify a living thing and then create it out of construction paper and then we pasted it onto our "Tree of Life". Holla at all the scientists in Grade One.

Grade One Language included creating their own word walls. Wahoo. As a culminating activity, each student was assigned a letter and then had to come dressed representing that letter and present a short memorized sentence. Super precious. Check out them cuties.


In Grade Two Language we became gardeners and created our own Pronoun Gardens. I also can't figure out how to rotate the picture, so you have to deal with that. They had to write a pronoun in the yellow center and then write an example on each petal. Some of us have green thumbs and some of us do not.

 Parcial One-- that's a wrap.

La Vida Está Llena... oportunidades.  Tomálas.

We embraced one of those many opportunities today when we packed up the pick-up truck and headed towards San Pedro. As in, six in the front, five in the back. Honduran style. Those opportunites? Oh, we're tomando-ing them.

In a belated celebration of Teacher's Day we went to Zizima and spent the day lazying around the river and bobbing around the wave pool in anticipation of the waves. We also found a snazzy skull bracelet (of the authentic black rubber variety) as well as 5 lemps. Time bobbing well spent.

But next time we're checking the filters because we watched the salvavida, AKA the life guard, find 5 DOLLARS. Lesson learned.

After Zizima we went to the mall because we figured we'd all be happy at the food court. Which we were. Ke Pack from KFC? You have no idea how long I had been waiting for you. Followed by going to see 2 Guns in a theater that didn't smell like a musty shoe. San Pedro can be such an upgrade from Sigua sometimes.

The next morning we woke up at the un-Godly hour of 6:30am and laced up our tennies in preparation for the COLOR RUN! Five whole kilometers of Kool-Aid flavored powder, sweaty bodies, Spanish music, and a little bit of laughter here and there.

Oh, I ran some of it. Did I mention that?

Despite that fact that I basically despise running, it was quite an awesome endeavor. I'd do it again, should the opportunity arise.

Super catracha.
Packed up the truck to make the two hour drive back to Sigua. Which wouldn't have been complete without a torrential downpour or the purchase of lychee while stopped at a stoplight. Still taking all those opportunities. And embracing all things Honduran, one day at a time.

Oh yes, and we celebrated Halloween. Created those costumes two hours before the party. Don't ever tell me that we aren't crafty.

And speaking of tomando the opportunites that fill your life-- I bought two turtles while in San Pedro. Named them Penny and Leonard. Don't regret a second, or a lemp, of it.

My life is full. My life is blessed.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Never Forget Your Roots.

"Or, maybe, in a more macabre turn of thought, Cleveland is like Hotel California – you can check out, but you can never leave."

There's been so much from home to miss these past few weeks. The Tribe chased October. My family and friends proved, yet again, how blessed I am to have them in my life. Ashland celebrated another homecoming week. The shores of Lake Erie have been calling my name. Homesickness is a feeling that I am becoming well acquainted with.

And then I find this article: You've Never Been to Cleveland? Here's What You're Missing. which singlehandedly sums up everything I love about Cleveland.

"You’ve never seen the lights in the distance as you come over the Detroit-Superior Bridge. You’ve never seen the bridge lit up, all purply and hip. You’ve never seen the sun rising over Lake Erie – although scientists say that bright, burning bulb in the sky is supposed to rise in the East – casting its light over the rippling water. In some areas, particularly if you happen to be close to the lake’s edge, the sunrise (and, consequently, the sunset) looks like something out of a postcard.

If you’ve never taken the bus in and seen the lights of downtown, particularly, the warm, yellow lights of street lamps and door lights (on Tower City), you’ve also never seen the bustling cars and the way the light reflects off of the cracked and poorly repaired pavement in a sort of watercolor haze. You’ve never seen the way the trees, even as they lose their leaves, still look more alive in the middle of a rainstorm.

If you’ve never taken the bus in to downtown, you’ve probably never had to deal with the odd person who insists on sitting too close or talking too loud. You’ve never felt as though you were invisible and about 2 sizes smaller than what you were given to think you were just mere minutes before. And, while all that sounds terrible for the morning commute, if you’ve never been on the bus in the morning, you’ve never had the crystal clear mind focusing time not interrupted by driving.

You’ve never, upon taking every pain to stay dry out in the storm, had someone who was perhaps not so careful make your one side wetter than it had been before.

If you’ve never been to Cleveland, you have missed the diversity of the city’s peoples. From every part of the world, of every shape, size and color, they have come here. Why? I don’t think anyone knows. This city has an odd attraction.

Sometimes akin to the allure of NYC, but most time akin to the magnetism of a train wreck. You just cannot look away. Or, maybe, in a more macabre turn of thought, Cleveland is like Hotel California – you can check out, but you can never leave. While downtown is kind of snazzy, the rest of the city is – for lack of a better phrase – falling apart. Odds and ends restoration jobs are taking place all over the city – very slowly progress is being made. We will be the Comeback City, they keep saying.

If you’ve never been to Cleveland, you don’t realize the deep, abiding, and sometimes crazy, stupid love that Clevelanders have for their sports teams. You’ve never seen so many people so enthusiastically cheering on a team that will most likely not win the game of the day, let alone the season or the title. That same crazy, stupid love extends to the love of their city. You’ll never hear a Clevelander deny that Cleveland can really make you depressed if you let it. In the same sentence, however, the same Cleveland native will say that the city is on the rebound, that they have faith in their hometown.

If you’ve never been to Cleveland on a rainy, cold morning in the month of October, you’ve never seen the wind blow so forcefully that it presses together the opposite ends of umbrellas, conspiring to make each and every person a sopping wet mess – with a hot mess of hair to boot. The mutterings of disgruntled umbrella owners who had not, until that moment, pondered the aerodynamics of an umbrella. And, once they had, found that umbrellas are incredibly wanting as a method of protecting oneself from the elements.

If you’ve never walked down Cleveland streets and surveyed the wonder that is old architecture. The old, federalist style buildings that house both the public library, the court house, and, down on another street, the post office. The old, regal style buildings that house the old Arcade, the Galleria, and the Rockefeller Center. One can never have enough glass, red brick, masonry stone, or marble, after all. Oh, the majesty! This, combined with the unmistakable notion that there’s probably a crack in the foundation of each of these old buildings (whilst we pray to God, who ever he is, that this isn’t true), that they cannot possibly stand the test of time.

If you’ve never been to Cleveland, you have never heard the stories about old tunnels underneath the city – long fallen into disuse – and, probably, disrepair. A collapsing tunnel or two would explain a few city streets which are more uneven than the uneven bars at the last Olympics.

If you’ve never travelled into Cleveland’s many different residential neighborhoods, you’ve never seen the art, architecture, and style that permeates each neighborhood, making it distinct from every other neighborhood. The old-world charm of Ohio City (now, that’s a comeback neighborhood, if ever there were one) patched together with the likes of the artsy, high falutin’ Tremont neighborhood. Little Italy and WestPark. All together. One big town. You’ve never encountered streets that are still paved with red brick. Some might say this means Cleveland is too poor to update it’s infrastructure. Clevelanders would say it means that Cleveland is rich with heritage and history.

If you’ve never been to Cleveland, you wouldn’t know that our churches and cathedrals are works of art, even as they function as places of worship. The stained glass windows of the Old Stone Church bear, on some panes, the signature of none other than Louis Comfort Tiffany. The ivy that wanders and climbs up the one spire of Trinity Cathedral adding a certain beauty to an already awe inspiring building.

If you’ve never walked into the Art Museum – and seen the splendor as well as appreciated the price of admission – you’ve also probably missed out on University Circle: home to Case Western Reserve University. If you’ve never seen a play or a concert or what-have-you at a theatre in Playhouse Square, you’ve missed out on some small treasures in the nation’s second largest theatre district (behind, one would imagine, the great New York City). You’ve never heard the jazz musicians who play in Public Square on any given sunshiny day – putting notes into the air from some tune you’ve probably never heard . . . That probably never existed before that moment.

If you’ve never been to Cleveland, you’ve never heard about our lake and how its dying, although you have probably heard about our burning, crooked ol’ river. You’ve never seen the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – and you would probably not know that Cleveland is sometimes regarded as the birthplace of rock and roll. Clevelanders know – and some people other places will acknowledge – without Cleveland, there would be no rock and roll as we know it today. We are aware that other cities think we are full of bullshit, but we know the truth. Yes, yes we do.

If you’ve never been to Cleveland, you’ve never seen the sheer determination and grit of this small midwestern town that used to be a large midwestern powerhouse. As Cher has said, you haven’t seen the last of me. You haven’t seen the last of this city either. Whether it be in medicine, or arts, or music, or education (we can educate our students better than we do currently), we will lead the way for the rest of the nation – and, in some cases, the world.

If you’ve never been to Cleveland, you have never seen the sun, which manages to align itself directly with Euclid Avenue somedays (and Superior other days) – and becomes a hazard for any drivers heading into it’s blinding brightness. Imagine walking out of a building on Euclid, past Playhouse Square, and wondering if the orange light you see is part of a marquis before realizing the sun has turned the sky into it’s canvas.

If you’ve never been to Cleveland, you’ve never seen our zoo. It’s free on Mondays to people who live here. You wouldn’t necessarily know that pink flamingos smell or that the bears are like moths to the flame when it comes to putting on a show for visitors – they love the attention. We don’t have the ever popular octopus that predicts the winners of games with a great degree of accuracy, but the elephants are up close and personal – and you feel like they are kindred spirits as you look into their big eyes.

You may think this was written as a propaganda piece. And, in many ways, the hope is that it entices you to come and visit Cleveland. But, if you don’t make it – we here in this city, the land of the Cleve’s, will forgive you. We’ve built a casino – maybe that interests you. Maybe, like this author and a lot of others, you wish casinos weren’t a necessary reality. We, as the general public, won’t try to woo you. But! A welcoming atmosphere does await you. You’ve got nothing to lose, right? One day, a long time from now, we hope not to have to inquire in an exasperating manner, who in the world would vacation in Cleveland?!

If you’ve never been to Cleveland . . . You’ve never seen the microcosm of a global society in one small dot on a small map. Perhaps this author is too self assured – perhaps other cities are like Cleveland. But, when you go from being the “mistake on the lake” to the “comeback city” – one feels the need to be conceited and narrow minded. We beg your indulgence and understanding. This rainy, cold morning in October has turned into a rainy, cold afternoon in October and the author is feeling much as though she should be wrapped up in fluffy, warm blankets, by a nice warm fire, with a nice warm cup o’ joe (or is that cocoa) in a great big mug clutched between two small, pale hands."

Lake Erie sunsets. Check.
The Tribe. Check.
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Check.
Ohio City (AKA Happy Dog). Check.

Honduras is an incredible country that I have fallen head over heels in love with, but Cleveland? Cleveland will always hold my heart.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Settling In To Our New Normal.

Tomorrow starts week six. In the first five weeks we've celebrated Día del Niño, marched in the parade, practiced for the parade, learned routines and classroom procedures, and managed to squeeze in a little bit of actual learning. Stress on the little bit.

Independence Day Parade.

Independence Day Parade.

Please. Don't look so excited.
Día del Niño.

The kids, as usual, are fantastic. A little bit challenging, slightly difficult to understand, and sometimes a bit cranky, but always fantastic. 

It seems that a lightbulb has switched on for Grade Two in the past week and the amount of English they have begun speaking has increased exponentially. It isn't even comparable to stepping into a classroom in the States, but I'd say that about 75% of us are speaking English about 50% of the time. Which is an improvement. 

Grade One continues to blow me away at how SMART they are! I'm still not exactly sure what to do with them. We'd been learning about how the sun is a star, the earth is a planet, and the moon is a satellite. Miss Caitlin is not an artist, so when I drew the moon, it had more resemblance to a banana. For the next couple of weeks I had all the students proclaiming that the sun is a star and the moon is a really big banana.

While life in Honduras is rarely ever dull, it quickly becomes routine for me and it always seems like there's less and less to report. Outside of school hours, I lead a pretty regular, boring life. I grocery shop, I get my hair cut, I cheer on my Tribe every night. Being a teacher here isn't much different from being a teacher in the States. Except the food labels at the grocery store are in Spanish, my hair dresser doesn't speak English, and I have to listen to Tom Hamilton on the radio as opposed to actually being at the Jake.

Just another day in the life.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Differences Between Grade One and Two.

I adore my Grade Twos. Absolutely adore them. We worked so. hard. to get to this point. We traveled to hell and back together last year. You think I'm exaggerating, but you weren't there. They were a tough, little bunch. And their teacher was a real stickler, as well.

But they're some of my favorite little kiddos in school and I look forward to seeing their faces every morning.

That being said, this year's Grade One class is a complete 180 from the Grade Twos. When I tell Grade One to be quiet, they actually do it. I tell them not to touch something and 20 of the 23 of them won't touch it. It's all still a little bit weird to me. Awesome. But weird.

Since we aren't spending quite as much time correcting behavior (ie: no one is stabbing anyone else with a pencil), we have so much more time to do fun things. Like crafts. (I prefer the word in Spanish, manualidad, as opposed to craft. Craft makes it sounds frivolous. Manualidad makes it sound like there's a purpose.) We're focusing on reviewing the letters in Language class and spend one day per letter. The kids already learned their letters in Kinder and Prepa, so we're just reviewing. This week we covered letters A-D. Check out our super cute manualidad for letter D.

I know, I know. Right?! Too adorable to even handle. I can't take credit for the idea, I found it somewhere on Pinterest. But I can, and will, take credit for adding the duck habitat to the back. Gotta add science in there when ya can, right?

Oh Grade One. The possibilities are endless with you this year and I can't even wait to see what shenanigans we can get ourselves into.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

How Did YOU Feel On The First Day Of School?

Does the excitement of the first day of school ever go away? I was so, so, SO excited to see all my kids again on Wednesday. I was asleep before my head ever hit the pillow Thursday night and up the second my alarm started buzzing on Wednesday morning.

I am so happy to be back with my kids again this year. I'll be working with last year's Grade One students as this year's Grade Twos and will have a new batch of kids for Grade One. Despite the fact that this year's Grade Two kids are still a little bit insane, I think we're going to have a great year as it is our second year together and we already know each other.

Throughout the first week we had worked on various back to school activities. Grade Two is reading The Kissing Hand and Grade One is working on classroom routines and procedures with the help of Clifford and Clifford's Manners. Grade Two is already showing lots of improvements from last year and we've been able to have some great discussions about their feelings on the first day of school, how others could be feeling, etc.

I'm astounded at how smart Grade One is this year! They are FLYING through material already and are picking up a lot English. I'm excited to get to know each of them individually and to see what different sorts of activities we'll be able to do together this year.  It's still a little crazy to me how a different set of students can learn the same material entirely differently than the year before.

If you have read any previous blog post, you know that Grade One (current Grade Twos) and I went through our fair share of challenges last year. We went through a lot together and I didn't always realize how far each student came. This year's Grade Ones are fantastic, but they aren't starting the year where the students last year finished. Duh, right? Its through interacting with an entirely new group of Grade Ones that I realize how far each one of my current Grade Twos came in the year. I am so, so proud of each and every one of them and so blessed to be able to be their teacher for a second year.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Teachers Who Taught Me To Love Learning

Teaching children to love learning-- while I really get psyched about the alphabet and teaching kids to read, my ultimate goal in teaching instill a thirst for knowledge in my students. I want them to learn how to learn, how to discover things on their own.

Throughout my schooling, I've had my fair share of teachers; both good and bad. Luckily, the vast majority of my teachers have been incredible people who have not only taught me content, but also taught me how to learn, how to love, and how to overcome. While I could spend days singing the praises of each teacher who has seen my name on their attendance lists, there are two teachers whose teachings still influencing my day to day life.

I started out on my Spanish adventure in Grade 8 when I had to choose between studying Spanish and French. I continued studying the language throughout all four years of high schools and four years of college. (And still not fluent-- gahh!)

I was in Señora Neumann's class for three out of my four years of high school and traveled to Mexico with her in the summer of 2006 on a class trip. Our AP Spanish class was comprised of the same students who were in the Spanish 4 class the year before, so we were a pretty tight knit bunch. Señora really worked on building relationships with each one of us and I whole-heartedly believe that even the shyest student in the class felt understood and appreciated by her.

Since I had studied so much Spanish in high school and scored slightly above average on the AP test, so as opposed to being in beginner/ intermediate Spanish upon entering high school, I was placed in a 300 level class. Grammar and Composition. I moved through the Spanish classes fairly quickly throughout my first couple of years at Ashland. Taking these Spanish classes also opened the door for me to work with Dr. Rathbun in the Spanish department for three out of my four years there. Between working in her office and being in a number of her classes, Dr. Rathbun and I spent a lot of time together. She pushed me so hard to take advantage of all the Spanish that I knew and to keep practicing. She was always, always, always encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone and to take risks. Whenever I would try to justify something by saying that it was hard, or I couldn't speak perfectly, or I was the only girl, she was always there with a story from her life that eliminated all my excuses. Dr. Rathbun wasn't going to let me take the easy way out.

And here I am, living in Honduras for the second year now. Speaking Spanish every day of my life. Stepping out of my comfort zone on a daily basis. There is no way that I would be here today without the influence from both Señora and Dr. Rathbun. Sure, I could have still studied Spanish and had different teachers, but their impacts would have been different on me. Señora and Dr. Rathbun both took time to get to know me, to pour into me as an individual, not only as a student.

I'm not going to be the teacher that teaches every child to love learning, in the same way that I am sure Señora and Dr. Rathbun aren't influencing every student who sits in their classroom the same way that they have influenced me. But they both reached one, they both reached me. And if I can reach one student, if I can pour into a student and push them outside of their comfort zone to reach their full potential, then I'll be able to look back on my teaching career and say that the whole thing was worth it.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

"What I Want the Parents Of My Students To Know"

As we are officially one week away from the first day of school (whaaaat?!), I've been mentally preparing myself for another year with my rambunctious babies. While working hard in preparation for the year ahead (read: perusing Facebook), I came across this article written by another teacher who seems to know exactly how to speak to the hearts of teachers.

What I Want the Parents Of My Students To Know

My refrigerator holds a list. Summer to-dos. Almost 20 items needing attention before school begins. Important things. Things like: Sort through financial records. Write my AP syllabus and book proposal. Take down Christmas lights (wish I was kidding about that one.) Clean, really clean, my house.

This year my list has six red lines. Only six crossed-off tasks. Six out of 20. I go back to work in two days. When all I want is to sit in the middle of my living room and cry. I mean really sob over my list that won’t get done. But I can’t. I have to take my daughter school shopping.

Then the school year begins. And I won’t sit again until June 2014.

So before the madness of the coming weeks ensues, there are some things I want you to know about your child’s teacher. Things which may spur you to pray for me over the coming year, or which may cause you to shake your head—I’m glad it’s her and not me. Things which sometimes need to be said.

I’m already tired. I’ve worked all summer. I’ve sat through workshops and certification classes and read journal articles on the newest teaching strategies and creative ideas. If I’m not physically working toward the next year, I’m thinking about it. All the time. I will begin the school year exhausted, leaving behind an incomplete summer task list.

Right now—I’m broke. My pockets are empty. Every spare penny has been used to purchase bulletin board materials, novels, and extra bookcases. Anything that will bring warmth and brightness to my classroom. The state or school doesn’t fund these expenses. My purse foots the bill.

The bell never ends my day. School hours don’t provide enough time to finish the job I’ve been given. Like a briefcase full of papers, I carry the cries of hurting students home. And then? When I walk in my door? I still must help my own children with homework, fix dinner, carpool to dance, finish laundry, and straighten the house.

I spend more time with your sons and daughters during the week than my own. And while I love to teach, my heart breaks a little each time I hug my baby and say, “See ya later, alligator!”

I’ve trained hard for this role—going to college and then graduate school in preparation to teach your child. You may have said, “How hard can it be? You learn. You teach. It’s as simple as that.” I want you to know it’s so much more than ABC’s and 123’s.

Because teaching is hard. Very hard. For just one lesson I can spend hours thinking through Piaget’s cognitive theory, Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, anticipatory activities, appropriate pedagogies, exit strategies, scaffolding techniques, and hierarchically-ordered questioning. Each of these theories is necessary for one effective lesson. Not so easy.

I will make mistakes. Numbers get crossed. Eyes do too. After hours of grading, sentences can begin to run together. Something right will be marked wrong. But something wrong may also be marked right. Approach me with kindness, and I will right my wrongs. Because, I promise, even if I have a typo, I know proper grammar and mechanics.

I am in desperate need of grace. If I don’t immediately respond to an email or a phone call, it may be because I want to have all the information I need to give you all the information you need. Give me time. I’m human.

I need a chance. Please. Please, please. Approach me with a problem before you approach my boss. Wouldn’t you want someone to do the same for you? It may be a simple miscommunication. A miscommunication that could wrongly put my job in jeopardy. Did I say please?

I hate standardized tests. Not in the we-should-never-measure-student-growth way. But in the there’s-so-much-more-to-life-than-choose-A-B-C-or-D way. The learning box we are stuffing children into tears at my heart a bit each day. It’s wrong. And my hands are tied.

It’s not always my fault. Even if I sang every lesson while doing cartwheels dressed like my favorite book character, some students still won’t pay attention. I can beg. I can bribe. I can cry. But some of my students are already too hardened by life—they just don’t care. Yet, society tells me I’m responsible for every student who fails. Every. Single. One. This is an anvil around my neck.

I want you to know every year is a make-or-break year for me. It could always be my last. Because this is not just a job. It’s a calling. And there are some days I wonder if I’m still called. Because some days rip me to shreds, leaving wounds that gape and scars that haunt.

I feel responsible for the next generation in mind-blowing ways. This is a heavy burden. I sense its weight each time I step into my classroom. I understand—really understand—how great the task is that lies before me. The question Am I making a difference? is a constant.

But I know my job is worth it. I know this in the way I know my students are worth every ounce of effort in my body. And when I see the light behind a teenager’s eyes? Every fiber, every muscle, every tendon tightens and then soars. The light of knowledge is mine to bestow. The role is serious. Success is always just a breath away. Sometimes I’m holding mine. When my students get it? I can smile. I can breathe.

Because really, I’m teaching them about life. Each day. A new lesson teaching rhetoric, similes, or Thoreau is really a lesson about life. How we’re connected. How we’re living. How we’re breathing.

And you must know, you absolutely must know—I pray for my students. Their hurts break my heart. Magic wands and pixie dust don’t work in this real world. I know there is only One who has the power to heal souls. So my knees are raw from the bending and stooping over the desk of your precious one.

I love your sons and daughters. And while a need for education may be the reason they walk through my door, my deepest desire is that my students know they are loved. This is my goal. My objective. My mission.

Because they will know my sweet Jesus by my love. And even though His name can’t even be a whisper on my lips within school walls, I will love your children. I will love them because He first loved me. I will be His light in their darkness. And because I love your sons and daughters, they will learn. They will learn all that matters in this life. They will learn because they are loved.

By this all people will know that you are My disciples,
if you have love for one another

John 13:35 (HCSB).
I love, love, love the last two paragraphs. Right now I have been given the opportunity to teach at a Christian school which encourages its teachers to share their faith with the students. This may not always be the case. Wherever this life finds me, whoever my students may be--I want them to know Jesus through my love. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Missionary Problems: Part Two

Here at the Teacher's House, we frequently find ourselves talking about how we are missionaries. And how not one of us feels called, or qualified, to actually BE a missionary. We aren't living in stereotypical missionary housing, we have access to a lot of North American conveniences. Our day to day life doesn't make us feel like we are making these huge sacrifices in the name of Jesus Christ.

And truthfully, I don't actually know that we are. Nothing that is going to be visible to us anytime soon anyways. But then I read this article that I saw posted on Facebook and more than one point resonated with me.

So maybe, despite what I think I am capable of, I am being called to be a missionary to these wild, crazy, wonderful children. In my mind I'm "just their teacher", but maybe it's something more than that.

While I couldn't fully understand all of the points that were made in the article 8 Reasons You Should Never Become A Missionary, there were two that stood out to me.

Number One: Don’t Become a Missionary if You Think You Are Really Pretty Great, Spiritually-Speaking.
There’s nothing like moving to a foreign country to reveal all the crap that’s in your heart.  Seriously. I have cussed more, cried more, been more angry, had less faith, been more cynical and, generally speaking, have become in many ways a worser person during my last two years of serving in Asia. Call it culture-shock if you will, but I tend to think the stress of an overseas move thrusts the junk that was conveniently- covered before out into the blazing-hot-open.

Number Two: Don’t Become a Missionary to Find Cool Friends.
Now, I’m not saying you won’t find amazing friends– maybe the best in your life– but there is no denying that the mission field can draw some pretty odd ducks. {Of which, I, of course, am not one. See #7 regarding my natural humility.} Don’t be surprised, though, if you find yourself in a church service with ladies wearing clothes from the 80′s singing praise songs from your middle-school years like Awesome God, but without even the drums. Don’t be surprised, too, if your social interactions are awkward at best with many of your fellow mission-souls. Living out the in jungles for twenty years might do wonders for your character and strength and important things, like, oh, the translation of the Bible into another language, but it can sure do a number on a person’s ability to shoot the breeze in a church lobby somewhere.

I will whole-heartedly agree with both of these statements. My life is a living testament to both of these statements. My life has become messier and more socially awkward since my arrival to Honduras in August.

But at the same time it has been more abundantly blessed than at any point in my life.

It's Amazing What A Year Can Do.

Exactly 365 days ago I was embarking on my Honduras adventure for the first time. It has been 365 days filled with laughter, learning, heartache, homesickness, new friendships, new languages, tears, challenges, and love. While these past 365 days have been difficult while simultaneously being absolutely wonderful, I cannot help but to think back to this day one year ago.

I remember how I held it all together until I landed in Houston. Feeling the wheels touch the runway somehow solidified the whole adventure for me. I couldn't call anyone and tell them that I had landed in Houston because I knew that as soon as I heard a voice from home, from the life that I was leaving behind, the tears would begin to fall.

I remember walking to my gate in Houston (ironically, that's been the only time I've ever been able to leisurely walk to my connecting flight) so mad at myself for packing my sunglasses in my checked luggage. Because wearing sunglasses through the airport would have been less conspicuous than the tears rolling down my face.

I remember arriving at my gate and sitting between a Honduran man and an American woman. I was texting Lacy because I knew she was the only person who would understand my freaking out. The Honduran man was slowly inching away from me as a sobbed and the woman kept shooting me compassionate looks.

I remember looking forward to having a 3 hour flight spent looking out the window and crying to myself, but instead ended up sitting next to a boy who was about 6 or 7 years old. Hids dad took a nice three hour nap while the boy talked to me the entire way-- clearly unconcerned with my crying.

I remember telling myself to pull it together once I made it through security because I didn't want Dave and Lindsay to think that I was a big weirdo for sobbing as I got off the plane. And Lindsay asking if I wanted baleadas to eat, but not knowing what those were. (How times have changed, right?)

I remember the car ride back and Sigua and wanting nothing more than to close my eyes and sleep for days. And not panicking again until we pulled onto 21 when I realized that this was official official.

I remember having spaghetti dinner at Dave and Esther's house with all of the teachers. I really thought I had it pulled together and that I was being great and social. Until Cristian later told me that I was a total drag that night and all of the new teachers were so boring and unfriendly that he thought about going back to his old school.

So many things have happened in the last 365 days. I've cried, I've laughed, I've learned, I've taught a little (I hope). In 365, Siguatepeque has gone from an unknown place to my home. To a place that I have a hard time leaving.

Here's to the next 365 days.

Monday, August 5, 2013


After four long, wonderful weeks in the States I have returned to Siguatepeque for another year of adventures with my friends and with my students. Before the classroom gets set up and the students come, my sister and I spent one week raging around like fools and enjoying the Central American sun.

Flight from Atlanta to San Pedro.

Sarah's first baleadas.

Girl time with Miss Grace

My sister is my best friend.

Comayagua <3

Water Island. Whaaaat?

My sister is my best friend. Sigua is my favorite place in Honduras. Put them together and it was an unforgettable week with the two great loves of my life.

Monday, July 1, 2013

I Don't Ever Want To Leave This Town

Somewhere between sobbing at the airport in Houston and seriously regretting my decision to move to Honduras while driving past the lake in August and shooting off fireworks while saying our goodbyes in June, I have completely fallen in love with living in Siguatepeque.

It's a slow, slooooooow paced life. But it's MY life. A life that includes Spanish and catcalls and baleadas and a motorcycle. And 50 wild, spunky, energetic, children who wear me out while simultaneously bringing so much joy to my life.

My love for Siguatepeque and my love for my students is calling me back for another year. I'll be resuming my position as the Grade One and Two teacher, but hopefully I have things a little more figured out this time around. In our education classes at Ashland, our professors always told us that we shouldn't smile until October. At the time, I thought it was crazy. But now I see the truth behind it. Sorry guys, but there's going to be a new Miss Caitlin in town.

While I have only been home for four days, I am stuck in a weird place of missing one of my homes, trying to enjoy my original home, and anticipating my return trip home. It's difficult to explain to those who have not experienced it, as well as somewhat hurtful. I lived in Ohio for 21 year and all of a sudden I'm incredibly homesick for a country that I have only lived in for 10 months. There's an article What Happens When You Live Abroad which accurately portrays how I've been feeling these past couple of days.

At first, the article seemed really harsh. I may have cried upon reading and thinking that I would never fit in anywhere ever again. I was going to be some weird, wandering nomad for the rest of my life. And I had chosen that lifestyle for myself. After finishing a year in Honduras, though, I can better relate to the author and would agree 100%. Without tears.

My favorite part?

"So you look at your life, and the two countries that hold it, and realize that you are now two distinct people. As much as your countries represent and fulfill different parts of you and what you enjoy about life, as much as you have formed unbreakable bonds with people you love in both places, as much as you feel truly at home in either one, so you are divided in two. For the rest of your life, or at least it feels this way, you will spend your time in one naggingly longing for the other, and waiting until you can get back for at least a few weeks and dive back into the person you were back there. It takes so much to carve out a new life for yourself somewhere new, and it can’t die simply because you’ve moved over a few time zones. The people that took you into their country and became your new family, they aren’t going to mean any less to you when you’re far away.

When you live abroad, you realize that, no matter where you are, you will always be an ex-pat. There will always be a part of you that is far away from its home and is lying dormant until it can breathe and live in full color back in the country where it belongs. To live in a new place is a beautiful, thrilling thing, and it can show you that you can be whoever you want — on your own terms. It can give you the gift of freedom, of new beginnings, of curiosity and excitement. But to start over, to get on that plane, doesn’t come without a price. You cannot be in two places at once, and from now on, you will always lay awake on certain nights and think of all the things you’re missing out on back home."

Ohio and Honduras. Two very different places. Two places that will hold my heart forever.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The First Last.

I. Did. It.
We're sexy and we know it.,

Friday, May 31 marked my first last day of teaching. I still have a month of curriculum planning and recuperation exams, but as far as full class instruction goes, I'm all done.

We spent the day at Los Salmones, the local pool. And by we, I mean Grades 1 through 6. And it was insane. Awesome, but insane. Grades 1 and 2 arrived at the pool around 8:30am and the other grades trickled in soon after. By 9am we were all at the pool, dunking each other, throwing each other in the pool, and having a great time until we left around 12:30. A little fried chicken for lunch and the rest of the afternoon spent playing on the playground. Easily one of my top ten favorite days of the school year.

While the Spanish teachers spent a lot of time observing from the sidelines, the English teachers had no problem jumping in and getting their feet wet. Literally. Grades 1-4 were all hanging out in the little baby pool, so Cristian, Nelsy, and I spent a lot of our day acting as human jungle gyms. At one point in time we were making a whirlpool and I had upwards of five children hanging onto me. Photographic evidence above.

I couldn't have asked for a better first year of teaching. Don't get me wrong, it was HARD. Really, really hard. Not only did I have to tackle my first classroom on my own, but it was in a culture completely different from my own, thousands of miles away from my family and friends. But I learned so much throughout this first year. And not only about teaching, but things about myself that I didn't know before.

There have been so many ups and downs throughout the past ten months. But saying good-bye to my kiddos on Friday, despite the fact that I will see them at the clausura in two weeks, was way more difficult than I could have ever imagined.

L One. As in Last One. As in Last Day of School.
My kiddos are all so much more grown-up than when I met them in August. I cannot believe that my Grade Two babies are grown-up Grade Threes now. Where did time go? Is the last day of school always this difficult? Because I don't know if I can do this every year for the rest of my life.