we just got back from a pretty epic northwest road trip. rather than mostly tell, i thought i'd show. enjoy the pics.

 tyler's driven over 80,000 miles with no windshield cracks. within the first few hours of our trip, we had this beauty and actually finished with two more.

 chillin at the cabin on hebgen lake, montana

 buffalo right by the cabin

 love the playmill in west yellowstone. saw dirty rotten scoundrels.

 hiking bighorn pass near the cabin

 camping at glacier np

 saw a bear!

 hiking the falls in glacier

 deer right by our tent

 fresh local wild in vancouver bc

 capilano suspension bridge in vancouver

 the cliff walk

 tyler aka sasquatch in stanley park, vancouver

 pike place fish market in seattle

 piroshky! a russian food we ate all the time in armenia. tasted nothing like it though.

 bellevue botanical gardens near seattle

 tabor czech food cart in portland

 powell's bookstore in portland

 rose garden in portland

 multnomah falls near portland

 camping on the beach in redwood np

 driving through the redwoods

 near our campsite on the beach


Effective Teachers

 i just finished my third (and last) year teaching. it was way harder than i ever anticipated. i don't know if it was the junior high age (can you say annoying?), full-time (i really don't have that much energy), or just teaching in general, but i don't think i could do that for the rest of my life. i have serious respect for the teachers at my school who have been there 20+ years.

although i didn't love my job as a teacher, i learned SO much from it and i think by my second year i was pretty good at it. i think that a lot of what i learned will carry over in my role as a mother and just as an adult as really, all adults are teachers to the youth.

so what makes an effective teacher? here are the top ten most crucial things i learned to be an effective teacher (all equally important)...

1. Be a teacher, not a friend. My first year I was concerned about the students liking me. I soon realized that is a disaster. Students will not respect you nor follow your directions if they look at you as a buddy. They really don't want a friend out of you, they want a teacher. Even though I felt bad for those students I know didn't have any friends, that wasn't my role.

2. Set clear expectations. Students need to know how they are supposed to act. The first few days of school I let them know what those things are. I also reviewed expectations at the start of every new term. I was very specific with my expectations and although I had a lot of "rules" the students knew exactly what to do in all situations at every time in my class.

3. Set serious consequences. Kids need to know what's going to happen if they don't live up to the expectations. We had a great citizenship system at my school where points were lost for every misbehavior and only those with certain amount of points were allowed to go to the frequent reward parties. I also held my own class citizenship day. Contacting parents is always pretty serious enough for any kid to shape up.

4. Follow through. The most important month of the entire school year is September. Catching things early and strictly makes all the difference. If you set a rule and a consequence you better be willing to follow through. If you don't, your whole system crumbles.

5. Make a routine. My students always knew what to expect in my class because there were certain things we did the same every day. Every day I was out in the hall, welcoming them in. When the one-minute bell rang, I closed the door and started taking roll. When the tardy bell rang, we began class. After instruction, their tasks for the rest of class were always on the board. My students were silent once the tardy bell rang because they knew that's what we did every day. They knew to look on the board to see what they were supposed to do next because that's what we did every day. You can vary things up in between, but the main structure of each day should be very similar.

6. No Child Left Behind. When I first started teaching I thought my role was to teach. Now I know it was to ensure that all students learned. I took responsibility for the learning gain by my students and if they weren't learning, I realized that there was something that I needed to do to fix that. Of course there are extenuating circumstances that are sometimes out of our control, but most students can learn everything they need to if given the right environment and guidance for them.

7. Focus on the positive. There is a lot of negativity out there and the 'tudes in junior high students are pretty unbelievable. I've never felt so disrespected and unappreciated. On those days when it seemed like no one appreciated anything I was doing, I had to think of the great students who worked so hard, followed rules, and showed gratitude. I frequently mailed notes home to students thanking them for their hard work. That always put me in a better mood.

8. Love. There were a lot of times where my temper or impatience could have taken a bad turn. But simply put, once I looked at the kid as someone's child and an important human being, love usually pushed out all bad feelings and helped me almost start over with a kid that just needed a little help. There are good reasons kids act out or misbehave and remembering that helps the discipline.

9. Pray. I'm thankful I have a belief in and connection with God because I know He helped me in my work with my students. I prayed daily for them, that they would have a desire to learn and be kind to each other. I prayed daily for the gift of discernment to know how to best teach them and the things they were in need of.

10. Silent Reading. This seems simple and small, but seriously it saved me. Whenever I needed students to stay busy while I did something or after their assignments were finished but class wasn't over, they read from their own books. If you like peace and quiet, you'll see the value in this. It may seem like busy work, but reading? Nothing bad gained from that.