Saturday, September 17, 2016

Back Where I Belong

Communal work space and Student computers
Journaling at 6 am on September 16th, I could hear it. The steam radiator in the living room coming to life. Here in UB the heat in apartments is powered by steam which comes from a central facility. Those connections are shut down on May 15th and then turned back on September 15th. Yes, eight of the twelve months are deemed need-worthy of heat. This means that winter is coming. This is no longer my year of firsts. I'm a month into my second school year at ASU. The leaves are turning yellow and it was exactly 32 degrees (F) when we left to catch the school bus on Friday morning. Next weekend we will have our time change and "fall back" an hour. Yes, winter is coming. 

I'm not worried about the cold. I know I will wear my face mask when the pollution is bad, and will hopefully be better about working out during some hour of every day's many hours of darkness. The darkness was the hardest element for me last year. 

I have returned to the realm of secondary school this year. And I could not be happier! Frankly, I have NO IDEA how I survived my "year of small children." I have selective amnesia about the entire 36 weeks of it. Oh, I do miss their spontaneous hugs and eager-to-listen ears. I went over on Friday to get something from the elementary school and, as it was recess time, was nearly consumed in hugs from students of all ages. First grade, second grade, fourth grade. They remember me and ask why I left them. I explain I didn't leave ASU, just graduated up to the Secondary school. They accept this answer and then ask me if I know their brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or cousin that goes there. 

My "year of small children" was absolutely a year of growth and expansion. I wouldn't take it back or change it. It rounded out my resume and gave me invaluable experiences and great respect for elementary educators. But now I am back doing the work that I love. That turns me on. I'm not sure if it's about ASU specifically, or if it's about the way that international teachers operate, but I've had more lessons in the first three weeks of this school year, than I did in some whole school years during my first 10 years in education. I've partnered with classroom teachers (Science, English, ESL, and History) to teach about Plagiarism (what it is, why its important, and how to avoid it), about how to Evaluate (Online) Sources using the CRAAP Test (google it!), and about how to use the Big 6 Research Model. Next week I will teach about how to best integrate quotes into literary analysis pieces. Teachers seem genuinely happy to have me and I'm slowly beginning to know the students. 

The first couple of weeks were spent cleaning up the stacks and piles of books that seemed to have lost their home. I integrated the MS and HS fiction collections and shifted the Nonfiction to make more space and have it be more appealing. I work in a Learning Commons now--a new phrasing and perspective on a modern day library space. I have three rooms. Students and teachers enter into the group work/computer room. I have a projector mounted here and a whiteboard. There are six student computers on the back walls and four round tables where students can work or receive instruction. Then there is a small middle room where my desk is situated along with our reference collection. Finally, the third and largest room houses the Fiction, Nonfiction, and Mongolian book collections. There are tables and chairs to work at and a leather love-seat and chair in which to sit and read. Or scroll through Facebook on your phone, as I find most students doing. All three rooms have large windows that face east and look out past apartment buildings to a steppe mountaintop. I love the sunlight that floods in and where I felt strangely out of place last year, I feel completely at home now. 

Four of the five days this past week, I walked home from school. While the weather is yet nice, I'm determined to enjoy the sunlight and the exercise. It is about 3 miles from ASU to my apartment and generally takes about one hour. I cross a bridge over the Tuul River and am enjoying the shift from green to yellow of the leaves. Before long they will be brown and then gone. The water will diminish and eventually will freeze over. But we still have a week or two with temps into the 50s and 60s during daytime. I think. And hope. We have a fundraiser going at school titled, "Winter is Coming." I hear it's a Game of Thrones reference....but I don't watch that. Anyway, we have bet on what day will bring the first snow fall to our ASU campus. Last year it was around September 23 or 24. I bet on September 26 and October 6. Snow does fall here, but never very much and not so often. Not in UB anyway. Everyone loves it when it snows. Precipitation, in a city with air pollution, seems to have a way of cleaning the air. We had some drizzling rains this morning, but the sun is now out. Hope this post finds each of you enjoying the START of your fall. Winter in Mongolia begins in November. Just six weeks left of fall. 

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