Sunday, October 23, 2011

emilies in action

At my job, there are three Americorps volunteers. Yes, I'm a volunteer and yes, I get paid... it's just not very much. Logical? Not so much. But then again, I am technically an employee of the federal government, so logic is not a given I guess. Anyhow, there are three of us and we are all Emilies. Even after eight weeks, people still like to joke about it, and it is still hilariously confusing. I use initials to distinguish between EK and EG, but for some reason no one else does, and I can't quite figure out why. I had hoped we would come up with some pretty awesome nicknames by now, but alas, this is not the case.

The other two Emilies work in the school during the day, and I work part of the day and then overnight as well. All three of us have lots of big ideas about how we can make this place really amazing, and all three of us are somehow keeping our footing in this uphill battle. Between day-to-day lesson planning, volunteer recruitment, advising students, developing curriculum and extra-curricular activities, we have our hands full. Sometimes we even know what we're doing! The cool thing is the school (being non-traditional, experiential, and standards-based) extends us a lot of freedom to develop ways for these kids to get ahead, since many of them entered the school lagging behind their peers. In a perfect world, the momentum would come from the students, who would take the initiative to design their own projects and learn by doing. But if you recall being a sixteen-year-old, you'll know that this is quite a stretch. Since it's the school's first year, the systems are being developed as we go, which is both a good thing and a bad thing, since it allows us to be flexible. The downside to that is that we lack structure and clear goals (some days just making it to 2:15 feels like a huge success).

Some fun(ish) things I've been up to:
creating world geography games
drafting hypothetical volunteer positions/recruitment strategies
crafting an elective art history course
developing an after-school citizenship club
attending interesting conferences (this month was volunteerism, next month is local economy/small business/maine-centric)

In other news, I've been falling back into my old habit of overbooking myself, and now that I've realized that I'm trying to find some balance. Part of why I came out here was to challenge myself to finding peace in solitude, which I figured would be easier to do in the middle of nowhere. But I've got a pretty solid core group of awesome folks developing out here, especially my pair of Emilies. A recent trip to Portland reminded me of how much I love living in a city - being able to walk or bike to a cafe, music and art and people - but I am challenging myself to stick it out and make the most of my year out here in the boonies. Fall has been absolutely beautiful - weeks and weeks of changing leaves, gray and rainy afternoons, and crisp walks in the woods have allowed for humble reflection, quiet and bittersweet. I'm looking forward to a winter full of reading and hopefully, once I'm adequately outfitted, a bit of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Finding myself oddly excited for my least favorite season, but never fear, I'm sure I'll be complaining about it in no time.