Dear friends, thank you for reading my blog, and a special thank you to Mildred for giving just the right nudge for me to get this update done. I have wanted to write a closing post (which turned out to be three posts), and it took a bit of time to ripen my thoughts make it happen. This post deals with what’s occurred in the last few months, my transition back into life in the US, the second blog post provides a quick overview of what Peace Corps meant to me, and the third is a deeper commentary on changes in education and on international development. So hang on for some trivia here, or proceed directly to the next blog post.
The Gazette portion:
In April I had a bad mammogram, follow up sonogram, and follow up x-rays. The folks who deal with these things have a system: rate the anomaly on a BIRADS scale to help folks figure out what to do next. The scale runs from 0 (not enough information to give a score), 1 (negative), yada yada to 5 which means highly suggestive of malignancy. Mine was a 4B. So, of course, I went through all the emotional business you might imagine at this point, and had an excisional biopsy so we won’t have to interpret this anomaly on later mammograms. It was benign. Thanks be. By that time, however, I’d rechecked my priorities, and it was time for me to return to the US.
So as of mid-May, I have been a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. I spent 17 months in Peace Corps, and it was wonderful, head-spinning, challenging, fabulous, and one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. (Reflections in the following blog post.)
My return involved a quick visit with my delightful grandchildren, Ian and Molly, and their delightful parents Liz and Zach, in Florida, visits with sparkling Margaret and Zander in San Diego, celebrating their master’s degrees, and helping them get moved to Berkeley. Then I set about the business of putting in place a new set of routines and activities. My apartment in Costa Mesa is small and suits me beautifully, I can now proceed directly to a simpler way of life than my pre-Thailand life.
The “big picture” plan is part time work, preferably something that will accommodate occasional service travel, and volunteer work at my local public school. The volunteer work is two mornings a week, with the sixth graders, primarily doing Hands-On Algebra with small groups, and mixing in bits of other math things here and there. The school has a big focus on college aspirations for all students, and my role in supporting that is seeing to some details, like helping the stragglers care about learning the math facts and helping the sprinters feel their cognitive powers. Hmm. This could be the core of a blog for the next couple of years.
My first drafts of a work life took some time in revision. For one thing, in Bangkok I had met Nik Miche who coordinates a variety of educational programs including a contract with SUNY Buffalo to deliver a Master’s Degree program in Education in Bangkok. The market is primarily teachers at the International schools in Bangkok who are interested in earning a master’s degree from an American university while they happen to be in Bangkok. He invited me to teach a course in that program, which was, of course, irresistible. So looking forward to spending three weeks of September in Thailand gave me time over the summer to move cautiously in the direction of employment. No point in looking too hard when you’d have to say, “Oh, and I’ll be away for three weeks in September.” That teaching experience was over-the-top wonderful, and I’d do that again in a heartbeat. (A BIG thanks to Ron Oliver for getting me up to speed on the course—I’d never taught that one before.) I’m tempted to do internet research on what universities are doing this sort of a program anywhere on the planet and send them resumes. Meanwhile, I did sign on with Kaplan Test Prep this summer and took the online training sessions to teach their SAT course. So far that has not resulted in my being scheduled to actually TEACH for them. We’ll see what comes of that.
Keeping an oar in with schools and students is important to me, so beyond the volunteer work, I originally figured to do some substitute teaching. Knowing that the population of Orange County is declining and elementary teachers have been laid off, and knowing that some districts are filling their need for elementary substitutes from their own laid off teachers, I set about to get the secondary biology credential. That should allow a person to work some days, and still take time off for service travel. Good plan, if I do say so. I completed the 5 hour professional exam to demonstrate my proficiency with the subject matter before I left for Peace Corps, so the task remaining was to send my sheaf of papers to Sacramento for the credential. They’ve had the materials since July 9, per their web page where educators can monitor progress of their applications. So that’s what? 92 days. And counting. Yesterday something happened there. They posed a comment that a Conversion was granted. The application is still pending evaluation, but now I have a Conversion. I don’t know what it is, but I guess it’s a good thing. Needless to say I won’t be substitute teaching in secondary biology any time soon, as the school districts “batch process” new substitute teachers with edifying instruction on topics like wearing latex gloves when cleaning up a classroom after a student nose bleed or vomit, to avoid exposure to Hepatitis C (much more likely than HIV). The substitute orientations are completed for the foreseeable future. And I don’t have the requisite credential anyway. Substitute teaching in biology may still be a good plan for some other year.
The other avenue I pursued is part time nanny work. Yeah. Take a deep breath and think with me on this. If status is a big issue with a person, this option won’t make sense, but I’m largely through trying to impress folks. I moved out of a house and shed a lot of belongings, but I still seem to have an impressive collection of children’s books. I have Montessori materials; on the off chance my grandchildren will visit at an appropriate age to enjoy them. A piece of my heart is in Florida with my grandchildren and yet I’m not willing to live there, for various reasons. Children keep us young. How about: I go to work “loving on someone’s kids”, and get paid for it? So that’s happening, and while it wouldn’t be appropriate to talk about that, we’re off to a strong start.
At this point I’m a Californian again. For many years I labored on a set of priorities that were right for me then, but now there are fresh cut flowers in my house. It seems to me I’m an enhanced version of my previous self, thanks to the Peace Corps experience (see next blog post), the teaching for SUNY in Bangkok experience, and the choices I’m making to have a life that’s enjoyable, balanced, and constructive. I wish you all well and happy, too!