You Want to Run a What? Part 2

In May, I heard the words, I will never do that again. Krista ran her first marathon in May.  You want to run a WHAT?! Yesterday, not 5 months later, she ran her second.  She ran her second after transferring schools, changing her major, working two jobs and rushing a sorority.

386E7AB9-9ADC-4BBD-81ED-C538E6CD8A62This time, she joined a running group; stuck more to her training and ate a restrictive diet to prepare.  She also lived at college and had midterm week right before the marathon.  She had hopes of doing an 8 minute mile for all 26 miles.

Yesterday’s weather was warm and humid; a stark contrast to that in May.  I did not drive to see her, but rather wore my running shoes and chased after her as she snaked her way through the city of Hartford.

After she left the Hartford city limits, I raced back to watch my brother in law finish the half marathon.  He had had hip surgery less than 1 year before! I am in awe that he would even attempt a 5K, let alone a half!

After that, it was wait for Krista to finish. With modern technology as it is, I saw that she 215C23E4-C8FA-405B-9EA1-8B07F5C93E7Fwas able to keep her 8 minute mile until about mile 20.  Then she dropped to about 9 minute mile. Racing to see her at the finish (in under 4 hours) the first words out of her mouth was, “Don’t let me do that ever again.”

Both my daughter and my brother in law overcame obstacles to compete yesterday.  Running is not easy.  It is you and the pavement.  Running that many miles is grueling under the best of circumstances.  Having that kind of grit and determination I know that Krista will be fine in life.  No matter what life throws at her.  She has learned to perservere and endure when situation are less than optimal.  I teach my students that it is not about the knowledge but about the sticktoitness that will utimately decide success.


As for Krista, we did some gentle yin yoga this morning.  She was still saying that she won’t do another marathon, but she also told me she was going to take a full week off from working out..let’s see if she does that first.



Bringing the World To Us

I have seen many changes in education in the past 30 years.  Some good, some not so good.  Over all the changes I have seen, the best one, the one I feel has impacted learning the most has been technology.  When I first started, there were no computers.  Hard to imagine that!


Yesterday was one of those amazing days. That you look back and are glad that you were apart of it.  It started with my daughter Kelsey FaceTiming in to our class from South Africa.  She spends Thursdays at University of Cape Town and uses their WiFi to connect.  The students were able to ask “in person” their questions about her bungee jumping, lion meeting and other adventures.  She showed them her university and then turned the camera around and showed them the mountains.  You know she has been making a difference when one student said, “Oh, I see Table Mountain.”

The second exciting thing to happen was because of Wonder .  We have been reading the chapter book and I stumbled across a Facebook Group of teachers reading it.  Through that group, Megan Brown contacted me and said she was willing to Skype from Washington with my class to discuss her life as someone who has craniofacial issues.  D5AC6B69-904C-408F-BC71-ABF2EB88DCD7Megan presented to my class for about 15 minutes about her life and then my students asked her questions.

Also part of the day, which I didn’t think about until after because it is becoming so common place (which is crazy) is we checked Twitter. On Twitter our friend Carl DeStefano from Australia had tweeted pictures of his alpaca at us.  I then told the kids a story that Carl was tell me that morning in a twitter chat and we tweet back to him.  We have been corresponding with Carl all year, but how crazy is that?! My students saw alpaca pics from Australia?!

In one day, my students traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, Washington State and Australia.  Wow!  Just Wow!

Maybe because 30 years ago I could never imagine even talking on the phone during the day to South Africa or Washington let alone Skype and FaceTime, but yesterday was one of those magical, special days. It is one of those days that make me feel lucky to be able to do what I do and keeps my faith that I have the greatest job in the world.

Robots (well maybe)

This week we started the Global Read Aloud.  The Global Read Aloud is one book that is read aloud to students around the world.  There are a few


books to choose from.  The choices change every year.  This is my fifth year participating and it is one of my favorite global projects.  Over 2 million, yes, million children participate.

This year, I am reading the Wild Robot by Peter Brown.  It is a delightful story of a robot who gets stranded on a deserted island.  We are only in our first week, so we are not that far into the book. However, we did have to make our own robots because how can you read a book about robots and not make one?

Here is what they came up with.  How cute are they, right?!  The only directions were that they had to be shorter than 18 inches and had to stand. They were given 1 hour.  Materials could be used from the classroom or brought from home.  I had robot dogs, cats, heads

IMG_1051[1]and even a dinosaur.

What the picture doesn’t show is the hard work that went into these creations.  There was a lot of trial and error happening for sure!  There was also a lot of cooperation and sharing.  There was even squeals of delight when their creation stood up, like they wanted it to.

After we finished our creations, we snuck into my teaching buddy’s 5th grade classroom to get a look at hers.  What a difference a couple years make.  Hers all looked like robots.  Some moved, one was even voice activated!  They were amazing!

I chuckled that I did not have any “robot looking” robots at all.  But what I did have was children being children.  Simply delighted in the idea of creating something.  Using amazing problem solving skill.  Cooperation.  Kindness. Pride.  What I did have was a morning filled with smiles and giggles. It was a time to remind me that they are still children.

Third Grade Questions for South Africa

Why did you go to South Africa?  How long are you going to stay there?

I went to South Africa to study abroad. That means during a period of time during college, you live in a different country and take classes at their school. I could choose between Cape Town or London, but chose Cape Town because when else will I be in Africa?

I arrived at the end of August and will be leaving December 10th! But I won’t be back in the United States until December 11 because the flight takes so long.

What does your school look like?  What is it made out of?  Is there Chrome books?  Why is there so many kids in a class?

The school looks different than yours because there aren’t any hallways! To get from one classroom to another, you walk outside. Besides that, the classrooms look the same, with desks and chairs, posters, papers and pens. There’s a lot of bricks.

The technology that they use aren’t Chrome books, instead they have desktop computers (like the one my mom uses). There’s just the computer lab, not laptops that travel around. I don’t think they have computers in the classroom either.

There are so many kids in a class because there aren’t that many teachers and SO many kids. Compared to other classes that have 50 or more students, 30 isn’t that many!


Is South Africa near the equator?

It’s actually not. South Africa, specifically Cape Town, is the southern-most country in Africa. Here’s a map. South Africa is green! The bottom most coast is where I live (on the left-hand side).

Why is there poor and not poor sections?

In South Africa, there’s a history called “apartheid,” when people were separated by the color of their skin. The white people in charge were very mean to the black people and forced them to move out of their homes into a poor area called the “Cape Flats.” The black families only had a few hours to get as many of their things as they could before they had to move to those small houses I showed you before. Even though this period of time has ended, there are still poor and wealthy sections.

Why didn’t the tigers and monkeys attack?  Where they trained?  What about the elephants?  Are they trained?  Why were their tusks small?  Were they not grown or had someone cut it?

These tigers and monkeys were rescued by humans and have spent the majority of their lives in the sanctuary, so they are used to people walking by their cages and also the workers coming into their cages to feed them. So they were never actually trained but “domesticated,” meaning that they’re used to being around people.

And believe it or not, but a lion did actually charge at the fence when we were watching him! Our tour guide thought it was because we were near him while he was eating and thought we were going to steal his food!

The elephants are actually trained. They take about two years to be fully trained. They use treats, just like dogs. They look like bunny pellets. I got to feed my elephant, Jabu, a handful (or trunkful) of them! Elephants also love pumpkin, we fed them that too! One of the elephants, Tante, never grew her trunks. This is because of poachers, or bad people who kill elephants for their ivory trunks. So in order to stay alive, the elephants changed the way they grow so a very small percentage don’t even grow their tusks. The other two elephants, Jabu and Marula, don’t have their full trunks. The elephant trainers aren’t really sure why they’re like that, but they think it’s because another thing elephants can get killed for are strong trunks!



Plettenberg Bay

What a weekend did we have!

Friday morning was my birthday!!! Last year at this time I had grudgingly woken up for a 6 am field hocke


y practice, went to the doctors to get tested for mono, slept in my apartment for three hours only to be woken up by my doctor telling me I did, in fact, have mono. Then spent the next week and a half recovering from the fatigue the sickness had on my body.


This year was so different! We woke up at 6 am in order to start traveling to Plettenberg Bay, an area of South Africa approximately 6 hours away (give or take traffic). It was also my housemate’s, Carly’s, birthday! We were surprised with cupcakes and balloons and a birthday song by our housemates before we left.





When we arrived in Plett, we immediately went to see the big cats at Jukani Sanctuary. They had tigers, lions, hyenas, wild dogs, cheetahs, jaguars, OH MY! Our tour guide, Bert, grew up on a wild refugee farm and was so informative about these incredible creatures.

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First, we went to an elephant sanctuary. Easily one of the coolest experiences of my life as we got to walk with their trunk in our hand! I walked with Jabu, which means Happy. I was definitely happy with her! IMG_2740.jpgIMG_2808.jpg


Then we went to Monkeyland! There were so many different types and the best part?? THEY DON’T HAVE CAGES!!!

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Finally, we went Africanyoning, which was a combination of swimming, zip lining, abseiling (repelling), & cliff jumping….all in a canyon between two cliffs!!!

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SUNDAY – the long-awaited bungee jump. I knew ever since I decided on South Africa that I wanted to do this jump – it’s the world’s largest bungee jump bridge. Four other people from our group decided to be reckless with me as well and we did it. See my facebook for the video but here are some pictures of me willingly jumping 216 meters off a bridge!! 🙂

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All in all, it was a fantastic weekend!!

Here’s the link to all of my photos:



I have been waiting for this book since I first knew of its existence.  I watched in envy as people with advanced copies tweeted and posted about its magic.  I even preordered it from Amazon Prime, which is not something I do often with books.  Katherine Applegate is a writing genius.  Her books are amazing.  The One and Only Ivan is a must read aloud every year for me. It is brilliant. For those of you who don’t know, it is about a gorilla who is in a shopping mall zoo and the trials and tribulations that come with it.  It was the first book that I had a student so invested in the book that she broke down and cried at one part.

As I sit here on a chilly end of September morning wrapped in a blanket, I devour the whole book in one sitting. I wanted to slow down and savior its deliciousness, but my brain need to absorb every word and find out how/if the story worked out. Once I finished, I felt I should go to the gym, but I must write about this work of art. Beautiful.  That is how I describe this book.  Just beautiful. My favorite line of the whole story is, “I wanted to tell them that friendship doesn’t have to be hard.  That sometimes we let the world make it hard.”  I reread that line again and again.  I find myself still mulling that line over.

This book is meant to be shared, talked about and lingered over.  The central character is Red an oak tree. Red and the other animals help the reader to see a different perspective than we usually see.  This book is about friendship, kindness of strangers, prejudice and so much more.  This book takes us back to look forward.

I cannot wait to share this work of art with my students.  They will love it!




Christel House

My placement this semester is at a school called Christel House. It was established by a woman called Ms. Christel, a woman who has provided funding for three schools in extremely impoverished areas across the globe. (She’s actually visiting SA Christel House this year!) For example, in South Africa, all of the children come from townships. These townships can be very far though, so students must take a bus 50+ km to come to school everyday. (Some of my littlest ones come from Manenberg, a township with one of the highest crime rates.) Besides funding transportation, other things such as tuition, uniforms, books, and other fees are paid for for the students.

The school itself is Grade R (kindergarten) through Grade 12. Each grade has two classes, each with an average of 30 students. (For reference my student teaching class in Hartford had 21). Although that may seem like a lot, some of my fellow study abroad pals have over 40 students – so much that they run out of chairs!

Christel House is split up into four campuses. Grade R; Foundation Phase – Grade 1-3; Grade 4-6; and Secondary Phase – Grade 7-12. They also have music, which includes band and choir (a lot of schools in this area don’t have music classes); library (that’s where I am!); computer; and sports (otherwise known as physical education). I know many schools in the United States take these extracurriculars for granted but Christel House is the only school with programmed time for music out of the five schools the 11 of us are placed in.

In the library, all grades in the lower school (grade 1-7) come in twice a week: once for issues and once for a lesson. Grade R only comes in for their lesson (Wednesday mornings!!! – my favorite morning). Issuing books is pretty standard procedure of getting the book stamped and scanned so the student can lend it out. The number of books is dependent on the grade, so Grade 1 gets 1 book, Grade 2 gets 2….Grades 5, 6, and 7 can get 5. The upper grades (high schoolers) come in as well during their free period. A lot of them like coming in because they can use the computers we have. There is a computer lab but that is typically reserved for class periods.

Also some things that are different:

-I’ve had school cancelled twice. Once for violent taxi strikes due to a boycott of taxis because they are unfairly pulled-over. The other was for a march against the government – South Africans are very unhappy with their current president.

-I’m called by Miss Kelsey (truthfully, I like being called by my first name rather than being called Miss Iwanicki) or just Miss.

-Everyone, including my grade R’s, are bilingual, if not trilingual (English, Afrikaans, and Xhosa). (And I thought I was special for being conversational in Spanish/English! – Well, the kids do think Spanish is a cool language.) [There’s also sections of the library for books in Afrikaans and Xhosa!]

-The bell is not an end-all be-all. By that I mean, sometimes we lolly-gag in the staff lounge after the bell rings and the students are still out playing and the teacher may not even be in her classroom. (There’s this very real thing called Cape Town Time where almost everyone is late all the time.)

-And of course a hundred other things because I’m in a new school, in a new city, in a new country. 🙂