Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hold the phone

In my last post I mentioned that I had been exchanging emails with a professor at UNSL who is going to be my mentor for my research project. In our last round of correspondence we'd exchanged Skype screen names with the intent of scheduling a time to discuss things face to face. 

Yesterday evening Lynn came into the office and told me that Prof. Benegas was calling. Perplexed, I reach for the phone, unsure as to how I'd missed it ringing, and then she explained that it was via Skype (I chatted with my dad and stepmom in TN the day before and was still logged in). I ran to the computer and answered his call. The conversation went very well, and I am thrilled that I've been practicing my Spanish enough so that I was able to converse easily (Gracias a Silvia y Trish!). I'm pretty sure I made a couple of mistakes, but hopefully nothing too terrible. It's funny because if the conversation had been scheduled I probably would have been nervous, but since it was a surprise I think I was more relaxed. Grant even behaved and didn't cry too loudly during the conversation!

We discussed my project in depth and the best way to implement it. Prof. Benegas described the different types of schools in the vicinity of San Luis and his connections with local physics teachers in secondary schools. He made the suggestion of reaching out to the teachers in advance, not only to ask them to take part in my project but also to task their advice about the best way to go about things. He had a great insight about the questionnaire I'm planning to give- and that it depends on whether or not it's compulsory. This in turn begs the question, if the questionnaire is done in class to ensure completion, what will students who choose not to complete the survey do during the period? I'm not familiar enough with the Argentine education system to understand the way that their classes are typically run, so I think that reaching out to local teachers to ask their advice is a great idea. 

We also talked about different housing options, and hopefully we'll find an apartment soon. I asked about the possibility of having a washing machine (having an infant we tend to do lots of laundry), and was told that the likelihood is low, but instead the professor offered his own washing machine for our use! Talk about a warm welcome!
Grant during a calm moment

In short I finally feel like things are starting, even though I haven't even left the country yet. On a sadder note, last week I said goodbye to my students. My leave for the Fulbright program doesn't begin until early April, but I need to be at home to help take of Grant, who is quite a handful. He's been officially diagnosed as a "fussy baby," though it doesn't really make much of a difference if it's official or not! It took 45 minutes of vacuuming to get him to take a nap yesterday and that's nothing out of the ordinary. I'd like to say that the house is spotless as a result of all the vacuuming, but it's just the floors for now! Before he came along I never realized how innocent a word colic really is- maybe without having experienced it firsthand I couldn't have understood its implications. Or perhaps I merely confused it with bucolic! Either way, the definition itself doesn't mean much until you're in the thick of it. There are signs that he's starting to turn the corner, which will hopefully happen before I head south.

I didn't imagine that my last days of school were going to be so tough. For one thing, I was working hard to bring my substitute up to speed. There wasn't enough time to cover everything, but he seems really solid so I'm not too worried. The hardest part was saying goodbye to my students and realizing that I'm not going to be teaching for a while. I'm lucky not only to have found a job I love, but also to live in a great place and teach in a school with exceptional students. I was touched when several students brought me goodbye gifts, most of which were edible (they know the way to my heart!). One of my classes even threw me a party, complete with hand-made truffles, chocolate-covered pretzels, and a gigantic tub of popcorn. We took going-away pictures so I can show the students in Argentina what their American counterparts look like. It was really tough to say goodbye to everyone, but I'm comforted by the knowledge that many of them will be back next year for AP Physics and also by their repeated requests to Skype with me once I'm all set up in San Luis. I'll miss y'all!

1st period physics- the chosen few

5th period physics salutes you!

9th period physics feels patriotic