February 10th saw P.S. I Love You Day arrive in West Islip and many other schools across Long Island. One of the pupils started the day after a family tragedy and decided she wanted to do something positive. Launching her ambitious day on You Tube, Brooke encouraged pupils and staff to wear purple as a symbol against bullying and to remember to say the nice things to people that we inevitable forget to when rushing through our day, especially reminding people how much they mean to us. It was a really memorable day to see so many staff and pupils taking part in this and reminding us all that our actions, however small, matter.
Basketball was one of the few school sports I still hadn’t managed to see and finally I succeeded in ticking that one off the list. The game really made me feel like I was ‘in America’; the crowd sit on bleachers and there really are the cheerleaders on the sideline; it’s exactly like you imagine sport in an American school to be like. But for me what made it really special that the cheerleaders were also from the Life Skills programme at West Islip not just the main stream part of the school. This is truly the meaning of integration and seeing it work so well was a very inspiring sight.
February also gave me the opportunity to visit one of the few natural landmarks that can be seen from space and visit Disneyland for adults, in other words the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas! The Grand Canyon was something that I very much wanted to see but, I’ll be honest, was not something I expected to love. ‘A big chunk of rock’ as I described it in the middle of the Great Outdoors is not really my thing but you should always try before you say you don’t like it....
I’m pleased to say that I did, in fact, totally love it. Not only was it breathtaking on first sight but watching sunrise and the changing lights and colours were fantastic. It was truly amazing to see what nature can create and was the perfect antidote to the tackiness and consumerism to been seen in Vegas. Vegas in somewhere that is definitely worth seeing but I am, I think, a little too old for it now.
In March I got the chance to accompany seven pupils to Rochester to compete in the New York State DECA competition where over 1500 pupils from all over New York State competed in various categories from Business Marketing to HR. Several of our pupils were placed in the top ten and one won a place in the National Competition! It was really impressive to see so many pupils rising to the challenge of some very difficult role play situations and how dedicated they all were to achieving their best. While Rochester is not somewhere I would necessarily recommend to visit, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know some more of the pupils in West Islip and being able to watch them achieve such a level of attainment.
March and April have also seen a series of visitors arrive in Long Island which is lovely, if a little odd, seeing people outside of the setting you’re used to seeing them in. I was lucky enough to have my parents out for my birthday as well as a few friends from the USA and UK which ensured I did not feel homesick. It was also the day of a huge parade in NYC for St Patrick’s Day which was so much bigger than any celebration in the UK. Like everything else it’s similar but different: for one its called St Patty’s day not St Paddy’s day and it was very weird watching the pipe bands march down 5th Avenue playing Scotland the Brave. However, I’m very appreciative of NYC putting on a huge parade for my birthday! Mr Mair was also out for a visit and it gave us not just a great chance to catch up and share impressions of school in the USA but also to catch up with a former pupil. The whole point of being a teacher is helping to prepare pupils for the rest of their lives so it’s a pleasure to get the chance to see how they are doing, especially when their experiences end up being similar to your own!
The Spring Term out here is like every school I’ve been in - very busy and so much to do in so little time - but with the growing pride (or maybe relief!) of seeing pupils have the light bulb moment when all they’ve learnt finally clicks and you can all look to the exams with a little less fear. Summer sports have begun out here and I am starting to learn how close to a religion Lacrosse is in this school! My final term will, I hope, be as adventure-filled as the previous ones and hold as much fun. Inspiration and fun should be found wherever you can, be it in pupils, friends or in the Big Bad World, both for how you conduct yourself and what you do and hopefully that lesson more than any other will be what I take from the Spring Term.
This blog is about my year as an exchange teacher with the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program. Posts reflect my opinions alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Fulbright Association or the State Department.