Livin’ on a Prayer

Oh, I’m half way there. It’s hard to believe that I am already 6 weeks in and being home is 6 weeks out. I haven’t blogged in two weeks. I’m not sure I can even remember what I did two weeks ago…I’ll have to look through pictures to keep my blog up to date. 

In the past two weeks I have: 

-Attended Kathrynn’s niece Olive’s 5th birthday party~Mermaid/Pirate themed, of course! She was absolutely adorable in her mermaid outfit and ocean-themed candies and cake! A NZ icon is the chocolate fish (which is a fish-shaped-marshmallow covered in chocolate), and I finally got to try one! I must say, they are pretty delicious.

-Attended the Year 2 team BBQ. We had delicious food and amazing Pina Coladas (those of you who know me well, know that I love these!). It was great to socialize with the teachers outside of school that I have been working with for weeks

-Sunday, Kathrynn and I made it back from the grocery, and Lyndon invited us to ride his friend’s boat out in the harbor. We threw together a quick lunch and then ran to the beach. Lyndon and Marcus hopped off the boat and road behind in the inflatable boat. So, I steered the (sail) boat, but the sails weren’t up. It was an absolutely beautiful day, and I got to see Rangitoto Island closer than before. I had a really great time 🙂

-Last Monday, the whole school had a 2-hour First Aid course, which was great to attend and get brushed up on my knowledge (from when I was certified about 8 years ago). It was also highly entertaining as I wrapped Sarah’s head is gauze, had to check her for breathing, and then we gave CPR to a dummy. 

-Tuesday, I was counted as a part of the 2013 New Zealand Census….which is pretty awesome! (Yes, its legal. No, I won’t be deported for it.) The Hohaias and I sat down after dinner and filled them all out. It was pretty cool because I think the last census I was a part of was in the 90s. 

-Last Sunday, we all ventured to Pasifika in Auckland. Its a festival to celebrate the Pacific Islands and their cultures. There was food, music, dancing and a mini-market there. In the morning, there was a church service (half in Te Reo and half in English) which was pretty cool. Near the end of it, they had a dramatic/lyrical/dance about the battle within for good and evil or God and the devil….and although we can sometimes fall away from God and his path for us, he will always be there to catch us when we fall. It was amazing to sit there and realize that no matter where I am in the world-God has me in his hands. Reminds me of why I got a tattoo on my back about a year ago–NOTHING, absolutely nothing can separate me from God or His love.

-School news: Last week for Maths I taught my class “greater than, less than, and equal to.” I used a song that goes, “Alligator, Alligator, in the swamp, how many pizzas do you want to chomp?” I would draw two numbers on the board and then my students would face their chompers (arms) in the direction the symbol would go. It was such a great unit, and it was fulfilling to know I taught an engaging and effective lesson in a subject I am most concerned about. They were assessed on it this week and they did FABULOUS. 🙂

I officially finished my full time teaching assignment today. I will spend next week helping out in the classroom next door and visiting other classes, so that should be interesting. 

Not much else to add really, so I’ll close at that 🙂

March has begun

It was very strange writing “March” on the board yesterday. February flew by, which means I have been here for a month already! It’s pretty hard to believe…and that means I only have two months left. :/ The beginning of March also means that I am half-way through my teaching time here, too. I cannot believe I only get 4 weeks left with my students. I really enjoy teaching them, and their personalities mix so well. I’m excited to teach with Horizons again this summer, but I don’t want to leave here, either.

This week we discussed what was special about us or what makes us unique, and then we created wire sculptures. Let me just tell you-wire is NOT the easiest material to use with 6 and 7 year-olds. By the end of the first day working with it, I had less than half finished…the rest were struggling to even try using the wire. Unfortunately, one student was so frustrated by the end that he was in tears. As a teacher, it was not only heart-breaking, but proved to me (once again) that each student has a different learning style, a different expression of their learning, and a different point of frustration. I could easily go into why I disagree with the over-abundance of standardized tests in the states because of this, but instead I’ll continue to blog about my time here.

Within the past two weeks, I have done a few pretty exciting things around the area; pictures below.

-Went for an early morning run to watch the sun rise over the ocean.

-Pet a baby shark (two sharks that a 7 year-old girl caught in the bay).

-Went into the city to get a drink with (another American) Jaclyn, and waited in line for the bus for over an hour :/

-Traveled to and experienced the Auckland Lantern Festival with a new friend from school, Sarah.

-Celebrated my host Grandma’s birthday (with Dominos and cake)!

-Traveled into the city (with another teacher and my host brother) to watch a NZ Breakers basketball game.

-Went for a late night run (with my host dad and little host brother) to see the ocean reflecting the moon.




Its a Thursday

Today just seems like one of those days where you have to take a breath and just brush it off your shoulders. I was able to sleep in this morning (since we run MWF), so that was lovely. When Kathryn and I made it to school, I went upstairs to take my lunch to the fridge, and I (like every morning) filled myself a glass of water. As I was coming downstairs, I met up with my cooperating teacher (like I do every morning), and we began talking about the day to come. When we walked out the door, she held the door open for me, but brought her arm back down into my glass. Being “one of those days” it crashed to the ground and shattered all over the brick path. We had a short laugh, and she said to me, “We make a great team, aye?” It was a start to the morning that I figured would lead into a chaotic day; however, reflecting on the day (probably the busiest academic day of the week) it didn’t turn out so bad. My cooperating teacher, the beginning teacher next door, and I traveled to the mall (which is about 5 minutes away) for lunch today…I have been craving some nasty American food for the past week, so I got McDonalds. Let’s just say, after eating relatively healthy for 3 weeks and then tasting fast food–I don’t think I’ll be craving it again for a very long time. The only reason I would crave it again is simply for a Coke 🙂 mmm… Anyway, I have (nearly) made it through my first week of full-time teaching, and I love it.

I feel like I have been (extremely) out of the loop with my friends back home. The communication is so difficult with the time difference! Being 18 hours ahead means that by the time I make it home from school, or errands, mostly everyone at home is asleep. I am so used to talking to my best friends every single day, and I feel like we have already lost touch. (I’m sure we are all at fault for the disconnection, but I feel bad for not being at to effectively communicate while I’m here.) Hopefully, this weekend (if I don’t travel into the city on Saturday) I will be able to Facetime, Skype, or call everyone at home (because I am having severe withdrawals.)

Below, I have attached photos that were once trapped on my memory card…from when we traveled to Tawharanui Beach on Waitangi Day. It was absolutely stunning there, as you can see in the photographs, and we were blessed with beautiful weather, too! More on the “trapped” photos- I had brought both of my cameras with me to New Zealand, for back-up and convenience. Unfortunately, neither of them will work properly; therefore, I needed to invest in a new camera (which wasn’t in my budget) while I am here. Initially, I had spent a big chunk on a Canon camera (because I want to spend money on a good value camera)…but, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if I didn’t have enough money to travel outside of Auckland, then what would be the point of having a nice camera? So, Kathryn was kind enough to take me to the mall today after school to return the one I had previously bought and buy another (cheaper) camera. Because I am used to my Sony Cybershot, and thoroughly enjoy the quality of the photos, I bought a pocket-size Sony Cybershot to help me document my adventures or ordinary life while I am here. Now I can travel and feel less stressed about the money I am spending. woo hoo! [Just so you know, I will be bungee jumping from one of two places in Auckland: 1.) Sky Tower, 2.) Auckland Harbour Bridge. Its not super cheap, but it is definitely going to be worth it!]

In other news, Lyndon has been organizing a “stag-do,” or a bachelor party, for a friend of his, and I have helped out by creating one of the “jerseys” that will be worn during the adventurous day. He needed the shirt designed to look like the polka dot jersey from “Tour de France,” but they will be in Orewa instead of France. So, I created the shirt and the “Tour de Orewa” logo, which was then added to two additional jerseys for the stag-do. (Unfortunately for him, his class is going to camp this weekend, which happens to be the same weekend as the stag-do, so he can’t participate. He is pretty disappointed about this, and is continuously trying to find a way to get out of camping and have fun with his “mates.”) Because I was so helpful (and artistic, of course) he “indian gifted” me a box of Cadbury chocolates. Mmmm…I’m not complaining about the access to Cadbury chocolate–much better than Hershey, I must say.

About school: 

I have taught some lessons that I felt good about, but I have also taught lessons I feel could have gone better. The problem I keep running into is that I don’t like the amount of time my students are sitting on the floor (for instruction.) I have been brainstorming ideas of ways to get them active and moving for lessons, but I become stumped when it comes to Math(s). The one thing that holds me back from moving them too often, or having it be more hands on, is the following: the students are such good friends that it can become very playful (and obviously disruptive) for them to interact throughout the room or with one another. So, if you have any ideas for addition & subtraction hands-on activities–send them my way! 🙂

I taught two lessons, or units, that I want to share more about: 1.) Bullying the new kid, Sam; and 2.) The Treasure Tree.

1.) Sam.

While I was planning for this week, I decided I wanted to touch more on the topic of bullying. So, I had initially planned to talk about what they are, how to handle them, and add in some role-playing. Then, Kate sent me the idea of the crumpled paper for each insult idea (if you’re not sure about this, Google it.) I have always like the idea of this lesson, since I’ve first heard of it; however, I didn’t know how extensive it could be with the 6-7 age group. I ventured over to Pinterest, and looked for some similar ideas. I ran across the idea to introduce a new kid, Sam, and then have the kids bully him. We did this using permanent markers, erasers, crayons, and crumpling. After they told me that Sam looked sad, I asked them how to make Sam feel better. They told me that we should say we’re sorry. So, we did just that. Each of us took our turn apologizing to him, but nothing seemed to remove the marks or straighten out the paper. I asked if Sam looked any better (a simultaneous shaking of heads), then we talked about other ways we could help PREVENT or REACT to bullying at Pinehill….Let me just tell you–they had very powerful and beautiful responses. I recorded the last 20 minutes of it, and once I have time to listen through it-I will create some type of documentation to share with you. It was great to see how critically they were thinking about a hypothetical person and treating “Sam” better. I am very proud to have them in my class.

2.) The Treasure Tree.

I’m unsure if you have heard of this book because I had not before I came here; however, it is a great book to share at any age between probably 5-13. The book is based on 4 characters who go on different adventures together to find four keys to this special place: The Treasure Tree. What is unique about the book is that the four characters have different personalities that help them all to work together well. The characters are: 1.) Lance, the lion, that is a leader and powerful; 2.) Honey, the golden retriever, that is kindhearted and peaceful; 3.) Chewy, the beaver, that is a perfectionist and clever; and 4.) Giggles, the otter, that is playful and funny. After we finished the book, we discussed what character they each thought they are the most like, and most of them were as I would predict. Today, I shared a 14 question questionnaire with them. We sat in a circle and had four colors of sticks to choose (one to represent each personality) according to their answers to each particular question. As we were continuing through it, I could see the dominant personality traits being displayed. I would say that most of them are pretty accurate. When I was choosing my sticks (honestly and unbiased because I didn’t remember which color was for which trait), I expected that I was going to be most like Honey (kind and caring); however, I turned out to have a dominance with Lance (powerful and leading.) I was actually surprised because I don’t view myself as necessarily powerful, or too much of a leader; however, I do recognize my ability to stand up for what I think is right, and my confidence in being able to create my own path (or not follow others,) so I see where this definitely would (and wouldn’t) apply to me. My students seemed to really enjoy it, (as did I) and were very engaged in the stories and adventures during the 3-part read aloud. If you are wanting to get to know a new class (or even a seasoned one) this is a fabulous activity (or unit) to try! Here’s a website to buy the book (which includes a mini questionnaire in the back): .


10 to 9

Its a Saturday morning, and I have been up since 7:30. I guess that’s what happens when your body is on a schedule every other day of the week. Today marks an official 2 weeks of being here in New Zealand. I am still very happy to be where I am and doing what I love most.

I have to be quite honest though and admit to being a little homesick and sad about missing valentines day at home (and not being with my valentine.) Spending months away from someone you love is one of the hardest things to do…Chris and I have spent 5 days together over the past 6.5 months. Let’s just say that it is not nearly enough to be content about, but we are still able to love each other well from where we are. When I exited my room in the morning on Valentine’s Day, I found a flower arrangement outside of my door. It wasn’t even 8 am yet, and my valentine had already impressed me with his love for me. Needless to say, that was all I needed to have a fabulous day.

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As I mentioned before, my school here does a “secret Valentine” gift exchange each year, and mine brought me a beautiful gift. Kate found it in her school mailbox because everyone is so sneaky about it. It is a “Koru” made out of art glass [photo below] which is a symbol for life and new beginnings (so me), which is also the start of the New Zealand icon: the silver fern. If you look it up on wikipedia, there is a picture of what it looks like as it grows. It is absolutely beautiful and a lovely souvenir. I also received a hand-picked flower from one of my girls 🙂 They are so adorable!

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Yesterday, I taught a lesson on how to draw a self-portrait. I was nervous because I don’t view myself as artistic, even though I was (or tried to be) when I was younger. However, I feel like I did pretty well explaining the placement and shapes of facial features and how to use the art pencil to make a dark/light line. Most of my students were focused on doing their best, since I reminded them that since it was their very first time and art can be difficult-as long as they’re doing their personal best, then I am happy with their work. I have included the pictures of all 18 of their self portraits (some are pretty funny-knowing their personalities and listening ability) for you to check out! I am proud of their work and excited to see how much more they/we grow in the weeks to come.

Side note: my students have their own wiki-spaces where they can write about their day or post widgets. Well, one of them posted a youtube video of Gangnam Style on his and there is a video of some of them dancing to the song. You wouldn’t believe how popular American pop culture is here! My younger host brother, Jono, was playing and showing me the “Harlem Shake” yesterday, too. Hilarious.



I’ll keep updating my blog about every 3 days, or so. Next week I will begin full-time teaching, which I am very excited about, so I will keep everyone updated. (I am also using this blog as a personal journal to remember my journey here, so sorry if the posts seem long sometimes.)

(no title)

I just spent about 5 minutes trying to be creative and make up a title for this blog…however, my creative juices aren’t flowing, so I gave up and started typing this. Now, I simply decided to name it, “(no title).” Anyway, today is only Tuesday, and I am already feeling good about this week. Yesterday I was having one of those bummed-out/leave-me-alone type of days, so I pretty much kept to myself. It was still a great day at school, but I just wasn’t in the mood to make it a fantastic day. On the other hand, today was a pretty fantastic day.

I woke up a little later than I usually do, so I didn’t get to have a big breakfast (which left me starving all morning,) but I also didn’t work out, so that’s quite alright. I also got to school later than I wanted, but my host mum is the driver-so thats not in my control. (As I type this I’m realizing this doesn’t sound like a good start to the day at all, but believe me, today made me smile.) Once I got to school, I put my lunch away and headed to my classroom to prepare my “Valentine’s” gift. At Pinehill each year, they do a Secret Valentine, which is similar to a Secret Santa type gift giving activity. So, I was given one of the other teachers information to give her personalized gifts before or on VDAY. Today, I brought Maraea her favorite drink: Vanilla Coke Zero. (Also, did I mention how everyone and their dog drinks Coke Zero instead of Diet coke here?) Because it is meant to be anonymous, I tagged the lid and left it in the “tea” room; photo below. (She drank it during morning tea & lunch by the way, and she thanked her anonymous valentine!) After I accomplished that, I continued back to our classroom to begin the day.

Kate and I were discussing the plan of action for the day, and she essentially gave me everything but writing and the Daily 5, since she was introducing something new and wanted to model it for me first. I started the day with roll and news. I quickly realized that the students were used to Kate’s enthusiasm (they eat it up every single day,) and I was not engaging them nearly as much as she does. These students are not used to the “Butler” approach, and I should be adapting to their style of acceptance or affirmation. So, after lunch, when I had them all to myself, I did just that. First, we had all school assembly, and we reminded them I was looking for students to earn house points (which is a HUGE motivator for everyone) by being an exceptional example during the assembly. They were so eager to do their best with the first step out of the classroom. After the assembly, I told them the 4 students who I had noticed and they were gleaming! The rest of them were excited for those who had earn the points, and that showed me how much they care about one another. We needed to finish their “Pinehill Way” posters (shown below,) so I motivated them throughout the entire process by showing good examples and pushing them to color more and do their best. They absolutely loved it! woo hoo 🙂 

Something else I was able to do was participate in Cricket during PE. I was the bowler, and let me tell you-that was very interesting. The students were having such a fun time! It was such a ball (no pun intended) to watch them play cricket as a class. When it was my turn to hit….ultimate failure. I missed about 8 bowls, and barely hit the 9th one. Needless to say, cricket is not my forte. (I also haven’t played softball in 8 years. so sad.)

Alright, so life outside of school is essentially sunbathing, eating well, and beautiful views. When my host parents went to play netball last night, I decided I would walk to Starbucks to get my favorite: White Mocha Frapp (skinny) with Cinnamon Dolce sugar-free syrup. 🙂 Unfortunately, it was closed. Instead, I continued walking toward the bay and was able to take more beautiful pictures of Browns Bay. It was nice to just sit at the edge of the shore and soak in God’s wonderful creation and thank him for everything he has given me and the wonderful ways he has blessed me. I never imagined I would be here, and there is a reason I am here. at this house. at this moment. in this house. with this family. at this school. this day. this month. this hour.


Enjoy the photos 🙂

Sunny Day, Eh?

Today marks an official week of me living in New Zealand. There are times when I can’t believe its already been a week and other times where it definitely feels like it has been a full week. I was lucky enough to have my first week with a holiday, so it made the week a little bit lighter. I didn’t even plan that, but it was a nice week to begin. 

I haven’t done much outside of routine stuff since my last blog. My cooperating teacher and I have decided that I will teach weeks 3-6 and the other weeks we with co-teach for the sake of continuity for the students. I have had a few laughs with my students and am building relationships with them each day. I can’t say I have a favorite yet, but there are a few that make me smile every day. We made these really neat self-portaits using their silhouettes. I traced their silhouettes for them, and then they filled it in with pictures about them. Then, we cut them out and set them against black paper and connected them to a QR code of their voice recording explaining what they all mean. I love that Kate is able to give me pointers and ideas of how to use technology in the classroom, especially with the younger grades. I am really excited to start teaching in another week, and I already did some of the planning for what it will look like. 🙂 woo hoo

Another exciting part of the week was purchasing a subscription on Skype to call any US phone unlimited for $7/month. I have to be connected to wifi, but I have been able to call a few people. It has been great to be connected to those I love who are still at home. I know that I really wanted to go to Kenya, but I also believe there is a good reason God took that out of my plans and placed me here. I am a firm believer in “everything happens for a reason” and that goes for things that don’t happen, too. I am so grateful for being here and the host family that is so welcoming and great to me. 

I still miss everyone at home, but I am really loving it here. I was talking to my host mum about teaching in another country and how much I would love that, but I also want to be with my friends and family at home. It is always going to be a tough battle for me, since you all know how much I really love traveling and seeing the world. 

Happy Friday to those in the Western Hem 🙂

The New Zealand Way

Well I have been here for about 5 days now, and I have already experienced “heaps” of New Zealand.

I have already done the following:

  • Met All of Kathryn’s family; her brother & his family, and her sister & her family; which included two “barbies” (BBQ)
  • Met Lyndon’s dad (this morning at breakfast)
  • Traveled through CBD: Central Business District (downtown) of Auckland, at night
  • Tried L&P: a NZ soda
  • Loved Hokey Pokey Ice Cream-another NZ favorite
  • Celebrated a NZ holiday: Waitangi Day, which is similar to our July 4th; so we went to the beach all day.
  • Board surfed the waves with my host mum.
  • I have seen the rural, urban, and beach parts of Auckland.
  • I have observed a “year 2” (first grade) class for two days.
  • I have experienced both sunny and rainy (high humidity) days!
  • Watched “Home & Away”- a NZ tv show, similar to something like OTH
  • Eaten passion fruit slice (slices are pretty popular in NZ)
  • Tried some Cadbury chocolates that are typical “jollies” here
  • Watched the SEVENS rugby tournament (on tv)
  • Gained 2 Kiwi brothers, a Kiwi mum, and a (part)Maori dad.
  • Went to church and worshipped God for all of his goodness and my blessings.
  • Had an “ice-block” or a pop-sicle on the way home from the beach.
  • Went grocery shopping for produce and what not.
  • Went on a 5k run in the morning with Kathryn and her brother.
  • Went on a 7k walk in the morning with Lyndon.
  • Went shopping with mum. (I surprise!)

^ That is just a “few” of the heaps of new things I have been doing since I’ve moved to Browns Bay, Auckland, New Zealand.

-I just came back from eating “fish & chips” with the fam 🙂 yes….I ate fish. You all should be very very proud of me! I was also introduced to a NZ tradition of “chip butty,” which is where you put “chips” or fries in a piece of bread and eat it like a sandwich. It sounds a bit crazy…I looked at Lyndon like a “space chimp” because it was a weird idea, but it was actually pretty good. (Although, its heaps of carbs! :/)

So, about school: It is not nearly as different from what I am used to in the states. The physical structure of the school is different: it isn’t one building with hallways and classrooms, but it is made up of 5 pods of 4 classrooms and then the other various buildings (which would be rooms in the states; for example, the library, the gym/auditorium, and the administration.) Everything is basically open and the hallways are actually brick paths outside beneath a cover (mainly for sun protection). I was surprised how much they value the beautiful weather and take advantage of it during the school days. Something I noticed immediately during lunch/recess is that the fields are completely open (no gates or fences like IPS), and there are about 600 children playing for about 50 minutes feeling completely safe.

The way our (Mrs. Smith and me) classroom runs is very similar to what I am used to and how I enjoy teaching. I had the chance to experience yet another first day of school, and it was great to see them come in and ready to learn. We have a time of “news,” which is similar to the morning meeting I am used to at home-this was a great way for me to feel at home. Speaking of feeling at home, I was introduced to everyone at the school assembly and at lunch, and was quickly made comfortable to be at their school.

The break down of our day:

  • Te Reo Maori
  • Roll
  • News 
  • Art (which is taught by each teacher individually)
  • Fitness (taught to whole grade by the team of grade teachers)
  • Morning tea (which is a morning snack-school wide) for 30 minutes
  • Reading
  • Lunch for an hour (which includes about 10 minutes of eating and 50 minutes of playing) and lunch is not provided at the school, so each student brings their own lunch from home-as do teachers (unless they leave).
  • Topic (which can vary between science and social studies)
  • Maths (yes, you say the “s” at the end)

On the first day, I was observing how the class was managed and how Kate (Mrs. Smith) taught and approached the students’ learning. Although we haven’t actually discussed it, I can tell her philosophy is similar to what I am used to. She gives them ownership of and honors their learning. “The Pinehill Way” is the motto of the school, and everyone sticks to it and the children are inspired to be their best in and out of school. It isn’t drilled into their brains, but they still want to follow the way. She taught this for “topic” the first day, and they helped her establish what it meant. She had such high enthusiasm and the children reflected that with their smiles and eagerness to be there. [There is heaps more I can blog about, but I feel like anyone reading this will be slightly overwhelmed, so I’ll end it soon.] However, I do want to share that at the end of the second day, Kate passed out stars “only for the special people” (which was every student) and she gave them very personal and specific compliments of why she enjoyed having them in her class. The children were absolutely gleaming! They felt so good about themselves and couldn’t wait to tell their parents. 

Overall, me being here and the experience is still surreal, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to be in a beautiful country and with wonderful people. 



As most of you know, I will be embarking on a journey to New Zealand in 11 days. I have been having quite the interesting battle trying to get my visa arranged (which is still in the making), and I am hoping that it is all resolved in at least a week, but I’ll take it the day before!!! As long as I will be traveling to New Zealand to student teach, then I will be okay with it all being last minute. 

I have been preparing for this trip for over a year now, (well a trip to Kenya, rather) and I can say that I am a mix of anxious, excited, nervous, and stressed. 🙂 I have been in communication with my host family, and they seem absolutely wonderful and inviting. They are both teachers and have two sons and a daughter. They also have a pool and live about 2 miles from the beach! I have no complaints at all!  I have also been in touch with my cooperating teacher, and she seems really great! She teaches a different style than I’m used to, but she uses a ton of technology-so that will be great to learn more about.

I will miss everyone at home while I am there (you know who you are). I plan to communicate with you all primarily through this blog with stories and photos. 🙂 I will also have my iphone and hopefully be connected to wifi frequently. Skype will be up (for those of you who matter the most) and I would love to see your beautiful faces every once in a while. I’ll make sure I update at least every few days, so you can stay in the know. 

I cannot wait to go and enjoy a new country and a new culture and new people! 

Counting down the days– <3 Ciara