Back from the Big Easy!

Back from the Big Easy!

After spending a week in New Orleans I can see why Louisiana is ranked number one as the U.S.’s happiest state. The people there were always friendly, and constantly showed their appreciation for the service we were dedicating to the city.

Upon our arrival in New Orleans, it was raining but we did not realize to what extent until we ventured out into the city. We attempted to meet up with an organization, called Girls First, but were unable to because every other street we attempted to go on was flooded. After about an hour of trying to find our way through the city we decided the safest thing would be to find our hostel. All three vans that we had were separated. The van I was in was driving past the street our hostel was on when we saw another one of our vans floating in the water with one of our fellow cohorters on its top. Our van managed to find some higher ground to park on and we all got out to help the other van. Once that van was pushed to safety we contacted the third van, which was a mile away in waist-high water. People were forced to dive out of the windows and try to push the van to higher ground. Approximately an hour later the flooding on our hostel’s street subsided because the pumps were able to kick in and drain some of the standing water. It was a very interesting, and stressful, first evening in New Orleans that gave us a very tiny taste of the flooding that occurred during Katrina.

The flooded street outside of the hostel

Following the events of the first night, some of our group attended Mass at St. Augustine’s Church. This Mass was energetic and welcoming, which many people claimed was different from what they were accustomed to at home. After Mass we had time to explore some of the famous French Quarter. The architectural styles were unlike anything I had ever seen and all the food in the area smelled fabulous!

Over the next week our group interacted with nuns at St. Mary’s and also contributed time at that school. I loved working with the children and seeing how happy they were to have us visiting. We also worked with Operation Helping Hands. Unfortunately, every time we worked with this group it was raining so we were not able to work on the housing sites. Instead the organization had us working, and painting, on interior doors. By the end of the trip, my work clothes were covered in paint, and I can contribute this to my clumsiness, but also to some of the classmates’ desires to cover me in paint.

There were three events that really stand out from my trip to New Orleans. The first was a tour conducted by Contemplatives in Action. Our group was shown areas of New Orleans and told how each one was affected by Katrina. We were able to see where the levees broke and how that impacted the areas immediately surrounding the break. It was amazing to see that even after five years some houses still have water lines on them from the flooding, and the marks that were left after the houses were inspected (these marks are “X”s that tell what team did the inspection and how many bodies were found in the house, as well as any other notes that must be included), how many of the houses are nonexistent or still being gutted, and the transformation of the lower ninth ward. There is still so much work to be done to help New Orleans recover from the devastation of Katrina.

The lower 9th ward... Make it Right homes

The other two events that impacted my trip were the visits to Dillard College and Loyola University New Orleans. Our group was able to meet with student affairs professionals from both institutions to hear their stories. We were shown videos from both schools and told how the flooding impacted the colleges. These interactions were especially helpful because as future student affairs professionals we must recognize our role when a disaster, like Katrina, occurs. In the case of Loyola, this meant identifying the need to evacuate the school and to send students to other institutions while the school was being repaired following Katrina.

Overall, this was a great experience that incorporated service and allowed me to further get to know members of the cohort in both the first and second years. It is now back to work in Buffalo as I prepare for the holidays and adjust from dealing with rain in New Orleans to snow here in New York.

Happy Holidays!!

Be careful what you wish for.

From the first day of the semester I have been wishing that it was the last day and my student teaching was complete. Well yesterday that wish came true and I completed my final placement and in turn my work of my initial certification in Physical Education.   I know some of you are thinking why so late in the year?  Well this posting will explain to you what I feel was the best possible semester of student teaching I could have had.

I started my first placement at West Seneca East Senior High School.  This was to be my “easy” placement in my eyes, since I had done subbing and coaching at that school during the prior school year.  As a result of this I expected to have smooth sailing during this placement.  Well, there were a few hiccups along the way but without a doubt I learned more than I could have imagined during that time.  From day one my cooperative teacher handed me the keys and class roosters and told me if I needed any help I knew where to find him.  Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t just take off on me; he was there for me every step of the way.  He taught me how to prepare for the students on the first day, deliver the rules and regulations speech not only to the students but also the parents on the open house night, and set the tone for the classes.  This was an experience that you will never get in a classroom, and most will only get when they get their first job.  As if the experience that I was given in the classroom wasn’t enough, I was also the head JV boys soccer coach which I have to say was interesting since I never coached soccer before.  Regardless of my lack of experience I had a very talented team so we had a great season.  Then when my placement was about to come to an end, I was asked to remain there for an additional month for a paid position.  Thankfully Canisius approved this with the agreement that I would extend my second placement.  During my extended time I was in the pool working on my swim unit.  This was outstanding since I had never taught swimming before so I learned a lot including what it is like to have to jump in and save a student that was drowning.  So as you can imagine, it was a sad day when I had to say goodbye to this placement.

Then I was off to Lackawanna which, to be honest with you, I was thinking every day that this couldn’t end soon enough.  This was a high needs placement with students that had many issues.  However, by the end of my placement, it was a sad day when I had to go.  Yes, this was a surprise to me.  I really formed a bond with many students and took a vested interest in their lives both in and out of the classroom.  Looking back I learned more than I thought I would in a very short period of time.  I am well versed in dealing with behavioral issues in my class when it comes to high school students. However, what do you do when it comes to a 3rd grader?  Well, I learned how to adapt a caring and nurturing approach to dealing with what most would label the “problem child.” So I really need to thank them for my educational experience that they didn’t even know they were giving me.

So, as the title of my blog entry states, be careful what you wish for.  Now I find myself up early the morning after my placement has ended and almost wishing I was going back for one more day.  Let’s not get too crazy though… it is days away from the holidays and I have a million things to do.

Home for the Holidays!

Home for the Holidays!

Jenna D'Onza

After a very busy first semester at Canisius, I’m finally home in Brooklyn for Christmas Break.  And after fighting with my wireless for a week, I’m finally able to blog!

The end of the semester was pretty busy.  As soon as we returned from Thanksgiving break, we had three finals to work on, and even though I thought they would never get done, they did, and I just found out that I did really well in all my classes.  I received As in both my Intro class and Counseling class, and an A- in Theory.  Not too bad for my first semester!

CSPGA hosted a Happy Hour to celebrate the end of the semester and it was a lot of fun.  There was a great turnout and everyone was relieved to be finished writing their final papers.

I’m looking forward to relaxing during the break and am excited about next semester.  I’m going to be interning in the C.O.P.E. Office at Canisius and am also working on getting involved with undergraduate admissions work.  In addition, I will be responsible for organizing two Griffins After Dark (late-night, alcohol-free programming for undergrads) and will also be returning to my Residence Life internship at Medaille.  So I will be keeping very busy!

I’m looking to foward to spending the holidays at home with my family and am enthusiastic about returning to Canisius in January for another exciting semester in CSPA!

Over, Done, Finished.

Well, the time has come that I have completed my student teaching and likewise my physical education certification.  What does all this mean? It’s time to enter the job market just like the rest of my classmates.  On the positive side, I truly believe that I have been given the tools needed to enter the competitive job market and land my first teaching position.  The nice thing is that I still have two classes left to complete my master’s degree, so I don’t have to say goodbye to Canisius just yet, but really will I ever say goodbye.

Recently I had to have my final observation for my final student teaching placement.  Since my assigned field experience teacher was unable to come in she sent another professor in her place.  I really was looking forward to this since the professor that was sent was a professor that I had during my first semester.  I was interested to see if he saw any difference in my teaching style from his first observation to present day.  The best moment of the day was when he told me that he has seen a growth in my teaching style and classroom management skills over the past 2 years.  This just showed me that the professors on campus really take an interest in not only getting to know their students but also remembering them.  Upon his leaving he asked me to make sure I stay in touch and inform him of how my career search is progressing, as well as offering any assistance that I may need to secure a position.

This experience really showed me that the staff at Canisius not only wants their students to excel, but also are willing to do what they can to ensure they do, which is great since several of them have ties to the local community so my time in class has almost been like my first job interview.  Hopefully I have done the right things to convince them to go to bat for me and give me the necessary references when the time comes.

Most importantly, I know that when my time comes, I will give back to the Canisius community either by taking in a student teacher, mentoring a student, or just talking to a class.

Snowy Days & Hot Chocolate Nights!

We woke up today to the snowflakes covering the ground like a nice puffy, white blanket. My son was obviously excited, since we just moved back from North Carolina in June. We lived down there for the last two years, so this has been the most snow that he has ever seen! With high hopes and anticipation, he ran to the door in his pajamas yelling for me to get his shoes, so that he could go outside and play. Trying not to giggle, I explained to my three-year old son that Converse sneakers were not the proper footwear for a snowy day. A little confused as to why he couldn’t wear his beloved shoes, he shrugged and began trying to put on his boots instead!

By now I was beyond amused and chuckling out loud. I was finally able to get him calm long enough to have chocolate milk (his favorite) and some French toast. After breakfast, he became preoccupied with his “Cars” toys and wanting to play with his new Rescue Squad Mater that Papa gave him.

We ended up spending most of the afternoon playing “Cars” and building castles, for Princess Jada-bug, King Jake-aboo and Queen Mommy to play with. What a busy afternoon it was. My idea of baking cookies and homemade candy was postponed till after dinner due to all the fun games we played.

This week was packed full of fun and interesting activities for the whole family! Tuesday and Thursday night are both concert nights for the nieces and nephews, and then there’s the annual Christmas Party at our Legion, which is followed by the Vendor Blender that I’ve been working on that Sunday. Whew!! What a week! Tonight we drove home pointing out all of the beautiful Christmas lights, while my son “oohed” and “ahhed” in amazement. Seeing all the attractive light displays really makes you feel like a kid again, as the warmth of the holidays creep into your soul.

When we got home it was time to snuggle up in the living room and watch the fun Christmas specials together as a family. Enjoying the holidays together, while sipping a nice hot cup of cocoa is what makes this time of year memorable!