Friday, January 26, 2007

What am I up to now?

I took several months to shift my thinking from zoo educator to being open to whatever opportunity was to come my way. I know that I love to teach, so that was a sure thing. I really reflected on what I wanted. The most important single quality of the work I seek is that it has to contribute to the world in a special way, to have a real influence in empowering people to do the things the things they have always dreamed of, and to realize a sense of both within me. I did a lot of soul searching and decided I would keep my mind open about the possibilities.

In November, an unusual opportunity presented itself. I applied for the job of teaching GED to inmates at a correctional facility. Again, I tried to make no assumptions, as I had never been in this environment, let alone work and teach there. I had an interview that included teaching a lesson. I was impressed with the facility as the state requires all inmates without a GED or high school diploma to pursue one while incarcerated. I didn't know what chances I had, but I stayed open to the possibility of this job. After two weeks, I was offered a position part time there.

I have since started and have found this venue very rewarding. These are people who are in the unique position to have their lives stopped and forced into a situation where they have the opportunity to have a single focus of reflection. I have found many of them very receptive to learning new things and dialoguing about their lives and where they went wrong. It's a bizarre place to work for sure, but it's a wonderful opportunity for me to make a huge difference in people's lives.

It turns out that simultaneously, I became eligible for a full time position teaching cardiac ultrasound (my first career) at the community college. (In my present position, I am actually a community college instructor within the same system.) I will not interview for this position until the sixth of February, so I am preparing for this interview. My current boss even hired me knowing that I was up for this position. Talk about miracles!

There will certainly be updates on this matter.

As far as my home life, we made a little addition in August when I stopped attending zoo school. Our little dog is named Joey. He is one half yorkie and the other half is sitzu/chi. This is a picture of him after his first snow. He loves the snow and its so much fun to watch him. He is a good boy and goes to dog school off and on. So far he knows how to sit, down (lay), stand, speak, say please (up on hind legs with front legs pumping up and down), and "leave it." This is where he will leave a treat alone until invited to get it. He will also stop at each corner and sit before we tell him "okay" to cross the street. Adorable.

June until now (Jan. 2007)

It has been a long journey since June 16th when I left the classroom. I actually did a blog updating my zoo experiences, and then blogger switched formats and all of my journaling was lost, so I will try to update you with the short version now.

We left Riverside, California on June 18th for our new home in the northwest. (My students, parents and friends know where this is, but I prefer to not give the exact location.) We had a long two day trip driving twelve hours each day, but finally arrived to our new home on Monday, June 19th. I was to start zoo school in about 10 days, so I was very busy getting the house functional during that time.

I began zoo school at the end of June. It was quite an experience. I quickly found out that the advertised 32 hour week was just about double that number. We most often worked 14 hour days and not allowed even a lunch break. It was very tough on me, being the age I am, but I was holding my own next to my twenty something coworkers. My day consisted of everything from weeding, to manning the entrance booth, to preparing meat for the big cats. But my favorite part of the day was at the beginning when we cleaned and cared for the big cats.

Even though I was only at the zoo for six weeks, I learned a lot about the operations of a zoo. The people who work in zoos keep long hours and there are many hours spent in other activities apart from animal care.

As far as the animal care goes, we did not clean the enclosures with the animals present (called an occupied enclosure.) As i learned, the majority of injuries and deaths occur when a keeper enters an enclosure that is presumed empty, when it is in fact, occupied. Because of this, keepers have a system of calling gates when they open and close them. Animals are shifted from one enclosure to another for the purpose of cleaning and observation. We observe any scat (commonly called poop) left, anything else unusual in the enclosure. We used a combination of bleach, dish soap and water to sanitize the living quarters. This actually helped me take better care of my own cats at home. We would also be required to observe the animal for general health, noting their coat, eyes and other concerns. This would be logged, along with the details of their scat, at the end of the day in their chart.

It was truly amazing to be so close to these amazing creatures. My time was short, but intense. In the end, my migraine syndrome got the best of me. I battled having a lot of numbness in my legs with the very real possibility that this could worsen into paralysis. I couldn't take the chance. It was just too risky. After a painful reflection, I felt I could not continue.

The thing I want my students most to know is that I do not consider this a failure. I suppose some people could look at it this way, but I choose not to. Had I tried this earlier in my life, I am confident that I would have been able to complete the program. I do not regret for a minute that I tried. I am grateful to have had the opportunity. Do not let the fear of failure ever stop you from trying something that you have dreamt about. Life is all about seeking your purpose, and it is not an end, but a process.

Be Your Best

This blog is for all of those students, parents and friends who have been wondering how my persuit of my dreams have unfolded since leaving sixth grade teaching in June 2006. Let me say ahead of time how much I appreciate all of the kindness and support I have received over the last months. I have heard from many of you as I continue on my journey. The purpose of this blog is to (hopefully) inspire and encourage all of you as you live to be the best that you can be.