Friday, March 26, 2010

We're Moving...

To celebrate the big transition to Vietnam, we at the Richert Ranch have decided to relocate webwise as well. It seems time for fresh starts all around. We hope you join us.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Wonderful World of Prezi (Don't Get Dizzy)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hello? Is Anyone Out There?

I know, I know...the blog has been deathly silent for the past five (has it really been five?) months. That is partly due to that fact that life in Ecuador is just that, life. No longer caught by surprise by that man peeing on the street corner, or the countless iguanas crossing the road. I hate to say it, but it's all become part of the expected. Even our vacations are becoming a bit repetitive. I could tell you about how I went paragliding over Thanksgiving, but I'm pretty sure I have a post about that. I could wax elegantly about school life, but let me check....yep, got those too. Not wanting to repeat myself over and over, I've let the blog lapse a bit. There has been no new news to report.

That is, until now.

This overseas living and teaching tends to have its own rhythms. In November, the wave of decision comes crashing in. Will you stay and renew your contract? Or, will you throw caution to the wind and try your luck with somewhere else. For those who choose to stay put, their overseas living resumes a sense of normalcy. But for those who are taking their chances with the great unknown, life becomes a turmoil of indecision, questioning, waiting, hoping, and general panic of "Oh my word, I have quit my job and have no where to go. Please don't make me live in my parent's basement" until the months of February and March. That is an incredibly long time to live in panic and worry. Trust me...much longer than you would think.

Dave and I decided in early November that we were ready to move on from the wonderful adventures of Ecuador. It was a really tough decision, but one that we felt we were ready for. We knew that this decision would send us on an emotional roller coaster until we could figure out what was going to happen next. And an emotional roller coaster it was; I bounced from having to bite my tongue so I wouldn't beg my director for my job back, to questioning whether I even wanted to continue teaching for the next two or so years. Working at a book shop was starting to sound mighty appealing (all those books! everywhere you look! heaven!)

We eventually decided to try to find another overseas position; with the understanding that if that did not pan out, I could start searching for that book store employment. We signed up for the annual overseas fair in Boston, crossed our fingers, and went on living life in Ecuador for three l-o-n-g months.

The time of the job fair has finally arrived, and let me tell you--it has been a whirlwind. Dave and I arrived in Boston on Wednesday, registered for the fair on Thursday, begged for interviews from 7:00-12:00 on Friday, began interviews at noon until 10:30 that same day, and went back for second and third interviews today. We met so many incredible people, looked at some many interesting and progressive schools, and interviewed with just about a country from each corner of the world. We interviewed with Turkey, Lebanon, Senegal, Vietnam, Eritrea (yeah, I didn't know where that one was either), Connecticut (I know! What?), Hong Kong, and Brazil. We met in formal interviews, we skyped, we mingled at the cocktail party, we met in 2nd interviews, and then 3rd interviews. It was exhausting, exhilarating, and eye-opening.

And it all led to the pivotal moment of our overseas living wave. The job offer. The next assignment. The next life changing adventure.

Here's your hint:

Hope to see you there and stay tuned for a whole new wave of adventures at the Richert Ranch.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Thursday, August 20, 2009

What in the....?

I has been months (months!! How did that happen?!). I can tell you how it happened...

* swine flu paranoia in Ecuador
* whirlwind tours of the USA from D.C. to California
* a swimming sensation that is six years old, and the Transformer's expert
* a beautiful 11 month old that fell in love with her uncle
* bbq's galore
* weekends away with the greatest of friends
* new bikes (Oh, Isis...I miss you already)
* let's be honest....Target, Costco, and the Patagonia outlet contributed to the silence
* 14 hour road trips
* napkin making
* concerts that had to be attended (I really do love you Josh Ritter. Really)
* books to purchase and read
* and, of course, all that repacking
* which only leads to all that unpacking

It's been a busy two and half months kids.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

I'm Feeling a Teacher Geek Out Comin' On!

There are four weeks left of school (28 days counting weekends), and usually this benchmark is characterized by complete and utter exhaustion.  A little of the "I just need to make it through this day" attitude.  Past April/Mays of my teaching life have been filled with days where I am just trying to keep my head above water.  I'm tired, the kids are tired, we are all a little bit irritable, and patience doesn't seem to be a virtue that makes it on my list.  By the end of the year, I am so thankful for the break to just physically and emotionally recoup. 

But, this year....this year is proving to be different.

Thanks to some of my rockstar co-workers, I have been energized in an unaccountable way.  I'm talking a full-fledge teacher geek out, usually only experienced in the first few months of the school year.  Technology people, best motivator ever.

Here's the top five technology wonders currently making appearances in the Richert classroom:

1.  Voicethreads: These are awesome!  I can't even describe all the varied uses for them, you just have to check it out yourself.  This is a voicethread that was completed by my 6th and 7th grade classes.  I've only shown a couple of the kid's responses.  Needless to say, I think this is the most fun they have had talking about commas.  Please take pity on how my voice sounds when it is recorded.  Skip the first two or three slides so you can see the awesomeness of my students.   

I've used voicethreads with my Senior Lit. class as well.  It seemed to be a much less intimidating way to discuss Shakespeare.  

2.  Wikis:  For the past two years, I've tried to maintain blogs for all my classes with mixed results.  The blogs were a little difficult to present all the information I wanted, especially in a way that was the most beneficial for the kids.  I was getting frustrated, the kids weren't using the sites, and it was pretty much a disaster.  Then, my friends Jean and Jody introduced me to the wonderful world of Wikis.  These suckers have completely changed my classroom these last few weeks.  So easy to set up, so easy to maintain, and I've gotten a huge response from parents and students.  The kids have been so excited about it that they have no problem doing the hidden assignments found in the site.  Awesome.  Check out everything you can do:

First you can create an endless amount of pages for your wiki:

Home 200E(8th Grade Sharks)200E
I have a blog page:

Current Events 200E(8th Grade Sharks)200E
I have an assignment calendar page:

Assignment Calendar 200E(8th Grade Sharks)200E
One of the coolest features of the wiki is being able to download any type of documents, word, powerpoints, pdf's, for the kids to access at home.  This has been a life-saver for my more organizational challenged students.  Also, it is helping to move our class to being paper-free.

Did You Lose Your Copy? 200E(8th Grade Sharks)200E
I also have pages with videos, checklists, and webquests.  All of this took me about two hours to put together because it can all be done with a click of a button.  So cool.

3.  My kids are loving this site.  We use it in class as an easy way to check out the word choice in our writing, but the kids are using it on their own to create word art.  First, you copy what every text you want to check and paste it in the wordle window:

Wordle - Create

And, Wah-Lah....Word Art:

Wordle - Create
The words that appear the largest are the words that have been used the most.  You can also play around with the wordle, creating different looks and colors:

Wordle - Create
There is a drop-down menu that lets you change the layout, color, and font.  The kids are coming with new wordle's each day.  They've used their own writing, articles, poems, song lyrics, anything they can think of.  Evaluating our word choice has never been so pretty.

4.  Book trailers:  Wow!  Who came up with the idea to present books in the same vein as movies?  Absolutely brilliant.  I have kids watching them and coming up with must-read lists all on their own.  You can't help but get hooked into the book after seeing one of these suckers.  Youtube is a treasure trove for them.

5.  And finally,  This site provides the software that is allowing me to capture all these images and add arrows, text, and embed those new images into anything I want.  Unfortunately, only works with macs right now.  

All of these technological gems have made the last two months of school just as energy filled as the first two months.  I think the kids and I just might survive these next four weeks, and have a lot of fun doing it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Beach Shmeach

After an almost two year experiement in living, Dave and I have come to the conclusion that we are not beach people.  

Sand?  Not a fan.  

Being in a sea of people who, let's be honest, are a lot more confident in what they are wearing then they should be?  I can live without it, my eyes will forever thank me. (Seriously?  Speedos?  Why are people letting their friends leave the house in those?)  

Yes, the ocean is beautiful.  And big.  And just a little frightening with all those crashing waves that pull you under water and provide that "I've just been tossed into a washing machine during the speed cycle" feeling.

Besides that, I tend to burn.  And then freckle.  Not good.

I can't help it...I wasn't born to be enchanted by the swaying palm trees and shimmering sunsets.  I mean, I'm from Idaho.  Give me the mountains anyday.

And this is why Dave and I headed to Vilcabamba, Ecuador for Semana Santa, instead of following the rest of Ecuador to the coast.  There were no blasted sand flies, no sand collections in unexpected, and uncomfortable, places, and no salt water up the nose.  There was only mountain ranges, hiking excursions, a horseback ride, and a lot of reading. 

 Vilcabamba in a word?  Paradise. 
The mountains were beautiful, the weather perfect, the trails extensive (though a little muddy in some areas), and adventures plentiful.  Our days went something like this....breakfast, exploring of some kind, back to town for a delicious and cheap lunch, reading, napping, card playing, dinner, reading, card playing, you get the idea.  Of course, laughing was also a major part of the day.
We stayed at this beautiful hostel called Le Rendez-Vous.  There were only eight rooms, with the most comfortable beds I have EVER slept on, each with a hammock outside.  The rooms also surrounded a beautiful courtyard; our room had an avocado tree in front of it that had the biggest avocados I have ever seen.  They also delivered a delicious breakfast to our room each morning, and encouraged lazing about.  Notice, on the sign above, that they had "hot water at will."  Sometimes, our will was not especially strong.  

All in all, despite the occasional cold shower, it was pretty wonderful.  Not a sand strip in sight.