Communication. Communication. Communication.

Communication. Communication. Communication.


This post is going to be short and sweet.

Cardinal Stritch students interested in Cloud Forest, I give you some advice: Learn Spanish. And adventure everywhere.

Since the last time I posted I have traveled to: Montezuma, Puntarenas, La Fortuna, and will soon be heading to Granada in the upcoming week.

This is with limited Spanish.

How is this possible?


And great friends to help me out.

How is this vital in the classroom?

Let me give you an example of a person….

Let’s name him Fred.

Fred comes into class with shoulders down and a very stern voice. He doesn’t say hello to anyone and doesn’t really try to interact with students. He doesn’t know much about them, or try to know much about them. Other staffs have realized this as well and have stated that he often “snaps,” at them.

Here’s Fred again.

Fred comes into class and is smiling. He had some difficulties this morning, but you would not tell. He is saying hello to students and making other pleasantries. He talked and asked the Janitor how is night was. He knows personally a lot of the students and tries his hardest to push their thinking and have them think critically. This is because Fred believes in his students.

What Fred do you want to be around?

Grumpy, not so nice Fred…or Fred who takes the time to get to know you?

I’d personally prefer Fred who takes the time to get to know you…and this is why:

  1. People who get to know you probably want to be around you.
  2. People who build relationships are more likely to have others respect them (and respect is a 2 way street)
  3. I’d rather be around people who build me up instead of tear me down.

…. And research shows how significant it is to build RELATIONSHIPS and creates a SAFE ZONE for students.

Update on Montverde: Montverde is beautiful, amazing, wonderful, and relaxing all at the same time. I cannot say enough positive things about my host family. I am currently fighting some type of cough/exhaustion combo and the generosity of everyone while I have been sick has been amazing. (I told my real mom that it is probably better than what I get at home)


a little glimpse into La Fortuna


My daily view in Monteverde…beautiful right!?


To be understood, and understand one another.

“In this world, we all want to be understood. And to understand.”

Warning: I’m starting this off on a bad note, and ending with the good.

My first week, was rough. And, even though it’s almost been three weeks, at times: it’s still a little rough.

Why it’s a little rough:

  1. The language barrier was a lot more than I expected. Additionally, any Spanish I ever learned has disappeared.
  2. I was robbed (although unharmed) while waiting at the bus station in San Jose. My house key, money, and debits cards disappeared.
  3. My placement (middle school) is a lot different than I expected.

However, regardless of the challenges, it’s still an awesome experience.

Reasons why it’s an awesome experience:

  1. I’m happy to be here, and I love the family I am staying with.
  2. I’m making friends, awesome friends.
  3. I went, with these friends, to San Jose AND Montezuma! (More on that later)
  4. Montverde is a beautiful, amazing, awesome city.
  5. I have awesome supports (look above and Friends/Family)
  6. The food is awesome (specifically in Montezuma)
  7. I went zip lining and on a Tarzan swing!

Yes! I went to San Jose and Montezuma!

It was awesome.


Montezuma: The Pacific Ocean was amazing. The food in Montezuma was TO DIE FOR. Fresh fish, onion bread, our own house with Wi-Fi, taxi drivers asking us if we want ridiculous things, SNORKELING IN THE PACIFIC OCEAN AND VISITING TORTUGA ISLAND, and very warm, amazing weather.

San Jose: Our hotel was 1930’s-esque. Which was beautiful. I learned a lesson, that all travelers should learn (aka watch your stuff and don’t put your purse down), learned about Costa Rican culture, found out that San Jose is incredibly Americanized (aka Taco Bell, Burger King, and McDonalds), went to a beautiful museum and fell in love with a portrait, ate a cheeseburger and fries, took a bath, and had an awesome breakfast.

See, every road has a silver lining!?

Adventure on

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime. -Mark Twain

Traveling day!

Well, crazy enough: The day has come! Adventure day! Currently, as I start this blog, I am writing this post on Microsoft word, as I fly (spirit airlines) to my first stop: Fort Lauderdale.

I must admit, even though I’m only about 20 minutes…it’s already been a whirlwind.

This is going to be a two-part blog,

First part: Leaving my first placement.

Second Part: Travel!


Those of you who are reading this to find out traveling information: go to the second part.


Leaving my First Placement:

Starting with this Thursday, I left my first placement. It was heartbreaking to leave the kiddos I had developed relationships with, but I was heartwarmingly surprised by the generosity of my kiddos who got me a gift and my CT who made me an awesome book about “what will you miss about Ms. McCormick.” (Trust me, the responses were AWESOME…some of the kiddos think that we do a lot of cleaning at Roosevelt Elementary?)

As I leave my first placement, I first off, am slightly saddened because I absolutely loved it. I almost asked to stay, but am so excited for this adventure, so, time to adventure on! However, the most important thing for me to reflect on is my personal views about three things:

  1. Reflecting
  2. Relationships.
  3. Academics

Sidenote: I also could do a blog post about how I love “lists,” and how I need them to function, but that is a whole different conversation.


In my humble opinion, reflecting is a key aspect of being an educator. You have so many things to reflect on, that in my opinion, it is important to always be reflective. This is why; I believe that when I have my own classroom, I will have some tool in place to be able to reflect upon teaching. What went right, what went wrong, and how I can improve.


Building relationships is another essential part of the classroom. You know the reason that it was so hard to leave? Relationships. The conversations I had with students helped me be able to better instruct them and deal with a LOT less behavior difficulties. Not only did it help with behavior difficulties, it helped the students feel supported and that I care. I know in education, we have a lot of sh** to do. (Excuse my frankness) but, it is also important that students (this also can be just generalized to say people) need to know we care.

Think about this:

You’re having a conversation with someone. They seem non-interested. Do you want to continue having interacting with them? Chances are, probably not. By doing this, we are loosing an opportunity for growth and improvement because conversations help us learn and share information.

When, as educators, we act uninterested in students conversations, it increases that opportunity that students will not want to learn or share information with us…which just makes the classroom that much more difficult.



Simply put: I need to still work on my academic language and best ways of instruction. I’m making improvements, but this is still something that must be improved.



First off:

I was freaking out about leaving.

I know this is weird, but I LOVE packing. I think it’s fun to see how much stuff I can fit in such a small amount of space.

I think the mixture of having to pack up my apartment, finish my classes, leave a guy I just started dating, have my family drop me off, and my packing disaster (more on that in just a second) made this the most difficult pre-adventure I have yet faced.

However, I conquered it. And I’m now sitting peacefully on a plane reading to head onto my 3-month adventure of student teaching.

Packing disaster:

  1. I had to move out of my apartment before I flew out of Detroit.

My stuff is currently in Saginaw, MI and Milwaukee, WI.

  1. I had a new suitcase, which was in Saginaw, MI.
  2. At 12:38am March 13th, my airport into Costa Rica shut down for approximately 12 hours because of “volcanic activity.”
  3. I hadn’t slept a good nights rest in about 3-4 days.
  4. My suitcase had to be 40 pounds, not 50.

The joys of flying with spirit airline (which, by the way,  so far do not hate however would not do again for a long term adventure)

  1. I had 8-16 pounds worth of posters for the school I am volunteering in, which drastically cut back on the amount of wiggle room I had for packing.
  2. My favorite backpack ripped right as it was finished being packed about 1 hour before we needed to leave.  .

All of these factors together, caused me some unneeded stress, including tears and punching a bag. It was not a pretty sight.

(Reflecting time!) Ways I could have conquered this stress:

  1. Better organization.
  2. Asked for additional time. (Actually erase that, because I did ask for additional time. I should have demanded additional time and stood up for myself more!)
  3. Meditate!

Therefore, Stritch students, I have my first “advice,” for you:


Also, use all your resources and ask as many questions as possible. Lean on your family/friends for support. (Kudos to mine who didn’t freak out once while I was freaking out and instead remained calm, cool and collected)

Can’t wait till I can update everyone on what Costa Rica, my host family, and Cloud Forest!

Ps. I’m now officially sitting in the Fort Lauderdale airport! One flight left until I arrive!


Can’t even get excited…


This is a quick update, as I’m in the midst of my last week of student teaching! Moments like this, I’m thankful for my motto “adventure on,” because without it, I’d be a hot mess. With the added stress of packing, finishing things up, etc…this last week feels like a whirlwind. I can’t even get excited because I’m so sad to leave this placement. I’m sure once I get on the plane though that will change.

Here’s some reflection:

I HAVE SO MUCH TO LEARN WHEN IT COMES TO ACADEMICS. I really need to work on my phonics.

I HAVE SO MANY STRATEGIES TO LEARN WHEN IT COMES TO BEHAVIORS/CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT. Rewards, reinforcements, tangibles, and how to internally motivate students….

I NEED TO WORK ON GIVING MORE EFFECTIVE FEEDBACK TO STUDENTS. I’m all about that motivational, motivational, no effective. (read that in the tune of “All about that Bass.”)

Above all though,

I’ve realized: I have a lot to learn. and can only become a better person, or at the very least, a better teacher then yesterday. And this is done by: Reflecting, Reflecting, Reflecting.

Oh, and, for those of you who are interested: I leave this Saturday, March 14th….I start on Monday March 16th at Cloud Forest. I will be teaching 5th-7th English Reading/Writing. We’re going to be beginning a poetry unit soon after I arrive! (I’m pretty excited!


5am wake-up call.

So, filling this in has been difficult. Between working on EdTPA, planning lessons, trying to enjoy a little bit of free time, and working on my behavior class….It’s a busy time. Thankfully today though, I woke up early so I can address these thoughts.

However, I did make a huge decision not to travel for 15 months so I’m going to address that, and also reflect a little bit on what I am learning.

First, my decision to only leave for 3 months: 

Simply: It’s the right decision. I’ve been working my butt off to become a teacher…and I personally feel leaving now would be turning my back on all the hard a** work I’ve done. Plus, my passion is working in special education and I finally feel ready to go on a new adventure…The “finding a job career adventure.” Traveling will always be a passion of mine, yes, but education is my priority.

(Plus, I’m still going to Costa Rica for 3 months….and will be visiting my friend who is going down to Peru at least once)

Now, onto student teaching: 

5 things I have learned in my 5 weeks of student teaching:

1. Collaboration 

Most of the students you work with, you only work with for about an hour a day (if that). Our students typically work with OT, PT’s, SLP’s, on top of the general education teacher and special’s teachers. It is EXTREMELY important to collaborate with everyone…Every position brings different skill set to the table and I believe you can really learn tons by asking questions and looking at things from different perspectives.

2.Making parent connections

This is my first time meeting the parents of my students (during IEP meetings and such)…and I am realizing quickly that parent/teacher connections are vital to the success of students. Working with them can make or break performance in the classroom. Teachers should support learning at home, as well as in the classroom.

3. Experience 

That ridiculous quote: “practice makes perfect…” Yeah. It’s somewhat true. I believe nobody is perfect, especially teachers. Most likely, you are failing in one realm of your life (For example: my room currently is a disaster area). You probably, also, didn’t have the “perfect lesson.” However, no matter what those failures are, it’s important to pick yourself back up, dust it off, and figure out how to make it better.

4. Know your content 

With Common Core Standards changing how teachers teach math, it’s more vital than ever to make sure you know your content. This is something I need to work on because as I work with my small groups because I can get so focused on making sure they absorb the “concept,” that I do not incorporate the academic language which is needed to absorb the information.

5. Support one another 

TEACHERS SHOULD SUPPORT ONE ANOTHER. Yup, I just bolded this. Let me repeat: TEACHERS SHOULD SUPPORT ONE ANOTHER. Teaching is hard. F’ing support one another and don’t bring each other down. Not only does that ruin my point above about collaboration, but it also brings down other teachers. We’re all (hopefully) in this career field to help support a child’s’ growth. Sure, we have different teaching philosophies and personalities, but, TEACHERS SHOULD SUPPORT ONE ANOTHER.

These are just a few of the many things I have learned…will post again soon!

Resetting your Path

Tomorrow I begin my first fieldwork at Roosevelt Elementary in Wauwatosa, WI. During my time there, I will talk about what I am learning/observing, but MAKING SURE that I do not include student names because that is breaking confidentiality. J

That being said, I’m incredibly nervous/excited. Tomorrow begins my first time somewhat being a “full time teacher.”

A lot of you know this, but when I was working on my undergrad at WMU, I originally was a special education major. I was accepted into the program, but I doubted myself and switched after the first semester. I quickly (after one semester of taking anatomy and physiology together…) regretted my decision and knew that being a teacher was the right calling for me.

After some research, I found Cardinal Stritch’s program and, on a whim, applied. I was accepted and, about 2-3 months after graduation, moved to Milwaukee after only visiting it twice.

Thank goodness the program was everything I hoped it would be, and during the way I’ve been lucky enough to make some incredible friends in Milwaukee (What up Bonnie since I know you’ll probably read this!!).

However, I’m crazy.

After working this hard on my certification, I’m not going straight into a teaching position somewhere in Wisconsin.

Instead, I’m (hopefully) working with NPH at their schools in Bolivia, Dominican Republic, or Peru (hopefully Peru!).

Why am I doing this?


My incredible desire to understand. Understand everything. And anything.

  • How cultures work
  • Different languages
  • How to be on my own
  • How to open my heart to all the possibilities
  • How a foreign school system works

Most of all though: Because I believe that this experience will become a more prepared educator because being culturally aware, is vital in the classroom.

Because, if you don’t know your students, how will be able to relate to them?

Ps. Even though I’m nervous, I cannot WAIT for tomorrow and to start getting to know the students I will be working with at Roosevelt Elementary.

Ps. I cannot WAIT for tomorrow and to start getting to know the students I will be working with at Roosevelt Elementary.

Travel Lessons not Travel Mistakes

I’ve traveled to 3 continents, and adventured around a decent amount on top of that via car, plane, train, etc. Based on this background, I give you my one of my deepest flaws:

Packing. And nervously planning.

Evidence: EVERYTIME I leave home (including now I’m assuming..Mom?) I make a mistake. My friend Kristen laughs at me all the time and has stated “I love to plan, but I suck at it.” This is incredibly true. I LOVE to plan adventures, and my mind runs a mile a minute with the next adventure that could take place. However, when it comes down to the nitty gritty, I tend to overanalyze and make the wrong decision based on my own nerves.

That being said, I already have made my first travel mistake.

With my stepdads encouragement (he literally was yelling “Go Ashley, you can do it…”) I bought my ticket.

However, my ticket gets me INTO San Jose at 12:21am…Dumb mistake. Especially since the volunteer coordinator told me to come in the morning or afternoon.

It’s what I would call, a rookie travel mistake. I make lots of these.

I’ve lost camera’s on airplanes, forgotten phone chargers, broken kindles, laptops and cell phones with no way of fixing them. I get lost driving on a semi-daily basis, and if you ask me about streets…I can only tell you “place marks.”

But, never have I ever, gotten a ticket for a wrong time.

I emailed my coordinator, and we are figuring it out, but it’s sounding like it might be an extra cost. Thankfully, I noticed the mistake early so now I can fix it cheaper then it would have been if it took me longer.

This has me thinking though…what if this happens while I’m down there?

My family, even though they are 7 hours away, is an awesome support system. They are amazingly supportive of this crazy adventure I’m going on. Even before that though, my parents have supported every crazy dream/passion I’ve had, and consistently allow me to make my decisions on my own (even when I want their opinions) They even support me when they disagree with me. Even to the point where they allow my Uncle Scott and I to have long political debates on Thanksgiving and Christmas. (I’m not saying they love that by the way, just accept it)

Thankfully, I will be with my amazing friend Rebecca (Her Blog) will be with me if something goes wrong and I’ll also have Wi-Fi sometimes, but I decided to make a photobook with pictures of my family. I also (this was Rebecca’s idea, not mine) to make a “soul box” with little keepsakes from home. This way, when I get homesick…I can look at it and remember why I decided to go on this crazy adventure.

If anyone has any suggestions on what I should put in this soul box, please let me know. I have a few ideas in mind, but love suggestions!! Mind you, this soul box is going to be about the size of a jewelry box, so only small small things (like for example, I’m taking a small cut off of my favorite blanket)

SPED internship news: On Monday I start my first fieldwork, I’m super nervous/excited for this opportunity! I went to the school once, and my CT does a mix of a lot of things, so I think I’ll be able to learn a lot from her. However, I can’t shake the feeling that I “don’t know enough,” to be prepared for this. I’m trying to take the advice from this link though:

I also need to remember: I am LEARNING. Constantly learning. I will never be perfect, but need to focus on learning as many strategies as possible that are effective for students and just taking the time to get to know those students I am working with.This is why, each mistake I make along the way, is not a mistake, but a lesson.

Talk all I want though, that doesn’t get rid of the nerves.

Update: I’ll be staying at a hotel upon arrival, that Whitney from Cloud Forest is helping coordinate. Also, Sarah Sweeney (if you’re working on study abroad stuff, you know her…she’s awesome, kind, and genuinely cares about your travel experience/you) gave me the idea of creating a “travel book.” If you’re going to be doing any traveling, I’d look into making one for yourself. It’s awesome to have something to have as an emergency backup. She also didn’t pay me to write this about her 🙂 

Here is a link for NPH and Cloud Forest, in case you are interested in checking them out. I’m not sure if I added them before or not.



So, if you’re reading this blog, you likely are into one of the following: culture, education, travel, or global issues.

Or you’re interested in studying abroad with Cardinal Stritch University.

or you’re interested in my travels.

Long story short, whatever reason you’re here, thank you for taking the time to reading this.

What this blog will be: 

This blog will serve as a reflection guide during my student teaching. It will start with my special education placement at Roosevelt Elementary in Tosa, then my general education placement in Costa Rica. I will be talking about what I am observing in the classroom, things I’ve tried in the classroom, and my cultural experience. Student teaching will take place Jan-June. 

After student teaching, I will then be blogging about my experiences with NPH and how I am serving there. 

For those who read this and are interested in student teaching (What up Stritch Students!), please refer to blog posts taking place now through June 5th. After that, it will starting being about NPH and less about student teaching. 🙂

Personal Update: 

TODAY I BOUGHT MY TICKET. I officially will be arriving on March 15th at approximately 12:21am…..

I can’t even let myself get excited because I’m so nervous about everything and worried about “fitting everything in.” This is just because I’m so nervous about leaving the country (i.e my friends, family, coffee shops, and convenience) for 15 months. I know I’m doing the right thing, but it’s still scary!! 

You will see my post this a lot throughout this blog, but my personal motto is “Adventures Awaits.” I put it on my graduation cap, have a snow-globe that states it, and it’s how I view every challenge that life presents me.

Adventure Awaits March 15th, 2015.

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