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Being an RA

As my second year at Juniata draws to a close, I’ve taken a bit of time to reflect upon this year.  One of the most major changes in my workload and responsibilities since last year is my position as a Resident Assistant, or RA.  As an RA, I am in charge of one floor of my building.  I help students with problems they face during the year, plan programs for my residents, and make sure the building stays in tip top shape.  It’s an interesting and demanding job that, despite its many ups and downs, is extremely rewarding as well.

As an RA, I spend a lot of time interacting with students, both through email and through face-to-face communication.  I am quite introverted and was a bit worried at first about the added interactions in my daily life.  Honestly, it’s something I don’t even think about most days anymore; it has become so normal to have to interact with more people that it hardly affects me.  By the same token, the number of unread emails in my inbox has increased dramatically with this job.  That aspect of the job has been more difficult to manage, and it took some getting used to at first.  With more emails, it’s harder to sort through them and decide what’s most important and to make sure no emails get lost.  What I’ve found to be most helpful with this aspect of Res Life is to maintain personal boundaries.  If I’m going on a walk and don’t want to be disturbed, I’ll turn off my phone or simply choose not to check emails during my “me” time.

casey blog

A big part of the job as an RA is being on duty on weekends.  On duty, you continually check the conditions of your building, deal with any issues with residents, and enforce quiet hours.  At first, I found it hard to adjust to staying up late on Friday night after a long week or getting back to a normal sleep schedule on Sunday night after staying up late on both Friday and Saturday nights on duty.  That particular aspect of residence life has gotten much easier with time.  Another aspect of being on duty is confidence, or lack thereof.  I found it difficult to be confident on duty the first few times, but every new experience builds confidence.

The most pleasant and awesome aspect of RA life is the community developed.  Even after all these months, I am still amazed by all of the new friends I have made.  Almost daily, I see other RAs or RDs around campus and we yell to each other from across the quad or stop for a quick conversation.  I have loved becoming friends with a lot of the RDs.  As they are older and have been in Res Life for a while, they have a lot of tips on being an RA.  Many of them are also just really nice to get to know and excellent mentors to have when things get tough.  Res Life can be a stressful job, so having an RD or veteran RA to talk to can be extremely helpful.

Becoming a Resident Assistant is a demanding yet rewarding job as a college student.  While it comes with lots of ups and downs, I’ve found it to be a generally positive experience.

Be My Valentine, Juniata.

Roses are red,

violets are blue,

some people like Valentine’s Day,

but those people aren’t you.

An example of student made valentines

An example of student made valentines

As someone who calls herself “professionally single,” Valentine’s Day is not that important to me as a day for expressing my romantic love.  However, it is too popular a holiday to completely ignore, which leaves me with few ideas about how to celebrate.  Luckily, though, Juniata College provides students with options for people who want to spend the time doing fun/silly things with friends.

In the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, clubs sell Valentine’s Day-themed items in Ellis lobby as fundraisers for their clubs.  Traditionally, the Dance Ensemble sells carnations, which students purchase for friends and partners ahead of time and the dancers deliver on Valentine’s Day.   Many of the clubs sell food- chocolate covered strawberries, fudge, cupcakes- that taste way better when you don’t have to share them with anyone else.  Buying food is both delicious and productive- while you’re devouring that delicious fudge from Amigos de Guanin, your purchase is helping fund projects in the Dominican Republic.

In addition to fundraisers, clubs and groups on campus hold events the week of Valentine’s Day.  Some residence halls hold card-making parties for residents to make cards for friends and for distribution to local agencies like the Huntingdon House.  The Social Dance club often holds a dance, sometimes on Valentine’s Day, where experienced dancers and beginners can swing the night away to all their favorite tunes.

While some students enjoy celebrating Valentine’s Day swing dancing or eating chocolate-covered strawberries, others choose to spend the night with friends.  Some of the residence halls have kitchens available for use, and they’re often heavily used on Valentine’s Day weekend as groups of friends make fancy dinners and bake heart-shaped desserts.  Still other groups of friends check DVDs out from the library and host movie marathons with friends.

Whatever your stance on Valentine’s Day as a single college student, there are lots of ways to celebrate as much or as little as you’d like.  Buy yourself fudge, make cards for friends, swing dance the night away, or watch movies with friends.  Whatever you do, have a happy Valentine’s Day!

I teach to…

CA Name Plate web

I don’t think it’s just Juniata College nor do I think it’s just Pennsylvania. Students studying to be teachers all over the country are frequently criticized and their choice is questioned. As someone who’s been a teacher at heart since I learned to talk, this is why I teach.

I teach to create a brighter future. I can’t change the hate, discrimination, and violence in the world today, but I can change it for the future. The students in my classroom are the future, and preschool and elementary schoolers’ attitudes are malleable in a way that adults’ attitudes aren’t. I’m cognizant of the influence I have in their lives and use that influence to teach an anti-bias curriculum that actively seeks to dispel stereotypes.

I teach to share. That’s what teaching is, really. It’s just sharing. I love books, so I try to share that love of reading with my students. I love science, so I cultivate curiosity and problem-solving through science lessons and activities. I have a different perspective on life and I come from a different generation than my students, so I have all of that rich culture and history to share as well. And sharing is reciprocal. I create a classroom space in which my students feel comfortable sharing their life experiences and knowledge with me. I believe that, regardless of age or authority, we should all be able to share our knowledge and experience with each other and learn from others.

I teach to learn. Kids are way smarter than adults give them credit for, and I teach to learn from them. Some kids know more about dinosaurs than I will ever know, some have had unique life experiences that I don’t know anything about, and some are emotionally intelligent beyond their years. Each child has a unique knowledge base to share with the world, and they’re so enthusiastic to share what they know. It’s my job as a teacher to value their knowledge and learn from them. In terms of emotional well-being and acceptance of differences, kids are some of the wisest people I know. As a teacher, it’s both my job to teach my students and to learn from them.

I teach to make a difference in someone’s life. Students come into my classroom from many different homes and kinds of families, and some come to school with a lot of emotional baggage. It’s my job to provide a safe, caring environment for every student, and create a classroom in which all students can be successful. For many students, teachers are their safe haven and school is a place where they can feel safe and loved. That’s a big responsibility, but it’s a responsibility that comes with so many rewards.

I teach for a multitude of reasons, and these are just a few of them. But, regardless of why I teach, I’m glad I teach at Juniata. Juniata’s Education department is unique and continues to prepare me well for life after graduation. Every semester, I have a practicum in which I get hands-on experience in a preschool or elementary school classroom. In addition to classroom time, my classes teach me valuable skills for other aspects of teaching, including writing IEPs, creating transition plans, and facilitating home visits for families. Juniata has prepared me well for teaching and will continue to prepare me over the course of the next 2 ½ years. There are a million reasons why I teach, and a million and one reasons why I’m an Ed POE at Juniata.

Tenting Essentials

CA tenting II edited

Every year, sometime between fall break and the beginning of December, dozens of students pitch tents on the pathway leading to Ellis Hall, competing for the best tickets for the Madrigal winter dance. The date of tenting is a secret until the students organizing tenting gather on the Ellis steps and blow air horns to signal the start of tenting. An email is then sent out to the entire student body stating that tenting has started and explaining the rules for tenting. The first tent to be pitched becomes “Head Tent” and the students in that tent are responsible for organizing events throughout the week and doing roll calls. Tenting is a popular, long-standing Juniata College tradition that is meant to be fun. Sometimes, though, it’s stressful, frustrating, or just not enjoyable. For anyone considering tenting next year, here are some essentials you should have (in addition to a tent):

A sense of humor

Head Tent will probably call roll at 3:30 in the morning, interrupting your precious REM sleep. You might play musical chairs at midnight. You will get very cold or, if you’re not so lucky, wet in the tent. I’m not trying to scare you away from tenting; rather, I’m saying that a sense of humor will help you get through tenting. You can get through it and you can have a good time with tenting, but you need to let the small things just roll off your shoulders.

Warm clothes

And when I say “warm,” I don’t just mean sweatshirts. I mean leggings, Under Armour, thick socks, hats, gloves, and other winter gear. Make sure you have multiples of all of these items, as well as sweatshirts and sweatpants because, chances are, you’ll be wearing several layers every night. While we’re talking about warm clothes, don’t forget about your sleeping arrangements. Heavy, warm blankets and a sleeping bag are extremely helpful.

Awesome talents

Chances are there will be a talent show of some kind during the week. It’s helpful if someone on your team (or several people) has a talent or, at the very least, can make something up. There are also lots of other challenges conducive to talents. This year, we had a rap battle, dance competition, cooking competition, and talent show. It seems that, if you don’t have a talent, all hope is not lost. As long as you’re willing to make a complete fool of yourself of 100 of your closest peers, you too can win the competition.

My tent that was home for a week with some of my closest friends.

My tent that was home for a week with some of my closest friends.

Friends

Whether they’re in your tent or laughing at the fact that you’re actually tenting, friends are the single greatest asset to an awesome tenting team. This seems obvious, but I’ll mention it anyway: make sure the people you tent with are close friends. Through all the stress of tenting week, it’s easy to get grumpy or frustrated with your tentmates or with tenting in general. If they’re close friends, it’s easier to repair the friendship or let the small stuff go (see #1). It’s also important to have friends who aren’t in your tent. When they’re not laughing at all the ridiculous stuff you have to do, they might just bring you late-night hot chocolate.

Dance Ensemble: A Behind the Scenes Look

The Dance Ensemble puts on one dance showcase each semester. All of the pieces in the show are choreographed by students in the club. This semester, I taught contemporary, ballet, and tap classes and choreographed two pieces for the show. Here’s a behind-the-curtains look at the choreography experience.

 CA pointe shoes again web

Tuesday, September 9th: Here’s where it all begins

Tonight was the first night of my dance classes this semester. I’m teaching three classes and choreographing two pieces for the fall dance show. The contemporary class will be dancing to “Tee Shirt” by Birdy and the ballet and tap classes will both be dancing in the same piece set to “I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran. We have six weeks to choreograph the pieces and get them ready for the show. The show is October 19th which seems so far away now, but I only have 5 more weeks of teaching before the show.

I had a great turnout (dance pun intended) for all of my classes tonight. The first week is a drop/add week, so I know I won’t have this many people next week. I taught a few sections of choreography this week and I’m already excited about all of the pieces.

 

Tuesday, September 23rd: Halfway already?

It’s so hard to believe I’ve already taught three of the six weeks of dance classes for the semester. Tonight, I finished choreographing nearly all of “Tee Shirt,” which is very exciting. There’s still lots to do for “I See Fire,” though. I’ve taught the ballet and tap classes separately up to this point, but next week I’ll start teaching them as a 1 ½ hour combined class. I’m starting to panic a bit about “I See Fire” because I only have three weeks left to put this piece together. Most of the pieces for the Dance Ensemble show are about three minutes, but “I See Fire” is five minutes long. That’s a lot to choreograph and teach!

 

Tuesday, October 7th: Crunch time

I have one week of classes left. One week. That’s kind of terrifying, but I’m also starting to get excited about the show. “Tee Shirt” is looking pretty good so far but “I See Fire” still needs a lot of work. Since “I See Fire” is so long and involves some partner work, I’m still not totally done teaching the dance yet. And I only have one week left. Yikes!

 

Sunday, October 12th: Extra rehearsal

This afternoon, the Dance Ensemble held an extra rehearsal for all of the dances. We didn’t have much time (15 or 30 minutes per dance), but something is better than nothing. I’m still feeling nervous about “I See Fire.”

 

Tuesday, October 14th: And then it was over…

Tonight was the last night of my dance classes. The “Tee Shirt” rehearsal went very well and the dance is looking very clean. The “I See Fire” rehearsal also went well and I’m feeling much more confident about both pieces now. The dancers got their costumes tonight- we have several drawers of costume pieces that we can use for the show or we have the option to order costume pieces as long as they aren’t too expensive. I found enough of all the pieces I wanted to use in the costume drawers, so I did not order any costume pieces. Now that all of the dancers have their costumes and the dances are completely finished, I’m starting to get excited for the show. T-minus four days until show time!

 

Sunday, October 19th: Just dance, it’ll be okay

I just finished dancing in the show and I’m feeling tired, sore, and very happy! This morning, we had our dress rehearsal from 9:30 to 12:30 and then were required to be back at the auditorium at 3 to stretch and prepare for the show.

One of my favorite feelings in the world is the little burst of adrenaline I get every time I step onstage to dance. Participating in the Dance Ensemble shows lets me keep feeling that awesome adrenaline rush and it has opened up even more doors for me as an artist. And now, in addition to dancing in the shows, I get to choreograph pieces for the shows!

Summer in Mexico

More than 300 feet in the air...and I was even brave enough to hang upside down!

More than 300 feet in the air…and I was even brave enough to hang upside down!

It was May 20th, 2014 at 6:05am. I was sitting in seat 25D of a Delta flight headed for Atlanta and, later, Mexico City. I had just finished my freshman year of college a week prior and now here I was on my way to Mexico for a 10 week adventure. That’s right I was headed to Mexico for 2 ½ months. I was there primarily for academic purposes; I took classes at the local university for a month and did an internship for the last 6 weeks. Of course, that wasn’t all I was going to do- traveling, eating tacos, and taking siestas were all on my very long “Must Do in Mexico” list. Now that I’m back, I can tell you that my “What I did in Mexico” list is far more amazing. I traveled, ate tacos, and took siestas but I also went ziplining, visited incredible Zapotec ruins at Monte Albán, and watched the sun rise over the tallest mountain in Mexico as I hiked up it. And the whole trip, 10 week trip, was free.

That’s right, I went to Mexico all summer and the only things I paid for were things I chose to buy, like artisan market souvenirs and delicious street food. When I applied to Juniata College, I received a scholarship called the Eagles Abroad scholarship, which covered the cost of the summer in Mexico. In the spring of my senior year of high school, my Juniata admission counselor let me know that I was being considered for the scholarship because of the level of Spanish I’d had in high school. I, along with many of my peers, interviewed on campus (partly in English, partly in Spanish) for one of a few scholarships. I remember the cold April day I got the call that I’d gotten the scholarship. I was excited, but I had no idea just how much this opportunity would change my life.

The sun rising over the Orizaba Peak, or Pico de Orizaba, the tallest mountain in Mexico.

The sun rising over the Orizaba Peak, or Pico de Orizaba, the tallest mountain in Mexico.

After the first four weeks of classes, some of the people on the trip went home. Me and two of my peers stayed for the optional six week internship. We were set up with an internship that was related to our POE; since I’m an Early Childhood and Special Education POE, I was interning at a private school for four weeks and a social work agency for the last two weeks. At the school, I started out just observing the teachers and helping individual students; by the end, I was teaching full time and designing my own curriculum for the two week English intensive summer course. At DIF, the social work agency, I helped plan and run workshops for a week-long summer day camp for over 100 children and adolescents. On the weekends, I attended fiestas, traveled, and explored the outdoors (ziplining, hiking, etc.). By the time the ten weeks was up, I felt very attached to the city and so confidently independent that I didn’t want to leave.

Me with some of my students on my last day at the school.

Me with some of my students on my last day at the school.

But rosy retrospection is very real and the Mexico I like now is the same Mexico I sometimes hated when I was there. The earthquake we experienced the first night there didn’t help the homesickness and culture shock at all. If anything, it made them worse. There were moments when I got really annoyed with Mexican culture and just wanted to live in a place where I felt 100% comfortable and safe (a.k.a. Juniata). I felt horribly guilty that I didn’t get to watch my sister perform in her dance recital (this was made worse by the fact that I had danced with her at that studio for 10 years and this was my first recital as an alum). I didn’t spend the summer at Girl Scout Camp like I have every summer since I was six. I missed my best friend like crazy.

Overall, though, I’m so glad I did it and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Leaving the comforts of life in the US and, more specifically, my normal life was really scary. But the friendships and memories made there made it all worth it! Plus, my Spanish was pretty bueno before I left but now it’s fantástico!

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