Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tests: Not Just for Students Anymore

After a lifetime of school - 19 years to be exact - I am still taking tests. I am currently navigating through a bureaucratic maze in order to become a certified special education teacher and yesterday I took the state-mandated "TExES" (what a weird acronym) test. Unfortunately I can't relax yet, I have at least two more tests to take in the next year - one for Social Studies and another that covers "Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities", whatever that means. I guess it is only fair that the state test us teachers since we tests students nearly to death every year.

The good news is that if I passed my test yesterday I am eligible to be hired as a full teacher on a one year probationary certificate. After one year of successful teaching, I will get the standard five year teaching certificate that is transferable to almost any state. That is a great benefit of teaching - you can find work pretty much anywhere. Guess which state is experiencing an acute teacher shortage - - Hawaii! Jess and I really have no intention of moving there, but it is nice to have as an option.

I am hoping to teach at Akins again next year, so now I just have to wait for a position to open up. In the meantime I am enjoying the beautiful autumn weather (70s and sunny all last week) and the changing colors. Since I was in India for winter last year, I am ready for some chilly weather, but a week in Missouri and New Hampshire will probably be enough to have me craving Austin's mild winter weather. Did I just mention Christmas vacation already? I can't get ahead of myself - still more tests to study for before I get to relax . . .

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Almost Awesome Austin

Right now in Austin, Texas it is exactly 72 degrees, near zero humidity, and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. Absolutely perfect. If I had a magic control panel that could manipulate any and every aspect of the weather, I still couldn’t improve this Sunday afternoon. This is reason number one why Austin is awesome.

Austin has a lot going for it besides its 300+ sunny days a year and mild winters. For one, it is the “live music capital of the world”- at least that is the official slogan. Unfortunately I have only glimpsed at all the musical offerings in the city. Austin was also rated the least stressful city in the US last year out of the top 40 largest cities. Money magazine listed Austin as the # 3 “most livable big city” in 2009. Of course, Austin is primarily a university town, and is a haven for liberal politics in a very red state. It is also a center of the organic food movement, due in part to the Whole Foods headquarters located downtown. Add to this list lots of outdoor activities (mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking, hiking) and amazing Mexican restaurants on every street and you have a killer city.

No city, not even Austin, is perfect. If I was more of a city person, perhaps I would be more at home here, but one factor limits my enjoyment of this city: IT IS TOO BIG! After two years in Missoula, Montana, Austin feels like NYC or LA. It is the 15th largest city in the country and traffic is atrocious. I live on the far south side of town, so getting myself to all the wonderful events downtown involves either a 15 minute car ride with 20 more minutes spent searching for parking, or an adventure on the bus system. It is possible to cycle most places, but it is not convenient on a regular basis. The North side of town? Forget about it around rush hour; traffic is often at a standstill. Luckily, I live only three miles from where I work, so cycling is easy.

All things considered, Austin is a very cool city. I just wish I had more time (and money) to enjoy all that is has to offer. For now I’m just happy to enjoy the incredible fall weather in the backyard.