Friday Five: Back in the USA

Friday Five: Back in the USA

This is my first summer back in the United States since before I moved to Poland. I am excited but I am going to miss my laidback European summers. I won’t be jetting off to Spain for time on the beach and I won’t be walking down the street for ice cream everyday… although maybe that is a good thing! I am excited to be back for the summer though. I am excited to spend time with my family and visit all of my friends. It’s a summer full of transitions and fun… and one small rant about airports! 


Welcome Back- O'Hare Chaos

They need some teachers' help

I have landed in many airports over the years and I have gone through passport control in so many places and O’Hare is terrible. To be fair, O’Hare is the only American airport I’ve landed in after an international flight- maybe all other airports are better. I’m about to go on a small (ok…🙄medium) and very justified rant about this now.

The directions aren’t clear going through. The employees are yelling these directions and if you aren’t in the right place at the right time, you miss out. Non-native English speakers are confused and instead of answering any questions, the employees just continue to yell directions. There are like 2 signs with directions and only in English and then you are expected to know what to do. It is like a lesson in the classroom gone horribly wrong.

I am a native English speaker, I am an American, I have been through passport control at O’Hare several times and it still stresses me out to the max every single time.

I feel so terrible for the people who don’t know what to do, try to ask for help, and just have the same directions they didn’t understand the first time screamed at them.

Then the little electronic check-in or whatever is completely unorganized. There is no one directing traffic and machines that are open when you leave the line and walk over aren’t still open when you arrive. Then those machines are very tricky for older people to use and understand which creates more chaos. AND why is there no expedited line for Americans? I am always envious of EU passport holders going through so quickly in Poland or UK passport holders zipping right through in England and I never get to zip through a passport line.

What O’Hare needs is a few teachers who have handled indoor recess duty for days…maybe weeks in a row. Teachers who have had to repeat the same directions over and over in the same way and rewording the directions different ways. Teachers who understand how valuable a meaningful anchor chart can be on the wall. Who know the value of pre-teaching and laying out clear expectations for what is going to happen. They need some teachers who understand that you don’t need to yell louder at non-native English speakers you need to explain things clearly, simply, multiple ways, and allow for wait time. A few teachers in there and the whole mess could be care  straightened out. 

You know what they need, you have the safety video at the start of your flight you should watch a customs video at the end of your flight while the plane is heading to the gate! See, this one teacher figured out a way to calm the chaos. Let me just run this idea by someone in charge of airport security…

After passport control there was a hilarious luggage situation. Several people, myself included, didn’t see their luggage come out. I had 1 out of 4 suitcases! 😲😧Then the baggage employee started… wait, guess what he started to do! YELL! At everyone! Then he called down and announced these exact words…. that I wrote down because I found them so hilarious! “Everyone! Stop talking to me! I AM TRYING TO TALK TO YOU!!!! They have magically found a luggage thingy that wasn’t unloaded. Your bags will be here soon! I don’t know. It is magical! MAGIC!” That last magic was screamed so aggressively I jumped a little! 😂

Once I got outside and saw my mom and brother I was relieved. So relieved I almost broke down in tears. One I had made it back into the US. Two I finally had someone to help me with all of my luggage… and there was a lot of it. 


Adjusting to America

I will not lie and say I have completely adjusted back to being in the US. Reverse culture shock is real! I’ve heard from many expats that re-entry can be just as difficult (or sometimes more so) than leaving. The biggest shock I’ve had to readjust to is how cold my parents keep our house! I haven’t been in air-conditioning in years. My parents don’t actually even have air-conditioning but they have so many fans. The fans are always on and I am always in a sweatshirt under a blanket! I can assure you in a few weeks I will not be complaining about the chill. It’s all about readjusting.

You know what else I have to adjust to? Being so close to a Target. I cannot even tell you how much I miss Target when I am abroad. The times I miss it most are when I need a specific item for my classroom and I know the exact location of it in Target and have I have no idea where to even begin the search for it in Poland. That is the worst! Although I have to admit I am now able to find lots of things in Poland. I have only been to Target once since being home and I have a new personal mantra for when I think about going to Target. “You are poor. You should not go.” It’s working so far but a girl can only hold off for so long! 

A third adjustment is living with my parents again! I’m almost 30 and moving back home after being so independent is an adjustment to say the very least. People (aka my mom and dad) want to know what I am doing at all times. Where I am going? How much money I am spending on things? Why does it take you so long to get ready? 😂The questions just don’t stop! I absolutely love my parents and I am so glad to spend time with them but it’s weird after being so independent.

The good thing about living with your parents is that my mom makes me coffee every morning and brings it to me. AND… you’re not going to believe this! My dad offered to give me his credit card to go to Target… what a brave man! Then immediately told me, just as he did when I was fifteen, that he expects receipts and I am only authorized to buy an HDMI cable. 😂😂Don’t worry, I only purchased the authorized item! 


Sibling Bonding

My youngest brother is the only one currently at my parent’s house. He and I have had a lot of time to hang out. So far we have gone on an adventure to Target (that was no fun because we didn’t even get to aimlessly wander the entire store to buy things we didn’t need) and the grocery store. We’ve watched a lot of Netflix together and have joked around a ton! I think we’re getting on our parents nerves a bit because we like to cause a bit of trouble but it is so great. I do miss the time hanging out with my siblings when I’m not in the US. We purchased an absurd amount of freeze pops (another thing to adjust to- things come in such large quantities) that we will enjoy together. We are currently in intense negotiations about chores at the moment because neither of us want to mow the lawn. But, just like when we were children, it it isn’t mowed when my parents get home from work we’ll be in trouble. 😂We are also planning on purchasing hammocks and putting them up in our parent’s backyard to chill outside! Should be a good summer for the two of us! 



The Cutest Old Lady

I CANNOT BELIEVE I ALMOST FORGOT ABOUT THIS! This maybe should have been number one but here we are at four. 

I sat next to the cutest, old, Polish lady on my flight! She gives tours in Warsaw and part of one of her tour groups was coincidentally behind us on the plane. She must be a very good tour guide because she promptly put herself in charge of us and guided us through the flight. She pulled out pens when they handed out the border cards which I guess you don’t even have to fill out anymore because it is all digital. 

This is one thing they scream at you as you’re waiting in line.PUT THOSE BLUE CARDS AWAY! I DON’T EVEN WANT TO SEE THEM! SIR, I SAID PUT IT AWAY WE DON’T WANT TO SEE THEM. YOU DON’T NEED THOSE! Such high-stress! 

The cards were only in Polish so she helped the ladies behind me fill it out and asked for a card for me. They didn’t give me one because they thought her and I were flying together. Then they still didn’t give me one because I was American and they said I wouldn’t need it. That, thankfully, turned out to be true. 

During the flight she watched the flight screen for the whole trip. I cannot imagine watching that screen for nine hours but she did it. I only checked it when the little boy on the plane would yell out, “only 7 more hours.” Then I would check in on our progress and get antsy about sitting still for so long! She took a little nap and rested her head on my shoulder and I didn’t even mind one bit. 

When I asked if I could get out of our row she told me I had excellent timing. The man on the aisle was also up so I only disturbed her and she doesn’t mind at all. Then she complimented me because I ended up returning from the bathroom before the man on the aisle and she was so impressed with my timing. I explained that I was a teacher and quick bathroom breaks were my thing… she didn’t really understand that but it’s ok! Then every time the man got up she asked if I needed to use the toilet or if I needed a walk around the plane. She was so kind! 

When we landed I explained the electronic passport thing… what is that thing called? to the ladies. Then we stood next to each other in line and I explained how it worked again. They successfully made it through passport control and after picking up her bag she told me to have a wonderful time in the US and gave me a hug. She was heading to North Dakota. I hope she’s having a good time here in the US! 



Next Up: Cousins Camping

The Rice family loves nature and the outdoors. My grandma loved birdwatching and the whole family enjoys being outdoors. Cousins camping started a few years ago. Now, I used to go camping a lot but I have not been camping in probably 5-ish years. My vacations have been a bit more glam than camping while in Europe. My sister made it very clear that we are NOT glamping but real camping. 🙄I hope I survive! While you’re reading this I am heading to go camping with all of my cousins. I’ve missed out on a few cousin’s camping weekends while in Poland and I am really excited to get to go to this one. I haven’t seen my cousins in so long and I miss them tons! I haven’t seen them since before I left the US for Poland 3 years ago. I know this weekend is going to be filled with fun shenanigans. I did pick up some Polish vodka in the airport just for this occasion. I have two cousins who are also turning 30 in July so I brought them each back a small gift (read: vodka and a shot glass) to celebrate! Watch out northern Wisconsin, the Rice’s are going to have some fun this weekend! 

How’s your summer vacation going?

What fun things do you have planned?

How do you feel about the airport upon re-entry to the US? 

Is it that stressful everywhere? Is there somewhere worse than O’Hare? 


Friday Five: March Challenge

Friday Five: March Challenge


Welcome March

Let’s be real. I need a little kick in the pants when it comes to my blogging game. I have so many great ideas to share. I have so much training and experience to draw on. I do so much research that I think other teachers could benefit from but I just never take the time to put these big dreams in my head into action. That is about to change. You might notice that I had limited blog posts in February (and January but the idea didn’t happen until February) because I decided to spend February planning for March. Hello! Look at this gal figuring out how to plan! This means that there will be a new blog post coming your way almost daily. I say almost daily because I wanted this to be sustainable. Now while you’re reading throughout March I’m planning for April. Is this how legit bloggers do it? I would like to think so. 

If you want to be alerted of all the amazing content coming your way please make sure you subscribe to the blog… I’m not really one to beg for subscribers and there certainly aren’t a million popups encouraging you to do so but… maybe you don’t want to miss any amazing thoughts coming out of my head! 


So.. this week’s Friday Five is all about getting to know me! 


I Teach in Poland but I'm From Wisconsin

So many people ask, “why did you want to teach internationally?” and let me tell you, it is a hilarious tale. 

21 year old Natasha was student teaching in Green Bay, WI. My cooperating teacher graduated from the same college I had (in De Pere) and she was telling me that she student taught abroad in St. Lucia. I had studied abroad in Valencia, Spain. My friends were heading back in a few weeks for spring break. I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford to go back for spring break and my spring break no longer aligned with theirs because I was student teaching. So I was pretty bummed. I explained how bummed I was to my cooperating teacher and she said, “yeah. I always planned to go back but I haven’t made it yet.” 21-year-old Natasha panicked. My first thought… and this is now hilarious to write at an almost 30-year-old… was, “oh my gosh! What if I turn 30 and I still haven’t traveled back to Spain?!” The horror of it all. To be old and untraveled. I just laughed so hard I cried writing that sentence. BUT in my mind right then and there I decided that I would teach 5 years in Wisconsin and then I would move internationally. That’s exactly what I did. 

I taught three years in a small town in northwestern Wisconsin and then moved to Madison where I taught (in a suburb near Madison) for two years and then I moved to Poland. I’ve now been in Poland for three years and I have to say I really love it.


I love bold lipstick

Ok. I am a sucker for any and all things hot pink. A hot pink lip is no exception. I love a bold lip and I wear lipstick to school every day. Though I don’t always wear bold lipstick at school. I just love, love, love it! This year I didn’t wear lipstick one day and the next day one of my students said, “Woof! Lipstick again!” and breathed a sigh of relief… the kid really did say woof and sigh. I cannot sometimes! I cannot!


I Love to Travel

Well, one great thing about living in Poland is traveling throughout Europe is very accessible and not too expensive. I’ve traveled a lot in my three years here and I look forward to lots of traveling in my future. Traveling gives me life. I actually have another blog (that is updated maybe once a month… maybe) with my travel adventures.


I've Had Extensive Training in Math and Literacy

Now… I am not an expert in all things (please see image above! lol!) but I have been extremely lucky throughout my teaching career to receive excellent professional development. At my first school I was trained in Literacy Collaborate, a balanced literacy framework. We were originally affiliated with Ohio State and later switched to Lesley University. While there I also was trained in Math Recovery. These two trainings provided such a strong foundation to build upon as a teacher. The next school I worked at was a lab site for Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. I got to work with amazing staff developers to further my professional growth. I also served as a Math Curriculum Leader during my time there and I am currently our Elementary Curriculum Team Leader. I’ve been trained in UbD by Jay McTighe and I am leading our elementary staff to rewrite our science curriculum. I trained our whole staff on Fountas and Pinnell’s Benchmark Assessment System this year and we’re working to use data to inform our instruction. 

I have a lot of experience and knowledge and I want to share my expertise with more than just my colleagues. That’s why you’ll see me blog, almost daily, all month long! 

Friday Five- Whew!

Friday Five- Whew!

This week went by so quickly that I had to look back at my photos and my texts with my sister to try to remember what happened! Here we go! 


Bring in the Guitar

My kids were just not getting vibrations and sound. We watched videos, we read stories, we did a few experiments… nothing. On Monday I ran to the music room before our science class and asked the music teacher if there were any instruments where kids could see vibrations. She handed me a guitar and I walked back to class. The kids were so excited about a guitar being in our classroom that I thought we might miss the point. Nope. After feeling the vibrations and seeing the vibrations on this guitar they got it!  


Out on a Tuesday

On Tuesday our entire teacher taxi headed out for drinks after school. By Tuesday afternoon it felt like we taught for 780 days straight. Some weeks are just like that. I don’t know why… I can’t even remember anything from Tuesday. We went out and we laughed and got into really messy conversations about politics but a fun time was had by all. Sometimes you need a night out in the middle of the week. 


Stacks of Books

If you follow me on instagram then you know about this. In my classroom I have sets of books for guided reading. They are in my own room. I can reach them without even standing up if I am sitting at my teacher table. BUT I never put books back. I pull them out for lessons with kids and then I pile them up. I pile them up until they are so out of control and then I am annoyed with myself and spend a whole prep putting them back where they belong. It did make me feel a little better when 100% of teachers who answered my insta poll said they also stacked instead of put away. I mean, you win some you lose some. 


The Messiest Desk

Things were so busy on Thursday. I found myself saying just put it on my table more times than I knew. When I finally walked back there (period 3, don’t judge) it was piled high with so much stuff. So much stuff! I tried and tried to clear it off but must admit that it was still a disaster when I left today. 


Opposite Day

At precisely 8:29 this morning I had had enough of opposite day. FYI our school day begins at 8:30. My kids were so crazy! I know that opposite day is so much fun as a grade 1 kid so I didn’t spoil their fun but I was dying all day long. Our schedule was put up in the reverse order and the cards were upside down. What was silly and funny at the beginning of the day was not so funny at the end of the day. Kids were wearing pants inside out and backwards. Kids were so goofy and laughed so much. BUT I was so proud of them when they said the only math we should do is turn around facts. If you don’t teach everyday math 3+4 is a turn around fact to 4+3. See what happened? Oh to be a first grader again! 

How was your week? Did it fly by or did it feel super long? I feel like this is the time of year where it either feels like a rush or it feels like a drag. Let me know in the comments below! 

Friday Five- First Week of Winter Break

Friday Five- First Week of Winter Break

This year it felt like winter break almost came too fast. I know I am probably the only teacher in the world saying that but it is true. Usually, as we approach winter break I am ready. When that bell rings for dismissal I can’t get out fast enough to start my holiday. This year I didn’t feel that way. When the bell rang it felt like it had come too early. Like I wasn’t quite ready for break and could have taught another week or two. Either way, it is here! 


Welcome to the united states of america

Hearing those words as we touched down in Chicago brought so much joy to my heart. To be honest, most of the time I don’t miss too much about living in the US but when it comes time to visit I cherish every moment. I do so much shopping when I am back in  the US. Last year I had to bring two suitcases back to Poland with me because I bought so much junk. Now I can justify the clothes I bought but my goal is not to spend any money on teacher stuff. The stuff I want to by is a want not a need. This trip I am most excited to spend time with my family and friends. This week it was all about quality time with the fam. 


Happy Birthday to My Brother

My youngest brother’s birthday is in the middle of December. This means that I get to be at home for his birthday! Last year he turned 21 and I literally got to my parents house at 11:00 and went to the bars for midnight. I had one beer to celebrate with him before jetlag began to take its toll and I had to call my mom to come pick me up while the rest of my siblings continued the party! For future reference, going to the bar after a ridiculously long flight and drive is not the greatest idea. Lesson learned. This year I had a few days to prepare, also 22 is not as monumental as 21. We went out to breakfast together and celebrated with Chinese food for dinner.  


Visiting Friends

When you live abroad and come home everyone wants to see you. It can be pretty tricky to juggle your time and plan to see everyone. Last year I didn’t make it up to visit one of my closest friends so this year I scheduled her in first. Next week I will be visiting my very first teaching bestie and now just a general bestie. I’m so excited! We haven’t hung out in 3 years!! She also had a new baby right before I moved to Poland and I can’t wait to actually meet her! 

I will also visit my other two teaching besties who I miss very, very much. They helped me get through one of the toughest years in my teaching career. These two are always available for a consult and to just chat teaching… although sometimes they call in the middle of the night because they forget about the time change. It always results in a hilarious conversation I usually fall asleep during! 


Read, Read, Read

Although I am overwhelmed by all the new Netflix possibilities I want to spend this break reading as much as I possibly can. I love to read and sometimes while school is in session I don’t have the time to read as much as I would like. Over vacations I like to try to read as much as possible.

To Be Read: 

  • Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros
  • Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
  •  Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown


Google Level 2 Certification

Earlier this fall I became Level 1 Google certified and now I want to become level 2. Over the break I’ll watch complete the training course and hopefully take the test. I didn’t think it was too tricky to become level 1 certified and I think it would be cool to learn a bit more and become certified in level 2. 


Were you off on break this week? Leave a comment below with your winter break plans! 

Friday Five: Thankful Edition

Friday Five: Thankful Edition


My Teacher Friends

How could a teacher start a thankful list without mentioning the people who always support her? Teacher friends are essential. Partially because they get it in a way that no other friend could understand. My teacher friends constantly uplift me and challenge me. We push each other to learn more, to do better, to grow. We also support each other when this challenging profession becomes too much. My teacher friends have supported me through the worst of times and helped me celebrate the best of times. I still remain in contact with my close teacher friends from my past schools. I am extremely grateful to have these wonderful people in my life. 


My Students

…should students have come first? Maybe but I just got done Facetiming one of my teacher friends in the US! Teacher friends were on the brain. I am so thankful for each and every diamond in my class this year. I am also so grateful to have had the opportunity to teach all my friends of years past. How can you not take a moment to appreciate all the smiling faces that you work with each day? 


Juicy Markers

You might think this is a joke but it is not…. if you teach lower elementary you might just understand. This year my class loves to take caps off of markers and lose them! 😂Just kidding! They’re in grade 1 and they can’t help it! We’re working on this clicking of the caps but until then I am eternally grateful when I pick up a whiteboard marker or a chart marker and it actually works. I mean, is there anything better? 


HandWritten Notes

This week we had indoor recess due to air pollution. After indoor recess, I got so many cards filled with drawings of me and hearts and our classroom. I seriously treasure all of these notes that I have gotten over the year. In the States, I have a box that is full of them. There is nothing better than a note of appreciation from a child. 



If you’re reading this blog then I am so thankful for you. I love sharing my educational expertise with the world. Over my career, I’ve had several blogs but this is the one I’ve kept running the longest. I am so thankful to everyone who takes the time to read my words. Hopefully, I’ve helped you learn something or try something new within your classroom. Let me know what other things you’d like to read about and I would gladly post about them! 

I hope all of my American readers had a wonderful holiday filled with relaxation and rejuvenation. 

Leave a comment and let me know what makes your teacher heart grateful!