Monthly Archives: May 2009

10 Firefox Add-Ons This Teacher Can’t Live Without

This isn’t directly related to teaching or moving, but this is my blog and I can write whatever I want, right? 🙂

Mozilla Firefox is by far the most useful and versatile web browser available for Windows right now, as far as I’m concerned.  It has its faults and quirks, but in the end it always seems to come out ahead of the others.  One of the best things about Firefox is the huge variety of add-ons and extensions that allow you to customize the browser to do almost anything you want.

I have several dozen add-ons installed, but here are my very favorites:

  • Read It Later lets you easily mark pages that you want to visit later, but don’t necessarily want to bookmark and keep in the long term.  With one click you can save the page to your reading list, which you can sync between multiple computers and even access through their web page or their iPhone app.  It also integrates well with Google Reader.
  • Update Scanner does what it sounds like: scans pages for updates.  It’s useful for pages that don’t provide an RSS feed of new posts or updates.  You can set the time interval and the size of the changes that trigger update notifications.
  • ReloadEvery makes a tab of Firefox reload (refresh) automatically at a given time interval.  Very good for keeping a page up to date if it doesn’t load changes itself (can anyone say “new Facebook home page?”)  I use this one a lot when I am waiting for something new to be posted, because I am both very impatient and very lazy 🙂
  • AdBlock Plus blocks all those silly ads on web pages.  I very rarely see ads on any pages I go to anymore.  Yes, I know ads provide revenue for sites, etc, etc, but let’s face it, most of them are irrelevant and distracting, and some of them are really gross.  With AdBlock Plus enabled, a lot of times you can’t even tell where the ads were supposed to be, and you can just enjoy the content on the page.
  • AutoPager solves one of the most irritating aspects of many sites: only a certain number of results are shown on a given page, so you constantly have to click “next page” to continue browsing.  With AutoPager, when you get near the end of a page on, say, Google, or Amazon, it automatically loads the next page of search results, so you can just continue scrolling.
  • Google Preview shows a thumbnail screenshot of the page next to its Google search result.  This gives you a visual indication of what you will see when you click on the link.
  • Shareaholic gives you multiple ways to share the page you’re looking at.  When you right-click on the page or click the Shareaholic icon in the toolbar, you can choose to share that link on dozens of sites, including Facebook, GMail, Twitter, Diigo, Delicious, Google Reader, and many, many others.  It makes it easy to tell others about cool sites you’ve found!
  • FoxClocks puts clocks in the status bar at the bottom for any location you choose.  I often find myself wanting to know the local time in Abu Dhabi (since I’m moving there soon and have to be in touch with folks there quite a bit) and South Korea (used to live there and still keep up with events and some people over there).  It’s great to be able to see what time it is there at a glance.
  • Currency Converter is another good one for people who travel a lot or have interests in other countries.  It makes basically any number on any site clickable, and when you click on it a tiny window pops up where you can quickly convert that number from and to almost any currency.
  • Faviconize Tab is for people like me who tend to wind up with a gazillion tabs open in Firefox at once.  It makes it so that when you double-click a tab, it narrows it to show only the favicon (the little picture next to the title of the web page in the tab).  This saves space on the tab bar and keeps tabs you use all the time open, but out of the way.

So, there you have it, my favorites (for now, at least)!  What are your favorite Firefox add-ons and why do you like them?  Please share in the comments!

Can you help me find a home for my adorable cats? Please?

Just posted an ad on Craigslist; I’m hoping to find someone to adopt one or both of my sweet, friendly kitties.  The text of the ad is below and the actual ad (with pictures!) can be found at: http://atlanta.craigslist.org/pet/1190319670.html –Please oh please, share this with anyone and everyone!  Thanks!

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I am moving overseas to teach in July. I am really excited about this except for one thing: I cannot take my two beloved cats, Ringo and Lucy, with me when I move. It breaks my heart but there is just no practical way to move them so far away. I am hoping that one of you, or someone you know, would be willing to adopt one OR both of them. They would do fine together or by themselves, I’m sure.

They are both 3.5 years old, short-haired, and both boys (yes, I know, Lucy is a boy–it’s a long story!)…they are from the same litter and I have had them since they were about 6 weeks old. They are both neutered, neither is declawed but they have always been indoor cats. They are a bit on the chubby side–15 lbs or so each, but have never had any kind of health problems (I think they’re just a bit lazy! :-)). Ringo is all gray and Lucy is gray and white. The best thing about them is that they are very social “people cats.” They LOVE to cuddle up on your lap and purr, or play (Ringo actually plays fetch like a dog!), they do well with kids, and warm up to strangers quickly. After an adjustment period of a few days, they have both done well with other cats too. They’ve never met a dog but I think they’d be okay with that as well.

In short, they are WONDERFUL, very special, loving kitties who I truly think would make a great addition to any family. PLEASE contact me if you are interested in meeting them. They love to meet people 🙂

What to bring, leave, toss, donate? No clue!

All right, “no clue” is a bit of an exaggeration, but ever since I decided to move overseas I have been trying to figure out what I will absolutely need to bring, what to store here, what to toss out or donate to charity.  I have way too much stuff at this point (including big stuff like furniture and LOTS of classroom materials) to justify selling or giving away all of it.  I’m not a packrat by any means–in fact I work hard at not being a packrat because I know what a pain it is to move tons of unnecessary crap. It’s just that having been out of college and on my own now for over 6 years, I have built up a fair number of books, household items, clothes, knicknacks, and so forth.

Most of it will be going into a storage unit somewhere near my current apartment, but there are some things I don’t know about.  For example, I wear plus size clothes (about a 20) and in other countries it can be very, very hard to find things that fit. The long term solution to this is to lose weight, but I’m not going to be a size 10 by the time I leave in 3 months, sorry.  I don’t want to be stuck with nothing to wear in a given situation; I find it really embarassing to be over- or underdressed and given how hot it gets there it will also be important to dress appropriately for the climate.  Should I pack as many clothes as I can carry? Or figure I’ll be able to find some stuff in my size and only pack stuff I’m sure I’ll need, thus saving precious luggage space for other things?

I don’t know about teaching materials either.  I have a ton of resource books, posters, activities, and so forth that could come in very handy in a 4th grade classroom, but I don’t have the space in my luggage to take all of it.  I just know I’m going to get there and kick myself for not bringing certain things.  I’m guessing the school has stuff I’ll be able to make use of, and they probably have stores in Abu Dhabi or Dubai that sell teaching materials in English (they have stores in Korea that sell that stuff after all) but if it’s stuff I already have it’ll be irritating to buy it all over again.

I also can’t decide whether to bring my old iBook (which is small and cute and still works well) or my HP laptop (big, clunky, but newer and faster) or both.  Leaning towards both.

Anyways, most of my belongings will do just fine in a storage unit for a couple of years.  Question is how big of one I’ll need. I was thinking the smallest size available at the local storage place would be more than adequate, but the more junk I bring home from school every day (HOW did I accumulate this much school stuff in just two years of teaching?!) the more I think I’ll need a size or two up from the small, economical unit I was hoping to get away with.

Oh, and I don’t know anyone around here well enough to impose on them to help me move, so I’ll need to hire someone at least to move the big stuff I’m keeping. I’m strong (my mom is a world record holding weight lifter, I kid you not), but not strong enough to get a whole couch into and out of a truck on my own.  All of this is so freakin’ expensive!

I don’t even know what I don’t know

School seemed pretty simple and obvious to me when I was a kid.  I attended the same small (and I realize now, very progressive) district for my entire K-12 career.  I “knew” that in elementary school, you sat at desks that were arranged in table groups and sometimes the teacher made you do stuff together.  I was sure that every elementary school classroom in America had a rug and a classroom library, where the teacher would read aloud to them from chapter books each day. You would have a morning recess and an after-lunch recess.  Everyone knew that.

Well, I’ve been in quite a few more elementary schools since then, and I have a much broader concept now of what a “normal” elementary school and classroom looks like.  From communicating with other teachers online, I have been introduced to still more ideas of how schools differ across the country and around the world.  I now understand what a variety of philosophies and curricula exist and try not to assume anything, especially when considering schools in other countries.

While I have seen photos, read reviews, and know a fair bit about my new school’s curriculum, I still feel uneasy because I don’t know if any of the assumptions I *have* made are correct.  You kind of have to take certain things for granted, just as a human being: that the sun is in the sky, that most people walk on their feet and not their hands, that babies are smaller than adults.  We all assume a lot more than we realize. That’s what worries me though, even though it’s human nature.

I find myself questioning everything I expect about my school and my class: the language level of the kids, the supplies available, what my responsibilities will be, whether there will even be a photocopier available. That’s a given at almost any American public school, but I’m not going to an American public school.  When I moved to Georgia it took me a week or so to realize that the reason I hadn’t been told how to join the teacher’s union is that there IS no teacher’s union here.  I had taken for granted that all public schools have unions because it was all I’d ever seen before. It wasn’t just that I didn’t know whether there would be one; I didn’t even consider that there might not be one.  Same thing when I discovered that I was expected to take my kids out for recess every single day (effectively I have recess duty five days a week)–here that’s expected, in Massachusetts I can see that causing some sort of strike!

When I get over there, what things like that are going to take me by surprise?  I don’t know. I have no idea what preconceptions–good or bad, major or minor–I have that are going to turn out to be false.  What questions have I neglected to ask because I didn’t know enough to even wonder about them?  I’m trying to keep a really open mind, because I don’t know what else I can do.

Welcome to my new blog!

Well, let’s start with the basics:

I’m 27, single, and teaching 3rd grade near Atlanta, Georgia. In three short months I will be moving far, far away to Abu Dhabi, UAE. There, I will be teaching 4th grade at an international school.

Why would I do such a thing? Because I have always been a traveler and fascinated by other cultures. Because I am bored of the suburban, relatively homogenous lifestyle I currently live. Because I spent a few days in the UAE last summer on a layover and wanted to stay forever. Because if I don’t do this now, I would always wonder what it would have been like. Because I have no mortgage, husband, or kids, and I might never again be this free to live and work almost anywhere I want.

This is not the first time I have been abroad. I taught EFL in Korea about five years ago, and I spent last summer volunteering at an orphanage in Ethiopia. Compared to some people I have barely been anywhere, but relatively speaking I think I am much better-traveled than most Americans.  This is my first journey into the world of international school teaching (in Korea I was at a private language academy) and I’m sure I’ll learn some difficult lessons along the way.  That’s scary, but also part of the fun.

I am excited and nervous. I’ve done my homework; I know the basics about the culture, I’ve been in touch with several current teachers at my future school, and I’ve read the reviews, both good and bad, of the school. I know it won’t be paradise. I also know I have to try it anyway.