Monthly Archives: December 2012

Reflections

Ah – my first fall semester is behind me. I don’t know how it passed so quickly! It seems as though time has been a prominent theme this term. On many occasions I have felt that I needed to carve out time for myself so that I could enjoy life in addition to academics.

Ever elusive time has also been a repeated theme among educators that I’ve had the pleasure of working with while student teaching. Consistently, cooperating teachers and other teachers in those environments wish for more time to accomplish more of what they wanted to do with their students.

With these thoughts I remind myself how crucial it is to make the most of every day. It’s easy to get lost in a quagmire of worry and stress, sitting in front of a computer toiling over research. Our professors want quality, insightful work, but I doubt they want us to sacrifice experiences outside of school for the sake of immaculate APA style.

That’s one of the beautiful things I’ve found thus far at Bank Street – my professors realize that their students are people with multi-faceted lives. When I recently expressed concern over the quality of a final paper to a professor, she told me to submit it as is, after asking me if I felt I had expressed my developing personal educational theory clearly. From what she knows of me thus far, being my professor and advisor, she encouraged me to stop editing. Maybe it’s just me, but I can endlessly edit and re-organize papers. Much as with most artists and their work, I feel my writing is never “done.”

Generally, I try not to get too stressed out over assignments and other obligations, and focus on the big picture. Yes, it’s important to work hard and strive in our degree programs, but life doesn’t have to stop! It’s okay if you spend time with friends or go to the cinema, or just take a walk. In fact, I think it benefits my work when I step away and have separate experiences.

I hope it doesn’t sound like I think I have “it” all figured out – far from it (I hope I never escape Piaget’s idea of disequilibrium / equilibrium!). I just try to operate under the belief that most stress is unnecessary. Whenever I can I help my peers, even if it’s just by commiserating. I’m happy to give an opinion about font choice for a final presentation, or edit a paper. Never underestimate the power in exchanging stressors over a meal or a drink (Or in many cases this past term, over keyboards in the computer lab)!

Stress will never cease in our lives, so we all need to figure out different ways of coping with it for ourselves. Much in the way we learn here at Bank Street, that everyone learns differently, we all certainly cope in different ways, just as we get through our coursework in different ways. I think there is great value in sharing with each other as students how we get through, what we find works for ourselves, and perhaps also what doesn’t.

I really enjoyed this past term at Bank Street and I am already looking forward to the next. Hopefully I’ll be able to strike a similar balance between my academic life and my personal life, and continue to enjoy all that this magnificent city has to offer.

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‘Tis the Season

Though I am awfully busy with final projects, I am eager to get out and experience the best of New York City during the holiday season (instead of sitting in my apartment between classes doing what Buddy is doing below).

Who doesn’t love Buddy?!

One of the most special sights in the city at this time of year are the window displays of the department stores along Fifth Avenue. Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, Tiffany’s and Bloomingdale’s go all out, usually involving fashion designers and sometimes artists to conjure up holiday cheer. I find this to be the best concentration of windows in one area, but there is also Macys in Herald Square, and Lord and Taylor’s also on Fifth Avenue, but further south at 38th Street.

Another lovely holiday element, which one could see in the same outing as the department store windows, is the Rockefeller Center tree. It’s something everyone should see at least once. It’s also fun to watch the ice skaters below, or if you are skilled, join them!

Another outdoor event, considerably quirkier, is Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night in in Washington Square Park. This is an annual parade of “boom boxes” that traverses the city streets from Washington Square Park to Tompkins Square Park on Saturday, December 15th. Everyone plays the same music supplied by Phil.

If you’re not a fan of outdoor activities when the temperature is so low, there’s plenty to do indoors. Increasingly popular now are independent holiday markets, which are especially nice if you have already visited those at Union Square or Columbus Circle. Brooklyn Night Bazaar is held in Williamsburg every weekend until December 22nd. This year I am particularly excited about the Vegan Holiday Shop-Up, where there are loads of vendors selling vegan goodies, as well as crafts and gifts that are friendly to all creatures.

If you’re looking for something to do indoors that isn’t just shopping, why not spend time in a museum? The Morgan Library is hosting the exhibit  “Charles Dickens at 200,” where you can see not only the original manuscript of A Christmas Carol, but also books letters and photos. Though I have to say, museums and cultural institutions often have unique gifts in their shops.

Another way to face the cold is with a hot drink. Why not look for your favorite cup of hot cocoa in the city? I have heard rave reviews about the authentic Italian hot chocolate at Eataly, as well as the version at City Bakery in Chelsea. Personally, I have to recommend the hot cocoa at Peacefood Cafe (not too far from Bank Street!). It’s my favorite vegan restaurant in the Upper West Side area, where you can get a hot beverage to go, and a sweet treat, or sit down for a full meal.

And before December ends, step back in time on the Nostalgia train, with cars from as long ago as the 1930s, that the MTA rolls out on the M line. They are much different from the trains we know today, with wicker seats and paddles fans. My favorite part is the vintage advertisements inside that give you a real sense of the time period. You can actually ride the Nostalgia Train between Queens Plaza and 2nd Avenue for the same fare as any other train.

Whatever you do to celebrate the season, I hope you have fun and take time to reflect. Maybe you’ll see me on the Nostalgia Train or one of the holiday markets!

Conquering NYC’s Modes of Transportation

Even if you feel you’re green behind the ears, it doesn’t mean you need to show it. Your best defense is doing a little research. Get to know the subway map and a couple of bus routes for areas you frequent. While I live right off the same subway line as Bank Street and the school where I student teach, I consider a few bus routes as back up modes of transport. I basically live at the bottom of a hill where  there is a bus stop, so I hope I won’t have to slide down my street when the snow and ice begin. I’m considering rigging ropes between trees and street signs just in case!

In general, it’s a good idea to keep up with subway service changes. Usually there are more during nights and weekends. Luckily the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), updates their website frequently, particularly on weekends (with an interactive map that they call The Weekender). There are also the options of narrowing down your travel planning by subway line, borough, or station. The same website also has helpful bus line information, including maps, as well as information on the Long Island Railroad and MetroNorth train services, and access to JFK airport.

I think garnering firsthand knowledge by walking around the city is the best way to learn. I have found some of my favorite places and things by wandering. Plus, you never know who you’ll bump into! I once sat next to Madonna’s first husband in a coffee shop, and recently rode the 2 train with designer Todd Oldham. Only in New York!

I really think it helps to get to know the different neighborhoods to feel comfortable in NYC. Google maps with clear-cut boundaries so that you at least have an idea of what people are talking about.  Of course these days you can simply upload apps like HopStop or iTrans to help you along the way too. Knowledge is power.

 


This city does not have to be overwhelming. Yes, if you go to Times Square or Broadway in Soho, which are often brimming with tourists, your feathers may get ruffled. But that’s just all the more reason to venture off of the beaten path and find the side streets and small shops that will become a part of your New York.