Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009, A Year to Remember

What a year, probably the most exciting thus far in my life!

Highlights of 2009:
1. NYE/NYD Madison - style with some great high school ladies!
2. 2nd semester of senior year, really it couldn't be better
3. Senior thesis project with Elyse and Lisa, great topic great friends!
4. 2 PE classes that I got credit for (in college...)
5. Training for my triathlon :)
6. Many nights of crazy colored nail polish
7. Norma jean's visit to minysoda
8. Spring Break 2009 - Asheville and Charleston with Susana and David!
9. Hiking in SB09 on the Blue Ridge Parkway
10. Beer Olympics 2009! Thanks Elyse, Alicia, and Tara!!
11. UMF 2009, My Sups, baby sups, and staff
12. UMF Boat Trip... oops
13. the schatz smile - thank you kearly
14. GRADUATION
15. My brother coming for graduation!
16. graduation celebration night... solid (thank you Brendan, Rodrigo, Jacqueline, Laura!)
17. First and last experience at 80s night at Shout House
18. TOURS OF MSP
19. My going away part at 1209 (Thank you Jacqueline!!!) and everyone who came to visit
20. Alex, Tom, and Caitlin's Excellent Adventure to the Dirty Delta
21. Houston Institute 2009... in Diana
22. 10 at 10
23. New Orleans, INDIA HOUSE
24. Los Dirty Mexicanos
25. Teresa's wedding
26. "The children...they're LEARNING" CMA Group, Sharpstown!
27. Moving to the Delta...and into my beautiful house with grrrreat roomies!
28. Mississippi St. vs. Florida Football
29. Exploring Memphis/Little Rock, Arkansas/Mississippi
30. Adding 1,000 of miles to my car in a 5 month period.
31. My first demolition derby and anything else country I've experienced in AR
32. Visiting Minneapolis and Milwaukee during my first semester teaching...safe haven!
33. CHS and the wonderful staff I have met and gotten to know!
34. Kearly visiting the DD
35. Basketball season at CHS
36. Stealing Wally Walrus from Andrew and him having no idea for weeks
37. Girl Talk in MEM, Zac Brown Band in LIT
38. My toolettes
39. The Delta sunsets!
40. Another happy year with family and friends!

What a ridiculous year. College, crazy summer time, and now the real world - all in 12 months.
Thanks for the memories everyone, here's to another crazy year!!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

DonorsChoose.Org

Dear Blogosphere,

I am asking for your HELP! As you know, I work in a high-need, impoverished community in Northwest Arkansas. One of the things I have worked on in my classroom a lot this year is getting the students to read more. We have a campaign called AR Reads (Arkansas Reads). The students are expected to read 250,000 words per quarter, and a total of 1,000,000 for the year. When they have completed a book they have to take a test on the computer, and if they pass, they get credit for however many words the book was worth.

The program started out slowly the first quarter because of unclear expectations from the teachers, the students not actually believing there were consequences/advantages, etc. But, last quarter the program was HIGHLY successful. All of my students expect for 3 read at least one book, which is an accomplishment, as first quarter about 65% of students did not read anything! I implemented a public tracker on the wall where they get an X each time they complete 50,000 words, all the way up to 250,000 words. I was so impressed that they were even invested in that, as many would come asking if they could get their X IMMEDIATELY after taking a test (like...when they weren't in my class and were supposed to be somewhere else!).


ANYWAY, I have invested a lot of time and money in building my "library" in my classroom, and I would like to make it an even better project now. I submitted a proposal to www.DonorsChoose.Org, a website that helps teachers in under-served, under-represented communities fun projects for their classrooms and their students' benefit.

I created a project centered around my library, asking for a couch, coffee table, and rug!!! I'd really like to reward my students for their commitment to this part of their education with a comfortable place to do some reading. We do silent reading twice a week, once for 30-40 minutes, and once as a Bell-Ringer for 15 minutes. This, assuming the students read about a page a minute, and with 9 weeks in the quarter, allows the students to read about 2 books in class time, which should fill about 100,000 words. That relieves some of the pressure for them, as they only have to then read 150,000 words on their own.

Half of my project is funded by a private grant (the Gates Foundation) because it will "lead towards success in college," which is amazing! I only need a little more then $400 dollars to complete it!

If you have friends, family, acquaintances - please encourage them to support this project!!
These are the links for my two projects ....

Classroom Library
Classroom Set of "The Bluest Eye"

THANK YOU in advance for all of your help in advance!!!!! My students and I really appreciate anything you can do to help!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Ah, the relaxation of being at home in a warm (kind of) and comfy family environment! I have slept in each day until at least 1030 and not woken up once in the night. I pass out every night, it's amazing. I keep thinking that the next day I will feel refreshed and not need the sleep anymore, but then I want to pass out at 1130 anyway! So, I do - because frankly, I don't have a lot to do!

I've started to do some work during the day. Read some books I am thinking about teaching, did some lesson planning, reorganized my calendar a bit, and planned some visits/vacations. Ah, it's so nice to do this kind of stuff when it is not due the next day! I love it! I didn't think I'd want to do any work for the next few weeks, but now I find myself thinking that I have to work because it'll make the next month or even two months so much easier. So, if that is the end result, then yes, absolutely I am going to work - even on Christmas.

Anyway, I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday with their family and MERRY CHRISTMAS. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Halfway There

OOOOHhhhhhhhhhhhh We're halfway there, OOOOhhhhhhhhhhhh Livin on a prayer!!

It's officially winter break! Yay!! And that means a few things: 1. I have survived the first semester of teaching, 2. have survived the first 6 months living in a new state, 3. the children have hopefully learned something, 4. and the best part - two weeks off from work! :)

The end of the semester ended by hitting rock bottom, and then slowly building back up the last week and a half. The end was good though, with students taking exams and doing well - working hard, etc. So, I feel good leaving for the break. Had you asked me how I was feeling two weeks ago it would have been a completely different story.

We started the basketball season off slow (2-2) and then went into this tournament at England. England is a much bigger school, and apparently returning state runner-ups. So, the first game of the tournament we lost, but it was a good game. The second game was a different story, we got schooled by over 60 points. It was horrible. I felt like I had epically failed my team...like real bad. Naturally, when I got home, amongst the other pressures and happenings at school (there had been some run ins that week that we're not fun) I just started sobbing. Ridiculous.

Anyway, I woke up the next day and decided that it was just a bad day...just a bad week. And I was right - because I always briefly forget that the kids don't remember what happened to them the day before. This is absolutely to the core true. Even though I was struggling with those memories of roughness, the kids had moved on and not even thought about it.

The last few weeks have been much better. My classes have calmed down a bit, have done all of their work, follow the routines that I ask them to, and really know what to do in my classroom. It's a nice feeling to see some of these things falling into place. The kids did well on their end of term exams and the basketball team won two games. Success! Yay!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

100 Posts, 100 Things I Am Thankful For

It's been awhile since I've blogged, end of the semester and Thanksgiving business has slowed me down! But, when I signed in today I realized that it's 100 posts, so I am going to try something fun -- 100 things I am thankful for since I have moved down here to the Delta.

Sometimes I think it is easy to focus on the difficult parts of our job and our lives, but there are so many good things that have happeend too. So here we go! Look forward to it soon!

I am THANKFUL for....

I am thank for...

1. a job
2. my family and their vigilant watch on my sanity
3. a community that wants to keep our school open
4. my basketball girls that work hard everyday
5. having second lunch so that my afternoon consists of two classes, and basketball
6. having the best roommates this side of the Mississippi River
7. coordinated days off with those roommates that involve trips to Little Rock
8. the ability to travel throughout the year, to home and friends, to keep myself grounded
9. the exposure I have had to a different culture and lifestyle
10. the open minds I have found regarding people letting someone like ME teach their children
11. google voice, so that my children don't know my real phone number
12. learning how to deal with a town that does not operate on a 24 hour schedule, but instead a 12 hour one
13. my alarm, because God knows I would NOT wake up at 5:45 without it
14. my parents for getting me an air conditioner and installing it
15. itunes, so I can access music that is NOT country
16. our one radio station in town, and the local DJ that tells me all about the drama/gossip broadcast ed for all to hear
17. Teach for America and their vision & mission
18. my friends from home that have sent me mail, emails, and messages supporting me
19. anyone who reads this blog -- thank you for being my release of stress each night!!
20. my 25 minute (sometimes 17 when I am really late and have to speed --sorry mom) commute to and from school for decompressing
21. my placement in the Delta, because otherwise I never would have come here
22. Walmart
23. the library at school, I've started reading so much more then in college
24. my Subaru, Diana, she has been a trouper these past few months
25. the opportunity to interact with kids each day
26. Tom, Alex and Drew joining me on this ridiculous experience since the beginning (As we were driving to DSU the first day Tom and I were like "We should turn around... it's only a 10 hour drive back. I am sure we could find different jobs. SHIT I am scared" hahaha)
27. my Institute crew for getting through that ridiculous experience of intensity
28. Gatorade, I never thought I'd drink so much in my life
29. photographs of my family and friends, all over my desk and house
30. my organizational skills, because man, I'd be screwed without them
31. the four notes I've received this year from other teachers saying they love my classroom (now taped securely to my desk for the rest of the year)
32. the TFA quote "Find one moment every day, for every child, where they are doing SOMETHING correctly"
33. my high school experience and education -- I can't believe how much I have relied on it
34. my mother for being a Principal and telling me that my life is ridiculous sometimes -- but to deal with it
35. when I drive to school during sunrise or sunset on the rice fields
36. my XM radio and ipod for providing PUMP UP music each morning
37. boots from Target, I love stress shopping
38. C central office staff, they are too busy and too good at their jobs!
39. a supportive Principal, who doesn't let parents walk over you
40. construction paper
41. breakfast sandwiches
42. Little Rock, AR and Memphis, TN
43. my friends here in the Delta and their uncanning ability to organize a get together after the worst of weeks - reading my mind all of the time
44. text messages, and their instant responses!
45. exercise
46. support "life is all about the people you spend it with"
47. local business and the communities constant interconnectedness/dependence
48. Viva La Milli
49. the phrase "ya'll"
50. laughing until I cry
51. airplanes...and no delays
52. my new found calmness in response to anger or aggression from others
53. the lessons I have learned from the children this year
54. the opportunity to see poverty that was not considered "inner city"
55. my literacy coach who offers solid advice while also making us all feel comfortable in a new setting
56. Andrew being at C, and our daily debriefing after school of the out of control moments
57. the opportunity to go to a coed high school, since all-girls is all I knew!
58. the furnished house we found so quickly back in July
59. guacamole
60. my own classroom and working technology
61. my students unbelievable honesty about their understanding of subjects
62. the resources I am afforded
63. a fun coaching staff
64. Wisconsin and Minnesota, man they are great states!
65. Midwesterners' in general. I was attracted to them like magnets when I joined TFA--and now they are some of my closest friends down here!
66. the exposure TFA has allowed me to different people from all around the U.S. and beyond
67. the chance to reread some great books - like The Great Gatsby!
68. vacuums that suck up all these obnoxious lady bugs down here
69. our awesome flower bed/veggie garden that WILL be developed in the Spring (maybe...)
70. the US Postal Service
71. the main high school office staff for their patience with all of my questions
72. pink slips, and the reaction students have when I pull one out
73. Ms. Pam for being a great resource at CHS :)
74. my TFA program director, who has given me resources I would have never found on my own
75. my Ray Bans, love them!
76. the luck I have had this year
77. the call center, it was like teaching 100 high school students before I even got into TFA - thanks for the preparation
78. everyday I shake my head saying "man, I never thought this could happen in America" (MOST DAYS)
79. my roommates and our television obsessions (Tool Academy, Jersey Shore, etc.)
80. visitors!!!
81. gchat (and Mary always being on when I want her to be)
82. the warm weather
83. my big rubber rainboots
84. my natural support system here in Stuttgart
85. Easy Grade Pro, thank God, that's all I have to say
86. sad but true, my school director from this summer saying "THE CHILDREN THEY ARE LEARNING, THEY ARE LEARNING" and me laughing at him - but seeing it now
87. feedback every time someone comes into my classroom
88. being in the main building of the high school, so that students can stop by as they walk through school
89. having clear expectations regarding what I need to do this year
90. the Delta Whaaaaats and our email list, so that I can understand I am NOT the only one going through this
91. having 11 sick days to use this year
92. specific students who have really come through for me this year
93. being on a school schedule, which means vacation and summer
94. Milwaukee and living in an environment that caused tolerance
95. motivational moments
96. a good margarita once in awhile....
97. the fact that there are over 300 other people working in MS and AR towards a common goal
98. pen pals in Dallas and Houston
99. my dad for always listening to me complain :)
100. LIFE!


That was easier then I thought it would be. I know I've said it before, but I lead a blessed life with many things to be thankful for. It's nice to put it down so I can visualize it. It's like Ben Harper's song "I am Blessed." Listen to it sometime! And thanks for reading, I appreciate it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

VIVA LA MILLI

On a sidenote-- I was recommended this song and it's GREAT!

Combination between Coldplay and Lil Wayne - so if you don't like rap, don't listen. Otherwise try it out, super good I think!

Viva La Milli

Oh, Hey

I won my basketball games on Monday! Watch this video for our celebration song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2JfY-nVaqg

It's been a good week for basketball! The assistant coach and I talked it over, and he is going to take over the Jr. High team and I am going to take over the Sr. High team full time. That was now we don't split our energy between the two teams and it takes some pressure off of both of us. I am really happy with the outcome, and hopefully he is too! I feel bad because a lot of the football coaches are expected to coach more than two sports a year, and as a result they have to stay after school every night of the year (if they coach say football, basketball, and baseball). I am sure that gets super tiring, as I am already tired of constantly not getting home until 7PM.

I think this will work well though. He can coach these Jr. girls during the day, and then doesn't need to feel like he has to come to Sr. high after school. And I feel like I've been really half-a*sing that job because I am so worried about Sr. high -- and now it's not like that! Yay! Woot woottttt

Hopefully we'll let the good times roll...!

Monday, November 23, 2009

He's hungry to read.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's a funny progression we go through as a culture. We used to barely get Wednesday off the week of Thanksgiving...but so many kids wouldn't show up in the afternoon that we started having a half day. Then, because it was a half day the students wouldn't come at all, so we got Wednesday off completely. Now, because we have Wednesday off students leave early on Monday night, and Tuesday becomes a waste of a teaching day. Well, soon, if we get Tuesday off, everyone is going to complain....why don't we just make it a full week off?

Alas, Mississippi has completely given in (all Delta Corps are OFF already that live in MS). However, Arkansas is resisting...at least some counties. My lovely roommates have this entire week off -- some went home Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Now there are only two of us left. The three who work in Stuttgart gone, one more to be gone tomorrow night, and me to be left in the house alone tomorrow night. HORRIFYING.

I am excited to go home though, see the family, friends, and relax. I am not as desperate as many down here, mostly because I went to Minneapolis a few weekends ago, and Milwaukee a few weekends before that. Those trips really broke up my Fall, and really made it bearable. Trust me, I am surrounded by desperate teachers....counting down the hours until they can get into their cars and rush to an airport. It's pretty entertaining actually. Either way, MKE will be great--can't wait to see it Wednesday night!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Some of My Prouder Projects

Here are some examples of things I've been working on in my classroom/school wide. I am really proud of a few of these engagement/investment pieces. The first is my Student of the Week project. Each week (or about every 10 days) I pick a student for merit (behavior based) and statistics (grades based) and they get their picture on the wall with a little blurb attached. They also receive certificates.

The second project is the "Who are we here for?" board. We visualized graduation and you could choose one person to come (only one). Although I don't really think this is a super effective project for a school like my high school (DSHA) I think it is a HIGHLY EFFECTIVE project in C. A lot of my students have trouble 1. visualizing, 2. visualizing/feeling success, 3. valuing their successes, 4. prioritizing the steps to get to this success. When I did this project in class I actually had multiple students start crying, thinking about who is important to them, and why they are so. It was a great moment, and truly influenced the environment for at least a week (which in high school time is....well, eternity).

Finally, the last project was something I thought of before parent/teacher conferences. I made this banner that is about 15 feet in length that says "Why I love C HS." Then I passed around 1/2 sheets of construction paper that were different colors. On the paper students wrote the different reasons why they love C. I then hung this up in the hallway all the parents have to go down. Now it proudly hangs across the long side of my classroom. Love it!

Here are some photos!!!


Monday, November 16, 2009

Basketball

First basketball game tomorrow! I am so nervous!!! EEEKKKKSSSSS

I feel a bit of pressure since it has been me running the show thus far. I have taught them all the plays, I have taught them the positivity I hope is somewhat instilled in them, I have created the team of leadership (a bit). I hope I didn't mess up! We voted on captains today, the picks were both predictable and good I think. Those girls are outgoing, natural leaders, and very effective when they choose to be positive. Wish me many lucks!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The dirty D

The dirty delta, ya'll need to experience it. Today I saw a deer run within feet of my car and slam into the car going to opposite way. Then, (WHILE THE DEER WAS STILL ALIVE) the man got out of his car and dragged it across the road kicking it (and yelling).

"Your stupid mother f*cking deer I JUST GOT MY TRUCK FIXED. F*ck this."

Meanwhile, I am just sitting in my baby Subaru (pretty sure the ONLY one in Arkansas -- all my kids make fun of it relentlessly). So, that's my life.

Update: Powerful Positivity

To reflect on a previous post regarding positivity. It has been going really well in the classes that I truly commit to constant positive reinforcement. I have seen a huge change in a MAJORITY (not all) of students. Some have actually done complete turnarounds.

I have had to remind them that the point of getting stickers is a personal positive moment, not a competition--but either way it is doing its job. One in particular has really come alive. She used to just read silently (which is GREAT compared to others) but not truly show if she was comprehending what I would teach. Now I see that she absolutely was. She is a rock star! She was first to finish her sticker sheet and is already onto her next one. Awesome!

I've also seen the effects on my basketball team. With Jr. High I get so frustrated with their inability to stick to the plan and then I don't positively reinforce their behavior...and it just goes south. Today I realized that and did a complete switch on Sr. High, and they did really well. And I can truly see that they appreciate a semi-crazy coach always screaming that they're doing great/jumping up and down in heels. They make fun, but they always look over for that support, which is something I MUST do now. We are going to have a great atmosphere on that team. Now for the Jr. high....

Evacuate the Dancefloor!

Today we scrimmaged the boys in basketball. The Jr. high team got steamrolled (literally...I think it was 12-40) but the Sr. girls were BOMB. They worked really hard, and very hard together. I was so impressed with 6 or 7 of them. YES!! I am going to say this -- basketball season is SO long...and to make these girls practice since August is exhausting.

I should explain what I mean. In Arkansas (or at least at a few schools around me) there are "athletic periods" that are different from gym class. For instance, 1st period is Jr. boys athletics. Therefore, any boy who plays football in the Fall, basketball in the Winter, and baseball in the Spring and is in 7-9th grade has athletics 1st period each day. This period does not count as their gym credit, but is just a way of working practice into the day. Unfortunately what this translates to for GIRLS is a Sr. and Jr. girls athletics period during the day...but in the Fall - no sport. So, we just play basketball but with no true direction for the first month and a half.

Why have a focus? The first game is November 18...and we're in that period August until then. It's just a frustrating time because you can only teach so much in a 45 minute period, but do you even really want to teach during that time? Especially in August and September, the kids don't have much perspective. They can't think past lunch or Friday night plans, why would they think two months down the road?

Next year I need to make some changes around that stuff. Like, be more focused and skills centered - then when we actually get into practice we won't have to work on that as much. In hindsight, this would have made life a lot easier now.

If the football team wins on Friday our game is canceled next week. I am at a moral crossroads - support my boys on the team or get my team PUMPED up. I kind of hope they win so we have some more time, but I kind of hope they lose so we can get on the court! Tonight was the first time I really got to see things come together, and it was a huge relief to some extent. I just feel super pumped up and that we are competitive, something I wasn't sure about before. I don't really care if we lose every game if we're trying hard. Well, that's half true. I do like to win, I don't know if you know that about me...but I'm kind of competitive.

GO LADY LIONS!

Perspective

I started teaching The Great Gatsby today! I am excited to get through our first novel, hopefully we get through it both efficiently and effectively. So far, not so, but that's all right. It's all about clear expectations and understanding what I need to do in preparation for the lesson.

Forgetting some of the pieces of The Great Gatsby in my haste, I forgot that the first part of the story is about the two "eggs" off the shore of New York. Realizing this mistake immediately, I realized I really should have presented some context information on the novel before beginning to read it with the class. My students had not heard of Long Island and could not truly name states located in the "midwest." This was obviously particularly disappointing since I REP THE MIDWEST. I mean, who doesn't know where the midwest is? Best part of America! I'm kidding.

But truly, it was interesting to see this impact. When I read this story in high school (in Wisconsin) we knew what the midwest was, and we also knew what the stereotypes associated with both the midwest and the East were. This would have helped a lot today. I tried to prove a solid point about stereotypes of the East coast, but none of my students knew the context...and the joke/teaching moment was a failure. Haha-in my face. Oops

I've learned from my mistakes quickly. I read through the text today after school in preparation of tomorrow's lesson. I have pinpointed particular things to point out. This weekend I am going to go through and highlight/write-up/sticky note all of the things I find to be important. Hopefully that will shock them quite a bit on Monday when they realize what they need to do to their book. I am excited! My favorite thing in high school was when we were done and I had 7 different highlighting colors and four different colored post-its. I was SO OCD when it came to note-taking/writing in the book. Maybe I'll just have my mom & dad send me my copy of The Great Gatsby. The kids will FREAK out at me.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tales of Woe

I've had the lovely opportunity to talk to a few different Corps members in different regions lately. It's been really eye opening to the struggles that are consistent throughout different Corps. I am lucky to really not have to deal with any form of language barrier. I feel for these teachers that are dealing with students who not only don't know the content, but also don't know how to speak the language. That was such a difficult part of Houston this summer, because sometimes you didn't know why the students were not responding, and it was not in fact because you sucked at your job, but because they literally just didn't have the vocabulary that you thought they had.

Other struggles I've heard about include some of the stuff with budgeting and money. We are lucky here in the Delta to really not have to pay too much in rent or other necessities (ie $160/month). Other people (like in Baltimore) are paying upwards of $600-700/month in rent, something I don't think would be easy. Bringing in the amount of money that I do each month, I think that added pressure would not be something I would want at all.

Overall, it's been nice to hear about what other people are going through. Everyone is having an interesting last month, and now we are finally out of October (supposedly the most difficult month)! November is fun - professional development days, Thanksgiving break, and then December! Teaching is much harder then I think any of us anticipated!

Summative Assessment

We are beginning a new novel this week, The Great Gatsby. I am kind of excited, hopefully the students like it, hopefully the students read it! We haven't had a true novel in the class yet, since we did The Crucible first quarter, which is a play. It should be interesting. I think in high school we took about three weeks per novel, which I think would seem appropriate. That would put us at completing the novel by the first week in December, which I am okay with.

I think we're going to start in on Thursday. I am still trying to decide if I am going to check the books out to them, or if they are going to have to read copies the entire time. I don't really feel like losing books, but at the same time, that is a lot of paper to waste and paper tends to get crumbled up quickly. I'll probably just hand them out.

I am excited to work through the novel each day though, that was something I learned a lot from in high school and in college. Thinking about all of the tools we have learned so far this year, a lot of them can be applied to this book, which will be good.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The children

I have slightly recovered from the week of hell. Last week was easily the worst week of my existence, but I survived! I am stronger then the devil children.

On Friday I wrote a letter to my students that stated "Some people are here to learn. They are not learning. If you do not want to learn, I don't want you here. You will not be here, starting today, if you do not want to learn." I put a copy on every student's desk (it was about a page long...that was the jist of it) and told them all as they walked in to silently read then begin their test. If anyone spoke a word, was tardy, got out of their seat, etc. I wrote their name on the board and moved on. No one talked after about two names went up. It was beautiful.

I have been having trouble because teachers tell me I need to be more of a "bitch" or mean to the students, but all the training that I have gotten is that positive reinforcement is what people respond to. However, really they have responded to the mean side, not the positive reinforcement. I have a sticker reward system, I have student of the week, I have "earn a fun Friday" program, but without an occasional kick in the behind--none of that stuff has worked.

Well, hopefully this new management option works out well. Otherwise, I am just going to start a countdown to Thanksgiving.

Go Packers!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!

That's all. Happy Halloween everyone!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

OoohWee

I don't know if it is the anticipation of next week or what, but this week has just been horrible. Today I broke one of my two goals I set for myself at the end of Institute (1. Say something positive to someone everyday, 2. Do not cry during the school day). It was #2.

I had a horrible first period where students refused to work on the project I assigned them. The students who were their to learn are having a HORRIBLE experience in that class. They don't get to work in silence, they do not get to enjoy the class, and they never finish work when they should. It is all because of my management too. I have two (sometimes four, but mainly two) students who make my classroom a horrible place to be in 1st period. They are disruptive, rude, inconsiderate, and just don't give a shit about what is going on.

Anyway it all came to a head after that horrible hour when those two students returned to me for their 2nd time (during a 30 minute remediation). They refused (again) to do the work that was assigned for the period. They complained and complained. Then one of them started to work and I thought he was being respectful and putting effort in and then while I was helping him through a worksheet he said an absolutely disgusting comment to me about my appearance.

And unfortunately that was my last straw. I held it together for the rest of the period, saying that if I heard him say one more word I would write him up, but as soon as they left I had to excuse myself for a few minutes. I just feel really beat down, and sadly I know it's my fault. I've been too nice, I've been too concerned with making excuses for them. If I don't force responsibility onto them, they will never take it. They are incredibly predictable in that regard.

I'm pretty upset with myself that I let it a) get to this point and b) showed this weakness to anyone who saw me in those moments. I went to the Principal's office and asked him to step him my classroom while I relaxed a bit. He was wonderful and did so right away which really helped me out. After a few minutes I came back, and realized that everything was okay. It was a new class, new students, and a new attitude. So slowly I moved into the lesson (although the students could CLEARLY feel my mood and didn't push me at all that period). They were super respectful, did their work quietly, and will be prepared for the test tomorrow, unlike that 1st period class.

In the past few weeks people have asked me if I hate those two kids like they do, and I always say no. I actually really liked them, I thought they were good kids that just needed some attention. Today really changed that, because you know what, no matter if they need the attention or not -- they know exactly what respectful means, and what it doesn't. And they made the choice to make my life difficult, they made the choice not to do the homework, they made the choice to refuse to take a test. And that is not acceptable anymore. I am not just going to give them a 0 and call it a day, I am going to now give them a 0 and write them up.

Tomorrow starts a new system for that class alone, and man, I hope it works. I just don't want to hate that class like I do right now. I want them to learn.

Monday, October 26, 2009

To Start My New Attitude

Okay, so now that I have recognized my struggles (see previous post) I am going to move forward into a better life...effective immediately. I need to change something. This is a quote that I found today that I think is the first step for me:

"Each student did something correct today. Find a good think in every student, every class, every day. "

It's really true. Hey, for some of them it is showing up on time, for others it is completing an assignment, for others it is simply sitting in their chair all day. Whatever it is, find it and say something about it to the class. Tomorrow I implement this attitude. I drew it on a notecard, highlighted it all over, and taped it to the middle of my desk so I have to stare at it each day. Even if the little brats try to get me, I'll just smile and say, "thank you."

Manic Monday

We had our last "sanity-check" meeting last night with a Teach for America facilitator. It has been a nice thing to have each week, making sure we're on track and have some people looking out for us. The topic of the meeting was the different phases you go through as a first year teacher (and really every year...as this job is a perpetual circle ...FML)

What's crazy is yesterday I was at one stage...and now I feel like I am at the second stage. First they say that you are an idealist, that quickly fades though once you are in the classroom. You transition into a crazy busy person that focuses solely on the day-to-day because you feel like there is so much going on around you that there is no future past the 8 hours in the classroom each day. That was the phase I was in until today. I felt so much pressure and that there was so much to do all the time, especially with basketball on top of it after school.

But, as a result of today and the last few days, I have really moved into step three: disillusionment. Today SUCKED. Last week SUCKED. No fun, no smiling, no positivity - and these are things I am not used to in my life. I don't want to be unhappy, I don't want to feel like I am putting effort in for nothing, I don't want to feel weight on my shoulders. UGH

These kids...like I don't even know. Why do you make the same decisions each day? For example, what put me over the edge today. I try to greet the students at the door each day. I like saying hello, and I also like seeing where everyone is at (getting a quick read on them). WELL unfortunately that will not be happening anymore because in my 6th period class the students take each others' journals and HIDE THEM. EVERY SINGLE FREAKING DAY. Okay, I am not stupid, I don't think. Maybe I just don't get the joke, but I absolutely do NOT understand why it is funny EVERY DAY. So today I just snapped and said, "if this happens again I am going to walk every single one of you down to the office and get you written up, because I know that every single one of you has hidden a journal at some point this year. If you all want to go to ISS (In school suspension) for 3 days, then fine, I guess I'll have another planning period free for three days. Either way, do not touch a single journal unless it has your name on it." I wanted to add a few cuss words, but I resisted.

Anyway, I just feel like there are a lot of things going wrong. Hopefully with some positive reinforcement, some new incentives, and me just coming in with a better attitude (because I vented here) things will go better tomorrow. Everyday is a NEW DAY. I wrote that on a post-it today. Believe it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What a day.

Let me preface this by saying it's going to be graphic. First hour was a test today, and a long first 50 minutes to start the day. A student had his cell phone out and I told him to put it away or I would have to take it. Then he took it out again (strike 2). I told him to give it to me (5-10 times) and said that he could pick it up after school.

He refused 10 times so I said that he would be written up. Then he said that he'd give me the phone, but as I walked away with the phone he said "fuck this." I wasn't exactly sure what he said so I said "Did you just swear?" and he said "No, I just cussed." I said, well you can go to the office for that. He then proceeded to THROW his journal across the room (clipping someone on the way) and stormed out. Then called me a "fucking bitch," and a cunt. So, that's great. There were some other choice words, but that was the jist of it. Alas, it was a lovely hump day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

MKE for the weekend.

I had a GREAT weekend in MKE. Jennifer and Ian Wulf are a lovely newlywed couple! The wedding was GORGEOUS and the company was even better.

Good Professional Development!

Today I had to be taken out of the classroom. I was not looking forward to another wasted day of professional development, BUT I was wrong! We had a workshop with America's Choice (a government program) and the ideas that came out of it were super. I feel like I can make immediate changes in my classroom that will be effective.

We talked a lot about different options. The first thing that was super helpful was vocabulary. I have been having a SUPER hard time with this because I am never sure if I should have them memorize things, write things down, work in groups, etc. But these were nice ideas. For one, I think I am going to start using music and poems every time we do a lesson. I think having the kids pick out as many pieces of figurative language as possible from one piece will help with some healthy competition and application.

Sometimes I feel bad assignming vocabulary homework as definitions...but at the same time, if they don't know the definition how can they define it? It's been a problem. BUT, either way, the tips I got today were super helpful!

Second, we talked about stations. This was helpful because I do always have students who finish work early, and by having stations set up around the room will avoid disruptions because some people are done first. I think I am going to work on this for the week, and then work it into my incentive plan (like if they complete a station, then they get some stickers, etc.). Hopefully this will help! Yay!

I am excited to get back into the swing of things tomorrow. Hopefully these are effective in the classroom, not just at the meeting. Hope everyone is doing well! :)

Home Sweet Home - Roomies!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Powderpuff

Five years ago I thought I played my first and last Powderpuff football game...I was wrong!! Today I was leaving school after watching the parade and decided to check out the status on the game. I saw a coworker and she said that the Sr. girl cheerleaders' needed another player.

I joined!! Haha so ridiculous, I had MAJOR flashbacks to rugby. I got to play in a few defensive plays, got some tackles, got some basketball players out of nowhere. It was fun!

Now, I need to make sure I am not mistaken for a high schooler.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

More of the Delta





English Appreciation

Since starting to teach English I have started to like it so much more! I was always interested in English in high school, majored in it in college, but never really appreciated literature like I should have. It's really beautiful.

This is one of my favorite poems we've done so far this year:

The First Snow-Fall by James Russell Lowell


THE SNOW had begun in the gloaming,
And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway
With a silence deep and white.

Every pine and fir and hemlock 5
Wore ermine too dear for an earl,
And the poorest twig on the elm-tree
Was ridged inch deep with pearl.

From sheds new-roofed with Carrara
Came Chanticleer’s muffled crow, 10
The stiff rails softened to swan’s-down,
And still fluttered down the snow.

I stood and watched by the window
The noiseless work of the sky,
And the sudden flurries of snow-birds, 15
Like brown leaves whirling by.

I thought of a mound in sweet Auburn
Where a little headstone stood;
How the flakes were folding it gently,
As did robins the babes in the wood. 20

Up spoke our own little Mabel,
Saying, “Father, who makes it snow?”
And I told of the good All-father
Who cares for us here below.

Again I looked at the snow-fall, 25
And thought of the leaden sky
That arched o’er our first great sorrow,
When that mound was heaped so high.

I remembered the gradual patience
That fell from that cloud like snow, 30
Flake by flake, healing and hiding
The scar that renewed our woe.

And again to the child I whispered,
“The snow that husheth all,
Darling, the merciful Father 35
Alone can make it fall!”

Then, with eyes that saw not, I kissed her;
And she, kissing back, could not know
That my kiss was given to her sister,
Folded close under deepening snow. 40

Guilty Pleasures

I love my kids, I like school, I like teaching English, but ahhhh -- I love the weekends. I was talking to my roommate about this and she said, "I feel kind of guilty living for the weekends." I've kind of gotten to that place too.

Today, as I am lesson planning for the week I keep getting distracted by my countdowns (Milwaukee: 4 days, Jackson, MS: 19 days, Minneapolis, MN: 24 days). Now, I'll break it down for you...those are all weekends. I am going to Milwaukee this weekend to see my family and for a wedding, Jackson for Halloween, and Minneapolis for Fall break.

Now, should I feel bad about this? Should I be looking forward to my kids each and every day? I don't know. I miss them over the weekends sometimes (sometimes, sometimes). Or, sometimes I think about what I am going to do with them each week for awhile while not lesson planning. I know I have a vested interest in them, but ahhh, those weekends are so nice. I wonder if that's what my teachers felt like when they had me.

I never realized that teachers have a life outside of the classroom when I was a student. Now, I get it, they are not robots that teach all of the time. They are not always planning for the students' lives. In fact, they have hobbies and interests just like the rest of us. I am not sure if I should feel guilty about these decisions, but alas, they are in fact what gets me through each week.

It's America (or C, AR)

Cause its a kid with a chance
It's a rock n roll band
It's a farmer cuttin' hay
It's big flag flying in the summer wind
Over some fallen hero's grave.


It's a high school prom
It's a Springstein song
It's a welcome home parade
It's a man on the moon
And fireflies in June
Kids sellin' lemonade
It's cities and farms
Its open arms

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sleepy Saturday

It's been a crazy six months! This summer was one of the most fun experiences I've had, but also one of the hardest. All the work, travel, new spots, etc. were things I would never want to give up, but have made me forever sleepy. I woke up today at 5:30 AM...and forced myself to stay in the bed until 10 AM. It was glorious! I don't think I have legitimately slept in on a weekend in a REALLY long time, let alone two days in a row (I plan on sleeping lots tonight too!).

I remember a year ago when I would get up for my 9:05 class and thought I was doing the "early" thing in college. Man oh man, I miss that. I used to go to soccer and volleyball class MW at 9:05 and not have a legitimate class until that night. I used to work at a job with a bunch of college kids, doing something I was good at and enjoyed. I used to sleep in on Saturday and Sunday because shifts didn't start until mid-day.

Now, I get up at 5:30AM...and work until 6PM. Yay real world!! But, this isn't a complaint, I have LOVED the last six months, crazy as it sounds. Houston was INSANE. In fact I really miss Institute. The lesson planning and constant Teach for America brain washing was a. effective, b. influencing, c. inspiring, d. eye opening. I never realized the bubble I lived in and the bubble my life was!

The people I met were insane too. Surprisingly, I was apparently attracted to midwesterners', as they were the core of our group of friends. But beyond them we met people from all over the United States. We explored Houston (with the extra time we had), went to New Orleans, visited lots of Texas, and went around Mississippi and Arkansas. (Each new step...was a step into a state I hadn't been to yet!)

Now, three months later (and two months into teaching) it's been just as crazy in Arkansas. The culture, the people, the schools are so different from my experiences. I never know what is coming next, which has made life an interesting road.

I am going home to Milwaukee next weekend, and I am pumped to see my family and friends! I hope that I can remember all of the good times I've had in Arkansas so that I don't get super homesick after I go home!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Homecoming Week

It's a crazy week. HOMECOMING.

Monday -- Professional Dress
Tuesday -- Favorite Decade
Wednesday -- Duct Tape Day (I'm not sure)
Thursday -- Beach Wear
Friday -- Spirit Day

So, those are ridiculous categories. I mean let's just encourage the students to dress inappropriately. I don't think that we can even think about sending the students to ISS or OSS, because really, we asked for it. I mean my themes in high school were like disco, geeks, favorite celebrity, sports something, etc. I am nervous to go to school tomorrow, uh oh.

Friday we have the Coronation Ceremony, something I've never really experienced because of going to an all-girls school. We get out of school around noonish, then walk over to the court house to see the ceremony, then walk back to school? I don't understand.

Okay, I am done. I'm going to stop complaining now :)

Monday, October 5, 2009

October

Woke up this morning feeling a little chilly. Then when I sat up Irealized that this was RIDICULOUS. I am getting weak down here in AR! After braving 22 years of harsh winters in the North I have succumbed to the heat of AR...thinking it's cold.

What a joke.


That's all for tonight. I got SO MUCH WORK DONE TODAY. It was insane, I am pleased.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Stress Reduction

My adjustment here in the Delta has been easier than I thought it would be. Sometimes I get a little homesick or jealous of people who are still in school/live in MSP, but overall it's been okay. I am fortunate to have probably the best house in the Delta with the best roommates. This has made my life easier x 1,000. I really neglected to think about the impact the people you live with has on your stress levels and happiness. But, I appreciate it greatly here in Stuttgart.

I've been a little antsy on the weekends, hoping to do a wide variety of things. I think this is where my biggest struggle has come from. In Minneapolis I had the ease of driving to 10 different neighborhoods and going out in 5 different places with tons of different people from class, work, home, roommates, etc. Here you're pretty limited. Sometimes I have minor feelings of being trapped ...which is when I start to stress out. But, I've conquered it for the most part. I've just decided that I have to do things on the weekends like travel to see different friends, go to more major cities (Little Rock and Memphis), and just go out to different outdoors places. Arkansas lends it self to some beautiful sightseeing. Hopefully we can go hiking or camping before the wintertime (which isn't much of a winter anyway!).

I am a little jealous of Corps that are in major cities. They get the opportunity to still bond like we do, but also have that outside force that we don't have. We can meet locals here but everyone has known each other since childhood...and have a different scope that I do. Either way though, I have a great housing situation and great friends here in the Delta, so hopefully that will sustain me for the next two years. I am blessed!

Well, this is supposed to be the most difficult month for Corps members. October here I come.

I've been slowing down!

I have slowed down significantly this week! I feel like I am being buried under a stack of papers and I may never get out...ahhhhh. I had the kids turn in their essays this past week and I haven't even started grading them yet. Ooops.

This is homecoming week at our school and I don't know how much I am going to get done overall, and what I should even plan as a result. The schedule is out of control! There are so many events, themes, lunches, people coming, etc. etc. I feel like 3 of the days I won't even have enough students to have a class. But, if I don't plan then they'll just sit there and we'll not get anything done or be productive in the least bit.

The new schedule in my classroom has been working out really well. The kids walk in and know exactly what to get out in preparation for the bell to ring (well at least 3/4 classes do). They are so automatic I am starting to really see the importance of consistency. If I keep this up the whole year I think the management problems will be minor and related to outside circumstances. It is when they have no direction and nothing to do that things start to get out of control. So in this case, I'll keep doing what I am doing!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Great song, brings your spirits up after a tough day. Try it out.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

a few memories in the past few weeks! :)




Moving Forward

I had a great weekend and feel blessed to have the people around me that are here. I had a friend visit from home, had four friends visit from around the delta, and got to show my classroom to my roommates for the first time.

I had a great feeling walking around the football game on Friday. The roomies came with to see our school, students, and staff. It was a nice feeling to have a crew around me and my fellow TFA teachers. I felt proud of the students and the people at the game for being so welcoming and all the smiles that came our way. Isn't it a crazy thing...what we're doing here? Stepping out of our bubble world in college into a region that is labeled as "high need" and these people saying "yes, please come on in."

I took a half day on Friday and was actually kind of sad to miss my last three classes of the day because they are some of my favorite kids. I just feel like that is such a weird thing to say after a month and a half...but it's true.

Maybe I am feeling particularly lucky right now because of everything going on in Stuttgart (where I live). We had another Teach for America corp member quit from this town (the second in a month), and it has been a stressed situation. On the one hand there are the teachers who are still there every day working hard that feel slighted by this decision, but on the other hand is this poor girl who tried so hard and just doesn't think she can do it. That for me is an emotional rollercoaster. I can't imagine being in that position and feel a personal guilt for not making that situation fixed before it got to this point.

The environment you're in after and during work can really make or break someone. My situation has been blessed. My roomies are a perfect balance of hard work, fun, reflective, and motivating. Our house has such a strong balance of coming home getting your stuff done, then STOPPING because enough is enough, then taking out our energy on the weekends doing a variety of activities. This has made my experiences that are full of stress evaporate over time after a reflective conversation with one of them. Putting things into perspective has been one of the biggest things I have had to work on, and being around level-headed people has made that infinitely easier.

Beyond that, C (with all the craziness considered) is awesome. The kids are lovable...even with all of their problems in tact. They're genuine and interesting. My placement in high school originally was something I wasn't particularly happy with. Now I can not imagine being somewhere else. I love high schoolers, they are real people with real problems, but can quickly revert back to the children that every person wants to be. Their humor is out of control and their quick wit keeps me on my toes. Yet, their vulnerability in the classroom has been an amazing thing to witness too. I forgot what it was like to get yelled at on the court in basketball by a coach I adored. I forgot how crappy I felt afterward...and for the next few practices. I caught myself yelling last week and I saw a player crumble. Clearly done for the day, she wouldn't respond to any positive renforcement. These are things we all are learning together.


Sorry for the outburst, just in a nice mood tonight. Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend, I am so happy to have the network of friends and support I do have these days. It's an amazing thing what people can do for each other without even knowing it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happiness

This week has been going allright (I mean it's only Tuesday!). We had professional development on Saturday for Teach for America and it really helped me refocus my efforts in English. I always have trouble getting lost in the moment and teaching the material that I want to do that day...instead of focusing on the long term. As a result, some of the objectives I taught in the past few weeks have gotten lost in the mess.

I worked on a schedule and I think it is BOMB.COM. I am teaching writing on Monday, grammar on Wednesday, and reading comprehension on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Now I have a "Bell Ringer" or "Do Now" for each day (a quiz three days, free writing in a journal two) and have that focus picked out. Then the homework will be the same each week so I think the students will be able to get on a sinked schedule.

What's really nice too is that I made posters for each of these things. So now students can see what they are doing each day and what homework they are doing for each night...and they have no excuse not to do it. Yay! Hahaha Right, like that will stop some of them?

I think this will be more successful. Sometimes I get annoyed that I have to give up my time on Saturday professional development, but in the end it is always much needed help. I should probably do it everyday.

Also, tomorrow I am teaching grammar (on schedule!) and the lesson is about "words you can say with your friends, but not in a paper." It's going to be great, I am making them right a paragraph with the incorrect words, then trade and translate another student's work. Fun lesson!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My first Unit Test!

Unit Test one complete! Yay! The last few days I have been giving my first test in class ever. It was relaxing..surprisingly! I kind of want to give more tests more often! I decided that I am going to mock the AR tests at the end of year exam so as a result each unit test I give will be two days long. The first day is an essay exam and then the second day is a multiple choice, fill in the blank, short answer exam. Pretty exciting.

The test went pretty well. Students complained A LOT about the essay portion (two essays in 45 minutes) but it is something that they are going to have to do on the exam to pass the course and to pass the EOC exam. They should have stopped complaining and worked harder on the exam and their percentages would have gone up.

The second day went exceedingly well! The average in each class was above an 80 except for one which was a 77% (so close!). I am happy with that, but hope that the exam was hard enough. They finished it in about 30 minutes so we had an extra 15 minutes where I let them finish the first essay exam if they needed to.

I think next time I am going be more strict about the time limits. Maybe hand out different sections after a certain amount of time...just to make sure it truly mocks the exam at the end of the year. It was exciting to hand them back on Friday too...the students were pumped about their scores.

Good weekend, worked a lot today. I am excited for friends to come this weekend, too. Hopefully I get all of my work done before then!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Invisible Line

These kids are insane in the membrane. And sadly I can't stop laughing at them. You know they have told us to be strict and to reprimand ....don't let the small things go. But what if they are funny? I mean these students are out of control sometimes I just can't stop laughing.

For instance, today a student came sprinting at me from across the parking lot yelling my name as loudly as possible. Every student was staring at us...I thought I was about to get beat up. And then out of NOWHERE he just stops about 2 inches from my face (he's about a foot and a 1/2 taller than me) and says "What up Coach Butler...can I be your basketball team manager?"

All I could do was laugh. It's like these kids have this invisible line that they don't cross with teachers...but the thing is that line IS INVISIBLE. It does not exist. Like you can slam chairs into people's head, jump kids in the parking lot, cuss students out, etc. etc., but if I say "STOP TALKING RIGHT NOW," they all stop.

Like, WHAT? That to me is amazing. It was true when I was in high school too. I mean, I am not complaining by any means....I'd be screwed beyond screwed if I didn't have that "power." But, I think it is something important to really consider as it illustrates that desire to please and that desire to conform at some level to societal expectations. The inconsistencies are obviously there, some students as soon as they step outside of this building are a different being. Something I will never be able to tap for many of them, but for others that being can be influenced, I hope!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Swine Flu and Salem, MA

It's been raining cats and dogs the last two days. It's CRAZY! The roads here are two lane highways to and from everywhere, so it's been a bit of a problem getting my little car to handle this water. I hydroplane more than I ever thought possible. Today I was pulling out of hte driveway and I hydroplaned...ridiculous, right?

The rainy days have effected the students and teachers alike here in C, AR. Swine flu has been going around (with confirmed cases in the school, town, county, state). There have been six deaths, I believe, as of last Friday. Hopefully none since then.

But as a result we have gone into hyperactive mode! Eeeekss, students must get a squirt of Germ-X on the way in the door and on the way out. Students are sent home immediately even if they feel "hot." I even heard a rumor that if 2 more people are confirmed to have swine flu...that school will be canceled? Can this even be true?

As you can imagine it has caused mild hysteria...whatever that means. Students coughing everywhere, students snapping at anyone who has a cough "YOU GOT SWINE FLU GET OUTTA MA FACE," teachers won't eat in the lunchroom or the staff lounge, etc. I guess I am pretty suceptible to it. I see about 70 students a day in classes, plus all the others I say hi to, and the staff. But really everyone? Are we all just never going to breathe or touch again?

Maaaybe I am starting to feel sick too...or is that just mass chaos? It's kind of entertaining, since we're reading "The Crucible" right now, which is all about little girls convincing a town (Salem, MA) that there are witches. Is the same happening right here? But with SWINE flu?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Satisfaction

As I have been talking to other friends these past two weeks I have heard absolute horror stories. I don't know if my kids just happen to be legitimately good kids or what, but I feel so blessed. I love my students so far! Yah, absolutely, there are those moments where I am like "really?? REALLY?" just go home. But honestly, overall I would say there is not ONE student that I dread coming to school each day. I mean there is one or two that would make my day a LOT easier if they happen to be absent (which they never seem to be...) but that's okay. I look at those as little challenges everyday!

I think having that great relationship with my students has really helped out too. I went to the football game last night and got 20 hugs from students, and probably 5 or 6 weren't even my students! The kids are just great. They've got a good attitude most of the time and if they stay away from trouble and their anger, there is no reason why every interaction they have will be great. Everyone was in a good mood last night and social, none of this fighting business. The game was fun, enlightening, and relaxing.

I was asked to be BAND DIRECTOR last night. HA what a funny. I am not so musically inclined and but I tried! I cheered for them, sat with them, helped them get everything out/put away. That was about it. The band is collapsing without a band director (the new one starts on Monday!) but I know they've got some talent so I am sure it will turn around.

Well, I am off to take the Praxis II -- Essays. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Basketball Tryouts

We have over 25 students who are interested in playing senior girls basketball! I am excited to have so many students hearing good things and becoming interested in coming on the team. YAY some happy moments this week...

write-ups galore

Man o man, sent my first students to the office yesterday! I'm glad it's over! I sent 9 ...NINE...kids to the office first hour, 1 fourth hour, 2 sixth hour, and none 8th hour. Ayyypapi, and then I sent another student to the office from the hallway for saying a super lude comment.

None of these students had homework, even after getting extra time for it, didn't pay attention in class, or fell asleep. UGghhhhhhhhhh

Monday, September 7, 2009

My first gun experience.

This weekend I:
1. swam with alligators
2. attempted to water ski with a jet ski
3. SHOT A DEER RIFLE and 22
4. kept the shells
5. gambled at Tunica
6. went to Memphis for the night
7. locked my keys in the car while the the car was running
8. got buffet breakfast at a casino
9. blew up an air mattress without a pump
10. took a random friend from Memphis back with us to MS
11. got stung by two wasps and had panic attacks each time
12. played kings cup with parents
13. visited great friends!!

dang, good weekend.

Holy Out of Control

Friday was the first football game, as I mentioned in a previous post. The game was great, the fans were packed in, the team performed amazingly well (and beat Brinkley-Woohoo!). My students played great especially one or two that I need to point out on Tuesday! The team looked great and so did the fans.

There was unfortunately an incident at the game. There is some tension at the school between the hometown students and some students from a school that was consolidated with C(and therefore the students were forced to go to my high school). It came to a head at the game were there was a bit of a scuffle with two people, one junior and a former student.

They were walking towards me and all of a sudden I noticed some raised voices and quick moving crowds about 10 feet away from me. I was a little shocked at how quickly everything happened after that. They were coming in my direction and all of a sudden one kid just threw a punch and it was on. Within 10 seconds I had jumped out of they way just in time as they got tackled right behind me. Then there was like 15 students and alums fighting, punching, kicking, etc. I guess the scariest part came text when one of my current students picked up the chair I had been sitting in and started slamming it over someone's head over and over.

So disturbing. I was so shocked, I had no idea what to do. I yelled at that students to stop and tried to get at him, but then I just stopped because it was out of control. Within about a minute there were about 6 police officers grabbing people, etc. It stopped briefly as they started kicking people out but then about five minutes later one of the guys got free and started another fight. There was someone stabbed and generally just a FREAKED OUT crowd. (or at least I was)

I don't even know what to think about the situation. My students really freaked me out, that such a nice and controlled kid in class could pick up a chair and violently slam it on someone's head. The fury that was on his face and showed in his body was out of control. I really had to check myself and realize I don't actually know these students well at all. I may feel some connection to them or whatever, but really, I need to put some perspective on it. Oyeee

Sadly the football game was pretty much overlooked because of the incident. I wonder what it is going to be like tomorrow at school and what I will do in class about it. I already told all of my basketball players that if I see them fighting ever, they're done. We'll see I guess.

Friday, September 4, 2009

PEP!

I went to our first official football game last night for the junior squad! We had a mini-pep rally yesterday for the team. Unfortunately the band director had to leave C (as of last week...he got a preacher job) and so we didn't have anyone to play the trumpet, or much of a band. So the cheerleading coach (Lisa-love her) asked me to burn a CD with "On Wisconsin" (GOOD CALL), Wipeout, and Hey Song. Pretty standard.

Today is the senior boys athletics game (the equivalent of varsity). Another pep rally today and then the big game!! I am excited for my first big game!!!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My failures

Today I feel kind of down. I'm not sure where it's stemming from or if it will continue, but I just felt like today was a struggle. I went to bed early last night because I knew I didn't want to be tired throughout the week, so I don't think it was that. I got to school early enough, and I think my students got what I was talking about all day.

I am really struggling with my first hour class. Now, I don't mean that they are out of control or that they don't understand things, but I feel like I am not doing a good job with them. It is my biggest class, and my only class with resource students. Those students range in modifications -- some only needing a calculator on math tests to some who can not read a word on a page.

My problem stems from my fear of leaving some students behind while not pushing other students who want to be pushed as well. In the 11th grade class (besides the AP students) the three highest scoring students on last years test are ALSO in this 1st period class. I can see their boredom immediately sometimes. Their faces are easy to read...and their attitudes are even easier. But, all the while, I have students who need me to repeat three times, write it out, and then individually coach them through different parts of the lesson. So, what am I supposed to do? Some of the "smart" students or high achievers don't push themselves to be this idealistic student...and to me that is the opposite of smart. Whereas these students who are labeled as "dumb" or low achievers are the ones asking questions and offering me some argument.

I forgot the attitude that comes with some of high school. Some have major chips on their shoulders, and others just want to be there and do well. I need to figure out how to harness this into a successful classroom.

I walked away today realizing (after assigning a writing project) that I did too much, too soon. Students could not tell me what a thesis statement was in detail...but I asked them to write a narrative. They didn't know what supporting details were or what a "hook" would be. All of these things were parts of the paper I had them outline by Friday for a grade.

I need to figure out how to balance independent work time and group instruction. I also need to motivate these students who are obviously naturally gifted to want it more and reach higher...BUT I really need to motivate these students who are on the borderline, because those are the ones that need this confidence and understand that they are smart.

Although I know I have mentioned this before, I am still astounded by the assumptions made by students and teachers about students. So many students have said "I don't know, I am resource," "I don't know, I'm dumb/not smart." I have never been in an environment (or at least don't realize that I have) where a student genuinely feels this way. It is a sad moment to hear that and then hear the snickers around the classroom. People think it is okay to say that about another student or even worse, the student thinks its okay to say that about himself/herself. This is something that needs to systematically change...immediately. WHEREVER it is happening, not just the Delta, not just AR, nowhere. Everyone has ability, it is a teachers'/parents'/guardians'/mentors' responsibility to find this and prove it to a student.

Okay, I'll stop. Keep in mind I've only been teaching for a few months now...but hopefully I will ALWAYS be optimistic of my students' ability to achieve. No more negativity, and no more drama. (Save it for yo momma)

Saturday, August 29, 2009




2nd week complete






We went kayaking today on Cane Creek. Here are some pictures of the adventure! I pet a baby alligator, saw jumping fish, paddled by an otter house, took some pictures of the lily pads, and heard lots of random splashing behind me (resulting in me quickly paddling away!). I went with three of my roommates, and here are some pictures!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Support

Side note: I told my students that if they don't have their homework the day it is due they can bring it in the next day. But, if they do not bring it in that next day they leave right away and go to the Principal.

Yesterday I had 15 students not turn in their homework. I predicted that 10 would go to the office today. And guess what... I was WRONG!! Every single student brought in their homework, even if it wasn't complete. This was SO great. I really think that having that responsibility and check system is great.

My Principal even came in each hour and asked if everyone had turned it in. When I confirmed it, he thanked every student for respecting me and bring it. What a great experience to have. The support I felt when he did that I think truly transferred the responsibility onto the students. If everyone holds high expectations ...things will change. Do not falter (that's my second lesson for today!) .


P.S. today we got Smartboard clickers!!!! Now each student can click in their answers and we can poll to see the what everyone is answering and if they understand it. It is like a built in check for understanding...my life just got a little bit easier. Yay!

Success!

We've been primed to celebrate our successes here in TFA so I am giong to do JUST that! Today I felt was a HUGE success!! My students were excited about the lesson, they were excited about participating, and hopefully they will, as a result, retain this information in the next few months (or further).

We started reading "A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson," the last few days. Now, I know that this is considered a boring read by many but also one of those "classics" everyone should know. I disagree strongly, it is one of my favorite readings. Kind of weird, if you know the story, but whatever, I like it. We learned about purpose today and the three reasons why authors write (inform, persuade, and entertain). I stole a powerpoint off of our resource hub that was meant for 3rd graders. Even though that is obviously a lot younger then y students, I thought that the message was good and easy to understand...and I was right! The students loved the powerpoint, and as a result worked a lot harder in the guided practice and eventually the independent practice.

The lesson I truly learned today is that you have to hook them right away and keep a good flow going. We had four different activities that we did today and as a result we were always moving and always talking things out. This really helped the students go from defining to identifying to applying (for all my Bloom's lovers out there!). I feel good about today!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Coaching!

Started working on running, sprints, endurance this week with the basketball players. SO much fun!! I am so lucky to have a break twice a day to work out with a bunch of energetic girls! whooot whooot!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Classroom Photos, Updated!




First Week Reflections

My first week of teaching is over!! Well, at least my first half week, which is so exciting!
The week went well, pretty uneventful regarding discipline, and not a lot of learning going on for the students because this was supposed to be "culture building week." I don't really know what that means...what it translated to in MY classroom was a lot of talking in small groups and a lot of worksheets on malleable intelligence. So, that's interesting.

My students were not ready to come back to school. The first day their faces were like "uggghhh you want me to read the rules and consequences, ugggghhhhh." Repeat that seven periods in a row. Yikes. My students are a wide range of people too. We filled out a survey on the first day of school asking about 30 different questions about their personal lives, their contact information, and their likes/dislikes of English class, etc. The students were good during this part, pretty silent. This was nice right? I really worked on that positive reinforcement I learned throughout Institute, constantly reaffirming the work of my students, whether it was someone who just read quietly or someone who filled out the survey completely, honestly, and thoughtfully.

Let me interrupt this reflection by saying I am lucky at C. My class sizes are as follows:
Period 1: 18 students
2: Prep period
3: 12 students
4: 8 students
5: 14 students (Jr. Girl's basketball practice)
Lunch
6: 7 students
7: 10 students (Sr. Girl's basketball practice)
8: 4 students

I am really happy about this situation. My first class, the biggest by far, has a mix of students with IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) and standard students, all integrated into an inclusive classroom. The class is fun, but obviously talkative, including a girl who sings throughout the class...super. But, I like having them first because it's the toughest and I am the most awake, fresh, and energetic. Bring it on folks, I am ready for you!

Anyway, I only had one incident this week (which I mentioned in the previous post). My malleable intelligence lesson (Friday) was a mess and the different classes did not seem to care that the could be motivated. We'll change that by the end of the year though.

I have a LOT of work to do this weekend, starting with what I am teaching next week. I am going to be making the unit plan, the unit assessment, and my lesson plans for the next week (and hopefully the week after that). My personal goal is to have week B lesson plans done while I am teaching week A. Meaning I'll always be a week ahead. This is in case I am traveling on a weekend, or have a busy weekend doing something else. The other reason I think this is pretty important is because this week I was DEAD when I got home from school. I was so tired and went to bed by 9:30PM each night. Oye ve!! That is going to be a problem if I am scrapping to get lesson plans done for the next day. Lofty goal, but important I think.

I slept yesterday from 4:30-7:30 PM, then from 12:00AM - 9AM. It was lovely.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ya'll

Today I was told I am a southern belle. All my students thought I was from Carolina or Georgia. Do you know why? Because I say ya'll so much.

Dang. I've only been here a month.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Classroom

Hey ya'll,

Quick note: I have been trying to upload a video for FIVE days of my classroom. I have been so excited to show you the new and improved, but I might just move to pictures soon because this video is ridiculous. And not workingggggg

Sooooon, I promise!

WooWiieeee

First day: CHECK
2nd first day of teaching: CHECK
Success over Houston: YESSSS

Dang. I am t.i.r.e.d. Woooo, it's over! There were storms last night here in Arkansas, like torrential rain pour. As some of my friends from home know, I am pretty superstitious. So as I fell asleep last night (under my dream catcher) I thought, oh crap. The day went well though! Got up super early, got ready super quick, marinated for 10 minutes debating what was more worth it (getting there 30 minutes earlier then planned or over thinking things while pacing in my room). I decided to go school, but I drove slowly!

Anyway, school was good. Students were decent, quiet, and respectable in most instances. My first class will be the hardest (18 total), a few classes will be simple and fun (3 students in one!), basketball practice will be interested (6 students on the team...???) and other classes were debatable (we'll see how those play out).

I had one incident today that was frustrating. A student used the n-word while speaking to another black student. I freaked out at him like whoa. I talked to him in the hallway and sent him towards the Principal's office. For me, this was the right choice. I feel good about it, I need to set that precedent right away. That word and others will not be tolerated in my classroom whether you're addressing a fellow student, a friend, a teacher, etc. My rule will be: can you say it to your mother? can you say it to your Principal? can you say it to a cop? I think that's fair.

I got some pushback on that from other teachers. They said that it's something they say and I should get used to it but say "hey guys, lets not do that." That, to me, is not okay? I don't know, I realize it is a cultural difference but really?? no. I think in my classroom that is just what is going to happen. Straight to the Principal with any language like that.

I'd love feedback on this, as I am a little concerned I am being too block headed. Thanks everyone!

I don't mean to focus on a negative -- it was a GREAT day. TFA did a great job telling me I should teach high school, because I did not agree originally. But now being with some of these students I understand why I should be at this level. I want to show them what this learning does. And what it does is translate into intelligence that will be used within 3 or 4 years. It's necessary!!! And THAT is exciting.


Man oh man I've got lots of work to do!! Talk to ya'll soon!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up somewhere else

"Cheshire Puss would you please tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?" said Alice.
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don't much care where," said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pee Tests and Fire Drills

Today is parent-teacher open house! (but before that...another 6 hours of in-service) So, we arrive this morning at 8:30 to be greeted, sign in, and get our packets before the fire alarm went off. And then it went off...and off...and off...for 15 minutes! So, I think that the message was, "if you weren't awake then, you're awake now."

It's been an exciting morning so far. We are now watching movie clips discussing how inappropriate behavior in the classroom, because we all know that movies are like real life (that was sarcasm). After the fire drill was over we were working on some response questions and I was pulled for my first ever random drug test. I was tested LAST Wednesday at my physical and now again this week. I hate those tests!! I almost always (including both times in the last week) go to the bathroom right before I have to be tested. Last week they didn't tell me I had to get a drug test so of course I asked to go to the bathroom after being in the waiting room for two hours. Well, literally 10 minutes later I had to do the test and ...of course, I couldn't go to the bathroom. And the same thing just happened this morning, I chugged three water bottles and pushed through. Such a champ! Haha

On the plus side though, I have finished 90% of my syllabus and about 80% of my room.
Work hard, get smart! Woot Woot!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Landscaping

This one is short...just wanted to let everyone in on a really exciting new development in my life:

I mowed my first lawn EVER this weekend...and it was kind of exciting.

Inservice, Part II

In-service, in-service, in-service...oh and in-service. Here we are, 50+ hours later! I had a great Monday this week. We started off our second week of work looking at the student handbook, procedures, and talking as a full staff at C. The staff introduced themselves, spoke out on issues that had not been consistently enforced last year, talked about important people to connect with, and other necessary details that I had not previously known.

Before yesterday I had really not known how/where/when/what the basics were to actually enforcing rules, creating/maintaining the culture and integrity of the school, and what the staff was actually like as a collective. Now, I feel like I am on my way. The faculty and staff here at C has been great. I especially love the people in the main office and the district office. The funds coordinator has been so willing to answer my pesky questions one after another, as has the rest of the staff that I have called about twice a day (probably about the same thing that I STILL didn't understand). One time I was in Wisconsin (a few weeks ago) and had some questions about insurance and I called Lisa (count it...) 4 times in one day! Haha man she must have been expecting a horrible person when I showed up to in-service a few days later! But she was wonderful! Every time she says have a lovely day, thank you for calling, we are so excited for you, etc.

I was reflecting on this when driving home from Little Rock [where I went to my first "teacher store" and got some much needed Whole Foods/Starbucks! :)]. I had a nice relaxing drive and just thought about what a nice transition this has been. Teach for America staff has been supportive and responsive, C has been more then I expected, the faculty has been welcoming and respectful of our abilities, my family has helped me beyond any expectations, and my fellow TFA network has been great.

I continue to think that I lead an extremely blessed life. I need to remember to thank all of these people continuously, as their efforts constantly put me at ease. [Thank you!]