Tuesday, July 28, 2009

If you haven't seen The Hangover, go...NOW.

Here's the trailer. I've seen it twice and I cried laughing four times. Seriously, go.

Best Song/Trailer


We are leaving on Thursday! Yay!! I am excited to get back and start organizing and settling in. It's hard to be at home when I know that 2 years is right in front of me! Although I love being in MKE, Stuttgart has much to show me (or maybe not) for these next few months.

Watch this video!! The wedding this weekend inspired me to look up some videos....this is happening at my wedding:

Sunday, July 26, 2009


My house in the DELTA!

Moooreeeeee Prep??

Ah, and we though after Institute it would slow down. How wrong we were. Tomorrow my long term plan and big goals are due...and I am confused up the wazoo. I am sitting here working on them, yes I procrastinated (get over it), and am lost, lost, lost. I have this state objectives list in front of me, another lists of all the essential questions students must master, another of vocabulary recommended, another of SAT/ACT prep things if you want your students to succeed, another list from my TTLs that are "successful" resources, another.... AHHHH!!!

I don't know what is more important or more legitimate. I don't understand...I've never taught before people! Haha this is comical, all the while trying to remember what I liked/learned in 11th grade. So, here I am making a massive spreadsheet trying to compare all of these worksheets to see if they correlate in some odd way, although I have a sneaking suspicion they really don't. It's okay, just another form of procrastination (similar to be blogging now, and NOT working).

One positive about this process though: I am excited!! Reviewing all of these objectives I am starting to get excited again about teaching. The topics I get to present to students are things that I struggled with, but enjoyed. I loved some poetry and I love literary tools, something that is a major focus in 11th grade! My high school experience was great, but I never truly appreciated literature until college, when I majored in it! So, now I have to try and enlighten these students BEFORE college so that they can anticipate a successful career in writing and reading.

I'm going back to AR on Thursday for the long haul. I am excited for the new house, but a little nervous about this whole instructional leader of a classroom thing... haha.

My FIRST wedding!

Yesterday I attended my first wedding ever! Teresa, a good friend from high school, got married and is now moving to CANADA! AH! The wedding ceremony was at Holy Hill, in Wisconsin, and was a beautiful first experience! I've never been to Holy Hill either, so it was a day for new adventures. We went to the ceremony at 1PM and then the reception was at 5PM at Seven Seas, a restaurant right on the lake.

It was great to reunite with some old high school friends and parents. I always love seeing people from the past, as they remind you of such great memories and time you've experienced with so many different people. We had a lovely dinner and yummy wedding cake, followed by some sassy dancing...and more dancing all night. The restaurant was fun, and then right on the lake so we got to go sit on the dock for awhile. Reminiscing and predicting the future, we've concluded that Nora will have 14 kids, and that Dudley is the last to be married! We'll see if these come true.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun, and I am happy I had the opportunity to see old friends. Teresa looked fierce! (and happy!!) She leaves for her honeymoon today, and then moves to Canada soon enough. Ridiculous where life takes you these days, everyone is transitioning into their new lives. No more late night sleepovers, high school dances, or long drives to the Northshore. But all good things must come to an end.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Oye, Paperwork.

Ugh, I wish I could just pack my things and move! The paperwork and details are annoying! I am lucky to have parents that are helping, otherwise I would just be driving an illegal car blissfully unaware!

I will blog more later! :)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A School Bus?

I was really excited to coach this year, so upon arrival in C I was disappointed to see that only two of my colleagues were getting the opportunity to coach. So, I asked some questions! Does anyone need assistance? Does anyone want to take a break this year? Etc., etc.

And waahla (I think that's how you spell it)!! I was called yesterday to assistant coach senior girl's basketball and in the spring, softball!! Now, the last time I played either of these sports was my first year of high school, but that's a different story. I can learn, right? Meh.

BUT, the best part of yesterday's conversation is that the coach told me I have to get a COMMERCIAL DRIVER'S LICENSE. Do you know what that translates to readers? It means I need to be able to drive a SCHOOL BUS if needed. A SCHOOL BUS. ME = a SCHOOL BUS.

Now, if any of you have taken a ride in Diana, Goddess of the Hunt (my Subaru), you know that she is a crazy monster, but certainly NOT a school bus. And this is my life in Arkansas. What a GREAT thing to be asked within the first 48 hours. I just about died on the phone laughing! My coach was like, "It's not that different. You'll do fine." He asked why I was laughing so much! It's going to be awesome! I hope I pass my test and NEVER have to drive it, because I WILL DIE. Seriously, I am going to have to ask every student on the bus to be completely silent the entire time, otherwise I'll freak out.

Ah, my life. Who's jealous?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Meeting My Colleagues!

It has been a busy last few days! It doesn't seem to ever slow down at all. We traveled to Arkansas on Tuesday night and got right to work. Wednesday I toured some homes in S, AR and then went to C for my meeting with the staff.

I will officially be teaching 11th grade English and one section of journalism. The journalism course is an elective, so it will be a class that students signed up to take specifically, which I am really excited about! A few great things about my school:

1. There is only about 50 students per-grade, and therefor I will only be teaching classes of about 10-20 (20 being highly unlikely)
2. The school is on an outdoor campus, so I get to see sunshine during the day
3. There are 4 other Teach for America teachers at my school!! Yay!
4. There is a football stadium...right outside! So I can watch practice and stay for games.
5. I am the senior-girls basketball and softball coach!! I am so excited to get a workout and hang out with the students not in the classroom
6. I have to get my CDL TO DRIVE A SCHOOL BUS!!!! HAHA I am getting a commercial drivers license...to drive a school bus. Ridiculoussss
7. The school is brick and aesthetically pleasing, which is nice!
8. The staff is great! They were so friendly and showed us around for 3-4 hours. They went out of their way to find us resources and our objectives, etc.
9. Every classroom as a Smartboard!
10. I met some of the cheerleaders and they seem engaged and super excited about school.

Anyway, it's been a busy few days. We haven't found housing yet which is a little nerve racking, but I think it will all work out well. There's not too much housing in this part of the Delta, so it's been slim pickings. Everything will fall in place though. We're staying in Marianna, AR right now and have been going to lots of bbq's and social gatherings. It's great to meet the rest of the community, I hope that we all stay close in the next two years, even though we'll be over an hour away. Ahhh, I am going to go take a nap! :)

I am heading home to Wisconsin tomorrow morning, can't wait to see my family and friends!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Settling In for the Long Haul...Kinda

My friends, I am going to do some backtracking here. Pretend it's last week.

I am in a great place right now (figuratively and literally). Sorry I have been absent for the past few days. Thursday was the last day with the kids and it was great. Except that I didn't get to teach! I lost my voice and my sickness was pending. So, my two GREAT friends Molly and Joe took over the zoo that is A101 at Sharpstown Middle School.

I walk in 15 minutes later, my kids are going crazy. It was so funny I busted out laughing because Joe and Molly were running (literally in Molly's case) after students. Ah, my life for the past few weeks. It's so funny to be on the outside of it, I loved it! Anyway, they weren't being that bad at all. There was a cockroach (SICK) on the ceiling that they were all throwing things at, that stopped immediately. Then they all said they wanted me to teach the class and that they didn't like their new teachers! It was so sweet. :)

Those brats, they are mean to you for weeks and the whole time they know that they like you secretly. It was a good last day. I had them write letters to themselves about where they see themselves in 10 years and I can't wait to read them. I made them little cards telling them how well they did in the summer (or what they can work on for some). Then we just played a game which failed miserably, and then they just sat and talked with us.

But, everyone said goodbye at the end of the day and I even got some hugs from the lovely ladies. I was sad that I was sick throughout the day because I had really wanted to talk to some of the kids, but that's okay. I went home for the day and was finally happy.

AND you HAVE to watch this video!!!! My kid is in it!! Look right at 1:10. THATS MY BOY!! He says "I learned more in reading this summer then all year!" YAYYY MY CLASS MY CLASS.

Is that success? I can feel it in my bones!

Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgHAbERbmuQ

Please watch it!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

End of Institute Surveys

The end of institute survey has been sent out. To reflect on the past few weeks is ridiculous. What are all of the different things that we have learned? What are all of the things that have gone right? wrong? well? poorly?

Surprisingly, I don't really agree with this description of Institute that floats around each year. The people who have gone through it seem to describe it as this place of hell. This place that no one can survive without some tears and without some madness. I don't really agree with this at all. Institute was difficult, but it wasn't really that bad! I promise.

The kids are crazy, the environment is completely different than anything I ever experienced as a student, and the pressure is intense. But in the end, what are my overall thoughts? Success. I have learned so much that would have killed me in my first few weeks in Arkansas. Institute's expectations of us are intense. Make lesson plans without us teaching you what one is. Teach students that don't want to be here but have to be to go on. Focus students that only need one of hte four classes to pass onto the next level. Read 3,000 pages of pre-institute reading that won't be touched afterward. Change these students attitudes in 2 weeks and improve their grades by 20% in every instance.

Ah, goals. Are these things impossible? Are they ridiculous? They might be ridiculous, but really, that's why we joined this program isn't it? Yes, it is. I am here because I want to create excitement, I want to create investment, I want to change the attitude of students that don't think that have those options out there. So, no, Institute is not that bad. My stress is my own, and not something that I can allow into my classroom for those 90 minutes a day that I teach. 

So, end of institute survey, I am surprisingly positive! 

Adjectives Galore!

Today we learned about adjectives. There are a few key adjectives that I would like to use regarding the lesson. To say the least, it didn't go well. I lost my voice this weekend in New Orleans and the lack of sleep these past few nights have not helped. I get why teachers take off as soon as they get sick, a lack of a voice makes the students immediately start working against you. It's like a weakness that  can't be controlled. OYE VE

I understand this concept of teacher action leads to student action pretty well. I realized today that because I was not completely prepared for my lesson, my students did not understand the concepts and did not perform well when it came to assessment time. It's interesting to see the two different types of reactions; one is apathy and one is quiet confusion. I don't know if students have trouble voicing their concerns or if they are simply uncomfortable in front of the entire group, but many struggle with varying topics yet don't attempt to correct the situation. The lack of a proactive attitude is something I have to realize and create the investment needed to change this behavior. Circling back to teacher action, if the student wants to do well and wants to progress forward, they will not be apathetic or quietly confused. My checks for understanding will not simply be a "Do you get it?" or "You look confused," but instead will challenge the students to prove their understanding. This push, I think, can cause a desire to go into the educational future and professional world.

My students today were crazy. Some of my best behaved were influenced by the students around them quickly and drastically. Trying to be a part of that elusively and exclusively cool group took over the environment, something that I had not for seen. This interest in appearing a part of the group can influence their interest in the material and their interest in succeeding. And that, my mind chirped today, means investment, investment, investment. The leaders of the pack, when engaged, create an environment of desire and competition to succeed. When these "influencers" are disengaged so are most other people too. 

How will I create this investment in a high school student who is graduating in a few short months? How do I create a feeling that they should apply to college, go to college, and finish strong in their last year? This feat will be something I have to do from day one. It's almost more important than the content for those first few weeks, because without a commitment then, I may lose some forever. 

Monday, July 6, 2009

"Because I said so"

Ah, I have found out a trend that is likely to continue in my region...the aftermath of a 3 day weekend. Welcome back from the 4th of July Caitlin, your students don't want to be here, didn't have to be here for 3 days straight, and ahh yes, they're done in 3 days. You're going to have a great day!

My anticipation was great. Coming off of an insane weekend in New Orleans, Louisiana, I knew that my fatigue combined with their anticipation would be quite interesting. And, yes, I was right! I don't think anyone had a particular interest in being there today, with no exception made for the teacher. 

But, that's fine, we had an allright day either day. My students have become a small family in these past few weeks. The gang talk and gang competition ends when they walk in the door, something that I wish they could realize and apply to the rest of their lives. I talked to one of my students today about how well he has been doing in the class (with a 90% ...and 45% increase from his diagnostic exam). My talk seemed to influence his actions further, with his participation and leadership in the classroom skyrocketing, but then I talk to him after school about how well he did and how he can help me and he says "I'm not going to be there probably." And why is that? He got into a gang fight and was arrested, and is now going to his court date tomorrow where he could be a) going to juvenile detention, b) going on house arrest, c) going on probation (ideally).

The complexity of these students is mind blowing. My life was filled with soccer practice, sprinting home after school to watch "Blossom" (oops, don't tell the parents I watched television when I wasn't allowed!!), and the occasional movie at the mall. Happy simplicity that I always remember fondly, I am again, beyond lucky for my childhood and support system. 

I realized today where this stems from for some of these students too. After I talked to this student about his court date I watched him walk away with some of his friends and realized something very obviously different from my school experience. These other students were 2 even 3 years behind in their schooling. That puts them at 16 years old when they are interacting with students like mine. As they are pulled back in their school years their friends can still progress through high school. That means if someone like Alexis hangs out with these kids after school he is most likely also hanging out with these boys friends on the weekends...and therefore surrounded by a bunch of 16 year olds. 

I finally got it. Holding these students back creates a infectious cycle of the younger students. As I have a 16 year old girl in my class, with two children, she invites my 12 year olds to a party and they are exposed to alcohol, drugs, sex, and whatever else they should not be seeing at that age. This continuously passes down and creates this environment of students that are too OLD for their age! All I want to say, and did say to Alexis, is STOP!! ENJOY YOUR IMMATURITY! This time of your life is supposed to be lighthearted and all about growing into your own. I don't want their own to be filled with this dumb stuff.

I see these young students (like my two girls in the front row) that have not been affected by these factors, but have been affected socially. One of my girls speaks out against gangs and getting involved in these "too old" extracurriculars and she is constantly shunned by the other students. Labeled as a brown-noser, she is ignored or talked over constantly and her confidence is rocked every day. I meet with her at lunch at least 3 times a week and she gets 100% when we talk things out...yet struggles in class. The social pressures are insane. As I have stepped away from this (and had the opportunity to go to single-sex high school) I had truly forgotten about this aspect of school. Anyway, I won't rant about the advantages of the single-sex environment (but you should know that it fosters an amazing spirit in young ladies!) but my little Diana would truly benefit from something like that.

Ah well, 3 more days of classes and exams. I have learned too much from these kids. I have never felt like I could leave such a footprint like I have these past few weeks on these children. Even when they are mouthing off or being disrespectful they still respond to positive reenforcement like no one else I have ever met. All it takes is ONE person to say they believe in you ...and everyone will run with it.

one day all children...

so sleepy

i am so tired...ill write about the weekend later today after a nap! so ridiculous

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bringing the heat

I have often wondered if I would be good at classroom management. I find management and leadership to be so different when you actually step into these roles. Although I have had a lot of leadership in the last 8 years or so, I don't know about management. Yah, I was a supervisor of 100 student callers, but I always had 7 other supervisors around, and at least 4 within seconds of me if I had a question.

Now, I step into this world where after 1 week (yes, 1 WEEK ONLY) I am put on this stage. This stage consists of 20 students staring at you thinking about a multitude of things. Things like....how much they hate school, how much MORE they hate summer school, their boyfriends, the hangover they are feeling (yes, 7th graders drink now! what???), the fight they had last night, etc. etc. etc. And do you know what they don't think about...nor WANT to think about? English. English English English.

And for me, this initially was confusing. What students don't want to learn? Apparently these one's right? But that was my mistake....because everyone does want to learn. Every person, by human nature, in my opinion, wants to learn new things. Now, maybe these things aren't the same for each person, and maybe they don't want to learn things at the same rate or in the same amount, BUT each person does want to move forward in their life.

With this new attitude I walked into my classroom today, and tried to do something that would make each student WANT to participate. Make them want to engage the material, make them want to move forward, and finally make them want to continue positive thinking in my classroom and into each other classroom that they entered today.

So, we started our lesson and talked about narrative essay. I was so excited to finally get to teach about writing!! We talked about voice and expressing yourself and a few (not all, but that's okay!) seemed really excited to share a personal thing about themselves. And, I certainly don't mean share with the class, but they DID want to share in their journals or with me, and this is a huge step. Even my two students who just transitioned from ESL classes to mainstream classrooms wrote page long outlines for their essays.

It was a tough day management wise, unfortunately, but in a way a great day management wise. I have found that giving these students the option to choose from three or four things makes them feel like they have some power in the classroom. This power allows me to lay off on my management/hammer and instead allow them to have a controlled fun that they feel they shaped. What a great epiphany!

Ah, hump day, you have come and gone. I think I will come to love Wednesday nights for the next two years! New Orleans on Friday morning, so excited!!!!!!

p.s. I took some pictures of my school that I will post up later this week once I get my new computer up and running! Love everyone, and thanks for your support these past few weeks!