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


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 life just got a little bit easier. Yay!


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


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)
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


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!


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


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!]

Classroom Decorations

So, I've been avoiding the inevitable...decorating my classroom. Now, let me briefly explain my point of view on this subject: LESS IS MORE. I hated walking into classrooms in middle, high school, and college that we're plastered with posters we never referenced or colored sheets of paper everywhere that made it feel more like a clown room then a classroom.

Okay rant over. In hindsight and as a result of these feelings I decided to opt for a understated feeling in my room that was still exciting but more interactive? I don't know. Basically not posters everywhere and corners of construction paper, tape, and glitter. Haha karma has come full circle because as I walked out of my classroom today (at 7PM after some major cleaning and "decorating") I noticed I have fallen into the trap: glitter letters, construction paper in THREE seperate parts of the room, AND two posters (one about Edgar Allen Poe -- my fav, and one about the Crucible -- I've never read that). I literally laughed out loud at myself. I walked in this morning with such an empowered thought process - "I will resist!! I will not put meaningless junk on the walls!! My kids are adults - they don't need distractors!"

Ah, yes Caitlin you sure resisted...2 hours.

Our Home/My Room

As promised, I am delivering (not within 48 hours for you sticklers, but close enough!).

Monday, August 10, 2009

My School

I am so Arcansauce these days.

Diana's new license plate. She's excited -- but still with some Wisconsin (license plate holder) and Minnesota (U of M sticker) pride!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

First week of in-service -- CHECK!

I am slowly checking off all those pre-student tasks, and it's getting nerve racking! Ahhhh studeeennntss staring at you: 10 days!!

No, really it's not that scary. I am actually quite excited these days. I finally got a grasp on what I am teaching and the order/how I want to teach it. I was struggling with that for quite a few days, over thinking simple decisions that were obvious. For example, what order should I teach Am. Lit in? Well Caitlin, maybe you should teach it in chronological order. That took a few days to click. Duh.

Moving to a new city, being with new people, and transitioning into a professional setting has been a great ride thus far. But with so many new activities, people, and tasks, I have neglected to sit down and just reflect on what I am going to be doing in a few short days....teaching. The students are coming! The students will be learning!

C has been great thus far. An interesting mix of novice and veteran teachers all ready to learn, teach, and be leaders in the classroom. What a great movement. Education has a power I neglected to understand when in high school. I got it more and more throughout college and at Institute for TFA, but now it truly hits. These students do not know what you are teaching them...this is possibly their first interaction with a piece of literature. How are you going to make sure they understand and remember it? This is the task I now have to master.

I am finishing up my syllabus tonight, much more detail in it then the others provided as examples, but I feel like that makes me accountable and even better, the students accountable.

Wish me luck! :)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Some Photos!

On the drive to my school every morning...lots of water, swamps, bridges over these things, and rice fields!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

the MOVE!


We're here...and now the real work begins! My parents have been gracious enough to stick around and help me through this heap of stuff (too much stuff, I know) that I own. Two cars full to be exact. The trip down was looooonnnnggg, man Illinois stinks. Straight down the entire state for 8.5 hours, not too much fun!

Since we've been here in Stuttgart we've put together the bed, a dresser, a bookshelf, and moved everything inside. The closet is packed (what's new right?). Every house I move into has a bigger closet, yet I am always able to fill it. And they don't even have a Goodwill here, so I can't give away my clothes, oh well too bad, so sad. I am going to post some pictures probably tomorrow night once the room is completely together.

I have flowered wallpaper, four windows (southern exposure = lots of natural light, YAY!), an attached bathroom (with a shower!), and a ceiling fan -- all really positive things! The house is MASSIVE. We have five bedrooms on the second floor, two bathrooms, a huge living space, and an entry way that leads into that space. On the first floor there is an old school parlor room, a dining room, living room, full kitchen with an island, one bathroom, and a laundry/cleaning room. Outside there is a wrap around L-shaped porch with furniture already here, a veggie garden, a wrap around drive-way and yes, we counted SEVEN doors into the house. The house was built in 1884...and the town was established in 1882! It's pretty old, but beautiful and beautifully kept up. We feel so lucky to have stumbled upon this.

Alright sorry to keep y'all waiting, pictures to come within the next 48 hours -- I promise!
Happy last few summer nights to everyone! :)