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


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


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 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
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


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)