Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!

That's all. Happy Halloween everyone!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


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 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 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


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


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!