Tuesday, November 24, 2009


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


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.



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!