Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009, A Year to Remember

What a year, probably the most exciting thus far in my life!

Highlights of 2009:
1. NYE/NYD Madison - style with some great high school ladies!
2. 2nd semester of senior year, really it couldn't be better
3. Senior thesis project with Elyse and Lisa, great topic great friends!
4. 2 PE classes that I got credit for (in college...)
5. Training for my triathlon :)
6. Many nights of crazy colored nail polish
7. Norma jean's visit to minysoda
8. Spring Break 2009 - Asheville and Charleston with Susana and David!
9. Hiking in SB09 on the Blue Ridge Parkway
10. Beer Olympics 2009! Thanks Elyse, Alicia, and Tara!!
11. UMF 2009, My Sups, baby sups, and staff
12. UMF Boat Trip... oops
13. the schatz smile - thank you kearly
15. My brother coming for graduation!
16. graduation celebration night... solid (thank you Brendan, Rodrigo, Jacqueline, Laura!)
17. First and last experience at 80s night at Shout House
19. My going away part at 1209 (Thank you Jacqueline!!!) and everyone who came to visit
20. Alex, Tom, and Caitlin's Excellent Adventure to the Dirty Delta
21. Houston Institute 2009... in Diana
22. 10 at 10
23. New Orleans, INDIA HOUSE
24. Los Dirty Mexicanos
25. Teresa's wedding
26. "The children...they're LEARNING" CMA Group, Sharpstown!
27. Moving to the Delta...and into my beautiful house with grrrreat roomies!
28. Mississippi St. vs. Florida Football
29. Exploring Memphis/Little Rock, Arkansas/Mississippi
30. Adding 1,000 of miles to my car in a 5 month period.
31. My first demolition derby and anything else country I've experienced in AR
32. Visiting Minneapolis and Milwaukee during my first semester haven!
33. CHS and the wonderful staff I have met and gotten to know!
34. Kearly visiting the DD
35. Basketball season at CHS
36. Stealing Wally Walrus from Andrew and him having no idea for weeks
37. Girl Talk in MEM, Zac Brown Band in LIT
38. My toolettes
39. The Delta sunsets!
40. Another happy year with family and friends!

What a ridiculous year. College, crazy summer time, and now the real world - all in 12 months.
Thanks for the memories everyone, here's to another crazy year!!

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Dear Blogosphere,

I am asking for your HELP! As you know, I work in a high-need, impoverished community in Northwest Arkansas. One of the things I have worked on in my classroom a lot this year is getting the students to read more. We have a campaign called AR Reads (Arkansas Reads). The students are expected to read 250,000 words per quarter, and a total of 1,000,000 for the year. When they have completed a book they have to take a test on the computer, and if they pass, they get credit for however many words the book was worth.

The program started out slowly the first quarter because of unclear expectations from the teachers, the students not actually believing there were consequences/advantages, etc. But, last quarter the program was HIGHLY successful. All of my students expect for 3 read at least one book, which is an accomplishment, as first quarter about 65% of students did not read anything! I implemented a public tracker on the wall where they get an X each time they complete 50,000 words, all the way up to 250,000 words. I was so impressed that they were even invested in that, as many would come asking if they could get their X IMMEDIATELY after taking a test (like...when they weren't in my class and were supposed to be somewhere else!).

ANYWAY, I have invested a lot of time and money in building my "library" in my classroom, and I would like to make it an even better project now. I submitted a proposal to www.DonorsChoose.Org, a website that helps teachers in under-served, under-represented communities fun projects for their classrooms and their students' benefit.

I created a project centered around my library, asking for a couch, coffee table, and rug!!! I'd really like to reward my students for their commitment to this part of their education with a comfortable place to do some reading. We do silent reading twice a week, once for 30-40 minutes, and once as a Bell-Ringer for 15 minutes. This, assuming the students read about a page a minute, and with 9 weeks in the quarter, allows the students to read about 2 books in class time, which should fill about 100,000 words. That relieves some of the pressure for them, as they only have to then read 150,000 words on their own.

Half of my project is funded by a private grant (the Gates Foundation) because it will "lead towards success in college," which is amazing! I only need a little more then $400 dollars to complete it!

If you have friends, family, acquaintances - please encourage them to support this project!!
These are the links for my two projects ....

Classroom Library
Classroom Set of "The Bluest Eye"

THANK YOU in advance for all of your help in advance!!!!! My students and I really appreciate anything you can do to help!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Ah, the relaxation of being at home in a warm (kind of) and comfy family environment! I have slept in each day until at least 1030 and not woken up once in the night. I pass out every night, it's amazing. I keep thinking that the next day I will feel refreshed and not need the sleep anymore, but then I want to pass out at 1130 anyway! So, I do - because frankly, I don't have a lot to do!

I've started to do some work during the day. Read some books I am thinking about teaching, did some lesson planning, reorganized my calendar a bit, and planned some visits/vacations. Ah, it's so nice to do this kind of stuff when it is not due the next day! I love it! I didn't think I'd want to do any work for the next few weeks, but now I find myself thinking that I have to work because it'll make the next month or even two months so much easier. So, if that is the end result, then yes, absolutely I am going to work - even on Christmas.

Anyway, I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday with their family and MERRY CHRISTMAS. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Halfway There

OOOOHhhhhhhhhhhhh We're halfway there, OOOOhhhhhhhhhhhh Livin on a prayer!!

It's officially winter break! Yay!! And that means a few things: 1. I have survived the first semester of teaching, 2. have survived the first 6 months living in a new state, 3. the children have hopefully learned something, 4. and the best part - two weeks off from work! :)

The end of the semester ended by hitting rock bottom, and then slowly building back up the last week and a half. The end was good though, with students taking exams and doing well - working hard, etc. So, I feel good leaving for the break. Had you asked me how I was feeling two weeks ago it would have been a completely different story.

We started the basketball season off slow (2-2) and then went into this tournament at England. England is a much bigger school, and apparently returning state runner-ups. So, the first game of the tournament we lost, but it was a good game. The second game was a different story, we got schooled by over 60 points. It was horrible. I felt like I had epically failed my real bad. Naturally, when I got home, amongst the other pressures and happenings at school (there had been some run ins that week that we're not fun) I just started sobbing. Ridiculous.

Anyway, I woke up the next day and decided that it was just a bad day...just a bad week. And I was right - because I always briefly forget that the kids don't remember what happened to them the day before. This is absolutely to the core true. Even though I was struggling with those memories of roughness, the kids had moved on and not even thought about it.

The last few weeks have been much better. My classes have calmed down a bit, have done all of their work, follow the routines that I ask them to, and really know what to do in my classroom. It's a nice feeling to see some of these things falling into place. The kids did well on their end of term exams and the basketball team won two games. Success! Yay!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

100 Posts, 100 Things I Am Thankful For

It's been awhile since I've blogged, end of the semester and Thanksgiving business has slowed me down! But, when I signed in today I realized that it's 100 posts, so I am going to try something fun -- 100 things I am thankful for since I have moved down here to the Delta.

Sometimes I think it is easy to focus on the difficult parts of our job and our lives, but there are so many good things that have happeend too. So here we go! Look forward to it soon!

I am THANKFUL for....

I am thank for...

1. a job
2. my family and their vigilant watch on my sanity
3. a community that wants to keep our school open
4. my basketball girls that work hard everyday
5. having second lunch so that my afternoon consists of two classes, and basketball
6. having the best roommates this side of the Mississippi River
7. coordinated days off with those roommates that involve trips to Little Rock
8. the ability to travel throughout the year, to home and friends, to keep myself grounded
9. the exposure I have had to a different culture and lifestyle
10. the open minds I have found regarding people letting someone like ME teach their children
11. google voice, so that my children don't know my real phone number
12. learning how to deal with a town that does not operate on a 24 hour schedule, but instead a 12 hour one
13. my alarm, because God knows I would NOT wake up at 5:45 without it
14. my parents for getting me an air conditioner and installing it
15. itunes, so I can access music that is NOT country
16. our one radio station in town, and the local DJ that tells me all about the drama/gossip broadcast ed for all to hear
17. Teach for America and their vision & mission
18. my friends from home that have sent me mail, emails, and messages supporting me
19. anyone who reads this blog -- thank you for being my release of stress each night!!
20. my 25 minute (sometimes 17 when I am really late and have to speed --sorry mom) commute to and from school for decompressing
21. my placement in the Delta, because otherwise I never would have come here
22. Walmart
23. the library at school, I've started reading so much more then in college
24. my Subaru, Diana, she has been a trouper these past few months
25. the opportunity to interact with kids each day
26. Tom, Alex and Drew joining me on this ridiculous experience since the beginning (As we were driving to DSU the first day Tom and I were like "We should turn around... it's only a 10 hour drive back. I am sure we could find different jobs. SHIT I am scared" hahaha)
27. my Institute crew for getting through that ridiculous experience of intensity
28. Gatorade, I never thought I'd drink so much in my life
29. photographs of my family and friends, all over my desk and house
30. my organizational skills, because man, I'd be screwed without them
31. the four notes I've received this year from other teachers saying they love my classroom (now taped securely to my desk for the rest of the year)
32. the TFA quote "Find one moment every day, for every child, where they are doing SOMETHING correctly"
33. my high school experience and education -- I can't believe how much I have relied on it
34. my mother for being a Principal and telling me that my life is ridiculous sometimes -- but to deal with it
35. when I drive to school during sunrise or sunset on the rice fields
36. my XM radio and ipod for providing PUMP UP music each morning
37. boots from Target, I love stress shopping
38. C central office staff, they are too busy and too good at their jobs!
39. a supportive Principal, who doesn't let parents walk over you
40. construction paper
41. breakfast sandwiches
42. Little Rock, AR and Memphis, TN
43. my friends here in the Delta and their uncanning ability to organize a get together after the worst of weeks - reading my mind all of the time
44. text messages, and their instant responses!
45. exercise
46. support "life is all about the people you spend it with"
47. local business and the communities constant interconnectedness/dependence
48. Viva La Milli
49. the phrase "ya'll"
50. laughing until I cry
51. airplanes...and no delays
52. my new found calmness in response to anger or aggression from others
53. the lessons I have learned from the children this year
54. the opportunity to see poverty that was not considered "inner city"
55. my literacy coach who offers solid advice while also making us all feel comfortable in a new setting
56. Andrew being at C, and our daily debriefing after school of the out of control moments
57. the opportunity to go to a coed high school, since all-girls is all I knew!
58. the furnished house we found so quickly back in July
59. guacamole
60. my own classroom and working technology
61. my students unbelievable honesty about their understanding of subjects
62. the resources I am afforded
63. a fun coaching staff
64. Wisconsin and Minnesota, man they are great states!
65. Midwesterners' in general. I was attracted to them like magnets when I joined TFA--and now they are some of my closest friends down here!
66. the exposure TFA has allowed me to different people from all around the U.S. and beyond
67. the chance to reread some great books - like The Great Gatsby!
68. vacuums that suck up all these obnoxious lady bugs down here
69. our awesome flower bed/veggie garden that WILL be developed in the Spring (maybe...)
70. the US Postal Service
71. the main high school office staff for their patience with all of my questions
72. pink slips, and the reaction students have when I pull one out
73. Ms. Pam for being a great resource at CHS :)
74. my TFA program director, who has given me resources I would have never found on my own
75. my Ray Bans, love them!
76. the luck I have had this year
77. the call center, it was like teaching 100 high school students before I even got into TFA - thanks for the preparation
78. everyday I shake my head saying "man, I never thought this could happen in America" (MOST DAYS)
79. my roommates and our television obsessions (Tool Academy, Jersey Shore, etc.)
80. visitors!!!
81. gchat (and Mary always being on when I want her to be)
82. the warm weather
83. my big rubber rainboots
84. my natural support system here in Stuttgart
85. Easy Grade Pro, thank God, that's all I have to say
86. sad but true, my school director from this summer saying "THE CHILDREN THEY ARE LEARNING, THEY ARE LEARNING" and me laughing at him - but seeing it now
87. feedback every time someone comes into my classroom
88. being in the main building of the high school, so that students can stop by as they walk through school
89. having clear expectations regarding what I need to do this year
90. the Delta Whaaaaats and our email list, so that I can understand I am NOT the only one going through this
91. having 11 sick days to use this year
92. specific students who have really come through for me this year
93. being on a school schedule, which means vacation and summer
94. Milwaukee and living in an environment that caused tolerance
95. motivational moments
96. a good margarita once in awhile....
97. the fact that there are over 300 other people working in MS and AR towards a common goal
98. pen pals in Dallas and Houston
99. my dad for always listening to me complain :)
100. LIFE!

That was easier then I thought it would be. I know I've said it before, but I lead a blessed life with many things to be thankful for. It's nice to put it down so I can visualize it. It's like Ben Harper's song "I am Blessed." Listen to it sometime! And thanks for reading, I appreciate it.