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updates for 05.03.2011

9 new posts today

Cairo...not Egypt, Cairo in Southern Illinois and why it should be saved

I think this quote pretty much sums up my feelings on this situation in Southern Illinois:

"Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing."

If you are not aware, just google "Cairo flooding" or even better go to youtube and put in Tilley reacts to flood plan to hear from an elected official. It is so very sad that people are arguing over what is more important, thousands of acres of farmland for crops or a small town with the homes of thousands of people...since when can someone put a price on the value of a human life and history? Or even tell someone that their homes and belongings are not worth saving for the sake of something else? I even majored in agricultural sciences and I still feel that this choice should be very clear...yet to many it isn't.

Cairo is an area in Southern Illinois that is full of history and more importantly people's homes, memories, belongings...but to many these things do not have a value because this is a poverty stricken area it should be flooded, it is not worth saving or even rebuilding. This eerily reminds me of a city I love...New Orleans. I wish that sometimes people could take a step back and walk in someone else's shoes. Keep in mind these are people's HOMES--everything they own and have worked for. Not to mention...how would you explain to a child that everything they knew as their home (their school, their life, their friends, their things) was not worth saving....

Sorry for the ramblings...but these stories are what motivate me to believe in the change that America needs. That we can reach out, that we have to reach out, to the youth of our nation and let them know no matter where they come from, they are worth something and capable of everything...that they are worth saving.


Mixed emotions and life...

From my last post on being so excited on passing my required praxis, I was finally somewhat relieved and ready to start my TFA adventure. I started on my pre-institute work and conducted classroom visits to a school with current TFA CM's and was even more excited and confident in the program and making a difference...then life hit me smack in the face.  My husband's original job offer did not come through and his other option was a position in Charlotte, NC. I made sure to contact the TFA office in Alabama to let them know what was going on and check on the possibility of a transfer to Charlotte...turns out there is no room for additional transfers to Charlotte. So my husband went on the interview and received an offer....I was both so happy and so sad at the same time. So I again contacted my TFA Alabama Office and also admissions--now I am in limbo to see if I could possibly defer for one year in hopes of there being a placement available in the Charlotte area in 2012. I am so disappointed...I do not want to give up my placement in this program and I feel as though I've failed and I haven't even started. I also do not want to stand in the way of my husband's career opportunities, nor do I want to have us living in two different states. Unfortunately we also can really not afford him not to take this position in Charlotte and graduate in a week with no other option. I've never been so torn about something in my life.  I now await the decision for my deferment--I should know a definite answer by Wednesday. At that point if I receive a deferment, I lose my current placement in Alabama and go through the whole placement process again next year with the hopes that Charlotte will have an opening. If I do not receive my deferment, I feel that we will just have to tough it out and try to make things work so we can both follow our career paths...although the added stress of relocating, starting new jobs, finding houses, splitting our belongings, and trying to actually schedule time when we will see each other in person will definitely weigh heavy on our relationship.  Who knew life could be so confusing....


we are alabama.

Safe to say my life has changed drastically since I last posted. Was it really less than a week ago? I am - or rather, was - a senior at The University of Alabama. In dealing with the aftermath of last week's tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa, I'm having a hard time focusing on Teach for America. My friends and I will not graduate in 5 days. We will not walk across the state or pose in our caps and gowns. However, much, much more importantly, at least 40 lives have been lost, and countless others altered forever. From one member of the Teach for America family to the others, please consider donating to help with relief efforts in Alabama. There are more than 100 Alabama alum currently teaching or about to enter the field - from San Francisco to Denver to Houston to New Orleans to Memphis - and we sure would appreciate a little help from our greater TFA family. Ways to help: Text REDCROSS to 90999 or visit the Red Cross's website United Way of West Alabama West Alabama Food Bank Help Alabama Roll Tide, and God bless.


Osama Bin Laden

Today in class we were supposed to be talking about the ways in which NASA has helped us in our everyday lives.... instead we went on a tangent in my fifth period class about Osama Bin Laden. Feeling that it was a truly important current event, I went with it. My students were curious as to why we all cared so much that this man was caught, and wanted to know why we were happy he was dead. It lead to a really interesting conversation about radical religion. I was amazed at the connections my students were making and was ever more impressed with how they directed their own discussion with little imput from me. For example, one of my students made a comparrison between Bin Laden and a Klu Klux Klan member, both justifying their violent actions with their religion. For a seventh grader, thats a pretty deep thought. It is amazing to me to watch these kids turning into young adults before my eyes. It was a true moment of education in my room today, both for them and for me.


Placement Joy!!

Last week I had two interviews with two charter schools in Phoenix.  The first one is located in downtown Phoenix and the other one is located closer to Glendale.  Today I received a call from the Headmaster of the first school saying they are extending me an offer for a third grade position!!  I am beyond excited about knowing that I will be teaching at this school in August.  The charter school seems to have a great deal of structure and has a reputation for producing graduates of their high schools with high SAT scores with a well-rounded liberal arts education.  I'm even more excited that I will be teaching third grade!  I always wanted to teach third grade more than any other grade so I'm feeling extremely fortunate right now about how things are working out.  I honestly did not expect to get placed before arriving to Phoenix at the beginning of June, so this is such a blessing.  I am going to be leading a group of 8 and 9 year olds :)  I hope to be that teacher that every student remembers fondly.  Someone who set high expectations and encouraged them to grow both academically and as unique and wonderful individuals.  So excited to meet my third grade scholars!!


Ah, Arizona!

Found this online looking for something else... Thought it was appropriate as I'm packing up my apartment preparing to move to some sunshine. Seriously, it's POURING here today. GET ME OUT OF HEREEEEEEE! uggh. Anyways, while this doesn't paint Arizona weather in the best light, I thought it deserved a chuckle! Enjoy! :) Ah, Arizona! The devil wanted a place on earth Sort of a summer home A place to spend his vacation Whenever he wanted to roam. So he picked out Arizona A place both wretched and rough Where the climate was to his liking And the cowboys hardened and tough. He dried up the streams in the canyons And ordered no rain to fall He dried up the lakes in the valleys Then baked and scorched it all. Then over his barren country He transplanted shrubs from hell. The cactus, thistle and prickly pear The climate suited them well. Now the home was much to his liking But animal life, he had none. So he created crawling creatures That all mankind would shun. First he made the rattlesnake With it's forked poisonous tongue. Taught it to strike and rattle And how to swallow it's young. Then he made scorpions and lizards And the ugly old horned toad. He placed spiders of every description Under rocks by the side of the road. Then he ordered the sun to shine hotter, Hotter and hotter still. Until even the cactus wilted And the old horned lizard took ill. Then he gazed on his earthly kingdom As any creator would He chuckled a little up his sleeve And admitted that it was good. Twas summer now and Satan lay By a prickly pear to rest. The sweat rolled off his swarthy brow So he took off his coat and vest. "By Golly, " he finally panted, "I did my job too well, I'm going back to where I came from, Arizona is hotter than Hell. "


Differentiation on a Stick

I was muy disappointed in myself on Sunday afternoon because I hadn’t done any unit planning, even though I’d had all these great intentions to have super-duper-differentiated layered curriculum for my last five weeks as the first installment of 2YTA. I’d spent all my work time on Saturday deciding what on earth to remediate post-TAKS, instead of writing my summative (gulp) and calendaring my projects for the end of the year. Well. Turns out “layered curriculum” is waaaay easier to maneuver than I thought it would be. It’s like differentiation for dummies. Differentiation minus the mess. Differentiation that melts in your mouth, not in your hand. Differentiation on a stick! The three layers—one at a “C” level, one at a “B” level, and one at “A”—have different tasks assigned to each layer. Everyone completes the C-level task (basic knowledge), and if they complete that they move to the B-level (application & problem solving) and the A-level (critical thinking, analysis).  ... Easiest, fastest, most fun planning I’ve done. After about an hour of thinking, I had come up with tasks for each layer for my geometry and intervention classes for this week, and all I had to do was put the materials together. It was entertaining to occupy my mind with what kinds of things my kids could do with different topics at different levels! Better yet, I can see that as I get better at this, my projects for each level are only going to become more mathematically purposeful and more fun for my kids. The real reason I’m excited, though, is because of the reception the idea got from my students. I handed out the C-level, which was just a packet of practice problems. But when I told them that completing it would earn them a C, they Flipped. OUT.    Teezy Minaj was full of his usual attitude: “So you saying, if I do this whole packet perfectly, the best I get is a C?!? Miss, you can’t do that! Fidda call my momma, you gonna get fired.” It was encouraging to see that the norm in the classroom was to care about not just whether they passed, but whether they passed with a C or an A. We spent a heated five minutes going back and forth over why this was or wasn’t illegal before they realized my mind wasn’t changing. When I told them kids at other high schools were used to doing this much work, they made sure to remind me what school this was, after all, and told me “it’s different here!” I resisted the urge (and by that I mean I was wholly unprepared) to dive into a discussion of the achievement gap and low expectations, but I was excited to hold them to a new standard and glad they got to feel me give them some real expectations and not back down when they bucked. And when I told them “Yes, it’s a lot of work, and I know you guys are very hard workers and that you’ll get it done,” they didn’t have anything but grumbles to shoot back at me. The best part? They finally realized they didn’t have any choice but to get working. My A students were ferocious and stopped letting people copy off their papers. Several of my students who like to wait to be prodded before they ask a question were clarifying things left and right. I know that at the end of this week, my high students will have completed high-level tasks while my low students will have gotten the practice they need.  Still working on how to push everyone up the scale—but getting some of us there is going to be pretty sweet. The other best part? Planning those tasks means I've finished my planning for the week. (WHAT? You have time this week to plan for next week? I thought you were a first-year teacher!)



I'm not normally the type of person to be open about "failure," however, I feel at peace about this one and I want other corps members to not feel alone if it happens to them. I put failure in quotations because it doesn't really feel that serious, but it is a bit disappointing...mixed feelings I suppose. I recently learned that my resume has been "retracted" from the first school I was referred to. A whole group of us were notified that the district has decided to "go in a different direction with their vacancies." It's disconcerting to get that notification after having gone through the interview process with the leadership team. You know, rejection is never fun. However, I visited the school last week for an observation, and I have to admit, I didn't get the best vibe from them (nothing against the school, teacher or leadership...it just wasn't feeling quite right for me). This was the school I had hoped to be placed in, even before my resume was referred there, so I was so excited to visit. It was a rural school and close the the city where my husband will work, so it seemed ideal! I don't know if it was the school or if it was the reality of teaching setting in, but I had a very uneasy feeling after I left the observation that day. Still, I was eager to hear the results of my interview. Well, now I know the results and that I will not be placed in what I thought was my dream placement. But, everything happens for a reason, and I feel like this worked out just as it was supposed to. It also helps to see the other names on the retraction email and realize that a handful of fabulous other people are being thrown back into this process too. All that to say, congratulations to those who have already been placed! I know it must be a good feeling to know for sure. And for those of us still floating in the unknown, our time will come, and hopefully any trials and waiting we go through on the way will just be to ensure we end up in exactly the right placement!


How do we reconcile this? (L. Summers returns to TFA)

I guess I'm a bit late to the game but I felt the need to post something on this.  How are we (TFA Corps members) supposed to engage with the contradiction between TFA reappointing Larry Summers to it's board and TFA commitment to the fact that every child has the inherent ability to succeed at the highest levels. Summers, former Harvard president who stated that in terms of men and woman have unequal levels of apptitude at the highest levels of math and science.  That, in his words "there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude".  And to be clear Summers is saying that women have intrinsically less aptitude in high level math and sciences then men. Summers remarks. So I have to ask.  Teach for America, how can you justify having this man on your board?  Why do you want him?The idea that there are intrinsic differences in aptitude is 100% counter to TFA's ideology that there is in fact no natural discrepancy in aptitude, that knowledge and success is based on hard work?  Summers' comments seem like the kind of thing that appear (and are criticized) in TFA literature, not the statements of a board member. So what gives?


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