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updates for 05.04.2011

6 new posts today

Teacher-Polishing Machine

Ever wonder whether you’ve done an adequate job of differentiating? Just count up how many kids pick that day to be a “I ain’t finda DO no work!” day. Unsure about whether you’ve inserted enough checks for understanding? Just look at the ratio of kids sleeping to kids working. Don’t bother asking your PD whether your key points make sense—just make a tally every time you hear a student say “this is stupid” and you’ll get the picture pretty quick. Or, if you just want an overall teacher-quality rating: at 4pm, rate the amount of ache you feel in your back and feet on a scale from 1 to 10 and divide it by the number of centimeters between your eyebrows. If your number is more than 3 for three weeks in a row (or if you don’t have eyebrows), watch out. No, really. My kids are the most sensitive and accurate teacher-evaluation system there is. Every SINGLE time I fail my kids, they let me know. Every single time. So what if I’ve been rocking the hizzouse for the past three weeks, scaffolding like crazy and making things fun and understandable? The very first time I overlook my students’ lack of prerequisite skills in weeks (read: I didn’t craft my “C” layer artfully enough), I get the message loud and clear. They’re so exHAUSting when I don’t plan well! When you look at it this way, it’s kind of ironic that they’ve received such a sub-standard education. Every time I give them less than they deserve, my life is miserable—with a feedback system like that, they’re like the ultimate teacher-polishing machine. I wonder if I’m being polished. I wonder if I’d ever improve at all if I taught high-achieving kids who didn't know how to demand a high-achieving teacher.


Go girl.

Why is today so hard...? I'm really struggling right now. Last night too. As I write, I'm surrounded by boxes, packing tape, piles, garbage bags.... sitting on the floor of my messy messy apartment. Wondering how the heck I'm supposed to figure this out, and get out of this apartment by Friday. Saturday? Sometime this week....... uggh. At a time in my life when I should be so filled with direction, inspiration, encouragement, strength, confidence, love, life, energy.... I can't find any of it. Rough patch I guess. I'm scared. Tears have been involved every few hours. I went to the grocery store yesterday and bought too much food. I'm in denial about leaving. How did this happen? How am I moving back to my parents' house? How am I moving to Phoenix in less than a month? How am I going to be a TEACHER in 3 months? Maybe I'm not as strong as I thought I was. I talk a big talk...but now's my time to walk a big walk. Can I handle this? I feel like I've wasted this precious time--my last 2 or 3 weeks here. Staying up late doing nothing, sleeping till 10---what!? When did I pick up that habit again? I haven't accomplished anything. So many people to see, places to go. Where did my drive go? Kid Cudi just came on my 'packing' Pandora station, and I felt this line speak to me. [Am I really quoting hip hop right now? Seriously--Who am I?] "I've got some issues that no one else can see, and all of these emotions are pouring out of me." Since I'm soon to be an elementary school teacher, maybe this isn't ridiculous....but I like this video :] http://youtu.be/cyVzjoj96vs

[If you're wondering, the title of this post was supposed to be my inspiration to myself to get my butt moving. I'll let you know how well it works....Don't hold your breath.]

Explaining Myself... or Why I'm Becoming a Teacher

Last Monday I gave my current supervisor notice that I am leaving at the end of May.  While friends and family have slowly been finding out through personal conversations between January 18th and present, I am now able to more broadly explain why I am excited to become a teacher… and why I made the decision to leave my AmeriCorps position. Most of my school years were spent in a rural school system in South Carolina. I certainly had some wonderful teachers and the district was by no means the worst in the state or nation. At the same time, however, it didn’t have the resources that I later came to find out were considered normal in other districts across the country. Upon graduation, it was almost expected that the best students would attend a relatively local college while ‘average’ students would seek jobs. To me, it is completely fine to seek a job or to attend the colleges near my hometown.  But what concerns me is when one story, one path, becomes the prevailing dialogue. It concerns me when other options are not thoroughly presented or explored. I was fortunate to have a teacher that encouraged me to attend my dream school. He reminded me of how I constantly talked about Duke when I was in the sixth grade. (At that point, it probably had more to do with Duke’s basketball program rather than specifics about its academic program!) I applied, and after being accepted, decided to go (with the assistance of a very large financial aid package). I started gaining an understanding of the achievement gap as soon as I stepped onto Duke’s campus. My roommate, the friend who would become my husband, and several other individuals had come from well-resourced school districts… which tended to correspond with more affluent parts of the country. They had more AP and IB credit options and access to SAT tutors and prep courses to help them make it to prestigious universities.  Most of all, they were prepared for the rigorous coursework and high expectations of our professors at the beginning of freshman year. Duke provided me with excellent opportunities to pursue my passion in science. I studied leatherback sea turtles in Trinidad with two leading sea turtle biologists and took advantage of funded field experiences from Yellowstone to New Zealand.  I want all students to have the opportunities that I was blessed with at my dream school, and I don’t believe that your educational outcome should be determined by where you grow up. I graduated from Duke in May 2010, and this year I joined AmeriCorps to work as a social activity coordinator with a prisoner reentry program. My job has been rewarding in some aspects and challenging in others. Returning citizens certainly need support. There are many financial arguments for helping individuals stay out of prison, but I personally think there is an ethical obligation as well to help support these individuals while keeping the community safe… the primary stated goal of many reentry programs. I have met many wonderful program participants who are trying to make it in a felony-unfriendly world. And I have made many wonderful friends who care very much about this cause. But I am still deciding to leave.  This stems from several reasons: I miss science! I miss my biology, geology, and marine science courses. I miss learning about the environment, and especially the ocean.  If you had asked me what I would do before I entered college, anything science-related wasn’t even close to being on my radar.  I want to share my passion of science with my students.  I want them to be confident that they can do well in what is considered a very difficult subject. I want my female students to feel comfortable in a field that is often considered male-dominated, or where males are considered to be naturally better. I want to best use my talents. When I look over my past internships and volunteering, the parts that I have most enjoyed of each have a teaching component. And I like to think that I at least have the ability to further develop (significantly!) my teaching skills. I don’t think planning social events is my forte… some of the lessons I have learned this year will be applicable to managing a classroom, but I don’t think I am currently in a position that best uses my skills. I believe Teach For America will provide me with the best opportunity to grow in my teaching abilities and become an effective teacher in the fall. Teach For America has been a goal of mine for a couple years. My wonderful college roommate once mentioned to me that she thought it would be a good organization for me. After that conversation I started looking more into TFA, its mission, and thought about how this applied to me. I understood how the achievement gap was reflected in my school and my experiences, and knew that same gap was much more significant in other parts of the country. I spoke with a recruiter at Duke during my senior year. At this point, however, my soon-to-be husband and I were figuring out how to blend the life paths of two motivated individuals. We decided that the best place for his schooling was at the University of Michigan. There was significant talk of a TFA region in Detroit, but it was still a little up in the air by the time we had to make summer plans. (Graduate, get married, move across the country… you know, small life things.) This year the timing was right. I applied to TFA knowing that this was a significant opportunity for me to pursue a career in education. And I applied knowing that I would have to leave my current position early. I am excited about institute this summer in New York City. And I am excited about leading a classroom in the fall. I want to help put my students on a path to graduation and to higher education.  And if they happen to learn to love the ocean along the way I won’t complain. ;) tl;dr A message primarily to the people who know me. I’m quitting one job to become a teacher, and I’m excited.


senioritis and some side notes

I've got senioritis bad. All I want to do is hang out with all my friends and say good-bye to 4 years of good and bad times. Unfortunately, unlike high school senioritis, life still matters. At the end of senior year of high school life did not matter....my classes were a joke, I was in college and college didn't need anything from me until the fall. This time around, I feel like the one time I want to have nothing to do, I have the most things to do EVER!! The great thing about the stuff I have to do is that it is all awesome stuff, the only problem is the amount of time I have to do them in. I have to write research paper about the extinction of the dinosaurs...awesome, make a final portfolio of photographs...even more awesome, memorize and rehearse my final Shakespeare scene...if possible even more awesome, write a paper about the history of mental illness in Shakespearean England using primary sources worth 4 million dollars from a gazillion years ago...sweet, write a paper on the prevalence of affective disorders in women with genetic sex disorders...really cool, and lastly take a bunch of exams...eh. While all these assignments are fun fun fun there is just no time time time. I feel like all the TFA readings are so interesting but I have barely had time to crack them. I am sadly stalled on exercise 3 and I have not visited any classrooms. I am getting stressed out to a new level, but I decided to just hyper plan my life, including my play time. I wish I had more time to prepare all of these things and truly enjoy them. I want to just curl up and read my TFA readings, but I have decided to finish up all my work and then after my last paper is due on the 16th go nuts over my TFA readings!! now time for the side notes...so I did not get the job I had the interview for but c'est la vie...and if it wasn't meant to be then it just wasn't meant to be. I was so nervous taht whole week and just felt so unsure because the lesson did not go well at all (see previous post) but I thought I rocked the socks off of the interview...but I then realized that the TFA kids I am competing against are all freakin mind blowing at interviews too. While interview skills has been a way in which I have been able to shine so much my whole life I am now in an organization where we are all great at interviews...kinda cool to be closer to like minds but at the same time it makes me feel a little less special ) : Well anyway whoever got that job PROPS!! I already ran into another girl who had interviewed there as well and had not gotten it either. another side note related to TFAers interviewing capabilities...my best friend from school just had an interview to work as an intern to the mayor of Baltimore. He was super excited and kind of put all of his eggs in one basket. He is an amazing interviewer and human being as well but he said when he rolled up the interview waiting room was full of smiling TFA alums. He said to me that TFAers are really becoming a power force to reckon with which made me proud to be part of such an amazing organization but sad when my friend lost out on his potential job to a TFA guy. and on an end note...I have two more days of school left and I feel like I started college a few days ago. While I am excited for this new chapter to get started I am also terrified to see my carefree childhood get further and further away. This is why I want to be a teacher because I get to be in some sense a child forever. Last summer when I was teaching my 2nd graders I regressed back to being a little kid. MY friends all were so annoyed because I would come home with stories like the sing off we had on the bus to Usher's there goes my baby, or Terrance's kick ass dance moves that won us the talent show, or how this bee had flown in my room and the children had refused to have the windows open for the next two days causing me to sweat off my 4th of July burger weight. I can not wait until I have a job like that again where I can be excited to wake up and enjoy the glories of being a kid again ( : "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."- Helen Keller


The Book of Liz

The 2011 Spring Play is The Book of Liz by Amy and David Sedaris.

The show features 13 stellar actresses and actors who've put in a great deal of work to bring all of the humor they possibly can to the performances. These students are commended not only for being involved, but also for choosing to tackle the difficulty of being on stage - they are honing their public speaking skills, presence and confidence as they assume their respective characters. It shows every rehearsal. To make it even better, this show is made possible as a result of several teachers' willingness to help bring theater to our community - many thanks to Kim Bos '09, John Marty '09, Keith Shinaberry '09, Wyatt Shimeall '09, Dennis Robillard '08 and Sabrina Egeland '07 for their help! We hope to see you all at TCHS on Wednesday, May 4th, Thursday, May 5th (or both!) at 7:00 pm CT. The play is free and open to the public, so please spread the word to your community!


No doubt I was stoked when I was hired by a school district in Colorado Springs. I could literally not breathe during the few days between my interview over skype and the call I received from HR. I thought the wait period after TFA interviews was bad, but I think that the school district period was worse because I am completely committed to the TFA cause now. Yet, that was well over a two months ago, and (me being type-A, which I'm sure a good 1/2 of CMs are) I had heard nothing back. I knew that the district would find a spot for me, eventually, but I was a little bit concerned of having nothing in writing. Today that changed though, because I am now a biology high school teacher!!!!! I am so excited because now I can apply everything I am learning through pre-institute to a biology classroom. I know the school, I know the grade levels, and I know the subject!  I will get paperwork to confirm this soon... I am literally excited for this. That being said, I feel extremely fortunate. Friends that are highly-qualified new CMs in other areas of the country, mainly Texas (gheez Texas, I love you but you need to get education on the priority list!), will not know this same information until August. Since, TeachForUs is designed to give the most accurate description of the process I feel like I should mention - be prepared for the interview and wait model - because you will be using it alot. Now that I no longer have school it is now time to focus hard core on pre-institute work. I'm wondering how far everyone is but don't necessarily want to ask over facebook in case anyone already is close to done. What I have read already in TOL definitely helped during my phone interview with the science staff today. I can't wait to start! PS: Just bought tickets on SW and its cheaper to fly with them then drive, by a lot.


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