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updates for 08.09.2011

12 new posts today

First post about the Second year.

Laura woke me up this morning, standing in my doorway at 6:30, “You still wanna go, girl?” Eyes open, comfort of hand-me-down bed noted, “Yes. You?” And off we went, into the overcast Arkansas morning, for a three mile run before our first day of professional development for the year. We then left as a house, the boys with us, and arrived to a full high school auditorium to hear our assistant to the superintendent try to pat us on the back for being on school improvement for the fourth or fifth year in a row. We applauded loudest for kindergarten because their scores were so high, then realizes that they use norm-based testing, not standardized. Meaning the scores are hardly worth noting. Sigh. The icing on the cake was when this same speaker made a demeaning, and arguably racist to her own race, joke about our students, their parents, and our staff. All in one swoop. Everyone laughed, but the kind of laugh where you feel dirty and embarrassed afterward. Speaking of scores, how did sixth grade writing go last year, Caroline? How were your amazing writer kids? Brace yourself: their average scores dropped by 19% from the previous year. From 72 to 53%, no kidding. But you thought I was a good teacher, right? Those essays I posted last spring sounded so great! YEAH WELL NOW YOU UNDERSTAND, that despite updating my blog and loving Teach For America, my teaching abilities are severely lacking. My kids are severely under-served. I am chuckling as I write that, mostly because I am not currently considering the implications of these horrific scores on the 120 children that I love so much, that are now in the seventh grade. Chuckling because I know I’m not giving myself quite enough credit. “My” scores are really the combined literacy scores of both the reading teacher and myself. The reading teacher who missed a significant number of days last year due to sickness, severe weather in her hometown an hour away, and getting married. Who consistently relayed to me her lack of interest or expertise in her subject. I love that woman just as much as I love my sister, but we did not collaborate, did not concretely think about how to best reach our kids or about the long term effects of our daily lessons. It was my first year training and her second, both non-traditional (but different) routes, both first years to the district. It was a rough year. My last poor excuse for the dismal scores is that the year previous to my and reading teacher’s arrival in Dumas, the same pair of teachers had taught the our two subjects for over ten years. I would hope their scores were quite higher than what two brand new teachers could produce. Now, excuses aside, my scores were embarrassing and, as a result, incredibly motivating. My students this year will not have scores anywhere near those. They will be proficient. Someone, by God, someone will get a perfect score on the writing section. No one did it last year. Going to professional development today gave me the boost that Second Year Orientation via TFA didn’t, shocked as I am to admit that. I put my room together (kind of), I had an hour long conversation with the new reading teacher and I am equally pumped to work with her as I am sad that I’m losing one of my biggest in-school supports (last year’s reading teacher). The icing on the cake came late at school. Past 8pm, making today a 12 hour workday, I went to Sarah’s room because I saw her car out front (one of three: me, her, and the principal). After I finished talking to Andrew (I tried to link to his blog again, linkfail, sorry*) about his first day in Greenwood (!!) on the phone, one of our retired third grade teachers was in her old room, pulling books for one of her two sons, both with her. Sarah and I went over to say hi. The boys were sociable and adorable. The older, I found, is entering fourth grade. After talking with him for about a minute and a half he impassively glanced about the room for a moment, rested his eyes on mine and said with complete sincerity, “I hope I have you when I’m in sixth grade.” I don’t need anything else beyond that comment. Getting wrapped up in summer, in social life, in my own socio-economic class and race and speech patterns, I forget those sentences. The ones that make my veins bulge for a second, that disrupt whatever thought I was in and pull me into Dumas. That ground me, very securely, in Dumas. In the present. In the mission. I don’t give myself enough credit, none of us do. We all talk about failing, about widening the gap, about not doing exactly what TFA asks of us. But it’s absolutely true, that our mere presence (the presence of any teacher) impacts students and community member and peers and principals and strangers in ways we can expect to never know. It is incredible. I am so grateful for those words, for the 14 friend requests on my new teacher facebook account, for all these Dumas kids I am so in love with. Ahhhh, new sixth graders, I can hardly wait for the day in which we shall finally meet. *http://mrstratoshpere.blogspot.com/


Reformers Join The Mile High Club

Debunking a miracle school can be tedious work.  Debunking an entire district is, generally, even worse. But when I heard about the recent 'miracle' in Denver, I was pleasantly surprised when I got the opportunity to explore Colorado's excellent data system called SchoolView. Within a few minutes, I was able to produce awesome pictures like this In the above image, the 180 3-dimensional bubbles (homage to the bubble scan-trons on the standardized tests that produced them?) represent the 180 schools.  The size of the bubble is proportional to the population of the school.  The higher achieving schools have bubbles higher on the graph, the lower achieving ones are lower on the graph.  How far left and right is based on the nebulous 'growth' metric, which I learned about recently with regard to New York City's way of comparing schools. According to the state website 'growth' for a school is a number between 0 and 100, which is calculated by taking each student in that school and comparing his/her score on the CSAP test to the score of all other students in the state who had gotten a score similar to that student on the CSAP the year before.  Then all the students 'growth' scores are sorted and the middle score becomes the growth score for that school. If you go to the website, it instructs you how to interpret this score:

What is considered typical growth? The answer depends on whether you are referring to student growth percentiles (individual-level scores) or median growth percentiles (group-level scores). As defined by Colorado State Board of Education rule, a student growth percentile for a single child that falls within the 35th-65th percentile range reflects Typical Growth. When referring to median Growth Percentiles, such as for a school or demographic group, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) considers a median of 50 to be typical growth for school or group. The statewide median growth percentile in each subject and grade is the 50th percentile. When examining medians for schools, grades, subjects or groups, it is useful to look for differences from 50 when investigating growth. These data are particularly useful for benchmarking purposes and to understand how other schools or grades are doing in addressing problems in the educational system, such as the frequently observed achievement gap between poor and non-poor students. Comparing median growth percentiles for these two groups within a school or district can tell us whether existing achievement gaps might be closing. There is currently no single "rule of thumb" for deciding what are low, typical, or high growth median growth percentiles.
So a 'typical' score is somewhere between the 35% and the 65%.  In other words, this stat is completely bogus. Colorado's SchoolView data center enabled me to get the growth statistics and also the achievement statistics to investigate the Denver miracle. First, I looked at the absolute test scores and learned that they have changed very little in the past 3 years. Math Reading Writing As you can see, the scores have been, as they say, 'flat.' But they didn't claim victory based on their absolute test scores, but on their 'growth' which they boasted they had one of the top 3 growth stats in the state. Well, their easy to use (for me, anyway, but not, apparently, for anyone working for The Denver Post) website enabled me to quickly find the growth metrics for black and Hispanic students and compare them to what they considered 'adequate' growth. Here they are, with some commentary: Math

The larger bubbles on the bottom represent black and Hispanic students.  When you 'roll over' the bubbles with your mouse you learn black students have 49% 'growth' vs. 88% 'adequate', while Hispanic students have 54% growth vs. 79% 'adequate'. Reading For reading you have: Black 46% vs Adequate 58% Hispanic 51% vs Adequate 60% Writing For writing you have: Black 50% vs Adequate 70% Hispanic 51% vs Adequate 71% Now, I'll admit that I don't understand how to interpret all these statistics, which I think is the point.  They make up new statistics that are very confusing and then use them to declare miracles when really all the reform they've done there hasn't amounted to much.

Mini-Update/Call for College Pennants!

Today we started our first official day of district training. We start at 7:30 AM and go until 3:30 PM. Unfortunately for me, we also have TFA Orientation from 4PM-8PM. The super long day wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, I just hope that I can last through the week. My room in my new home is finally starting to come together.. I've got most of my furniture. I'm still waiting on my bed frame & headboard, but as soon as I get things finished, I'll post some pictures! It's so strange/exciting to have my own room. This is the first time in my life that I haven't shared a room with someone! My classroom needs A LOT of work. There's so much old stuff---student work, out-of-date textbooks, supplies---that are still lingering in my drawers and cabinets. I'm hoping that I can find enough energy to get the room clean and decorated so that my students will have a nice classroom to learn in come next Monday. One of the last teachers who used the classroom must've been a Geology teacher because there are a ton of rocks all over the place. When I asked the vice principal what I should do with them, he told me to pack them up in a box so they could be put away in storage; I don't think he realized how many of them there are! I'm excited nonetheless! Also, if anyone is interested/willing, I'm planning on doing a little college-corner where I hope to have various college pennants hung on the wall. If you're interested, the students of 205 at Central High School and myself would greatly appreciate it if you sent us a pennant from your alma mater or from any college of your preference. I think it'd be a cool way for me to have a little piece of my friends in my classroom too.. Please, please, please let me know if you're interested! You can email me at christine.gnut@gmail.com. I hope to update in more detail soon! From KC, Christine


Disingenuousness: We're Small Potatoes, Y'all

It's not said, but it's said: we're supposed to be somehow better than the teachers in schools now. There aren't teacher shortages at my school. My school hired me, an English major with zero teaching experience, over someone more experienced who was traditionally certified in social studies. Maybe it's because they can pay me less, maybe it's because principals like that we CMs are a known quantity (all picked, trained, placed the same), or maybe it's because there actually is some meat to that argument that my brand-name school and youthful enthusiasm means something (ha) in a classroom. But let's go with it. I'm going to be so much better than those traditionally certified, far more experienced, leagues-ahead content-proficient teachers. Even suspending my giggles, here's what I still don't get: I'm still working in the same structures as the teachers that are the object of the reform movement's disdain. We're working the standards hard and backwards planning the heck out of the state assessments and... aren't these the standards and assessments that (according to Kopp, Rhee, et al) have been screwing these kids over? It just feels like some logical discord in the idea that I can have this transformative effect in kids' lives when even if I'm the most capable, charismatic, and creative first-year teacher they've ever had, I'm teaching in the structures and institutions that are so broken. Can surface-level pedagogy really make that much of a difference? Maybe I'm missing a step. But I feel like we're inundated with a constant barrage of how the system's broken right before we're sent out to uphold the system. Ravitch says we're small potatoes, that it's disingenuous for us, as an organization, to say "We're the difference that's going to change everything." From where I'm lesson-planning, lady's got a point.


the kool-aid-free perspective

My friend that's visiting me wrote a post for my blog, just to shed a more objective light on this whole TFA-in-the-school-year works.

For the last five days I’ve been visiting Elsa and her roommate (also a TFA-er) in a small town in Arkansas. Being from California and never having been to the South, this has been a whole new experience for me. The culture here is different from what I’ve previously experienced. I love the accents, and the Southern hospitality has been incredible! I’m amazed that everyone acknowledges and chats with perfect strangers when walking down the street.
This has also been my first introduction to Teach for America. As a teacher myself, I was curious to see how TFA compared to the credentialing program I went through and the differences in preparations for the upcoming school year. The thing that has struck me the most about these ladies’ TFA experience has been the amount of work they are doing! After a summer spent at Institute, they continue to work hard preparing for their classrooms this fall. A day filled with emails from advisors, developing classroom management plans, and filling out TFA-required paperwork is common. These ladies are working hard to be ready for the first day next week. They are excited to meet their students and begin making a difference in the lives of these learners.
I believe that Elsa and her roommate are going to be great teachers! They are passionate about learning and teaching, and they have both invested the time needed to be great teachers. While I have witnessed their passion and excitement, I have also observed their frustration during the last week. It is hard to serve two masters. While TFA has expectations for its teachers, it is not the one who writes the paycheck. TFA teachers are hired by a school district, and it is necessary for teachers to meet the requirements set forth by their employers. A discrepancy in requirements places extra stress on teachers as they try to balance the program’s expectations with those of their schools. These ladies are working hard to be successful in both places. Their courage in moving to an unknown place and their determination to touch their students’ lives is inspiring. I look forward to hearing their stories as they begin this new adventure!

Biz caz

First day back at work! I looked in the mirror this morning and realized that I really need to get a haircut and some new pants before the kids show up. The students won't care, but my boss has this crazy notion that teachers shouldn't look like they just returned from fish camp. They are tearing down my school or turning it into a storage shed or something. Apparently it is unfit for human habitation, which I could have told them ages ago. Still, I was fond of the place, and I will miss it. Three maintenance guys and I get to move the entire school this week. Most of it is no big deal, but the fume hood is going to be a serious PITA, and moving our little computer lab will be no picnic either. Hard to be too crabby about it when I know we're lucky to even have the stuff, but still, ugh. I am seriously looking forward to this school year. I ran into one of my students today, who informed me cheerfully that this year was going to be "the shit." I concur, and I have to say, I was almost impressed by the use of modern colloquial English.


1 Day Gone

With only 179 days between my students and the fourth grade, I know I have a ton of work to do. Today went well all things considered, but I'm ready to unveil my big goals and vision tomorrow. I'm layin' investment on thick! A few kids had self-control issues today, so I've contacted their parents and they will be my special helpers tomorrow! I can't wait to get to know my kids better so I can really take ownership of their learning. Some of my kids are reading at a pre-k or kindergarten level in the third grade. I'm not really sure where to start in terms of getting them caught up. Fortunately, I'm consulting the expert literacy specialist tomorrow so hopefully she'll be able to help. Although I'm exhausted and overwhelmed, I'm preparing for tomorrow with my background knowledge from today. I think it will be an even more successful day! I hope my fellow CMs had fruitful days as well! Keep it up!


post-first-week insanity

It's the beginning of the second week of school and I just ate the second to last juice bar in the box (which I bought yesterday) and realized I couldn't put off blogging any more. Every day I come home with about eight trillion things I want to write/scream/cry/laugh/punch a wall about and somewhere between flopping around on the floor (doing work, because I don't have a desk yet), flopping around on the floor (this job takes stress to another level), and flopping around on the floor (prying the dogs' jaws open to get my socks/stuffed animal/medication [ohh, that last episode was funny-but-not, you know?]) I never really make it to this site. So here we go, as promised (many moons ago, when I was still sane): a legit blog post. Ugh. I don't even know where to start. Except, don't take that "ugh" the wrong way. Because I love my job. I really do. And yet I spend one-hundred percent of my days now feeling equal parts terrified, clumsy, and semi (sometimes!) confident. Because I don't care what anyone says, take the world's most confident person and stick them in a windowless room with 19 freshman for two whole days (7 hours a day, okay) and THEN we'll talk. So those were my first two days of school. I had my 5th hour (like homeroom, combined with literacy) for two whole days, going over procedures and stuff. Ooooookay world. This is not a good idea. Like I said, we have no windows. Like I also said, there were 19 9th graders and me. Like I didn't say but am going to now because everyone should know, ninth-graders are insane. Seriously. We spent much of the day listening to meditation music (I got made fun of but they loved it, whatever), doing independent reading and asking/fielding questions I never really thought about (i.e., they were enthralled that I was Jewish. Do I have to wear the hat, they wanted to know. I said we could save this conversation for another time when I felt a bit more serious and competent re: diversity because now it was just making me crack up, and that wasn't exactly professional.) By the end of day 2, I had the desks in a circle and was rolling around in a chair in the middle, scooting around to each desk to offer help, etc. I looked (and felt) paralyzed my exhaustion. When the bell rang on Tuesday at 2:40 I wheeled myself over to the desk and sat in my chair and looked around for a few minutes, and then looked at my phone and it was 4:15. I...don't know. Ups and downs. That's the best way to describe it. Because sometimes, a kid hugs me and tells me I'm his favorite teacher, and sometimes a kid tells me to get out of his face, and sometimes a kid asks politely for a snack before cheerleading practice, and sometimes I catch a kid walking out of my room with every single bag of cookies from my desk in his backpack. (It's true. I totally bribe them with food, and I'm not ashamed, because sometimes there's no alternative. One day in my fifth hour I made a checklist for each of them, we breezed through it [THEY WERE SO WELL-BEHAVED!!!!!] and then had five minutes at the end to eat Twizzlers and cookies. It worked, okay?) Sometimes kids from other classes say they want to join mine, and sometimes in class kids sigh really loudly and say they want to transfer out, and sometimes a kid says, "I've been really good today, right?", and sometimes a kid says "IF YOU GIVE ME A CONSEQUENCE I WILL GET UP IN YOUR FACE AND THEN MARCH OUT OF HERE." Sometimes a kid will make really loud clicking noises with his tongue and I'll tell him to stop and he'll do one more click for good measure (which, in life, everyone should know, makes me really angry) and sometimes a kid will be SO PERFECT ALL CLASS PERIOD and then ask if maybe I can call his mom so she'll know how good he was today. Sometimes a kid will scream at me, and sometime a kid will scream at another kid, and sometimes I'll laugh at a kid (accidentally, but they're so hilarious), and kids will laugh at each other, but I try really really hard never to scream at a kid. But sometimes I really, really want to. But ALWAYS when I call a kid's family and say how awesome their kid is being, and how excited we are for the year, and how proud they must be, always the person on the other end sighs really big and says, "That is the best thing to hear. Thank you. I couldn't be prouder." And then I want to do this weird hug-through-the-phone-thing because I love them all of the sudden and I love their kid and everything they stand for, and then I want to go to Braum's and get a double-dip cone for two dollars. Because it's all about balance.


Rhee-ality Check

First watch the two minutes from 20:30 to 22:50 (up until the moderator asks Rhee if she is a 'Tiger Mom') of this excerpt from an interview Michelle Rhee did recently. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCcNzh7C_Tk&feature=player_detailpage#t=1230s Now, the video really speaks for itself, so I'll let readers make comments, but first let me write a bit myself. This is such a bizarre and revealing story Rhee tells to show how out of touch she is, or how much she wants to distort reality. Without even knowing this family, I can tell you that I believe that most of this story is just not true.  Parents, with very rare exceptions, are very willing to come in to have a conference with the school when the school demands.  Schools certainly have the right to demand a parent conference.  I'm sure that KIPP and other charters often do this.  It is part of family and school working together on an issue.  If, in this case, the parent is mentally ill, then the school would surely allow someone else in the family to come in.  They wouldn't demand that it is the mother. She says that it is not about blaming the teachers or the parents, but it is clear that she is blaming the school here since if they insist on having a parent (or other family member come in) it is equivalent to telling a 9 year old girl that she might as well drop out of school right now. Anyway, I do think the video speaks for itself, so I'll leave it to others to comment please.


@2011s My Framework: Teaching As ... Teaching

I am writing this post as a favor to the 2011 CMs.  It is not your fault that TFA can justify to themselves that a few hours of student teaching experience with class sizes of 15 or less makes you ready to handle the responsibility of teaching the kids who need highly trained teachers the most. I'm doing this because I want you (2011 CMs) to be successful, even though a small part of me does want TFA (the organization) to fail.  This might seem paradoxical.  Really, I don't want TFA to fail.  I want them to improve.  Unfortunately, unless they admit that they have failed, they will not improve.  This is what it is like to be inside my brain.  When I hear the TFA quit rate has increased, I feel a little happy since at that moment I'm not thinking of the thousands of students who had to suffer through an ineffective teacher, I'm thinking of the tens of thousands who might, in the future, get to have a more effective teacher. Anyway, I just want them to do a better job and to stop lying to the CMs, the media, and to themselves about their inflated success and to work on improving so the students can get a good learning experience. The TAL (Teaching As Leadership) framework is something that was supposedly developed over 20 years of refining their training model.  I can tell you (and have in my big critique of it) that it is junk which will actually make CMs less effective. The TAL has six guiding principles: 1)  Set Big Goals 2)  Invest Students And Their Families 3) Plan Purposefully 4)  Execute Effectively 5)  Continuously Increase Effectiveness 6)  Work Relentlessly So, here I'll make a short explanation of my TAT (Teaching As Teaching) model. Here are the TAT princples: 1)  Set Small Goals -- Teaching over your students heads is a sure way to make them feel like they are not ever going to learn anything from you.  The best teachers know where a realistic place to set the bar is, and then to try to get the kids to get over a bar that is slightly higher. 2)  Spend About Five Minutes In Class Investing Students -- More than that, kids eyes just glaze over and they start practicing not listening to you.  The best way to get them excited about learning from you is to actually teach them something manageable (See #1) and show them that they have succeeded at it. 3)  Plan -- I don't really know if the 'purposefully' is necessary (or even a real word).  What other kind of planning is there.  This is really not a very profound principle for the TAT or the TAL framework.  You've got to plan.  It takes a long time to plan something that has a high percent chance of working.  Hopefully, you will save your energy for planning by minimizing the amount of energy TAL suggests you use for their principles #1, #2, and #6. 4)  Execute Effectively -- You didn't get a lot of opportunity to practice, so this one will be tough.  Books about the details of teaching like 'Teach Like A Champion' or my second book 'Beyond Survival' will give you good things to think about to compensate for this. 5)  Continually Increase Effectiveness -- Again, your lack of student teaching shows how much TFA really values this principle.  But, yes, you want to celebrate your successes (as TFA the organization does), but more importantly, acknowledge your failures so you can prevent them from happening again (as TFA the organization does not know how to do). 6)  Work Moderately -- You might think that if career teaching is a marathon, two years is a 100 meter dash, so you can just go 'all out' from the gates.  The truth is that two years is more like a one mile run.  You cannot maintain a full sprint for that long.  If you burn yourself out, you will not have the energy to teach your classes effectively, which will make them misbehave, which will take more energy from you, which will make you even less effective ... Good luck to all the 2011 CMs.  I hope you accept the responsibility you've been given to care for children who really deserve well-trained teachers more seriously than TFA has accepted the responsibility of developing a training model which would promote that. Here's a link to some of my blog posts with more specific advice about teaching.


The end of institute, the beginning of an era...

Okay. I failed. I failed miserably... at keeping this blog updated and accurate. But I think I seriously underestimated how much I would work during Institute when I set out with this blog. That being said, Institute has been over and done with for a few weeks now. But now that I can look back on Institute in reflection, one thought keeps coming to mind: it wasn’t that bad. Granted, the majority of us in this program are Type A personalities that are used to constantly being recognized for over-achieving, suddenly placed in positions where we feel like we’re floundering. But honestly, Institute wasn’t that bad. And I’m saying that after enduring 2 hour-long bus rides with no air conditioning in the brutal Mississippi heat. I’m saying that after teaching for 2 hours each day in a non air conditioned classroom (sometimes none in the school at all) where our thermostat showed it to be 88-90 degrees each day. The point is, everyone told me how hard it Institute was going to be, the most difficult experience of my life. In truth, it was simply challenging. No one told me how easy it was going to be to get up every morning for my students. It was easy dealing with all of hard stuff because the good things about teaching are soooo good. And I mean a “better than chocolate and red wine” kind of good. At any rate, I’m so proud of all of my students – all of them achieved growth, and as a class we hit 96%. I don’t think I closed my students’ achievement gap by any means, but I think some of them began to see possibility and that they really are smart and capable. That’s worth more than numbers to me, but the numbers are still important. I’m glad to not be in the stifling heat, or eating the illustrious food from RFOK. Okay, who am I kidding, my roommate and I ate more comfort food and binges from Sonic’s and McDonald’s while watching How I Met Your Mother than should be permissible under federal law. I’ll miss my students, but not that bus ride. Peace out Institute. I came. I saw. I taught.


"Praying's good, but we need to work, too."

Days, it's taken me, days, to realize that this blog post is never going to be organized in my head in a way that will be clear and direct for the reader, and to realize that if I don't update now all these things floating around will evaporate, disappear. Yesterday I attended Second Year Orientation, and experienced what it's like to be somewhat seasoned, to be understood, to not be soothed every 15 seconds, or have my anxiety validated with every sentence, or to ask the first person I see where they teach, where they went to college. Ahhh, no, I am now... A Second Year. (Side note for any non-TFA reader: TFA corps members are consistently referred to by how many years they've been teaching/part of the corps, even if they're alumni. Thus, I live with a third year, I'm leading first years in ICE, and we have plenty of fifth and sixth years in the Delta.) With that comes changes. First, I am not riddled with anxiety. I can sleep. In fact, I'm obsessed with the bed that last year's 6th grade Reading teacher gave me when she moved in with her newly acquired husband. I have to force myself to run, instead of use it as a semi-valid escape to lessen anxiety and procrastinate. I am incredibly behind on my planning, but by now I know that first, I can get the planning done in the time I have and second, that I plan better when I have a concrete plan and resources exactly where I want them, something that will begin tomorrow when I can talk to my literacy coach. Second, my brain is completely overpowered with the very specific thought of what will I be doing this time this year? Not just my brain, but people around me keep asking. I have friends on both coasts coaxing me to come to their cities, enjoy their nightlife, be social. I have my roots questioning what role I can play in the salvaging and rebuilding of Detroit, via education or otherwise. My heart for education is begging me if I can please take classes again, as a master's student or at an art or dance or community center (AKA, in a place that is not Dumas, where continuing education only exists as getting your GED via night classes). My extended vacation (Chicago, Detroit, New York, Philly, San Francisco) is reminding me that I love exploring, adventuring, meeting up with contacts I only see once every two years; it is reminding me that I am 24-- young enough to travel still free from responsibility, nothing is tying me down yet, take advantage of it. And, of course, I have this beautiful organization I am a part of: Teach For America. Where every time you step in a room you are inspired by stories of CMs turned principals, Boys & Girls Club founders, chamber of commerce directors, summer camp creators. There is so much potential in staying here. Third, well, I'm still teaching. I am still here for the same reason. I can't quite take that heavy sigh of relief because ohhhh yeah, I am just hardly halfway done. I can't come close to making those third year plans because this year is bound to be drastically different than my first. I am trying hard to form this last idea into a comfortable space. This second year, second half, of my commitment. I am trying to make it something I am excited to step into, I am overwhelmed with excitement for, I am planned and ready to take on head first, to be a candidate for awards and recognition and being one of those sensationalized TFA speakers at closing. I can be that person, right? Any of us can. I just have to do it. I just have to have my vision, my big goal, my long term plan and transferable motivation, momentum. The underlying message, the fact that I'm not sure I have these things... you catching that? Second Year Orientation was great because of Krystal Cormack. She and her husband are local TFA celebrities, power houses of change in the Delta. I want to remember the things she told us, like

We were chosen because we are the best leaders in the country, and this is our responsibility.
Inspiring, but I hate to say that when she said it I was in a mood of inadequacy. Sometimes as a TFA corps member you feel you're a walking billboard for your university, that it's glaring over your head. And let me tell you I love Western Michigan University, I am enamored with my alma mater, but when all around me I hear the very articulate, intelligent, impassioned talk of Georgetown, Harvard, Spelman, my confidence falters. No one's even judging me, not in the slightest, no snide comments or disgusted glances, but I don't give myself any credit. I question my ability to impact. I question my values. Not their strength, but what they are, do I even have any? What is my vision for my kids, after all? Do I even have one? Can I at all manage to articulate why I've made it this far and what I intend to do for the next year? And, really, how did TFA not see through my seemingly excellent interview, to realize that I maybe don't house all the potential someone else might. Why on earth did I get selected over thousands and thousands of other applicants to be here, in Dumas, teaching sixth graders? Who let this happen? It's unbelievable, sometimes, to be here, accepting this responsibility and this privilege. Regardless of how or why they decided to hire me, I'm here. I passed the interview process. And I made it through the first year without quitting. Now the goal is to make it through the second year actually showing some kind of significant gains. Here it is, The Second Year, beginning with tomorrow: the first day of Dumas professional development, 2011-2012 school year. Bring it, Dumas. Imma love every second.

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