Friday, May 11, 2007

My MTC Experience

Mississippi in the spring. That is the best way to describe my MTC experience. Everyone knows that spring in Mississippi is highly unpredictable. It is highly abnormal and subject to change at any moment. Most people who move to the Magnolia State find it quite annoying and those of us who have been here all our lives find nothing wrong with it. I think that this has been the case during my experience with Teacher Corps. Although, I can’t say that my experience has been all negative. I also can’t say that it has been the most positive. What I can say is that the experienced has caused me to grow in ways that I never thought possible. Like I said, MTC is just like Mississippi in the spring.

Cloudy days…
There were many times during this program when I felt that it was not for me. The unpredictability of the past two years has often been mind boggling. On many occasions I felt the intense need to leave the program and pursue other more stable interests. And as with any Mississippi spring, the sun would peek its little head in the form of Dr. Mullins saying “thank you” in that sincere way that he does or Dr. Monroe saying, “I know its stupid, but its what Ben wants so let’s do it” and I would remember that the actual role that MTC played in what I was trying to do was minor and therefore needed not to be stressed about.

During the past two years, the changes that we have undergone have been nerve-wracking. The lost lesson plans, the computer class with the invisible teacher, the sudden and unexpected assignments caused my cohorts and I much distress. The arguments and survey comments which ensued caused our instructors a great deal of pain. Some of us were lost during the struggles and some were forever turned against the program which we signed up to complete. I have to believe, however, that what we encountered and fought for will have a larger impact on the program as a whole.

Light Showers…
The newly instituted MTC Summer School was not a well received change. The whole idea of giving another summer to teaching after a year of struggling just did not bode well. Interestingly, the summer school went off without very much of a hitch and I must say that I enjoyed it. The possibility of motivating another group of misguided youngsters was intriguing. The school was great and I will forever love and remember my students from that experience.

I’ve made lifelong friends during the past two years. These colleagues and cohorts will forever be branded in my heart and in my spirit. I have had the opportunity to teach which is the greatest reward and a testament to my faith and belief. MTC has given me a more developed sense of courage and determination. Challenges now seem small compared to the things that I faced during this program. I am now branded with the love of education and a mindset for change.

The lightbulb that I see go off in the eyes of my students when I use some neat little trick that Dr. Monroe taught me or the impressed look that I get when someone sees my portfolio online is enough to make it all worth it. I have blossomed as a result of MTC. I am a better teacher with more resources than when I began the program. I am more studious and ambitious. Not only have I blossomed, but so have the people around me and I have to believe that this is because of the change the MTC caused in me. The growth that I experienced made me a better person and that affected the people around me.

Like Mississippi in the spring, MTC has not been simple. It has worked my nerves and baited my frustrations. However, I realize that one day I will look back on this experience with a great appreciation for what I gained. I know that I have impacted the lives of students, teachers and my fellow MTCers and that is what really matters. I believe that God is driving my life and his purpose may not be ever present to me, but still is ever present. MTC was simply a vessel he used to help me reach another level in my professional and spiritual growth.

I must note that this blog is not a reflection of my teaching experience. Although there are some references to such, this essay asked me to respond specifically about my MTC experience and the two things have been very different.

I wish the program the best of success in the future. I truly hope that the suggestions that my classmates and I made are helpful and will be used to better the program. Good luck and God Bless.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Phone Call

Yesterday, I got a phone call. It went something like this:

Me: "Hello."
BJ:"May I speak to Coach Bowens?"
Me:"This is she."
BJ:"Do you know who this is?"
Me:"It sounds like BJ."
BJ: (giggling)"Yeah, it's me. I just called to let you know that I signed with Southern Miss and I really want to thank you for everything that you did."
Me:"Southern Miss, huh. Did you know that was my alma mater?"
BJ:"That's what they told me."
Me:"I'm really proud of you BJ. If anyone deserves this, you do and I will be coming to watch you."
BJ:"Yeah, cause you are an alumni."
Me:"That's right. Seriously, I wish you nothing but the best and everything your heart desires."
BJ:"Thanks coach. You will really never know how much you helped me on and off the court. Tell Je, I said Hi and I'm sending him a t-shirt."
Me:"I will. He is really going to miss you."
BJ:"Me, too. I'm gonna miss all of you."
Me:"Bye and good luck."
BJ:"Nope, coach. See ya later and good luck."
Me:"That's right."

Before this conversation, I don't think that I really understood the impact that coaching has had on my life. BJ is a great kid and no one that I have taught or coached deserves this more. And while BJ was thanking me, I was thanking her. For renewing my spirit and fight. For brightening my day. For giving me hope. You see, that phone call taught me that even when you think that your actions are small. They are not. Even when you wanna quit, you are holding someone up. Even when things look bleak, someone is smiling because you are in their life.

Each day I teach and I wonder if I have reached anyone. I always stress how my children watch my actions. The thing that I rarely think about is the effect that I have on my players lives. Of course, there is a special bond there, but rarely do I think about how the little things that I do for them because I'm their coach, translate into bigger things to them.

May God's blessings carry BJ as far as her mind, spirit and talent can take her. Thanks BJ. You meant more to me than you will ever know.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Pride - A movie review

Pride is the story of a group of boys who form a swim team under the watchfulness of the man who has been assigned to clear out the community center in their neighborhood which is scheduled to be shut down. But the movie is about so much more than this.

This movie is about determination, dignity, and respect. While watching the movie, I thought of my students and I realized that all they need is someone to believe in them. They have to be trained in how to deal with adversity just as these young men were. In a sense, the students that we serve are just like the boys in this movie.

Now I'm not a movie critic, but this movie inspired me. If you have an extra six bucks-check it out.

Staying or Going?

Many of my classmates are contemplating now whether to stay or to go. The two year commitment is complete and the degree is within reach. Many feel that they have done their part in helping the underprivileged. But have you? We've all created these great legacies. We have founded organizations, changed rules, written laws, led protests and inspired minds. Still can you say that in two years, you have made such an impact that these things will go on without you? Have you trained someone to take over in your absence or is it no longer your problem? Is there more that you can do?

Being that I have a vested interest in this state, my opinion could be considered biased, but I believe that if you search your hearts and minds then you will find that the answer to the above questions is NO! Take the time to consider this and do some soul searching. If you are leaving that is your choice, but don't allow the work that you've done leave with you.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

If i could be any teacher I would

This past week, Brinkley hosted its annual Mr and Miss Brinkley coronation. Also crowned on this day are Mr and Miss Sixth and Seventh Grade. The coronation is almost like a pageant except the winner has already been chosen. During the interview portion students were asked several questions. One of my students strutted up to the stage and was asked the following question: "If you could be any teacher at Brinkley, who would you be and why?"

His reply: "If I could be any teacher at Brinkley, I would be Ms. Bowens because even though she is hard on us, she always tells us to be our best and she always listens so if you really didn't do it, she will help you."

To which the rest of my students, to the dismay of the programs organizers, gave a standing ovation with whooping and hollering.

It was a fulfilling and embarrasing experience..

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The season is over

There will be no gold ball this year. No championship rings. No banner to hang from the rafters. No net to cut. Our pictures won't appear in the program guide. We won't make the trip to the Big House. No, there will be no championship for the Lady Rams this year.

Basketball season is over for us. No more balls, no more whistles. It's done. over. There will be no more tennis shoes squeaking on the hardwood. There will be no more late night calls to the ClarionLedger. No more early morning practices. No more uniforms to wash and no more lost shooting shirts.

The girls won't run in late for practice and beg for leniency. There won't be any more coaches meetings.

The season is over.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

track season begins

It seems that just as I begin to rest from a reeling basketball season, track is upon me. As exhausted as I am, I feel really excited about this year. The girls seem to be pretty fast although they are not very motivated at all. Still, as grueling as the practices have been not one has quit. There are more girls this year which came out for track than any other year which I have coached. I don't know exactly what this means, but it gives us a number of options which is nice. All in all, I'm pretty happy with the team so far.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Season Ends

Tonight, I cried. I have never cried at the end of a game before. I have never had the need. There was always that lingering wishfulness, but never tears. Tonight, I watched a group of young women who had grown so much over a season. They played their best. Better that any other time I've coached them. They were determined. My two starting guards were injured. One had a hip injury, the other an ankle. The third guard (who had to come off the bench after receiving a varsity starting position) had a deep thigh bruise. All three begged me to play and I let them. Even injured, we played with the number one seed in the tournament until the end. At the end, we were to tired, the pain had kicked in and fight began to waiver. I paced the sidelines watching the clock. At 2:00 to play, I stopped barking orders. There was no more yelling. The bench went silent. We were only down ten, but I looked in the faces of the squad at the timeout and I just knew they had nothing left to give. When the buzzer sounded and they shook hands and walked off the court. I looked back onto the gym floor. It wasn't the loss that saddened me, I've lost before and by much more than 12. I was saddened because this group of jovial, questioning, enlightening teenagers, who had worked so hard at the end of the season, saw their hopes of a championship trophy dashed that night. The next game would have been that coveted championship. I wanted it so bad for them. So I cried. For most of them, there will be no next year. Some will move up to Varsity and some will fall by the wayside. They will forever be my squad. My first JV team. The most dedicated group of girls, I've yet to have had the pleasure of coaching.