Friday, December 09, 2005

I Love This Game

The pressure was on. There were 11 seconds on the clock and we had the ball. "Time Out," coach yelled. When the team came in to the huddle we were saying the same thing. "We are up by two, don't shoot. Don't shoot. We are not looking for the shot." For most teams this would've been a given, but with this group of girls, it was not. They were notoriuos for doing everything, we didn't tell them to do or the opposite of what we did. I was praying. The point guard especially seemed to be playing on her own team sometimes and now the ball and consequently the game was in her hands. Oh Lord. They began swinging the ball and every time it passed I got a little nervous. The ball was back in her hands, she dribbled and dribbled. The girl was all on her. She stepped backcourt. It was Jim Hill's ball. Jim Hill called the time-out this time, but we already knew what they were saying. "Get the ball to #23." We were saying," Anybody, everybody, don't let 23 get free. Stay on that girl. All the way on that girl." Now 23 was (still is) Jim Hill's shooter. The girl was good. all otuside the three point line. She could kill us all by herself. We couldn't lose this game, we had fought to hard.
The clock started to run. Jim Hill passed the ball, 23 ws trying to get open. They set a pick for her. Someone else picked her up 6 seconds left. Another pick, someone else picks her up 3 seconds, she gets the ball and shoots. She misses but they rebound and put up a lay-up. we're going into overtime.
We were stressing that we have worked too hard to lose now. Teamwork on 3. The huddle breaks. Coach looks at me. I smile. We can do this. Jim Hill starts out with a lay-up and we answer. this goes on for about 2 minutes until we miss one and they are up by 4. 1:36 on the clock. We swing the ball and get a lay-up down by 2 now. Jim Hill turns the ball over and we get it back. We get fouled on the drive and the ball goes in. 3 shots. She goes to the line with us up by two. 37 seconds left on the clock. She makes the first., but there is a violation on us. No basket. We've still got two more. She sinks them both and we're up by four. Jim Hill calls time-out. When the girls come to the huddle, coach looks at me. Give em your slogan, it worked last time. I say, "There is no such thing as a 4 point shot. If it comes down to it , let them shoot, just don't foul." Jim Hill gets the ball in under their goal. They swing it to 23, she sets up and we back off just enough to give her room. She seems shocked and hesitiates. There are 6 seconds left. She shoots and misses and we recover the rebound. Provine wins.
At the door of the locker room, The point guard looks at me and says, "Coach, we listened." Then she gives me the sweatiest hug I've had in a long time. "I know, it's about time"

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Reflections on first semester of teaching

Since this is not my first semester of teaching, I must reflect on this year vs last year. This time last year, I was tired, mad, upset and hurt. I was already on burnout stage. I was beginning to wonder if I could handle the burnout. I was praying for Christmas to come so that I could get a much needed break.
This year is so much different. Although, the situation hasn't changed much I've learned to cope better. My classroom is much better, because I've learned new ways to keep my students engaged and excited. They are eager to learn and come in every day asking what they get to do today. It is great. Even my principal is coming around. He has learned that I work hard and is giving me more and more of a leadership role in the school. It is exciting to know that he is putting more trust in me.
Basketball is my new outlet. I love coaching and after a long day's work when it has been a rough day, coaching is a great relaxation. The enjoyment of getting a group of kids to believe in themselves and win is the most exhilarating feeling I've had in a long time.
This first semester has had its ups and downs. I've changed classrooms twice and subjects once. I've gotten a whole new group of students and the class still isn't settled yet. I'm still breaking them in, but it's not as bad as I first thought.
All in all, this has been a great first semester.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Reflections on blogs from Summer

This summer, I was so excited about going back to school and teaching. I'd gained so many ideas and activities that I could take back to my classroom and use.
Since I've been back in the classroom, not only am I excited but my students are excited. They are loving the activities that I am creating. It has been a great first semester.
In another one of my blogs, I talked about not trying to change Mississippi. While I still stick to the belief that MTC is not here to change Mississippi, I do beleive that our work betters Mississippi and enhances its chances for progress.
As I look back on my blogs from the summer, I believe that I was looking forward to a better year. By beginning the year with this new attitude, I was able to make the most of it. Through all my trials and tribulations, I've realized that I really do enjoy teaching.
I learned a lot this summer and I've used so much of it. I must say thanks to MTC for a good year.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Workshopped to Death

I don't know who came up with the term professional development, but I want them hanged. This year-and mind you it is not over yet-I have been through 12 days of professional development. 5 of which were Saturdays. This is ridiculous. There aren't too many more times they can tell me what you've already told me. It's not that I'm against new ideas, it's the fact that all the new ideas are the same ideas. My students are so behind it isn't funny. Between Katrina (7 days), DRA testing (10 days), and professional development (7 days). I have been out of the classroom for almost a month. That does not include the pep rallies, assemblies, late breakfast and lunches and being the principal's PA at his beck and call. I really want to teach and my students want to learn. NO MORE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT, PLEASE!!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Success Story

Reflecting on this year, I think that the biggest success I've had focuses on one specific student. T is an exceptional education student who was placed in my class through the inclusion program. On his first day in the room, we were doing a read-aloud and he outright refused to read. Now T has somewhat of a reputation for being a bad boy and I was all prepared to turn on my "handle him" attitude. Well, I guess I wasn't in the mood that day because I didn't. A couple days later, I asked him why he'd refused and he said that it was because he read very slow. He didn't want to be embarrassed in front of the other students. Some of his classmates jumped in to tell him that they didn't read well either or that they had other problems in the class. This kind of set him on ease. I'll admit that from there it was up and down. Some days I would be so proud of him and other days he wouldn't do his work. Usually on these days, I cock my head to one side and give him a look. He'd give me a little shy smile and start to work. In October, his exceptional teacher called me and told me that T would no longer be coming to my class. He was being put back into a self-contained classroom. The next day, T showed up at the door to my classroom begged me to let him stay. I talked to his teacher and she agreed to let him stay that day. The day's lesson was about recognizing rhyme scheme and writing short poetry. The class was loving every minute of it. T called me to his desk about 15 minutes before the bell rang and said, "Ms. Bowens, I did it. I wrote a poem." He was so proud of himself and I was so proud of him. That turned out to be my last day teaching Language Arts before I was moved to Reading. I still remember, however, the look on his face when he finished his poem without any help form me. Here's what it said:
I'm thankful for basketball
I am good at it
I hoop and I ball
And I never quit.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Maybe teaching is not for me

Someone said that they were told maybe this program was not for them. Well, maybe this is for them and not for me. I made the first F I have ever made in my life in this program this semester. I've never been the one to complain or fuss and I'm still not. Now that I've cried and pondered and cried some more. I've began to think that maybe teaching is not the field for me. I've been teaching and doing lesson plans for a year and a half. If I can't even do a lesson plan, then its obvious that I'm definitely not a good teacher. Amazingly, this is the first time that I have ever felt this way. I've always felt that this was something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Something that I was called to do. Maybe this is a sign that it is not. I mean if I can't do a lesson plan, then I can't possibly be an effective teacher. The lesson plan is what you follow to teach. If I'm failing my lesson plan, then I must be failing my students. This all means that the past year and a half of my life have been used to cheat someone's child out of the education that they deserve. I am a parent and I wouldn't want any teacher cheating my child. I wouldn't want him to get to the next grade and be missing something because the teacher was not effective.
Even if this program is about getting better, I've been teaching almost two years. I should know how to something as simple as a lesson plan. Since I can't, I need to go home.
I love everyone that I have met in Teacher Corps and I hope that you are all extremely successful, but I'm not sure what my next move will be. Good Luck!!! Wish me well.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Inductive vs. Deductive

After looking over my lessons and lesson plans for the past two weeks, I've noticed that most of my lessons are inductive. I seem to plan activities that ask my students to group things that are alike or make assuptions based on examples that they have already gone over or been given. I think that this helps my students retain the information better because they came up with the answer own their own instead of me giving them the definitions or just sayng how to do something.
I have used deductive reasoning at times in my lessons when I needed to get a specific point across before I could move on to another concept. What I have found, however, is that the students better enjoy inductive lessons because they are more involved in the lesson and are more active participants in their learning.

From my perspective inductive reasoning is better, becuase of the high retention rates of my students. I do wonder, however if it would be as effective, if I were in a math or social studies classroom. It seems to be more suited for language arts and science.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Never underestimate the power of a woman

It had to be a woman. No man has that kind of power. It was late that Sunday night when my boyfriend and I had the argument about buying can goods, water and ice. "It'll just be a little wind, Sheta. You're panicking over nothing. We live too far inland." Being the worry wart that I am, I cried, screamed, argued and fought until we ended up at the grocery store. He would look at me every couple of minutes and just shake his head. I was just relieved. Hey, momma always said better safe than sorry. At 5:00 am, the alarm went off and we got up to check and see if we had school. When we found out that we didn't, I went to bed while he watched the news. I awoke agaain about 10. It was a beautiful day outside. The news was still on and the weathercaster was sounding worried. I joked if Nissan closes, we will be going to your mother's ( I live upstairs). 12:30 Nissan closed. "Time to Go." I packed up an overnight bag, while he still complained that I was overreacting. As we were walking out the door, the power went out and it started to rain pretty hard. The wind almost blew me down before I made it to the car. We were greeted at the door by his entire (stress entire) family. Hey, if we are going to blow away at least we'll be together. He, of course, was still saying, "All of you are crazy, it will just be a little wind."

Two weeks later, he is still amazed. That "little wind" knocked tress down all over town. The power was out for days. School was closed for a week and a half. I drove around today and people are still removing the trees form their roofs, Entergy trucks are still working and many people are stil in shock. One of my students said it best, "My dad said thats what happens when you make a woman mad." I feel so amazingly blessed. I still have my home, family, friends, job and life. There are so many who do not.

Everyone is saying that people should pray. No, you should've been praying. No one believed that this storm would've done the damage it did. Who knows what could be next. No matter what higher power you believe in, start talking to them. And if you can't find time, turn on the news. You will!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Classroom Management Plan Adjustments

I am very proud of my classroom management plan. I took all the mistakes that I made last year and corrected them with a few minor additions and that is how I perfected the plan. Basically, it has been very successful. I have only made two adjustments this year.
1. My school now has a policy that does not allow students in the hallway. So I have a new policy, "The answer is NO, so don't ask to go!!"
2. The school design demands that we do 85% group work. To adjust for this, I have implemented some group work rules and procedures. These include:
a. 1 person in the group can ask questions
b. the group noise must remain at an acceptable level or the entire group will move up the consequence level
c. each group recieves a cup which is green on one side and red on the other. If the group has trouble, they turn the cup to the red side.
So far, everything is going well and I have only made it to my 2nd consequence twice this year.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Am I Ready?

After staying pissed with my principal for two weeks for passing me up for the head coaching job, I knew I deserved. I made a move. I called up a new head coach at one of the high school's and asked her if she needed an assistant. She replied that she actually had someone in mind, but that person had not given her an answer. I figured it was over and gave up.
A couple days later, a friend of mine who is a high school football coach at the same school spoke with her and jokingly asked her if she needed an assistant. Well, she told him about the young lady she was waiting for an answer from and then she asked him about me. It just so happened that I was on the phone with him at the time and heard the whole conversation. Now, I was actually in the running.
So I've began to get nervous. Last year, was my first coaching job at all and it was in middle school. If i get this job, I'll not only be her assistant, but I will be the head coach for the 9th grade adn the B-team. Am I ready? I am extremely excited about the opportunity, but quite nervous at the prospect of venturing out. Will I be any good? Do I really know enough? Did I move to soon?
Right now, I am waiting to see what she says. Hopefully, we'll see you from the bench.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Week 1

The first week of school is over and I must say that this is definitely easier the second time around. Of course, nothing is funtioning properly. The schedules are all wrong and we're still waiting to have them fixed. We are an America's Choice school and have to have all these different walls and posters up which the new teachers have no clue about. There is no Language Arts or Science teacher for one of the teams. Nor is there an administrator in the building with a clue as to what in the world is really going on.
Yet, I've learned to take it all in stride. Even though, the administrator who loved me to death last year, now hates my guts. Because I was in school and could not go to the training, he took the Pre-Ap classes that I earned because of my test scores. I was not even asked did I want the head girl's basketball coach position (which I did anyway last year) and a new teacher was put over me. I was removed without my knowledge from the school newsletter and they put me on a totally different team.
This time last year, I would've been in tears because it was so important for me to be on his good side (of which there is not much), but now I sit back and smile. I have no need for administrative validation. I know now that I can teach and I am a good teacher and the fact that he doesn't care for me this moment in life doesn't mean s@#*. I will not be broken because I know I am in the right place. I will not be defeated when I know what I can do. I will not break under the pressure of ignorance. Nothing can make me mad, sad, or even worried.
Why? It' s all in my test scores, baby. Eat that, RJ!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

My Sentiments Exactly

"Don't come in and try to change the world. Come in and teach our children how to change the world."
-Dr. Jovanna Frye
Assistant Superintendent of Hollandale Schools
at Delta Administrators Panel MTC '05

My sentiments exactly!!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Reflections on Summer 1

As the first summer session comes to a close, I look back with relic, dismay and honor. I arrived at Ole Miss a bit nervous and a lot excited. I had no idea where this program or the summer would lead. I knew no one here, but the infamous BEN whom I had talked to on numerous occasions via telphone or Internet. I still remember that first morning trekking uphill to class (Yes, I walked at one time), stopping at the police station for a decal (only to realize I couldn't get one without an ID), and meeting the first person from MTC-Adryon. Walking into the building, I met Ben in person and wondered who was that little short girl (later to be known as Ginny). We entered the classroom and I looked around at the people who would soon become peers, collegues and friends.
As I look back now, I had no clue as to how this group of people would change my thoughts and actions in only 2 months time. I made friends and learned about different cultures and states. I even learned more about my own state Mississippi. I gained valuable experiences in the classroom and new ideas for activities with my students. I networked with people who may sometime in the future be great resources for me. I debated, hated and learned to respect people in the program whose views were very different from mine.
Most of all, I learned so much about myself. I realized that I was so extremely proud of my educational heritage that I would defend it at all costs. I concluded that being a statistic means defending and fending for those who I know can achieve even with their circumstances. I became exceedingly proud of my parents who had the forethought to give me every experience possible. I even relearned the value of friendship.
So at the end of this first summer of MS Teacher Corps, I reflect on what I will miss most. Houng telling us that we woke her up by being loud. Tiffany jumping up on Ginnys bed saying "What's up, girls". Reggie asking 4 million questions, all beginning with "So I know this doesn't have anything to do with what we are talking about but ..." Meredith teaching self-defense. Ben's announcements everyday. Ginny responding to Keila's story with "And that's what's up". Amy staying up till 3 in the morning working on lesson plans. And Miss Monroe giving out candy.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

TEAM self-evaluation

*The overhead was interactive and made the students have to pay attention during the lecture, but still write.
*By using the overhead, I didn't turn my back to the students.
*Lego activity was great synthesis level exericise.
*Good voice projection.
*Great movement around the room.
*Students understood the material.
*Handled Reggie well.

*The Lego activity needed more time.
*Through in the compound-complex sentence and through off some students.
*Tended to call on Aaron, because he knows most of the answers and volunteers a lot.
*Moved a little to fast during note-taking.
*Need a set of Legos for every student.
*Demenor still a bit intimidating.

All in all, I was extremely pleased with this leeson. Will definitely use this activity this year.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Why are we here?

At the town hall meeting on Friday, I was very disappointed to hear my cohorts speak of how they are here to reform education in Mississippi.
As a product of the Mississippi educational system, I know firsthand how far we need to go, but I have never been under the impression that I can single-handedly change the state, nor did I apply for this program under the assumption that the purpose of Mississippi Teacher Corps was to do so. I did however believe that the children that I while teach over the next several years will together reform the state's system by giving back to it.
This is not a service project for me. I don't plan to give to the community for 2 years and then go home feeling better about myself because I have contributed to some cause. I have decided to make teaching my career. I'm dedicated to doing my small part in educating the children of Mississippi and opening doors for them.
While listening to the animated discussion at the town hall meeting, I became sincerely disgusted. As I raised my hand to make my statement, I thought about the probable fury that would be unleashed at the comment. Yet, I said it anyway and I mean it.
Change is effected through future generations. To make a difference in the life of one child while cause that child to make a difference in another. By definition (and this is a non math person speaking) this means the number will exponentially increase each time. Each one teach one.
After my statement, I listened to the continued argument and became more and more disheartened. I felt the need to impress upon the class of 2005, that our job is to educate and thereby cause a natural reform. But how do I do this.
I wrestled with these thoughts all day Saturday. Sitting down at dinner, I looked at those people who had started the discussion the day before and became disheartened again. And then Governor William Winters began to speak.
He spoke of Shantwanna Buchanan and Walter Massey. Both of whom had said that they attributed their accomplishments to a teacher. At that moment, I knew I was not wrong. I had been right all along. My job is to be a teacher, not reform education in Mississippi.
Thank you Governor Winters for putting me at ease and for helping me to understand that I am in the right place, doing the right thing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Muddiest Part of the Lecture

Yesterday, I gave my students notecards and asked them to write down anything about the lesson they did not understand. "Anything," I said. "I'll answer them tomorrow." When I got the cards back and looked through them I was extremely pleased with my delivery of the lesson. No one needed any clarification on the actual objectives. The question were mostly centered around other things presented in the lesson. Here are a few of their questions:

"Who won the fight?" - Just to clarify. The story we read is called "Amigo Brothers". It is about two boys who grew up together and were best friends. Both boys were boxers and they found out they would have to fight each other to become champion and enter a tournament of champions. The boys fight, but it does not say who won. So my answer was: "The point of the story is not who won, but the fact that their friendship was strong enough to sustain the competition."
(Note: They still wanted to know who won.)

"You said that both sports have four periods. How long is the period in football?" Another clarification. In my set, I asked the students to write down how football and basketball were alike and how they were different. My answer was: "I have no idea, but I will look it up for you." I was later told that it is either 15 or 20 mins depending on the level.

"When will we ever use this?" My answer: "When you go in the shoe store and you see a pair of Jordan's and a pair of Iverson's, how do you decide which ones to buy?" After the ensuing argument about why one was better than the other, I pointed out that they had just-without thinking-used the skill that we'd learned the previous day. The students responded with a resounding "O".

"I don't get how to use transition words?" My response: "You and your mother just pulled out of Pizza Hut and you're heading down Jackson Ave. to Wal-Mart. You decide that you want Wendy's to eat and ask your mother to get it. What does she do before she turns?" After several very weird answers, one child responded, "Put on a turn signal." Pleased," I exclaimed, "Right. That's exactly what transitions do. They are the signals that let the reader know where you are going next."

I think that the questioning technique works in its own way, but I do believe that you have to have the time to address some of the weird questions that you will get from students. I found that they asked about more basic things rather than the higher level thinking questions I hoped would arise.

Self Evaluation of Student Teaching

As I sat down to watch my videotaped lesson, I felt extremely nervous. I had never seen myself on video teaching before. What would I look like? How did I really do? Was I successful in getting the information across to the students?

After watching the tape, I was amazed at the job that I did. I really looked like a teacher. My words were clear and concise and I spoke in a very well projected "teacher" voice. The objectives were clearly written on the board along with the date and my name. Students used a graphic organizer to get put their thoughts down and then write a paragraph from it. The planning of the lesson was great. Transitions aligned and I felt it moved the way it should've.

I feel that my strengths included:
* asking each student a question. The entire class had to participate. No one student could answer for the whole class everytime.
* delivery. It was obvious that the students understood the material.
* tying the lesson to a previous concept. When writing their paragraphs, the students had to employ the concepts they'd learned in previous lessons.
* movement around the room. I passed each student's desk about 5 times during the lesson.

I feel that my weaknesses were:
* stating the objective. I did state the objective, but it was later in the lesson than it should have been.
* hand movement. I use my hands to talk. I think that it could possibly be a distraction to some students.
* favoring certain students. I noticed that I tended to stand more on the side of the room where the students I knew would participate and let them began the sharing. I would then bring the other students in. I need to try to equalize my focal points.

All in all, I feel that it went excellent. It was great to actually be able to see how the students really respond and to see myself teaching a lesson.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Reluctant Disciplinarian

The Reluctant Disciplinarian is an easy read and a good resource for teachers.

It was good to hear another teacher's mishaps and discouragement during their first year. It reaffirmed some of the things that I saw during my first year.

#1 Professional Development is worthless. I have not been to one yet (and I have been to many) that was worth the time it took to think it up. I went to one where all they told us was how to use the textbook. It was March. I'd been using the textbook for almost a year. Anyway, how hard is it to read?

#2 Most classroom management techniques are learned not taught. I went to the Mark McLeod workshop on classroom management. His ideas were great until I tried them. Some worked and some didn't. Mostly, I learned to adapt whatever I got from other teachers and make it my own. The best classroom management is learned from the mistakes that you make.

#3 You have to like your students. As I stated in my earlier blog. It wasn't until I learned to like my students that I began to like my year. Disliking the students only makes it harder to go to work and it's hard enough as it is.

#4 Threats do not work. Kids are smart. They soon learn that you either won't make good on them or you can't make good on them all the time. At this point, the tables will turn on you.

#5 More often than not when you send kids to the office there will be no result. Administrators are busy and the last thing they want to see is the students. (Yeah, I know they are supposed to be there for the students, but then why would they need you.) More often than not, they will ask you to deal with it. Pick your battles. Do everything you can in the classroom. You will need the administrators for major infractions and they are much more receptive if you aren't sending kids to them every day.

#6 The teacher look that older teachers talk about works. I mean it really works. But you have to master it. You have to practice and practice.

#7 Lastly, DO NOT TEACH SUMMER SCHOOL. Been there done that. The money looks good, but when August hits and the school year begins, you will wish for that time you spent working. Teachers get the summer off for 2 reasons: they deserve it and most of all they need it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Flood

Now I know how Noah felt!!!

O.K. I am not fresh out of college like some of the MTC people. I have been living in an apartment now for 2 years. Although that may not seem like a major thing to most of you, I will tell you that going from an apartment to a dorm is a huge culture shock. Simple things like taking a shower, now take an extra 5 minutes of preparation. I miss my appliances, especially my microwave and fridge. Plus, at home I can watch all the TV I can stand without fuzz. These things are simple, but important. So is proper plumbing.

Tonight, I found myself standing in the hallway with other MTC females watching the waters rise. I felt like Noah looking out of the one window on the ark and asking his wife, "Will it stop?" We watched as dirty brown water came slowly inching down the hallway. It laughed at us as we put towels in front of our doors and then it crept right in without regard for our property or feelings. It meandered further and further down the hallway as we watched helplessly from our doors.

The RA tried to make us feel better and the maintenance men made jokes, but nothing could prevent the immediate displeasure of the residents. Even more galling was the maintenance men saying that this brownish-yellow water filled with clumps of some unrecognizable substance was "water from a busted pipe that has dust in it". Yeah right!!!

Suggestions came from every direction. "Can we mop it up?" "Let's build a dam?" "How about using a push mop to push it the other way?" Soon the realization came that we were helpless. As we impatiently waited for UM's custodial crew, I came to realize that we were at the mercy of these men who had to get up from their beds to come clean this mess and apparently they were in no hurry.

Finally, the hall was cleaned and the floor seemed to return to normal. Everyone retreated to their rooms and closed their doors hoping that they were now safe from the intruding waters. However, I'm quite sure that we will all remember the night the water came.

Student Teaching

I guess since I have been teaching for a year, I look at things a little different than most MTC first years. Most of the things that we discuss or go over, I have already experienced. However, I have found the student teaching experience amazing.

I never had the opportunity to really watch someone else teach in my subject area for any length of time. I had to rely on my knowledge and the little help I got from my mentor. I did well, but I was always wondered what other teachers did to make language arts fun and interactive. Now I know!! My regular classroom teacher, Ms. Barnes, is amazing. She has given me numerous ideas and resources which I will definitely use next year. It is so amazing to see her take a worksheet and make it interactive.

Having a good teacher to watch makes a huge difference in what you can do in the classroom. Sitting down in the classroom with someone teaching you how to teach isn't as effective as experiencing what someone else is doing. As they say "All good teachers steal."

I have learned so much this summer by observing another teacher. It is definitely one of the things that I will treasure from this program.

Monday, June 06, 2005

I was not alone

As I listened to Dr. Burnham talk today, I realized that I was not crazy nor was I alone. The feelings of fear, dread and anger that he talked about today really hit home with me. I felt as though he was taking my journal and reading it out loud.

Let me back track. This will actually be my second year as a teacher. My first year (last year) took me to highs and lows that I NEVER imagined. I remember on my first day, the principal gave me what seemed like enough paperwork to eliminate a small forest. Then told me to get my bulletin boards up. (Which is something that no one ever talks about.) All types of things that had nothing to do with classroom management or teaching and learning were bieng thrown a me with no guidance whatsoever. I was overwhelmed and the students had not even arrived yet.

Then they did!!! Oh my Lord. The place was in chaos because the schedules were not right and so they had to redo one for every student. So for the first week, the principal said, "Don't teach. You'll only have to do it over when your new class arrives." For two entire weeks we did busy work. The students knew it didn't mean anything and so did we. It was a disaster.

I remember during those first weeks and for months after, calling my mother (a 3o year veteran teacher) in tears. "It is not supposed to be like this. Why is this so hard?" I wanted to quit, but she would calmly say. "Just wait. It'll get better." It did not. I was so stressed out by the end of the first nine weeks that I had to take 3 days off. I was so frustrated and I was mad.

I was mad because, my administrator was no help. You could send kids to the office, he would send them right back and they would laugh at you. I was using a school model on which I had never been trained and constantly being fussed at because I wasn't doing it correctly. My first nine-weeks district scores were so horrible, I felt that I was doing a disservice to the kids. I hated teaching and I was miserable.

And so it went until October when my perspective changed. I had been assigned the job of assistant girl's basketball coach. The head coach was running the after school program and therefore was never at practice. Here I was a new techer and coach and I was alone. I had no experience, so I enlisted the help of an uncertified assistant who probably knew more about coaching every sport, than any of us combined knew about coaching one. He taught the girls everything, but he taught me more. I learned to be more patient and to set realistic goals for my team. I learned that I was human and imperfect and accepted that. Most of all, I learned to care. I feel in love with each and every girl on that team. I learned to respect them and they learned to respect me.

I guess the love that I had for my girls carried over into the classroom. Teaching became easier. I listened more to my students and they realized that I cared. They worked harder for me and I worked just as hard for them. I stopped crying every night and started buying treats for the students. I began to have fun teaching and they began to enjoy learning.

Don't get me wrong. Everything did not turn perfect. The administration was still lacking. I just learned to do my job and let the rest handle itself. The students still misbehaved. I just learned new ways to manage them. And some days I still went home wondering why I took that job, but then I'd see the lightbulb go off in one child's mind the next day or my team would dump the Gatorade on me and I'd remember. Most of all, I realized that I really did love teaching.

I've always wondered if anyone else felt the same way I did. Did any other teacher go one in tears or was it just me? Had anyoe else felt the same way those first days and months of school when it seemed as though all the other teachers were breezing along. Now I know.

Thanks so much, Dr Burnham for the talk. It feels so good to know I was not alone.