Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Hi y’all J Well, it’s been almost three weeks of teaching and I finally feel like I’m getting into the rhythm of what I’m doing. It’s certainly been a LOT of hard work and long days, but I really do love what I am doing. I am so blessed to get to spend forty hours a week working with children who have a whole lot of potential, and for the most part, are eager to learn. To be honest, most days I leave feeling pretty discouraged about where my kids are academically. Even though I ran a diagnostic on them and saw that many were performing at a first through third grade math level, it still blows my mind when I spend thirty minutes teaching my heart out about something simple like rounding and half the kids in the class look up at me like I just taught them how to calculate a rockets trajectory from earth to the moon. I’m still trying to figure out how to differentiate my instruction in such a way that the kids who are ready to move forward get that challenge while the others have the opportunity to get the remediation they need. In my textbooks, that seemed simple enough. Real life is a bit messier than what I had envisioned ;) I’m working crazy hard to plan lessons that are meaningful to all my students and push them to develop higher level math skills. It’s one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a teacher so far, but it also drives me to put in lots of extra hours in the evenings and on the weekends. This week alone I had six hours of professional development after school and then I spent my second Saturday in a row of three at a seven hour workshop for new teachers in my district.
Curricular frustrations aside, I am falling in love with my students already. Some of the kids have been my biggest challenges have also nestled most deeply into my heart. Many of my students are painfully desperate for someone to care about them. I had almost forgotten about what a critical age middle schoolers are at as they develop their self-identity. I have a handful of students who are rebelling and trying ridiculously hard to appear as though they don’t care about school or anyone who tries to tell them that education is important. As I’ve taken the time to listen and observe them, I’m convinced they are either terrified of failing and have put on a tough front to mask it or they feel powerless and by blowing off their school work they are exerting the only power they feel like they have. I have two specific kiddos in mind as I write this and it has become my personal challenge to break down their tough exteriors with the kind of undeserved and persevering love that Christ has shown me. The other kid that I constantly think about and try to figure out is a very timid young man. He is always looking down and mumbles everything he says as though it’s not at all worth saying but he knows he has to say something when I speak to him. I greet all my students with a hand shake at the door and his handshake is always limp and cold. He asks me to repeat directions multiple times and rarely begins his work without me coming to his desk and specifically telling him what first step he should take. I don’t think he has a learning disability, but I could be wrong. My inkling is that he has been beaten at home and told he is worthless. He has all the psychological and affective signs of an abused child but I don’t want to jump to conclusions before I’ve had much longer to get to know him and learn about his life situation. Hopefully I can help him build some confidence and love on him enough to make an impact in his life over the next six months.
Beginning this week, I am taking on a job after school for four hours per week teaching a young lady who was recently diagnosed with lupus and is home-bound. From what I know about her, she was an excellent student and began missing a lot of school at the beginning of the year for a lingering illness. She got so sick this fall that she had to take an extended leave from school and was eventually diagnosed with lupus. It sounds like she has had a rough battle with the disease and recently underwent chemotherapy to suppress her immune system. I am so excited about this opportunity! I am hoping to really bless this girl and her family and minister to her as I spend time with her in her home each week. Having battled a frustrating and, for a time, debilitating autoimmune disease myself, I hope and pray that I can give her encouragement and hope as she deals with this life changing diagnosis. I recognize that our diseases are different and the recovery trajectory may look different for her, but I do have a personal knowledge of the devastation, anger, and fear that comes with the initial sickness and diagnosis of an autoimmune disease. My first priority will of course be educational, but I am looking forward to building a relationship with my new student that helps her as she moves forward both academically and emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Your prayers for her and for myself as I seek to be a mentor to her would be so greatly appreciated!
Speaking of prayers, thank you SO MUCH to all of you who have been faithfully praying for me and supporting me over the past few weeks. I want to especially thank my mom, grandparents, and aunt and uncle for their continued prayers, packages full of goodies, and financial support. You guys mean the world to me and I am so blessed to have such an amazing family. Seriously. Thank you.
And I’ve got to give a quick shout-out to my mom! She started her first year in the nursing program two weeks ago and she has been working incredibly hard. I am so proud of her and the journey she has been on that brought her this far. She is a phenomenal example to me of hard work and perseverance. I know she is going to be a stellar nurse but the program is a tough one. Please keep her in her prayers too as she plows through hundreds of pages of reading, labs, clinicals, content-heavy lectures, and super tough tests. And for those of you who see her often, be sure and remind her that she rocks ;)
I’d better get to bed and get my beauty sleep so I can be awake and alert for my professional development that starts bright and early in the morning. Hope all of you back in Oregon are enjoying a beautiful fall. Love y’all. Hasta luego.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Well, I’m on my way back to McAllen after a refreshing long weekend with my family. I’ve had some great time to reflect on why I am “teaching for America” and what I came down to the valley seeking to do. Here’s what I’ve realized:
1. I joined Teach for America because I am passionate about working with at-risk children and giving them the skills necessary to pursue a positive life path. If a teaching position doesn’t open up this year, I can certainly still serve at-risk youth in the valley by working at the Boys and Girls Club, tutoring after school, working with the youth group at my church, volunteering at a pregnancy resource center, etc.
2. I definitely feel like God has called me to the Rio Grande Valley to share His love and joy with those around me. I can do that in a variety of contexts and am not limited to doing this as a teacher. Nothing would stop me from being a great witness if I worked at Starbucks or in any other job that could pay my bills for a year.
3. If at all possible, I want to stay in the RGV. Opportunities for teaching positions may open up in Houston or Dallas (or elsewhere in the country), but I am committed to riding it out here in McAllen unless I feel like I am being called elsewhere. For now, I want to continue getting connected in my community here, building relationships with locals, and adapting to the rich culture that I am growing to love.
I’m actually really grateful that I didn’t get a teaching job as smoothly and easily as some of my fellow corps members, because this experience has taught me a lot about having faith in God to provide exactly what I need when I need it- and not comfortably in advance as I sometimes feel I am entitled to. So far, I have had absolutely everything I needed every step of the way. I am flying back to a group of amazing new friends, a prestigious organization that is working to secure employment for me, a beautiful apartment, my well-running car, a fridge full of food, and a closet full of clothes. That is far more than many of the people living in the valley and just south of the valley in Mexico have ever experienced and I have been humbled as I think about all that I have already been blessed with.
So, with all that said, I am headed back with a joyful heart feeling optimistic about the weeks and months ahead! I am going to focus on doing everything I can to make myself highly employable and available for teaching positions over the next five weeks so that I have the best possible opportunity to begin my teaching career this year. I’ve already created and distributed about 15 portfolios of my resume and work to middle schools in McAllen, but I am going to get 20-30 more binders out to nearby districts over the next week. In early October, I will begin seeking alternative employment and have a discussion with my director about deferring teaching until next year. I would be disappointed to not have a class this year, but I am confident that I can secure a job in the area that could pay my bills for the year and where I could make a difference in the community. Starbucks is my first choice if I can’t teach, so I’ve already got an application in to see if positions are open. Being a Barista seems like fun and since I wouldn’t have papers to grade and lesson plans to create after work, I could volunteer in the community in some of the ways I mentioned above.
Alright, that’s enough babbling for now ;) Sending all my love from Dallas Cowboy country. Hugs!!!
Friday, September 3, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
I just figured out how to post pictures on my blog, so here is a
- George went from a 58% on the pre-test to an 83% on the post test
- Ellen went from a 67% to a 92%
- Jordan went from a 71% to an 88%
- Isaiah went from a 41% to an 83%
- Mary and Alia both went from 71% to 100%
- Selina went from a 63% to an 83%
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Whew! It's been a long and crazy hard past week, but I wanted to take a couple minutes to post a quick update to all of you who I promised I'd stay in touch with :) Here's the basics:
1. The Rio Grande Valley is beautiful and I am totally pumped to be teaching in that region beginning in August. Mc Allen, the hub of the valley, is a pretty large town (80,000ish people) with some familiar stores and lots to do. That was kind of a surprise. I pictured everything down here being really rural. Parts of the valley are definitely more rural than others.
2. There is so much beautiful Hispanic culture down here. I am definitely a minority, but it's a really good experience to be challenged to adapt to. The Mexican food here is muy delicioso! Unfortunately it's really not safe to cross the border even though we are less than a mile away from Mexico in many parts of the valley. Everyone I've talked to down here whether they are a Mexican native or have lived in the valley for years says to stay clear of the boarder at all costs.
3. I still don't have a job placement in the valley, but I keep hearing that we will all have jobs by the first week of school, so I'm trying to chill and not stress too much about not knowing exactly where I'll be teaching. However, I can't find an apartment, roommates, or move my stuff down until I know what town I'll be teaching in. Deep breath!
4. I made it through my first week of institute in Houston sheerly by the grace of God. Institute is basically teacher boot camp, and we are working our tails off to become the best possible teachers we can become in 5 short weeks. I've been waking up every morning at 5 am to shower, eat, and board the bus for my school site by 6:30am. We attended training sessions from 7:30-4:00pm and then go back to Rice University to create lesson plans and classroom management plans. I didn't get to bed before 11:00pm most nights this week. It was seriously crazy and the training team definitely didn't lower their standards even if we got like 3 hours of sleep the night before. We are all exhausted but seeing growth in our ability to make a significant impact in our classrooms.
5. The people here are amazing. I am not in this alone. There are 775 of us from all different regions in the south training here in Houston for the summer. Everyone I've met has an incredible story, contagious passion for being here, and a sense of urgency to achieve the mission of giving all kids the opportunity to have an excellent education. I am in the company of so many people who have lived more and done more in their first 22 years of life than most people strive to accomplish in an entire lifetime. It is both inspiring and incredibly humbling. I'm thrilled that these amazing young people will be radically changing the life prospects of their students in areas where the prospects look bleak at best. What a gift they have to give!
6. Rice University is amazing. I have my own dorm and it's beautiful and clean. The food here is fantastic- all fresh and lots of healthy fruits and veggie options. The facilities are gorgeous and incredibly functional- resource rooms, copy centers, printing stations, a rec center that rivals Dixon (I still love OSU, but I'm thinking Rice would be a sweet place to attend grad school).
7. Tomorrow is my first day of teaching summer school. I've been so busy trying to get all my lesson plans and materials together that I haven't even had time to get nervous yet.
8. We are setting up a student store as part of a reward system for the students who work hard and behave well in class. They will earn tickets every day that they can turn into the store in exchange for fun school supplies and other goodies. It would be AMAZING if any of you could send some goodies for our student store. We are paying for the majority of our supplies and rewards out of our own pockets and it is adding up fast. Anything you could send would be so appreciated! Here's a list of ideas
-pens (colorful, mechanical, or otherwise exciting)
-pencils (same idea as with pens)
-other fun things you find in the school supply section ;)
My address here at Rice University is in my previous post.
Ok! Gotta get back to planning and writing out Thursday's and Friday's 9 page lesson plans. I miss all you friends and family back home. Sending a big cyber hug to y'all :)
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Friday, April 30, 2010
Today, across this country, 14 million children are casualties of an academic achievement gap that has made excellent public education a privilege rather than a right in too many low-income communities. If we were to follow a child from a low-income community, like the communities Teach for America serves, her academic prospects would look something like this: By the time she reached the fourth grade, she would be two to three years behind her higher income peers- not because she wasn’t as smart as her higher income peers, but simply because she wasn’t given the same opportunities in school. In high school, if she makes it to high school, she would have about a 50% chance of graduating by the time she was 18, and if she did graduate statistics tell us that she would read and perform math on an average of an 8th grade level. She would have less than a 10% chance of going on to college and receiving a diploma.
This is unacceptable! Teach for America is working relentlessly to close this achievement gap and we are doing that successfully by recruiting top college graduates from every field of study (anthropology to zoology and everything in between), and sending them into the most underserved urban and rural regions across the United States to teach with excellence for two years. In their two years, our corps members are doing incredible things. Many of our corps members are helping students make two or more years worth of academic gains in a single year! A really ambitious corps member can help his or her students make four plus years worth of gains in their two years teaching in a community. That is HUGE! That’s not just changing academic prospects, that’s changing life prospects for these young people.
Some snippets from the website :)
Why the injustice exists
Despite this stark reality, we know that educational inequity is a solvable problem. We see evidence at all levels —in classrooms, schools, districts, and states—that students from low-income communities can and do achieve at high levels when they are given the opportunities they deserve."
Our mission and approach
"Our mission is to build the movement to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting our nation's most promising future leaders in the effort.
We recruit outstanding recent college graduates from all backgrounds and career interests to commit to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools. We provide the training and ongoing support necessary to ensure their success as teachers in low-income communities.
Our teachers, also called corps members, go above and beyond traditional expectations to lead their students to significant academic achievement, despite the challenges of poverty and the limited capacity of the school system. In succeeding with their students, corps members show that students in low-income communities can achieve at high levels, offering further evidence that educational inequity is a solvable problem.
Yet we know that enlisting additional high-quality teachers is not the ultimate solution. We believe that the best hope for ending educational inequity is to build a massive force of leaders in all fields who have the perspective and conviction that come from teaching successfully in low-income communities.
During their two-year commitments, Teach For America corps members see firsthand that educational inequity is solvable and gain a grounded understanding of how to solve it.
Beyond these two years, Teach For America alumni bring strong leadership to all levels
of the school system and every professional sector, addressing the extra challenges facing children growing up in low-income communities, building the capacity of schools and districts, and changing the prevailing ideology through their examples and advocacy."