Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2 more days!!!

I'm heading home for Christmas break in two more days!!! :) Can't wait to see my family!!! I have a lot of catching up to do and hugs to give and snuggling to do with my niece. School has been going better since Thanksgiving. I feel like I am actually seeing little glimpses of progress in my kids. We have been doing state testing benchmarks this week and I am in the process of building my entire second semester curriculum to focus on objectives that students typically struggle with in these state tests. The partial curriculum I received in November turned out to be far less rigorous than what these kids need to get caught up to speed. They are very far behind grade level, but I know that if we spend the entire year on addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, these kids will never have a shot at competing with their higher performing peers for college prep/AP math class in high school. My program director, Dama, has been incredibly helpful in guiding me through this process. I observed a variety of master teachers across the Rio Grande Valley and have been looking at data from some of the best schools in the state and feel a renewed sense of urgency to push my kids into a track that will lead them out of the cycle of low achievement they are currently trapped in. I started unit planning Monday night and I'm already like 12 hours, a four foot stack of books and print-offs, six binders, and multiple pads of sticky notes into the process. Right now, it looks like a tornado hit my bookshelf but my goal is to have most of it cleaned up and organized into seven unit material binders before I leave on Friday. That's going to mean some long hours at work between now and then, but hopefully I can get enough done so that I only have a couple more full days of work to plan my semester after I fly back to Texas. And my two -08 TFA friends were able to get a three bedroom apartment that opens up January 6th so I get to move in with them the week after I get back. Yay! I haven't packed a single thing yet, but I'm going to ignore that thought until after I get back. Well, that's about it for now...I'd better get back to work on my units. Take care and have a very merry Christmas if I don't post or see y'all before the 25th :) Hugs!

These are pics from my classroom yesterday morning. My "morning helpers", a gaggle of girls that like to come to my room before school and do little tasks around the room/art projects I create for them, got a hold of my white board pens and decorated my entire board when I left yesterday to collect my testing materials. The "Word Wonder Wall" has turned into Ms. Hibner's Spanish words to learn wall. The kids put words up and quiz me on them before they erase them and add new ones. I'm learning a lot! The last pic is of my first period kids arriving and eating breakfast before class started.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A day off :)

It's been a little while so I thought I'd better update y'all. I've actually had a four day break from teaching! I had a professional development session all day Friday and Saturday and then I decided to take a "mental health" day today. I was hesitant to take a day off, but boy did I need it! I think I can actually tackle the rest of this week as a much more effective teacher now that I've had a little down time to regroup. I really do love my kids, but I tell ya, they zap every ounce of energy out of me in the course of five class periods. I've been trying to get to campus by 6:30 every morning and most days I'm not done at work/with professional development requirements until after 7:00 at night. I'm still working with my homebound student for four hours a week after school and I am really enjoying our time together. She is such a sweet and eager student that it is very refreshing to teach her. I wouldn't give up my time with her even if someone else offered to take my place. However, my principal found me running errands the other morning, stopped me in the office on my way out, and asked me to tutor twice a week after school. For some freakish reason that has gotten me into a lot of extra work lately, I forgot how to say no and nodded in agreement before I fully comprehended what I was doing. Needless to say, I am an official math tutor now. The good news is, it'll be a little extra time to work with some of my students more one-on-one and maybe help them gain a little more confidence with their math skills. I'm going to make the best of it and hopefully tutoring will make a difference for some of these kids. On a separate note, I found some really awesome roommates who I'm going to move in with at the end of my Christmas break. While it's a little bit of a hassle to pack up and move again, I am really looking forward to having roomies again. I've been kind of a hermit lately and it'll be good for me to have people around to encourage me to get out once in a while. And they only live like three miles away so it will be a short distance move. Oh, and bee I go, I wanted to tell everyone about a new documentary that is out. I watched "Waiting for Superman" a couple weekends ago with some of my friends and it was awesome! I'm not sure if it's playing in any cities in Oregon, but they had it at one of the theaters down here in the Valley so it might be. It's a really candid look at what has happened to our education system in the US since the 50's when we were a world leader in education and the very real barriers that are standing in the way of reform. Its a powerful film and not totally disheartening- more inspiring. If you get a chance to see it in theaters or once it comes out on video, I HIGHLY recommend it. Well, I don't really have a lot else to share for the time being, so I'll keep it brief. I think I'm going to do a little reading and go to bed early tonight- save up all the energy I can for the next four days ;) Love y'all and take care!
This is a picture from one of the scenes in Waiting for Superman :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

How to Deal

Whew. It's been an exhausting couple of weeks. My kids are really challenging my entire classroom management system and continuing to try to find every shortcut possible in order to do the least amount of work they absolutely have to do to skate by in my class. My management system needs a serious tune up and I need to get more strict, but it's gonna take a couple solid days of planning and preparation that I don't foresee having until Thanksgiving break. Still trying hard to light a fire underneath the vast majority of them. Gotta keep believing it will eventually catch fire ;) I've also been pulling my hair out trying to figure out why a few of my students are being downright mean and defiant no matter how much I try to do to show them I care about them and want them to be successful. However, the last two weeks has shed some light on major issues going on in my students lives that I was given some painful insight into. Without going into the level of detail I have been trying to sort out on a personal level with individual students, I am trying to figure out how to best help a middle school mom-to-be, students who have been kicked out of their homes, kids who are told they are worthless trash on a regular basis, students who have a wide range of disabilities, students joining gangs, parents in jail, parents in gangs, suicidal students, students who have eating disorders, and students who are cutting to try to deal with internal pain- yeah, I'm talking about 11-15 year-old kids. I know I'm supposed to be focused on teaching math, but these kids need so much more than math right now. I would sure appreciate your prayers as I try to do whatever small part I can to help these kids and teach them to the best of my ability. More importantly, I would really appreciate your prayers for the amazing young people who are dealing with these crazy tough issues far beyond their years. I know that God has all these kids in His hands and He cares about them and loves them so much more than I ever could.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Big Goals to Remedy Apathy

Hi y'all :) Just wanted to post a quick update. My kids are getting comfortable with me and have been pushing boundaries like crazy lately. However, my biggest concern has not been for my kids who are acting up in class (although that is a significant challenge), but with the large majority of my kids who are displaying total apathy at this point. I have so many students who come into my class, plop down in a seat near the back of the room, and immediately put their head down on their desk for a nap. Granted my class is their second math class of the day, but I still can't fathom how they think it's ok to sleep through any class and simply refuse to do their work. I've tried just about everything to get my kids excited about math and engaged in the work we are doing. I come in everyday acting almost ridiculously excited and enthusiastic about the concepts I am teaching. I've created math games and activities where they get to work in partners and groups or move around the room. All my students know that the expectation is that they will be "Stellar Scholars"- which means that they are attentive, focused, and actively participating. I've reminded them, danced for them, begged them, given consequences to them, offered them candy, and more! This same apathy has led to less than 10% of my students doing ANY of the homework I assign. Many of my students will flat-out refuse to do in-class work. When I gave out progress reports this week to my students, the ones who had a bunch of zeros and F's were surprised and upset with me! The average grade on my first unit test was a D :( I nearly cried as I graded the tests and saw all the students who simply scribbled in answers that they gave absolutely no thought. So I've decided to spend time every day this week re-visiting individual goals and marketing/selling my class big goal. We have talked a lot about the power of goal setting and we will be making action plans tomorrow- because a goal without action is just a nice thought. I shared with my 8th graders (who are my most apathetic) a little bit of my personal story about how I set goals with running and worked my way to a college scholarship. I think they understood how powerful I believe goals are, but I'm not sure if any of them have internalized the power of goal setting for themselves. I'm sure not going to give up on any of my kids, even though it is awfully tempting in light of where they are at right now. I simply can't allow myself to see the kids for their actions- I have to look deeper at the potential that they will pry out of them. I sincerely believe that once they get a glimpse of their own profound abilities that develop from hard work, they will be hooked. to facilitate that glimpse...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Three and a half weeks in

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


So sorry it took me so long to post, but I've been busy...WORKING! :) After a very unexpected turn of events, I was hired for the job I originally applied for in a neighboring town. I am Kennedy Middle School's new enrichment math teacher for 6th-8th graders. Basically, I am teaching remedial math to students who have historically struggled to get passing grades in math and are at risk for not passing the TAKS- our state test here in Texas. However, while I have mostly very remedial students, I have a handful of students who are taking my class in conjunction with advanced math which makes for a very diverse spread of abilities that I am trying to plan for effectively. All of my students are limited English proficiency and I have two classes of migrant students. It's been a really great opportunity for me to think about how to not only teach math in a fresh new way that these kids can grasp but also math literacy, which plays a huge role in how well students do on the language heavy TAKS.

My class sizes are really small too, which I didn't expect. My biggest class has 12 students and my smallest has two kids! I love that I get to work one on one with my students and really get to know each one of their strengths and weaknesses. My greatest struggle right now has been having no curriculum or math tools. When I came into my room last week, there was an empty desk, an empty filing cabinet, and an empty closet. No text books, no work books, no teacher's guide, no math manipulatives...nothing. So, I'm building my entire curriculum from scratch right now. I spent 12 hours on Saturday and another 10 hours on Sunday putting together my first unit on decimals, and it is far from perfect. I was told by the district math training supervisor that I should be getting a curriculum in about a month...but that is contingent
on funding and was originally supposed to arrive weeks ago. So for now, I'm planning on preparing for 5-6 week units and I'll be pleased if I get a curriculum by Christmas.

I've been limited to 1,000 copies every six weeks in my employee account. I ran out of copies in three days :( Since all I'm using for my kids is worksheets and guided notes and tutorials that I create and print, I am going through lots of copies. Plus I had a syllabus, folder organization guide, homework log, and a few other "getting set up" materials that I wanted my kids to have. Lets do the math: 50 kids x 4 days of 5 copied papers each= 1,000 copies. :P I was told that my copy status would monitored and I might get additional copies. I sure hope so, because when I tried to make copies last Friday the copy machine shut me down.

While I feel so blessed to have a job in a beautiful school with a great administration and staff, I have had a bit of a sad couple o
f weeks. Many of my closest friends here in the valley have not been so fortunate as to get jobs here in the valley. Two weeks ago, my good friend Deborah got a call from a school that partners with the Philadelphia corps and within two hours, she was packed up and on the road. We were all sad to see her go, but she is an incredible young woman with a ton of enthusiasm and passion and I know she will make a huge impact in Philly. Then last weekend, one of my roomies, Meg got a call from the Conneticut corps and hit the road the next day for a job in a charter school there. Meg is super sweet and I really value the time we spent togethe
r as we waited for employment here. She will be the best new Spanish teacher in the state of Conneticut, but our house sure felt a lot emptier without her. This Monday, my other roommate Anne was offered a job in Tennessee and decided it was her best option at this point so we went out to dinner at Joes Crab Shack and said our goodbyes over crab legs and margaritas. Anne will be missed here for sure...Karen and I still can't bear to deflate her air bed in the living room so it's just sitting there all made. And Karen has a job lined up in Austin if the Boston corps doesn't open up in the next few days. I'll very likely be saying goodbye to her in the next week as well. Then it will just be me and the giant cockroaches that show up in our apartment on a frequent basis. Ugggh.

It has been a bitter sweet month, but God is faithful and I'm going to keep trusting Him to provide new friendships and a roommate and to take care of my wonderful new friends who are spreading their joy and passion to children all across the country now. This really is becoming quite an adventure- I guess that's what I asked for ;)

Pics of Me, Karen, and Meg with our napkin US map & Deborah and Anne

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Refreshed and ready to go

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

Re-evaluating and pressing on!

OK, still no job and we are going into the third week of school down here. I've had potential interviews and jobs that fell through for high school special education, elementary PE, high school health, middle school science, and most recently middle school math at an amazing school where I was the "second best" applicant :( I'm pretty bummed out. The RGV placement team keeps saying they're optimistic about getting all of us jobs before the 8 week temporary pay period ends- however, I have to admit that I am losing faith in much of what they have told us about placements up until now. I cant get a clear answer about why it has been so difficult to find us jobs this year, but I do know that there are around 15 corps members like me without schools to teach in. Honestly, I'm very concerned that some of us simply wont get jobs this year. The options in October will be to defer for a year or transfer to another region in the US if there are openings. I have some serious decision making to do very soon.

So I've decided to head home to Oregon for about a week to collect my thoughts, see my amazing family that I miss mucho, and make an action plan for what I need to do when I return. I am returning, it's just a matter of if I choose to pursue transfers, wait it out, or defer for a year and get a job in the valley to pay the bills until next September. I will have quite a bit of time in the airport and plane on my way to and from home, so I'm going to do some reflecting on why it was I joined TFA and came to the RGV in the first place. I need to re-evaluate why it is I chose this path and what I can do to really serve and make a difference where I am with what I've got, regardless of the location or circumstances. God has opened up so many doors in my life for me to make it this far in my journey, and I am determined to trust Him to guide me even when I feel in way over my head...where He has seemed to take me many times throughout the past few years ;) I'll be posting again when I collect my thoughts and create my action plan. Until then, thank you all so much for your support and prayers. I so appreciate having such an amazing group of people rooting for me back home. Love y'all!

And here's a picture of Miss Chloe who I can't wait to see in less than 24 hours!!! I sent her this special shirt that says "My Heart Belongs to Texas" to remind her that her auntie in Texas loves her lots :) Such a little ray of sunshine!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Still waiting for a job...

I promised a picture of our trip to South Padre in my last post, so here it is :) From right to left: me, Karen (my roomie), Meg, and Anne

I'm still waiting for a job placement and school starts in one week! I'm getting pretty anxious but trying to stay really flexible and just roll with it. I have tentative interviews set up next week for a high school special education position in La Joya which is just 15 minutes down the highway and another high school position as a health teacher in San Benito. I think either position would be a blast to teach but there are pros and cons to each. If I got the special education position, I would be close to McAllen and get to work with a small case load of students all year which would be incredible and an amazing opportunity to get to influence a handful of students in a big way. However, it would mean a LOT of studying and a big learning curve as I work my way through the legal requirements of teaching in special education as well as taking another certification exam for k-12 special education. The health position in San Benito is right up my alley and something that I didn't realize was even an option until Friday. Unfortunately, San Benito 45 min-1 hour down the highway from where I am currently living in McAllen, which would mean another move or a lot of commute time each day.

I'm definitely more than just a little bit stressed about making my year long plan, unit plan, week one plan, learning new content, studying for a certification exam, and potentially moving all within the next week! I just keep telling myself its all been done before and I have a great support team behind me to help me make it all happen. I've been praying and seeking God's guidance in how to proceed forward as doors start opening and closing next week. I know He has a group of students set aside for me and an amazing plan for the year and I definitely want to be following the path that he has laid out for me rather than scrambling for whatever seems to be available at the moment. I would sure appreciate all your prayers as well and thank you so much for those of you who have been praying for and supporting me throughout this adventure.

In the mean time, while I wait to hit the ground running, I am taking advantage of the sunshine and time with friends here. We have had a full house with Karen and myself plus Anne and Meg and Elizabeth who are also all unplaced corps members waiting for placements. We've been having a blast together cooking, playing games in the evenings, hanging out by the pool, taking advantage of free trials at the local gyms, and exploring the valley. We've all been coping with the stress of being unplaced in different ways, which have been quite hilarious to observe in a house full of action oriented ladies. My coping mechanisms have been to work out like a maniac, eat ice cream on a daily basis, and buying shoes. After buying a pair of incredible zebra flats and turquoise flower flats I put myself on a shopping freeze until I at least get my first pay check...seriously- if I post any thing else about shopping before I post something about having a job you all need to send me harsh reprimands ;) Fortunately, the exercise craze has been counteracting the ice cream obsession for the time being. Ok, I'd better hit the gym before the day gets too much further along. Hopefully my next post will include an announcement about where and what I'll be teaching. Love y'all! Take care!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I haven't forgotten about you all :)

Hi there friends and family :)

I realized I haven't posted an update in quite some time, to I better let you know what I'm up to. I've moved to an apartment in McAllen, Texas that is centrally located in the valley with another awesome corps member who I am becoming good friends with. While I'm still awaiting a job, I have an interview tomorrow (hopefully) and there has been a lot of movement with placements over the past couple of weeks. I really hope to have a job before school starts on the 23rd, but in the past there have been corps members who were placed after the start of school and still managed to make incredible gains in their classrooms. Speaking of incredible things, you should check out this link to a youtube video about Teach For America's impact in the Rio Grande Valley and Boston:

It's a really good representation of the disparity that exists here while at the same time showing what can and is being done to combat it. I will be posting again soon when I get news of where I'll be working. I have some fun pictures on my phone of a trip I took to South Padre Island with my friends so I'll get those up as well. Take care y'all :) Love ya- Meg

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pics from Induction and Institute

I just figured out how to post pictures on my blog, so here is a
bunch of pictures from my summer adventures. The first few are of me and my RGV corps member buddies on the last light of induction week and the rest are from institute of my corps member friends from 6 different regions in Texas and Florida.I hope I get the chance to tell you all about these amazing people someday because each and everyone of them are incredible people with incredible stories and incredible passion for changing the world one student at a time.

The Last Day :)!!!!

Yay :D Today is the last day of institute. My kids took their post test yesterday, and as promised, I want to share how the scores turned out. So....they were AWESOME! On average, the class average of all 15 kids went from a 70% on the pre-test (just four weeks ago) to a 90% on the post-test!!! Some highlights:

  • 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%
My kids are rock stars and I am SOOOO proud of all the hard work they have put into getting to their goals. Many of them far exceeded the ambitious goals we set for them and only a few didn't meet them. Every one of our kids showed growth in multiple areas throughout the summer. My co-teacher and I are going to meet with the kids one-on-one today to tell them their scores and share how extraordinarily proud we are of them. Many of these kids have never been successful at school before. I truly hope this is a turning point for them and that they recognize the reality behind our constant rallying that hard work leads to great gains.

Before I sign off, I have to also give a shout out to Tobi because I got the most amazing package full of goodies in the mail last night just in time for today's final student store. Thanks a ton Tobi! You are so super thoughtful and my kids are going to love all the new additions :)

Hasta Luego Amigos! Meg

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

NYT article link :)

Only three days left at institute...WOOHOO!! :) I will be happy to get back to the valley, but I have to admit that I will be a little sad to leave all the amazing people that I have had the privilege of working with here in Houston. I just wanted to real quickly post a link to a NYT article that highlights the process of getting into Teach For America and also talks a little bit about this year's Houston Institute in particular. Hope you enjoy :) Hugs to ya'll!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Last week of Institute!!!

Hey Ya'll :) Just wanted to post a quick update. I'm heading into my last week of institute and I am super excited to get back to the valley and have a couple weeks of down time before the school year starts. I've made so many awesome friends here and I can't believe I've only spent four weeks with these amazing people- it feels like I've been teaching with them for at least a year! Some of us are heading back to the valley together, but a good number of my new friends will be teaching in different parts of Texas or Florida. I guess it's just a good excuse to go visit different parts of the country ;)

My kids have made some fantastic progress over the past four weeks. They took a pre-test four weeks ago and then re-took the same test two weeks ago. In just two weeks, their scores were 11% higher on average. We have set individual learning goals for each students based on their pre-test scores, most of which are around 20-30% improvement. They are taking their post-test this upcoming Thursday and we will get to give them their scores on Friday and celebrate their improvements together. The class "Big Goal" is for 100% of the students to meet their individual growth goals by the post-test date. I will definitely post after the test and share how they did. I am so proud of how far they have come and know it is going to be really hard to leave them in a week. I have absolutely fallen in love with these kids. They are truly amazing and my inspiration for working relentlessly 15+ hours-a-day.

I have to shout out a few people who have been incredibly encouraging and helpful to me over the past few weeks :)

* Shout out to my amazing mom who has sent me multiple packages every week, made two trips to Corvallis to pack up all my stuff, and is driving my car across the country this week so that I have everything I need as soon as I get back to the RGV! You are a HUMUNGUS help mom- I love you much!!

* Shout out to my auntie Debbie and uncle Bob. Debbie sent me two big packages full of school supplies and has offered to stock my classroom for next year with everything I need-What an amazing blessing?! My uncle bob and her both spent all day last Sunday helping my mom move my things out of my apartment and load up my car for the trip. They are such wonderful, generous, giving people and I love them mucho too!!

* Shout out to Shawn for taking a whole week of her summer to drive across the country with my mom with all my stuff! You are amazing Shawn- thank you times a MILLION!! I owe you big time!

* Shout out to Landon for hauling some of the heaviest stuff in my apartment down three flights of stairs to help out my family when they were moving me. That's a true friend ;) And a second shout out for getting engaged to the lovely Laura!! You two are such a sweet and deserving couple :)

* Shout out to pretty much the coolest college professor ever- Marie :) She sent me all sorts of goodies for my student store and the kindest note that totally made my day. She has also inspired much of the way that I teach math and my excitement about teaching math. Thanks so much Marie!

Ok- I'm off to Rice Village to hang out with a couple of friends. I hear there is a chocolate bar somewhere around there and I'm pretty much super excited about taking advantage of that ;) Have a wonderful week and thank you all again for all the encouragement, prayers, and goodies you have sent my way. Hasta la vista amigos!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Rio Grande Valley, Teacher Boot Camp, and Request for Student Store Goodies :)

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

My Mailing Address @ Institute :)

I just received an information packet about the 5-week summer institute that will begin June 13 (just one month away!). My mailing address- for friends and family who want to send me notes or packages (;)) will be:

Megan Hibner / Corps Member
Teach For America
Rice University
6100 Main St.
Houston, TX 77005

That's all for now! Just keeping ya'll in the loop :) I won't know my permanent address until the end of July, but I will be sure to post that too.

Friday, April 30, 2010

So what is Teach for America?

Before I get too far along in my blog, I figured I should share a little bit about what Teach for America is so you all know the basics about the organization I am working with- our website has a ton of information all about the organization. Here's a brief explanation of what the achievement gap looks like and what we are doing to close it-

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

  • "Children growing up in poverty face more challenges than students growing up in wealthier communities.
  • The schools these children attend lack the capacity to meet their extra needs.
  • Education policies and practices often fail to reflect the sense of urgency and the deep sense of belief that all kids can achieve at high levels when given the opportunities they deserve.

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."

Our impact

"Since our inception in 1990, the Teach For America network has grown to include 24,000 individuals. Currently, some 7,300 Teach For America corps members teach in 35 urban and rural areas profoundly affected by the achievement gap. They are working extraordinarily hard to ensure that their students achieve academic success despite the inequities they face."

Friday, April 16, 2010

I've set up a blog :0)

Ok- so I've had enough people tell me I should set up a blog that I finally decided to take their advice! I won't really be posting until my adventure begins in Houston this summer at institute and I hear there won't be much free time for posting then. However, once I get settled in my Rio Grande community, I hope to at least put weekly updates on here so y'all can know what I'm up to down south :) Thanks so much to all of you who have been so encouraging as I embark on this exciting new endeavor.