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!