Sunday, July 24, 2005

Summer Lovin!

I can't believe this summer is almost over. It seems like just yesterday when I was moving in on a rainy Memorial Day weekend. As I look back upon the last two months, I see highs and I see lows. I have a feeling deep in the corner of my heart that this may be the best thing I've done yet. Sounds cheesy, I know. I am so excited to get in my classroom in front of my students and show them how amazing and wondrous the world of science is. Yeah, you English majors laugh and you Philosophy majors are probably still trying to decide if science exists or not, but my canvas is a classroom full of young minds, and I am entrusted with the power to shape them into masterpieces. It's an exciting, yet intimidating, reality.

Before I joined the MTC, I thought I had a profound respect for teachers. My mother is a teacher, and not just any teacher, but a first grade teacher. I still think that a first grade teacher is the most important teacher throughout a child's education. My mom is my hero for taking on such a completely amazing role. However, while I had that profound respect for teachers, I don't think it really meant that much because I never took the time to realize how challenging it is to shape young minds. This summer, I experienced, first hand, the difficulties of teaching, and now, my respect for teachers has grown to a whole new level. What an awesome responsibility.

While teaching in summer school seemed rushed and disorganized, I learned that high expectations really can motivate a student. I also learned that classroom management needs to begin on the first day or anarchy will result. While teaching in front of my peers taught me how important each component of the lesson really is, I also learned how frustrating being a teacher can be because nothing seemed sure or consistent. Because of this experience, I will work relentlessly to create a consistent classroom with consistent discipline and consistent procedures. In Ms. Monroe's class, I learned...well...everything that I know about teaching.

I now realize that teaching is probably one of the most challenging services one can provide. While this may be the case, I know that teaching in Mississippi will prepare me better than any other job for future endeavors. What mountain won't I be able to climb after this trip?

God Bless and best wishes for a fantastic and rewarding year guys!



For all of you who think that Southaven will be a piece of cake, I have some news for you. I went to visit my classroom on Wednesday of last week, and much to my dismay, I discovered that my chalkboard was a thin piece of film slapped on the wall. I kid you not. If I knew how to post a picture on this blog, I'd show you. There are large pockets of air (about the size of the palm of my hand) scattered all over the film. There are also several areas right in the middle of the film that are torn away revealing what looks like corkboard. When I tried to write on it, the chalk just broke and it left no mark.

As I walked further in the room, I discovered the corporal punishment paddle sitting on my desk. Not only is it an instrument of physical abuse but it had some obsene drawing on it too. I could not believe it. classroom is a real dive. I didn't really expect much but at least you guys who are in the Delta have real chalk boards. One of the things that I love about this program is that it forces you to become creative. I'm not quite sure what I'm going to write on this year but I'll think of something.

And what's with schools having separate buildings for different subject areas? The science classes are held in a completely different building than the main high school. Is that normal for the south? In the north, you'd never hear of such a thing. I kind of like it. While it may be isolating, I think it will also be a bit more peaceful.

I don't know about you guys but when we did that question and answer session on Friday, I started to get pretty nervous. I highly doubt that I'll be able to get much sleep the night before school starts. In fact, I can't wait until about the beginning of October when everything begins falling into place. My students and I will be in our routines and I'll actually know my way around the school. Gosh, at this point it seems as though it will never feel that way but all things come with time.

So anyway, this blog may seem really disjointed and incoherent. For that I apologize. I really can write. I promise. We'll see what I churn out next.


Thursday, July 21, 2005


As you all know, the MTC reunion was held this past weekend. I'm happy to say that the event exceeded my expectations. Despite the fact that the alumni ultimate Frisbee game consisted of more alumni than first years, the dinner to follow was more than enough to make up for it. Personally, I thought Governor Winter's speech was moving and inspiring. I can’t wait to try to effect that kind of change in my future students.

Speaking of moving, I was talking to a few of the alumni last night and they reminded me just how expensive it is to move across the country to Mississippi. They told me how lucky I was that most of my moving expenses were paid for by the state because I am teaching in a critical shortage area.

I'm teaching in DeSoto County, which, in my opinion, is the furthest thing from a critical shortage area. The state doesn’t recognize it as such either. Does this mean I won't be reimbursed for moving expenses? To be honest, I'm not really sure, but many of you will find yourself in a similar situation. The Jackson corps members and the DeSoto corps members are not teaching in "critical shortage areas" and therefore, according to the state "reimbursement for moving expenses" form, you will not get your money back. I spent the day calling moving companies from Wisconsin just to see how much it would be to rent a small trailer to carry my meager possessions across the country and the cheapest quote was $401.72. That's not including gas, a hotel stay, or meals (all covered under the reimbursement plan). When all is said and done, I will end up paying close to $600 just to move to Mississippi and teach in DeSoto County schools. Quite frankly, that’s a lot of money, a lot of money that I don’t have lying around.

I can understand that moving across the country is expensive, but what I do not understand is that this was one of the selling points of the Mississippi Teacher Corps program. If you look under the comparisons link on the main website, moving reimbursement is one of the components that sets MTC apart from TFA or NYCF. Yet it does not say, "only for those in critical shortage areas." It simply says that one of the benefits of the MTC is that your moving expenses will be reimbursed. Furthermore, it says under the program link on the homepage and I quote, "After the initial summer training you will be a certified teacher and placed in a critical-needs school." According to the state of Mississippi, that is certainly not the case for eight of our corps members.

The problem that I have with this program is that there are huge inconsistencies. I know this word has been thrown around quite a bit throughout the past three weeks and for good reason. I had no control over where I would be placed. When Dr. Mullins called me and told me I’d be teaching in DeSoto County, I assumed that this was a critical needs area because the website states that corps members will be placed in a critical needs area. That's inconsistency number one. Because I'm not in a critical needs area, the whole program is misleading. MTC places most of its teachers in the Mississippi Delta. Therefore the instruction is tailored to the problems that teachers in the Delta will face (i.e. the instruction I am receiving may be somewhat relevant but not specifically tailored to my future experience in DeSoto County.) Am I at a disadvantage now? That is inconsistency number two. Because I'm not placed in a critical needs area, I will have to pay for all moving reimbursements out of my own pocket. The program, once again, mislead me into thinking that my expenses would be covered. This is inconsistency number three.

Believe me, I could go on and on. We're all aware of the inconsistencies surrounding our peer teaching experiences and our student teaching evaluations from a few weeks ago. I regret that I have to put this on the web for everyone to read, especially after we held a reunion which undoubtedly made many of us feel good about what we're trying to do. I only hope that someone in a position of power in this program, whether that be Ben or Germain or even Dr. Mullins will read this and attempt to smooth out these inconsistencies. I know that everyone is working hard to make this the best alternative certification program in the country but at this rate, I feel as though we have a long way to go.

God Bless.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Peer Teaching Self-Reflection

Let me emphasize that watching a video of myself teaching is not my cup of tea. It's crazy seeing myself as a teacher. That said, I think it is quite helpful to some degree because it allows me to see some of my nervous habits and just how much I move around the classroom.

I don't really want to break the whole rubric down by each individual criterion so let me just say that I think, to the best of my knowledge, I performed really well in regard to the rubric. I covered each objective, offered both independent and guided practice, walked around all students, used a variety of different teaching methods and questioning methods, and was dressed professionally among others. Despite the fact that I feel as though I mastered the rubric, mostly because I find myself teaching to the rubric, I do not feel as though the lesson was a success. Now I don't want to sell myself short, I think that most students would have been able to accomplish each objective but as for those students who may present a bit more of a challenge for a teacher, I think they may have left my room confused. I would have liked to spend at least 2 days on the lesson (which covered organizing data through various methods including pie charts, bar graphs, line graphs, and tables).

What I learned from this lesson and the past few days of teaching is that even if you master a rubric which is used to evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher, you still may not be the most effective teacher. I really take it to heart when people tell me that in order to be a great teacher, one must be a life long learner. I know I have so much more to learn about teaching before I can truly be an effective instructor. I really wish that the summer session would put more emphasis on content delivery than other issues like classroom management. We need to know about content delivery BEFORE we start teaching in the fall, yet the class is during the fall semester. I feel as though I may need some help conveying the information that I know to 9th graders. According to the Wong and Wong book, one of the biggest oversights of first year teachers is that they tend to lecture too much because a collegiate teaching style is the most familiar teaching style to them. I feel as though I have this problem to a certain extent and I’m excited about finding other ways to convey my knowledge.

That’s all for now!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Summer Reflections

Now that the first round of student teaching is finished, I can take some time to offer a reflection on how the summer has gone thus far. All in all, I am quite pleased with how my student teaching went. My class was typical of a 7th and 8th grade science class. Each student was sufficiently rambunctious to offer me some insight on what the fall might be like. I had my good students and I had my trouble makers. I am thankful for the good students because their eagerness to learn made me feel as though I knew what I was least in some capacity. Although I don't like to admit it to them, I am also thankful for my trouble makers for giving me the opportunity to work on my classroom management skills.

Here is a list of some of the things upon which I'd like to improve before taking over my class in the fall:

1.) Content delivery: I feel as though I need to increase my "wow factor." I need to stir up a curiousity with the likes of no other in each of my students. I want them to gain a passion for science. As is, I don't think I'm doing that. I feel like the boring teacher; one who is collegiate and can't connect with 7th and 8th graders.

2.) Classroom management: I want to have complete control over my class. They deserve an undisrupted learning enviornment. I don't want to be that teacher who doesn't smile either. I refuse to be a dictator. At the same time, I know I can't be their friend. How do I reconcile those two?

3.) Presence: I don't know if this is something that can be developed. It may just be in one's genes. Natural teachers have a presence about them. When they walk into a room, students know that it is time to learn and not time to chat with neighbors. However, like I said before, I don't want the presence of a dictator. I want the students to respect me but not fear me.

That's it. Those three things are at the top of my agenda.

The class, EDSE 500, went well too. I feel as though I am so much more prepared to face my class in the fall with the "tools" that Ms. Monroe has provided. Thanks Ms. Monroe! You rock!

Well, that's all for the first part of the summer. I went home over the break and had a fantastic conversation about consequences, rewards, and class discussions with my girlfriend. I'm telling you, this girl has some great insight! I now feel like I have some very strong insight into how I will be an effective classroom manager. I will be blogging some of these ideas out in the coming days so stay tuned!

God's Peace!

Questioning Technique

I have to admit, this blog isn't going to be as detailed as the others. There just isn't much to say about questioning techniques and I'm sure those of you back home who check out my blog are going to find this one less than amusing. The hard part of being a teacher is trying to involve everyone in the class, no matter how reluctant a student is, and believe me, I've had some pretty reluctant students. There are several questioning techniques that one can use to achieve this end. I decided to make note cards with each student's name and randomly pick a name out of the deck. I would even let my students shuffle the cards (for some reason they got quite a kick out of that!) just so they could be absolutely sure that the technique was not rigged.

I think the whole random selection thing went well for some students but not so well for others. Those who participate on a regular basis got a kick out of this technique. They were on the edge of their seats seemingly begging that their card would be chosen next. Those who didn't regularly participate had qualms about the technique. In fact, even when I called on them, they still didn't respond unless I pushed the issue (which inevitably I do). So essentially the whole class wasn't much different.

What was different was that people didn't raise their hands! I love the sight of hands raised. For some teachers, the perfect classroom is one of complete silence. For others it's the sound of productive chatter. For me it's the sight of 20 kids with their hands in the air, bouncing in their seats and begging to be called upon. I love that! That's my idea of a perfect classroom atmosphere.

All in all, I don't think I would use this technique in the future because I didn't really notice much of a difference between the status quo and the new technique. Maybe I'll get around to trying another questioning technique in the fall.

Ok, that's all for now.

God Bless