Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 20 2010

Teacher’s Eve

As I write, I am in a tank top and skort (!) sitting in the Delta State University student union with my collab (read: collaborative partner; person who is teaching the same group of kids I am during all of institute), melting. It is 101 degrees outside and will likely remain so for the next six weeks. I love Mississippi.

I’m serious though, I love Mississippi. This week we headed to our schools, where we’ll be working and teaching for the rest of institute. On Friday we got our rooms: ours is 115, an apparent music room that has a piano and xylophones against the wall. Our room is BIG, but had no desks at first. This means that of the mere hour we had to set up all our posters, put names on seats, write objectives on the board, goals on the wall, rules… we spent half of just getting desks into the room. I say this not to complain, because most people made all those posters over the weekend anyway, but to show that you can’t expect anything, just have to respond to what you’re given.

There have been so many things that I wrote in my notes or on my hand or in my agenda for updating this blog, telling family things I’ve learned and people I’ve met, goals I’ve made. I think the most important thing is something I told Papa Lamp on the phone while wishing him a happy father’s day: This is the most engaged I’ve been in my work in years. For the past two or three years, school for me was a means to an end. I knew I needed a degree, and had to pick something, so I did it. I loved school, don’t get me wrong, but my professors will gladly attest to my lack of commitment to my program. Here, I feel absolutely committed, invested, engaged, and EXCITED straight down to my core. I am desperate to learn, I am frantic to succeed. I think a huge difference is the fact that I am not the person on the line here, my students are.

I’m starting off teaching math. I’ll be teaching math most of the time, then reading for I think the last week of institute. I met two of my students during the reading testing and have bonded with my collab during sessions this past week. We’re continuously learning management, how to plan objectives, how to teach and enforce behavioral expectations, how to deal with each other, how to incorporate literacy, what literacy is, etc etc etc.

Best part of today (and now that I think about it there were a lot of great parts already but this tops) was talking to mah freend Meggie Hank, who I met at the Philly Institute in 2009. We’ve now graduated from OCs to CMs, but she’s in Detroit and I’m in the Delta. It was so good to, as said on the phone, talk to someone who is in the circle, but out of the circle. She has the same TFA experience I do, but her corps is totally different, her training is different, her background is different. And I love her with all my heart.

My birthday was Wednesday– my school site, collab, and breakfast comrades (aka the entire cafeteria) all sang to me. I wore a “it’s my birthday!” button all day then lesson planned until the wee hours of the next morning. Friday sister’s gift arrived: a Mississippi Mud cake! Couldn’t have been a better way to end the week… except there was: Catfish fry on the quad with free beer! :) I’m not a huge drinker, but a Friday happy hour was definitely a great way to end the week.

Tomorrow is the first day in the classroom! I’m just administering a test (the ISAT), but it’s totally nerve-wracking all the same. I also am so excited I feel my body may burst out of my skin. My teacher career can officially begin!

3 Responses

  1. Emilie Tole

    Caroline! I am thrilled that this link popped up on my facebook feed. I am so glad to hear you are doing so well. I will be praying that God will continue His work in you and in what you do! How exciting to be on such a journey! You are loved and missed in Kalamazoo ;)

  2. Auntie Sue

    Carolina…I am so happy that you are doing what you feel completes you at this juncture in your life. You have always found a way to do what you want to do in a very responsible way. You are going to make a great teacher.

    Classroom management is easy if you are firm but fair, funny but professional. LAUGH A LOT. Also, look into reading Harry Wong’s FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL. He is big on practicing every single procedure for the 1st two weeks so that the students know how to DO everything (i.e., entering the classroom, raising hands to “get the floor,” passing in papers, getting “ready” for the lesson by getting writing utensils and paper/notebooks, leaving the classroom-do not let them get up and leave if adults are speaking, etc.). Make a game out of learning the procedures. Practice 2 or 3 of them a day by dramatizing with your co-teacher and involve the kids.

    Another-get-to-know-you activity is like truth or dare. Give them a small piece of paper and have each of them write 2 truths and 1 fib about themselves and have them go around the room and read each others’ and try to identify the fib. I always used the following 3: I visited Cape Cod, I met Peter Max, the 1960′s artist, and I worked for Paramount Pictures. They almost always guess the Peter Max or the Paramount stories as fibs. I need to visit Cape Cod!!! Tell them to keep the weight of each idea approximately the same so the guessing is difficult. There are lots of team-building activities/games online if you want to get some more ideas.

    The internet will be a big help to you. There are a lot of math websites with games/activities and worksheets on them. The most important “big math ideas” your students need to learn are their math facts and operations with fractions and percents.

    As for me, I am moving to the high school to teach 11th and 12th graders English next year. Big change after teaching math to 8th graders my first year and 7th graders my second year followed by teaching English/Language Arts to 7th graders for the next 10 years. This past year I was an Interventions Specialist for grades 7 through 12 in English (my major) and math (my minor). I began my day teaching 7th and 8th graders for 3 class hours in the middle school and then walked or drove across the street to go into 1 English and 1 math (Algebra or Geometry)class for the rest of my day. It was definitely an interesting year, but this coming year they asked me to manage a credit-recovery computer classroom where the students would be on the computer most of the time, and I would only be trying to keep them focused and working. When our veteran high school English teacher announced her retirement a few weeks ago, I applied for a transfer to take her job. I am pretty excited to deal with some smart kids for a change in classes like American Lit and Advanced Comp. They are doing away with their AP English class, but I would have loved to try that too.

    As a result, I have a million young adult (middle school level) novels that need a new home. Most of them are too young for the high school readers. Would you like me to start shipping you a library? Most are by well-known authors or are Newbery award books and some may have originally belonged to you and/or Genna at one time. They are already boxed up for my move to the high school, so I could start shipping a few now as I am sure you could use them when you start focusing on reading. Your greatest challenge will be to get them excited about reading outside of the classroom.

    Another necessity…researching good lessons and best practices for teaching… Go to the site I think you can sign up for a free monthly magazine and weekly emails with lots of helpful teaching ideas and interesting articles. The organization was founded by George Lucas, the movie producer…kinda cool…

    Finally, in the grand scheme of things, just caring about your students and identifying their strengths will teach them invaluable lessons and will show them how they can make the world a better place. Teaching is NOT easy, but you have never done things the easy way, have you? :)

    I love you…

  3. Cindy

    Caro – you are amazing – let me know if your new library from Auntie Sue is missing anything – and just wait – I’m sending you stuff to Mississippi now that will help with the Math.

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