I have lots of things to catch y'all up on! I'm going to make a list. 1. because I enjoy them and 2. because they are a helpful organizational tool and type A's like myself loooooveeee color coding, direct responses AND organization.
Things to update on in this monster post:
1. becoming a "real" teacher / nightmares of testing in Arkansas
4. Life plans / thoughts
5. Other thoughts
#1 I finally feel like I am not constantly squirming and I juuuuust might have acquired some "real teacher" habits and instincts. These things are difficult to put into words (also why i was never taught them in training) because they come with classroom time. Behavior Management is simply an issue I no longer sweat in my classroom. Students know what is expected at what time and if they are out of line they know the consequences and my reactions, which is generally a deterrent. I also have found that I am far better at the lesson planning, unit assessment writing, daily execution aspects of teaching than I, frankly, ever though I would be. This is a mixed bag of emotions for me. I am happy that I am much better than I was, but am also frustrated that I wasn't giving the best to my student in the fall. There is nothing I can do and regret and guilt are useless emotions, at least regarding this issue, so I am framing my thinking around the positive and leaving it at that.
#1B The nightmares of testing in Arkansas are many for a first year teaching two grade levels that are tested in high-stakes Literacy tests. I grew up in a state that tested students for on-track grade level proficiency every three years: 3rd, 6th, and 9th grade. I now work in a state that tests at what seems random years 6th, 7th, 8th, and 11th (not sure about elementary). In addition to this testing at the end of the year, students are required by Arkansas State Law to take "Target Tests" every quarter of the year that are the same length and format as the end of year test. My students are tested 6 times a year from 6th grade through 8th grade. This is a nightmare for investing students in the test, education, the purpose of the test, and general "why am I forced to be here?" angst that all pre-teens and teens naturally carry. This is also a nightmare because schools that are struggling feel the need to force teachers to teach to the test and authentic learning and skills development is pushed to the wayside. I understand the rationale for this--schools are given funding and placed on AYP plans based on student test scores, so lifting test scores is essential often, to a school sinking or swimming--but I don't have to be happy about it. Alas, I will do the job I am given and try my best to balance teaching to / for the test and teaching for education and life lessons.
#2 Fights. I have to keep this short and here is why. I wake up and go to work everyday for my students. Often I don't want to deal with other things that are challenging or frustrating waiting for me at school, but my students are my reason for not quitting and waking up for work. So, nothing in this world infuriates me more than when they get into stupid, senseless, and extremely violent fights in school. I get very mad at them for 1. violence in the first place...so much in this world is against them as young, black, delta kids in one of the most impoverished districts in the whole state that I hate seeing them against each other 2. They are suspended and miss out on class time 3. school rules mandate that I cannot let them make up work...which means making up lessons is even more difficult for them and myself. Nothing good has ever come from violence. Nothing. I sometimes consider doing a unit on the history of non-violent protests around the world even thouuughhh I'm supposed to be teaching English. Before I start into a lengthy rant I'll stop here. Fights, I loathe them.
#3 SNOW. IT SNOWS HERE! Oh my goose, I have never had so many snow days in my life. 4.5 this year. That is more than I ever had throughout my entire childhood and 4 years at THE snowiest university (Syracuse) ever combined! I also realized that as a kid i never thought about the fact that my teachers might be not-so-secretly wishing for snow days too. No matter where I move I think snow will follow me. It makes sense, the newspaper I used to sneak out of my dad's closet with his collection of neat stuff about my sister and my earliest moments form birth (shhh! don't tell!) said I was born during the worst blizzard of '88!
#4 Life plans / thoughts. I have officially decided that I want to go to graduate school after I complete my commitment to TFA. I am currently considering a dual degree program. I want a Masters in education policy or an MPA with a focus on education administration WITH a JD (law degree). This world needs change. I have always wanted to be a part of it. The daily grind at my school, the stories and anecdotes of other teachers' school administration encounters has convinced me that change needs to come from teh top AND the bottom and meet in the middle. I want to work at the top after having been at the bottom. In a few years I'll want to jump back down and see how things have and have not changed and then to jump back up to the top to try and work from there. I never want to loose this experience and the fact that it has taught me that real experiences "on the ground" so to speak are essential to being a good policy maker, a good administrator, a good superintendent, a good politician etc. Would you want a swim instructor who had only ever studied the theory of waves and the human body? No. You would want an instructor who has experience...swimming. Exactly my philosophy with education policy.
I also really want to get out of the United States again. I love the US. I love my people and my culture, but I'm just itching for a little traveling. My semester abroad really awoke something in me that loves and misses traveling to quaint and gorgeous landscapes to hike, enjoy art, food, and meet new people.
#5 Other thoughts. Thanks to the best sister IN THE WORLD I now have a guitar that I am slowly self-teaching myself how to play. I have also gone de facto vegetarian. I mean I eat chicken on occasion, but what has happened is that I am sooo busy and focused on doing my job and doing it well that I forget to use meat I have stored. It then goes bad and i get mad at wasting food and money. Frozen veggies and tofu (left int he package) last MUCH longer. I'm not becoming vegetarian...it is just what has happened since about December. I'm sure this summer I'll be chowing on burgers and baked pork chops again:)
Until next time, which will hopefully not be so far away! Love and happiness!