Saturday, October 22, 2011

I Got a Job!!! :)

I finally have a minute to sit down and talk about my new job!  To get everyone up to date, I started Monday as a 7th grade English teacher at Carroll Junior High (an inner-city, all black school) in Monroe.  This school got a 69.2 (out of 120) on their school report card and is in their second year of being on academic watch.  On the plus side, the school’s goal last year was to raise 10 points, and they raised 14 points, giving them “Exemplary Academic Growth” status.  It’s exciting, yet intimidating to teach here.  It’s exciting because due to their progress from last year (and just knowing that the district has their eye on them), everyone is energetic and working together.  But at the same, it’s intimidating because my principal is breathing down my neck, making sure I’m implementing differential instruction and doing all the things she needs me to do.  And I know that I need to be on top of things 100%.  So balancing that plus trying to figure out how to handle these kids, plus creating new lesson plans, plus surviving grad school, plus still adjusting to life in La equals a busy and exhausted Kim.  Hence not posting in two weeks.  But despite the stress, I’m really pretty good. :) 

So…what.a.week.  Whew…

I found out last Wednesday, that I’d for sure be starting this position. I’m technically just a long-term substitute for now because I am only certified through sixth grade, due to my degree and Indiana license in being in elementary ed.  But I found out that all I have to do is take three Praxis tests, and then I could get my Louisiana license in English and be certified to teach 7-12.  (Which I'm fine with because it's something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while since it would make me eligible to teach any grade, K-12 and beyond.)  So I take the first two Praxis (English Content and English Pedagogy) on Nov. 12, and then I take the final one that is required by Louisiana (Principles of Learning and Teaching 7-12) in January.  They might be able to give me a temporary license after I take the two English tests so that I can be certified by the end of the year.  Otherwise, I have to wait till I take the one in Jan., get the scores back in Feb., then apply for my license and hopefully have it my the first of March…which will suck.  There’s also the possibility that a different teacher who is already certified and experienced could apply for the position and get hired.  But that’s pretty unlikely just do to the environment of the school.  Once these kids are warmed up to a teacher and the teacher has the class in control, you don’t want to lose that.  These kids have already had 4 different teachers - one for the first 9 weeks (who was apparently asked to resign), one sub for one week, one sub for the next week, and then me), so as long as I’m doing well, I don’t foresee them getting rid of me and hiring someone else.  As long as I get certified.  So now I have to start studying for the English Praxis (which I hear is quite challenging) that I take in three weeks…I have to remind myself to breathe when I think of that sometimes…

So anyway, back to my week.  I went in all day last Friday to observe and just get to know my way around before being left by myself.  Then I started on my own on Monday.  It all went surprisingly well.  I definitely had my rough patches and had multiple times where I thought I was going to lose it, but overall, it went a lot better than I had expected.  Even some of the other teachers were impressed with how I was able to control the classroom.  It ended terribly on Thursday, though.  The kids were completely out of control (it was homecoming weekend and the had a pep rally in the morning and parade in the afternoon…) and there were a few times where I just sat back in awe and had no idea what to do…  But I survived without my students making me cry or me slapping any of them in the face... ;)  But it is definitely a completely new atmosphere, and I'll have to admit that I'm suffering from a bit of culture shock.  There’s about six other white teachers and one sole white student (I kind of feel bad for him…), but other than that, all teachers and students are black.  Some of the (black) teachers were talking to me yesterday and said that I need to start talking “like a black woman” to get the kids in control, haha.  So it looks like I’ll be brushing up on my Ebonics. ;)  Seriously though, when I think about how I act towards those kids, the things I say, the attitude I use, how loud I get, it doesn’t even feel like it was me.  Surely, that loud, mean, strict teacher wasn’t me… But that’s how I have to be with these kids, at least for now.  It’s so out of my element, though. I don’t think anyone has ever heard me as loud or as mean as I got with these kids. But then there were one or two moments where I said a cheesy joke or was acting really goofy and some of the kids genuinely smiled or laughed.  I look forward to more moments like that.

I’m faced with the challenge of developing a classroom that keeps students engaged and interested every second.  I also have to be strict and mean not to let the kids walk all over me, while deep down wanting my classroom to be a more positive place.  For example, I really don’t care if they get up and throw something away in the middle of class or need to run to the restroom to get a tissue…but I can’t let them know that yet. ;)  I don’t want to be the mean, strict teacher, but I can’t be the easy-going, fun teacher until they learn to respect me.  So I've been coming up with a lot of creative ideas to use with the students to help with discipline and academics.  I'm considering this past week as just a nice trial run, and now that I know more about the students and what I'm up against, I'm starting fresh on Monday with a more developed plan and system.  We had a professional development day yesterday, so I got to chat with a lot of the teachers.  They said that these kids pride themselves in running teachers off.  So I know they are just trying to test their limits and see how far I’ll let them go.  But luckily, the other teachers have been so great, giving me ideas and saying that I can send misbehaving kids to them anytime.  I really have a nice support system that I think I'll be relying on a lot this next week.  I just need to make the kids realize that I am here and I'm staying here.  They aren't going to run me off.  And they need to know that I'm not putting up with any of their crap. ;)  I’m excited to start the new week and get into a routine with the students. 

No matter how stressful, out of my element, exhausting, or hopeless I feel at times, I'm also filled with passion and enthusiasm.  This is why I'm a teacher.  These are the kids whose lives I need to inspire and positively affect.  I know I can do this.  It's (no doubt) going to be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but I know that I can and will do it.  And I'm going to do it well.  I just see so much possibility here!  I know that deep down those kids are good and just need a little love and encouragement.  Once they see that I am here to give them that, then we're going to have a great classroom environment.  But then again, I've always been an optimist. :)  

And even though she already was, Erin Gruwell is officially my hero.  I basically want my life to be like Freedom Writers...
Non-teacher related, life is going just fine down here in Louisiana!!  Phil has been here since Wednesday, and John and Ryan got in last night (they'd been doing installs in Shreveport all week).  They're staying with us for the weekend and then heading back to Shreveport for more installs next week.  So it's me and four boys for the weekend...should be fun times!  Ryan and John are cooking dinner (steak and potatoes), so I can't complain! :)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

More Photos of Our Fun Satuday!

So I got on Dustin's phone and found some more pictures I'd like to share.  I was excited that he got a good one of this guy:

 I didn't get a good shot of the emu, so I'm glad he did.  I love emus...such odd little birds.

Pretty shot of the river-walk.  Dustin uses the "Hipstamatic" app on his phone, so his pics look all cool and trendy.  Perhaps I need to start using it more...

Relaxin by the river.

Pretty buildings down town.

Fair!! What a good shot, good job, Bu!

The city of Monroe has their own portable stage...pretty sweet!

Hmmm...something's not quite right here... ;)

Ok, that's all.  Just wanted to share more pictures with you.  Love and miss you all!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Exploring Downtown Monroe and Ark-La-Miss Fair and Livestock Show

Dustin and I had a fun day today.  We decided to go explore downtown and walk along the river.  Downtown wasn't as exciting I was hoping it to be, unless we were just in the wrong area or something.  The riverwalk was super pretty, though!  I remembered to take lots of pictures today!

There's this pretty river-walk area in downtown Monroe (by the way, for clarification, West Monroe is on one side of the river, Monroe on the other).  It's such a pretty, relaxing place, and you can see TONS of turtles playing in the water.  I can't wait to bring the boys here.  And I hear they decorate this all pretty at Christmas time.  I can't wait!! 

Bu on the river.

Pretty building.

That was pretty much our extent downtown.  Then we headed to the local art gallery, Masur Museum of Art.


It's in a historical home, which is absolutely gorgeous.  I wanted to take more pictures inside, but you know how those art gallery folk are...they don't like you taking pictures. ;)

This is the view from the back of the museum.  It sits right on the river (obviously...).  Pretty!

After our sophisticated visit to the art museum, we decided to head down the the Ark-La-Miss Fair and Livestock Show and get our fair share of gluttony.  The fair itself was great.  Lots of fun rides and LOTS of good food.  We got some BBQ, potato salad, and baked beans for lunch (how could we not?) and then we got this for dessert:

Now, I haven't really been to any fairs lately, so maybe they've been doing this for a while and I was  just not aware.  But they add TOPPINGS to the funnel cakes.  All sorts of toppings.  Strawberries, Banana Cream, Milkyway, Reese's, Cinnamon, Chocolate, Caramel (are you drooling yet?), and Bavarian Cream, which is what we got.  It was heaven.  Complete glutton heaven.  Sadly, we were unable to finish the entire thing.  I think we got a little over half way done and realized that we would be fat terrible people if we ate any more. ;)  But to whoever thought of putting Bavarian Cream on a funnel cake, I thank you.  You are brilliant.

Then we headed in to the exhibit hall/petting zoo.  We had SOOO much fun!  When we got up this morning, we had no idea we'd hold an alligator by the time the day's through.

They had typical fair animals - donkies, ponies, goats, ducks, piggies, rabbits, chicken and chicks, an emu...  But this guy was definitely the star of the show.

He was only about four feet long and 50 pounds, but still...he's an alligator.  He's about five years old and due to getting hit by a car when he was a baby, he won't get much bigger.  This little guy was there, too.

He's about a year old, and when full grown, will be about 13 feet long and weigh almost a ton.  Blows. My. Mind.  He was super cute, though!

We were chatting with the people working, and though only the little one is supposed to be held, they said we could hold the bigger one if we wanted (because we're awesome like that).  But we had to wait for the little petting area to clear out and all the kids to leave.  I wasn't brave enough.  He may not be that big, but he squirms a lot and is super strong.  But Dustin decided to take on the challenge.

He felt like a man...

I also got to hold a snake.  I've always loved snakes.  It's so crazy to feel their muscles move when they squirm.  Amazing creature, I say.

I fell in love with these little piglets.

They were running crazy all over the pen, and then they both just ran to a little spot and burrowed in next to each other.  Adorable.  There were tons of people around, but they just passed out.  Cute lil piggies.

After visiting our animal kin, we just chilled and listened to some music before heading home.

I'm terrible at taking self-photos, but you get the idea. ;)

And thus concludes our fun day!  We came back to the apartment, took a nice long nap, then grilled some chicken for dinner, and getting ready to cuddle for a movie.  GREAT Saturday!

And I won't brag about how it was in the mid-80's and beautiful all day...but it was... :)