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! :)

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