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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Final Blog Post!!!

   Ok…I’m guessing that this is supposed to be the most epic blog post of my life. Well, I’m not sure that’s going to happen here. I guess I’m a bit torn. I want to convey my full experience without diminishing how great it has been. On the other hand, I’m not sure what else I can talk about.

   I feel like I’ve been quite reflective with my blog posts throughout the program. Between this post and the portfolio, I’m not sure if there’s an aspect of the last two years that I haven’t analyzed. Am I burned out on reflection? That doesn’t seem like a quality of a good teacher or coach, but I think I’m at that point. I’m not burned out on MTC, Mississippi, teaching, or coaching, just at a loss for words at this point. I fear redundancy and monotony, which is why I’m struggling to figure out what to say.

   If you don’t really enjoy reading through streams of consciousness, then this will probably be your stopping point…

 2 Corinthians 6:17

   “Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.”

   This has been my favorite verse for quite a while. Coming into MTC, I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I knew that I could lean on this verse whenever anything came up. Boldness, confidence, maturity, and leadership are all things that relate to this verse. All four have been tested, tried, and strengthened through my time in MTC.

   Boldness is one of those character traits that is definitely needed in the classroom and professional setting. My boldness has incited positive and negative reactions. Colleagues, parents, and students have appreciated my willingness to stick to my guns and not waver on my beliefs. In summer training, we were advised to not make a fuss, be quiet in meetings, and just go with the flow of things. Well, that’s not really how I go about things, so that was some of the advice that I didn’t quite follow. I was willing to speak up about things at my first school when I didn’t like them. I think that it’s important for opinions and ideas to be voiced—especially when it’s for the benefit of the children. Boldness also allowed me not to worry about how people would react. I have learned that some people are very weak-minded and downright soft. They lack boldness and it creates a definite rift in any relationship—professional or personal. Nevertheless, I am glad that my boldness has been reaffirmed through my experiences in MTC.

   Confidence is very similar to boldness. Teachers and adults do as much social referencing as the children. In the school setting, teachers spend a lot of time reading, measuring, and sometimes judging each other. It’s an interesting dynamic that probably doesn’t get much attention. I’ve learned, while here in Mississippi, that having an air of confidence is a good thing. People respond to you differently, and respect is gained.

   Maturity is one of those often pursued but seldom reached goals. Understanding how to really “come out from among them” and deal with all of aspects of it can be hard. There were times when I didn’t handle situations in the most mature way possible. Whether it was dealing with a disruptive student or a spineless administrator, I know there were times that I should have handled situations differently. I do think that “coming out from among them” has happened consistently for me when it comes to complaining. Granted, teaching isn’t the easiest job, but I absolutely hate complainers/complaining. I get visibly mad when people come to Saturday class and complain about everything, complain through g-chat statuses, and cry and moan about anything. I’m not a complainer. Yes, it’s ok to voice an opinion or feel a certain way, but complaining yields nothing but more negativity. It’s ok to love this job and be totally invested. If in your second year, all you can think or talk about is how ready you are to leave…just leave already. I’ve probably not gotten as close to some people in my class because of this. I just cannot deal with it.

   Leadership is something I blogged about last summer when we had to give advice to the first years. Never be afraid to lead in any capacity. I’ve had some leadership opportunities in the past two years. Coaching in any capacity is definitely a leadership position. But having the opportunity to be a head coach my first year was probably the most rewarding experience. Being the head coach of the Byhalia Middle School track team was amazing. You’ll see the team picture on my blog. I totally consumed myself with it, and we had a dominating team. That was a very formative experience for me. Another leadership role that has been great for me has been being English Department Leader at Coldwater. Even though I’m a second year teacher, I have the opportunity to help other teachers and work cooperatively with them to make sure English instruction is great. I now have one of the best leadership opportunities ahead of me. Going to North Panola to be the Head Football and Track coach is going to be a huge task, but I think I’m ready for it. That takes me to another driving force in my life…Never Get Outworked.

 Never Get Outworked

   I got this tattoo in the fall of my second year. I’ve always been one to grind as hard as possible. This was something that got me through some my hardest days in college, and I knew it would get me through my hardest days in MTC. I say it to my kids every day, put it on the board in the weight room, and wear it on my back for life. Showing up early, always being prepared, treating everything like a competition—that’s what never getting outworked means. One of the greatest things is actually having some of my students and athletes internalize it and live by it. It takes a special person to always be the one willing to outwork everybody. I always tell them, “Somebody’s gotta get this money, it might as well be you.” They have fun with it, but they know it’s true because they see me going hard in the classroom and at practice everyday. Even when all of that work doesn’t yield immediate results, I know it will eventually pay off. That’s evidenced in the other tattoo I got while in MTC.

Temporary Inconvenience for Permanent Improvement

   I actually got this tattoo in the spring of my first year. It’s a philosophy I adopted in college after my second ACL surgery. School was hard, I couldn’t compete in sports like I wanted to, and I had two surgically reconstructed knees. But I heard a gospel song and this struck a chord with me. It was a word that was for me, and I’m glad I was open to receive it. I thank God for putting that word in my life. I learned that even though things seem bad, they will eventually work out for the best. I brought that mindset to Mississippi with me. Because of it, I don’t stress out; there’s no need to. This has worked for me since I’ve been here, and since I’m going to be here for a while, I’ll keep relying on it.

   Through this post, I realized that I’ve developed and strengthened some life perspectives that’ll take me well past my first two years of teaching. I like the person I am right now. I know that I’ve grown because of the things I’ve seen and the people I’ve met here. I am grateful for the opportunity, and I’m glad my life took this direction. I absolutely love my job. I have loved my time in MTC. No stress, no complaints, no regrets. I feel totally fulfilled and completely rewarded. Again, this has been amazing. I’ve really loved it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why Am I Staying A Third Year???

Once I started last year, I knew I was going to stay in Mississippi past the time for MTC. I didn't know where I'd be, but I was pretty sure that I was going to be here. Why though? Why not pursue other interests in other places? Well, my interests are teaching and coaching. I'm already doing that here. The only way I was going to leave was if I got an amazing job offer from somewhere else. That actually happened, but I got an even better offer here. I'll get into that later.

My initial reason for staying a third year was the possibility of Mississippi Principal Corps. The idea of the program immediately interested me, and I knew that I would be able to apply for it. Having a chance to be in an administration program similar to MTC excited me and it was the chief reason that made me want to stay.

Now, I am staying because of the amazing job offer I received. I was offered the Head Football job at North Panola High School. This offer came out of nowhere, but I am so glad it happened. I'd already decided that I love my job at Coldwater and that I wanted to stay for at least another year. It was all planned out until about a month ago. I was considering a job back home where I could be the offensive coordinator at either a 5A or 6A school in Birmingham. This was very enticing as well because I would have been working with my coach from high school. Nevertheless, I was still leaning towards staying at Coldwater.

Long story short, I am staying in Mississippi because I was offered an amazing job with a super opportunity. And with this commitment, I'll be staying in Mississippi for the next few years. I know a lot of my classmates won't be saying the same thing. I love it here. I've had nothing but great opportunities here. Mississippi is my home (for the next few years at least).

Freewrite: My Favorite Student...


A few blogs ago, I wrote about my two sons, Jordan and Devante. Well, one of my students found my blog and asked me why I didn't write about her. I promised her that my next blog would be about her--so here it is.

She's one of my 9th graders...literally the smartest student I've had in the past two years! She's sweet, hard-working, and leaves her other classes to come back to English to work on essays. Her name is Marquisha. Since August she's been calling me her favorite teacher. I always respond by calling her my favorite student. It doesn't make the other kids angry or upset, which is why I've allowed it to continue. I really took to her because she has a real thirst for learning. She wants to read hard novels, rewrite thesis statements, and work on ACT practice during her activity period. She's definitely an anomaly.

It's very refreshing to have a student who constantly challenges me. Last year I blogged about how I'd love to have more meaningful work for myself--such as finding enrichment assignments for my advanced students. She's done that for me this year. The coolest thing is that I've brought her in to my Sophomore and Junior classes to explain the writing process and SATP material. She very sweet and soft-spoken, but everyone listens when she speaks because she knows the justifications for everything.

I know that when she sees this it'll make her proud. Marquisha makes teaching fun. Morover, she provides my daily challenge. It keeps me on my toes. I'm glad I had the opportunity to teach Marquisha this year. I hate that I will not be teaching her next year to make sure she aces the SATP English II Test.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What I Want to Accomplish

This semester started off with a tragedy for my students, players, and me. A junior, football player, Shalabrin Forest died on January 6, 2012. This has been particularly difficult for those of us tied to the football program because he was our captain and leader.

Coming into the new year, I had an idea of how I was going to approach this semester, but that has been tremendously altered. I know that we have some tangible goals that must be attained, but I now have a focus on some of the intangible things that will also go a long way with my students.

For my juniors, who have been deeply affected by the tragedy, I want to have them read more challenging literature, mature in their writing, and make themselves viable candidates for scholarship consideration going into their senior year. Intangibly, I want them to feel like they can trust me, and that I have their best interest at heart. Because of the current situation, they are extremely emotional and I must always be cognizant of their feelings. Supporting them emotionally is something that is of utmost priority.

For my freshmen, I want them to be as prepared for the state test as possible...already. I've basically been teaching them the same thing as my 10th graders. Moreover, I want them to be so well-trained for next year's rigor. I'll have them next year as well, and I want to be able to cover difficult literature, write papers, and be almost guaranteed proficient and advanced levels for next year's state test. Intangibly, I want to help them mature and understand how to deal with the current situation, and growing up in general.

For my sophomores, we have so much work to do. I setup a "SATP Projection" bulletin board that changes daily. Along with that board, I have a QDI goal posted (school required) and a projection for our QDI based on where the names are placed on the board. This is a daily reminder of how their efforts affect where they'll be in May. Moreover, it makes them accountable for everything they do. I also have a countdown to the Writing Assessment and MCT2. This is consistent with my action research from last semester where I studied how the concept of time plays a big part in my students' academic success. Intangibly, I really want my 10th graders to gain an appreciation of reading, understand how close they are to college, and increase their trust in me. I stay on them so much...I really am hard on them. But it's not without love. If anything, it's because I know how smart they are, and how much potential they have. I also want to try to make up for all of the things they didn't learn in 9th grade.

I have a lot ahead of me this semester. It's going to take a lot of time and effort, but I feel confident that all of these things can be accomplished.

My Weekday Schedule

Ok, I'll just give you an idea of my schedule(s): Football Season and Offseason

Football Season:

Wake Up: 5:30am
School Arrival: 6:15am
I teach 1st-6th periods, so I have kids from 7:35am-2:40pm
Planning: 2:40-3:45
During planning period I watch film, lift weights, lesson plan, game plan, tutor, etc. Basically, there's no rest during that time either.
Practice: 4:15-6:30
Post Practice Meetings: 6:30-7:00
Return Home: 7:15pm
Home Activities: TV, dinner, planning, reading, FILM...7:15-12ish
That's My Day


Wake Up: 5:45am
School Arrival: 6:15am
Same teaching schedule as above.
Planning: 2:40-3:45, still spent with planning, tutoring, weightlifting, and planning workouts.
Team Lift: 4:00-5:45pm
Return Home: 6:00pm
Home activities: Cooking, TV, reading, PLANNING

Baseball will be starting this week, and I anticipate my schedule being very similar to the way it was football season. I spend a lot of time at work, but I don't feel overworked, or like I spend too much time there. I love my job, and I try to spend as much time with my players as possible. There's no rule as to how much time spent at work is healthy or unhealthy, but I think as long as the time spent there is productive, then it's well spent.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Experience So Far

I've thoroughly enjoyed my experience so far. I've met new people, had great opportunities, and encountered some truly amazing students and athletes. I'm not one to harp on what I don't like, so I'll mostly focus on the good things.
  Coaching! This has been by far the most rewarding and enjoyable part of my experience. I coached at Byhalia Middle School last year. I was the Offensive Coordinator for football, and I was the Head Track Coach. This year I coach at Coldwater High School. I am the Special Teams Coordinator for football, Assistant Track Coach, and Assistant Baseball Coach. By evidence of my blog wallpaper, you can see how much I really love coaching. It has allowed me to establish a closeness to my students that you don't particularly get in the classroom. Spending extra time at practices, workouts, games, and meets has been so fun. Coaching also makes the students, even the ones I don't teach, respect me more. It's such an awesome job to have. It's even better here at Coldwater because coaches are valued and respected by the administration. Just about all of my Facebook statuses and Tweets are about coaching. Whether it's weight room updates, score updates, or just letting the world know how hard my kids are working, I love talking about coaching.
   Teaching! I taught 7th grade Reading at Byhalia Middle School last year. Man, I did not have the personality for middle school. I loved the job, but I had to adjust to the middle school mindset. I am happy that I had the chance to do it though. It allowed me to see the building blocks that the students need for high school, which is what I teach now. The best part about having 7th grade reading was being able to really hone in on reading skills all year. We had a very direct focus, and I think our state test results showed that. I, along with Andrea, showed the most growth in the school last year. Take that, Pollard. Nevertheless, I am happy that I teach high school now. I have English 1, English 2, and English 3. Yeah, it's a huge load. I am so excited about the state test though. I know it's a high-stakes test, and I relish the pressure. Pressure makes diamonds, right? I love my kids, and I feel confident that at the very least all of them will pass. That's my goal. The penultimate goal is to have an amazing QDI.
   I've been consumed with teaching and coaching since July of 2010. There isn't much else to really talk about. I know that I've grown as a person. I have learned lessons that I will carry from now on. Moreover, I have met some truly exceptional people that I will never forget. I still have a semester left for my "MTC experience," but my experience as a teacher, coach, or in any other educational capacity is far from over. I am so happy that I decided to be in MTC. It has been a blessing and I absolutely love my job.


MTC or Not???

   Ok, here it is. Should you join MTC or not? If you aren't afraid to lead, then join MTC. If you don't run from challenges, then join MTC. If you have a genuine interest in helping kids, then join MTC. If you have true work ethic, then join MTC. Lastly, if you aren't a complainer/whiner, then join MTC.
   At this point, I don't think it's my place to tell anyone whether or not to join MTC. I will say that I've learned, through experience and observation, that it is not for everyone. Like all things in life, there are "different strokes for different folks." That said, you have to really make sure that you know who you are before committing to a program like MTC. No one has themselves figured out completely, but at the very least, you need to have a good idea of your beliefs--know where you stand on certain issues. Be firm in your decision making, because indecision and second-guessing leave you in a very vulnerable place.
   Leadership. We've talked about leadership in our classes, and the word is thrown around (mostly haphazardly) at our schools everyday. You are going to be put in situations where the only way you can come out of them positively is if you take a leadership role. Leadership is not necessarily being at the forefront--it's more about understanding what needs to be done, and how to get it done. All too often, MTCers find themselves in spots where they aren't sure if they should step out or fall into the pack. It's better to step out. I know this from experience. If you step out on an honorable foundation, the situation will work out in your favor. Don't be afraid to lead, because if you don't, your MTC experience will not be all it should.
   Challenges. Everyday will present a new challenge to you. It is imperative that you take those challenges head-on. If you cower and tuck your tail to run, then you will not last long. And if, by chance, you do last, you will not be effective at what you do. People quit because they aren't really used to challenges. People aren't good at their jobs because they aren't really used to challenges. This is not to scare you, it's just an admonition for you to be completely honest with yourself. What challenges have you really faced? Did you really respond to them in a good way?
   Genuine interest in helping kids. Don't come in trying to be superman or superwoman. You can't save the world, and you definitely can't save every child. What you can do is show a genuine interest in their education and well-being. Just like us, kids have a hard time trusting--especially someone brand new. Your persistence and perseverance will endear you to the kids, and they will reciprocate all you have given to them. Students are really observant. They may not remember what you say, but they remember everything you do. Be straight-forward with them because they'll trust you more that way. They'll then believe that you really want to help them.
   Work Ethic. Basically, if you're lazy. Don't do MTC. Laziness and slothfulness are two habits of highly ineffective teachers and master's level students. You must be willing to work as hard as possible, as much as possible, if you want to succeed. It's plain and simple, either work hard or suck at your job.
   Complaining and Whining!!! Ok, this is my second biggest pet peeve. I absolutely hate complaining and whining. If you are one who complains incessantly (and there will be many things to complain about) you probably shouldn't do MTC. Complainers are conducive to success in the classroom or productive class meetings. One thing that drives MTCers crazy is how people get off on a tangent at class meetings talking about everything that's wrong with where they work. Obviously, some things are not in the best shape, hence the need for an MTC person at that school. Then, complaining about the classes compounds the issue. If you can't adjust, be flexible, and roll with what unexpectedly comes your way, then MTC isn't the opportunity for you.
   Hopefully these words don't scare you. Instead, I hope they give you an idea about what it takes to actually do well and enjoy your time in MTC. It's not enough for a student to just pass, and I don't think it's enough for someone to just "make it through." Make the experience worthwhile, but it'll only be worthwhile if you embody the characteristics that make you a viable candidate to SUCCEED in MTC.