Wednesday, August 29, 2012

whole class support

This week we started providing whole class support to our teachers and classes, which has been great.  I definitely understand the tactic of easing corps members into service, because it is a lot to grasp and handle, even when you're eased into it. That being said, I'm loving the interactions with the students (most of the time).

I've been walking around the classroom, trying to interact with students and help them with classwork.  It's so funny to watch them.  It's definitely not cool to want to talk to a teacher and since City Year CMs are teachers to them, they don't want to be seen talking to us.  It's tricky for them, though, because we're young and only a little bit older than them, so they want to talk to us, but it's this weird lingo. One time, I caught one of them staring at me and when we made eye contact, we both said "Hi" and the girl quickly looked away. I had to laugh.

It's so different from NHCS, though.  There is no real behavior management system, so we get lots of attitude and talking back when there's nothing we can really do.  If someone yells out or gets up out of their seat, the only thing you can do is ask them to sit down or raise their hand.  No demerits, no sign ins and no detention.  It's so different.

Overall, it's been a lot better.  I miss Boston and NHCS a ton, but this week was a lot better because I feel like I really got a chance to interact and connect a little with some students. There's a group of girls in one of my most difficult classes that have a lot of attitude and push back. If they were at NHCS, they probably would have gotten a few sign ins and demerits, but once they got working, they calmed down and really weren't that bad.

In other news, Quinci and I assembled my bedside table last night with the help of some athletic tape.  It made it through the night without collapsing, which we were genuinely concerned about, so I consider it a success.  The next obstacle to overcome is the three shelf bookshelf.  Once that is up, hopefully my room will be complete.  Let's hope!

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. - Nelson Mandela

Sunday, August 26, 2012

weekend update

We're about to start week two of school and hopefully I'll get a chance to interact more with the students.  My teacher said he wanted to plan more interventions into his lesson plans, so hopefully that will happen. This past Friday, we were at the office.  It was kind of exciting because I got to do a lot of things related to my project leader role.

Let's back up though to the beginning of the day.  We were doing PT officially for the first time.  We found a spot along the St. John's river that has the best view of Jacksonville.  Senior corps and staff got there a little early to get ready and as we're practicing, we see things in the river.  A woman was running by and said that they were dolphins! Sure enough, there were about seven dolphins swimming in the river.  It was so cool!  They were gone by the time the corps got there, but it was a great start to the day.

After PT, Abbi and I met and got ready for the training we were running that afternoon.  We worked until lunch and then I got ready for a conference call.  At 1:30, Jacqui and I had a conference call with Megan from HQ who is in charge of all of the social media for City Year.  She basically set us up for running the City Year JAX twitter account and eventually adding a blog to our site.  I'm excited because I'll be the one in charge of it all, with the help of Jacqui.

Once the conference call was over, I jumped right into the training that was going on.  The corps was learning how to do fluency interventions and run the Repeated Reading model.  Since I was the only one from staff and senior corps who had ever done Repeated Reading, I got to train the corps on how to do it! It was so cool and I realized how much I like trainings.  It reminds me a lot of all of the Org. Comm. classes I took at JMU.  At the end of the day, the corps was debriefing and they said how helpful the training was and how it was the favorite part of their day.  My PM and Abbi (the other PM) said I did a great job, which was awesome too.

After work, Ben (a CM on my team) and his parents invited the entire corps and staff out to dinner, their treat!  We went to this fried chicken restaurant where they brought out enough trays of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, french fries, peas and rice to feed 25 people.  It was delicious and so much fun.  Ben's parents were so nice.  Jackson High School was playing Ben's high school in football that night, so we all headed to the game for a a little bit. Senior corps and staff left around halftime and headed downtown.  We went to this line dancing bar, which did not live up to it's potential.  They were playing country music and had a huge line dancing floor, but it was really empty.   We stayed for a couple of hours, but left around midnight.  Oh well, we'll try again another night.

Saturday, Joe and I spent the entire afternoon at the beach. It was the absolute perfect beach day.  It was 85 and sunny.   The water wasn't too warm or too cold, and was a little rough, which made it fun to swim in.  I could have stayed until dark.  We were both pretty sunburned and tired by the time we left, but I think we both would have been back today if it weren't for the clouds.  Overall, it was a pretty good weekend. Very laid back, but a lot of fun.

Apparently, we're supposed to get a big tropical storm tomorrow.  We'll see how that goes....

"There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."
-Nelson Mandela

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

second first day

Since we're on block scheduling, today was like the first day all over again.  We had our second block homeroom class again (the one with the seniors), but the other classes were new classes since we didn't see them yesterday.

I was not sure how this senior homeroom situation was going to go, but today was ten million times better.  We pulled all of our desks in a circle, which was easy since there were only like ten people including myself and Mr. Robinson, and had this great talk about college. They told us where they wanted to go (all of them wanted to go!) and they all pretty much knew what they wanted to be.  It ranged from lawyers, to vets, to engineers, which was cool.  We also talked about what they needed to do to get there, which was a little daunting. It was kind of sad and somewhat discouraging as well to hear them say that their families would be the main road block in getting there. Most of their families can't afford to send their children to college, regardless of scholarships.  There are so many factors, like a lost income and travel expenses, that make going to college, especially away from home, almost impossible for these students.  I think the biggest thing I learned today was that these students all have the desire to go to college, it's just how to get there that's the struggle. When I applied to college, I had two parents who guided me each step of the way (thanks Mom and Dad!).  They navigated through the application process for me. I applied for scholarships, but it wasn't a do or die situation. For these kids, it is. Most of them will get financial aid, but they don't know how to apply for it and they don't have the at home support that they need to help them travel through this crazy journey. Hopefully, that can be my role this year. They are too old for a lot of the City Year stuff and their class isn't really focused on academics from what I can tell, but I know how to apply to college. It could be fun!

Anyways, after that, I had two 9th/10th grade history classes, which were just going over the syllabus and stuff again, so it was pretty laid back. One class had five people in it, the other had 27.  They were pretty well behaved though, regardless of the size. I found a girl with a lot of attitude and spunk who could be the next Jada. I was secretly excited and intimidated at the same time.

After third block, we all met in the CY room for to do some other stuff besides observations.  We ended up having to make phone calls home for students who haven't shown up yet. If they don't come tomorrow, they are unenrolled, which is bad for the student as well as the school.  The school will lose money and probably a few teachers if their numbers drop significantly, so they were calling every student who wasn't there. I was in charge of three ninth graders.  Let me preface this by saying I really don't like phone calls home. I usually got attitude when calling about attendance, which was not fun. I had a feeling this was going to be the case again. Little did I know what was in store.

I called the first two numbers which were both disconnected, but got something completely unexpected when I called the third.  When the phone started ringing, it sounded like it was calling an office.   All of a sudden, I hear this message saying that my call will be translated by a sign language interpreter!  Completely NOT what I was expecting, but there's a first time for everything, I guess.  So then, this interpreter introduces herself and explains that she'll be interpreting for someone, so I start my speech about how the student needs to come to school, blah blah blah.   There is a pause while I guess the interpreter is signing and then all of a sudden, this interpreter starts giving me attitude! I was shocked.  I mean, I know that the interpreter has to say exactly what the other person was saying, but even the interpreter had a taste of attitude in her voice. I was shocked.  Plus, they were trying to tell me that the student couldn't get to school because the bus never came and the mom doesn't have a car.  Valid point, but why haven't you contacted the school about this issue? At the end of this whole ordeal, I just gave them the main office's number and let them go. I was shocked. I hope that the kid gets to school, though, and figures out the bus.  Despite the attitude, I hope it was a productive phone call and that they actually do call the office to figure things out.  I was still annoyed, though.

After the phone calls, we had a debrief of the day and headed home. Today went a lot smoother with bells and transitions and such, thank goodness. My teacher had worked out all of the kinks in his lesson plans and the students were a lot more engaged.  The bells were only five minutes late instead of thirty, so we didn't really run out of things to do, which was nice. The students were well behaved and even though I didn't interact with them a ton, they seemed pretty respectful, minus a few.  Overall, it was a good day.

Monday, August 20, 2012

celeb status!

Oh my gosh! I almost forgot about this! I'm a celebrity! hahahaha just kidding.  The local news did come on Friday though to do a story about us and it was shown this morning.  If you want to watch it, here's the link. It makes the back of my head look real fine. And the Americorps patch on my jacket looks baller.

first day of school

I survived my first day of high school all over again.  It wasn't quite as scary, intimidating or nerve wracking as it was last time, but it came pretty close. It's funny, though, this high school seemed exactly like my high school.  I couldn't tell that it was the lowest performing high school in Florida.  The kids were behaved like the kids in my high school, the teachers were just as enthusiastic and dedicated as my teachers were, and the building was kind of shaped like my high school.  I don't know if that reflects poorly on Kempsville or makes Jackson look really good, but either way, it's the truth.

The day started out with morning greeting outside of the school.  We didn't sing or cheer like the CMs in the elementary schools do, but we said good morning to every student that walked by.  I was surprised at how many students actually said good morning.  Eye contact was an added bonus, but almost all of them said good morning.

Since I'm in a social studies class, the ages of the students range, more so than in the English classes.  In fact, I have a research class of all seniors.  These were the students that I started the day with and they were the worst behaved.  There were a couple of students who just talked to each other and another who just got out of his seat when he wanted.  They didn't want to go over the syllabus, knew all of the school rules already, and were more focused on their schedules and seeing their friends than anything that the teacher could have said. I completely understand where they were coming from, but it was still crazy.  I just kept thinking that if that was how the whole year was going to be, I would lose it.

Luckily, it wasn't. The day got significantly calmer and better after that.  We had all ninth and tenth graders after that who were much quieter, calmer and well-behaved.  Maybe they were just nervous and intimidated, or maybe they actually are better behaved.  Whatever the reason, it was almost smooth sailing from there. Besides the usual talkers and show offs, it was nothing too exciting.  The kids were actually somewhat interested in who I was and I even got a few questions. I tried to talk to a girl when they went to lunch and she seemed mildly interested in talking to me, which was more than I expected.

My teacher was great throughout the entire day. He is laid back and seems like he'll relate well to the students, but he doesn't seem like he'd be afraid to lay down the law if he needed to.  Instead of having them fill out a basic info sheet, he turned it into a Facebook profile, which was cool.  He was also really good about keeping me in the loop about what his plan was when the class went longer than scheduled or the students finished ahead of time. We also kind of quickly debriefed in the hallway between classes, which was nice to get his perspective.

It's so different from first grade, though. Last year, I probably got about ten hugs within the first half hour of being there.  Now, I'm begging for a conversation.  The school is so different also.  There are no sign ins, demerits, or merits. There's just a lot of redirecting.  I missed Michael, Jadanies, Jahnelle, Khaymare and Brandon more than ever today.  I was looking in my classes today trying to pick out the kids that I thought would be the next Brandon and Khaymare. I don't know which ones they were, but I'm hopeful that they're out there.  They've got to be.

“while we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”

Sunday, August 19, 2012

okay, blogging for reals

The laptop came Thursday and so now I can start blogging and keeping up for real.  I want to make sure to be as faithful and diligent about blogging as  I was last year, which is hard after a three month hiatus.  It takes about a half an hour to write each blog post (factor in a lot of distractions like facebook, twitter, almost anything), so it can be daunting after a long day.  That being said, I can't express how thankful I am that I did it last year.  I spent the week I was at home in Virginia reading my blog posts, crying because I missed my kids and my team, and reminiscing over the good and bad times.  I've never been good at keeping journals or diaries and my high school LiveJournal lasted about two weeks, but that week of reading and reminiscing made it all worth it.

Since my last blogpost, we've started in school.  The student's first day is tomorrow, but we've been at Jackson for the week setting up our room and going to a bunch of faculty meetings.Our City Year office is huge. Compared to the closet we had last year, it feels like we have more than enough room. We're going with a social media theme for our room/bulletin boards, so one is Twitter themed and the last is Pinterest. Should be good.  It's interesting being on the other side of being a corps member.  I am never sure if I'm overstepping my boundary or not, especially since I'm not a team leader.  I'm still trying to figure it out.

Two exciting things happened last week. One, we found out our teachers for the year. I'm going to be in a Social Studies room.  Since we're only in English classes and one social studies class, they had to pair us up. There weren't enough classes for each of us to have our own, so I'm going to be with Adrienne, the other project leader and my fourth room mate who's coming in a few weeks.  It's going to be a lot of time together and a lot of people in that one social studies class, but I'm excited. My teacher seems awesome.  It's his first year at Jackson, but he taught at another low performing school before, so he's dealt with a lot of the same issues that Jackson has.  The second thing was that the local news station came to Jackson to do a story on City Year! They filmed us trying to plan our room decorations and then they interviewed Jay.  It was a very exciting week.

Joe and I went to the beach yesterday, which was so nice. Now that we've done it once, I hope it becomes a regular thing. I need a tan! hahaha. It's been rainy all day today.  I went to Target and got a bedside table, but half way through assembly nothing seemed to stay together, so I'm giving up for today and I'll try again tomorrow. Let's hope it works. I really need a bedside table.  Basically anything besides cardboard boxes that will store all of my stuff.  Oh the joys of moving.....

Anyways, think of me tomorrow as I try and navigate the jungle of high school.  I'm sure I'll be just as nervous and excited as the students are tomorrow. I'm so excited to be back with students.  I miss my NHCS scholars though.....

Thursday, August 9, 2012

sitting in starbucks bumming internet

So much has happened since I last posted, I don't even know where to begin!  I've welcomed the corps to City Year, moved into my house, been to Orlando TWICE for City Year trainings, booked plane tickets to Hawaii, and most of all, settled into Jacksonville more and more each day.

So, let's start with welcoming the corps.  They're awesome.  It actually feels like City Year now that we have more than eight people.  Plus, we've been renting a conference room at a hotel so we aren't just working out of the library.  I had this realization the other day as we were sitting in a training.  I realized that when I think of City Year the organization, I think of HQ in Boston with 200 people in the Civic Forum, but for these CMs, they think of the 20 of us sitting in the hotel conference room and they LOVE IT.  A bunch of them have told me that they know that this is where they're supposed to be.  It's so cool to think that somehow, despite not having an office or really knowing what we were supposed to be doing, we somehow made that for them.  It was the coolest moment so far.

Next, moving into my house.  Today marks one week of living at our house.  We don't have much in it, but thanks to Anna and Mike, we now have a TV and will soon have a couch. Last weekend, Quinci, Joe and I went to the thrift stores and are now the proud owners of a table, three chairs, a toaster and a microwave. We still have a long way to go in filling the house, but we're getting there slowly but surely.  I still need a lot of furniture for my room, but I have a real bed, which is more than the guys can say. :)

Third, City Year JAX travelled to Orlando twice this past week for trainings with their site.  ORlando is in it's "Founding Year" which means they did what Jacksonville is doing this year.  We're hopefully going to be training with them a lot this year because it's fun to have 100 CY people together and engaging in the same culture pieces and craziness.  Plus, I feel like our corps is missing out on some things by not having a big corps.  The first time we went to Orlando, Charlie Rose, the Dean of City Year and one of the most inspirational people I've ever met, came and led us in a lot of team building activities. We had a discussion about privilege, did an activity called the Privilege Line and then did Stand Up, Sit Down, all which helped to get to know each other on a deeper level.  I love things like that because you get to hear people's story.  It was awesome.  The second time we went, we found out our teams, which was super exciting.  I love my team! There are seven CMs, Quinci and I, and then Ashlee our PM all serving at the high school.  I think they'll all be awesome team mates and great corps members.  We start in school on Monday, which is a week before school officially starts.  We're going to be doing professional development with the teachers all week and helping out with 9th grade orientation on Friday. I cannot wait to be back in school! eeeekkk!!

Fourth, plane tickets have been booked for September 7th to visit this boy I like in Hawaii. :)  I'll be there until the 10th when I fly home over night and return on the 11th. :)

And last, I am settling in. I don't love it yet, but I like it.  Anna and Mike are leaving next Friday (a week from tomorrow) to move across country, which makes me so sad, but I think I'm settling in and learning to handle Jacksonville.  I don't love it and don't really plan on staying here much longer than 10 months, but I can definitely make it 10 months without going crazy. Thank you again EVERYONE who has texted, called, sent letters/packages, and checked in on me.  It means the world to me to know that I have such a large support system out there. So, thank you.  :)

Also, speaking of Miss Anna, she has a birthday tomorrow and I can't think of someone who deserves a better birthday than she does.  She has been an amazing friend this past month and the past five years and I am truly blessed to call her my best friend.  I love you so much and cannot wait to celebrate next week :)

Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling. Margaret Lee Runbeck