Monday, October 29, 2012

funny kid quotes

Today was a pretty normal Monday for me, especially compared to everyone else in the world who's faced some sort of major weather warning in the past few days.  From a tsunami warning in Hawaii to the Frankenstorm attacking basically all of the east coast minus Florida, almost anything I say here would be uneventful comparatively.  The following quotes from my students are the reason why I say almost....

I had three girls that I was working with in the City Year room last week on some of the classwork and reading.  We finished really early, but I was almost positive their class was still working, so I didn't want to send them back in the room.  We were sitting around talking about all of the City Year corps members and how they all live together and how I live in the same house with some people from City Year too.

Student 1: What about when you guys have boyfriends?
Student 2: They don't share a room!
Me: I mean, Ms. Lucero, Mr. Ben and I have boyfriends and girlfriends.  It's not a big deal.
Student 1: YOU HAVE A BOYFRIEND?!?!?!?!?!
Student 2: Where does he live?
Me: Hawaii
Student 1:  Do you get to see him?
Me: Yeah I saw him in September.
Student 1: You haven't kissed him since September?!?!?
(thanks for the reminder)
Me: no
Student 1: You haven't TOUCHED him since September?!?!?!?!?!?!
Me: Okaaaay and that's the end of that conversation.....

Little does she know that starting Friday, we're about to embark on an extreme six month no touching or kissing kind of deal since Mike is leaving for deployment.

Today in research, we read an article about the election and the two candidates political views.  It had a chart that had a column of issues like "The Economy," "The War in Afghanistan", "Social Issues" etc.  Then, it had a column listing Obama's views on the different issues and another column for Romney's views.  You were supposed to circle which view you agreed with for each issue. Before we even read the article, this is what I heard.....

"I ain't voting for Romney cuz he trying to take away girls' weaves! They gotta look pretty!"

followed by

"Vote for Mitt and you'll be sh**!"

turns out that when they actually circled the different views on the issues, they sided with Romney on a few issues and some even said they wouldn't vote for Obama.  Funny how that works out....

Anyways, hope everyone is staying safe and sane in this hurricane.  If you need somewhere to escape, it's nice and sunny here in Florida! Enjoy the few days off and rest and recover for the return to work!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

forming relationships

This week was off to a rough start and I was not having it.  In case you didn't know, I'm not a morning person.  I'm REALLY slow moving when I wake up, can't really form sentences the first hour  of the morning, and live for my morning routine. It doesn't help that my morning starts at 5:30, which is like the middle of the night. So, when my Monday morning is interrupted by, say, a MOUSE in my kitchen, you can imagine my mood.

Within an hour, Adrienne and I received an email saying that we'd be having a sub, which is just code for "you'll be having a crazy day." Sure enough, the kids were wild.  There wasn't enough work for the kids so they had over a half an hour to just cause trouble. The sub was really nice, but didn't quite understand that she needed to help out even though City Year was in the room.  Luckily, it was Monday and both Adrienne and I were there. By the time fourth block rolled around, though, I was exhausted and didn't have the energy to do any more behavior management, so I pulled my intervention students out for the entire class.  When I came back, the sub just smiled and laughed at how wild the class was. Apparently, Quinci went by and students were banging on desks and dancing around the room.  Sadly, I knew that was true. Speaking of Quinci,  the day ended on a sour note when he proceeded to talk down to both Adrienne and I.  Quinci has a hard time being wrong and likes to be the leader and in control.  Even though all three of us are Senior Corps members, he sometimes acts like he's above us because we're in classrooms like first year corps members.  I'm usually fine with it because I know that we're really all the same, but when he was treating us like that in front of the corps members, it was just the cherry on top of a already rough day.  The next day I was at the office, which is always a nice break from school.  I get to sleep in and can be a recluse in my office if I want.

When I returned to school on Wednesday, I was ready for the weekend. Tuesday wasn't a bad day, but it definitely wasn't anything exciting or energizing.  It was an A day which means an extra class and rowdier kids and Adrienne was at the office.  Luckily, the morning went extremely well.  My third block class was nearly perfect. The few times I had to redirect them, they actually listened and followed directions. It was amazing! I wanted to jump with joy!

During fourth block, things got really interesting.  I pulled my focus list student out and we were working in the City Year room.  I was asking her about her family and who she lives with. She lives with her grandmother and two of her sisters. When she told me how many brothers and sisters she had total, I didn't believe her. She proceeded to name all FIFTEEN of her siblings between her dad and her two step dads.  All of a sudden, I completely understood why she was so loud and spoke out in class. She just wants to be heard.  As if that wasn't interesting enough, the  conversation continued. It was pretty quiet as she wrote definitions when all of a sudden, she said "I don't want to go to first block tomorrow."  As she continued, I learned that another girl was trying to pick fights with her and she was worried that a fight might happen in first block (apparently the teacher doesn't have control of the class).  While it may seem like normal high school drama, it meant a lot to me.  It was a sign that she trusts me, at least with some things.  She trusted that if she disclosed to me, I would listen.  It was a huge, monumental step in the right direction for this year and exactly what I needed this week.

Today was almost as exciting!  Let's rewind though, to last week.  During first block, I mentioned to one of my students that I would be pulling her from class sometimes to help her with reading and stuff.  I tried not to make it a big deal, but she apparently was really nervous.  She wrote me a note asking why she was going to be pulled out when she was good at reading.  She was worried that she would be seen as "slow" and judged by her peers.  I was really worried about the day when I had to pull her out.  I wrote her a note back reassuring her that it wouldn't be bad and we would probably even have some fun.  Jasmine (another corps member who has her in class) delivered it to her in her class, which I think helped.  Today, when I pulled her out, she was a little nervous, but didn't argue at all and even seemed kind of happy to be leaving class (I don't blame her, it's boring).  When we got to the City Year office, I asked her what middle school she went to and found out that SHE'S FROM VIRGINIA BEACH!! So exciting! She went to Bayside Middle and moved here this summer when her parents "were having issues" (I don't know what that means and didn't want to push it).  We ended up talking for a half an hour before even doing work, which I think made her feel so much better about the whole pull out deal.  She even laughed at one point saying how off topic we were.  Hopefully, today helped ease her pain and make her feel more comfortable about the whole thing.

Between the past two days of interventions, I feel like I've made a lot of progress in forming relationships with certain students.  Being in a high school has been a lot tougher than I predicted.   Being with a teacher who's not the greatest has made my days stressful and not as enjoyable as I think possible. I also really miss the younger students and their energy and enthusiasm for learning. These past two days have re-engergized me and made me excited for my interventions. I hope that more students feel comfortable enough to trust me.

"To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved."
-George MacDonald

Sunday, October 21, 2012

pumpkins and sushi

Adrienne and I have been talking about carving pumpkins for over a week and we finally did it.  I haven't carved a pumpkin since probably elementary school and neither had she, so we thought we would relieve our childhoods and head out to the pumpkin patch.

We went to a pumpkin "patch" nearby and found some relatively small pumpkins.  We had been craving thai food all weekend, so we decided to find a thai restaurant before heading home and carving.  The closest one was 20 minutes away in the opposite direction, but we decided to go for it.  I ended up  getting sushi, but it was the right decision because it was delicious.  Adrienne got chicken curry, which I tried and was really good.  I love sushi, though....

I'm not sure if I like this picture of me, but it looks very fall-sh with the scare crow and bench 
sushi and curry...yuuummmm!
We made a pit stop to get a carving kit and headed home for an evening of pumpkin carving.  I didn't realize how long it would take to carve a pumpkin, especially if you try to do anything creative.   We had this book that came with stencils so you could make something more than just the traditional jack-o-lantern.  I settled on a bat flying across a crescent moon and Adrienne went with a mummy. You can decide if they actually look like that, but we're both really proud of our carving abilities.
check out who our server was! 
hmmmmm I wonder what this could mean..... :)

The finished product....a bat flying over a crescent moon 
Overall, it was a very fall-ish day.  I missed the cool weather and leaves, but I guess it's just something I'll have to live with.  Happy fall everyone!
Happy Fall!
Sarah and Adrienne

Saturday, October 20, 2012

interventions and careforce

The rest of the week was pretty great.  We started doing interventions with our focus list students, so I got to pull them out of class and work with them individually.  They don't really understand what's going on, but they seem to like it. Most of them don't like our class, so they're thankful that they get to be pulled out (I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing).  My teacher doesn't really understand when I'm going to pull students out, so that's a struggle sometimes, but I think we'll get the hang of it eventually.   There was one girl who was not excited about being pulled out, though, which is tough.  I told her about how she would be working with me individually when we have stuff to read, just as a heads up.  She wrote me a note saying how she didn't want to be pulled out and how she was already good at reading.  It was cute that she wrote me a note and I'm going to write her one back reassuring her that it won't be that bad.  It's going to be tough to win her over, though, since I haven't really worked with her before and we don't really have a relationship to build from. Oh well.  We'll work on it.

Thursday, Adrienne and I had a conference call with the national behavior specialist from City Year about our class and how we could try and support our teacher in behavior management.  I think it was helpful, but it's going to require a lot of work.  I definitely don't think our class is long gone or hopeless. In fact, I've said from the beginning that, with some good behavior management from our teacher, I think these kids could be pretty well behaved. None of their behavior is really bad, it's all just nit picky things like getting out of their seats or talking without raising their hands.  With some consequences for their actions and some engaging lessons, we could have a pretty successful class.  Hopefully some of the stuff we talked about on Thursday will help move us towards that.

Yesterday was Friday and we had an awesome schedule.  At other sites, some Fridays are all service based.  I volunteered at thrift stores and food banks last year, which offered a nice change of pace occasionally.  Yesterday, we had the chance to do kind of the same thing here.  Care Force is a group of senior corps members who travel across the country doing service with our national sponsors. Basically, companies like CSX and Aramark pay for them to come and host a service day with their employees in different countries.  Super cool!    Anyways, CSX was having a service day this weekend and Care Force needed help prepping for the day, so we went and helped out.  I'm not big on physical service. but it can be fun occasionally and is definitely needed.  We were at a middle school and I was in the group that was helping to build benches.   We were just building the legs of the benches and then the volunteers today were going to put them all together.
kayAfter our morning of service, we went back to the office.  We had our community meeting for staff and senior corps.  It was nothing compared to our one last year, but it was still fun. I love community meetings because you learn so much about everyone and you get to hear about everyone's service. People's joys, ripples and starfish stories always make me tear up.  The Jackson High School team is next  up, so we'll have to start planning that which is going to be interesting.  I am sure it's going to be a lot of work, but it was so much fun to plan last year.  We have two months until it's scheduled, so that should be plenty of time (hopefully).

It was a good week overall.  I'm still frustrated with the classroom situation, but hopefully with some work, it'll get better.  Happy weekend friends!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

start of the week

This week has been pretty ordinary (so far), but in a good way.  I've been busy doing stuff for grad school applications, which seem to be never ending.  Every time I think I'm almost done with an application, I find about five little, yet tedious, things that need to be done.

Yesterday, my fourth block class was so wild that my teacher gave them all a zero for behavior.  I heard that, today, there were quite a few students who were upset (probably some rightfully so since we have some quiet, well-behaved students), but that all of the students were quiet and did their work. Yesterday, Adrienne and I sat down with my teacher and made a seating chart.  We separated the friends, the talkers and the two sisters that are in the class.   It was an amazing seating chart.  Today, though, when Adrienne got to class, the students were all in their old seats.  Apparently, the seating chart never got saved!! Ahhhhhhhh!!! This is so typical, and still so frustrating.  Luckily, today Adrienne and I were able to recreate the seating chart basically exactly how it was, so hopefully tomorrow it will be implemented.

One highlight of yesterday was getting to observe Biasia and Katherine's class.  It was awesome to see our students in another class and watch another teacher teach.  Their teacher is still pretty new (it's her third year), but she had the class under control and was able to teach and engage the students.  It was so refreshing to watch. Most of the students were well-behaved, paying attention, and learning something.  It was a lot of fun to watch!

Today, I was at the office.  I didn't have a ton to do, but it was enough to keep me occupied for most of the day.  I wasn't feeling great this morning, so it was probably good that I wasn't super busy. By the afternoon, I had recovered and gotten in the swing of things. I had a meeting with the education coaches from the University of Florida about the trainings they're going to lead for us.  It was really cool to help them and be on this side of training the corps.  Adrienne and I went to yoga tonight after a little hiatus this weekend.  I really liked the instructor tonight and it felt really good.  The room seemed to be extra warm, so all of those toxins that were making me feel sick earlier were gone!  It was wonderful.

Tomorrow we start our actual ELA interventions.  I'm really excited.  I have seven girls that I'm going to be pulling out throughout the day when they're in our class.  We're going to be reading passages and working on comprehension and fluency.  I'm excited to get to know these girls, form relationships with them, and be able to work with them individually over the course of the year.

Keep your fingers crossed that all of these interventions will go well, the kids are well behaved, and my teacher somehow manages to find some organizational skills. Fingers crossed.

This quote is for Mr. Romney who, at the current moment, is cutting off poor Candy who's trying to moderate this debate.   He's also a little too aggressive for my liking.  He just needs to calm down.

"Be kind to one another." -Ellen Degeneres

Thursday, October 11, 2012

these kids are wild

Yesterday I couldn't post because I was so frustrated with my teacher and the classes.  Some students were misbehaving even more than usual, which is always annoying.  My fourth block class, which is always the most challenging, was extremely well behaved, though.  They got a grade on their behavior, so they were like a completely new class.  I became aggravated, though, when I realized they weren't learning any more than on the days that they misbehaved.  This wasn't their fault.  My teacher is extremely disorganized, doesn't connect with the students, and is just plain boring. They aren't learning, even when they're participating and completing the work. The student misbehavior is a direct result of all of these things, along with other factors, so having a well-behaved class yesterday was a miracle. Adrienne and I have tried to offer suggestions and some of them are implemented, but he's just not a very good teacher.
I think all of this is wearing him down, though, and is starting to take it out on the students.  The students who are notorious for not behaving aren't given a chance anymore.  The minute they get up out of their seat, they're chastised, even if they were getting a pencil to do their work.  It's really tough to watch and I feel bad for the students.  Luckily, next week Adrienne and I are going to have a conference call with Bethiel Girma who is the National Behavior Coordinator for City Year.  Hopefully, she'll be able to offer some help when dealing with the students.

Anyways, today was better.  My B Day students are a much higher level group of students and just naturally more well-behaved. Instead of walking around and yelling out when they're bored, they just sit there (some with their head down) and stare into space. Sometimes, though, they do funny things that just make me laugh.  We had one student throw a wad of paper into the trashcan and make it.  When it went into the trashcan, he started dancing in his seat and singing "I made it! I made it!" like a little kid.  Mind you, he's probably over 6 ft tall and 250lbs. Another kid pulled his hoodie over his head, but kept it covering his eyes.  Then, all of a sudden, he just struck a pose like a model with his arm out in the middle of the classroom.  Then, after a few seconds, pulled his hoodie down and took a seat like nothing happened. Last but not least, one of the students I've mentioned before, Lavetra (the one who was heartbroken) topped the day off with this conversation.....

we're working on a map of South and Central America.  Mind you, I don't really talk about my personal life with the students, and have definitely not mentioned having a boyfriend....
L: Your boyfriend ever cheat on you?
Me: Nope. Now do your work.
L: He nice?
M: Yeah, but that's not what we're talking about.
L:  You sure he doesn't have a girl on the side?
M: I'm sure, now do your work.
L: Man, you lucky!
I think I'm pretty lucky, too.  Thanks Mike :)

Anyways, the kids were just a riot today.  I have given up on not laughing and just crack up when they say and do funny things. It helps get me through days that otherwise make me want to pull my hair out.  Now it's time to go watch the VP debate!

PS when asked what big thing was on television tonight, my students all responded with "FOOTBALL!"  Guess we know where their priorities lie.....

"Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face, but with great and strong purpose in your heart."
        -Gordon B. Hinckley

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

goodbye Sean

For the past eight weeks, CYJax has had an interim Community and Schools Partnerships Director.  Sean has been in charge of helping inform the schools about City Year's role, as well as help coordinate the trainings on Fridays.  I've worked with him a lot the past couple of months and have really enjoyed having him.  He's a great resource and really knows City Year.  He's been awesome to have around the first few months of start-up because he's seen what establish sites have and is able to bring it to Jacksonville.

Unfortunately, this week was Sean's last week in Jacksonville.  Our permanent Community and Schools person, Cory, is onboarding this week and will be on his own starting Friday.  Tonight, we had a farewell for Sean both at school (with the corps members) and at this restaurant (without corps members).  We went to Gilbert Middle where the other CY team is serving and had chips and soda.  We gave him our gift (this really cool tree bark thing that Jacqui made) and hung around with the corps for a while.

After the corps left, we met about our community meeting that we're hosting in a few weeks. One interesting, and sometimes frustrating, part of doing start up is that everyone has a basic idea of what is supposed to happen, but the details vary from site to site.  Every site has community meetings and they're basically the same, but all of the details are different.  It's fun being able to start from scratch, but it can be frustrating when people are stubborn and want things done their way (ie Quinci and Abbi).  Overall, it's really cool though.

We set a time limit of one hour on our meeting so that we would have time to go to Three Layers Cafe afterwards.  It's the same place Joe, Adrienne and I went on Saturday night.  It has a cool feel on weeknights, it just wasn't what we were looking for last Saturday.  We hung around for a while and talked about other things besides City Year (so nice!). I filled them in on how much I cry (commercials, sad movies, almost anything moving or emotional) and we talked about what Sean is doing after City Year (living in India with his family for six weeks....I'm so jealous!).  It's always fun to hang out with City Year people outside of City Year. They are so fun and when you can get them talking about things other than work, it's usually a good conversation.

So, while tonight was a ton of fun, it was sad to see Sean go.  He was such a great mentor, leader, and person to have around these past couple of months. He will be greatly missed by everyone in Jacksonville.

"You know you're great when you can make others better." -Biasia Sparks
PS- Major shoutout to Karen  who just got a promotion!! Get it girl! Way to rock it!

Monday, October 8, 2012

feedback, the zoo, the jaguars and yoga

This weekend (starting on Friday) was a ton of fun!  Even work was great, which I think just jumpstarted a great weekend.

  It all started on Friday with a Learning from Leaders session.  It's basically where someone from the community comes and talks about their experience and how they got to be where they are today.  This past Friday was a little different.  We actually went to this ice cream shop that is only a few blocks from my house.  It's a nonprofit organization called City Kidz that helps teach inner city kids financial literacy.  The kids even get to create their own ice cream flavors and all of the profits go towards college scholarships.  Super cool.  Representatives from Wells Fargo were there too and they were really awesome.  They seemed genuinely interested in City Year.  One lady even said she was going to suggest it to her son! Then in the afternoon, we had a feedback session where everyone on your team pairs up and you each give each other positive and negative feedback.  You have four minutes a pair until you have to switch.  I hate confrontation and when I had to do this last year, I was so nervous, but this time it really wasn't that bad.

Saturday was hot, but we went to the zoo since we had Groupons that expired that day. I always get excited for the zoo, but then whenever I go, I always get a little sad about how small the areas the animals have to live in.  Like at this one, the bear exhibit had one bear in this tiny little place.  He was just pacing back and forth and looked so sad.  A lot of the animals areas didn't have grass in them because they were in the shade.  It was really sad.   It was fun at times though because the animals are so cool.  We saw this one animal that looked like a zebra because it's legs had black and white stripes,  At the giraffe exhibit, you could pay $2 to feed the giraffes, so they were coming right up to the balcony we were standing on and eating out of people's hands.  It was super cool.   We didn't feed them because the line was so long, but they were really close.  That night, Joe, Adrienne, and I went to a wine bar a few blocks away.  We were definitely out of place, though. We stayed for like an hour and then left.  We came home and sat on the porch for a while.  It's finally gotten to the point where  you don't die of mosquito bites, so it's enjoyable.

Sunday was even hotter and Adrienne and I, as well as some corps members, were volunteering at the Jaguars game.  We had volunteered to be "data collectors" per say, so we had to get there early.  We were recording how long it takes to get through the lines.  So, we started at three and every fifteen minutes, we'd get in line. It only took a max of like 7 minutes to get through the lines, so we had a few minutes to stand in the shade and relax before going again. It was interesting, but SO  hot.  The people were really funny though.  A couple behind me got in a fight and the girl stormed off with the guy chasing after her.  There were also a ton of Bears fans and by the end, I was super tired of hearing the phrase "Da Bears" yelled by drunk guys. Regardless, it was kind of fun and we got free tickets and food vouchers, which was awesome.  The game wasn't that great and we were still really hot, so we left not far into the fourth quarter. I heard they lost 41-3 or something like that. A bunch of our students were there, though, which made it fun.  They got tickets for making the honor roll, so over 300 Jackson students were there.  We ran into a few of them when we went to get food and they freaked out.  Something about us having real clothes and a real life.....  :)

Today at school, the students were extra talkative. The worst days are when there is never a quiet moment.  It's like a constant noise in your ear. Plus, it was an A day, so I had an extra class and was tired.  Adrienne and I, along with four of the corps members went to (hot) yoga tonight. It was really nice.  I wasn't sure how much I would like it, but I'm definitely going back. I mean, it's not my favorite, but it feels really good.  It also feels great to sweat out all of the toxins and stress.  I have a hard time buying into the meditation aspect of it all.  Like at the end where we all say "namaste," I just kind of mumbled and rolled my eyes.  I really enjoyed the workout part, though, and am definitely going to be sore tomorrow. 

Tomorrow I'm at the office, which is a good break from the children after today.  I'm glad to have things to do after work and on the weekends.  I hope this pace of life keeps up....

(because it only seemed fitting) 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

just like old times

Adrienne went to Vegas for the weekend and ended up coming back yesterday, so it was just me, Quinci and Joe. Just like old times.  Apparently, Adrienne had this trip planned before she decided to come here and was only planning on being gone for the weekend.  She "accidentally" missed her flight on Sunday and didn't come back until late last night.

As much as I love Quinci and Joe, I missed her this weekend.  The Ryder Cup was on, so Joe and Quinci spent most of the weekend watching that. It made me miss her even more.  I went to the beach on Saturday afternoon, after spending all morning at the Apple store with Joe  trying to get him a new phone. Sunday was definitely a lazy Sunday with some rain and thunderstorms.  Needless to say, I was glad to have Adrienne back.

School has been going well. Monday we were in the computer lab, which just meant craziness.  I've realized whenever you take the kids out of the "natural habitat," they just ask ridiculous. It's so stressful when they're like this, but it's also hilarious because it's comical to watch them and listen to their conversations.  For example, I was trying to get a girl to do her work and this is the conversation that ensued....

Me: Come on, Lavetra, why haven't you started?  Everyone else is already done with the first question and you haven't even headed your paper!
L: Ms. Russo, I can't do anything today. I'm heartbroken.
(I just stare at her)
L: I got dumped. Normally, I'm the one doing the dumping!

Welcome to ninth grade where you're love life dictates every part of your day. Even after you've been dumped.

The other exciting thing that happened today was that we got our focus lists! So exciting.  A focus list is a list of students in our classes that we're going to be working with one on one or in a small group doing English interventions.  We're going to be working on Fluency, Comprehension, and Vocabulary in hopes to get them up to grade level by the end of the year. I'm really excited to branch off from whole class support and start doing actual interventions.

The last exciting thing that has happened (it's been an exciting couple of days) is that I've found some stuff to do outside of work. I was starting to get really bored on the weekends and evenings.  A few of the corps members have been going to yoga classes almost every day and I think Adrienne and I are going to start going next week. I've never done yoga and always kind of judged people who did it (go ahead and make a face at me, I know), but here I am going to yoga.  Who knows? Maybe I'll like it. I've also been looking into some places to go riding, even if it's only once a week. I need to call a few places and see what it's like, but riding is the one thing I miss most when I'm not in Virginia and I would LOVE to be able to do it here.  So more to come on that, but things are looking good!

Alright, I'm off to watch the presidential debates and head to bed.  Hope everyone is having a great week!

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama