Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Saint Patrick's Day shenanigans

I can successfully say that we have survived Saint Patrick's Day in Savannah. It honestly was wild.  We left on Saturday around one and got to Savannah a little after three.  Luckily, we had  a hotel room, so we didn't have to drive back that night.  When we got to Savannah, we dropped our stuff off in the room (which was awesome btw) and caught a trolley that was running from the hotel to downtown.  It was all so convenient!

Once we got downtown, it was just like a sea of green. There were people standing on the side of the cobblestone streets with signs for beer like you see for a car wash in the summertime.  They had stages set up for music and there was even a mechanical bull! You can drink on the street or there are tons of bars and restaurants to go into. It was perfect weather so we just wandered around for the entire day.  You could have stayed and people watched and been entertained for hours.  I was glad we had a group to keep us entertained and I'm sure the more people in your group, the better. It was like a huge festival.  I would definitely go back again, especially with a big group of people. It was awesome. Sunday, we got back around two and we were exhausted.  Actual Saint Patrick's Day was nothing exciting, but the day before made up for it all.

Yesterday, was a little rocky, though. Joe applied to do another senior corps year (what we're doing right now) and was waitlisted.  There were first year corps members who applied and were accepted, which was a complete shock.  We all thought Joe was a guarantee, not just because he's already a senior corps member, but because he is REALLY good.  It really annoys me how political the hiring process is.  Everyone they chose was extremely outgoing and bubbly, which is not Joe.  He's quieter, more reserved, but an excellent leader.  Luckily, he's waitlisted, which means he's not completely out.  He was pretty upset, though, and we were all really shocked and upset at it all.

As always, life has a funny way of balancing itself all out because today was awesome.  Usually, I'm at the office all day on Tuesdays, but I decided to come to school in the morning.  My team was doing data chats with our students where we look at all of their test scores with them and discuss their progress (or lack there of).  I wanted to come today because a lot of my students were scheduled for the day, especially my focus list students.  In the first group, I had a girl named Jessie who is quite the diva.  She has such a fun personality and is super friendly to everyone.  She's great...outside of class. In class, she is constantly talking.  The only time she stops talking is to apply her makeup for the third time. She's a pretty low level reader, so I was kind of nervous to see how she did.  On one test, she improved a little bit, but then on the benchmark (which is an indicator for the big standardized test in April...the FCAT) she improved by 20 points and nearly doubled her score! She was so excited she started waving her hands in the air doing a little dance.  It was awesome! It was one of those moments that make all of the bad days worth it.

My data chat with Jessie was awesome, but I was really excited for the chat with my "favorite" student Emily.  At the beginning of the year, she was scoring in the 22 percentile for her reading benchmark.  Basically, 78 percent of ninth graders in the district were scoring above her and 60 is considered "proficient". Her reading comprehension was basically non-existent. I've been pulling her out of class three times a week to work on reading comprehension and the progress I've seen is unimaginable.  It's been awesome.  Before, she could barely tell you what was happening at the beginning, middle and end of a story, but now, that's a piece of cake for her.  She still struggles with seeing the bigger picture of things, such as finding the mood or a theme of a passage, but her progress amazes me.  Because of this, I knew I wanted to do her data chat.  When I told her that she had gone from a 22 to a 48, she didn't believe me.  Once it hit her that those were her scores, a huge smile broke out on her face and she was so proud of herself.  It was awesome to see.  Then, I got even more excited because I got to tell her that she was going to be invited to an ice cream party put on by City Year for her good behavior. Emily is really well behaved when everyone else is well behaved, but she can't really resist joining the gang if everyone else is misbehaving.  She's also veryyyyyy chatty, so her talking gets her in trouble.  She's been working on her behavior this year and it's paid off.  One of her teachers nominated her for the party, so I had no say in it at all. She couldn't contain herself and just basically collapsed on the table she was so excited.  I made a copy of her test scores and circled them so she could show her grandma when she got home. I told her she should hang it on her fridge and sure enough, today she had a picture of it hanging on her fridge at home! So exciting! The behavior party is tomorrow and I'm pumped to be able to get to be there with her.  So so so fun!  Anyways, it's been a really exciting few days for me here in Jacksonville. I definitely love days where I can see my impact, even if they are few and far between.  

There have also been lots of birthdays this week, too! Happy birthday Mom and Dad! I love you both so much and can't imagine better parents. You have made me the person who I am today and I am so thankful for you both.  Happy birthday! Also, happy birthday Andrew! You are one of the funniest, coolest, and most personable people I know. Keep being you and have a great birthday on Saturday! Love you!

Also, a major shoutout to Mike for getting his fish yesterday! I'm so proud of you and can't wait until you come home!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

life with a substitute

Well Adrienne and I have survived day five of having a substitute.  My teacher's father passed away over President's Day weekend and his son had eye surgery today, so he's been out for over a week. It was definitely unexpected, but the kids handled it well (or as well as to be expected).  In typical  fashion, my teacher didn't leave enough work to take up the whole block, didn't email lesson plans ahead of time so we could print stuff off, and left us kind of in the dark about a lot of things. I understand that he had a lot come up at once, but teachers are supposed to have sub lesson plans prepared for emergencies like this.

Anyways, last Friday, the mayor hosted a reception for City Year Jacksonville and all of it's champions. I knew that we, the corps members, would probably have some sort of role in it.  It wasn't going to be a lot of appreciating the corps members, but it was a lot of fun. Guests had cards with a corps member's picture on it and a prompt that said "Ask so and so about..."  For example, mine said "Ask Sarah about her focus list students."  It was awesome because it got corps members and guests talking to each other.  One of our corps members, Jasmine, spoke about her service at Jackson and we even had the president of City Year, Jim Balfanz, in attendance.  It was an awesome event and I think the corps members like doing stuff like that because it makes their service seem important.  It's nice to have people outside of City Year and their school say thank you.

My teacher came back on Thursday, but he wasn't really there.  He was telling the students in third block why he hadn't been there and started to get emotional.  I think it really shook the students who are not used to seeing older men get emotional.  Later on, I looked over at one point when all of the kids were working and he was falling asleep in his seat.   It was basically like not having him around.

Thursday night, we went out for Biasia's birthday, which was fun.  We went to this really nice restaurant, got all dressed up, and had a great three course meal.  It's fun hanging out with the corps members because it's a change of pace from just hanging out with the room mates all of the time.  I mean, the room mates are great, but it's nice to hang out with new people every once and a while.

This will be the first full week with my teacher in a while. As annoying as he is, he did bring a little bit of structure to the classroom. Not as much as a normal, functional classroom would have, but some.  Enough to make it a little more enjoyable. Here's to a great, productive and impactful week!

Oh and I forgot my favorite student quote of the week.  During fifth block, I usually pull this one student out because he's such a distraction to the other students.  On Thursday, I was working with him and he finished his work early.  I offered to help him with his math homework.  At first, he said the only person who could help him was Ms. Cushing (Katherine).  Finally, I convinced him to let me help him and he realized that I knew what I was talking about.  After he was all finished, he looked at me and said..."Wow Ms. Russo! You're not as dumb as you look!"  I'll take that as a compliment!