My Mississippi Teacher Corps Experience has been amazing, challenging, and awesome. I think in order for you to get an idea about my experience I need to recap the last two years or so of my life.
In the fall of 2007 I was looking for a job. I was an economics major but the I wasn't thrilled on the idea of going into business. Then one day, as I was in the campus center, I saw an advertisement for a info session on Mississippi Teacher Corps. I had never heard of it but I was excited to go. My friend Sara was visiting me at the time so I dragged her along with me. There I two Amherst Alums spoke to us about their experience in the program, their challenges and successes. I was so impressed with the info session I decided to apply. A month later I was accepted into the MTC.
Fast forwarding to two weeks after graduation, I packed my backs and got on a plane, ready to begin my journey. My first summer is still much of a blur. It went by so quickly. Enormous amounts of information was thrown at me from several different directions. Advice was plentiful, so many people were helpful and really rooting for you to succeed. I had never had that before. I truly felt wanted, apart of a team, and supported. I remember one day thinking “am I too young to be a teacher?” I am only a few years older then some of my students. It was that summer that I learned the importance of planning. I also learned that if you are not having fun it's your own fault. Teaching should not feel like a chore if it does then its probably not for you. You should enjoy teaching.
My very own classroom. The start of my first year was pretty rocky. First starting with the fact that I was not allowed to see my classroom until the first day of school, because my district had not had a board meeting to approve new teachers. So on the first day of school, I was excited yet not knowing what to expect. I planned to leave my house extra early. On the first day, I lock myself out of my car. Who does that? Me, of course. Luckily, I had left my window open enough that I could fit a tree branch in there to try to get it out. As I was trying to unlock my door a fellow MTCer drove by, Michelle. She was a second year, but this was her first year in Greenville Public Schools as well. On top of her car she had her lunch. I told her about it and we had a nice laugh about it. Moving along into my first year I struggled with being organized and as a consequence I also struggled with classroom management. Being organized saves you time and stress. I was giving out consequence and rewards but I had no system in place to keep track of it. Also I was so behind on grading. I was in trouble and sinking fast.
After Christmas break, I came back ready to work. I made myself get organized or at least more organized then I previously was. I developed a system to keep track of consequences and rewards. I started taking Ben's advice and staying after each day and grading a little at a time. Things really picked up around April. We went into remediation mode, trying to get our students ready for the state test. It was then that my classroom management skills got tested. We combined classes so at any time I had anywhere from 40 to 50 students in my class at a time. And on top of that my air conditioning didn't work, talk about a tough crowd. My first year went by so quickly, and before I knew it it was summer time.
I couldn't believe a year had past and that I was now a second year. That title sounded so weird to me. There were new first years who were looking for advice and I was going to provide them with some. It surprised me how much knowledge I had to share. I had only been teaching a year yet in that one year I had acquired my own knowledge and experience in teaching. I had learned that experience is the best kind of knowledge. You can tell a person this and that but until they get in the classroom and experience it for themselves and find out what works for them they'll never really know how to teach or what it is. That summer I experimented with new ways to present ideas in the classroom. I moved from teacher centered to student centered. I liked being able to provide advice and suggestions on how I would present a lesson and how long it might take students to get an objective. Stepping into the role of mentor really catapulted me into the next level of being a teacher.
Bring it on. In August, I was ready for my students. This year I spent an entire week going over rules and procedures in the classroom. Also I introduced my kids to my classroom and my style of teaching. Everyone is different and that is why something may work for me and not others. Starting the year off I encouraged my students to take a more active role in their learning. Everyday I would present them with a puzzle or a problem and they had to work together to solve it. These puzzles got my students familiar with being and working in groups. I would only be in the front of the classroom for maybe 15 minutes at most. I also learned to take a backseat in the classroom. It's my students who have to learn the material not me. They won't always have me their to check their work, so whenever my students would ask me if they got a problem right I would say explain it to me, instead of answering their question right away.
Wow, one more semester to go. This semester I have really played to my strengths which have been tutoring in small groups or one – on – one. I now make it a point to get to every student in my class and work with them either in a group or individually. This way I am constantly assessing all of my students. I also use peer tutors, which is successful if you show your students how to tutor and not just tell the person the answer. It has been said that students learn more from their peers than teachers. I have about 4 more weeks left of school and about 2 weeks until the state test. I am proud of my students progress thus far, but there is doubt that you have done everything you possibly could have to make sure your students are successful. Am I an effective teacher? Yes. Am I a good teacher? Maybe, I'm well on my way. Am I a great teacher? No, not even close but I aspire to be one day.
Looking Forward 2010-2011
As I go into the summer I am excited for the new adventure ahead of me. I have been hired as a teacher for a private boarding school in western Massachusetts. It will be a drastic change for me. From public to private school, but not just that. I will be changing locations. I will also be moving up to teach high school (I have been teaching middle school these past two years). I am sure I will face new challenges at this new school, but I am looking forward to it. I will truly miss Mississippi, it was my home for two years of my life. I have grown both professionally and privately. The Mississippi Teacher Corps was the best thing that happened for me. It pointed me in the direction of education, and now I am an educator for life. You've done it again! You've produced another educator.