Tuesday, July 05, 2011

"Who hates negativity and told I can't pass the test"

I am sitting and avoiding the massive amount of planning I have for the school year ahead, because it just seems like so much I do not even know where to start. Before I left Memphis I slide a few old student papers into my stack of work to serve as inspiration.

Can I tell you it worked?
(well minus the fact that I am blogging right now! I just had to share this)

I had my students write "I am" poems at the end of the semester this past year. Most likely if you have taught you have done this assignment at some point with your students. It's pretty common, but their words are not. The samples below are not their complete ones, just bits and pieces.

"I am Simme-Sosa...
Who needs to strive harder, continue education and apply myself more...
Who hates abuse and neglect of any extent...
Who fears God...
Who dreams of changing a massive number of lives, communities, and the world itself all over...
I am Simme-Sosa"

"I am Josalyn...
Who needs love and attention at all times...
Who hates negativity and told I can't pass the test...
Who fears being hated or disliked because of mess...
Who dreams of doing big things...
I am Josalyn"

"I am Denzel...
Who neesds excuses for not being the best...
Who loves the joy of accomplishment...
Who hates injustice and ignorance...
Who fears for the education of young African Americans...
Who dreams of changing the world of others one person at a time...
Who lives in Memphis and wouldn't change it for anything...
I am Denzel"

These are just a few of the many. What you read above are the words of 18 year olds who have been entrapped within a system that has passed them along and neglected their full potential since they entered when they were 5. And 12 years, later a week before they walk across they stage, they know it.

I wish you all could meet those three students. When you meet them you would see a young man who has more wisdom than he realizes in his large 6'4" frame. A young lady whose creativity is going to launch her into whatever career she pursues. And a young man who as overcome more adversity than I could ever think to go through, yet has been given a gift of joy that is so contagious you cannot help but smile when you are around him.

By HIS mercy I am given this ministry. By HIS mercy I get to teach. By HIS mercy I get the incredible opportunity to live in Memphis. Oh Jesus give me strength in my large amounts of weakness and never let me forget why I am going this. Increase my creativity as I work today please.

A good friend started Teach for America and had her first day in the classroom today. She text me this morning and said "Teaching today was...interesting. I'll explain later, but so great that the Lord reminded me in a brief and crazy morning why I'm doing this. These kids deserve better and are capable of so much! So so thankful that He was able to bring that back to life for me today by seeing kids. They're wonderful!!!!"

Mmm. Love her words. They are so true and ....
So good.

They are wonderful! :)

So.... I .......
Can't be sleepin' Can't be slumin' Why not? Why not? Cuz my kids be comin'!

Until next time...

Friday, September 03, 2010

What drives me?

On Wednesday I played this commercial for my students. They had to tell me where they saw formal and informal balance along with how lines impacted the final piece. Let me tell you, when I played this video it was the first time my class of 40+ students were still and silent. That never really is my goal in class, but for the first time I had 100% of their attention.

You have on idea how cool it was to watch them watch the video. (make sure to watch it below!)

At the end of the video there is a quote from Kobe Bryant where he says....
"This is what drives me". Referring to playing in the NBA.

So, I asked my students for their "exit ticket" (they have to do one of these everyday to get out of my class) to write me a few sentences on what drives them.

Here are what some of my students said:

What drives me is a want to succeed and be great at everything I do. I never want to be the absolute best at anything because I have a desire to learn and grow and whenever I do something the second time I want it to be better than when I did it the second time. That’s what drives me.

What drives me is my determinations to do whatever I put my mind to. Especially basketball. Although I’ve stopped playing for the moment, I won’t let it stop me forever.

Every person has a passion. Personally, mine is anything that makes me feel alive. Whether it is camping, music, or anything physical that pushes me to the edge of my limits, I try my hardest. Specifically there are two things that force me to do almost anything: money and proving people wrong. In the real world, money equals power. Also, obviously things cost money and as a young man with expensive taste there must be a source of income. Having a desire to prove a person wrong is the biggest driving force behind anything I do. No one dictates my motives and I make it my mission to prove an untamed, free-thinking individual.

What drives me? My little brother. He drives me because I’m all he has. My dad is in prison and his mother is hooked on drugs.

My determination to be independent drives me. My want to have the better things in life and not struggle. Also to never have to ask anybody for anything drives me.

Basketball drives me because of the motivation and the cheer of the crowd. Knowing that everybody is depending on me to make the basket. Basketball is my outlet in life whenever I get mad, depend on it because it’s my future.

Education is what drives me. I feel that without education I cannot be the person God desired me to be. I know that I can do far with education.

My passion to be a lawyer is what drives me. Without a goal or a dream my life would be incomplete.

Winning drives me. Greatness and power also drive me. Everyday I work hard at practice to achieve these.

Being able to be a breadwinner for my family is what drives me. I strive hard and plan on being successful. One of my favorite quotes is “Pay now, so that you can play later”. I aspire to attend a 4 year University after high school. I want to be able to provide for my family and give my mother whatever she wants.

Confidence drives me. It drives me because I feel like I can do any and everything. It drives me to be the best.

What drives me is to be myself. The fact that I like to follow in my own footsteps and do what makes me happy. I love not wanting to uphold a certain image because its not me. I love being myself and doing me.

What drives me? My little sister drives me. She drives me to be a better big brother and to be a role model for her.

The arts drive me. Any kind, rather it be music, dance, theatre, art, etc. I love the creativity and unique value that all artistic media has. The arts have always influenced me and have made me who I am today. I guess you could say life drives me, but arts drive my life.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


-- Welcome to room B-204 --

Well two weeks down. 28 to go.

This week was one of my hardest weeks in Memphis. I was homesick and impatient and exhausted and overwhelmed. I felt down right needy.

That is a feeling I hate and I wanted to go away. And I wanted it to go away fast.

I fought this feeling as I sat in my Thursday night class. After a long week in the classroom and feeling like I have accomplished nothing with my students, we began talking about literacy. My class is called "Reading in the Content Area". If you are an educator, you have taken this class at one point or another. If you are an urban educator, you realize this could be one of the most important classes you will ever take.

One of my classmates Stu began asking our professor how to teach his 8th grade social studies students how to read and write. Why?

Because he is almost completely illiterate.

How do you make it to 8th grade and not know how to read and write? How do my 12th graders not know how to spell basic words? (and I mean BASIC).

If there is something that makes me angry this is it... this is way the system is so messed up. Teachers just let students slide by because they are too much of a problem and do not want to deal with them. And then they end up in 8th grade illiterate and 12th grade not being able to write a complete sentence.

My professor was giving us ideas on where to start. We literally had to go back and learn how to start from the beginning. Teaching our 8-12th graders patterns of reading and the alphabet.

As my professor was talking about all of this I sat there and all I could think of was a conversation I had just had with nephew the day before. He knows the ABC's. All of them. Every single one. Capitalized. Lower-Case.

He is 2.

It blows my mind how much of a difference it makes in what home-life you grow up in when it comes to your educational career.

I cannot make excuses for my students. No excuses. Have high expectations. There are NO EXCUSES for these students. If I let them slide, they will fall back into the exact same lifestyle they are trying to get out of.

Education and knowledge is the ONE thing no one can ever take away from them or you.

So 28 weeks to go.

I'm not saying that in a sense of a countdown. Trust me. 28 meaning, I have 28 weeks to push my students to mastery. To help them learn how to spell. To teach them how to write a good resume. To teach them how to give a good handshake. To love them. To serve them. To push them. To not make excuses. To not waste time.


That's a small number, but a very capable one.

(Prayer Requests: patience, creativity, confidence, CONTENTMENT, passion, church family, small group, mentor, my students, room B-204, Whitehaven)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Danny and Kevin.

I have to do a journal after everyday for my MTR Coach. This is an excerpt from Wednesday, August 11th.
All names are changed.

Today was my first real teaching day in front of the students. There was so much going through my mind with each movement, question, response, and interaction with each student. Did I have enough wait time? Have I been standing in one spot too long? Why is this group reacting so much different than my last group? Did I tell them what to do or what not to do? How is my proximity? The list goes on and on. I am so grateful that I am a part of MTR and I can already implement so many things that I have learned so far in class. I have found the classes where I know the students names better, I have greater success in responses and interaction. I realize I need to really work hard on getting to know each one of their names and more about them as my students. I am so grateful to Mrs. Simpkins for allowing me to jump right it and help teach with so much. She has let me teach over half of the class each class period and trusts me with the students.

One of the neatest parts of the day was in homeroom this morning. Yesterday I saw a young man walking through the halls who was in my homeroom the day before. I stopped him and told him I missed him that morning in homeroom and asked him why he wasn't there. He said he just slept and did not feel like coming. I then asked him if he would be in homeroom the next day, because I really wanted to see him in the morning. He said "Yes ma'am" and started walking away. I then just shouted down the hallway, "Danny, you better keep that promise. I'll see you in the morning, have a great night." Guess who came walking down the hall this morning? Danny! He came to homeroom, sat down, looked incredibly disengaged and annoyed that he was there. Then when he left I told him thank you for coming and I look forward to seeing him tomorrow. I was so proud of him for keeping his word, something that is not held to such a high importance in today's society. I hope I see Danny tomorrow.

Another story is with one of my Art II students named Kevin. Kevin brought me his art portfolio today and was so excited for me to look at it and wanted feedback on his work. He smiled really big and was thrilled to be in class. He told me to just keep it and look over it during the day. I was so impressed that he trusted me with all his artwork and valued my opinion already.

Both of these stories are mainly to say that I have already seen growth in my students and it is just day three! There is so much potential in each one of them and I see a huge difference in the students that I have started building a relationship with rather than the ones that I do not have one with yet. I have to keep pushing myself to ask names and shake hands even if it seems uncomfortable or annoying at times.

Lately I have been praying that every interaction with students and co-workers would be done with the compassion of Jesus Christ. The Lord is so faithful in reminding me of that in my moments of impatience, selfishness or frustration. For example, I found out today I am suppose to do lunch duty. I was not too excited about this in all honesty. As I walked in I saw the administrators looking stressed out and overwhelmed. I thought of my Dad (who is a principal of a large Urban High School) and realized I can do so much to help them out in this short 20 minutes I am required to be in the cafeteria each day. When I left I noticed a lot of trash on the floors and tables and was humbled in picking up each piece. Wow, the Lord reminded me that every interaction with someone is huge; whether that is a face-to-face interaction or an across the cafeteria glance. EVERYTHING I do must be in HIS name and for HIS glory, not my own. No matter how big or how small that task or service is. I am strangely excited about lunch duty now; hoping that my service will be a light to my administrators and hopefully at least alleviate some of their stress for the day.

Just another day at the Haven....

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

First few days....

It's official. I'm a Urban Educator.

I am sitting in a coffee shop GULPING down some wonderful coffee. I only allow myself to have it once or twice a week so I don't get addicted, don't worry. Working on all my master's coursework and need to focus, but thought I deserved a break so I'm on here.

There is SO much from this week already. Mainly this:

You know you are in MCS when your students ask you if you are German or Canadian because you are white and NOT from the South.

Alright that's enough for today :)
There is so much to say, but I have to get back to studying.

The photo above is of KIPP DIAMOND Academy here in Memphis.
It is a charter school that is really pushing academic achievement and succeeding in incredible ways. We have 7 residents doing their internship their this year.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The old guys at Panera.

I'm sitting in Panera right now working on school work. I came here just because it reminds me of home. Sad but true... There are very little things in the town that are similar to home, so I take it up as much as I can.

There are three old guys beside me, enjoying coffee and talking about the upcoming high school football season. They have switched from buying hard wood floors and the outrageous cost of it all. I have never heard so many curse words and every one is putting a smile on my face. Especially when he says Home Depot as Home "Dah-Poe". Oh I love old guys. :)

He just said, "Damn right... I have never seen so many obese women as I have seen in the city of Memphis...." Oh my goodness this conversation is getting better and better. I want to record it!

Next topic....

I've GOT to do a better job of updating this thing. It's going to be my "school-year" resolution!
Here are a few things I've been up to lately...

Master's Classes:
1. Got my first 3 A's in my master's program :)
2. About to finish up 2 more courses.
3. Finished observing at KIPP DIAMOND, a charter school in Memphis. That is what the picture above is... my group with our KIPP shirts. Don't we look like teachers?!?
4. I start in the classroom Monday with teacher inservice and then on the 9th with students! Crazy!

Outside of MTR:
1. Went to my first southern wedding outside of Nashville. It was BEAUTIFUL. A small town called Franklin, TN. When we pulled into town, someone asked me if this is what small town Kansas looked like. My response? I just started laughing. They said... so what DOES it look like? My response to this one? Beat up farm trucks and a stop light if you are lucky. Anyway, we danced the night away and it was such a fun experience.
2. Went to Shelby Farms, a large part in Memphis, this morning with a friend for a long bike ride. It was great. I miss being outside and in the country and that is going to be one of my favorite places in Memphis. It is beautiful! There are buffalo, running trails, turtles, ducks, biking trials, strawberry fields, and lots more.

Those are a few things going on. I need to get back to work.
The old guys are still going... Now they are talking about air conditioning and plumbing.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

I promise I'll do better!!

I promise I'll do better updating this thing! :)

After having a class from 8-3 today...Tonight we went to a redbirds game (triple A baseball). The MTR krew rocks (see all my new wonderful friends above), just love all these people a whole lot. Our director took us to the game, fed us and there was a fireworks show at the end! The only DISadvantage was the stinkin Memphis HEAT and HUMIDITY. Oh my goodness, I looked a hot mess.

Anywho. I will be updating this more. Please keep reading you like! Love you all. Gotta get some zzz's.

P.S.: Memphis Moment of the week: Watching the sunset on the Mississippi, with a Sonic slush, and seeing a shack/boat float down the river. I think the real Huckleberry Finn was in there!