Sunday, July 31, 2005

Ninth Week... And then he rested

Well, the ninth and final week of MTC Summer Training is fninismo. It has been a busy summer and I haven't been this tired since I was coaching. I feel the same as I did when the season ended, like I was just trying to make it through the last day. Normally the summer isn't this demanding, but with the reunion, the problems with 502, and having to work with the TEAM day in and day out, in addition to running the Teacher Corps... well, I'm ready for a break. Which is just what I'll be doing. I'm taking a week off. Doing what? you ask. Nothing. No travel, no days by the beach or nights in the city. I'll be around Oxford, sleeping, reading, watching movies, exercising a little bit. Probably sneaking into the office every now and then to do a little work (no one's perfect). This will be the first vacation I've had since I took this job.

Ginny, our fabulous intern, had her last day on Friday. It was sad for all of us (Whitney, Germain, Dr. Mullins) to see her go. She had certainly become a part of our little Teacher Corps family. I talked to her father on Friday and said, "I can't believe she is only 20 years old." And I can't. With the amount of work she has done she has been an incredible help to me and to the Teacher Corps. I don't think I could have finished the summer without her.

Monday, July 25, 2005


I talk to Me-Me today. We talk sports. How will Monta Ellis do in the league? Who's better, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady? It's good to talk to him and he sounds good. He thanked me for the books. We talk about everything except the giant pink elephant in the living room.

"How's Ricky?" I ask.

"He's good. We're playing in these little leagues they got over there," he says. "He'll be coming home next week."

Ricky and Jeremy, the starting backcourt on the first basketball team I coached in Mississippi. The starting backcourt on the 2001 State Champion Simmons Blue Devils.

"When do you go back?" I ask.

"Monday." Jeremy was the mischievous one, always cracking jokes, always pulling pranks. Ricky was the good soldier, always dependable. They were both in good shape that year because the previous summer they had done their basic training together in Lawton, Oklahoma.

"How long has it been?" I ask, forgetting when he left.

"Nine months," he says. He's been home for a week. Nine months and all he gets is two weeks.

I don't ask him anything else about Iraq. I never even say the word.

After we won the team stood at center court and took pictures and laughed and hugged and then Me-Me gathered everyone together and said, "On the count of three we run off the court," and we did, past all the waiting family members and friends. Ran right into the locker room. Together.

Me-Me's in the store and I can hear people calling his name. He's riding around Hollandale tonight with Larry Brown, his best friend. Larry was the center on the team.

"I stopped in Georgia and saw Prentez," he says. Tez was the shooter. He would hit threes from anywhere. Just let them rain down.

I still remember eating at Pizza Hut afterwards and the bus ride back to Hollandale. The championship game is played at the Coliseum in Jackson. The kids call it "The Big House." When you win a championship it doesn't hit you for weeks, even years. I realize now how special it was, how rare it is.

I get off the phone with Me-Me. I got his number from Jasper, our MVP that year.

I call Rich because he's the only one who would understand. Me-Me was his favorite student. He's asleep, his ten-day old baby daughter lying on his chest. I leave Me-Me's number with his wife Julie. I feel restless. With no one else to talk to I sit down and write about it. "Blog it out," as the first-years say.

I worry about Me-Me and Ricky, and the other kids I taught and coached who are over there. What will happen to them? What will it do to them?

In 2004 another Simmons High team won the state championship. The seniors on that team were freshman when we won. I stand by the court and wait for them with a gathering crowd of family and friends. They take pictures and smile. Then they huddle together and run off the court. They run right by us and into the locker room. Together.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Eighth Week

Week number eight is done and there is but one more week of summer training for the Teacher Corps Class of 2005.

The Team finished on Wednesday morning with individual meetings with all first-years. While there were some concerns with inconsistency among evaluators for the most part I think things went well. The eight days of working with the Team does several things for our first-year teachers:

1) It emulates the practice of lesson planning every day and teaching every day.
2) It gives them immediate feedback from veteran teachers for eight straight days. As teachers they will probably never again get this type of intense, comprehensive feedback.
3) They get to learn from watching each other teach.
4) They get to work with a veteran teacher in their subject-area.

Wednesday afternoon was the start of the end-of-summer workshops. The workshops are always enjoyable because they are so varied and there is no homework. The workshops so far:

1) Teacher Certification
2) "Lalee's Kin." A documentary that aired on HBO about a poor, black woman in the Mississippi Delta and her extended family.
3) Reggie Barnes. The former Superintendent of West Tallehatchie (and featured in the aforementioned film) gives his no holds barred take on anything and everything related to teaching in the Delta.
4) Delta Blues. The Delta is the birthplace of blues music.
5) MTC Film. A Year in the Mississippi Teacher Corps.
6) Sunflower County Freedom Project.
7) MTC Veterans. Presentations, role-plays, and a panel discussion.
8) Extreme classroom management situations. Role-play and discussion.
9) Subject area with MTC Vets.
10) Basic self-defense.
11) Freedom Day with SCFP.

Here are the workshops planned for the upcoming week:

1) Susan Glisson. William Winter Institute.
2) Delta Students Panel.
3) Computer resources for first-year teachers.
4) Delta Administrators Panel.
5) Ole Miss football and the tradition of "groving."
6) Gospel music with the Jones Sisters.
7) Book Club with Dr. Mullins.
8) Continuation of extreme classroom management situations. Presentations, role-plays, discussion.

We will have our end-of-summer social on Thursday evening and that will be it...

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Seventh Week

We had the first-ever MTC Reunion this weekend. All the events went well. On Friday afternoon we had a town-hall meeting for alumni and first-years. One of the topics was: what should the goal(s) of MTC be? It was clear from the (at times heated) debate that different people have different ideas of what MTC is, and what MTC should be. It is a good starting point for Germain, Dr. Mullins, Dr. Burnham, and myself as this discussion is one we intend to continue throughout the year. Currently MTC has three goals (you can find them on the website) but both Germain and I feel that we need to revisit these.

Governor Winter was the keynote speaker on Saturday evening and he was fantastic. He is one of the best speakers I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. His speech focused on the impact that one teacher can have. My sense is that it was meaningful to the 50+ alumni and the 20+ first-years in the audience.

Reunion planning took a lot of time but it paid off in that everything seemed to run smoothly. This week is the start of the MTC workshops so I jump right from Reunion planning into workshop planning...

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Sixth Week

The sixth week was quiet for the first-years (until Thursday afternoon anyway) and busy for the staff. Tuesday was packed with meetings as I had: a meeting with the Team to finalize everything for the next day; a Reunion planning meeting; a presentation by Ginny to Dr. Mullins, Dr. Burnham, and Germain; a presentation by me to the same people; and a model lesson to teach to the first-year English teachers. I'll write about each:

The Team:

The Team teachers are settling in. The first day (Wednesday) was difficult because the first-years are so gun-shy about the evaluation form we use. This really stems from the misalignment between 500 and 502 from last month. We've fixed the problem for next year but the Team wasn't expecting so much (justifiable) concern and stress with the form.

The Team works with the first-years for two days and then for the next 8 days the first-years teach a 40 minute lesson every day in front of some of their peers and a Team teacher. That started on Friday so Thursday night I'm sure the first-years were up late designing and practicing lessons for the next day.


Reunion planning is still going well. Ginny, Whitney and I walked through Johnson Commons Ballroom, where the Reunion will be held, and the classrooms in Bondurant Hall, where the older kids will be. Whitney keeps saying that she is going to get an ulcer. I guess there are few things more nerve-wracking than being responsible for other people's children.

We've got about 50 alumni, 20 special guests, and 20 spouses or significant others confirmed to attend. Five days...

Ginny's Presentation:

One of Ginny's projects this summer was to interview school administrators and see how MTC compares to other first-year teachers. Ginny presented the findings to the bosses. It went very well and Ginny did a great job. You can view her powerpoint presentation for yourself by clicking here.

My Presentation:

I have been Program Coordinator for exactly two years (I started on July 1st, 2003). I put together a presentation to look at the growth MTC has made in those two years. You can view it as a self-navigating QuickTime film here or as a PDF document here.

My English Lesson:

Because we have no English teacher as part of the Team I taught a model English lesson for the first-year English teachers. It was neat to dust off an old lesson plan and my "teacher persona" for a minute. As always, the key to an effective lesson is organization.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Team

The first-years have a long holiday weekend with Friday, Monday, and Tuesday off. When they return on Wednesday they will start EDSE 501, with the group of instructors we have affectionately dubbed "The Team." The Team is a group of five veteran high school teachers who will critique all of the first-years for eight straight days of lessons. This provides a lot of opportunity for growth and feedback.

This year the Team is comprised of:

Virge Cornelius: A NYC native and Smith and Harvard grad who has somehow made her way down here. She teaches math at Lafayette High School, and also teaches MTC in the fall with "Advanced Methods of Teaching Mathematics."

Judy Youngblood: She has been with MTC from the very beginning. A veteran science teacher who taught in the Oxford School District for 25+ years.

Wilma Logan: One of the best teachers I've ever had the pleasure of working with. She teaches US History at Lafayette.

Gloria Smith: Our second math teacher, and all-around organizer. Without Gloria keeping track of everything we would all be in trouble. She teaches with Mrs. Logan and Virge at Lafayette.

Allison Litten: One of the weaknesses of the Team (in fact the only weakness, in my opinion) is that none of the Team teachers have experience teaching as part of the MTC. In the last two years we have brought in a MTC vet to fill this role. This year it is Allison Litten, French teacher extraordinaire, who taught for three years at Brookhaven High School as part of the almighty MTC Class of 2000. Although Allison is a Williams College graduate we are still excited about having here down here this summer.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Fifth Week

The fifth week is done. It was a low-key week as the first-years had both Monday and Friday off and the second-years are gone for the summer.

This was the last week of EDSE 500, which is the first class that participants in our program take. This year the class was taught by Ms. Ann Monroe for the first time (but hopefully not the last). I didn't know Ann when Germain recommended her several months ago. She traveled down to Belzoni with Germain and I in the Spring to visit some of our teachers and we had a good time. I thought she would do well with the class, as did Germain. We were both wrong. Ann was outstanding. She basically built the class from scratch (after incorporating some general themes that Germain and I wanted covered). She generated an enormous amount of material (you can see her powerpoints on our website) and covered all the basics of lesson planning and classroom management, which is not an easy task when you consider how broad those two topics are. We do evaluations of all teachers and classes and the students loved Ann as well. Germain and I met this week and our hope is for Ann to co-teach the fall class with Germain and to teach all of the first-year classes next summer.

The last class for Ann was on Thursday afternoon and I told the first-years that in the same way they are starting to trust what we're doing with the program and buy into the Teacher Corps, Ann has as well. I think we've got her hooked on this program, its goals, and the quality of students in the program. As I told Ann, "How often in life do you get to be a part of building something that is the best?"

We had another student speaker this week: Jasmine from Hollandale. I coached her older sister and knew Jasmine a little bit when I taught in Hollandale. She was in Oxford visiting her sister for the week so I had her come and talk to the first-years. As when Ashley spoke several weeks ago, the first-years were completely engaged. So much of the program focuses on the kids, and how to be a good teacher to these kids, and yet until they start teaching in the fall they rarely, if ever, get a chance to talk with students from the schools that we go into. Jasmine did a great job. She talked about how her father (who was the school counselor when I taught at Simmons) and her three older sisters (all of whom graduated from college) have inspired her.