"My Mississippi Teacher Corps Experience"
I entered the Teacher Corps expecting the worst and hoping for the best. All in all, I would say that is has been a rewarding, character-building, and eye-opening adventure. I often characterize it as the "Marine Corps" of teaching and I believe that analogy holds true. It is an extreme challenge. It has many ups and downs and can really test one's limits in terms of dealing with mismanagement and ignorance. For me, it provided a window into the various aspects of the web of public education. I was able to gain a top-down view of the education bureaucracy. I feel that it was an advantage to be the only MTCer in my school the first year. I was treated as a regular employee and not a member of an outside group. I was able to blend in and avoid being singled out as an outsider. I also followed those "ten tips" in the blog below and they helped me to achieve professionally and not make any ripples personally. In my second year, I have become a little more vocal and a little less filtered. I find myself returning to those principles I held the first year as I contemplate doing a third.
This experience has had it's ups and downs and ebbs and flows. I began this year sure I would be a Principal some day, spent the middle thinking I would leave K-12 in favor of a coffee mug job at Ole Miss, to now, contemplating teaching a third year and then heading towards administration. I could end up farming soy-beans but this is representative of my whole experience. It is a bit of an emotional and physical ride.
This has made me a transplant Mississippian. I am now official. License, car tags, house, dog with local tags, and a host of regular spots around town makes me feel more and more at home everyday. I lived here five years ago and now I feel that I am hear to stay. I may just end up being a Mississippi K-12 lifer. My first stint in Oxford I felt like a tourist. I now feel like a resident. This is an amazing place to live and I am glad that I made the decision to leave Emory to come home.
I have met some amazing people and established some friendships that I hope are lasting. One of the people that I have truly come to admire is Dr. Mullins, both professionally and personally. I would like to follow in his footsteps. He has worked hard to reform education in this state where reform doesn't come easy. I hope that myself and other MTCers continue to push for the changes we need to help the deserving kids here.
How did it all go? I was punched in the face, laughed my head off, belittled by leaders, interviewed by the sate department, cried on, bled on, and experienced a plethora of other experiences and emotions. It has been crazy. I even feel a little crazy that I get excited thinking about the possibilities and reforms I could do in a third year in my school.
My accomplishments: Reforming school procedures and rules to make it run more smoothly. Being on the Building Leadership Team, I have been able to make some changes and give some input. We were able to get an ISS that teachers could send students to in my last semester which I had been pushing for since year one. My students had the highest QDI (test scores) of all the English teachers in the school. I had a successful chess club for my first year with about fifteen kids. I created the first golf team in the history of the school. This is another motivating factor to stick around because they are really good. I think it would be cool to have my all Black team whip Marshall Academy next year since my kids had never held a club before this year. They are now teeing it up at Kirkwood National. I have learned tons about TST, PBS, Educational technology, and teaching in general. My district has afforded me many incredible opportunities, including the NMEC Principal Institute. My largest successes are in the small academic victories and the relationships with my kids. For whatever the reason, I have been able to establish myself in the school and the kids respect me and treat me well. I try to return the gesture.
My failures: too many to list. There is always a mountain to climb and limited resources to do so. I have slacked at times and robbed them of instructional time, I have said things I wish I hadn't, I haven't participated in as many after-school events as I should have, etc. I also really failed in contacting and connecting with parents. I see first-years on the phone with them all the time and I never call a parent....literally never.
With all of my faults and failures I would consider this experience a success. There have been more good times than bad and I have survived pretty tough working conditions. I appreciate all of the relationships that I have fostered and value the time that I have had with the kids. I do not know what the future holds. I may be a teacher. I may be a Principal. I may be a farmer. I know that I will always cherish and look back on this experience as a major turning point in my life. It brought me back to the state I love. I think I have found my true calling to work in education in some capacity. I believe in the mission of the Teacher Corps and would encourage anyone who is up for a challenge to apply. You may just find yourself a second-year reflecting on time well spent and indescribable memories.