Friday, December 17, 2010

What I've Learned This Semester

Today I celebrate my 27th birthday and the last day of school for has been adventurous, enlightening, and - at times - very annoying and frustrating. But, nonetheless, I survived the first half of my first year as a teacher and I've learned a few things along the way:
  1. Being a floating teacher stinks. On the bright side, I don't have a room to decorate.
  2. While there are always a couple of poop-heads in the mix, overall I have some really good students (but I will probably always call them "creatures").
  3. It's OK if I have scribble marks and White-Out in my grade book.
  4. Not every student will pass my class.
  5. There are lots of ways to spend my free time...grading papers is not one of them.
  6. I am the adult in every teacher-student conversation.
  7. Being cool - according to 7th graders - is not in my job description.
  8. Every day is a new beginning. I greet students with a smile and hope for a good day.
  9. I can laugh at myself, even if no one else thinks I'm funny. 
  10. Patience is a virtue.
  11. I'm not all that impressed with Texas history, I still prefer U.S. history and would like to teach 8th grade someday.
  12. I am not perfect.
  13. Passing out in front of 7th graders was a good thing. They remind me constantly to eat and take care of myself. Plus, it proved I am human.
  14. Teaching at any level is great birth control, but middle school is a league of its own.
  15. My expectations of students are too high in some areas, and too low in others.
  16. The expectations I have for myself are too high in some areas, and too low in others.
  17. Organization is crucial.
  18. I need to improve my documentation and organization system.
Whew, what a time this has been. I have enjoyed the past 4 months, but I'm going to fully enjoy my Christmas break with family and friends and return to school in 2011 rejuvenated and ready to have another successful semester.

God bless.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

There's No Place Like Home

There are no words to describe the delight I have experienced this past week in Kentucky. Dorothy was right, "there's no place like home!" The weather was spectacular - sunny most days with very cool temperatures, plus a light dusting of snow on Thanksgiving Day! It was great to see everybody too. I have such a wonderful family...related and non-related.

As I do every time I pull out of the driveway headed back to Texas, I cried like a baby.

When I arrived Sunday afternoon (I left Texas at 2:30 am, so my arrival time was earlier than usual), Mom and Dad and their pack of pets greeted me in true Kentucky fashion. Tess, Ben, and Speck were wagging their tails so fast their bodies were twisted. I met the two newest members of the family: Misfit and Janey, the adopted cats. There was obviously one doggie missing and I was quick to ask, "Where's Case?" She had somehow escaped Doggie Daycare (a.k.a. Mom and Dad's house) and was still on farm-arrest (a.k.a. staying with her rightful owner, Kaleb, at the farm).

Before I went to the farm to "rescue" Case, I had to make a visit to the cemetary. Since it had been a full year since I had been home to KY, I missed the funeral of G.T. One reason I wanted to come home for Thanksgiving - besides the obvious turkey day celebration and family time - was to pay my respects graveside. I miss G so much.

I spent a lot of time driving around the beautiful countryside of Western Kentucky visiting family (remember, I don't have friends - I have extended family members!) and taking pictures along the way. There were times when I would park my car on the side of the road and walk into the empty fields. Believe me, I am not afraid to get mud on my shoes. Most of the fields in the area are empty, have been rolled over, but some have short corn stalks still standing. Also, most of the leaves have fallen off the trees so the views from hilltops are clear and without obstruction. I hope you enjoy the photos!

Thanksgiving 2010 - McDaniel Family (Louisville, KY)
Back row: Georgia, Brenda, Steve, Carol, me, Kathy, Belinda, Brian, and Jessica
Front row: Joyce, Noah, Eddie, and Nana Rose

Case Tapp

Church located between Dixon and Clay, KY

Country road take me home...

Dad and Kelby (nice sunglasses!)

Main Street - Sebree, Kentucky
I took this picture at 4:00 am this morning; perhaps the lights were left on just for me. Obviously, in Smalltown, U.S.A., there's not a whole lot of activity in the downtown area at this time of day!

There's nothing better than an afternoon drive through the KY countryside!

This is the field behind Mom and Dad's house.

Dad's sweet corn patch and large garden spot and more Tapp farmland in the background.

New friends at Deer Creek Lodge

Jessica (Brian's girlfriend), me, and Brian (my cousin)

Kentucky Sunrise - BEAUTIFUL

After eating a Thanksgiving meal, you have to take a nap!
me, Uncle Cris, Brian (he's hiding behind the pillow), and Jessica
Carol and Georgia are seated at the table.

Bridge to Sycamore Lane
This is Mom and Dad's entrance. Their house is atop the hill and The Shop is the white building on the right, at the bottom of the hill. It's an oasis, party-central, and an all-around awesome place.

The old barn behind me is full of tobacco, but the Tapp's will be emptying it soon.

Ben is giving me lots of kisses; he's probably the sweetest dog I've ever known. And, I've known a lot of dogs in my 26 years!

I'm standing next to Dad's large garden spot and sweet corn patch. The county road is behind me, on the other side of the tree-lined creek.

Smiling Cousins
Noah will be 10 on Dec 13 and I will 27 on Dec 17. We like to CHEESE in pictures!

Robards School
This is my elementary (k-6th grades) school. I was in the last graduating class before the school closed. It makes me sad to see the property's poor condition. I have such fond memories at this building. We were the Roaring Eagles!

I was going to say this is the road Mom and Dad live on, but just about everybody that's anybody lives on this road. And if they don't, they wish they did!!!!

Black Friday was actually a white one in Louisville - I don't think my car has seen snow until now.

Steeple at Webb Memorial United Methodist Church - Clay, KY
This is my 'home' church and where Kevin and I were married in 2007. I love the steeple, it is one of my favorite features of the building.

The Dog Pack
Speck, Case, Ben, and Tess

Webster County High School - my alma mater (class of 2002)

After 11 hours of driving, I was so happy to see this sign!!!!!!!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Battles with the Porcelain God

Oh, what can occur in a span of 24-hours!

I left school yesterday afternoon feeling a bit queasy and sick to my stomach, but I had felt like that most of the day and just shrugged it off to travel jitters or "that time of the month" kind of thing. My plan was to stop in Emory at the in-laws for the night and get up really early this morning and begin the long drive to, oh my, how plans can change!

As soon as I arrived at the in-laws house, I run through the door and into the bathroom - where I stayed most of the night. There is nothing worse than a stomach bug. I absolutely HATE being that kind of sick. It's miserable, disgusting, and oh-so-unpleasant.

The unpleasantness got out of my system around 4:00 am and I was able to sleep through the morning and until 1:30 pm, when Kevin called to see where I was. Much to his surprise, and my dismay, I had to reply, "in bed at your parent's house!"

Good news: I'm feeling much better.

Bad news: I'm still 800 miles from Sebree, Kentucky.

Better news: I'm leaving EARLY in the morning and trying this road-trip thing again!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Happy "early" Birthday!!!

Yesterday (Saturday, November 13) was a total blur. I was up before 6:00 am grading my students' tests and papers before I left for a Texas Teachers training seminar in Arlington. The alternative certification program I am in (Texas Teachers) required me to attend that particular session for an upcoming test I must successfully pass before I receive my permanent teaching certificate. Basically, it was 8.5 hours of test-taking strategies and "perfect scenario" classroom situations about pedagogy (the study of teaching) and professional skills. I scored 79% on the practice test, and I haven't even sliced the plastic shipping cover off of the study booklet I ordered about two months ago. I really need to get on top of that, it's rather critical in my teaching career.

I finally get home yesterday and want so badly to crawl into bed and sleep for the rest of the afternoon and night, but instead I start grading papers again until Kevin finally says, "I'm hungry, but nothing sounds good." Well, that's helpful for the live-in cook we have...named ME. He decides to go to Wendy's because he wants to stop at Home Depot and look at lumber for a squeeze-chute he bought at an auction that needs a new floor before he tries to resale it (side note: he loves going to farm and ranch auctions to buy implements and trailers and other equipment to resale in Craigslist; he's been really successful....and if he's happy, I'm happy.) We go to Wendy's and neither one of us is very hungry so he gets the kids' meal of chicken nuggets and I get the chicken sandwich. For two big-and-tall people eating kids' meals at Wendy's, I'm sure we were a sight. The toys inside the bags were nothing to write home about, so we gave those to two boys eating a Frosty with Grandma and Grandpa on our way out. Good deed of the day: check.

On to Home Depot we go............

Drinks in hand, Kevin and I stroll into Home Depot and price the lumber he will need for his project. He has to go back up there today with the Dodge truck and flatbed trailer because it would not have fit into the bed of the Tacoma last night. Since we lead such entertaining lives, we decide to spend our Saturday evening walking through H.D. looking at power tools, bathroom fixtures (no, the master bath has not been touched...YET!), furnace air filters, and finally kitchen appliances. Fifteen minutes later, we walked out of Home Depot with a receipt for a Maytag dishwasher that will be delivered next week. The one we currently have is on its last leg and the little support brackets that hold plates and cups on the shelves are breaking off and the unprotected metal (where the plastic has broken off) is beginning to rust. Needless to say, we need a new dishwasher. Home Depot was having a sale, so we bought a dishwasher last night! It's pretty fancy too. All of the kitchen appliances are black (not my preference, but they were here when we bought the house) so, of course, we bought a black one last night. It has a clean front with a single handle and all of the controls are inside at the top. It has a stainless steel tub and extra-tall capacity for platters on the bottom shelf. The regular sticker price was $598 and the sale price was $298. For an additional $50, H.D. will deliver, setup, and remove the old one. Sounds perfect.

As we are leaving Home Depot, Kevin turns and looks at me and says, "Happy early Birthday."

"Thanks," I replied.

A quick trip inside H-E-B for some groceries and to home we went to watch football games and I finished the grading I had begun early, early yesterday morning. Now today, after church and the youth's Thanksgiving Dinner, I will record them into the online grade book before I have to submit them to my principal. I also need to finish lesson plans for this week.

Five days until a mini-vacation............Kentucky here I come! :o)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Let the countdown begin...

The countdown has officially begun...just 268 days until I leave on an international mission trip to Haiti. I am super excited and very nervous but looking forward to the trip.

I went on my first mission trip last summer to Oklahoma City with the Genesis Youth Group from First United Methodist Church in Joshua. I knew I wanted to continue working on youth mission teams in the future; it is such a blessed and blissful experience. In 2011, CTCYM will be working along the Gulf coast in Texas and Louisiana. The junior high youth will be working closer to home in the Central Texas Conference. Wherever they go, I want to be a part of the team changing lives and being changed within.

A couple of weeks ago, my pastor and friend, Rev. L., returned from a mission trip to Haiti. You can read more about their trip and mission here. I was most moved of L's trip when she returned to Joshua and shared with the congregation the pictures of smiling, grateful Haitians among the ruin and destruction they call home. In the community of Thor - just outside the city of Port-a-Prince, L and her team helped clean debris around a building that houses the area's district superintendent, a local church pastor, and visiting mission teams. They cleared the debris one five-gallon bucket at a time. Talk about WORK! 

The most touching - and closest moment to Christ for me - was L's story at the Sunday worship service at a small white chapel in Thor at the United Methodist Church. From the outside, it was just another damaged building that had been repaired well enough to host to weekly worship services. But inside, oh it was alive! Contrary to many, the church is not a building. Rather, it is the people! Singing songs of grace and hope and love, L and her mission team, along with their Haitian friends, blended their voices of English and French-Creole into a sweet, sweet melody. At one point in the worship service, an older woman holding her granddaughter handed the small baby to L. For the next two hours, L cradled the child in her arms. No doubt, there is new meaning to holding Haiti in your heart.

I hope you, too, will hold the people of Haiti in your heart and daily prayers. And, I ask you keep me in your prayers as I prepare for this mission trip. The team from First UMC Joshua will leave Wednesday, August 3, 2011.

Here I Am, Lord

I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard My people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin, My hand will save.
I who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear My light to them? Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord? I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me. I will hold Your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of snow and rain, I have born my peoples pain.
I have wept for love of them, They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone, Give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak My word to them, Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord? I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me. I will hold Your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of wind and flame, I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them, My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide, Till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give My life to them, Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord? I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me. I will hold Your people in my heart.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Keepin' my mouth shut

Instead of sharing my thoughts, I'll savor the taste of this non-dairy ice cream. I will piss less people off this way.

Mom always told me, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Much-Appreciated Praise

The first six weeks are over, report cards have been sent home, and the routine of being a "floating" teacher is getting easier. The students have settled - somewhat - and they are learning to adapt their products to my expectations. For most students, it is the first time they have been pushed academically and most of them have accepted the challenge. For others, they will learn soon enough. I have high expectations for these young people because I know they are smart, but they are very lazy. And, truth be told, they have been - in my opinion - "babied" far too long. There are two specific students that I am thinking about right now, that walked into the classroom with an I-don't-care-attitude...eight weeks later, they know Mrs. Hutchison will not accept mediocre work and are performing very well.

When the second six weeks began, I set four goals for myself:
  • attend as many pull-outs and professional development classes as possible;
  • improve communication with parents and document EVERYTHING;
  • integrate more resources with lessons; and,
  • more CLASS work, less HOME work!
It took six weeks for me to learn this, but most students do not complete their homework. There are several reasons for this, including a new block schedule, but overall it is like pulling teeth to assign homework and then have them return it - much less DO the work! Thus, I refuse to fight this battle so I have integrated more classwork activities into my lessons and assign fewer homework assignments. Afterall, the class period is 90 minutes - I have to stay engaged or I lose interest too!

My passion in the classroom is built upon my passion for life-long learning. It is no secret that if I could go to school and get paid, I would - oh wait, I do! Seriously, if I could have stayed in college and gotten multiple degrees and paid for my time, I would have done it. I love to learn. Nowadays, I love witnessing my students experience their own a-ha! moments. The lightbulb flickers and then, BAM! it's bright. Those are small successes that I cherish. I also enjoy those classroom conversations when everyone is listening and engaged in the lesson. For a few moments in time, I have their undivided attention and they are human sponges, just soaking everything in. Those moments are even sweeter when my louder, more rambunctious students are participating.

During today's TEAM meeting, our principal surprised us with a visit. She met with us today to discuss our curriculum frameworks and pacing; miscellaneous requests (i.e., a District-issued laptop would be nice); and upcoming Learning Walks. These are non-evaluative classroom visits by teachers, principals, and administrators to observe and provide an opportunity for continuous learning and feedback on instructional practices. Teachers in FWISD are required to participate on two Learning Walk teams during the academic year. Of course, some of those teachers will have their own classroom visited for one of these walks.

Mrs. B told me that I would be participating in LW's with an additional role: she has submitted my name to the District to visit my classrooms. Of course, I was afraid that she has forgotten about my "floater" status but she complimented me by saying:

Mrs. Hutchison, you have accepted this position as a first-year teacher with ease and determination. You do not complain, and you do not use your situation as an excuse. I have visited your classroom, as have other campus administrators, and you are engaging your students with interactive, well-planned, and well-paced lessons. You are an example of what other teachers need to see, and learn from, during our Learning Walks - which is why I have submitted you to my administrators to be on the list of rooms to be visited by teachers and administrators from other campuses. 

Wow. Thank you, Mrs. B, very much. The kudos I received this afternoon are greatly appreciated. There are been instances where I have doubted my decision and ability to become a professional educator, but these tiny moments of success push me to become an even better one. The Son (yes, I believe in heavenly presence!) was shining on me this 4th period class was well behaved today!!!