My Story. So Far.

Shelby's musings on life, being a postgrad, and spending two years teaching 1st grade in the rural south

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My First Year Teaching, as told on TakePart.com

It’s been quite a while since I have been on my blog. As a person who values follow through I hope you excuse my absence and blog-neglect for two reasons. First the first year of teaching hit me like freight train and was fairly all consuming for the first few months. But second, my spare time for reflection was spent blogging for TakePart.com. Here is the link to the articles I wrote for them this year. It’s a bit after the fact - but together tells the story of my first year teaching.  

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In dying Delta town, teacher turnover leaves last schoolhouse bereft | Hechinger Report

A somber, but honest depiction of the town and school I teach in.  Although solemn, I could not be more excited that Friars Point’s story and challenges are being shared on the national level. This article was also published in Time, but I’ve linked the original via the Hechinger Report as it includes the beautiful photographs taken by my Teach for America manager, Jacob Carroll.   

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In Mississippi, a Gray Area Between Black and White

A Wall Street Journal article on the desegregation controversy in Cleveland, MS, home to Delta State University and the next town of note down the highway from me in Clarksdale.

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Classroom Vision

The following is my classroom vision, i.e. my compass for what I want my classroom to be like for the year.

Vision: The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.

No student in my class will feel like a failure. They will understand the profound value in who they are and work their hardest to be the best that they can be.

Dream: All of my students will be able to articulate what they want to do with their lives and who they want to be as a person. I will use all that I have learned thus far in my life trajectory to meet my students at this point in their stories, and as their teacher help them along the path to their dreams and open their eyes to the possibilities for their life stories.

 “Overcome the notion that you must be regular. It robs you of the chance to be extraordinary.” Uta Hagen

 Learn: My students will understand the importance of learning in their story and will be invested in their personal growth.

  • Each student in my class will grow at least 1.6 years in reading, assessed by Reading A-Z.
  • Each student in my class will grow at least 1.5 rubric rows in writing, and will be confident in expressing themselves through writing.
  • Each student in my class will be confident speaking in front of the class and expressing their ideas and feelings orally
  • Each student in my class will have 80% mastery on the end-of-the-year summative math exam. They will be able articulate the importance of math in everyday life.

Students will understand that success is not meeting these goals, but working their hardest each day to achieve them. Thus, if they are not on track to meet these goals, they will not feel like failures, but know that success is working their hardest to achieve their goals!

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree; it will live its life feeling like a failure.” Albert Einstein

 Love: In order to achieve these academic goals, my classroom will be a safe environment for my students to be themselves. Students will treat each other with love: using kind words, affirming one another, offering helping hands, and sharing both attention and material objects. The class will see ourselves as a team working together to help each other be the best versions of ourselves that we can be and live the best stories that we can. We will celebrate each student’s uniqueness and diverse talents.

Students will come away from my class confident and proud of who they are. They will gain the knowledge and skills to be on track to achieving their personal dreams. The vision will expand beyond the walls of the classroom. Families will learn about my classroom vision through my welcome letter, parent-teacher night, and consistent communication. They will be invested in the vision as well ensuring that my vision extends beyond the classroom. The student and their family will be on board to believe in their student’s learning potential and work hard to achieve their dreams.

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Preparing for Day 1 

Tomorrow is the first day of school.

As in tomorrow I will have a class of 6 year olds to lead and inspire. It is highly exciting and extremely nerve wracking! 

As I prepare for the first day of school, I have “Home” by Phillip Phillips on repeat.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=EhyiSa2Y5PI

You know that song that NBC used as the Women’s Gymanastics Olympic theme song? The one that the played during a montage of Gabby Douglas sprinting towards the vault and Jordyn Wieber triumphantly wiping away her tears? That one. It feels fairly appropriate today. Right now the first day of school feels equivalent to jumping up to balance beam. 

Okay. So it’s a bit dramatic and audacious to compare my first day of teaching to the Olympic finals, but the point being tomorrow is a big day. But I’m taking Miss Eleanor Roosevelt’s words to heart, and know that in regards to doing one thing per day that scares you I’ve got tomorrow covered. 

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Becoming Teachers

If I have talked to you in the last month, I have probably expressed to you how incredibly exhausted I am, how tired I am of scripting out lessons, and how if I hear the word urgency one more time I think it will actually decrease my ability to be transformational. If that is the case, you’ll be happy to know that’s not what this post is about. This post is actually about what is happening amidst the exhaustion and frustration, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is becoming a teacher. 

At some point during the past month, I transitioned from being a college student in her new professional clothes, feeling foolish trying to hold a clip board while attempting to explain patterns to a room of 6 year olds, to starting to feel like a teacher. I have a long way to go, but it’s starting to feel right!

When I joined TFA I never considered  what a strange transition it would be going from student to teacher. But the first day in my class room, I felt like I should sit down and do addition problems with my kids, rather than tell them to stop talking. It’s a weird thing: you go from 17 years straight of being a student and suddenly it’s like, ready set go Ms. Parsons! I’m the teacher? What? Excuse me? I’m still getting over making new friends and not being afraid of the principal!

Yet, incredibly, at dismassal after our first day of teaching I looked around the gym at my fellow corps members, a group of people I’d known for only a few days, and suddenly felt this incredible camaraderie. We had all spent the last week, pulling ourselves out of bed long before the sun rose, putting on what we thought teachers wore, and sitting through hours of sessions together sweating in our ridiculously poor planned outfits. And honestly, seriously questioning whether we could do it or not. And suddenly, somehow, looking around the room, I saw a room of teachers. We may have felt like failures our first day, but standing in the gym, fully drained, there was an air of triumph. We had just lead our first day of school! And, well, no one died. And only a few people cried. And most of all, I think the majority of kids learned a thing or two. 

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WELCOME TO MISSISSIPPI


State line welcoming me in, visiting Shelby, MS, Mississippi Grounds Coffee Shop, Delta Institute Opening Ceremony, getting my teacher’s lanyard, Pepperdine CM’s and friends with DSU’s mascot the Fighting Okra, and a rainbow over Jim Henson’s hometown Leland, MS