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Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Circle of Life: Why I teach

It's amazing how one person can affect the lives of millions. We've seen it countless times but in today's society I have to be honest and say not enough! How does it start and who does it begin with? For me it starts with God. I could have said parents, but who gave them inspiration to have me?  Hopefully not the music that was playing in the background :-). Either way I'm what you call a testimony. Not the one that is given in a court to determine the fate of someone else's life but the one which inspires a new life within someone else.

The Real Testimony
My daughter Nyla at my Master Degree ceremony
The Court Testimony
Credit: abcnews
My childhood wasn't horrible and it sure wasn't full of glitz and glam either. I have my share of stories that make me laugh, brings a smile to my face and has me wanting to get in a time machine just to have that moment again. On the other hand, I have moments I refuse to relive and ultimately wouldn't want my worst enemy to experience. As a result of both I am today the person who I've never imagined and the scary yet exciting part of that person is she HAS YET to evolve into her completion.

Who I was at a younger age, definitely comes out in my classroom while teaching. This is an advantage I have with my students in which majority of the teachers in my building and truthfully my network or district never will share with my children. It's not that type of advantage that I want to use to better my position but it is the one I ALWAYS use when I feel defeated in a classroom that to the world outside feels to believe nothing is possible. The moment I want to give up on "JR" I remember that I too behaved that way in school just because there was no other way to express my feelings. I understand that "L" isn't ignoring me because she doesn't like me or the content, yet she is in deep thought about how she seriously can she apply what I'm saying to her life now and whatever it will be in the future based solely on what she cannot see. I know how it feels to be in a public school building, that's not funded to complete 98% of tasks yet is expected to do as well as the building in which has billions of reasons to outperform my school because that's just the way it is.

My students during testing time. 
Despite the negative I have to give the joy to what I not only have accomplished but what many more before me and after will continue to achieve. In my short months of teaching in a turnaround this year, I've helped "CJ" who was sent home everyday last year and put on many counselors list for appointments become a student who loves school, enjoys reading and always replies yes instead of yeah or aight to every question. When the counselor comes to pick him up he explains that in the classroom with me teaching will better help him than the strategies he would get if he's pulled out.
My 8th grade teacher

Then there's "TY" who has never spoken to any student because of being bullied, now has taken up for herself but also her peers. Then there's "DK" who has experienced everyone telling him that he was smart just because he could do more than the students in his room, yet now that I've exposed him to his competition outside of the building and outside of the world and instead of feeling incompetent sent me a message through his work that read, "this test is hard Ms. McMillion but I'm going to keep trying". These are the people I live for, this is the work I choose to do. It can be demanding, overbearing, expensive, emotional and down right IMPOSSIBLE at times but I'm confident that the changes I make in my classroom will give my babies the drive they will use to improve their own lives for tomorrow.

I'm trying to give the love that was given to me in the classroom, that has made this change possible. Having the chance to say thank you to my teacher last night at a music concert, made these emotions resurface and at a well needed time of the year for myself and my students.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Time Waits for No One

Wow, I can't believe I haven't even made a post since prior to the beginning of the school year. Well honestly, I can believe it. This school year has been challenging, yet rewarding. Life for me has come full circle in this field of education. I graduated from one of the first turnaround schools in my network during it's first year of turnaround, I trained as a resident in my network and now I teach in a first year turnaround for that very same network. It all has increased my capacity professionally and personally. There are many places that I can start but I'll choose to explore it in depth yet brief. Let's see what I can do!

I began the year teaching reading to 4th grade. Due to an unexpected high enrollment in 3rd grade I was tasked with taking some third graders in my homeroom. This has me teaching 4th grade and 3rd all in the same room. In the afternoon I have another set of 4th graders who honestly I can say are a gift from Father God himself. To the average person you may be thinking, ok no big deal. To any teacher and administrator in education YOU KNOW WHY I HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO BLOG! Let's say it is more than a challenge. Here's my analogy:

You weigh 750 pounds. Your doctor advised you that you must lose 100 pounds in 20 days to live. What do you do? Of course you begin to change your lifestyle from eating to exercise. During these 20 days you have 4 snowed in days (no healthy foods in your home and you can't get out of the door), Thanksgiving happens, 10 dinner dates occur, in addition to all the family in your home (who are also overweight) eat whatever they want. You realize you are fighting for your life and decide that you must keep a clear mind and stay focused. The only way I know how to do that is PRAYING ALL DAY NON-STOP! (haha, ok so this analogy was drastic but bottom line: its hard teaching 3rd and 4th grade in the same classroom in which their reading levels start at kindergarten to 8th grade)

On the up side of life. I TOTALLY LOVE my colleagues and administration. There isn't a day that goes by I can't get a good laugh. My floor of teachers have the best personalities and they make sure we all feel some sort of happiness during the day. It makes the challenging days better. I have the best instructional coach in the network who helps me plan and push my students academically.


Last but not least my wonderful BABIES!!!! (or what regular people call students) I'm a parent who spends 98% of my day educating my children to know both common core standards and the social standards they will need to survive in the world. The other 5% I maintain the politically correct teacher who enforces all the mandates and requirements from a policy that doesn't fund or know anything about my babies. I make sure my babies know that they are in my home when they enter the building. I'm responsible for them and together we work towards the goal of making them better. In the beginning of the year there were clear distinctions between what my babies expected from last year and the force I would bring in this new school year. We have grown to love and know one another to the point it's scary that in a few months they possibly will part from me!

If there's one thing I could leave with you about the time I've spent this school year in a first year turnaround public school in the city of Chicago on the westside would be........ Even in times of desperation there is always time for education! Until next time America (or until the time I can breathe again).