:::ONE DAY DOWN:::
My first day of teaching at Friars Point is officially complete! I already feel more at peace now that I have met most of my students and some of their parents. It is going to be a long, hard, but rewarding first year. The most important lesson I have learned about teaching thus far is that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail... the second most important lesson is that improvisation and the ability to think-on-your-feet are not optional characteristics for a successful teacher but are necessary skills that need to be learned and implemented. I am starting to see that when I am confident and just being myself in front of my students, they want to listen and impress me. It is such a beautiful thing to be able to mold the minds of young children - but it is also an enormous responsibility.
Today I went over procedures, rules, expectations, and my beloved behavior chart. We talked about how if you work hard you can get smart. I told them them the brain is like a muscle and if we work hard and we use our brain then it can grow. A few of my students have already been called dumb and have given up on their ability to learn. They all were really interested in the idea that they have the power to make their brain grow. It was a long day and I am exhausted, but I am so excited to get started and see what the year has in store.
:::MORE ABOUT THE LAST FEW WEEKS:::
I am writing this post in my dark bedroom, illuminated only by the occasional flashes of lighting, filled with the sounds of rain on the tin roof outside and dashes of thunder. The last few weeks in Mississippi have been so peaceful. It started when I met my host family, the Richardsons, and their daughter, friends, and relatives. During my time at their house I got a good taste of what it is like to live in the Delta. I consider them my family here in Mississippi.
Every morning I would get up, grab some cereal, and head outside to the front porch where I would make my way to one of their oversized rocking chairs. Here I would start my day off reading, thinking, and praying, while the sun was just coming up over the horizon. After a while, when the Mississippi heat would start blazing, I would head back inside to spend the rest of the day working on a little bit of this or that. It would only be a few hours until their daughter, now one of my closer friends would show up with her four beautiful daughters. She would head into the kitchen and start whipping up some soul food for dinner. She never fixed something I didn't like (well, except mustard greens). Then we would end the night playing pictonary or some other game. I became a regular at their house during my week there and loved every minute of it. They helped me understand the Toby Mac song "When Love Is In The House". Their house was packed with visitors all week. They never seemed to have a spare room and floors were often covered by mattresses and sleeping guests. Ms. Richardson was always waiting with a hand open, ready to help someone. She has a calm yet strong personality that always made me feel like I was and still am a part of the family.
The last night I stayed at their house turned out to be such a blessing from God. There were so many holy moments that made me feel like I was not actually in the room. I was on the phone when Mr. Richardson told me to come downstairs because we were having a gathering. I really didn't know what that meant but I hung up the phone and made my way downstairs. There were about sixteen people all sitting in the living room with a few Bibles scattered here or there. He opened up the conversation, shared a verse and prayed, then he let the Spirit work. Mr. Richardson has a way of being blunt but in a tactful way. It was extremely refreshing and made me wonder why more people are not like that, or even why I am not like that. We spent the next hour talking about faith. People shared, cried, loved, challenged, questioned, and were real. It was absolutely encouraging. Afterwards, we ate and headed outside to dance in the warm Mississippi rain.
When my parents came down to help me move in to my new house they brought a trailer full of boxes. About two weeks ago I sent out a simple letter/email that explained my need for supplies for my classroom. Initially I thought I would get one or two boxes of things that I could use for the year and I had the mentality that something was better than nothing. However, by now I should know that my family, friends, and hometown community has been nothing but exceedingly supportive and I need to raise my expectations. I received boxes and boxes of wonderful supplies for my classroom and my children. Things from pencils to beanbags, folders, books, clipboards and paper. My roommates are a little bit jealous. :) It took my parents and I over four hours to organize and sort through all of the donations. These donations will help to ensure that my classroom will run smoothly throughout the year. Kids are asked to bring supplies to school but in some circumstances they are not able to get the supplies they need. I am so thankful that I have things I can give them throughout the year so they have the same opportunities to grow their brains!
Below is a picture of my students reading in the reading corner. I gave them 15 minutes today to read on their own or in groups. These children love to read but are often given few opportunities to get their hands on printed text outside of school. You can see a few bean bags, books, and other supplies that were donated. My kids were so excited and I know they truly loved the classroom. Thanks to everyone for their support! (I gave a few pillows and supplies to other teachers in TFA and my school that needed some, they told me to pass on a huge "Thank You!" to everyone)