Sunday, July 8, 2007

An introduction of sorts...

The need to do something academic has overpowered me these past few days. Going along with the current trend, I decided that a blog would be good use of my time and a way for me to document these times in my life. By "these times", I mean my close encounters with the third kind, aka pre-teens and teenagers.

Hi, I'm Ms. Longhorn and I'm a middle school math teacher. (All together now... "Hi, Ms. Longhorn.")

That's right, not only do I choose to work with and teach the melodramatic members of society on a daily basis, but I choose to teach them the work of the devil (at least that's what most of them think): math. That's right, I do have a death wish. But MATH + TEENAGERS = FUN in my book.. see how I incorporate a little math in there for you? You are smarter already!

Unlike most of my friends in college, I didn't always want to be a teacher. I didn't have a chalkboard and pretend classroom when I was little. I played sports, rode my bike, tormented my sister and was generally getting into things I shouldn't have been. Teacher was not on that list. I always loved kids and being around them. I started babysitting at the age of 11 for the neighborhood kids, and could have had a full-fledged business by the time I was 19. Don't tell the IRS, but I pocketed some major dough from 2000-2002! But all the while, my main focus was on animals. I grew up with many, starting from my childhood border collie who died when I was 16, to the cat we adopted when my parents divorced in 1993 (who made the trek with me to college and is back with me now living on my own), to the poodles we got a few years later. Intermingle 20 cats (long story, but we basically became a shelter for slutty female cats), 2 other short-term canine live-in's, 2 rabbits, 2 gerbils, 8 birds and a few fish along the way and that covers the pet portion of my life. So, could you blame me for wanting to be a vet? This stayed with me until I did a research project in 7th or 8th grade where I shadowed our family vet. Didn't take long for me to figure out I couldn't stomach most of the things involved in that profession. Blood and needles out, I just wanted to play with the pets.

Fast forward a few years and that brings you to my fascination with whales and dolphins. I could have been on Free Willy, minus the vandalizing and foster child part. Sea World ranks up there with Disneyworld on what makes me giddy and happy. So one summer in HS, my best friend and I sign up for a camp through the state university that runs a marine biology program. I loved it! Learning about the ecosystems and family dynamics of whales and dolphins, tracking them out in the Gulf of Mexico and working with a rescue group that helps stranded marine life; all awesome. Necropsies and wetsuits; not awesome. We already established the blood and needle thing, lets go ahead and add dead things to that list too. Being the ripe old age of 16, that suddenly got bumped down on my list, with the top spot as blank as ever. So I head into my senior year of high school, now having no idea what I want to do in college. I was accepted into the work program in school, which allowed me to leave as early as noon to work outside of school. I either had to have a food-service job or a daycare job. Having worked at CiCi's the year before, food service was out. Props to anyone who waits tables or works in the restaurant industry... people are very crabby about their food.

So I interview at a daycare smack dab in between my school and my house. For whatever reason, I got that job. From 2-6:30 during the week, I was one of two teachers in the 2-year-old room. I absolutely loved it. Nothing made me happier to walk into a room of 15 2-year-olds and have them shout out my name and run towards me, sticky hands and all. I knew I wanted to work with kids from that point on. I worked at that daycare from August 2000-May 2002 working in all the room, infant to school age. I left because my boss wouldn't give me a raise. I was the only person who had been there longer than 6 months and was working for $6/hr. I figured I earned that one, but was denied so I left and made my babysitting clients very happy.

I graduated HS in 2001, and headed off to college about 35 minutes away from my house. I was only 17 and not really socially ready to be out on my own, but enjoyed the academic part of college. I started out as a general education major, not really knowing exactly what my calling was. One semester on campus and I transferred to a branch of major college in Texas, where I lived at home, went to class, worked at the daycare and didn't do much else. I fell into a rut and became extremely depressed. My mom informed me that I was moving out when Fall Semester 2003 came around. Pissed that I was being "disowned" (or so I thought) I followed one of my few friends who actually left for college and went to the best place in the world for me. I had roommates, I lived near campus, I made friends (including my best friend who might as well be my sister), I re-joined band/marching band, I was involved in activities, sporting events and other things. As an education major at my school, you were required to take an elementary math class for teachers. This is where I fell in love. I always loved math and anything related. Logic, codes, puzzles, algebra, trigonometry, pre-cal, etc. I had a great professor who really pushed me to take that passion and learn to teach others.

I had a content area, just not an idea as to a grade level. Having the opportunity early on at my school to tutor elementary and middle school level kids, I knew the very young ones and very old ones were out. Teaching 2+2 doesn't really get me going, and I just am not smart enough to teach Alg. II/Pre-Cal.. I can learn it, but with teaching you have to have an extreme understanding of how things work, connect and build on other concepts. I just liked learning it. So that left the middle of the road and thankfully my school had a Grades 4-8 Math program. The 7 other girls in that program and I became sisters... we studied, partied, laughed, cried and bonded during the next 3 years. We supported each other through our internship, our crazy advisor, our ridiculously extreme requirements, our waning social lives, and many others. There were illnesses, deaths, births, weddings and vacations that we experienced together. We were sisters.

Then graduation comes around faster than I ever thought, and it's all over. All that hard work, my year of student teaching, my entire life walked across that stage in 2006. We all cry, promise to stay in touch and go our separate ways. 3 are now married, one more getting married in 2 weeks! One is in the Air Force, another no one knows where she went. Do we still keep in touch? I do with the 3 I was closest with, but the closest any of them are to me now is a 5 hour drive. Thank goodness for Facebook and MySpace! I miss college. I miss going to IHOP at 3AM just because we can. I miss football and basketball games. I miss MWF classes that you just stop going to at the end of the year. I miss the feeling of being a student at my school. I miss our local hangout. I miss so many things.

But now I'm in real life. I moved back in the metro area of my hometown, about 25 min away from my mom and stepdad. I interviewed with a really great suburban district in March 2006 and got the job. First interview got me my first job. Not bad. I was going to be teaching 7th grade math, both on-level and Pre-AP. I spent my first summer "on my own" decorating my apartment, getting reacquainted with the city, and attending hours upon hours of staff development and classes to prepare me for my year ahead. Nothing prepares you for your first year of teaching except actually doing it. My year long internship definitely helped, but the feeling is so different when there is someone else in the room who is REALLY in charge. I was thinking while laying in bed the other day, "What did I do/say on the first day?" In all honesty, I can't even remember. My first year was such a blur, don't expect me to remember a specific day!

As blurry as it all is, I will never forget how wonderful my first year of teaching was. I work with some of the most amazing people I have ever met. Our grade level is composed of 3 teams, and I must say that my team is the most amazing. I love them all. Within each grade level is a department, in my case, the 7th grade math department. These ladies are the reason I got through my year. With all the stuff that we are required to do individually, these ladies never hesitated to stop and explain something to me if I was having trouble. Teamwork at its finest. The students for the most part were absolutely amazing as well. I have never laughed so hard and cried so hard because of these kids. They are the silliest bunch of "children-who-think-they're-adults". For anyone who has a child who is 12, 13 or 14, you know... they are watching Hannah Montana one minute, then going to see Hostel the next. Stuck between two worlds... the drama never dies, neither do the tears, laughs and memories.

Living in the same town I teach in has its perks. I have seen many of my students/parents around since then end of school... movie theatre, mall, grocery store, etc. That is also a downfall... would you want to see one of your teachers in sweats and no make-up after working out? Yikes. I guess I better go tidy up before I go out... karma tends to deal in big doses with me!

Quote/Question of the Year:
*while going over box models for dividing fractions*

S: Ms. L, why in the world are we having to learn how to divide boxes to represent fractions?

Me: Well S, it's because you are required to have an understanding of the problem in a picture form.

S: Yeah, but why boxes? Is there just some idiot at their desk who makes up these rules saying "Hmmm.. I think I'll have them divide boxes today!"?

*class erupts in laughter... me trying to hide my smile*

Me: Yes, S. That is exactly what happens.


ms-teacher said...

Good introductory post! Welcome to the blogosphere :)

EHT said...

Hi! Thanks for visiting History Is Elementary and even though you are a math teacher I hope you stop by often.

I enjoyed learning all about you up front and your journey into teaching. I was one of those who taught her teddy bears each afternoon everything I had learned at school that day. I had the smartest teddies in the neighborhood.

Even though I had always wanted to be a teacher I found myself in the legal field as a paralegal for a long time and then I served a stint as a stay at home mom. Finally, at 38 I entered the classroom.

I love your conversation with "S". He hit the nail on the head....we have too many someones sitting behind a desking making stuff up. :)

I'm on my way to add you to my blogroll now!

Mister Teacher said...

Welcome to the blogosphere! (Gee, I feel really nerdy saying that.)
Always good to have a fellow Texan, and a math teacher to boot!
I look forward to more posts!

cb said...

Nice to find your blog!

I too teach MS math plus technology classes. Located in a massive suburban district in south central Texas. Even though I'm probably quite a bit older than you I just completed my second year as a teacher and I love it. I must say, however, as a man I don't quite get the oohs and ahhs you mention on the post about male teachers. Maybe being middle aged and married for 25+ years makes me blind to that kind of thing!

I'm looking forward to hearing more about your exploits and commiserating about the low points in our careers.

Cheers and keep up the posts!