Keila's Blog

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

My Principal and other things I need to work on

This school year I believe I had many failures as a first time teacher trying everything and anything all at the same time. I had failures when it came to dealing with students and behavior. I had failures when it came to dealing with my gossiping with staff members. I had failures when it came to me dealing with parents. I had failures when it came to me getting to work on time at 7am every morning. I had failures when it came to me dealing with managing my time during my planning period and most of all I had the biggest failure when it came to me dealing with my principal.

My principal this year was not the principal that hired me. I found out 3 weeks before school that my principal quit to move back to Jackson and that they had hired a new principal. I first met her when I came to visit her school in the Delta with another one of my classmates who was to be teaching there. When I told her my name she told me that she did not remember seeing it on a paper of who her staff was to be. Of course I said nothing because I knew I had passed the Math Praxis and that either way I was in Teacher Corps and that I would have a job. She told me she wanted to meet with new teachers like that next Wednesday at 2pm. I arrived that next week and she did not show up until 2:45pm and then she told me that she still had not seen my name anywhere and told me to go over to the central office. I went and they explained to me that they had not received my Praxis scores yet. I had them on me and showed them to them and then was told to pick up my license in Jackson on that Friday in the afternoon.Once school started my new principal showed off her real principal personality. She was a dictator and wanted everything to be her way only. If you had an opinion it didn’t count and if you tried to give her your opinion she would embarrass you in front of not only staff, but students. She quoted rules and laws and never once gave a hard copy of these things to anybody

Sunday, June 18, 2006


I have been so blessed to be part of such an excellent alternate route to teaching program, happy to be placed at the school with the kids I was given and lucky to have the best mentors a first year could have. Before I even came down to Mississippi, Yolanda Cox, who was a Chemistry teacher at my future high school and a 2004 member of the Mississippi Teacher Corps, contacted me. Every question and problem I had, she was willing to answer and go the extra mile by personally taking me to places I was unfamiliar with. Other mentors that I have to attribute my success to are 2004 corps member Monica Govan and 2005 corps member Torsheta Bowens. I consider myself to be successful because I have endured a year at my high school and will be returning back next year in my same position because I like what I do and I enjoy the school’s environment. Success is when I can come in after not being there the day before and a few students ask, “Ms. Foster, where were you yesterday? Did you miss us? Ms. Foster I know you missed us? Well let us know when you are going to be sick so we can bring you some orange juice.” You try to have your teacher face on, but you cannot not smile after those comments. I have learned after this year that the students are used to you and want to see you every day, so when you are not there it messes with them somehow. Success is when I have upperclassmen that will never have me as a teacher but come up to me and ask about my alma mater, Howard University, or see me in the Beauty Supply store and come up and ask if the jewelry they are buying matches their dress. Success is when a student sitting in from my room from another class I have to watch for that period say to me in the middle of working, “Ms. Foster the reason why I like you is because you are different. You just have a style I have never seen.” These kind of memories from my first year are what make me laugh and what makes me feel good about myself

Holly Springs Summer Teaching

This summer I was part of the first ever joint partnership between Holly Springs School District and MTC. When the idea was first presented to us in the spring, I was probably one of the few teacher corps that though it was actually a great idea. I figure I am still a novice teacher and I need all the help I can get and if there are going to be others in the classroom, I won’t be teaching the entire time anyway. Also, teaching summer school would give me another chance before starting the school year off again with my classroom management. It would be kind of a time to experiment with students you will never see again. When Ben finally gave us the final schedule, I was still excited to teach. I am teaching 7th grade math this summer with another guy in the program who teaches in the same kind of Delta school district that I teach in. We only have 8 kids in our class this summer and even though they all have different personalities, it gets boring sometime with such a small number. I enjoy the administration and the accessibility to materials at the school. My summer school classroom is way better looking than my regular school year classroom. I did experiment on my students with my new classroom management environment I want to implement in the fall and it works for me the periods that I teach. I overheard one student at lunch say, she didn’t want to sit directly next to me because she is scared of me. I was scared of my parents growing up because I knew they meant business, but I still knew that they loved me! I especially am enjoying the town of Holly Springs itself. I am learning a lot about the history of the town and the history of the school. I have even walked around the neighborhood where the school is to take in the small town environment. I would like to do more research on the town just to know about it for myself. I also have had the chance to watch some of the other 2nd year teachers to see how they teach. This summer has already been an awesome experience, EXCEPT for the waking up at the crack of dawn. The only thing that I am not pleased with is the whole “Lead Teacher” deal. Who is to say that one teacher is better than the other.


This school year has truly been a roller coaster year for me. LITERALLY!!!
I was a “fresh meat” teacher. The stacks that were against me were that I was young and a Yankee. The stacks that were for me were that I knew math, could relate to the students and had one prep (which would make it easier to devote more time to the students).
Throughout this school year I have thought of many different ways I want my classroom to run differently for the upcoming school year. There is one teacher I started to go observe during my planning period during the first week of school. She was the freshman Biology I teacher and had what I thought to be excellent classroom management. Her students were silent the entire time they were in class, even before the bell rang. Even during the end of class when there was nothing to do the last 6-7 minutes before the bell rang, they were totally silent. Mrs. Rudd and I would even talk in the back of class after she was done teaching and her kids didn’t even turn around or start talking to each other or stop working. I know that I do not like chaos and I do not want to continue to stand up around kids and constantly instill rules in them that I have already told them. I knew that one way I WANTED TO START THE SCHOOL YEAR OFF DIFFERENTLY was to instill excellent classroom management at the beginning of the year so that I would scare the students to the point that they would not want to break the rules or try me at all. So I asked her to help me with my classroom management. She started out by explaining to me that these students are different students and that they are “country kids”. They don’t understand a calm voice and a finger to the mouth for “shhh”. She told me that is crazy to do that and that will get laughed at. You have to manage them like their parents and grandparents manage them. You need to be loud with them at the beginning and explain to them that this classroom is going to run one way and that is my way. She also said that she does not have a whole lot rules, black kids didn’t grow up with rules. She had procedures that she instilled in them and if they were not done right then she would instill her consequence of writing something a 100 or more times and if that was not turned in the next day, it would effect their grade. She also told me that she called on everybody in the class to participate and gave a lot of pop quizzes.


I had a student this school year named Joe Fargo who I would consider one of my favorite students this year. Joe was in my 4th period Pre-Algebra class which was my biggest class this year. My 4th period had 26 kids in it at the beginning of the school year and 23 by time the school year ended. One dropped out at the age of 17 in the 10th grade and two transferred to other school districts (Quitman County and Lafayette County). Joe is 15 years old and in the 9th grade. He is one of approximately half of my students who is the correct age and in the right grade. He is about 5’7, dark skinned and skinny, has little muscles, his favorite color is green and favorite name brand is Fila©. He sits in the front row of class and answers EVERY SINGLE question I ask and participates in class lessons with enthusiasm daily. He is always interested in knowing about college and about my college and about Washington D.C. I also had other favorite (smart) students in that class but Joe stuck out because he was very personable. He always used to come in and speak to me and asked to run errands for me and came back during my planning period to get enrichment, not remediation because he loved math so much. One day in class we were talking about the grades the students had gotten for their first nine-weeks. I asked a few what their mothers said about their grades and when I got around to Joe, he said “my mother is dead. But my dad was very proud of my grades.” Right then and their Joe had a piece of my heart. I immediately went home after school to call my mom who is a school teacher and ask her whether or not any children have truly touched her and she said yes, but told me to never let them know that they have a place in my hear.

During the last week of October, Joe was in my class during 4th period and then the bell rang and I took my daily seat after teacher four classes in a row and waited for my 5th period class to come in. As they came in and did their daily routine of putting book bags down and going to wash their hands their was a loud raucous in the hallway. All of my 5th period class run down the hallway to see what happen. When they finally came back in, I asked them what the commotion was all about? They told me that Joe Fargo got in a fight with his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend. I said, “Joe Fargo, are you sure? Not Joe. He has a girlfriend, who, what were they fighting over?” They told me that he had a girlfriend who was a junior and that he was fighting the boy because he was telling everyone in the school that he was the girls “first” and that Joe can not top him. Apparently he had been talking like this for a while and smiling at the couple as he passed them in the hallway and I believe Joe probably just got to his breaking point. I found out that Joe was suspended for 9 days. He told me that he had asked if he could come and see me before he left to get some math work to take home. I smiled.

When Joe came back he did not get in any trouble again and come to find out his girlfriend was pregnant and around the end of the school year he got a job at The Waffle House in the biggest town next to Sardis. I also believe I enjoyed Joe because he came in class daily asking what we were doing today and then when we stayed on a topic too long he would ask if we could please move on to something higher. I ended up giving him a Algebra I workbook to take home, but he opted to bring it to class daily to work in it if he was finished with his work early.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Interesting Math Article

I recently read an article entitled, Why Do So Many Students Perform So Poorly in Higher-Level Mathematics, in the February 2003 issue of the NCTM- Mathematics Teacher Journal. This article encourages teachers and parents to make it clear to students that it must be understood that the college prep high school mathematics curriculum is not one intended for the average teenager. School administrators and teachers should warn average students enrolling in high-level mathematics courses that, unless the students are willing to approach these courses with appropriate drive and maturity, they are setting the stage for discouragement, disappointment and ultimately failure. When students fail, more often than not, that anger and frustration is directed at the teacher, when it is the parents who have enrolled their child in these courses and are not giving them the extra support that they need. Risher makes an excellent observation when she says that, “upper-level mathematics courses are not spectator sports. They require action and constant exercise.” She also goes on to explain that a teacher can model the exercises and demonstrate proper form and strategy, but the “fitness” of a student becoming stronger in math depends upon how much they want to swear through it. The exercise of ingraining math into a students head must be done daily.

How this article affects me and other educators?
The analogy that the author uses comparing learning and getting better at math too learning and getting better at a sport is explained well. How does one expect to get better at a sport or at playing an instrument or at dancing without practicing over and over again? How does one expect to get better at math without practicing problem over and over again?
While reading the article, I noticed that throughout the article while she was explaining that the “average teenager” should not take higher level math, she ultimately never explained the definition of an “average teenager”. Risher also explains that the argument posed by some educators—that students will endeavor to meet the higher expectations that teachers set—falls flat. I for one was forced to take higher level math per the request of my mom. At times I was a little bit slower than the other students with understanding the information, but at other times I was right on level with them. With a little bit of extra


Growing up, if I misbehaved, talked backed or “didn’t mind” my parents, there was one warning and then the next thing coming was a butt whopping. This whopping could have been done by either my mom or dad with the first thing they could put their hands one: a belt, an extension cord, a stick from a tree, a shoe or a stapler. Never looking forward to this, I tried to abide by all the rules my parents set forth in THEIR household. If I went to grandma, aunt or uncle it was ok for them to give me a whopping as well. They did not even have to call my parents because permission was already given.

When I came down to Mississippi and heard the word corporal punishment, I had NO clue as to what that was. After it was explained to me and I called my dad (who is from Mississippi) to see if he believed in it, his answer being, “Yes, it was a part of my growing up in the public schools in Mississippi and it is still a very important part of the educational culture in Mississippi.” With that being said from my Dad, and knowing that the kids I would be teaching would be mostly “black” and that they would probably be receptive to corporal punishment because they grew up with it in their household, I had no problem accepting corporal punishment. After contacting my teacher corps mentor and finding out the history behind it and the fact that many people in the communities still believe in it, I again had no problem accepting it. I am an outsider (non- Mississippian) coming into a community I am not from, so who am I to say that their method of discipline does not work. When I started the school year, I can remember being in the office and seeing the door close and hearing the student getting paddled. I was never privileged to witness one, I don’t know why; it’s as if the administration didn’t want me (an outsider) to be a witness to it. After getting to know the administration a little better I think I finally convinced them that I was worthy of being a witness. So during my 7th period planning the vice-principal started making me a hold the kids hands down on the desk while he paddled them. I can only say that I will make myself available this upcoming school year for the same thing.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Finals moved up to May 15,16,17 last day of school May 26

So at the first staff meeting of the month in MAy, we find out that the Principal had a grand idea to move up the finals earlier. Of course, nobody asked her why (you just don't ask my Principal questions). So I sat and thought about what they pros and cons would be of this. PROS- Stop teaching new lessons, review comes earlier, less work on me, maybe some of the kids who have lives will not come back to school after finals, I can get the kids who stay to help me grade and clean up my room, so again LESS WORK ON ME. CONS- We are forced to teach new subjects after finals, the kids are forced to come to school becuase of some attendance policy my principal makes up or fights happen everday. So the next staff mtg comes and a teacher (who was bold enough) asks the Principal what are we going to do after finals, she laughs and says "Maybe the kids won't show up, if they do just find something for them to do." From that comment, I could infere that she was looking at the PROS list I had made. So finals comes and most of the kids came back to school that Thursday and Friday, I just watched movies. The next week attendance started dwindling down. Below 60 the first day, then 50 the next day, then 40 the next day and the same on Thursday. On Friday a few more decided to show back up, I guess to just be here on Friday and see what they called "Tha Show". I had movies for my kids to watch on Monday and had to give the Library back its tv that afternoon. I had NO kids for the next 4 days because they said my room was boring, I had no entertainment. Of course that was part of my plan from the beginning to make it boring so they would not come. IT WORKED!!! They went to other teachers classes and stayed there for the day. My favorite students did come to my class sometime and they ate lunch with me. I was done packing up my room by Tuesday. I am beginning to like this school.

Teacher Awards Day

The seniors had their Awards Day in School and during the program each class student council gave teachers awards. The award I received was "Natural Affair". What is funny, one of my favorite students in my fourth period who is on student council was sitting next to my desk and turned and ask me, "Miss. Foster, what does Natural Affair mean?". I said, "I don't know, why?". She said, "Just curious". When I walked up on stage and they explained the award, they said it was becuase I am the first teacher and for some people person that decided to not keep a perm in my hair (so keep it natural) and ACTUALLY walk around with it in public. And also everything I do and everyday in class is a different affair. They have had no other teacher like me. I laughed when they were explaining, I actually do like it. I have the award posted on my wall in my bedroom. I am trying to some how wiggle my way into becoming a Senior Homeroom teacher so I can get all the perks of being a senior advisor.