Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My MTC experience...

This is a very hard thing to write about, because I feel like so much has happened in two years time that it’s almost impossible to give a perfect depiction on what this experience has been like. I remember initially finding out about the program at the end of my senior year after I had already committed to spending the next year in Boulder, Colorado and thinking that this had my name written all over it. I wanted to continue my education, but I also wanted the opportunity to teach and coach in an inner-city school.

Earlier that year, I had applied to another program that offered the same type of opportunities and wasn’t granted admittance. I felt that as awesome as those types of programs sounded, maybe that just wasn’t for me. However, after stumbling upon the web site and reading up on what the Mississippi Teacher Corps was doing, I decided to be a little more forward with my pursuit. So, the summer after I graduated from Texas, I decided to make a personal visit up to Oxford during summer training and introduce myself to Ben as well as the rest of the current members. After checking everything out, I just had a great feel about what the program represented. I made sure to send my application out as the first one for the file of 2006.
I still remember getting the voice message from Ben saying that I had been admitted to the program, and then running outside to call my parents to let them know about the good news. They were ecstatic; especially, since they knew how serious I was about wanting to be a part of a program like this.

Now, I think that every person has some vision in his/her mind about what inner city teaching is going to be like, and for the most part, I think everyone that applies for a program like this has a vision of themselves succeeding in that environment. I certainly thought that I would be a natural at it. I had worked with kids before, and my knowledge of hip-hop culture was quite impressive for a 23-year old, white male from Texas. I remember picturing myself in the hall, walking down, giving each student a little ‘dap’ before their next class; it was classic.

I remember summer training where I got placed in a classroom full of freshman girls. I think any young male would succeed in classroom management in this atmosphere, and I think I got a false depiction of what teaching was actually going to be like. The one good thing was that the experience calmed my anxieties about having to teach Middle School math to a group of students without having been a Math major in college.

It was then time for the real thing. My first month was horrible. I did a pretty good job of coping with the lack of success that I was having, but I was completely frustrated with myself. I was doing so much discipline, and I always felt on edge throughout the day. I remember having a nervous feeling all the time during those initial weeks where I think I even lost like 10 pounds just because I wouldn’t eat lunch. I felt like I was letting my guard down when I took bites of my sandwich. This had to be eliminated. It was also a very humbling experience to have to call my dad for advice about my job. I think I had always had a certain amount of pride when it came to school and where I worked that I could handle things by myself, and for whatever reason I just felt like it was not getting any better.

While my dad did give some excellent advice, I think the most useful piece of knowledge that I received was from my mentor Jake Roth. He simply said, “Don’t take anything personally; just move on.” That may be a simple statement to you, but this was revolutionary to me. My biggest problem wasn’t that I was struggling interacting with the kids or teaching math, it was being too much of a people-pleaser. I wanted every student to think of me as his/her favorite teacher, and it really bothered me when a student would display a lot of frustration and anger towards me. However, once I got it through my head that I was there to educate and mentor, it became a lot easier to do what’s best for the child even if that child doesn’t like it.

Now, there were so many joys that occurred during my first year of teaching. We won the city championship in football, I got to be in a documentary, and I even got to the opportunity to coach 5 sports. Along the way, I struck up a couple of lifelong friendships that were definitely blessings in disguise. All in all, it was a very challenging and rewarding year. When the summer rolled around, I couldn’t have been happier though. Don’t get me wrong. I loved teaching and coaching, but I definitely realized how much energy both required.

Then the second year rolled around, and there was such a noticeable difference as to how much easier it got. My classes, for the most part, have gone so much better this year, and I think I’m a much better teacher. I also was moved up from teaching 7th grade to teaching 8th grade, so a lot of my students were repeats from the previous year. It’s crazy to think, but in a weird way, I’ve had a very influential hand in raising them. I hope that it’s been for the better.

The highlight of this year, however, has been getting to be the head basketball coach. Basketball has played such a big part of my life since I was a little kid, so I was so happy and proud to get the opportunity to coach in Jackson, an area known for its basketball play. It also made it even more special that we won the city championship this year marking it the first time in 10 years that Powell has won it in boys’ basketball. We previously had a reputation of being the Buffalo Bills of JPS middle school having been in the championship game 3 of the last 4 years and losing every one of them. Fortunately for us, we had the right mix of players to come in and make things happen at the right time.

One thing that I’m really proud of in my time serving as head coach was that we ran a character-driven program. We began the year with 15 players, and unfortunately, we finished the year with 8. However, we stood by our initial statements that if a player chose to make poor decisions, he would receive the consequences. This included underachieving in the classroom. I was blown away the first time that I learned about grade-changes to get players eligible. It didn’t matter if you dropped 35 points the previous night; if you chose to be selfish, then you were going to reap the consequences. Of the 8 guys that remained, I can honestly say that I saw a remarkable change in their behavior in school. I definitely would attribute a lot of this to being a part of the basketball team. Now, while we did preach and practice a clean program, I think we also had one of the most upbeat teams around. Our guys loved to play the game, and they were a joy to be around. The memories from that season were spectacular, and it’s an experience that I’ll remember for a lifetime.

While teaching moments seemed to dominate my memories from the first year, coaching moments seem to do the same for my second year. I’ve never been so close to students as I have been with my basketball players. I’d do anything for them. It also makes me realize how much I enjoy being a part of a team that is working towards a goal. We had one from the day we started, and we were fortunate enough to achieve it. I can’t emphasize enough how much fun that was.

So, to be honest, if I had to sum up my MTC experience in one sentence, it would be that it was a truly, life-changing experience. It was definitely one of the coolest things that I have ever been apart of, and even if I don’t stay in education, I would love to always keep some sort of involvement with the program. I can’t say enough about how rewarding the program is. If you’re considering doing something like this, you should definitely do it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Coach Perry

One of the things that I'm looking forward to this spring is the opportunity to once again reprise my role as assistant coach to John Perry; only this time in track. Coach Perry was the head coach that I first worked with when I first came to Powell. I helped him coach football, and we struck up a friendship right from the start. He was very instrumental in me getting the head basketball job the following year, and he's been someone who's always gone out of his way to make me feel a part of the coaching fraternity in Jackson. Whether it be introducing me to other high school football coaches in JPS or taking the time to ask for my advice on what type of defense we need to run, he always made me feel like I was a real coach and not just someone who was trying it out for two years.

I think one of the best compliments he ever gave me was asking me if I'd be interested in being on his staff if he received the head coaching job at Callaway for football. He ended up not getting it, but I was so honored that he thought enough of me to even ask.

But one of the things that I love the most about being around him is that he's one of the most effective teachers of the game I've ever seen to inner-city kids. He's a Jackson native that played football and baseball at Callaway and then at Jackson State, so kids see him as quite the role model. He's also a very down-to-earth person. He never puts himself on a pedastal, and he's always cracking jokes with other kids. His humor is so dead-on with the students that he's definitely the most popular coach at our school. He also is the offensive coordinator for Callaway HS's football team, so he does a great job of giving kids a welcoming, familiar hand when they come to high school.

I also think back to Dr. Mullins' class on Leadership where we talked about what makes a leader effective, and one of the things that I've really noticed is that Coach Perry has a ridiculously high social intelligence. He not only can relate to a kid that grew up near Grove Park in Jackson, but he can also relate to a first year white teacher from Texas. He's also incredibly organized, and he's always trying to learn more. He's been a great role model in the coaching profession and an even better friend. He's definitely going to be someone that I make it a point to stay in touch with for a very long time.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spring Break

I just got back two days ago from Spring Break vacation, and I'll go ahead and say this was one of the better vacations that I've ever been on. First of all, I've got to preface my account by saying that the older I get the more important time with my family is to me; especially, since I live so far apart from them. Now, normally we always plan our vacations around certain baseball stadiums that my dad and I have always wanted to go to. I think we're just really fortunate that my mom has developed into quite the sports fan, so she actually enjoys going to these things as well.

Well, a couple of years ago in college, I went with 15 of my friends to Florida for spring training baseball in the Grapefruit League and a few days at the beach. A lot of my roommates and friends were from the Houston area, so our primary focus was on the Houston Astros and getting the chance to see players like Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell up close in the warm Kissimme (I think that's how you spell that city) weather. The trip proved to be a blast, and serves as a trip that gets referenced to quite often when I get around my old pals. Well, I think my dad always kind of book-marked the idea of attending this spectacle in the back of his head.

Well, one of the reasons we almost never do anything as a family over spring break is because our schedules never coincide. My parents are also in the school business, so their spring break was always different from mine when I was in college and even the past two years in Colorado and Mississippi. But as luck would have it, this year happened to be a year where our spring breaks were happening simultaneously. My parents quickly schemed up a plan to attend spring training; except, this time it would be in the Cactus League, which takes place in the Phoenix area.

With a trip as epic as my last spring training outing, I didn't know if a new setting and a new party would be able to reach the high expectations that spring training demands. Thankfully, it turned out to be a blast. First of all, Phoenix is ricidulous. I love the feeling you get when you really explore a city, and it just completely captivates your interest. I can definitely see why people want to live there; especially when they retire. The weather was a consistent 80-85 degrees with NO HUMIDITY!! It was phenomenal. Then we got a chance to see three great games and three great stadiums.

We opened with the Cubs and the Rockies; two of the more dominant teams in the NL that have high expectations for the upcoming year. I've always been intrigued with the Cubs, and now even more so after one year with Lou Piniella. Anyways, the stadium was great, the Cubs fans were second to none, and hey, I even got my picture taken with Ronnie Woo-Woo. He's a legendary Cubs fan. (Elias is googling it right now to check my references.)

The second game we got to see was shared by the Texas Rangers and the Kansas City Royals. It was a night game, so the weather was especially great. Plus, I was having a conversation last night with Landon about how great their addition of centerfielder Josh Hamilton is. The guy put on a show. Plus, he just has a great story.

The last game was probably the best. It was a sellout day game between the Angels and the Dodgers. It was a Los Angeles-fan fiesta. It was like a massive combination of In-N-Out t-shirts, OC chopper tatoos, and Nomah Garciaparra jerseys. It's actually Nomar for those who don't watch baseball, but I've got to pay homage to his Boston stint. That was for you Elias. "Thanks beautiful." What made things even better was that Tommy Lasorda made an appearance in full Dodger uniform. He's looking rather plump these days if you haven't seen him in a while. Regardless, the L.A. faithful went nuts every time he stepped out of the dugout. Plus, it was by far the best game played of the week. The Angels won 3-1, but not before Derek Lowe put on a pitching exhibition for the Dodgers for the first 5 innings.

All in all, it was also a time where I got to have some good conversation with my Dad. He's not much of a phone talker, so when I make my weekly calls it's normally just to talk to my mom. Plus, we even threw on the old gloves and played pitch in the parking lot for a bit. It was probably the first time since my senior year of high school baseball that we actually threw the ball together. I will be honest and say that it only lasted for about 5 minutes until fatigue set in for someone over the age of 50 who will remain namesless, but it was still fun.

So in conclusion, the trip was great, Josh Hamilton is nasty, Tommy Lasorda is heavy, I picked Davidson to make the Sweet 16 (it's true), and I had a great time reloading before the last nine weeks of teaching/coaching.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Humility and Consistency

I recently read Tony Dungy's autobiography which discussed the coach's life, and of course had a huge emphasis on his team's Super Bowl winning season in 2007. While it was kind of typical in regards to most leadership books, there was one point made that really resonated with me. In the second or third year of his stay at Tampa Bay where he coached the Buccaneers, he started preaching a message with his players just to continue to buy into the system and philosophy that the coaching staff had emphasized since Dungy arrived. Let me repeat that statement and capitalize the most important word in the previous sentence. He started preaching a message with his players just to CONTINUE to buy into the system and philosophy that the coaching staff had emphasized since Dungy arrived. I think the more time that I spend around successful teachers at my school, the more I realize that they don't do anything that is that ground-breaking or that exciting. They're not necessarily the rock-star teachers of the school, and for the most part I think they go unnoticed by a large portion of the faculty; but they show up and display a remarkable amount of consistency to a group of students in an inconsistent environment.

I've been trying to adopt this philosophy to my own teaching style this semester, and the crazy thing is that I think it's working a lot more effectively. And....I'm starting to feel more like a true teacher rather than just a teacher that the kids like. I remember coming into the program and having an attitude that I just liked being around young people, simply because they brought me a lot of enjoyment. We seemed to like each other, and I had always craved that kind of attention and affection that kids give to adults that they looked up to. But I think there's a huge part of me that is in constant admiration of someone like Jeremy Fiel.....and please don't think that I'm implying that Jeremy is not a charismatic teacher in his own way. I'm not saying that. What I'm saying is that I think Jeremy is a phenomenally effective teacher because of his consistency and maturity. He's a TEACHER. He's a 24-year old that's a part of a dying breed.

Whenever we get together for class sessions in Oxford, I never feel like Jeremy is one that stands out. His voice rarely displays a varying inflection except when he gets excited, and he's always in class ready to take care of business. But the guy is a remarkable role model not only for his students but for other teachers around. I'm starting to notice how effective a humble, consistent style of leadership is. I wish I'd realized this a lot sooner.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

We're Going to the Ship

As you can tell from the title, we clinched the division last Thursday, and we are headed to the City Championship on Monday, January 28th. But I can’t remember the last time that I have been a part of a game that was that intense. What makes it even more special was the adversity that our team had to overcome to win the contest. We were without our top scoring guard because he was serving a one-game suspension due to disciplinary matters, and our top scoring post had sprained his ankle two days before the game. Guys who were not used to being featured players were forced into unfamiliar roles, and they succeeded. Let me go ahead and give you the breakdown of the night’s action.

The opposing team, Northwest MS, opened the game up by scoring three straight 3-point plays. It was unbelievable. I bet about a minute and a half went off the clock, and we were already down 9-0. We let them get to us a little bit, and I was forced to call a timeout with the score 17-1. After the timeout, we finally settled down and began to play our style slowly chipping away at the score. My top post player, DS, began to go on a scoring tear even with a sprained ankle. By halftime, we were only down by 10.

Northwest opened the half very similar to the way they began it, hitting shot after shot. Their lead got all the way back up to 15, when we once again called timeout with about 1:30 left in the 3rd quarter. I explained that we would go back into our press and that we needed to cut the lead to under-10 by the time the quarter ended, and then we would take care of the 4th. Sure enough, we forced 3 straight turnovers, and DS converted each one into 2 points. The 3rd quarter ended with Northwest up by 9. That was a huge confidence boost to our guys.

The 4th quarter began with us trading buckets back and forth with the opponent. The lead would diminish to 7, then escalate back up to 11. We finally cut it to 5 with about a minute and a half to go when we forced a turnover and DS scored by lay-up. The lead was cut to 3 with less than one minute left in the game. About 20 seconds went by when we fouled their point guard for a chance at a one-in-one. There was 0:40 left on the clock. Their point guard stepped up and hit both free throws to take the lead back up to 5. The shots were devastating. I called our last timeout to talk it over with guys. I explained to two of our guards that if they were to get a wide-open look, then they could take the three-pointer; otherwise, we wanted to get it to DS again to take it in the lane.

We started the offense by working it around looking for DS, but all of a sudden one of the guards got a wide-open look at the goal. Three pointer shot…..GOT IT!! The lead is now cut to 2 with about 30 seconds left. I had also explained to the guys that we would be back in our press and that if we do not get the steal, then we would need to foul immediately in order to stop the clock. Northwest in-bounded the ball and made it to half-court before we were forced to foul them again. One of their guards stepped up to the line and hit his first free throw pumping up the home crowd. He missed the second shot however, and we took the ball back down to our end with 0:20 left on the clock.

Again we swung it around looking for a shot when it came back to our guard that hit the last shot. He attempted the same shot again with 0:15 left except this time the ball would clang off of the front iron. Our other post player, JR, would be in the right position this time though as he quickly grabbed the loose ball. He then took one drop-step back to his right and leaned in for the put-back. As he leaned in, the defense made a strong effort to block his shot. The shot then went up….BUCKET!! COUNT THE BASKET!! He had made the two-point shot and they called a foul on the defense.

The other team called timeout to ice JR, and we discussed in the huddle what we would go into if he made or missed. Regardless, we were going right into our press to try and see if we could win the game on a steal. JR stepped up to the line….SWISH!! TIE GAME!! 0:12 SECONDS LEFT!! Northwest in-bounds the ball and they take it to the half court line where they are met by two our players in a trap setting. The guard then tries an overhead pass and gets it tipped by JR. The ball comes off, and LT, our team’s captain, gets his hands on it and begins to take it down the floor with the clock ticking 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3….FOUL!! It will once again be a one-in-one, and the opposing team calls another timeout.

We briefly talk about how LT is going to make his free throws and then we are going to get back in a prevent defense getting a hand up for all shots. LT steps to the line for the first shot…..SWISH!! We take the lead. He then takes the second shot….CLANK!! The ball comes off the front rim, and JR grabs and tucks it towards his stomach as the clock ticks its last two ticks. GAME!! The students rush the floor, the parents rush the floor, hell, even I rushed the floor. It was awesome. I can’t wait for the city championship.

Poster Children for Perseverance

I was talking with one of my assistant coaches the other day, and I am quite certain that I have never been a part of a team or heard of a team that has had as much turmoil on it. Let me give you a brief recap of how we started the year, and what our current status is. In order to protect the anonymity of my players, however, I will not be referring to them by name. We began the year with 15 players. Ten of them were 8th graders and five of them were 7th graders. Then the season started...haha. We’ll begin the year by what happened first to player 1.

Player 1(that’s how I’ll refer to him) was caught with a fire extinguisher hosing off another student. Result…..45 days at alternative school and automatic dismissal from the team.

Player 2 then decided to run from the school’s security guard on two separate occasions. Result…..3 days school suspension and automatic dismissal from the team as ordered by administration.

Player 3 then missed multiple practices with no excuse, and was caught by an administrator with a bag of marijuana. Result….dismissal from the team.

That’s 3 people gone….try and keep up now.

Player 4 missed multiple practices with no excuse and is currently being investigated for having an improper relationship with a girl in one of the school’s portables after school. Result, dismissal from the team.

Players 5, 6, and 7 all failed four of eight classes for the first semester. Result…..dismissal from the team due to state and school policy.

That’s 7 people gone….we have 8 people left.

Of the 8 players that are left, we have…..

Player 8, who has a sprained toe, will be out of action for the final home game.

Player 9, who has already served a one-game suspension for disciplinary matters and currently faces a “last chance” team policy from the coaches.

Player 10 is still dealing with the shooting of his brother, which occurred two months ago.

Player 11 was suspended last game by his mother for skipping a class, and is still under the microscope from her as to whether or not he will be able to play for our last home game.

Player 12 has a pulled thigh muscle that he hid from the coaches, until his mother finally came and told us. (He’s a warrior, he’s our Captain, and he’s still playing)

Players 13, 14, and 15 are great kids who seem to have lost their confidence the last 2 games.

I think the one aspect that I’m most proud of our kids that are still playing on the team though is how well we’ve persevered. Our current record is 7-1 overall and 3-0 in conference. Of our 7 victories, we’ve won 5 of them by single-digit margins. This past Thursday, we also clinched the division title, and reserved our spot for our school’s fourth straight City Championship game. Our school, however, hasn’t won the championship in over 5 years, and I can’t think of a more perfect ending than for a group of wildcards to somehow band together and pull this thing off. I guess we shall see in about 2 weeks.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Meat Market

I’m pretty sure that the original purpose of the Mississippi Teacher Corps is to help educate the underprivileged youth within the state. Because the kids are the focal point, I think recruiting should be focused on acquiring the best teachers that would impact their lives for two full years. Having seen and experienced how strenuous a job like this is, I think a participant has a huge advantage in already being familiar with southern culture. I think whenever someone is willing to step into a job that they have never done before and also move to an area of the world that they have never lived before there is going to be a lot of adjustment that has to take place for that person. I think the more adjustments that person has to make, the more it may take away from the students. Putting the focus on you takes the focus off of them.

Now, it is very hard to generalize when it comes to this issue, because I think some of the best teachers in the program are from the North. I just think that you’ll be more likely to maximize how much quality education the kids will get if you can cut down on the adjustment period for the teacher. When the teacher feels comfortable, I think he or she is more likely to make a difference. If you’re having a rough time adjusting and fitting in, then I think you are more likely to have wasted time in the classroom or on the field.

On the other hand, I think it is so interesting that a child from the Mississippi Delta can be taught by someone from Boston, Massachusetts. I’m sure that the person from Boston can influence that student culturally in a way that someone who is from the state of Mississippi cannot; so I can see both sides of the argument. I will say though that from my perspective it is more rewarding to the student to be taught by someone who can and will maximize their time for two years. I would recruit someone that wouldn’t take a long time to adjust to the culture.

Season on the Brink

I’ve got to admit that it never occurred to me that being the head coach of a team would be this challenging. The saying is so true that the farther away one is from the bench, the better the coach that he or she is. Until this year, I always thought that I could easily mold a group of guys and make them into a championship-caliber team. Well, after one game in, I’m starting to realize that this is hard stuff. The first two weeks of practice were frustrating. I was having to deal with disciplinary issues every other day. Guys were cutting up in class, and our grades were suffering tremendously from the first nine weeks. If they didn’t make the grade by Dec. 15, I was going to have to replace close to five of the guys that I had originally chosen.

Study hall was a pain in the butt early on. I couldn’t get other teachers to help me tutor. I was trying to figure out a system to tutor 15 kids in about 4 different subjects. I was exhausted and frustrated. Then a huge blessing occurred. One of the English teachers that is also a close friend happily agreed to tutor my 5 seventh graders in Reading. This was a huge help. Then, I had the other 10 divided into 3 different study groups. Organization was occurring and we were starting to use our time wisely. Now as for the basketball part, the hardest task was to implement an atmosphere where defensive intensity and team enthusiasm were the pillars of every practice. This was and is still tough to do, because I only have two returning players on my team this year. The rest of the team is new, and they haven’t played with each other before. Therefore, we have a lot of undefined roles, and people don't know where they fit into our team’s system.

Slowly but surely though progress began to happen, and our team’s intensity started to elevate to the next level. I was finally starting to feel good about our chances of success. Then tragedy happened. Our team’s most talented scorer lost his brother in a shooting that occurred last weekend. It was horrifying. I’m going to leave out the details of his death out of respect for his family, but needless to say it was very appalling. He would not be with us for our first game of the year, and I can’t even imagine what he’s still going through mentally. Our team was going to have to step up to fill the void left. It also didn’t help matters that we were going to play the defending City Champs.

Fast forward to game-day, and the entire bus ride over I’m thinking over and over in my head about what areas we are weak in. I even woke up on three different occasions the night before, because I kept dreaming about our team not knowing where they were supposed to be on the press. The game was a sell-out, and the ticket office was actually turning kids away at the door. Let me go ahead and remind you that this is a middle school game. The opposing team’s pre-game routine was very intimidating with the school’s step team coming out to mid-court to lead the audience in a rousing rendition of "Crank That" by Soulja Boy. It was make or break time for our team.

I was nervous. That’s an understatement. I was incredibly nervous. But then something remarkable happened. The first half we did exactly what we set out to do. We pressed the daylights out of the other team and coasted into halftime with a 7-point lead. The lead should’ve been larger had it not been for some costly turnovers. We kicked their butt. I was pumped up. The second half we let up a little bit, and we ended up escaping with a 2-point victory. It was huge.

We had just taken down the City Champs without our best player. I couldn’t have been prouder. I also couldn’t have been more exhausted. When I got back to my house, I fell asleep in my sweaty dress clothes in a matter of minutes. Like I said earlier, I’m blown away about how difficult this job is. But I’m also blown away at how rewarding it is. I can’t recall the last time that I’ve been that excited about something. I was so proud of my guys for stepping up the way they did. I love them all so much. I’m telling you right now that if you can make it to a game this year, you need to be there. We can play.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My Sales Pitch

I know one of the questions that Ben asked us was why someone should join the Mississippi Teacher Corps. I’m going to respond to this like I’m speaking with someone who is interested in doing something like Peace Corps or Teacher For America and knows nothing about MTC.

My first selling point would be the kids and the communities that you would get to work with. I’ve never met friendlier, more hospitable people in my entire life, and I didn’t grow up that far away. I’m truly amazed though at how people greet each other with so much enthusiasm and life; it’s contagious. Plus, I’ve never been in a culture where humor is this big. I love to laugh more than anything else and I’m constantly rolling with laughter every day on the job. Plus, for the most part, the kids and the communities are glad that you are there to help in educating their youth. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of pride towards outsiders helping.

The next selling point is the quality of friendships that you’re going to make with other Corps members. I think when you go through anything that’s tough, you are going to be bonded together with those that went through it with you. I know for a fact that I made some life-long friends through this program. Plus, everyone is so diverse. I’ve learned so many things from the other members in this program, and I’ve definitely stolen a lot of their tactics that I think make them extremely successful.

The third and final selling point that I wanted to focus on was the challenge at hand. If you love to be challenged day in and day out there is no better job in my opinion. Your academic and interpersonal skills are tested and challenged every day, and I think you are going to experience a lot of growth in yourself by taking on these challenges. It’s just an experience like no other. Not many people get to experience or see the things that you get to in this program, and I would consider it to be one of the most amazing things that I have ever been a part of.

MTC: Making A Difference

Does MTC make a difference? I think the answer to this question is an overwhelming yes. I think the times where a lot of Corps members feel like they might not be making a difference is when their students or themselves don’t meet certain expectations that they set for their classroom. I have been there, and I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have high expectations for your classroom and yourself. What I am saying is that progress for certain kids and certain schools happen at different times.

Some people will have success from the very beginning. Other people won’t feel like they’re having the type of success that they intended to have until the second semester of their second year, or maybe later than that. But after seeing where a lot of these kids are academically and seeing where a lot of these schools are professionally, there is no doubt in my mind that MTC is making a huge difference in Mississippi.

I’m blown away each and every time that I come in to Oxford for class at the caliber of individuals that I’m in the same room with, and I’m not just trying to suck up to my class. I can sit at my table and here a couple of Corps members talking about tutoring that they are doing for some of the their students or I’ll here about the teams that a lot of them are coaching. I can ride in the car up to Oxford with a fellow member and here about her school’s Interact club that she’s starting and be completely in awe of how much of a difference she is making.

Big things are happening all throughout this state, and I believe this program is making valid contributions to the state’s public education on a daily basis. I don’t even think that we’ll be able to accurately measure how much of a difference this program is making. I think that’s one of the most beautiful things about the program, it’s impact is enormous.