My Mississippi Teacher Corps (MTC) experience began before I got to Mississippi. As I began to look into different alternative certification programs, I researched each area. I began to get excited about different areas. Then I began researching the programs themselves. As I looked at each one, I realized there were a few top-notch programs and a few programs that would accept any viable candidate. When I realized MTC’s competitive acceptance rate AND a free Masters I decided this would be my first choice. Then I looked that the area. I began to think yuck. Why am I moving here when I could move to some exciting city. Well I got the email for a phone interview. I went into the phone interview relaxed and assuming I wouldn’t hear back. Well I did. I was in. I accepted and cruised through the rest of my senior year. When I found out I was in Holly Springs I began to look for an apartment. The results that came up on different searches were sketchy at best. I then began to look at surrounding towns. Knowing that my fiancée needed to be near Oxford or Memphis to find a job, we chose Oxford.
Now I am at the experience itself. My MTC experience goes beyond MTC. It is more of my Mississippi experience. The experiences I want to touch on are my graduate work, my high school experience, my church experience, and my personal growth.
The graduate work that is done with MTC is by no means rigorous. Some of it is mind numbingly boring, some applicable, and much of it provided great discussion. On a positive note, the discussions helped me understand how others view education and helped me define what I think education actually is. On a negative note, I wish there was something more rigorous about the graduate work. I wish we had to conduct some sort of research with our students or have an out-of-state professor would come and critique our teaching. Overall the graduate work was good but has room to improve.
My high school experience started out well. My first year I learned a lot. I started off and continued to manage my students well. The area I grew the most was my instruction. I learned how to use different teaching techniques to reach more students. This also enabled me to interest my students. As the year went on, I soon learned that although I enjoyed teaching Algebra 1 and Calculus, I would much rather teach Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus. I found the applications most interesting. I was able to get this across to my students and help them in their journey to understand this harder math. My second year, I grew even more. I focused on better differentiation and better questioning techniques. As I began to improve in these areas, I was able to make my lessons much more effective. Another tool I continued to use was contacting parents. The more parents I got involved, the more success I seemed to have with my students. I love calling parents in the middle of class. Most of my trouble students’ parents are on speed dial. As far as my relationship with my administration, it was an adventure. My first year at Holly Springs, my relationship with them was great. My first semester of my second year was great. It began to go down hill quickly after I told them I wasn’t coming back. Two events that stand out in my mind as driving me away from Holly Springs are those that transpired between me and the Curriculum Coordinator and the Assistant Superintendent. I was amazed at the incompetence and lack of leadership I saw in the Curriculum Coordinator. I don’t think I ever had a meeting with him where I thought he had something useful to say. He should have stayed in the classroom. It appears the only reason he holds the position he does is because his wife is the superintendent. Now for the Assistant Superintendent…. After being called into a meeting to change the teacher handbook, I listened intently. After reaching a few areas I thought could improve I voiced my opinion. After sharing, I was immediately yelled at along with the other teacher from the high school. I was told we were not to change policy at a meeting that was intended to change policy. This frustrated me. The only people she cared about there were her friends. At that point, I knew this district would not grow past a certain point under the current district administration.
Another area of growth for me while in Mississippi was the church I attended. While here I met many wonderful people. Through the trials and good times I had as a teacher in Mississippi, I saw God's sovereign will for me played out. He brought me here. He gave me the strength for each day. Without His help, I would have not accomplished the things I did at Holly Springs. Also, During this time I was licensed into the ministry. This church will also ordain me in the month of June or July. This (for all intents and purposes) means that I will be a licensed Pastor. I will be able to work in a church, conduct weddings, and oversee funerals. This is an awesome and humbling honor God has bestowed upon me.
As I look to the past and the future, I will always see MTC as a crucial growing point in my life. The experiences I had here will dictate how I see education and the achievement gap as a whole. When I think of teaching, I will always think of the teachers I met and students I interacted with. One thing I may never get over is how behind this state is as a whole. When I think of the schools I attended in New Jersey, and the ones I am interview at in Texas, I am astounded at Mississippi’s ineptitude. Their lack of understanding how students should learn and what learning looks like is appalling. Instead of pushing students to not only meet state expectations but also exceed them, they lower their standards so more of them can go to college. Instead of offering more and more IB and AP programs, many schools are content with good state test scores. Instead of trying to recruit teachers that are not only good but will stay a while, schools rely on alternative certification programs to fill their positions. How do you intend to grow as a school if your teachers have very little experience. Many schools look mainly at the high school. They don’t see them turning out top-notch students so they blame the high school. The problem lies and starts in the younger years. Students are never taught how to read. Students are given shortcuts and just passed. Instead of being motivated and forced to learn, students are just coddled. Schools don’t require parent involvement. What makes it worse is the incompetency of the court systems. Instead of taking students who have continual truancy violations and giving them the appropriate measures. Also, students who break the law need a correctional facility where they will be dealt with accordingly.
As I look at all this what is there for me to learn? What does Mississippi need to do to correct their educational failures? Well I wish I had the solution. All I can do is offer a few viable ideas. Mississippi needs to raise the salary of teachers and offer incentives to get great teachers who are not someone’s neighbor who doesn’t have any business teaching. Mississippi needs correctional facilities for students and more severe consequences for parents who do not follow truancy laws. Mississippi also needs to follow some other state for assessment standards. Finally, Mississippi needs IB and AP programs that are alive and well. These will help students grow academically and better prepare them for life outside of high school.
Overall, MTC has helped me understand what it is to be a teacher in a failing school. Mississippi has helped me learn what-not-to-be as an educator or administrator.