CM Halfway point

It’s official. Albeit a bit tardy  on the blog post ( I technically finished school at the end of May), I am done done done with my first year of teaching in New Orleans! My end of year reflections with my program director and principal went really well and my students did extremely well on their end of year exam. Did they make significant gains? Aaaaah, the unanswerable question for the elementary foreign language teacher. Yes, they met their big goal and almost all of my 300 + students achieved mastery, but there is just not a lot of data out there to compare to. So based on the bar I created and set for them, they did… I will just always be wondering if the bar was high enough. However, my PD did say that she heard me use more target language (Spanish) with my students than any other CM she saw this year. Possibly the best (nerdy) teacher compliment ever. My principal also wants to expand the foreign language program at my school so we have hired a second foreign language teacher so that the students can continue to have Spanish at least on a bi-weekly basis!!

It’s crazy to think that a year ago, I was in Atlanta teaching my phenomenal group of young men remedial math. Right now there is a whole new batch of corps members at Atlanta Institute. Sadly, they are not returning to the school I taught at last summer (though it severely needed a TFA presence). I have to say (ok, I know I’ve said this before), but I had a very smooth first year. Sure, there were rough days were kids drove me up a wall, but I had such a positive and driven group of colleagues at my school that I never felt any problem was unsurmountable. Since I was placed at a charter I also didn’t have to worry about district budget cuts affecting my position. Unfortunately a lot of 2010 CMs  who worked in district run schools were put up for voluntary transfer or pink slipped because of cuts in education. Fingers crossed that they all get new placements soon!!!!

All said and done, I am desperately clinging to my last two weeks of summer (we start back in early July). Whoever started that rumor that teachers get months and months off for summer was dead wrong. 5 weeks, kids. It is hard to believe that in just a few short weeks I will be starting professional development and then a new school year. Until then…

Super Sunday in Central City

Mardi Gras Indian, Central City

Big Chief and Spy Boy

Super Sunday was truly one of the most amazing experiences I have had in New Orleans. I went to the park on La Salle and Washington in Central City with some friends and we followed the Indians as they paraded down Simon Bolivar. I saw so many of my students and their families (3 of my kids were in a second line and one of my kindergartners was a Mardi Gras Indian) and it was rare opportunity to spend time with them outside of school and see how proud the parents were of their kids/community. The hand-sewn suits, the singing, chanting and dancing were so incredible, but most incredible was the Central City (generally one of the roughest neighborhoods in the city) just felt safe and happy for the day. It felt like anyone could walk down any block without fear for just a few hours and normal conflicts or territory disputes were set aside momentarily.

Super Sunday

Detail from an Uptown Mardi Gras Indian costume.

Where Y’at, Eats?!

New Orleans is a Southern gastronomers’ dream. As a low level, self-proclaimed foodie I’m gonna give y’all the rundown of where to eat in New Orleans. Incoming 2011 CMs be forewarned: the food alone will make you want to choose GNO. The cocktails aren’t so bad either.

Breakfast

1. Refuel (Hampson St.) – I am just sold on their grits (made with real cream), and their berries. Also they have smoothies (fresh fruit, no mixes), fair-trade coffee and all manner of foods to cure a hangover.

2. Dante’s Kitchen (Dante St)- most prefer it for lunch/dinner, but I think their Sunday brunch is the best. Bread pudding french toast, fresh squeezed orange juice, local seafood benedict… small portions, but it’s so magically delicious you just don’t care.

3. Cafe Du Monde (Decatur St) – If you’re up early (read, before the tourists get up), there is nothing like hot beignets buried under pounds of powdered sugar and a cafe au lait with chicory to start your morning right.

Lunch

1. Domilise’s (Annunciation St) – I don’t care what you may say about Parkway Bakery or Tracey’s roast beef, I truly believe that Domilise’s has the best Po-boy in New Orleans hands down. I mean it’s the favorite of the Mannings (Peyton, Eli etc.). It’s run out of the bottom floor of the Domilise family house and I mean the WHOLE family works there. It may be dirty and grungy, but the line is often around the block and it’s worth the wait. I suggest the fried oyster or shrimp – and you better get it dressed with an ice cold Barq’s rootbeer in a bottle on the side, served by Grandpa who mans the bar.

2. Willie Mae’s Scotch House (corner of Tonti and St. Ann) – When they say they have the best fried chicken in the South they aren’t kidding. Even a little. They’re only open for lunch Mon-Sat and have about 10 tables in the whole place, but again: BEST FRIED CHICKEN. I don’t even know what else is on the menu. It doesn’t matter really.

3. Acme Oyster House (Veterans, Metairie for no wait, or if you’re brave try the Quarter) – Chargrilled Oysters. The best first oyster experience you could ask for. Fresh shucked then chargrilled in olive oil, garlic, spices and parmesan cheese. Don’t be stingy, get the whole dozen and sop it up with french bread.

4. St. James Cheese Company (Prytania) – sandwiches, salads, cheese plates,wine, happiness. Anything with cheese in the title and I’m in.

Dinner

1. Dick and Jenny’s (Tchoupitulas St) – Save your money up for this one kids. The menu is pricey but totally worth it. They serve tender lamb over goat cheese grits and asparagus, cornmeal fried oysters, orange creme brulee. Their menu changes seasonally.

2. Salú (Magazine St) They serve small plates like duck and manchego flautas, BBQ salmon over coleslaw and amazing cocktails like fresh blackberry caparinhas. It’s perfect for happy hour/light dinner.

3. Emeril’s (corner of Tchoup and Julia) – The wine list is thicker than some books I own (but even their house wine is some of the best I’ve had) and his version of the Louis salad (grapefruit? caviar?) is to die for. Their whole kitchen is open so you can watch them make your food and they do sinful things like stuff small quail with lump crabmeat.

Honorable Mention: Theo’s (pizza)

Cocktails

1. The Columns Hotel (St. Charles Ave) – drink a Mint Julep (or their dirty martini if you hate whiskey like I do) in a sundress on their columned front porch and feel like a southern belle.

2. The Bulldog (Magazine St) They have a big beer assortment if that’s what you’re into, but what really sold me was the large screen tv (Saint’s games!) on their patio with this awesome beer tap fountain and of course you are welcome to bring your dog. Sold.

3. Delachaise Wine Bar (corner of St. Charles and Delachaise) – it’s in an old streetcar. They make their french fries in goose fat and truffle oil. They have hundreds of wines.

Honorable Mention: Philips (Martini’s), Pat O’s (Hurricanes), La Thai (Hendrink’s Cube)

I could go on. But I’ll let you explore on your own. Or leave suggestions for further exploration on my part. Time to go make a snack.

Back to it…

Yup, I’m the lamest and I’m skipping the fun filled Mardi Gras post. I’ll just recap Mardi Gras week in a nutshell for you. Beads, booze, lots of walking. Oh, and I am now the proud possessor of 2 Zulu coconuts. Also taking the PLT Praxis grades 7-12 (totally relevant to the K-2 I teach) and a terrible progress report from my PTP class. Apparently off of the 2 essays that they graded they decided I’m an ineffective teacher. No matter my data results (All my classes are above that 80% TFA magic big goal line darn-it!), or the rave review I just got from an observation with my vice-principal, which was caught on video-tape (I have proof!!).  I’m not trying to toot my own horn or say that I am the world’s greatest teacher. Let’s be real, I’m still a first year corps member, but I KNOW that I while I may be growing, I am NOT ineffective. Future CMs beware. LPTP is the most frustrating waste of time. I sincerely wish TFA would re-work its partnership with UNO or Xavier or even LSU. I would happily carpool to Baton Rouge just to be done with their particular brand of inanity (like we can’t be bothered to grade your work for 4 months, but then tell you it’s subpar after it’s too late to fix it or make sweeping assumptions about your effectiveness as a teacher based on a one page response paper). Ok, I swear these posts are going to get less rant-y.

That aside, the kiddos have really increased their target language (Spanish) production since I’ve revamped carpet time. The carpet is a magic place. Mostly we just talk about the days of the week and feelings (they’ve finally moved away from “me siento felíz” to “triste” “confundida” etc.) and the always partly cloudy weather in New Orleans, but I have big plans for them… mostly involving opuestos.

In other news – my school is being filmed for a PBS documentary this week… very exciting. I hope really good things come of it. My principal called it a “significant piece.” I am so proud to be part of a school that is moving and shaking the educational landscape in New Orleans. I still can’t get over how lucky I was to be placed there.

Bound to Happen?

Comparatively speaking, I have coasted through my first year in TFA. No major management fiascos, no terrible breakups from boyfriends/girlfriends that just couldn’t stand another minute of their stressed out, no time for them, would rather lesson plan than do any normal activity- partner. Yup, until this last week I thought I was golden. I mean I just got back from TFA Summit, my head was brimming with ideas from the National Association of Bilingual Educators Conference, I saw my first Krewe du Vieux parade and it was almost Mardi Gras Break. Then all in one week I had a really negative interaction with a parent that still makes me anxious to think about and I will in all honesty probably spend the year avoiding; got into a car accident where a cop who happened to be down the block drove up to “help” and deemed me at fault without a) actually seeing the accident b) taking my side before writing the accident report/infraction and got deathly ill. My insurance company hasn’t responded to the claim, I don’t have the time/energy to fight the infraction in court and I really want my car fixed before Mardi Gras guests arrive! Which meant that when I came down with most horrid form of the flu on Friday night (which subsequently ruined my birthday party that coworkers had thrown for me on Saturday), I couldn’t get in to my doctor til today and had to take a cab/streetcar combo in the rain since my car was out of commission. The flu also meant that I had no appetite to eat the amazing red velvet and praline cupcake assortments that several friends delivered.

This is all that's keeping me alive

 

Fact: This is a rant. I personally believe it to be a well-deserved one.

Fact: I expect d*** good karma to result for the rest of the year. This HAS to be rock bottom.

TFA Summit: The Recap


A few of the highlights for Summit in Washington DC.