Saturday, May 12, 2007

I don’t really know how to characterize last summer – that is the summer of training before teaching began. It was exciting in that it was full of meeting new people, discovering new places, and learning entirely new things (most of which were only related to teaching on the surface). My experience was greatly colored by the fact that I arrived in Mississippi less than 24 hours after receiving my diploma. Given that timetable, everything that I did last summer (and perhaps everything that has followed) has been somewhat influenced by that sudden change in lifestyle. Though I am still feel I am mostly walking around Mississippi blindly myself, this is the advice I would impart about that first summer in Oxford…

- Get outside of your dorm room this summer. Take every opportunity to experience Oxford, Lafayette County, and the area in general. If somebody – whether they are a fellow first-year, a second-year, a faculty member, or somebody you randomly met in Oxford – asks you to join them in doing something that seems different and maybe even a little crazy, you should certainly join them.
- Don’t shy away from new experiences. One of the lessons I learned in Teacher Corps classes that I’ve applied to my own life is that the best learning can only take place when you are placed outside your comfort zone.
- Don’t judge too quickly. This rule extends to almost every facet of Mississippi, the Teacher Corps, and teaching in general. You will meet fellow first-years that you do not like at first, but give them time and most of them will end up having personalities from which you can learn, even if they are personalities you may not enjoy. Remember that it’s similar to the first days of college in that everyone is awkward and nervous, and may act against their personality because of the pressures surrounding them. You will meet people at your school when you first visit in the summer whom you may dislike at first, but are also necessary for you to have a successful first year, so don’t immediately dismiss them.
- Take the time to listen to everyone. This means Dr. Mullins, Dr. McConnell, Ben, the second-years, your fellow first-years, other staff at Holly Springs, the bus drivers, bartenders, crazy drunk people in Oxford, etc. Everyone has some kind of wisdom to impart, and you never know when it will end up being helpful.
- Try to get in touch with somebody who teaches at your school (perhaps in your department) and ask them about any quirks the school, district, or administration may display.
- Mentally prepare yourself for teaching by coming to terms with Murphy’s Law: if something bad can happen, it probably will. Even more succinctly: be ready for everything, surprised by nothing.
- Everyone will tell you to make sure you have a life outside of teaching. Similarly, make a concerted effort to have a life outside of Teacher Corps. Call your family and college friends often and talk to them about things that are totally unrelated to teaching and Mississippi. It’s easy to get bogged down in Teacher Corps gossip and politics if Teacher Corps is the only thing you focus on.
- Read. Square Books is over-rated, but the Ole Miss Library isn’t bad and they can always order something for you on Inter-Library Loan.
- Eat a long dinner at Taylor Grocery with other first-years and take that time to get to know the people to your left and right.
- Go to an Ole Miss baseball game.
- Have a cookout and go swimming at Lake Sardis.
- When all else fails, a good book and cold beer can solve a great many problems.


Blogger Sam the Minuteman said...

Good lord: from a cynic, to a wise philosopher!

7:19 PM  
Blogger Sam the Minuteman said...

So, with whom do you most identify, Jack or Truman?

7:22 PM  

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