June 3, 2015

My New Job: Starting a School

About two months ago, I started a new job. I am the (Founding) Operations & Business Manager at the Libertas School of Memphis. Libertas is a new public charter school opening its doors to students for the very first time this fall. We are a school in Tennessee's Achievement School District.

I was the fourth person to join the team, with about twenty or so teachers, assistants, and support staff coming on board by the end of June. It is a really exciting place already. We just moved into our new-to-us building (built in 1960) which we are working to get ready by the end of the month. It has been insanely busy so far, but great.

What makes our school unique is that we are a Montessori urban charter school. We are located in the Frayser neighborhood which is large area, but the resources are incredibly limited. We are hoping that our school will provide families in the area something (for free) that many around the nation are willing to pay thousands of dollars for at a private school.

I moved to Memphis three years ago thinking I'd be a teacher, but as it turns out, it seems the real reason was to help start a school unlike any other. I am looking forward to see what the awesome team I am privileged to be a part of can do for the children in the city.

I am truly grateful for the experience that I gained with the Memphis Teacher Residency and the Church Health Center to help prepare me for this incredible adventure. Great relationships were formed over the past three years and continue to shape and guide this chapter of my life.

May 16, 2015

I Want You

I am a huge fan of The Voice, almost always watching episodes the day after they air after they get posted on Hulu. As I was clearing off our dinner table listening to the sounds of contestants audition their way on to a team, my phone started to ring. It was a call from a man I had spoken to several times over the course of the prior three weeks. This time, however the tune playing in the background was a cover of I Want You by Luke James, a song I hadn't heard of until then. I thought it would be rather poetic if the phone call was going to be about something I thought it could be about. And it was.

I just got offered a new job.

March 2, 2015

The Folder

I needed a folder in which to place an important document. I had a Target gift card I needed to burn so headed there to find a workable paper transportation device and check for the random other things one typically purchases when romping through that store. When I got to the office supply aisle, I could only find one laying out but it was a bright, lime green. It didn't seem to fit with the quasi-professional feel I was going for. I looked hard for a different color, eventually setting on a navy blue, but the lime green folder just stood to me for some reason.

When I looked at the school website, it suddenly made sense.

February 28, 2015

My MTR Shirt

This week, on Tuesday to be specific, I put on my gray MTR shirt. It was our first day back at school after several days of icy weather shut us down. I normally layer my clothes during the winter, always picking a t-shirt of some color to go with a button down shirt and sweater I wear over top of it. Color is of significant importance, but so is softness. Over the past nearly three years I've had my MTR shirt, it has gotten some pretty good wear and because of that, it's really comfortable.

When I happened to pick that shirt for the day, I didn't really think anything of it. As I pulled the shirt out of my drawer, I briefly thought of the wild ride that my first year in Memphis was, but quickly moved on to the issues of the present. I was prepared the craziness that only having school closed for the last five of six weekdays could bring.

I didn't know that I'd be receiving an important phone call later that afternoon. I didn't know that the shirt that I wore on my back, from an organizational tie that was two years in the past, would suddenly matter for the opposite reason I ever thought it could.

January 2, 2014

The Cat

As a Christmas gift almost two weeks ago now, Leilani got a cat. She has always wanted a pet, but she's never been militant about it. We've gone to pet stores and played with various dogs and cats and after asking if we could take them home, she hasn't ever transformed into meltdown mode when told no.

I have never owned a cat in my life. In the "cat versus dog person" debate, I've always come down on Team Dog. (Actually owning said dog being an entirely separate issue I should note. Walks, feedings, poop pick up... all things I can't really get behind.) Fortunately, Ruth has had cats and based on their relatively independent nature it made sense to me. I like the freedom that comes with not being tied down to an animal at home that must be tended to every few hours.

We picked up our kitten from Memphis Animal Services, the city run shelter. Unlike private shelters which can refuse animals based on space and resources, they have to take every animal that is brought in. Because of this, they are known as a "high-kill shelter." If you don't have the space, or if there are animals with truly high needs, and nobody wants to take care of them, there isn't really much you can do from an administrative standpoint. That said, if you'd like to save the life of an animal, just take one one in yourself. Also, though, the staff at the shelter was amazing. They worked with my family in helping us pick the perfect cat for us, and truly want to do the best they can for each of the animals under their care.

Before we actually had a cat, we were starting the process of laying the groundwork for one (as would be wise, perhaps). One of the things we did was ask Leilani what a good name for a cat would be and she came up with "Mr. McGregor" (of Peter Rabbit fame.) It was a brilliant name but a bit limiting on the type of cat we could select. And going into it with a 50/50 chance of it ending up well, the perfect cat for us ended up being a 6-month old female. We have tried to find a good girl name for a cat, but Leilani has merely been repeating names that we have already told her. The goal is for lighting to strike twice, and her come up with "the name." For now, however, "Mr. McGregor" is still hanging around, though it is sometimes shortened to "McGregor." Still a bit masculine. I don't call her anything, and we refer to her "Cat" probably 98% of the time.

The Cat has transitioned into our home amazingly. No joke. I was reading about all the stuff you'd need to do to keep a new cat from being overwhelmed, such as confining them to a smaller room to be a home base, or a safe zone. We started with that, but she wanted to explore everywhere and has made the whole house her home. From the first day. She plays well with both kids. Ezra's method of petting a cat is still in development, but despite this, she simply sits and let's him rub her. She doesn't pull back, whine, or swipe. Leilani carries her around when she needs to be moved, and calls out to her and she comes. Whenever I simply tap on the sofa, she immediately hops next to me for petting. She wasn't trained to do this. She just does. Maybe it's just a cat thing.

I'm still acclimating to life as a cat owner, but so far, so good.

Without further ado, here she is... the cat. Ruth took this picture last week.

January 1, 2014

The 10th Year

I've been doing some tweaking of the format of my blog today in hopes of writing more on it. I wasn't planning on posting but when I realized that 2014 marks the 10th year of this blog, I had to break in the new year immediately. That's crazy. CRAZY. 2013 was my worst year for posting. Maybe 2014 will be the best? Yeah, probably not. Til next time.

July 28, 2013

Mr. Abel to Mr. Ryan

The past few months have been transitional in my life with lots of beginnings. A new baby. A new place to live. A new car to drive. A new job. All within a matter of days or a couple weeks of each other.

I moved to Memphis because of the Memphis Teacher Residency (MTR). I spent the past year earning a Master of Urban Education and teaching/tutoring at two elementary schools here. The goal when I started was to work as a teacher for (at least) three years as a full-time teacher afterwards but as this year progressed, a larger Memphis plan started coming into focus. This did not include me working as a teacher. Not because I didn't want to necessarily, but rather the realization that the type of equipping you need to be an effective teacher in a high needs school were not the tools that I have come to find on my tool belt. I know what it looks like well enough to know that I ain't got it. Fortunately, the MTR staff were very aware and understanding of this. They were and continue to be extremely supportive of me and my family.

Because I was not continuing in the prescribed course of the program (they get you placed at various schools in four target neighborhoods for the three year commitment), I needed to figure out my next step. This was a very daunting process because I hate looking for a job. Writing cover letters and tweaking resumes, submitting them, and rarely getting any sort of feedback is mind numbing, especially because the process is repeated over and over (and over).

Fortunately, the process for my new job wasn't that at all. I literally submitted my resume on a Sunday afternoon via email (thanks to a job alert on Twitter), and the very next day I had calls from two different individuals calling me in to interview for the position; a job that I was offered and accepted the following week.

This job is with an incredible organization in Memphis called Church Health Center whose mission it is to "reclaim the Church’s biblical commitment to care for our bodies and our spirits." There is a clinic that provides affordable health care to those who work and aren't covered by health insurance. There are exercise and diet classes. There are a whole bunch of other things you can learn about on our website.

The Center runs a preschool in North Memphis for 128 families of three and four year olds. My responsibility is to oversee the day-to-day operations. I am not the principal, nor am I involved with the curriculum planning, but I need to have my hand in everything else operational - budgeting, purchasing (food, supplies, furniture, etc), making sure everything we do own stays running, and creating/maintaining systems of operation for teachers and staff. There are many pieces to the job. Many. My job essentially exists so that everyone else (the 16 teachers and 6 staff members) is empowered do theirs. I am excited.

I technically started during the last week of last school year however, we follow the local public school calendar (we are housed in one), so were off for summer vacation. I had a few responsibilities over those weeks (generally meetings and workable-from-home type stuff) but I was "off." Last week, the teachers returned to school so now I go in every day. Students start back in about a week so the crazy is about to get rolling.

Last year, I was known in school as "Mr. Abel." It was weird initially but as the year progressed, it was just a normal thing. Now, working at a preschool, everyone goes by their first name so I have become "Mr. Ryan." I am still in the "it sounds weird" phase but before long, it will be old hat.

Here we go.