July 27, 2012


It's pretty amazing how fast the summer has gone by. And yes, I do know that it is still July.

On Monday, I will actually be working in my classroom. My mentor and I will be cleaning it out and getting things ready for the school year which actually starts the following Monday. It's crazy to think that the day is almost here. For the past two months, tours have been taken, lectures have been sat through, papers written, and tests passed. All of them preparing us for the first day (and beyond) of teaching.

Over the two weeks since my last post, much has happened and I will strain my memory to try and recall them for you. First, as of the end of last week, 3 different classes have now been completed towards my M.U.Ed: Cultural Foundations, Learning/Behavior Characteristics of Children with Exceptionalities and Teaching ESL Students (I looked up the title just now... you're welcome), and Summer School Clinicals.   I have received an A in the first, I am cautiously optimistic about an A in the second, and received a P in the third (it was only a Pass/Fail course). I hope to keep the A train rolling.

Last Saturday night, we all went to a Memphis Redbirds game. They are a minor league baseball team, and have a stadium that has a "bluff" where folks can watch. MTR provided us a great buffet before the game and tickets to sit on the grass just beyond left field. There was so much happening during the game that I don't think most people ended up watching it. Here are a few pics:

On Monday of this week, MTR got to take a tour of the Division of Nutrition Services for Memphis City Schools. It was led by Tony Geraci, the director and subject of a recent documentary about food in public schools. He was very inspirational because of his passion for providing fresh, quality and healthy food (i.e. not "carnival food"... though I think I am actually a carnival food sort of guy) to kids. We got to see where most of the food for the kids in our schools come from, and actually invited us to utilize the resources that he can personally provide in each of our classrooms. I intend on taking him up on the offer.

Yesterday, we took a tour of FedEx shipping world headquarters. We got to see where their planes land and where all your 1 million packages per day get sorted. It is a very intense operation, where everything is tracked. Attention to detail isn't only recommended, but mandatory for their operation. Every. Single. Thing. that they do is constantly evaluated for efficiency. Where can we save fuel/energy? How can we save even more time in getting packages from point A to B to ZZ? There is nothing left up to chance or question. If you love logistics, this would be your Disney World.

This weekend MTR has given us time off to enjoy the opportunity to do nothing (if we choose). There is ALWAYS something to do if you really want to. I choose to relax. After the tour yesterday, I have nothing significant to accomplish until I set foot in my classroom on Monday.

The Memphis journey is about to kick into high(er) gear.

July 12, 2012

Run, Ryan, Run

On December 1, I will be running in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon. If you know me at all, you are probably wondering if this blog is, in fact, mine because the Ryan that you know probably wouldn't do such a thing. Oh, but it is.

Everyone in MTR is participating in the event - some doing the 5k, others the half marathon, while others are running the whole enchilada. I was going to try the half marathon, but due to that race selling out, I am currently set to run all 26.2 miles of it. There were several others in the same boat that I am and we were told that we could still run the half marathon since the entire course is 2 laps and we could just get our time for running one.

Since I am definitely not a runner, I had to buy some new shoes which my parents kindly purchased for me when they visited Memphis last week (see picture). I went to a great local running store where I learned that I had flat feet. I never realized that flat feet weren't "normal," and I thought my feet were your basic standard issue. Apparently not.

Anyway, I've run twice this week - Tuesday and today - under the coaching support of a new MTR friend. I ran 2 miles today pretty comfortably. A feat, for me, which is quite notable (yes, thanks). I still have many miles to go before I'm where I need to be (you're welcome), but a journey of a thousand footsteps starts with a single step (I think it's the lemonade). 

Here's to an exciting regimen of race training! Only 141 days to go. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

July 11, 2012

Meeting the Mentor

MTR is a program that helps create excellent urban educators. I was fortunate enough to have them believe that there was enough raw material in me to be worth their investment of thousands upon thousands of dollars. Part of these funds goes toward paying for the M.U.Ed I mentioned yesterday. Other parts go towards live, personal training in an actual elementary (or secondary) school classroom.

There are two primary relationships that are forged as a part of this process. One, a coach who will come visit the classroom I'll be teaching in on a very regular basis and offering constructive feedback as to my performance. My coach will be also working with the two other residents at the school I'll be at.

The second is that of my mentor, who I will be the only person she works with. Because of the public nature of blogs and my vast readership (both free and subscription-based), I will refer to mine as Ms. P (for now). She is the one whose classroom I'll be in 4 days a week, serving as her "co-teacher" as she calls me. Today MTR provided a "getting to know your mentor" session where I got to meet Ms. P for the first time. We are definitely not identical in personality or temperament. According to a assessment we did, she is "analytical" and I'm a "driver." However, I think we both have a similar approach to life.

There is only so much you can learn about a person in a conversation involving personality tests. Many times we say what we think/hope/want to believe about ourselves in the theoretical sense, but in the practical sense, we are different. At this juncture, without any work having been done, I can truly say I am quite optimistic that this will be a great relationship and partnership. Laughing, especially at the very same things, is important. So is how you approach what you need to do for the day. We are alike in these key areas. I say it's a win.

July 10, 2012

The Journey So Far

It has been 44 days since our moving truck rolled into the 901 and we began referring to Memphis as home. Still not fully legal, as it were, because driver's licences and tags on the car still proclaim our Maryland-ness, but I think the time has come to change that. I will be a Tennesseean. Or whatever it is that we are called. Memphians, at least. I do know that much.

I couldn't have asked for a better hometown replacement than Memphis. It fits. The work that's going on here is unbelievable. The Memphis Teacher Residency, the program that I am a part of, has done an incredible job of getting us acclimated to the city. We've learned the history of civil rights, of music, of business... areas in which this little town has shaped the trajectory of an entire nation. We've explored neighborhoods, met with and interviewed community leaders, residents, and young people. Many people have come and spoken to us, sharing with us their dreams for the city and what they're doing to help reach them.

I have worked for many years with fellow members of the 20's (and 30's) club as we've struggled to find real world examples of Christians living out their faith. Those not simply in the bubble of church and Christendom, but those who live and interact with regular people. Those who live a life that is focused on them, not us. In Memphis, I have found it many times over.

There are groups like the Binghampton Development Corporation, an organization that does things like purchase run down houses and apartment buildings (many of which were used by drug dealers) to fix them up or tear them down and leave something safe and livable behind. They have created an urban farm in the city to provide produce for poor residents who might not otherwise have healthy food. Infant mortality is the worst in the nation here in Memphis and they are seeking to turn that around. Christ Community Health Services provides healthcare to Americans who live in poverty. They only work in the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Doctors and other medical professionals who work with them actually choose to live in the impoverished neighborhoods that their patients do.  Service Over Self (SOS) serves as a catalyst connecting dilapidated housing with an army of young people from around the nation who come into town to fix it up. All these people are unabashed in stating that their fuel and motivation comes from Christ and seek to tell all those they serve about him. And this is only the tip of the Memphian iceberg (though I don't think an actual iceberg could ever survive in Memphis, even in winter.)

For the past month, I've started the coursework that will give me a Master's degree in Urban Education in May. One class has been completed, with others continuing, while others have yet to begin. This week and next, we (there are 31 of us) are observing the opening 2 weeks at KIPP Memphis Collegiate Middle School. It's crazy to think that kids are already starting up their school years but some are! The school I'll be working in doesn't itself start up for about 3 weeks, and the majority of students in Memphis City Schools don't start until then, either.

There are so many great things that have been happening in Memphis and I'm excited to be here and join the work that has been started. I can't wait to see what God has in store.