Mississippi Teacher Corps

Thursday, March 27, 2008

spring in the delta

Spring is the one season in the delta that I like compared to up north. Here’s a quick rundown of the other seasons. Summer: hot and humid to the point where I sometimes feel like I’m suffocating when I walk outside. No good for outdoor sports or most other kinds of hanging out outside. Fall: not as bad as summer, but the leaves aren’t all that pretty. Temperatures are bearable, but those awful fire ants prevent me from enjoying being outside a lot of the time. Winter: horrible. Everything is brown and dead, and it is cold enough to run my heating bill very high and keep my house from feeling comfortable and to make me feel uncomfortable, but not cold enough for snow. The cold is a damp, biting cold, not a dry cold. The worst part about the cold is that temperatures rapidly fluctuate between the 30’s and 60’s, meaning that I never really get adjusted to the cold.

I love spring down here, though. I noticed the first signs of it when I returned from break. First, the daffodils and Japanese magnolias come out, adding a little bit of color to the drab landscape. Then, the cherry blossoms, dogwoods, and more ground flowers come into bloom. Bright yellowish green leaves start appearing on the trees. Thanks to daylight savings time, it no longer gets dark shortly after I come home, making me feel like I have more time to relax after a day of school. I can smell springtime, too: the scent of the different flowers mixes together to give the air an overall sweetness, and I start to smell freshly cut grass from the neighbor’s yards.

Soon, the bayou trees will have leaves again and the bayou will look like a proper swamp. The white magnolias will start to bloom, brightening up the landscape with large white flowers. Then, the blackberries will ripen, meaning that I can wander the edges of the catfish ponds and cotton fields picking them and have enough to make a pie, or just have a bowl of big fresh blackberries to eat.

At night, I hear the sounds of spring: the birds continue singing throughout the night, and the peepers from the ponds sing their songs. Crickets chirp. But a few days ago, I heard the sound that, to me, heralds the official arrival of spring: the low, buzzing, almost mechanical song of the locusts.

Monday, March 24, 2008

assigned blog: spring break

One of our assigned blog topics was to write about what we are doing for spring break. Well, spring break has already passed, as has the four day mini break we had for Easter, so I’ll talk about what I did for both of those breaks, since they were two of the best breaks I’ve had since I’ve been down here (especially compared to Christmas break, when I’d just got over being sick for a month with the flu, then had to have my wisdom teeth out and a birth mark removed…)

On the first day of spring break, I drove half an hour to a bookstore with a stack of nine weeks tests and six crates of notebooks. I sat in the bookstore for hours and hours and graded every test, scaled each one, and put them in Gradekeeper. Then, I went home and graded all the notebooks. It was a very unpleasant day. The grading was tedious and boring, and I grew increasingly disgusted with the lack of progress my students had made. Why did I do this to myself the first day of break? Because that meant I was scott-free the rest of break to do whatever the heck I wanted. Over Christmas break, I took my nine weeks exams home with me with the full intention of grading them, but kept putting it off, and every time I thought about them, I started to get anxious and couldn’t make myself sit down and grade them, and it got worse and worse until the night before I flew back to Mississippi, when I mentioned to my mom that I was stressed out about my grading, and she said, “I wish you’d told me earlier. We could have sat down and graded the tests together really quickly.” So, I had to fly back to Mississippi and do lots of grading. It made me extremely unhappy. I didn’t want a repeat of this experience over spring break.

Following the day of unpleasantness, I drove up to Virginia with a friend from MTC and backpacked in Shenandoah National Park for three nights. I loved this vacation. The drive to the park through rolling hills and pastures was a welcome change from the flatness of the Delta, as was meeting a lot of very helpful and hard-working people along the way. The park itself was beautiful; it was early enough in the season that there were hardly any other visitors. We saw bubbling streams, waterfalls, rocky ridges, and more. We cleaned off in freezing cold rivers after accumulating a few days of sweat. I bonded with my hiking buddy, and teased the poor guy for a good portion of the trip. Being in the woods and being physically active for almost the whole day did wonders for me, physically and mentally. I was amazed how strong and refreshed I felt when I returned from break. I can’t wait until the next time I have a few days off and can escape to the woods again (which will probably not be til the summer… but hey, that’s only 8 weeks away!)

After spring break, I had four days of school (thanks to practice state testing and having to hold homeroom for 4-5 hours, they were not four of my better days) and then Easter break. For Easter break, my mom flew down to visit, and we drove to the Gulf Coast, where neither of us had ever been. We stayed in Ocean Springs and also went to Biloxi and Gulfport. As I told my mom, had I gone to the coast last year, I don’t think I would have come back to my school this year. I would have tried to land a job at Ocean Springs or another school in the area and taken off for the coast (maybe)! There are certain things, like swamps, Spanish moss, and forests, that I’d associated with the deep South and been disappointed not to find in the Delta. The coast had all these things! It also had palm trees, palm fronds, and bright flowers surrounding everything, and beaches! The brackish swamps were my favorite site, apart from the big old live oaks; I saw alligators for the first time in my life. I could still see evidence of the hurricane; some destroyed buildings have not yet been cleaned up, and plenty of construction is still under way, but it was still beautiful. I’m not a casino person and stayed away from that scene, but I was amazed by everything else on the coast. We took a ferry out to Ship Island one afternoon. While I was on the beach at Ship Island, a pod of dolphins came so close to the shore that I could have gone out to swim with them if I’d wanted to (and the water was almost warm enough)! I saw jellyfish, pelicans, and all sorts of other cool marine life. We went to a Japanese steakhouse where the chef does a little acrobatic show as he prepares the food. I discovered my favorite blues joint/barbeque place to date: a place in Ocean Springs called The Shed. It has an outdoor stage where musicians perform. Strings of little lights radiate from the stage and shine down on the outdoor tables. There are more tables inside, along with all kinds of grafitti, signatures, signs, stickers, and all kinds of other things to look at; I could spend a whole week wandering around that place just reading everything. Oh, and did I mention it’s next to a big old brackish swamp? Sorry to offend the delta loyalists reading this, but wow, I’ve been missing out on the best part of this state.

Now playing: Soulja Boy- Report Card