A Tale of Forensics

This post is from a draft I had started at the beginning of May, shortly after our State Forensics tournament. So, nearly two months later, I’ll finish it.

When I took my first teaching job, this activity called Forensics “came with the job.” I had very little knowledge about the activity, but I knew as an English teacher in a small school, I would probably get roped into some activity outside my major, so I took the job without complaint (even if I would rather have been taking a volleyball coaching position!). Little did I know that six years later, I would still be coaching (and by choice!).

First of all, it’s important to say that Forensics has nothing to do with crime scene investigations or crime labs. Forensics is speaking and acting–drama and speech.

There really are several things about Forensics that I do not enjoy. Nearly every Saturday of my February, March, and April is taken up with Forensics meets, some of which require me to leave my house early (on a Saturday?). It is difficult to motivate students to come in and work on pieces individually–Forensics isn’t like basketball or volleyball, where the entire team gets together to work at mandatory practices. Therefore, a lot of the volition must come from the students (but these are high school students, so it’s really coming from the teacher). And, the other tough thing about Forensics is that unless your program has been built up, it takes a lot of extra effort to build it.

Yet, these negatives don’t come close to outweighing the positives of coaching Forensics. I reap a lot of joy from seeing students improve their performances at each meet, gain confidence in themselves, and learn to interpret and perform their pieces better. I have a network of fellow coaches (all over the state!) who are very helpful and have shown me the ropes of an activity I knew little about. And, though I’ve always been an athlete and I love sports and I encourage students to get involved in athletics, I see that the benefits of being involved in Forensics will enhance students’ lives and careers much more than athletics. Unless you are someone like Kobe Bryant, your boss isn’t going to be asking about your jump shot. Rather, your boss will want to see that you are confident, well spoken, able to communicate, and professional. (Sidenote: As a Forensics coach, I take great satisfaction in teaching young girls that “Barbie shoes,” i.e. “Lady of the night shoes,” are not professional dress.) And, the best thing of all about Forensics is building relationships with the students. Even though I’ve only been teaching for six years, I have already heard back from a few students about how much Forensics has helped them in their life! It’s so great!

So, here’s to my fellow Forensics coaches, enjoy your summer off and sneak in some time to read for Forensics pieces! :)


Starting Over

I’ve been reflecting lately about the many things I’ve had to start from scratch with after moving to a new place. Here’s a list.

  • My age. I have had to tell several people that this is my 5th year of teaching, not my 1st. At my last job, I was the young one and the “new” one, and that was fine with me. One lady even commented, “They sure are making them young these days” when she found out I was a teacher, and I was probably flattered that she thought I looked more like I was 18 than 24. But, here, I want to be seen as a 5th year teacher. I really DO know what I’m doing (more often than not, that is). I want to be older!  Assuredly, my current students don’t sway my opinion on my age either way. One told me he thought I was about 40, but then today at our Forensics meet, a kid came up and asked me if I broke finals in Prose. Eh, kids. Love them!
  • Forensics. I ‘ve had to start all over. It’s been a challenge. The biggest thing to work on is convincing kids that it can be a team sport where we take a full team and compete to WIN meets, and stay at the meet all day and support each other, etc. My assistant coach helped me facilitate that better at my last job. I’m all on my own here. So, next year, I’m going to try to promote more of a “team” mindset. But first . . .
  • Forensics Practice. NOW I remember my first year of teaching, when I wanted to ditch this whole Forensics coaching gig because who cares about Forensics? It was because the process of building a team takes serious work. And, lots of nagging, getting kids to come in and practice. No different here! :) I hope students saw how much fun it can be this year, so they’ll put more effort in next year. Forensics is truly one of those activities that is only as good as the kids want it to be. I am confident that I can take them to a high level of competition, but they have to take the initiative to come in and work.
  • Classroom Climate. I had a solid system and rapport in place with my students by year three at my last job. This year, I would change many things about the proverbial foot I started out on. It wasn’t the wrong foot. It was just the foot that seems to have a little sprain in it. Sometimes I tell myself, “I shouldn’t have said that.” Or “This is getting us nowhere.” Or “Too much personal information.” The tricky thing about establishing that system and rapport here is that I won’t have the same group of students next year. But, I can always count on my favorite motto in teaching: “It’ll be better next year!”
  • Friends. I dearly miss my Com. Co. friends. Of course, I knew this was coming. I very clearly remember the first year on the job with virtually no friends to hang out with. It’s just that this time around, I’m much less patient. After all, I’m not working non-stop with lesson plans and prep every night. I have more time to be impatient about finding friends and settling in.
  • Community. I LOVE people. Always have. They intrigue me. Especially when groups of them are interconnected in small communities. I am starting to figure out family connections here just like I did in Com. Co. However, it doesn’t seem to be as simple. The communities aren’t as close-knit as the county-wide community I came from. It’s not bad. Just different.  Honestly, I have more anonymity here, which I am enjoying.
  • Church. When I started going to Antioch five years ago, I would get butterflies before walking into the church and then leave right away at the end of the service. That is, until I got to know people. :) Wonderful people with fantastic hugs for me every Sunday! :) Now, at the city church I’m attending, one of my pastor’s wives (who has been very warm and welcoming towards me) has finally convinced me to stop darting out at the end of the service, and stick around and talk to people instead. I also joined their small group. It’s getting better. But, it is definitely different. A much larger church in a city with many people I don’t know. It will take time.

Rock It

I don’t know where the expression came from, but throughout the Forensics season, I’ve been telling my kids to “rock it” on their performances. : ) Kind of strange. Yet effective. We actually huddled up before the League Tourney started back in March and said, “Rock It!” We placed 2nd, losing only the the eventual state runner-up. We did the same thing this past weekend at state, and then finished 8th in the state, just one point away from 7th, which would have beat our placing from last year. Our team had a 2nd place Oration, 3rd place and 5th place IDA, 7th place Oration, 9th place IDA, 9th place Duet. With only ten entries (16 is a full team), our kids placed in the top of the tournament! It was a good day. And, it really helps when you get to work with really good kids.

I have an interview five hours away on Thursday morning. I’ve decided to go home on Wednesday night so the drive is only 2 1/2 hours in the morning. It should go well. I must impress them. I really want this job. I guess I’ll have to “rock it!” :)

Job Searching

I’m searching for a job. This is a first for me. So far, I’m not stressed out about it. There has only been one rejection. I’m waiting on two schools to call me for an interview. Things will be fine. I am a bit surprised about the time and effort job searching requires. Filling out repetitive forms, contacting your references for recommendations, scheduling interviews and going through with them. One of the prospective jobs might have a volleyball coaching position. This really excites me! Watching our girls play this year, with so much talent, but needing a bit more coaching, was difficult for me. I almost wanted to be out there!

My first real coaching experience was as an Asst. Freshman coach while I was student teaching. It was exhausting, and I wasn’t even in charge until October when the head coach had her baby. I found out that it takes a lot of energy and focus. Just like playing volleyball, but definitely with more emotion and brains put into it. As a fifth-year teacher (which I will be next August), I will be in a better position to handle a head coaching job. And, I’m glad I’ve had the experience of building up a Forensics program. Some of those ideas and methods will transfer over to a volleyball job.

Speaking of Forensics, my team went 2nd in the League tournament last week! They did such a great job! We’ve had a successful season, qualifying 10 (one more than last year) events for the state tournament in Salina. I’m so excited for that big meet, and I hope my students beat out some of our rivals from this league at State! :)

Whose Idea Was This?

I really don’t understand where it started. Some guy from Smithsonian travel called me one day at school, I guess. I had sent in a card with my information on it, showing a bit of interest in traveling with my students. Of course, I filled that card out on a whim, and I had no inkling how it would all build up and come together like this. But, here I am on my first official day of Spring Break, preparing to fly to DC with 14 students in tow. There are many loose ends to tie up before we go. And, I need to start thinking about packing! I guess Forensics and parent/teacher conferences have been taking up all my time.

We started out with the idea of traveling with an agency. The guy who called me sounded really cute on the phone. Hence, Andrea and I dubbed him “the hot Smithsonian guy.” And, then Smithsonian guy transferred me to another agent, and once we saw how much cheaper we could make the trip if we did it ourselves, we turned down Smithsonian.

That began a long road of fundraising, organizing, planning, researching on the Internet, and keeping track of our money. It has been quite the challenge. I’m extremely excited to see the pay off! I also marvel at how people used to plan trips. Maybe they relied on travel agents more in the past. Andrea and I have done everything by the Internet and phone. I’m becoming an even bigger fan of google maps. You can mark out your route for the day by car, walking, or public transit! It’s fantastic.

So, why am I doing this? I know I love my students and want to give them a chance to get out of the county. I guess I love a challenge. I guess I don’t think through the decisions I make very thoroughly at times. :)

To top it all, I have an interview on Monday morning at the school where I have applied. And, I don’t have any navy pants for my navy suit jacket. Wonderful. I’m going to frantically search for some in Wichita on Sunday evening. Had I thought of this sooner, I could have bought some online. We all know that’s the only place I can find pants long enough. But, like I said, I guess I’ve been a bit consumed with everything else that has been going on. So, I choose to be optimistic about my last minute shopping trip to Wichita. I will find extra long pants at Gap, Express, or Banana Republic. All will be well . . .

Okay, okay. I’ll take my black jacket and pants along with me this weekend. :)