Thursday, March 19, 2009


Saturday, March 14

It's always nice to get out of town for the day, especially if we can go someplace with stimulation and exercise for Rowan. We got all that and more at the Children's Museum of Memphis.

The museum is designed to be engaging and fun as well as educational for kids of all ages. There are really cool interactive displays of cars, jet planes, and even home construction, all of which were way over Rowan's head at this point.

Instead, Rowan would have spent hours catching plastic "fish" floating downstream, if we'd let him. Lucas (left) was also comletely enthralled by "the stream", and this was a good place for us to chat with Emily and Tood for a little while.

Lucas's favorite spot in the whole museum was the "Kiddie Disco".

Rowan, on the other hand, wore himself out going down the big tube-slide over and over again.

Rowan also liked getting to play dentist, since he's already so good at brushing his own teeth.

He especially loved playing fireman!

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Job changes are usually big news, and this one was really exciting! In February, Carley wrapped up her previous job as the director of El Centro and started a new job as the assistant director at the Mississippi Geographic Alliance.

MGA is a network of teachers and geographers who work to promote geography education in the state of Mississippi and to increase the scope and amount of geography content in K-12 education. The organization receives funding and guidance from National Geographic, publishers of one of the finest magazines on the planet, among other things.

MGA is located in the Public Policy Leadership Department of the Lott Leadership Institute (named after the famous Republican senator from Mississippi) at University of Mississippi. Carley is excited to be working on the Ole Miss campus, the alma mater of so many of her friends and family.

Ole Miss is in the town of Oxford (pictured above), about 50 minutes west of our home in Tupelo, which is why we've had our house on the market since early February. So far the commute has been alright, but far from convenient for either of us, and we'll both be more relaxed after we relocate to Oxford. Oxford is a beautiful town with lots more to do for folks like us than Tupelo offers, including a relatively vibrant music scene.

MGA, which has been around for more than 20 years, is currently in a period of resurgence and expansion, and Carley was hired, in part, to assist the Executive Director with organizational development initiatives and to identify and develop strategic partnerships.

One of her tasks will be to assist with the professional development workshops that MGA provides to current and prospective teachers. She's already been busy with this facet of her job, as this recent pre-service workshop (above) had her spending a Friday and Saturday in Jackson (the state capitol). This workshop fell on the first week of her job, and it was a great opportunity to meet several of MGA's "teacher consultants," many of whom have been with MGA since its inception.

Far more exciting, however, was her recent business trip to the nation's capitol.

The destination was the National Geographic headquarters (pictured above; the building in the reflection is also part of National Geographic) for the annual Alliance Network conference.

Much of her time was spent in long sessions and conferences with fellow geography advocates (most of whom are university professors), swapping strategies and discussing the National Geographic Education Foundation's ambitious new goal to scale-up geographic education in the country.

However, she did get out for some excitement, lobbying on Capitol Hill for the Teaching Geography is Fundamental act (TGIF, HR1240, S?). In the photo above, she and her boss David (3rd from left)and her National Geographic liasion Allison (far right) met with Travis Childers (2nd from left), the new Democratic U.S. representative for Mississippi's 1st congressional district. The meeting was a success, by the way, as Childers signed on as a co-sponsor of the legislation. Mississippi's Thad Cochran is expected to introduce the legislation in the Senate (along with Senator Chris Dodd) any day now.

Carley couldn't stop chuckling after seeing the Senate Hair Care Salon (above) in one of the tunnels below the Senate office buildings and had to go back to snap a photo before she left.

Needless to say, it's been an interesting and exciting first month for Carley at her new job, and we're pretty sure there will be plenty more interesting things to report in the future, including a September conference in Puerto Rico that Rob is hoping to join in on.


What's Rob doing at work these days?

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After some disheartening situations in his first year as a public school teacher last year at the local Tupelo High School, Rob has had a wonderful year as the ESL teacher at the one of the K-12 schools in neighboring Pontotoc County.

Pontotoc County is a much more rural district, and the elementary, middle and high schools are located together on the same site. This gives the school much more of a down-home family sort of feel than Tupelo, and the urban-gang culture that afflicts so many schools these days is practically non-existent here. Even better, the principal here is a really great principal, which makes for a great environment for everybody, teachers and students alike.

Rob's job here is to provide ESL (English as a Second Language) tutorial classes to all of the ELL (English Language Learner) students in grades K-12. Most of his time is spent in the elementary school, where he provides inclusion (in the regular classroom) services for some grades and pull-out (small groups in the ESL classroom, pictured above) services for other grades. The middle and high-school kids come as one group from each school for a tutorial/study hall class in the middle of the day. Overall, Rob works with about 45 students throughout the day, most of whom come from Spanish-speaking families.

Rob's classroom is in the back of the school, in the left half of this doublewide classroom-trailer. It might sound kind of ghetto, but because of extreme space limitations due to local population growth (they really need to build a new school!), there was really no place else to move the ESL classroom when they had to add another kindergarten room to meet demand. And in fact, the classroom is really pretty nice and spacious inside, so we aren't complaining at all.

Rob says: "Working here is a really rewarding experience on many levels. It's especially rewarding knowing that I'm helping to make an important positive impact on such wonderful kids who are facing educational challenges due to their situations. Every day I catch myself smiling in delight over something one of my kids has said or done, or over something that I've just learned. And I've learned so much at this job about working with kids of all different ages, and especially about all the different aspects of teaching children to read. I think this will help me to be a better father and mentor to Rowan, which may be the most rewarding part of all."

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