Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Poor Will Always Be Among Us

I am reading The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair. It's fascinating. It's a book about the meatpacking industry of the early 1900s. It describes what life was like, especially for immigrants, working in the meat packing and other poverty-inducing industries.

It explains in detail some of the horrific truths, such as human beings falling into the steam vats and disappearing, becoming part of the soap produced from the lard. Or the chemicals and bleach and moldy meat that was not fit for eating, that was all poured into the sausage bins, not to mention the rats and rat droppings, and dirty water, and much more disgusting articles, all thrown into the same bin. And, some would be labeled "premium" and cost more, though it was all the same meat.

It also describes the extreme poverty, and the lack of rights people had. The story focuses on a family from Lithuania that buys a "brand new" house (15 years old) and signs a contract with multiple hidden fees, interests, etc., and are eventually kicked out. Every person in the family must work, down to the children. They are working for mere pennies a day, in the worst working conditions imaginable.

As I've been reading, I've thought about Michael and my current process of trying to go through our stuff, getting rid of what we can't take with us to the East coast. I have realized how fortunate we are to have stuff to get rid of. And I think about this abject poverty that is so heart breaking. The crazy thing is this poverty still exists in our country and in our world. Obviously working conditions and food sanitation laws are improved, but there are still so many in need. This is part of what Michael is looking to do within his Masters program: figure out how to help people in poverty learn to sustain themselves in less-than poverty conditions.

We (our country, the world) have come so far, but at the same time, there are many needs. We know Jesus said there will always be the poor among us, but what does that really mean? And what can we do about it?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

T minus less than 2 months!

Time is ticking away.

Today I sent out 4 more job applications, as well as my application for my Pennsylvania License. Now it's a matter of time for my license to come in the mail. I jumped through all the hoops: Fingerprints while we were in PA, Criminal background check, Child Abuse history, FBI Clearance, Physical exam, application, was a lot of paperwork, but finally I had it all and was able to send it in.

It was a process though. Everything seemed to go wrong today. I forgot my OR License, and I was planning on working on it all this morning in Tualatin while Michael was working (we stayed in town to take friends to the airport last night). Then I rushed home to make the copies I needed and the copy machine at Safeway wouldn't work right (it printed out 11 x 14 documents), so we had to stand at the counter and cut them down. We were trying to make it by 5:00 to the post office. Well, as we neared the post office the road was blocked due to construction. So, I got out of the car and walked to the post office.

I got there and realized I didn't have enough postage on my documents. But it didn't matter anyway because the pick up was at 4:00, and the next one was at 8:45. I forgot my wallet and phone, so I had to walk back to the car to get money from Michael.

All that to say, I will be happy if one of these applications turns into a job.

On a different note, I have been enjoying my summer so far. I joined a local gym in town and work out every day. It's been great. And I've read 4 books in less than a week. Summer vacation is awesome! This is the first summer in years I haven't had a job, though preparing to move is a job in itself.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I'm Official!

Today I packed up my desk at school, turned in my badge, key and parking permit, and was home by 10:30 AM. Tomorrow there is a teacher breakfast that I will go to, but after that I'm done, because all my grades are finished!!

And, my teaching license came in the mail today!

I am officially certified to teach in the state of Oregon.

Now for Pennsylvania...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The End

Today was my last day with my students. It was bittersweet. I am happy that I'm done, but it was sad to see my students (most of them) go. Especially after reading more letters today. They are very endearing.

Instead of writing a bunch of excerpts again, I thought I'd tell stories of some individual students.

There was a group of boys in one of my classes that would be considered on the "fringe." One of them was expelled for a while this semester due to drug-related offenses on campus, another one has a Parole Officer because of vandalism charges (and who knows what else?). These guys rarely missed my class. One of them informed me that my class was "by far" his favorite class, and the other one said he learned more from me than from any other teacher and that students love me. Needless to say the comments from these two were a little surprising/unexpected. One of the girls in my class who tended to sit with this "fringe" group said that last semester these guys skipped a lot and that I made students, including them, actually want to come to class.

In my other class, there was a group of guys who were absolutely obsessed with WOW (World of Warcraft) - Online video game. At certain points in the semester there would be tension in the class because I was constantly having to split this group up because they NEVER stopped talking...about WOW. By the end of the year, we had a fun teasing relationship. These group of guys had some of the best comments in their letters. One boy in particular, who I've been working with all semester to keep his grade up, lingered around my desk at the end of class wanting to know if I had read his letter. This student, as well as many others, had written that they were disappointed on the first day of the semester when they found out I was teaching. But, this student, as well as others, said he was really glad to be in my class. And, he wanted me to know that I am his favorite teacher.

Then there was the comment from a student who literally chose to do nothing all semester, but always came to class, and barely passed class with a D-Minus:

Dear Mrs. Chipple,
I didn't hate your class. I know that doesn't seem like a very great compliment, but I assure you it is. You wouldn't even believe how much I hate school...Not very many teachers give students as much freedom to use their creativity as you did and I really, really appreciate you for that. I enjoyed Mr. W's class more than yours, but don't feel bad because he's my favorite teacher. At first I was a little annoyed to have a student teacher, but you weren't too lame. In fact, you're way better than the majority of teachers out there. I truly mean that. Have a good life.

Well, you can't win them all!

I'll end with the two most significant letters.

One was from a student who I wrote about in February. I had called his dad to tell him he was failing, and the dad chewed me out, saying I was "un-motivating" and boring, and that's why his son was failing. well, This student wrote that after he got used to me as a teacher he began to enjoy the class more and more. That was a big deal to me.

The other student, who I had also called home a few months ago because of a failing grade, changed as well. I knew that at the beginning of the year this student had a hard time with me, I felt he was testing me as a young, female teacher. Well, by the end of this semester things had improved a ton. In fact, during our review game last week he dominated. He told me that he was "sketchy" about me at the beginning of the semester, but said now I am his favorite teacher. Furthermore, he said this class was his best class, with pottery as number two.

I am still reflecting on many of these letters and comments, as well as the semester overall. It's been a huge learning experience and I am still figuring out all the things I have learned and will continue to take with me in my future classrooms.

One thing is that I am less excited about the possibility of only substituting next year in PA, because the chance to really build relationships with students is not there.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

From Students

I thought I would post a few more excerpts from student letters from today. Of course, to me these are more meaningful especially considering the story of the individual student. A few of these made me cry as I read them, knowing the student's full story:

You are a nice teacher and there's not many teachers like that.

I usually don't like history but you made it fun.

You are good teacher and you actually seem like you care.

Some teachers are intimidating, but not you! Mr. V is one of my favorite teachers, and when I found out he was having a student teacher this period, I was sad and upset. But on the first day, I changed my mind. I was glad you were my teacher. You have become one of my favorite teachers.

I actually learned something in this class even though my grade doesn't show it...Thanks for the experience and trying to help me get my grade up an I appreciate it and also you have been the coolest teacher at high school I've ever had, more than California and in Oregon, so thanks for that Mrs. Chapman.

You're a good teacher and you're easy to talk to and you keep your word.

I think you really helped me a lot in a subject I'm not too good in.

You were my hottest teacher and was a plus to even come to class...I hope I have another cute teacher like you.

I thought I'd include the last one for a chuckle!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Journal Entry

An excerpt from my journal from this morning:

It's the last week of school...Finals week. I can't believe it's almost over. We're watching Karate Kid in US history. 1980s.

It's kind of weird that I only have my classes one more time after today. It gets me wondering if any of my students have learned anything, or been affected by this class at all. I think about how it would be cool to see what it would be like to have these students for another entire semester. But I do wonder...

Has this class affected these students at all?
Did they learn?
How did they feel in the class?

I'm hoping that the letters they write me along with the final will give me at least a minor glimpse into these questions.

Most of my failing students have brought their grades up, but there are a few that will still fail.

There are some students I will miss, though I have to say there are less from one class than my other two classes. For some reason I just haven't quite connected as well with one of my classes. I'm still amazed how I can feel like a different teacher and a different person in each class, even if it's the same content or level. Time of day and personalities affect the feel of a class a lot.

One of my students came up to me in the hallway in between classes this morning to tell me that he did well at a tournament he participated in this weekend. We had been talking about it in class, and he wanted me to know how he did. It was nice to know that he cared that I cared. Those are the rewarding little moments that make teaching a blessing.

On another note, I just found out that a guy I went to high school with overdosed on drugs this weekend and died on the way to the hospital. The crazy part is his younger brother died a few years ago in a car accident in town. It's amazing to think about how many people we interact with over the course of our lives. And to what effect?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Real Work

I've been reading a book called "Teacher Man," by Frank McCourt. He also wrote "Angela's Ashes," and "'Tis." All of these books are memoirs about his life as an Irish immigrant.

I picked the book up because of the title, and it's supposed to be an inspiration to teachers. It's been really funny to read some of his struggles as a high school teacher in Manhattan in the 60s, and to compare them to some of my own experiences.

His professors told him that you should never reveal any personal information about yourself, or tell stories to you students. But what they don't teach you in Teacher School is what to do when students start throwing sandwiches during class (McCourt picked it up and ate it), or what to do with the student who is unruly in class, but you know if you call home he will probably come to school the next day with some bruises.

He describes how students, especially high school students, are experts on teachers. They have been in school for ten years or more, and can read a teacher from the second they walk in the door. They know if you are afraid, confident, scared, and they know who is in control.

And his students would ask him, "Did you ever do real work, not teaching, you know, but real work?"

Real work. If they only knew.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


Today is the high school graduation, and I had 8 students who had to take the final this week, either seniors or juniors graduating early.

For part of the final I wrote a letter to my students asking them to write me back, telling me what they thought of the semester, and to give me any advice or other feedback.

It's been fun to read the letters, and I'm really excited to read all the rest next week during Finals week.

One student wrote that I am one of her two favorite teachers of all time. This same student also wrote that she remembers the first day of the semester when my "voice was shaking" and I was "playing with" my hands a lot, and that now I'm very confident and has loved my class. I wrote in her yearbook, and she emailed me and said it made her cry!

Another told me that I shouldn't change a thing in my class, that she loved everything about it, and learned more in this history class than any other class she's ever taken.

Another student said that normally she takes the final and stares blankly not knowing anything, and she took it and realized she had learned a lot this semester!

All my students wrote that they loved the projects I assigned and just really enjoyed the variety this semester.

All of these comments were rewarding to read and made me excited about continuing to teach. I will post more comments next week after Finals. Only one week to go!

Today I officially applied for my license, so I should receive it within a week or two.

Friday, June 01, 2007


I was just watching Oprah. The episode was about a family who was in a limo going home after their sister got married. They were hit by a drunk driver head-on who had been driving 70 m.p.h. the wrong way on a major highway for over 2 miles (and had had at least 14 drinks in his system). One of their little girls was killed instantly, her head completely severed. The mom actually sat on the side of the road as her parents, husband, and kids were peeled out of the limo, holding her daughter's head in her lap. I can't even imagine! The driver of the limo also died. This on the night of a wedding. The couple who got married (aunt of the little girl) said her marriage has been rocky from day one because it started with a death.

The second story was about a grandmother who accidentally backed up over her 3-year old grandson.

The third story was a mother who fell asleep at the wheel and drove into a lake, and her 3 youngest (out of 6) children were killed.

The thing that stuck with me through the show, especially during the first two stories, was the lack of hope the families had. The limo family said that their family has been completely destroyed, and that they wish they could all die, except that their are still 3 other children. It was so sad, because they just sat there basically saying their marriage, holidays, and other relationships are now non-existent, and always will be. They said that everyone around them seems shallow when they talk about their problems, and that they will never be able to relate to others, when they have dealt with this.

The grandmother that killed her grandson was so bitter and angry at herself for making a "mistake," and was basically punishing herself. She said she had looked up the definition of forgiveness (to pardon) and decided she could never pardon herself for what she did.

The redemption came in the third story. The first two had happened two years ago, where this story happened 16 years ago. She was on the show to give the other families some hope, and to encourage them to try to move on.

All of the situations were extremely sad, but I kept thinking about how these people seemed to not know Christ. There is hope in Christ even through tragedy. Our family (the Chapmans) experienced that last summer, and the difference in the grieving process is remarkable. Though we were all sad, we haven't soaked ourselves in bitterness. Not to say that it hasn't been heartbreaking and difficult, but, we have found hope in the future and in God's sovereignty.