Saturday, June 20, 2009

Two Fifths of the Way Through

One thing I can say for sure as a new teacher is that I LOVE Saturdays. It was great going to bed knowing I didn't have to wake up at 5 a.m. Though I didn't wake up as early as I do on a normal day, that doesn't mean work doesn't gets done on Saturdays. I woke up around 9ish and worked on lesson plans from when I got up until dinner time. There are clear signs of improvement in my lesson planning as I get further into it; although, it still takes me awhile for a few reasons in particular which I will explain later on in this post.

This week was a challenge. Although, like most of you who know me, I had no problem getting ahead in my lesson plans =). This week I taught 3 days (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) and can definitely say that it was a blast. I love getting to know my students and I love seeing them interact with what I'm teaching them. I can say with confidence that teaching is by far the best part about Teach For America summer institute.

Summer institute, this week, has been greeted with much controversy and animosity by me and other corps members. Summer institute, though the ultimate goals are student achievement and making effective teachers, there are many other sub-goals that Teach For America makes sure they meet. One of those sub-goals is creating a culture of stress and exhaustion. For example, due dates for lesson plans are at 4 a.m. What kind of culture is that creating? The kind where people stay up until 2:30 a.m. to work on lesson plans when they need to wake up at 5 a.m. My CMA (Corps Member Advisor) was complaining about how everyone was tired and was telling us that nobody should be tired. I told my CMA that if she changed the due dates to midnight that people would get to bed earlier. For some reason she seemed to disagree.

Lesson planning has been so hard for me and everybody here at Institute because nobody has a text book to reference. Now, I realize that there are a lot of schools that don't use text books; however, when you've been teaching for one week it's hard to lesson plan when you have no text book and the only thing you have to reference before you plan a 90 minute lesson is two sentences (the state standard and objective). For that reason, it seems as though I am dependant upon google to become an effective teacher. Creating assessments and materials for guided practice has looked a lot like me writing my own assessments and desperately searching the internet. This has been frustrating for me and I have expressed my frustration to those in authority around me. They basically told me tough luck. I told them I couldn't wait to get back into Indiana.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The First Day of Teaching

Today was the first day that Teach For America teachers started instructing summer school. Needless to say everybody was running around all over campus trying to get things together to try and make their first day as a teacher the best it could be. I even heard one of my buddies say that he saw a woman fall down with all of her teaching supplies. I guess a high heels and having your hands full is not very conducive with walking up a hill.

This morning I had a terrifying knock on my door. It was my roommate Mark. "Andrew, are you in there?" Needless to say, I was alarmed and answered the door and found out it was 6a.m. much to my dismay because I set my alarm for 5:15. Turns out I set my alarm for 5:15p.m. Thank God for people like Mark that are aware of when their roommates usually wake up.

As a result of the late wake up my morning was hectic as I quickly hopped out of bed, got in and out of the shower, hopped in a shirt and tie, and was walking to the dining hall. It was probably for the best that I got up so late because otherwise I would have just had more time to get nervous before I taught.

I got to school, set everything up, and eventually taught. The way TFA does summer school (for my location) is that I only teach every other day for 90min each day I teach. So, I teach Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of this week and Tuesday and Thursday of next week. Today was great though, I ended up going a little under time on my lesson plan but was able to improve, with the help of my Faculty Assistant, quite easily. I taught some vocabulary (context clues) and textual features (paragraph, topic sentence, concluding sentence) today and it seemed as though they got it just fine. As I glanced over their assessments at the end of the day it seems as though there are a few students that I will need to spend some time with reteaching my lesson but, overall, the students learned and were a joy to have. I'm just glad the students are fairly well behaved and my classroom management structure seems solid as well.

The day was great. The days go a lot faster when you're actually teacher your students as opposed to sitting around in seminars all day. I'm excited about getting and applying feedback to the journey to becoming an effective teacher. I just need to remember that the kids here in Atlanta aren't my lab rats; they're students that desperately need instruction. They need to pass their standardized tests so they can go on to 6th grade. As one CMA (Corps Member Advisor) put it, "Someone once told me to teach like a life was on the line...well guess what...a life is on the make sure you bring your integrity every day!" That's motivation to work hard and become an effective teacher.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Week in Review

I think that I can speak for the majority of my friends and colleagues here in Atlanta when I say that I am utterly exhausted. This first week of summer institute has been tremendous but very challenging. Let me explain...

Basically, the first week of summer institute is devoted to learning the basics of becoming a highly effective teacher with other brilliant nuggets of teacher knowledge thrown in along the way. A normal day for me started with waking up at 5 a.m. and being to breakfast by about 5:45. I would then eat some breakfast and relax with some friends as we waited for our buses to arrive to take us to our summer school locations.

Since Teach For America teachers were not actually teaching this week we did a lot of sitting around and listening to lectures about how to be an effective teacher. This past week I have learned about effective teaching methods, classroom management, student investment, lesson planning, objectives, key points, diversity, and hundreds of other things I am forgetting right now.

I'll be honest, this week, especially Monday was quite slow. When you're sitting around in a classroom all day (from 7-4:30) the day tends to go very slowly; however, as the week picked up the responsibility picked up as well. By the end of the week, my Teach For America friends and I have been relentlessly working on lesson plans, classroom posters, and brainstorming about effective ways to close the achievement gap here in Atlanta. It is now Saturday and I am only a few days away from meeting all of my students and teaching them what they need to know this summer. Let me give you a rundown of my class...

I am teaching a 5th grade class and their subject is all day reading. That's right...all reading...all the time. In Atlanta, children need to pass a standardized test called the CRCT to move on to the next grade level. The fifth grade students I have all did not pass the CRCT the first time and need to improve their reading fluency, proficiency, and comprehension to move on to middle school. There are only 12 students in my class and they appear to be well behaved. I think they're eager to take this CRCT test again and hopefully move on to a new school and a new life awaiting them in middle school.

I have my lesson plans done for Monday and will rehearse what I need to do on Sunday. I'm eager to step into a classroom for the first time and hopefully make a difference. This whole things is hard. Teaching is not going to be easy, heck, it already isn't easy. Although things are not easy I am learning a lot. Everything Teach For America is teaching us is fantastic knowledge that I can implement immediately into my professional life. Like I said, I'm eager to step into a classroom but I know I have a lot more left to learn.

As I am 1/5 of the way done with summer instiute I know that the remaining 4/5 will fly by. I'll keep y'all updated as I learn more about myself, my class, and my life as a teacher.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Funny the way it is


For all of my friends that don't quite yet understand how weird Dave Matthews is this is my proof.

Watch the link and just ask yourself what the heck happened.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Start of a Journey

This is my first post in the blogosphere! I am excited to be blogging about my experience in Teach For America (TFA). I have started this journey in Teach For America and figured that since I'll be in Atlant for the majority of the summer and for Indianapolis for the next two years that I'd keep a blog to keep family and friends informed about what's going on in my life. I hope that I can stay disciplined and blog consistently enough for people to read and care.

The last week I was in Indianapolis for a period of time Teach For America calls Induction. Induction is basically an overview of the region I am going to teach in (Indianapolis) and of Teach For America as an organization. The week was great and the more I learned about Teach For America the more I was impressed with everything that they're about. I also learned a little bit about Indianapolis and the trouble they're in as far as education goes. Some recent research showed that out of the largest 50 cities in America that Indianapolis is dead last (#50) in graduation rate. So, obviously there is a lot to do in the city of Indianapolis. I just hope and pray that I can be a leader in the community and in the classroom. I don't come into Teach For America with the idea that I'm a hero; however, I just want to make a difference in lives of children in Indianapolis with one child at a time. I realize my job isn't to reform the Indianapolis Public School system and thank God that isn't my job because I'd be awful at it anyway.

The next few weeks (5 to be exact) in Atlanta I will learn how to be an effective classroom teacher while teaching summer school for Atlanta Public Schools. An average day will depend upon me waking up at 5:30 and going to bed close to midnight. Atlanta will be strenuous and a growing experience and will come back ready to make a difference in the lives of students in Indianapolis. I only hope I can make a difference in Atlanta Public Schools during my time here.

In the coming weeks, months, and years I hope to continue blogging on a regular basis to keep y'all informed on what's going on in my life. I hope people will read, subscribe, and look forward to what I have to say next. What you'll read wont be insightful, witty, or brilliant but it will be my life. Stay tuned for more.