After everyone had built up Institute to be the hardest five weeks of my life, I expected the “torture” to start from the first second. But that hasn’t been the case so far. Moving in yesterday was a breeze. It only took a few minutes to check at Loyola Marymount University, and getting settled in my apartment wasn’t much harder. The campus is beautiful (on a hilltop between the ocean and downtown LA near LAX) and the apartment is nicer than any I had at Tufts (ok that isn’t saying much). Surprisingly, the food is decent, but the lines are quite long as nearly 700 people are eating dinner at the same time. All things considered, the base camp details of Institute are fine.
This summer I am going to be teaching 3rd Grade at Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School in Watts. It’s the first year that TFA has run a summer school here so I am sure it’s going to be an even more interesting experience. This morning was filled some of the same activities as Induction (i.e. Story of Self and overall planning principles), but they took place in the school cafeteria. Despite my 5:30 AM wakeup, the morning wasn’t too bad except for the fact that it was a little rushed due to some morning bus problems.
After eating our packed lunches, we had a chance to take a tour of the Jordan Downs Housing Project that surrounds the school. Beforehand, we heard from a panel of community leaders talking about the changes currently going on in Watts. For example, I hadn’t realized that this traditionally African-American neighborhood has become a 70% Latino neighborhood, but yet the leadership of this community remains in African-American hands. From our tour, it still felt like an African-American community, but I assume my community snapshot was not all encompassing. What impressed me most was seeing Pastor Mike Cummings interact with the local residents. This LA Times piece captures the sentiment better than I can, but it was very impressive seeing this leader connect with his community.
Overall, today inspired me to try to build a tangible connection with my students and their community in the next month. While I will only be teaching my summer school students for four weeks, I want to go above and beyond in establishing a real, lasting connection with my kids. Due to the rigorous demands of Institute that may be more challenging, but I am going to try my best. The ride ahead is not going to be smooth, but it may not be quite as rough as I had thought.