Making the Desert Bloom

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 04 2012

The Insane Kids keep me Sane

I know it’s been over a week since I last wrote a post, but it took working 5 hours already on the 4th of July to be in a position where I could actually afford the time to write a post. That’s the story of Institute. There is simply so much work to do that it can be become difficult to enjoy a day off (except for sleeping in and going to Dodger Stadium last night to watch the Reds play). I have been through demanding parts of my life before, but nothing quite compares to Institute. I know there were periods in college when I was busier than I am now. However, I am solely focused on the demands of Institute and pretty much nothing else so it feels quite different from the busiest days in college where I was worrying about 9,000 things at once.

So what keeps one going at Institute? The kids or shall I say, scholars. On Monday, I got to meet my seven (for now) summer school students who will be enrolling in 4th Grade in the fall. It remains unclear how many students we are going to have for the summer. We had 5 on Monday, 7 yesterday, and who knows how many tomorrow. I guess that’s just part of the system. In any case, I have enjoyed teaching a few lessons so far. Am I great, transformational teacher already? Absolutely not. So far the scholars have understood some of my points, and they have been befuddled by others. From what I hear, my experience is pretty par for the course.

As with any group of 9 and 10 year olds, there have been some behavior issues. Some of these are directly my fault. I should never have allowed the students to have a boys team and a girls team for the fraction game. The class got so competitive so quickly that I felt like a hockey ref that was trying to break up a fight. However, the game did encourage the students to learn the material, so I am not going to abandon group activities based on one rough experience. Therefore, today I have been working on changing my lesson plans and writing new ones to find which specific methods will work best for my students. I am sure there are going to be a lifetime worth of adjustments ahead, but at least I am learning.

The most difficult part of Institute is that we have Masters level classes each afternoon after we spend four hours team-teaching in the morning. Sometimes these sessions are at the school site and other times they are back at Loyola Marymount (LMU). Even if we can be dressed more casually at LMU, the sessions are still long and grueling. Most of the sessions have admittedly been helpful, but sometimes they are poorly explained, which just leads to more confusion than anything else. I know that TFA is trying its best to squeeze everything into 5 weeks for logistical and financial reasons, but we honestly need more time to sleep and then become effective teachers. If they could spread out the course work over a longer period of time, then we could probably comprehend more of it. However, I know that’s not the situation, so I am going to try to make the best of it. At the end of the day, at least we are teaching students now, so they can keep me sane and on-task.

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