Wednesday, June 30, 2010

To Market, To Market

So, I've been in Philadelphia now for a week and one day...my brain can't even process this because it feels like I've been here for at least a month. I guess that's what bare minimum sleep will do to you after a while. And I have no concept of the outside world at all, I'm barely accessing news websites, let alone no TV, and minimal contact with anyone from home.

Tomorrow is one of the first Institute thresholds - we have our first two rough draft lesson plans for next week due. That means that on Tuesday we begin our lessons, meaning that on Tuesday I will be in front of an actual classroom of fourth graders teaching a phonics lesson. It's only 30 minutes long, but I'm still nervous. And in case you're confused, we do our training at a summer school this month.

On Monday, the first day of Institute, it was 100 degrees in Philly. Not so bad I guess if you're at the beach or indoors. But our school had NO A/C and we had to wear professional dress. I was miserable and that caused me to become angry and frustrated, and I'll just admit that that night I really just wanted to give up and go home. I was overtired and sick of dressing up, and the heat was unbearable, and I just wanted to pack my things and go home and do something that actually made me happy. But since then I've done a 180 and I'm feeling a lot better. Today's weather was only 80 degress and I swear it felt like fall.

Our Institute workbook/manual is an 800-page MONSTER (photo to come).

For the last week or so I've been averaging about five hours of sleep per night. I typically wake up around 5:30am because we have to get our lunch, eat breakfast, and be on our school buses by 6:30. Add to that dressing in professional clothing and walking to the dining hall which is ten minutes away in 100 degree heat and it's not that fun.

It's also really strange, but I've seen and met so many "friend Doppelgängers" since I've been here. I think there are at least a dozen people who are creepily similar both physically and personality-wise to people I know from home - it's uncanny!

Sunday we moved from UPenn's campus in University City to Temple University which is in the north of the city, and while the campus is alright, I don't like it here that much. The surrounding area isn't that great, and North Philly is notorious for being a bad area. When we drive to the elementary school each morning we ride through some rough looking areas. Back at UPenn it was just our 220 person corps, but now we've added CT, RI, Baltimore, and DC corps so we have a pretty hefty group of about 500 corps members. At my elementary school there are about fifty of us who are a mix of all regions. At the school we're broken down further into CMA (corps member advisor) groups of about 12 people and then even further into collabs, which are four person groups. These collabs are the people we will be "collaborating" with to make lessons and teach, and each collab is in charge of a classroom of students. Mine happens to be fourth graders.

Tomorrow at school we are performing a DRA (diagnostic reading assessment?) for our students to determine their reading level. It's insane, because last night we had a two hour lecture on how to administer the test (one-on-one with a student) and already I feel like I can do it with minimal problems - further proof that I am actually learning a lot of information here.

I'm also meeting people from all over the country, and as I said before everyone seems to be really personable and friendly, and it's easy to relate to one another. Not many Asians, but I can look past that!

Alright, let's end this post with a list of things that I am not really feeling...
Lunches - sick of PB&J every day
No sleep - UGH I sleep about 5hrs a night
Low flow showers - enough said
Smelly feet - my feet are pretty smelly for some reason...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Philadelphia Freedom

From now on, I think this is going to just transform itself into my Teach for America experience blog. I've been in Philly for only five days but I've already wrapped up the Mid-Atlantic induction and I truly feel that I learned a lot about both what Teach for America is all about, as well as a better sense of Philly and the mission of TFA in Philly.

When I arrived I instantly felt sad for leaving Boston. Philly seems more mixed than Boston, meaning it seems that there is more mixing between nice and bad areas of the city, and just because you're in one neighborhood doesn't mean there are no bad streets or sketchy-looking people. I'll admit, the first few days I wasn't feeling the city at all, but since then I have really changed my attitude towards the city and I am so excited to get to know it better.

The one thing I do not like about Philly at all is it's summer weather. Each day reaches ninety degrees and it's usually pretty muggy and oppresive. Add to that walking around in business attire and you just want to kill yourself. Our first full day featured a scavenger hunt in our small groups around the city (and I mean ALL AROUND the city) and I literally thought I was going to just keel over and pass out.

Induction helped to open my eyes a lot more to the plight of many young people in terms of the lack of education in America, and the achievement gap specifically in Philadelphia. The school system here is nothing at all like I've grown up around in Boston, and the district is struggling and being taken over by charter schools that have these intense plans of turning the city's education system around and provide services and increased graduation rates to the city's children. It's a huge undertaking becoming a teacher in this city and I can already feel that it's going to be a very very tough year coming up for me, but I am still really eager and happy to get started.

And everyone here is so friendly kind, and helpful - both the staff, 2009 corps members, and also my fellow 2010 corps members. I've met some awesome people and I hope I will continue to stay friends with them throughout this experience.

The biggest thing on my mind has been finding an apartment. I've seen different neighborhoods and even apartments of 2009 corps members since I've been here, but all of them have different aspects to them that I enjoy and it's really hard to sit down and think about what I really want out of where I live. There is just so much to consider...the neighborhood, public transit nearby, who and how many people I'd like to live with, the style of the house, distance from the schools I could be teaching at, etc. I really want to find a place within the next two weeks, but my biggest concern is how to find people to live with. I consider myself outgoing but in terms of approaching people to ask them who they are living with/would they want to find a place together/etc. is difficult for me. And everyone seems to have different needs in their apartment that they want, so I feel that it will come down more to who wants to live in the same areas as you, not so much the people that you specifically would enjoy living with.

I just spent most of the afternoon on a neighborhood housing tour with a 2009 corps members and three girls, and we drove around the city and looked at some apartments that corps members live in. It was a nice trip because I was able to connect areas of the city in my mind and get a broader sense of the city itself. But again, I came out of it with more problems because now I have so many things I want in an apartment and I felt that each place I saw had things I liked about it. One neighborhood was really hip but the apartments were very new, but at the same time a little industrial-looking. Another was a very suburban-looking neighborhood but the apartments were less renovated and a little rough around the edges. And in the museum district area the apartment we saw was really nice and the neighborhood was amazing (a huge park) but I'd probably need to find three roommates because most of the places seemed to be row houses that have four bedrooms.

So much is swimming around in my brain and it's so nice to have this weekend off from all things TFA. Tomorrow we are moving from UPenn to Temple University and then Monday begins Institute, so if I have any feeling that my time this past week has been busy then I will just blow up in the upcoming week, because it's going to be long long days and a lot of work.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Leaving on an Amtrak Train

Tuesday morning I will leave for the first leg of my Philadelphia adventure. Tuesday begins the TFA induction which last for a week, and then begins the five week-long training Institute which will probably drain me of all energy but form me into a teacher. And during this period, I will be finding an apartment and setting up my grown up life. EEK!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sports Bar

Last night I found myself in a sports bar right outside of Fenway Park for the final game of the NBA (playoffs?) things, right when a Sox game was letting out. Why on earth would I be there, you may ask? Because I love seeing my friends (even if I could only handle it for about an hour and a half before I left). I can tolerate hockey and baseball, but I have no love for the NBA (or basketball in general), and even with the screaming and excited fans I still found myself bored with the game. So I said goodbye to my friends around ten, jumped on the train at Kenmore, and was home an hour later.

And to top it all off, I've had a perpetual headache since Wednesday night. I'm afraid that it might be caused by my wisdom teeth, because the top two are now about a third of the way showing and everyone keeps saying how they can either (a) become infected, or (b) shift all your teeth around - as if one day I will wake up and my teeth will be all snaggled and weird. Either way, though, I really REALLY should have had them taken out last fall when I was going to...or last winter when I rescheduled...or spring break when I re-rescheduled.

Last, I said goodbye to an era yesterday. After FIVE YEARS with an old razor-type phone, I finally upgraded and got an android phone that is pretty much like an iPhone. It's amazing, I'm obsessed, and it feels so weird not to have my old phone anymore. But I am loving every second of it. And to make it even better, I made the first few verses of Lady Gaga's "So Happy I Could Die" as my ringtone.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Accepted

Oh, one more thing. There is this story plaguing the Boston Globe recently about this student who scammed Harvard (and maybe Princeton too) to get accepted into their school. It said he faked his resume by saying he could speak languages he couldn't, and that he did all this research and lecturing that he never actually did either.

What I fail to understand is, if you, HARVARD, are accepting a student into your school (and I think it was even for graduate school), and giving them grants/scholarships, etc., why are you not FOLLOWING UP on their achievements? Why is the school making such a fuss when to me it comes off as THEIR FAILURE not to have verified his past work and research? How is that anyone's fault but their own? Or are colleges so concerned with tuition and money that they have failed to even take into account the merits that allow students to progress through our education system...?

And furthermore, Boston Globe, I hate how you devoted an entire article about how "diversified" and "from what meager beginnings and distant lands" Boston's valdictorians came from. I mean, congratulations to all of them, truly, but must you keep pounding diversity and counter-racism on everyone!? It doesn't matter where someone comes from or what their skin color is, anyone has the right to succeed and we shouldn't have to glorify or highlight someone who succeeds just because they are of another nationality. To me, that points out their differences and causes more of a rift between people and their nationalities.

Mass Bay

I really hate sport obsessions. I never understand how people become so fascinated with sports. Sure I love competitive sports, but usually only on an international scale, such as the Olympics, and a little love for the ongoing World Cup in South Africa. But the one thing I hate, are fair-weathered fans - those who pay little if any attention to sports during the season, but then when a said teams enters the finals/playoffs/etc. these fans come out of the woodwork and freak out. I am proud of the Boston Celtics because I love my city, but I am not paying any attention to the games or anything of that sort.

If anything, I want these games to end so the subways can be cleared of the Celtics fans who flock to the city from the outlying areas and walk around dazed and confused even though the MBTA is the most easy system to navigate through...morons.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Spilt

This oil mess down in Lousiana is really getting me down. It's such a joke what we have allowed oil companies to do in this world. First they hoard oil to keep supply low so that the prices rise for the average consumer, while they make billions. Then they refuse to allow car companies and governments to pass clean energy bills and funds to support hybrid cars. Then lobbyists and oil companies help push our country into a disasterous war in the Middle East to obtain more oil. And they continually rape our planet to obtain more oil and then fuck it up with huge disasters like this, wasting the "precious" commodity and destroying our ecosystems.

At least the government is responding harshly to this "mishap."

I have had it with oil having this death grip on humanity. I don't drive and many people make fun of me for that, but there is a part my not having a license that stems back to oil and politics. I refuse to waste all my hard-earned money (or lack thereof right now) on gasoline and oil and then polluting my planet in return. I'm not saying that I am against driving and cars altogther (I mean we do have to get around), but I am at least making a slight difference by having one less car on the road. It always enrages me when I see families with four or more cars in their driveways, one for each kid and parent. Only in America...