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.

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