Monday, July 26, 2010

Stress Test

Streaming Magic 106.7 is the greatest thing ever.

But it does little to ease my worries that I'm going to be homeless in Philly. I am leaving in four days which leaves me with only three days to put down a deposit and sign on an apartment. What am I going to do if I can't get this done this week? When I get back to Boston I will be home until I make the big move back down, and I can't move down with no place to move into!

We saw some great places yesterday but none have gotten back to us yet, and I am getting really nervous because every passing hour is one step closer to the end. Figures this would have happened to me...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

End of Being Institutionalized

So TFA's Philly Institute is ending this Friday, and right after it ends I'm taking a flight back to Boston for a week. Then the week after I'll be moving all my crap down from Boston into the apartment that I still don't have! But really, I have got to find a place ASAP. My two friends and I have a date with a realtor in an hour to look at a few more places (apart from the ten others I've seen all over the city this past week). We really have to make a decision today because it's really down to the wire now.

The last day of summer school teaching is Wednesday (thank god!). Yes, I did enjoy it and I loved my kids (when I wasn't in the front teaching them) but it really was difficult. The kids were wild and a handful of them were really out of control most of the time. I feel like I was never assertive enough with them and they realized how soft I was and were able to take advantage of me. I tried my best but I'm not sure how much I actually taught them or not.

I really tried my best to reach out to the kids too, but some of them were not so easy to get to know. It's hard when most of them don't want to be there (especially seeing as most of them were just there for enrichment or a way to kill time and not because they actually NEEDED it). But there are definitely some kids that I really enjoyed teaching who warmed up to me. Jaymir's called me his best friend a few times, although I'm a teacher, not a best friend!

I just finished most of the paperwork for my employer. I haven't been to the school yet but I'm getting more and more nervous/excited. I'm super pumped to be teaching social studies, but I'm nervous to have six different classes (three 3rd grades and three 5th grades). I anticipate that being a bit difficult, but at least I'll probably only have to do two lesson plans per day and be able to perfect them by that third class!

I had this realization last night: while I am enjoying TFA and excited for the upcoming school year, I realized that if only I could be in Boston, I could have my life with my friends and family around me and then be doing TFA on the side, whereas in Philly TFA is now my life with nothing on the side. This fall I'm going to be teaching all week and then taking UPenn classes on the weekends, which will leave me with no life whatsoever. I miss having friends accessible and being in a city that I actually desire - I mean I am warming up to Philly more and more with each day I get to explore it, but Boston is much nicer and more public transit friendly.

Quick story: I went out with people from the school I'm at for the summer (both other corps members and our staff) and I got pretty plastered and probably made a fool of myself...but whatever, should be an interesting day tomorrow when I see them all LOL I had a great time with my fellow CMs from my CMA group :)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Homeward Bound

Last night I booked a flight back to Boston for the night of Friday, July 30th. I should be back in town for at least a week before moving down to Philly into the apartment that we still haven't found yet!

Dropped

Apparently Brandon was dropped from the summer school program for the threat he made that day last week. He wasn't in class on Friday and we learned about it after school ended. It makes me feel so bad for the little guy because he had been kicked out of his actual elementary school the year before.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Overprotected

Today at lunch one of my students was saying how he was going to find a kid from another class after school to beat him up. Apparently the other kid has squirted water from his mouth at Brandon (my student). The whole lunch they were instigating each other from across the tables and my student was getting heated and preparing to fight. I'm not sure where it came from, but all of a sudden I felt very protective of Brandon and I didn't want to see him make a wrong choice that could also get him in trouble. When lunch ended and the kids were getting dismissed to go to after school or go home, Brandon was trying to quickly get out of the lunchroom and stalking after the other kid. I had to almost forcibly hold him to slow him down and it took me and my friend (the TFA teacher of the student he wanted to fight) to veer him from the path and hold him back as we tried to calm him down.

And on a similar note, I had my first successful parent phone call home today. I was calling parents just to check in with them, and only one really answered: Yusuf's mother, one of my favorite students. I told her that he was trying really hard in class, was doing his best, and did very good on his reading homework that he had passed in this morning. I told her to make sure he kept up with the reading I was sending home. It was great to see how responsive she sounded and I can only hope she keeps on him, because he's one of the lowest level students in the class.

One last thing: I absolutely love my small reading group. We all put our hands in today so they would promise they would read the little text I was sending them home with. And it's really in these small groups that you can see students trying their best and really get to know them.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Jaded

Today was a rough day with the kids. I was teaching a math lesson that most found easy and it just got out of hand. I need to be stronger with my classroom management and enforcing the rules. I haven't graded their assessments, but hopefully they all at least learned something...

On the other hand, in the morning we had our small reading groups today and I thought that went relatively well. I'm instructing the lowest level reading group in the class and I didn't realize how slow moving we'd be, so I have to change most of my lesson plans to accomodate our pace better. But Yusuf is in my group and he's my favorite student in Room 306 :)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hey Teach

Are you not allowed to post photos on Blogger? I can't seem to figure out how since the "insert photo" button is gone from the new post page...

In other words: I am a teacher. Weird.

Summer school has started and I've begun teaching. My collaborative group and I (four people) share one classroom and each teach one block of either literature, phonics/spelling, or math. I taught phonics/spelling this past week and I would have to say my lessons were alright - not great but not bad either. I just have to work on using our management system a lot more, since I am too hesitant to discipline students.

I already love the kids though. Most of them are well-behaved and I have fun interacting with them. I have a few favorites as well. My first student I had contact with when administering his reading diagnostic was Jaymir. He asked me why the teacher (our SMT - summer teacher) kept yelling at him. I said that I would help him stay out of trouble in class and since then I've been looking out for him and giving him extra attention. He's pretty funny but he's in the lowest level for both math and reading - which places him in both of my small groups (we also have a Math/Lit hour where we teach small groups of three for extra math and lit practice based on their levels). Since I'm teaching the lowest level in both math and lit, he is in my small groups.

There is only one kid I'm not too fond of: Tobias. It's not that I have problems with him, it's just that he acts up a lot. He's very smart and seems to be on a grade level higher than most of the students in the class, but because of this he thinks he can get away with everything, and he's always pushing our buttons. Not sure how to deal with him still...but I'll figure it out in the next three weeks I'm sure.

Thursday and Friday I taught a read aloud while my collab partners continued to test the kids diagnostics for reading (DRA). Most of the kids got into it, but during the first day, some boys were laughing at Jaymir so he stormed out of the room - I let the SMT go after him. Afterwards we tried to have a mediation session in the hall which was my first fight I tried to mediate! And then I also introduced a quick-fire math game which the kids seemed to love. And it wasn't even in my lesson plans! (if only my CMA knew...)

This coming week I am teaching math, and I have some good lessons planned for it. I'm hoping the kids will pay attention enough to do well on their assessment worksheets I made.

It's just so weird being a TEACHER. I mean, here I am planning lessons and being called "Mr. Capone." And this afternoon I was making a multiplication times table chart for the wall, and I was cutting out little shapes to use for my lesson on the distributive property for Tuesday, and that's when it just hits you, that you are a teacher and you have students and their learning to be responsible for.

Yesterday afternoon I was officially placed at Mastery charter schools! I am teaching at Mann Elementary in West Philly and they told me I would be teaching social studies somewhere between grades 3-5. I am super excited for this placement! First, I can teach social students. Second, I have upper elementary. And third, I was really thinking to live in West Philly nearby UPenn, so that is also a plus!

Today I went out with Tushara and we went shopping, but in the process we were able to explore a little of Center City (around the City Hall/Chestnut St. area) and I finally found aspects of Philly that I loved. We found the shopping areas, I bought some clothes, we bought all these teacher supplies at the dollar store, and then we went to the Terminal Market which was just like Faneuil Hall in Boston - with all these little food stalls! It was really awesome inside and I can't wait to check that out more in the future.

Even though I am happy with my students and with teaching, I'm still a little down. I feel like I'm not making many longterm friends, and I still have no one even in mind that I could live with. And to top it off, I'm having a lot of problems with Teach for America in general - basically elements of the program, the Institute, and some of the things they stand for. And then add to that missing Boston, home, and all my friends, and knowing I won't be able to stay there longterm for at least two years, and all I want to do is quit. It's pretty tough I guess, but this is growing up, right?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Independence

This weekend was such a whirlwind returning home.

Some hightlights:
- hot pot in Boston
- getting to see my friends for an ill second
- FOUR Chinatown busses total
- Brooklyn rooftop band show (my friend Jamie's band played there first gig and they were awesome, plus some other pretty wild acts) and BBQ
- NYC fireworks from Brooklyn (or what little of them we were able to see)
- navigating back to Temple on my own from Center City

Today was the first day of teaching at Emlen Elementary, but that requires it's own post which will come soon, since it will be a doozey!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Boston Bound

So last night, spur of the moment, I decided to return home for the Fourth of July weekend (we have a half day on Monday for TFA that starts at noon). But it sure turned out to be quite the adventure.

I began the trek from Philly with a kid I met at my school site who was going to New York. Now, I wanted to save money, so I decided to tag along with him and take a double China bus adventure: one from Philly to NYC and one from NYC to Boston. I had Google mapped the bus terminal in Philly's Chinatown before we had left, but of course we were still running and scrambling to find the bus as we arrived in the vicinity about ten minutes before it was supposed to leave.

The bus to New York wasn't too bad, and was roughly two hours (most of which I passed out for). When we arrived though, I was at least six blocks away from the Fung Wah station that goes to Boston (I had to use a different company than the one from Philly to NYC). So my friend and I were quickly seperated and barely said goodbye to each other as he scrambled to catch a commuter train and I ran to catch the bus, both of which were leaving in twenty minutes from our arrival.

Long story short, and many directions received later, I made it and hopped on the bus to Boston, sitting next to this psychotic Asian woman who slept with this creepy viel over her head like some enchantress. Sleep wasn't easy to come by and the four hour ride was tedious and painful.

But I made it to Boston around 3am and took a taxi to Tao's in Quincy and passed out pretty quickly, having been up since 5am the previous day. It feels strange to be back in Boston and away from the INSANE Teach for America program, as if it were all a dream. But there is this inkling in the back of my head that is causing me to almost MISS the Temple dorm! Whatever, I'll be back in a day :)

Coming soon: a post about my fourth grade classroom, our classroom theme, and teaching which will commence on Tuesday.