learning to be ms frizzle

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 31 2011

First post-institute post (includes institute, orientation, and random thoughts)

So… I haven’t blogged in quite some time. In fact, I haven’t blogged since the first days of institute. My reasoning: complete lack of sleep. So for this blog I will try to break up my institute experience by week trying to recall my thoughts at the time (now, of course I am a more rational person not completely driven by coffee).

Week 1: Ok, so Phoenix was hotter then expected (coming from Texas I thought I would be immune to the climate experience of northerns, not the case, I now know what “It feels like I’m walking through a sauna” really means). Phew, we get an entire week of training before getting our students, my CS is engaging (after spending hours with my CS (shout-out to Ben) I understand just how amazingly lucky I was), my CMA is funny, my co-lab is unique but works amazingly well together (ONLY CO-LAB OF THE WEEK from PHX institute, holla), and ┬ámy roommate is super cool.

Really, my bus is the first to leave (an hour before the last bus). Really, really? I’m not riding in the bus but a car, meaning that I have to leave even earlier! Wow, it is extremely hard to teach negative numbers…. at least I’m not trying to teach colors (before institute I thought that elementary education had to be the easiest job in the world, but now I can sympathize with just how hard it is to break something down to teach it when it is something you know on a subconscious level).

Note: at this time everything was still very distant and abstract. Everything I was learning I was grasping on to, but really couldn’t apply it. And, me and my roommate were slightly frustrated with the TFA terms (We had a Room Norms sign in our dorm room. 1. No Uptalk 2. Sleep Relentlessly 3. Plan purposefully to allow for free time (NEVER happened!) 4. Drink coffee effectively 5. Big Goal: Be in bed by 11 pm (I think this happened 3 times maybe).

Week 2: I already know my kids first and last name and call them as Ms. and Mr. I graded their math diagnostic and realize just how far behind my kids are. I realize at midnight on Thursday (after a debrief by my CMA) that our classroom culture has to change. Hyped up on coffee I make the class shout out the Nelson Mandela fear quote and “performed” my lesson on prime factorization (the first lesson I thought I did well enough executing). I keep hearing “You ARE TFA”. I went running at 10 pm and it was still 105 outside. I discovered Dutch brothers coffee. I had a mere 3 beers on Friday night, but was SO tired that got me blackout drunk. Wow! I got so lucky to get stuck in a car to ride to school (every day was spice girls and N’sync karaoke, got to school with a smile even after only 2 hours of sleep the night before – Starbucks fridays – never loved Starbucks so much in my entire life!)

Week 3: So so so tired. Schedule: Alarm 5 am. Roommate wake up: 5:15. Finish all the stuff I didn’t the night before and get ready. Head down to get lunch and occasionally eat breakfast (mostly just grab a paper sack containing one cold bagel, a oj juice box, an sketchy cream cheese pack, and a coffee). Run to car for 6 am. Ride and hour to school singing. 7:30 students show up. AIH. 8:30 sessions. 10:50 teach math. 11:40 Watch Co-teacher teach math. 12:30 Say by to kids and run to sessions. Session, Session, Session. (Note: holy hell the BMC does work! How is that possible!). 4 Head back to the dorms. 4:45 take a 10 minute nap, talk to roommate about day, change. 5:30 meet someone (colab, cma, ….). Eat something. Work on everything to try to make it to the copy center by 10. Go back to dorm and do LP for 3 days from now. Make overheads and KP poster. Hopefully take a shower by midnight. Finish up new LP. Be in bed anywhere from midnight to 3 am. Repeat.

Find out how little I know about the people I have spent every waking moment with (my colab). TFA is a master of making powerpoints.

Week 4: 4th of JULY!!! Only 4 days with kids, but 1 day less of sleeplessness and LPs. What the hell, why is there a dust storm of the century outside? Started calling one of my low performers every night to tell him how smart he is and reinforcing malleable intelligence and how it relates to homework. Slowly, more and more of his homework gets done. My kids(and colab) realize how big of a Harry Potter nerd I am. Took an hour off to play water basketball/volleyball with my roommate – should have done that EVERY week!

Week 5: Urgency! So glad to be almost done, but realize how much my student have learned and still need to learn. Learn that my students actually thought I was a good teacher. I swear these kids write and say things that are aligned to what TFA tells us they will. Its slightly frightening. All the things you think will never ever work (like singing “its a party multiplying mixed numbers” like mylie cyrus) have HUGE impacts on your kids. Touched by the words/action of a parents. Shocked by how big of an impact I had on my kids. “He (student) hasn’t had a teacher that actually cared about him since he was in 5th grade. Now he tells me that he is doing his homework and knows he can be anything. You have completely changed how he sees school”.

Orientation (TFA CO): Kind of painful except for the Vision/Goal sessions and hearing from the Lt. Governor.

New Staff Institute (District): Master teacher and planning for the first 3-6 weeks = Awesome. Morning sessions – repeat of TFA core values and ideas very very slowly.

Random notes: Just found an awesome website to keep kids and parents informed on assignments, grades, calendar, etc (engrade.com). Vision: For my class to be on the same path as the best HS biology department in the state located less than 3 miles away AND for my class to love biology like I do.

Reflection: I now realize how amazingly hard and rewarding these next two years will be. Wish I had my war buddies (co-lab).

Longest post ever? Possibly.

-Ms. R

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