Monday, June 29, 2015

First Week of Teaching!

This has been the most difficult and most rewarding week.  Students arrived bright and early on Monday.  Seventh graders looked terrified and confused, eighth graders and BLPs (ninth graders in the Breakthrough Leaders Program) were very much okay with our wild and crazy selves while we were doing bus greeting and doing the bus game.

Maybe I should take you through an average day at Breakthrough:
  • All teachers and Program Interns arrive by 7:10 (lots of us show up at 6:30, including me.  So my morning begins at 5:00 every day) and we do announcements, play a game until the buses start arriving, assign Yo-Time activities, and other things to prepare for the day.
  • As the buses start to pull up, we all go to greet the students coming off the bus.  Afterwards, we go in the gym and we play a game until it's time to go to breakfast.
  • Breakfast, we sit with the kids and get them talking and excited for the day.
  • First classes start.  Half of the week, I teach a class during this time and the other half I have a prep period.
  • Second class starts (and a snack time is included).  Tuesdays and Thursdays I have a class during this time.
  • Third class starts (see first class).
  • All School Meeting (or ASM)!  Everyone crowds into the recital hall and all of the teachers (or their twins, any way) do improv based on the summer's theme, which is time travel.  My "twin" is Anne Frank.  The one time I performed last week, I was stuck in a time with dinosaurs.
  • It's time for lunch!  Same deal as with breakfast.  All of the teachers disperse and we sit and talk with the students.
  • College time!  This is the advisory period.  Kids fill out the Word of the Day and we talk about actual college sometimes.  This past week, we were busy preparing for College Bowl, so we were working on a cheer, making a poster, and making sure my college, Silver College, had grey shirts to wear for Friday.
  • Elective time.  I'm co-teaching a video production course this summer.  It's really fun-- the kids are catching on and seem to be enjoying what they're doing, even if they're just quick handshake videos.  They're really putting a lot of thought into their videos.
  • After elective comes Yo-Time, which is structured recess.  Teachers don't teach during this time, but hang out with the kids.  It's not my time, it's YO-time!
  • After Yo-Time, the kids go to their lockers, grab their bags, and we head out to the buses!  Some buses come later than others, so while we wait, we play games with the kids.  After everyone is sent home, we all breathe a sigh of happiness-relief-exhaustion and we head inside where we have meetings until 4:30.  After 4:30, we have the option to stay until 6:00 at the latest as we prepare for classes the next day or further in the future or we can go home.
Maybe you feel my exhaustion.  Teaching at Breakthrough is an incredible amount of work, but it still feels worth it.  The kids are great, the other teachers and staff are so nice.  I'm really enjoying my time working here.  

This picture is of all the kids and teachers at our site this summer.  My college kids are in grey, but all of my students are in grey, white, and brown.

This week has been challenging.  I definitely broke down once during the week when I got nothing but blank stares in my class.  I think I've discovered how to make that class work.  This past week has been a steep learning curve.  You learn about the demeanor of your class and you get used to getting up in front of the class and teaching on a regular basis.

This past week has been emotional and rewarding.  I can't wait for the rest of the summer!  I love my job.  Working at Breakthrough was kind of a way to test whether this is something that I want to do with the rest of my life.  It's early, but I can say that this job makes me happy and I see myself doing this for a really long time.  I can't wait.

Thanks for Reading!


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Breakthrough Orientation and Training Weeks

Week One

This past week, I haven't been laying around the house or occasionally going to work.  My summer has been officially kicked off because I've started not only the two jobs that I've done previous summers and during the school year, but I've started teacher training.

I feel bad, because I came to work in north St. Paul feeling a mixture of excited and annoyed.  Excited because this is a job directly related to what I ultimately want to do with my life, but annoyed because I had so little information coming into the week.  I didn't know what grade or what book I was teaching and I didn't know which elective I was teaching.  I only knew that I was teaching literature.  So it's taken me all week, but I have warmed up to the job quite a bit, especially now that I have more information and can start preparing now.

I am trying to move on from the thought that I would have like to have started preparing a couple weeks ago and I'm trying to move forward.  I go into major planning mode this week as we meet with our Instructional Coaches, or ICs.  These are people who are certified teachers.  Their job is to support us, the Teaching Fellows, in lesson planning and making adjustments to what we're teaching as needed.  They're also there for general support, since they've actually taught before and in classes that are probably two or three times the size of the classes we'll have.  That's not saying too much because between my two literature sections, I have fifteen students.

So now I know that I'll be teaching 8th grade literature (so we'll be reading Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck) and that I'll be co-teaching a TV/Movie Production elective class.  I can begin to foster the level of organization that works for me now.  Slowly but surely, I'm gaining more control over the work I do.

Week Two

This week, I found out that I am a co-Art Director this summer.  I have quickly learned that Breakthrough is part summer school, which I knew about, but also part summer camp.  So we do a lot of cheers and games to keep students' energy up during the day.  We also picked a theme (Time Travel!) for the summer and then had to decorate the main parts of the school according to that theme.  My job, since not a lot of people felt confident in their artistic ability and I felt more confident, was to go around the building making preliminary drawings for the walls and lockers.  From there, we asked everyone to stay after and help support hallway decoration and pitch in.  I so wish that I had pictures, but that'll have to wait until next week.  We have a Time Machine, a couple time portals, an Ice Age scene, we have a camel to go with the "Arabian Nights" scene (that camel is adorable-- he's so round!), we have a couple dinosaurs... we have a lot of stuff.  It's absolutely amazing how much a school can transform after about three days of work and 40 sets of hands pitching in.

This week has also been heavy on lesson-planning and on practice teaching.  It hasn't been clear until this week how much effort lesson-planning would take.  We were given objectives and proving behaviors for each of our subjects and we could edit those plans as we saw fit.  The thing is, no one told us how terrible the original lesson plans were.  So in the literature department, 7th grade and 8th grade literature alike, we've basically had to start from scratch.  I only have a few lesson plans completely done (I'm going to have five finished by the end of the day), but they are drastically different from what was originally available for lesson plans.  I have a game about making character inferences (thanks to one of my fellow teachers), I have a history lesson planned about the Great Depression, I have my students making character maps... very different from looking at a paragraph and looking at the different parts of that paragraph.  That just sounded really boring to me.

This week, I also had a chance to meet some of my students, two of whom are my advisees.  I think meeting the kids we were going to be working with got everyone excited.  All of the kids who came to the open house on Thursday were so shy that we as the teachers had to go up to them with the biggest smiles on our faces and say, "Hi!  My name is _____ and I'm going to be your _________ teacher this summer!" and then we'd bring them over to our posters and talk to them and answer their questions.  They were the nicest kids.  They had the most involved parents.  I had a mom come up to me and tell me some of her concerns about her child in regards to school.  The other parents stood behind them, letting their student meet their teachers and they stood their smiling, happy for their student.  It was such a cool thing.  I won't be able to get over it.  There was even another literature teacher who studies history, not with a teaching concentration, and she said, "I think I want to be a teacher."  That was even more beautiful to me.

So next week, bright and early Monday morning, we'll greet the kids straight off the bus, we'll play games and have breakfast, and then I teach my first class.  I'm equal parts nervous and excited.  I feel prepared though.  I have my lesson for Monday ready to teach.  We've had two weeks of training leading up to this.  I change my mind.  I think I'm more excited than anything.  Sometimes excitement can feel like nervousness.