Saturday, July 18, 2015

College Week (Week 4)

This week at Breakthrough was College Week.  One of the very unique things about Breakthrough compared to other summer school programs is that there is a focus on getting to college.  The idea is that the kids who are part of Breakthrough sign on for six years.  They go to summer school for their sixth and seventh grade summer (before they enter seventh and eighth grade), potentially come for their eighth grade summer to join the Breakthrough Leaders Program (BLP), and then continue to get tutoring during high school and get help with college essays, resumes, and college applications.  The cool thing is that Breakthrough doesn't take students as they are to get them into college, but it helps students become better learners as well as helping them get into college.  So right now I have eighth grade students who are reading at a fourth grade level, give or take a year or two, but I know that while they are with Breakthrough, in and out of the normal school year, eventually they will be reading and doing math at or above grade level.  In this case, the phrase "It takes a village" is totally true.  My kids won't magically start reading at an eighth grade level or higher after being in my class, but I can help them by teaching them skills that they'll need in high school and college.  For example, we've been working on building discussion skills using accountable talk and by talking about Of Mice and Men.  We've had discussions on power, particularly when it comes to characters like Curley's Wife (the only woman in the book with dialogue), Crooks (the only African American), and Candy (the oldest and the only one who is physically disabled).  So we've been talking about the "-isms"-- sexism, racism, able-ism.  Since it has real-world applications, they've been pretty interested.

Any way, I digress.

College week started out pretty simply.  Monday, we gave students a piece of paper with the names of all the teachers, program interns, and staff.  Students had to go around asking all of the staff and faculty where they went to school.  I didn't get a lot of time to eat lunch that day because so many students were coming up to use asking us to initial their sheets and asking us where we went to school.

Tuesday was a similar activity.  It was a  Bingo sheet filled with activities and traits of a college experience.  Students had to go around asking staff and faculty asking us questions from that sheet.  I could answer that I go to a small college, I have an on-campus job, I work on the student newspaper and am involved in student government... things like that.  It was a way to see what kind of things you can do while you're living and learning at college.

Wednesday students could make their own student ID.  More importantly, there was a panel where some of us teachers would answer the questions of the students about college.  I know that the kids really liked this.  They liked it so much that my students would ask me questions during class time, asking about my college experience.

Thursday was a lot more exciting.  We didn't teach any classes and there was no Tutorial or Yo-Time.  Instead, we were gone the entire day.  We went to St. John's/St. Ben's in Collegeville, MN for a visit.  For the seventh graders, it was their very first college visit.  For eighth graders, I think it was their second and for BLP, they've visited at least two college before and some during the school year on the weekend.  So we were on the bus for about three hours.  It was good college bonding time.  We took a way too brief tour of St. John's University (we were supposed to have about half an hour to walk around and we had fifteen, if even that.  So we saw two buildings... the kids were a little disappointed).  I think the kids generally liked the feeling of being on a college campus.  There were a few kids afterwards who admitted that before, they weren't sure if they even wanted to go to college.  But after setting foot on a college campus and after hearing their college student teachers say how much they liked college, they were sure that college was something they wanted for their lives.  It's amazing what a field trip can do for someone.

Mounds Park Academy (MPA, which is my site), St. Paul Central (SPC), and Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) altogether at last.  This is outside of the Abbey on the St. John's campus.
They saw fish in the fountain and got really excited.
It doesn't seem like a big deal to us, but some of the most important things that the students wanted to see that college students might find trivial were the dorms, a classroom, and the dining room.  We only got to see a classroom of those three, but I think it helped show students what it was like to be in a real life college classroom.  It's easier to see yourself in a similar situation later in life.  So it was really cool that they got to experience a college classroom.
Neutral Cluster Kids (Silver, Brown and White colleges)
Friday, was the best day of college week, by far.  We did a Day in the Life of a College Student.  College Leaders, myself included, paired up our students and made them "roommates" for the day.  They had to fill out a survey and then once they were paired up, they had to fill out a roommate agreement.  They even got to choose a major or two to "study."  There were a lot of physical science people, a couple social science interests (like anthropology, sociology, and psychology), and there was even one English major, which I got really excited about, especially since she's in my English class this summer.  They went on a scavenger hunt to see what it's like to sign up for high school classes that they'll potentially have if they are in the St. Paul public schools system.  Afterwards, they played an intramural dodge ball game (by cluster, students vs. teachers).  In order to get a teacher out in dodge ball, students had to make eye contact with us and say the name of our real college before they hit us.  At one point, I was the only teacher left on our side so I just had a bunch of kids shouting, "St. Kate's!  St. Kate's!!  St. Kate's!!!" at me in an effort to get me out.  I've never been more terrified of the name of my school in my life.  The coolest part of Friday, I think, was the commencement ceremony.  At the end of the day, all students got their "Bachelor's Degrees" from the college or university that they chose to represent their color college.  So all of the kids in silver college got a degree with City University of New York Queen's College and their name written in nice lettering.  This was an excellent end of the day and the end of a really good week overall.

Talk to you next week-- the end is creeping a little bit closer.  It's crazy that I only have two weeks of teaching left, celebration, and wrap-up week and then I'll have finished my first summer with Breakthrough.  But I won't jump the gun just yet.  I want to enjoy this time while I still have it.

Thanks for Reading!


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