Musings of a veteran teacher joining TFA

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 26 2012

Day 2 of Institute

I would’ve written earlier.  Really, I would have.  However, Institute is pretty much all encompassing, even for me.  However, I am not the one who is sitting outside with a partner trying to get things done for Thursday.  My partner in crime for teaching Chemistry and I are getting along very well and seem to help each other out so we aren’t wasting time and instead using it very well indeed.  There’s a lot of frustration going on.  I think you’re going to hear that a lot.  I’m not too bad.  I’m tired.  I went to bed at 9:30 the last two days and probably will be going to bed around that time tonight (I’ve got 9 minutes until then).  I have to get up earlier to walk to lunch (about a 10 minute walk for me), get breakfast and get on the bus by 6:50 to get to school.  That’s not so bad, except for the walk to breakfast.

The drive here was uneventful, which was the way I like it.  Not too bad, only got stuck around the Delaware/Maryland line.   Not too surprising.  I had gone home to do laundry, which also meant I napped.  Checking in here in Philly was a bit more smooth than Baltimore.  I think it’s because we didn’t have to do anything after checking in, and it was nice.  In Baltimore, we were going as soon as we got there.  However, in Baltimore, we knew what we were doing for the week and in Philly we found out the next day.  We still kind of find out as we go.

So yesterday… was extremely long.  It’s longer than a regular day at school.  I knew that it was going to be that way, that all the time was chock full of information.    The “rah rah rah” seemed to be dying down for the most part.  I’ve been placed at Mastery Gratz High School.  I think there’s a bit more to the name, but that’s what I’m going in.  We pulled up in that bus, and I thought “OMG, that school is HUGE!”  And that’s saying something compared to some of the schools in Baltimore.  The only thing I can really remember being wowed by, (except for the amount of sitting on my behind, painfully) was that the Mastery program at Gratz is something amazing.  I don’t say that lightly.

To clarify, Mastery is a charter school type of program. It’s online if you want to check it out.  Generally, the Mastery program turns around schools.  How, you ask?  Well, it trains the teachers in dealing with discipline in the classroom, and then puts most of the discipline problems into the hands of a dispatcher and school monitors.  The kids get demerits based up on whatever (uniform, behavior, tardiness, etc.).  The thing is that after the regular “Level I” problems, the teacher (or whoever) calls the dispatcher and they TAKE CARE OF IT right away, no muss, no fuss.  They try to get the kid back into a classroom so they will learn, but otherwise, it sounds great.  Talking to the teachers and students, everyone follows through!  If the kids get six demerits, they get a three hour detention (held by the dispatch office, not teachers).  The school has turned around the culture in one year and it seems like the teachers and administration really appreciate the system, as hard as it gets.  The program has backbone, which is not always seen in schools.

Other than that, the day was long.  I can’t remember too much else other than my butt hurt from the horrible chairs we were sitting in for nine hours.

Today was a little better.  They are piecing the material together for us and having us work in parts.  It’s not too bad.  I enjoy working collaboratively on lesson plans and overall goals.  I’m just trying to follow the rules and give everything a try.

The institute is more or less invigorating me for my classroom, but I definitely am glad I have Jackie, who is 51, who is my roommate.  They put all of us “aged” people together down at the end of a hall.  It’s quiet and we do well together.

I’m sure there’s more thoughts, but right now, we are so tied up with our work and timing of workshops, there is not a whole lot of time to reflect.  Maybe this weekend?

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10 years teaching, trying something new and exciting!

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