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Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 15 2012

Institute: Part 1 of ???

So, I realized that where I last left off, I was an angry sounding bitter CM writing in the heat of severe fury, tiredness, and frustration. I am a bit calmer (and a lot happier) now and I figured I should update this blog a little bit so my abundance of faithful readers (aka… my family and maybe my college roommates) know that I did not lose it completely during Institute and I am also not a bitter person suffering from lack of sleep.

For the record, I’m not saying that Week 2 Bottlecap wasn’t still me though. And I do think Past-Me had some good points. I stand by my view that Induction was largely useless and should be changed to incorporate more concrete teacher strategies so that we are better prepared for our Institute students. However, I am saying that Institute as a whole, while still extremely difficult and lots of work, stopped being unreasonable.

Basically, at the end of Week 2 (Week 1 for the kids; for those who don’t know the Institute structure, it’s one week of preparation and then 4 with kids), I declared I was never living like that again. I don’t enjoy working for almost 18 hours a day (give or take for food and shower breaks). So, I sat down that weekend and worked. A lot. That “No work on Saturday” advice? Out the window. And I got all my worksheets and lesson plans and Exit Tickets and what-have-you done for the upcoming week so all I had to do was do the Lesson Plans that were due to my CMA and make sure everything was printed. It was a much better system. Life got happier.

So now Institute is over. I am at home, typing from a bed where I can’t feel the springs digging into my back (seriously… TU has the worst beds ever) in a room that I have all to myself. I find myself having the same problem with this blog as I do with my friends and family… I have no idea where to start. So I’m going to ramble a bit and then go to sleep for 14 hours. HIGH EXPECTATIONS!

Errr… the basics I guess. I taught 8th Grade Reading and Writing. I’m placed to teach High School English in Miami so I was pretty content with this placement. I heard some high school people were teaching elementary so this was close enough for me. I had… 22 on my original roster. We finished out the roster with 17 and while I know this is not 30 kids, there was someone in my school with only 8 kids and I read about an Institute where someone had only 4 so, again, I figure 17 is a solid start.

My kids were… well, I’m gonna put this out there simply: my kids were nuts. Fucking insane. (To clarify, I am saying this in an incredibly fond tone while shaking my head, rolling my eyes, shrugging my shoulders and grinning. I’m not sure what emotions that conveys exactly. Maybe it’s something you can only understand if you’ve been a teacher…). Basically, the high school I was placed at for the summer was host to a whole slew of behavior management issues that didn’t seem to plague other Institute schools, even within the Tulsa Institute. We had to take away breaks because kids were letting in gang members to jump other students. My friend’s class got maced (again, gang related). My other friend’s class had a student break a kid’s jaw before school started (off-campus) one morning. It was weird because I took the insanity for granted until our SD (School Director) told us after Week 3 that this was actually not happening in all the schools. That night I asked my roommate (worked in a different school) if she was having behavior problems. She responded, “Yeah… I have some whispering that just won’t stop.”

Not gonna lie- I laughed long and hard at that one. Man, I would have loved it if my kids bothered to whisper. I had a student (one of my favorites actually… am I allowed to admit to having favorites on here?) throw my exit ticket on the ground while declaring it was bullshit and refusing to do it. I had students yelling at each other. Yelling at me. I broke up my first fight! As my CMA put it, I had a “unique set of challenges.” Crazy, crazy things happened. (Though my class was not even the craziest.)

Still, at the end of the day, I’m really glad I was in the high school I was in for the summer. As our wonderful SD put it: This was a way more realistic picture of the next two years than other schools.  I just feel like I got a pretty tough skin. Things that would have shocked me don’t really phase me anymore. A student loudly declares that reading is stupid and he refuses to do it and throws it down while glaring at me. No biggie. Just “I’m gonna need to talk to you in the hallway. Head out there and I’ll be with you in a minute.” And, despite my “unique set of challenges,” all my kids wrote 5 paragraph essays. So… win for Bottlecap. And, yes, they were lunatics. But they were my lunatics.

Now I’m getting tired, so I’ll keep this brief. I learned a lot at Institute. I learned what “pulling” meant (getting girls is the answer for those who don’t know). I learned that 8th graders really don’t know how to properly express their interest in each other. Grabbing and pushing seems to be the preferred method of “pulling.”  I learned like… more than can be written down from my CS, LS, and CMA. I learned an alarming amount of acronyms. Most of all, I learned that I am not a superstar teacher. Things didn’t magically click into place for me. A lot of those behavior problems were probably a result of my inconsistencies and other issues. But, I learned you gotta just keep on trying. Because what else is there to do?

I learned that even if a kid tells you that you are their favorite teacher, that does not mean that they will listen to you or do your work. It just means they might share their candy with you at lunch. I did not learn the Wobble, but I learned that trying to learn the Wobble will make your students laugh a lot and probably lose some respect for you as a human being. I learned that that’s okay. (Particularly if it’s the last day). I learned that I am really bad at keeping things brief. (This is what I’m talking about! There is too much to say!)

Okay, I am really done for now. Institute Parts 2 through… whatever are hopefully coming soon!

Special thanks to everyone who has been commenting on old posts. Lots of interesting views that I will try to address in the future. No promises though… I also promised to update this blog regularly throughout Institute. We all see how that went.

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