Sunday, August 9, 2009

What mess am I getting myself into?!!

I already spoke with... someone in charge. They don't even have a principal yet because they pretty much fired all of the admin from this past year. I'm talking about Dunbar High School. I will be the Special Education teacher starting in two weeks.

I'm soo glad I actually know where I will be teaching. It's actually about 1.5 miles away from where I live!! :) But really, I am entering into a 'hot mess.' No, seriously.

In order for you to get a better picture of what I am about to go into, read the following article from the Washington Post from just last week.

Copy and paste the following link on a new browser tab:

Enjoy, and say a little prayer for me once in a while. This will not be easy.



Wednesday, August 5, 2009

That Institute thing.

It's been 6 long weeks.

But, i'm finally here, in D.C.

Teach for America's Summer Institute is no sleep, no rest, and no social life - well at least from M-F. Why is it so intense? I think it's the fact that because it is all so new. For the first time, I had the privilege of sharing the responsibility of being the primary educator in an 11th grade U.S. History Summer Course at Animo Leadership Academy... a charter High School near LAX. In it were students ranging from a 4th grade reading levels to a student who was already accepted to Northern Arizona University.

I was really frustrated for the first few weeks because over half of my evening was spent re-learning the content I was supposed to teach the very next day... "that's not setting up studetns for success" was all that would go through my head during this time.

By mid-end of institute, it wasn't the content that became difficult, it was the fact that I was teaching a mixture of general ed students, with students who have special needs and/or Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). This just means that some students needed to have accomodations in the class so they can learn best. I.e. they need teacher notes/they need me to read directions aloud AND have them written in front of them, etc. This also included behavior issues, and emotional disturbances... a brief description does no justice to my summer Institute experience though.

What made it difficult? The fact that after teaching, I had to be in sessions, lesson clinics, meetings, and workshops. Mind you, I always had between 3-5 hour of sleep. So, me and everyone were mostly always sleepy. Why did I stay?

Here are a couple of short stories to get a better picture:
(names of students have been changed for privacy/security)

"No one likes me: Ramiro"

Ms. Pereda: "Ramiro, this is the 3rd time I tell you. Get up, take your stuff and change your seat. You and Martin have been way too distracting in class - don't worry. I will have him moved too."
Ramiro: "Ah man, I don't want to move. And plus, it's him! It's all him!"
Ms. Pereda: "You need two to tango. Let's go. Change your seat."
Ms. Pereda returns to the lecture about the Regional Differences between the North and the South that affected the differences in ideologies about slavery... 4 minutes later.
Ms. Pereda: "Ramiro, did you just throw something accross the room? You KNOW that is unnaceptible in this classroom. Go pick it up, and let's go outside."
Ms. Pereda, to the class: "Continue working on your sheets - Think of the qualities that make a region industrialized vs. rural. Ms. Erickson, can you watch the class for a few minutes please? Thanks."

Outside with Ramiro:
Ms. Pereda "Ramiro, this is the 5th time I had to call you out in class today. You know, Ms. Erickson already told me to send you down to the principal. But you know that if you go down one more time to the principal you will be kicked out of summer school. I don't want to send you down because I don't want you to be kicked out. I know you need this class - but you need to help me out with this."
Ramiro: "Just send me then. That's what every teacher wants to do. No one likes me. Just send me - i don't care. I'll be glad to leave summer school."
Ms. Pereda: "Both you and I know you need this class to graduate. You will get back in the class, sit where I asked you, and do your work. I want to leave you here because I know you get the content - when you are not talking, you do well. Get back inside, and work with me. I am not letting you fail U.S. History again."

... this story repeated itself about once/twice a week.

Last day of school, on student feedback for the teachers:
Q: What are some things Ms. Pereda did well this summer as a teacher?
Ramiro's A: She did not let me fail.

"Nah, I quit: David"

David: "They call me cholo..."
Ms. Pereda: "Yeah, I don't want to call you that."
Another student: "Why not Ms? That's what they call him because he is!"
Ms. Pereda: "I didn't say it was a lie, I just don't want to affirm that. I'll just call you by your name. K, David?"
David: "K. Fine."

David was doing ok in the quizzes. He was sometime upset, and a couple other times defiant to do the work - this usually happened when I would call him out in front of the class.

Ms. Pereda takes David outside: "What's been going on? You've failed every single quiz this week. That's not normal, you know this stuff."
David: "It's cuz I quit. I don't want to do this shit anymore. I've failed too much already - it's ganna take me forever to graduate, might as well just stop."
Ms. Pereda: " Excuse me? So you've just quit? Uh uh. We will talk afterward. You are smart - I have seen you get A's in other quizzes. Especially when you pay attention - use those brains you've got. Don't let them go to waste, and proove everyone else wrong. Can we talk after school tomorrow? I also wanted to follow up on that poem I saw on your folder... the 'F my Life' poem. Coo?"
David:"ok, coo."
Ms. Pereda: "Pound it. Let's get back to class. I don't want to see you fail that quiz today."

Next day:

Ms. Pereda: "I went to the principal and got a copy of your transcripts. You haven't failed EVERYTHING, but yeah, there's a lot of classes you need to make up. Would it help if we sit down and try to map out a plan of everything you need to graduate? Yeah. It might take you longer to graduate than your friends... but I want you to graduate so you can do all the wonderful things I know you want to do, and can do. But first thing's first, grab a highligher. Let's see what you have passed and what you need to make up."

David: "Ok, so i've taken.... "

Ms. Pereda: "You're ganna have to go to night school, and choose these classses for next year, then do summer school again and night school at the same time. It's going to be hard, but you're ganna do it."

David: "Ok. Ima do it."

Ms. Pereda: "David, i'm serious. I didn't just spend 45 minutes of my time with you to just not do this. I want you to invite me to your high school graduation."

David: "For reals? Ok. Ima do it."

,,, Last day of summer school.

David: "Ms. Pereda, I got in trouble - I got kicked out of summer school."
Ms. Pereda... My eyes got immediatly teary eyed.... in disbelief. That would mean a whole other summer
David: "Just kidding! Just wanted to see your reaction."
Ms. Pereda: "No jueges asi conmigo!! You better not get kicked out this last week. Get your crap together, k? It's our last day. David, you're ganna graduate. I wanna see you graduate. It will take you longer than your friends, but i want you to do it."
David: "Don't worry Ms... I will take pictures with my phone of me styding and send them to you."
Ms, Pereda: "But don't text me during school!"
David: "Oh right. Then I will send you pictures of my grades."
Ms. Pereda: "I don't want anything under a B. Understood? I will be waiting. And I will be waiting for your invitation to your high shool graduation too."
David: "Aight Ms."


What made it difficult? The fact that after teaching, I had to be in sessions, lesson clinics, meetings, and workshops. Why did I stay? Because if I was telling the students to not quit, I had to model that myself first.

Leaned a lot during insitute - especially simple classroom management with a classroom like mine. But, I still have A LOT to learn... We'll see how the students in D.C. will respond to both of us learning together.