Institute

Jargon

How TFA works: anyone with a bachelor’s degree, a 2.5 GPA, and US citizenship can apply to teach anything from ECE to ESL to calculus for two years in one of 48 low income regions across the county. TFA’s mission is to ensure that every child has the opportunity to receive an equally excellent education. The expectation is that after I finish my two years I’ll move into whatever field interests me to fight on behalf of my students.

In preparation, and because TFA doesn’t require an education background, all corps members (CMs) spend 5-6 weeks in intense training the summer before you head into the classroom. You spend one week at induction in your region getting to know everyone in your corps, then together you all travel to institute. Your first week at institute is all training, but weeks 2-5 are a combination of teaching in the morning and training in the afternoon. I’m at Atlanta Institute, which is based at Georgia Tech. We live in dorms and eat in the dining hall. It’s weird. ATL hosts the South Carolina, Greater New Orleans, Southwest Ohio, and Metro Atlanta corps. Atlanta is handled separately, but SC, GNO, and SWO are all intermingled. We teach at 11 different low-performing schools across Atlanta. There’s 50 CMs at my high school, and there we’re split into four CMA (corps member advisor) groups based on content area. I’m with 9 other secondary math teachers. Within that group of 10, we’re split into pairs (called collabs) to team-teach a class for the summer. Everyday, I teach our one lesson, followed by my collab who teaches another lesson. While she teaches, I support teach by checking students understanding of material and passing out papers and such. When we aren’t teaching, the four CMA groups (math, science, social studies and ELA which stands for English language arts) come together for big group sessions about teaching. These are usually led by our CS (curriculum specialist), but sometimes we have an LS (literacy specialist) speak. Every morning starts with a pep talk from our SD (school director). Sometimes a CMA will lead a DCA (diversity, community, and achievement) session. All of these acronyms are people who are TFA alumni, hired by TFA to work at institute for the summer.

I hope this clarifies my life here a little maybe???

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Institute

Good Days

Sometimes there are days where your lesson plan explodes in your face. You set up this great worksheet for your kids to explore the lesson on their own, and so they figure out the key points of the material without your help. Then, five minutes into the activity, no one understands the material and you find yourself running around like a chicken with your head cut off explaining to every other student how to calculate a dilation.

On days like these, which like obviously totally never happen to me, you have to focus on the positive in order to move forward.

I have this brilliant student who always finishes her work 10 minutes before the rest of the class. She spends those extra ten minutes bugging her neighbor and disrupting the class. I don’t understand why she’s in summer school or how she failed the class the first time, but she’s a gem I can always count on to have the right answer. She’s taking the ACT in September. She’s nervous. Today I brought in a few ACT math prep worksheets for her to try once she finished her work, hoping this would keep her focused and allow her neighbors to compete the class work at their own pace. She got stuck on the first problem on the worksheet, but kept working at it until she got the right answer. After class let out, she stayed for an extra few minutes to show me the problem.

“Look Ms. Abram! I solved it! I figured it out all by myself! I’m good at math. I’m good at math!! I’m going to major in math when I get to college.”

Day. Made.

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Truth

I have 24 goober peas. I used to have 25, but one was kicked out of summer school. He was probably the brightest student in the class, but he was defiant and bored and his disrespectful attitude toward authority eventually got him removed.

I don’t know a lot about my students. TFA believes in creating relationships with your students, but most days I get so wrapped up in trying to fill their minds with math that I forget to ask how their day is going. I just assume that everything is going well in their 9th/10th grade lives, and that the biggest drama they’re facing is focused on snapchat stories or their yakarma score. As per usual, I am wrong.

I’ve learned a couple of things about my kids. I have a student who is five months pregnant. I have a student who I couldn’t get to stay on task no matter how much I pestered him. He was exhausted because the night before he had gotten into an argument with his mom and she kicked him out. He spent the night moving his belongings from his mom’s house to his brother’s house. I have a student who stays after everyday to get extra help because she usually doesn’t understand the material the first time around. In addition to being a high school student, she is also a mother. 

When I was in high school, my outside life drama consisted of arguing with my mom about whether or not I was going to take AP Physics or AP Biology or both. I was torn up because I couldn’t be in the school’s production of Macbeth and the community theater’s production of the Little Mermaid at the same time. I have been told time and time again that my students will have harder lives than I ever could have imagined. I never believed that was true until I met them.

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Extra Credit

One of my goals for my students is to help them become more culturally aware and knowledgable of what is going on in the world. They’re going to be college-ready scholars who can recognize a photo of Joe Biden. In an effort to make the class more fun for them (and me), I’ve added four bonus questions to the exit ticket for each day. It’s a 10 point quiz total, and each extra credit question is worth half a point. 

I have incorporated that above mentioned vision and goals into my classroom by making these extra credit questions about various factors going on in the would around them. Below is my list of questions I’ve used so far- keep in mind that, on average, >99% of the class got these questions wrong. After they finish, I explain the answers to them and try to demonstrate the significance of the factoid. If you have suggestions for future questions (but not: what do you turn down for?), hmu. 
 
What was the top grossing movie the weekend of June 10?
What are the Tony awards given for?
What two teams are in the Stanley Cup finals?
What position did Eric Cantor just resign?
Define democracy. 
What county is hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup?
Name one Fortune 500 company headquartered in Atlanta. 
Name three colleges in the state of Georgia.
What city hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics?
Who is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom?
Who wrote the Harry Potter series?
What is the highest score you can earn on the ACT?
Draw a platypus. 
Who painted Starry Night? (I included a picture of it)
Name three of the five states that border Georgia. 
How many US Senators are there?
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