5:30 – 6:35 AM:

The sun is still down, but it’s time for me to get up and get ready for work! Typically, my roommate and I have a “battle of the snooze button” until one of us cracks, gets up, and starts getting ready. Time for another day at Great Oaks!

6:40 – 7:15 AM:

After an hour of getting dressed up in my best business casual attire and eating some breakfast, it’s time to walk over to the school. Ten minutes later and I’m at the school and getting situated. On a regular day, there are always the smiling faces of my fellow Tutor Corps members to brighten the morning. On an especially great day, there’s hot chocolate, coffee and Munchkins (donut holes) out to help make the day that much better!

7:20 – 7:55 AM:

One morning a week, I head over to one of our ELA teachers’ classroom for “Reading Pearls.” This is Great Oaks’ own version of Oprah’s book club! Myself and 8 other women from around the school, including teachers, tutors and leadership team members, come together with 30 girls from all grade levels to read and really dig into books. Right now we’re reading and discussing The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake. We’ve already had some deep conversations about self-image and bullying that gave us all insight into how our girls really think and feel.

8:03 – 8:57 AM:

Now it’s time for my first tutorial of the day, 6th grade Math. I have three lovely 6th graders, two who love math and one who struggles with it a bit more. One of the biggest challenges I face in this tutorial is balancing my attention among all three of my students. On days with especially challenging material, I sometimes have one of my students, who understands the material, help another student while I work with my third student who needs the most help. In this role, things are constantly changing so as a tutor I have to think on my feet andadjust to whatever is happening very quickly!

9:00 – 9:55 AM:

During this period I have my secondary duty as a teacher of an Exploratory Course (EC). We all have secondary positions to help enhance our time here at Great Oaks and to give us a chance to gain experience outside of the tutorial environment. The main reason why I chose to teach an EC class is because I wanted to be able to build relationships with as many students as possible. It’s crazy how much of a difference having a relationship with a student can have on your ability to impact them. Aside from helping to build relationships, EC courses give tutors a chance to teach a class on a topic they’re really interested in and expose students to exciting lessons outside of their regular curriculum.

My EC class for first trimester is “Introduction to Creative Writing.” Right now I’m teaching my class of 8th graders about Spoken Word and having them write spoken word poetry about issues they are really passionate about. My class really surprised me with the depth of their poems. Some topics they wrote about included hunger, poverty, and life in Newark. It was great to hear students give their opinions on serious issues in the world. My secondary duty is definitely one the highlights of my day!

10:00 – 10:57 AM:

Planning Period! Usually I spend this time preparing materials for my next tutorial of the day while listening to music. This time always serves as a good time to unwind after a busy morning.

11:00 – 11:57 AM:

Next I head to math tutorial with my 8th graders. I have two 8th graders who struggle to keep up with the math material so my job in tutorial is especially important to help them stay on track with everything in class. They’re really goofy kids so I try to make tutorial fun when I can, but making sure they are grasping the material comes first.

12:00 – 1:27 PM:

After a jam-packed morning, I eat lunch and unwind a bit more. Towards the end of this period I work on planning out my last two tutorials of the day. I’m typically making supplemental materials and getting everything together for any extra activities I have planned out for that day.

1:30 – 3:27 PM:

During this time I have 2 tutorials back-to-back, 6th grade and 8th grade ELA tutorials. Most of my students aren’t very fond of ELA so I have to really be thoughtful when planning out tutorials for these sessions. My 6th graders especially love to draw so I often have them draw pictures making sure to incorporate details from the passages we’re reading. This encourages the students to read very closely and helps them visualize the stories.

3:30 – 4:22 PM:

This is our students’ last period of the day and the time when I’m in my second EC period of the day. In order to ensure that leading aclass does not overwhelm tutors, EC teachers are part of a small cohort with one to two other tutors. Each trimester a different tutor teaches his/her class while the other members of the cohort serve as classroom support. During this trimester, the other tutor in my cohort is teaching Conversational Spanish and Culture to the students. During this time, I usually find a free seat around the classroom and help students with their work and sentence formations. Sometimes, I have to issue discipline to students who are not meeting our expectations. I have learned from my Creative Writing class that it’s great to have an extra set of eyes in the classroom to help out with classroom management!

4:30 – 5:30 PM:

After school, some of our students stay for a program called Power-Up. This is for students who need extra help grasping the concepts they’ve learned that day and completing their homework. As a Power-Up tutor, I work with three students (different students from those I have during the day) and make sure they understand everything before they go home. This is a great time for tutors to build relationships with different students and for students to receive help from someone who may have a different teaching style than their regular tutor.

Johnel Trammell is a 2013-2014 Tutor Corps member at Great Oaks Charter School in Newark. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia with a degree in Sociology and African American Studies. After her service year at Great Oaks, Ms. Trammell plans to continue working in education and serving the neediest students. Ms. Trammell’s ultimate career goal is to charter her own public boarding school for at-risk, urban students.

For more information or to apply to our Tutor Corps Urban Education Fellowship, please visit: www.greatoakscharter.org.

Check out our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GreatOaksTutorCorps



4:57 am – The alarm goes off and I get up. My roommate and I have managed, through some sort of mutual guilt trip, to wake up at 5 every day to work out before heading in to school for the day.

6:20 ish am – After some quick post workout showers, my roommate and I eat some breakfast and then head out the door. Although the school is only a ten minute walk away and we don’t need to arrive until 6:50, I still like to get there early so I have some time to review the material and get myself mentally prepared for the day.

7:00 am – All tutors have a few smaller duties that they take on to help keep the school running smoothly throughout the day. My duty, which I really enjoy, is arrival duty, where I take attendance and monitor homework hand-in for the 7th and 8th grade. I was able to quickly learn all of the students’ names since I have the opportunity to personally greet and check in with every student every day. I also appreciate homework duty because it gives me the chance to express my disappointment to students  if they don’t do their homework.

8:00 am – My first tutorial of the day. As an AmeriCorps member, I tutor all three middle school grades, so I have 6th, 7th and 8th graders. I meet with my 6th graders first every day. Every tutorial starts with a silent 5 minute review assignment; I often grab an extra work packet and race my students to see who can accurately get through the problems in this section first. My 6th graders are fairly advanced students in math, and only need to see a couple of example problems diagrammed on my portable whiteboard before they can work mostly independently on the day’s assignment, checking in occasionally to ask about some of the trickier questions. One of my students in particular, “DS”, is very ahead, and completes the entire assignment with ten minutes still left in the tutorial session. I have a folder of 7th grade level material for him which I only let him work on if he finishes his main assignment. Since he loves the idea of getting ahead of grade level, the chance to do more advanced work is a big motivating factor for him.

9:00 am – After tutorial, I have 2 free periods, during which I have time to plan for tutorial, as well as work on my secondary responsibility. My secondary position is as a TA for the PE/Health teacher, so I assist in classroom management when he teaches, as well as help with grading and anything else he needs. Today I help to design the next day’s lesson plan, which he has offered to let me teach a portion of if I want the classroom experience. Opportunities like this are the upside of the secondary roles that each tutor is assigned.

11:00 am – Next I work with my 8th graders. There’s a much bigger gap in skill level between my two 8th grade students, when compared to  the skills gap between my 6th graders, as one of my 8th graders has a learning deficiency in reading and writing. As a result, I bring a lot of supplemental material that’s more appropriate for his reading level to tutorial, which I intersperse with the theme and objectives from the original assignment. While managing two students who are working on two different assignments at two different levels is difficult, I now have a great deal of practice at efficiently and effectively bouncing back and forth between my two students.

1:00 pm – After lunch, I have my final tutorial with my two 7th grade students. While I rarely, if ever, need to discipline my 6th or 8th grade students, my 7th graders do occasionally need to be corrected into a more productive mode. After being told they have earned an off task demerit, my students fall into line and tutorial runs much more smoothly.

2:00 pm – Another of my responsibilities as an AmeriCorps member is to plan a service learning program for a group of 8th grade students. 3 other members and I are working on a mentorship program for later in the year, where the 8th graders would have a chance to work with younger elementary students. This would hopefully help to give the 8th graders a better understanding of their potential for responsibility and influence in their community. Today we met to discuss more specifics, including potential guest speakers for the students, and mapping out in more detail the first couple of workshops.

4:00 pm – All the tutors at Great Oaks have a number of chances to share their interests with students. In my case, as a former football player, I am the head coach of the flag football team. We got our first win in school history a couple of weeks ago, and we’re still working hard to make a playoff push. All the students on the team are required to meet a high standard of homework completion and behavior in order to be eligible to play in the games. As an additional incentive for my athletes to be role models of professional behavior, every practice ends with a set of “champions”, where the whole team runs sprints for every demerit earned by each player on the team.  This has led to students holding their teammates accountable for their behavior, and on bad days, has led to the team getting into great shape! Today there are very few demerits, so we take extra time to prepare for our upcoming opponent in the Charter School Athletic League, Bergen Arts and Sciences Charter School.

After flag football practice, I wait until the last students on the team have been picked up by their parents, I gather my things and prepare to head home. I will spend an hour or so planning for the next day’s set of tutorials after I eat dinner. During this time, a couple of my students call me with questions about that night’s homework, and I help them out and make sure they understand the assignment. After that, I relax with some of the other tutors in the apartment building’s lounge, and then head to bed, ready to wake up early the next day to do it all again.

Stefan Breitling is a 2013-2014 Tutor Corps AmeriCorps member at Great Oaks Charter School in Newark. He is a graduate of Amherst College with a degree in Neuroscience. Mr. Breitling will attend medical school in the Fall of 2014.

For more information or to apply to our Tutor Corps Urban Education Fellowship, please visit www.greatoakscharter.org.

Check out our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GreatOaksTutorCorps