6:00 – 6:40 AM:
At Great Oaks Charter School my mornings are early and eventful. By 6:00am
my alarm clock has already gone off twice and if I hit snooze one more time I will
most definitely be late. So, I get out of bed and by 6:30am I’ve dressed, packed my
lunch and made my usual breakfast of yogurt and cereal to start the day. Around
6:40am my roommates and I head downstairs to bear the brunt of a Northeast
wind-chill in order to walk to our home-away-from-home, Great Oaks Charter
School. We pass Dunkin Donuts, a staple for any tutor, and I quickly remember
why I did not bring my wallet (avoid any unnecessary eating!).
6:50 – 7:15 AM:
After collecting all my packets for the day I head upstairs for Geography Bee! For
about 40 minutes on Monday and Tuesday I tutor enthusiastic 6th, 7th and 8th
graders in geography for the National Geographic Bee. This gives some
students the opportunity to expand their knowledge outside of the everyday class
setting and have the chance to participate in a statewide and national-wide
competition. After pushing my students to memorize every state capital and
global mountain ranges, it’s really time to start the day.
8:03 – 8:57 AM:
As part of AmeriCorps I am required to tutor at least 2 students in each grade (I
have 7 wonderful scholars!). So, my days are pretty full as I have 6 tutorials each
day: 2 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. Each tutorial is one hour and first
thing in the morning I tutor 6th grade Math. Thankfully, my students pick up math
pretty easily so we just work on avoiding silly mistakes. They also tend to get
distracted so I usually separate them so they can work easier and stay focused.
9:00 – 9:55 AM:
Some tutors also get the chance to teach an Exploratory Course (EC) as their
secondary duty. This trimester I am teaching 8th grade students a Current Affairs
and Model United Nations class twice per week for EC. I chose this class because
the subject is extremely interesting to me and I believe students should have an
opportunity to explore beyond their immediate environment. I learned the
importance of discovering different cultures and understanding global affairs
while I lived overseas in Saudi Arabia as a middle and high school student. I hope
to share some of my experiences with the students to help them learn this subject
and make it more relatable. Although difficult at first because of content, the 8th
graders will surely have fun with the planned class activities. For instance, I plan
to have them debate in class and we will also have a class devoted to international
dance and music!
10:00 – 10:57 AM:
This period is a much-needed break during my jam-packed day. Usually I take a
few moments to catch up with some tutors (slip in a few jokes), then pop in my
earphones and get down to eating. This is my lunch break for the day. I try to take
this time to relax and re-energize, because there are still 5 more tutorials to go!
11:00 -11:57 AM:
Finally I get to my 8th grade Math tutorial. These scholars are very self-motivated,
(even though they do have ‘lazy’ days) so they definitely work hard on the
packets and keep me smiling the whole way through. I find it useful to have them
help each other with the material some mornings, just to change up the routine.
12:00 – 12:27 PM:
This is a great time for me to unwind once more and complete a little tutorial
planning. This is my only planning period so I have to use it wisely. Usually I like
to sit in the 4th floor hallway (because it’s incredibly quiet during this time) to
prepare for my 7th grade tutorials and collect any supplementary material, all
while jamming to the best of John Mayer.
12:30 – 4:30 PM:
After 12:30 lunch I have back-to-back tutorials: 7th grade ELA, 6th grade ELA, 8th
grade ELA and finally, 7th grade Math. Sometimes it’s difficult to keep your energy
up, especially on days that consist of tough material, but my students definitely
make it worthwhile. By pushing them, I push myself. The energy and attitude I
bring to tutorial greatly influences them, so whether it’s humming a One
Direction songs with my 8th graders or playing a word association game with my
7th graders, I’ll do whatever it takes to help them get through the day and succeed.
Finally, 4:30pm rolls around and after taking about 20 minutes to help
dismiss students, give last minute reminders and copy materials for the next day,
I make the trek home. If I do not have work to complete at home, usually I’ll watch
an episode of Cake Boss (yay Hoboken) while whipping up some dinner and then
head to our apartment gym, hopefully before my bedtime of 10pm. Yes, I’ve
become an early-sleeper but sleep is underrated.
Also as a member of AmeriCorps, myself and two other members lead a
service-learning project for the 8th graders. This project ran throughout the first
trimester and involved about 22 students creating a mural in order to beautify
their environment. Students discussed the importance of service learning,
developed the idea for their mural, and finally painted their mural. They will present the mural to the school in December.
The past couple of months at Great Oaks have been more challenging than
I ever thought they would. Being a member of AmeriCorps has brought extra
challenges, but also great opportunities as well. Through these two great
organizations I have developed leadership and management skills and have also
gained access to training programs for my future career.
Although I have several more months left in Newark, I dread the day I have
to leave my students. We have become a small family inside a special school and I
hope to continue to influence and push them. Everyday begins early and ends late,
but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Victoria Heath is a 2013-2014 AmeriCorps member of the Great Oaks Charter Tutor
Corps Urban Education Fellowship in Newark. She is a graduate of Virginia Tech with a
degree in History and Political Science. Ms. Heath was raised between the United
States and Saudi Arabia. After her service year at Great Oaks, Ms. Heath plans to
pursue a graduate degree in Global Affairs, specializing in Disaster and Emergency
Management and Refugee/Forced Migration Studies.
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