5:15 am – 6:50 am
Who am I kidding? I set the alarm for 5:00 and hit the snooze a few times before resigning to the fact that I need to get up. I take a few moments more then I remember that cool thing I was going to do in tutorial or mention to my students, and that makes me want to start my day. It doesn’t take me long to get ready, but I allow myself extra time because I’ve found that when I run around in the morning, that frantic pace somehow translates to the school day. And that’s no good! The roommates and I try to be out of the door by 6:40 so we can arrive at the school building on time. Sometimes there are visits to Dunkin’, but I prefer to put my travel mug to use by making coffee at my apartment. And a Turbo Shot is only added if necessary!
7:00 am – 8:03 am
One perk of being Mr. Gibbs’Teaching Assistant (TA) is having a home base of sorts to go to use to get ready for the day and do any preliminary things that need to be done. This morning, at the advice of my coach, I’m meeting with one of my students who is having trouble with ELA. My student and I do some guided reading and I give her a stem word of the day that I want her to learn. On some mornings we share fun stories to help spark her passion for ELA.
8:03 am – 8:58 am
I sit in on 8th Grade Math, although I am technically not the designated TA for this class. I appreciate this opportunity because I have tutorial during the 7th Grade Math class for which I am the TA (more on that later), so this is my only opportunity to be in the classroom all day. The students in this class have gotten to know me well and other tutors feel comfortable asking me what goes on during 8th Grade Math and how their student behaves. One of my tutorial students is in the class, so I also have a vested interest. This period involves me assisting with classroom management and helping with independent and group work.
9:01 am – 10:57 am
If anyone were to watch me during this time, they’d probably think that I was insane. This is the period during which things get done! The priority is Homework Check. It’s 9:00 am so the students who are going to be here today (including the late ones) will have already arrived. All of the homework they were expected to do should be handed in to me through the designated folder. It’s time to enter their efforts into the spreadsheet and lay down the law! There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with being a TA. A lot of the students’ fate is in your hands. If you enter data incorrectly for the student, they could be in a lot of trouble. Most of the students take their discipline seriously, but the whole ordeal is a practice in self-restraint for them. Some still have that lesson to learn.
Any meetings or class tasks, such as grading, are done during this time. The 7th Grade Math team meets once a week to discuss where the two 7th Grade classes are in terms of understanding the current standards and objectives for next week’s packets. The last hour consists of making copies of last night’s homework for silent lunch detention. With all else done, I think about the next tutorial. Many tutors eat their lunch during this time, but I haven’t even had a tutorial yet. There is a lot of the day left to go, so I need to save it for later. A piece of fruit and a crunchy granola bar will suffice until my lunch break.
10:57 am – 11:52 am
This is the 8th Grade Math tutorial period. My 8th graders are pretty good about working diligently, but they’ll find a reason to get off-task if you let them. (They earn a demerit for that!) Usually there is some time to discuss current business with them. I have an interesting situation with my 8th graders, in that the student who has the most trouble understanding the material has the best grades, and the others who are quick to understand don’t do as well, mostly because of missing work. A lot of the conversation centers around effort.
11:55 am – 12:30 pm
This is a short period of time where I can choose one task to get done. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I run the library which is fun. It’s a chance for the students to see a “not-so-serious” Ms. Wright. Unfortunately some of my Math class students are funneling out of the silent lunch room directly into my line of fire, but it’s OK, because I have the opportunity to talk to them about being responsible. I also use this time to check in with students. Their lunch is a good time to connect, and hopefully cut out some of the chatter that would try to sneak out in tutorial.
12:33 pm – 1:28 pm
Next is what I would say is my toughest tutorial—7th Grade ELA. I’m more mathematically inclined, so if anything, I have to prepare well for this session beforehand. If I don’t, the students will take advantage and get off-topic. Having a student who is reading below grade level worries me, but makes me extremely motivated to do my best with this group. My 7th graders are an interesting bunch. The variance in personality, behavior, skill-level and grades is dizzying; and it’s a wonder that I get anywhere with them, but somehow I do. The 7th graders definitely require a lot more engagement than my 8th graders. They are too willing to throw their attention to something else, especially since our tutorial is in a high traffic area. Everything else seems to be more interesting than what is going on at our table, so the challenge is to keep their focus on what we’re doing.
1:31 pm – 2:26 pm
Finally, my break! Everyone else is in 6th Grade tutorial so the Teachers’ Commons is a lonely place, but I use the time to have a more substantial bite to eat. Once again, I am fitting in whatever needs to be done. What I’ve found is that any time that is not spent in tutorial or the classroom is valuable time to spend catching up on work. When I have about 10 minutes left, I race upstairs to get snack for 8th Grade ELA tutorial (You do not forsake snack!), get the William Patterson homeroom from ELA, and transition them to tutorial.
2:29 pm – 3:24 pm
Up next are back-to-back tutorials. What’s difficult about 8th Grade ELA is that having warm food in my stomach, and being somewhat close to the end of my day, sometimes the case of the yawns takes over. I have to be careful because if I don’t bring the energy, my 8th graders sure won’t. As with any students, they would be content to just sit there and chat, so I have to keep them focused.
After 8th Grade ELA tutorial, I have to race upstairs (so much racing!) and gather the students from the University of Rochester (homeroom) that are in my 7th Grade Math tutorial group. Sadly, this is the only interaction I have with them. It’s awkward to grade and judge the work of a group of students you barely know, but thankfully I’ve gotten to know them better as the year has progressed. The actual tutorial isn’t that bad. It’s the last period of the day, so I allow the students a little breathing room. They just have to leave tutorial understanding the objective for the day.
4:30 pm – 5:30 pm
If it’s Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday then my day is not yet over. It’s time for Power Up, our after school enrichment program for students who need additional help. During this program, I go down the road less traveled— I tutor 6th graders. I feel 6th graders are the most difficult to work with because they are new to the school and have so many different backgrounds and levels of ability. They’re not yet familiar with the school culture, but it’s still good to have contact with that part of the student body.
5:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Almost every night is a long night. I hang around with the designated “Late Night Crew” in the Teachers’ Commons and have conversational therapy, random dance parties, jam sessions, or whatever we need to motivate us to get work done. Many have called me crazy and looked at me with concern as I stay late to work, but they just don’t understand. My work environment is where I can concentrate and stay in the right mindset to work. If I’ve learned anything from college, it’s that you don’t work in the same area that you eat and sleep. It is hard! So after a long day (I’ve stayed no later than 8), it’s time to head back home, cook, and do some unwinding (usually talking and laughing with the roommates). I’m in bed by 10, or 12 at the latest if I want to function the next day. Tomorrow I’ll get up and do it all over again!
This year so far has been unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Yes, I am very busy, but it’s that fulfilling type of busy where I know I’m having an impact and making a difference at the end of the day. Anything I face from here on out will be no match for me now that I’ve seen what I am capable of, for I have been made stronger by this experience and will forever be grateful for it.
Shannon Wright is a 2013-2014 member of the Great Oaks Tutor Corps Urban Education Fellowship in Newark. She is also a Teacher’s Assistant as her secondary position at Great Oaks. She is originally from Cayce, SC and is a recent graduate of the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and minor in Mathematics. Her career interests include Tax Accounting and Education. Her future plans include exploring Education further and participating in programs similar to Tutor Corps.
For more information or to apply to our Tutor Corps Urban Education Fellowship, please visit www.greatoakscharter.org.
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