5:00 – 6:30 AM
Five o’clock sure does come early some mornings! But then again, early mornings aren’t anything a pot of good, strong coffee can’t take care of. It seems I’ve been designated the “coffee maker” of the apartment—probably since I’m usually the first one up—and it’s become just another part of my morning routine. Other items on my morning checklist: pack a lunch, have a bowl of cereal, peruse the morning Times, as well as assemble a suitable combination of button-up, tie, and cardigan to wear for the day. And with that checklist complete, I’m out the door and on my way to school..
7:00 – 7:30 AM
My first role of the day is as part of the arrival team. Ms. Traish (another tutor), Mr. Taillefer (our Executive Director), and I wait just outside the front door of the school to welcome our scholars into the Great Oaks community each and every morning. As our scholars arrive they queue up on the sidewalk with their homework folders out, ready to shake hands with Mr. Taillefer. He asks every individual scholar two questions: “Why are you here? What will it take?” to which they respond: “I am here to learn. It will take Respect, Integrity, Self-Discipline and Excellence.”
Seeing our scholars affirm our core values daily isn’t the only perk of arrival, though; arrival also means I get to see all of our scholars—and especially the scholars I tutor—each morning, before they’re even inside the school building. This gives me a chance to check in with them about their weekend, their homework from the night before, or how they’re doing so far that morning. Together we can be sure to get the day off to an excellent start.
8:00 – 9:00 AM
Since I tutor scholars in both sixth and eighth grades, my first tutorial of the day is sixth grade mathematics. Tutorial gets underway with two minutes for Fast Math and then another five for the “Do Now”. These two activities are great ways highlight both the strengths and weaknesses of my scholars. When JB finishes close to 200 multiplication problems in 120 seconds, I can’t help but be proud of her self-discipline! However, the problems that my scholars struggle with on the Do Now often become the focus of that tutorial; this is just one of the many ways that I, as well as all of the other Great Oaks tutors, seek to individualize instruction for our scholars as effectively as we can.
9:00 – 11:00 AM
It’s nine o’clock and it’s time for my break! Well, sort of. The next two hours are my prep periods, and the first item on the agenda is homework check. We collect our scholars’ homework from the night before during arrival as they come upstairs and head to their silent reading period, so that homework sits and waits undisturbed until now when it’s time for it to be organized, checked for completion, then graded and entered into the grade book. This is also the time that I prepare for the rest of my tutorials that day by printing out supplementary material or going over Exit Tickets from previous tutorials. We collect a lot of data at Great Oaks, so I spend this time putting it to use: to recognize my scholars’ accomplishments as well as underscore their areas for growth.
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
For eighth grade mathematics tutorial, we start out again with our Fast Math and Do Now, which set the tone for tutorial: productive. My eighth grade scholars frequently have more energy than they know what to do with, which can prove challenging at times, but after a few overtures on my part they start directing that energy into the lesson for the day. My two boys are both especially competitive so a quick flashcard review game usually gets everyone in the mindset of craving those positive GO points!
12:00 – 12:30 PM
Another break time?! Well, again, sort of. At noon both the seventh and eighth grades transition to the Big Hall for lunch. Officially, I’m on bathroom duty, which means I have to make sure all of our scholars sign in and out of the bathrooms. Unofficially, I’m on eat-lunch-and-check-in-with-other-tutors-or-teachers-or-scholars-to-see-how-their-day-is-going duty. It’s not half bad.
12:30– 1:30 PM
On Tuesdays and Thursdays I head to social studies after lunch. As the eighth grade social studies teaching assistant, I collect and grade homework, tests and quizzes, as well as my favorite part: helping out in the classroom! Sometimes it’s my job to deal with any behavior that may be disrupting the class, but most of the time I circle around to answer questions and help out those scholars who need a hand.
This role at Great Oaks is the one that most directly connects to my future career goals of becoming a college history professor. As a teaching assistant, I witness a variety of instructional strategies firsthand, I delve into lesson planning and I get to see what really gets our scholars excited about history. Few scholars enjoy memorizing names and dates, but when I see them think critically about historical and contemporary events and relate them both to their own lives and experiences, I’m inspired to continue doing the work that I do!
1:30– 2:30 PM
Next, I round up my sixth grade scholars for English Language Arts (ELA) tutorial. Thank goodness it’s also snack time because although they finished lunch only two hours prior, they’re almost sure to be “starving.” Middle schoolers! During this time, we focus on reading and writing strategies, vocabulary, and critical thinking skills. My scholars particularly enjoy the weekly installment of Mr. Dec’s saga “The Principal King,” which introduces them to new college-ready vocabulary in the context of savvy heroines and hostile villains. We also practice forming arguments based on evidence, honing respectful debating skills, as well as giving constructive feedback to peers. My sixth grade scholars work very well together and put me in such a good mood! However, this means that I occasionally have to be wary of them steering our conversations away from tutorial towards other random topics of interest; they can be so tricky sometimes!
2:30 – 3:30 PM
Eighth grade ELA tutorial is in many ways quite similar to sixth grade, except maybe for the fact that my eighth grade scholars seem to take pride in how much they dislike explaining their ideas in writing. They don’t typically mind explaining their thoughts or opinions to me or to each other out loud, but the moment I ask them to form complete sentences on paper it seems I may as well have asked them to read and summarize War and Peace by tomorrow. After the grumbling subsides, I proceed to ask a lot of questions to prod them to really think. My scholars have come to recognize that how? and why? are my two favorite questions in the world, and I’m pleased that they roll their eyes slightly less when they hear me ask questions now than they did at the beginning of the year.
3:30 – 4:30 PM
For the last period of the school day, I pull a handful of eighth grade scholars out of their enrichment course to give them additional support in ELA. I pull materials from ELA tutorial packets and social studies classwork to strengthen reading comprehension, critical thinking skills, and basic grammar. This is also one of my favorite times of the day because I get to look at our scholars’ class and tutorial work in a different way; we identify the different parts of speech in sentences from ELA tutorial and categorize the types of nouns in social studies readings. It’s also another opportunity for me to talk about social studies with scholars, which is something I can never pass up!
4:30 – 5:30 PM
Since some of our scholars do struggle to complete their homework at home each night, some of them stay after school for an hour to get some help from a tutor during Power Up. Sometimes we really do need to “power up” for those last sixty minutes of the school day, so I’m grateful that our scholars each receive another quick snack as an energy boost to help them finish out the day strong. During this time, I work one-on-one with a scholar who sometimes has a hard time focusing. More often than not he keeps me on my toes, but when he finishes an assignment one hundred percent correctly, seeing that smile of his truly is the cherry on top of a remarkable day at Great Oaks.
Bryce Luttenegger (Mr. L) is a 2013-2014 member of the Great Oaks Tutor Corps Urban Education Fellowship in Newark. He is also a Teacher’s Assistant as his secondary position at Great Oaks. Originally from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Bryce is a graduate of University of Wisconsin-Madison, with a Bachelor’s degree in History. His career plan is to become a college history professor.
For more information or to apply to our Tutor Corps Urban Education Fellowship, please visit www.greatoakscharter.org.
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