6:00 AM – 6:30 AM: My alarm goes off signaling the beginning of a new day. I roll out of bed thinking to myself how I can make a positive impact at the school. I then begin my roughly half an hour morning routine, which includes making sure I have all my materials for my tutorials, packing a couple of snacks to get me through the day, and checking my email to see the bountiful packets that have made an appearance in my inbox. I then proceed to put on an ironed shirt, dress pants and tie and then I make the short walk (I really mean short walk) to Great Oaks (G.O.). Some mornings, when I am feeling really tired, I try to make a quick pit stop at Dunkin’ Donuts, not for the coffee, but because the crisp morning air truly helps to wake me up.
6:30 AM – 6:55 AM: I arrive at G.O., and take the elevator up to the main office where I say good morning to Mr. Taillefer. I then proceed to print all the packets I am missing and then grab the morning attendance roster because I am the morning attendance tracker for 7th and 8th grade. Before I head outside to collect the attendance, I head to the tutor area on the third floor where I grab blank tutorial packets for my tutees and say good morning to the tutors trickling in.
7:00 AM – 7:45 AM: At 7AM, every morning, I head outside to check off all the 7th and 8th grade students that arrive at or before 7:30 AM. This is one of my favorite roles at G.O. because it is a great opportunity to interact with the students and to build unique relationships with them. Furthermore, an added bonus is that as a result of collecting attendance, I have been able to memorize the names of all the 7th and 8th grade students at G.O. This has made it easier to identify students within the school and to build a rapport with them. After Mr. Taillefer stops shaking hands with the students at 7:30, I head upstairs to the main office where I proceed to help Ms. Lightner, until 7:45 AM, to identify which students are on time and which students are late.
7:45 AM – 8:46 AM: After morning duty, I head up to the Big Hall where I wait for my 6th graders to arrive as my first tutorial session of the day is 6th grade math. Tutorials are roughly 55 minutes long and I tutor all three grades in both math and ELA, for a total of 6 tutorial sessions Mondays – Thursdays. Furthermore, the unique aspect of a tutorial is that no two tutorial sessions are the same. Every session grants the tutor and their tutees the opportunity to get to know each other and build strong working relationships. I currently tutor three 6th grade students and I am amazed, especially during today’s math tutorial, at the progress all three of them have made when it comes to multiplying large numbers and numbers with decimals. Even though it is early in the year, I have seen their confidence in math skyrocket from when they first entered my tutorial.
8: 46 AM – 9:45 AM: This is one of the few breaks I get during the day. As an 8th grade Social Studies Teacher’s Assistant (TA), I use this hour to check off and enter in our school spreadsheet the 8th grade students that completed the homework and those students that did not. After I finish this task, I normally have a quick bite to eat while I finish next week’s packets or grade last night’s Social Studies homework. This is also a great opportunity to foster a strong working environment among the tutors.
9: 45 AM – 9:50 AM: During this time I transition 7th grade students from their room on the fourth floor to the Big Hall, where they have ELA tutorial. As a transition leader, I need to make sure I get the students from one location to another in both an efficient and quiet, Level 0, manner.
9:50 AM – 11: 46 AM: Once the students are in the Big Hall, I commence the tutorial session with my two seventh graders. In today’s tutorial session we are reading a work from Tupac Shakur titled, “The Rose That Grew From Concrete”. Works like these always produce an exciting tutorial session because the three of us have great discussions regarding the reading and we are able to connect it to events that are occurring in society and in our lives. Furthermore, it is great to see how well these two students work and assist one another despite having two different sets of hobbies and attitudes.
After this session is over, I transition the same set of students back down to the fourth floor and then I head over to my next tutorial session, 8th grade math. I am the timekeeper during this tutorial session, which means I call the beginning and end of the 5 minute Do Now, and the beginning and end of the 5 minute Exit Ticket. This is one of my strongest tutorial sessions as my two eighth graders excel in applying the Pythagorean theorem. Once they finished the packet, I come up with my own difficult math problems to help them further master using the Pythagorean theorem. With high school looming around the corner, I make sure to tell them about the importance of building a strong work ethic and the need to consistently challenge oneself.
11:46 AM – 1:25 PM: After this tutorial, I begin my hour and a half break, which is the time during the day that I step back and reflect on what was effective in each tutorial group and what I can do to continue to raise the academic standard in my tutorials. Furthermore, this is the time I usually head over to Mike’s or Dario’s to get a quick bite to eat. After lunch, I continue to work on finishing next week’s packets and completing any grading that I have left.
1:30 PM – 4:26 PM: During this block of time, I have three consecutive tutorial sessions, 6th grade ELA, 8th grade ELA, and 7th grade math. My first afternoon tutorial session is with my 6th graders, and they come into the ELA tutorial with a lot of excitement and energy. This helps get my tutees interested in the excerpt of, “The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs. My 8th grade ELA tutorial focused on reading and analyzing a chapter of The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien. This made for an interesting conversation because one of my tutees does not like the book (which is putting it mildly) while my other tutee does. This helps spark amazing debates within the group and enhances my tutee’s critical thinking skills. After this tutorial ends, I have to transition the 7th grade students to the Big Hall, one more time on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Once the students are transitioned, I begin my last tutorial of the day, 7th grade math. This was a great tutorial session as my tutees understood and mastered how to differentiate between rational and irrational numbers (It does not hurt that math is their favorite subject). Furthermore, even though it has been roughly two months, I have seen the significant strides one of my seventh graders has made in regards to maturing and improving their behavior during tutorial. Once the tutorial ends, I transition the students to their homeroom on the fourth floor finishing my tutorials for the day.
4:30 PM – 5:30 PM: Even though tutorials may be over, there is still work to be done. This spans the gamut from preparing for the next day’s tutorials to assisting my fellow tutor’s in completing a school related project/task. An example is becoming one of the flag football assistant coaches at G.O. Most of the time, I am working with our middle school’s 7th and 8th grade Social Studies teacher, Mr. Mickens, in planning our assignments and homework for the week.
Beyond 5:30 PM: After I leave the school, I grab dinner and head back to the hotel where we are staying. However, despite physically leaving the school, our roles as tutors continue. This includes building strong relationships with the parents of our tutees and calling them roughly once a week to update them on how their child is doing both academically and behaviorally at G.O. This is one of my favorite roles as a tutor, because it is rewarding to know that you can provide parents and students with assistance and answers to any issues. For example it may be following up on an incident that occurred during the day or helping a student with homework. While I was grabbing dinner today, I helped one of my 6th graders with her math homework while I was waiting in line at Chipotle. In addition to communicating with parents and students, most nights, involve catching up with tutors from both the middle and high school and working on completing this week’s packets.
Even though it has been two months, my time at G.O. has exceeded my expectations. I wake up each morning thankful to have been selected for this tremendous opportunity and to be working with such an amazing array of tutors, who like me, share a vision where every child can get access to a quality education. I signed up to be a Great Oaks Tutor because growing up in the nearby town of Hillside, NJ where the education level is very similar to that of Newark; I saw the positive impact and the doors that are opened for those with a strong education as compared to those who lack it. When I feel overwhelmed by the workload and the ceaseless packets, I power through because I know that my work as a G.O. tutor helps to close the achievement gap, one child at a time. A gap that will only be closed through the selfless work by all of the G.O. tutors, staff, and like-minded individuals who realize that education is one of the most important tools in improving our communities and our society at large. Playing a role in minimizing this gap, instilling the passion for education in my tutees, and building the foundation for them to be successful in college, motivates me every day as I step through the doors of G.O.
I know it probably sounds cliché but the staff and, especially the students at G.O., has taught me more than what I could have previously have imagined. I have learned how to become a better communicator, to think outside the box when faced with a difficult obstacle, and to see how the world works through a child’s perspective. It is a mutually beneficial relationship that fills me with hope for the rest of the year that I can help my students grow, mature, and prosper both inside and outside the classroom, while at the same time continuing to learn valuable lessons from my driven and amazing tutees.
Joel Chapman is a 2014-2015 Tutor Corps member at Great Oaks Charter Middle School in Newark, New Jersey. He is a graduate of Drew University in Madison, New Jersey with a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and History. Upon completion of his service year at Great Oaks, Mr. Chapman plans to pursue a Masters Degree in the field of Public Policy, concentrating in Education Policy to help improve the quality of education for all students.