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.



5:30 AM
My alarm goes off… I’ll probably snooze it.
5:45 – 6:00 AM Okay, okay. I’m up… somewhat. My roommate and I groggily awaken from our slumber. However, by the time we hit the lights we are up and ready to go.

6:25 – 6:30 AM
My roommate and I usually head out at the same time –keyword- usually. The walk to GOMS isn’t too bad so we get there pretty fast.

6:30-6:45 AM
I arrive at the Great Oaks Middle School, and depending on how early I am, I grab the packets for my students for tutorial that day and get my stuff together. I have a morning duty so I usually gather everything I need for my 7:50 tutorial ahead of time.

6:55-7:30 AM
Either Ms.Helmy or myself will get the 7th grade homework cart and head downstairs to the building lobby to collect the 7th graders homework. This is easily one of the top 3 important duties I have being in the Corps. Reason being, we are responsible for inputting the homework for the day. If a student hasn’t done it, has done less than half of it or forgot their name it’s my responsibility that it is all-accurate. They have homework detentions after school and I want to make sure I’m on my A game.

7:35 AM – 8:50 AM
I leave my duty there and head to the 3rd floor where I grab my belongings for the first tutorial of the day. I’m a transition leader for 6th grade so I make sure I get there early. Luckily, my first tutorial is in the same place I transition so, I win. After Ms.Hunt and Ms.Francis lead their students out, I instruct “Team Smartacus” (it’s a play on Spartacus, their idea, not mine I swear these kids are awesome) to go to their tables for tutorial. In stroll the rest of the students in 409 for 6th grade math tutorial, and as timekeeper I instruct the room to silently begin their Do Now’s at a level zero. I watch my own “band of boys” as they quickly breeze through the Do Now and turn through the packet to see what the tutorial has planned for them. After the 5 minutes of silent working, tutorial has officially begun! I have three boys in my 6th grade group that are always full of energy and excitement despite the early morning start. I always start tutorial off by asking them about their night and morning then we get right into the material. My students really love to race against each other and me, so we spend a lot of time doing that. To check answers I let them determine for if they are correct and have them explain why. They love to do things mentally, which I tell them is great but they also need to show their work. I always ask “Why do we show our work?” and they all answer with a sigh “Because if we happen to get an answer wrong our teacher needs to see where we made the mistake to help us.” Exactly boys. Exactly. Tutorial comes to an end and I call the exit ticket, which is also done silently. I have them rip their exit ticket out, hand it to their tutor and get ready to transition. This time I actually have to move my group so I have them line up silently and we make our way down the hall to their next class, which is Social Studies. After the teacher says then can come in, I make my way to the third floor for homework insertion.

9:00 AM – 9:50 AM
I usually quickly insert the homework in for Tufts during this time to meet the 10 o’clock deadline. This usually takes me 10/15 minutes max and once I finish I make a quick cup of Joe and make sure I have everything for the next tutorial, and of course I do.

9:50 AM – 10:46 AM
Tutorial number 2! I work with two seventh grade girls who are extremely optimistic and bright. They’ve been reading The Outsiders as of late; so much of tutorial is centered around the themes, symbolism, review of that book. My favorite part of this tutorial is how they are able to connect The Outsiders to their own lives to better understand the material. They are so into the book which makes ELA tutorials that much sweeter. This is usually the tutorial that goes by the fastest, much to our dismay. We spend the last 5 minutes before the exit ticket on self proclaimed “girl talk” where we get to know each other better and form a really strong bond. It’s their favorite time, and mine too! Time for me to call the exit ticket and then I’m off to help Mr. Velasquez with 6th grade lunch.

10:50 AM – 11:15 AM
Time to eat! Well the kids at least. I quickly hustle to the 5th floor to help my Partner-In-Crime, Mr.Velasquez, with 6th grade lunch. He usually beats me there so is already setting up when I come join him. We’ve really got the lunch down to a science. Trays, main meal, bread, side option, fruit, and lastly milk. Some days the pattern differs but we try our best to stay consistent. Then in come the 90 or so hungry 6th graders, ready to eat their lunch. We are handing the food out at rapid speed, replenishing as we go. Seriously, there should be an award for this. My favorite part about lunch duty is interacting with the kids, boy are they a funny bunch. After we finish, we set up for the crew that is handing 7th/8th grade lunch and make our way out. Not before checking in to see our beloved Ms.Tabares, who is usually planning at a table nearby.

11:20 AM – 1:25 PM
2 HOURS OF FREE TIME. Just kidding. I have what seemingly looks to be a 2-hour break, however that 2 hours goes by faster than I can say “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” I’m usually taking this time to plan my tutorial packets, insert grades into the system Power Teacher, log my positives/negatives, eat lunch, check my emails, call some family members, check in on my many GroupMe chats, joke around and share stories of tutorials with my colleagues, go visit some of the students during lunch, meet with a staff member and prepare for the next set of tutorials. A good two hours well spent.

1:25 PM – 2:30 PM
I transition “Team Smartacus” from ELA class to our ELA tutorial. I see my beloved three boys and ask how their days are going so far. The usual response is a groan and how tired they are, so I know that I have to bring it in ELA. 6th grade ELA is one of the tougher ones, especially when it comes to get them in the habit of annotating. However, it’s a process and they are now starting to understand why I nag them so much. Now they make it a habit on their own to pull out the highlighters and go at it. They are currently reading City of Ember and they love it so far. They have been learning to ask questions and make inferences in class so I encourage them to do that in tutorial as well. They have SO many questions, and I love it. The best thing to come out of tutorials (aside from when one of the kids gave us all nicknames that corresponded to the Greek Mythology figure we most embody) was when one of them asked “It seems as though we are behind everyone else when we read aloud, we never make it to the end!” Before I could respond his peer turns to him and says “That’s because we want to read for understanding, if we read just to read we don’t take anything in, we need to read with a purpose.” Alas, he is right. So that’s what we do, we read with a purpose. Snack has been handed out, exit tickets are collected and I transition my group to math.

2:30 PM – 3:26 PM
Time to be the best TA I can be. This is one of my favorite parts of the day! Aside from being a tutor, timekeeper, transition leader, lunch lady, I am also the 7th grade math TA for Mr. Gibbs. When I interviewed here back in February I sat in on one of his classes. I loved the way he taught, he keenly reminded me of a math teacher I had in elementary school that made me adore math, so naturally it was a perfect fit I should be his TA right? One thing I really enjoy about Mr. Gibbs is his strong belief in second chances. Every Friday I hand each scholar a packet with his or her graded homework for that week. We allow them to take home and bring back to correct whatever they got wrong to get extra points. As a TA I grade Tufts homework and exit tickets, make 7th grade math tutorial packets as well as help out during class. I love being in class with Tufts so I can observe how Mr. Gibbs teaches, as well as learn what the kids are having trouble with so I can incorporate that into the packets they will have for tutorial. I’ve established my own relationship with the scholars in Tufts so they have no problems coming to me with help or the occasional joke here or there. Class is over and it is now time for my last tutorial of the day, 7th grade math.

3:30 PM – 4:26 PM
This is the last tutorial of the day and my girls and I are usually super pumped. They never fail to mention how much they love math so tutorial is a breeze. They enjoy doing the work independently then swapping papers to grade each other’s work. They really love to motivate each other and help each other through problems they don’t understand. I just serve as a guide to get them there. I rarely like to feed them the answers, so I rather ask questions and see if they can figure it out on their own. They really appreciate that. So much so, they challenge me to compete with them, so I do. (And sometimes they do win.) My favorite moments are when we go over the problems and the answer I give as correct doesn’t match theirs. They quickly examine their work to figure out where they went wrong and 100% of the time they catch it and fix it before I say a word. Self-Discipline at its best! Like our ELA tutorial we spend the last minutes just talking, I like to stress to them that not only am I here to help you academically as a tutor, but both personally and socially as a mentor. That makes our relationship that much more meaningful.

4:30 PM – till the sun goes down
YES! The school day is officially over, but the work never stops there. Usually after school I stay around to help students with homework if they stay later. We also offer an additional hour of homework help called PowerUp every Monday and Wednesday. I also took on another role that I can’t wait to start as Cheerleading Coach. It’s myself and 3 other amazing tutors heading this up and I couldn’t be more excited. We will be having practice Monday-Thursday till 6 so I’ll be super busy, but it will be worth it. After having cheered for the past 9 years, I love being able to teach others what I know, as well as keeping them active, promoting healthy self-esteem and creating friendships.

At home or at school, depending on the day, I also do parent and student phone calls. An extremely important part of my job is keeping parents in the loop on their children’s progress and achievements at Great Oaks. I often receive phone calls from my students who are stuck on homework and need a bit of help. Sometimes they just want to talk too. Then, I eat dinner, work on packets, talk with my coworkers, and watch some TV (Shonda Thursdays anyone?) It’s been nearly two months and I already feel an attachment to my students and the Great Oaks mission. Sure it wont always be easy, but I’m up for the challenge. As I stated when we all stood in a circle and mentioned what we waned to get out of the year, I plan to impact someone’s life in a positive way. Whether it is one of the kids in my tutorial group, a cheerleader, a power up tutee, or a kid I see in passing, I plan to make the most of my year here. Education is something near and dear to me after facing hardships in my own education and there is nothing I love more than seeing young people of color exceeding beyond what they thought was possible. Knowing that there were people to fight for me to have the opportunities I have, I want to make sure the scholars I interact with have the same opportunities I was given and exceed expectations. Thus far this program has refueled my passion to be an educator and I’m grateful to have the chance to change the trajectory of these students life.

Jazmine Harper-Davis is a 2014-2015 Tutor Corps member at Great Oaks Charter Middle School in Newark, New Jersey. She is a recent spring 2014 DePauw University graduate in Greencastle, Indiana, with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Communication & Theatre. Upon completion of her service year at Great Oaks, she plans to enroll in a graduate school and get her Masters for Educational Theatre-Applied Theatre, in hopes to open her own inner-city community theatres to help promote the arts and provide another creative outlet. A firm believer that the arts can make an impact, Jazmine has dedicated her life to ensuring that young people understand the effect the arts can have on an entire community and their own self worth.



5:40 AM
My alarm goes off and I am up and out of bed immediately. Both of my bags are packed the night before, so my only morning activity consists of showering and changing.

6:05 – 6:50 AM
I am out the door and either heading to the school to make my coffee and oatmeal, or if I feel like treating myself, I am heading to Dunks for my coffee and breakfast. I like to get to the school early – it’s quiet and peaceful. I am able to organize my papers/packets and get my brain wrapped around what lies ahead of me. The rest of the tutors and teachers filter in while I sit and putter around. Good mornings are exchanged and the excitement builds as everyone prepares for his or her day.

6:55 – 7:45 AM
As part of my daily duties, I man the stairwell during student arrival. Most days I am met with smiles and pleasant “good mornings!” I love this part of the day because it gives me an opportunity to see all of the students as they all shuffle into the building.

7:50 – 8:46 AM
Time for tutorial! First up, 6th grade math! I have three sixth graders, two girls and one boy, all of who are excited about learning. I love starting off my day with my sixth graders because they have so much energy and are very eager.

8:50 – 9:46 AM
Planning time! Typically I am free during this period, unless there is a teacher/tutor connection or Americorp meeting. When I have time to plan, I like to stay busy – the more work I get done at school the less work I will be bringing home with me!

9:50 – 11:46 AM
Time for my first 7th grade ELA and then 8th grade math tutorials! For 7th grade I have two rambunctious and great girls. Both girls are really intelligent and always end up making me laugh. For eighth grade I also have two girls who aren’t huge fans of math, but always impress me with how hard they are willing to work!

11:50 – 12:30 PM
Quick lunch break – you can find me either heading out to Hobby’s, a nearby deli, or eating some leftovers from the previous night. Sometimes during my lunch I like to call some of my student’s parents to check in and talk about their son or daughter and how they are progressing in their schoolwork.

12:30 – 1:26 PM
Time for MIT, or blended learning! During this period I work with either 7th or 8th grade classes and monitor their work on computer programs that will help boost their reading and math skills.

1:30 – 4:26 PM
Time for afternoon tutorial! First up I have 6th grade ELA, where my students love to read out loud and dive right into the packets. Next is 8th grade ELA, where both of my 8th graders are poets and enjoy reading. Finally I finish up with my 7th graders with math. Both of my 7th graders are very competent in math, so we usually like to race each other to see who can finish the most problems correctly in the shortest amount of time. During my last tutorial with all my students, I like to check in with them about their day and make sure they know what the HW is for the next day…got to try to get that perfect HW grade!

4:30 – 5:30 PM
While the students leave the building for the day, I usually clean up my area and prep things for my next day. By 5:30 PM I try to leave the school so that I can prep for the next day in a new environment, for some fresher thinking!

So far Great Oaks has been very challenging, but very rewarding and exciting! Working with my students has taught me a lot about myself and where my strengths and weakness are. I hope to continue to grow and learn alongside with my students and my fellow tutors.

Jen Stockwood is originally from a small suburb right outside of Boston, Massachusetts. She graduated from Yale University in May of 2014 with a B.A. in Psychology. Jen loves working with kids and has always been interested in education, which is what drew her to the Great Oaks tutor program. Although she is not entirely sure what the future holds for her, she is hoping to eventually make it back to Graduate school in the Boston area, working towards a master in Psychology or education.



6:00 AM – 6:30 AM
The alarm goes off and its time to start another day. The first thing I do is open the blinds to see the sunrise and the city of Newark. Then, I sit down in front of the window with a bowl of cereal and just watch the people below walking on Broad Street. Looking out the window, I always stare with such wonder at this little tree growing on top of an abandon building across the street. I think; How did that tree get on top of the building? Where do the roots attach themselves? Why does this tree always draw me in? And the only answer I can come up with thus far is that it’s just a tree on an abandon building just forgotten or a symbol of growing through the cracks despite harsh conditions.

6:30 AM -6:45 AM
After eating my breakfast and putting on a freshly ironed dress shirt and slacks, I begin my journey to Great Oaks High School. Along the way, I greet fellow tutor corps members with a quick wave or a friendly ‘Good morning.’

6:50 AM – 7:30 AM
Once I arrive at the school, I go straight to the staff room where I quickly gather my items for the day. Next the High School staff has a quick meeting to go over action items for the soon to be school day. After we close the meeting with Mrs. Harrell asking, “We are the high school and what do we do? And we all respond, “Rise-up”, I move to my breakfast duty post. For breakfast duty, I am just responsible for encouraging the students to have a breakfast to start their day right. It’s a nice time to have a quick conversation with students on how their previous evening was and/or how their morning has been.

7:30 AM – 7:42 AM
Homeroom Time! Every morning students start in one of the four homerooms; Jackie Robison, Malcolm X, Fredrick Douglas, or Indira Gandhi. I am lucky enough to be part of IG, which stands for Indira Gandhi. In morning homeroom the students either learn about a recent news event or participate in team building exercise, depending on the day of course. Homeroom is a time that students can bond with peers that they might be closest friends with or might not be enrolled in the same grade.

7:45 AM – 9:42 AM
During this time stretch I am doing a variety of things. The first thing that I do is make sure that I have all my materials for tutorial and I am 100% ready to teach the lesson. Then, I usually report to Ms. Nichols, who runs the Operations aspect of the high school; her position basically covers everything from morning phone calls to parents to ordering all the supplies to keep the school functioning. The reason I report to her is that my secondary position at the school is Assistant to Operations. So that being said, Ms. Nichols usually has a task or two for me to complete at the moment or before the end of the day.

9:45 AM – 12:12 PM
Tutorial Time for 10th grade! At about 9:45 AM, I head to my first tutorial of the day with my brilliant 10th graders. Since I am a Math tutor here at GOCHS, we get to go over geometry problems. Geometry is mainly a new concept for the 10th graders so it’s exciting to watch them learn and apply the things they have learned to the outside world. After the first tutorial, I have a small break before having my second 10th grade math tutorial at 11:15 AM until 12:12 PM.

12:15 AM- 12:42 PM
Lunch Time! The students head down to lunch and I so do I. As of right now, most of the tutors still are living in the Courtyard Marriot so we are provided with student lunches. And, I would have to say the lunches are pretty appetizing and much better than my high school back in the day.

12:45 PM- 4:12 PM
Tutorial Time for 9th grade! During this time span, I have three 9th grade tutorials and a quick break somewhere in-between the tutorials. Each tutorial has its own set of characters that challenge me in many different ways. One of the tutorial groups keeps me on my toes by finishing more advance work that I bring in for them on a day-to-day basis. Another groups, pushes me to work patiently with struggling students to foster their growth in understanding algebra. And the last of these groups, teaches that learning algebra can always has a fun aspect to it.

4:15 PM -4:30 PM
Then comes evening homeroom, this is were all the students report to their homeroom to go over what they have in their planners and have a quick snack before getting dismissed. Its interesting to see all the students come back together after being separated in different blocks and grades all day. Additionally, this is a good time to watch students step up to take charger of an aspect of evening homeroom, which might be checking planners, passing out snack, cleaning the boards or cleaning the room.

4:30 PM – 5:30 PM
The bell rings to signal the end of a regular school day at Great Oaks Charter High School and some students are dismissed on time. However, the other students might find themselves in afterschool 10th period due to a variety of reasons on Monday, Tuesdays or Thursday. 10th period is not a negative punishment but a time for students to complete missing work or homework they might have due the next day. Then, around 5:15pm 10th period ends and some students will get to go home and others might find themselves in PIT. PIT is a time for students cannot due their homework but can reflect on their actions that got them in PIT in order to avoid being caught in PIT in the future.

On Wednesday, no teacher, tutor or student stays late due to Wellness Wednesday. Wellness Wednesday gives everyone a day in the middle of the week to recharge so they can finish the week strong.

On Thursday after school runs a tad bit differently for me. On Thursday’s afterschool students have the opportunity to participate in an enrichment class. The enrichment classes are created by the interest of the tutors at the High School and run by the tutors as well. The enrichment that I am offering to the students revolves around the idea that you can cook and eat healthy food with little money and little supplies. The challenges to running the class involve having no access to a stove, oven or many kitchen supplies along with having little resources as far as money or ingredients. Nevertheless, the class has been well received by many students thus far and I am truly looking forward to making it happen for them.

5:35 pm
All the students have left for the day and the workday is ‘officially’ over. I usually walk home at or a little after this time but either way there is always more work to do. On most days I try to make a phone call or two to some parents to keep them in the loop. Additionally, I try to put in an hour or so of LSAT studying to prepare myself for attending law school in the fall of 2015. The days are long and you are never actually off the clock but its all for the students which makes it alright with me.

My few weeks at Great Oaks have been truly humbling thus far. First off, I would like to say that it has been nice to be in an environment surrounded by individuals that all believe that we are all here to make a difference in these children’s lives. Secondly, working with these children and building a relationship with them has been rewarding thus far. Some of these children have seen things I have never seen and others have taught me things I have yet to learn, which makes this job worth wild. Lastly, I would just like to add that I am looking forward to going through the school year and making a lasting impact in their lives as they will in my life.

Alex Rodriguez is a 2014-2015 Tutor Corps member at Great Oaks Charter High School in Newark. He is a graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York with a degree in Economics and Psychology. After his one year of service at Great Oaks, Mr. Rodriguez hopes to attend Law School back at home in sunny Southern California. After finishing his Law Degree, he hopes to continue working with youth by going into child law, a field of law that represents the best interest of the child in legal proceedings.



6:00 AM: I arise just before 6:00 AM, fresh with a full night’s sleep and ready to attack the day with a renewed vigor. After a thirty minute morning routine, I make the three-minute walk from our temporary lodgings at the Broad Street Marriott Hotel to our home-away-from-home at Great Oaks Charter School.

6:50 AM – 7:35 AM: As tutors, we are tasked with arriving at the school at 6:50 AM, so as to utilize the following hour for either planning purposes or ancillary duties that help to oil the machine that is Great Oaks. On this particular Wednesday, I stand on a street corner adjacent Great Oaks, waving at or shaking hands with students arriving via car or foot as appropriate.

7:40 – 8:45 AM: Though our first tutorial session of the day (6th grade math) will not officially commence until 7:50 AM, as a designated “transition leader,” my duties require me to arrive at a nearby classroom 10 minutes prior to the session and shepherd the relevant children from their homeroom to their assigned tutorial room. My three sixth graders are an interesting hodgepodge of personalities ranging from docile to exuberant, providing for an interesting challenge as I attempt to modulate the group’s collective energy level. Nevertheless, my sixth graders are all strikingly intelligent and push one another constantly to push through the inevitable plateaus they will encounter on their journey to success. Today’s session is once again richly fruitful, as my students demonstrate their mastery with ratios and unit rates.

8:50 – 9:45 AM: Following the conclusion of the day’s first tutorial, I begin my “secondary” role as a Physical Education Teaching Assistant. For the next hour, I will be assisting Mr. Tatum (the P.E. teacher) with maintaining order with his class of often unruly but well-meaning seventh graders during their P.E. class. Assisting Mr. Tatum essentially boils down to the job of continually reminding students to remain on-task, even as their rambunctious tendencies attempt to shine through as their bodies enjoy some much-needed movement. It is important at Great Oaks to maximize the learning potential of each and every moment, and that mission extends to P.E. class.

9:50 – 11:45 AM: Immediately after the end of P.E. class, I hustle to the staff lobby to gather the requisite materials for my next two tutorials (7th grade English and 8th grade math), which follow each other in direct succession. My two seventh grade students are also coming to tutorial directly from P.E., which often leads to some high-intensity, extremely productive tutorials as they pour their newfound energy into their English tutorials. Today is no exception as we blaze through a reading on Helen Keller, engaging in scintillating discussion every step of the way.

Promptly following the 7th grade English tutorial is the 8th grade math tutorial. Much like my 6th grade students, my 8th grade students are an interesting admixture of energy levels, and I have to remain vigilant about making sure that their peaks are not too high and their valleys not too low. Both of my 8th grade students, however, are very bright and (almost) always compliant, lessening my potential burden considerably. We have a solid tutorial session as both students show considerable strides in their understanding of how to add, subtract, multiply and divide with numbers written in scientific notation. I leave tutorial in high spirits and hope that my students feel the same way.

Tutorials consist of a 55-minute-long tutor-guided completion of “tutorial packets,” made explicitly for this purpose by some of my fellow tutors and designed to closely mirror the concepts covered in that day’s class. This period of academic reinforcement can be extremely advantageous for students, as they are given a more intimate, personalized learning session that cannot be found in many traditional learning environments. Students are encouraged to ask questions, and having direct access to a tutor allows for students to have a go-between when they are having difficult grasping a concept they learned in class. Tutorial sessions are, essentially, a way to ensure that students can more readily meet the rigorous academic standards they are expected to uphold when enrolled at Great Oaks.

11:45 AM – 1:20 PM: Following the conclusion of 8th grade math tutorial, I have nearly two hours free for planning and/or lunch purposes. I typically use this period of time to reflect on what went well during my first three hours of tutorial sessions, and what improvements I could incorporate into my sessions so as to become the best possible tutor I can be. I also use this opportunity to brush up on the academic concepts that I’ll be imparting during my afternoon sessions, making sure that I not only understand the material well enough to explain it, but also that I will be able to anticipate questions before they come and have adequate, thorough explanations at the ready that can easily be comprehended by middle-school students. If I find myself with additional time, I’ll also use this lunch break to begin (or continue) preparing my tutorial packets for the following week. Nearly two hours seems like a lengthy time for a simple lunch break, but it’s incumbent upon me to make sure that I remain productive.

1:20 PM – 4:30 PM: Following my lunch break, I’m thrown back into the fray with 6th grade English, 8th grade English, and 7th grade math tutorials back-to-back-to-back. The 6th grade English tutorial doesn’t officially begin until 1:30, but I once again must fulfill my aforementioned duty as “transition leader,” making sure my students arrive at their tutorial room with time to spare. English tutorial sessions generally present a somewhat different set of problems than math tutorial sessions – with a heavier emphasis on discussion, I must ensure as a tutor that students are constantly engaging with the text and learning how to truly read critically. Afternoon sessions can sometimes suffer from students’ flagging energy levels as the end of their school day approaches, but both my 6th and 8th graders today are captivated by the text and eager to discuss their findings, thoughts and ideas. My 7th grade students are eager and full of energy, and use this tutorial session to impress upon me their deep understanding of the various ways to go about finding the area of a square. All in all, my afternoon sessions were productive and, hopefully, effective.

After that: After running through the three-hour gauntlet of afternoon sessions, the school day is technically concluded, but my duties have not quite expired. As tutors, we are expected to make ourselves available for student and parent phone calls each and every weeknight, and tonight is no exception: an hour after heading home, I receive a frantic call from one of my sixth graders and her grandmother, begging me to help her track down that night’s math assignment. It’s a relatively simple task for me to pull off, but the opportunity to help out a student in night is gratifying all the same.

The experience of tutoring at Great Oaks can run the gamut from arduous to exhilarating depending on the time of day, but one thing it never feels like is worthless. Providing students with a rich educational background is the surest way to effect genuine change in their lives, and the work being completed at Great Oaks is of indubitable importance. The job should come easy to anyone who genuinely commits themselves to altering the lives of others for the better.

Austin Lahiff is a 2014-2015 Tutor Corps member at Great Oaks Charter Middle School in Newark, New Jersey. He is a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, with a degree in Economics and Accounting. Upon completion of his service year at Great Oaks, he plans to work in the field of public accounting.